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

20 Jan, 2014

Borneo World Music Expo 2014 Invites Proposals for Performances

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 20 January 2014 (19 Rabee’ al-Awwal 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



The internationally renowned “1001 Inventions” is on display at the National Science Centre in Kuala Lumpur. The award-winning exhibition, which was declared the world’s best by the European museums Industry in 2011, is welcoming visitors until 28 February 2014. 1001 Inventions has already received more than three million visitors at blockbusters residencies in London, New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dhahran and recently began a new European tour in Sweden. The exhibition highlights a thousand year period of history when Muslim Civilisation led the world in scientific, technological and cultural achievement – known as the “Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation.” Ahmed Salim, Producer and Managing Director of the brand, said: ”1001 Inventions features a diverse range of exhibits, hi-tech games, interactive displays and dramatisation that bring to life historic role models from Muslim Civilisation who will serve as an inspiration for ASEAN young people to pursue careers in science and technology.” The exhibition has been immensely popular in Europe, America and the Middle East, where a dual language Arabic-English version enjoyed blockbuster residencies across the Arabian peninsula. 1001 Inventions was voted the world’s best touring exhibition by the Museum and Heritage Excellence Awards in London in 2011, and currently has more than three million online fans on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. 1001 Inventions is a partnership with Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives. Open 9am-5pm daily.


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

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.





Borneo World Music Expo Invites Proposals for Performances

Sarawak Tourism Board has recently announced the 2nd Borneo World Music Expo (BWME) to be held on 16-18 June 2014 in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The organiser is currently looking for Asian artists to perform at special showcases for local, regional and international delegates, at least 25 of whom will be bookers and programmers from international venues and the festivals.

There are rooms for 10 artists / groups in all and are specifically looking for artists who work within traditional and / or what has come to be known as ‘World Music’ categories. The music could be labeled as acoustic or it could be contemporary and mixed with modern forms. Within this format, the organisers however will only consider music that is at least partially based in music that comes from traditional cultures.

Here are the requirement by the organizer:

A minimum of 6 songs or at least 30 minutes, depending upon the length of the music. These should be delivered online, uploaded via www.dropbox.com and send sharing permission to the jury at borneoshowcase@gmail.com

Links to online videos, if you have them.

Artists who have potential tour support from airfares, sponsors or can pay their own transportation and hotel will receive special attention, though all are welcome. The organiser will provide some expenses for the selected artists and will communicate the terms once they are confirmed. However, showcasing artists should realize that this is an audition and not a typical show and, like nearly all showcase events, this funding may not cover all expenses. There will be no fees for the showcase performance.

The inaugural Borneo World Music Expo was successfully organised last year and was held on the same week as the annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF). The event will again coincide with the RWMF on its 17th edition this year which has been marked as one of the major events lineup for Malaysia in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014 (VMY2014) and Visit Sarawak Year 2014.

Back to top

Qatar Unveils Details of World-class New Doha airport

DOHA, Qatar–(BUSINESS WIRE)–January 15, 2014 – Mr Abdul Aziz Mohammad Al-Noaimi, Chairman of the steering committee of the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) announced today new details of Hamad International Airport (HIA) at a press conference held at the HIA Passenger Terminal. He confirmed that the airport is on track for a phased opening by mid-year 2014. Members of the NDIA Steering Committee were present for the event, held under the theme, “Runway to the Future, Gateway to the World”.

Speaking at the press conference, Mr Al-Noaimi, said: “The opening of Hamad International Airport in the middle of this year will bring to fruition the vision of Qatar’s leadership, to build a world-class airport supporting the State’s development and prosperity. HIA is a world-class aviation hub purpose-built to cater to rapidly evolving aviation and passenger needs of the 21st century.”

Highlighted on a tour were aspects of the airport facility that contribute to its world-class nature, including the Airplane Maintenance Hangers, which feature the world’s widest free span door opening in the world. And at 69,000 square meters, the four-story Catering Facility is one of the largest in the world with a capacity of 90,000 meals per day.

“I am proud to confirm today that this project is nearly complete. HIA stands as a ground-breaking accomplishment fusing refined architectural style achieved through state-of-the-art airport and facility construction technology,” continued Al Noaimi. “The result is more than an airport; it is an international transport hub satisfying all the requirements of the fast-growing aviation sector in the region. This is needed in light of the growing traffic through and into the region, driven by world-scale events planned in the next decade.”

Commenting on the project’s opening, H.E. Al Noaimi said: “Despite delays, which were a result of changes requested during construction to expand the project, as well as challenges we faced regarding some contracts, we are on track for a mid-year opening. Through the work of many people, we have overcome the delays, and here today we are witnessing a major achievement of which Qataris will be proud for long years to come.”

HIA will be larger and have greater capacity on its opening day than initially envisioned. Due to increased transit growth in Qatar and the region in the past few years, these modifications were necessary to deliver an airport with a capacity of 30 million on opening day. The third phase was intended for a 2015 start but we preferred to accelerate the process and integrate all construction phases to complete the entire project in a shortened time. Progress on the project continues, with planning for construction of Airport City having started in 2012.

HIA and Airport City span 29 square kilometers, 60% on land reclaimed from the Arabian Gulf. More than 1,000 architects, designers, engineering consultants, and project managers worked on the project, through more than 200 local, regional and international contractors and service contracts.

The Passenger Terminal was built with an internal area of 600,000 square meters on opening day. In its opening configuration, the terminal has three concourses and 33 contact gates, increasing to five concourses and 65 contact gates, including eight for the A380 in the final build-out. The terminal also includes 16 lounges for various categories of passengers, 28 art installations by local, regional and international artists, more than 100 F&B and retail outlets, a transit hotel, a swimming pool, a luxury spa and squash courts.

Back to top

Maldives to set up taxi complaint SMS service

Sun.mv – January 12, 2014 – Transport Authority of Maldives has decided to establish a complaints system against taxis where customers can lodge complaints via SMS.

Chairman of the Transport Authority Abdul Rasheed Nafiz said that the authority has been receiving an increasing number of complaints against taxis.

“Picking up another while carrying a customer. Overcharging. Playing loud and annoying music and saying vulgarities through taxi radio sets, and numerous other complaints,” said the Transport Authority Chairman, detailing the types of complaints received by the authority.

He said that the new taxi regulation requires each taxi to display contact and other details regarding the taxi and that this would allow customers to send an SMS, with the details, to lodge complaints with the authority. Such complaints will be investigated by the authority and the relevant taxi company, Nafiz said.

The new regulation on taxi’s published mid last month fixed taxi fees to MVR 25 per trip during daylight hours and required drivers to exhibit names and contact details of their taxi centers, along with a taxi top sign indicating a red light for occupied or a green light if the taxi is vacant.

Back to top

Bangladesh plans big expansion in WiFi Hotspots

DHAKA, Jan 12, 2014 (BSS) – The government is planning to set up WiFi Hotspot in the country’s 1,30,000 schools, hatbazars, railway and bus stations jointly with Grameenphone to provide internet based services to the people.

The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MoICT) and Grameenphone (GP) have reached consensus in this regard at a meeting held at the MoICT with its secretary N I Khan in the chair.

The meeting gave responsibility to Executive Director of Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) S M Ashfaque Hussain to take a project immediately to set up WiFi Hotspot in said places of the country shortly.

“We want to set up WiFi hotspot in the important public places, schools, railway and bus stations to ensure people’s access to public services using the internet facilities,” N I Khan told the meeting.

He said the GP has agreed to be a partner with the government’s effort to reach internet based services to the doorstep of the people.

In the meeting, both MoICT and GP also agreed to take joint venture project to keep National ID Card, Passport, Driving Licensees, TIN card and various public services card in the mobile seam.

The meeting decided that MoICT and GP will work together to develop mobile applications (apps) on various services of government and private organizations to reach service at the hands of the people.

The Additional Secretary Kamal Uddin Ahmed and Deputy Secretary Dr Abul Hasan have been asked to take initiative about it and inform the progress at the meeting to be held on January 26 this month.

The meeting also discussed about the possibility of preparing a mobile enabled platform jointly with the GP and the World Bank financed Leveraging ICT for Growth, Employment and Governance (LICT) project.

The meeting was attended by Additional Secretary Kamal Uddin Ahmed, Executive Director of BCC S M Ashfaque Hussain, Project Directors of MoICT, GP Director Ishtiaq Hussen Chowdhury and General Manager Enayet Kabir.

Back to top

Solar power changing life in remote Bangladesh village

RANGPUR, Jan 13, 2014 (BSS) – Use of solar power has been changing life-style and socioeconomic condition of thousands of isolated people living in the remote and hardly reachable char villages on the Brahmaputra basin in recent years.

By virtue of solar power units, char people are leading modern life, watching television, using fans, lighting bulbs, refrigerators and calendars and charging mobile phone sets and operating computers side by side conducting other daily jobs now.

The char people are becoming aware about negative effects of child marriage, dowry, malnutrition of pregnant women and children, reasons of maternal and child mortality, adverse effect of social superstitions etc through the television programmes.

According to the solar power users, they could hardly even think about availability of electricity in their char areas though it is a reality now as they have been availing of this facility in their almost inaccessible villages.

The char dwellers as well as owners of the solar power units neither suffer from low-voltage, nor get irritated due to load shedding and some of them were found crushing paddy at nights using electricity from the plants.

According to official and NGO sources, over 120,000 char people are now using some 21,000 solar power units set up under assistances of different NGOs in char areas of Rangpur, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha and adjoining riverine districts.

RDRS Bangladesh, BRAC, Grameen Shakti, RISDA Bangladesh, Pratyasha, Rahim Afroz, Srijnoni Bangladesh and others have installed solar-power units at costs between Taka 12,000 to Taka 45,000 each depending on power generation capacities mainly with the assistances of the Infrastructure Development Company Limited.

“RDRS Bangladesh has set up 1,300 solar power units in char areas and other backwards villages inhabited by the ethnic minority communities so far in the region,\” Agriculture and Environment Coordinator of the NGO Mamunur Rashid said.

According to the NGO sources, over 850 solar power units have so far been set up in Chilmari Sadar, Ostomir Char, Noyarhat, Ramna and Raniganj unions in Chilmari upazila on the Brahmaputra riverbed alone during the past six years.

The people of Hatia, Buraburi and Anantapur, Bazra, Gunaigach, Santoshbiram and Khamar Damarhat char villages under Ulipur upazila are now using over 350 solar units provided by BRAC on easy installments.

Similarly, thousands of people living in the char villages of Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Kurigram and Gaibandha are now using solar power units under assistances of different NGOs and organisations.

At the same time, the government has also provided solar power units to the Union Information Service Centres in remote char areas where the people are getting all necessary services and information at their doorsteps in hassle-free manner.

Talking to BSS, Chilmari upazila chairman Shawkat Ali Sarker, Bir Bikram, said solar power has brought revolutionary change in char areas where people are learning about bad effects of drugs, child marriage, malnutrition, maternal and child mortalities, dowry etc by watching Bangladesh Television.

Solar unit users of Grameen Shakti Bimola Khatun, 42, Noor Alam, 52, Saiful Islam, 46, of Chilmari upazila said they are now getting uninterrupted supply of power using the solar technology.

“We are lighting bulbs, enjoying television programmes, knowing about our country and abroad and our children are studying at nights for solar energy available in our char villages,\” they said.

Students of different char areas Tahmina, 17, Moshfeka, 15, Sultana, 15, Gokul, 17 and Shakil, 16, said they study at nights getting uninterrupted solar power and suggested for establishing high capacity solar power units in char areas.

Back to top

ATF 2014 Best Platform To Promote Visit Malaysia Year

KUCHING, Jan 17 (NNN-Bernama) — The Asean Tourism Forum 2014 (AFT 2014), which kicked off here Thursday, is a good opportunity and the best platform to promote Visit Malaysia Year 2014 (VMY 2014), which targets 28 million foreign tourists.

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the 33rd ATF would help ensure that VMY 2014 start on a high note, while the presence of international media and buyers would further boost the publicity of the event internationally.

“The ATF in Kuching is also a premier international event to usher VMY 2014, showcasing the best of Malaysia as the nation celebrates 1Malaysia Truly Asia,” he said in a statement issued in conjunction with the forum.

The minister expressed confidence that ATF 2014 would raise Sarawak’s profile in terms of tourism and in turn benefit the travel industry as well as the local communities with the influx of visitors.

“Sarawak is fast gaining popularity as a must-visit tourism destination amongst international and domestic travellers, generating an excess of four million visitor arrivals annually and RM6.2 billion in foreign receipts in 2012,” he said.

The eight-day event are attended by tourism ministers from Asean countries, namely Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Their dialogue partners, China, Japan, Korea, India, Russia and Brazil as well as 1,600 delegates are also participating in the international forum, besides 150 journalists from all over the world covering the event.

Malaysia had organised the ATF five times with the first in 1981 and the last in 2005.

Back to top

Indonesia plans February groundbreaking for Trans-Sulawesi railway

Makassar, S Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Trans-Sulawesi railway line in mid-February, an official said.

The first phase of the railway construction will stretch from Makassar city to Parepare city in South Sulawesi province, head of the South Sulawesi provincial transportation, communication and information office, Masykur Sultan, said here on Friday.

The groundbreaking ceremony is to be held in Barru district and the provincial government will coordinate with the district government to make preparations for the ceremony, he said.

“The groundbreaking ceremony will likely take place near Garongkong port, since all facilities have been prepared there,” he added.

Masykur said the provincial transportation office and the Barru district government had cleared land near the port to make way for the construction of the railway tracks.

But he declined to reveal how much land had been cleared for the mega project.

“The most important thing is that we are now ready for the groundbreaking. A team of officials has been working to settle the land clearance so there will be no problem after the groundbreaking ceremony,” he said.

Masykur added that the team in charge of handling the land clearance and preparing the groundbreaking ceremony had also been working to evaluate areas where the railway line would be built.

Earlier, Transportation Minister EE Mangindaan said the government would soon begin construction of the Trans-Sulawesi railway tracks.

“I have talked with the governor. He said the land is ready and the groundbreaking will be held in Barru district,” he said at Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport here recently.

The Trans-Sulawesi railway is a project to be built under a public private partnership (PPP) scheme.

Back to top

UAE visitors offered ‘Oman Short Breaks’

January 19, 2014 – Oman Air and Oman’s Ministry of Tourism have announced the launch of ‘Oman Short Breaks’, a joint project offering convenient and competitively-priced holiday packages for customers from the GCC region, especially those from the UAE. The packages are available for travel during the forthcoming spring and summer seasons and include return flights with Oman Air together with accommodation in any of the many deluxe hotels in Muscat and Salalah.

‘Oman Short Breaks’ was launched at a grand event held recently at the Fairmont Hotel, Dubai, where Ghasi Humaid Al Hashmi, Deputy Director General of Tourism Promotion, Oman Ministry of Tourism, said: “The Oman Ministry of Tourism, in association with the several key players in the travel and tourism sector, is aggressively promoting the Sultanate as an attractive global tourist destination. Through our strategic partnership with Oman Air, we have been able to create tremendous awareness about tourism options in Oman, which has generated fruitful results. Continuing with our past success, we have once again collaborated with Oman Air to launch the ‘Oman Short Breaks’ campaign for the upcoming tourist season.”

The ‘Oman Short Breaks’ holiday package is designed for visitors from the GCC, and particularly from the UAE, who reside at flying distance of only two to three hours from Oman and are often on a look-out for short weekend packages to spend quality holidays with family and friends.

Masoud Al-Balushi, Oman Air’s Country Manager – UAE, said: “Oman is an ideal holiday destination for tourists from both the Middle East region and further afield, and Oman Air is the perfect way to travel there. We are therefore delighted to join with the Ministry of Tourism to launch ‘Oman Short Breaks’, which will, over the space of just a few days, provide holiday-makers with a wonderful opportunity to explore Oman’s many popular tourist destinations and enjoy a memorable Omani experience.”

“We greatly appreciate the Ministry of Tourism’s efforts to strengthen the country’s travel and tourism sector and are grateful to them for promoting Oman Air. This sound partnership provides an excellent foundation for what will be a highly successful campaign” he added.

Oman Air currently operates seven daily flights from Dubai to Muscat, four daily flights from Dubai to Salalah, and 3 daily flights from Abu Dhabi to Muscat. Underlining the airline’s commitment to service excellence, Oman Air’s Business Class Seats onboard its A330 fleet has been voted by Skytrax as the Best Business Class Seat in the world for two years in a row, in 2011 and 2012. Oman Air passengers can now experience a whole new level of on-ground service with Oman Air’s premium front-end check-in facility exclusively for First Class and Business Class guests, besides Oman Air’s Premium Lounges located at Muscat International Airport.

Muscat is one of the most visited cities in the GCC by international tourists. Rich in history and culture, the capital city boasts several tourist attractions including forts and castles, museums and forest reserves, wadis and beaches, souqs and malls as well as world-class hotels and restaurants. Salalah is another popular tourist destination in the region because of its location by the mountain range on the edge of the Indian Ocean. Also known as the ‘Perfume Capital,’ it is popular for its beaches, waterfalls, limestone cliffs, blowholes, coconut and banana plantations, and heritage attractions.

Back to top

China, Gulf states outline 2014-2017 cooperation

(Xinhua) 09:32, January 18, 2014

BEIJING, Jan. 17 — China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Friday mapped out an action plan for cooperation from 2014 to 2017 and vowed to speed up their free trade talks.

The plan, announced after their third strategic dialogue in Beijing, set goals for cooperation in politics, trade, energy, environmental protection and climate, culture, education, health and sports.

China and the GCC will speed up free trade agreement (FTA) talks as they complement each other in economy and building a FTA serves their mutual interests, a press release after the dialogue said.

Friday’s dialogue was co-chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah, the first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Kuwait, rotating chair of the GCC.

“Kuwait will play its role to reboot the negotiations soon,” Al-Sabah said.

The GCC, a regional political and economic alliance set up in 1981, includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. China started FTA negotiations with the bloc in July, 2004 and had five rounds of talks and two panel meetings before talks stalled after 2009.

“China is eying the establishment of a strategic partnership, using the FTA as a driving force to boost pragmatic cooperation in all fields,” Wang said.

China hopes to work with the GCC to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century maritime Silk Road, Wang said, referring to President Xi Jinping’s proposal of reviving the ancient Silk Roads, which historically linked China with Europe and east coast of Africa, as a way of developing political and economic ties.

Both sides understand the strategic importance of the Middle East and Gulf region and maintaining regional peace and stability will be in the interests of regional countries and the international community, according to the press release.

China appreciates the GCC members’ efforts to preserve regional security and stability and supports them.

China and the GCC agreed that the international community should make joint efforts to ensure the Geneva-II conference is convened as scheduled and facilitate a political solution on the Syria issue.

Prior to the dialogue, Chinese and Kuwait foreign ministers met on bilateral relations, pledging to enhance ties between China and Kuwait as well as relations with the GCC and League of Arab States.

The fourth dialogue between China and the GCC will be held in Qatar in 2015.

Back to top

Chilean Football Team Emblazons Palestine Map on T-Shirt

OnIslam & Newspapers – Thursday, 16 January 2014 – CAIRO – The popularity of a Chilean football team has jumped up after it decided to replace number “1” on club’s recently unveiled 2014 kit to take the shape of Palestine complete map before 1948 nakba.

“Club Deportivo Palestino.. now officially my favorite team from South America,” Joe.m wrote on Twitter.

“My new fave football club is Deprotico (Deportivo) Palestino,” Isaac K. Oommen added on Twitter.

Earlier this month, Palestine Football Club, Deportivo Palestine, based in Santiago, Chile redesigned their jerseys replacing the number 1 with an image of Palestine map.

The team was originally founded in 1920 by Palestinian immigrants to the country, and Chile now has one of the largest Palestinian communities in the world.

The club’s colors are those of the Palestinian flag: black, white, green and red. They have won national championships twice, in 1955 and 1978.

Uproar surrounding this decision started when local and global Jewish leaders protested the political nature of the uniforms to FIFA, soccer’s international governing body.

“This act of smugness by the irresponsible mangers of Palestino is offensive to the whole Chilean Jewish community. It’s unprecedented,” tweeted Gabriel Zaliasnik, the former president of Chilean Jewish community (CJC), International Business Times reported.

His successor at the head of CJC, Gerardo Gorodischer, has urged Chile’s football association to ban the shirt. “We reject the import of the Middle East conflict in Chile,” Gorodischer tweeted.

The Palestinian Federation of Chile responded to the Jewish protests. “We reject the hypocrisy of those who blame this map but they talk about the occupied territory as disputed territory,” the Palestinian Federation said in a statement.

The Information Department of the Palestinian Federation also criticized “the Chilean Zionists, who send young Chileans to Israel to receive military training.”

Each year on May 15, Palestinians mourn the loss of Palestine and creation of Israel on its rubble in 1948.

Later in 1967, Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian lands along with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights.

In November 2012, the UN gave Palestine the status of “non-member observer state”.

Chile is home to one of the largest Palestinian communities in the world, with about 350,000 immigrants and their descendants. The Chilean government recognized an independent state of Palestine in 2011.

Back to top

‘The Square’: First Egyptian documentary nominated for Oscars

Ahram Online, Thursday 16 Jan 2014 – The Academy Awards has announced its final list of nominees for the 2014 Oscars, scheduled to air live on 2 March with Egyptian-American production The Square on its list for ‘Best Documentary Film’.

The Square marks Egypt’s first time onto the ‘Best Documentary’ list and in the Oscars as a whole, with the exception of Omar El-Sherif’s ‘Best Supporting Actor’ nomination in 1962 for his role in Hollywood production Lawrence of Arabia.

The film, directed by Jehane Noujaim, starring Khaled Abdalla, Magdy Ashour, Aida El-Kashef, Ramy Essam, Ahmed Hassan and Ragia Omran.

The Square is an immersive experience that transports viewers into the intense emotional dramas and personal stories behind the January 2011 uprising and its aftermath of military and short-lived Muslim Brotherhood rule.

The film won the People’s Choice Documentary Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013, and the Audience Award at Sundance 2013.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2013 will be presented on 2 March 2014 at the Dolby Theatre. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Back to top

Ogeah – Delta to Become Nigeria’s Medical Tourism Destination

This Day – 15 January 2014 – With the successful kidney transplant accomplished at the Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH), Oghara, recently, the stage is now set for the state to become Nigeria’s medical tourism destination.

The kidney transplant, the first of its kind in the country, followed the successful knee cap and hip replacement surgeries earlier undertaken in the hospital last year.

Congratulating the state Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, over the feat, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah, said the success of the surgery signaled the advent of more complex operations to be undertaken at the hospital that will ultimately make DELSUTH a centre for medical excellence and tourism in the country.

He said the pioneering surgeries at the hospital demonstrated Uduaghan’s visionary leadership and unique approach to healthcare in the country, noting that the state remains the only state with a comprehensive healthcare programme.

“The state is the only place where pregnant women enjoy comprehensive free healthcare coverage and free delivery, including free caesarean section. In addition to that, every new born baby enjoys free medical care until five years of age. This is unprecedented and largely explains why the state by far has the lowest maternal death rate,” Ogeah said.

When the Uduaghan administration came into office in 2007, the death rate per 1,000 births was over 500. However, by 2013, the figure had dropped to about 250 deaths per 1,000 births, giving the state by far the best record in the country.

According to him, “Uduaghan has set the pace whereby wealthy Nigerians will no longer have cause to travel abroad for even complex medical situations. Rather, we are at the point where people from other countries will be coming to the state in search of specialist medical care. That is what medical tourism is all about and DELSUTH is leading the way.”

The commissioner said the DELSUTH project involved not just the acquisition and installation of world class medical facilities but in the development of well trained manpower to undertake surgeries hitherto obtainable only in developed countries.

Uduaghan, himself an accomplished medical doctor, who was part of the team that successful undertook the kidney transplant, had facilitated a five-year partnership between DELSUTH and UT South-western Medical Centre, Dallas, the United States of America (USA) to build infrastructure and human capacity.

Two years ago, the Delta State Government started subsidising dialysis of kidney patients in DELSUTH and progressively brought the cost down from N20,000 to N5,000 applicable only to patients of the state origin.

Back to top

UK and Luxembourg Race to Be Europe’s 1st Nation to Issue Islamic Bonds

IslamOnline – 8 January 2014 – The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has entered the race to be Europe’s first sovereign to issue Islamic debt instruments. The government presented a draft bill to parliament to pave the way for the deal, just months after British Prime Minister David Cameron signalled the UK’s intention to issue a debut £200m sukuk in 2014.

Luxembourg’s intention to raise sukuk financing is a direct challenge to the UK’s attempt to be the first. Having a highly rated rival enter the race not only adds impetus to the UK to keep to a tight schedule, but also shows the UK government has made the right decision to push ahead.

Sukuk are the Islamic equivalent of bonds. Since fixed income, interest bearing bonds are not permissible in Islam, sukuk securities are structured to comply with the Islamic law and its investment principles, which prohibits the charging, or paying of interest.

Both countries have been considering the issuance of an Islamic bond for years, as their respective stock exchanges battle it out to become the listing venue of choice for sukuk issuers.

Triple-A rated Luxembourg’s plans to issue €200m worth of notes in euros or dollars invites direct comparison with the UK’s (Aa1/AAA/AA+) project to test the market with £200m in the next financial year. The need for Luxembourg’s parliament to approve the bill puts it behind the UK, but Luxembourg has already identified underlying assets for its program — something the UK Treasury is still working on.

Therefore, the winner of this race is still uncertain.

“The government has presented a draft bill to parliament. The approval of the bill is indeed part of the preparatory work for the potential issuance of a sovereign sukuk,” a Luxembourg ministry of finance spokesperson told Reuters in an email.

The legislative calendar for the bill cannot be confirmed at this stage, she added.

Whichever borrower comes first will doubtless gain kudos for its boldness – the UK itself has said that being the first mover would bolster its credentials as the western world’s foremost Islamic finance center. But in that sense the UK has already claimed the prize by announcing its intentions first. Practitioners hailed prime minster David Cameron’s unveiling of the plans at the World Islamic Economic Forum in October as a game-changing endorsement and defining moment for the Islamic finance market.

Luxembourg’s entrance merely shows that the UK’s big splash is already having an impact. The similar size and scope of the programmes means that whatever accolades the second mover gives up would be compensated for by the experience and pricing knowledge gained.

As with the UK, there is much for Luxembourg to gain from a sovereign sukuk regardless of whether proves to be Europe’s first or not. The deal will help the principality boost its credentials as a listing jurisdiction for sukuk and as an Islamic finance domicile.

While Luxembourg funding in euros, should it choose that currency, would do little to help UK Islamic banks, it would help establish a curve for European corporate borrowers who might be looking at the Islamic asset class. It also comes amid plans for the first European Islamic bank, Eurisbank to launch in this year’s first quarter. Having sovereign liquidity support from the outset would be a useful boost that UK banking counterparts had to do without when they launched.

But on a wider level, Luxembourg’s involvement adds to the mounting evidence that Islamic finance – and in particular sukuk – is gaining mainstream acceptance in Europe. That is good for everyone involved in the market.

Back to top

US Students Petition for Muslim Holidays

OnIslam & Newspapers – 15 January 2014 – CAIRO – A small group of Muslim students from Great Falls in Virginia have filed a petition on a White House website calling for public schools to recognize Muslim holidays.

“I think there’s been a push nationwide for the recognition of Muslim holidays in school systems. Primarily in school systems where there’s a large number of Muslim students,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman with the Council on American Islamic Relations, told The Christian Post.

“This petition is just an expression of that ongoing dialogue and just seen I guess as one way to move the issue forward,” Hopper said, adding that he supported “the recognition of Muslim holidays in school systems” with “significant Muslim populations.”

The petition started when Sumayyah McTaggart, a confident homeschooled eighth grader, from Great Falls, VA along with her friend Iman Hazer of Dunn-Loring were assigned a class project while taking civics classes at Compass Homeschooling Enrichment in Oakton.

The assignment was to petition the government about an issue that they were passionate about, the three formed a petition on the White House website.

Inspired by the Montgomery County Equality4Eid campaign and concerned about attending class on Eid day, the three friends decided to address the issue of recognizingEid day on the calendar.

“We knew each other from the masjid. I used to attend the masjid that Fatima currently attends. We all ended up in the same civic class and petitioned the government to recognize our holidays in public school,” McTaggart told the Muslim Link on January 14.

Posted on the White House’s “We the People” site last month, as of Wednesday morning the petition has garnered over 34,000 signatories from across the United States. “With the growing population of Muslims in the United States of America…we believe it is high time that Muslim holidays are recognized by schools throughout this nation,” reads the petition in part.

“Muslim school children and staff deserve the same benefits afforded to the followers of other faiths. We call on President Obama to support this petition and advance the inclusiveness of our great nation.”

Girls hope to collect the 100,000 signatures needed. “This year Eid Al-Adha was on the day of science class, and I did have to go to school onEid,” McTaggart told the Muslim Link.

“It was very upsetting, missing `Eid prayer. I love hearing the khutbah and was upset (I had to go to school),” she added.

Fatima Dandashi has also faced the same dilemma. “We would hope that White House responds. We would all like to request Fairfax County to recognize `Eid as a public holiday. We would like them to take the day off,” Dandashi said.

“The White House petition is an effort for publicity, to show the Fairfax county board of education how many people support the idea,” McTaggart added.

Eid Al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice”, is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations, together withEid Al-Fitr. Cambridge Public Schools were one of the first districts in Massachusetts to recognize all religious holidays last year.

Elsewhere across the United States, home to a Muslim minority between 6-8 million, recognizing Muslim religious holidays is gaining ground.

In Boston, leading schools Cambridge Public School District issued a decision in 2010 to recognize Eid Al-Fitr andEid Al-Adha, which marks the end of hajj.

Several cities in New Jersey close schools on Muslim holidays. Dearborn, Michigan, where nearly half of the 18,000 students are Muslims, is believed to be the first city to close school on Muslim festivals.

In September 2010, public schools in Burlington city, Vermont, also closed on `Eid al-Fitr for the first time.

Back to top

Pew Survey Answers How Women Dress

OnIslam Staff – Friday, 10 January 2014 – CAIRO – Reflecting a wide diversity of people views in the Middle East, a new study by a University of Michigan’s institute has revealed that most people prefer that a woman completely cover her hair, but not necessarily her face.

Assembled by the Pew Research Center, a survey from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducted in seven Muslim-majority countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey), examined how women should wear.

The survey showed answers from people in seven Mideastern countries on a question posed by a University of Michigan study: “Which of these six styles of dress is most appropriate for women?”

According to Pew Research Center, each respondent was given a card depicting six styles of women’s headdress and asked to choose the woman most appropriately outfitted for a public place.

The styles included ranged from a burqa (woman #1) and niqab (#2) to the less conservative hijab (women #4 and #5). There was also the option of an unveiled woman. “Overall, most respondents say woman #4, whose hair and ears are completely covered by a white hijab, is the most appropriately dressed for public,” Pew said.

“This includes 57% in Tunisia, 52% in Egypt, 46% in Turkey and 44% in Iraq. In Iraq and Egypt, woman #3, whose hair and ears are covered by a more conservative black hijab, is the second most popular choice.”

Other countries, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, showed a more conservative view about women dressing.

“In Pakistan, there is an even split (31% vs. 32%) between woman #3 and woman #2, who is wearing a niqab that exposes only her eyes, while nearly a quarter (24%) choose woman #4,” Pew added.

“In Saudi Arabia, a 63%-majority prefer woman #2, while an additional 11% say that the burqa worn by woman #1 is the most appropriate style of public dress for women.”

On the other side of the chart, Lebanon and Turkey said it was acceptable for women to not cover her hair in public.

“Roughly a third (32%) of Turks take this view, as do 15% of Tunisians,” Pew said.

“Nearly half (49%) in Lebanon also agree that it is acceptable for a woman to appear in public without a head covering, although this may partly reflect the fact that the sample in Lebanon was 27% Christian.”

Demographic information, including results by gender, were not included in the public release of this survey.

While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.

Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.

Back to top

Dubai Exhibit Celebrates Prophet’s Life

OnIslam & Newspapers – Sunday, 12 January 2014 – CAIRO – A visitor to Dubai will have the chance to travel back some 1435 years to see how the holy city of Makkah looked during the era of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) after the gulf emirate opened a new exhibition that displays the Prophet’s life.

“You rediscover every step of Prophet Muhammad’s life and learn more about Islam and its many sides,” Dr Ahmed Al Ghamdi, a Saudi scholar and researcher who works at the museum, told the Emirati newspaper The National on Sunday, January 12.

Recreating in miniature the city of Makkah exactly as it was 1,435 years ago, a new exhibit in Dubai opened doors under the name, Alssalamu Alaika Ayyuha Annabi (Peace be upon you, oh Prophet) inside the new Dubai International Holy Quran Award building.

The exhibit was a branch of the Prophet’s Museum founded in Makkah by Dr Nasir Al Zahrani, a Saudi religious scholar, writer and poet, who has brought his vision to Dubai as part of what he calls a “universal humanistic project”.

The model, made in about two and a half meters square, transfers visitors back to Makkah small alleyways, traditional houses of mud, stone and wood, wells, palm trees and shrubs, all clustered across a mountainous terrain.

In the middle of these houses, a tiny house is located near the holy Kaaba, where Prophet Muhammad lived.

Another miniature presents a model for Madinah and an explanation of the Prophet’s hijarah (migration) from Makkah to Madinah.

The exhibit also tells the life of Prophet Muhammad from his birth to his death, including everything known about his life, from the kind of combs and pots he would have used, to the clothing he wore in battle and the food and medicines he would have taken.

The new Qur’an award building in Mamzar, across from the Cultural and Scientific Association, is an impressive structure designed to look like an old palace with Islamic calligraphy on the ceilings and walls.

Costing Dh60 million, the money was donated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

The exhibit has a 3-D interactive film that takes visitors inside the Prophet’s home, showing how he lived. “All the rights, of women, of children, of non-Muslims, of animals and even plants, are all written up here along the walls for everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, to learn more about and understand Islam better,” Dr Al Ghamdi said.

“No matter how knowledgeable you are, I am sure you will learn something new here. You just click here, and you can find out everything you want to know. If you want to see the whole family tree of the Prophet Muhammad, and then move on to the other prophets like Moses and Jesus and find out everything about them through our electronic library. You can spend months here researching,” he added.

It also includes copies of the items used by Prophet Muhammad such as his ring, with “Mohammed Prophet of Allah’ carved on the red orange stone known as “Aqeeq Yemeni”, and personal seal.

“We don’t have anything that Prophet Mohammed actually owned, but we used extensive research, from what was mentioned in the Quran, the Ahadeeth (sayings by the Prophet), and whatever was passed down via oral history, to bring the objects back to life,” says Yasser Abdul Mohsen, the other researcher working at the museum.

“There are plans to start a special kitchen where the kind of food he ate will be cooked and served, and we are also planning to start a pharmacy that makes the herbal and traditional medicine as used and advised by Prophet Mohammed available to the public.

“When you come here, you will be taken back to his time and gain so much wisdom and knowledge as you go through his sayings and deeds.”

The Prophet’s birth falls on the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal (the third month in the Islamic calendar). This year, it fell on Monday, January 13.

Many Muslims see the prophet’s birthday as an important time to learn about and reflect on Muhammad’s life. Lectures and speeches are often recorded and published as podcasts.

Around the world, celebrations of the prophet’s birthday include stalls selling Islamic books, leaflets, clothing, prayer mats and other materials.

Back to top

US Rights Groups Hail No-Fly List Victory

OnIslam Staff – Thursday, 16 January 2014 – CAIRO – American civil rights groups have applauded a court decision to remove a Malaysian professor from no-fly list, seeing it the first victory against the much criticized American list.

“Judge (William) Alsup’s ruling affirms that basic notions of transparency and accountability apply to even the US government’s ‘no-fly’ list,” Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (AAAJ-ALC) staff attorney Nasrina Bargzie said in a press release by the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Wednesday, January 15.

“We welcome this ruling and look forward to further clarity as to how one can navigate the maze created by the ‘no-fly’ list and other similar listings,” she added.

The lawsuit, filed by San Jose-based McManis Faulkner in 2006 on behalf of the mother of four children and a PhD student at Stanford University, alleged that the government violated Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim’s due process rights when it placed her on the “no-fly” list.

US District Court Judge Alsup ruled that Dr. Ibrahim had standing to challenge the government’s actions, ordered the government to correct Ibrahim’s position on the “no-fly” list and to disclose to her what said position was.

The judge kept his detailed ruling under seal until April 15 so the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can rule on the government’s appeal to toss out the lawsuit.

The US Department of Justice has refused to disclose Ibrahim’s current flight status throughout her eight-year legal fight, including during a two-week bench trial late last year.

Several similar lawsuits are pending across the nation, but Ibrahim’s legal challenge appears to be the first to go to trial.

Following the lawsuit over the past eight years, the Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomed the court ruling as a much awaited victory. “This victory has been a long time coming,” said CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

“Each year our offices hear from hundreds of individuals who are visited by the FBI and face related travel issues.

“Many have lost hope about clearing their names, but this case will renew our collective desire to continue forward with the courts on our side,” she added

Established in 2003 and administrated by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the “no-fly” list includes some 20,000 people deemed by the agency as known to have, or reasonably suspected of having, ties to terrorism. About 500 of them are US citizens, according to an agency spokesman.

Earlier in February 2013, a US Muslim Air Force veteran had complained of being barred from leaving the country after being allowed to care for his terminally-ill mother.

In May 2012, fifteen American Muslims, including four military veterans, sued the federal government over being placed on a “no-fly” list for no apparent reason.

Earlier in 2011, an American Muslim family was kicked off a JetBlue flight because their 18-month child was flagged as no-fly. In 2009, nine members of a Muslim family were removed from a domestic AirTran Airways flight to Orlando, Florida, after they chatted about their seats in the plane.

Back to top

Nobel laureate Yunus stresses social responsibility to tackle poverty

Abu Dhabi, Saturday, 10 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 11 January 2014 (IINA) – Businesses around the world should focus on social responsibility to ensure sustainable development, according to Nobel Peace laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus.

The founder of Grameen Bank, a microfinance organization providing small loans to the impoverished in Bangladesh, was speaking at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi about ways in which social businesses could contribute to solving society’s most pressing problems. “We need to fix the system before we try to solve the problem,” Prof Yunus said. “I think of solution in terms of creating a business, so if I see a problem I create a business to solve the problem. I have now created more than 60 companies.” He said credit programs had become a global phenomenon.

“There are nearly 160 million people who receive microcredit from the microcredit program and it works beautifully,” Prof Yunus said. “There are now six branches of Grameen America in the US and the average loan is $1,500 (Dh5,509).” The idea of providing relatively small, but life-changing, loans began in Bangladesh, born out of desperate need. “Whatever I have done my whole life was done in an environment of desperation,” Prof Yunus said. “Things are so bad that you need to jump in or do something to see if it works, so I did many small, simple things because I decided I wanted to make myself useful. “If I can make myself useful to every human being for one day, then that day is well spent for me.”

He started by issuing loans, as little as between 50 cents to $3, to villagers in Bangladesh. “I can’t solve the problem of the whole world but I thought I can solve the problem of this village,” Prof Yunus said. “All I have to do is loan money myself with no charge. Everybody was so surprised because they didn’t expect anybody to do such a thing, but it became very popular and villagers started coming to me.” The idea spread locally, with 2,600 branches now in Bangladesh, and globally, from Germany to France and Japan. But more needs to be done to be able to achieve one of the Millennium Development Goals of ending poverty by 2030. “In Bangladesh, we managed to halve poverty by mid last year,” Prof Yunus said. “In 2030, in Bangladesh, there will be no poverty.”

The UAE can play a part, said George Itty, the chief executive of Nahtam, a social responsibility organisation in Abu Dhabi. “There is a big opportunity in that area in the UAE,” said Itty. “Organizations should go more for sustainable social-responsibility projects, and the UAE Government, as well as Emiratis, have the basic helping, hospitality and caring mentality. We just have to apply it to our daily lives and I see huge potential here.” Jamal Al Suwaidi, the centre’s director general, said the social dimension of businesses had become an important factor in sustainable development. “Profit is not the only criteria for the success of companies,” he said. “Most businesses should concentrate on the social aspect as part of their agenda.”

Profit should be an incentive, but not the only incentive, said Prof Yunus. “Accomplishments and achievements are also incentives,” he said. “The world has become money-centric, we have become worshippers of money and it’s become our God.” He said combining conventional and social businesses could help in redesigning the world. “We forgot we were human beings and that we were multi-dimensional,” he said. “We became single-dimensional. “But if you create a business where you don’t make money – you just make it self-sustained – then none of the problems that we see around us would be here. “Let’s make up our mind and create a world of our choice and a world with no poverty.”

Back to top

Sacrificial meat shipments arrive in Senegal, Mauritania

Jeddah, Saturday, 10 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 11 January 2014 (IINA) – Consignments of frozen sacrificial meat arrived recently in the capital cities of Senegal, Mauritania and Gambia for distribution among the needy as per the annual distribution plan for the meat utilized during Hajj season 2013 under the Saudi Project for Utilization of Sacrificial Meat (Adahi).

The shipments consist of a total of 25000 frozen heads of sheep which will be distributed under the supervision of the representatives of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) that has been operating this environment-friendly project since 1983, according to an IDB statement. Meanwhile, a consignment of 30,000 frozen heads of sheep has arrived in a special factory in Kuantan, Malaysia, for canning. It will be later distributed freely amongst the needy and the poor in different parts of the Islamic world via the UK based Islamic Relief World-wide (IRW), an international relief and development charity operating in over 30 countries since 1984. This is part of the ongoing Adahi project distribution plan of nearly 770,000 frozen heads of livestock, slaughtered during last Haj, inside Saudi Arabia and 23 other countries in Asia and Africa.

Back to top

SR59 billion real estate deals clinched in Makkah in 2013

Makkah, 12 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 13 January 2014 (IINA) – Real estate index for Makkah region surprised all forecasts that said deals in the sector will point to the downside during 2013.

The numbers, values, and scopes of the deals up to the end of last year witnessed a rise of 350 percent compared with a year before. The value of deals during the year stood at SR59.4 billion, against SR16.1 billion in the year before, an increase of 350 percent. The number of deals during 2012 registered a pickup of 4.677 deals and increased to a record of 17.920 deals last year, an increase of up to more than 400 percent. Real estate experts expected the index to rise in the holy capital this year, and the value of deals in the sector to rocket up to SR80 billion in view of the massive development project in the real estate sector, and the generous expenditure on the infrastructure of the city.

Head of the Real Estate Committee at Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mansour Abu Al-Reesh stated that the bearish real estate market forecasts by some analysts were not based on scientific grounds or on studies of the markets, adding: “They were just inaccurate speculations.” Abu Al-Reesh projected real estate market to witness a big upbeat, and a rise in the value of the sector’s deals to more than SR80 billion because of the giant projects in the city, mainly the projects of public transportation, the ring roads or circumferential highways, the train stations and the development of slums that entailed expropriating thousands of properties and pumping more than SR100 billion as compensations into the market.

“Investment infrastructure in the holy city has become attractive to more and more investors who recently moved to establish large investment portfolios in building large residential projects, such as hotels and residential towers.

Yusuf bin Awad Al-Ahmadi, a developer said real estate investing in Makkah had become one of the most successful investments. “This has led to the revival of the real estate market, in addition to the disbursement of compensation related to the expropriated properties for the expansion of the Grand Mosque,” he added.

Another developer, Meshal Al-Zaiydi said the market is bound to have more deals this year because of the state’s expenditure on development projects. “The construction of quality hotels and the other residential projects will increase the capacity of the city to accommodate more numbers of Umrah and other seasonal pilgrims,” he said, adding that the majority of beneficiaries of the compensations are expected to buy new properties, which will lead to an increase of land development and residential projects.

Al-Zaiydi revealed that many capital owners and real estate investors moved to invest in the holy city where several conglomerates emerged to buy lands for constructions. Agreeing with him, another developer, Tawfiq Suehra said real estate market in Makkah was witnessing a rebound. “The attractive investment environment in Makkah has become the focus of many real estate investors and venture capitalists who have moved to form large conglomerates, pumping huge liquidity in the market.”

“This year, 2014, of all real estate investments, the hotel sector will receive bigger investments than before, with capitalists moving toward safe investments in Makkah in view of the increasing number of Umrah and seasonal pilgrims that will come once expansion and construction projects are completed,” said Fayez Zaqzoq, a developer.

On the other hand, real estate expert Marie bin Mubarak bin Mahfooz said real estate prices will spike this year because of the increasing demand on lands and properties. “This quantum leap in the real estate market during the last five years made real estate investors and venture capitalists dribbling,” he added.

Back to top

Jeddah to make fresh UNESCO bid

Jeddah, Tuesday, 13 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 14 January 2014 (IINA) – A festival in Jeddah’s historical Balad district will make a fresh attempt to get the area included on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

The festival will be held under the aegis of Prince Sultan bin Salman, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities. During the event, a report about the historical area will be delivered to UNESCO. Over SR80 million has been allocated to the area to fix its roads and lighting. Jeddah has been included in SCTA’s historic cities development project, which is being carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.

The SCTA has also signed contracts with international investors who are now implementing their plan to protect the historical district. According to specialists, the city has lost 90 houses of historical significance in the area. They have also expressed concern about the recent fires that took place in the region. The last house that collapsed in the district belonged to the Al-Siraj family. The house, located near Al-Falah school, the oldest in Jeddah, collapsed last year following a fire on its second floor.

Another house belonging to the Shihata family that was 100 years old also collapsed following a fire. The Jeddah development committee in charge of the historical district recently launched a special office for the area and has worked on the restoration of 18 old buildings, including one that will be converted into a hotel. Sami Nawar, head of Balad Municipality, said the first phase of the area’s development includes restoration of buildings, fixing roads and lighting and providing fire safety equipment.

He said arsonists were responsible for the fires and they have been prosecuted. According to him, there are 550 houses of heritage value. The area has also been under threat because of the heavy seasonal rains. When it rains, local authorities tend to evacuate buildings and disconnect electricity cables.

Back to top

Amal hopes to be Libya’s first woman PM

Tripoli, Thursday, 15 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 16 January 2014 (IINA) – Political activist Amal Al-Taher El-Haj has put her name forward to the General National Congress as a candidate to succeed Prime Minister Ali Zidan, if he falls victim to a vote of no confidence, according to a report in Libya Herald.

El-Haj, is a 45 year-old human resources professional who trained as an English teacher at Tripoli University. Before the revolution, she worked at the Libyan-Italian advanced technology helicopter assembly line in Suq Al-Hamiss. She is now a board director at the Free Communications Organization El-Haj said it was Zidan himself who had inspired her candidacy. “The main reason I nominated myself “ El-Haj told the Libya Herald, “is that the prime minister said that if anyone feels that he or she is qualified, they should submit their papers to the congress”.

El-Haj stressed that she was a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher and Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him). “However, I believe that I have the determination, the plan and the ability, with the support of the GNC to work efficiently”. She said she wanted to work in cooperation with the congress.

News of her candidacy has produced widespread comment on social media. She said that she had received messages of support from more men than women. She had not herself begun putting together a campaign team, but discovered that willing volunteers have come forward who are already at work on her candidacy. “There are some good men and women in the present government” she said, “I would not rule out having any of them in my administration.

“My vision will be called ‘Hope after Pain’”. (Her first name “Amal” means ‘hope’). She would continue to focus on security, but though it would remain a priority, she would also work on economic and citizenship issues.

Back to top

Maldives bids to develop SMEs

Sun.mv – January 12, 2014 – Ministry of Economic Development has said that loans worth MVR 14 million have been requested under the MVR 23 million loan scheme for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) introduced earlier this month.

Speaking at a press conference today, ADB Project Manager of Ministry of Economic Development Lamya Ibrahim said that the MVR 23 million loan scheme for SMEs was introduced on 6 January 2014.

Under this scheme, loans will be given for businesses in the areas of tourism, fisheries, agriculture, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), taxi services, and miscellaneous. “The loans are divided into six categories including tourism, fisheries and agriculture. A maximum loan amount has been decided for each category. This loan scheme is very popular,” said Lamya.

National Manager of Project Department at the Ministry of Economic Development Ahmed Munavvar said that the least popular area is ICT, for which loans will be provided up to MVR 3 million. The loans will be provided via Bank of Maldives (BML).

Back to top

Halfeti – A Turkish town of mesmerizing beauty

ŞANLIURFA – Anadolu Agency – Like an underwater museum, the flooded half of Şanlıurfa’s alfeti can be clearly seen under the crystal waters of the lake, roofs of sunken houses and walls surrounding a garden, hinting at its rural past and only adding to the town’s beauty

Viewers of one of Turkey’s most popular soap operas are mesmerized not by the beauty of the protagonists or the intricate plot but by Halfeti, the breathtakingly beautiful town in which it is set.

Located along the banks of the river Euphrates in the southeastern Turkish district of Şanlıurfa, Halfeti was partially flooded in 1999 to create the Birecik dam.

Viewers of the Turkish TV series, titled “Karagül” (Black Rose), see characters coming in and out of their old stone houses, looking pensively into the bright blue waters of the lake.

Like an underwater museum, the flooded half of Halfeti can be clearly seen under the crystal waters of the lake, roofs of sunken houses and walls surrounding a garden, hinting at its rural past and only adding to the town’s beauty.

Until the area was flooded in 1999, the people lived from fishing in the Euphrates and farming on the riverbank, especially growing peanuts and the area’s famous black roses (hence the title of the soap). Then the waters came and “new” Halfeti was built.

Halfeti now attracts nearly two hundred thousand visitors a year from around the world, most of them arriving in spring and autumn – but avoiding the searing heat of the summer. Trekking and water-sports are offered in the town where there is also a quad bike track. Restaurants serve traditional meat and fish dishes. However, accommodation is limited since new buildings are not welcomed by the local community.

The town is also a member of the “slow city” movement, “Cittaslow,” that advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down the pace of life.

Halfeti is one of the “unique” members of this movement thanks to its “substantial history, distinctive architectural identity and cultural diversity,” says 30-year-old Halfeti native Nihat Özdal, who coordinated the project for the town’s “slow city” membership.

“Halfeti is a blessed mixture of Bodrum (a coastal town on the Aegean) and Mardin (southeastern Turkish city famous for its ancient architecture). You cannot distinguish, here in Halfeti, where the water ends and where life begins,” says Özdal.

Adjacent to the town is Rumkale, an ancient fortress first built by Assyrians, later occupied by various Byzantine and Armenian warlords during the Middle Ages. It once served as the seat of an Armenian patriarch. The Memluks of Egypt, Seljuks and finally Ottomans retained the fortress securing Anatolia under Islamic rule.

Bordering Halfeti, is the uninhabited village of Savasan Koy, flooded as part of the same development project, the Southeastern Anatolia Project, which includes a chain of 21 hydroelectric and irrigation dams bringing water to the poor arid southeast region of Turkey. To the visitors’ amazement, only half of a minaret seen above the water level in Savaşan Koy offers an eerie reminder of what the dam took away from the people’s life around the lake.

Back to top

Turkey’s ancient pathways at the service of adventurers

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – The pathway takes in many villages with unique architecture, virgin coves, small and big hills and ancient cities. AA photos

Tens of thousands of people have taken the challenge to walk in the footsteps of the ancients, journeying down all or part of the 800-kilometer-long Karia walking route in southwestern Turkey in the first year of the path’s existence.

The pathway, which was opened to tourism last year by the Muğla Trade and Industrial Chamber (MUTSA), takes in many villages with unique architecture, virgin coves, small and big hills and ancient cities.

MUTSA President Bülent Karakuş said local and foreign tourist groups were coming to the region and making a contribution to tourism development.

He said the Karia walking route was an 800-kilometer-long way between Muğla and Aydın and that they had placed 220 signs and 33,000 markings to ensure travelers do not lose their way. He said the road had been used for trade and transportation in the past.

Karakuş said that with the walking route, they were attempting to ensure that tourism in Muğla will no longer be confined to just a few months of the year.

“Muğla is a tourism region. Out biggest source of income is tourism, but the biggest problem in our region is that the tourism season starts and ends in six months. We realize that alternative tourism works to diversify tourism. This route is one of the most important among them because the climate of the region is suitable for this,” he said.

Karakuş said they had reorganized the ancient roads that have existed for centuries. “The historical pathway includes Marmaris, İçmeler, the Datça Peninsula, the Gökova Gulf, Akyaka and Milas. We connected all these ways to each other and opened them to trekking tourism. This is Turkey’s longest walking route and also includes ancient sites. This is why we received 100,000 visitors in the first year alone. This number is increasing every other day,” Karakuş said.

Karakuş said it was possible to see rock paintings from the prehistoric ages and mausoleums of classical ages along the way, noting that such artifacts were not found on other walking routes. “The route also offers many kinds of endemic plants. Also, traditional villages and cobblestone roads are worth seeing on the route. This year, the route will be promoted in fairs in the Netherlands, Germany and Britain. We have prepared Turkish and English books and CDs for promotion. Visitors can also get information on our website. We expect to host 400,000 people in the next five years,” he said.

He also said one of the most important goals of the project was to provide income for villagers. “It makes great a contribution to the villages on the route. Visitors have breakfast in these villages and buy regional products,” he said.

Muğla’s district of Fethiye is also the starting point of the Lycian Way, which runs about 500 kilometers from Fethiye to Antalya.

Back to top

Turkish aviation exceeds 150 million passengers in 2013

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s civil aviation had a record-breaking year as the passenger number jumped to over 150 million in 2013, the country’s transportation minister has announced.

The number of passengers has been posting remarkable rises steadily since the liberalization of the sector in 2003 but the numbers climbed to a record high in 2013 with a 14.6 percent rise from the previous year, Turkish Transportation Minister Lütfi Elvan said.

Most of the growth was driven by the domestic passenger traffic across the country that has jumped 17.6 percent to 76.1 million, Elvan said.

“While the number of passengers flying on domestic lines was 8 million in 2002, today the number of domestic passengers exceeds Turkey’s population, which is around 76 million,” he stated. “This situation shows people from every section of the country can use airlines.”

Elvan also noted the number of international flight passengers approached 73.4 million last year, surging by 11.8 percent from 2012.

Istanbul Atatürk Airport, which is located on the European side of the city, also kept its top place as the busiest airport with 17.2 million domestic and 34 million international flight passengers, marking 12 and 14 percent increases, respectively.

On the internal flight basis, Istanbul’s second airport located on the Asian side, Sabiha Gökçen ranked second with a 23 percent rise to 11.9 million, while Ankara Esenboğa Airport followed them with 9 million passengers, despite a 22 percent jump on an annual basis.

Back to top

Festival to lure Bach lovers to Turkish capital

ANKARA – Hurriyet – The Bach Festival, which has been commemorating the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach for long years in various parts of the world, will also be held in Ankara starting on Jan 14

Starting this year, the Turkish capital Ankara will host its own Bach Festival, part of a classical music festival held in locations throughout the world to celebrate the memory of the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Bachfest Ankara came about as the initiative of Bach specialists Sami Yenice, Bilge Küçükdoğan and Hasan Keleşoğlu. The event will feature the work of the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach in a series of events throughout the year. His pieces, among the finest examples of the Baroque style, will be performed by high-profile world musicians and performers.

The first concert is scheduled on Jan. 14 on the Middle East Technical University (METU) KKM stage, where one of the world’s best sopranos Emma Kirkby will perform the works of Bach and other baroque composers including Lully, Frescobaldi, Gervaise, Purcell and Greene.

Kirkby will be accompanied on stage by Izmir Barok Ensemble, Turkey’s first ensemble performing baroque music with period instruments, and Austrian-born Ingrid Seifert, the first violinist of the London Baroque Ensemble.

Next up in the festival lineup is Concerto Melante on Feb. 9. Founded by Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra members specialized in period instruments, the group will perform Bach’s Musicalisches Opfer (Musical Offering).

Other musicians to perform at Bachfest Ankara include world-famous gambist Hille Perl, and British harpist Catrin Finch. Perl will perform Bach’s Viola de Gamba sonatas on March 16, and Finch will give life to Bach’s Goldberg Variations on May 24.

Ensemble Flautino of Sweden, German-born classical cellist Jan Vogler, Russian Bach Consort, Istanbul-based Alla Turca Kollektif, and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra are also set to perform throughout the year-long festival.

The Bach Festival is organized in various locations throughout the world. The festival’s mission is to celebrate the works, inspiration and ongoing influence of Johann Sebastian Bach worldwide by immersing audiences in a festival experience integrating music, education and ideas.

The notable Bach festivals in the world include Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, organized by the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music. The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park in Florida, and the Bachfest Bolivia, celebrated yearly in Cochabamba each March since 2008. Bachfest Bolivia commemorates Bach’s birthday.

Back to top

China to broadcast ‘Magnificent Century’

BEIJING – Cihan – Turkish TV series “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (Magnificent Century), which has so far reached 201 million viewers in 40 countries, will be broadcast in China. The number of its viewers is expected to be six times more and reach 1.2 million.

The famous series will be shown on Chinese state television CCTV. It is reported that CCTV has more than 1 billion viewers.

According to a written statement made by Turkey’s Beijing Promotion Office in Beijing, efforts for dubbing Chinese and subtitles are almost complete. Beijing Promotion Office Undersecretary İlknur Yiğit said they had been talking with Chinese officials for years in order to reach Chinese viewers.

“Finally we have succeeded. This is a big opportunity to promote Turkey to Chinese people of all sections and ages,” she said.

Yiğit said Chinese state television had never broadcasted a Turkish TV series or film, adding, “Chinese people have great interest in historical films. They find similarities between the Ottoman era and their dynasty. This is why we expect it will draw great attention in China. We paved the way for other Turkish TV series to be broadcast in China.”

Yiğit said interest in Turkey would increase with “Magnificent Century,” and continued, “Chinese television has a quota for foreign TV series and strict censorship. We have exceeded all these things. We will start promoting the series with CCTV. We will promote seraglio-themed tour packages including Istanbul and Topkapı Palace.”

Back to top

İzmir hopes to become Turkish cinema capital

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – A huge film platform will be established in İzmir jointly by the Anatolian Cinema and Television Authors Union (ASİTEM) and French film companies. The platform, which will cover an area of nearly 250,000 square meters, will include the mockups of forests, highways, world renowned avenues and structures.

The goal is to make 10 films a year in the platform, which will also have a school to train future filmmakers. It is reported that film scenes in the Middle Eastern and European geographies will easily be shot in this platform in İzmir, which has the traces of many cultures with historical and modern structures, narrow and colorful streets and its convenient climate.

ASİTEM President Muammer Sarıkaya said they had talks with various international companies to establish the platform in İzmir and finalized the talks with a French company.

Noting the Turkish cinema sector was monopolized in Istanbul, Sarıkaya said, “This platform will at the same time take the burden of cinema and television from Istanbul to İzmir.”

He said there was a previous unsuccessful film platform project in Antalya, but the one in İzmir was strongly progressing. “The film platform in Antalya had some defects and failed. We have been getting in touch with foreign companies for two years about the issue. Among them are U.S., German, Italian and French film companies. We have good dialogue with the French. The first steps of the platform have been taken,” he said.

Sarıkaya said the search continued to find a proper place for the platform, adding it would most probably be established on land in Torbalı and be finished in 2015.

He said that İzmir was very convenient due to its history, culture and climate, and that not only the platform, but also the whole city would be used for shooting.

“This is an important advantage; you can’t do everything in a platform. You can’t use natural light in film studios. İzmir is already a natural platform with its environment. Our foreign partners saw this fact, too; they visited everywhere in the city and decided to make an investment here. They often come to the city. ‘We can make a film depicting all eras and all geography,’ they said. When they returned to their country, they sent us two scenarios. One is about the Kalem Island and the other is about Ottoman life in Algeria.”

Sarıkaya said mostly actors and the setting crew came to mind about film production, but there are more people working behind the production. “In this sense, the platform will make great contributions to İzmir’s and the region’s economy. Unemployment, which is one of the most important problems in the city, will decrease. I estimate at least 1,000 people will have the chance to be employed here,” he said.

Sarıkaya said for the realization of the project, they would use foreign investors’ incentive funds. He said partners wanted to draw their current investments in Dubai and Algeria to Turkey. He said:

“Over the last 10 years, the government made some 30 million Turkish Liras in cinema. This caused the sector to develop. This is attractive for our foreign investors. They want to make İzmir a center for cinema,” Sarıkaya said.

Back to top

Uzbekistan to upgrade water-supply system

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-01-15 TASHKENT – In the wake of last year’s decision to modernise Tashkent’s water-supply system, the Uzbek government has decided to do the same for the provinces.

“Work will begin first and foremost in large cities and district capitals,” Agriculture and Water Resources Ministry spokesman Sidik Zukhurov said. “These upgrades are planned for 2014-16. Come 2016, work will begin to modernise the water infrastructure in more-remote provinces.

Modern infrastructure will increase availability of water by 30% by minimising leakages in the pipelines, he said.

“The decrepit potable water-supply system that was built in Soviet times doesn’t meet the needs of the country’s population, which has almost doubled in size (since independence),” Zukhurov said. “There is no water supply system in many Uzbek oblasts, while those that do have one experience disruptions.”

Workers rebuilt 11 distribution hubs and 181km of water-supply networks in Surkhondaryo Oblast’s district capitals and villages in 2013, Karim K., an employee of the oblast water directorate, said. “The water-supply system was upgraded in 27 towns or cities in Surkhondaryo Oblast,” he said, noting that this is only a beginning as the aim is to make clean water accessible for everyone.

The lack of water has contributed to health concerns, including an outbreak in hepatitis A.

“No access to clean water forces people to use water from outdoor sources or cut back their water use, for example, by cutting back on personal hygiene,” said Gulnara Saidova, an infectious disease specialist at a Tashkent hospital. “We call hepatitis A the dirty-hands disease. The outbreak of the epidemic stems from neglect of sanitation and a dearth of clean drinking water.”

“The drinking water situation is really bad,” Khusan Mametov, a tractor driver from a suburb of Gulistan, Sirdaryo Oblast, said. “We are forced to get water from the irrigation canals or from outdoor pipelines, and only God knows what’s in that water.”

International donors and government funds are helping the Uzbek government improve the country’s social infrastructure, Zukhurov said.

For example, a $30m (66 billion UZS) loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), an ADB grant worth $1.5m (3.3 billion UZS), and Uzbek government funds enabled the reconstruction work in Surkhondaryo Oblast.

Thanks to this project, Termez residents can use 240 litres (up from 150-160 litres) a day easily, Namoz Khusniyev, a Surkhondaryo Oblast administration employee, said.

In Urgench, some are hoping for similar relief.

“In the summer, we have running water from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 10 p.m. to midnight,” Urgench resident Ulugbek Zainiyev said. “Otherwise, we simply don’t have water.”

Back to top

Kyrgyzstan bid to upgrade food-processing industry

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-01-16 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is striving to develop its food-processing industry. Kyrgyz manufacturers produced US $2.28 billion (114.9 billion KGS) worth of goods during the first 11 months of 2013, 12.7% of which were food, beverages and tobacco, the government said in December.

However, only 10-12% of Kyrgyz agricultural products are processed, Economy Minister Temir Sariyev said.

“We’re staking our future on food processing,” Deputy Prime Minister Joomart Otorbayev said. “Agriculture is not just a critical part of the economy: half our population lives in rural areas, where poverty rates are high. Therefore, assisting farmers matters for society.”

Year-on-year growth in the agricultural sector last January-November equalled 3.7%, while the industrial sector grew by 31.1% and the GDP grew 10.8%, according to the Economy Ministry.

In the coming year, agricultural growth rates are estimated to be about 2%, economist Nurjan Toktogulova told parliament in late December, adding that economic growth in 2014 is expected to be by and large driven by the growth of industry and the service sector.

Although agriculture is growing more slowly than other segments of the economy, officials and analysts expect improvement as the government extends help to the industry.

“The state allocated about 3 billion KGS (US $61m) for loans to farmers in 2013, and these investments will eventually lead to an improvement,” Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiyev said. “We hope to see an effect” in 2014 from that loan programme that was designed to help farmers buy tractors and other equipment, he said.

The loan programme is part of a continuing effort to help farmers. In 2012, the government exempted them from value-added tax (VAT) and income tax, Otorbayev said.

“In addition to that, we are actively expanding leasing (of farm equipment),” he said. “We are also eliminating income tax on export production in free economic zones.”

The executive and legislative branches are also considering different ways to revive food production and processing.

Members of parliament (MPs) are discussing the possibility of extending loan repayment terms by two years for farmers (instead of one) and by three years for those in the processing industry (instead of 18 months).

The government is considering loan extensions for food-processing firms too.

Furthermore, MPs are deciding whether to reward those who invest in the impoverished border zones with additional long-term benefits, such as lower taxes.

“We’re too dependent on the weather, so we need more time to use leased implements and to repay our loans,” farmer Nurgazy Sarpashev of Jalal-Abad said. “In agriculture the risks are great.” Officials are looking for answers where previous efforts have not worked.

The state-owned AgroFood Corp., for example, has fallen short in terms of providing “food security and to help develop agriculture and agri-business,” Otorbayev said.

Some observers also mentioned a need to re-organise the Agriculture Ministry, which the government has been considering for 18 months, but the proposal has run into opposition.

Other priorities for Kyrgyz agriculture include halting the loss of harvested crops, 30-40% of which go to waste because of inadequate transport and storage facilities, and gradually transitioning to “green” agriculture.

Kyrgyzstan has every chance to become a country of green agriculture, Sariyev said. “We could make it our national brand.”

Jalal-Abad farmer and processor Anvar Tulegenov harvests walnuts, which he uses to make jellies and jams. His eco-friendly production is already superior to expensive foreign equivalents, he said.

“I could grow several times more walnuts, but we need time, extensions on our loans and the ability to export produce, but that (last requirement) depends on road construction,” he said. “So without the government’s help, we won’t be able to do it.”

Back to top

Kyrgyzstan revives ancient board game

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-01-10 BISHKEK – A traditional Kyrgyz board game, Toguz korgool, has gained great popularity during the past 20 years, observers say. Tournaments used to have trouble finding 10-15 contestants; now they have to cap participation at 200, Kamchibek Kasymov, president of the Toguz Korgool Federation, said. Even a computer version is available.

The game requires a board with nine holding slots on each side,162 small stones, and two larger slots (called kazans) where opponent’s pieces are saved. The objective is for each player to try to capture his or her opponent’s stones, Turonjozada Kaliyev, a player from Bishkek, said.

The game starts with nine pieces in each of the slots. Players move the stones by grabbing all of the items from one slot and reallocating them, one in each slot in a counter-clockwise fashion. When the last piece is deposited, if it is in an opponent’s slot and if the total number of pieces in that slot is even, the player gets to capture those stones.

Theories vary on the game’s origins, with one saying it dates back to the time of Manas, a literary folk hero (about 1,000 years ago). The ancient game is enjoying a revival, Kasymov said. The resurgence is reportedly attributable to the resurgence of Kyrgyz folk culture after the Soviet Union broke up.

“About 20 matches or competitions take place in Kyrgyzstan every year,” he said. “This is the fourth year that we have held the Chingiz Aitmatov competition.”

The competitions use the Swiss 13-round system, a round-robin format Men and women play for the same set of medals.

Under some rules, female contestants generally play separately from the males but may play males if they wish. An absence of age limits permits a 10-year-old to play a 20-year-old, a situation that happens often. Tournaments generally have individual and team competitions.

The game is played in Kazakhstan too, Ulanjan Temirbayev, international-class Master of Sport in Toguz korgool, three-time champion and first world champion from Kazakhstan, said.

“We call the game ‘Toguz kumalak,'” he said. “I have been playing it since I was 9. You have to find the right move to get out of difficult situations. … It is a very interesting game. I am here at the Aitmatov competition for the second time, and for the second time I have won the individual portion of the competition.”

Aidana Tabyldiyeva, a 15-year-old from Panfilov District, Chui Oblast, has been playing Toguz korgool since the fourth grade.

“My sister taught me to play,” she said. “I like the game much more than other board games.”

Master of Sport Perizat Jusupova, 16, has been playing since she was 8.

“This year I won the title of Master of Sport at the Ormon Khan Championship (n Bishkek),” she said. “The age of the players doesn’t matter in this game. I just lost to a 10-year-old girl. I’m embarrassed, of course, but the game is what it is.”

An internet option Kyrgyz mathematicians created a computer version of the game in 1999.

“The electronic version is played on the internet by about 600 registered players in this country and by about 100,000 worldwide,” Kasymov said. Playing the internet version is a real challenge.

“The computer is the best place for seeing how difficult Toguz korgool is,” Kasymov said. “For example, in chess, after each move the computer calculates up to 1m positions, but in this game, after three moves, the same computer needs three or four minutes to calculate all the variants, and after seven moves, the computer is stuck.”

In 2014, his federation wants to develop something new in Kyrgyzstan and to take it to the general public, he said. “I don’t want to reveal the new computer game yet; it’s a secret,” he said. “I think this game will find plenty of fans.”

Back to top

Egypt Signs Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

Egypt State Information Service – 11 January 2014 – Representatives of the Egyptian tourism sector on Friday 10/01/2014 signed the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET), a document promoting responsible conduct in tourism operations that has been signed by over 45 countries.

The agreement was signed in Luxor with the presence of Taleb Rifai, the General-Secretary of the UN’s World Tourism Organization, and Hisham Zaazou, the Egyptian Tourism Minister, Elhamy El-Zayat, the Head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation.

The GCET was adopted in 1999 by the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization. It comprises ten principles, which seek to maximize the sector’s benefits while minimizing its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe.

Back to top

Borobudur temple confident of achieving 2014 tourist target

January 15 2014 Magelang, C Java (ANTARA News) – The management of Borobudur Temple is optimistic that the worlds largest Buddhist temple will meet the 3,531,900 tourist arrival target for 2014.

Deputy Head of Operation I Borobudur Temple Tourism Park Aryanto Hendro said here on Wednesday that the target accounted for 3,263,500 domestic tourists and 268,400 international tourists.

“The tourist arrival target is 18 percent higher than 2013s target,” Aryanto Hendro remarked. Borobudur Temple in 2013 attracted a total of 3,362,061 tourists: 3,145,846 domestic and 216,215 international tourists.

The figure had exceeded 2013s target of 2.99 million visitors. However, the management had failed to meet the 2013 international tourist arrival target, which had been set at 263,400 visitors, Hendro noted.

International visitors have become the main target for the managing company of Borobudur Temple, which is being promoted as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The peak season for tourist visits to the temple located in Magelang District, Central Java—about one hour from Yogyakarta—usually occurs during the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, school holidays, and the Christmas holiday.

“Tourists from the Netherlands, Japan and Malaysia are the most common international visitors to Borobudur Temple,” he said.

Borobudur was built around 750 AD during the Syailendra Dynasty. The temple was rediscovered by Englishman Sir Stamford Raffles in 1814, who commenced a preliminary clean-up operation one year later.

The Indonesian government, fully supported by UNESCO, has commenced work to raise funds for the temple restoration based on research from 1983 to 1986. Borobudur Temple was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991.

Back to top

Tender for railway project to link Jakarta’s two airports

January 13 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The government plans to open initial tender for the construction of a track for express airport train between Jakartas two airports in April this year.

“We are preparing for the procurement of the consultancy service to hold the qualification tender of bidders,” Traffic and Railway Transport Director of the Transport Ministry Hanggoro Budi Wiryawan said here on Monday.

Feasibility study was already wrapped up in December 2013 on the project to build railway track between the Halim Perdanakusuma and Soekarno Hatta airports, Hanggoro said.

He said, the initial plan was between Manggarai station in South Jakarta and Soekarno-Hatta airport, which has failed in implementation after delay several times.

“Later, there was potential demand for extension of the tract to the northern side of the Cikampek toll road around 1 kilometers from the Halim airport,” he said.

Therefore, construction would start from Halim area under a government-private cooperation scheme, he said.

The announcement came after the opening of Halim Perdanakusuma, for commercial flight as from January, 2014.

Previously the airport served only as an air force base and for non commercial flights for the government or state guests.

Part of the Indonesian airlines will move their bases to Halim Perdanakusuma to ease congestion in Soekarno Hatta airport.

The railway route to be built will start from Halim via Cawang, Manggarai, Tanah Abang, Sudirman, Pluit, to Terminals 2 and 3 of the Soekarno-Hatta internaitonal airport.

“The route has been approved by the transport minister with a regulation issued in December, 2013,” Hanggoro said.

The next phase is analysis of environmental impact to be followed with land development, he said.

He said part of the rail track from Halim to MT Haryono would be underground and from Cawang to Sheraton would be elevated and the rest until the Soekarno Hatta airport would be underground.

If the Express Train has been in operation it would take only 30 minutes by car to cover the distance between the two airport from around 1 to 3 hours at present by cars.

Back to top

Azerbaijan’s Khachmaz region to boost infrastructure

17 January 2014 – AzerNews – A number of plans are going to be implemented to boost economic infrastructures in Azerbaijan’s Khachmaz region. A new airport is planned to be built in the region, Renessans Studio Ltd. Said in a statement.

“Given the potential of this region, which can be turned into a tourist center, it is advisable to build runway complex and organize air traffic here on unused area of 150 hectares owned by Azerbaijan Airlines JSC and,” the statement reads.

Moreover, Azerbaijan Railways JSC plans to improve railway stations, farms and equipments, as well as launch express trains in this line by 2030.

Some port facilities for water transport, which will ensure both local population and tourists by sea transport and will also promote tourism development, are planned to be constructed along the coastline of the Caspian Sea (Khudat, Khachmaz, Siyazan).

Furthermore, to meet the public demand for bread and bakery products it is proposed to build four plants by 2018. Given that potato production in the region exceeds twice as much as consumption, it is appropriate to construct two enterprises producing potato chips with a production capacity of 1100 tons and building 3 companies producing frozen potatos with a production capacity of 4000 tons.

For the purpose of creating new jobs in the region, it is proposed to build 17 new plants on the production of footwear, textiles and carpets, as well as to create an enterprise for the production of nylon and plastic bags. Construction of 32 refrigeration systems and eight enterprises producing 40 tons of mixed animal food is also planned.

Guba-Khachmaz economic region includes Shabran, Khachmaz, Guba, Gusar and Siyazan administrative regions. This area, whose economic backbone is agriculture, has a dense network of large rivers and large water resources.

The region has developed light and food industries, and the production of canned fruit and vegetable, fish and weaving carpets makes the basis of agro-industrial complex.

Branches of the heavy industry in the region are represented by oil and gas production in Siyazan, electrical plant in Cuba, shop for recycling iron and steel, brick factories in Guba, Khachmaz, and Siazan, and enterprises for the production of containers.

Such agriculture crops as grapes, potatoes and wheat are grown in Khachmaz, Shabran, Siyazan. Dairy cattle breeding is developed on the plain area, while the sheep breeding – in the mountainous and foothill areas.

Railway and a highway, oil, gas and water supplies, telecommunication lines, and lines of communication linking Russia and Azerbaijan go through the territory of region.

Moreover, the region is an important resort and sanatorium area of the country and has a rich resort and recreational resources. Thus, Shabran has the sanatorium on the basis of healing water of Galaalti mineral spring.

Back to top

“In the name of Azerbaijan” world tour starts

17 January 2014 – AzerNews – Azerbaijani cyclist Ramil Ziyadov started a two-year trip, under the motto “In the name of Azerbaijan”, in which he plans to cover 45,000 kilometers across Eurasia and Africa.

This is the third such a tour for the captivated cyclist, who already covered over 15,000 kilometers in six months, cycling from Russia to China, and 300 km tour in Azerbaijani regions.

However, this is not enough for Ramil, a farmer from Barda, who is not a professional rider, but fall in love with the extreme sport and by his own means travels around the world to glorify motherland Azerbaijan.

Ramil has set out a goal to present to foreigners: Azerbaijan, its achievements, developments and its acute problem, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia. For this purpose, he started learning English. He always carries and distributes leaflets about the country wherever he comes.

He planned this to continue his journey to see Russian snow, Europe and Africa from the first day when he came back home from the first trip in October 2013. With this aim, he started his training in winter travelling to Georgia.

Ramil, the first Azerbaijani cyclist of such a long distance, plans to cover 20 km a day. Nevertheless, he believes the journey will be challenging, as he has never before ridden on snow.

“The route will be very difficult, I will go on the bike through Georgia to Russia, will pass such major cities as Moscow, St. Petersburg and Murmansk in the winter cold, and then continue my route through Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey,” Ramil told AzerNews before leaving Baku.

Preparing to the journey, he spent the nights outdoors; however, 40 degrees Celsius below zero is waiting for him in Russia, which is not only difficult, but also even dangerous for his health. Notwithstanding the risk, with only cold-weather clothing, sleeping bag and tent, Ramil wants to show the world how strong and able Azerbaijanis are.

Then, out of the frying pan into the fire, Ramil will continue his trip in Africa, from Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and RSA. He will cycle to try himself in Cameroon, Senegal, Morocco, and then from Egypt, Turkey and Iran will return to the homeland.

After covering this long distance, Ramil will become one of the 100 cyclists in the world who took a chance of such a journey.

Back to top

Mozambique’s Economic Growth Remains Robust – IMF

MAPUTO, Jan 17 (NNN-AIM) — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) considers the growth of the Mozambican economy remained strong in 2013, recovering quickly from the floods which occurred at the beginning of the year, says its Resident Representative in the country, Alex Segura.

He told a media conference here Thursday that this assessment was made by the IMF team which carried out the first review of the three-year Policy Support Instrument (PSI) approved in June 2013. The IMF claims that the PSI is an instrument which “supports low-income countries that do not want — or need — Fund financial assistance but seek to consolidate their economic performance with IMF monitoring and support”.

“It is now known that the GDP of Mozambique grew by 7.1 per cent in 2013”, said Segura. “That’s a very high level of growth, one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.”

He noted that inflation remained “relatively stable”. Over the year, the average 12 monthly inflation rate was 4.2 per cent, below the government’s medium term target of 5.6 per cent.

Segura added that tax collection also beat the government’s targets, mainly because of capital gains tax paid on transactions involving shareholdings in the Rovuma Basin, where massive deposits of natural gas have been found.

These one-off payments amounted to 624 million US dollars in 2013, which is four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). However, even without capital gains tax, revenue collection was “satisfactory”, said Segura.

Despite the government’s guarantees for the 850 million dollar bond issue by the Mozambican Tuna Company (EMATUM), public indebtedness on commercial terms remains below the limit fixed in the government’s programme with the IMF.

Segura said there had been “progress in structural reforms, particularly in the management of public finance, banking supervision and the payments system of the central bank” but there had also been delays in some of these reforms.

“The Integrated Investment Plan was not approved on time,” said Segura. “It is lacking in specifics, linkages with the state budget and a debt sustainability analysis”.

He believed that perspectives for the immediate and the medium terms remain strong “based mainly on coal exports and on investments in the natural gas industry”.

Segura forecast an acceleration in the growth rate to 8.3 per cent for 2014, based not only on mineral resources, but on a strong recovery in agriculture.

Over the next five years he expected growth to continue at a rate of around eight per cent a year “sustained by the continual increase in coal production and exports, the construction of the natural gas liquefaction plant, and vigorous growth in transport, communications and construction.

Public expenditure is set to increase sharply in 2014, rising from last year’s figure of 36.3 per cent of GDP to 40 per cent. Segura said this would result from using the capital gains tax collected in 2013 (which he suggested would help finance the October general elections), and from the inclusion in the state budget of the non-commercial operations of EMATUM.

Risks over the short and medium term, Segura said, included the impact of climate change, fluctuating international commodity prices, and a potential reduction in foreign aid. Domestic risks included possible delays in the improvements in the railways and ports so essential for the logistics of coal exports, and in expanding the electricity grid.

As for the insecurity arising from clashes, mostly in the central province of Sofala, between gunmen of the former rebel movement Renamo and the Mozambican defence and security forces, Segura brushed it aside as not forming part of the IMF’s projections.

“Our projections and analyses are based on a system of political and social stability. That is our base scenario”, he said.

Back to top

Archaeologists Uncover New Pharaoh Tomb In Egypt

CAIRO, Egypt, Jan 16 (NNN-MENA) – Archaeologists in Egypt believe they have discovered the remains of a previously unknown pharaoh, who reigned more than 3,600 years ago.

The skeleton of King Senebkay was uncovered at South Abydos in Sohag province, about 500 km (300 miles) south of Cairo, by a University of Pennsylvania expedition, working with the government, the Egyptian antiquities ministry said.

Never before heard of in ancient Egyptian history, King Senebkay’s name was found inscribed in hieroglyphics, written inside a royal cartouche – an oval, with a horizontal line at one end, signalling a royal name, the ministry said in a statement.

Photographs released with the statement showed what appeared to be a heavily damaged sarcophagus, in a burial chamber with no roof. Its stone walls were decorated with painted images.

The photos also showed the pharaoh’s skeleton laid out on a white sheet. “He was originally mummified but his body was pulled apart by ancient tomb robbers,” said the caption.

“No funerary furniture was found in the tomb, confirming it had been robbed in the ancient pharaonic ages,” the statement said, quoting Ali al-Asfar, an antiquities ministry official.

In the statement, written in Arabic, Joseph Wegner, head of the expedition, added, “The modesty of the size of the tomb points to the decline of economic conditions in this period.”

The statement dates King Senebkay’s rule to 1650 BC, during a time known as the second intermediate period, when central authority collapsed and small kingdoms sprung up, between the end of the Middle Kingdom and the start of the New Kingdom.

Back to top

Saudi Arabia’s olive complex provides seeds and training

Arab News – 15 January, 2014 – The Kingdom has established an olive complex in Al-Jouf, with more than 30 of the world’s most important and popular varieties, to provide seeds and technical expertise to farmers in various parts of the country.

This provides support for farmers in olive-producing regions in the country. Olives are an important source of food and a good source of healthy fats.

These efforts are part of a larger project to develop the olive industry in the Kingdom currently being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Al-Hashimi Al-Mehri, a senior FAO technical expert in olive production, said that the project began in 2011 and would continue through 2016 to improve olive cultivation in the Kingdom and increase the acreage of high quality olive varieties that are also appropriate to the environment.

It also involves providing training and technical support to farmers on modern technologies and scientific farming operations, he said.

Al-Mehri said that the project has a budget of $ 3.5 million, financed by Saudi Arabia through a funding agreement signed between the agriculture ministry and the FAO.

He said the project would identify olives of commercial importance, train engineers and technicians on how to maintain olive production fields, operate pest control systems, educate farmers on modern planting techniques, and introduce advanced technology for irrigation, fertilization and harvesting.

Al-Mehri said a pilot unit for olive oil extraction and quality control was also established under the project with modern equipment. An olive compressor unit has been set up to enable technicians to carry out research on modern techniques.

Al-Mehri said the project would increase olive production by providing consultancy services suitable to different climates across the Kingdom. Services include the use of mechanization in harvesting, appropriate pruning techniques and identifying water needs.

The technical cooperation between the ministry and the FAO began in 1950, with experts sent to the Kingdom in 1952 to study irrigation in Wadi Jazan. They also inked an agreement for agricultural training in Riyadh, research in Qatif and veterinary training in Hofuf.

Back to top

Qatar Airways Cargo launches new premium services

Gulf Times – 15 January, 2014 – Qatar Airways Cargo has announced the launch of two new premium services that will optimise the transportation of time and temperature sensitive goods, including high-value pharmaceutical products and perishables.

The new services, Q Pharma and Q Fresh, will add to the company’s range of cargo services and further enhance its capacity and flexibility to effectively move sensitive commodities in line with the highest world-class standards.

Q Pharma, which is an air freight service for pharmaceutical and healthcare products, offers both active and passive solutions. The active solution provides temperature-controlled containers which are designed to maintain a constant temperature throughout the entire transportation chain and the passive solution keeps the product within a defined temperature band at all stages of the journey.

“By investing in sophisticated technology and a team of highly qualified staff, Qatar Airways Cargo enables healthcare companies and their logistic partners to ship temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals all over the world while maintaining the integrity and quality of their products throughout the supply chain,” said Ulrich Ogiermann, chief cargo officer, Qatar Airways.

Forecasts released this year by the leading healthcare magazine, Pharmaceutical Commerce, indicate that 11.7% of the overall $ 64bn global pharma logistics spend for 2013 was dedicated to temperature management during transport. With increased global regulation and stricter guidelines on pharmaceutical distribution, the focus on temperature management of such products continues to gain momentum. The introduction of Q Pharma ensures that Qatar Airways Cargo stays on top of these worldwide developments.

The second new service, Q Fresh, is designed for the shipment of perishable products requiring temperature control during transit. Designated airside temperature controlled areas keep shipment at the correct temperature prior to aircraft departure, while a dedicated team actively ensures a seamless movement of perishables to and from the aircraft.

“The innovative Q Fresh solutions maintains all types of perishables at the optimal temperature from arrival at their origin airport through to their final destination, thus preserving their high quality and extending their shelf life,” added Ogiermann.

In the Middle East, it is estimated that fresh produce imports reached 4.1% from total world imports in 2012, valued at$ 4.2bn. GCC alone shared 54% of total imports to the Middle East, worth $ 2.2bn. Q Fresh will not only enable Qatar Airways Cargo to further enhance the supply chain of perishables regionally but also to its more than 40 freighter destinations worldwide.

As an industry leader, Qatar Airways Cargo offers the fastest airline transfer at Doha through its Quick Ramp Transfer (QRT) solution. It is the only carrier in the Middle East to offer refrigerated or ‘reefer’ truck services for ramp transfers at its home hub. Sensitive commodities are collected from and delivered directly to the aircraft by specialised temperature-controlled vehicles, in an effort to ensure that the cool chain process is seamless, thereby eliminating risk to temperature exposure.

“Air cargo standards for handling time and temperature sensitive commodities such as pharmaceuticals and perishables are becoming more stringent, with stricter guidelines on temperature control. Our thorough understanding of the intricacies involved in safeguarding the integrity of these commodities ensures that Qatar Airways Cargo continues to provide meticulous and uncompromised service standards in line with Iata requirements. Our new fleet of climate-controlled vehicles eliminates temperature exclusions and provides a seamless and rapid transfer at our Doha hub,” added Ogiermann.

On December 1, 2013, the first Qatar Airways Cargo shipment was received at the new cargo facility at Hamad International Airport. The sprawling, state-of-the-art facility, spanning over 77,000sq m, contains a perishables storage area, amongst other key facilities such as a live animal centre, and dangerous goods area. Upon full opening in 2015, the new self-containing terminal will handle 1.4mn tonnes of cargo per annum.

Back to top

Bahrain Airshow 2014 to host many attractions

Khaleej Times – 15 January, 2014 – The Bahrain International Airshow that will be held from January 16 to 18 lines-up a host of activities at the Sakhir Airbase.

The public attractions will include four hours of spectacular flying displays, featuring commercial and military aircraft and a range of aerobatic display teams.

Some of the confirmed attractions include UAE’s Al Fursan Aerobatic Team, the Hawks from Saudi Arabia, the Breitling Wingwalkers, the SWIP Twister display team with their amazing night-time display, and the Red Devils parachute team.

The aircraft that will be making an appearance include a UAE Mirage 2000, a UAE F16, a DHL 757 carrier and a Gulf Air A330, alongside an historic Spitfire.

There will also be a wide variety of on-the-ground attractions and activities for the whole family in the newly-expanded public area, which is forty per cent larger than the earlier one with improved facilities including restrooms, prayer rooms and increased capacity for visitors.

Around 20 different kiosks housing restaurants and companies or associations will be present, including new Bahraini cuisine restaurant AlBadgeer, the Parachuting Club and the Coral Diving Centre.

Alongside this, the Heritage Village, developed in coordination with the Ministry of Social Development, will feature handicrafts made by local productive families.

The highly popular vertical wind-tunnel experience will also be returning, allowing visitors to experience open-air flying, above a safety net in tandem with instructors.

Live musical entertainment will also be featured, starting with a children’s band alongside games and prizes in the mornings. In the evenings, local act Salsa Cubana will be entertaining the crowd, accompanied by professional salsa dancers, and DJ Outlaw will also be on stage.

Back to top

Plan to start Swiss watchmaking school in UAE

Khaleej Times – 15 January, 2014 – Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School initiated talks with various parties to set up a branch. The world’s biggest watchmaker is seeking to set up its prestigious school here in an effort to rescue the endangered craft.

Nayla Hayek, chairperson of the Swiss group Swatch and CEO of New York-based jewellery maker Harry Winston, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview that the company has initiated talks with various parties to set up a branch of the Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School here as it feels responsible to preserve and develop the art of horology.

Watch collectors and connoisseurs in the UAE immediately welcomed it as a significant initiative that would not only help preserve the endangered profession but also turn the region into a centre for horological excellence.

The Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School was founded by its eponymous former chairman to address the need to educate a new generation of skilled watchmakers through a comprehensive course developed in partnership with the prestigious Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Programme (Wostep).

Nayla said Swatch Group, main shareholder of the Dubai-based Rivoli group, is looking at various cities in the region, including Dubai, as location is one of the prime issues. “We want to be in a place where students from all nationalities are welcome.”

“We are looking for a location where we can also find enough students,” she added. “Here, we want the school to have full global status,” Nayla defined her priorities.

In the UAE, she said, it is very hard to have full ownership, so the group needs to find a partner who will agree to an open policy.

“Investment is not a problem for us. We are looking for somebody who can really help us — not in terms of money but in ways of assisting to set it up. It has to be a quiet partner. We are not interested in starting a venture where the partner’s interest is making money. This is not something to gain money, it’s rather a commitment to craftsmanship and society,” Nayla explained.

The Nicolas G. .Hayek Watchmaking School has branches in Shanghai in China, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Glashütte and Pforzheim in Germany, Miami in the United States and Hong Kong. There is also a partnership arrangement with the British School of Watchmaking in Manchester.

“Yes, we have the experience of running watchmaking schools in various countries. We have lots of people learning in Switzerland. Our idea is to mould a committed breed of people ready to enter the watchmaking profession with confidence,” Nayla said.

“I am genuinely excited to hear of such a significant initiative taking place in the UAE and the region, with the potential to turn Dubai into a centre for watchmaking excellence,” said Tariq Malik, watch connoisseurs and managing partner and co-founder of Momentum vintage shop in DIFC.

“There are very few institutions in the world today dedicated to preserving and passing on the knowledge and art of watchmaking. Consequently, watchmakers are a very rare and endangered species. Institutions such as the Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School play a vital role in continuing the legacy, bringing the tradition to new markets, and instilling the appreciation and love for watch craftsmanship in young people,” he said.

Tariq said the initiative will also provide support to the high-end luxury watch market in the Middle East, which regrettably does not always provide the appropriate after-sales service locally, given the lack of skilled watchmakers in the region.

“This is paramount, as luxury products are so intrinsically related to excellence and a high-level of customer service. Having skilled people in workshops here means that a watch does not need to be sent to Switzerland for repair.”

According to Swatch, applicants to the Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking Schools go through an arduous five-step admission process. The class sizes are kept small to ensure that each student receives extensive knowledge from master watchmakers on the many mysteries of their trade. The curriculum requires 3,000 hours of classroom study over two or three years, depending on the academic calendar in the country where the school is located.

The Wostep curriculum includes Micromechanics, Mechanical watch, Advanced mechanical and electronic watch, Organisation of after-sales service and Preparation for the Wostep certificate examination.

Back to top

UAE unveils blueprint of Expo 2015 pavilion in Milano

Khaleej Times – 15 January, 2014 – Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 features narrow streets, courtyards reminiscent of UAE of yesteryear.

Visitors to the UAE pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 will be surprised beyond belief as the first blueprint of the pavilion was unveiled on Tuesday. Inspired by Arabian sand dunes, the pavilion will attract visitors from all over the world and offer a window to Arabian heritage and culture.

“The UAE government has invested a lot in this project to show how committed we are,” said Salem Al Ameri, UAE Pavilion Commissioner-General.

The pavilion occupies a large site close to the centre of the Expo and visitors are drawn into the mouth of a canyon-like space, which forms the pavilion’s entrance. Defined by 12-metre-high walls on both sides, the design draws on influences of ancient planning principles. Featuring narrow streets and courtyards reminiscent of the UAE of yesteryear, the walls continue throughout the 140-metre site in a series of parallel waves.

Interestingly, architects commissioned to work on the project have scanned real desert sand to recreate the texture of walls and present shades of sand from all seven emirates.

“Our aim was not simply to create an iconic building but to build a space that is an integral part of our story and of the theme itself. Everything that we have done is connected to the UAE and its efforts to achieve sustainable solutions,” said Gerard Evenden, the project’s leading architect and a senior partner at Foster + Partners.

Stepping inside the pavilion, visitors will be greeted by Emirati hosts who will hand over a mobile device to guide guests. Along the tour, visitors will find company in irrigation canals that run across the site, and will be recreated using digital screens.

At the heart of the display will be a rotating auditorium, which will connect visitors to a special exhibit featuring Dubai as the host city for Expo 2020.

Once inside the auditorium, visitors will be immersed in a 360-degree projection as the entire auditorium will rotate and a film will showcase the UAE story.

Visitors will then disembark at a site, which draws inspiration from TED talks. Full-size virtual presenters will interact with guests who will be motivated to learn more in a surprising, challenging and inspiring ambiance.

At the end of the exhibition trail, visitors reach a green oasis leading into a ground level café, with a formal restaurant on the first floor and a hospitality roof terrace on top.

The landscaping around the pavilion and in the open public areas is designed to evoke the terrain and flora of the UAE.

“It is a unique experience moving through the show and something very special. The second you move into the pavilion, you are in a world of its own. For that moment, you will feel you are in the UAE,” added Gerard.

Every hour, the pavilion will host 785 people and construction of the project will make use of local materials with recycled contents.

The Expo in Milan will see a large participation from the UAE. With Dubai’s successful bid to host the Expo in 2020, expectations have significantly heightened.

The architects worked closely with Masdar and several elements of the pavilion draw inspiration from the Masdar site in Abu Dhabi.

“Masdar is proud to have supported in the design of the UAE Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015,” said Dr Nawal Al Hosany, Director of Sustainability at Masdar.

Most appreciably, the building is designed to get dismantled and rebuilt in Abu Dhabi after the Expo.

“We are planning to bring back the pavilion to Masdar City after the Expo. Not only are we trying to minimise carbon footprint and consumption of water, we will also measure carbon emissions and look at ways to offset it,” she added during the media briefing.

The audio-visual experience at the site will also complement the pavilion’s iconic architecture.

“We are actually using digital technologies in really innovative ways. We have been able to make it a communication mechanism to complement a beautiful piece of architecture. Visitors will never feel they are in a queue and the centerpiece draws on the fantastic success of an emotional film experience,” said Peter Higgins, Creative Director at Land Deisgn Studio, said.

Milan will host the Universal Exposition under the theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’ from May 1 to October 31, 2015. It will host 141 participating countries representing international organisations, civil society and companies.

Back to top

Oman Tourism Ministry lines up promotions for 2014

Oman Tribune – 15 January, 2014 – Year 2014 is going to be important for Oman tourism as the Ministry of Tourism has lined up a series of programmes and international events.

These were expected to bring tourists from different places, turning Oman into one of the most sought after tourist destination in the world.

Right from January to the end of the year, the ministry will be participating in major international events in different destinations across the world to showcase the rich and varied culture of Oman and the state-of-the-art hospitality infrastructure it has built for tourists.

The ministry recently released its calendar for 2014, highlighting its international, regional and local activities aimed at pushing its tourism activities.

“As part of our efforts to promote Oman as a leisure destination globally, MoT will be taking part in, as well as organising, several events throughout the year, internationally and locally,” HE Ahmed Bin Nasser Bin Hamad Al Mahrzi, Minister of Tourism, announced through the ministry’s website.

The ministry is to participate in major travel and tourism trade shows happening in all the countries spread across the continents of America and Australia. It had established 10 offices covering 14 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and the Gulf.

The ministry also recently decided to extend its operations to China, Japan and Korea foreseeing the tourist potential from these countries.

“In 2014, India will be one of the main countries where the ministry will be showcasing its tourism infrastructure. After Asian market, which is one of the largest sources of international arrivals in Oman, the next is Europe. Egypt, North America and other Middle East countries also contribute to the sector,” officials said.

Oman was the only Arab country to be ranked among the ‘20 Top Tourist Destinations in the World’ by National Geographic magazine. Muscat was ranked the second best city in the world by Lonely Planet. The Arab Tourism Ministers’ Council had earlier given Muscat the status of Arab Tourism Capital for 2012.

The Oman government has been giving tourism sector priority as it has contributed 2.4 per cent to the gross domestic product and efforts were on to increase it to 3.5 per cent. The government, as part of boosting the sector, recently opened 33 sites in different areas of the country for investment in tourism to small and medium sized enterprises.

Back to top

Emirates Palace guests exceed 150,000 in 2013

Khaleej Times – 16 January, 2014 – The surge in the guest number at Emirates Palace was observed industry-wide in the last year as over 2.5 million hotel guest checking-in.

Iconic Emirates Palace Hotel Abu Dhabi exceeded expectations in customer satisfaction and earnings in 2013 following a surge in the number of hotel guests, which exceeded 150,000, its senior official said.

Alexander Schneider, manager of Emirates Place, said the revenue per available room (RevPar) in the landmark hotel reached one of its highest levels since the Palace was inaugurated in 2005 due to an increase in room and suite rates of approximately 26 per cent.

The surge in the guest number at Emirates Palace was observed industry-wide in the last year as over 2.5 million hotel guest checking-in, enabling the hospitality industry to hit the target fixed for the whole year, a month early in November, according to the figures released by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).

The Abu Dhabi hotel numbers show November’s arrivals at the emirate’s 149 hotels and hotel apartments rose 26 per cent year-on-year with some 260,810 guests checking in and delivering 856,785 hotel nights, 27 per cent uplift on November 2012.

Abu Dhabi hotel’s occupancy levels for the month lifted 10- 83 per cent and total revenue lunged 19 per cent upwards to Dh669 million.

“Despite the opening of many other luxury hotels and resorts in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Palace has continued to achieve a very high performance over the past years…this proves the hotel is able to maintain the momentum in its business and attract as many visitors as possible given our high level services,” said Schneider.

Asked about new projects and plans, he said work is underway to upgrade some facilities at the hotel, adding that he expected a high demand for 2014.

Other events planned in Abu Dhabi would also give a strong push to the hotel’s business, including the energy summit and other conferences and exhibitions.

In addition, Emirates Palace is proud to host world-leading football teams for this year’s training season again. Emirates Palace is now focusing on lucrative markets such as China, India and Latin America and has already attracted a large number of visitors from these countries, thanks to an increase in flights by Etihad Airways.

“Emirates Palace also hosts many wedding parties by influential families from India, Russia and China, given its positions as a tourism landmark in the emirate,” said Schneider.

He disclosed plans for cooperation between Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi-based twofour54 and the National Media Council to support the hosting of international movie productions in the hotel.

“We will soon embark on several projects with the aim to support the development of the film industry in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “Emirates Palace is the only venue in the region qualified to offer a unique backdrop for film shootings and to curate a movie premiere screening in its auditorium at the same time.”

Back to top

MENA region to see record level of IPO activity in 2014

Khaleej Times – 16 January, 2014 – Initial public offering (IPO) activity in 2014 is expected to touch a record level on the bullish sentiment witnessed in the last quarter of 2013 in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), according to an industry specialist.

The UAE ranked top in terms of IPO issuance during the fourth quarter of 2013 in the region. Dubai Financial Market benchmark index recorded more than 100 per cent jump in 2013 compared to 2012 while capitalisation also increased by more than 40 per cent during the same period.

Total seven IPOs recorded a 133 per cent increase in terms of volume and 114 per cent in terms of value compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Ernst & Young quarterly update.

The largest IPO was from the UAE with Damac Real Estate Development listing on the London Stock Exchange and raising $ 348 million in a global depository receipt (GDR) offering. Two other IPOs from the UAE were also in the UK, with two in Oman and one each in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Tunisia.

“The Mena IPO market is rebounding and recovering. The improving macro-economic backdrop driving up stock market valuations and rising investor confidence in key markets saw the IPO year end on a high. The fourth quarter has seen an increase in both volume and value compared to 2012, registering the highest value of IPOs since 2008,” Phil Gandier, Mena Transaction Advisory Services Leader, EY, said in a statement.

In 2013, 23 Mena IPOs raised $ 3 billion, a 64 per cent increase in terms of volume and 51 per cent increase in terms of value compared to 2012. Tunisia led with nine IPOs, followed by five in Saudi Arabia, four in Oman, three in the UAE and one each in Iraq and Morocco.

“Although IPOs have still not reached pre-financial crisis levels, there has been a notable improvement in performance. The stage is set for this momentum to continue across the region and we expect the strong performance in the US and Europe to reflect in Mena,” Phil said.

Financial services was the leading sector in 2013 by deal volume with seven IPOs, followed by three in the power and utilities sector and two each in transport and the real estate sector

The largest IPO during 2013 was Asiacell Communications in Iraq with a capital raise of $ 1.3 billion. Three IPOs from the UAE (Al Noor Hospital, Damac Real Estate Development Ltd and Action Hotel Plc) raised $ 740.7 million from foreign listings on the London stock exchange in 2013.

“Some issuers have decided to go outside of MENA and it will be interesting to see how this trend of issuers going overseas will develop in the coming year. There is a strong pipeline of good quality businesses preparing to IPO over the next nine months. It usually takes companies 12 to 18 months to get ready to float and there is plenty of preparatory work under way. If the macroeconomic conditions in the region continue to improve, the next 18 months to two years will be quite busy,” Phil said.

“In our Capital Confidence Barometer report, 73 per cent of executives in Mena see the local economy improving, with the highest percentage of confidence being in indicators such as economic growth (70 per cent), employment growth (64 per cent) and credit availability (59 per cent). The confidence in these indicators bodes well for the region as economic growth and credit availability are key drivers for the IPO market,” he said.

Back to top

New medical centre for Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 16 January, 2014 – A leading Bahrain hospital is about to open a new medical and wellness centre in Amwaj Islands as part of its ambitious expansion plans.

The not-for-profit American Mission Hospital (AMH) is officially opening the new centre next Wednesday.

It is also planning to open another centre in Juffair within the next three months and a large hospital in A’ali within the next three years.

AMH chief medical officer and chief executive Dr George Cheriyan said the opening of the Amwaj Islands facility was a major landmark in the hospital’s 110-year history.

“Providing localised care for people close to where they live is the future of healthcare both in Bahrain and the rest of the world,” he explained.

“Only five per cent of patients need to be brought into hospital to receive multi-disciplinary care, which is more than one specialist. Most people can be successfully treated at medical centres and eventually, with the technology we have now, we can facilitate care for people in their own homes.

“This centre is going to greatly improve the availability of healthcare for the relatively new community living in Amwaj. It also has a very nice feel to it; it feels very much like a wellness centre rather than a medical centre. It is by the waterfront and the ambience is very relaxing.”

Although Dr Cheriyan did not disclose the cost of the project, he said it was being paid for with money raised through fundraising drives and revenue generated by the existing hospital. The 900-square metre centre, located on the second floor of an office complex, employs 25 staff including doctors, physiotherapists and pharmacists.

It is also equipped with emergency rooms and consultation rooms, as well as a wellness centre and physiotherapy centre.

Another AMH medical centre, which will include a dental clinic, is due to open in Al Shabab Avenue (American Alley), in Juffair, later this year. The two new centres will treat 3,500 patients every month, in addition to those visiting the main AMH complex in Manama and medical centre in Saar.

Dr Cheriyan revealed that designs were already being drawn up for a 150-bed hospital, bigger than the current one in Manama, to be situated in the A’Ali area.

It is hoped the hospital will be built within the next three years. “Our hospital in Manama is already a busy one and can prove a problem for people when they want to park,” said Dr Cheriyan.

“So for people to be able to access quality healthcare near to where they live signals a big improvement for them, as they don’t have to travel far and it is more convenient.

“That is why our future plans, if everything goes well, involve building a new hospital in the A’ali area. “This will hopefully be bigger than our hospital in Manama, with 150 beds. Designs are being discussed and we hope it will be built in the next three years.” The new Amwaj clinic will be open from 8am until 8pm, seven days a week.”

Back to top

UAE to attract $14.4 billion foreign direct investment

Khaleej Times – 17 January, 2014 – The UAE is expected to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) of $ 14.4 billion in 2014, 20 per cent higher than 2013, according to a top government official.

Last year, the country also recorded a 20 per cent year-on-year growth in FDIs that reached $ 12 billion, Abdulla Al Saleh, Undersecretary, UAE Ministry of Economy, Foreign Trade Sector, told reporters at a news conference in Dubai on Thursday.

“In 2013, the UAE was able to attract three times more FDIs than expected,” Al Saleh said, adding that increased government spending and a significant resurgence in tourism, transport and trade have contributed to this upswing.

He mentioned that FDI jumped by 200 per cent from $ 4 billion in 2007 to $ 12 billion in 2013. The country is the third most attractive country in West Asia for FDIs, he said quoting UNCTAD figures.

Al Saleh said that the country attracts more than 40 per cent of the FDIs inflow into the Gulf countries. “We think we can increase that number further,” he said adding that because the UAE is one of the best countries to attract foreign investment.

He said recent win of Dubai for hosting the World Expo 2020 would significantly boost FDI in services sectors of the country. He said that the UAE had become a tier-one investment destination thanks to its conducive business environment backed by its unique features and advantages like its strategic location, logistics infrastructure, high flexibility and increase inflow of foreign investment. Al Saleh stressed that the UAE has succeeded in attracting foreign direct investment through globalisation and its strong role as a prominent player in the modernised globalised economy.

Al Saleh added that the UAE has the advantages of the ideal economic and investment environment supported by a modern integrated structure of airports and ports, communications, transportation and logistics services.

The country aims to become the best in terms of ease of doing business worldwide, as per the National Agenda that outlines the UAE’s objectives over the next seven years.

The UAE was ranked 14th on the latest A. T Kearney Global Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index (FDICI), which measures present and future prospects for FDI flows. The country’s investor friendly legislation and easy access to fast growing Middle East and African markets have made it a hub for foreign investments, according to the report.

Back to top

Expo 2020 to make UAE hot spot for professionals

Khaleej Times – 17 January, 2014 – According to LinkedIn’s research, the country is winning almost two times more professionals than it is losing.

The UAE is in a strong position ahead of Dubai’s successful Expo 2020 bid, in terms of building its talent pool and becoming home to world-class professionals, the latest research data from LinkedIn has shown.

According to LinkedIn’s research, the country is winning almost two times more professionals than it is losing. The research revealed that 49,000 LinkedIn members have moved to the UAE during 2013, making it the next hot destination for acquiring talent in the Middle East region. LinkedIn, the largest professional network, currently has over one million members in the UAE and over 10 million in the Mena region.

The study also showed that talent is mainly coming from India, the UK and the US internationally and Qatar and Saudi Arabia regionally. Top companies in the UAE that are tapping into this inflow of talent include Etisalat, The Jumeirah Group and Emirates airline.

With the country winning the right to host Expo 2020, more than 200,000 jobs are expected to be created in various sectors as the city prepares for the influx of visitors. The demand for local and international talent will increase dramatically and for companies to understand where to look for candidates, they need to dig into the data behind the inflow of talent, the online network revealed.

Back to top

4th Riyadh Food Festival opens

Saudi Gazette – 15 January, 2014 – After three consecutive successes, the fourth session of the Riyadh Food Festival kicks off today (Wednesday), with the participation of eight of the most important hotels in the Kingdom.

The 12-day festival has been prepared by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

Opening ceremonies will be attended by ambassadors and prominent figures in society. Participants will show the heritage of each country accompanied by special events prepared to give a distinctive atmosphere related to the cuisine choice.

The hotel ceremony will start with the Courtyard Marriott Hotel at six o’clock in the evening. The hotel has chosen Turkish cuisine recruiting special chef and staff from Turkey. At 7 p.m. on the same day, Intercontinental Hotel will present a special Italian cuisine, and then the Radisson Blu follows, at 7:15 p.m. with Spanish cuisine.

On the second day, Makarim Riyadh Hotel opens its activities at 7 p.m. with the theme of Indian cuisine.

The Mashriq Boutique opening ceremony comes on Sunday at 8 p.m. Mashriq has chosen the Lebanese cuisine, presented with special whiffs of Lebanese heritage and folklore.

Moreover, there will be openings in the other hotels, as Ritz-Carlton, who chose Chinese cuisine, Holiday Inn Palace, who chose Egyptian cuisine and Madareem Riyadh, who chose the Saudi cuisine.

The date of the openings will be announced later, but all the hotels will start their activities simultaneously with the start of the festival.

In addition to the opening ceremonies for hotels, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities has prepared a huge opening ceremony to be held on Jan. 18, 2014.

A distinct part of the festival has been allocated to show the Saudi popular dishes and elements of hospitality. Many activities have been prepared for that and are taking place in two of the most known and visited malls in Riyadh – Hayat Mall, and Granada mall.

Events for entertainment and raising awareness were prepared too, in addition to few events for children.

Back to top