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2 Dec, 2013

Visiting Maldives “like stepping into a new life”

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 02 December 2013 (28 Muharram 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



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

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

Venue: Nationwide

The annual Sabah Open Dancesport Championship is back for the 13th edition! Come and witness the grace and agility of ballroom dancers from all over Asia Pacific including Taiwan, Australia and Brunei as they rumba, cha-cha and jive their way for a dazzling display of dance!

Organiser: Imperial Ballroom Dancing School

Date: 7 December 2013

Venue: 1Borneo Ballroom, 1Borneo Hypermall, Kota Kinabalu

Contact: +6 088 238 785 (Anthony Keung)

In conjunction with Visit Terengganu Year 2013, the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) is proud to return to its “home” to face the unpredictable north-east monsoon. With the ultimate aim to complete this off-road adventure, competition and expedition event in 10 days, four wheel drive enthusiasts from more than 30 countries will work together to overcome the mud, rain soaked steamy jungle, insects and creatures of the night.

Organiser: RFC International Sdn. Bhd.

Date: 30 November – 9 December 2013

Venue: Kemaman, Dungun, Tasik Kenyir, Terengganu

Website: www.rainforest-challenge.com

Contact: +6 03 2163 5908/6908 +6 012 211 7080 – Luis J.A. Wee

Email: jawee@rainforest-challenge.com, info@rainforest-challenge.com, luiswee@yahoo.com

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



Malaysia will host the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum 2014, to be held in Sarawak, Malaysia from 16 to 23 January 2014. The ATF is a cooperative regional effort to promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as one tourist destination where Asian hospitality and cultural diversity are at its best. This annual event involves all the tourism industry sectors of the 10 member nations of ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Adopting the theme “ASEAN – ADVANCING TOURISM TOGETHER,” the ATF 2014 will explore the sustainable development of tourism and look at how tourism initiatives and plans can further support this decades mantra of “Tourism conserves, preserves and protects.” It will be a timely platform to think and act on implementing innovative and sustainable energy initiatives that will ensure the preservation of the natural environment for future generations. Each year, the hosting of ATF is rotated among the member countries. ATF 2014 marks the 33rd anniversary of this event since its inauguration in Malaysia in 1981. Kuching, Sarawak is all geared up to welcome over 1,600 delegates which includes some 150 ASEAN tourism ministers and officials, 800 ASEAN exhibitors, 400 international buyers, 150 international and local media as well as 100 tourism trade visitors. The ATF aims to: Project ASEAN as an attractive, multi-faceted single destination; Create and increase awareness of ASEAN as a highly competitive regional tourist destination in the Asia Pacific; Attract more tourist to ASEAN member countries; Promote intra-ASEAN travel; Strengthen cooperation among the various sectors of the ASEAN tourism industry. For the travel trade, ATF also provides a platform for the selling and buying of regional individual tourism products of ASEAN member countries, through the 3-day TRAVEX event. For further details, pls click here.

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.



Islamic Tourism Ministers to meet in Gambia Dec 4-6

Jeddah, Thursday, 24 Muharram 1434/ 28 November 2013 (IINA) – The 8th conference of tourism ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member countries will be held in Banjul, Gambia, on December 4-6.

Deliberations on the contemporary challenges of OIC member states in the tourism sector and modalities for consolidating intra-OIC tourism cooperation will figure high in the meeting.

According to an OIC statement, tourism has emerged as one of the most important tools for achieving the objectives of poverty eradication and job creation in the member countries. Ministers from member states as well as representatives of relevant OIC institutions, and regional and international organizations will participate in the conference.

The conference will examine the implementation of the OIC Framework for development and cooperation in the domain of tourism between OIC member states, in the lights of the report of coordination committee on facilitation and promotion of tourism in the member states. OIC Secretary General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu will deliver a keynote address before the meeting, dwelling on the need for tourism policy harmonization and effective interaction between tourism providers in OIC countries. He will also prefer relevant suggestion towards the development of tourism infrastructures and investment promotion among OIC member states.

Ministers are also expected to consider, among other issues, a draft mechanism and criteria for the selection of OIC City of Tourism and the draft mechanism and criteria for the award of OIC Seal of Excellence for Handicrafts. Other issues of the conference agenda include the establishment of the Heritage Center for Islamic Countries and development of health tourism.

The introduction of the OIC City of Tourism Award is aimed at galvanizing intra-OIC activities in an identified city, thereby developing the socio-economic potentials of the city in question, while scaling up intra-OIC trade in goods and services. The establishing an award of OIC Seal of Excellence for Handicrafts will also assist in preserving and developing traditional and contemporary crafts in the OIC member states. The Conference is also expected to review a short and long term programs for strengthening and promoting cooperation among the member states in the field of tourism and related sectors.

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Tajik mosques to become accessible to the handicapped

Centralasiaonline.com 2013-11-26 – DUSHANBE – Mosques are becoming the first institutions in Tajikistan to make a concerted effort to add on or build improvements to accommodate the country’s estimated more than 180,000 disabled. Tajikistan has a population of about 8m.

For one, the central mosque of Tajikistan September 5 began operating a lift for the disabled, Asadullo Zikrikhudoyev, chairman of Imkoniyat, an association representing the handicapped in Dushanbe, said.

“This will enable the disabled faithful to enter the mosque during prayer,” he told Central Asia Online, noting that mosque management also installed a separate enclosure containing a toilet and pre-prayer ablution facilities for the disabled.

“This bathroom complies with all regulations,” he said. “There’s even a button to push in case of emergencies.”

Other mosques will follow suit in order to serve as a lesson for Tajiks on caring for the handicapped, Zikrikhudoyev added. Meanwhile, the Tajik Council of Ulema is asking all mosques nationwide to add disabled access improvements, Atovullo Kosymov, Islamic Centre of Tajikistan spokesman, said.

“Our direct responsibility is to make (our facilities) accessible to the less fortunate members of society,” he told Central Asia Online.

Since the majority of Tajikistan’s population is religious, making mosques accessible to the handicapped would be a good start and would show the importance of considering everybody’s rights, Kosymov said.

In the near future, all mosques will have wheelchair ramps, special restrooms and help buttons, among other features, he noted.

The example that mosques are setting will open the eyes of many, sociologist Firuz Saidov said, adding that Dushanbe could do more.

“(The authorities) have been partially implementing some measures in constructing new buildings, but it’s critical for them to make provisions for disabled use of public transportation,” he said, suggesting ordering specially equipped vehicles.

Comprehensive and co-ordinated approach needed

The time has come to implement all of the necessary provisions contained in the Dushanbe planning code, Muzafar Bobozorov, deputy chairman of the Scientific Research Institute of Construction and Architecture within the Tajik Agency for Construction and Architecture, said.

“Starting construction is illegal unless we’ve reviewed the blueprint,” he said. “Recently, the agency has been strictly enforcing that rule. If some provision hasn’t been accounted for, we send the blueprint back for work.

Some foreign-designed modern buildings like Tcell Plaza and the Hyatt Regency Hotel do provide handicapped access, Bobozorov said.

Tajikistan has written some sensible laws but reality hasn’t caught up to them, Zikrikhudoyev said, adding that the disabled could provide valuable insight on what future buildings might be lacking.

“The inspection committee will approve a wheelchair ramp that doesn’t meet code,” Zikrikhudoyev said. “This tendency is going to continue only until we (disabled Tajiks) are represented on the committee.”

The recent renovation of the Dushanbe bus station demonstrates that kind of shortcoming, he said. “We received a good ramp, and many more areas of the station were made accessible,” he said. “But they put the handicapped bathroom on the second floor (and the elevator lacked a ramp leading to it).” Workers later remedied the situation.

“The same thing happened at the new National Library,” Bobozorov continued. “They built a bathroom for the disabled but (made the doorway too narrow). After our second visit, they (widened the doorway).”

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Malaysia: Foreign Investors Praise Mida’s One-Stop Centre

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 27 (NNN-Bernama) — The one-stop centre of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) has earned kudos from foreign investors, says International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed.

He said the feedback was received during the Mida Forum 2013 held on Nov 19 and attended by 600 foreign investors.

“The one-stop centre was initially an advisory services centre set up 25 years ago on Oct 25, 1988 aimed at assisting both local and international investors.

“Senior officials from important departments and agencies were housed on the 16th floor of the Mida building to assist both local and international investors on government policies and procedures,” he said.

Mustapa was replying to a question from Khoo Soo Seang (BN-Tebrau) who asked about the positive steps taken by Malaysia to become investor-friendly during question time in the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House) today.

He said the presence of senior officers at Mida had tremendously helped speed up business procedures and reduce bureaucracy.

“There are senior representatives from the Royal Customs Department who are responsible for import and export-related issues, Immigration officers who facilitate work permits and visa and officers from the Manpower Department,Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Telekom Malaysia to look into issues arising in their respective areas.

“As an example, if an investor faces problems with importation, he need not head for Putrajaya,” said Mustapa, adding that the one-stop centre was part of the innovative public service delivery system.

“Malaysia has also improved its rankings for ease of doing business from 12th placing to sixth in terms of issuing constructions permits.

“Todate, there are 100 one-stop centres handling matters related to construction permits,” Mustapa added.–NNN-BERNAMA

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SITA and Malaysia Airlines Cut Time To File Bag Claims In Half

KUALA LUMPUR – 20 November 2013 – Malaysia Airlines has halved the average processing time for mishandled bag claims with a new WorldTracer tablet application from SITA, the air transport IT specialist. Armed with iPads, Malaysia Airlines agents at Kuala Lumpur International Airport are bringing SITA’s global service for tracing bags and managing missing bag claims directly to the baggage belts.

Dato’ Mohd Salleh Ahmad Tabrani, Director of Customer Services Division, Malaysia Airlines, said: “In the unfortunate case that passengers arrive without their bags, they want immediate action. With SITA’s new tablet application, we can proactively manage baggage claims from anywhere in the airport. The whole process takes around five minutes, half the time customers normally spend finding the right counter and filling in forms on desktop terminals.”

Using WorldTracer on a tablet, airline agents can check the status of a missing bag, file a report for a delayed or lost bag, and print the passenger a receipt. Passengers no longer need to fill in forms because the agents simply scan their bag tags and boarding passes to retrieve the necessary information.

Matthys Serfontein, Vice President, Airport Solutions, SITA, said: “Our annual Baggage Report shows that effective bag management plays an important role in improving passenger satisfaction. At SITA, we continually work with partners like Malaysia Airlines to develop and pilot new technologies that provide the best baggage handling tools available.”

SITA’s technology research arm, SITA Lab, designed the new tablet application in close collaboration with SITA baggage experts. The application draws on both commercial and open source software libraries to quickly scan boarding passes and bag tags using the tablet’s scanner, so no external scanner is necessary. In addition, it integrates several application program interfaces (APIs) from SITA’s developer.aero platform for air transport industry developers.

SITA has led the air transport industry in baggage tracking and tracing solutions for more than 20 years. Today, more than 150 airports and 500 airlines worldwide use its baggage management solutions. By facilitating communications between airlines and local baggage handling and reconciliation systems, SITA ensures that bags reach their correct destination. Its proprietary BagMessage system delivered more than 1.5 billion messages between airline departure control systems and automated baggage systems in 2012. Each year, more than 2,200 airport locations use WorldTracer, SITA’s baggage tracing system.

According to the ninth annual SITA Baggage Report, airline baggage handling improved last year with the rate of mishandled bags dropping 1.78%. In 2012, the air transport industry mishandled 8.83 bags per thousand passengers, down from 8.99 in 2011. The industry achieved this improvement despite a 4.5% rise in passenger numbers to 2.95 billion; higher passenger volumes inevitably increase pressure on airport baggage operations.

Malaysia Airlines will pilot SITA’s WorldTracer tablet application for six months.

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S&P sees Islamic finance flourishing next year

The Peninsula – 29 November, 2013 – Global growth of the Islamic finance market has continued unabated this year, undeterred by the uncertain recovery elsewhere in the world’s financial markets, Standard & Poor’s said in a report titled ‘Islamic Finance 2014: We Expect Continued Double-Digit Growth, And A Push For Regulation And Standards.’

“We believe that worldwide, Shariah-compliant assets — which we estimate at upward of $ 1.4 trillion — are likely to sustain double-digit growth in the coming two to three years,” said Zeynep Holmes, Regional Head of Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa at S&P.

Islamic finance remains a demand-driven market, with scarce supply, still hampered by a limited range of Islamic financial centres and their various regulatory frameworks.

Expansion and enhancement of existing centres, and a more transparent regulatory environment could build the momentum for the growth needed to break into the mainstream, said the report.

S&P said that it is only a matter of time before Islamic finance achieves critical mass, as the pool of assets broadens and deepens, and enhances liquidity.

The regulatory efforts to accommodate Islamic finance and the establishment of additional industry bodies at national levels will take centre stage starting in 2014, the report said.

Newcomers in the industry — such as Oman, Turkey, and Nigeria, for instance — have started to trace the footsteps of fast-growing pioneers, such as Malaysia.

Right behind the newcomers, a long line of countries is aspiring to enter the market, with the continent of Africa in the forefront, S&P said.

“The gradual building out of local and regional regulatory frameworks and establishment of standards ought, in our opinion, to minimise the barriers that are preventing the industry from achieving its full potential. Globally accepted standards, we believe, are necessary for growth of the industry,” Holmes said.

In this respect, the two regional heavyweights and pioneers of the industry—Asia (most notably Malaysia) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) — are set to lead the way.

Aspiring regional champions, such as Turkey, may also help foster a more systematic approach to channelling and shaping growth in Islamic finance.

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Tourism earns $1bn in Oman

Oman Daily Observer – 29 November, 2013 – A recent report issued by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has shown that the Sultanate’s revenues from international tourism exceeded $ 1 billion during the year 2012 for the first time in its history which indicates that the efforts to promote tourism has been successful.

The report which was launched during the 34th World Travel Market which concluded in London recently also showed that at a time when the Middle East tourism powerhouses suffered a setback due to political turmoil the Sultanate recorded RO 1.09 billion earnings from tourism becoming the 4th largest tourism market in the GCC accounting for 2.3 per cent of international tourism in the Middle East.

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Indonesian-Canadian Islamic Universities strengthen ties

Vancouver, Kanada (ANTARA News) November 30 2013 – The Comparative Research Center and Culture of Muslim Communities at the Simon Fraser University (CCSMSC-SFU) Vancouver, Canada, and the state Islamic universities of Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta and Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta agreed to strengthen cooperation.

Religious Affairs Ministrys secretary general Bahrul Hayat Ph.D, the Indonesian consul general in Vancouver Bambang Hiendrasto, Director of CCSMSC-SFU Dr. Derryl MacLean, rectors of the state Islamic universities of Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta and Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta, respectively Prof. DR. Jamari Makruf and Prof. DR. Musa Asyari met in SFU campus here on Thursday (Nov 28) to discuss follow up of their cooperation.

Bahrul Hayat who led the Indonesian delegation to the interfaith dialogue will offer cooperation in education program such as regular workshops, exchange program of researchers as well as students exchange activity.

Prof. DR. Jamari said further that the interfaith dialogue should be publicized among younger generation because they normally do not understand the historical back-ground of conflict, violence and differences in the past.

More than 50 members of the dialogue, including from Canada, also visited a number of places of worship such as churches, mosques, temples and synagogues in Vancouver and surrounding areas through Thursday evening local time.

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Low-cost airlines booming in Middle East

Arab News – 24 November, 2013 – A new analytical report released by Amadeus air traffic system revealed that low-cost airlines, also known as “economic airlines” in the Middle East, show great confidence in their ability to grow, having seen an overall absorptive capacity increase from 11.5 million seats in the first half of 2012 to 13.5 million seats during the same period in 2013.

Alexander Gore, an economic airlines specialist at Amadeus, said: “We are seeing a boom in the capacity of low-cost airlines throughout Asia as the air travel sector is suffering from a big gap. However, the capacity across developed markets in Europe and North America is restricted.” Such factors, he explained, explain the desire of low-cost airlines to find new approaches to secure future growth.

He added: “With the 25 percent growth on an annual basis during the first half of 2013, airline reservations for low-cost airlines at Amadeus are increasing dramatically, which is an encouraging sign of our ability to adapt to the needs of these airlines.”

According to Gore, low-cost airlines are seizing the opportunity that we offer to penetrate the business travel market for high yields, and expand into new areas characterized by the presence of limited brands prominent.

Amadeus continues to innovate constantly, he noted, in order to maximize these benefits, as evidenced by the new range of improvements to the ticket prices that have been applied recently with Easy Jet, which makes dealing with airlines easier.

Pascal Clement, head of travel at Amadeus, said: “We have a detailed understanding of how to change the direction of the absorptive capacity in the planning process for each of the airlines and airports, and can apply the powerful tools for efficiently analyzing large amounts of data to achieve the preferences of companies.”

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Ahsa remains key tourist attraction

Arab News – 24 November, 2013 – The Saudi business community is exploring the potential of the leisure and tourism sector as the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) doubles efforts to promote tourism in the Kingdom.

In the Eastern Province, the tourism sector escalated from 38 percent in 2012 to 66 percent in 2013.

Such a high growth rate indicates a positive upward trend in tourism in the Kingdom.

Ahsa’s strategic location as a coastal town is also a magnet for visitors from both within the Kingdom and abroad.

Moreover, the newly upgraded Ahsa International Airport has boosted tourism in this oasis town by increasing its connectivity with neighboring Gulf countries.

There are several tourism and heritage projects underway aiming to transform Ahsa into a major tourist destination.

Among them, the Al-Ogair tourism project is considered to be the most important tourism site in the Kingdom, according to the SCTA.

“Almost 63 percent of the total number of visitors to the Eastern Province spend their holidays in Al-Ahsa, which highlights its significance as a major tourist destination,” said Ahmed Rashed Al-Rashed, a promoter for the Al-Rashed town square, the site of a high-end shopping mall and a 164-room hotel.

According to Al-Rashed, his company decided to build the Al-Rashed town square due to the increasing number of tourists. The landmark town square will not only be a tourist hub, but also a prime leisure center.

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More exhibitions in Iran amid recovery hopes

Tehran Times – 24 November, 2013 – Several international exhibitions have started their work in Iran’s capital, Tehran. Organizers say every single expo is witnessing a rise in the number of participants compared to last year.

A series of exhibitions kick off in Iran’s capital as the economy hopes to pick up following the coming to power of the new administration. Several international expos started work in Tehran as organizers say every expo has witnessed an increase of participants from 25 to 50% this year compared to last year.

The expo on poultry, livestock and dairy farming witnessed a 30% rise with over 400 companies present. It focused on ways to improve efficiency and moving from traditional ways to more modern methods.

Hassan Rokni, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, said “Fortunatly we have made great advances in the field of poultry, livestock and dairy farming and we are working on newer means to improve production. The world is heading towards higher percentage of livestock to meat ratios at about 75% however our livestock to meat ratio is 2 to 1 which 50% and needs to be improved.”

Companies present here had the same concern and intended to improve production through the expertise of other countries.

This year the first international expo on dried fruits and nuts also started its work in Tehran, its main goal being increasing exports and improving production methods. Iran currently exports about 2 billion dollars in nuts to over 50 countries, ranking in 2nd place worldwide in pistachio and date exports and the top ten in the products of nuts.

“This is first expo will surely be continued in coming years, with the aim to improve development and create new markets for our products. This is while Iran already enjoys strong ranking in the export of nuts,” Alireza Amoukhteh, Iran Nuts 2013 organizer.

One of the expos held is the chandeliers and lighting expo, which thanks to Iranian art is a booming industry. One of the eye-catching expos and also the biggest was this. And again it saw a 50% rise this year.

As all these expos start their work, all manufactures are hopeful about the future of their industries as the country aims to open its doors to more countries and the economy looks set to improve with the economic plans of the new government.

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Second Yemeni inventions exhibition to open in Sanaa

Yemen News Agency – 24 November, 2013 – The Ministry of Industry and Trade is preparing for the second Yemeni Inventions Exhibition to be held this week in the capital Sanaa.

The event, slated for November 27-28, aims at enabling Yemeni inventors to show their inventions and exchange experiences.

The venue will include six sections that include patentees who have already received patents on their inventions or have applied for patents, technical inventors, academicians, companies, students and handicraftsmen.

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Visiting Maldives “like stepping into a new life”

By Fu Rong (Shanghai Daily) November 20, 2013 – One of the most beautiful island countries in Asia is comprised of 1,190 islands, some of which are just a meter above sea level.

The Republic of Maldives, or simply the Maldives or the Maldives Islands, is sometimes called a string of pearls that God left in the human world. For vacationers, it’s a heaven on Earth. It’s a place between some of the world’s clearest skies and cleanest water, a place to spend time in sync with the birds and fish, to put away troubles and revel in nature.

You may have heard of its beauty, but if you have not put your feet on the spongy white sand beach, had a cocktail watching the romantic sunset, or explored the colorful coral reefs and their marine life, it would be difficult to fully appreciate the experience.

The over 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean also form an archipelago of 26 natural atolls. Covering a total area of about 90,000 square kilometers, about 99 percent of which is water, the islands stretch more than 800 kilometers from north to south. Some 200 islands are inhabited while 87 are developed as tourism resorts.

The reefs of these islands, while formed by fragile living creatures, act as a barrier to protect the islands from storm-driven waves. These reefs also help create sand for the beaches and shelter marine species.

Tourism is a major source of income for the Maldives, and the industry follows a “One Island, One Resort” policy. Hospitality is the nation’s lifeblood, so no matter whether they offer luxury, seven-star suites or a more economic hotel, the resorts are built upon leisure and nature.

Coco Bodu Hithi

After a flight of more than seven hours from Shanghai, we arrived at the Malé International Airport on Hulule island, one of the islands closest to the capital island of Malé. With a total area of 2.5 square kilometers, the city is one of the world’s smallest capitals.

Hulule is a busy port. Tourists transfer to speedboats or seaplane here to get into their final dreamy destinations. It took 40 minutes via speedboat to arrive at our destination, Coco Bodu Hithi, one of the resort islands owned by hotel group Coco Collection.

The island has a secluded shoreline where boats gently bob and nature minds its own business.

Resort staff, most of them locals, give you a Maldives-style welcome with folk songs and drum dances on the dock.

The day we arrived is overcast, with clouds low overhead. The breeze offers a gentle kiss of sea spray, and our eyes are filled with different hues of blue and green — coral and marine life is clearly visible beneath the water. For those of us from a concrete world of a hustle and bustle, the surroundings and natural peacefulness suddenly purifies our minds and wipes away the weariness of the long flight.

There are superb ocean views everywhere.

The operator of the island tries to keep the island’s original flavor. The forest grows naturally, with small paved lanes among the plants. From the outside, the island looks primitive. It’s only when you enter the specially designed villa, enjoy their spa and taste their cuisine that it becomes clear the resort has done a good job weaving the modern and comfortable life into the natural environment.

Click here to read the rest: http://english.people.com.cn/205040/8460589.html

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Algeria Attends International Tourism & Travel Show In Warsaw

ALGIERS, Nov 25 (NNN-APS) — Algeria, represented by the National Tourism Office (ONT), will participate in the 21st International Tourism and Travel Show (SITEV) to be held in earsaw, Poland, from Thursday to Saturday.

Algeria’s participation in this event will be exceptional, as it will be the Guest of Honour this year, according to a statement issued by the ONT here over the weekend.

The ONT will be sending a delegation consisting of 13 tourism service operators to present their products at the event.

A workshop, bringing together Algerian and polish operators, is to be held on the sidelines of this show to provide an opportunity to establish business relationships and to conclude agreements for tourism exchanges.

The Algerian pavilion, covering an area of 140 square metres, will stage exhibits highlighting the country’s different regions to make known the Algerian heritage.

Meanwhile, Culture Minister Khalida Toumi said here Saturday that the reconstruction of empty plots of Algier’s renowned Casbah would be launched very soon, starting with the sites of buildings destroyed by the colonial army.

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Presidents of Sudan, Eritrea Launch 7th Tourism and Shopping Festival

PORT-SUDAN, SUDAN, Nov 25 (NNN-XINHUA) — Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his Eritrean counterpart, President Isaias Afwerki, on Sunday officially inaugurated the 7th Tourism and Shopping Festival in Port-Sudan, the Sudanese port city located on the Red Sea.

“The tourism and shopping festival has contributed to the improvement of the economic and social conditions in Red Sea State and is a reflection of Sudan’s tourism potential,” said al- Bashir.

Meanwhile, al-Bashir praised the Sudanese-Eritrean ties, saying that “we have worked together since Eritrea was under the colonial rule; together we led the struggle for the liberation of Eritrea and today our efforts join together to achieve the interests of our peoples”.

“The borders drawn by the colonialists will not be a barrier to prevent communication between our two brotherly peoples,” he added.

Afwerki, for his part, commended the idea of the festival.

The tourism and shopping festival, which is organized during mid-November and mid-February each year, constitutes one of the biggest tourism festivals in Sudan as it avails the opportunity to inform with the cultural heritage of the Red Sea state in eastern Sudan.

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Malaysia’s Health Tourism Industry Booming

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 (NNN-Bernama) — Revenue of RM351.5 million was recorded earned from 401,262 health tourists to the country until June this year, said Deputy Health Minister Dr Hilmi Yahaya. He said the figure was expected to double by the end of December based on the number of health tourist arrivals to the country.

“The target this year is RM630 million in revenue from the strategies, promotional efforts and intensive marketing undertaken by the Malaysian Health Tourism Council (MHTC) to ensure that Malaysia becomes a major health tourism destination,” he said to a question from lawmaker, Dr Nik Mazian Nik Mohamad at the Parliament sitting, here, Tuesday.

Nik Mazian wanted to know the number of health tourists to Malaysia, the estimated revenue earned from health tourism and the number of medical centres from which they sought treatment.

Dr Hilmi said the efforts undertaken by the MHTC proved fruitful as the number of health tourists to the country increased each year, thus giving a big impact to the industry.

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Maldives Records 1 Million Tourist Arrivals

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka Nov. 27 (NNN-Xinhua) — Maldives has reached its tourism target of 1 million arrivals, according to statistics released by the government, local media reported. Maldives Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb said on Tuesday by the end of last Sunday, tourist arrivals for 2013 had reached 1,000,203.

“We achieved our target on Nov. 24, I’d like to share this great news with you,” he said. This year, tourist arrivals were highest from Asian and European countries.

Adheeb said tireless efforts were made to achieve this target amid serious political challenges, and that a higher target will be set for next year.

He said expenditure on tourism is an investment, and that several dollars will be earned for every one dollar invested in the tourism industry. Therefore the Maldivian government is attempting to double tourism-related investment of 6.6 million U.S. dollars. Tourism accounts for 70 percent of the Maldives gross domestic product (GDP).

Most tourists had arrived from Asian countries whilst eastern European tourists had majorly contributed to the figure, Adeeb said.

The number of tourist arrivals from Europe is gradually improving, he added.

The minister hailed the arrival of over 1 million tourists as a major achievement to the industry despite several obstacles. Adeeb noted the efforts of tourism promotion and new airlines to Maldives as the factors which helped the country to reach the milestone.

“It’s a major victory for the whole country. This victory has been made possible amidst boycott campaigns and other such obstacles. Resort owners, ministry employees and MMPRC (Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation) have worked really hard for this,” Adeeb said.

Several events have been planned next week to be held at the airport to celebrate the achievement.

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Qatar, Indonesia Sign Air Transport MoU

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia, Nov 28 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar and Indonesia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), to increase the number of flights operated by Qatar Airways, to five Indonesian cities, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

The MoU was signed by Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) chairman, Abdulaziz Mohammed Al-Nuaimi and air transportation director at Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation, Djoko Murjatmodjo.

Qatar Airways will increase its weekly passenger flights to 45 and cargo flights to 10, to the cities of Jakarta, Denpasar, Medan, Batam and Manado in Indonesia.

The MoU also consolidates CAA’s strategy to upgrade bilateral air transport agreements, in line with Qatar Airways’ global expansion plans.

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Egypt selected to coordinate Islamic heritage committee

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

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that the vote was the result of the recognition of Egypt’s importance in archaeological and cultural heritage and its role in preserving and protecting the country’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

The fifth session of the IWHC will be held in Egypt next year at the Nubia museum in Aswan.

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UAE bid to support organic farmers’ market produce

Gulf Today – 29 November, 2013 – The UAE Ministry of Environment officials and organisers of Middle East’s only niche organic and natural products expo, MENOPE, on Wednesday said that an array of initiatives to support the growing organic sector in the UAE has paved way for increasing acceptance for locally grown produce among consumers.

Addressing a press conference on the 11th edition of MENOPE at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre to be held on Dec.3, ministry representatives and organisers said that the endeavour was to create higher visibility and marketing opportunities for a rising number of local farmers across the UAE.

Nadim Al Fuqaha, managing director of Global Links, the organisers of MENOPE 2013, said, “The results of the focused efforts of government bodies in the organic food space has seen the number of farms going up five times in a year in the UAE, a clear indication that the appeal for organic produce is on a phenomenal growth pace.”

According to experts, there are now 38 certified organic farms in the UAE as of August 2013 sprawling across 3905 hectares, a substantial increase from eight certified farms a year ago.

In a bid to encourage and support the spread of organic culture in the UAE, the Ministry of Environment offers agricultural inputs to these farmers at a half the price of the market value.

These inputs include organic fertilizers, certified organic seeds and pesticides, which are environment friendly.

He said ministry of environment was also in the process of creating a space for local farmers to exhibit and sell their produce within major malls in the UAE.

A dedicated organic market, which opened last year at Al Hamriya is also set to reopen in January 2014. Additionally, a marketing outlet for local organic produce will also open at the Global Village this year.

“These endeavours of the government bodies go in sync with our efforts to open up the market for organic and natural products,” said Fuqaha, adding that this year MENOPE was coming with string participation from countries like India, Romania, Poland, Malaysia and the Philippines. Other participating countries include Italy, Japan, France, Bangladesh, South Africa, Canada, Ethiopia and the UAE.

The 11the edition of the show, which will open with over 125 exhibitors is endorsed by the Ministry of Environment and Water and Dubai.

It is supported by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), ministries of agriculture of Philippines and Malaysia.

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Indonesia stages First World Culture forum in Bali

Mon, November 25 2013 Nusa Dua, Bali (ANTARA News) – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially inaugurated the World Culture Forum (WFC), which is being organized and hosted by the country in Bali for the first time, on Monday.

In his speech President Yudhoyono said, “The WFC is needed to complete various other forums that have been in existence in the world, such as the World Economic Forum in Davos and the World Social Forum in Brazil. So far we have not had a culture forum.”

He further stated that the WCF was aimed at establishing a common framework for discussion at the local, as well as international levels.

The President said the forum would also contribute to achieving development goals.

“The forum will discuss thoroughly how culture can help promote sustainable development,” he said.

The first WCF, which started on Nov. 24 and will conclude on Nov. 27, was first initiated in 2005, but it is only this year that it could it be realized, Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh said.

Nuh added that a culture forum was needed because without culture there would be no future.

Meanwhile, President Yudhoyono said that culture affected all aspects of life including a country’s development process.

“Culture is an important component in human development, as well as in the post-2015 development agenda,” he said.

He also noted that culture was also key to the success of sustainable development. “At academic levels, I have seen a lot of people studying culture and economic development. To us this forum will give an opportunity to discuss how culture can promote sustainable development,” he said.

The WFC is being attended by representatives from 40 countries, who will participate in discussions, seminars and dialogue among different cultures. It is hoped that the WFC will help produce a new policy direction that makes cultures a part of sustainable development and helps formulate an ethics framework to ensure the involvement of communities and stake holders in the development.

The event is expected to produce a draft framework that will guarantee sustainable cultural development and to give inputs for the discussion of the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals programs.

Among the key speakers on the first day of the event were the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director General Irina Bokova, who delivered a speech through a teleconference, Noble Prize laureate for Economics Amartya Sen, Time Magazine Editor Fareed Zakaria and Education Minister Muhammad Nuh.

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Azerbaijan launches new project to tap creative ideas by youth

27 November 2013 – AzerNews – A new project called “Online Bank of Ideas” designed to collect the young people’s ideas and thoughts about the country’s development was launched by the Azerbaijan Youth and Sport Ministry, the ministry said on November 26.

Ideas put forward by youth will be posted on www.fikirbanki.az and the public, as well as government, international and private organizations will benefit from these suggestions, the ministry said. Ideas may be proposed by any Azerbaijani between the ages of 14 and 30.

The project includes such sections as Social Services, Economy, Education, Entertainment, Media, Telecommunications, Medicine and Health, Environment, Transport, National Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Culture. Registration of ideas has started.

A winner of the month will be chosen. Winners will be awarded with diplomas and valuable prizes from the ministry as well as its partners. The ministry said, the “Online Bank of Ideas” project will provide a reliable platform for youth discussions on different topics and create conditions for strengthening the position of young people in society.

The “Online Bank of Ideas” project is implemented in accordance with the State Program “Azerbaijani Youth in 2011-2015” as part of declaring 2013 as the year of information and communication technologies in Azerbaijan.

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First forum on co-op between Arab countries and Central Asia

28 November 2013 – TODAY.AZ – The first forum entitled ‘Cooperation between Arab countries, Azerbaijan and Central Asia and the economy’ will be held on December 2-3 in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh.

Azerbaijan will be represented at this forum by a delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev. This will also include representatives of the ministries of economy and industry and energy, a message from the press service of Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on Nov.28.

According to the message, within the forum it is planned to hold a meeting with participation of representatives of the financial, trade and investment structures from the member states of the League of Arab State (LAS), Azerbaijan and the Central Asian countries.

On the results of the forum, it is planned to sign a memorandum of understanding and ‘Riyadh declaration’.

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Baku to Host Meeting on Safeguarding Cultural Heritage

27 November 2013 – TODAY.AZ – The 8th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage will be held at the JW Marriott Absheron Hotel in Baku on December 2-7. The meeting will be chaired by Azerbaijan`s Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfas Garayev.

The session of the Committee coincides with the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCOs General Conference in 2003. It has since been ratified by 156 countries. In Baku, the 24 members of the Committee responsible for its implementation will take stock of the Conventions achievements in promoting the safeguard of this particularly fragile, living heritage.

Intangible Cultural Heritage includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festivals, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

“This young Convention has won the world over, and generated huge public interest,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “It has changed our way of thinking about intangible cultural heritage, highlighting the importance of living heritage and recognizing communities as its legitimate keepers,” she added.

“But challenges remain: detailed inventories must be established; efficient safeguarding measures need to be implemented; cooperation between State Parties should be reinforced; and, especially, communities must be even more implicated in the safeguarding of this heritage that belongs to them.”

The Committee will consider 11 new candidates for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. This list, which already includes 31 items, helps States Parties to the Convention to mobilize attention and international cooperation for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage at risk, with the participation of the concerned communities. The 11 new items to be examined include:

Chovqan, a traditional Karabakh horse-riding game (Azerbaijan); Seperu folk dance, associated traditions and practices of the Basubiya community in Botswanas Chobe District; Traditional folk music of Bakgatla ba Kgafela (Botswana); Gbofe of Afounkaha, the music of the transverse trumps of the Tagbana community (Cote dIvoire); Paach ceremony (Guatemala); Tenun Ikat Sumba weaving of Indonesia; Enkipaata, Eunoto and Olng`esherr: three male rites of passage of the Maasai community (Kenya); Pilgrimage to Wirikuta (Mexico); Mongolian calligraphy; Glasoechko, male two-part singing in Dolni Polog (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia); Empaako tradition of the Batooro, Banyoro, Batuku, Batagwenda and Banyabindi of western Uganda.

The Committee will also examine 30 candidates for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This List is an instrument for the promotion of intangible heritage. It serves to raise awareness of this heritage, providing recognition of traditions and knowledge transmitted by communities and reflecting the range of cultural diversity. It does not attribute or recognize any standard of excellence or exclusivity. The List today includes 257 items.

The 30 candidates proposed for inscription at the Baku meeting are:

Annual pilgrimage to the mausoleum of Sidi ‘Abd el-Qader Ben Mohammed (Sidi Cheikh) (Algeria); Practices and knowledge linked to the Imzad of the Tuareg communities of Algeria, Mali and Niger; Classical horsemanship and the High School of the Spanish Riding School Vienna (Austria); Traditional art of Jamdani weaving (Bangladesh); Shrimp fishing on horseback in Oostduinkerke (Belgium); Alasita festivity, the Iqiqu (Ekeko) and Illa ritual (Bolivia); Círio de Nazare (The Taper of Our Lady of Nazareth) in the city of Belem, Para (Brazil); Chinese Zhusuan, knowledge and practices of mathematical calculation through the abacus (China); Moreska, a sword dance-drama of Korcula (Croatia); Mediterranean diet (Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal); Commemoration feast of the finding of the True Holy Cross of Christ (Ethiopia); Limousin septennial ostensions (France); Ancient Georgian traditional Qvevri wine-making method (Georgia); Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur (India); Iranian traditional medicine; Celebrations of big shoulder-borne processional structures (Italy); Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese, notably for the celebration of New Year; Kyrgyz epic trilogy: Manas, Semetey, Seytek (Kyrgyzstan); Traditional craftsmanship of the Mongol Ger and its associated customs (Mongolia); Eyo masquerade festival (Nigeria); Knowledge, skills and rituals related to the annual renewal of the Qeswachaka bridge (Peru); Kimjang, making and sharing kimchi (Republic of Korea); Mens group Colindat, Christmas-time ritual (Romania, Republic of Moldova); Xooy, a divination ceremony among the Serer of Senegal; Music of Terchova (Slovakia); Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Stip (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Moldova); Turkish coffee culture and tradition; Petrykivka decorative painting as a phenomenon of the Ukrainian ornamental folk art; La Parranda de San Pedro de Guarenas y Guatire (Venezuela); Art of Don ca tai tu music and song in southern Viet Nam.

The Committee will also examine the Periodic Reports by ten States Parties on the policies, legislation and institutions established by them to implement the Convention at national level. The ten countries are: Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Hungary, Madagascar, Oman, Senegal and Turkey.

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Sudan Inaugurates Samad – Erkuit Road and Tourism in Red Sea State

Sudan News Agency – 26 November 2013 Erkuit, Red Sea State — President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer Al-Bashir, accompanied by the Eritrean President, Isaias Afewerki, and a number of ministers, Tuesday inaugurated Samad – Erkuit road, which extends t 35 kilometers and established at the cost of 33 million pounds, to link the tourism Erkuit area with the national road.

President Al-Bashir also inaugurated a number of establishments and public utilities in Erkuit town in support to tourism in the Red Sea State.

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Milan hosted exhibition of young Azerbaijani artists

25 November 2013 – TODAY.AZ – An exhibition of young Azerbaijani artists has opened at the Chiesa Rossa Library in Milan, Italy.

The exhibition is co-organized by the Azerbaijani embassy to Italy, Municipality of Milan, the Culture Association of Azerbaijan in Milan and “Dirchalish” Social and Psychological Rehabilitation Center of Youth.

Speaking to the opening ceremony, representative of the Embassy Zaur Farhadov highlighted Azerbaijan`s culture.

The works displayed at the exhibition include 50 paintings by 12 Azerbaijani artists.

As part of their trip to Milan the Azerbaijani artists will visit the city`s must-see places.

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Pakistan economic package to promote investment

ISLAMABAD, Nov 29 (APP): Minister for Information Broadcasting and National Heritage, Pervaiz Rashid Friday said the economic package announced by the prime minister aimed at encouraging people having black money to invest in development projects and not aimed at purchasing dollars or investing this money abroad. In a statement issued here, the Minister said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and chief ministers of all the four provinces were the products of democratic system and terming their elections as ‘international agenda’ was very disappointing.

The concessions were open to those who wanted to invest and establish green field projects and generate employment, he maintained. He said the government was also recognizing high tax payers, adding that 400 top tax payers would get special privilege cards which was unprecedented.

Pervaiz Rashid said the prime minister had established first Business Advisory Council. The Federal Board of Revenues (FBR) had been stopped to access the bank accounts of tax payers.

The minister said he himself had struggled and suffered for democracy and democratic values during all dictatorial regimes.

“I was subjected to torture and illegal confinement for years and Imran Khan was a blue eyed player of dictator Musharraf.”

Pervaiz Rashid pointed out that he had struggled for democracy in every dictatorial regime whether it was Ayub Khan, Zia ul Haq or Musharraf.

He said that he was a supporter of a pluralistic progressive and peaceful Pakistan.

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Brunei aims for 60:40 science to arts ratio for development

November 29, 2013 – Borneo Bulletin Online – AS THE world looks to the future with a firm focus on ICT, Brunei Darussalam’s higher education institutions were told to ensure that their programmes are geared towards meeting the demands of a more digitalised world.

In delivering a titah yesterday during Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB)’s 26th Convocation for HND graduates and the first for the institute’s degree students, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam stressed that ITB should explore different aspects to elevate its status, especially since having matured into a university five years ago.

“It is time for ITB to step out from its comfort zone and make changes to transform itself whilst at the same time turning itself into an engineering and technology university that is of international standards,” said His Majesty, who is also ITB’s Chancellor.

Notwithstanding its small stature especially in terms of student population, His Majesty encouraged ITB to overcome reservations and take advantage of its size, which the monarch considers an advantage.

“Planning and implementing initiatives will be made easier, especially for a supplier of human resource that is relevant,” the ruler said and added that such a feat is not impossible especially when taking into consideration the achievements of California Institute of Technology, Caltech, that has become among the sought after engineering universities in the world with only 2,000 students.

The government, as explained by His Majesty, aims to see a 60:40 science to arts ratio as part of its national development plan and therefore, “ITB has the obligation to ensure that the programmes on offer are interesting to attract even more students who aim to pursue science”, added the monarch.

With the reasoning behind this stemming from the need to keep up with trends “dominated by ICT, multimedia, creative technology as well as becoming a knowledge-based economy that has compelled us to be prepared and responsive”, His Majesty reminded that the academic workforce is among the main components towards facilitating the success of an institution.

“With this, ITB is not exempted from providing quality educators that are of international standards,” and that, “There are a number of criteria that have become the benchmark to measure quality” which includes staff involvement and their contributions such as publications and collaborative research on a global scale.

In tandem with the strength of an institute’s workforce, His Majesty also emphasised that the quality of teaching, curriculum and the students themselves play a significant role in earning a name for an institute and the responsibility of offering degree programmes should not be taken lightly.

“It should be done neatly so as to ensure that ITB can produce graduates who are marketable with skills, who are in line with the needs of the industry and those who can face a dynamic future that is constantly changing.”

By having such a pool of human resource, His Majesty emphasised, will not just ensure economic growth but also reduce the number of unemployed youths, especially in an economic environment considered unpredictable.

“Higher education is still seen as one of the main keys in generating a viable economy,” said His Majesty and added that yesterday’s ceremony has multiplied the number of local youths who can help the national cause.

His Majesty expressed his appreciation for the work that has been carried out to secure the future of ITB’s graduates and took the opportunity to remind graduates that “An individual’s success is not measured by their educational achievements alone, but also by their holistic development”.

In celebrating their academic successes, His Majesty also highlighted, “Graduates need to equip themselves with components that will enable them to face any obstacle.”

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Exciting 7th Sabah Travel Fair launched at Rizqun International Hotel

November 29, 2013 – A launching dinner in conjunction with the 7th Sabah Travel Fair was held yesterday evening at the Rizqun International Hotel’s Songket Hall in Gadong organised by the Malaysian Tourism Board in collaboration with the Sabah Tourism Board.

The 7th Sabah Travel Fair will start today Friday at 2pm and will run until Sunday December 1 at the Atrium of The Mall in Gadong. During the launch, speeches were delivered by Datuk Kamarlin bin Ombi, Sabah’s Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, and Malaysian High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam, Datuk Awg Sahak bin Awg Salleh.

In his speech, Datuk Kamarlin mentioned that this year’s travel fair will be different from previous affairs.

“At this travel fair, we will officially usher in Visit Malaysia Year 2014 that will soon be launched by Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism and Culture. There will be lots of exciting events next year in Malaysia, especially in Sabah, that Bruneians can enjoy as Free Independent Travellers with their friends and family members,” said the assistant minister.

“Some of the attractive events that will be held in Sabah include the Sabah Masters Golf Tournament, Kota Kinabalu Duathlon (which involves cycling and running), the Borneo International Marathon and KK Century Ride or the 100-kilometre cycling race. “Other events include the Bird Festival, which is organised as a joint-promotion under the BIMP-EAGA tourism cluster.

“This year’s Sabah Travel Fair is joined by 14 agencies, including Royal Brunei Airlines (RB), six hotels and two travel agencies. The latest to join the fair is Star Cruises, with its cruise-liner the Superstar Aquarius, which recently established its home port in Kota Kinabalu.

“The residents of Brunei are encouraged to grab the special packages offered this weekend by some of the exhibitors,” he added. Datuk Kamarlin concluded his speech by thanking the Malaysian Tourism Board in Brunei for their help in planning the 7th Sabah Travel Fair.

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Bangladesh Int’l tourism fair held

DHAKA, Nov 28, 2013 (BSS) – A three-day third Bangladesh International Tourism Fair (BITF)’13 began today at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the city.

Bangladesh Foundation for Tourism Development (BFTD) and Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Bangladesh Tourism Board, Bangladesh Inbound Tour operators Association and Bangladesh International Hotel Association is organizing the annual event.

Civil Aviation and Tourism minister Ruhul Amin Hawlader inaugurated the fair as the chief guest.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khurshed Alam Chowdhury, Precident of FBCCI Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed and Diplomats of Indonesia, Myanmar, the Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka were present as special guests.

Participants and buyers from the USA, Europe, Middle East, Canada, France, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and India were present.

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Village in famous Turkish novel to open tourism

BURSA – Anadolu Agency – The house in Reşat Nuri Güntekin’s famous novel ‘Çalıkuşu’ was built in Bursa’s Zeyniler village. The main character in this novel, Feride, was working as a teacher in this village. A paragliding field is also ready to open in the village with an attempt to develop tourism

Feride, the main character of one of the masterpieces of Turkish literature, famous novel “Çalıkuşu,” written by Reşat Nuri Güntekin in 1922, was working as a teacher in the northwestern province of Bursa’s Zeyniler village. The village was the source of inspiration for Güntekin in writing the novel.

With a new project to revive the village and bring it in tourism, a house named “Çalıkuşu House” was opened by the Bursa Municipality with a ceremony at the weekend in the village, which is located in the skirts of Uludağ Mountain.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Yıldırım Mayor Özgen Keskin said they would also open a village mansion and a paragliding field to draw tourists to the village.

Traces from the Ottoman era

The village, which is three kilometers away from Merkez Yıldırım district’s Teleferik neighborhood, has traces from the Ottoman era, said Keskin. “Our goal is to bring tourism to this village and our efforts continue. History will be revived in this village one day. While it was a settlement, it did not even have electricity one year ago. But we made this place a neighborhood first and then gave it the status of a village,” he said.

Keskin said the people of Zeyniler were those who immigrated to this village during the Ottoman-Russian War in 1877-1878, adding, “In order to revive this historic village and draw tourism, we have previously organized running events in the mountains and bicycle competitions. We have also made walking routes and viewing terraces.”

He said they had constructed the Çalıkuşu House to keep the memory of the novel alive. “When Güntekin was a teacher in the male high school and an inspector, he came to this village and saw a little girl who was running and jumping around and climbing plum trees. Being inspired by this little girl, he wrote the novel ‘Çalıkuşu.’ This is why we built this house; for the memoir of this novel and this great master,” Keskin explained.

Keskin said the village was in a location available to construct a paragliding field and they did it to improve tourism.

Paraglider Ömer Sarışın said they had tried the field before the opening of the Çalıkuşu House, and continued, “It is a bit slippery because of sand, but when it rains, this problem disappears. But the field should be extended to the west and the trees there should be cut a bit. Other than this, the field is very nice. This is the only field covered with parquet. We go from here to İnegöl, Yenişehir, etc., where the wind takes us. This is the best place around Bursa.”

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Istanbul Design Week opens

Hurriyet – ISTANBUL – Istanbul Design Week is held once again, this time at Maçka Küçükçiftlik Park rather than on the Galata Bridge. Designers from around the world meet at the event, which has been organized since 2005

Istanbul’s major design event, Istanbul Design Week (IDW), opened on Nov. 27 at Maçka Küçükçiftlik Park, hosting leading designers.

The IDW is being organized for the first time this year in a place different to the city’s iconic Galata Bridge, having hosted a total of 4,200 products by 350 designers and companies since 2005.

Workshops and special events are presented over the course of the IDW’s five days, showcasing the latest trends in design, fashion, science, architecture and technology.

This year IDW is being held around the theme of “Design and City.” Within the scope of the event, designs with Finnea Award, which is given in Finland to the best designs and best designs, as well as unique glass and mug collections of Polish designers, are being displayed.

The IDW also continues supporting young designers and new companies founded by young designers such as Flaxx, Flat Craftwork, Derin Design, Ron Tasarım and Naif Design.

The founding partner of Dream Design Factory, which organizes the event, IDW director Professor Esra Ekmekçi said the main purpose of the project was to create an international platform.

“We want Turkish designers to have a place in this platform. I give importance especially to two projects in IDW this year. Firstly, it is the 600th year of Turkey-Poland relations this year, which is why we are displaying a Polish glass exhibit, featuring life in Poland in the 20th and 21st centuries. Helsinki was the World Design Capital in 2012, and Istanbul has the same goal for 2018. We have brought over all the designs that were made in Helsinki in 2012 to Istanbul. The second project is an exhibition that gives opportunities to young designers. We call it the ‘Istanbul Spirit,’” she said.

Another partner of Dream Design Factory, Arhan Kayar, said they had been organizing the IDW since 2005. “This is a platform that brings together design and city. This is not a standard fair but is has exhibitions, workshops and conferences. National and international designers come together in this platform,” Kayar said.

Kayar said the event had been organized with the support of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and daily Hürriyet. “We usually organize this event every year in September, but this year it is in November because we wanted to organize it simultaneously with the Istanbul Innovation Week. Our goal is to strengthen Istanbul’s design platform in the international arena. We discuss all sides of design in this event,” he said.

Martı Istanbul Hotel is one of the sponsors of the IDW. The hotel will host the closing ceremony of the IDW with a party titled “Design in the City.” The party will be organized on Nov. 30, the closing day of the event, at BRASS Restaurant&Bar at 10 p.m. The leading names of Istanbul’s culture, arts, design and business world will come together in the party, which will be hosted by Martı Hotel Enterprises Executive Board member Mine Narin.


An exhibition titled “No Borders,” created by eight young people, graduates of Britain’s most famous art and design university, Royal College of Art; the projects of the world’s leading 15 architecture schools; awarded creations of famous Turkish designers like Aziz Sarıyer, Can Yalman, Koray Özgen, and Red Bull cabinets designed by 10 surprise names for Istanbul’s leading venues are among the other projects of this year’s IDW.

This year, IDW is hosting the world’s leading names to speak at the event. Among them are Swiss Design Consultant Pierre Keller, famous Swiss industrial designer Alfredo Haberli, the founder and designer of Nooka watches Matthew Waldman, the head of Irish CCAE Cork Architecture Faculty Jason O’Shaughnessy, Bosnian fasion designer Anastasia Su, architect Martin Lesjak and Finnish Arni Aromaa.

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Web-Savvy imams are on the rise in Kazakhstan

Astana, Monday, 21 Muharram 1434/ 25 November 2013 (IINA) – Bridging generation gaps, an increasing number of Kazakhstan imams and mullahs are reverting to social media websites to lure young Muslims through blogs, videos and social networks.

“Nowadays, young people spent most of their time surfing on the Internet. Nobody wants to bother to listen to mosque sermons,” Darkhan Syzdykov, deputy imam of Qostanay’s Maral Eshan mosque, told Radio Free Europe. “Young people prefer to get answers to their questions (about religion) without leaving their homes. That’s why imams should be proactive on social networks.”

Syzdykov is one of the imams who took part in a local workshop along with 56 other religious leaders to introduce them to social media websites. He believes that without the internet and social media, mullahs would lose touch with their most important target audience. Ruslan Bolatuly, a high-ranking official in the northern Qostanay Province, has also praised these workshops. He says social media can be used as a “preventative measure” to counter the spread of extremism.

Bolatuly says the authorities began to push Islamic leaders to embrace social media after a recent YouTube video purporting to show dozens of Kazakh “jihadists” in Syria received wide exposure. “In the past, representatives of banned religious groups would have to meet people face to face to recruit new members,” Bolatuly says.

After the training, imams were to start writing blogs and posting video tutorials online. The new training was not limited to imams in Qostanay Province. All chief imams in South Kazakhstan Province’s 14 districts underwent similar training courses to learn how to use the Internet, post to mosque websites, and open accounts on social networks. In Kazakhstan, mosques are state-controlled and imams are appointed by the state-backed Spiritual Directorate of Kazakh Muslims. There are more than 2,500 officially registered mosques in the country, and nearly all of them have their own websites.

A growing number of young imams were already using social media website to reach a bigger number of followers. Sabyrzhan Esmurzin, a mosque imam from Qostanay’s Zhitikarinky district, has attracted thousands of followers on MoiMir and Odnoklassniki.ru. The 32-year-old imam uses his accounts on the Russian-language social-networking sites to promote and explain religious values, as well as to respond to his followers’ questions. Not all Kazakh mullahs, however, are rushing to make friends online.

“Older imams have no interest in the Internet,” says Ulykbek Aliakparuly, a mullah from the South Kazakhstan Province’s main mosque. “The age factor is important,” he adds, noting that most imams are part of the older generation. “Young people don’t want to become a mosque imam because this is a job without a salary,” Aliakparuly says. “Therefore, most imams in villages as well as cities are over the age of 40. They show no interest in the Internet or computers.”

According to official statistics, about 20 percent of Kazakhstan’s population of 17 million were using social-media websites in early 2012. More than 30 percent of Kazakh social-media users last year had accounts on MoiMir, while about 14 percent were active on VKontakte and 3.5 percent on Facebook.

Islam is the dominant religion in Kazakhstan, which has a large Christian minority, belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. According to the CIA Fact Book, Muslims make up 47 percent of the population, Russian Orthodox 44 percent, Protestant 2 percent and others 7 percent. Ethnic Kazakhs are historically Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school of thought. Islam was brought to the Kazakhs during the 8th century when the Arabs arrived into Central Asia. Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of Turkestan and thereafter gradually spread northward.

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Lecture on history of Islam in Sicily held on board a ship

Jeddah, Tuesday, 22 Muharram 1434/ 26 November 2013 (IINA) – The visit of the Italian aircraft carrier Cavour last week to Jeddah Islamic Port was concluded with a lecture, titled “The History of Islam in Sicily,” on board of the ship on Thursday.

Driven by the ambition to show the West and East their similarities, professor Francesca Corrao had specially come from Rome to give the lecture about the closeness between the Italian island of Sicily and the Arab world in terms of history and culture. She also spoke about an exhibition she set up with her father on the island. The story of Joha, with which the professor of Arabic language and culture at Luiss University in Rome began her talk with, illustrates this closeness.

Originating in the Arab oral tradition, the story has spread and become engrained in the local folklore of many places in Africa, Turkey and Sicily, among others. “The story of Joha gives us an idea of how powerful oral stories are,” Corrao told the audience that consisted of Saudi officials, diplomats, Rear Adm. Paolo Treu and other people interested in the topic. “They have survived since the 11th century, and people don’t know they originate from Arabs.”

The story was her motive to study Arabic many years ago and to set up the exhibition in 2012, which was a “major starting point” in becoming aware of their heritage. She added that they now invite poets, musicians and painters to Sicily regularly to spread “knowledge and respect for the other culture.” “Sicily shows how a small island was important in transmitting Eastern traditions to the West,” Corrao said, referring to the Emirate of Sicily, the Islamic state on the island for over two centuries, from 831 to 1072 AD. She said important scholars were born or lived on the island, such as Ibn Hamdis, who migrated to Seville and became a famous poet at the court.

Many important scholars, judges, poets and scientists left when the Arabs had been conquered but numerous inventions and new habits remained. “Before the Arabs arrived, we didn’t have oranges, lemons, bananas and gardens — all things Sicily is known for now,” Corrao said to illustrate her point, adding that even the churches were built in Islamic style long after the Arabs had left. “The Arabs developed an irrigation system and brought yellow and green pottery to Sicily.”

While admitting the coexistence of Arabs and locals in Sicily during the emirate was not always without problems, she said the Arabs introduced many positive things: “In the (western) area where they arrived, it was more peaceful, while in the eastern area there were a lot of fights, and they lasted because the Byzantines were stronger. “We have the testimonies of historians and travelers”, who transmit this possibility of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, she said. “There were many people who converted to Islam; others remained Christian, but they could live together peacefully for centuries,” she noted, adding that the Normans, who ruled the island after the Arabs had been defeated, continued this tradition of tolerance.

According to Corrao, the shared history and culture remains relevant in today’s world and the problem of refugees from Africa flooding the island of Sicily and other places in Europe. “This is in fact why we made this exhibition and we want to go around (with it),” she said. “It is a possibility to solve problems, and we have the duty to solve problems. We have the opportunity to find harmonious solutions,” just by sitting and discussing together and finding a common ground, explaining that this is the reason she used the story of Joha. “If I listen to the problem I might find a solution; if I look to the problem only from my point of view it is difficult to find a solution.”

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America’s South Windsor gets first Muslim mayor

Connecticut, Saturday, 19 Muharram 1434/ 23 November 2013 (IINA) – Muslims have warmly welcomed the appointment of M. Saud Anwar to be South Windsor’s first Muslim mayor, making a major milestone for the Islamic community in Connecticut.

“Congratulations; may Allah be your help. We need more Muslims in public service like this,” wrote one well-wisher on Anwar’s Facebook page, The Courant newspaper reported. “Hats off dude,” wrote another.

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

The history-making selection, however, has passed almost unnoticed in American media. Not only the selection, Anwar’s religion has been scarcely noted during a campaign dominated by taxes, sewer charges and all the typical meat-and-potatoes matters that generally shape municipal elections. Yet, for leaders of the Muslim community, the low-profile coverage reflected a growing acceptance for Muslims in politics. “Our community has been a very accepting community,” said Anwar, a Yale-educated physician who moved to town in 1999. “We live in an embracing town where people are respected for who they are and for what they do rather than what they look like or what their belief is … that’s one of the things that makes you fall in love with South Windsor.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a national spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), agreed. Hooper called it “a good sign for the normalization of Muslims in the American political process.” Coming seven years after Keith Ellison of Minnesota became the first Muslim elected to Congress, the political clout of American Muslims has grown, Hooper said. “We’re seeing more and more Muslim public officials around the country,” Hooper said. “The first of any kind of civic participation is newsworthy, but as more enter the political process, it becomes less newsworthy.”

Being a Muslim physician with immigrant heritage, Anwar held a special world view for his new position in South Windsor. “As a physician, every single day you are identifying a problem and creating a mechanism to prevent it or identifying a way of treating it,” Anwar said.

He draws a parallel between the health of the human body and the health of a community. “In the ICU when I walk in, I look at my patient and I see the respiratory organ system, the gastrointestinal organ system, the cardiovascular organ system,” he said, settling into a chair at his medical office in Vernon one morning this week. “You can look at a town as one single, large patient and you can see the public works organ system, the police and safety organ system, the financial organ system … all of those organ systems need to work collaboratively to make a healthy patient and a healthy town.”

Anwar was one of the participants in a group of local physicians who have traveled to Haiti each year since the 2010 earthquake to treat victims and help the nation rebuild. The Muslim physician said he never imagined that he would be active in politics. “But I knew I was going to try and solve problems,” he said. “I’m more interested in identifying what’s wrong in the community, in society,” he said. “Then you can see what role you can play to help make it better.” Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 Muslims. A Gallup poll had found that the majority of US Muslims are patriot and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.

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Successful Muslim Festival Ends in London

OnIslam – Monday, 25 November LONDON – In the largest gathering of Muslims in London, thousands of visitors converged in the 6th Global Peace and Unity festival, enjoying a platform of various speakers, performers and service providers.

“The festival is packed with activities, from sports, competitions, game-shows, games for children, conference, nasheeds, concerts and much more,” Mohamed Ali Harrath, the GPU chairman, told OnIslam.net.

Harrath was speaking at the two-day conference held at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in Royal Victoria Dock, London, England and organized by the Islam Channel.

According to the Global Peace and Unity’s official website, the event, held on November 23, 24, is designed to promote dialogue and “global cohesion across all communities”.

The gathering, which began in 2005, is the largest of its kind in Europe, drawing tens of thousands of visitors from 5 continents and 132 countries.

In addition to lectures by international speakers, the conference hosted other activities including an exhibition, stalls for promoting Islamic businesses and others for collection of charity donation, and evening nashīd concerts.

The meet has also seen high-profile speakers over the years, including London mayor Ken Livingstone, British MP George Galloway, Muslim scholar Jamal Badawi and Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

As the only event of its nature and size, speakers included the former Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Rev Riah Abu el-Assal.

“We are part of the human race, irrespective of whether we are Muslims or Christians, we come from the same creator and we are called upon to protect that beautiful image of God in each and every one of us,” he said.

Elsewhere, the Muslim scholar Yasir Qadhi was also present the event where he asked the question, “What exactly is the way forward for the Muslim community?”

“We are the moderate nation, we do not go to extremes, we are very angry at many things that are happening, at the double standards, but that anger should lead us to be pro-active, it should lead us to challenge those stereotypes, it should lead us to educate, it should lead us to become role models in all that we do, and our religion is a healthy combination of deen (faith) and dunya (this life),” he responded.

Serving Muslims

Along with a platform of notable international speakers, the event offered Muslims entertainment, services and advice.

“Muslim Care Campaign are being supported by the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) and are here raising awareness of elderly care,” Noor Shahzad said about the initiative to raise awareness of caring for the elderly. “We want Muslims to have their say on care services for elderly Muslims in the UK.”

A number of professional bodies were also represented, such as the Association Of Muslim Lawyers (AML), which coordinated and implemented a legal advice clinic at the GPU.

“AML recruited three of London’s foremost legal firms, Imran Khan & Associates, Duncan Lewis and Docklands Solicitors who provided 25 lawyers giving free legal advice to over 120 people,” said Amjad Malik QC, Chairman, AML.

The accompanying exhibition included a number of brands such as Ahlan Arts. Their stand was made all the more interesting with an artist on-site to write names name in beautiful Arabic calligraphic script.

“We’re basically an Islamic Arts marketplace, we’ve recently started up and we’re promoting international artists around the world,” Taslim Mawji said.

A group of high spirited Muslim volunteers has also worked to offer Muslims the best experience in their lives. “I had no idea who any of the speakers were. So last night I spent a couple of hours yesterday and decided to built myself an app,” Amhed Hameed, one of the volunteers at the GPU, said.

“GPU 2013 app has every speaker I knew was coming. Chose your speaker, it gives you a picture, and a brief description so I actually had a conversation starter.”

Yet, like all Muslim gathering, the matrimonial services attracted a huge number of young Muslims, wishing to meet Mr or Mrs right.

Such was the success of the marriage program at the GPU that a number of people were unable to secure tickets to the sold out event.

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Aussie Muslims Use Sport to Break Barriers

OnIslam & News Agencies Wednesday, 27 November 2013 SYDNEY – In a bid to break cultural barriers, a sports tournament has been organized in Sydney to encouraging Muslim and non-Muslim women to cooperate to nurture a new generation of sporting leaders.

“Sport is seen as a more male-dominated zone so they don’t really encourage females in their family or household to take part in that,” Assmaah Helal, Go Active coordinator, told SBS.

Assmaah is one of the coordinators who have long dreamed of offering Muslim women an opportunity to practice sports in an environment that respects their religious beliefs.

In the Go Active tournament, more Muslim and non-Muslims participants were encouraged to get involved for many reasons, including not having to worry about community expectations. Men are also not allowed and there is no dress code in a private area.

“Some women are okay to take part in a public space to wear skins and shorts and singlets with shorts underneath,” Assmaah said. “There are other women who feel more comfortable with wearing looser clothes.”

Participants say the event has given them the courage to break through barriers. “Playing a sport isn’t just about the physical part of it,” former Afghan refugee Shegofa Hassani said. “You also gain other skills like communication and leadership and confidence that will stay with you throughout your life.”

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity.

Many participants praised the unique tournament for offering them a chance to practice sports for the first time in their life. For tournament participant Ayse Akca it is the first time she has ever played sport. “Now that I’ve finished school I wanted to get out there and be more active,” she told SBS.

As a Muslim Australian, she found an all-women’s indoor event less confronting than other options. “Just being close together, having fun with the girls and not having to worry about everything” are part of the appeal, Ms Akca says.

The family of Hassani, 17, has initially disapproved of her involvement. “I pushed the boundaries basically,” Shegofa Hassani says. “I didn’t have their support but over the past five years I’ve gained their support, especially (from) relatives, which is a great thing because I can play the sport I love.”

Seening the sucess of the event, coaches and mentors announced plan for more events like this. They say their aim is to foster a love of sport in more Muslim women so some can progress from a recreational level to an elite level.

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Scot Muslims Educate Pupils On Islam

OnIslam & Newspapers Wednesday, 27 November 2013 CAIRO – A Muslim women resource center in Scotland has toured scores of classrooms around Scotland after being contacted by a Dundee school to correct students’ misconceptions about Islam.

“We want to build bridges to make children see we are not that different.” Safa Yousef, a member of AMINA center, told the Daily Record on Wednesday, November 27.

Over the past two years, Safa and Samina Ansari were busy making 100 visits to different schools across Scotland.

The project was launched when a Dundee school contacted the resource centre, inviting them to offer a true image of Islam to its pupils.

The concerns started when a Dundee school asked its pupils to write down their thoughts on hearing the word Muslim.

Their responses were illuminating, including “terrorist”, “9/11”, “scary” and “curry”.

Donning hijab, the two Muslim women offered children of the Castlemilk High school in Glasgow their first encounter with Muslims face to face.

Safa told the children that 9/11 terrorists hijacked her religion.

“What they did was nothing to do with Islam. There are dafties in every religion,” she said.

The children laugh when they hear this Muslim woman trot out “dafties” in her Glasgow accent.

“When the children hear us talk to them in a down-to-earth way, they appreciate that we are just like they are,” she said.

“We want them to see that we are assertive women with jobs. They see the human side to Islam.

“Even just our presence in the classroom, talking with a Scottish accent, has a positive impact.”

As for hijab, the children are given photos of women in headscarves, including the Queen and Mother Theresa.

Safa told the kids that when she first decided to wear the hijab, her father was concerned. “A lot of you will think that I wear this because I am oppressed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It was my choice,” she said.

Showing photos for broadcaster Lauren Booth, many children were shocked that a white woman is a convert.

“A lot of them don’t realize they have probably mixed with Muslims, that they come in all nationalities and cover all races,” Safa, 24, said.

Moreover, the pupils were told about the five pillars of Islam and their names in Arabic. “I tell them how I pray. They may know the textbook answer but there is a difference,” Safa said. “I tell them I might do it when I am out shopping, that it is my conversation with God. It brings me back down, boosts my energy and positivity.”

They ask the children what proportion of the Scottish population is Muslim and the answers range from 35 per cent to 75 per cent.

Scotland is home to more than 50,000 Muslims, making up 1.4 percent of the population. Muslims are the second largest religious group in the country, which has thirty mosques.

Fascinated by the Muslim women, children did not want to leave. Robyn, 12, said the women had opened her eyes. “You shouldn’t judge anyone because of what religion they follow,” Gemma, 13, added.

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German President Praise Islamic Theology

OnIslam & News Agencies Friday, 29 November 2013 MUNSTER – German President Joachim Gauck has praised the Muslim community as a part of the German society, asserting Germany as a common land for all its citizens. “Over two thousand sanctuaries and mosques have been built in different cities of the country,” President Gauck was quoted by Anadolu Agency on Thursday, November 28.

The president was speaking during a Thursday’s visit to Munster University’s Islamic Theology Center. He has also asserted the fact that Islamic Theology departments in German universities are an important element of the country’s recent history.

“The establishment of faculties providing education in Islamic Theology is a pragmatic agreement for the future,” the German President said.

“Everyday more Muslims become part of the German society and take part in the development of it,” he added. “We want to educate people who in the future will give religion lessons in schools, mosques and universities,” said the president.

Germany is believed to be home to nearly 4 million Muslims, including 220,000 in Berlin alone.

The country is Europe’s second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority in the European country.

Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.

A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.

Germany’s daily Der Spiegel had warned in August 2012 that the country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.

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Dubai announces Islamic award winners

Dubai, November 25, 2013, Gulf News: Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday presented the Islamic Economy Award to a number of individuals and institutions. The Islamic Economy Award is jointly organised by Thomson Reuters and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the Dubai Capital of the Islamic Economy initiative.

Shaikh Mohammad presented Ahmad Ali Al Madani, President of the Islamic Development Bank, with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his key role in supporting the private sector in the Islamic world.

Shaikh Mohammad also announced winners across the 14 categories of the award, which was launched in September. The award aims to acknowledge efforts made by business leaders in innovating the best global solutions that comply with Sharia.

Commenting on the award, Mohammad Abdullah Al Gargawi, Chairman of Shaikh Mohammad’s Executive Office and Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Development of the Islamic Economy Sector, said: “The first edition of the Islamic Economy Award had received a marked success, as a large number of nominations were made for both individuals and institutions active across the various sectors of the Islamic economy. This is testament to the high levels of competition present amongst individuals and institutions whom played a significant role in further developing the Islamic economy.”

The winners list was:

• Islamic Microfinance: Kiva Microfunds, United States

• Halal Food: Saffron Road, US

• Waqf: Awaqf New Zealand, New Zealand

• Family travel: TimeZ5, UAE

• Sukuk: Majid Al Futtaim Group, UAE

• Halal Pharmaceutical and Cosmetics: Tanamera Tropical Spa, Malaysia

• Islamic Insurance: ACR Retakaful Holdings, Bahrain

• Halal Media/ Entertainment: Awakening Worldwide Ltd, Egypt

• Islamic Commercial Banking: CIMB Islamic, Malaysia

• Halal Fashion/ Islamic Art: Peter Sanders Photography, United Kingdom

• Islamic Fund Management: Fajr Capital, Asiya Investments, SEDCO Capital and Saturna Capital

• SME Development: Saudi Economic and Development Company (SEDCO), Saudi Arabia

• Islamic Economy Infrastructure (Research & Education): Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance, UAE

• Islamic Economy Infrastructure (Compliance & Standardisation): Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, US

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Saudi-Born Australian Master Chef Adds Flair To Gourmet Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, UAE, Tuesday 19th November 2013: Saudi Arabian born Amina El Shafei, who shot to fame on last season’s Masterchef Australia cookery reality show, is set to tantalise taste buds at Abu Dhabi’s premier 16-day epicurean festival, Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2014.

In the United Arab Emirates’ capital to announce her participation in Gourmet Abu Dhabi, running 4-19th February 2014 across many of the emirate’s leading establishments, the 29-year-old star met with famed Emirati cooking personality, Chef Khalood Atiq, to swap tips, share recipes and learn more about local cuisine at the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara.

And the hugely likable El Shafei, who is of Egyptian-Korean parentage and lives in New South Wales, Australia, has become a huge hit in her adopted home, drawing on her intriguing heritage to develop stunning food dishes with a distinctively Middle Eastern flair – something she hopes to develop whilst in the emirate.

“I think Middle Eastern cuisine is so diverse, it spans so many flavours and styles. So to see Emirati food up close, given it is such a niche speciality, is something I will definitely take away with me. The use of spices is particularly interesting, I tend to go very heavy on my spice use so to see how Chef Khulood blends these spices into her food, is very interesting,” said El Shafei, who is on her way to London for the Halal Food Festival, which is sponsored by Gourmet Abu Dhabi organiser, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).

Chef Khulood, the UAE’s first female celebrity chef, also presented El Shafei with a copy of her latest book, ‘Sarareed’, and treated her to local speciality, Chicken Machbous, which uses rice, spices and meat to create a well flavoured Emirati favourite.

And the Australian personality, who has her own cook book coming out next year, said that meeting other chefs and being able to exchange ideas and see how other cultures cook, is a huge influence on any budding chef.

“I represent the home cooks out there, so working alongside professional chefs gives me a chance to get inspired and take what they’re doing so I can fold it into my dishes. I think that’s why events like Gourmet Abu Dhabi are so important; it brings these professional chefs into contact with us home cooks, and opens up our minds to use ingredients we perhaps wouldn’t have usually. It also helps bring the magic of cooking to audiences which is a great thing,” added El Shafei, whose popularity in Australia has spiked an awareness of Middle Eastern cuisine and culture in the country.

El Shafei – who also took time out to visit the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, voted one of the world’s top attractions by TripAdvisor – now follows in the footsteps of Masterchef Australia judge, George Calombaris, who was in the emirate for Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2012, and has promised to whip up treats for the event that would make her mentor proud.

“Hey George, I’m only two years behind you now,” joked El Shafei. “George is a very meticulous chef, all credit to him, he takes it to a whole new level. He was a wonderful mentor so to be taking part in Gourmet Abu Dhabi like him is a big honour. I’ll make him proud with my dishes.”

El Shafei is the first big name signed up to Abu Dhabi’s ‘lifestyle gastronomic extravaganza’, which will feature a star-studded cast of Michelin-star chefs and special guests, master classes, industry insights from hospitality experts, and gourmet dinners hosted by a range of the UAE capital’s top hotels.

TCA Abu Dhabi will also be out in force at this week’s Halal Food Festival in London’s ExCeL in a bid to position the emirate as a hotspot for halal holidays.

Irish cooking queen Rachel Allen, who was enthused by the emirate following her appearance earlier this year at Gourmet Abu Dhabi, is helping out with an Emirati dish appearing on her scheduled live cooking demonstration.

Rachel embraced Arabian cooking styles during her February visit to Abu Dhabi when she undertook an impromptu cooking class – this time as the student – at the Arabian Nights Village desert retreat. The popular TV personality received a one-to-one lesson in making ‘Saj’ which can be cooked with a variety of fillings, from the resident village baker, Azra.

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22,320 Approved for Malaysia My Second Home Programme

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 (NNN-Bernama) — As of August, 22,320 foreign nationals have been allowed to stay in Malaysia under the ‘Malaysia, My Second Home’ programme (MM2H).

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said they were from 22 countries, including China, Japan, Bagladesh, United Kingdom and Iran.

The majority were from China (4,187), Japan (2,880), Bangladesh (2,603), United Kingdom (2,016) and Iran (1,266), he said in a written answer to a question by MP Lim Lip Eng , distributed at the Parliament lobby.

Monday, Lim had asked for statistics on foreign nationals who migrated to Malaysia under MM2H since it was introduced in 2002, and the proposal to increase conditions for participation in the programme.

Mohamed Nazri said the ministry had no plans to change the criteria for MM2H in the near future.

The programme was promoted to allow foreign nationals who met certain conditions to stay in Malaysia, as long as they wanted by using the multiple-entry social visit pass.

Initially, the social visit pass is for a 10-year period and renewable, but a foreign national who marries a Malaysian does not qualify and must obtain a spouse permit.

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World Culture Forum closes in Indonesia

BALI, Indonesia, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) — The World Culture Forum (WCF) was closed on Tuesday afternoon with a joint commitment document that calls for measurable, effective role and integration of culture at all levels in the post-2015 development agenda.

The conclusion of the inaugural WCF event was conducted by Indonesian National Education and Culture Minister Muhammad Nuh at Bali International Convention Center (BICC).

According to the document of Bali Promise, participants promised to seek new modality for the valuing and measuring of culture in sustainable developments, developing accountable ethical framework for evidence-based measures of community engagement and stakeholders benefits, fostering new participatory models promoting cultural democracy and social inclusion and fostering the stability in social, political and economic development for nurturing the culture of peace at both local and international levels.

Supporting the leadership of young people in cultural endeavors, promoting local knowledge system in guiding environmental conservation and heritage protection and developing and strengthening productive partnerships among public and private sectors are also included in the Bali Promise.

“We are grateful that we have conducted this inaugural event successfully. The event was featured with high dynamic thought changing among prominent cultural experts. And because this was the first to have been convened, we use promise as the outcome of the event,” Muhammad Nuh told a press conference.

The minister said that Indonesia intends to become the eternal host of the WCF event in the future. “Indonesia would be the eternal home to WCF. So the host would still be Indonesia, other countries may act as the co-host. We would convene it once in two years,” the minister said.

The idea to use the power of culture in sustainable development was originally conceived by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005. The inaugural WCF event materialized the president’s idea, attended by ministerial officials of 16 countries and a total of 800 participants from 65 countries.

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Algeria To Host 1st Mediterranean Basin Food Security Conference

ALGIERS, Nov 27 (NNN-APS) — The ten countries bordering the Western Mediterranean Basin are gathered in Algiers for their first ministerial conference on agriculture and food security beginning Wednesday.

This conference will be focusing on setting up a High-level segment which will deal with agriculture and food security as part of the 5 5 Dialogue which involves Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco from North Africa and Spain, France, Malta, Portugal and Italy from the northern shore of the Mediterranean, according to a statement from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development here.

This High level Segment for Food Security will represent a reference point for orienting common actions with shared benefits through which will be created the conditions of regional lasting food security as a strategic objective, guaranteeing full access of all the inhabitants of the ten partner countries to food necessary for their sound and active life.

“The planned exchanges will allow drawing a shared approach of food security, which encompasses both economic and social dimensions, even political and ethic, and take in account the specificities it shows at sub-regional and regional levels,” the statement added.

The conference will be also devote itself to the consideration and the adoption of the recommendations of expert workshops, held on Monday and Tuesday in Algiers. These reports cover the setting up of a common strategy and tangible measures to ensure food security for 300 million people living in the ten countries of the Western Mediterranean.

This first ministerial conference of the 5 5 Dialogue on agriculture and food security is taking place as part of the dialogue among the countries of the Western Mediterranean and in conformity with the conclusions of 10th conference of Foreign Ministers of the 5 5, held in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in April, 2013. — NNN-APS

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Iran To Celebrate First Paralympic Week

TEHRAN, Iran, Nov 27 (NNN-MNA) – Iran’s National Paralympic Committee (NPC), will celebrate the country’s first Paralympic Week from Nov 28 to Dec 4, Iran’s Mehr News Agency (MNA) reported.

NPC president, Mahmoud Khosravivafa, said, more than 30,000 people with disabilities will attend the ceremony at Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Dec 4.

“We are going to encourage those who are disabled and remind them they can tackle their problems,” he said in a press conference, at the Olympic Academy, earlier this week.

“In the past, some families were concerned about the future of their disabled child, but after our athletes won medals in the Paralympic Games, they are proud of their children.”

The Paralympic Week is supported by the Interior Ministry and other ministries.– NNN-MNA

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Turkish Airlines launches flights to Lahore

2013-11-29 – Already having the most comprehensive airline network, Turkish Airlines brings yet another destination in South Asia online. With existing services to both Karachi and Islamabad in Pakistan, Turkish Airlines today adds Lahore as the third.

Lahore is the second largest metropolitan area in Pakistan and is known as its cultural capital, with a rich tradition dating back hundreds of years. Roundtrip flights between Istanbul and Lahore will operate 3 times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Istanbul, and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from Lahore.

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World Expo 2020 to boost UAE real estate, tourism sector

Arab News – 29 November, 2013 – With Dubai winning the World Expo 2020 bid, the emirate requires around $ 43 billion (47 percent of the estimated 2013 GDP) to significantly upgrade its infrastructure according to a research report by Deutsche Bank. This will boost employment, population and tourist growth.

A bulk of this investment will go into expanding the hotel and leisure industry, while around $ 10 billion will be spent to improve transportation infrastructure.

The biggest beneficiary should be the real estate sector, which has to cater to the increased demand for new hotel and infrastructure projects.

Deutsche Bank’s report continues to see positive momentum in the Dubai property market, triggered by attractive yields and property prices close to historical average.

With Dubai hosting World Expo 2020, the sector should continue to attract strong investor interest.

Dubai property prices are currently up around 50 percent since the 3rd quarter 2011 but still 45 percent below the peak of 2008 and close to the average price of the last 8 years. Compared with other major cities in the world, Dubai offers attractive property prices and rental yields and a low tax environment. Moreover, Dubai’s “safe-haven” status, strategic location and growing tourism sector continue to attract investor interest.

The Al-Maktoum International Airport, the newly developed airport near the Expo site, started passenger operations on 27 October.

When fully completed the airport will be able to handle 12 million tons of cargo and 160 million passengers annually, making it the largest international airport by some margin. Besides this, Dubai has also initiated an expansion plan for its existing Dubai International Airport to increase its existing capacity from 60 million to 90 million passengers per year by 2018.

Winning the Expo can further facilitate the “Dubai Vision” target of handling 20 million tourist arrivals by 2020.

Increased tourist arrivals and an upbeat business climate are positives for the hotel and leisure industry as well as the retail sector.

About 25 million visitors are expected for the World Expo 2020 event, 71percent of which will be non-domestic visitors.

Dubai was voted as the host city to conduct the World Expo 2020 event in the Bureau of International Expositions’ 154th General Assembly.

This will be the first World Expo to be hosted in the MENASA region. Dubai was able to outbid the competition from Sao Paulo (Brazil), Ekaterinburg (Russia) and Izmir (Turkey) with its theme of “Connecting minds, Creating the Future”.

The Expo Live support package of 150 million euros for developing countries to aid their participation and the 100 million euro Partnership Fund to spur innovations, ideas and entrepreneurship on sustainable development projects helped sway the votes in Dubai’s favor.

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Oman Airports invites bids for Duqm Airport

Oman Tribune – 29 November, 2013 – Work on Duqm Airport is set to gather momentum with the Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC) SAOC inviting tenders for construction of the main infrastructure facilities. The authorities hope to make the new airport operational by 2014.

Among the main works to be undertaken are construction of passenger and cargo terminals and the air traffic control system.

With ancillary works also to be undertaken, authorities want everything fully operational and ready for use by 2014.

Tenders have been invited from experienced international organisations for the execution of the infrastructure facilities which includes the air traffic control complex. The last date for submission of the proposals is January 19.

The airport was being set up to give fillip to the economy by focusing on tourism industry. According to sources, all efforts were on to meet the 2014 deadline for starting the airport.

The entire infrastructure projects related to the airport was under OAMC’s management which manages and operates the Muscat International and Salalah airports and the new ones at Adam, Duqm, Sohar and Ras Al Hadd.

The Duqm airport project has been conceived as part of a larger plan to set up a modern seaport in the southeast of Oman. The site was chosen considering its potential to attract substantial investment in various verticals, particularly the oil shipping industry.

The new airport is considered to be a new gateway of the coastal city of Duqm which is being developed as the country’s next major industrial and shipping hub. The airport will have an annual capacity to handle 500,000 passengers and up to 50,000 tonnes of cargo. The terminal will have a total gross floor area of 13,350 sqm and a facility to park 200 cars.

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Show on ‘Omani Innovations’ concludes

Oman Tribune – 29 November, 2013 – An entrepreneurs’ products exhibition under the theme ‘Omani Innovations’ which started on November 24 at the Oman International Exhibition Centre concluded on Thursday.

The exhibition attracted a good response from visitors and interested groups and establishments. It provided exhibitors and visitors an opportunity to exchange their expertise and be familiarised with the latest developments in this field.

The exhibition organised by the Ministry of Social Development, the Public Authority for Craft Industries, the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Oman International Exhibition Centre coincides with the Sultanate’s celebrations of the 43rd National Day.

It included craft demonstrations by a number of Omani craftsmen and SMEs and a number of activities halls, interactive performances, discussion panels and live interviews.

It was part of the care provided to entrepreneurs, especially after the SMEs Symposium held at Saih Al Shamikhat. It also comes in implementation of the decision made by the Council of Ministers to promote the performance of entrepreneurs and benefit from the successful experiences in management, production and marketing.

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Bahrain in deal to set up major pearl centre

Gulf Daily News – 29 November, 2013 – Bahrain has signed an agreement with a leading global gemological research organisation to create a world-class natural pearl production centre. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Industry and Commerce Ministry, the Economic Development Board (EDB), and Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

It aims at developing the kingdom’s Gemstone and Pearl Testing Laboratory (GPTLB) into a world-class facility for research into the production of natural pearls.

Under the terms of the MoU, each party will contribute to protecting and enhancing Bahrain’s pearling industry, with the aim of developing capacity, research, expertise and technological know-how at the GPTLB, as well as identifying further opportunities for the sector to grow.

Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro thanked His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier, for his initiative in bringing Bahrain back to its previous status as the world’s pearling centre.

He affirmed that the initiative will benefit the government, Bahrainis and those in the industry.

“By working in partnership with the GIA, the GPTLB will be provided with the facilities and expertise required to capitalise on regional and international trade and investment opportunities in this fast growing sector,” the minister said.

“Historically, pearling was the backbone of our economy, and we want to capitalise on our heritage, combined with world-class techniques and processes, to create a centre of excellence for the industry here in Bahrain,” Transportation Minister and EDB acting chief executive Kamal Ahmed said.

“This partnership will ensure that GPTLB has the tools required to boost Bahrain’s pearl production capacity,” he added.

GIA executive vice-president and chief laboratory and research officer Tom Moses said the institute was honoured to contribute its expertise and research, and to work to build on Bahrain’s history and reputation, as a leading centre for natural pearl research and production.

The agreement builds on Bahrain’s history as a world pearling centre. The history has been recognised in form of the inscription of the Pearl Road as Bahrain’s second Unesco World Heritage Site, and the 10th site to be awarded this status in the GCC.

The Pearl Road is the result of BD10 million project by the Culture Ministry to renovate one of Bahrain’s oldest neighbourhoods and maintain the artefacts and cultural heritage from the country’s pearl diving industry.

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$32 billion deals for Doha Metro project

Arab News – 28 November, 2013 – Qatar Rail has signed agreements totally worth over $ 32 billion, in order to proceed with the Doha Metro Project, Hamad Al-Bishri, deputy CEO and chief program officer, Qatar Rail, said while speaking at Trans4 2013 — Qatar’s International Transport and Logistics Industry Exhibition on Wednesday.

“Today, we are proud to announce that we have officially begun work for the setup of the metro stations in 20 out of 25 locations, and started with the preliminary drilling works for the metro tunnels — reaching close to 5 meters in depth in some locations — in key areas, in hopes that Phase 1 of the Doha Metro will be completed in 2019,” Al-Bishri added.

Similarly, we are moving ahead at great speed with The Lusail Light Rail Transit, slated to be officially delivered by end of 2016; having already finalized the drilling works for the project’s tunnels, we’ve completed over 55 percent of the drilling works for its stations.

Jassim Seif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, Qatar’s Minister of Transport, and Abdul Rahim Naqi, secretary general, Federation of GCC Chambers, were present at the meeting.

“We, at Qatar Rail, recognize the importance of partaking in Qatar’s International Transport and Logistics Industry Exhibition, Trans4 2013, and the significance of this event in attracting regional and international key players, decision-makers, and professionals in the transport and logistic field,” Al-Bishri said.

Trans4 has now become both a reference and a platform for the industry, showcasing Qatar’s current and future plans in the transport and shipping sector before international companies and institutions, and allowing the latter to discuss untapped investment opportunities in this dynamic industry that makes a strategic contributor to social and economic development, Al-Bishri said.

“We trust in that the conference will give room to discuss challenges and obstacles faced by key stakeholders in the transport, railway and logistics fields. Looking forward, we hope it will also allow them to identify their aspirations and opportunities in building integrated infrastructures for core transport services, and to determine the role of the private sector in helping their projects come to fruition,” he added.

Our strategic partnership with Trans4 is a testament to our commitment to the four essential pillars of Qatar’s national vision 2030; our current and future projects are aimed at the development of a safe, efficient, and integrated public transport network as an alternative and competitor to private transport,” Al-Bishri added.

“We have always strived to make our mark in the world of modern transport, our railway projects ranking among the biggest, most sophisticated and most developed in the Middle East Region. We continue to do so, working by a delicate yet crucial business equation that sits on three ground principles: transparency, quality and timely delivery.

Our projects work in full integration to connect Qatar’s key areas with each other and with their vital extensions, whereby the Doha Metro will tie together the capital’s inner and outer areas such as Lusail city, the New Doha International Airport, the Education City, Al Wakrah and the West Bay area,” he said.

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Qatar tourism jumps in third quarter 2013

Saudi Gazette – 28 November, 2013 – Tourism industry in Qatar continues its upward trajectory, latest data from Qatar Tourism Authority released Wednesday said.

In QTA’s third quarter (July – September) 2013 report, all key indicators of the tourism sector demonstrated improvement and growth from the previous year comparable period:

The average hotel occupancy rate rose from 50 percent to 57 percent despite the industry adding over 600 rooms, growing inventory by 4.73 percent.

These jumps meant that Total Revenue amongst 4 & 5-Star Hotels increased by QR 85.3 million, reaching a total of QR 703.1 million for the quarter. This 13.81 percent increase over previous year, despite being the lower summer season, sees strong demand, with an equivalent 19 percent increase in Rooms Revenue.

QTA Statistics now incorporates wider field of data, which it is hoped provides greater guidance to the industry. The data is based on hotel submissions to QTA, and assists in assessing trends and underlying opportunities.

Despite the increase in room inventory the average room rate per available room per day for both 4 & 5 Star hotels increased by 8.82 percent from previous year, rising from QR 293 to QR 319.

Contrary to industry opinion that predicted falls in revenues due to rapid room inventory increases, Average Total Revenue per available room per day grew by 4.41 percent over Q3 2012. This indicates the sector is still facing robust demand and the 4th Quarter in 2013 is likely to show strong growth.

Driving the tourism sector was increased exposure to the global economy, assisted by the influx of companies and businesses supporting Qatar’s infrastructure development.

A diverse range of events and activities in Qatar, and increased regional and international presence during the third quarter of 2013 also pushed growth in the leisure sector. These include the Eid Festival 2013, as well as performances of Cirque du Soleil at the Aspire Dome.

The Eid Al Adha Festival in October built on the success of the earlier Eid Al Fitr Festival, aimed at promoting Qatar as a family tourist destination regionally.

In September, QTA announced the official opening of its French representative office in Paris, the second representative office in Europe. QTA also joined the world in celebrating World Tourism Day on the 27th of September, organizing a local photography competition to raise awareness of the importance of tourism to Qatar’s economy and the local community.

QTA led Qatar’s delegation at ITB Asia in Singapore, the largest travel show in Asia. QTA utilized the occasion to hold buyers meetings and interact with counterparts in the Asian tourism industry, setting the stage for increased tourist growth from the region.

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Islamic Finance Development Indicator launched in Dubai

Khaleej Times – 27 November, 2013 – The ICD-Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Indicator, or IFDI, was officially launched on Tuesday in Dubai. The indicator is a numerical measure representing the overall health and growth of the Islamic finance industry worldwide.

The IFDI was officially launched by Khaled Al Aboodi, chief executive officer, Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, at the Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES) to expand the scope of Thomson Reuters’ universe of Islamic finance content, research and news analysis.

“The indicator is designed to assess how well the industry has addressed its religious, economic, legal, ethical and discretionary responsibilities. It provides simplified, quantified, development, knoweledge, corporate and social responsibility, governess and awareness,” Al Aboodi said.

The concluding day of summit also witnessed the findings from IFDI, developed in collaboration with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, or ICD, the private sector development arm of the Islamic Development Bank, or IDB.

As per the analysis, the size of the Islamic finance industry globally was $ 1.35 trillion in 2012. This was based on a bottom-up analysis of disclosed financial statements of Islamic institutions. The largest components of the industry were Islamic banking with $ 985 billion in assets, and sukuk with $ 251 billion.

Russell Haworth, managing director, Middle East & North Africa, Thomson Reuters, said: “The IFDI’s findings demonstrate the size and breadth of the Islamic finance economy and will serve as a critical reference point for its growth going forward. The ability to accurately size the Islamic finance industry, based on disclosed financial information as opposed to assumptions and conjecture, is key to providing meaningful analysis aimed at developing the industry.”

The findings also highlighted that Malaysia was the largest Islamic finance economy, with total Islamic finance assets of $ 412 billion and has the largest sukuk market, valued at $ 171 billion and the second largest Islamic banking market, valued at $ 194 billion.

The Saudi Arabia was second in terms of Islamic finance assets, with assets of $ 270 billion and the Kingdom also has the largest Islamic banking market, with total Islamic banking assets of $ 217 billion. Further there are 1,003 financial institutions operating in the Islamic finance space.

“Accurate information on the size of Islamic financial industry, its institutions and performance, based on bottom up analysis, is one of the key outputs of IFDI. Unlike other sources that are focused on specific countries or regions, or utilise sample testing and assumptions to develop their estimates, the IFDI provides accurate information on the entire Islamic finance space and its sub-components,” added Al Aboodi.

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Resilience of Islamic economy in spotlight

Arab News – 26 November, 2013 – More than 3,000 delegates from the worlds of academia, business, government and civil society are taking part in the first Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, inaugurated the conference.

Thomson Reuters and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry are jointly hosting the event, according to a press release received here. Hamad Buamim, president and CEO, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, gave the welcome speech.

It was followed by the first plenary session of the summit and a discussion on the impact of the Islamic economy on an evolving global economic landscape.

Buamim said: “We have the opportunity now to lay the foundations for a strong and vibrant global Islamic business community that is united under the same religion.”

He added: “Working with global partners, Dubai is seeking to bring the Muslim world together under the concept of the Islamic economy. This is a huge task, and one that we have a tight timescale to achieve. But today is a major step forward in realizing this ambition. We hope that this event will define and set the standard for future advances in this new economic landscape.”

In the session, comments were given by Mohammed Al-Shihhi, undersecretary, UAE Ministry of Economy, Baroness Warsi, senior minister of state, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sapta Nirwander, deputy minister, Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Ambassador Mouhamdou Doudou Lo, director general, Department of Economic Affairs, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Saudi Arabia.

The panel provided attendees with insight into the leaders of the Islamic world, their vision for the future and the key priorities that will shape the development of the Islamic world. During the session, Mohammed Al-Shihhi said: “The UAE, being at the center of the Islamic world and a gateway between Europe and Africa, can be a major player when it comes to the globalization of the Islamic economy.”

Al-Shihhi said: “The word globalization is very important here — the resilience and soundness of the Islamic economic model is not exclusive to the Muslim world. For instance, 50 percent of Islamic Finance customers in Malaysia are non-Muslims. We are hoping that this event will make it clear to the world that the Islamic economy model is not exclusive to the Muslim population, but rather a model for the world.”

The official awards ceremony conducted in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

It was attended by a panel of senior ministers and policy makers lead by Abdul Rahman Saif Al-Ghurair, chairman, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The second plenary sessio n ‘Beyond Halal Food and Islamic Finance’ started with an overview of key insights from the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report followed by opening remarks from Essa Kazim, chairman of Borse Dubai; chairman of Dubai Financial Market; secretary general of the Islamic Economy Higher Committee, UAE.

Mark Mobius, executive chairman, Templeton Emerging Markets, Singapore, said: “The rise of the Islamic emerging markets has led to a “new normal” for the global economy. One of the interesting things that we’re seeing is the rise of global sovereign wealth funds; we now estimate that they account for $ 6 trillion of global assets and 42 percent of sovereign wealth funds now come from Islamic nations.”

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Pilgrims can don tourist hats after performing Umrah

Arab News – 26 November, 2013 – An “Extended Umrah” program will be launched next month by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities allowing pilgrims from 65 countries to make use of their visas to visit major tourist destinations in the Kingdom.

“We have signed agreements with the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Haj to provide this service,” said Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of SCTA. He added that licensed companies would provide the service.

He said Umrah companies that have obtained tourism permits would also be entitled to provide the new service. More than six million foreign pilgrims are expected to perform Umrah during the coming season.

Speaking about the agreement he signed on Monday with the Economic Cities Authority, Prince Sultan highlighted the significance of King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh in terms of attracting investment and boosting tourism.

He stressed the SCTA’s plan to promote tourism in economic cities as well as other tourist centers across the Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Abdullatif Al-Othman, governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, said his organization has plans to set up tourism and entertainment projects in order to develop economic cities. “We’ll allocate adequate space for such projects by international companies,” he said when asked whether SAGIA has plans to set up theme parks like Disneyland at economic cities.

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Dubai a digital smart city

Gulf Today – 26 November, 2013 – The UAE has gone through significant investment in IT infrastructures in the last few years, mainly driven by the vision of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum for transforming Dubai into a digital smart city, it has no doubt proven itself well to create new sustainable projects.

Hisham Surakhi, Managing Director, Gemalto Middle East, told to The Gulf Today on Monday. “Dubai’s position as the hub for international business and trade makes it a worthy candidate,” he added .

If successful, Dubai will host the Expo in the 140 square kilometre Dubai World Central, yet to be developed, which will boast the Al Maktoum International Airport.

The Expo would also increase the number of visitors to the UAE with a predicted 24 million tourists entering the country, not to mention exhibitors from more than 180 nations. The UAE has been ranked first for the quality of infrastructure according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014.

Also, the Emirate of Dubai is first in the region for the second time according to a study conducted on infrastructure by Mercer Consultants because of its state-of-the-art infrastructure topped by electricity grids and water networks.

Local and international businesses remain positive about the city of wonders to win the bid to host the Expo 2020. Dubai competes against three cities; Ekaterinburg, Russia; Izmir, Turkey; Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Expo will represent a first no matter which city wins. The winning city will be announced on Wednesday.

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Islamic economy summit begins today

Khaleej Times – 25 November, 2013 – The two-day summit will focus on six main pillars of the Islamic economy – Islamic finance and insurance, Halal food, Halal lifestyle, Halal travel, and SME Development.

Dubai will host the first Global Islamic Economy Summit with the vision to become the catalyst of a new economic paradigm that positions Dubai as the capital of the Islamic economy and connects the world’s leading thinkers, policy makers and stakeholders to inspire projects and drive future investments in more than $ 4 trillion Islamic economy.

Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum ,Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will open the summit on Monday in presence of more than 3,000 business leaders, decision makers and Islamic economy experts. Shaikh Mohammed will also attend the first day of the two-day summit in support for efforts being made to make Dubai the capital of Islamic economy.

The two-day summit will focus on six main pillars of the Islamic economy – Islamic finance and insurance, Halal food, Halal lifestyle, Halal travel, and SME Development.

Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gargawi, Minister for Cabinet Affairs, chairman of the Executive Office of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid, and Chairman of Higher Committee for the Development of the Islamic Economy Sector, said the organisation of the summit is aimed at providing a platform to bring together specialised prominent experts and decision makers, as well as an ideal opportunity to discuss the opportunities for the development of Islamic economy.

“With all its sectors and tools, Islamic economy represents one of the vital elements of our diversified national economy, which has promising quality opportunities,” Al Gergawi added.

Among others, the key objectives of the summit include: showcasing and promoting Islamic investment opportunities and challenges in emerging Islamic Finance centres; identifying and addressing key challenges affecting the growth of each of the Islamic economy sectors, from standardisation to capacity development; facilitating discussions on capital raising preferences, opportunities and challenges from Islamic markets; and to act as the innovation platform for the Islamic economy.

Last year, globally Halal food spending crossed more than $ 1 trillion, Shariah-complaint finance reached $ 1.1 trillion, Halal travel touched $ 137 billion. Shariah-compliant clothing, cosmetics, and pharma sector witnessed $ 224 billion, $ 26 billion and $ 70 billion spending respectively. With a disposable income of $ 4.8 billion, Muslims are increasingly asserting their Islamic sensitivities in consumption, from food preferences to banking and finance extending all the way to fashion, cosmetics, travel and healthcare. Islamic financing assets are expected to cross $ 4 trillion in 2013 compared to $ 1.35 trillion in 2012.

Located at the centre of the Islamic world, Dubai is the potential nucleus of the Islamic economy, boasting the strongest economic and trade linkages between the East and West, the North and South and the focal point between the African, Asian and European markets. According to recent studies, the Islamic economies of the world represent more than $ 8 trillion in GDP.

The summit will be addressed by nearly 100 top speakers including government ministers, governor and deputy governors of central banks, secretary generals of standard setters, C-level executives of target industries, heads of divisions and strategic business units, Shariah scholars and advisors, and academic professionals.

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New Dubai landmark: 150m structure to capture old and new Dubai

Emirates 24/7 – 23 November, 2013 – Dubai Frame will become one of the most attractive tourist destinations of Dubai, attracting around 2 million visitors per year from across the globe, according to Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director-General, Dubai Municipality. The work will start next month and is expected to be ready for tourists by the second half of 2015, he said.

“We have opened tenders and will be giving the assignment to the apt contractor according to our plan. We are looking forward a unique architectural landmark that matches to the global status of Dubai,” Lootah said.

“We expect it will bridge between the past and future of Dubai and may become a name that is attached to Dubai like Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab,” he said.

Lootah said, Dubai Frame, or Barwaz Dubai in Arabic, which will be erected near Star Gate of Zabeel Park, will be a huge window-frame like structure that frames old Dubai at one end and the new, advanced Dubai at the other. It will be 150 meters in height and 93 meters in width. Viewers can see the ever-expanding and developing Dubai that lays on both sides of Sheikh Zayed Road from one side and the localities that reflects the history and tradition of Dubai like Al Karama , Umm Hurair and Bur Dubai from the other side.

According to him the ground floor of the giant frame will house a gallery that tells the story of Dubai including history and how the city emerged as one of the global leaders through its journey starting from the 60s, using most advanced technologies of presentation.

The upper part of the frame will be made of glass; so the viewer can enjoy the beauty the city from all the sides. Viewer will as if he is walking through the sky given the transparency of the walls on both sides as well as the roof and floor.

From the ground floor a panoramic elevator will take visitors through one side to the heights where he can enjoy Dubai fully and directly including the projects in coastal area, high rise buildings like Burj Khalifa, high roads as well as the old Dubai.

It is learnt that the design of the project came through an international competition in which more than 1,000 designers and engineers participated.

The Frame is a unique idea that profiles a city’s past and future at the same time and with splendid aesthetic and architectural charm it will definitely contribute in thriving tourism economy of the emirate.

“Apart from offering best and globally acclaimed municipal services, adopting policies and executing projects that support the business and tourism sectors of Dubai also come within our strategic vision,” he said.

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Entrepreneurship gaining momentum in Saudi Arabia

Arab News – 24 November, 2013 – GEW Saudi Arabia organized a one-day workshop on Saturday as part of its efforts to put the Kingdom’s entrepreneurs on the global map. The event, themed celebrating entrepreneurship, succeeded in exchanging experiences between speakers and participants from the world of entrepreneurship.

GEW (Global Entrepreneurship World) is claimed to be the world’s largest celebration of innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. GEW is part of the Kauffman Foundation, one of the largest foundations devoted to entrepreneurship. Qotuf manages GEW Saudi Arabia, with almost 20 representatives from companies, government agencies and ministries.

“Such events happen around the globe. Each country organizes events independently from each other,” says Ahmad Hilal, Qotuf’s strategic development manger. Qotuf Al Riyadah, a Jeddah-based think tank-style entity, which organized this year’s event at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce & Industry (JCCI), is the sole entity in the Kingdom with a license for organizing and supervising events in the entrepreneurship field. Its partnership with GEW was launched in order to bring the spirit of entrepreneurship to Saudi Arabia and greater benefit to all willing entrepreneurs.

Over the day’s 3 sessions, 12 speakers, including some from outside Saudi Arabia, and 1,800 participants, more specifically entrepreneurs, talked about how they “made it” and also commented on the failures that they encountered. They discussed the challenges they faced and celebrated their achievements.

Tuba Terialki, CEO of Qotuf, said: “The conference succeeded in shedding light on the success and failure of the experience of Saudi entrepreneurs, not only through this day long event but through the whole year. This conference has no sponsors; the venue was given to us by the JCCI. New media like Facebook and Twitter are the main source of information.

GEW is available in 140 countries, with 10,000 partners and 7.5 million participants.

Entrepreneurship is taking its first steps in the development of the Saudi economy. ‘

Startups are faced with challenges such as laws, financing, technical and finding expertise. “It is not easy for us as young Saudis to set up an idea because of the many hurdles facing us on the ground,” says Muna A., 24, who has been thinking of opening up an organic cosmetic products business but lacks the financial knowledge.

Saudi Arabia leads the Arab region in term of regulatory reforms relating to entrepreneurship. The latest report of Ease of Doing Business ranked it 13th globally and first in the region of ease of doing business. Nevertheless, issues such as enforcement of contracts and labor problems exist.

The potential is there. With a population of 60 percent below 20 years, Saudi Arabia can build a competitive economy and diversify beyond natural resources, a study by Michael Porter stated. GEW is available in 140 countries, with 10,000 partners and 7.5 million participants.

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