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27 Jan, 2014

European businesses rushing to find Iran bonanza

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 27 January 2014 (26 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 will bear the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia” to reflect the diversity in unity of all Malaysians. The Proboscis Monkey has been chosen as the mascot. VMY 2014 will be the biggest and grandest ever tourism celebration with hundreds of events and festivals all lined up to welcome the world. Overall, it is hoped that VMY 2014 will contribute to the Government’s target to receive 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020, as outlined in the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP) 2020. Click here for full details on the VMY 2014 website.

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.




Indonesia promotes cultural diplomacy in Davos

The Jakarta Post, Davos January 25 2014 – Indonesia is using “cultural diplomacy” to promote trade, investment and tourism at the prestigious annual World Economic Forum (WEF), running from Wednesday until Saturday in Davos, Switzerland.

The forum is being attended by 2,500 officials and captains of industries from around the world.

The Trade Ministry teamed up with the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) to hold an Indonesia Night at the Morosani Schweizerhoff Hotel on Thursday to display the country’s rich cultural heritage through cuisine, fashion, jewelry, dance, traditional cosmetics and spa, and other arts products.

The event, under the banner of Remarkable Indonesia, was attended by more than 300 officials and business executives, including WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab, Finance Minister Chatib Basri, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, BKPM chief Mahendra Siregar and Bank Indonesia Governor Agus Martowardojo.

Top Indonesian business leaders, including Bank Mandiri president director Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Bakrie Group CEO Anindya Bakrie, James Riady and John Riady of the Lippo Group and Indika Energy president director Wishnu Wardhana, were also present at the event.

Amid the winter chill of the snow-covered mountain resort town, the guests were warmed by Indonesian food such as nasi goreng (fried rice), a variety of satay (chicken, beef and goat) and rendang (beef simmered in coconut milk and spices), and by songs performed by local singers Joy Tobing, Yemima Putri Alma Lamtiur and Soul ID.

Three famous Indonesian dances were also presented — Bali’s Kecak and Kembang Girang dances and Java’s Kuda Lumping dance.

BKPM chief Mahendra Siregar said that cultural displays like the Indonesia Night would supplement the message that Indonesia was an attractive destination for trade, investment and tourism, backed by its strong economic performance and natural beauty.

Finance Minister Chatib Basri said: “Such a kind of [cultural] diplomacy can be far more powerful and forceful compared to our promoting Indonesia in formal forums.”

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, saw its position jump by 12 places to 38th in the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014.

The country hit a new investment record, drawing Rp 398.6 trillion (US$32.72 billion) last year, up 27.3 percent from 2013, according to BKPM.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) made up 68 percent of the total realized investment, amounting to Rp 270.4 trillion, which was 22.4 percent higher than a year earlier. Japanese investors led the figure, followed by those from Singapore and the United States.

The country’s exports stood at $165.57 billion and imports settled at $171.17 billion in the January-November period last year, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). It was a 5.19 percent decline for exports and a 2.8-percent fall in imports from a year earlier.

The number of inbound tourists rose 9.12 percent to 7.94 million in the same period last year, the BPS said.

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Garuda Indonesia Adds Inflight WiFi to A330 Flights

Monday, 27 January 2014 – Passengers flying with Garuda Indonesia can now use OnAir’s inflight Wi-Fi product, Internet OnAir, throughout the flight. Passengers can visit websites, work on email, and keep up to date on social media. The Wi-Fi service is provided through arrangements made with OnAir’s chosen strategic partner, PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia.

Indonesia’s national airline flies to 33 domestic and 18 international destinations across Asia, Australia, and Europe, and carried more than 20 million passengers in 2012.

OnAir’s services have been installed on Garuda’s existing A330 aircraft and will also be installed on its A330s currently on order. OnAir anticipates adding Mobile OnAir, its GSM service, upon the establishment of an appropriate framework by Indonesian regulatory authorities.

“We are happy to introduce the high quality of our cabin services, and particularly our inflight entertainment,” said Faik Fahmi, Director of Service of Garuda Indonesia. “We focus very strongly on providing a very high quality service through “Garuda Indonesia Experience” which deeply rooted in the rich traditions of our national culture. There is no question that the very best modern flying experience must include inflight connectivity and that the connectivity, like all our services, needs to be the same high level wherever we fly: that is a key reason why we chose OnAir. We are very pleased to be leading the way by being one of the first airlines in the region to provide these services.”

Ian Dawkins, OnAir CEO, said, “We have now reached the point whereby inflight connectivity is a must-have service across the world. In 2014, we expect to see acceleration in interest from airlines, the number of contracts we sign and, most importantly, deployment like today’s service launch with Garuda Indonesia.”

In total, 20 airlines currently operate OnAir connectivity.

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Jennifer Grout confirms reverting to Islam

Boston, Sunday, 25 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 26 January 2014 (IINA) – Though denying an earlier video claiming her reversion to Islam, US singer Jennifer Grout has confirmed the news, adding that she has started to pray, learn Qur’an and pay Zakat, according to a report in Gulf News.

“Actually the video that everyone has seen is part of a Moroccan film I made before my performance aired on Arabs Got Talent,” Grout said. “And I originally was upset, and mostly scared, that it ended up on the internet, because I hadn’t even gotten the chance to tell my family and closest friends about Islam before there were headlines everywhere saying I’d converted. “However, now that it’s out there, maybe it’s a positive thing — I am not ashamed of what I believe in,” she added in an email interview.

Grout is an American singer who fascinated the Arab world after reaching the final three of the talent competition “Arabs Got Talent”. After the competition, the 23-year-old singer, originally from Boston, went to Morocco to learn both the Amazigh language and Moroccan Arabic. Earlier this month, a video was posted on YouTube showing her making the Shahada declaration of faith. In the video, in which she recited the shahada, Jennifer appeared with a young man, allegedly her fiancé, and another man in an atmosphere of friendliness and tolerance.

Grout, who lives in Morocco, explained that she has not gone to the mosque to “confirm her conversion with an Imam or get it on paper”. “But I say the shahada from my heart. I have recently started to perform the [five] daily prayers.” She also plans to fast during Ramadan later this year and she is also “trying to be more generous so to practice zakat”. “Those are the most important things, and of course I’m trying to educate myself about it, to know more about the meaning of the Quran, Islam’s history… I read somewhere that Islam is not a state of being, but a process of becoming, and that really rings true for me.” The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.

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OIC Chief Advocates Defeating Islamophobia Through Coexistence Among Faiths and Beliefs

21/01/2014 – The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani, expressed his Organisation’s concern over the rising phenomenon of Islamophobia and the serious levels it has reached, thus exposing Muslims to all forms of stereotyping discrimination in many Western societies. He further added. “We have no other option but to build and develop the culture of tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence towards each other’s faith and cultural values, away from any scenarios of clashes or conflicts on religious or cultural grounds”.

In his address, delivered on his behalf by the OIC Director General of Cultural, Social and Family Affairs, Dr. Abubaker Ahmed Bagadar, to the 8th Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers held in Medina on 21 – 23 January 2014 under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, Mr. Iyad Madani urged the ministers to take the necessary steps to organize workshops and cultural events both domestically and outside “to defeat those who seek to spread a wrong image about Islam”.

The Secretary General also indicated that the OIC had taken many steps in favour of achieving a consensus of opinion at the international level on the issues related to discrimination on religious ground, through the evolvement of a new approach in combating this phenomenon, based on the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Right included under Human Rights Council Res. No.16/18 such as to have helped steer away from controversy on the resolution relevant to the defamation of religions. Through the Istanbul Process, the OIC has been steadily following a collective strategy with its partners in favour of an effective implementation of the said resolution in different countries.

During the conference which was inaugurated by Prince Faisal Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz, the Secretary General also reaffirmed that the OIC welcomed the sagacious initiative taken by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque, in the form of the inter-faith dialogue which King Abdullah, had launched in Makkah Al Mukarramah in 2008 and promoted in the international Conference in Madrid and in the UN General Assembly in New York, an initiative which has met since with extensive support and respect from world leaders. In this respect, he added, a new page has been opened with the inauguration of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interfaith and Inter-Cultural Dialogue in Vienna, which aims at building bridges between civilizations and cultures to combat fanaticism and religious hatred.

On another front, the Secretary General evoked before the ministers the painful and serious wound which threatens the Islamic cultural heritage, historical monuments and institutions due to Israel’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories. He noted that the continued excavation works and the destruction of historical and cultural landmarks in Al-Quds/Jerusalem, the City which is held as most Holy not only by Muslims, form a direct affront and humiliation to humanity at large and a pathetic attempt to judeize the City. This, he said, makes it incumbent upon the OIC representation office to the UNESCO to act, together with the OIC Group, for the adoption of a strong and binding resolution to put an immediate end to this exaction and to ensure the protection of the Islamic cultural and historical landmarks in Al-Quds.

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Jordanian Tourism minister discusses cooperation with Palestinian counterpart

Amman, Jan 21. (Petra) — Minister of Labour and Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nidal Qatamin discussed on Tuesday with Palestinian Minister of Tourism Rola Maayah ways to improve cooperation between the two countries.

The two officials also discussed ways to promote the Jordanian and Palestinian historical and archaeological sites, especially for the purpose of religious tourism.

They agreed to draft a framework for memorandum of cooperation in this regard. Qatamin and Maayah also agreed to hold other meetings to discuss developments in the tourism sector in Jordan and Palestine. The two officials called for a meeting with travel and tours agents in both countries to discuss joint cooperation.

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Jordanian delegation visits Bethlehem

Ramallah, Jan. 26 (Petra) — A delegation representing the General Association for Workers in Mining and Metal Industries on Sunday visited the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The delegation, which was led by President of the General Union of Jordanian Miners, Workers in Mining and Metal Industries, Khalid Fanatseh, met with the President of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, Mahmoud Abu Odeh, who briefed them on the Palestinian labour sector in Bethlehem and hardships it faces as a result of the Israeli occupation.

Abu Odeh also accompanied the delegation on a visit to the Church of Nativity and briefed them on the tourism sector in the city.

He also highlighted the strong ties between the two associations.

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Mastering More Languages Can Help Students Excel – Malaysian PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 (Bernama) — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today the ability to master more languages can help a student to perform better at studies.

“The more languages we master, the broader becomes our view. This ability helps a student to excel,” he said in his latest post on Twitter.

In the same post, Najib uploaded a link to the Bernama news story yesterday quoting Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh as saying that students who wanted to do better in their studies should master more than two languages, including English.

Idris had said that besides mastering English and their respective mother tongues, the students should attain mastery in various languages spoken in advanced nations to acquire knowledge either through reading or speech.

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Muslim Imam’s Synagogue Sermon Unites Faiths

OnIslam & Newspapers Sunday, 19 January 2014 CAIRO – A leading American Muslim imam has delivered a special unprecedented sermon last Friday, after addressing more than 1000 people from different faiths at New England’s largest synagogue.

“We have to be able to take each other as brothers and sisters,” Imam Suhaib Webb, imam of the biggest mosque in New England and guest speaker at Temple Israel’s annual Shabbat Tzedek (Sabbath of Justice), said in his sermon, The Boston Globe reported.

“We have to learn to forgive each other, and we have to learn to not believe the things we are told about each other before we sit and face each other, and get to know each other, and hug each other, and love each other, and cry together, and share together.”

Webb, the first imam to formally speak at Temple Israel, which was founded in 1854, was speaking during the event held to honor the life and vision of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The speech was anticipate to end past tensions between Muslims and Jews in Boston, promoting interfaith work between Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders over the past years.

Relations between the communities have been slightly affected in the last decade during the construction of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, which critics charged was backed by extremists.

“I look at this as an initial opportunity that opens the doors to further exploration, that points toward deeper understanding, trust, and relationship,” Rabbi Ronne Friedman, Temple Israel’s senior rabbi, told Boston Globe after the service.

Webb said the communities need to begin to build “a relationship based on, ‘Hey, I know these people.’ ”

During Friday’s event, the vast sanctuary was packed with an extraordinary diverse congregation. There were men in yarmulkes, women wearing headscarves, some in suits and dresses, and others in jeans.

“What’s historic about this is it signals a new era in terms of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim communities” working together, Rev. Gloria White-Hammond of Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain, who offered a prayer at the service, said adding that over the last 15 to 20 years, the city has seen great collaboration between Christians and Jews.

“Clearly, we have the right people, here at the right time, and a great sense of collaboration,” she added.

Imam Webb was at the center of interest during Friday’s event, widely praised as having a keen interest in building interfaith relationships. Working with Yusufi Vali, who served as a community organizer for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization before he became the mosque’s executive director, Webb has offered Christian and Jewish leaders an access point to Boston’s Muslim community.

“We see with Imam Webb and Yusufi’s presence over the last two years at the mosque a real attempt and desire to engage significantly, not only to build, but also to connect,” Rabbi Friedman said. “They are really interested in creating an authentic . . . progressive tradition of American Islam. That really means connecting to other faith groups in the community and to other civic organizations and institutions in the community.”

The Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, rector of Trinity Church, said that in crisis moments — the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or the Marathon bombings, for example — “many of us do the right thing.

“But to work at this ongoing relationship-building, and in this case, to have that wonderful Jewish community listen to the imam respectfully speak in their holy place — that is a really big deal,” he said. “When the imam, the major leader of the Muslim community, steps into the pulpit of, of all things, the key temple of the city, that is a momentous moment.”

Rabbi Matthew V. Soffer of Temple Israel, who specializes in work with people in their 20s and 30s, was also working with Vali to plan an occasion to bring younger generations from different faiths together.

“We have both anticipated that this is not going to be a one-off gathering,” Soffer said. “The point of this is to really build a bridge and kick off something that is going to be lasting and enduring.”

Attendants praised the event as building better relations inside the community.

“I think we need to embrace and encourage it, so it can grow,” Sogol Javaheri of the Fenway, who attended with her 14-month-old daughter, Mariam, said of the new dynamic among the religious communities. It’s up to us to make it happen.”

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Sydney women reverting to Islam

Sydney, Tuesday, 20 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 21 January 2014 (IINA) – Admiring the way Islam treats women; Julia Moukhallalati, a Sydney young woman, challenged her parent’s Orthodox Christian upbringing to revert to Islam.

“My parents pushed me to be Orthodox but they never had answers to my questions,” Moukhallalati, 22, told Australia’s The Sunday Telegraph, on January 19. The young woman, who reverted to Islam four years ago when she was only 18, asserted that she has always been fascinated with Islam and the way it puts women on a pedestal. “As soon as I started studying it I knew I had to be a part of it,” she said. “I loved how a woman was treated. She is treated like a rare diamond, she is honored in the family.”

According to the Australian New Muslim Association, Moukhallalati is one of almost one hundred people who revert to Islam in Sydney each year. Australian Muslim Women’s Association head Silma Ihram herself reverted to Islam during a trip to Indonesia in 1976 at 24. The association estimates two-thirds of the converts they see each year are female, with more than 60 per cent converting because of their husbands or partners. This was not the case for Moukhallalati who found Islam before meeting her Lebanese-Australian husband Raed.

Seeing him for the first time while asking about halal meat in a restaurant, they married just three months later. Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity. Defending her new faith, Moukhallalati believes it was her duty to spread the true word of Islam by correcting misconceptions long associated with it. “It’s pretty sad. There are some Muslims who are extreme, but I believe in moderation,” she said.

“It’s the best thing I have done, but make sure they (converts) go to the right source. A lot of information on the internet could not really be what Islam teaches. “You want to learn the truth as Islam is, not how some people portray it to be.” Moukhallalati added that she loves her Islamic headscarf, or hijab, giving her more pride and beauty. “I put in more pride and effort with the scarf on,” she said. “Now that I’m scarfed I feel more beautiful.” Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

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Islam Blooms in Panama

OnIslam & News Agencies Thursday, 23 January 2014 CAIRO – The number of Muslim reverts in the Central American republic of Panama has been growing rapidly over the past years, laying the basis of their community in the country’s first native mosque.

“This is the first time we have a place for Panamanians,” Bianca Chanis, a Panamanian Muslim revert told Religious Patches magazine on Wednesday, January 22, while describing the nation’s first worshipping house for Muslims. “And everyone’s welcome.”

For years, a growing number of Muslim reverts in the Central American republic has faced challenges towards establishing their first mosque.

Their dream came true last November after the community opened Al Haqq mosque, nine years after the first call was made in 2005 by Josefina Bell-Munajj and Khadijah Jackson.

The mosque, though not the first Muslim worshipping house, was praised as catering to the native Panamanians reverting to Islam.

Moreover, the mosque would serve as a haven for people interested in getting more information about Islam or spearheading interfaith initiatives in the community. The mosque was not the only challenge facing the growing Muslim community in Panama.

Muslim parents have been struggling to offer Islamic education to their children. “We try to teach him Islam, but school confuses him,” said Anais Gobea, a Panamanian mother who reverted to Islam four months ago, about her son who attends a public school and get confused with the Catholic education.

Campaigning for mosque was not the only effort spearheaded by Bell-Munajj and Khadijah Jackson. In 2011, they started religious classes for a small group of women in a room they borrowed from a local Muslim dentist. They started with ten people in 2011 and increased to thirty by the next year.

“We started feeling the urgency to get a new space because we were bursting out the room,” Bell-Munajj, Al haqq co-founder, said.

Islam reached Panama in the mid-16th century through the African Muslim slaves who came to work in mines at that time. Muslims from Lebanon, Palestine, India, Pakistan, and West Indian countries started to influx to Panama in the twentieth century.

The diverse Muslim community in Panama has brought different practices of Islam to the Central American country. The establishment of Al Haqq mosque by two native women has drew criticism from some members of the Panamanian Muslim community.

“Islamic culture says that when men are around, women should support them,” said Abdul Kabir Malik, one of the first Panamanian Islamic leaders in the country who reverted to Islam in the 1970s.

A different opinion was shared by Walid Handauz, an Arab leader in the Centro Islamico Cultural mosque, who asserted that Islam has united different cultures in Panama. “We try to gather everyone in one basic road,” Handauz claimed.

The Number of Panamanians joining Islam is rapidly growing, according to Ahmad Bhattay, a leader at Panama City’s Jama Mosque.

The diverse Muslim community in Panama comprises Muslims from different origins and cultures. The thriving community started recently to draw native followers besides the Muslim immigrants who are mainly from Lebanon, Palestine, Indian and Pakistan.

Bhattay claims that more than 500 Muslims attend the Friday prayer at Jama Mosque, besides two or three new converts attending the mosque every week.

He refuted allegations about discrimination inside the Muslim community in Panama. “Maybe ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, there was,” Bhattay said, adding that people are open to attend events at whichever mosque they prefer.

According to the latest tallies released in 2009, Muslims make less than 1% of Panama’s population with 24,000 Muslims who are concentrated in Panama City and Colón. Most Muslims in Panama live in the major cities of Panama City and Colón, with smaller numbers in other provincial cities.

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Hijab Project: Sharing Veil Experiences

OnIslam Staff Thursday, 23 January 2014 CAIRO – Aiming to defy misconceptions surrounding hijab, a US Muslim teen has launched a social experiment project in which Muslim and non-Muslim women were invited to try hijab in public places and share their experience.

“The Hijab Project is a social experiment that I’d like girls—both Muslim and non-Muslim—to begin,” Amara Majeed, the founder of the project, wrote on The Hijab Project website.

“Try on your own headscarf to school, the mall or other public place, and observe the reactions that people give you. Are you looked at differently?

“Do people treat you differently? Then, share your experience here! If you currently wear a hijab, tell us your hijab story,” Majeed wrote.

Being a Muslim living in the states, 16-year-old Majeed started project in a bid to bridge the gap between Islam and other faiths and convey the true-message of modesty behind hijab.

“A bridge of understanding needs to be built between Muslims and non-Muslims,” she wrote.

“And experiencing the lifestyle of a growing and often misunderstood culture in America is vital to shedding the lack of knowledge that many people have regarding Islam as a religion,” she added.

The project invites women to share their experience with hijab at the website, The Hijab Project, aiming to underscore hijab as a women choice and highlight the prestigious status granted to women in Islam.

“Often times, people think that Muslim women are forced into wearing hijab by male relatives. In Islam, everything is based on intention,” Majeed wrote.

Launched last December, the project has achieved a global progress, reaching hundreds of women across the globe, according to Majeed.

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

The status of women in Islam is often the target of attacks in the secular media, with many citing the Islamic dress as an example of the “subjugation” of women under Islamic law.

Yet, the truth is that 1400 years ago, Islam recognized women’s rights in a way that grants them the utmost protection and respect as well, a combination other systems fail to offer.

Islam granted them freedom of expression, political participation, business and financial rights, and asked the rest of society to hold them in high esteem and offer them due respect as mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters.

Participating in the social experiment, a Christian school student said that wearing hijab made her feel protected, granting her a different image about Islam.

“Initially, I found wearing a Hijab somewhat uncomfortable – I had wrapped it too tight, and my peripheral vision was covered,” the girl, who posted her photo in hijab without a name wrote on the project’s website.

“But as the week continued, I found wearing the Hijab gave a sense of protection, as well as warmth,” she added.

“These past few days have given me a different view of Islam, and especially in a society which I find often condemns Islamic practices, I know I will be a sure advocate for social acceptance and awareness.”

Sharing her experience as a veiled woman, a 20-year-old website visitor said: “Where are the most precious pearls found- under the sea, hidden. Gold? Deep in mines.”

“The best of things are hidden, so protect yourself,” the young woman added.

A Muslim college student shared her story about being reluctant to wear hijab.

Trying it for the first time, the Muslim girl said: “I had forgotten to take it off, but it felt like the most natural thing in the world to be wearing it.

Posting her experience, the girl added: “Wearing the hijab made me feel like at last, I was free from people’s expectations of me.”

“I was doing something that was purely for me and my relationship with Allah, the girl added at the website. I wore the hijab for myself and Allah, not for other people.”

Another Muslim girl wrote about her experience with hijab, which she was forced to wear since she was ten.

At the first day of college, she decided to disobey her family and take off hijab. “I took off my hijab, and went to my first class with my carefully curled hair flying in the wind,” she said.

Yet, after taking off her hijab she was disappointed and felt devastated.

“People walked by me just like they normally did, and no one was extra friendly or overly nice to me. I sat in the back row, feeling devastated. I felt horrible inside, wishing I could run to the bathroom and cover my hair. Even though there were guys everywhere, I didn’t get the attention I had originally hoped for.”

The experience made her realize the true meaning of hijab, taking a final decision to wear it. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of participants are expected to mark the second World Hijab day next February 1.

The event, held for the second consecutive year, was first suggested by New York woman Nazma Khan to encourage non-Muslim women to don the hijab and experience it.

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Riyadh metro to be 73 km underground

Islam.ru / 24 Jan 2014 – More than 73.4 km of the metro in the capital would be underground.

One of the world’s largest metro projects, this automatic driverless network will be over 170 km and have 87 stations on six lines, and is scheduled for completion in 2018, said the High Commission for the Development of Riyadh (HCDR).

The HCDR said the SR30-billion train network would have the tunnels concentrated in the most densely populated parts of the city with the most traffic congestion.

The underground tunnels are 41.7 percent of the total length of the project. This includes the 12.9-km King Abdulaziz line from King Abdullah Road to the King Abdulaziz Historical Center. About 3.3 km of the King Abdullah Road line will be underground, while the middle part of the 17.3 km Al-Olaya/Al-Batha line will consist of one tunnel that will extend from Al-Murooj neighborhood to Qasr Al-Hukum area.

The HCDR said that 10.7 percent of the metro would run on the level of the city’s roads over 18.9 km. About 47 percent of the metro, or 83.8 km, would run on elevated overpasses in the northern, southern and western parts of the city.

The HCDR stated previously that the project has assigned a color code for each line through the city. The blue metro serves the Olaya-Batha line, green the King Abdullah Road line, red the Madinah-Prince Saad bin Abdulrahman Al-Awal line, orange the King Khaled Airport Road line, yellow the underground tunnel line along King Abdulaziz Street between King Abdulaziz Historical Center and the Riyadh Airbase, and the purple the Abdulrahman bin Auf and Al-Sheikh Hassan bin Hussain line.

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British Muslims Walk For Gaza

Onislam, 24/01/2014 LONDON – Thousands of British Muslims and non-Muslims answered the call of a British-based international relief and development NGO to walk for Gaza, demonstrating their support to the Palestinian cause and raising funds to help the war-stricken strip.

“Saving Gaza children is essentially saving Gaza,” one of Walk for Gaza’s organizers told OnIslam.net.

Wrapped up warm with maps and refreshments, thousands of British people will take on the 5 miles of chilly terrain to raise funds for the children of Gaza on Saturday, January 25.

The Winter Walk for Gaza, held for the sixth year, has been organized by Muslim Hands in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester to finance its charitable programs in eastern Gaza.

Focused on bringing relief to the children of Gaza, the organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout the past years, determined to make a difference in the lives of Palestine’s forgotten children.

Offering a helping hand to Gaza children, isolated by Israel and mostly ignored by the international community for a lack of media coverage, Muslim Hands project represent a crucial lifeline for Gaza community.

Last year hundreds of Winter Walkers braved the freezing temperatures at London’s Hyde Park and Manchester’s Heaton Park and raised a staggering £117,000 to help Gaza’s children.

With Winter Walks taking place in Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester in the next few weeks, the Muslim NGO said they were hoping to raise a lot more, making it possible for Gaza’s children to receive psychosocial care and medical check-ups in a part of the world where there is not enough help available.

To achieve its aims, Muslim Hands chose to focus its efforts on bringing to the region medical relief by rehabilitating East Gaza only children hospital, Al Durrah Hospital.

Dr Ahmad Shatat, Al Durrah Deputy Head Department, explained in a video published on YouTube in 2013 how Muslim Hands has enabled children to rise above the physical and psychological trauma of war.

In 2013, Gaza Health Ministry hailed Muslim Hands’ efforts in providing medical care for Gaza children and their families, noting, “We would like to thank Muslim Hands staff and donors for their efforts in the development of Al-Durrah hospital which will have a positive impact on the patients and the doctors alike.”

Inspired by Muslim Hands’ efforts, British Muslims have shown incredible resourcefulness in helping the organization raise awareness toward Gaza children cause.

“Outside of all my work, I’m quite into my sports and recreational activities so when I read up on this Winter Walk for Gaza event, I thought… LET’S DO THIS! :D,” Thania Mukith, a British Muslim wrote on a special fundraising page she set on JustGiving.

“Main reason was because of what’s been happening recently in Palestine… I want to do what I can to help support these kids who are pretty much caught in the cross-fire.

“Gaza is highly overpopulated, with around 1.5 million people living in severe conditions, with very limited access to aid and support and they experience conflict on a regular basis.”

Mukith, who managed to raise over $1400, was moved by the terrible life children face in Gaza which added to their depression or psychological trauma.

“Children often become human targets. If a child is waking up to the sounds of bombs dropping over their homes, seeing lives lost in front of their eyes and forced to live ‘on-the-run’ to protect themselves from any danger…most likely, that child will suffer from some kind of depression or psychological trauma,” she wrote.

“Your money will allow ‘Muslim Hands’ to help provide psychological support and therapy to children who live in fear and help them overcome these fears and challenges. It’s sad and quite frankly… unacceptable. Children should have the right to play, not fear for their lives…”

But Thania is not the only one to have felt inspired.

Rishandeen from London said “such organizations (Muslim Hands) are keeping the hope alive … Thank you Muslim Hands for caring so deeply for Gaza children.”

Reema Al Khalifa who participated last year said the experience profoundly made a difference in her life, as she realized that people could really make a difference once pulled together as a unit.

“Gaza is us and we are all Gaza … so let’s all stand for each other and support our children in their hour of need!”

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Malaysia: Sustainable Tourism Major Contributor To Economy

KUCHING, Malaysia Jan 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Sustainable tourism development is no longer just a mere cliché, but has become a major contributor to a more environmentally sustainable economy, said Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

He said that with the right investment, tourism can be a lead change agent in the move to a green economy by driving economic growth and job creation. “At the same time, it simultaneously improves resource efficiency, minimises environmental degradation as well as raises environmental awareness among travellers,” he said in his welcoming speech at the Asean Tourism Conference 2014, here, today.

Mohamed Nazri said that with a positive outlook, Asean members were motivated to mainstream tourism as a priority sector to drive economic growth globally andfor the Southeast Asian region.

In this regard, he said, many countries had chosen tourism development as one of the main pillars of their economic and national development. Mohamed Nazri said that as Asean members intensified their efforts to advance tourism together, they would create more jobs and generate more incomecompared with the outcome of working in silos.

“We will certainly make a significant difference through better networking, coordination and cooperation, thus raising the economic well-being and qualityof life of the people to a much higher level,” he said.

He said that according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) study, ‘Tourism Towards 2030 – Global Overview’, international tourist arrivals for the period 2012 to 2030 were predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 3.3 per cent.

The minister said tourist arrivals were forecast to increase from 940 million in 2012 to 1.8 billion in 2030. “This accounts for an expansion in market size of 900 million international tourists in 2030,” he said.

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Tourists Flow To Bahrain Despite Foreign Media Bias

MANAMA, Jan. 21 (NNN-AGENCIES) — The speedy road to normality could be attributed to the sole development foundations of Bahrain and its loving and dedicated people who put the interests of their nation as top priority. Troubles and disturbances can’t take away the charm of Bahrain. The kingdom is vital to other GCC countries.

Bahrain moves fast towards full recovery from the political crisis in 2011. The speedy road to normality could be attributed to the sole development foundations of Bahrain and its loving and dedicated people who put the interests of their nation as top priority.

Although people in the kingdom are moving freely and safely to almost all parts of the country, foreign media remains unjust in reporting about the country. Reports and articles by various news agencies could leave an impression on the readers abroad that Bahrain is a war zone and people are living in fear. This is not the reality.

“Bahrain passed the danger phase and has emerged stronger from the experience,” Chief of Public Security, Major-General Tariq Al Hassan asserted in an interview with the London-based Al Sharq Al Awsat newspaper early this month.

He said that although the crime rates had dropped drastically the situations weren’t perfect and attacks took place in Manama, although the police dealt with such crimes firmly.

“Bahrain’s image in the media is distorted. Since the outbreak of the crisis in 2011, we have been subjected to a smear campaign by the media to the extent that two satellite channels had to formally apologise for broadcasting inaccurate information,” he said, adding that the coverage was biased from the outset and did not portray the real situation.

Journalist and political analyst, Abdulwahab Baderkhan, endorsed the views of the public security chief about the exaggeration of the foreign media.

He told Bahrain News Agency during his visit to the country last year that security situation was normal here and disturbances were limited to few areas. “I visited Bahrain several times after 2011 and I think situations are safe and normal, opposite to what the foreign media likes to highlight about Bahrain,” he said.

There are many indications of the safety and security in Bahrain, especially the recent announcement that real estate trading was up by 30 per cent in 2013. The Survey and Land Registration Bureau (SRLB) last week released a report highlighting that the overall volume of real estate trading in Bahrain grew by 30 per cent in 2013 to top BD861.963.154, up by around BD200 million, as compared with the 2012 year-end figures.

Tourism has also witnessed a boost and is moving to achieve the goals as the tourism movement shows signs of recovery as well as travel and hotel bookings.

Acting Undersecretary of Tourism Shaikh Khalid bin Hamood Al Khalifa said that a special policy had been designed to attract more tourists and investments in the tourism sector.

He said tourism revenues of Bahrain reached more than BD9 million in 2013 and booking of rooms at hotels surpassed 10,000.

The drafting of a new policy comes in line with the announcement of a cultural ministry strategy framed to promote cultural identity and investment in tourism.

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) is taking part in elaborating the new blueprint, along with tourism experts and concerned government departments.

The new-look national strategy will also focus on attracting regional and international tourism to Bahrain.

Bahrain aspires to provide over 12,000 hotel rooms in 2015, up from 9,000 rooms in 2012. Meanwhile, according to the Central Informatics Organisation, the number of guests in 2012 in 1 to 5 stars hotels reached 1.13 million.

Bahrain consolidated its status as the prime destination for Saudi tourists. According to latest official figures, 52 per cent of tourists who travelled to Bahrain hailed from Saudi Arabia.

The development in the sector could be attributed to many elements, especially the “Manama the Capital of Arab Tourism 2013” initiative that puts Bahrain on the map of international tourism sector and minds of tourists across the world.

To increase the number of tourists, tourism authority works to attract more cruise ships to Bahrain. The season got underway in November 2013 with the arrival of the luxury MS Europa 2, at the Khalifa Bin Salman Port.

It will make another stop before late February, along with 15 other ships from Aida Cruises, which regularly comes to Bahrain.

The Aida Diva brought in around 2,000 tourists to Bahrain, while every vessel that berths in the country is said to be worth around $300,000 to the economy.

The leadership of Bahrain is also highlighting the full recovery of the country, as Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa stated last week that the kingdom’s increasing trade and economic indicators reflected its stability and proved the recovery of its economy. These were the result of the government’s strong resolve to strengthen the pillars of national security and stability and put in place favourable and ambitious investment services and opportunities, pledging keenness to continue attracting more investments into the country.

Meanwhile, Bahrain’s non-oil growth set to accelerate in 2014 with robust expansion of the country’s economy gathered further momentum last year with headline GDP growth by close to 5 per cent.

The expansion in 2013 has been above all driven by substantial gains in the oil and gas sector where output levels rebounded to capacity after technical disruptions.

At the same time, key drivers in the non-oil sector are strengthening and will make an increased contribution to the continued expansion of Bahrain’s economy in 2014, according to the latest Bahrain Economic Quarterly (BEQ), issued by the Economic Development Board (EDB).

Bahrain’s national economy has bounced back, growing by 4.6 per cent rate of growth in the third quarter of 2013. The overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant prices stood at BD2696 million in the 3rd quarter of last year, up from BD2577.1 million in the same period in 2012.

CIO Chairman Dr Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Amer said that most oil and non-oil sectors posted different rates of growth.

The oil sector played a pivotal role as the driving engine of the national economy, contributing to the overall growth rate by 45 per cent thanks to rising prices in world market and soaring production. The other economic sectors contributed to the overall growth rate by a major bulk of 55 per cent.

With its rich history and previous and current milestones Bahrain has all it takes to eliminate some security disturbances that mostly limited to remote areas. Those who have some doubts should come and visit the ancient island to enjoy its heritage and modern development.

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Malaysia: Sabah State Eyes 40,000 Japanese Tourists

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia Jan 21 (NNN-Bernama) — The Sabah state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry targets to attract 40,000 Japanese tourists to Sabah this year.

Its minister Masidi Manjun said the number was seven per cent out of the targeted 600,000 tourists from the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’ to visit Malaysia in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014, which also coincides with the 57th anniversary of the Japan-Malaysia relationship.

“Over the years, many Japanese have visited Malaysia. But sadly, there was a decline in Japanese arrivals to Sabah, from 31,554 in 2011 to only 26,000 in 2012, due to the cancellation of Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) direct flights between Kota Kinabalu and Tokyo and Osaka.

“But due diligence by tour operators, such as H.I.S Travel and JTB Travel, in bringing Japanese tourists to Sabah via five charter flights – two flights from Fukuoka, two from Nagoya and one from Osaka — has increased the number of Japanese arrivals by 27.6 per cent or 27,992 last year,” he said in a statement here today.

Masidi was on an official visit to Tokyo recently. He hoped the re-instatement of MAS’ direct flights between Kota Kinabalu and Tokyo, at thrice weekly, would encourage more Japanese to visit Sabah and that MAS would bring back the Kota Kinabalu-Osaka flights.

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More China Tourists Expected To Visit Malaysia In Future

KUCHING, Malaysia Jan 22 (NNN-Bernama) — More China tourists are expected to beat a path to Malaysia in future, following the airing of two documentaries on Malaysia, together with another five Asean members by the Asean-China Centre.

Asean-China Centre secretary-general Ma Mingqiang said one of the documentaries was about the unique food delights food of Malaysia, while the other focused on the Malaysian life and social realities.

He said both documentaries were completed last May and it would be aired nationwide in China, via the national television station, namely China Central Television (CCTV) by next month.

“The move will showcase what Malaysia and Asean look like, and this could enhance the Chinese (tourists) in Malaysia,” he told reporters on the sideline of Travel Exchange 2014 (Travex 2014) held here today, in conjunctionwith the Asean Tourism Forum 2014.

According to Mingqiang, between January and November last year, 11.3 million Chinese tourists visited Asean countries. Of the number, about 1.6 million cameto Malaysia.

The Asean-China Centre was set up in November 2011 in Bali, Indonesia. Among others, its aim was to promote two-way flows of investment between Asean and China, as well as promote tourism between both parties.

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Saudia allows 10 liters of Zamzam free on its flights

Jeddah, Thursday, 22 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 23 January 2014 (IINA) – Now international passengers flying Saudi Arabian Airlines can carry 10 liters of Zamzam for free.

Abdullah Al-Ajhar, assistant executive director general of Saudia for public relations, said that the free allowance will be given only to those passengers who travel from Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport and Prince Muhammad International Airport in Madinah. The decision is part of the Saudi flag carrier’s move to improve the services for Haj and Umrah pilgrims as well as visitors to the Two Holy cities. The bottled water will be from the King Abdullah Zamzam Water Bottling Plant in Makkah, Al-Ajhar said.

Until now, the weight of Zamzam was taken as part of the baggage on Saudia flights. Zamzam is an important gift pilgrims take back home. But they always found it difficult to carry Zamzam cans because of the extra baggage allowance they had to pay.

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AGFUND opens first bank in Philippines

Riyadh, Monday, 19 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 20 January 2014 (IINA) – The Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND) has decided to expand its program to Southeast Asia, which will be inaugurated in the Philippine’s capital, Manila, for the first time this week, Arab News reported.

In a statement, AGFUND Executive Director Nasser Al-Qahtani said that such a project in the region is a new step that reflects a positive attitude toward developing communities through the project. AGFUND has established similar banks in many Arab countries in order to provide income and jobs to local communities. Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz, AGFUND president, will be departing this week to Manila to inaugurate the micro-finance bank in partnership with the Philippine government and the private sector. AGFUND bank is expected to grow and marks an expansion of the organization’s services in the Southeast Asian regions.

Al-Qahtani said that AGFUND will serve as host during the inaugural forum in the presence of the Larry Reed, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and AGFUND representatives based in banks in Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, Sierra Leone. He said “the bank is to be launched in Manila as part of a comprehensive initiative aimed at integrating the poor into the process, empowering women and confronting social and economic imbalances with logical and easy solutions.”

According to him, AGFUND’s micro-finance project aims to combat poverty in eight countries, where there are now over 1.4 million beneficiaries. As such, micro-finance, according to AGFUND, should be utilized as a tool to reach out to youth and provide products that help create self-employment opportunities.

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Saudi Arabia best choice for global investors

Riyadh, Monday, 19 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 20 January 2014 (IINA) – Abdullatif A. Al-Othman, governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), called on the global business leaders to transfer capital and knowhow to the region and to invest in the Kingdom, which is one of the 20 fastest growing economies of the world.

He made these remarks while inaugurating the Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) in Riyadh. Hundreds of business leaders, high-ranking Saudi officials, top-notch executives and media persons attended the high-profile opening ceremony. Al-Othman said: “The event, organized by SAGIA, is also expected to offer insights on continuing economic and financial problems affecting the world as well as positive ideas to address the pressing global challenges.” He highlighted the strength of the Kingdom’s vibrant economy at a time when leading world economies are tackling financial challenges.

To this end, he said it is important to note that a number of participants of the GCF will also discuss global and regional trends in business competitiveness. “There will also be discussions on developing a world-class infrastructure in Saudi Arabia,” said Faisal S. Bafarat, SAGIA’s deputy governor. About 80 internationally-renowned business leaders including ministers and top-notch CEOs will share their insights and opinions at the three-day forum on “Building Competitive Partnerships” — the overriding theme of this year’s event. For the first time since its inception in 2006, the seventh edition of GCF also includes the ‘Invest in Saudi’ exhibition. It will both showcase investment opportunities in the Kingdom and provide an ideal networking platform for participants.

Bafarat said the GCF would focus on “economic prospects of the Kingdom and will include discussion as how we continue progress in developing a world-class infrastructure and a highly skilled workforce.”

Mohammed Al-Jasser, minister of economy and planning, will lead the discussion of global competitiveness and set the stage for building a partnership framework in Saudi Arabia, in a session moderated by BBC journalist Nik Gowing. In fact, the GCF has a reputation for the high caliber of its speakers and panelists, and this year is no exception, with international and Saudi experts providing a broad spectrum of insight on this year’s theme, ‘Building Competitive Partnerships’, said the SAGIA deputy chief.

Adel Fakeih, minister of labor, will head an expert panel discussing the links between Saudi education system and the job market. Fakeih will examine the role of the Saudi universities and share ideas whether vocational training in the Kingdom plays in developing human capital, among other employment-related issues. His theory and vision will have added significance keeping in view the fact that 29 percent of the Kingdom’s population is under 15 years of age, while 68 percent are under working category (15 to 64 years). Among other high-profile speakers at the Riyadh event are Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, health minister; Fahad Al-Mubarak, SAMA governor, and Peter Robertson, co-chairman of the US Saudi Arabian Business Council and formerly vice chairman of Chevron and chairman of the US Energy Association.

Robertson will be addressing the opportunities in the renewable energy sector, and exploring the role of government and the consumer in creating a ‘greener’ nation. Taking part in a panel discussing Saudi-Chinese partnerships in the forum on Sunday will be independent economist, Dr. Andy Xie. Andy, who began his career at the World Bank, is something of an economic fortune-teller and he is widely known for his prediction of the bursting of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2000 dotcom bubble and 2008 credit bubble. In 2013, Bloomberg magazine named him as one its top 50 most influential people worldwide.

Then, there will be another Saudi woman speaker — Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, who is a pathfinder for Saudi women. A member of the Shoura Council, Obaid was appointed alongside 29 other Saudi women to ensure that women are participants in the Kingdom’s decision-making. Thoraya is only the second Saudi woman to be awarded the prestigious King Abdul Aziz Medal, and was formerly Under Secretary-General of the UN. Obaid will be taking part in the discussion ‘Women Stimulating Economic Development’.

Then, there will be several sessions staggered over the next three days to be addressed by renowned business leaders.

Founded in 2006 by SAGIA, the GCF has grown into one of the largest and most important annual gatherings of academics, business leaders, politicians and journalists in the region. Every year, the event addresses the concept of competitiveness from diverse perspectives presented by the keynote speakers and attended by leaders and experts in various fields.

The SAGIA event is taking place at a time when there is strong global interest in investing in Saudi Arabia, which has been hailed as the most stable of regional economies that offers tremendous growth opportunities. The forum is also a major networking event for participants from around the world and Saudi and regional businesses. SAGIA has several ongoing initiatives that encourage competitiveness and growth, with considerable focus on the youth.

These include the Saudi Fast growth 100 (SFG100), Most Competitive Youth, and Saudi Responsible Competitiveness Index. SAGIA was established in 2000 as part of the new foreign investment law in Saudi Arabia. SAGIA supervises the attraction of foreign investment into the country, and manages Saudi Arabia’s competitiveness agenda in an effort to improve the country’s business environment.

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Afghan man has not missed a single prayer at Prophet’s Mosque for 37 years

Madinah, Tuesday, 20 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 21 January 2014 (IINA) – An Afghan national has set an example of piety by never missing one single prayer behind the imam of the Prophet’s Mosque.

Haji Muhammad has become very popular in Madinah because for a quarter of a century he has appeared on Saudi TV wearing the same black turban while standing on the right side of the first line behind the imam. He told Makkah daily that he arrived in the Kingdom when he was 19. He has been working as a plumber for 37 years and only traveled once to Afghanistan. He said: “I’ve always made sure I perform all prayers in the Prophet’s Mosque since I was a young man. “I love picking up the copies of the Holy Qur’an from visitors and putting them back in their cabinets.”

Haji Muhammad has made friends with visitors from outside the country who have been impressed with how devoted he is in performing all prayers in the mosque and at the same place. Some of them have seen him wearing the same black turban at the same spot every year they visited Madinah. “When I worked for my sponsor, I told him from the start that I didn’t want to miss any prayer at the mosque and that in Ramadan I won’t work because I’ll be in the mosque all the time,” he said. The devoted Afghani national is married to two wives and has 12 children. Haji Muhammad is currently looking for a third wife.

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Umrah propels Makkah hotel occupancy to 90%

Makkah, Tuesday, 20 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 21 January 2014 (IINA) – Makkah’s hotel occupancy has risen to more than 90 percent around the central area of the Grand Mosque, raising hopes among investors that they will recoup some of their losses from last year.

A total of 1.7 million people have come on Umrah since the season opened in December. The government reduced the number of pilgrims last year because of the expansion taking place at the Grand Mosque. Hotel investor Fahd Al-Withinani told Arab News that the season got off to a strong start this year probably because Umrah firms and individuals were more aware of the limits on pilgrim numbers. Another investor Mazen Drar agreed with this view and said investors now hope to make up for last year’s losses.

Al-Withinani said pilgrims came from inside the Kingdom, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria and Sudan. There were fewer pilgrims from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Another investor, Awaid Al-Fahmi, said many Saudis opted to spend the midterm school vacation with their families in Makkah this year. A room overlooking the Grand Mosque costs SR1,000 a day, while rooms without a view are about SR700 to SR850 a day. Prices in areas around Mahbas Al-Jin and Al-Azizia ranged between SR400 and SR600 for a room a day.

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Conference of Islamic Culture Ministers begin in Madinah

Madinah, Wednesday, 21 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 22 January 2014 (IINA) – Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja has urged cultural organizations in the Islamic world to stand united in alleviating the suffering of Muslim civilians afflicted by oppression and injustice in various parts of the world.

Inaugurating the 8th Conference of the Ministers of Culture from the member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) here on Tuesday, the minister also underlined the need to highlight the sublime values of Islam and its culture, as well as to remove misgivings about Islam. The opening session was attended by Madinah Emir Prince Faisal Bin Salman, who is also chairman of the Supreme Committee to organize events on the occasion of the selection of Madinah as the Islamic Culture Capital.

The Rabat-based Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has chosen Madinah as the Islamic Culture Capital for 2013. As many as 400 activities are being held during the year-long celebration that started last March. The conference is being held to mark the occasion. The opening session was chaired by Algerian Culture Minister Khalida Toumi, the chairperson of the 7th Session of the Cultural Ministers. Azerbaijan’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Abul Fas Mursaloglu, who is the deputy chairman of the session, Abdulaziz Al-Tuwaijri, director general of ISESCO, were among those who addressed the opening session.

Drawing attention to the desperate situation of Muslim civilians in war-torn regions, Dr. Khoja said: “We are gathering here at a time when the Muslim Ummah is buffeted by waves of conflicts all over the world. The weaker sections of our people – women, children and the elderly – are going through the harshest conditions of life and becoming victims of killing, displacement and persecution without any fault of their own. In view of this tragic situation, we shall be armed with our cultural means to spread the lofty Islamic values of true love, and strengthen our bonds of brotherhood, harmony and understanding,” he said.

Dr. Khoja mooted two proposals aimed at strengthening the joint cultural work and highlighting the spiritual and historic position of Madinah in serving the Islamic culture. The first proposal is to set up Madinah e-gate for the culture of the Islamic world and the second is a bibliography for innovators in arts and literature in the Islamic world.

“Each Islamic state can showcase its cultural landmarks and prominent models and introduce its achievements in the fields of arts, literature and science on the gate. The bibliography, in print and online form, shall contain details about innovators, scholars and experts in various cultural fields in the Islamic world so as to contact them and exchange their expertise,” the minister said.

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Qur’an Oasis among 13 cultural projects for Madinah

Madinah, Wednesday, 21 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 22 January 2014 (IINA) – Madinah Emir Prince Faisal Bin Salman announced 13 permanent cultural and academic projects aimed at strengthening Madinah’s position as the permanent capital of Islamic culture.

The projects are mainly the outcome of the proposals and suggestions that came up for consideration during the ongoing year-long celebrations following Madinah’s selection as the Islamic Culture Capital for 2013. Prince Faisal, who is also Chairman of the Supreme Committee to organize events to celebrate the occasion, said that the projects include the Qur’an Oasis, which will make Madinah the Islamic Cultural and Da’wa Center with a special focus on Qur’an studies. The Oasis is part of a serious attempt to regain the historic, cultural and heritage identity of Madinah.

Quba Cultural Center is another project that represents a religious, cultural and social center in Quba region. The center will house several museums, academic centers and libraries. The third project is the Madinah Welcome Center that will serve to welcome pilgrims, visitors and tourists to the Prophet’s City.

The other projects include developing King Abdul Aziz Library and the Haram Library, Exhibition on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Exhibitions on the Prophet’s battles, Manuscript Heritage Center, Civil District showcasing the past and heritage of Madinah at King Fahd Garden, Center for Islamic architectural studies, expansion of the Hejaz Railway Station Museum, Madinah Center for Studies and Researches, Center for Translation, Center for Contemporary Islamic Art.

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Festival showcasing Jeddah heritage kicks off

Jeddah, Saturday, 17 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 18 January 2014 (IINA) – The 10-day Jeddah Heritage Festival has opened in Balad with colorful Hijazi dances, theater performances, folk songs, and artists providing talks on the city’s history going back about 3,000 years.

Saleh Kamel, president of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said the JCCI would invest SR100 million in small and medium enterprises in the area. Makkah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah and Prince Sultan bin Salman, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), launched the event on Thursday. Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras, Saleh Kamel and several princes and dignitaries were also present. The SCTA and the JCCI organized the event with the support of Prince Mishaal.

They mayor said there are also plans to improve traffic and pedestrian safety in the region and to develop several museums. Abdulillah Jaddah and singer Mohammed Al-Hadad were among the artists who entertained the guests. Abdul Samad Mohammed Abdul Samad, caretaker of Hai Al-Yemen and Hai Al-Bahar of Balad, welcomed the guests and outlined the history of Jeddah, its culture, landmarks and districts. Top businessman Abdullah bin Ahmed Yousif Zainal spoke about the area’s businesses and links with other regions in the Kingdom. He said King Abdulaziz, the Kingdom’s founder, stayed in Bait Naseef for 10 years.

He said it was important for property owners to help renovate and maintain buildings in the area. Abu Ras said the municipality has almost completed 10 projects started two years ago to preserve and develop the heritage of the region. It signed a further four new projects last month. He said nine projects involved the electronic authentication and storage of documents, and the establishment of a specialized department for urban heritage projects at the municipality. He said the SCTA hopes to have the area included on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Abdullah Al-Amri, executive director of the SCTA in Makkah region, said the main aim of the festival was to help visitors discover the history of Jeddah.

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Taif to celebrate win as Arab Tourism Capital

Taif, Saturday, 17 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 18 January 2014 (IINA) – Preparations are underway to mark the announcement of Taif as the Arab Tourism Capital.

Prince Mishal Bin Abdullah, Emir of Makkah region, instructed various government and private agencies to work as one team to make the activities and programs planned for the occasion a resounding success. The Emir gave the directives while chairing a meeting of the senior officials, including Taif Governor Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Bin Muammar, Arab Tourism Organization (ATO) Chairman Bandar Bin Fahd Al-Fuhaid and Taif Mayor Muhammad Al-Mukhrej, at his office here on Wednesday. ATO has chosen Taif as the Arab Tourism Capital.

During the meeting, Prince Mishal was briefed on a video presentation on the major components that helped Taif qualify for the Arab Tourism Capital award, and these included climate, tourist and archeological landmarks, infrastructure facilities and public utilities, hotels, and cultural activities, mainly Souk Okaz. It was announced that a wide variety of 90 activities and programs will be organized as part of the celebration. These included Arab Tent, Gulf Nights, festivals, exhibitions, cultural programs, sports and games, as well as workshops and training courses for youths.

Prince Mishal underscored the significance of highlighting the glory of Taif as one of the leading tourist destinations in the Arab world.He said implementation of several multibillion riyal development projects would add qualitative impetus to the status of this famous summer resort.

Speaking on the occasion, Taif Governor Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz said selection of Taif as the Tourism Capital and “Bride of the Arab summer resorts” was the outcome of the constant support extended by the former Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, as well as the concerted efforts made by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Taif Mayoralty and Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said that more than SR16 billion was spent on development projects in Taif last year alone. The city is also hosting about 10 tourist festivals every year, and these included Souk Okaz Festival, Taif Rose Festival, Honey Festival, and Fruits Festival.

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Nature lovers fight to preserve Turkey’s cultural assets

AYDIN – Dogan News Agency – Latmos in Aydın’s Söke is home to a cultural and historical richness thanks to the traces of old settlements in the region. Nature lovers aim to turn this area into a national park. The struggle to protect natural and cultural resources in the Beşparmak Mountain (Latmos) in the western province of Aydın’s Söke district is continuing.

The Ecosystem Protection and Nature Lovers Association (EKODOSD), which maintains its talks with various ministries for the protection of Latmos, has recently applied to the Milas Museum Directorate for the registration and protection of Ören Asar, one of the ancient sites on the mountain.

Chairman of the association, Bahattin Sürücü said that with the collaboration of institutions affiliated to the ministries of Culture and Tourism and the Forestry and Water Affairs, they were providing support for the protection of natural richness in Latos.

“In the untouched geography of Latmos, we discover lots of pieces and the traces of different ancient settlements. One of them is Ören Asarı, for which we have applied to the Milas Museum Directorate. It should be registered and taken under protection. The region of Ören Asarı is full of natural richness with an interesting geography and a magnificent panorama. Works should start here to unearth the history of past civilizations,” he said.

HDN Calling for the students at architecture and engineering faculties to conduct researches in the area, Sürücü said that human had lived there hundreds of thousands of years ago without spoiling the natural structure. He said that within the last year, the region was pillaged by treasure hunters.

“The number of holes and broken ancient stones ancient artifacts considerably increased in the area. Since this settlement is on an untouched and remote geography, treasure hunters give plunder and give it big damage. We have found traps placed in the region by ancient locals to hunt Anatolian leopards (Panthera pardus tuliana). The traps have survived until present day without any damage. But we have examined that treasure hunters plundered it, too,” Sürücü said.

Sürücü also noted that the region also had garbage problem and mine problems that needed to be solved urgently. He said, “Mine richness under the mountain can be unearthed. But as a result of this, unique geological formations, plant cover, wildlife and the traces of 8000-year-old history of humanity on the ground receive damage and this richness of Latmos gets lost. But if the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs and the National Parks General Directorate turn Latmos into a National Park, this unique nature will survive.”

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Turkey’s ancient pathways at the service of adventurers

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – 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.

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Antalya’s ruins drawing Chinese tourists

ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency – Chinese tourists are heading in increasing numbers to the southern province of Antalya after Istanbul and İzmir for ecological, cultural, historical and archaeology tours. Approximately 195,000 Chinese tourists have taken part in recent years in 12-day Anatolian tours to see the traces of various civilizations. The tours start in the ancient city of Ephesus and end in Antalya’s ancient city of Selge.

After Ephesus, the second most popular ancient city among Chinese tourists is Side, according to tourism officials. The tour also includes Antalya’s Myra, Seleukeia, Selge, Termessos, Kekova (Sunken City), Tlos, Patara Meclisi, Side, Perge, the ancient theater of Side, Alanya Castle, the Lycia Rock Tombs, Xanthos, Letoon, the ancient theater of Aspendos, Belkıs Bridge, Athena and Apollon.

Chinese tourist guide and cultural tourism expert Yarkın Teslina said that unlike Europeans, Russians and Scandinavians, Chinese tourists were not interested in sea, sand and sun tourism, noting that 98 percent of visitors from China wanted to know about cultural heritage artifacts.

“We bring foreign guests from Beijing to Istanbul and send them on nine- or 12-day Anatolia tours. In recent years, Antalya follows İzmir for Chinese tourists in culture and archaeology tours. The fact that Antalya is home to many ancient cities is an advantage for them. Because they want to learn about culture and history during their holiday, they like to listen to stories of past civilizations a lot. We take Chinese tourists to 24 ancient sites in Antalya. Last year, we received 54,000 Chinese tourists. Our goal is to increase it to 80,000. They have special interest in Xanthos which is under UNESCO protection.”

Chinese archaeologist Dr. Lee Yun said they took tourists to the ancient city of Ephesus in İzmir first and then Antalya. After Italy, Yun said, Turkey is the second country for Chinese archaeology tourists.

“Antalya is very important to Chinese tourists. It is like an open-air museum for them. The 12-day tour starts in Istanbul and ends in Side. Antalya will become more (popular) for Chinese tourists in the next years,” Yun said.

China-Turkey Friendship Group Chair Jasmine Le said the promotion of Anatolian civilization by the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry had been instrumental in drawing Chinese tourists to Turkey. Le said Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Abdurrahman Arıcı had expended great efforts to promote ancient sites in Antalya. “Our goal is to draw 100,000 Chinese tourists to Turkey by the end of 2015. I believe that we will easily reach it thanks to promotions.”

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Tigerair commences direct flights between Maldives and Singapore

Sun.mv January 24, 2014 – Singapore’s budget airline Tigerair has officially commenced direct flights between Maldives and Singapore. The first Tigerair flight, TR 2502, landed at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 11:25 a.m. today.

Manager Corporate Communications, Maldives Airports Company Limited, Hassan Areef told Sun Online that 153 passengers travelled to Maldives on the first flight, which was conducted on an A320 aircraft with passenger capacity of 180.

Tigerair earlier said that it will commence flights to Maldives on 24 January, and that four flights will be operated weekly. The airline will operate direct flights between Maldives and Singapore on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Until now, the only direct flights between Maldives and Singapore have been operated by Singapore Airlines. Tigerair’s comparatively low prices will make travel on this route more affordable.

Tigerair is the third budget airline to commence flights to Maldives. Malaysia’s Air Asia and Dubai’s Fly Dubai also recently started flying to Maldives.

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Ottoman and new republic era reveal with a family archive

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – Salt’s new Open Archive exhibition follows the idea that the story of a life is like an archive. It is a mass of constructed and filtered events

It has always been known that the act of archiving was not very developed both in the times of the Ottoman Empire and also Turkey. The aim of Salt Open Archive is to change this point of view while opening the archives of old and closed history. Another aim is to make the history archive open to anyone and reveal the act of archiving and conserving as a habit.

Opened on Jan. 21, Salt Open Archive is hosting the history and story of an Ottoman family.

The Open Archive exhibition, titled “Dismantling the Archive: Representation, Identity, Memory in an Ottoman Family” follows the idea that the story of a life is like an archive. The exhibition is a mass of constructed and filtered events that are unconnected to one another, random, irrational. The exhibition consists of archive documents, photographs, books, folders and notebooks that were donated by Hatice Gonnet Bağana to SALT Research.

The documents focus on the years 1900-1940 of the Said Bey Archive, encompassing three generations from the late Ottoman period up through the early years of the Republic of Turkey. Mehmed Said Bey, who lived between 1865 and 1928, was a graduate of the Imperial School, today’s Galatasaray High School, and is the main character of this exhibition, which is also edited as a story of a life. It is known that Said Bey went on to teach there in addition to working as an interpreter at the Ottoman palace.

According to the team that created the exhibition, in the words of the French historians François Georgeon and Paul Dumont, he was a veritable “caricature of a bourgeois resident of Istanbul.” There was a piano in his home; every day, in his diary, he noted down what he had done; he enjoyed going to the cinema; he arranged for his children to be taught French by a young mademoiselle; and in the 1920s, he and his family moved to an apartment in the Şişli district.

The archive shows the audiences how people lived, felt and also thought during the turbulent times of a new republic, while the Ottoman Empire came to an end. The exhibition attempts to understand how a family, as it passed through a complicated process of transition, expressed and represented itself in writing, photography, music, narratives, and material culture.

The archive explores how an Ottoman family accepted or did not accept the new republic and how they perceived it. It goes on to explore how family memories became intertwined with the national narrative of the young republic still in the process of formation, and how the family constructed their own identities by delineating social and class boundaries.

The identity and language aspects are among the important part of the archive. The notes taken in those times were in Armenian, French and also in Ottoman. It is possible to see notebooks that include notes on a wedding list and poems written in Istanbul. However, the writings are not the only documents that help the audiences.

To make the Open Archive a real exhibition, the team used sound and odor. The exhibition area smells like lavender oil, which refers to an old odor of the house. The sound of old Turkish classical music is heard, while the area has been divided with the white and light curtains just like a house. A small illustrated video is reflected on the curtain, which were made by Sait Mingü, and the video created by Boran Güney.

The exhibition aims to inspect the possibilities and limitations of biographical and historiographical investigation and to make these disciplines as transparent as possible. It emphasizes the word “dismantling,” the antithesis of the integrity, order, isolation, and privacy typically attributed to archives and to biography. The project was conceptualized by Ece Zerman, based on her master thesis, and later developed as part of SALT’s “Open Archive” series. The exhibition design is by Future Anecdotes Istanbul.

The exhibition is open until March 23.

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Turkish ensemble brings Baroque era music to world stage

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s first baroque ensemble, İzmir Barok, which was formed in 2008 by the İzmir State Opera and Ballet contra bass artist Bülent Oral and violin artist Hakan Özaytekin, gives music lovers an opportunity to listen to European and Ottoman palace music with instruments of the time.

The ensemble keeps the Baroque period, which appeared in the 16th century and continued until the middle of the 18th century, alive with original instruments and the music style of time.

Using the cembalo (harpsichord), which is considered the ancestor of today’s piano, the violoncello and flute, viola da gamba and Braque flute in their original forms, İzmir Baroque brings this magnificent era of music history to the stage.

Oral said after the formation of the ensemble, they had started examining Ottoman palace music and began playing Ottoman instruments. “In this way, we have obtained a concept of performing both European and Ottoman music with the instruments and style of the baroque era,” he said.

Oral said the ensemble had performed many concerts in Turkey and abroad and also released an album titled “16. Yüzyıldan 18. Yüzyılın İlk Yarısına Avrupa ve Osmanlı Saray Müzikleri” (European and Ottoman Palace Music between the 16th and the first half of the 18th century).

Speaking about the album, Oral said the following about Baroque era European and Ottoman palace music: “European music has more ornamentation. The biggest difference is Ottoman music is monophonic. But we made it polyphonic in the harmony structure of the Baroque era. Without changing the main melody, we made a basis using the cembalo and viola da gamba, as well as Turkish music and European instruments. Of course all music cannot be played in this concept, but there are many composers who made it. We have a mission to introduce them to Europe.”

He said they drew great interest in concerts, adding, “We have received very good reactions in concerts abroad. People know about Ottoman instruments and see the difference from European ones.” Both forms of music took shape in palace

Oral said what Baroque-era music in Europe and Ottoman music had in common was they were both born in the palace, adding palace life could be seen in this music.

The basic difference between the two forms of music, Oral said, was also born in this aspect. “The palace structures are very different from each other. This is the same for musicians, too. European palaces are always magnificent. This is the same for Ottoman palaces, but the music is more closed because it was made in the seraglio,” he said.

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Kyrgyzstan develops 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.”

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.”

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Kazakh inventors work to improve lives, benefit economy

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-01-20 ALMATY – Atan Temirali of Almaty has been working for several years on producing bio-fuel from sugarcane.

After numerous experiments, he has found a very simple method: grind the plant into granules or pellets and then dry them. A tonne of such pellets would cost 10,000 KZT (US $65) in Kazakhstan. That price is 1,500 KZT (US $10) more per tonne than coal, but the bio-fuel leaves no solid waste and has minimal atmospheric emissions.

“For example, wood (despite its ‘renewable’ reputation) is hardly renewable, because it takes 100-150 years to grow,” he said.

“But … sugarcane grows every year. We normally cut it from November 1 through March 30. We do no harm to nature.”

Private residences without gas and heating plants alike could use this energy source, he said. Temirali hopes that large-scale production will begin in Atyrau at the end of the year. For a start, the entrepreneur plans to produce 120 tonnes a year, initially only for export.

With that as an example, Kazakhstan is seeking to further capitalise on human ingenuity. In December, the government announced a competition for innovative projects and inspired inventors are submitting ideas.

The government is considering projects in green energy, green economics, high technology and other fields. Depending on need, projects could receive grants ranging from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

The state will do everything necessary to support inventors, Nesipbala Yermekova, a department head at the National Agency for Technological Development, said.

Furthermore, to help inventors create, officials are enlarging the Alatau innovative technology park, creating another such site with an area of 400,000ha in the Alatau District of Almaty, and developing the tourist industry. The government has created a favourable tax scheme for scientists and inventors, with 0% loan interest rates and exemption from customs duties.

Maxim Podlesnykh, another Almaty inventor has developed a system for protecting pedestrians, a super-light front module fitted to the front of a car. The device softens the impact of hitting a pedestrian, reducing the risk of severe injuries.

His proposal impressed judges at the “Innovation Hothouse” competition, which took place in Astana last October, so much that he won third place and a prize of 1m KZT (US $6,455). “We’ve conducted … tests, driving cars into a mannequin to see how and which way it falls,” he said.

The system can be retro-fitted to practically any car and costs US $2,100 (325,300 KZT) to install on a pre-existing car. But it would be cheaper to install during the manufacturing process, he said.

He is working on installing his system on an actual car for more experimentation. Meanwhile, he is negotiating with major auto-makers. The demonstration of interest in the development work in Kazakhstan is a big plus in itself, Podlesnykh said. Such innovative projects are said to have great potential and to help stimulate business.

Almaty undergraduates Tursynai Dosipova and Sagi Orazbayev have invented an energy-saving lightbulb with nano-particles. They worked on the project for slightly more than two years. The bulb uses half as much energy as a conventional bulb, according to their work.

They are still at pilot stage, planning to have their bulbs illuminate one street in Medeus District in Almaty. If the project meets expectations, they plan to launch a mass production effort and the bulbs could appear in schools, hospitals and administrative buildings.

“For the past 18 months, we have been making improvements and correcting shortcomings,” Dosipova said. “Many articles about our work have been written abroad. We’ve got our own patent.”

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Bangladesh rural women pursue economic self-reliance

RANGPUR, Jan 20, 2014 (BSS) – The economic self-reliance being attained by the rural women through income-generating activities has been contributing in alleviating abject poverty enhancing rural economy in the northern region in recent years.

Many rural women have changed their fortune with their own initiatives, capacities and potentials through properly utilizing local resources to set up a glorious example of difference saying good-bye to their abject poverty once for all.

The successful women including landless and distressed, divorcees and widows, young girls and housewives of dozens of villages are now confident about their future with smiling faces because of their achieved economic success.

Head of Programme Coordination of RDRS Bangladesh Monjusree Saha said the rural women have achieved the success through sewing handloom readymade garments, animal husbandry, poultry, homestead gardening, farming fruits, vegetables and other agri- activities.

Social expert and NGO activist Sumona Sharmeen said rural women have changed their fates by farming vegetables, setting up smaller cottage industries and enterprises, social afforestation, micro-credit activities, VGD and other government programmes.

Many distressed women have achieved self-reliance from government’s social safety net programmes that created huge income-generating opportunities and jobs, District Relief and Rehabilitation Officer of Rangpur Abdus Salam said.

Executive Director of Northbengal Institute of Development Studies Dr Syed Samsuzzaman said many of the rural women had to live under miseries due to abject poverty and their children could not go to the primary schools for education in the pasts.

Currently, many rural women are engaged in cottage industries and set up their own enterprises and business centres hoping for building a hunger- free Bangladesh after achieving self- reliance and saying good-bye to poverty and ‘monga’ forever, he said.

Talking to BSS, the successful women said it became possible only after attaining economic self-reliance through their hard endevours and there is no incident of starving anywhere in their villages now.

Distressed women Mariyam, 50, Parveen, 38, Bilkis, 36, Shokuntola, 53, widow Indu Rani, 52, said they have achieved self- reliance by sewing handloom garments at homes without any assistance of others.

Successful women Bulbuli, 40, Morsheda, 35, Sabina, 40, and Kamola, 45, of different villages said they have achieved economic well-being by selling their labours in the crop fields as female workers.

Koohinur, 45, Shudha, 46, and Bilkis, 19, of different char villages on the Brahmaputra and Teesta riverbeds said they have achieved success through homestead gardening, animal husbandry, social safety net and employment generation programmes.

Nasrine, 29, Arjina, 42, Roksana, 50, Fahima, 35, and many others said they have achieved economic self-reliance by rearing cows, goats and sheep, selling milk and poultry birds etc.

“As a result of our economic well-being, social curses like child marriages, dowry, polygamy, divorce and repressions are now on the verge of extinction and number of maternal, child and neonatal deaths reducing in our villages,” they said.

“Besides, our children are now going to schools as we are dreaming for their better future,” the successful women shared their success stories of winning against poverty and hunger on their way to better life.

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Biman upgrades its Business Class

DHAKA, Jan 21, 2014 (BSS) – Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the national flag carrier has upgraded its meal service for the business class as a part of its ongoing endeavor to improve its all-over services. Biman has recently partnered with celebrity Chef Tommy Miah from the UK, introduced new dishes that are inspired by his Bangla-fusion recipes, a press release said here today.

As part of a new rigorous training program that all Biman cabin crew will be going through, the meal service has been revamped so that each course is served separately and new dessert, cheese and fruit presentations have been introduced. These changes are effective not just on the flagship Dhaka-London non-stops but on all routes in their system, the release said.

On shorter duration flights, the service sequence has been modified to reflect reduced serving time but key highlights such as Tommy Miah menu creations, more personalized servings and enhanced ground service remains.

On the occasion, Biman’s CEO and MD Kevin Steele says “It’s just a further example of how the new Biman is changing and providing more competitive service offering which delight our customers’.

Further changes to improve the Business Class product will come next month when the new Duty Free guide and selection from King Poo of Hong Kong are featured, new ammenity kits on long-haul flights and in April expanded video and audio content on all aircraft types, the release said.

Commissioned in 1989, Biman Flight Catering Centre (BFCC) has a capacity to produce 8500 meals a day.

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Gambia: Charity Hailed for Promoting Community Tourism

The Daily Observer – 21 January 2014 – the Global Hands, for promoting community tourism in a country that has long been a choice destination for European tourists.

Speaking recently during a meeting with the members who were in the country on a visit, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie also hailed the charity for complementing the efforts of the government in other areas of national development.

Global Hands is based in Leicester, United Kingdom. It was formed in 2012 by five individuals, among them a renowned Gambian lecturer at Demonfort University Dr. Momodou Sallah. It has the objective of building capacity, strengthening networking and cross-border programmes, national youth leadership programmes, publishing and community development projects, amongst others. The charity has since been working closely with its Gambia chapter to achieve the set objectives.

In her remarks, the Tourism minister also hailed the organisation for initiating an educational research center that is currently under construction at the village of Manduar. She expressed her Ministry’s support to the ongoing project, saying that when completed, it will immensely build the capacities of young people in the areas of skills and entrepreneurial development, reduce illiteracy, while creating employment opportunities for the people.

The Tourism minister also pledged 1,000 Pounds Sterling towards the successful completion of the project. She used the opportunity to dilate on the Ministry’s objective of making The Gambia an all-year-round destination for tourists. She concluded by enjoining the visiting Global Hands members to take part in the upcoming Roots Home Coming Festival slated for May, this year.

Speaking earlier, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Momodou Joof, also commended the organisation for complementing the efforts of the government in national development.”The Gambia is well known for attracting visitors in contrast to the others on the continent. We are a stable country trying to uplift the lives of people. The idea of Global Hands is highly welcomed and we will offer all our support,” he pledged.

The co-founder of Global Hands, Dr. Momodou Sallah, also a lecturer at Demonfort University, explained that his international charity has the objective of promoting grassroots development through various initiatives. He explained that the Global Hands in collaboration with Demonfort University is visiting the country purposely to commence work at its project in Manduar, explore the cultural diversity of The Gambia, engage in community work, and hold intellectual discussions on issues affecting youths throughout the globe.

“As a Gambian lecturer in United Kingdom, I thought of how to give back to my country. We want to develop an international resource center in Manduar that will benefit students all over the world,” Dr. Sallah informed. “Global Hands will strive towards the advancement of young people in the country, hence complementing the efforts of the government,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of Global Hands (Gambia), the chairperson, Jimmy Hendry Nzally, gave a run of the activities embarked upon by the charity since its establishment.

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Mandiri to open 300 offices to facilitate credits for SMEs

Wed, January 22 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk will open more than 300 new offices in 2014 to facilitate credits for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Sunarso, the commercial and banking director of the state lender, said here on Wednesday that credits for SMEs were all for productive business.

The country’s largest bank in assets, therefore, is set to facilitate credits for SMEs to help in their expansion, Sunarso said. “We are aware that SMEs need faster service with simple process. We are set to respond to the need,” he said in a statement.

By December, 2013, Bank Mandiri already had 2,949 units of office to boost credit expansion for SMEs including 322 units of Business Banking Center, Floor and Desk, and 2,627 micro units.

Bank Mandiris outstanding credits for SMEs was Rp64.60 trillion unaudited by December, 2013, up from Rp54.68 trillion a year earlier. Sunarso said the bank is training its bankers to deal with SMEs to have greater knowledge about the SMEs segment, their cultural and business characteristics.

He said integrated development of information technology is needed in the process of selection of clients, credit booking, monitoring and reporting.

He said the bank also provide training for SMEs to improve their competitiveness that SMEs could grow to become an economic pillar that could create more jobs.

The ultimate goal is to provide greater access for SMEs to bank loans and information, and at the same time to develop SMEs in management and in the application of Good Corporate Governance, Sunarso said.

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Garuda airlines to open new route Makassar-Medan-Jeddah

Fri, January 24 2014 Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) – Garuda Indonesia Airlines (GIA) will open a new flight route from Makassar (South Sulawesi) to Medan (North Sumatera) to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) in February 2014 to facilitate Umrah pilgrims arriving from Sumatera.

The Garuda Indonesia Airlines Senior Manager of Business Development Region I Sumatera Husein Abdurrrahman said in Batam, on Friday, that Umrah customers from Sumatera typically had depart for Jeddah via Jakarta, making the ticket more expensive and the trip much longer than necessary.

“With the new flight route Makassar-Medan-Jeddah, we hope the Umrah pilgrimage will be more affordable and easier for customers,” Husein noted during the opening ceremony of the Batam Travel Viesta.

Besides this, the opening of the new route to Jeddah was also expected to decrease foreign flight density at Soekarno-Hatta Airport.

GIA will operate the Boeing 747 plane 400 series with a capacity of about 300 persons and will fly four times a week.

According to Husein, due to the high interest in travelling to Mecca, based on 95 percent booked seats from Jakarta to Jeddah, GIA has targeted 70 percent of the seats for the new route being booked.

In the near future, GIA will also open a new flight route between Surabaya (East Java) and Jeddah to meet the high demand from customers in East Java.

“The high demand during Umrah has increased even further in Jakarta, and by opening new routes from other cities to Jeddah, we want to contribute toward easing flight traffic at Soekarno-Hatta Airport,” Husein claimed.

Regarding the Batam Travel Fiesta, GIA has targeted Rp5 billion in transactions, higher than the previous event, which earned Rp3 billion.

Ten travel agents participated in the Batam Travel Fiesta, offering trips to various destinations, air tickets, hotel bookings, and other services.

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European businesses rushing to find Iran bonanza

Tehran Times – 25 January, 2014 – France is sending business executives by the planeload to Iran. German and Dutch entrepreneurs are taking courses on how to close a deal in Tehran, and car makers are drawing up plans for investment.

Europe’s business community is abuzz with preparations to rush back into Iran, an economic powerhouse in the Middle East, as some sanctions are suspended.

Under a deal with world powers, Tehran has agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief and the unfreezing of about $ 4.2 billion in overseas assets. Iran and world powers now have six months to conclude a permanent deal.

As always, in business, it’s about getting in first. More hand-shaking will take place soon thereafter in Tehran, when France’s business lobby group flies in executives representing about 100 firms for “exploratory” talks to take advantage of the sanctions’ suspension, an official with the organization said.

Competitors are doing the same, so firms from the oil and gas sector, carmakers and other manufacturing companies want to move quickly, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject remains sensitive within governments.

“Everyone is in the same state of mind,” she said. For businesses, getting into Iran is a chance not to be missed. The country boasts a well-educated population of about 75 million and some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, much of which is still unexplored.

European countries have historically strong trade ties with Iran – more so than the U.S., which has had tougher sanctions in place for longer. European sanctions only began in limited form in 2007.

Among the first signs that business is ready to resume is the surge in demand for flights.

Austrian Airlines last week announced it will resume five weekly flights to Tehran, and its parent company Lufthansa said it’s thinking about adding more seats to its daily flights. Turkish Airlines, which serves six Iranian destinations, is seeking permission to increase frequencies.

Even though there are fears that sanctions could go back up when the current deal expires in six months, companies are upbeat.

“Optimism is predominating that there has finally been something of a relaxation in political relations and therefore in business possibilities,” said Volker Treier, head of trade relations at the Association of German Chambers of Commerce.

The association last week held an event on doing business in Iran and executives “filled the room very quickly,” Treier said. The sectors represented included machinery, vehicle production, food, medical technology and pharmaceuticals.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch ambassador to Iran, Jos Douma, last week held what he called a “speed-date session” with companies interested in getting back into business with Iran.

One focus was to export spare parts for Iran’s ageing planes and agricultural products. “They need all kinds of things,” he said.

For foreign firms, the biggest prize in Iran is undoubtedly its oil and gas sector. “Iran clearly has huge resources. Its production has been curtailed in recent years,” oil company BP said in a statement. “It clearly has a lot of potential.”

Considering the big sums involved in oil production, companies will be cautious. While major players such as France’s Total, Anglo-Dutch Shell or Italy’s Eni are keen to get back in business, they are for now sticking to a wait-and-see approach until the sanctions will be lifted permanently.

Iran’s oil minister is also holding meetings in Turkey this week to seek closer cooperation. As an initial step, Turkey hopes to boost crude imports by about a third.

The other big opportunity is Iran’s auto market, which had been important for European manufacturers before the sanctions hit. France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault, in particular, stand to gain from renewing their once-sizeable Iran activities.

As recently as 2011, Peugeot sold 455,000 cars in Iran, making the country its second-largest market after France. The company is now following the situation with interest, said spokesman Pierre-Olivier Salmon.

“The group has renewed contacts to prepare a possible resumption of activities with Iran,” he added. Iran Khodro, the country’s biggest carmaker, plans to engage in new joint projects with foreign carmakers.

Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn views Iran as the most important auto market in the Middle East, but renewing activities there would require a further loosening of financial sanctions, spokesman Bruno Moreau said. Renault sold 100,000 vehicles in Iran in 2011 before writing the business off when sanctions hit.

Analyst Michael Robinet, managing director at IHS Automotive, said the potential size of the Iranian market means international automakers will act as soon as they feel the thaw in relations with the West will last.

“If they do detect that there is a longer-term view that the government wants them there, and is willing to work with the sector, then I think you will see start to see vehicle manufacturers move into Iran very quickly,” Robinet said.

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Rabat, Lisbon To Form Joint Task Force To Promote Investments In Africa

RABAT, Jan 23 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco and Portugal have agreed to set up a task force in charge of creating new mechanisms for promoting investment in Africa, says Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar.

“We have agreed to create a task force to strengthen our relations with African partners and to establish new mechanisms to promote investment in Africa,” he told a media briefing following a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart, Rui Machete, here Wednesday.

Machete said the meeting had focused on the development of new markets for investment, as well as ways to further strengthen bilateral co-operation. “We have discussed a number of issues at the regional and international levels as well as various aspects of our bilateral co-operation and ways to develop them,” he added.

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Fashion Show At Dubai’s Burj Khalifa Dazzles Audience

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 23 (NNN-WAM) – Well, if you thought fashion shows were all about slender models balancing on pencil-thin heels, then think again. In Dubai, the catwalk routine has gotten a high-flying makeover, as models put on a record-breaking vertical fashion show, at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

The first of its kind, the fashion show starts from the soaring Burj Khalifa, with models dressed in high-fashion outfits descending down the building. The show features Spring/Summer 2014 collections, from brands such as Christian Dior.

The focus, however, is more on the thrilling acts of the models. All the models are well-trained acrobats and dancers, but the stunts are still a challenge. A more conventional runway show on the ground happens at the same time.

The show is part of the Dubai Shopping Festival, which aims to enrich the experience of visitors with major discounts, and, as this show proves, high entertainment and fashion.

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Guyana Rice – Star Of The Agriculture Sector In 2013

GEORGETOWN, Jan 23 (NNN-GINA) — The star performer in agriculture was clearly the Guyanese rice industry in 2013, having scored a record-breaking production level, achieving the equivalent of more than 535,000 tonnes, a 27 percent increase over the 2012 figure of 423,000 tonnes.

Production per regions were; Region Two – 99,062 metric tonnes (mt), Region Three – 56,360mt, Region Four – 24,972mt, Region Five – 207,509mt and Region Six-147,652mt. Again Region Five is the highest producing region.

This was the first time ever that a Caribbean country recorded more than 500,000 tonnes of rice in a calendar year. This also made Guyana one of the larger producers of rice in the Americas.

More than 200,000 acres of land was under cultivation in 2013, making it also the first time, cultivation acreage exceeded 200,000.

Yield overall was five tonnes per hectare (ha,) again, for the first time in Guyana’s history. In 2010, the yield was about four tonnes per ha and in the late 1980s and early 1990s, yield was between two and three tonnes per ha.

The success of the industry is an acknowledgment of the enthusiastic participation of the farmers of Guyana, both small and large. They persevered under difficult weather conditions, and learnt to work with climate change to successfully improve their yield and production.

In 2013, farmers confronted the challenge of a drought and paddy bug infestation during the first crop and heavy rainfall in the second.

Farmers invested in improving the capacity in the industry by procuring more than 1,000 tractors and 90 combines during the year. Millers continued their investment by building mills, and increasing drying and storage capacity for paddy.

In 2013, the drying capacity across the country increased by 2,269mt per day, whilst storage capacity being increased by 27,678mt.RegionSix, the region most deficient in storage capacity accounted for 16,965mt of this increase in storage, whilst significant investment were also made in Regions Two and Five.

Guyana’s rice export for 2013 amounted to about 395,000 tonnes. Approximately 58 percent of the rice was exported to Venezuela with other significant buyers being Europe, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries.

The Government’s support to the industry was strong in 2013. When farmers faced high prices for urea, an important commodity in their fertilizer regime for the crop production, Government invested approximately $400M to procure urea from Venezuela and, worked in collaboration with the Rice Producers Association (RPA), and made it available to the farmers at about $5,000 per bag.

As the first crop advanced, farmers were being charged between $7,000 and $10,000 for a 48kg bag of urea. Such an intervention saved farmers more than $300M per crop.

In addition, Government also made other inputs into the industry to provide support to farmers. These included, the supply of pronto to farmers to combat the high levels of paddy bug, VAT exemption to farmers for tractors and spares, and investment in drainage and irrigation infrastructure among others.

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Malaysia Launch Low Carbon Research Centre

LONDON, Jan 23 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is on a three-day working visit to the United Kingdom from Monday, visited the Imperial College London, a public research university here, Wednesday to help launch Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s (UTM) low carbon transport research centre at Imperial.

The Centre for Low Carbon Transport, a collaboration between the College and UTM, one of Malaysia’s leading unversities, will bring together some of UTM and Imperial’s world-class researchers as they develop the next generation of low carbon transport technologies.

Muhyiddin, who is also the Malaysian Education Minister, had earlier witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on research collaboration between the Imprerial College and UTM. Imperial College was represented by its Provost Prof James Stirling while UTM by its Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Wahid Omar. The Deputy Prime Minister was given a briefing by College officials as well as toured its facilities and laboratory.

In his speech, Stirling said the researchers would work on a range of areas to make cars more efficient, which would include reducing the size of engines to improve efficiency without sacrificing performance.

He said teams would look at ways of optimising technologies for advanced hybrid and electric vehicles to improve their range. “They will also develop new concept for energy storage and waste energy recovery technologies to make cars lighter, so that they use less fuel and are more sustainable,” he said.

The new centre will strengthen collaborations between UTM academics and will enable some of Malaysia’s very best PhD and postdoctoral students to undertake research at Imperial, he added.

Also present at the signing ceremony were Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ahmad Rasidi Hazizi, and Prof Ricardo Martinez-Botas from the College’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Stirling said both the UK and Malaysia were committed to using science and innovation to help build low carbon economies, and the new Centre would bolster those efforts.

He said the agreement would bring together some of the world’s best researchers in the field of low carbon transport, as they sought to develop potentially transformational technologies and improve the research base in that crucial area.

Meanwhile, Wahid said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Imperial College and UTM was signed in London in 2011 witnessed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

Muhyiddin, who made this working visit to attend the 11th Education World Forum which was held in London from Jan 20-22, had also attended several other programmes during the visit including meetings with Malaysian students, London UMNO Club members, as well as members of the International Independent Review Panel, Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, Prof Michael Fullan and Dr Andreas Schleicher.

Earlier, Muhyiddin was given a briefing on the results of the initial study done by Cambridge English Language Assessment on the Preliminary Report on ‘The Baseline Project: Measuring the English Language Standard and Establishing an evidence-based baseline for Malaysian Schools’ by its group’s assistant director (Assessments & Operations) Martin Robinson and Dr Hanan Khalifa, the head of Research & International Development.

During a press conference with the Malaysian Press later, both experts had said that the research was very comprehensive and involved a survey done on 31,000 students from 943 classrooms in 426 schools and was carried out over the past few months. Its final report is expected to be submitted to the Malaysian government in March next year.

According to Muhyiddin, Malaysia was the only country carrying out such a comprehensive study on the level of English proficiency of its school students.

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UN: Guyana, Haiti To Lead Economic Growth In Caribbean

GEORGETOWN (Guyana), Jan 23 (NNN-GINA) — As last year, the United Nations’ annual World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report for 2014 projects that Guyana and Haiti will take the lead in economic growth for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Both countries are projected to grow by 4.5 percent this year. The report said that Guyana grew by 4.6 percent in 2013 while Haiti’s was pegged at 3.5 percent. Guyana has experienced seven years of consecutive economic growth.

GDP growth in 2014 (Projected): Guyana (4.5%), Haiti (4.5%), Cuba (3.9%), Dominican Republic (3.5%), Trinidad and Tobago (2.5%), Jamaica (1.2%) and Barbados (1%).

Overall in the Caribbean region, growth is projected at 3.3 percent for this year. Last year, growth for the Caribbean region was estimated at 2.4 percent in 2013, slightly slower than in the last two years.

Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to hasten their growth to 3.6 percent and 4.1 percent in the next couple of years, up from 2.6 percent in 2013, according to WESP released on Monday.

The report attributes the positive growth in 2014-2015 to sound macroeconomic policies, resilient domestic demand and the gradual recovery in developed economies. However, it warns that economic growth remains subject to growth in other economies, mainly the euro area, the United States and China, which is now growing at a slower pace than in previous years.

In 2013, although the region experienced growth, economic expansion was uneven. South America led with 3.2 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, up from 2.5 percent in 2012, due to a rebound in Argentina and Brazil.

By contrast, in Mexico and Central America, economic activity is estimated to have slowed down to 1.5 percent in 2013 from 4.0 percent in 2012, in part because the Mexican economy has faced structural constraints and GDP growth decelerated significantly to only 1.2 percent.

WESP is produced at the beginning of each year by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five United Nations regional commissions.

A report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in December last puts Guyana’s economic growth close to WESP’s projections, that is 4.6 percent in 2014.

With regards the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC said they are projected to expand by 3.2 percent in 2014, which is higher than the 2.6 percent from the end of 2013.

ECLAC stated in its annual Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean for 2013 that less buoyant external demand, greater international financial volatility and falling consumption were the factors determining the more modest economic performance of countries in 2013, which brought down the three per cent estimate put forward by the commission in July.

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Investors Urged To Help Transform Cyberjaya Into Global Technology Hub

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 (NNN-Bernama) — Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the entity spearheading the development of Cyberjaya, is calling on technology companies, both foreign and local, to set up operations in the area in efforts to transform Cyberjaya from the premier ICT hub to a global technology hub.

Cyberview’s ambitious aim is by leveraging on the upcoming Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) that will be set up in Cyberjaya, as part of the government’s efforts to spur entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. “We are identifying other focus areas such as big data, cloud, social business and technology-related activities for Cyberjaya,” Cyberview Managing Director Faris Yahaya said.

The new niche areas would complement the current clusters of information technology, shared services and outsourcing as well as creative multimedia in the hub. Elevating Cyberjaya to a global scale would attract more foreign direct investments into the country, help strengthen local technology firms and create a high-value workforce, he said after a visit to the Malaysian National News Agency, Bernama.

“Cyberjaya will appeal to multinationals (MNCs) for more infrastructure investments,” he said. Cyberview also intends to team up with more joint venture partners in developing the remaining land in Cyberjaya as well as in the mixed development of Cyberjaya City Centre.

“We hope to work with partners such as those from the technology, lifestyle and healthcare sectors to further develop Cyberjaya,” he said.

Present at the briefing were Bernama General Manager Yong Soo Heong, Deputy Editor-in-Chief for Domestic News Zakaria Abdul Wahab, Deputy Editor-in-Chief for Bernama Economic Service Amer Hamzah, and Deputy Editor-in-Chief for Bernama TV Mokhtar Hussain.

Cyberview is talking to partners including renowned property developer SP Setia Bhd to develop the RM6 billion Cyberjaya City Centre, a mixed development project of commercial, residential and corporate office space. The deal with SP Setia is expected to be finalised by the second quarter of this year, with the property developer undertaking the first two phases, he said.

Cyberview hopes to rope in more partners for other phases of the project, he added. Currently, some 607 hectares (ha) of land in Cyberjaya housing over 800 companies including 38 MNCs, have yet to be developed. Out of this, 106.4 ha has been earmarked for development by Cyberview, Faris said.

Cyberview expects the gross development value of Cyberjaya to hit RM20 billion by 2016, up from RM11.1 billion in 2013. One of the major projects underway include the RM1.05 billion housing project undertaken by Cyberview and Gadang Holdings Bhd. Spread over 50 ha in Cyber 9, the mixed-use project is divided into four phases and involves the construction of 2,500 housing units.

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Boeing, UAE Partners Look To Harvest Biofuel From Desert Plants

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 (NNN-Bernama) — Boeing and research partners in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have made breakthroughs in sustainable aviation biofuel development, finding that desert plants fed by seawater will produce biofuel more efficiently than other well-known feedstocks.

The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), affiliated with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, will test these findings in a project that could support biofuel crop production in arid countries, such as the UAE.

“Plants called halophytes show even more promise than we expected as a source of renewable fuel for jets and other vehicles,” SBRC Director Dr Alejandro Rios said in a statement. According to him, the UAE has become a leader in researching desert land and seawater to grow sustainable biofuel feedstocks, which has potential applications in other parts of the world.

Funded by Boeing, Etihad Airways and Honeywell UOP, the SRBC is dedicated to the development and commercialisation of sustainable aviation biofuel, which emits 50 to 80 per cent less carbon through its lifecycle compared to fossil fuel.

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Best Time To Invest In Tourism Sector – Guyanese President

GEORGETOWN, Jan 23 (NNN-GINA) — Potential entrepreneurs are being encouraged to invest in local tourism sector by President Donald Ramotar who said that it is now opportune to invest in the sector that contributes significantly to Guyana’s development.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ cocktail at the Palm Court Restaurant, Main Street, the President, reflecting on the plans for 2014, said “it is an exciting time for the industry,” and “tourism has a great future and will contribute in a major way to the economy”.

He said that Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh and Tourism Minister Irfaan Ali have been tasked with putting up affordable proposals to help grow the sector at a more rapid pace.

Tourism, the president added, is being looked at in a regional framework and government has been spending money to develop infrastructure to attract more overseas visitors.

He pointed to the Guyana National Stadium and the Guyana International Conference Centre, both of which are attracting thousands of people and hosting major international events.

The Marriott Hotel, once completed and opened, as promised in August, will not only offer five-star accommodation, but also several high quality facilities. An expanded Cheddi Jagan International Airport, the president added, will see Guyana being poised to be a major hub for South America.

Ali called for closer communication and collaboration among stakeholders in the tourism sector which will redound to the benefit all eventually, and expressed his confidence in the sector’s growth for 2014.

“2014 should be the year of tourism and it has the capacity to contribute substantially to the economy”. Critical thinking is needed, the minister said, to move the rising sector forward.

Ali outlined some of the plans such as the Guyana Gold Festival, a four- day all inclusive package for high-end tourists, a Tourism Ambassador Programme to be spearheaded by artiste Dave Martins, Drive Guyana, a safari type overland venture taking persons to communities such as Siparuta, a Rum, Rhythm and Food Festival, the expansion of Yachting, which will see an international investor committing to build a world class boat yard and docking facility, and a Caribbean Premier League (CPL) all inclusive of tickets and accommodation package.

He also made a pitch for the changing of marriage laws to facilitate marriage tourism. “The 14 days it takes to register a marriage should be changed to two days”. He revealed that in 2013, nine weddings alone attracted over 200 overseas guests each. This was a market waiting to be tapped into, said the minister.

There are also plans to capitalise on the upcoming Football World Cup and Olympics in neighbouring Brazil.

He added that the National Geographic Traveler magazine which listed Guyana as one of the world’s top 21 must see destinations in 2014 will be filming another series on river monsters (a programme of deadly giant fish) in the next few months.

Brief remarks were also given by Copa airlines’ sales manager, Guillermo Gomez who said that his company views Guyana as its top achievement for 2014, and it will contribute substantially to the development of the tourism sector.

Copa airlines earlier Wednesday, announced that it will begin flying from Panama to Guyana in July, twice weekly.

Also speaking briefly and welcoming Copa to the local aviation sector were CPL representative Peter Russell who outlined the impact that the series will have locally and regionally, Tourism and Hospitality association of Guyana President Kit Nascimento, Mahendra Bhoodoo of the Guyana Motor Racing and Sports Club and Harrynand Persaud of King’s Jewellery World.

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Thousands flock to Muscat culture and heritage festival

Oman Daily Observer – 24 January, 2014 – The 14th edition of Muscat Festival, an annual event showcasing Omani and international heritage, art and culture, kicked off yesterday amid a heavy presence of festival-goers at the twin venues of Al Amerat Park and Al Naseem Gardens.

The organising committee has prepared a host of varied events and activities to satisfy visitors to the annual extravaganza which runs till November 22. The opening ceremony was witnessed by a big crowd of euphoric visitors, who poured in the festival venues from all across the Sultanate and friendly countries to enjoy the colourful activities.

In its previous thirteen editions the festival set itself as a distinctive Omani event with international interest. This edition emphasises the values of intellectual interaction between different civilisations.

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14 Malaysian firms to participate in Arab Health Exhibition

Khaleej Times – 25 January, 2014 – The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) is participating with 14 Malaysian companies in Arab Health 2014 in Dubai.

Arab Health has proven to be one of the most effective platforms for Malaysian service providers and manufacturers to promote their products and services and to network with foreign clients, according to Mohammed Mustafa Abdul Aziz, senior trade commissioner of Matrade Dubai.

Foreign clients from the healthcare services sector, which includes healthcare facilitators and agents, health tourism promoters, insurance companies and importers of pharmaceutical and medical products are expected to engage Malaysian service providers and manufacturers.

Total export from Malaysia to the UAE of medical and pharmaceuticals products valued at $ 20 million during the period of January-November 2013, according to Mustafa.

Matrade activities for the healthcare sector includes participation in international trade fairs, specialised marketing missions as well as trade investment mission led by the Minister of International Trade and Industry. Matrade has also been working closely with Malaysia Health Travel Council (MHTC), Association of Private Hospitals and agencies to promote the export of healthcare sector.

Malaysia, as one of Asia’s most recognised developing countries, has immense potential in an increasingly important sector that is healthcare. Healthcare in Malaysia under the responsibility of the government’s ninistry of health has an efficient and widespread system of healthcare, operating a two-tier healthcare system consisting of both a government-run universal system and a co-existing private system.

Malaysia’s vision for health is to create a seamless and integrated healthcare system that is of quality, reliable, equitable and affordable. The key to attain this goal will be to inculcate strong core values of professionalism, caring culture and team work spirit within the healthcare community. Health services cover the provision of healthcare services (such as hospital services and medical and dental services), social work services (for example, nursing homes), human health activities and veterinary services. The value chain of the health services sub-sector includes the manufacture, provision and distribution of pharmaceutical products, medical equipment and devices, health insurance, research and development (R&D), and education and training of medical personnel.

Malaysia’s Medical equipment industry has achieved international recognition in terms of capability and quality in a diverse range of products/services. The medical devices industry encompasses a broad range of products and equipment from examination gloves, implantable devices, orthopeadic devices and dialysers to imaging equipment and other devices which can be used for medical, surgical dental, optical and general health purposes.

Malaysia remains one of the world’s leading producer and exporter of catheters and surgical and examination gloves supplying 80 per cent of the world market for catheters and 60 per cent for rubber gloves, including medical gloves.

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Futuristic cars in UAE: A solar car that can do 330kph

Emirates 24/7 – 25 January, 2014 – Abu Dhabi-based Masdar City’s eco-friendly initiatives is gathering pace day by day. Masdar organised a two-day ‘The Festival’ displaying futuristic cars.

Japan’s Tokai University’s solar car and an electric car is on display for public viewing.

Ultralight at 135 kilogrammes and powered by thin-layer solar modules, the Tokai Solar Car has the capability to reach speeds of 330 kilometers per hour through its lithium ion 5.6kWh battery.

The car is also the winner of the prestigious 2012 World Solar Challenge in Australia and other global solar car races. The Festival is a two-day celebration of sustainability for the community.

Also called the ‘Tokai Challenger’, Tokai University’s Solar Car team took the car for a test on the roads surrounding Masdar City, allowing visitors to The Festival the chance to learn more about solar energy’s potential.

Organised by Masdar, The Festival contains various areas each with a unique theme and activities aimed at both inspiring and educating children and families. The event includes an organic market featuring farmers and vendors selling locally grown organic produce. There is also an exhibition area showcasing home solutions for sustainable living, eco-stores selling organic arts and crafts, food stalls as well as live music and entertainment for all ages.

Children enjoyed interactive activities that are both fun and educational, such as flower planting, windmill building, eco-craft workshops and a secret garden full of fun surprises. At the book swap families exchanged fun and interesting books, encouraging children to reuse and recycle.

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Jafza invited to participate in Expo Milano 2015

Khaleej Times – 25 January, 2014 – A high level Italian delegation comprising of Maurizio Martina, the under secretary of state for agricultural policies, and the under secretary of Expo Milano 2015 invited Jafza to participate in the upcoming Expo, during a recent visit to the free zone.

Martina invited Jafza to participate in the Expo during his talks with Ibrahim Mohamed Al Janahi, deputy CEO and chief commercial officer of Jafza. The under secretary was accompanied Giorgio Starace, the ambassador of Italy to the UAE; Giovanni Favilli, the consul general of Italy in Dubai; and Ferdinando Fiore, trade commissioner of the Italian Trade Commission. The delegation also discussed a number of wide ranging issues with senior Jafza officials, including stronger trade ties.

“We are keen on expanding our business ties with Italy, further developing the already strong relationship we have,” Al Janahi said, adding: “83 of the 200 Italian companies operating in Dubai are based in Jafza. We are keen to see an increase in this number, to adequately reflect the level of cooperation that exists between Dubai and Italy.”

Al Janahi also assured the delegation of Jafza’s continued support to the Italian community, and said that Jafza was looking into the possibility of taking part in the Milan Expo as part of the UAE pavilion. The delegates were also given an in-depth briefing on Jafza’s services and products, followed by an extensive tour of Jafza, so that the delegates could witness the level of services currently available and the development work being carried out to improve the level of services.

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