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13 Jan, 2014

Religious Faith Relieves Work Stress: Study

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 13 January 2014 (12 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.




Oman launches project to develop traditional farming

Oman Tribune – 09 January, 2014 – Dr Fuad Bin Ja’afar Al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, opened a project for developing traditional agriculture systems on Wednesday at Falaj Al Maiden in the Niyabat of Samad Al Shaan in the Wilayat of Al Mudhaibi at a cost of 88,960 rials.

The minister was briefed on the stages of the project, which covers 23 Feddans, with the aim of improving irrigation management and proper control for distribution of water to agricultural crops.

While meeting members of the Shura Council, the State Council and locals, the minister said that the visit comes in response to the Royal directives of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to meet citizens and identify their needs and advise them of the ministry’s plans and programmes.

The meeting covered a number of issues related to the services provided by the ministry. Al Sajwani affirmed that the demands of the citizens would be taken seriously by officials at the ministry.

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Uganda: Samuel Baker’s Trail to Boost Tourism

9 January 2014 – The Observer – Sir Samuel Baker has for long been renowned for having ‘discovered’ the source of River Nile at Albert Nyanza (Lake Albert).

He is also said to have led the fight against slave trade in northern Uganda, among other expeditions. More than 150 years later, Baker’s great grandsons are on a mission to keep his legacy alive. David and Christopher Baker continue to visit Uganda to retrace their granddad’s footsteps.

David, aged 74, was last here in early 2013 with his daughter Melanie, where they visited various places in Masindi, Hoima, Wanseko, Butiaba, Fort Patiko in Gulu, Karuma and Murchison Falls National Park.

This year, David and his brother returned to plant markers at various spots along the trail believed to have been used by their great grandfather when he named Lake Albert and the spectacular Murchison Falls.

The development, according to Stephen Masaba, the business development manager at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, will culminate into the “Baker Trail,” which is part of the 150 years anniversary since the Victorian explorer came to Africa. Masaba was speaking at a press conference at the Lake Victoria Serena hotel. The markers will subsequently be promoted as a modern tourism product.

The Bakers planted the markers in Masindi before they proceeded to Gulu with a stopover at Karuma wildlife reserve, where they planted another marker. They will plant more markers at Fort Patiko, north of Gulu town, and later head to Murchison Falls national park with a climax of their visit being to plant a marker at the top of the falls. High-ranking government officials are expected to witness this event tomorrow.

The Bakers will be joined by renowned anthropologist and modern-day African explorer, Julian Monroe Fisher, who is embarking on a long expedition following the Sir Samuel Baker trail from Juba to Baker’s view point on the shores of Lake Albert.

Masaba said the expedition was a great opportunity for the tourism sector since Fisher and the international press and partners would pass through the different sites of the country.

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Gambia: Tourism Minister Opens New Lodge for Makasutu Cultural Forest

6 January 2014 – The Point – The Minister of Tourism and Culture recently opened a new lodge at Makasutu Cultural Forest aimed at boosting tourism development in the country. The official opening was attended by senior government officials and community members.

In a statement delivered on her behalf by Gambia Tourism Board director of products Fatou Beyai, Tourism Minister Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie said the development was a dream come true for James English and Lawrence Williams.

James English was an engineer and a traveller, but having visited all but 21 countries in the world, he came to The Gambia and decided to stay, she explained.

He travelled around the country on several occasions with many friends to look for land then, on the penultimate day of a search in 1992, he and Lawrence came upon this area.

Acquiring more land and agreeing with the Sanneh family that this should become a conservation area they set up a camp there, living for seven years in a tent, while planting thousands of trees, hence the name Base Camp, Mrs Beyai gave the genesis of how the sight was developed.

The wildlife around the Base Camp, such as monkeys and baboons, gradually returned as the forest was replenished, she said.

This year, Madam Beyai added, it was decided that they should continue with the proposed development of Base Camp, a project which had been on hold for a while.

The result is the wonderful tower with its spectacular views across the surrounding countryside, the extraordinary changing rooms, the beautiful pool and the café or bar.

The product director went further to explain that The Gambia needs tourists to get about and mix with people, to buy their goods, to learn and understand the way of life in the country and to appreciate “the difficulties many of us face”.

“Bringing them here will not only give them a wonderful experience, it will also give them something to remember other than the beach and the confines of their hotels,” she noted.

“Many of you will be aware that James, who had been Lawrence’s closest friend and companion for such a long time, died suddenly just when Base Camp, had begun,” Mrs Beyai noted, saying: “The new lodge, Base Camp, is dedicated to the memory of James English, a true friend of The Gambia and an inspiration to its people.”

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Govt to improve Soekarno-Hatta International airport`s capacity starting 2014

January 9 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The government has set a target to boost the capacity of the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport from 2014 onwards, following rising concerns that the airport is running over capacity, Vice President Boediono stated here on Thursday.

The action plan involves the evaluation of the airports management and facilities, location, system of air traffic control, among other vital aspects.

“The Soekarno-Hatta airport will be able to handle 72 aircraft movements per hour by 2014 and 86 airplanes per hour by 2015. Currently, the airport can only handle 64 airplanes per hour,” claimed Boediono after a meeting with Transportation Minister E.E. Mangindaan and State-owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, Thursday.

Boediono emphasized that the decision to upgrade the Soekarno-Hatta airport was taken following mounting complaints from customers about recurrent flight delays and other ensuing problems as a result of the airport running over capacity.

Meanwhile, former chief-of-staff of Indonesian Air Force Chappy Hakim suggested that the government needs to reduce the number of flights operating in some airports that are running over capacity, including the Soekarno-Hatta airport. The government must ensure that the airports only handle flights as per their designed capacity.

Chappy also recommended that the government needs to add more taxiways and aprons in the airports. He requested the related authorities to upgrade the outdated air traffic control equipment in order to ensure flight safety in Indonesia.

“Human resources are also crucial for ensuring flight safety. Pilots and officials operating the air traffic control must be able to carry out their tasks efficiently,” Chappy pointed out.

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Malaysia Plans To Boost Islamic Tourism Sector

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 5 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia aims to attract more tourists from Islamic countries based on the niche market the country has to offer, which will add vibrancy to the Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014.

Ministry of Tourism and Culture Secretary-General Dr Ong Hong Peng said the sector recorded about 23 per cent of tourist arrivals from Muslim countries last year, who among others were keen to explore on the Islamic heritage trail and Syariah compliance services.

“Looking at the country’s potentials in Islamic tourism, we project that the arrival of Muslim tourists can rise up to 30 per cent in the long term, and 25 per cent in the short term,” he told a press conference after witnessing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) and Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC), Ministry of Tourism and Culture, here, yesterday.

At the ceremony, which was also witnessed by IIUM President Dr Rais Yatim, IIUM Rector Prof Dr Zaleha Kamaruddin and its deputy rector for International, Industry and Community Relations Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Berghout as well as ITC Director General Zulkifly Md Said and its Director of IndustryDevelopment Yuhaini Yusoff signed the MoU.

Ong said the cooperation could facilitate the government in achieving the target, adding that the sector’s expenditure (Islamic tourism) was reportedly valued at USD 130 billion to the world tourism industry in 2012.

Earlier Tourism and Culture Minister, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz in a speech text read by Ong indicated that the MoU would provide significant economic returns to the country as well as creating employment opportunities tograduates.

He said the collaboration would also open up opportunities for exchanges of internship and attachment; mobility of staff and students; joint research and publication as well as promotion of Islamic multicultural activities.

Meanwhile, Dr Rais in his remark said it was the university’s hopes that the MoU and the subsequent global excellence programmes planned by the university would complement other initiatives by the government to make Visit Malaysia Year 2014 a great success.

“In addition, the existing university’s global networking is ever ready to collaborate with the government to promote the country especially the religion-cultural as well as artistic and intellectual activities which will further position Malaysia as the world’s leading Islamic referral centre,” he said.

The event today also saw the soft launching of selected IIUM Global Excellence Programmes 2014 which among others include the Global IIUM Alumni Homecoming Week 2014, the formation of the Islamic Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) Chair for Quranic Script and the International Research, Invention and Innovation Exhibition.

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UK Mosque Opens Boxing Gym For All

OnIslam & News Agencies – 09 January 2014 SOUTH YORKSHIRE – Countering increasing crime rates in England, the first-ever mosque boxing gym has opened its doors in a Sheffield neighborhood, welcoming all faiths and people.

“In July 2012, the number of the anti-social behaviors cases in this area were more than 126,” Wajid Nazir, the Founder of One Nation Community centre told BBC on January 8. “But by the end of 2013 they were up to 100 cases, so we need to be sustained we need to be helped to carry out more of what we are doing.”

Located in the One Nation community centre in the Jamia Masjid and Usmania Education Centre in Netheredge, the boxing gem welcomes all people from different faiths in the Sharrow Vale and Netheredge parts of the city.

“The Centre welcome people from different backgrounds and religions,” said Max Cundy, a trainee at the boxing centre.

Refreshing the trainees in the community centre, a surprise visit of Paul Silky Jones, the former double world champion, has cheered them granting them a fun time with a boxing ideal.

“The world championship brings a lot of money to the trainers, you are anticipating to each other, you will get to think about all different races all different genders all community categories so it teaches you a lot about yourself” Jones said.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million. In July 2012, a report by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex found that Muslims are the most likely of all groups to be identified with the concept of ‘Britishness.’

In 2011, think tank Demo found that Muslims in the United Kingdom are more patriotic than the rest of population. Responding to the statement “I am proud to be a British citizen”, 83% of Muslims said they are proud of being British. The percentage came higher than average across the population which scored only 79%.

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Germany Introduces Islamic Education

OnIslam & Newspapers – 07 January 2014 CAIRO – Schools in the central German state of Hesse have started to offer Islamic education for primary school Muslim students, placing Islam on equal footing with the official Protestant and Catholic learning.

“They come here with such different backgrounds,” Timur Kumlu, a state-trained teacher at the Islamic instruction program, told New York Times on Tuesday, January 7. “We must educate so that they develop a personality with common roots,” in Germany and in Islam.

The classes, offered for the first time in German public schools, started in Hesse to better integrate Muslims in the German society. Following decades of neglect, the classes were part of a growing consensus that Germany was willing to serve its Muslim minority.

It was also proposed as a government bid to better integrate the nation’s large Muslim minority and counter the growing influence of what they termed as “radical religious thinking”. Delivering the Islamic classes, state-trained teachers use specially written textbooks to educate students on their peaceful faith.

Welcoming the optional Islamic classes, dozens of vigorous Muslim students have signed-up for at least 29 classes across the immigrant predominated districts.

“I think it’s clear now that for years we made the mistake of alienating people,” said Nicola Beer, who as education minister in Hesse was one of several politicians, professors and teachers who pushed for the Islamic instruction.

Germans recognize that “we are here together, we work together, and we educate our children together.”

Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.

Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country. A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.

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

According to a 2010 nationwide poll by the research institute Infratest-dimap, more than one third of the respondents would prefer “a Germany without Islam.”

With each of the 16 states determining its own education system, Muslims started offering religious education through Islamic organizations in different German states, including Berlin. After struggling for 20 years to get the permission for Islamic teaching, Muslims were granted the right to hold a 40-minute instruction class per week, which didn’t meet the minority’s demands at that time.

“It is difficult to be a Muslim in Germany,” said Fazil Altin, 34, a lawyer who is president of the Islamic Federation, who said he had been denied access to clients in jails because of his faith.

“The fact is, we are seen as a danger,” Altin says that more inclusive activities and polices are needed to void the gap between Muslims and the secular society of Germany. Muslims in the immigrant-heavy district of Kreuzberg have been facing multi challenges of integration, including German parents’ condemnations due to the growing numbers of immigrants in their children’s schools.

“Teachers here have a feeling that something doesn’t fit with Islam and democracy,” said Sabine Achour, a German lecturer and educator in Berlin who is married to a Moroccan lawyer.

German Muslims have also voiced concerns about the possibilities of applying Hesse’s initiative in the rest of Germany’s 16 states. The state-trained teachers in Hesse were required to accomplish 240 hours of extra schooling at Giessen University to join the Islamic instruction program.

Motivated by his ignorance about Islam, Kumlu, 31, the first-grade teacher, was eager to join the state-approved Islamic classes. “I wanted to clear this up,” said Kumlu, whose pupils now are third- to fifth-generation German. “And they should be on an equal basis with other religions.”

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Malaysian expertise to build UAE halal economy

Khaleej Times – 07 January, 2014 – A high-powered team of Malaysian ministers and businessmen recently visited the UAE to meet the country’s top industry leaders and government officials, and to share insights and expertise on building a strong and stable halal economy.

Led by Haji Abdul Malik Kassim, State Minister for religious affairs, domestic trade and consumer affairs, the delegation met the region’s leaders involved in the halal industry – including food production, banking, logistics, tourism, research & development, and financial products. The delegation comprised of political leaders along with top officials from the Penang International Halal Hub (PIHH) Development.

The Minister and his delegation also visited the offices of Al Islami Foods, the leading halal food company in the Middle East, where they were received by Hamid Badawi, Deputy CEO of Al Islami Foods. During the meeting, officials from Al Islami and PIHH focused on areas of mutual interest and identified issues of joint collaboration.

“It is an honour to host such a delegation and share insights that can help in bolstering the UAE’s stature as the capital of the halal economy,” said Hamid Badawi. “It also comes at an important time when Al Islami is expanding its presence beyond the GCC to other markets which are showing a preference for food produced as per halal standards.”

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Religious Faith Relieves Work Stress: Study

OnIslam & Newspapers – 09 January 2014 – CAIRO – Underscoring the crucial role of religion in people’s lives, a recent study has found that practicing a faith combats work stress, keeping employees less vulnerable to sick leaves and depression.

“My research shows that religiosity in the workplace may act as a resource, making people more resilient to cope with the many challenges of working life,” Dr Roxane Gervais, a senior psychologist at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Stockport, who conducted the survey, told the Telegraph on January 9.

“Such personal beliefs could be very helpful not only for employees, but also for employers providing people with a buffer zone.”

Surveying employees to gauge the level of work satisfaction, Dr. Gervais claims that religion forms a ‘barrier’ against strains of modern life.

The research has found that religious employees are less vulnerable to exhaustion, anxiety and depression in workplaces. Looking more enthusiastic than their colleagues, religious workers believe that their lives have a meaning.

“As the pace of work and life accelerates, people long for meaning, and the younger generation in particular is looking for more than just a big pay cheque at the end of the month,” Gervais said.

Taking part in religious services is also positively related to the high self-esteem and connections to a higher being, the study claims. Islam lays great emphasis on work. In many places in the Qur’an it is made clear that time should not be wasted.

In Islam, work is given special importance to the extent that it is considered as an act of worship in itself. Islam is a religion that orders its followers to be part and parcel of a working and productive society.

Citing the research’s findings, Dr. Gervais recommended that managers should understand and support employees’ beliefs for a better work performance. “We should hence encourage employers to accommodate, where possible, employees’ religious beliefs while at work, and not shy away from the issue.” Dr. Gervais recommended.

The accommodation with employees’ beliefs boosts staff morale, retention and loyalty, according to a previous study. Being active than other workers, religious workers are more likely to have healthier lifestyles and so less likely to take sick leaves.

“Religiosity seemed to assist individuals in gaining better well-being and using more appropriate coping mechanisms.” Dr. Gervais said.

The study’s results were presented on January 9, at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology’s in Brighton.

People who neglect spirituality, and so are lacking in spiritual values, cannot sustain conduct in accordance with these principles.

All religions encourage good conduct and warn against misdeeds. A sincerely religious person cannot continue unethical behavior in good conscience. People with strong faith consider themselves and their possessions as belonging to God. They bow their ego, ideas, passions, and thinking to God.

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‘Fashionable’ Hijab Lures Indonesians

OnIslam & News Agencies, 29 December 2013 JAKARTA – Attracting a growing number of Indonesian women, fashionable and colorful Islamic headscarf is gaining ground in the southern Asian archipelago, seeing hijab not only as a religious commitment, but also a fashion statement.

“The hijabs are all cute and I can’t resist buying them,” Fani, a 29 years old employee of an insurance company, told Antara News on Saturday, December 28.

“Some of the hijabs I’ve bought I have not yet even worn,” she said.

Like many Indonesian young women, Fani, who lives in Bandung city, West Java province, shares a love for hijab fashion.

Satisfying her passion, she spends Rp300,000 (around US$35) per month to purchase hijabs and accessories.

According to Fani, every month there are new, trendy hijabs being displayed in stores. Hence, she often spends one day a month to go hunting for fashionable hijabs in malls or shopping centers in her town.

Twenty years ago, Indonesian women only knew square-shaped headscarves, in either plain black or white. Women used also to wrap their headscarves in a simple way, putting a safety pin to keep it intact. Wearing headscarves was often associated with an unfashionable life.

This has all changes nowadays. In modern Indonesia, hijab turned to be a fashion item, as Youtube viewers can find thousands of Indonesian women offering tutorials on how to fashionably wear hijabs. Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations. Islamic fashion is part of a growing appetite for Shari`ah-related industries and assets, ranging from finance to halal food.

Modesty and religion are the cornerstones behind the fast-growing Islamic fashion industry, which is making a mark on runways from Indonesia and Dubai to Monte Carlo.

Over the past few years, the hijab sales have exceeded retail stores, with website and social media replacing them. Apart from profits for manufacturers, the hijab trend also brings out new celebrities who gained fame due to their style of wearing hijabs.

Personalities such as Dian Pelangi, Hanna Faridl and Fifi Alvianto are well-known for their stylish and chic fashion while wearing hijabs. “In the end, the importance of wearing hijabs is that it is not only a symbol of modesty, it’s about being able to put yourself in a positive state of mind and make the right decisions,” Fifi wrote on her blog, hijab-scarf.com, viewed by 4 million people.

“Modesty comes from within, and even a woman wearing a hijab can have a lack of it.”

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim state where Muslims make up 86.1 percent of Indonesia’s 235 million population.

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Toronto Convention Inspires Muslim Change

By Muneeb Nasir

OnIslam Correspondent Sunday, 29 December 2013 TORONTO – For over 20,000 Muslim visitors this year, the Reviving Islamic Spirit convention has offered them a special cocktail of inspirational speech from renowned Muslim speakers, sending an out loud message of personal, communal and environmental change.

“Muslims are meant to be people of high aspirations,” British scholar, Sheikh Zahir Mahmood, told the audience on the second day of convention on Saturday, December 28.

“Don’t let anything bring you down.”

Over 20,000 people were in attendance to listen to Muslim scholars and academics speak on how to effect personal, communal and environmental change.

In a joint session, Dalia Mogahed, a Senior Analyst and Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, and Dr. John Esposito, a well-known Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University, discussed the growing Muslim presence in North America.

“Muslims are a vital organ in the body of society and not a benign cancer,” said Dalia Mogahed.

“Real challenge for the Muslim community is to strategize their resources,” Dr. John Esposito added.

In another highly anticipated presentation, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr spoke on the topic, ‘Sacred Science and the Environmental Crisis.’

“The environmental crisis is the result of the application of modern science,” said Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

“Modern science does not deal with the nature of things as they are.”

“Modern science is based on the negation of all levels of reality,” he added.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, currently University Professor of Islamic Studies at the George Washington University, Washington DC is one of the most important and foremost scholars of Islamic, Religious and Comparative Studies in the world today.

“The goal of science, as applied, is power,” Dr. Nasr noted.

“The goal of Islamic sciences is the perfection of the human soul.”

The event, running from December 27 through December 29, is held in the heart of downtown Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Center, next to the iconic CN Tower.

The convention has become a staple in Toronto’s downtown core during the Christmas holiday season, adding a boost to the local economy.

Personal Development

Throughout the day, a number of lectures dealt with personal development of Muslims, especially youth.

“When we don’t forgive negative emotions, we experience darkness and constriction in our hearts,” advised Sheikh Mokhtar Maghraoui of Al-Madina Institute, a well-known scholar in North America.

“If we are distanced from the source, then we cannot drink from it,” he said.

“Get out of darkness.”

Speaking on the topic of ‘Respecting Others’, Ambassador Shabazz, eldest daughter of the late Malcolm X Shabazz, commended the youths who started the convention 12 years ago and for providing an open platform and space for all peoples.

“You don’t have to be Muslim to benefit from the spirit of Islam,” she said. “In Islam, our definition of brother should never mean other.”

In a poignant moment, Ambassador Shabazz read excerpts from her father’s letter after his life-changing trip for the Hajj.

“Stand for something, respect yourself and do it by any means necessary,” she said in her parting advise.

In his lecture, Professor Tariq Ramadan urged the convention goers to be proactive in getting to know their society and fellow citizens.

“Don’t victimize yourself and tell people they should know about Islam,” said Professor Ramadan. “Muslims need to know the people.”

In the final session of the day, the well-known American Islamic scholar, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, held the attention of the convention with his lecture on the topic, ‘When Worlds Wither: Guidance in the Latter Days.’

“I’m amazed at a community whose Lord told them to help one another while some die from starvation and some die from over eating,” said Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. “Jellyfish are taking over the oceans – they are mindless, spineless and all they do is consume,” he noted.

“This is a manifestation of our current state. If you follow your whims you will be led astray from the path of God,” said Sheikh Hamza Yusuf.

In addition to the plenary sessions, the event includes a bustling grand Souk (bazaar), with vendors from all across North America selling and promoting their products and services. The convention, which will conclude on Sunday, is also hosting the annual food and coat drive to assist the needy in the Greater Toronto Area.

Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada. Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011. Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population.

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Jeddah to host first historic festival

Jeddah, Tuesday, 06 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 07 January 2014 (IINA) – The organizing committee of the 10-day 1st Jeddah Historic Festival announced on Tuesday that heritage, cultural and entertainment events will take place during the 10-day Spring Festival starting Jan. 16, under the patronage of Makkah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah.

Speaking at a press conference at Jeddah Municipality house in Balad on Sunday evening, Muhammad Al-Amri, executive director of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in the Makkah province, said the festival aims to provide an opportunity for Jeddawis and visitors, the possibility of closely relating to the tales of the past century. He announced that SCTA has set a yearly budget of SR50 million to renovate historic Jeddah, which includes a number of monuments and heritage buildings of archeological interest, such as the Old Jeddah wall and its historical courtyards like Al-Mazloom, Al-Sham, Al-Yemen, and Al-Bahr Haras.

“I believe it is a very important historical area and it is our duty to preserve it. This festival comes at the right time to make residents of this beautiful city strengthen the position of Jeddah as a source of culture, literature and history,” he said. Al-Amri noted that the festival would be a great opportunity for the SCTA to prepare a new file for Jeddah’s historic area to be registered as a World Heritage site UNESCO after it failed a while ago. SCTA President Prince Sultan Bin Salman has shown interest in preserving the Hijazi architectural style even before becoming the tourism body’s chief, and used to appeal to local people and establishments to play their role in preserving the heritage features of the old buildings in Jeddah, said Al-Amri.

Zaki Hassanain, CEO of Benchmark, organizing company of the event, noted that the festival expects over 600,000 visitors to throng historic Jeddah daily to witness around 47 cultural, heritage and entertainment activities to be held in various parts of the area or otherwise called downtown Jeddah (Balad).

“The festival is the first-of-its-kind to promote Jeddah’s rich and vibrant culture. The culture and heritage of the city are embodied in Jeddah’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. These are important, not only as historical reminders of the way people used to live and the values they had, but also as attractions for tourists. These historic areas reflect the shared values that people choose to carry forward into the future,” Hassanain said.

Mohammed Zaki, events director, gave a brief presentation of the events. “Visitors will enjoy a variety of events for entertainment such as theatrical performances, stand-up comedy shows, traditional competitions, heritage and cultural shows, a number of cultural competitions, family entertainment programs, antique cars exhibition and folk dances,” he said. Abdullah Bin Dhawi, director of local Affairs at Jeddah Governorate and president of the executive committee said: “As well as giving Jeddah its special identity, this festival will attract residents, visitors and tourists and will also provide leisure and social opportunities as well as enhancing a sense of pride and belonging amongst residents.”

Sami Nawar, spokesman of Jeddah Municipality, said the municipality recognizes the importance of Jeddah’s unique culture and heritage and will ensure that it is valued and preserved. “Jeddah Municipality has long been a leader in preserving the city’s heritage. In 1980 we became the only municipality in KSA to list historic monuments and buildings (in Al-Balad) and were the first to establish a preservation department as well as a culture and tourism department,” he said. The municipality, Nawar added, plans to renovate 34 of the 557 historical buildings and will continue to support a wide range of events and festivals in Jeddah as a means of promoting the city’s culture and identity. Mazen Batterjee, vice chairman of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), said together with being a modern city with a fast developing economy, Jeddah should be recognized as a global cultural center with rich cultural traditions and heritage sites.

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Jordan launches Islamic ‘religious tourism’ campaign

Amman, Tuesday, 06 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 07 January 2014 (IINA) – Jordan has launched a campaign to attract sightseers from Muslim countries to boost the domestic tourism sector, according to Abdul Razaq Arabiyat, managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board.

“The board launched a campaign to promote Islamic tourism in Jordan and attract tourists from Muslim countries, especially from Malaysia and Indonesia, given that Jordan is a base and a gateway for holy Muslim and Christian shrines,” he said in a press statement. The campaign aims to boost the profile of religious sites in Jordan as an attraction for foreign tourists and seeks to promote religious tourism as “a main source of tourism revenues in the kingdom,” Arabiyat added.

A number of promotional programs have been adopted by the board to attract those Muslim tourists intending to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage, who then continue on with their religious tour by traveling to Jordan and Palestine. “We’ve signed a number of agreements with tourism companies in Indonesia and Malaysia on visiting religious shrines in Jordan and Palestine… such as (the site of the) battles of Islamic conquests,” said Arabiyat.

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Haram Presidency to introduce portable Zamzam can

Makkah, 06 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 07 January 2014 (IINA) – The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah launched a portable delivery service of Zamzam water in the Grand Mosque’s vicinity on Monday.

Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, chief imam of the Grand Mosque, formally inaugurated the delivery service, through which the water will be delivered inside portable cans. “Water will be delivered in portable cans to fasting pilgrims on Mondays and Thursdays and throughout the entire month of Ramadan this year,” Ahmed Al-Mansouri of the Presidency of the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque Affairs said. The portable cans are designed to the highest hygienic standards to protect against infection and have the additional feature of carrying disposable cups.

The General Presidency has also moved to provide counseling and guidance to pilgrims and visitors to Makkah and Madinah. The presidency is planning on displaying more literature in foreign languages and also conducting lectures for pilgrims.

Abdulaziz Al-Bakht, director of guidance and counseling, supervises such matters inside the Grand Mosque.

The presidency will distribute printed literature to pilgrims for performing rituals according to Islamic laws. It will also display Islamic rulings on various issues. The presidency has recruited 70 full-time employees and 21 temporary employees to work on a seasonal basis for this purpose. Guidance and counseling classes will be held daily after the five prayers.

Pilgrims can avail of the Urdu translations of the lectures following midday prayers, said Al-Mansouri. Translation and counseling activities will be held in the south side of the Grand Mosque, also known as the “Junoob Almakbariya,” near King Fahd gate and gate 94. The General Presidency has also entered into an agreement with the Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah to train students to guide pilgrims, said Al-Mansouri.

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Haramain rail will open by end of 2015

Riyadh, 08 Rabi Al-Awwal 1434/ 09 January 2014 (IINA) – The Haramain high-speed link connecting Makkah with Madinah is on track and will open by the end of Dec. 2015, according to Director General of Expansion Projects at Saudi Railways Organization Wasmi Al-Ferraj.

Addressing a press conference, Al-Ferraj said that the line’s station in Madinah is now 52 percent complete. The Makkah terminal and a stop in Jeddah are also nearing completion while the one serving King Abdullah Economic City almost 38 percent done. A fifth station will serve Jeddah International airport.

The Haramain link, which is being constructed specifically for high-speed electric trains, will be 450-km long and allow trains to reach a speed of at least 300 kmph, linking the two holy cities. The project has been divided into six sections or “areas”: Area 1 starts in Makkah and runs to the 70km mark; area 2 runs from 70 km to 100 km; area 3 from 100 km to 185 km; area 4 from 185 km to 285 km; area 5 up to 350 km; and area 6 to the end of the 450 km track in Madinah.

The line will cost almost $12b, with the first phase, split into two parts, having a budget totaling $4.1b and the second – which includes the tracks and signaling – some $7.9b, Al-Ferraj said. The Kingdom’s first high-speed passenger rail line was slated for completion by January 2014. But due it unavoidable circumstances the construction has been delayed. Initially the Haramain railway is expected to carry more than 3 million passengers annually.

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Pakistan appoints woman judge in Shariah court

Islamabad, Wednesday, 29 Safar 1434/ 01 January 2014 (IINA) – Pakistan’s national Shariah court, which hears cases under the country’s Islamic legislation, on Monday appointed a female judge for the first time in its 33-year history.

Ashraf Jehan, 56, who was serving as an additional judge at the high court in southern Sindh province, made history as she took the oath in Karachi. “It was a historic oath-taking ceremony today when an able lady judge had joined the Shariah Court,” said Agha Rafiq Ahmad, the chief justice of the Federal Shariah Court of Pakistan. The court was established in 1980 during the rule of military dictator Ziaul Haq as part of a sweeping Islamiation of Pakistan’s institutions. It examines the country’s laws to check them for conformity with Islamic injunctions and hears appeals under religious legislation known as the “Hudood Laws”, which run parallel to the penal code. “There was no bar in the constitution to make a woman the judge of Shariah Court and there is no discrimination between men and women,” Ahmad said.

The chief justice of the Shariah Court, who rarely speaks to the media, said he was pleased to comment on an historic moment. “I took the initiative as it would send the message in the world that we are enlightened people and would dispel many misconceptions,” he said.

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Workshop on increasing awareness on Palestine issue begins

Sun.mv – January 3, 2014 – The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Maldives Palestine Brotherhood Association have started a workshop for religious scholars, to increase awareness among Maldivians on the situation in Palestine.

President of Maldives Palestine Brotherhood Association Ahmed Maumoon told reporters that the workshop will last two days.

“This workshop is conducted for religious scholars because they can easily spread this information across the country. At the end of this workshop, the information will be spread to all regions through the scholars,” he said.

Maumoon said that the workshop will be attended by about 50 people and lectures will be given by Secretary General of Palestine Scholars Union Ali Ahmed Mugbil.

Maldives Palestine Brotherhood Association was established in 2011 to increase awareness among Maldivians on the situation in Palestine, and over the years, the association has held a photo exhibition and organised two lectures on this issue.

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Maldives requests Indian assistance for tourism development

Sun.mv – January 2, 2014 – The Maldives has requested financial assistance through State Bank of India (SBI) for the development of its tourism sector.

During a meeting today between President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who was in India on an official visit, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Yameen requested financial assistance for the expansion and development of the tourism sector of the Maldives.

During this meeting, Meedhoo MP and Chairman of Sun Hotels and Resorts Ahmed Siyam Mohamed said that SBI provides generous assistance to the tourism sector of the Maldives. “During today’s meeting, we requested financial assistance through SBI for tourism development. The response was positive,” said Siyam.

He said that large sums of money are required to develop the numerous islands that have been leased for resort development in the Maldives.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb, who also participated in the meeting, said that the purpose of requesting SBI’s assistance is to finance incomplete resort development projects.

SBI, the first bank to be established in the Maldives, has three offices in the country and provides generous assistance to private businesses thereby contributing to the economic development of the country.

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China offers help with capacity building in Maldives tourism

Sun.mv – January 7, 2014 – Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Liu Zhenmin, during a courtesy call on President Yameen Abdul Gayoom today, has noted China’s interest in assisting with capacity building in the tourism sector of the Maldives.

At the meeting, the President and the Chinese Vice Minister exchanged views on ways to increase and maintain the Maldives as a preferred tourism destination in China.

The President’s Office said that they discussed the close bilateral relations that exist between the two countries, and explored possibilities of strengthening these ties, especially in the social and economic sectors.

The President highlighted that 40 years of strong diplomatic relations had resulted in unprecedented close cooperation and benefits for the peoples. He expressed his gratitude to the Chinese government for their contribution to the development of Maldives, especially the assistance in housing.

Speaking on the mutual respect accorded to each other, President Yameen said that the Maldives cherished the Chinese government’s confidence in Maldives in its capacity to resolve domestic issues.

The Chinese Vice Minister congratulated the President on his election and the successful transition of government in November 2013. He conveyed to the President, the Chinese government’s commitment to strengthen the Sino-Maldives relations in the future.

The Chinese Vice Minister underlined the areas in which both countries could extend cooperation. He especially focused on strengthening ties in the fields of tourism and hospitality, economics and trade, and infrastructure development.

Further, the Chinese Vice Minister briefed the President on China’s propositions on contributing to the preservation of and research in the Maldives’ marine ecology.

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Maldives to introduce award for women

Sun.mv – January 8, 2014 – The Ministry of Health and Gender has introduced an award for women who work for the development and betterment of the nation.

In a statement, the ministry said that it is a national responsibility to celebrate and encourage the numerous efforts by women towards social and national development.

The statement highlights that the purpose of the award is to celebrate these efforts, to encourage more women to engage in similar work. The award will be given annually and the recipients will be decided by the ministry, reads the statement.

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Maldives moves ahead with plans for Felivaru airport

Sun.mv – January 8, 2014 – Ministry of Transport and Communication has called for expression of interest for the project to construct an airport in Lhaviyani Felivaru. Speaking at a press conference at President’s Office today, Minister of Transport and Communication Ameen Ibrahim said that the project will be conducted on contractor-finance basis.

He said that the airport in Felivaru will have a 1800-ft runway, and can accommodate jet aircraft. He said the group which wins the project will be given the island of Lhaviyani Madivaru, to be developed as a tourist resort.

Ameen said that efforts are also ongoing for the construction of an airport in Haa Dhaalu Kulhudhuffushi, and that a group will visit the island tomorrow to conduct research for this project.

When asked by Sun about the development works at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), Ameen said that this is also under way, and that more details will be available around 22 January.

The ministry earlier unveiled its 100-day action plan, which included implementing a project to establish a holding bay to expand the runway at INIA.

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Southern Kyrgyz women expand business role

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-01-08 OSH – Southern Kyrgyz women are intent on succeeding in business, and now they’re receiving the advice they need. At a December 19 conference in Osh, women discussed opportunities to develop business in Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken oblasts. Women’s economic engagement increases their opportunities in the job market and provides for their families, participants said.

“The seminar was meant to increase social capital and access to market information for businesswomen in southern Kyrgyzstan who represent tourism, agriculture and the garment industry,” Zarina Mambetturdiyeva, the executive director of the NGO Kurak Women’s Forum, told Central Asia Online.

“The conference participants expanded their knowledge on ways to succeed in business and decided to subsequently get together and share their experiences,” she said, adding that 60 people attended the seminar.

Members of the garment industry learned about women’s fashion trends for the upcoming season, Raziya Ormonova, the Bishkek Business Club regional assistant, told Central Asia Online in an interview.

“Guests from Bishkek represented by Dilbar Ashimbayeva, the creative director of one of the fashion houses, talked about the secrets of their success and shared their expertise,” she said. “Ainura Sagynbayeva, the CEO of another company, shared her experience in the restaurant and hotel business.”

The participants were happy with the conference, having learned about upcoming women’s fashions and management techniques for services and tourism, Ormonova said.

“Highly specialised seminars like this one help the participants improve their skills and learn how to raise the qualifications of workers in the restaurant, lodging and other industries,” Damira Arakulova, chief specialist in Osh city hall’s economic and business development department, told Central Asia Online.

Such events help develop entrepreneurship not only in the cities but in the rural areas as well, where women’s interest in manufacturing and food processing has increased recently, she said.

“For example, in suburban Osh the number of small dairies and bakeries has been growing, as well as garment production, and the food-processing sector is getting a second wind,” she said, adding that women now know how to can and sell their harvests of apricots, cherries or raspberries.

Myskal Toktosunova, a businesswoman from Uchar village in Kara-Sui District, Osh Oblast, told Central Asia Online that she and her co-workers formerly did not know how to predict how much harvested produce they should set aside for their customers.

“Such meetings … give us the chance to gain new knowledge useful for business,” she said. “Sometimes, we’d produce too much milk or too many eggs. Because such produce is perishable, we’d lose money.”

Before launching any sort of business, she and her employees study the market, conduct research on their products’ competitiveness and enter into a contract so they have a better idea of demand, she said.

“Considering the high level of interest from women running small- and medium-sized businesses, we decided to open a branch of our organisation in Osh and encourage them even more to develop their business,” Mambetturdiyeva said. “This will undoubtedly boost our economy.”

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Turkey’s Mersin ballet to celebrate 20th anniversary

Hurriyet – MERSİN – The Mersin State Opera and Ballet (MDOB) will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert and dance shows titled “20th Year Gala Night.”

According to a written statement, the event will feature internationally known aria soloists under the baton of conductor Vladimir Lungu. Renowned artists and local and national bureaucrats have been invited to the two-act celebration event that will take place on Jan. 4 at the Mersin Culture Center Opera Stage at 8 p.m.

MDOB Director Erdoğan Şanal said that Mersin was a city of culture and arts as well as being a port and trade city, and MDOB had enriched the city life for 20 years with operas, ballets and symphonic concerts. “MDOB has reached thousands of students in hundreds of schools and supported their education. Many children have met children’s musicals and visual performances thanks to MDOB in 20 years. The event will present the best arias and ballet shows of the last 20 years,” Şanal said, adding that all art lovers were invited to the event.

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Seljuk Museum set to open in central Anatolian province

Hurriyet – KAYSERİ – Kayseri’s monumental Gevher Nesibe Madrasah has been turned into a museum showcasing the Seljuk civilization. The Seljuk Museum, featuring the latest technology, is set to open in February

Restoration works have been completed in the Gevher Nesibe Madrasah in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri. The madrasah has been turned into a museum housing historic artifacts from the Seljuk civilization as well as offering digital applications.

According to a written statement made by the Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality, works have almost been completed in the museum. The Gevher Nesibe Madrasah, which was built in 1206 by the Anatolian Seljuk sultan Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev upon the will of his sister Gevher Nesibe Sultan will serve as the Seljuk Museum, which is the first one in Turkey.

The madrasah, which is known as the world’s first medical center, has been restored by the General Directorate of Foundations within the scope of a project made by Erciyes University Faculty of Architecture. But the fact that the floors of the patient rooms in the madrasah were covered with parquet and electricity wires were fished through the walls have caused criticisms and reactions.

Hayrünnisa Gül, the wife of President Abdullah Gül, made a statement then, saying, “We receive guests from abroad. For example the Dutch queen came and we took her to Kayseri. But I could not take her to the Gevher Nesibe, I feel embarrassed because of parquets on the floor. But the guest should see the natural fabric of this place. This time I saw that Kayseri became conscious and they started restoring the madrasah. They removed the parquets.”

Because of such criticisms, the Kayseri Metropolitan Municipality restored the Gevher Nesibe Madrasah to its original once again. Now, the madrasah is set to open in February as a museum. Guests will have the feeling of walking on water in the museum thanks to a technology, according to officials.

Some parts of the museum will focus on the Seljuk civilization and other parts have been organized as a medical museum, which highlights the healing features of the madrasah.

The Seljuk civilization part will display elements on the Seljuk city, architecture, art, science, dress and also have sections providing information about the Seljuks in Anatolia.

The other part of the museum will have sections where visitors will be provided information about diseases, treatment methods and tools, scholars, medicines, treatment with music, treatment with color and etc.

Besides the Seljuk ethnographic artifacts that will be displayed in the museum, there will also be areas including interactive and technological visuals. In this way, visitors will get information by trying, applying, listening and using the technological tools.

The Seljuk Museum also has holographic 3D visuals and augmented reality applications, which are rare in the world museums. Thanks to this equipment, visitors will feel as if they walking on water or dressing like the Seljuk sultans.

The museum is considered as the cutting edge of digital museum management.

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Azerbaijan to promote its film industry

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – Azerbaijan is plowing ever-greater oil and natural gas revenues into cultural pursuits, especially cinema, continuing a proud film tradition

Pera Film will present a selection of eight films exploring Azerbaijani cinematic history with a film event “Bu Kino Çox Gözal” (This Cinema is Really Great) between Jan. 24 and Feb. 2 as part of a collaborative event with the European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS).

Shortly after the Lumiere brothers from France invented and patented the Cinematographe in 1895, the French entrepreneur, photographer and cameraman Alexandre Michon, who had been actively involved in documenting oil fields in Baku since 1879, started filming moving images portraying the city.

He shot his first film in 1898, which was an actualité entitled “The Oil Gush Fire in Bibiheybat.”

The film industry in Azerbaijan significantly developed after the Belgian Pirone brothers came to Baku and founded a joint-stock company, Filma, in 1915. They also established film distribution offices in Baku, Yerevan and Tbilisi, and invited the Russian director and film producer Boris Svetlov, who directed and produced several films, some of which later became very well-known.

In 1915, with financial support from oil barons in Baku, Svetlov directed the first full-length feature film in Azerbaijani cinema, “In the Realm of Oil and Millions,” which was remade by Fikrat Aliyev in 1980 as “Abyss of Gold.” A year later, Svetlov directed the first musical comedy, albeit as a silent film, based on “Arshin mal alan” by Uzeir Hajibeyov, with well-known themes being played by a piano accompanist. At this time, it was the convention for male actors to play female roles. Years later, in 1945, the film was remade with sound and female actors, becoming one of the most popular Azerbaijani films of all.

In general, pre-Soviet films in Azerbaijan mostly focused on the lives of laborers, oil fields and revolution. Once Soviet power was established in 1920, Azerbaijan SSR decided to nationalize its cinema. In 1922, the first cinema studio was founded, which was renamed the Azerbaijan Photo-Film Department a year later. During this period, the most famous and beloved films were musical comedies.

Remaking Svetlov’s “Arshin mal alan” in 1945 (also in 1965) popularized this genre, and over the years, films like “Rendezvous” (1955), “Bakhtiyar” (1955), “If Not This, Then That” (1965), “Where is Ahmad?” (1964) and “Mother-in-law” (1978) were made.

After regaining its independence in 1991, Azerbaijani cinema entered a new era. Since the early 1990s, the country has directed a growing portion of the revenue it derives from massive oil and natural gas reserves toward cultural projects, with astonishing results. Since the creation of the Azerbaijan Film Commission in 2010, it is starting to turn its attention back to cinema. Despite the fact that the comedy genre retained its popularity (“Lucky Ring,” 1991; “Hungry Dupes,” 1993, and others), more serious issues were also addressed.

Over 1,000 films have been made since 1990. In the last five or six years, new cinemas were opened and existing cinemas were renovated in Baku, encouraging public interest in cinema.

The films to be screened in the event include Nikolai Leshenko and Reza Tahmasib’s “The Cloth Peddler,” Ilgar Najaf’s “Buta,” Samil Nacafzada’s “Fortress,” Yavar Rzayev’s “Holy Animal,” Elcin Musaoglu’s “40th Door,” Rafig Guliyev’s “Chovkan” and Shamil Aliyev’s “Steppe Man.”

Between Jan. 11 and 22, Pera film will also present a documentary film program titled “Reality Bites” including the selection of six recent documentaries from the past three years. The program aims to delve into fascinating and shocking stories while celebrating and exploring the world as seen the lens of documentary makers.

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Culture tours start for Brits in ancient cities of Turkey

ANTALYA – Hurriyet – Cultural and archaeology tours have kicked off in Antalya’s Side district for British tourists. Tourists visit 22 ancient cities during the 12-day tour. The tour starts in Side and ends in the ancient city of Xanthos, which is located in Kaş’s Kınık area and under UNESCO protection.

British archaeologist Denise Allen said last year they brought 52,000 British tourists to the Antalya region for culture, history and an archaeology tour. She said their goal for 2014 was 65,000 tourists.

Allen said British tourists were curious about history and culture and Antalya was an open-air museum for them with nearly 300 large and small ancient cities. “We have stared the first tour of the new year in Side.

We visit the ancient cities of Perge, Termessos, Selge, Seleukeia, Tlos, Letoon, Olimpos, Myra, Xanthos, Side, the Temple of Apollo, Side Ancient Theater, Alanya Fortress, Patara building, Lycian rock tombs, Alaharan, and Aspendos Ancient Theater.”

Side is also popular with Russian tourists. Russian Mobaly Tourism and Travel Agency Director Natilda Baranov said Russian tourists chose the ancient city of Side as a pilot region to closely see Roman era artifacts. She said Russian tourists also participate in culture and archaeology tours in Side three days a week.

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Antalya’s museums and ancient sites like mint

ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency – One of Turkey’s hot tourism spots, the southern city of Antalya is home to many museums and ancient sites, which are operating like a mint. The total revenue from these places was more than 3 million Turkish Liras last year

Antalya’s museums and ancient sites, including the Saint Nicholas Museum in Demre and the Alanya Castle, which brought the highest income, received more than 3 million visitors in 2013. The total contribution of these sites to the Turkish economy was 10,600 Turkish Liras.

Four museums and 17 ancient sites in Antalya, which increase its tourism revenues every year, were visited by 3,125 million people last year. The city’s foreign guests were more than 11 million in the same year.

The world famous Saint Nicholas Museum in Demre was the most popular place among visitors with 528,800 people. The museum ranked fifth in 2012 with 504,262 visitors. The income from the museum was 720,000 liras.

It was followed by the ancient city of Myra with 462,000 visitors and the Alanya Castle with 420,202 people. The castle, which is one of the candidates for the UNESCO World Heritage List broke the revenue record with 2,122,395 liras and became the place that brought the highest revenue to the city.

The castle’s history dates back to the Seljuk period and it was also the eighth most popular place in Turkey in 2012.

The Aspendos Theater, which draws attention thanks to its unique acoustic, was visited by 385,553 people last year. The revenue from the theater was 1,360 million liras. One of Turkey’s largest museums, the Antalya Museum was also very popular among local and foreign guests in 2013. Home to the Weary Hercules statue, which was brought to Turkey in 2011 after being smuggled abroad 31 years ago, the museum was visited by 130,073 people and earned 834,000 liras.

The entrance fee for museums and ancient sites was between 5 and 15 liras in 2013. The Antalya, Alanya and Saint Nicholas Museum were visited for 15 liras while visitors paid 10 liras to visit Side Museum and 5 liras for Elmalı Museum.

The entrance fee to Aspendos, Perge, Phaselis, Myra, Xhantos, Simena, Patara, Termessos, Karain, Olympos, Arykanda, Alanya Castle, Syedra Castle and Side Theater was also between 5 and 15 liras last year.

The Antalya Atatürk House was free to visit and hosted 80,837 people. The Alanya Atatürk House was visited by 8,326,000 people.

The situation was not different in Antalya in 2012, too. The museums and ancient sites in the city received a total of 3,114 million visitors and earned 9,850,721 liras.

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Bangladesh President congratulates nation on Guinness record

DHAKA, Jan 04, 2014 (BSS) – President Abdul Hamid today congratulated countrymen and organizers as Guinness World Records authorities have officially certified Bangladesh’s human flag record of 27,117 people created on December 16 last as the world’s largest human national flag.

In a message, the President said the achievement will inspire the whole nation. The record has already been officially posted on the Guinness World Records website (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world- records/2000/largest-human-national-flag).

Private mobile phone operator Robi Axiata Limited, in partnership with the Bangladesh Army, made the Guinness World Records for Bangladesh.

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Bangladesh SME Foundation organises contest to promote entrepreneurs

DHAKA, Jan 09, 2014 (BSS) – SME Foundation is going to organise small and medium business planning competition for the university students aimed at inspiring the young entrepreneurs to set up new industries in the country.

Primarily, 150 young entrepreneurs would be selected through securitisation of application, and they will be provided training on business planning and policy, a press release of SME foundation today said.

Jury Board comprised with renowned personalities of the sectors would finally select three persons through scrutinizing the business proposals and interview.

The SME Foundation will publish an advertisement on January 31 on its website seeking application. The interested students of different universities could submit their business plan by February 15.

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Dhaka Intl Trade Fair-2014 kicks off

DHAKA, Jan 9, 2014 (BSS) – The Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF- 2014), the month-long flagship trade event in the country, will begin here on Saturday (January 11). The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and the Commerce Ministry are jointly organising the show at Sher-e- Bangla Nagar in the city.

“A total of 11 countries including host Bangladesh will showcase their latest exportables before the potential buyers in the fair,” a source in the EPB told BSS today. Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed will brief the media tomorrow (Friday) about the salient features of this year’s event at the DITF secretariat, said the official.

Earlier, at the request of participants, the government deferred the event, usually begins on first January, by 10 days due to volatile political situation.

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Brunei promote Takaful products at Consumer Fair 13

Borneo Bulletin Online – January 10, 2014 – TAKAFUL Brunei Am Sdn Bhd (TBA) and Takaful Brunei Keluarga Sdn Bhd (TBK) are participating in this year’s Consumer Fair with a booth located near the main entrance of the International Convention Centre (ICC), Berakas.

During the five-day fair that will run till January 12, TBA is promoting various Fire Takaful products with the selection of opting for residence coverage only or together with requested house contents. With a minimum fee of B$50 per year, participant will be well-prepared from unexpected circumstances.

Whilst Takaful Personal Accident will protect a participant in terms of their death or permanent disabilities for any mishaps that could happened to the partaker 24 hours universally.

For these two products, new participants will be entitled to get a 25 per cent motor discount voucher which they can use to reduce the sum of contribution to be paid over to the counter for their car insurance.

Other than this, TBA will also be promoting their Takaful Musafir which is coverage for frequent flyers. Travellers can relax assured that they will be fiscally secured during their entire trip anytime anyplace.

Saving plans that are provided by TBK consist of Takaful Nur Savings, Takaful Retirement and Takaful Education. The specialties of TBK’s products are the benefits of securing the financial welfare inclusive of risk protection for the participant’s future.

Takaful Nur Savings is an inexpensive plan that is open to all. The coverage ranges from a maximum of five years or only one year with twenty-four hours global security.

Takaful Education will allow parents to feel more comfortable financially in terms of their children’s education expenses whilst Takaful Retirement on the other hand is a savings plan for those who would like to have a safe and sound with better lifestyle after their retirement.

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UNESCO Status In Dubai Creek’s Sights

DUBAI, Jan. 9 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai) could soon be listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, unlocking huge tourism potential for old Dubai and the city in general, the leader of the bid to secure this status has claimed.

Dubai Municipality’s Director of the Architectural Heritage Department, Rashad Mohammed Bukhash, believes the site put forward for World Heritage listing – a 4.5-kilometre stretch of the creek from the original mouth to Al Maktoum Bridge – is in with a good chance of getting the green light, given its historical significance.

It includes the quay and harbour piers where even today, hundreds of wooden boats known as dhows moor to offload goods. The area would preserve the three key historical districts – Shindagha, Bastakia and Deira.

“Trading (along the creek) was how Dubai developed into the cosmopolitan city it is today and also accounts for the city’s unique architecture, with influences from India and Africa,” said Bukhash. “The creek is the core of the city and it is important to safeguard this history.”

While old Dubai is already a popular place for visitors captivated by Dubai’s historical and cultural heritage, Bukhash said World Heritage listing would take global interest in Khor Dubai to new heights. “It will bring in at least two to three million extra visitors to the creek each year, initially,” he said.

The Dubai government has outlined ambitious plans to boost tourism numbers to 20 million visitors each year, compared to the 10.5 million who arrived in 2012. Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (formerly Bastakia) currently attracts 950,000 tourists a year, said Bukhash. “By 2020, we expect four million visitors to the area each year.”

There are plans for supporting facilities such as boutique hotels, while government departments and the private sector, including key stakeholders Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Emirates airline, are already devising strategies to help promote Khor Dubai and put the area on the tourism route.

UNESCO’s Advisory Committee will take its recommendations to the World Heritage Committee, which will meet in Qatar in June.

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Etihad Airways hits performance peak in 2013

Khaleej Times – 07 January, 2014 – Etihad Airways is celebrating a year of record-breaking success after achieving its highest ever passenger and cargo volumes in 2013.

Nearly 12 million people flew with Etihad Airways last year, marking a significant increase of nearly 16 per cent in comparison to 2012’s figure of 10.3 million.

Bangkok was once again the airline’s busiest route, with a total of 742,759 passengers flying to Thailand’s capital city in 2013, a year-on-year increase of seven per cent. Manila was the second busiest route with 547,068 passengers, followed by London, Jeddah and Paris.

Etihad Airways carried 73 per cent of the more than 16.4 million passengers who travelled through Abu Dhabi airport in 2013. With the addition of the airline’s equity alliance partners that operate flights into Abu Dhabi, the combined total rises to 79 per cent of passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi airport.

“Our record-breaking numbers in 2013 reflect the continued success of our strategic master plan, which focuses on three fundamental pillars; organic network growth, the forging of codeshare partnerships, and minority equity investments in other airlines,” James Hogan, president and CEO of Etihad Airways, said.

“As the national carrier of the UAE, we also continued to support Abu Dhabi’s growth as a leading international travel hub, while facilitating trade to and from the country,” added Hogan.

Six destinations were introduced to Etihad Airways’ network in 2013, with new services launched to Washington DC in March; Amsterdam in May; Sao Paulo and Belgrade in June; Sana’a in September; and Ho Chi Minh City in October. Frequencies were also increased on 18 existing routes last year and new codeshare agreements were signed with Kenya Airways, Air Serbia, South African Airways, Belavia, Korean Airlines, Air Canada and airBaltic. During 2013, building on its organic growth, Etihad Airways also expanded its codeshare and equity partnerships, which delivered more than 1.8 million passengers onto Etihad Airways flights, 38 per cent higher than the 1.3 million in 2012. In addition to its four existing equity partners — airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus — Etihad Airways announced investments in three additional carriers in 2013.

In August, the airline formalised a five-year contract to manage Serbia’s national carrier, Air Serbia (formerly Jat Airways), with a 49 per cent equity stake. This was followed in November, when the airline obtained regulatory approval from the Indian government to finalise a 24 per cent investment in Jet Airways, and announced its intention to acquire 33.3 per cent of the Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline, which will become the first airline to operate under the new brand of Etihad Regional.

Impressive cargo growth was also reported, with 486,753 tonnes of freight and mail flown by Etihad Airways last year, a staggering increase of 32 per cent compared to 2012 volumes. The airline accounted for 89 per cent of cargo imports, exports and transfers at Abu Dhabi airport last year. Volumes were boosted by enhancements to the freighter fleet capability and more cargo in the bellyhold of passenger aircraft. Established markets such as China, Hong Kong and India were top performers, in addition to expanding markets such as the Netherlands and the US.

“This has been another game-changing year and once again, the customer was placed at the heart of everything we did. Our service enhancements in 2013, from the launch of our Flying Nanny service to the continued rollout of Wi-Fi internet and live television across our fleet, highlight a commitment to delivering best-in-class products and services,” Hogan said.

“I am excited about what the future holds and look forward to working with all our partners to maximise the return for our shareholder, enable the continued growth and the evolution of Abu Dhabi as an aviation hub, and create a remarkable experience for our passengers,” he added.

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Air Arabia increases frequency to Doha

Saudi Gazette – 08 January, 2014 – After completing a successful decade of operations in Qatar, Air Arabia, the first and largest low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Middle East and North Africa, announced Monday the expansion of its services to Doha. The airline has increased its existing twice daily services between Sharjah and Doha to three times daily, becoming one of the frequent fliers between the two countries.

Air Arabia entered Qatar with a regular service to Doha on Jan. 6, 2004.

Over the past decade, the airline continued to enjoy good performance on the Sharjah-Doha route which resulted in the airline expanding its services from a few weekly flights to three times daily. With the additional frequency, the number of weekly flights to Doha will go up to 21 non-stop services, which depart Sharjah International Airport daily at 08:20, 15:30, and 18:30. Return flights depart Doha daily at 09:20, 16:30, and 19:30.

Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the New Year by launching an additional flight to Doha, which has always been a key market for us. Having completed a decade long operations in this very exciting market is a key milestone for us, and it is ambition to further expand our services from Doha beyond Sharjah to connect Air Arabia’s other hubs.”

Ali added: “Since inception in 2003, we have been committed to the improved intra-GCC connectivity to most major destinations in the Gulf. As we continue to play a vital role in connecting the nations, we have ambitious plans to strengthen operations to all airports within the GCC, offering enormous choice for customers seeking to travel around the region, where air travel is the only viable mode of transport.”

The strengthening of Qatar services further cements Air Arabia’s position as the leading low-cost carrier to GCC markets. In 10 years of operations, Air Arabia’s network has expanded to serve over 15 destinations in the GCC from hubs in the UAE and Egypt, with further expansion plans along the way.

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Izmir, Tehran to bypass sanctions with barter

Tehran Times – 08 January, 2014 – Western sanctions imposed on Iran that make payment transfers to or from the resource-rich nation extremely difficult have led Turkish and Iran businessmen to steer toward barter commerce.

Commerce chambers in Tehran and the Aegean province of Izmir have reached a mutual agreement to establish storehouses within free-trade zone in the cities to trade goods in exchange for other goods, Izmir Chamber of Commerce Chairman Ekrem Demirtas told Anadolu Agency.

“All goods that are not included in sanctions but cannot be traded because of the money transfer problem will be bought and sold,” he said.

“Iran, with 75 million people, is the 18th largest economy in the world; we cannot disregard this,” he said.

Demirtas said the model had been designed with a delegate from Tehran with the ambition of raising commerce between parties.

“For example, a company from here (Turkey) will send the construction materials for its ongoing housing project in Tehran from the bonded warehouse in Tehran. Iran-origin petrochemical products at equal cost will be sold by the barter company in Turkey and the money earned will be paid to company,” he said.

Demirtas said a similar scheme was under consideration for trade with Russia, where some problems with the shuttle trade, also known as the “suitcase trade,” was experienced in the past.

The suitcase trade refers to commodity and money exchange in which Russians bring goods in suitcases and sell them in certain marketplaces in Turkey before purchasing Turkish products to sell in their own markets upon their return.

Demirtas also warned against the potential adverse effect of the recently surfaced allegations into the involvement of corruption and bribery in Turkey’s gold trade with Iran. After the operation, they had to cancel their last trip to Iran as part of the barter project, yet the bilateral trade should be preserved amid the claims, he said. Turkey and Iran’s gold-for-gas trade is at the focus of corruption allegations that are hitting the Turkish government.

Iranian-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab is alleged to have conducted the trade while two former ministers, Zafer Caglayan and Muammer Guler, and their sons, who are still under arrest, are accused of aiding him in return for bribes. In order to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran, Turkey has been paying for the natural gas it buys from the country by selling gold to it in return for Turkish Liras.

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Iraq, Jordan plan rail link

Emirates 24/7 – 09 January, 2014 – Iraq and Jordan have completed studies for a planned 420-km rail link and are now considering funding options for the project, an Iraqi rail official has said.

Salam Jaber, director of the general company for railways at the Iraqi ministry of transport, said there were no obstacles blocking the $ multi-billion venture which was approved by the two neighboring Arab nations in 2011.

“The primary studies for the rail network linking Iraq and Jordan have been completed,” Jaber told the Iraqi Al Mustakilla news network.

“The two countries are now considering ways to finance the project as soon as possible…there are no hurdles or any technical and administrative problems facing the execution of this project but Iraq has recently been busy with more important and pressing projects, including the grand Al-Faw port project.”

OPEC member Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with Jordan to construct the single-track rail link in May 2011 and officials said it would provide passenger and cargo services. Iraqi Transport Ministry spokesman Jawad al Kharsan said after the signing that the rail which will link Baghdad with Jordan’s port of Aqaba would have a capacity of six million tonnes of cargo a year.

“This project is very important for Iraq as it will serve its exports, including oil and other products,” the network quoted Abdul Abbas Shayya, a member of the economy and investment panel in parliament, as saying on Tuesday.

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67 road projects worth 2.1b rials underway in Oman

Oman Tribune – 09 January, 2014 – Eng Salim Bin Mohammed Al Nuaimi, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Transport and Communications for Transport, said that 67 road projects are under implementation during the current plan across the Sultanate with a total cost of approximately 2.15 billion rials, along with maintenance projects.

The completion of these project will constitute a significant addition to the network of existing asphalt roads, Al Naimi said at a press conference where he reviewed projects implemented by the ministry in 2013 and to be completed in 2014.

Eng Abdul Rahman Bin Salim Al Hatimi, Director of the Railway Project, said that the development of a network of trains would be a vital addition for the Omani economy and help the Sultanate to become the gate of the region.

He added that the ministry’s activation of the Omani Railway Company leads to recruiting of technical and administrative staff, the launch of a business department and a survey of the local manufacturing and service capabilities.

Dr Mohammed Bin Nasser Bin Ali Al Zaabi, CEO of the Public Authority of Civil Aviation (Paca) said that the authority aims to excel in the area of aviation safety and security and efficiency of the human resources.

He gave a presentation on the achievements of 2013 and the projects to be completed in the current year of airports development in the Sultanate, Paca projects and studies to develop the civil aviation sector.

He also reviewed the projects of developing Muscat and Salalah airports, the standardisation of the navigational aid systems at the level of the Sultanate and the standardisation of air traffic management systems at the level of the Sultanate. He also referred to the completion of devices and systems for early warning against multiple hazards.

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New Omani museum documents history of education

Oman Daily Observer – 09 January, 2014 – Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture, opened yesterday the Educational Museum at Al Saidiyah School in Muscat. The Ministry of Education aims by establishing this museum to document the history of education in the Sultanate and its development since the dawn of Islam. The Ministry has chosen the old building of Al Saidiyah School in Muscat to house the Museum.

The Al Saidiyah School is the first school in the Sultanate, opened in 1940 on the orders of Sultan Said bin Taimour al Said and teaching continued in the school until the year 2000 and then rehabilitated as a museum of education.

The museum contains ten halls telling the history of education in the Sultanate, narrated in a book entitled “Education in Oman: Continuous Journey”, in addition to a pamphlet relevant to the occasion. The opening ceremony was attended by their highnesses, ministers, under-secretaries and a number of retired teachers and old students. On this occasion, Sayyid Haitham said that the school marked the first modern education in the Sultanate, adding that this beautiful monument reminds us of how education was in the Sultanate and the extent we have reached so far and it contains a lot of memories, thanking the committee for the rehabilitation of the museum and the teachers who provided it with information, and all who contributed to its success, especially the Ministry of Education.

For his part, Sayyid Asaad bin Tariq al Said, Representative of the Sultan, said that the museum “took us to a moment of history and great memories in a beautiful time” indicating that the establishment of the Al Saidiyah School was the most important event at that period of time and it graduated generations and men who contributed to the construction of modern Oman, thanking the Ministry of Education and all contributors to the success of this museum.

For her part, Dr Madeeha bint Ahmed al Shaibaniyah, Minister of Education, said a number of committees were formed dealing with the preparation and supervision of this museum. The committees contacted governmental and private entities and citizens to gather all documents about education in the Sultanate since the very beginning of the education process.

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12-point strategy proposed to boost inter-GCC trade

Arab News – 10 January, 2014 – The GCC Customs Union Authority (GCCCUA) and Federation of GCC Chambers (FGCCC) have jointly explored 12-point recommendations proposed by the GCCCUA on ways of activating inter-GCC trade and facilitate customs formalities, Saudi Press Agency reported. The recommendations were discussed at a recent meeting, organized by the FGCCC, at the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) premises in Riyadh.

The recommendations called for the increase of working hours at joint land ports, easing of movement of truck drivers of non-GCC citizens with multiple entry visas, training and rehabilitation of staff at customs ports, privatization of certain categories of customs ports, integration of customs centers to avoid dual customs tariffs, reduction of customs procedures and focusing on security precautions, establishment of a data center and have it linked with all customs ports, and adoption of a single electronic customs clearance system.

To address the issue of truck pile-up at customs ports, the GCCCUA proposed the establishment of an independent track for unloaded (empty) trucks, which need no customs clearance and make up 51 percent of truck activity, another track for trucks carrying tangible loads such as steel, which could easily be seen and checked.

The GCCCUA supported a call made by the GCC Supreme Council at its 22nd session in Oman to exempt the gold products and precious metals industry from customs duties.

The GCCCUA said the mechanism of joint customs fee collection be reconsidered to become more flexible, a matter that will boost flow of goods and open up markets between the GCC countries.

Goods and truck pile-up at customs ports has created enormous problems for both business and land transport sectors and has adversely affected the industrial firms in meeting obligations and timelu delivery of their products to customers, the GCCCUA said.

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Sharjah, United Arab Emirates Ruler Opens 16th Islamic Arts Festival

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates, Jan 7 (NNN-WAM) – Federal Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, opened on Monday the 16th Islamic Art Festival, showcasing 172 works, representing contemporary trend in arts and photography, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

Accompanied by Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, the Ruler of Sharjah toured various galleries of artists.

The event, which is being held at the Sharjah Arts Museum, has attracted artists from Argentina, Azerbaijan, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Germany, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey, to showcase their works. A seminar – “Reflections of Islamic Arts” – will be held on the sidelines of the art festival, at the Sharjah Museum for Islamic Civilisation on Tuesday and Wednesday, WAM reported.

Sharjah is the third largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates.

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Hollywood Foreign Press Association Honours Dubai International Film Festival

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 10 (NNN-WAM) – The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA)’s annual Golden Globe Awards has awarded an honorary shield to the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).

In its latest edition, the festival presented 174 films from 57 countries, in which 70 movies were being shown for the first time, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported. The award is the first to be given to an Arab film festival.

Dubai International Film Festival chairman, Abdulhamid Juma, received the honorary shield from two members of the HFPA’s Board of Directors and an association member, in recognition of DIFF’s role as one of the most important international film festivals.

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Saudi govt to issue sukuk to fund Taif airport project

Saudi Gazette – 07 January, 2014 – Saudi Arabia is contemplating seeking funds for its new airport in the western town of Taif through sukuk issuance (Islamic bonds), said Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf on Monday.

The minister said his department will cooperate with the Civil Aviation Authority to secure funds. “We had a successful experience with the aviation authority by issuing sukuk to fund certain projects and are planning to repeat the process to fund others. We have already agreed on construction of the new airport through private sector funds,” he told a Saudi Arabic daily.

Assaf added that the King Abdul Aziz airport in Jeddah is progressing on schedule and would be completed by end-2014.

A trial-basis commissioning is scheduled in the first five months of 2015, according to media reports. Meanwhile, the Saudi budget for 2014 has allocated SR7.747 billion ($ 2.07 billion) for nine new electric projects in in the Tabuk region, a report said.

The director of Electricity Department in the region, Engineer Musaed bin Fahd Al-Qabbaa, said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the projects include linking Tabuk region with Madinah by a united general electric grid, a power generation plant, and electricity transfer stations.

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President Yudhoyono asks people to always appreciate culture

January 11 2014, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Through his twitter account, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) asked the Indonesian citizens to always be appreciative about the nations rich culture.

“Let us preserve our culture as a manifestation of our appreciation and love towards the nation,” President Yudhoyono messaged through his twitter account @SBYudhoyono on Saturday.

The presidents picture is also posted on his twitter account. The picture shows the president handing over a gunungan to the noted puppeteer Ki Manteb Sudarsono. The gunungan, symbolizing the universe, is a puppet shaped like a mountain and used during wayang (puppet show) performances.

In his earlier tweets, the president also laid emphasis on the welfare of the teachers and improving the educational system in the country.

“There has been a marked improvement in the welfare of teachers and their numbers have also increased over the years. We need to continue this trend in order to offer better education and guidance to the students,” the President emphasized.

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Nobel laureate Yunus stresses social responsibility to tackle poverty

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

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

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

He started by issuing loans, as little as between 50 cents to $3, to villagers in Bangladesh. “I can’t solve the problem of the whole world but I thought I can solve the problem of this village,” Prof Yunus said. “All I have to do is loan money myself with no charge. Everybody was so surprised because they didn’t expect anybody to do such a thing, but it became very popular and villagers started coming to me.”

The idea spread locally, with 2,600 branches now in Bangladesh, and globally, from Germany to France and Japan. But more needs to be done to be able to achieve one of the Millennium Development Goals of ending poverty by 2030. “In Bangladesh, we managed to halve poverty by mid last year,” Prof Yunus said. “In 2030, in Bangladesh, there will be no poverty.”

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

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

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Air Algerie signs deal for three ATR 72-600s

Air Algerie has signed a purchase agreement for 3 new ATR 72-600s, valued at $74.1 million at current list price. The entry into service is expected from end 2014 through 2015.

When delivered, the 68 seat new-comers will join an existing ATR fleet at the airline that currently includes 12 ATR 72-500s flying primarily on domestic and short regional routes. The new order will take Air Algerie’s ATR fleet to 15 ATR 72s consolidating its position of the largest ATR operator on the African continent.

Mohamed Salah Boultif, Chief Executive Officer of Air Algerie, said, “We plan to operate the ATR 72-600 to its maximum potential – an aircraft that offers high level of operational efficiency and product competitiveness, while allowing Air Algerie to develop new business opportunities. In addition to improving profitability with advanced aircraft, we always aim to deliver unparalleled services to customers with the latest cabin and steady expansion of our route network.”

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Air Astana gets one more Embraer aircraft

Air Astana’s fleet of Embraer E-190 airliners has grown to eight aircraft following a delivery in late December 2013. The aircraft will be operated on both domestic routes and regional services to the CIS and Caucasus. The first Embraer E-190 joined the Air Astana fleet in March 2011.

The Embraer E-190 is a narrow-body, medium-range airliner, which is is configured with 9 business class seats and 88 economy class seats. The aircraft has a maximum range of 4,200km. The new fleet of Embraer E-190s gradually replaced Fokker 50 turbo-prop aircraft, the last of which was retired in December 2012.

Air Astana now operates a fleet 30 aircraft comprising 10 purchased aircraft and 20 leased aircraft.

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Emirates to operate A380 to Gatwick airport from March

From 30 March 2014, Emirates airline’s 489-seat A380 will replace the Boeing 777-300ER on EK flight 09/10 to London Gatwick, bringing a 36% increase in capacity to one of its three daily flights.

The new A380-supported EK 009 flight will depart Dubai at 15:00 and arrive at London Gatwick Airport at 19:30. The return flight, EK 010, will leave London Gatwick at 21:15 and arrive in Dubai at 07:20 the next day.

“London Gatwick was our first destination in the UK when we launched our services to the airport in 1987. It continues to be a strategic gateway not only into London but also into the regions of the Southeast and we are pleased to be the first airline to introduce a daily scheduled A380 service to the airport,” said Thierry Antinori, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Emirates Airline. “The A380s are highly popular with our customers because of all travel comforts – thoughtful touches and luxury features – that we have packed into it.”

Stewart Wingate, CEO of London Gatwick, said, “Scheduled A380 services further demonstrate Gatwick’s emergence as a world-class airport, which now supports routes to established and emerging markets across the globe, and is rapidly becoming London’s airport of choice for both business and leisure passengers. It also adds to Gatwick’s already unique mix of aircraft models and carrier types.”

The two decks of the Emirates A380 will offer 399 seats in Economy Class, 76 lie-flat seats in Business Class and 14 First Class Private Suites. Passengers travelling in premium cabins will be able to mingle in the Onboard Lounge, and First Class passengers can arrive at their destination refreshed after using one of two onboard Shower Spas.

Passengers across all cabins can enjoy up to 1,600 channels of the latest movies, TV shows and music from around the world alongside a range of games on the inflight entertainment system.

The latest technology allows passengers to stay connected throughout the flight with high-speed Wi-Fi access and mobile phone and data services. Emirates is the largest operator of A380 aircraft in the world with 44 in its fleet and 96 on order.

Emirates’ current A380 destinations are: Amsterdam, Auckland, Bangkok, Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, Jeddah, Kuala Lumpur, London Heathrow, Los Angeles, Manchester, Mauritius, Melbourne, Moscow, Munich, New York JFK, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, Toronto, and Brisbane. Emirates will start operating scheduled A380 services to Zurich and Barcelona from January and February 2014 respectively.

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Malaysia Airlines to launch Kuala Lumpur-Krabi flights

Malaysia Airlines will launch a four times weekly service between Kuala Lumpur and Krabi, Thailand, on 3 February 2014. MH770 will depart Kuala Lumpur at 14:55 to arrive in Krabi at 15:40. The return flight MH771 will depart Krabi at 17:20 and will arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 20:05.

The route will be operated with Boeing 737-800 aircraft with scheduled flights on Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Malaysia Airlines’ Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, said, “Malaysia Airlines is excited to expand its network by introducing Krabi as its latest destination. Krabi is a popular holiday spot and a favourite amongst Malaysians, therefore we are pleased to offer our guests the opportunity to visit Krabi via Malaysia Airlines … This will also be a gateway for our guests to connect between Kuala Lumpur and Krabi with other destinations on Malaysia Airlines as well as oneworld routes.”

Krabi, the gem of the Andaman Sea, is home to several National Parks with over 130 surrounding islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. “This four times weekly flights from Kuala-Lumpur to Krabi is complimented by another 35 weekly flights to Bangkok and 21 weekly flights to Phuket, bringing it to a total of 60 weekly flights between Malaysia and Thailand. This is a very encouraging development for Malaysia Airlines especially with Visit Malaysia Year 2014,” added Ahmad Jauhari.

In conjunction with the new destination, Malaysia Airlines’ promotional fares to Krabi start from as low as RM866 all-inclusive return on Business Class and RM366 all-inclusive return on Economy Class. Customers can book these fares through 30 January 2014 for travel effective 3 February to 30 June 2014.

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Garuda Indonesia Enhances FFP

Garuda Indonesia has expanded its passenger rewards programme – Garuda Frequent Flyer (GFF) – to incorporate buy mileage, buy to extend mileage and buy to maintain tier options.

Passengers can now buy miles, extend the expiry of miles and maintain their GFF tier while continuing to earn substantial points when flying with Garuda Indonesia and its partner airlines, hotels and tour operators.

Garuda Indonesia’s loyalty programme rewards passengers with miles and exclusive benefits such as special check-in counters, additional baggage allowances, priority booking and access to airline lounges.

“We are currently revamping our GFF programme and these additional options are part of the first phase as we look to enhance the benefits to our customers. In Singapore, we have also expanded our agreement with Citibank. Passengers who are also Citibank Visa or American Express credit card holders are now able to redeem GFF miles from their credit card reward points,” said Sentot Mujiono, Vice President, Region Southeast Asia, Garuda Indonesia.

Garuda Indonesia has also recently enhanced partnership agreements with several travel and tourism operators, including a new frequent traveller programme with Swiss Belhotel and a new codeshare agreement with Indian airline, Jet Airways.

Following Garuda Indonesia’s recent cooperation with Air France and KLM, GFF members will now be able to earn GFF Mileage when flying with two of Europe’s most renowned airlines.

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