Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

16 Dec, 2013

Historic first meeting between Pope, OIC chief

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 16 December 2013 (12 Safar 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



Visit Malaysia Year 2014 is the nation’s biggest and grandest tourism celebration with Malaysia Truly Asia’s endless wonders of events, festivals and activities all-year round. This is the perfect time to see, feel and experience Malaysia! The fourth Visit Malaysia Year will bear the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia” to reflect the diversity in unity of all Malaysians. The Proboscis Monkey has been chosen as the mascot. VMY 2014 will be the biggest and grandest ever tourism celebration with hundreds of events and festivals all lined up to welcome the world. Overall, it is hoped that VMY 2014 will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020, as outlined in the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP) 2020. Click here for full details on the VMY 2014 website.



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.




Indonesian President: Counter campaign tarnishing image of Islam

Jakarta, Tuesday, 29 Muharram 1434/ 03 December 2013 (IINA) – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on the media in the Muslim world to effectively counter the misleading campaign aimed at tarnishing the true image of Islam and Muslims.

He also underlined the great responsibility of Islamic media to promote the sublime values of tolerance, compassion, and peaceful coexistence, advocated by Islam. Yudhoyono made the remarks in his inaugural speech of the Third International Islamic Media Conference here on Tuesday. Yudhoyono’s speech was read out on his behalf by Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali.

The three-day conference, with the theme of “Media and Social Responsibility” was organized by the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) in cooperation with Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry, and International Islamic Media Authority. Several Muslim leaders including MWL Secretary General Dr. Abdullah Al-Turki also spoke at the opening session of the conference.

Around 400 international delegates, including ministers, academics, media experts, journalists, and media owners from 53 Muslim countries are attending the conference. The conference is discussing several topics such as the situation of the world media, basic dimensions on values etiquette, towards the Islam vision and the relationship between media and society, media in Islamic society, prospects and challenges, media in Islamic world, and media among the Muslim minorities.

Back to top

Malaysia To Be “Convention And Culture Partner” At ITB Berlin

BERLIN, Dec 8 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia, which plans to promote the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 at Berlin’s International Tourism Bourse (ITB), the world’s largest tourism show, will profile itself as a “convention and culturepartner.”

At the five-day ITB Berlin, beginning March 5, Malaysia will highlight its attributes as a nature and beach holiday resort, besides being a destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (Mice).

Tourism Malaysia director for Germany, Maizan Ahmad, who is based in Frankfurt,said: “The ‘Visit Malaysia Year’ will seek to enthral visitors with numerous activities and events, such as the Malaysian International Shoe Festival 2014, featuring creations by the famous designer Jimmy Choo, and the 1Malaysia International Tourism Night Floral Parade 2014.”

The events, which kick off with some colourful cultural displays at the opening of the ITB Berlin Convention on March 5, will lure visitors to explore the country’s cultural diversity and the numerous attractions and natural treasures at Hall 7.1b.

At the Trends and Events Hall, Malaysia will promote the country’s attractive eco-tours and adventure trips while at Hall 4.1, Malaysia’s dance performances which provide an insight into Malaysia’s multicultural social mosaic will be showcased.

The section called ITB Business Travel Days will prominently feature Malaysia as a major destination for Mice.

However, the ITB will also witness aggressive campaigning by a number of Southeast Asian nations equally eager to woo international and, particularly, German tourists who are considered amongst the most adventurous, high-spendingtourists.

Tired of the overcrowded sandy beaches of South European destinations which are also becoming increasingly expensive and polluted because of the highvolume of tourist traffic, many German tourists are exploring new and exoticdestinations.

“There is a kind of an awakening, as it were, amongst German tourists, to visit places that were once considered exotic because of their different culture, traditions, cuisines and distance,” Dr Rudolf Schmidt, a German tourismanalyst, told Bernama.

Traffic to Malaysia can get a big impetus with German airline Lufthansa announcing the launch of a five times a week non-stop service to Kuala Lumpur, effective end of March next year.

Back to top

Key IDB meeting in Malaysia to set out 10-year strategy

Arab News – 13 December, 2013 – The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank Group, which marks its 40th anniversary next year, has spent nearly $ 100 billion to finance infrastructure, health, educational and other projects in member countries, including the 4,500-km Sahara Highway.

“This week IDB has received the highest rating of AAA from Standard & Poor’s and for the last 13 years we have been maintaining this credit rating,” Ahmed Mohammed Ali, president of IDB, said.

He attributed this achievement to the tremendous support the bank has been receiving from its 56 member countries, including Saudi Arabia and other GCC states. Saudi Arabia has the largest stake in IDB, which has a subscribed capital of $ 150 billion.

“Since its inception in 1975, IDB has financed projects worth $ 98 billion in member countries,” the president said, while addressing consuls general of different countries in Jeddah.

“We have also financed a large number of educational and health projects of Muslim communities in non-member countries,” he added.

Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the event, Ali said a high-level ministerial committee has been set up to discuss the bank’s future programs.

The committee will meet in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 16-18 to review the bank’s performance in the last 40 years and set out strategies for the next 10 years.

“The anniversary will be held simultaneously with the annual meeting of the board of governors in Jeddah in June 2014,” Ali said.

Asked about the bank’s future programs, the president said it would be decided on the basis of the assessment report to be presented by the committee. “Insha Allah (God willing) we’ll try our best to meet the growing development requirements of member states. We want to live up to their expectations,” he said, adding that the increase in capital would certainly help the bank finance more projects.

He said the bank wanted to establish greater cooperation with foreign embassies and consulates as well as offices of international organizations in the Kingdom to support its developmental activities.

The bank has set up a $ 10 billion solidarity fund for the eradication of poverty in member countries. Saudi Arabia has contributed $ 1 billion to the fund.

Farid Kamil Azhar, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s office in the Makkah region, highlighted the bank’s progress during the past four decades.

Saleh Attiyah, consul general of Algeria and head of the diplomatic corps in Jeddah, praised IDB for giving $ 1 billion to Arab Spring countries to boost development and create jobs.

“I am also happy to know that the bank has allocated $ 12 billion for development projects in Africa.” Attiyah underscored the bank’s efforts to expand its activities by opening its offices in Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nigeria.

He also noted the bank’s efforts to facilitate the distribution of meat of animals sacrificed by pilgrims during Haj among the poor in different countries.

Back to top

Russian Muslims restore Tatars mosque

Moscow, Saturday, 04 Safar 1434/ 07 December 2013 (IINA) – After years of legal debates, Russian Muslims have finally restored the 15th century Khan Mosque in Kasimov town, east Moscow, deemed as the oldest mosque in central Russia.

The news was announced on Wednesday by the spiritual directorate for Russian Muslims (The Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) system in Russia), Radio Free Europe reported. Along with Khan Mosque, the MSD has declared regaining the shrines of Shakh Ali Khan and Muhammad Avgan Sultan in Kasimov. Before handing it back to Muslims, Khan Mosque has been controlled over the past centuries by the Kasimov regional museum until.

Under the Museums’ autonomy, Muslims were banned from praying in the worshipping house since it was open as a public museum in the 1930s. Erected by Tatars in the 15th century, the mosque in Rayzan is deemed as the second-oldest mosque in Russia after Dzhuma Mosque. The 13th century Dzhuma Mosque is located in the city of Derbent in Russia’s North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan. Khan Mosque’s date backs to the Qasim Khanate of the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1702, the original body of the mosque was demolished upon Peter’s the Great request, fortunately the minaret was preserved. By 1768, a new building was constructed next to the wide stone minaret. In the 19th century, an additional floor was added to the mosque by the local Tatar nobles in 1835.

The un-decorated walls of the mosque’s minaret resemble the minaret of the well-known Huaisheng Mosque in Guangzhou, in South China, which was rebuilt during the 14th century and again in the 17th century. Huaisheng Mosque believed to be built by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Islam is the country’s second-largest religion, behind the Russian Orthodoxy. There are some 23 million Muslims in the Russian Federation concentrated in the north of the Caucasus, representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million population. According to Russia Today, experts say that, by 2050, Muslims will make up about half of Russia’s population, making it one of the world’s largest countries.

Back to top

Pakistan fashion casts off ‘dark cloud’ of obstacles

Agence France Presse, 9 December 2013 – Mention the Taleban to Pakistan fashion designer Kamiar Rokni and his irritation is clear.

“One of the things we feel diminishes our work is whenever our story is linked to Talebanization and whether we are doing this to fight extremism,” he told AFP in Paris.

“We’re not. We’re doing this for the business of fashion!“

Tired of the country’s ‘bombs’ image, Rokni is far from alone in his desire to see fashion for fashion’s sake.

Certain precautions are unavoidable however and the locations of fashion shows are never disclosed in advance.

“It’s the one thing we do to protect ourselves,” said Rokni who runs his House of Kamiar Rokni label with two cousins.

“Apart from that you just have to have faith and carry on.”

Fellow designer Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, founder of the HSY label, is equally keen to distance himself from any political motive.

“We’ve been lumped up with a very bad dark cloud that’s been over our heads… but this really isn’t our war,” he said.

Extremism aside, the designers — who recently held a catwalk show in Paris — say Pakistan fashion is finally starting to establish itself.

From an industry made up of just a handful of designers and models in the early 1990s, fashion shows, attracting foreign buyers, are now held regularly in Lahore and Karachi.

Its leading figures are gossip column and glossy magazine staples and not afraid to court controversy.

One designer, Safinaz Muneer, sparked outrage last year when she told Hello! magazine that Pakistan employees could spend 1,500 hours on embroidery that “will cost you nothing.”

The row failed to dent sales and the designer denounced critics demanding to know what they had contributed to the industry.

Rokni and Yasin, both graduates of the couture-focused Pakistan School of Fashion Design in Lahore, are evangelical about what the country has to offer, citing the Zardozi embroidery technique which uses gold thread, beads and seed pearls to embellish fabric.

“The world gets their embellishment done from India but when you see the clothes that are hand embellished in Pakistan it’s arguably some of the best in the world,” said Rokni.

“It’s generally a South Asian tradition and the skills are very much alive here.”

The Lahore school, now known as the Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design, was established in 1994 with the aim of giving Pakistani textiles a competitive edge in a global market. Textiles contributed 7.4 percent to GDP in 2011 accounting for over half of all exports, worth around $11 billion.

“Our fashion school was primarily to develop us into making value added products for the textiles industry but our fashion industry also started to develop and flourish,” Rokni said.

Yasin describes his clothes as “uber-masculine with a touch of contemporary,” summing up his signature style as “rock, royal, gent.”

“That’s ‘rock’, for rock star, ‘royal’, all the embellishments, and ‘gent’ meaning very classic so the blazer is 100 percent wool cashmere,” he said.

And he dismissed as out of date the image of Pakistan as a place where men only ever dressed in the traditional salwar kameez of long shirt worn over loose trousers.

In fact, well off Pakistani men in the 25 to 35 age group were increasingly interested in fashion, he said, irrespective of whether they opted for western or traditional south Asian styles.

“Our clone culture — where we used to seem like clones in white salwar kameez — has started to fade away very rapidly,” Yasin said. Few would deny that Pakistan fashion still has a long way to go to reach even the majority of the middle class, let alone poorer sections of society. The socially conservative, mainly Muslim South Asian country is among the world’s poorest. But an appreciation of fashion can sometimes be found in unlikely quarters, added Mohsin Ali, a member of the targeted minority Hazara community, from Quetta in southern Pakistan.

Ali set his sights on a career in fashion after learning about the Lahore school from a television program. There was a positive reaction from Hazaras after media coverage of his designs — described by fellow designers as “ethnicity on speed” — that his father dropped his opposition.

“Hazaras are really not given any importance in Pakistan so it was a proud moment for me to represent them because the designs are inspired by the culture,” he said.

Back to top

Symphonic concerts in İzmir subway station

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – The İzmir Subway Konak station is being revived with mini-concerts organized three days a week. The concerts are jointly organized with the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality and Turkish Brass Ensemble every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the people of İzmir returning from work.

The concerts are performed by the Turkish Brass Ensemble, which is formed by the artists of the İzmir State Symphony Orchestra (İZDSO), İzmir State Opera and Ballet (İZDOB) and Dokuz Eylül and Ege University’s state conservatories.

İZDSO Director Kenan Gökkaya, the general art director of the ensemble, said the concerts were organized as part of the social responsibility projects of the İzmir Municipality.

Back to top

E-system helps manage flow of Umrah pilgrims

Jeddah, Sunday, 05 Safar 1434/ 08 December 2013 (IINA) – Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar announced that the ministry has worked out an electronic system to streamline the flow of pilgrims during the peak Umrah season of Ramadan.

“The system sets a ceiling on the number of pilgrims arriving each month, and the number of pilgrims in the Makkah Haram won’t exceed 500,000 in any day of Ramadan as they will be distributed between Makkah and Madinah,” he told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). Hajjar said the ministry will continue the international electronic network to streamline the arrival and departure of pilgrims during the new Umrah season, which began on Dec. 4.

“The system will ensure that Umrah service providers are strictly complying with the regulations and directives as regards the services for pilgrims,” he said, adding that there are 48 Umrah firms and about 2,000 foreign agents licensed for the new season. According to Hajjar, the e-tracking system is the major highlight of the e-regulations introduced by the ministry. “The system enables the ministry to control the entire process, including issuance of visas, entry and departure of pilgrims, monitoring of services provided to pilgrims etc.,” he said.

Under the e-system, an Umrah visa applicant would apply through a foreign agent contracted with a Saudi Umrah company. The foreign agent provides the data of an Umrah-visa applicant through the electronic network and links the application to the group of services. The agent then pays for the services to the company via bank transfer.

The pilgrims’ data are then provided to the Ministry of Interior, who will issue an electronic entry number for each pilgrim. The numbers are provided to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will issue the visa within five minutes, Hajjar said, adding that the foreign agent will be notified to appear at the Saudi embassy to have the visa issued in the applicant’s passport.

Back to top

Turkish Airlines Unveils New Ad Campaign

LOS ANGELES-December 03, 2013-(BUSINESS WIRE)–Turkish Airlines, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines that was recently voted Europe’s Best Airline for the third year in a row, today unveiled a new ad campaign, “Widen Your World,” highlighted with a new commercial featuring global brand ambassadors and international sports megastars Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi.

In the commercial that emphasizes the global network of the airline, Kobe and Messi resume their friendly rivalry by trading “selfies” from exotic locations, such as the Red Square in Moscow; The Great Wall of China; the Maldives; Bangkok; and Mount Kilimanjaro, all of which are destinations Turkish Airlines flies to. Throughout the commercial, the competitive athletes are seen at various airports consulting the airline’s destination boards for their flights. In the ad’s final shot, Messi takes a “selfie” in Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul—only to be photobombed by Kobe.

“We’re excited to continue our relationship with Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi to heighten awareness of the many benefits of Turkish Airlines around the world, such as our award-winning cuisine, wide global network and unsurpassed service,” says Faruk Cizmecioglu, chief marketing officer at Turkish Airlines. “Just as these two men are at the top of their games, so too is Turkish Airlines, which now travels to 241 global destinations and counting.”

Members of the media were among the first to watch the commercial today at a press conference at the Manhattan Beach Marriott in Manhattan Beach, Calif. They screened it along with Kobe Bryant and Turkish Airlines executives.

“We are thrilled with our latest collaboration with Kobe and Messi highlighting why Turkish Airlines is considered to be one of the best in the world,” says Fatma Yuceler, general manager, Western USA, at Turkish Airlines. “The commercial showcases through a playful spin on ‘selfies’ the numerous global destinations Turkish Airlines flies to and our commitment to serving our passengers in more countries than any other airline. I believe this ad will be a conduit to bringing increased global awareness to our airline while supporting us further expand our network.”

The new commercial builds upon last year’s viral “Kobe vs. Messi” ad, which has been viewed more than 105 million times to date on YouTube.

To view the commercial, please click on the following link: www.youtube.com/turkishairlines.

The commercial was developed by Crispin Porter + Bogusky and produced by H S I Productions, with music by Beacon Street Studios. It is scheduled to run in the U.S. and in more than 170 countries worldwide.

Back to top

Volunteer Application For 2014 Festivals In Sarawak Now Open

SARAWAK, Malaysia – The 17th annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF), to be held in Kuching city as well as the 9th annual Borneo Jazz and 2nd annual Asia Music Festival, both to be held in Miri city, Sarawak is currently accepting applications for volunteers.

The 2014 RWMF will be held on June 20th – 22nd, while the Borneo Jazz 2014 and Asia Music Festival 2014 will be held on May 9th – 10th and October 3rd – 4th respectively.

The Festivals are made possible year after year because of the hard work of over 200 volunteers yearly. Next year, all the three Festivals are looking for individuals or groups to help in the logistics, technical and operational aspects of the event management, event marketing and its operational plan. This volunteer program is designed to provide an overall understanding of the operational aspects of the festivals in order to ensure the success of the musical events organized by Sarawak Tourism Board.

Those interested to volunteer for these musical events in Malaysia may register respectively on RWMF website at www.rwmf.net, Borneo Jazz website www.jazzborneo and Asia Music Festival Website www.asiamusicfestival.net. This is only the application process where those interested in taking part are registered, while the successful applicants will later be notified via email or telephone.

The festival event management areas will require volunteer skills as liaison officer for performing artists, as well as schleppers for handling of the musical instruments among others. These volunteers are required to work during the workshop as well as concert and practice sessions. Volunteers for the event marketing management will participate in sales promotion, product development of festival tour packages, management information, media and public relations program as well as Media Centre operation. Event operation management areas will oversee the site readiness, vendor management, admission and gate operation, event secretariat, equipment and materials preparation and transportation.

The volunteer program has seen many repeated volunteers and it provides not only a learning platform but also a time to get together. Although ideal employee attributes will vary from role to role, all volunteers must be able to conduct themselves in line with the Festival’s core values, which is integrity and teamwork.

With more than 500 officials, media and performers making up the team at the Festivals, the volunteers are sure to meet new friends, sharing experience, learn the new skills, and most importantly gaining new experience in event management.

The festival organizer will provide T-shirts to be worn while on duty. The volunteers will be assigned to perform duties on shift, which covers day or night festival program. The volunteers maybe needed to run the selected management areas a few days before the festival starts in order to ensure festival readiness.

Closing date for Borneo Jazz and RWMF submission form is on 4th April 2014, while Asia Music Festival submission form will close on 4th September 2014.

Other information about the Festival such as the program, packages and many more will be updated on each websites from time-to-time.

Back to top

Implementation Of Malaysian SME Masterplan 2014

PUTRAJAYA, Dec 10 (Bernama) — YAB Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak yesterday (9 Dec) announced that the implementation of the SME Masterplan is on track with the implementation of one of the first High Impact Programmes (HIP) to be rolled out in early 2014. He said this following the 15th National SME Development Council (NSDC) Meeting which he chaired where the members comprise 16 Ministers and Heads of Agencies including Sabah and Sarawak. The SME Masterplan released in July last year aims at raising the contribution of SMEs to the economy from the current 32% of GDP to 41% by 2020. Since 2004 until 2012, SME GDP has been growing at a faster pace of 6.2 % compared to 4.7 % of the overall GDP growth. With the implementation of the programme, growth of SMEs is expected to pick up further. The Masterplan takes a different approach from the existing programmes as it is based on public-private partnership whereby the lead agencies will undertake this programme in collaboration with the private sector.

The Council was also briefed on the status of the new SME definition which will come into effect on 1 January 2014. In this context, SME Corp. Malaysia has circulated the Guideline on the New SME Definition to all Ministries and Agencies, industry associations, financial institutions, as well as, the SMEs and public through its website.

He said that the NSDC endorsed the programme design, institutional framework and implementation strategy of the Technology Commercialisation Platform which is to enable more SMEs to innovate and commercialise their products and services. The TCP will provide end-to-end facilitations across the whole process such as advisory, technical assistance, market information, capacity building and financing.

At the 14th NSDC Meeting which was held in July 2013, SME Corp. Malaysia was entrusted by the Prime Minister to develop the Micro Enterprises Breakout Strategy. The Strategy is aimed at improving productivity and accelerating growth of Micro Enterprises (MEs) in Malaysia that cut across all economic sectors and inclusive enough to address the need and development of youth, women and rural communities.

Under this Strategy, there will be five (5) focused programmes that have been planned to be launched by 2014: StartMEup, GrowME, MarketME, FastTrackME and MEMoneymatter.

The Council has endorsed for SME Corp. Malaysia to proceed with these programmes and achieve their deliverables. The deliverables among others are Utilisation of the Start-up Kit; Application of Productivity Toolkits; Access to Online Markets; Awareness on Finance Availability and Accessibility; and Issuance of Productivity Vouchers.

The Council has also agreed with the position of SME Corp. Malaysia as a one-stop centre and key driver for ME development through the provision of a centralised repository and referral centre for all MEs related programmes in Malaysia; hosting of events for selected and relevant communities at SME Corp. Malaysia; and a persistent set of initiatives that integrate online and offline platforms, creating awareness and sustained engagement with community members.

Enabling e-Payment Programme for SMEs and Micro Enterprises is a project under the Digital Malaysia initiative aimed at accelerating the adoption of e-Payment through acceptance of credit and debit card at a low cost. This will enable SMEs and MEs to increase potential sales. As of November 2013, 26,000 terminals have been deployed through 18,000 merchants.

Framework for SME Act

Moving forward, further engagements and a series of consultations with the relevant Ministries and Agencies, State Governments of Sabah and Sarawak and the private sector will be carried out to ensure that we have a solid framework for the proposed SME Act.

Transformation of Micro Enterprises (ME) Hub by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL)

The Council was briefed on the proposed improvements of Bandar Tun Razak Commercial Community Centre by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL). This pilot project is an outcome following a study that was done together with SME Corp. Malaysia to transform non-performing ME hubs. The Hub will be enlivened with bowling centre, anchor tenants, gymnasium and other amenities that would attract visitors to frequent the hub and create more demand for the traders.

The Council was also informed of an example of Inclusive Innovation whereby the GreeNomad solar-powered kiosk produced by a Bumiputera company, Thinking Green Sdn. Bhd., includes a rainwater harvesting system and acts as an internet hotspot, which will benefit MEs nationwide.

Currently, there are 75 training and skills upgrading programmes being implemented by 13 Ministries and Agencies in Malaysia with an allocation of RM288.53 million. This allocation covers three (3) main elements such as acculturation, entrepreneurship and skills upgrading with the biggest allocation on entrepreneurship, RM207.8 million or 72%.

Four (4) improvements to enhance the Training and Skills Upgrading Programme are:

Creating a centralised database and using the My Corporate Identity (MyCoID) / Identity Card (IC) for registration of the participants;

SMEs are required to be involved in basic knowledge programme before they are entitled for Government assistance;

Add more programmes on compliance of market standards, adoption and adaptation of technology, e-learning technique; and

Ministries/Agencies are encouraged to strengthen their collaboration in implementing the SME Training and Skills Upgrading Programme.

Effective 1st January 2014, the Skills Upgrading Programme will be administered by Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad (PSMB), an Agency under Ministry of Human Resources Malaysia as the central coordinating agency for this programme. This is also in line with one of the main functions of PSMB that is to enhance the human resources capabilities of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Access to Financing

The services sector accounted for the largest share (60%) of total SME financing outstanding with the overall approval rate remaining high at 88%. More than 57,000 applications amounting to RM23.9 billion have been approved under BNM’s SME funds. As at end September 2013, a total of RM2.4 billion was still available to be utilised by SMEs.

Efforts to support SME in new growth areas and innovative industries have been enhanced, including innovative financing products, enhanced credit assessment, business facilitation, and capacity building for financial institutions.

Financing outstanding to Micro Enterprises via the Pembiayaan Mikro framework stood at RM872 million for more than 69,000 accounts. BNM had intensified promotional efforts to increase awareness on Pembiayaan Mikro through bus advertisement featuring Dato’ Lat’s caricature.

BNM highlighted that they are providing greater outreach and engagement with the public through various channels conducted by BNM LINK and Regional Offices (RO) and also participated in various SME awareness programmes nationwide.

Back to top

Historic first meeting between Pope, OIC chief

In an audience at the Vatican City today (December 13, 2013) the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, H.E. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, discussed issues of mutual concern with His Holiness Pope Francis. This was the first ever meeting between an OIC Secretary General and Pope.

During the meeting the OIC Secretary General expressed his appreciation for the audience with Pope Francis and commended his vision to revitalize the dialogue between Christians and Muslims at a time when this dialogue has taken on ever-greater importance, as today the presence of Muslims in historically Christian countries has expanded, while some OIC countries either have native Christian communities or have witnessed in recent years arrival of Christians as guest workers. In this context, the discussions expressed the need for greater efforts to foster respect for religious pluralism and cultural diversity, and to counter the spread of bigotry and prejudices. It was stressed that interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and as such it is a duty for adherents of all faith traditions.

Secretary General Ihsanoglu shared with His Holiness Pope Francis his vision regarding the need for a “historic reconciliation” between Islam and Christianity based on the common Abrahamic roots and in order to support multiculturalism and harmonious societies. His Holiness commended the proposal of the Secretary General and stressed the need to follow it up.

Concern was also expressed regarding the increase of inter-communal tension between Muslim and Christian communities and over the transformation of communal conflicts in some parts of the world into religiously motivated conflicts, even though the root causes are not religious in nature. Concern was also expressed about the exploitation of religion in conflict situations as a means to mobilize supporters.

Establishing a secondary, cultural tract to support interfaith dialogue initiatives was highlighted

Views were exchanged on regional and international developments, especially the situation in Palestine, and the hope was expressed that the Holy City of Jerusalem be a City where Jews, Christians and Muslims may live and worship in peace and harmony.

Concern and dismay were also expressed about the continuation of violence in Syria which requires a solution based on dialogue and negotiation.

The Secretary General concurred with the vision of Pope’s Francis on the need for a just world where poverty and hunger are eradicated and commended him for being recognized as the person of the year by the Time magazine.

Before the audience with Pope Francis, the OIC Delegation met with Mgr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States to discuss ways and means for forging ties of institutional cooperation between the Holy See and OIC to contribute to global peace and security

Back to top

Easyuni.Com: Business, Finance Courses Most Popular In 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 (Bernama) — easyuni, recently released a report highlighting the most popular courses based on its 1 million visitors from 202 countries. Asia’s largest education portal reveals that business and finance courses remain the most popular amongst Asian students followed by engineering and healthcare courses respectively. The report provides valuable insights for higher education marketers to understand their audience better.

Making it easier for international and local students to find the most suitable universities online, ‘easyuni.com’ has emerged as the most popular higher education portal in South East Asia. Since its launch students have spent more than 3,100,000 minutes on this website to find a dream university for themselves. The portal is providing a comprehensive platform to higher education institutions to promote themselves to students from all over the world as the portal attracts students from 202 countries worldwide.

The most popular courses

Business & Management: 28%

Accounting/ Finance: 20%

Engineering 18%

Healthcare: 15%

Information Technology: 10%

Law: 4%

Education: 6%

Interests of Indonesian students

Business & Management: 38%

Healthcare: 16%

Accounting/ Finance: 15%

Education: 10%

Engineering: 10%

Information Technology: 8%

Law: 4%

Interests of Malaysian students

Accounting/ Finance: 29%

Business & Management: 24%

Engineering: 17%

Healthcare: 14%

Information Technology: 8%

Education: 5%

Law: 3%

Interests of Nigerian students

Engineering: 23%

Business & Management: 22%

Healthcare: 18%

Information Technology: 17%

Accounting/ Finance: 14%

Education: 4%

Law: 2%

Interests of Bangladeshi students

Business & Management: 32%

Engineering: 27%

Law: 14%

Accounting/ Finance: 12%

Information Technology: 12%

Education: 8%

Healthcare: 2%

Edwin Tay, CEO at easyuni.com commented “we’re glad that a significant number of Higher Education Institutions use our platform to market themselves. We are constantly improving the way students and parents find universities and colleges, making it easier for them to connect with their desired institutions.”

Back to top

KL Conference On Shariah & Legal Aspects Of Islamic Finance 2013

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 (Bernama) — Alfalah Consulting is organizing KL Conference on Shariah & Legal Aspects of Islamic Finance 2013 to be held on 18-19 December 2013 at Grand Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

This conference will address Shariah matters and legal issues and challenges related to the development and implementation of Islamic financial services.

Global development of Islamic finance

Ensuring Shariah compliance in Islamic financial instruments

Legal issues and challenges in Islamic finance

Highlights of Islamic Financial Services Act (IFSA2013)

Islamic ethics in financial services industry

Shariah auditing for Islamic financial services

Speakers are Shariah scholar, legal practitioner, professor, Islamic banker, consultant; among them are:

Assoc. Prof. Dr Mohamad Akram Laldin,

Executive Director of International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA)

(ii) Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ahcene Lahsasna,

Lecturer of Shariah courses / Graduate Studies Academic Advisor

International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF)

(iii) Assoc. Prof. Dr Zurina Shafii,

Director, Islamic Finance & Wealth Management Institute

Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM)

(iv) Zarizan Ibrahim

Manager, Shariah Research and Secretariat

Shariah Department, Group Islamic Banking Division, CIMB

(v) Ahmad Sanusi Husain

CEO, Alfalah Consulting & Certified Islamic Financial Planner

The event web site is www.shariah-legal-islamic-finance.blogspot.com.

The organiser’s web site is www.alflaahconsulting.com.

Back to top

Golf Will Swing An Ace For Malaysia’s Tourism Ringgit

MELBOURNE, Dec 11 (NNN-Bernama) — Promoting golf will swing an ace in favour of Malaysia’s tourism coffers, says Malaysian Golf Association president Admiral (Ret) Mohd Anwar Nor.

He noted that last year, golf contributed US$95 million to Malaysia’s economy, exceeding the initial forecast revenue of US$93.54 million.

“This year, we are targeting US$97 million,” he told a Malaysian golf tourism roadshow and competition on Tuesday, at the Growling Frog Golf Club, about 30km from here.

Mohd Anwar said the promotion of golf tourism was in line with the Malaysian Government administration centre, Putrajaya’s efforts to attract more high-yield tourists to Malaysia.

“With more than 207 golf courses nationwide, we definitely have what it takes to cater to the needs of avid golfers who crave unique experiences. We have courses in the city, nature or jungle, resort, island and highlands.”

Mohd Anwar said that with such a variety of excellent courses, it came as no surprise when Malaysia was named ‘Australia and Asia Golf Destination of the Year’ in 2008.

He urged Australia’s golfers and their families to take part in ‘Visit Malaysia Year 2014’ (VMY ’14) which would showcase a full year of festivals and celebrations.

Next year will also feature major golf events kicking off with the Iskandar Johor Open in January, the Maybank Malaysia Open (April), the CIMB Classic and Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia (both in October).

Malaysia will also host the inaugural EurAsia Cup at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club from March 28-30 when 10 of Europe’s best golfers will challenge Asia’s best 10.

Tourism Malaysia’s Australian director Roslan Abdullah said he had received many inquiries about golf tourism in Malaysia.

“Australians who have played golf in Malaysia say it is a wonderful experience. Many make repeat visits and this is very encouraging,” he said, adding that he and his staff were aggressively promoting Malaysia as a golfing destination through the VMY 14 programme.

About 10 Malaysian travel agents and tour operators joined about 40 of their Australian counterparts in the golfing event here yesterday.

The event in Sydney on Wednesday, attracted 60 participants.

Malaysian High Commissioner, Zainal Abidin Ahmad took part in the Sydney event while Consul-General, Dr Mohd Rameez Yahaya attended theroadshow here. — NNN-BERNAMA

Back to top

Credit card showing direction of Mecca issued in Turkey

ISTANBUL – Türkiye Finans, an Islamic participation bank, has launched a new credit card that shows the direction of Mecca with a built-in digital compass. The bank’s representatives say the new card is a first in the country.

“We keep making breakthrough banking innovations. Our new card offers many advantages to its users. We invite all those who are planning a Hajj or Umra visit to use our card,” said Semih Alşar, Finance Bank’s deputy general manager responsible for personal banking, via a written statement issued on Dec. 12.

Holders of the card will have the chances to shop in installments from several travel agencies to take advantage of special Hajj and Umra pilgrimage packages.

Türkiye Finans was founded in 2005 following the merger of Family Finans, owned by the Ülker Group, a worldwide giant in biscuit, chocolate and candies, and Anadolu Finans, owned by the Boydak Group, a leading group in the furniture, home textiles and cable sectors. Some 60 percent of the bank was later acquired in 2008 by the National Commercial Bank (NCB), the largest bank in Saudi Arabia.

Back to top

Oman Air Promotes “Oman and The Sea” Exhibition

Muscat, 15 Dec. 13 – For December 2013, Oman Air’s in-flight magazine Wings of Oman has an unforgettable selection of stories for all passengers aboard the Sultanate of Oman’s national carrier.

Headlining this edition is the ‘It’s Oman’ section, which profiles the official opening ceremony that took place for the ‘Oman and the Sea’ exhibition currently on the go at the National Maritime Museum in Paris, France. The ceremony was a spectacular affair, and took place at the Trocadero fountains, directly in front of the famous Eiffel Tower. It was honored by the joint patronage of the Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and the French President Francois Hollande. The exhibition documents the Sultanate of Oman’s extremely rich, 5 000-year-old maritime history.

The issue highlights the book that was published to accompany the exhibition by highlighting the message of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and French President Francois Hollande.

The ‘International Destination’ feature profiles Jordan and its energetic capital city, Amman. While there is a lot more to Jordan than the well-known tourist sites like the ancient city of Petra, the Dead Sea, the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, and the Roman ruins of Jerash, these tourism hot spots will never lose their allure. They are always worth talking about! Oman Air flies seven times a week between Muscat and Amman.

There is a saying that goes, ‘Life is in the breath. He who half breathes, half lives!’ The ‘Health & Beauty’ feature in Wings of Oman looks at the remarkable benefits of breathing well – and getting more oxygen into our system.

Every business owner and entrepreneur knows that not much happens until something gets sold. Well, the Wings of Oman ‘Business’ section investigates ways to sell your products or services – simply by finding out what people’s problems are, and solving them.

The ‘Fashions & Trends’ feature profiles a semi-formal range of cashmere items designed for women; and then an innovative, modern-looking collection of knitwear garments for men. In the ‘World Tour’ section, Wings of Oman highlights four bridges from around the world that are definitely worth travelling to – and crossing.

As usual, the magazine documents the major festivals, events, and sports currently taking place around the world. It also features easy-reading ‘Book Reviews’ and ‘Time Out’ sections – as well as a ‘World View’ feature, which showcases some remarkable photos from around the globe. The ‘Take 4’ page looks at Oman’s ancient Falaj irrigation channels (some of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites).

Wings of Oman is produced and presented every month in both Arabic and English by the Corporate Communications and Media Department of Oman Air, in association with National Publishing and Advertising (NPA), who are one of Oman’s foremost publishing houses. Every month 21 000 copies of Wings of Oman are circulated.

The magazine’s readership includes an eclectic mix of on-board business and leisure travellers. Wings of Oman also gets distributed on the ground to all the Oman Air offices at the international destinations it flies to – as well as offline agents across the Middle East, Africa and Europe; government officials and embassies throughout Oman; the Oman Tourism offices; leading local and international hotels; and important travel shows around the world.

Back to top

Egyptian Superheroine Defends Hijab

OnIslam & News Agencies Sunday, 08 December 2013 CAIRO – Applying justice in a virtual world, an Egyptian Muslim young girl has translated childhood dreams of a veiled superheroine that combats stereotyping of hijab and discrimination against women in the Egyptian society.

“There is already so little representation of women who wear the hijab, although that is the majority of women I see around me, and it did not make sense not to make her wear hijab,” Deena Mohamed, the author of the comic series, told BBC on Sunday, December 8.

Wearing hijab, Qahira, the Egyptian heroine of the comic series counters gender discrimination and crimes against women.

With more than 500,000 hits since its online release in September, the new series is deemed as the first-ever web comics featuring an Egyptian female superheroine.

The idea came to Deena’s mind while chatting with her friends.

“It all started as a joke with a group of friends,” she said.

“It was my way to respond in my own way to things that were frustrating me at the time, and when the idea of having superpowers was fascinating!”

Qahera also fights sexual harassment in the streets of Egypt, which exacerbated in the recent years, unlike most of ladies who are usually ‘helpless’.

In one episode, Qahera haunts male abusers and jumps to the crime scenes while holding a sword.

“Never bother another woman again!” Qahera warns in one of the episodes.

A recent UN report has found that more than 99% of Egyptian women have experienced some form of sexual harassment.

After becoming viral on the web, several Egyptian publishers have asked Deena to offer a printed version for the comic series.

“It is insane. Way more exposure than I ever expected,” the art student said.

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

Beyond Egypt

The Muslim superheroine comic series aims to reach audience beyond Egypt, targeting the western communities.

Fighting Islamophobia in the west, the author has written all the episodes in English.

“I wanted to send a message about the general Islamophobic backlash, and if I was going to address that, I needed to make a statement,” Deena said.

“Women who wear hijab usually bear the brunt of Islamophobia,” she added.

The 19-year-old author has also highlighted the role of Egyptian women during the January 2011 revolution.

“I remember at one point during the revolution, people would use statistics of attacks on women to discredit political movements – and Egyptians – at large,” Deena said. “This keeps happening, consistently, both locally and internationally,

“People will abuse statistics as they see fit, but they will always ignore the women at the base of those statistics. So, politics and superpowers aside, here is my attempt at a tribute to real-life superheroes.”

Along with positive reactions on the comic series, Qahera have received a negative feedback over imitating western cultures which created superheroes.

Responding to negative reactions Deena explained: “We are all exposed to the idea of comics and superheroes. We are exposed to Western media so often. So I guess I was just responding to that in my own way.”

Last November, a leading American comics company, Marvel comics, has introduced its first female Muslim superhero, reflecting challenges on how to deal with familial and religious edicts while fighting super villains.

Back to top

ICD to set up Ijara company in Palestine

Ramallah, Saturday, 04 Safar 1434/ 07 December 2013 (IINA) – The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), an affiliate of the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank, announced the launch of its first project in Palestine, a specialized Ijara company, in partnership with the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and the Palestine Islamic Bank (PIB). The announcement was made during an inaugural event in Ramallah attended by a number of ministers and government officials, and representatives from the Palestinian financial sector and the business community.

Leading the inauguration event, Maher Al-Masri, chairman of the Palestinian Capital Markets Authority, noted that the Palestine Ijara Company (PIC) was the first of its kind in Palestine as it specialized in Shariah-compliant financing. The financial instruments offered by Ijara will add significant depth to the Palestinian financial sector and will tremendously benefit the Palestinian SME segment.”

Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Chairman of PIF Mohammed Mustafa said: “PIC will offer multiple leasing products that are new to Palestine.” He added: “We are also particularly proud of partnering with ICD. And I would like to take the opportunity to thank ICD CEO Khalid Al-Aboodi for the efforts to ensure the success of this unprecedented partnership. We hope that this partnership represents the beginning of a fruitful relationship between our organizations.”

Mahmoud Al-Khoshman, ICD’s adviser and representative on the board of the Palestine Ijara Company, remarked: “The ICD is honored to partner with major Palestinian investment and banking institutions such as the Palestine Investment Fund and the Palestine Islamic Bank. Through this partnership, we aim to assist Palestinian SMEs in fulfilling their growth potential by offering them Islamic-compliant financing products.”

Al-Khoshman added: “The project, which is the first of its kind in Palestine, is 100 percent Shariah-compliant. The Palestine Ijara Company will help add depth and diversity to the Palestinian financial services sector. This is also the first engagement of ICD in Palestine and it will be followed by more to come in the future. As a strategic partner in the company, ICD will utilize its extensive experience and expertise, which we have accumulated over the course of establishing 17 similar Ijara companies across the Islamic and Arab world, to ensure that the company meets its stated goals and objectives.”

Durgham Maraee, chief investment officer of PIF, noted that PIF will be executing this transaction through its specialized SME investment and financing arm, Sharakat Fund. He added: “The fact that the three partners complement each other will ensure the success of the company and optimize its positive impact on the development of the SMEs sector.” Bayan Qasem, acting GM of the Palestine Islamic Bank, said: “The establishment of the Palestine Ijara Company (PIC) marks a significant milestone in the development of the Palestinian Islamic financing sector. PIC’s work will complement the Palestine Islamic Bank’s efforts to strengthen the presence of Islamic-banking in Palestine.”

The new company, the Palestine Ijara Company (PIC), will offer asset-based Ijara financing to SMEs in various economic sectors, including agribusiness, industry, construction, education, health care, and tourism. The financing will range between $100,000 and $1 million per transaction, and will aim to grow the operations of SME’s and ultimately to create many new job opportunities in Palestine.

Back to top

Old Haram structures being demolished for expansion

Makkah, Monday, 06 Safar 1434/ 09 December 2013 (IINA) – Work has begun on the demolition of old structures, built during the first Saudi expansion, and the old Haram, so as to facilitate the expansion of the Grand Mosque as part of the King Abdullah Grand Mosque Expansion Project, it was announced on Sunday.

Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the new constructions are part of the second phase of the ongoing expansion of the mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba). “This phase would cover about 25,000 square meters, almost double the area of the first phase. With the completion of the second phase, the capacity to accommodate tawaf performers will rise to 75,000 per hour,” he said.

Citing details of the project, Sheikh Sudais said: The second phase begins from where the first phase ended at the north side of the mataf and will reach up to King Fahd Gate, which was constructed during the second Saudi expansion after passing through the Umrah Gate and the area opposite it in the direction of the mataf. This phase includes reconstruction of Al-Fatah Gate and its surrounding area as well as the outer surrounding area facing the northern courtyard. The old passageway will be dismantled and reconstructed to facilitate the movement of pilgrims inside the mataf.

Construction of the first mezzanine floor, which is designated for pilgrims with special needs, with a width of 10 meters, has also begun. The new construction sites have been barricaded after ensuring passages to facilitate smooth and safe flow of worshipers from the mataf to the masaa (running area between Safa and Marwa). Sheikh Sudais said work will continue until the beginning of next Ramadan so as to enable the faithful to take advantage of the basement floor as well as the ground and first floors of the mataf while the terrace will be opened during the next Haj season.

The new buildings and all levels of the mataf will have staircases and escalators to ensure smooth flow of worshipers, he said. Sheikh Sudais said work on the first level of the temporary circular bridge over the mataf, designed for the disabled and elderly pilgrims, and connecting it to the ground floor of the mosque and outer courtyards will also be completed before Ramadan. Sheikh Sudais opened the top and second levels of the bridge that connects the first floor of the mosque on July 25. The 12-meter-wide and 13-meter-high bridge can accommodate 1,700 wheelchairs in an hour. The bridge will be used by disabled people until the completion of the mataf expansion work that started on Nov.15 last year. Described as the ‘Project of the Century’, the King Abdullah Expansion Project, costing over SR100 billion, is designed to increase the mosque’s capacity to more than two million worshipers.

Back to top

Saudi Arabia launches genetic code mapping project

Riyadh, Tuesday, 07 Safar 1434/ 10 December 2013 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia has launched a genetic code mapping project aimed at identifying the basis of chronic diseases prevalent in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Human Genome Program will be run by Saudi researchers, in cooperation with the US Life Technologies Corporation, at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). “The program aims to identify the causes of prevalent chronic diseases in Saudi Arabia,” Prince Muqrin Bin Abdul Aziz, the Second Deputy Prime Minister, said. The program will work over five years on sequencing 100,000 human genomes to study both normal and disease-associated genes specific to the Saudi population, said a statement by Life Technologies. “This genomic variant data will be fully analyzed and used to create a Saudi-specific database that will provide the basis for future development of personalized medicine in the Kingdom,” it said.

The sequencing will be performed using Life Technologies’ semiconductor-based Ion Proton DNA sequencer, it added. The instruments will be deployed at 15 genome centers across the Kingdom, it said. “We believe the Saudi Human Genome Program will help shape the understanding of health and disease and usher in an era of personalized medicine in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said KACST president Mohammed Al-Suwayl. “This is a program of exceptional scale enabled by the Ion Proton,” said Gregory T. Lucier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Life Technologies.

“It demonstrates KACST’s vision to position the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a world leader in genetic research through its genome centers to deliver the ultimate in personalized medicine. We expect the Saudi Human Genome Program will provide a model which many countries will follow.” Each center is designed and equipped by Life Technologies’ Enterprise Genomics Services team which will further accelerate the project by providing end-to-end solutions and services for operations and informatics.

This wealth of information, provided with the full consent of participants, will also enable clinicians in the future to offer premarital and prenatal screening for rare diseases, which will facilitate preventive medicine and decrease the emotional, social and economic burden of rare birth defects. The data will also enable worldwide population studies to understand and compare population-specific influences leading to normal and harmful variants, common and rare mutations.

Dr. Prabhu Sampath, Chief Executive Officer of Life Technologies’ distributor in the Middle East, Integrated Gulf Biosystems (IGB) said: “IGB is privileged to have played a pivotal role in bringing this disruptive technology in genome sequencing from Life Technologies to KACST and the impact of this project will be far reaching and will lead to the introduction of new techniques and tools, including precision medicine to both patients and the clinicians treating them.”

KACST and China’s Shenzhen-based BGI succeeded in 2010 in decoding the entire genetic makeup of the single-humped camel, the omnipresent dromedary native to the Arabian Peninsula. Unlocking the genetics underpinning the camel’s immune system could lead to potential medical discoveries, and the genome data can also help scientists understand better how the mammal produces its highly nutritious and medically valuable milk.

Back to top

New museum typifies cultural façade of Madinah

Madinah, Tuesday, 07 Safar 1434/ 10 December 2013 (IINA) – Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Monday opened the Madinah Museum at the refurbished Hejaz Railway Station here.

Madinah Emir Prince Faisal Bin Salman, Prince Salman Bin Sultan, and Madinah Mayor Khaled Taher were among those who attended the inaugural ceremony. The function was held on the sidelines of the 3rd National Urban Heritage Forum that kicked off in the city on Sunday. Ali Al-Ghaban, Vice President of SCTA for Antiquities and Museums, said that the commission completed the first phase of the museum at the station, and this represents a cultural façade of Madinah region, which abounds in archeological and Islamic historical sites. “The SCTA has refurbished the buildings of the old Hejaz Railway Station and transformed them into a museum to showcase the rich history of Madinah through the ages ever since the pre-historic period until the present day. The commission had earlier established another museum at the train repair shed to highlight the history of the Hejaz Railway,” he said.

Al-Ghaban said the museum’s first phase consists of 14 halls to showcase exhibits, and they include the lobby of the museum, halls for Madinah’s environment and history of its nature, Madinah before Islam, Madinah during the Prophet’s period, halls of the Prophet’s wives and children, Al-Ansar and Muhajireen, the Prophet’s Mosque, Madinah during the period of Caliphs, Madinah through Islamic ages, Madinah in the period of first Saudi state, Madinah in the second Saudi state, Madinah during the period of King Abdul Aziz, and Madinah heritage.

He said that the second phase of the museum would include construction of building on an area covering 12,000 sq. meters. It will house five halls to showcase artifacts from King Abdul Aziz Library of Madinah, and the Prophet’s Mosque, as well as those related to Madinah through the ages, in addition to a hall for children, and another for Saudi life. There will be digital display of artistic and archeological artifacts representing the history of Madinah and its urban heritage through the ages.

Meanwhile, Prince Sultan Bin Salman said that the projects for the preservation of historical and Islamic sites will be outlined soon now that all significant sites in Makkah and Madinah have been identified, Prince Sultan Bin Salman. In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency on Monday, he said that Islamic history should be told in the right way and should not be left for others to project it in their way. “We have immense Islamic heritage. We should present it to the world accurately. We’re working with the Makkah and Madinah development commissions to preserve these sites,” Prince Sultan said. Some of the sites are Mount Thor, Mount Al-Noor, Mount Uhud, and the Badr Battle site.

The SCTA committee in charge of developing these locations consists of senior Muslim scholars who are consulted on various issues related to the development process. Three agreements have been signed with three universities to train students who will be responsible for educating the general public about the historical sites and their major significance.

Prince Sultan said the SCTA also preserves non-Islamic archeological sites because they are important for telling the real story of how Islam began in the Arabian Peninsula. The scholars have already visited these sites and emphasized their significance for Islamic history. Last month Prince Sultan announced that Umrah pilgrims from 65 countries can benefit from the ambitious ‘Extended Umrah Tourism Program, which will be a joint package of the ministries of Haj, foreign and interior. The integrated system to link Umrah and tourist visas will benefit millions of pilgrims who come to the Kingdom for Umrah every year.

Back to top

Everything apiculture at Aydın’s Çine museum

AYDIN – Anadolu Agency – Çine Apiculture Museum in the western province of Aydın is Turkey’s first and only museum of apiculture. Visitors are able to see paintings drawn on the walls of caves by primitive people as well as hives used ancient Greece, apiculture reliefs on Egyptian tombs and today’s modern hive

The ins and outs of apiculture, a centuries-old phenomenon whose beginnings can be witnessed today through ancient inscriptions and the like on cave walls, are the focus of the Aydın’s Çine Apiculture Museum in Turkey’s west.

Apiculture technician and Çine Apiculture Museum official Hüseyn Basri Çalışkan said that the museum, which has been designated as a private museum by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, was affiliated with Adnan Menderes University (ADU).

He said that the museum was the first one of its kind in Turkey and the 77th in the world, adding that visitors were able to see the drawings of ancient peoples on cave walls, examples of hives that were used in ancient Greece, apiculture reliefs on Egyptian tombs and today’s modern hives.

“The development of apiculture from early, primitive hives to their modern equivalent is on exhibit at the museum. The imitation of cave paintings relating apiculture in the era before Christ, Lycian type hives, decorations and relieves on Egyptian pyramids can be seen here,” he said.

Also, coins with bee figures, which have been found in the ancient city of Ephesus, hives of 75,100 and 200 years, honey spoons from the Ottoman palace kitchens, as well as many apiculture tools are among the other items displayed at the museum, according to Çalışkan. “Visitors examine all these things and get to know about the historical development of apiculture,” he said.

Çalışkan said that they were also trying to rid children’s fear from bees, adding, “Through smell and observation hives, we want children to get rid of their fear from bees. When they visit the museum, they can hear the sound of hives and feel its smell. They watch the bees behind glass hives and observe their relations. We give information about apiculture to children. In this way, they become to love bees when leaving the museum.”

The museum, which is open six days a week, provides training on apiculture for beekeepers. It has a 40-person education hall that is used for various events, a café, kids park, painting workshop and a playing area where 2000-year-old Roman and Turkish plays are performed.

Back to top

Visitors to Istanbul on rise

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – The number of foreign tourists visiting Istanbul increased by 11 percent this year, compared to last year.

According to data obtained from the Ataürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports and Haydarpaşa, Pendik and Karaköy ports, last year between January and November, 8,728,880 foreigners arrived in Istanbul. This year, this figure increase by 11 percent and reached 9,720,078.

The largest group of people visiting Istanbul was from Germany with 1,102,608 visitors. Germans were followed by 531,754 Russians, 475,301 Americans, 445,807 French citizens, 429,327 Britons, 404, 448 Italians, 354,201 Iranians and 264,345 Dutch citizens. These countries were followed by Libya, Ukraine, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Spain and Syria and others.

One person each from Montserrat, Cook Island Wallis and Futuna Islands, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Jan Mayen Islands, Christmas Island, Heard and Mcdonald Islands and Gilbert Islands visited Istanbul this year.

It was also reported that arrivals in Istanbul by air increased by 11.5 percent and arrivals by sea increased by 9.5 percent.

Back to top

Lion Air opens flight routes from Batam to Kalimantan, Sulawesi

Sat, December 7 2013 Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) – National airlines Lion Air will be flying new routes from Batam to East Kalimantan, linking other areas in Kalimantan and Sulawesi, an official of Batan Industrial Authority (BP Batam) said.

“The Ministry of Transportation has issued a permit for the opening of the flight routes, but flight schedules have yet to be decided. Lion Air has said the routes will be opened this month,” BP Batam Spokesman Dwi Djoko Wiwoho said here on Saturday.

Hang Nadim airport in Batam is an international airport under the management of BP Batam. It is not managed by airport operator PT Angkasa Pura, which manages other Indonesian airports.

As of Friday, December 6, 2013, Lion Air officially began operating out of Hang Nadim airport, which has a 4,025 meter runway, as a flight hub in the western part of Indonesia, particularly Sumatra, connecting to other areas in the central and eastern parts of Indonesia.

The flight routes will link Batam with Balikpapan in East Kalimantan, Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan, Berau (East Kalimantan), Tarakan in North Kalimantan, Manado in North Sulawesi, Palu in Central Sulawesi and Makassar in South Sulawesi, without having to transit at Jakartas Soekarno-Hatta airport (Java).

Djoko said that the opening of the flight routes seeks to shorten flights from the western part of Indonesia, in particular mainland Sumatra, to the eastern regions of Indonesia.

“It also aims to reduce flight density and delays if flights have to transit at Soekarno-Hatta airport,” he said.

He said Lion Air will also open direct flights from Batam to Semarang in Central Java.

The airlines is currently serving routes in Batam-Sibolga, Silangit, Gunung Sitoli, Meulaboh, Banda Aceh and Loksumaw via Medan.

Other rotes are Batam-Pekanbaru, Batam-Padang, Batam-Silangit, Batam-Jambi, Batam-Benkulu, Batam-Palembang, Batam-Natuna, Batam-Pontianak, Batam-Surabaya, Batam-Semarang, Batam-Yogyakarta, Batam-Bandung, Batam-Jakarta and Batam-Tanjung Pandan via Pangkal Pinang.

Back to top

Indonesia, Netherlands agree on five islands construction project

Thu, December 12 2013 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands have reached an agreement on the five islands construction project near the Tanjung Perak Port, Surabaya (East Java), for building the proposed industrial area.

“The estimated cost of the project is slated to be 20 million euros,” the First Secretary of Information and Social Culture Affairs at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in The Hague Danang Waskito declared here on Thursday.

He stated that the agreement was reached between PT Pelindo III of the Indonesia Port Corporations and a Dutch construction company, Van Oord.

The agreement was signed during Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s visit during November 19-22, 2013. He was accompanied by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen and the Minister of Agriculture Sharon Djiksma.

“The economic cooperation between Indonesia and the Netherlands is quite strong, especially in the field of water management, science and health, food and agriculture, horticulture, and logistics,” Danang claimed.

Apart from the construction of five islands in Surabaya, the two countries also agreed on charting out the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development master plan.

“This project aims to address flooding and support sustainable development in Jakarta,” Danang remarked, adding that the master plan was chalked out by Indonesian and Dutch experts.

During the prime ministerial visit, the Joint Declaration On Comprehensive Partnership was signed between the governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands. In addition, an agreement on Triangular Cooperation was signed by the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed in the field of fisheries and aquaculture by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Netherlands and the Minister of Marine and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia.

“From these visits, we can see a new round of relationship that lays emphasis on a long-term vision that involves Indonesia and the Netherlands jointly moving forward to explore an array of opportunities for cooperation in the fields of economy, politics, and culture,” Danang said.

Back to top

Antique Azerbaijani art samples showcased in Amman

13 December 2013 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan’s ancient art samples are put on display at an international exhibition of antiques in Jordan.

The exhibition displays goods and products that hold high historical and collectors’ value.

The individual exhibition that consists of the personal collections of Muhammad Jafar Salih al-Baghdadi, the descendant of well-known antiques collectors in the Middle East, auction organizer, and renowned expert in the field of antique items and engineer, opened at the hall of the Iraqi Business Council in Amman, Azertag news agency reported.

The exposition showcases antiques from Azerbaijan, Iran, Europe, Russia, Middle Eastern countries.

Azerbaijani gold jewelry, precious jewels of the nineteenth century, ancient silver coins, rare silver daggers, and handmade silver belts are among the antique items.

The carpets of Eastern countries, including Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Arabia, and other masterpieces of carpet weaving hold a special place at the exposition.

Al-Baghdadi said he is in close contact with antiques lovers in Azerbaijan, sometimes giving the guidance and recommendations.

He said he treats Azerbaijan with great love, and often visits the country, since his wife is Azerbaijani.

Al-Baghdadi also said he plans to organize such exhibition in Azerbaijan.

Back to top

Japan-Brunei cultural showcase

December 13, 2013 Borneo Bulletin – BRUNEI Methanol Company (BMC) Sdn Bhd hosted a cultural event showcasing traditional Japanese and Bruneian games and traditions.

It was held for the community of Mukim Liang-Lumut and Mukim Belait as well as officials from the government and private sectors.

About 500 guests attended the event and invited as the guest of honour was Belait District Officer, Awg Haji Haris bin Haji Othman.

The cultural event on Wednesday evening also saw BMC employees in Yukata attire showcasing Japanese traditional costume.

BMC’s Chief Executive Officer, Akira Ishiwada, in his welcoming remarks, said he hoped 2014 will be a resourceful year for BMC and he noted its long-standing benefits to share and exchange traditional cultures between Brunei and Japan next year.

He acknowledged immense support from the Belait District Office, the government and its community towards BMC’s corporate social responsibility initiatives and hoped to prolong the meaningful relations.

The highlight of the showcase was the display of both Japan and Brunei traditional games, such as ‘O-Som’ and ‘Nenek Sibongkok Tiga’ for Brunei, and ‘Jun-Ken Hoi’ and ‘Kagome’ for Japan, which showed similarities between Brunei and Japan traditional games.

A competition of two Japanese traditional games ‘Kendama’ and ‘Daruma Otoshi’ was also held.

The event ended with a presentation of a token of appreciation by Akira Ishiwada to the Belait District Officer.

The event was part of BMC’s corporate social responsibility to promote cultural exchange and understanding between Brunei and Japan and it was also held to fulfil part of BMC’s corporation agreement to Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB).

Back to top

Air Algerie Boosts Flight Capacity For Summer 2014

PARIS, dec 9 (NNN-APS) — Algeria’s national flag carrier, Air Algerie, plans to increase its flight capacity during the 2014 summer season by 11 per cent, says its chief executive officer, Air Algerie, Mohamed Salah Boultif.

He said this in an announcement made here Sunday during a meeting between visiting Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal with representatives of the Algerian community in Paris.

Boultif said apart from long-term efforts made by the national airline to meet rising demand, “an 11 per cent increase in flight capacity is planned for the summer season of 2014”.

“We are working on better offers, through more flight capacity between Algeria and France,” he said, adding that the national airline is currently serving ten French cities.

The Air Algerie CEO made the statement in reply to Algerian nationals’ question at the meeting with the Prime Minister. Also present at the meeting was Foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra and Algeria’s Ambassador to France, Amar Bendjama.

Back to top

Mideast, Asia-Pacific Region To Lead Global Passenger Growth: IATA

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Dec 11 (NNN-WAM) – The Middle East and Asia-Pacific region will see the strongest annual passenger growth until 2017, Xinhua news agency reports, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), as saying.

IATA said, in its global civil aviation report, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific region will have an annual growth of 6.3 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively, between 2013 and 2017, followed by Africa and Latin America with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of 5.3 percent and 4.5 percent respectively.

Global passengers will increase by 31 percent to 3.91 billion by 2017, the IATA report added.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and chief executive, said, the fact that the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, led by China, will deliver the strongest growth in the following years was not surprising.

“Governments in both regions recognise the value of connectivity, provided by aviation, to boost global trade and development,” he said.

“Governments in those regions need to change their views on aviation, from a luxury cash cow to a utilitarian powerful draft horse, to reap benefits and advance economic development,” said Tylor.

Globally, the aviation industry supports some 57 million jobs and 2.2 trillion U.S. dollars in economic activities.

Back to top

Proposed Singapore-KL Rail Link To Be Finalised Next Year: Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 (Bernama) — The proposed Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail link will be finalised next year, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said on Twitter Thursday.

“Insya-Allah (God willing), we will be able to finalise the proposed Singapore-KL high-speed rail project next year,” he said in his tweet.

The proposed US$12 billion (RM40 billion) 330km project was announced by the prime minister and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong in February.

Najib said the project, when completed in 2020, would shorten travelling time between the two cities to just 90 minutes.

It was reported on Sept 18 that although details of the project had not been revealed, Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had said that Malaysia would begin negotiations with Singapore in the coming weeks on the tender process in the second half of next year.

Back to top

Malaysia Actions 88% Of Measures For ASEAN Integration

TOKYO, Japan Dec 13 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has implemented 88 per cent of the measures needed for Asean’s regional integration, with the goal being the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by 2015, said Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

He said, overall Asean’s 10 member states had implemented 80 per cent of the measures needed for the integration.

“We are making good progress towards the AEC,” he said in his keynote address at the opening of the 32nd Conference of the Malaysia-Japan Economic Association (Majeca) and Japan-Malaysia Economic Association (Jameca) joint conferance at Imperial Hotel, here, today.

Najib, who arrived here yesterday morning, is on a working visit in conjunction with the 40th Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit tomorrow.

The AEC envisages, among others, a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.

In other words, the AEC will transform Asean with more than 600 million people now into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital.

Najib pointed out that there were those who doubted that Asean would realise the AEC by 2015, adding that these criticisms were often based on incomplete understanding of the concept of the AEC itself.

“We never envisaged Asean following the footsteps of the EU (European Union), as Asean integration is inclusive, and will take on board different levels of economic development,” he said.

Najib said the regional grouping’s vision was to transform the region into a single market and an integrated production base.

“With deeper integration through the Asean Free Trade Area, we believe the AEC will make Asean more competitive and lead to a more conducive environment for business,” he added.

Formed in 1967, Asean groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Back to top

Gulf Air launches flights to Sialkot

Gulf Daily News – 13 December, 2013 – Gulf Air yesterday announced that it will start services to its fifth destination in Pakistan – Sialkot, from January 17, with two flights per week.

Operations to Sialkot International Airport, located around 125km north of Lahore, will provide Gulf Air’s customers travelling to the Export Triangle of Pakistan – the area encompassing Gujarat, Sialkot and Gujranwala where approximately 60 per cent of Pakistan’s small and medium enterprises are located, with an alternative travel proposition.

“Pakistan is a key longstanding market for Gulf Air and is one of our most successful destinations,” Gulf Air’s acting chief commercial officer Ahmed Janahi said.

“The recent 30pc frequency increase in our flights to Pakistan, spread across our network in the country – Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar – has been positively received by our passengers, as reflected by strong bookings.

“Therefore, the decision was taken to further strengthen our operations to the country by the addition of a fifth destination – Sialkot.

Gulf Air will operate flights to Sialkot on Tuesdays and Fridays with an Airbus A320 aircraft that offers 16 Falcon Gold class seats and 120 in economy.

“The addition of Sialkot to Gulf Air’s network demonstrates the forward-looking emphasis of the airline as it continues to transition from a period of restructuring to one of development,” he said.

“The airline remains committed to proactively leveraging opportunities to strengthen its network through identifying niche opportunities,” he added.

Back to top

Oman to host Women Expo from Dec 17 to 19

Oman Daily Observer – 12 December, 2013 – Women Expo 2013, the pioneering international trade event organised by Omanexpo designed for women and their interests, will take place from December 17 to 19 at the Oman International Exhibition Centre.

The established event brings with it eight years of product, service and activity offerings to Oman’s trade and general public.

Women Expo rides on the theme “Celebrating Women Empowerment,” showcasing segments that define the interests and needs of today’s women.

This year, the 5th edition will place special focus on the education, health and wellness, mother and child, and fashion and lifestyle segments, while also highlighting banking and finance, home and kitchen, bridal and wedding, career and education, and beauty.

It will also feature “edutainment” activities which will provide visitors a real feel and authentic learning and training experience.

Visitors will also be treated to live cooking demonstrations and other culinary activities and make up demonstrations. To further enrich experience, short courses will be conducted on the site.

Women Expo 2013 is supported by Oman Cancer Association, Working Mothers Association, and Thai Spa Association. It will be inaugurated by member of the Majlis Ash’shura Nama al Busaidy.

Back to top

Etihad launches major expansion of India operations

Gulf Times – 10 December, 2013 – Etihad Airways has commenced major expansion of its Indian operations following the recent full approval of its 24% investment in Jet Airways.

Central to the Etihad’s plan is the use of Abu Dhabi as a global hub, connecting international passengers and freight with flights to and from India.

Pending the opening of a new facility, US-bound passengers will be able to clear US immigration and customs at Abu Dhabi Airport.

The first stage of the Etihad strategy includes additional flights or the introduction of larger aircraft on existing routes to India.

Under this, Etihad will operate to Mumbai and New Delhi between seven and 14 flights a week with immediate effect.

To Kochi in Kerala, the UAE’s national carrier will operate between seven and 14 flights a week from June 2014.

Etihad will operate to Bangalore and Chennai between seven and 14 flights a week from July next year.

The carrier will operate between seven and 14 flights a week to Hyderabad from October 2014.

Etihad is also introducing larger aircraft in some markets.

On the Abu Dhabi-Mumbai and Abu Dhabi–New Delhi routes, evening flights with narrow-bodied Airbus A320s have been upgraded to wide-bodied Airbus A340 and A330 jets. On the Mumbai sector, this includes introduction of first class cabins on the evening A340 flights.

New Airbus A321 aircraft, seating some 174 passengers, will be used on all Abu Dhabi-Chennai services, and between Abu Dhabi and Kochi from June 2014.

Subject to regulatory approvals in a range of countries, Etihad and Jet also plan to codeshare on each other’s flights between Abu Dhabi, India and other markets in the Middle East, North America and Europe.

Etihad will also codeshare on new flights by Jet between India and the US via Abu Dhabi, subject to regulatory approval.

“India is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing air travel markets, and will play an increasingly important role in our growth,” said James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways.

“Through our purchase of 24% of Jet Airways – the first foreign investment permitted in an Indian airline – we have laid the foundations for major and exciting growth in air services between Abu Dhabi and India, and beyond throughout our global network,” Hogan said.

“Subject to receiving regulatory approvals, we will continue to expand our Abu Dhabi – India operations and work with our growing stable of partners to accommodate strong growth and deliver much greater choice for travel to and from India.”

The changes are not confined to flight operations. A key benefit of the Etihad’s equity alliance is the ability of member airlines to work together not only to increase revenues but to reduce costs.

“Our equity alliance enables much deeper co-operation than can be achieved through a standard commercial partnership. In addition to joint activities which increase revenue, the relationships we have with our equity partners enable us to reduce costs and increase efficiencies through activities such as resource sharing, knowledge transfer and joint procurement,” Hogan said.

Back to top

Turkey Joins African Development Bank Group

TUNIS, Dec 10 (NNN-AfDB) — Turkey participated in the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group’s Board Meetings for the first time last week in Tunis, following the country’s admission as the 26th State Participant in the African Development Fund and the 78th Member State of the African Development Bank.

“Our Constituency is delighted to welcome Turkey as an official member of AfDB and to our Constituency,” said Executive Director Hau Sing Tse, who represents Canada, China, Korea, Kuwait and Turkey.

“Our Chair represented Turkey for the first time at the Board today [Dec 3]. I shared with the Board our excitement about Turkey’s membership at this juncture of Turkey’s engagement with Africa through its ‘Opening to Africa’ policy.

“It is especially timely for Turkey to join AfDB as Turkey enters into a new phase of deepening its engagement with Africa. Turkey values AfDB’s unique and pivotal role in helping to shape Africa’s transformation, and, as a new member, looks forward to making a useful contribution to support AfDB in this regard,” Tse added.

A Declaration issued by the Bank Group’s President, Donald Kaberuka, on Oct 29 formalized Turkey’s membership in the Bank Group.

Turkey’s admission to the Bank Group followed the completion of the membership process after the approval of its membership application by the Bank Group’s Board of Governors on May 14, 2008.

Membership of the Bank Group is subject to the completion of the membership process including signing of the Agreements establishing the Fund and Bank, deposit of the instruments of acceptance/approval of the Fund and the Bank agreements, and the payment of the initial subscriptions to the Fund and capital stock of the Bank.

The agreement establishing the AfDB was signed by 23 newly independent African countries on Aug 4, 1963 in Khartoum, Sudan. It became effective on Sept 10, 1964, when 20 member countries subscribed to 65 per cent of the Bank’s capital stock which then stood at US $250 million.

The inaugural meeting of the Board of Governors (mostly Finance Ministers) was held on Nov 4-7, 1964 in Lagos, Nigeria. The Bank Group’s key mandate is to contribute to the sustainable economic development and social progress of its regional members, individually and jointly.

The African Development Fund (ADF), the concessionary window of the Bank Group was established on Nov 29, 1972, by the AfDB and 13 non-regional countries (State Participants). At the end of December 2012, cumulative ADF resources amounted to UA 22.3 billion (US $34.2 billion)

The AfDB Group’s authorized capital stood at UA 66.98 billion (US $103 billion) at the end of 2012. The capital subscription by the regional and non-regional countries is based on a 60/40 per cent ratio.

The Bank’s has approved 3,769 operations (loans and grants) totaling US $96 billion (UA 63.66 billion) from 1967 when it began operations to year-end 2012.

AfDB Group maintains AAA ratings from the main international rating agencies demonstrating its strong financial position. — NNN-AfDB

Back to top

SCTA sees surge in domestic tourism

Riyadh, Arab News, 8 December 2013 – Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), has said that the tourism sector continues to receive the full support of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman.

During the SCTA’s annual meeting at the Diplomatic Quarters in the Saudi capital recently, Prince Sultan underlined the support and cooperation received by the commission from ministries, regional governorates and municipalities in its efforts to launch tourism initiatives throughout the Kingdom,

“Saudi citizens have become familiar with national tourism and its development, and SCTA has shown readiness in the management of tourism and development sectors,” Prince Sultan said, adding that the commission is now in the stage of launching projects on the completion of the planning phase.

He indicated that 2014 is set to witness a major shift in the nation’s tourism industry. He explained that during its formative years the commission had begun work in a slow but steady pace and is now ready to take on greater responsibilities.

“We must be worthy of achieving their aspirations, especially as we have made very significant progress in raising awareness and mobilizing efforts for the development of our heritage and tourism sites,” Prince Sultan said.

He expressed regret that many Saudi citizens remain unaware of their country’s historic and cultural wealth, despite the archaeological discoveries that continue to confirm the Kingdom’s deeply rooted civilization.

“Today, the Saudi citizen is ready and welcomes the developments taking place in the tourism sector. This has been witnessed by the overwhelming response to domestic tourism and the developments taking place in the field”, he added.

Prince Sultan stressed that the success of the commission’s initiatives depends on the cooperation of citizens as well as their contribution and eagerness to be part of the development of tourism in their respective regions.

Back to top

‘Heritage studies needed to record rich Saudi history’

MADINAH, 11 December 2013, Arab News – The Kingdom needs to introduce studies at higher education institutions to ensure the country adequately documents its rich history including the expansions of the two holy mosques. This was one of several recommendations issued at the National Heritage Forum at Madinah’s Taiba University recently. Delegates said the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) should ensure this happens.

About 100 national and international scientists, researchers and specialists are taking part in the forum.

In a workshop entitled “The role of municipalities in the preservation of urban heritage,” governors of the regions said the government should allocate special budgets at municipal level for the development of heritage sites. Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the SCTA, praised agencies and individuals for restoring the country’s ancient sites and turning them into attractive tourist destinations.

Prince Sultan said there was ongoing development taking place in the downtown area of Hofuf and its market area, and a project to develop the old city of Jeddah. He said the SCTA was cooperating with municipalities in both cities on these projects.

He said the Kingdom was working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to declare these areas world heritage sites. He said the SCTA would also soon launch a special project for the creation of heritage hotels in the Kingdom.

Khalid bin Abdul Qader Taher, secretary of Madinah region, said the city has worked out a plan to preserve its architectural sites. Hani Abu Ras, mayor of Jeddah, said this was also taking place in his city, with the establishment of special departments and committees. In Dammam, efforts are continuing to establish a center for urban heritage in the Eastern Province, delegates heard.

Delegates at the forum said that a special budget has to be allocated for projects to boost job creation and growth in the tourism sector. There was also a need for training, and for mayors of various cities to travel and learn from other regions.

Several speakers at the event highlighted the various developments taking place in Madinah including Fahad Al-Samari, who delivered a paper on the “History of Madinah and its connection to the Saudi State.” Tanaidab Al-Faydi, a researcher, said more attention should be focused on protecting ancient architectural and culturally rich sites. The Tourism Information and Research Center (MAS) of the SCTA revealed the the average tourist expenditure per night during the National Forum on Architectural Heritage in Jeddah in 2011, and the Eastern Region in 2012, was SR118 and SR347. Jeddah had more expensive accommodation and shopping events.

In the overall assessment of the events associated with the forum, results suggested the Eastern Province outperformed the other locations by 13 percent. A total of 80 percent of the participants said transport for tourist trips were excellent, 61 percent of the visitors said they were completely comfortable, and 81 percent scored the organization of the events 4.2 out of 5.

Back to top

Egypt’s November tourists up 20%

Cairo, Ahram Online, Wednesday 11 Dec 2013 – Egypt’s tourism was up 20 percent in November, with the number of tourists surpassing 600,000, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Tourism.

Despite the monthly leap, though, the figures are still 39 percent below the same month from last year, when 1.1 million tourists visited Egypt.

The countries with the most visitors were Russia, England, Germany and Ukraine.

In the year leading up to November, Egypt saw around 8.7 million tourists, compared with 10.5 from the first eleven months in 2012.

Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said in October that Egypt aims to attract 13.5 million visitors next year, bringing in around $11 billion. The country has launched an international campaign to lure back foreigners deterred by political turmoil.

The tourism industry, once worth more than a tenth of economic output, had been improving since the 2011 revolution, but has since suffered a blow after this summer’s political upheaval, which saw Islamist president Mohamed Morsi ousted after mass protests against his rule.

Back to top

Turkey and Neighbours Hotel Conference Back to Istanbul in 2014

ISTANBUL (December 13, 2013) –The Turkey and Neighbours Hotel Investment Conference (CATHIC), the region’s leading hospitality conference, will return to Istanbul for the fourth year running 9-10 June 2014 at the newly opened Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center.

The event will showcase investment opportunities available in Turkey and provide an opportunity to meet the industry’s top-level executives with a wide range of knowledge from both the local and international perspective.

“Turkey is a key market for investors seeking growth opportunities. CATHIC provides the perfect venue for both the local and international market to come together to listen, learn and network” said Mehmet Önkal, Managing Partner, BDO Hospitality Consulting. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 2013 report on global tourism, Turkey ranked third in terms of increasing tourism revenues for the first eight months of 2013, an increase of 22 percent compared with the same period in the previous year.

The CATHIC Advisory Board, composed of high-level investors and industry experts, recently convened in Istanbul to discuss opportunities and challenges facing the region’s burgeoning tourism and hospitality sector. Board members include A. Murat Ersoy, President, Turkish Tourism Investors Association (TYD); Ömer Isvan, President, Servotel Corporation; Emre Narin, Vice President, Marti Hotels & Marinas and Marti Gayrimenkul Yatirim Ortakligi AS, a Turkey-based real estate investment company; and Mehmet Önkal, Managing Partner, BDO Hospitality Consulting.

“The advisory board is instrumental in developing a well-rounded and balanced programme with topics and regional issues to be presented and discussed at the conference, ensuring that CATHIC remains an event created by the industry, for the industry,” said Marilyn McHugh, Vice President of global events for Questex Hospitality + Travel.

This year’s event, which attracted more than 300 delegates from 23 countries, highlighted the need to alter the current perceptions surrounding investment in the Turkish market as well as instigating more open and in-depth conversations between the government and the investment community. The advisory board also identified an opportunity in the CATHIC programme for a focus on the resort market and plans are already underway to include a steam dedicated to this important segment of the Turkish hospitality industry.

A selection of other key issues from the meeting include: the role transportation and air linkages play in hotel and tourism investment, opportunities for development in the luxury market, how to minimise unused hotel capacity, the development of extended-stay and mixed-use products including residential complexes and the paradigm shift to social platforms within the hospitality industry.

Back to top

Peace Boat calls in Maldives

2013-12-08 – Peace Boat, on its 81st Global Voyage for Peace arrived to Maldives on 7th December 2013. With approximately 1000 passengers, Peace Boat embarked its journey from Yokohama Japan, on November 22nd, 2013 and will visit various regions of the world before returning to Japan on March 6th, 2014. This voyage marks Peace Boat’s first visit to Maldives.

Peace Boat is a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment. Peace Boat conducts on board educational program or workshops to help educate the people onboard in advance about the regions the Boat is visiting.

During the two day call in Maldives the passengers will explore Male’, learn about the history and culture of Maldives. Passengers also will be taking excursion trips to nearby resorts and picnic islands to experience the true Maldivian break.

Back to top

Algeria: New routes and bigger fleets expanding airline industry

Global Arab Network – A combination of new routes and bigger fleets is paving the way for a significant increase in capacity for Algeria’s airline industry, itself part of a broader government push to boost revenues from the tourism industry and drive up visitor numbers.

However, exogenous challenges, including a more competitive environment and staffing disputes, risk limiting the benefits of the expansion campaign, Global Arab Network reports according to OBG.

The government has thrown its weight behind Algeria’s airline industry, with Transport Minister Amar Ghoul telling the local media in September that a new strategy for the sector would take account of the central role air travel has in driving tourism growth.

Figures released by the Establishment of Management of Airport Services showed air passenger numbers increased by 7% between 2011 and 2012, up from 1.29m to 1.38m. The number of Algerians who travelled by air rose from 1.03m to 1.1m over the same period, while international passengers were up from 263,300 to 275,400.

Algeria’s domestic aviation sector consists of the national carrier, Air Algérie, together with three other domestic airlines, including Tassili Airlines (TAL), which is a fully-owned subsidiary of the national oil and gas company, Sonatrach. Air Express Algeria and Star Aviation, the two smaller carriers, focus primarily on small-scale charter and cargo services, tailored largely for the oil and gas sector.

Central to the push to expand capacity is a plan by the flag carrier to purchase new aircraft equivalent to nearly 40% of its fleet. In May, Air Algérie announced it intends to put out a tender to acquire 16 new aircraft, which will see its fleet expand to 58 planes. The airline has already upgraded or replaced almost two-thirds of its planes at a cost of AD60bn (€541m).

The additional aircraft will support the carrier’s plans to expand its presence in Africa by increasing the number of flights it operates to destinations such as Dakar, Niamey, Bamako, Nouakchott and Abidjan, while adding new routes.

The airline has also signed a tentative agreement with Canada which, if approved, will see Air Algérie increase the frequency of its flights to the country to one per day.

TAL, which, until recently, had focused primarily on providing services to the hydrocarbons sector, is also expanding its operations. The airline plans to boost its fleet of 31 aircraft by up to six planes, with a view to tapping new domestic opportunities.

In September, the CEO of TAL told Algerie Presse Service that the airline could benefit from a government subsidy aimed at guaranteeing a regular service to the south of the country.

Two months earlier, TAL launched its first international charter routes, which connect Béjaïa and Jijel to the French cities of Saint-Etienne and Grenoble. The airline now plans to introduce additional charter lines to Dubai, Morocco, Spain and Turkey.

While strong government support can be seen as a vote of confidence in the airline industry’s potential, the sector faces significant challenges, which could yet impede its development.

Air Algérie is part of a changing market in which its monopoly on almost all international routes is gradually being eroded. A move by Algeria to sign several bilateral air services agreements, in particular, has given a number of new industry players the opportunity to enter the market. In January 2013, Algeria and Italy extended their bilateral agreement, opening the way for Alitalia to boost its number of weekly flights to the North African country from 14 to 18. A dispute between Air Algérie and the National Union of Aircrew (Syndicat national du personnel navigant) over work arrangements and salaries could be another risk to growth. Claims from the union that the carrier failed to implement parts of an earlier agreement have left the threat of an indefinite strike hanging in the air.

Against this backdrop, calls for the country to sign an open skies agreement with the EU and provide low-cost carriers (LLCs) with a way in to the market are growing.

Supporters of the policy highlight the key part that LCCs have played in driving strong tourism growth in neighbouring Morocco, which signed an open skies agreement with the EU in 2006. Low-cost operators, such as European carriers easyJet and Ryanair, were quick to move onto the market and increased the number of seats they offered from 550,000 in 2006 to 7.1m in 2010. Today, budget carriers account for around 35% of seat capacity in Morocco, compared to less than 1% in Algeria. (OBG)

Back to top

Mena online ad spend to hit $1bn

AfricaManager – 14 December 2013 – Online advertising expenditure in Mena, estimated to be around $300 million today, is growing rapidly at 37 per cent a year and the spending is expected to reach $1 billion in 2017, a report said.

Digital branding and advertising are soaring in Saudi Arabia where it accounts for 33.3 per cent of online advertising expenditures in the Gulf region, it said.

Advertising on mobile devices in Mena is expected to grow to $85 million in 2014 from $50 million this year.

Digital marketing and advertising will be a key theme of the Second ArabNet Riyadh Forum, the largest gathering of digital professionals and entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia, taking place at the Four Seasons on December 3-4.

Increasing ad budgets mean growth for the entire digital sector, according to Omar Christidis, CEO and founder of ArabNet. He said: “Digital advertising is critical for the growth of Arab web and mobile businesses, so the rapid increase in spending means that online content and services can flourish.”

Michel Malkoun, managing director of DMS, confirms the rapid growth of digital advertising in the kingdom. “The Saudi Arabian digital advertising scene is witnessing massive growth, rising by roughly 30 per cent in 2013.”

The biggest spenders today include telecom, automotive, banking and finance, retail, and food and snacks. They account for about 40 per cent of the number of digital campaigns, said another report.

According to Malkoun, the Retail and Food & Snacks categories nearly doubled their activities from 2012 to 2013, while the Automotive sector increased by 57 per cent.

Marketing managers and advertisers are devoting more attention to social media, as it increasingly influences the consumer’s purchasing decisions. 85 per cent) of Saudis use social media to learn about a new restaurant, and about 73 per cent use it to find places such as shops and malls, and to learn about new products both in and out of Saudi Arabia, said a statement quoting reports.

Reviews and recommendations also have a major impact on the choices Saudi customers make: 87 per cent of Saudis trust their friends’ brand reviews, and 79 per cent have faith in complete strangers’ reviews. More than 90 per cent of all comments are aimed at helping, sharing information, and praising brands, it said.

Mobile advertising is also growing rapidly in Saudi Arabia, according to Wael AlFayez, deputy general manager of Saudi Research and Publishing Company. Mobile advertising includes a broad range of opportunities for digital advertisers, allowing them to include rich media within a mobile web page or application.

Digital and social media marketing will be among the important topics discussed at the ArabNet Riyadh Forum. The forum will feature sessions on digital strategies for marketing managers, social media case studies and research, and emerging advertising platforms, including mobile, performance and online video.

ArabNet Riyadh 2013 will feature 80 expert speakers from the tech industry, and will gather more than 800 digital professionals, influencers, entrepreneurs, and investors.

The event will also feature the ArabNet TechFair, an exhibition where more than 40 leading companies will showcase their digital products and services.

Back to top

Indonesian Traditional trade to dominate retail over next 15 years: Study

The Jakarta Post, December 13 2013 – A recent study shows that traditional trade will remain the primary force in the retail landscape and will do so for the next decade and a half.

The report on Indonesian consumers released by Bain & Company, in collaboration with Kantar Worldpanel, highlighted that traditional trade, encompassing wet markets and warung [small stall], drove 85.2 percent of the US$95 billion grocery retail value attained in 2012.

The results were based on data from Euromonitor, BIS Foodservices, Bain & Company analysis, AC Nielsen, PlanetRetail as well as interviews with fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies.

The retail value took into account the sales of chief consumer products such as packaged food and beverages; apparel; consumer electronics; and personal accessories.

Modern retail collected the remaining 14.8 percent, with convenience stores and mini markets contributing approximately $5.6 billion and super- and hypermarkets pulling in $5.3 billion and $3.3 billion respectively.

Nader Stefano Elkhweet, a partner of PT Bain Indonesia, said that modern trade would need another 15 to 20 years to balance, let alone usurp, the dominance of traditional trade.

“In 2017, traditional markets are still estimated to contribute 82.3 percent to the $147 billion retail value,” he said.

However, although it would take more than a decade, Indonesia’s modern trade would catch up to traditional trade in a much shorter period than the time it took in the United States and Europe.

Elkhweet pointed out that it took Italy approximately 30 years for traditional and modern trade to be on par with each other in terms of contributions to overall retail value.

“Modern trade is growing at double the speed of traditional trade,” he said, adding that convenience stores and mini markets were the fastest growing modern trade format.

He added that the compound annual growth (CAGR) for traditional trade would be at 8 percent between 2007 and 2017. Meanwhile, the CAGR for modern trade would be, on average, 16 percent.

“When broken down, the CAGR for convenience stores and mini markets is 23 percent, while the number for super- and hypermarkets is 12 percent and 13 percent respectively,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Elkhweet added that regulations as well as constraints on the availability of retail real estate had kept the speedy proliferation of modern trade under control.

The Jakarta administration, for example, requires mini market to be located within designated commercial areas and stand a minimum of 500 meters away from traditional markets.

“Traditional trade is still very important today because a lot of Indonesia is rural or semi-rural,” he said.

Moreover, Indonesian consumers exhibited a small purchase size, such as shampoo sachets, behavior as it enabled them to buy premium goods at affordable prices.

The Kantar Worldpanel survey shows that the average purchase size for liquid milk in Indonesia was roughly 250 milliliters, whereas in China, the average is nearly 3 liters.

“But Indonesian consumers will, in time, move to larger pack sizes as their incomes grow,” he said, referring to the 80 million “new consumers” — those with annual disposable household incomes of above $5,000 — the country would have by 2030.

Back to top

Bedugul Garden to host int’l fern conference

The Jakarta Post, Tabanan | Archipelago, December 14 2013 – Eka Karya Bedugul Botanical Garden in Tabanan regency will be the venue for an international conference in 2014 on tropical ferns, locally known as paku-pakuan.

Bayu Adjie, an expert on ferns from the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), which overviews botanical gardens all over the country, said that the 2-hectare Cyathea Park in Bedugul Botanical Garden was home to rare tropical ferns.

“Ferns are unique plants, but people, experts in particular, tend to ignore them in their research,” Adjie said.

Originating from the idea of Prof. Ir. Kusnoto Setyodiwiryo, the gardens were established on July 15, 1959, on a 154-hectare plot of land at 1,250 to 1,450 meters above sea level overlooking Beratan Lake and Pura Ulun Danu. The gardens house extensive tropical plant collections of more than 1,187 plant species, including orchids from Bali, Java, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), Sulawesi and Papua. There are also around 524 birches species from North and South America, China, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands and Africa.

“There are many ferns in the Cyathea Park, from ancient species such as of Ophioglossaceae, Marrattiaceae, Osmundaceae, Equisetaceae and Psilotaceae, to modern ferns. They share similar DNA characteristics,” the scientist said.

Adjie further explained that ferns possessed medicinal content, being rich in vitamins, potassium, fiber, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, iron and anti-oxidants.

Only a very few people understood the health potential contained in ferns, he said.

“People in Java, Sumatra and other places in Indonesia use ferns as food. They also use the plants for various medicinal purposes.”

There are an estimated 10,000 fern species in the world, of which 3,000 are found across Indonesia.

Adjie said the ancient fern species were now endangered, with only four plants left in the gardens.

“We are now requesting permission from the Natural Resource Conservation Agency [BKSDA] to grow these ancient fern species,” he said.

The upcoming conference, Adjie said, would bring together fern experts from across the globe to discuss the plants and their future in the botanical world.

“We can share the most recent research and development on ferns conducted by world scientists,” he said.

The Cyathea Park also has a building constructed in the form of a dinosaur, with carpets of thick mosses of various species covering the building.

“During the pre-historic age, only mosses could grow in the soil,” he said.

The gardens house 70 species of moss and 104 types of cactus originating from Africa, Europe and America. In addition, the botanical garden also collects hundreds of medicinal plants and flowering plants for Balinese traditional rituals.

Bedugul Botanical Garden is a Forest Conservation Area, Education and Research Center. “It is also developed as a recreational area for locals as we have an outbound area, guesthouses, restaurants and other supporting facilities.”

Back to top

57,000 Afghan Students To Be Recruited by Higher Education Institutes

December 11, 2013, Kabul (BNA) Ministers of education and higher education attended the Upper House’s (Meshrano Jirga) session held yesterday under the speaker of Fazil Hadi Muslimyar, chairman of the Jirga and answered the senators’ questions raised related to education and higher education condition in the country.

In the session, Mawlavi Mahmoud Danishjo, head of the jirga’s commission for religious and culture and other senators asked various questions in particular related to incompletion of 256 education projects in 32 provinces of the country, weakness in supervision of the ministry’s projects, assignment of acting school principals, assignment of incapable figures in high posts within the ministry, assignment of unnecessary social employees in district level, injustice of the education structures in provinces, insufficient of fuel in schools, lack of buildings for schools and teaching materials in a number of schools and no building for directorate of education in Samangan province and other relevant questions were asked by senators.

Back to top

Kazakhstan may introduce Runic Writing Day

13.12.2013 09:50 Kazakh TV – A new holiday, Day of Runic Writing, may be introduced in Kazakhstan. It is suggested to celebrate it on May 18. It was on this day 12 years ago when a copy of the famous ancient Turkic civilization monuments, a stone stele in honor of the commander Kultegin with the chronicle of the Turkic Khaganate carved on it, was installed at the Eurasian National University named after Gumilyov. Today, there is a museum dedicated to the Ancient Turkic heritage at the university. The members of the Majilis Committee for socio-cultural development took a look at its unique exhibits.

At the Committee meeting the deputies discussed the relevance of introduction of the Runic Writing Day in Kazakhstan. The MPs have advanced the initiative to establish such a holiday in the country for many times, however, the final word rests with the Government. The history of runic writing, which dates back to the 7th century and appeared before the Cyrillic alphabet, does not get enough attention, say the deputies.

Valikhan Bishimbayev, Member Of Kazakh Majilis: – It would be an international event; it would really be an exchange of views, deeper study of Turkic writing, history and our common roots. Indeed, many Turkic people do not know it. We need to thoroughly study this question, because it is our history, this is our contribution to the world civilization.

Back to top

Kazakhstan creates special fund for alternative energy projects

Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 11, Trend: Kazakh National Holding Baiterek has created the Central Asia Renewable Energy Fund LP., Novosti-Kazakhstan reported with the reference to the holding.

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, private investor and Baiterek’s subsidiary National Agency for Technological Development will form the new fund.

The fund will invest in renewable and alternative energy for a period of 8 to 10 years in Kazakhstan. The initial target size of the fund will hit $50 million and then it is expected to double.

Over two-thirds of its authorized capital will be formed at the expense of private and foreign investment, while the state will invest less than a third of the total share capital.

The fund’s activity will be based on the principles of Islamic finance.

Kazakhstan has already formed the list of potential projects for the fund’s financing.

Back to top

New museum typifies cultural façade of Madinah

Madinah, Tuesday, 07 Safar 1434/ 10 December 2013 (IINA) – Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Monday opened the Madinah Museum at the refurbished Hejaz Railway Station here.

Madinah Emir Prince Faisal Bin Salman, Prince Salman Bin Sultan, and Madinah Mayor Khaled Taher were among those who attended the inaugural ceremony. The function was held on the sidelines of the 3rd National Urban Heritage Forum that kicked off in the city on Sunday. Ali Al-Ghaban, Vice President of SCTA for Antiquities and Museums, said that the commission completed the first phase of the museum at the station, and this represents a cultural façade of Madinah region, which abounds in archeological and Islamic historical sites. “The SCTA has refurbished the buildings of the old Hejaz Railway Station and transformed them into a museum to showcase the rich history of Madinah through the ages ever since the pre-historic period until the present day. The commission had earlier established another museum at the train repair shed to highlight the history of the Hejaz Railway,” he said.

Al-Ghaban said the museum’s first phase consists of 14 halls to showcase exhibits, and they include the lobby of the museum, halls for Madinah’s environment and history of its nature, Madinah before Islam, Madinah during the Prophet’s period, halls of the Prophet’s wives and children, Al-Ansar and Muhajireen, the Prophet’s Mosque, Madinah during the period of Caliphs, Madinah through Islamic ages, Madinah in the period of first Saudi state, Madinah in the second Saudi state, Madinah during the period of King Abdul Aziz, and Madinah heritage.

He said that the second phase of the museum would include construction of building on an area covering 12,000 sq. meters. It will house five halls to showcase artifacts from King Abdul Aziz Library of Madinah, and the Prophet’s Mosque, as well as those related to Madinah through the ages, in addition to a hall for children, and another for Saudi life. There will be digital display of artistic and archeological artifacts representing the history of Madinah and its urban heritage through the ages.

Meanwhile, Prince Sultan Bin Salman said that the projects for the preservation of historical and Islamic sites will be outlined soon now that all significant sites in Makkah and Madinah have been identified, Prince Sultan Bin Salman. In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency on Monday, he said that Islamic history should be told in the right way and should not be left for others to project it in their way. “We have immense Islamic heritage. We should present it to the world accurately. We’re working with the Makkah and Madinah development commissions to preserve these sites,” Prince Sultan said. Some of the sites are Mount Thor, Mount Al-Noor, Mount Uhud, and the Badr Battle site.

The SCTA committee in charge of developing these locations consists of senior Muslim scholars who are consulted on various issues related to the development process. Three agreements have been signed with three universities to train students who will be responsible for educating the general public about the historical sites and their major significance.

Prince Sultan said the SCTA also preserves non-Islamic archeological sites because they are important for telling the real story of how Islam began in the Arabian Peninsula. The scholars have already visited these sites and emphasized their significance for Islamic history. Last month Prince Sultan announced that Umrah pilgrims from 65 countries can benefit from the ambitious ‘Extended Umrah Tourism Program, which will be a joint package of the ministries of Haj, foreign and interior. The integrated system to link Umrah and tourist visas will benefit millions of pilgrims who come to the Kingdom for Umrah every year.

Back to top

OIC meet approves action plan to protect Jerusalem

Conakry, Guinea, Wednesday, 08 Safar 1434/ 11 December 2013 (IINA) – The 40th session of the foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries held a special session on Tuesday to discuss the developments in Jerusalem, especially the recent Israel’s violations aiming to consolidate its illegal occupation.

The conference adopted a resolution accepting a 13-point legal and political action plan proposed by OIC to compel Israel to stop its aggressions and illegal measures in Jerusalem. According to the plan, an OIC ministerial committee shall be established to act urgently and to visit influential capitals in the world and relevant international organizations to convey the OIC message that any prejudice to Al-Aqsa mosque is a red line that will neither be allowed nor tolerated by the Islamic Ummah, whatever the consequences.

The plan further mandates the Islamic Group in New York to seek holding a special session for the UN Security Council to discuss Israel’s violations. At the legal level, the action plan did not rule out the possibility of resorting to the International Criminal Court and other international legal platforms to hold Israel responsible for its crimes and violations.

Back to top

Kazakhstan invites Belarus to Expo 2017

MINSK. December 12. KAZINFORM In 2014 Kazakhstan will start constructing facilities for Expo 2017 and invites Belarusian companies to take part in construction projects, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kazakhstan to Belarus Ergali Bulegenov said at a press conference answering a question of a BelTA journalist on 11 December.

The diplomat noted that Kazakhstan invites Belarusian companies and organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, to take part in the construction of exhibition infrastructure. He informed that a great number of tenders will be held in the run-up to Expo 2017. Everything will be transparent and fair; tenders will be monitored by government agencies, BelTA reports.

In November 2012 Kazakhstan won the right to host Expo 2017 in Astana. “The victory of Astana means recognition of our capital city as a place that deserves to host a large-scale international event. This also means recognition of the achievements and good development prospects of our state,” the diplomat noted. The motto of the expo will be Energy for the Future. The Ambassador believes that the forum will give an impetus to the innovative development of the country. “We are to conduct Expo 2017 on a high level and we are absolutely able to do it,” Ergali Bulegenov said.

Donation to PM’s Fund for Affectees of Earthquake in Balochistan

The victims and affectees of earthquake in Balochistan direly need your support and help at this moment of disaster. Please donate for this noble cause generously.

Back to top

Pakistan offers road, rail routes to all regional countries

LAHORE, Dec 10 (APP): Federal Railways Minister Khuwaja Saad Rafique said on Tuesday that Pakistan was ready to offer its road and rail routes to all regional countries including China, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Bangladesh and up to Central Asia. He was talking to the media after addressing the “Regional Conference on Strengthening Transport Connectivity and Trade Facilitation in South and South-West Asia” jointly organized by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) and Ministery of Commerce, Government of Pakistan, at a local hotel.

Opening up of the trade corridor, he observed, was in the best interest of Pakistan, citing, if these states used our roads and railway tracks, it would generate huge revenues, which was the lifeline of the economy of a country. He sai,d “We have to watch our interests, as we have to eradicate poverty, terrorism and extremism for which an improved and vibrant economy is of vital importance.”

Saad Rafique added that Pakistan needed to exploit two main and significant resources i.e. its unique geographical position and human resource of 180 million.

He said that opening up of the trade route for India was also in favour of Pakistan, asserting that nations, which had buried their centuries-old feud and differences, had met a definite success and developed a lot. “But we are still lagging 200 years behind the developed world, therefore, we have to shun orthodox thinking to move forward on all fronts,” he maintained.

In his address at the conference, the Federal Minister said that South, South-West Asia (SSWA) consisted of about half of the world population and rich with huge mineral deposits besides, having importance as a bridge between the North and South but its intra-regional trade was negligible. During fiscal year 2008-9, the intra-regional trade in South Asia was mere 5 percent of the global trade, which was far below its potential, he cited.

Though China, India, Turkey and Pakistan are now emerging economies and there existed several trade agreements among them, their intra-trade (import and export) was very low, he mentioned.

Khawaja Saad Rafique stressed the need for exploring and taking optimal benefits of the regional trade potential and SAAR, ECO and UNESCAP would have to play a more effective role in this regard.

He said the PML-N government was playing an eminent role in establishment of a sub-regional transnational trade corridor and economic zone.

The Pakistan government, he added, was focusing and working on national and regional connectivity to connect China, India, Central Asia, Middle East and Europe while work on Gwadar Port was in progress expeditiously.

The Federal Minister said that Torkham-Jalalabad (Afghanistan) link was of greater importance with regards to transportation of raw material, while Quetta-Taaftan would prove to a best trade corridor to access Iran, Turkey and European markets. While Khokhrapar-Monabao (India) link was also being examined for trade, he said.

He said a Pakistan Railways delegation would soon visit India to have knowledge and experiences of the Indian rail system, as they had turned their railways into a profitable entity while Pakistan was yet to achieve this goal mainly due to lack of resources. Pakistan Railways was searching a foreign partner for investment to improve the railway infrastructure, he added.

Back to top

Govt. notifies ten-member Committee to promote Islamic Banking

ISLAMABAD, Dec 10 (APP): Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar has announced the constitution of a Ten-member Steering Committee for the promotion of Islamic Banking with Saeed Ahmad, Actuary/Banker as its Chairman. According to a statement of the Finance Ministry issued here on Tuesday Maulana Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, Religious Scholar, Muhammad Imran Usmani, Religious Scholar, Dr Waqar Masood Khan, Secretary Finance, Munir Kamal, Banker,Afaq Khan, Banker, Irfan Siddiqui, Banker, Atif Bajwa, Banker, Mian Muhammad Idrees, Industrialist and Director, Islamic Banking Department, State Bank of Pakistan as its members.

Other members may be co-opted by Steering Committee, if required.

The Committee will submit its recommendations by December 31, 2014 and the State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi will provide secretarial support to the Steering Committee.

According to the notification the terms of reference include:

1–To review previous official reports on Islamic Banking including:

The Report of the Council of Islamic Ideology

The Report of “The Commission for Islamization of Economy”.

The Report of “Self Reliance Commission” prepared under the

Ministry of Planning

d. The Report of the Commission of the State Bank of Pakistan prepared in pursuance of the Judgment of the Supreme Court of


2—To formulate comprehensive policy framework for Islamic Financial System.

3—To suggest practical steps needed to be taken to implement Shariah-based financial system.

4—To find out practical ways and means to maximize equity-based financing instead of the widespread debt-based system.

5—To propose solutions for Islamic secondary market/money market for liquidity management.

6—To chalk out a road map and propose a time plan for progression of different phases of Islamic Banking.

7—To study international implications of converting conventional banking into Shariah-compliant banking.

8—To conduct an analysis of the possible legal obstacles in converting conventional banking into Shariah-compliant banking, and the changes required to remove these obstacles.

9—To review the existing research and training facilities available in the country for Islamic finance and suggest measures for further reinforcement and new initiatives in this regard and

10—To chalk out procedure and process for effective monitoring, overview and supervision of above mentioned terms.

Back to top

Pakistan gains European GSP-Plus status

ISLAMABAD, Dec 12 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Thursday congratulated the nation over the award of GSP-Plus (Generalized System of Preferences-Plus) status to Pakistan by the European Union.“Award of GSP-Plus status shows the confidence of international markets in the excellent quality of Pakistani products”, said the Prime Minister.The Prime Minister said, “gaining access to European markets was the top most priority of the government as part of economic development agenda, which has been achieved due to continuous and hard work of the Ministers and Officials of the Ministries of Finance, Commerce and Foreign Affairs and friends of Pakistan in Europe”.

This status would enable Pakistan to export more than US $ one billion worth of products to the international markets. Only the textile industry would earn profits of more than Rs. one trillion per year.

The Prime Minister further said that increase in exports would resultantly facilitate in economic growth and help in generation of millions of additional jobs.

The European Parliament on Thursday approved GSP-Plus status for Pakistan. According to media reports, 406 parliamentarians expressed their support for Pakistan and the status has been granted till 2017.

Back to top

ISESCO to hold Indonesia symposium on nanotechnology, green economy

Rabat 12/12/2013 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), jointly with Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN) and the Pakistan-based Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS), will hold a symposium on nanotechnology and its role in promoting green economy and mitigating climate change impacts, on 16-19 December at the National Research Council in Serpong, Indonesia.

The symposium will provide a platform for the Member States’ scientists and researchers to introduce their research findings in nano-science and related technological applications, and facilitate networking among researchers in the various disciplines of nanotechnology to address common issues and share research for applications of nano-materials likely to provide solutions for energy, environment and climate change problems. The event will seek to encourage joint research partnership between scientific institutions, in general, and among the scientific community and nano-science, in particular.

The symposium will bring together scientists and researchers from universities and research centers specialized in nano-science and associated applications in the Member States.

Dr Ismael Abdelhamid, expert at the Science Directorate, will represent ISESCO in the symposium.

Back to top

Suriname Joins Caribbean Development Bank

PARAMARIBO, Dec 14 (NNN-Prensa Latina) — Suriname has officially joined the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as a full member, which will give it easier access to subsidized loans to boost development projects, according to local news reports.

The CDB admitted Suriname as full member number 27 during the 259th Meeting of the bank’s board of directors on Thursday.

“Suriname has a sound economy, which is growing rapidly. The government runs a tight fiscal operation; and debt accounts for only about 25 percent of GDP,” CDB President Dr Warren Smith said.

“Since there is no exposure to Suriname, at this time, CDB has a very good opportunity to improve its risk profile by developing a lending relationship with our new member. We can contribute meaningfully to Suriname’s economic and social development whilst also diversifying our loan portfolio,” he said.

The CDB’s purpose is to contribute to the harmonious economic growth and development of its member countries in the Caribbean and to finance projects for economic, social and institutional development in the Caribbean

The full members of the CDB are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.

Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, as well as Canada, China, Germany, Italy and the UK have voting rights but are not entitled to borrow funds from the Bank.

Back to top

Indonesia registers more intangible heritages this year

JAKARTA, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — Indonesia’s national education and culture ministry has listed intangible heritages from its national cultures with expectation to be endorsed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of World’s Heritages.

Seventy intangible heritages have been shortlisted by experts at the ministry this year, selected from 2,644 that have been gathered from 2009 to 2012, a senior official at the ministry said.

“The selected cultural creations have fulfilled the administrative requirement and had gone through several processes that include field verification conducted by experts,” Mukhlis Pa Eni, head of intangible heritage experts at the ministry said.

He added that the decision to select those intangible heritages was carried out by 15 experts in the ministry through a general meeting held mid last month.

He said that besides seeking World’s Heritages endorsement from the UNESCO, the registration on those intangible heritages was very essential to preserve and protect national cultural heritages from being claimed by other countries.

The historian at University of Indonesia (UI) state college added that the registration on cultural heritages was also mandated by 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage that Indonesia has ratified, legalized through presidential regulation No. 78/2007.

Among the newly-listed intangible heritages were the Tor Tor dance from North Sumatra, the Gadang house from West Sumatra, Mak Yong dance from Riau, Songket fabric from South Sumatra, the Debus dance from Banten, Tapis fabric from Lampung, Ondel ondel dance from Jakarta, Kujang dagger from West Java, the Reog Ponorogo dance from East Java, Songket Sambas fabric from West Kalimantan, Ulap Doyo fabric from East Kalimantan, Kolintang and Sasando music instruments from North Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, Sasak leather puppet dance from West Nusa Tenggara, Asmat wood carving from Papua and Crazy Bamboo dance from North Kalimantan.

The UNESCO has endorsed Indonesia’s seven intangible heritages as part of World’s Heritages, including Java puppet dance of Wayang, Batik cloth and fabric, Keris dagger, angklung bamboo music instrument, the Saman dance, noken traditional carrier and Sumba weaved fabric.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago country with over 17, 000 islands, is home to more than 300 ethnic groups.

So far Indonesia has registered 14 of its tangible and intangible heritages on UNESCO’s world heritages list. The inscription of Indonesia’s heritages was highly expected to boost up the country’s tourism industry.

Indonesia is targeting to see the incoming of 9 million foreign tourists this year, higher than 8 and 7.4 million people recorded in 2012 and 2011 respectively. It expects to have 10 million foreign visitors next year.

Back to top