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24 Feb, 2014

London Jews Host Islam Awareness Week

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 24 February 2014 (24 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story



The Islamic Tourism Centre in Malaysia has launched a vibrant new website presenting Malaysia as a prime destination for Islamic tourism and a global halal hub. The website offers a wealth of information on Mosque trails, Islamic Museums, Ramadan & Eid-ul Fitr, Muslim-Friendly Tour Highlights, as well as a Muslim Visitor’s Guide, Halal Directory and Souvenirs Directory. Located strategically at the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is well-known for its natural beauty and diverse cultural landscape. At its social core are three of Asia’s oldest civilisations – Malay, Chinese and Indian – as well as the ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak, resulting in a unique and inspiring blend of cultures. With an abundance of halal food, prayer facilities and Islamic attractions, Malaysia perfectly caters to the needs of Muslim travellers. The ITC plays a pivotal role in bringing Malaysia to the forefront of Islamic tourism. It works with industry players to build their capacity in Islamic tourism, thus ensuring that the needs of Muslim visitors are better served. ITC has also taken several initiatives in standardising industry’s best practices through research, seminars, workshops and industry outreach programmes. Now is the perfect time to experience the country’s multitude of Muslim-friendly tourism products – Islamic architectural heritage, halal gastronomic delights, vibrant Islamic festivals and world-class Islamic events – all guaranteed to give visitors an incredible time.

Click here to see the fabulous new website



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.

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.




Tourism Malaysia Launches “Cuti-Cuti 1malaysia 1001 Packages” Catalogue

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Feb 18 (NNN-Bernama) — The Tourism Ministry launched a “Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia 1001 Packages” catalogue today, in conjunction with the 2014 Visit Malaysia Year. Tourism Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the first edition of the catalogue targeted at both local and foreign tourists was published by the Ministry in collaboration with 297 tour operators nationwide.

Among the segments on offer are home stays, Food Trail, eco-tourism, honeymoon, contemporary art, team building, and bicycle and motorbike tours. “Domestic travel is an important strategy to educate the present generation to appreciate and love nature, history, culture and community institutions in one’s own country.

“I believe such tours could also generate new investments in these local destinations,” Mohamed Nazri said in a speech delivered on his behalf by Tourism Malaysia (Planning) deputy director-general Azizan Noordin.

Azizan later told a press conference that the packages were reasonably priced and 50,000 catalogues were available for free at all Tourism Malaysia and Tourism Information Centres nationwide. The catalogue is also colour coded and has a QR code which can be scanned by mobile phone users to get direct access to the Tourism Malaysia website, he added.

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Malaysia Tops Islamic Tourism List

OnIslam & News Agencies Tuesday, 18 February 2014 SINGAPORE – A survey released on Tuesday, February 18, found that Malaysia is the friendliest country for Muslims’ tourism, topping dozens of Arab and Middle Eastern countries in the booming industry. Malaysia’s Islamic Tourism Centre has “continued to educate the industry on how to cater to the Muslim travelers,” Fazal Bahardeen, Crescentrating chief executive, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday.

“There are now more and more hotel kitchens with halal certification, an increasing number of hotels are also now catering to the specific needs of Muslim travelers,” he added. Released by the Singapore-based Muslim travel specialist Crescentrating, the halal friendly holiday’s survey has put Malaysia as the first destination for Muslims’ tourism.

Malaysia was followed by United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Morocco, Jordan, Qatar and Tunisia as the top ten countries that ensure halal friendly holidays. It evaluated countries according to their attentiveness to the needs of Muslim travelers.

These requirements included the presence and accessibility of halal restaurants with meat slaughtered to Islamic standards and the provision of prayer rooms at airports, shopping malls and hotels. “An increasing number of destinations are now keen on tapping into this segment and adapting their services to take into account the unique faith-based needs of Muslim travelers,” Bahardeen noted.

For Malaysia, other services have put it on the top of the list including offering separate times for women and men at gym and swimming pools. The Muslim tourism market accounts for about 13% of the global travel market and estimated to worth $140 billion in 2013. It is expected to climb to $200 billion by 2020, according to Bahardeen.

A recent study released by Singapore-based halal travel specialist Crescentrating and DinarStandard has expected influx of Muslim holidaymakers over the next decade. The study, conducted in 47 countries, found that spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011.


Though Japan did not make it to the top ten, the survey also showed a notable progress of halal tourism in the far-east Asian country. Japan’s rank in Islamic tourism has jumped from the 50th place to the 40th within a year, the survey showed.

“Japan has definitely been the most active destination during the last year to focus on this segment of travelers,” Bahardeen told AFP. “It has launched a number of initiatives — from awareness programs to the local industry to releasing the Muslim travel guide to Japan.”

Japan has announced earlier several steps to guarantee a larger share of the thriving halal tourism industry. Last December, international airports in Japan opened new prayer rooms and started offering halal food for Muslims, amid a wider plan to make Japanese ports more Muslim friendly.

The new steps followed Japan’s decision to relax the rules for issuance to visas to visitors from Indonesia, Malaysia and three other Southeast Asian nations in July.

Muslims account for an estimated 90% of Indonesia’s 240 million population and 60% of Malaysia’s 29 million. A total of 28,000 people visited Japan from Indonesia and Malaysia in October, up 40% from a year earlier. Being in the 6th place of Islamic tourism global ranking, Singapore was the only non-Muslim country in the top ten list.

Depending on its man-made attractions, Singapore “does better than even some of the Muslim countries” in enticing those who follow the Islamic faith, Bahardeen said.

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Indian Muslim Schoolboy Invents Computer System

OnIslam & Newspapers, 18 February 2014 CAIRO – Presenting a role model to young Indian Muslims, a young Indian Muslim schoolboy has designed a virus-protected microchip-run computer system.

“Most computing devices use mechanical hard disk drives, flash memories and electronic disks to boot up operating systems,” Afreed Islam, an Indian schoolboy, told The Times of India on Tuesday, February 18. “My invention replaces both mechanical and electronic hard disks with a microchip, doubling speed and storage capacity,” he added.

Islam, a Class X student from Guwahati’s Little Flower School, launched his new invention; the ReVo BOOK, an ultra-slim computer system designed by him, on Monday. The ReVo BOOK is embedded with a microchip and a hybrid operating system, also invented by Islam, named ReVo IX.

He claimed that the new operating system features faster execution speed, an inbuilt firewall and stands as a complete independent operating system. The system can be used in places demanding high uninterrupted performances such as offices, banks, academic institutions, and industries besides domestic computing purposes. It can also be installed in servers by large set-ups.

The young boy hopes to promote the ReVo BOOK which will, according to Islam, dominate comparable products in the computer market. “Compared to the hard disks available, my microchip is four times faster, lasts longer and there is also no chance of losing data,” he said.

“Minimum power is required to run the ReVo BOOK and its portable size is a bonus,” he said.

For Islam, he hopes that the ReVo BOOK will make help high-speed, uninterrupted performance. “Apart from domestic computing, the ReVo BOOK will be immensely beneficial in offices, banks, academic institutions and industries,” the boy said. “Three years ago, when I was in class VII, I started to look for a solution to some of the problems faced by the operating systems used currently. I never imagined inventing an operating system,” he added.

Siddharth Deb Nath, a scientist at Assam Science Technology and Environment Council, said that Islam’s invention fulfilled all basic eligibility criteria for submission of a patent application. Deb Nath added that if Islam was offered enough financial assistance to supply the product to markets, he would achieve greater success.

There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India.

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Global firms drop out of Israeli tenders over boycott fears

Ramallah, Wednesday, 19 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/ 19 February 2014 (IINA) –Leading international companies bidding to build private seaports here dropped out of the Israeli government’s tender due to concerns over the political repercussions, a report said on Tuesday.

The Israeli daily Haaretz said that Royal Boskalis Westminster, a Dutch operator of ports that had submitted a proposal under the name Holland Terminal in the prequalification stage last December, dropped out shortly thereafter. More recently, Italy’s Condote de Agua withdrew after passing the prequalification process, the report said. The report said that the Israeli government is developing private seaports in Haifa and Ashdod to create competition with costly and inefficient state-owned facilities. Officials, led by Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, see port reform as a national project that will lower the price of imported goods and the cost of living. Haaretz said that the companies that had initially expressed their interest in the PQ stage last April made their decisions to drop out in recent months as boycott pressure on Israel has grown. The deadline for submitting bids was Monday, the report said.

It added that in addition to the companies that withdrew from bidding, a third company – Jan De Nul from Belgium – only agreed to submit its bid after it was permitted to do so through a company registered in Luxembourg called Ludreco, out of fear of jeopardizing its business in the Arab world. According to the report, three other companies also dropped out of the bidding over the last several months – FCC and Cyes, two Spanish companies; and Germany’s Möbius Bau. Those three, however, are believed to have dropped out due to financial problems or because they couldn’t agree to terms with the Israeli partners they were jointly making bids with.

The report said that the Israel Ports Company, which is supervising the tender, has scrupulously avoided publicly identifying the companies that had expressed an interest over the last months out of political sensitivities. Monday, it declined to officially name any of the bidders, it said. On Monday, the Hebrew Walla news service said that Deutsche Bank, the largest German bank, has included Israel’s Bank Hapoalim on a list of companies who are ethically questionable for investment. The move follows similar ones by Swedish Nordea Bank, which is the largest bank in Scandinavia, and the Norwegian Danske Bank, which is the largest bank in Denmark.

The two banks have announced they will boycott Israeli banks because they operate in occupied Palestinian territories. Europe has voiced continuous criticism over Israeli construction in occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank, and several months ago published new guidelines which boycott Israeli entities operating beyond the 1967 lines. Israeli media report say that there are increasing concerns in Israel over a Palestinian-led movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). The boycott has been growing recently, mainly in Europe, where some businesses and pension funds have cut investments or trade with Israeli firms they say are connected to West Bank settlements.

BDS activists say they promote different objectives, with some focusing on a boycott of the settlements and others saying everything Israeli must be shunned until there is a peace deal. BDS supporters argue that Israel will withdraw from war-won lands only if it has a price to pay. Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid related to the boycott issue Monday at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in occupied Jerusalem, saying that if current peace talks with the Palestinian collapse, it will be “nothing less than devastating” to the welfare of Israeli citizens.

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India takes step toward setting up full-fledged Islamic banks

Thiruvananthapuram, Thursday, 20 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/ 20 February 2014 (IINA) –India is planning to set up a body to fine-tune and promote Islamic finance before issuing license to start full-fledged banking operations, according to one of the country’s senior ministers, Arab News daily reported.

“The formation of the entity is an important step forward. We need to set a framework for rules for different financial products to be offered by these banks or through the Islamic banking windows,” said Rahman Khan, India’s minister for minority affairs. “We will introduce a financial product like Tabung Haji which would be a great relief to those who want to undertake the pilgrimage,” said the minister, who has aggressively been pursuing the idea ahead of the general elections two months away.

Tabung Haji, Malaysia’s Haj management system, provides an opportunity for Haj aspirants to systematically invest money that grows and allows the depositor to undertake the pilgrimage to the holy cities of Makkah on its maturity.

The money is reinvested in Shariah-compliant vehicles that give reasonable returns. “It mainly goes into infrastructure funding. We build roads, bridges and other basic infrastructure using this fund. There are big office complexes and housing projects that it has funded,” said Rajah Mohammed Abdullah, chairman and chief executive officer of the Muslim World Biz, which holds global summit on Islamic finance here every year.

Last year, India’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India, decided to give license to non-banking financial companies to offer Shariah-compliant products and Cheraman Financial Services Limited (CFSL), launched by Kerala with the support of prominent expatriate entrepreneurs in the Gulf, was first to get the RBI license. Khan wrote to the RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan, saying it was the duty of the State to facilitate every citizen to practice and follow their religion under the Constitution and the governor, while accepting his view, wanted certain amendments to the laws concerned. Khan has urged the ruling party leadership to expedite the process before the elections.

“This is a great development everybody was looking forward. It’ll help India attract a lot of foreign and domestic investments in infrastructure development and other core areas,” said Siddeek Ahmed, one of the directors of the CFSL. India needs huge investments to put its economy back on track and to give the much-needed push to its ambitious infrastructure development plans. The Islamic finance is estimated to be a US$2.1 trillion industry by the end of this year and it is seen as a small but decisive step towards opening up the sector to interest-free banking.

“I personally hope that the proposed Haj fund will ultimately lead to the undesirable practice of government offering subsidy to Hajj pilgrims,” said Ahmed, who heads the Saudi-based ITL-Eram group.

“Cheraman did not to set up such a fund because we found the government funding was not desirable as its sources of income include liquor and gambling”. Nonresident Indian billionaires based in the Gulf, P Mohammed Ali, PNC Menon and CK Menon, are among other directors of the NBFC that follows Islamic principles in which the state government holds 26 percent equity. It was not allowed to accept deposits from the public or offer retail banking services, which needs amendments in Indian laws, making it inaccessible to ordinary citizens who want to make small investments.

In fact, Raghuram Rajan, the chairman of the RBI, was serious about banking sector reforms that would pave the way for full-fledged Islamic banks and Islamic banking counters at commercial banks like in many other countries, especially in Europe. In 2008, a high-level committee on financial sector reforms headed by Rajan recommended interest-free finance and banking in the “interest of inclusive and innovative growth” and suggested taking measures “to permit the delivery of interest-free finance on a larger scale, including through the banking system”.

Islamic banking and finance is now present in over 75 countries including Australia, France, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, which claims to be its capital. In India, there are a lot of Muslims who did not claim interest on deposits or give them in charity and, according to a 2009 study there are unclaimed interests worth Rs50bn lying in Kerala banks alone. Cheraman, named after the king who is believed to have built India’s first mosque in the Kerala town of Kodungallur, plans to offer leasing and equity-finance products under Islamic principles to begin with.

It has already started funding startup companies and infrastructure projects and floated the Rs 2.5bn Cheraman Fund, a private equity fund with a minimum of Rs10 million set by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) per investor. It also has a subsidiary Cheraman Infrastructure for “channelizing ethical investments for developing world class industrial, social and residential infrastructure” in Kerala. This business vertical focuses on infrastructure development activities through Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) and other related modes. The company targets development of industrial and knowledge parks, standard design modules, logistics parks, special economic zones, electronic parks, roads and urban transportation, social infrastructure like hospitals and educational institutions, housing and shopping malls.

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UNESCO hails Iranian film ‘Painting Pool’ producer Manuchehr Mohammadi

Feb 22, 2014, Irna – Iranian film The Painting Pool’s producer Manuchehr Mohammadi has been honored by UNESCO during a ceremony held in the capital city of Tehran.

UNESCO lauded the film following its winning at the 7th Annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) in Australia in December 2013.

Organized by the Embassy of Australia, the ceremony hosted the film’s director Maziar Miri, scriptwriter Hamed Mohammadi and the actress Negar Javaherian along with a representative from the UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office as well as several members of the Iranian House of Cinema.

The Ambassador of Australia to Iran Paul Foley dedicated the award to Mohammadi.

The Painting Pool won the UNESCO Award for “outstanding contribution to the promotion and preservation of cultural diversity through film,” the APSA jury had earlier commented on the film at the award ceremony in Brisbane in December 2013.

The Painting Pool narrates a story about a mentally retarded couple and their problems in the society of Iran.

Since Mohammadi and his colleagues did not attend the APSA ceremony in Brisbane, they received the award in Tehran.

APSA is endorsed by UNESCO, with which it shares a common goal of fostering cultural diversity and promoting mutual understanding, dialogue and peace.

The annual Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) is an international cultural initiative of the State Government of Queensland, Australia, through Events Queensland, to honor and promote the films, actors, directors, and cultures of Asia-Pacific to a global audience.

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Saudi businesswoman to open city’s first cooking academy

Arab News – 21 February, 2014 – A young Saudi businesswoman is preparing to launch the city’s first cooking academy to teach people how to produce local and international dishes. Fatima Qadi said she plans to establish the academy on a 400-sqm area in Jeddah at the beginning of 2016 with 80 girls and women. She is now preparing a feasibility study with the help of a local company.

Qadi started her career four years ago with a cupcake shop called “Sweet and Savory” and soon got the support of her husband because of its success. She wants to teach single and married women how to cook various dishes.

She acknowledged that there have been many difficulties in her career so far but this was outweighed by the “joy and accomplishment when you find solutions to these problems.”

“This is not only about making money, but also seeing the satisfaction on customers’ faces. I give them the same products that my children eat,” she said.

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Saudi Gazette appoints kingdom’s first female editor

Al Arabiya / 17 Feb 2014 – The Saudi Gazette newspaper has appointed the country’s first female editor-in-chief, in what has been called a “historic” move in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Somayya Jabarti takes the reins of the English-language newspaper from Khaled Almaeena, who becomes editor-at-large.

Jabarti, previously deputy editor, becomes the first female editor of a national newspaper in Saudi Arabia, although other women have headed magazines in the kingdom.

“There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling. And I’m hoping it will be made into a door,” Jabarti told Al Arabiya News. “This is a first for a Saudi daily… A mold has been broken where editors-in-chief of Saudi daily newspapers are concerned.”

Jabarti spoke of the responsibility she feels in the new position, given that her success may have a bearing on other women’s careers.

“Being the first Saudi woman (newspaper editor) is going to be double the responsibility… One’s actions will reflect upon my fellow Saudi women,” she said. “The success will not be complete unless I see my peers who are also Saudi women in the media, take other roles where they are decision makers.”

Before joining the Saudi Gazette in March 2011, Jabarti worked at rival newspaper Arab News, where over nine years she rose in the ranks to deputy editor. Jabarti’s new role begins immediately.

The editor says she has not encountered any sexism or racism at Saudi Gazette, which has about 20 reporters, of whom just three are men. “The majority of our reporters are women – not because we are biased and choosing women over men. There are more women who are interested in being journalists, and who are journalists.”

However, most of the newspaper’s staff are content editors, and these are predominately men, she added. She said Saudi visa restrictions and working hours were challenges to employing more women.

The former editor-in-chief Almaeena confirmed the change at the newspaper, calling Jabarti’s appointment a “historic” move. “She’s the first editor-in-chief of a Saudi paper – English or Arabic-language,” he said. “In Saudi Arabia it’s a major achievement.”

Almaeena, writing of his move here, said he has long held a goal of seeing a “Saudi woman enter the male-dominated bastion of editors-in-chief.”

But he told Al Arabiya News that Jabarti’s gender was not a factor in the appointment. “She deserves it,” he said. “For me, gender doesn’t matter.”

Almaeena said that the newspaper’s “greatest competitor” is Twitter, something that will prove a “major challenge” for the new editor. Almaeena took the editorship of Saudi Gazette in April 2012, having twice been editor of Arab News, from 1982 to 1993 and from 1998 to 2011.

“An editor-in-chief is like a platoon commander,” he wrote today. “He has to make hasty decisions, shoot from the hip and improvise without turning to press rules and regulations. And I enjoy doing that as exhibited by front-paging the story of the two Saudi women athletes to the Olympics when many others were hesitant to do so. For our team, red lines often were very thin and blurred.”

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Moroccan Chahida Sekkafi, first veiled football referee in Italy

Morocco World News / 20 Feb 2014 – For the first time in the history of Italian football, a female referee conducted a football match while wearing the Islamic head covering, known as hijab. Chahida Chekkafi, a young Italian of Moroccan origin, was the referee of a football match between two male teams, San Luigi and Karimou Stradevar, in the north of Italy.

Chekkafi was born and raised in Italy. As a 16-year-old referee for the Italian football league for young players, she commanded the admiration of those who know her. Her mother was a football player in Morocco. The Italian daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera dedicated an article on its front page on Monday to the story, and quoted the President of the Committee of Referees in Milan describing Chahida as “shy and young but talented and determined.”

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China allocates $18m to aid Xinjiang

BEIJING, (Xinhua) 2014-02-22 – China’s central government has provided 110 million yuan ($18 million) for relief work in quake-hit Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the Ministry of Finance said Friday.

The funds will be used for disaster relief, relocations, medical treatment and infrastructure reconstruction, the ministry said.

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Xinjiang’s Hotan prefecture on February 12, causing the relocation of some 80,000 people.

As the vast majority of rural residents in the area are living in quake-resistant buildings, the tremor was less destructive than expected. No casualties have been reported.

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The Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, Iran

Tehran Times / 21 Feb 2014 – The Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, Iran, is a veritable museum of Islamic architecture and still a working mosque. Within a couple of hours you can see and compare 800 years of Islamic design, with each example near to the pinnacle of its age. The range is quite stunning: from the geometric elegance of the Seljuks, through to the Mongol period and on to the refinements of the more baroque Safavid style.

It is the grand, congregational mosque within Isfahan province and can be seen as a stunning illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over twelve centuries. The mosque is the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions and renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the 20th century. The origins of this Mosque lie in the 8th century although it is thought to be burnt to the ground leaving only some of the south and north prayer halls intact. It was rebuilt in the 11th century and went through remodeling many times. As a result it has rooms built in different architectural styles and represents a condensed history of the Iranian Architecture. Spanning more than 20,000 square feet, it is one of the oldest mosques still standing in Iran, and it was built in the four-prayer hall architectural style, placing four gates face to face.

Responding to functional needs of the space, political ambition, religious developments, and changes in taste, further additions and modifications took place incorporating elements from the Mongols, Muzzafarids, Timurids and Safavids.

There is an elaborately carved stucco altar commissioned in 1310 by Mongol ruler Oljaytu, located in a side prayer hall built within the western arcade. Safavid intervention was largely decorative, with the addition of niche-like cells, glazed tile work, and minarets flanking the south prayer hall. The harmony of the brickwork, the tile work added later, as well as the plaster moldings, inscriptions, and other decorations in a setting of glorious simplicity, engulf the beholder in an almost spiritual aura.

The Mosque has eight entrances, each of them built in a different period and the oldest of them on its northeastern side now blocked. Its current main entrance is located on its southeastern side. All the buildings are set round a fine rectangular central courtyard leading to a prayer hall on each side of it. The main courtyard spans 60 by 70 meters which contains two pools, one of them partially covered by a platform raised on top of four columns which in the past had been used as a lectern.

Construction under the Seljuks included the addition of two brick domed chambers, for which the Mosque is renowned. Its double-shelled ribbed domes represent an architectural innovation that inspired builders throughout the region. The south dome was built in 1086–87 and was larger than any dome known at its time. Inside the dome has been adored with Mongol-era stalactite mouldings and two minerats.

The north dome was constructed a year later as a direct riposte to the earlier south dome, and successfully so, claiming its place as a masterpiece in Persian architecture for its structural clarity and geometric balance. Inside it is filled with massive cursive Quranic inscriptions. Prayer halls were also added in stages under the Seljuks, giving the mosque its current four-prayer hall form, a type which subsequently became prevalent in Iran and Central Asia.

The prayer hall facing Mecca on the southern side of the mosque was vaulted with niche-like cells during the 1300s.

The mosque also contains alabaster lighting systems for prayer rooms below ground along with a wooden carved minbar. In 2012 the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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Gulhane Park: From Ottoman Sultan’s garden to excursion spot

World Bulletin / 21 Feb 2014 – Located in the west, on Istanbul’s historic peninsula in the heart of Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet area was once Topkapi Palace’s private park, Gulhane Park has withstood the transformation in Istanbul through the reign of the Ottoman Empire to modernity.

The park was used as the outer garden of the Topkapi Palace with a variety of flowers during the Ottoman period until 1920, after which it was opened to the public by Istanbul’s Mayor Cemil Pasha.

For the tourist or Istanbulite alike, Gulhane park with 124,476 square meters of space in the middle of the city offers respite from the city’s heat amidst its shady plane trees. The ‘Iskenderiye parrots’, which live and build nests on top of the palm trees, provide photo opportunities to the many animal lovers and world-wide visitors which come to view Topkapi Palace. The flowers planted in the park, similar to those of the Ottomon period, range from hyacinthus, tulips to roses and offer a colourful specter.

Contrary to popular myth, the area of Gulhane, meaning ‘House of Roses’ was not used to raise roses and provide rose bouquets for the palace, but as a garden for the Sultan, his family and visitors to stroll along the coast. After the newly-founded Republic of Turkey, Gulhane served as the gathering place for the first open-air meeting after the Latin alphabet was accepted by republic.

The first statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of Republic of Turkey, near Gulhane’s coastal entrance, by the Bosphorus, was built on October 3, 1926 by Austrian sculptor Heinrich Krippel. It marks the first place Ataturk set foot after the Turkish War of Independence.

With two doors, one on the street side and the other one on the coastal side, Gulhane Park has entrances to Topkapi Palace, the Archeological Museum, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar Museum, the Islamic Science and Technology Museum and includes the ruins of a Byzantian orphanage, a Roman victory memorial – Column of the Goths – from the Byzantian period and several other artifacts from the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.

Asli Ilgun Ertabak, Agricultural Engineer and Regional Head of Eminonu district of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality stated they particularly pay attention to raise and nurture the flowers in Gulhane Park in keeping with the Ottoman style and to preserve the historical integrity of the palace.

“Roses are raised in sunny open spaces, but as this park is quite historical and old, the plane trees cast a lot of shadow when the flowers start to bud. Therefore, the planted roses grow in shade and this effects their cultivation. As hyacinthus, tulip and buxus were grown in the park during the Ottoman Period, we try to feature those but also raise roses in the open spaces of the park,” Ertabak said.

Ertabak noted that the ruins in the park reflect that the area was used more as a settlement area rather than a park before the Ottomans. She also stressed that both the size and shape of the area has not changed over the years. This observation has been made by the fact that the surrounding walls around the park have not altered proving that neither an occupation nor a downsizing took place.

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Oxford Opens Islamic Finance Platform

OnIslam & Newspapers Sunday, 16 February 2014 CAIRO – Discussing the future of Islamic finance in Europe, financial experts have debated aspects of Islamic finance and banking at Oxford Union, offering future economists a platform to better understand the booming industry. “The skyline of London is being changed by Islamic finance,” Baroness Warsi, Senior Minister of State and Minister for Faith and Communities, and the Ministerial lead on Islamic Finance, was quoted by Gulf Times.

It is important for there to be “an Islamic finance market that doesn’t sleep,” Warsi, who launched the UK’s first Islamic Finance Task Force in 2013, added. “We need to make sure that all time zones are trading in terms of Islamic finance products.”

Warsi was speaking at the inauguration of the Islamic Banking and Finance Society (IBFS) held at Oxford Union Debating Chamber last Wednesday. The new society aims at acting as a platform for the Islamic finance as well as creating relationships between professionals in Islamic banking and finance students at Oxford.

“Two years ago, someone said to me that a sovereign sukuk in Britain ‘is impossible,’” Warsi said. “Having fought the battles through that and shown that it can be achieved, I’m confident that standardization is something that we can make real headway on.”

Praising the economic benefits of the Islamic finance, Warsi said: “As a Muslim, I believe in the principles of Islamic finance. As a Conservative, I can see the huge economic benefits of Islamic finance and as somebody who feels that Britain’s best days are still ahead of us. I feel that Islamic finance provides another opportunity to reach out to the world and bring the benefits of that for our citizens.”

Nigel Denison, executive director of Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME), shared a similar opinion. “It’s a very young industry; one of our big challenges is educating people around Islamic finance in a non-Muslim country,” Denison said.

Last October, the British PM, David Cameron announced plans to encourage investment by Muslim countries, saying he wants to make London “one of the greatest centers for Islamic finance anywhere in the world”.

The United Kingdom is one of the leading countries in the European Union to have Islamic banks. It is also developing its takaful market for Islamic insurance. The UK also has a strong foothold in developing products such as commodity murabaha – Islam’s version of interbank short-term lending and syndicated loans.

London is also advanced in Islamic retail services, with institutions offering a range of Islamic banking products, such as mortgages and car loans. The Islamic Bank of Britain, granted a license in August 2004, became the first Islamic bank in the UK and has continued to attract customers for mortgages.

Addressing attendants at the event, Salah Jaidah, vice chairman of Mena (Middle East and North Africa) at Deutsche Bank, pointed to the ethical nature of Islamic finance. “The base of Islamic Finance is definitely the ethical part and most of the conducts within Islamic banking prevent the over-leverage that we have seen on the conventional banking side,” said Jaidah, who is also the chief country officer for Deutsche Bank Qatar.

“Every transaction has to have an underlying asset, so there is value creation for the person who is taking the finance or the person who is extending the assets.”

Presentations from Islamic finance Experts have highlighted the ethical spirit of Islamic finance. “With these principles I think if institutions used similar ethics and built in this spirit of profit sharing,” Jaidah said. “And in case of failure, everybody has to take a portion of the fault. That’s the spirit of Islamic banking. How much it is practiced in reality.”

Organized to act as a platform for the Islamic finance, the new society aims to extend a bridge between the Oxford’s future economists and the Islamic finance industry. “I think it is very important to educate the future leaders of tomorrow,” Azeemeh Zaheer, vice president of Gatehouse Bank and former vice consul, US oil & gas sector head for the British Consulate General, said. “Islamic finance a growing industry but it is only 1% of the entire assets under management globally.

“So we have huge potential to grow. One of the big issues is lack of intellectual capital. We need new, fresh talent, not just from the Muslim world and that will enable us also to sell to non-Muslims,” Zaheer added.

Islam forbids Muslims from usury, receiving or paying interest on loans. Islamic banks and finance institutions cannot receive or provide funds for anything involving alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco, weapons or pork.

Shari’ah-compliant financing deals resemble lease-to-own arrangements, layaway plans, joint purchase and sale agreements, or partnerships. Investors have a right to know how their funds are being used, and the sector is overseen by dedicated supervisory boards as well as the usual national regulatory authorities.

The global market in Islamic investments is rapidly expanding, rising by 150 per cent since 2006 and expected to be worth £1.3 trillion in 2014.

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7th Edition Of Guyana ‘Where And What’ Launched

GEORGETOWN, Feb 15 (NNN-GINA) — The Ministry of Tourism has launched the seventh edition of Guyana Where and What, a pocket book/ guide that was published and edited by Gem Madhoo-Nascimento, and which contains detailed information about local businesses, tourist attractions, and some bit of the country’s history.

This edition is printed in English and translated into Portuguese, contains photographs showcasing various activities in Guyana. This is to allow the book to serve as a tour guide not only for English speaking tourists, but also Portuguese and to complement the growing number of tourists and immigrants from Brazil.

Nascimento highlighted that she is considering the publication of the next edition in a variety of languages including Spanish to aid in bridging the language gap. The 140- page book is being widely circulated both locally and internationally, and is also available on the internet. It can be accessed at www.guyanawhereandwhat.com.

Minister of Tourism Irfaan Ali, said he was pleased with undertaking by Nascimento over the past seven years, and that she has helped to boost the tourism industry through the promotion of what the country has to offer via the book.

The Minister added that the idea of publishing the book in various languages is a good one, since the Ministry has been working towards attracting tourists from different countries, and also on bridging the language barrier.

The Tourism Minister also noted that the Ministry is currently working on a ‘Dining Guide’, a similar book that will portray various cuisines and restaurants in Guyana. The book is available for free distribution at hotels, airline airports, restaurants, resorts and other entertainment locations.

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London Jews Host Islam Awareness Week

OnIslam & News Agencies Thursday, 20 February 2014 LONDON – Joining hands to help poor and needy, a London Jewish group announced plans to host Islam awareness week to showcase some of the social action projects taking place across the country.

“It seemed appropriate to use JW3 as a venue to launch Islam Awareness Week this year,” Julie Siddiqui, executive director of Islamic Society of Britain, told Jewish News on Wednesday, February 19. “The Jewish community have done a brilliant job at putting faith into real action with projects that really help others who need it.”

Culminating on years of positive cooperation between the two faiths, this year’s Islam Awareness week will revisit the most important achievements in offering help to the community.

Siddiqui – who has worked closely with Mitzvah Day in recent years, added that the event themed “Charity begins at home” will showcase some of the social action projects taking place across the country. “This year’s Islam Awareness Week will be showcasing some brilliant examples of Muslim-led social action working with people of all backgrounds,” she said.

“Whether that be foodbanks and feeding the homeless or working with women suffering violence and abuse and lots more. I think there is a lot more positive collaboration waiting to happen between Muslims and Jews in the UK, our faiths and interests are so very similar in so many ways. I hope that by using JW3 and working with organizations like Mitzvah Day we can develop the relationships necessary to make that a reality,” she added.

Siddiqui said she “loves” the vision and attention to detail in JW3. “It is a real aspiration for us in the Muslim community to work towards such a place. I have always felt welcome at JW3.”

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million. There are nearly 267,000 Jews in the country. The event is not the first to mark cooperation between the faiths in UK. Last March, Muslims in the northern British city of Bradford raised funds to preserve the last remaining synagogue in the city.

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Cultural Village In Malaysia’s Kelantan State Promotes Traditional Arts

PASIR MAS, KELANTAN, (NNN-Bernama) — The festivities that night was much anticipated by the folks of Kampung Banggol, Gelang Mas in Kelantan, on Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast. It was the culmination of three days of programmes that brought together various Kelantanese state cultural performances.

The night was reminiscent of a time during the 1970s and 1980s, where cultural performances were held every other night in the villages around Kelantan particularly in Kota Baharu, Pasir Mas and Tumpat.

The sound of the gong, “gendang” and “rebana ubi” (both traditional drums) and several other traditional Kelantanese musical instruments reverberated from the house of Hussain Yusoff, fondly known as Pak Hussin, inviting the villagers and those around it to join in.

The young and old thronged his house from 7.45 pm onwards to watch the village’s talented youths perform the “wayang kulit” (shadow play), “dikir barat” (traditional folk songs), “silat” (martial art) and the “Inai” (a traditional) dance. It only takes 30 minutes from the Kelantan’s capital Kota Baharu to Kampung Banggol. The village is not far from Wat Pothrihan near Pasir Mas, home of the world’s second largest reclining Buddha.

The village is like every other one across the state. However, Pak Hussin’s home is what gives it a unique edge. Foreign guests who wish to learn the Kelantanese arts and the lifestyle of the Malay community there can plan an extended stay at the village. Tourists from Singapore to Japan have joined the village’s homestay programme to learn more about the traditional Kelantanese arts.

Having the villagers gather to engage in arts and culture is one of the efforts of the Wak Long group, with its members being Pak Hussin, his brother Nasir Yusoff, his four sons Mohd Kamrulbahri, Mohd Shafic Aminudin, Kamarul Baisah Hussin, Ahmad Ridwan and daughter-in-law Zamzuriah Zahari.

Not only are they skilled in the creation and restoration of traditional musical instruments, these two virtuosos are also among the few left in keeping alive the traditional Kelantanese arts. Earning an income this way is certainly not easy, but it comes with its own rewards.

Pak Hussin is not only a respected figure among the traditional arts movement in Kelantan, but also among his students at the Music Faculty of Universiti Perguruan Sultan Idris (UPSI) (teaching university), where he is a guest lecturer.

One of his pride and joy in life is seeing his four sons continue his legacy. Their abilities have enabled them to not only perform locally, but internationally as well. Mohd Kamrulbahri, better known as Wak Long, is the one most active in pursuing the traditional Kelantanese performance arts.

He was the one who converted the family home into Sanggar Budaya, a centre for anyone wishing to learn the traditional Kelantanese arts, subsequently turning Kampung Banggol a cultural village. The idea came from his concern over the youths’ indifference to the traditional arts, and the effort to inspire young blood to take up traditional Kelantanese arts and continue breathing life into it.

His dream came into fruition with help from the National Oil Corporation Petronas, which helped fund the cultural village and with the support of the Tourism and Culture Ministry state office.

The cultural village launched last December, is popular with foreign tourists who are looking for something different than the usual homestay experience. Besides attracting tourists, homestays also help provide an additional source of income for the village community.

Aki Uehara and her husband Masahiro Nina traveled thousands of miles from their home in Japan to Kampung Banggol all because of her love for the Kelantanese traditional arts. It was not her first time to Malaysia, though. She graduated from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) five years ago with a Masters degree in ethnomusicology.”

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Gambia Woos Nigerian Tourists

Vanguard 14 February 2014 Lagos — The Gambia, a leading popular tourist destination in Africa, has thrown its doors open to discerning Nigerian visitors seeking an exotic vacation, a family holiday, or savvy corporate organizations requiring high quality facilities for corporate meetings.

“We have concluded plans to implement a comprehensive multifaceted campaign in Nigeria to launch The Gambia as a year round destination of choice to all categories of Nigerians”, said Adama Njie, Marketing Director, Gambia Tourism Board (GTB).

Mr. Njie revealed that, through accredited agents and operators, all classes of Nigerian visitors can now have access to comprehensive round-the-year travel and tour packages to enjoy the world renowned hospitality, the spontaneous smile and the warmth of the people of The Gambia.

“For years, The Gambia has been the region’s most formidable destination for people from all over the world. We believe the country offers special attractions which are yet to be discovered by Nigerians. Also, according to Mr. Benjamin A. Roberts, the Director General of the GTBoard, “Nigerians are very hard working and busy people, with a great need for leisure and rest.

“Our unique geographical position at the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean, enables The Gambia to remain an attractive tourism destination with natural waterways that extend the entire length of the country, lagoons, islands and islets for water sporting, fishing and inland cruise activities.

“The Gambia has an astounding ecosystem which has placed the brand in the eco-tourism forefront in Africa, with a blend of nature, communities; fauna and flora interacting in a responsible and suitable manner. Our ecosystem is sanctuary for over 50 species of birds which crisscross the country through migration activities, making the destination a bird-watching haven. The Smiling Coast of Africa is home to world renowned and African inspired cultural patrimony, some of which are now listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites,” Benjamin further said.

For Nigerians who will like a blend of business and pleasure, The Gambia also offers virgin investment opportunities waiting to be explored, particularly in the areas of eco-tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and services, with the added advantage of market access to over 300 million consumers in West Africa, given the Gambia’s gateway advantage.

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East Africa: Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda Launch Single Tourist Visa

The New Times – 21 February 2014 – The single East Africa Tourist Visa was officially launched by Heads of State of Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in Kampala, yesterday, completing one of the major integration projects jointly undertaken by the three countries over the last nine months. At the ceremony, the Presidents gave out three dummy Tourist Visas to three tourists from Canada, UK and Spain.

The tourist visa, which makes the three partner states a single tourist destination, was introduced on January 1. President Paul Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and their host, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, also launched use of national Identity Cards, student cards and voter’s cards by the citizens to travel across the participating countries.

Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism department at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), said the single tourist visa will make East Africa compete with other top tourist destinations across the world. “With this Visa, tourists have many choices of getting value for their money by seeing more in just one trip across the three countries,” she said.

Laia Sole Amat, a tourist from Barcelona, Spain, who received a dummy visa from President Kagame described the single tourist visa as a great opportunity for many people from the west and beyond.

“It is amazing. This is my first visit to East Africa and I am really happy that this is happening now. Many people will love to make use of this visa,” she said. Stephen Asiimwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), said global tourism trends have showed that travelers are more interested in a more holistic travel experience.

“The single tourist visa is a sign of continued efforts and cooperation among the respective tourism boards and will continue to grow as we launch the joint marketing platform,” he said.

Each single tourist visa goes for US$100, charged by the issuing country. The issuing country will take $40 while the others will each take $30.

Yesterday, the presidents asked Kenya to develop the sample application form for the visa and share it with partner states for input within two weeks after the Summit. They also directed ministers of finance, foreign affairs and Internal affairs of the partner states to meet and agree on modalities for a Special Visa Fees Account.

The Presidents also ministries of foreign affairs and Immigration departments of partner states to ensure that all missions abroad are fully operational to issue the East Africa Tourist visa and report to the next summit in April this year.

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Four Saudi mosques win architecture award

Arab news / 18 Feb 2014 – The Abdullatif Al-Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture was announced as a global platform to contribute to the development of contemporary mosque architecture globally. Around 35 mosques that have been built in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 1970 were nominated for the award. Four of these won.

The award’s first edition offered SR2 million, which was distributed among the four winners. These were: the mosque at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran, the Al-Kindy Square Mosque, Four Communities Mosque in the Diplomatic Quarter of Riyadh and the umbrella project in the courtyard of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

The first session concluded last week at the Dammam Sheraton under the aegis of Eastern Province Gov. Prince Saud bin Naif. Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Board of Trustees and chairman of the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities, was also present.

The launching of the award, which is managed by an executive committee, had been announced in Alkhobar to develop architecture by raising awareness of the importance of the role of structure and aesthetics.

Abdullah Al-Fozan, chairman of the Board of Directors at Al-Fozan Holding Co., said that the award aims to improve the construction of mosques in a modern environment while optimizing the traditional role of mosques.

He said: “The supreme objectives of the award are developing and enhancing environmentally interactive architecture and achieving an integral balance between a mosque’s beauty and spirituality and its surroundings. It is our hope that the award will highlight distinctive mosque designs around the world.”

He added: “The first edition of the award, to be given every three years, is up for grabs among mosques that have been constructed in the Kingdom since 1970. The following editions of the award will be held in other countries. A head office will be established to develop a database of winning candidates and designs so that their ideas can be reused by promising architects who wish to excel and contribute to the field.”

An endowment of SR60 million has been devoted to funding and ensuring the continuity of the award, he said. The award also aims to support mosque construction globally and bring distinctive designs to the forefront.

“In the long run, the award aims to contribute to exploring the various trends that affect the development of mosque architecture,” Al-Fozan said.

The award is also designed to encourage architects, engineers, planners and designers, as well as students studying architecture, planning and engineering around the world to develop houses of worship both creatively and sustainably.

The initiative aims to provide a comprehensive database for organizations wishing to construct mosques. “It is vital that houses of worship set positive examples by ensuring sustainability at the social, cultural, economic and environmental levels,” he said.

The KFUPM Mosque is located on a platform at the edge of a small body of water on the campus. Although the building incorporates a traditional mosque plan, the design abstracts traditional elements of the mosque through its use of modern architectural vocabularies and exposed concrete surfaces.

The roof covering the square prayer hall is capped by a series of skylights arranged in a grid that filter in natural light. This courtyard is designed as a fully transparent architectural feature rather than one that is enclosed from the sides and serves as a transitional space that leads to the mosque’s prayer hall.

Thin marble slabs and three wooden doors separate the courtyard from the adjacent prayer hall. In the courtyard is a simple sunken water fountain that resembles a keyhole shape, located off-center to the southeast of the mosque’s central longitudinal axis.

The courtyard is also unusual because the mosque’s minaret is located inside it, again off-center, but to the northwest of the mosque’s central longitudinal axis. In recognition to the award’s origin, the first edition covered mosques exclusively in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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Tajik imams to get marketing skills training

World Bulletin / 19 Feb 2014 – Tajikistan is undertaking a project to teach imams in the country marketable skills, as well as a project to expand madrasah in the Sughd province curriculums to include non-religious education.

In July 2013, the Tajik authorities shut down many madrasahs in the province as they failed to abide by national standards, but now the authorities are considering re-opening them as theology colleges.

“We might even turn madrasahs to religious colleges, where students would learn both Islamic subjects and professional skills,” said Sughd provincial government’s Religious Affairs Department chief Abdulhakim Sharifov. “The main point is that mullahs should get regular jobs,” Sharifov told journalists last week.

“Around 500 young people graduate from Sughd madrasahs every year. Most of them hope to become mullahs and mosque imams, and they expect people take care of them (financially.) The government can’t accept this. Everyone has to have a profession, a job as a source of living,” Sharifov added.

Tajikistan currently has over 7,000 madrasah graduates in the country.

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Pakistan opens the tap on hydropower projects

Trust.org / 19 Feb 2014 – Faced with a chronic power shortage that is affecting economic growth, Pakistan has announced plans to tap some of the enormous potential for hydropower in the country’s north. The government aims to add 13,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the national grid system through a series of hydro projects ranging in size from 10 to 1,000 MW, according to officials in the federal water and power ministry. This will represent a nearly eightfold increase in hydro capacity.

However, the country’s enfeebled economy means that it must rely heavily on foreign investment to complete the projects by 2018 as planned. And there are concerns that a draft resettlement policy for those displaced by the projects shows little sign of being approved by the government soon.

Pakistan currently generates about 14,000 MW of power, but demand is 18,000 MW, surging to 20,000 MW in summer months when many people use air conditioners. Frequent and protracted power cuts have crippled the country’s economic activity and stalled growth.

“The industrial sector particularly has suffered massive setback, as tens of thousands of industrial units have closed down, rendering millions of workers jobless,” said Ishrat Hussain, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan in Karachi.

Garment factory worker Zulekhan Fatima, for instance, lost her job last June because her employer was not able to afford to pay his workers to sit idly most of the day during long power outages.

“I was among 140 workers that were sent home,” the 38-year-old recalled. She now earns her living tutoring schoolgirls at her home in Rawalpindi, some 10 km east of Islamabad. “I hope reducing power cuts by boosting energy production will really help millions like me to return to jobs,” she said.

In January 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government initiated a multi-billion dollar programme for five hydropower projects totalling nearly 5,800 MW in northern Pakistan. The projects are slated to be built with financial and technical support from Austria, China and Germany, as well as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation and USAID.

The Export Import Bank of China has already released $17 million, the first instalment of a $448 million loan, for the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project, on the Neelum river in Muzaffarabad, about 125 kilometres (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. Further instalments will be provided over the next two years. The project is due to be completed by December 2016.

Hydropower currently provides almost 11 percent of Pakistan’s energy mix. Fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and coal account for 88 percent.

Pervaiz Rashid, a government spokesperson, said that increasing the contribution of hydropower, which is clean, renewable and cheaper than other sources, is at the centre of the government’s energy policy. “We understand that power produced from oil and coal is environmentally unsustainable and costlier for consumers, health damages aside,” he said.

The deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, Ahsan Iqbal, said that the country’s enormous hydroelectric potential, estimated at 100,000 MW, has never been properly put to use.

According to Iqbal, the reasons have included a lack of interest on the part of previous governments, shortages of funds, and a reluctance of foreign investors to put money in a country plagued by security problems and administrative inefficiencies. Officials are hopeful that promised funding from other governments and international lending agencies will now allow plans that had not progressed beyond feasibility studies to be swiftly implemented.

The French Development Agency (AFD) and Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will give 50 million euros and 20 million euros respectively towards the 35 MW Harpo hydropower project in Skardu district in Gilgit-Baltistan province, said Ali Raza Bhutta, joint secretary of the Federal Economic Affairs Division. The total cost of the project is 90 million euros.

The German Development Bank is part of a joint venture led by a Chinese firm for the 122 MW Keyal Khwar Hydropower (KKH) project, slated to be operational in four years.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has said it will release 100 million euros by the end of March towards construction of the plant, which lies on a tributary of the Indus River in Dasu district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, in the country’s northwest.

Gilgit-Baltistan province’s chief minister, Syed Mehdi Shah, has approved proposals for an additional 16 small hydropower projects to be built in the next four years at a cost of $122.5 million, said Abid Sher Ali, federal water and power minister. In early February, Pakistan’s Federal Central Development Working Party approved a major project, the 4,300 MW Dasu run-of-river plant, which is to be built partly with a $700 million loan from the World Bank.

“Although recently Pakistan has succeeded in exploring some sources of funding to tap the country’s vast hydropower potential, it is further exploring more funding channels to increase hydropower production as high as 40,000 WM by 2030,” Abid Sher Ali added.

Many of the hydro power projects are located in mountainous areas that are not densely populated. However, independent development experts warn that the government agencies concerned must respond adequately to the issues of displacement and resettlement of thousands of people who will be affected.

Provincial governments use an 1894 law, the Land Acquisition Act, to secure land for public purposes and for companies. But the law’s provisions are unclear, leading each province to interpret and implement it according to its own systems, said Ajmal Khan, senior representative of the Pakistan Network for Rivers, Dams and People (PNRDP), which works on water rights and resettlement issues of people affected by large dam projects.

Khan said that one of the major drawbacks is that the act only compensates landowners and does not cover resettlement, relocation, loss of livelihood or the rights of affected persons without a land title.

Government officials say that a draft National Resettlement Policy is awaiting cabinet approval. The policy was originally drafted in 2002. Jawaid Ali Khan, former director-general of the now defunct federal ministry of the environment, said that the lack of progress in developing the country’s hydropower sector had prevented it from being approved sooner.

Ajmal Khan of the PNRDP underlined the need for a comprehensive and viable national resettlement policy with clear guidance for planning and implementing resettlement in hydro project areas. Even so, he believes such a policy will take another two or three years to be passed by the cabinet because the government is preoccupied with security issues.

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Prince Charles does the ‘ardha’.. Saudi style

Al Arabiya / 19 Feb 2014 – When in Saudi Arabia, do like the Saudis do — that’s the advice Prince Charles took when he visited the Gulf country on Monday. A picture has been released of the 65-year-old royal on his trip to Riyadh donning traditional dress from the kingdom and performing the ‘ardha’ dance.

Prince Charles can be seen in the photo wearing the traditional ankle-length shirt known as a thawb. On his head, he is sporting the ghutra, a large square cotton head-covering, which is folded diagonally over a skullcap, called a kufiyyah, secured by a cord, referred to as an igaal.

The heir to the British throne also makes an attempt at the ‘ardha,’ a folklore dance indigenous to Saudi Arabia performed at celebrations or cultural events. The performance, carried out by men carrying swords, is typically accompanied by drums and spoken poetry. The photograph shows the enthusiastic royal mid-dance with sword in the air, surrounded by his Saudi hosts.

The prince arrived in the kingdom late Monday as part of a four-day Middle East tour which includes a visit to Riyadh and a quick stop over in Qatar. The trip marks his 10th trip to Saudi Arabia since he first toured the nation in 1986.

The UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins said regarding the trip, “Our two kingdoms share a long friendship, going back to the foundation of the modern Saudi state. Continuity of personal relationships, essential if we are to understand each other better, have been central to this.”

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Exhibition in Jeddah depicts life of Holy Prophet

Arab news / 19 Feb 2014 – Eight Saudi artists took part in an exhibition under the theme, “This is the Prophet we love,” which showcased more than 107 paintings depicting the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with Arabic calligraphy. Elements of his life, such as his travels, sayings and family history, were portrayed in the paintings.

The exhibition was held at the Jeddah House of Artists and organized by the Bajabir group of Saudi artists. The program was inaugurated by Saud Al-Sheikhi, director-general of the Ministry of Culture and Information’s Makkah branch. Guests were welcomed with performances by a group of Makkah traditional dancers and singer Hisham Baroom.

Ibtisam Bajabir, the executive chief of the group, explained that every corner of the exhibition contains a collection of paintings that was made by a group of professional artists who expressed their creativity in artistic form.

“I am very happy to have been able to exhibit the love we share for the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). I am proud of our Saudi artists and their excellent work. The Ministry of Culture and Information always supports initiatives put forth by art societies by issuing permits for the establishment of art galleries,” he said.

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NYC schools will get Islamic holidays

World Bulletin / 15 Feb 2014 – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to implement a policy that would close schools for Muslim holidays and the Chinese New Year. The two Muslim holidays include, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) applauded NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for plans to move forward in closing schools for the Muslim holidays, reported the Arap American News.

“The NYC Muslim community looks forward to finally having the Eid holidays recognized in our public schools. It will be gratifying to know that Muslim children will soon no longer have to choose between honoring and celebrating their faith or missing class. We applaud Mayor de Blasio on his plans to soon make this a reality,” said CAIR-NY Executive Board Member Zead Ramadan.

During his election campaign in October, the mayor announced his promise to recognize Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, which take place at the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan and following the annual pilgrimage to Mecca respectively. “The origins of this nation (are) people of many different faiths coming together … That’s why we have to respect Muslim faiths by providing the Eid school holidays for children in our school system,” said de Blasio.

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UK extends mortgage aid scheme to Islamic finance

Reuters / 15 Feb 2014 – Britain’s government sought to bolster London’s position as a centre for Islamic finance on Tuesday by extending its ‘Help to Buy’ mortgage scheme to loans that comply with Islamic law. Help to Buy was launched last year and offers banks insurance against the risk of lending to home-buyers who cannot afford large mortgage deposits.

Britain’s finance ministry said property finance plans that circumvent Islam’s bar on interest payments would now be eligible in the same way as standard mortgages. “The Help to Buy extension builds on the government’s commitment to support the UK Islamic finance market … and retain London’s position as the premier western Islamic financial centre,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

Islamic finance is worth around 11 billion pounds a year to Britain, the government added. Later this year Britain aims to become the first Western country to issue a bond that complies with Islamic law, known as a sukuk, in a further attempt to cement London’s place as the main Western centre for Islamic finance.

However, the sum of money that it intends to raise – around 200 million pounds – is small and in the past the government’s debt issuance agency has had doubts about whether Islamic finance offers value for money and said the bond is likely to be a one-off. The finance ministry said Help to Buy Islamic mortgages would be provided by the Islamic Bank of Britain, which is owned by Qatar’s second-largest bank Masraf Al Rayan.

Under the mortgages, the property is owned by the bank and home-buyers purchase it in stages, paying the bank rent on the rest of the property.

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Albanian cities an open-air museum of Ottoman history

World Bulletin / 17 Feb 2014 – Albanian cities, most of which still have Ottoman names, present unique examples of Islamic architecture. Not only historical buildings, but also the names of the cities, have remained unchanged since Ottoman conquest.

Albania, where the Ottoman Empire had ruled for centuries, successfully preserved the empire’s cultural and historical heritage. Its cities, most of which still have Ottoman names, present unique examples of Islamic architecture. Not only historical buildings, but also the names of the cities, have remained unchanged since Ottoman conquest.

One particular Albanian city is that of Ishkodra, whose history traces back 2,500 years. Ottomans altered the city’s antique name of Scutari to Ishkodra. Ottoman rule was accompanied by economic and cultural progress which made the city an industrial center up to this day.

One of the biggest towns of central Albania is Elbasan, another city with an Ottoman name. Having been built in the 2nd century BCE, Elbasan used to be known as Scampa. Ottoman landmarks in Elbasan are the Kales Mosque and public bath next to it.

Known to be the most beautiful city of the country, Berat had once been known as Antipatrea in ancient times. The city is now under UNESCO protection.

The strategic coastal city Vlora’s name was found in the Ottoman archives as Avlonya. In addition to its deep history, the city hosts a range of Ottoman masterpieces.

Dyrrah, or as the city was called in ancient times, Durres, has the largest port in Albania. The city was known as Drac in Ottoman times.

Another city which flourished after the Ottoman conquest is Cirokastra, which was previously called Ergirikastre. This is another UNESCO-protected city in the country due to it being known as “a fully-preserved Ottoman city.”

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UNESCO agenda to list Palestinian site on World Heritage list

Al Arabiya / 17 Feb 2014 – UNESCO has agreed to a Palestinian request to include the ancient agricultural terraces of the West Bank village of Battir on a list of sites to be reviewed and voted on for a place on the World Heritage list in June. The World Heritage Committee is expected to meet in Doha, Qatar, from June 15 to 25 to review a list of 41 worldwide sites to decide whether or not they qualify for entry onto the World Heritage list.

According to UNESCO spokesman Roni Amelan, Battir was included under an emergency procedure designated for endangered places. If approved, Battir would be the second site, after the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, to be registered as being in Palestine after UNESCO agreed to recognize it as a state in 2011.

UNESCO experts are expected to travel to Battir to view the site as part of the application process. The agricultural terraces, which date back 2,000 years to the Roman era, are on land that Israel plans to use for a security barrier. If the site receives a spot on the heritage list, Israeli authorities will be barred from building on the land.

A group of 21 countries will vote to decide which sites make it to the World Heritage list, including Algeria, Colombia, Croatia, Finland, Germany, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Serbia, Turkey and Viet Nam.

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Turkey launches new satellite

World Bulletin / 18 Feb 2014 – Turkey launched its TURKSAT 4A communications satellite from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan on Friday night. The TURKSAT 4A Communication Satellite was Turkey´s fifth to be put into orbit. The Turksat 4A telecommunication satellite was jointly produced with Turkish and Japanese engineers.

The satellite was equipped with two 3-panel solar arrays for power generation, a chemical propulsion system for apogee maneuvers as well as orbital adjustments and navigation and stabilization equipment. Television broadcasts and satellite communication signals will be able to cover the whole of the African continent.

The TURKSAT 4A had a total launch mass of 4,850 kilograms, capable of providing 15kW of power to facilitate powerful communication payloads for mission durations of 15 years and beyond. TURKSAT 4B, Turkey´s sixth satellite, will be launched on the second quarter of this year. Officials says with TURKSAT 4B Internet services provider fees will be fifty percent cheaper in the country.

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Bangladesh Tourism campaign to build on T20 Cricket tournament

DHAKA, Feb 20, 2014 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today said the government has taken tourism campaign and offered various tour packages targeting foreign spectators, coming here to watch matches of World Cup T20 cricket tournament in March.

“Bangladesh Tourism Board will sign an agreement with ICC by next week for sponsoring the tournament as one of the local partners in a condition that ICC will promote Bangladesh tourism worldwide during the world Cup,” he said.

The minister was exchanging views with a delegation of Aviation and Tourism Journalists’ Forum of Bangladesh (ATJFB) at the conference room of his ministry at secretariat here. The delegation was comprised with forum’s convener Narida Kiron and member secretary Tanzim Anwar, among others.

Menon said various kinds of tour packages from both government and private run tour operators have already been offered for the foreigners during their stay here. “Fifty percent of the total spectators of the tournament are coming from abroad, so we would like to take this opportunity to project potentials of Bangladesh tourism in front of them,” he said.

The minister said he is planning to increase traffic of domestic tourist first rather only concentrate on foreign tourists. “If domestic tourism witnesses rapid growth, the tourism related infrastructure and service will increase automatically that also helps to attract foreigners here,” he said.

Menon said he put emphasis to upgrade the Cox’s Bazar Airport as soon as possible to expedite the country’s tourism. “If the airport is upgraded into international one, foreign tourists will visit the world’s longest unbroken beach directly,” he said.

The minister said he is planning to make the country’s small unused airports including in Srimongal and Thakurgaon functional to attract foreign tourist to see unexplored beauty of the country. Terming journalists as one of the stakeholders of the tourism industry, Menon urged them to promote Bangladesh tourism in a positive way in front of both domestic and international tourists.

The journalists’ delegation apprised the minister of different activities of the forum and said the forum is working to develop country’s civil aviation and tourism sectors by working as watchdog as well as pressure group. They said patronization is needed from both the government and private sector to make mainstream media sensitize about huge potentials of the country’s tourism.

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BDP holds exhibition with its products

DHAKA, Feb 21, 2014 (BSS) – An exhibition with its products of Bangladesh Diesel Plant (BDP) was held at hotel Radisson here yesterday with an aim to expand the market of BDP’s products and services. The state owned commercial enterprise under the management of Bangladesh Army, BDP is established on 23 acres of land and manufacturer/assembler/supplier of diesel engine.

Chairman of the board of directors and Quarters Master General of Bangladesh Army Lt. Gen. Anwar Hossain, ndc, psc and BDP’s managing director Brigadier General Asif Ahmed Ansari, afwc, psc, secretaries of ministries concerned and higher civil and military officials attended it.

Although the plant was established in 1968, it started journey in 1972 under BSIC and but it became a loss-making entity. It was shutdown on December 31, 2004 due to continuous loss and later it was handed over to Bangladesh Army on May 2007 with liabilities. BDP is now making profit under the management of army.

It is manufacturing diesel engine, spares for jute mill and feed mills, supply of diesel engines, generators, submersible and centrifugal pumps, solar panel and accessories, installation of prepaid and digital electric meters, construction of closures, cold storage, pump house, earth filling/land development for power plant and gas fields etc.

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S. Kyrgyz women revive garment industry

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-02-18 OSH – Garment making might become a road to prosperity for women in southern Kyrgyzstan. Osh women in early February opened up a garment factory to address two problems. The “For Sweet Moms” factory sews clothing for pregnant women and newborns and employs over 50 women.

Altynai Urkunbayeva, the founder of the factory, said she first considered the situation when she and her friend, Anara Sultanova, both pregnant at the time, couldn’t find the right clothes. “We figured out that our city’s markets have only two areas selling a small selection of clothing,” she said. “It comes from Bishkek and costs a lot. It was a shame that Osh didn’t have a place making clothes for pregnant women. That’s when we decided to open our own factory making custom-ordered clothing. The project together with our investment cost 486,150 KGS (US $9,600).”

Southern Kyrgystan has vocational schools that turn out skilled seamstresses every year, and the new factory will partially solve the problem of finding work for these new graduates, she said. An advocacy group one year ago began working with the public to learn its needs and demands, Sultanova, the manager of the new garment factory, told Central Asia Online in an interview.

“Surveys made it clear that we need to build roads … and more playgrounds, that the roofs and basements of high-rise (apartment) buildings need repairs, etc.,” she said. But that wasn’t something she and Urkunbayeva could do much about.

“We liked the idea of opening a garment factory,” Sultanova said. She and Urkunbayeva found out that other young women had experienced the difficulties of being able to buy clothing for pregnant women and newborns, so they thought it would be a good venture.

To open the factory, she and her co-workers had to learn from experienced colleagues, who taught them how to cut, sew and perform other subtleties of the craft, Sultanova said. The factory’s seamstresses were delighted to learn that Osh city hall had allocated them a two-room ground-floor space in the Anar neighbourhood.

“We are very happy that a garment factory like this has opened up, because it helps tackle … unemployment,” Shaiyrbu Koyonova, chairwoman of a neighbourhood committee of Territorial Council No. 2 in Osh, told Central Asia Online.

Now local authorities want to help young migrant workers returning from Russia, she explained. “They need help finding work, so we are now lobbying for their interests and are willing to send them to vocational schools, where they can study to become lathe operators, mill operators, welders or other essential workers,” Koyonova said.

The city used to have a profitable textile plant with 15,000 to 16,000 workers and a silk factory with 4,000 to 5,000 workers, Yrysbu Matiyeva, an official of the southern division of the Kyrgyz textile and light-industry workers’ trade union, told Central Asia Online in an interview.

“Both plants are no more, and many highly skilled workers were left jobless,” she said. “To solve this problem at least partially, the most active women are coming together and creating such (pro-business) advocacy groups. In turn, we accept them as members of the trade union.”

It’s important for employers to observe safety regulations and to pay salaries on time, as such practices are components of job security, Matiyeva added.

“The light textile industry is developing well in Kyrgyzstan,” she said. “We are working to have new plants receive tax breaks or outright tax exemptions.”

The opening of such garment factories in southern Kyrgyzstan is becoming possible thanks to the efforts of women who wish to fulfil their potential, Gulsana Abytova, an Osh-based project manager at the Eurasia Foundation of Central Asia, said.

About 15 such factories have opened in Osh since 2010, Ministry of Economy data indicate. Even though they are small businesses – many have only three to eight sewing machines – they help fight unemployment, Abytova said, often giving low-income women of various ethnicities an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have.

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Exhibition revealing Istanbul through ‘memory of the youth’

Hurriyet – ISTANBUL – In the exhibition, visitors are able to see the works the participants created through spaces and sounds that focus on the memory of the cities. In the exhibition, visitors are able to see the works the participants created through spaces and sounds that focus on the memory of the cities.

Two dozen young people from Turkey’s west and east have come together for a unique art project aiming to capture the city through memory. The project, “BAK: Revealing the City through Memory,” is being coordinated by the Anadolu Kültür and Diyarbakır Arts Center (DSM) in cooperation with the Geniş Açı Project Office and docIstanbul – Center for Documentary Studies.

The project includes three photography projects, five short documentary films, a film that is based on the documentation of the whole production process, and two blogs, all of which focus on cities and stories.

BAK was launched at the beginning of 2013 as a project that aims at increasing the communication and cultural interaction among young people from different cities, and providing them with opportunities for collective artistic productions. Twenty-four young people between the ages of 18 and 26 from İzmir, Diyarbakır, Çanakkale and Batman came together as part of the project, meeting with the cities and stories of people they did not previously know.

For close to a year, they focused on topics such as cultural diversity and memory, as well as geographical and cultural wealth that disappeared and transformed the relationship between humans and nature, the marks of the city’s memory on places, collectively producing photography, video and blog projects with their new experiences.

The projects were recently on view at DEPO Istanbul. Beside Istanbul, the exhibition was also opened in Diyarbakır and will continue there until Feb. 26. It will also be in İzmir from Feb. 22 to March 16; Batman from Feb. 28 to March 16 and Çanakkale from March 22 to April 13.

In the exhibition, visitors are able to see the works the participants created through spaces and sounds that focus on the memory of the cities, their approach to the significant events of collective memory by way of personal stories, and their projects that question the relationship between public space and the contemporary condition of cities.

Young people with different experiences, coming from different cultural backgrounds and geographical regions of Turkey, participated in workshops that were organized throughout 2013 within the scope of BAK in İzmir, Batman, Çanakkale and Diyarbakır. At these workshops, the participants received training on the relationship between city and memory, and besides studying the cities, they learned different methods of making documentaries using photography and video from advisors who are experts in their areas.

Eylem Ertürk, the project coordinator at Anadolu Kültür, said that at the BAK project, the participants produced joint projects either by starting from their own lives or by focusing on the events that marked its place in the collective memory. The aim of the project is “to look at the city together in order to remember and tell; to describe the past in its relation to the present; and, to deliver to the future under a hopeful gaze, what has been seen and recorded,” Ertürk said.

Ertürk described the learning and production processes of the project, saying: “We have experienced a long, pleasant, and more importantly, a sharing process for a year with young people who came from cities that are different in their relationship to the recent and distant past, in the east and west of Turkey. While the participants rediscovered the cities they live in, they also visited the cities where their project partners live and they have met with new perspectives. I believe that the participants had an important experience with regard to collective work, as well as in meeting with different cities and people, and I believe that they will convey this to the audience with their photographs and short documentary films.”

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Tanpınar museum and library: Shrine for Turkish literature

Hurriyet – ISTANBUL – The Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar Literature Museum Library in Istanbul is housed in a historical 16th century building close to the Topkapı Palace and dedicated to Turkish literature. The museum is named after renowned 20th century Turkish author, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, one of the most formative figures in modern Turkish literature. Tanpınar’s books are beginning to draw an increasing interest in the English-speaking world, 50 years after his death.

His iconic novel “A Mind at Peace” (Huzur – 1949), which Turkey’s Nobel laureate writer Orhan Pamuk described as “the greatest novel ever written about Istanbul,” was translated into English in 2008. “The Time Regulation Institute” (Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü – 1962), the second great novel from Tanpınar, was recently re-released in the U.S. The New York Times called the novel “a first-rate comic novel” and it was plugged by legendary American talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.

In 1928, the museum building, which was once used by Ottoman sultans to watch the parades of the Janissaries, was a gathering place for Tanpınar and his literary contemporaries to establish an association dedicated to Turkish language and literature.

Today, the building continues that tradition and holds a variety of public events.

Abdullah Güven, a senior Turkish official responsible for Istanbul museums, said that among its events were discussions on various authors, poetry performances, literature award ceremonies, and writing workshops. “The Tanpınar Museum also has a library with over 8,000 books. The library has 1,000 books on Istanbul alone,” Guven noted.

The museum also exhibits personal items belonging to famed Turkish writers including Tanpınar, Ayşe Kulin, Zülfü Livaneli, Doğan Hızlan, and Aziz Nesin. “After the Culture Ministry decided to open a literature museum, we asked some authors to donate some of their personal belongings for exhibition at the museum.” Some gave their pens while others donated their old typewriters, Güven explained. “Those belongings will be kept for the next generation.” The museum is open to literary enthusiasts during weekdays between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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Turkey plans shift in tourism promotional theme

ANKARA – Hurriyet – The Culture and Tourism Ministry has pushed the button to change Turkey’s “sea, sun and sand” image abroad, announcing plans to organize various events, such as gourmet visits and arts and cultural tours, over the coming year.

The ministry, which has reframed Turkey’s cultural and tourism policies, previously announced it would work with the Hollywood actress Julianne Moore, as well as master photographers, to promote Turkey this year. It will also use all possible avenues to achieve the goals, from fashion festivals, to social media and TV programs.

Within the scope of these schemes, the Turkish Tourism Office in Paris is planning to become a sponsor for one of France’s biggest sporting events, the Roland Garros (French Open) tennis tournament held every May.

At the same time, world-renowned tightrope walker Nik Wallenda, who is in the Guinness Book of Records, will walk between the two sides of the Bosphorus as part of promotional efforts to demonstrate that Istanbul is a bridge between the continents.

Also, different cultural activities will be conducted in collaboration with the Serbian Presidency in order to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. Also, as part of the 50th anniversary of immigration to Europe, the Brussels Culture and Tourism Office will present cinema, theater, music, painting and folklore shows at the Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels. Further to the northeast, Anatolian Culture Days will also be organized by the Copenhagen Culture and Tourism Office.

The 600th year of Turkish-Polish diplomatic relations will be marked with various events in both countries. Important tour operators will shoot advertisement films focusing on the theme of the “600th year,” while Anatolian cuisine will be promoted in Poland during Turkish Cuisine Days.

Some 25 journalists from notable press and media organs will also be hosted in Turkey in connection with the 600th anniversary. Tourism sector representatives from both countries will come together during a workshop next month, while Turkey will join the Warsaw or Krakow book fair and an open-air exhibition on the theme of the “600th year” and “Polonezköy” – a Polish village on Istanbul’s Asian side – in the city squares of Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Ponzan.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry, which is increasingly attempting to break into social media, will organize competitions about Turkey through social networks. A special section will be dedicated to Turkish cinema at the Eurasia Film Festival, the biggest in Central Asia.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder İlkay Gündoğan, a German national of Turkish origin that plays for the German national football team, will also take part in Turkey’s promotion in various parts of Germany, as well as other renowned figures followed by the German public.

Another plan of the ministry is to publish magazines and books to promote Turkish cuisine. German channel Arte will broadcast a six-episode Turkey travel program titled “Turkey Days.”

Elsewhere, the “Dede Korkut” opera will be on stage in October in Germany, promoting an epic hero from Turkish mythology. Also, one of the renowned theaters in Germany, the Gorki Theater, will present a Turkish play for the first time.

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Local products to be introduced at airport duty free shops

Sun.mv – February 20, 2014 – An agreement has been signed regarding the introduction of locally produced items at the duty free shops, and new uniforms for staff at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

The agreement was signed between Ministry of Economic Development, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), and Sabah Cooperative Society; by Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed, Managing Director of MACL Ibrahim Saleem, and Chairman of Sabah Cooperative Society Ahmed Faris Maumoon.

Sabah Maldives is a cooperative Society working for home based workers. Speaking at the ceremony, Economic Minister Saeed described airport staff as ambassadors for the country, and urged them to prioritise presenting a positive image of Maldives to tourists.

He said that the ministry has designed a logo, which will be introduced soon, to indicate that the products are 100 percent ‘made in Maldives’. Saleem highlighted that tourists often complain about the lack of Maldivian souvenirs, and said that this new project is also a step forward for Maldivian women who want to work from home.

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British minister tries hand at Kaaba’s Kiswa embroidery

Makkah, Thursday, 20 Rabi Al-Thani 1434/ 20 February 2014 (IINA) –A British woman minister visiting Saudi Arabia took part Wednesday in the challenging and intricate process of embroidering a Kiswa, the black silk cloth that covers the Holy Kaaba, Al Arabiya news channel reported.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the UK’s senior minister of state at the Foreign Office and Minister for Faith and Communities, made the attempt during a visit to a factory that produces the Kiswa. During her tour of the facility, Warsi was given a detailed lecture on the history and advances in the manufacture of the cloth that veils the Kaaba, a building revered by many Muslims worldwide. In a Twitter post, Warsi described her taking part in the making of the cloth as a “huge privilege.”

“Visited Kiswah factory in #Makkah. Huge privilege to take part in making of #Kaaba cloth for #hajj 2014,” Warsi tweeted. She said she was on an official visit to the kingdom and to perform the pilgrimage of Umrah, noting that “huge opportunities exist for #British firms” in Makkah. “Great to see British @pbworld win major contract to support #Makkah infrastructure programme,” she added. Engineering consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff won a deal last year to work on the new Makkah Public Transport Program (MPTP), which will include a new metro line and a major bus network.

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‘Modern road communications being developed in Rangpur’

RANGPUR, Feb 18, 2014 (BSS) – Mayor of Rangpur City Corporation (RCC) and valiant freedom fighter (FF) Alhaj Sharfuddin Ahmed Jhantu has said modern road communications are being developed in Rangpur city to free it from traffic congestion. He was addressing the launching ceremony of road carpeting works by cutting ribbon at a ceremony arranged at Godha Shimla under Ward No-29 in city corporation area on Monday afternoon as the chief guest.

The road carpeting works were inaugurated by the RCC Mayor as part of the phase-wise construction packages of 72 separate roads, drains, culverts at the cost of Taka 18 crore in the city corporation area.

RCC Councilor Muktar Hossain of Ward No-29, Councilor for reserved Women Ward Farida Kalam, Executive Engineer of RCC Azam Ali, its Sub-assistant Engineer Abu Jafar, businessmen Moazzem Hosain Mithu and Illias Hossain Bablu, contractors Badrul Islam Bulbul, FF Nurul Alam Khokan and Abdul Barkat Master, social workers Abdul Barek, Fazar Ali and Nuru Miah were present.

After inaugurating the works, the RCC Mayor said all sorts of the infrastructural development works are being implemented with a view to build a well-planned, modern, eco-friendly and traffic- jam free city. The people from all walks in the society would be highlybenefited and traffic situation in the city will improve significantly in near future after completion of the various infrastructural development works.

The Mayor also sought everyone’s cooperation for smoothly carrying out the infrastructural development works including roads, bridges, culverts, drainage and sewerage systems in the city.

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2,000 Bangladesh youths to develop mobile apps

DHAKA, Feb 18, 2014 (BSS) – The government’s national level mobile applications (apps) development programme launched five months back for reaching public services including health and education to the people through mobile phone has created 700 app developers so far, officials said. They said the programme in divisions and districts has created much enthusiasm among the youths especially the students who wanted to build their career as IT professionals.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division has undertook the Mobile Apps Development Project involving Tk 8 crore in October, 2013 to implement the project within 15-month, officials said. The ICT division, they said, in collaboration with Multimedia Content and Communications Ltd. (MCC) and EATL is implementing the project to create some 2,000 graduates in seven divisions and 64 districts as mobile Apps developers.

“The most interesting part of the mobile application development training programme is that the young educated trainees at district level are performing better for developing mobile apps on various public services like health, education, agriculture,” said ICT Secretary N I Khan.

The government, he said, has already received 150 ideas on various public services from the officials participated in the idea generation workshops at ministries, divisions and directorates.

The mobile apps developers have been assigned to develop apps on those public services, N I Khan added. Mobile Apps Development Project Director Dr. Abul Hasan said a significant number of people are downloading mobile apps from apps stores like Google, Nokia and using it, but, there are no applications on public services in the app stores.

The government has undertaken the project considering the increasing trend of number of smart phone users and about 110 million mobile phone users who are purchasing Apps from different Apps stores.

As part of the National-level Mobile Applications Development Programme, the government launched a five-day training programme at Dhaka University Business Studies Faculty today. A total of 45 students of different departments of the university are taking part in the five-day programme.

State Minister for Post, Telecommunication and IT Zunaid Ahmed Palak addressed the inaugural function as the chief guest with DU Vice-Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique in the chair. Palak urged the students to make themselves efficient in ICT knowledge to build ‘Sonar Bangla’ as dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

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Adi Soemarmo airport reopened

Thu, February 20 2014 Solo, Central Java (ANTARA News) – Adi Soemarmo airport in Solo, Central Java, reopened on Thursday morning for both domestic and international flights, after it had been closed for six days when Mt Kelud erupted last week. “The airport reopened first for the Garuda Indonesia flight GA 221 at 7.10 a.m. on Thursday from Solo to Jakarta with 89 passengers,” stated Adi Soemarmo Airport Duty Manager Sugeng Budiyono.

He clarified that the airport reopened at 7 a.m., with the first flight from Garuda Indonesia, at 7.10 am, followed by Lion Air JT 531 for Jakarta with 175 passengers at 7.22 a.m., and then by Sriwijaya Air with 137 passengers at 7.40 a.m. Besides these domestic flights, two international flights, Air Asia from Malaysia at 8.18 a.m., followed by Silk Air from Singapore, at 9.15 a.m. local time, landed at the Adi Sumarmo airport.

The eruption of Mount Kelud in East Java last Thursday, had forced seven airports to close operations temporarily when the ashes scattered by the eruption drastically reduced visibility. The seven airports that had been closed were Juanda in Surabaya, Adisumarmo in Solo, Adisucipto in Yogyakarta, Ahmad Yani in Semarang, Tunggul Wulung in Cilacap, Abdurrahman Saleh in Malang, and Husein Sastranegara in Bandung.

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Indonesian artifacts displayed in vatican ethnology museum

February 17 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Around 1,235 types of Indonesian artifacts, which are kept at the Vatican Ethnology Museum will be exhibited from February 13 until the end of September 2014. “The artifacts describe the culture of Indonesia, the plural community that respects and honors the culture. Through Vatican, we want to introduce the uniqueness of Indonesia,” Vice Minister of Tourism and Creative Economics Sapta Nirwandar was quoted to have stated, by Kompas on Monday.

Sapta stated that the artifacts were brought back by the missionaries when they returned from their duties in Indonesia several years ago. Sapta attended the weekly public meeting of Pope Francis in St Peter Basilica, Vatican on Feb 12. He was accompanied by Ambassador of Indonesia to Vatican Budiarman Bahar. With regard to the exhibition of Indonesian artifacts, Pope Francis noted that he totally supported the event.

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Yogyakarta to stage traditional art performances in 2014

Sat, February 22 2014 Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) – The Yogyakarta Cultural Development Center (TBY) will again stage traditional art performances, as they seek to transmit the spirit of togetherness from the art players to the community, according to TBY Chief Diah Tutuko Suryandaru. “The art performances are expected to raise the spirit of togetherness among the people to maintain and preserve their culture, arts, and tradition,” Diah said here on Saturday.

According to Diah, traditional art is an effective means to strengthen inner bonds between communities to help them remain united. Diah noted that the spirit of togetherness is an important resource for the people of Yogyakarta, allowing them to remain ready to respond to possible natural disasters. “The art performances will be staged in the final week of every month this year ,” she said.

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New strategy to promote Bahrain tourism

Gulf Daily News – 21 February, 2014 – Key figures from the hotel and travel industry have put together a strategy in the hope of breathing new life into Bahrain’s tourism sector. The Destination Bahrain Forum was initiated by Kempinski Grand and Ixir Hotel Bahrain City Centre general manager Puneet Singh, who spoke to the GDN last October about the need to do more to revitalise the flagging industry.

The official, who has run hotels all over the world, including in China and Turkey, fears there will not be enough tourists to fill the growing number of hotels in Bahrain if more is not done to encourage visitors from Europe and other parts of the world. The forum already has 15 members, made up of general managers of hotels, travel agents and representatives from airlines.

“The aim of the forum is to come up with a workable mid and long-term strategy to present to the Ministry of Tourism which will help to develop tourism in Bahrain,” said Mr Singh.

“We are all professionals in the tourism industry and our combined experience exceeds 200 years. We have one common reason for being in this forum – we love Bahrain and want tourism to thrive here, because it has huge untapped potential.

“We want a strategy that will deliver results and will contribute to the ministry’s existing and newly-launched initiatives. The Ministry of Tourism is aware of this forum and has been very supportive of this project initiative.”

During a meeting, held at the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea and Spa yesterday, forum members put together the final details of a four-pronged strategy that they hope to present to the Ministry of Tourism next week. “I have been in Bahrain for a year and in that time I have seen that we have a lot to offer tourists,” said Sofitel area manager Samy Boukhaled.

“For me, Bahrain is similar to Switzerland in that it is very small, very cosy and very family orientated. This is what I see here, it is a very special unique place and Bahrainis are very welcoming and friendly, but this is not yet known in the international tourism sector. Rather than just focusing on the GCC market, we need to draw people in from other parts of the world, like Russia, for example.

“We have some great hotels, the sun and the beaches so we are looking at how we can best promote these assets to the international market. We should be on a par with Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia,” he said.

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Gulfood Exhibition 2014 opens in Dubai

Oman Tribune – 22 February, 2014 – The Gulfood Exhibition 2014 will open in Dubai on Sunday where the Sultanate will be represented by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) and a number of Omani companies and factories in the food sector. The five-day exhibition to be held for the second consecutive year opens with the Emirate of Dubai hosting the inaugural of World Food Security Forum.

The exhibition, considered the world’s biggest annual foodservice, hospitality and retail event that hosts 120 pavilions representing countries around the world, will witness the participation of more than 4,500 exhibitors representing global companies. Around 300 exhibitors taking part for the first time in the event to be held over an area that is more than 1 million square metres.

The PEIE this year has managed to expand its participation by doubling the reserved area and the number of participants compared to the last year. HE Eng Basim Bin Ali Al Nasri, Director General of Marketing and Media at the edtablishment, said this will hep the Sultanate to highlight the high quality reached by the Omani products.

The PEIE seeks to boost the national campaign for promoting Omani products, he added. The show will help Omani products to be seen and experienced abroad which in turn will assist in exploring new outlets and consumers for these products at the regional and international levels.

The World Food Security Summit will be held to explore strategies that encourage alliances and initiatives to tackle the challenges related to food security. Over 300 stakeholders including ministers and government officials and key decision-makers in the food and agriculture sectors will take part in the two-day event to find solutions for a secure and sustainable food future.

The summit will highlight security, sustainability and safety in the food sector. A ministerial panel will discuss food security issues. Nearly 90 per cent of the food consumed in the GCC is imported. Current trends suggest major growth in population in the regionbut domestic agricultural output increase will be conservative. Food spending will see a big jump.

Any hindrance in food supply would lead to adverse economic, political and social implications. These would include rising inflation rates, deterioration in international relations and starvation, according to the official website of Gulfood Exhibition 2014.

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Emirates named most valuable airline brand worldwide

Emirates 24/7 – 22 February, 2014 – Emirates is the most valuable airline brand worldwide for the third consecutive year, according to The Brand Finance Global 500 report for 2014 released this week. The airline, now at the 234th position on the list, is also the most valuable brand in the Middle East for the fourth consecutive year, and is currently valued at $ 5.48 billion, an increase of 34 per cent over its 2013 value.

“A strong brand is an important business differentiator, and that is why Emirates has continually invested in our brand over the years. We are delighted that our brand valuation has increased and that Emirates has retained its top position, because this reflects our success in engaging our customers, and remaining relevant to them in a fast changing and highly competitive global environment,” said Boutros Boutros, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice-President, Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand.

“Emirates flies more passengers over longer distances than any of its rivals and has become the standard by which other airline brands are judged. As employees of the Middle East’s most valuable brand, Emirates’ staff are ambassadors for the whole region, building bridges and good relationships across cultures with their impeccable service,” according to David Haigh, Chief Executive, Brand Finance.

Emirates’ brand platform ‘Hello Tomorrow’ connects people and cultures by creating relevant and meaningful experiences that are shaping our world. It is an intrinsic part of airline’s aspirations to evolve into a global lifestyle brand – not just offer a way to connect people from one point to another, but work as a catalyst to connect people’s hopes, dreams and aspirations. A global audience now has diverse ways of engaging with Emirates through iconic sponsorships such as the FIFA World Cup and Formula One, to its many social media platforms.

Emirates is now one of the most engaged brands on Facebook not only in the airline category but amongst other lifestyle brands, with posts about its fleet, products, sponsorships and crew. Emirates is also the world’s largest airline on LinkedIn, and has an active presence on YouTube, Instagram and Google Plus.

With a fleet of 212 aircraft, Emirates operates services to 141 destinations in 80 countries from Dubai. With a multi-cultural work force which is made up of more than 48,000 people from over 160 different nations, Emirates embodies the spirit of the brand and its evolution is embedded internally with an outlook that celebrates the new, the pioneering and innovative in the world – empowering people to explore, engage and live.

Brand Finance, the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy, releases its annual Brand Finance Global 500 report which assesses the dollar value of the reputation, image and intellectual property of the world’s foremost brands across diverse categories. The ranking also considers in its valuation, a number of relevant attributes such as emotional connection, financial performance and sustainability, economic growth rates, revenue forecasts and analysts’ insights, amongst others.

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3rd Maghreb Entrepreneurs Opens In Marrakech

MARRAKECH, Feb 18 (NNN-APS) — The 3rd Maghreb Entrepreneurs Forum has opened in this Moroccan city under the theme “Economic integration: Shared prosperity pact” and with the participation of employers’ organizations from all five member nations of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) and several economic and institutional operators.

Algeria is represented at the two-day meeting which ends Tuesday by a 25-member delegation led by Boualem M’rakech, head of the Algerian Confederation of Business Managers, representing several sectors, including heavy industry, manufacturing, construction, hydraulics, food processing, textiles, tourism and services.

The forum is discussing several issues related to the relaunch of the Maghreb economic integration with its plenary sessions focusing on the cost of not having integration among Maghreb countries, how to succeed in bringing about regional integration, benchmark and exchange of experiences, investing in fellow Maghreb countries and an overview on Maghreb initiative of trade and investment.

Among those present at the opening of the forum were Moroccan Head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, AMU Secretary General Habib Benyahia and World Bank Director for the Maghreb Simon Gray. The AMU members are Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia.

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Indonesia Has Huge Potential To Develop Tuna Industry

JAKARTA, Indonesia Feb 18 (NNN-Bernama) — Indonesia has immense tuna potential with production totalling 613,577 tonnes per year and netting an income worth Rp6.3 trillion (US$536.40 million), Indonesian news agency ANTARA reported.

Being strategically located between the world’s two key tuna-producing oceans, Indian and Pacific oceans, Indonesia is important for the world’s tuna market both for resources and trade, said Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif C. Sutardjo on Monday.

However, the tuna industry currently faces many challenges, including a drop in production, shrinkage in tuna size and difficulties in tracking the tuna population on the high seas, Sharif said. The ministry has been promoting sustainable fisheries development to address these challenges.

“The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) is committed to maintain tuna sustainability in Indonesia and to meet the world’s demand for tuna,” Sharif said during his visit to a research centre in Mertasari, Bali recently.

Sharif said the exploitation of albacore, yellow fin, bigeye and blue fin tuna has reached alarming levels, with only the population of skipjack tuna considered moderate today.

“Tuna sustainability is not the sole responsibility of one or two nations, but the entire world. The national tuna management will always be a priority of the RFMOs (Regional Fisheries Management Bodies), which has the mandate to regulate global tuna management,” he said.

The Indonesian government has become a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to maintain and boost tuna management globally.

By joining the commission, Indonesia is also a member of three regional fishery management organisations: Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), Commission on Conservation of Southern Blue fin Tuna (CCSBT), and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

Head of Research & Development (R&D) at the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry Achmad Poernomo said that monitoring of the landings of tuna is conducted across 16 tuna processing companies based in the Benoa Port.

MMAF’s R&D division is also currently conducting genetic research on bigeye tuna. Research reveals that the bigeye tuna is divided into two population groups: one group from the south Indian Ocean of Java and Nusa Tenggara, and the second from the west Indian Ocean of Sumatra.

“According to the gonadal development research, the spawning season of the Indian Ocean’s bigeye tuna occurs throughout the year,” Achmad said.

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Dubai to host global conference of trade promotion groups

Khaleej Times – 20 February, 2014 – A particular emphasis of the event will be on the economic empowerment of women and export promotion.

Dubai will bring together the best minds leading trade and economic development strategies worldwide at the 10th Trade Promotion Organisations, or TPO, Network World Conference and Awards, held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

The conference and the awards ceremony, organised by Dubai Exports, the export promotion agency of the Department of Economic Development, in partnership with the International Trade Centre, or ITC, will be held from November 3 to 5 in Dubai.

The first of its kind to be held in the Middle East, the three-day event will host more than 200 experts from TPOs, trade support institutions and academia, and will focus on innovative solutions that support small and medium enterprises in increasing their export competitiveness. A particular emphasis of the event will be on the economic empowerment of women and export promotion.

Shaikh Hamdan said the event will be a major milestone along the UAE’s journey towards a successful World Expo 2020. “A unique feature of the UAE is its ability to connect people and their ideas as is evident in our location, infrastructure, policies and development strategies. As a result the nation has remained a major destination for meetings and events, a fact that has been reaffirmed by the international community when Dubai was chosen to host Expo 2020,” said Shaikh Hamdan.

“Dubai has also continued to energise trade along its history. Its focus on promoting business and economic diversification has seen the emirate’s non-oil trade crossing Dh1 trillion in the first nine months of 2013 alone as against Dh918 billion for the same period in 2012.”

The 2014 TPO Network Awards will be announced at a gala dinner on the first night of the conference. The call for applications for the awards will be announced during the first quarter of 2014 and the details will be posted on the website TPOnetwork.net.

The ITC is the joint agency of the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations. It assists SMEs in developing and transition economies in becoming more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the Millennium Development goals.

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First Oman Tourism forum to attract industry stakeholders

Oman Daily Observer – 20 February, 2014 – The first-ever Oman Tourism Forum (OTF) will be held on Wednesday, February 26, At GUtech in Halban under the auspices of Maitha al Mahrouqi, Under-Secretary of the Ministry Tourism. This was announced here by Prof Dr Heba Aziz, Head of the Department of Sustainable Tourism and Regional Development (STRD) at GUtech, at a media briefing held at the university’s Halban campus yesterday.

The daylong forum, which will run from 9 am to 4 pm, will attract stakeholders from the private and public sector. “Oman Tourism Forum is a very special event for our university. Our STRD students came up with the idea to organise this forum,” said Dr Juergen Werner, Deputy-Rector for Academic Affairs at GUtech.

Significantly, the event will coincide with Arab Tourism Day, which falls on February 25. It commemorates the birthday of legendary Arab traveller Ibn Battuta and aims to create awareness about the Arab world’s rich contribution to travel and hospitality in antiquity. Arab Tourism Day was launched last year as an initiative of the Arab Tourism Organisation.

Speaking at the press conference, Prof Dr Heba Aziz, who is also President of Oman Tourism Forum, said: “Our aim is to establish a platform for a fruitful discussion amongst all stakeholders on the role this strategic sector for socio-economic development of Oman. The tourism industry benefits the entire economy and different sectors such as the food industry, transportation and others.

“The students were very convincing in attracting important stakeholders to support their initiative. They also designed the logo of the Forum and came up with the different themes, and identified measures in which their event could benefit the local community,” Prof Aziz added.

OTF has been organised by eight 4th Year STRD students as part of their event management course. “We contacted the public and private sector and raised funds for the Forum. We wish to create more awareness about tourism studies and the tourism industry in Oman. Here at GUtech a few students are currently studying tourism. Tourism needs all different stakeholders, not only the Ministry of Tourism,” said Ala al Habsi, GUtech STRD student. The students came up with the idea of designing special conference bags in collaboration with a small women’s group in Sifah. The bags are made of traditional Omani textiles and will be distributed on the day of the conference.

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GCC rail project to be completed by 2018 at a cost of $ 15.4b

The Peninsula – 20 February, 2014 – The railway project to connect the GCC, linking Kuwait to Muscat through Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, is estimated to cost around $ 15.4b. Abdullah Al Shibli, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs at the GCC General Secretariat, said the length of the track is likely to be 2,117km.

In a statement by Saudi News Agency (SPA), he said it would start from Kuwait, pass through the other GCC countries and end in Oman. He said the decision for the project has been taken because of its positive impact on GCC trade and freedom of movement of citizens and expats. It would also encourage mutual investment among the member countries.

Al Shibli said the project, approved at the 30th GCC summit in 2009, has begun with the preparation of an engineering design and the establishment of the Gulf Railway Authority to supervise and execute it in the shortest possible time as per the best global standards.

He said the GCC Railway Network will provide jobs in transportation and support services to GCC nationals, helping reduce unemployment, develop human resources and encourage growth of industries.

The will begin from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia via Dammam and move to Bahrain, Al Shibli said, adding Qatar and Bahrain would be linked through the Salwa Post, and from Saudi Arabia it would go to the UAE and Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, ending in Muscat via Sohar.

The speed of passenger trains would be about 220kmph, he said, while freighter trains would run at a speed of 80-120kmph. “The project will be executed as per the best global specifications and designs available, such as axial loads, signalling and communications, operations and maintenance systems,” Al Shibli said.

The project is expected to be completed by 2018. The UAE has finished its network and is working on linking other parts with GCC countries.

Authorities are holding regular meetings for the financial and technical committees and sharing experiences in railway projects. They update the tracks and the linking points between the countries and the places on the design have been identified. The GCC states are working on unifying rules and regulation regarding goods and passengers. Feasibility studies for the project that links Saudi Arabia to Bahrain end this year. The study for establishing joint authority for the railway to coordinate between the member countries and ensure implementation and operation of the project in integrated manner is also expected to end this year.

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UAE continues to expand tourism projects

Gulf Today – 21 February, 2014 – Investment in inner waterways and marina projects are set to propel small to medium boat ownership in the GCC, say industry experts as the UAE continues to expand tourism projects.

With a focus on sustainable growth in the GCC’s maritime industry, the Gulf Boating Conference is set to take place on March 5, 2014, during the 22nd Dubai International Boat Show, which runs from March 4-8, 2014 at Dubai International Marine Club, Mina Seyahi.

Captain Toby Haws, Marina Manager of Emirates Palace Marina and organiser of the Gulf Boating Conference, said: “With Middle East boat ownership increasing across the board from small and medium-sized boats to the most luxurious superyachts, smaller, protected waterways that are currently being invested in and constructed, particularly in the UAE, are certainly going to further boost boat ownership in the region.

In addition, we could easily see Dubai’s popularity with small to medium boat owners rival that of other nations where the leisure boating community takes advantage of lakes and rivers with almost all of the registered boats less than 26 feet long.”

Work has already started on The Lagoons, a waterfront development within Mohammed Bin Rashid City, which will stretch from the banks of the Dubai Creek through central parcels of land linked to Al Khail Rd and across Ras al Khor, with a number of small marinas to be developed across the waterside. Dubai Canal, a 3km project slated to connect with the already extended creek from the Business Bay area through to Jumeirah beach, is expected to have luxury yachts, boats and marine transport stations, as well as jetties dotted along various locations along both sides of the creek.

Projects like the man-made archipelago off the coast of Dubai, The World Islands, comprised of more than 200 islands laid out in the shape of a world map, and Deira Island, a waterfront project at the Palm Deira site, will also have private, protected inner waterways that fill a gap in the leisure boating capabilities of the country, according to Mike Derrett, who will present Global Yachting Trends at the Gulf Boating Conference on March 5.

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