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31 Mar, 2014

Morocco: Music festival to honour Mandela

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 31 March 2014 (29 Jumaada al-Awwal 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



The tragedy of MH370 has led to a decline in visitors from China to Malaysia. The Islamic world can help make up for the shortfall. Supporting Malaysia in these difficult days must be an Islamic imperative. Take your next holiday or organise your next business event in Malaysia and make a small contribution towards helping the country mitigate the potentially wider economic impact of the tragedy.


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.

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.




Batam to host international maritime festival

The Jakarta Post, Batam, March 25 2014 – Batam in Riau Islands will host the Indonesia International Maritime Festival (IIMF), in conjunction with the 2014 Multilateral Naval Exercises in Komodo (MNEK).

Jimmy Basuki, a representative from IIMF organizer PT Mare Nostrum, said the IIMF would include a maritime conference and expo as well as sports, leisure and entertainment.

“The maritime conference and expo are aimed at mapping the strength of the nation’s maritime sector with, among other things, the participation of hundreds of Batam shipyards,” Jimmy told a press conference on Tuesday.

He said the Batam shipyards could promote their capabilities to countries participating in the 2014 MNEK.

Jimmy claimed that the IIMF, which will be held at the Planet Holiday Hotel, would be the first maritime event held in the country since the Arung Samudera event in 1996.

He said the event was also being supported by the Indonesian Navy, the Defense Ministry, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry and a number of other ministries to support the 2014 MNEK, which will welcome representatives from ASEAN 10 member countries and their partners, China, Japan, India, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States. The exercises will take place from March 28 to April 3.

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Indian VP Interacts With Urdu Journalism Students Of Iimc

Press Information Bureau, Vice President’s Secretariat, 27-March-2014 – The Vice President of India Prof Dr M. Hamid Ansari interacted with a delegation of Urdu Journalism students from Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), New Delhi here today. The 12 member delegation was led by Mr Sumit Tandon, DG, IIMC. They presented the Vice President a copy of their “Lab Journal” brought out by the students of Urdu Journalism.

The Vice President interacted with the members of student’s delegation and showed keen interest in their curriculum and career prospects. He called upon students to adopt new changing technologies in media so that the quality of Urdu newspapers could be improved. He also called upon them to explore the possibilities of better circulation of Urdu media among masses. He expressed his concern that the number of Urdu newspapers is increasing but the readership of Urdu newspapers is decreasing. He asked that how to resolve this contradiction.

The students brought out their problems in Urdu journalism in to the notice of the Vice President viz lack of resources in Urdu language and low quality of Urdu software etc. The Vice President assured them of full cooperation in solving their problems in the improvement of Urdu journalism.

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President launches Indonesia’s “most modern airport” in North Sumatra

March 28 2014 – Antara — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially inaugurated on Thursday the Kuala Namu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency, near Medan, North Sumatra. It was a significant moment for Yudhoyono, as he approaches the end of his two terms as the country’s sixth president.

The plush Kuala Namu airport, offering the most sophisticated passenger terminal in the country, is one of several successful infrastructure projects built during Yudhoyono’s era. During the inauguration ceremony, Yudhoyono said the airport marked an important milestone toward a more prosperous North Sumatra in particular and Indonesia in general.

At the ceremony, the President also announced the completion of expansion projects at commercial airports Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, Riau, and Raja Haji Fisabilillah in Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands, as well as smaller airstrips in Muara Bungo in Jambi, Pekon Serai in Lampung and Pagar Alam in South Sumatra.

President director of state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) II, Tri Sunoko, said the construction of the new airport was part of the government’s Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI).

The new airport will also become part of Yudhoyono’s legacy before leaving office following the presidential election, which is set to take place in July.

The President, who according to the Constitution, cannot run for a third term, is a key supporter of the construction of the 29-kilometer Sunda Strait Bridge, connecting Merak in Banten, West Java, and Bakauheni in Lampung, on the southern tip of Sumatra.

Due to technical and financial setbacks, the construction of the mega bridge has faced a series of delays and will not begin before the end of Yudhoyono’s term.

Tri said there was every hope that Kuala Namu airport, which had taken six years to build, would become the country’s main gateway for visitors traveling from China, Europe and the Middle East.

The airport operator invested Rp 2.2 trillion (US$192.1 million) to construct everything in the landside area, while the government allocated Rp 3.39 trillion from the state budget to construct the airside area.

Kuala Namu has capacity to deal with 8 million people a year. However, just a few months after its operations began, the number of passengers had reached 8.3 million.

Tri said AP II was currently preparing for the airport’s second phase of development, to increase passenger traffic capacity to 25 million per year. He said the company expected to start construction by next year.

“In mid-2015, we will begin the second phase of Kuala Namu airport’s construction, with a total budget of at least Rp 2.4 trillion for the airport’s landside development,” he said.

AP II has allocated Rp 130 billion this year to further develop the airport, which began operating in July last year.

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Saudi Heritage hospitality company formed

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) signed a contract with the Investor Co., a financial consultation firm in Riyadh, to establish the Saudi Heritage Hospitality Company.

“The SCTA and the Investor Co. recently signed a contract here at the headquarters of the SCTA for providing financial consultation for private placement of shares of the Saudi Heritage Hospitality Company,” an SCTA official said here.

The Investor Co. will begin its tasks soon, he said.

The company’s private placement aims to draw contributions of the national organizations at the private sector in the capital of the company such as tourism facilities developers, real estate developers, investors and financiers.

According to the official, the capital of the company is SR250 million and it will be established in line with the efforts of the SCTA for utilizing heritage buildings and archaeological sites owned by the state.

Commenting on the deal, Hamad Al-Semaeel, assistant vice president of the SCTA for tourism development, said: “The SCTA has begun the regulatory procedures for the establishment of the Saudi Heritage Hospitality Company in accordance with the requirements of the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency (SAMA).”

The establishment of the company is integral to the elements of the King Abdullah project for care of the cultural heritage of the Kingdom. The company will manage and operate a number of heritage hospitality facilities owned by the state.

Al-Semaeel also commended the contribution of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) as a founder and key contributor in the company’s capital.

Earlier, the Cabinet last year had approved the SCTA’s request for the engagement of the state, represented by the PIF as a key partner in the heritage buildings project through the establishment of a joint-stock company for the development and investment of the heritage buildings that is owned by the state.

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Morocco: Music festival to honour Mandela

Rabat, Morocco (PANA) – The 20th Fes festival of music, to be held 13 – 21 June in Morocco’s spiritual city of Fes, will pay tribute to global icon Nelson Mandela, who passed away last year aged 95, the organisers have announced.

This year’s festival will also feature a much-awaited concert of Youssou Ndour and Johnny Clegg in the mythical Bab Makina square.

Ndour is a Senegalese singer, percussionist, songwriter, composer, actor, businessman a politician.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine described him as “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and much of Africa.

In 1985, he launched a mega concert in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, to campaign for the release of Mandela, who was then serving a life sentence. Also, Clegg, the award-winning South African singer, has always linked his music to his country’s anti-apartheid struggle.

The Fes Forum, organised on the sideline of the music festival, will also feature a debate on Mandela.

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Malaysia’s Tawau Hills Park Home Of Tallest Tropical Tree

By Wan Shahara Ahmad Ghazali

TAWAU, March 31 (Bernama) — The next time you are in Tawau, Sabah, and see three mountain peaks close to one another, then you have found the way to the Tawau Hills National Park, a nature’s treasure trove.

The peaks of Mount Magdalena, Mount Maria and Mount Lucia have become the landmark of the park gazetted on May 7, 1979, and has attracted the attention of many a nature-loving tourist. It is administered by Sabah Parks.

The park is some 24 kilometres off the Tawau town and is among the three most popular terrestrial parks in Sabah after the Crocker Range National Park and the Kinabalu Park.

Topographically, the park is set on a mountainous region with an elevation between 30 and 1,310 metres above sea level. Some 28 hectares of the park also serves as the water catchment area.

The highest peak is Mount Magdalena at 1,310 metres, followed by Mount Lucia at 1,189 metres while Mount Maria at 1,067 metres.

However, according to Sabah Parks Assistant Researcher William Dius, climbing activities are only allowed on Mount Lucia. The other two mountains are considered unsafe for such activities.

The three mountains were the result of volcanic activity. However, the volcano responsible for the park’s rugged landscape, nutrient-rich soil and hot springs has long been inactive.

The favourable soil condition also makes it home to 200 orchid species, 83 fern species, 65 wild ginger species, 63 species of aroids and three species of pitcher plants.


Perhaps the most amazing treasure of the Tawau Hills Park is that it is home to the tallest tropical trees in the world and the tallest trees in Asia, the “Seraya Kuning Siput” (Shorea faguetiana Heim).

Visitors should make sure that they get to view the tallest one reaching 88.32 metre when they visit the park, although it is rather difficult to do so. The tree top is often hidden from sight by the foliage of surrounding trees. The height was last measured in 2006, making it the eighth of the 10 tallest trees in the world.

To get to the giant tree that is the pride of the Sabah people, visitors can follow the man-made trail leading up to the tree.

The tree is one of the most popular photoshoot locations at the Tawau Hills Park.

A platform has been built at the sides of the buttress roots of the tree. Visitors can find out more about the tree through the information board propped up on the platform.

The information board did not specify the age of the tree, but it did mention that the tree was named Seraya Kuning Siput due to the resin produced, which looked similar to a shell (siput).

Resin was an important jungle produce in the olden days because it was used to fuel fires and for light at night.


Besides plants, the undisturbed and unpolluted environment in the park allowed hundred of fauna to flourish in the ecosystem.

“There are 69 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 72 types of reptiles, 47 kinds of amphibians, 108 species of insects and butterflies and hundreds of fish species,” said Dius.

He added there were many more that had yet to be identified.

As in many other tropical rainforests, the thriving groups of flora and fauna in the park generated a balanced ecosystem though optimal use of space and time.

For example, some animal species are only active at night while the rest make use of the wider space at night. Some species use only the space on one of the canopy levels, nesting and hunting food without ever touching the ground.

A canopy bridge was created in 2012 to give a chance to visitors to observe the movements of wildlife at different canopy levels.

The park also has other amenities such as restrooms, food stalls, a gallery and briefing room.


The Tawau River flows through the middle of the park to create many natural deepwater pools and waterfalls. The most popular among visitors at the Table Waterfall, the Glass Waterfall and the Lucia Waterfall.

There are man-made trails leading up to the waterfall and hot springs areas, which are located about an hour’s walk from the main entrance.

As a state park, it also has a research facility and a botanical garden built in 1999 that acts as a plant conservatory.

Interestingly, the gallery at the park featured not only information about the flora or fauna at the park, but items confiscated from trespassers.

These items included axes, spears, traps, chainsaws, fireworks and arrows.

He hoped that the gallery would serve as a form of reminder to the public on the ill effects of trespassing and performing illegal activities in the park, which is strictly and regularly monitored.

Almost the entire area of the 28-hectare park is open to public, while the virgin forest area was turned into a research station.

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Malaysia Youth Hostels Promote Unique Travel Experience Through Exchange Programme

By Kurniawati Kamarudin

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — It cannot be denied that the well-travelled person has a wider and deeper perspective on life.

Many a valuable knowledge can be better learned through the experience gained by traveling to foreign lands.

Youths stand to benefit a lot from traveling as it can help them develop self-confidence, instill humility in them while at the same time encourage boldness and courage.

It can also help make them become wiser and more open-minded towards different cultures and practices.


The Malaysian Youth Hostel Association (MYHA) decided to give youths a traveling experience that is beyond something they can brag through souvenirs or photos posted on social networks.

They wanted the youths to go through the genuine experience of daily life in a foreign land.

The association thought the best way to go about it was for the youths to spend their entire holiday with a foster family.

Some youths may at first feel unexcited at the prospect of losing “privacy”, compared with staying at a hotel. However, they should realise that it provided for a rare and valuable opportunity to get up close and personal with another people and their culture.

And that is the uniqueness of the Youth Exchange And Study Programme (YES) organised by the association over the past three years.

Some 1,000 youths have had the golden opportunity to gain extraordinary experiences in foreign lands, thanks to the programme.

“Many participants of the programme said it was an experience they could not have gotten through any travel packages”, said MYHA president, Khairul Annuar Mansor.

The youths need only pay a nominal fee to cover expenses during the programme. In return, they will get the experience of a lifetime.

Besides the chance to visit interesting sites at the country of visit, the youths would also be joining activities with youths at the country and share stories and experiences with them, he said.

More interestingly, they would be experiencing life as it is for their foster family, be it a hard one or otherwise, he added.

“They will not only see but feel for themselves the experience, and see life from a different perspective. This will help develop values and acceptance towards other people’s practices”, he said to Bernama in an interview, recently.


MYHA was started in Kota Pariaman, Sumatera in 2011. Today the YES programme has been extended to Vietnam, which has been a goldmine for Malaysian entrepreneurs, particularly those in the garment and textile trade.

Khairul Annuar said those who joined the programme and were interested in business opportunities would not only return with experiences, but a new network as well.

During their stay in the country, their foster families will bring participants to interesting tourist spots and to observe the economic activities of the locals.

“The usual traveling experience does not usually allow us to get to know the local community intimately. But through the YES programme, we not only can make new friends and gain unique experiences, we can also build an expandable business network”, he said, adding that many of the former participants have now developed business links in Kota Pariaman.

Kota Pariaman was chosen for its diverse tourism products, including uncommercialised beaches. It allowed MYHA to promote the coastal city as an Asean Youth Tourism area.

Vietnam, meanwhile, was chosen for its unrestricted business opportunities for Malaysian youths and its variety of low-cost products.

“Vietnam is now like Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, filled with Malaysians. We can see the networking potential that will help Malaysian youths who are serious about going into business”, he said.

MYHA is also at the final stage of discussions with a youth association in Tokyo, Japan, for the youth exchange programme.

The association is also setting its sight on European countries as potential destinations for its youth exchange programme in the near future.


One of the YES participants in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam was Sofea Masruhan.

The 23-year-old admitted she had some serious concerns about the country before setting foot into it.

Her anxiety about living with a family she knew little about was eliminated by their warm reception.

The third-year student of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia in Nilai found that the experience helped open up her mind towards different cultures.

“It turned out to be a priceless experience, unlike any other”, said Sofea, who described the Vietnamese as friendly and warm people.

“Twei, the eldest child of my foster family, attended to me the entire duration of my four-day visit. We did almost everything together and that made us very close”, said Sofea, adding that the motorcycle was their main mode of transportation.

She said her foster family was very respectful of her dietary restrictions and did not serve meat-based meals.

“They also provided a space for me to perform my daily prayers. They accepted me as I am”, said Sofea, who was deeply touched by their gesture.

She intended to return to Vietnam to visit her foster family in the future.


For Lee Jiing Der, 23, the desire to go on an adventure unlike any other was what made him sign up for the YES programme in Ho Chi Minh, recently.

The final year oceaneering student at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu initially joined the programme to get to know the Vietnamese people better.

However, he got more than what he bargained for.

“I had such a good time there. Not only did I get to visit interesting places, I had the chance to experience Vietnam on a deeper level too. I even felt like I was part of the community there”, said Lee who hailed from Kuching, Sarawak.

Both he and his Vietnamese friend, Rem Yi, traveled around on their motorcycle.

Lee said the Vietnamese were a united people and respectful of one another.

Because of that, although there were millions of motorcycles on the road, there rarely was an accident, he said.

“If given the opportunity, I would like to travel to more places via this programme, because there are too many wonderful experiences to be gained and learned from. Not everyone can get this opportunity, so youths must take advantage of it”, he said.

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Finland’s Pro-Hijab Ruling Praised

OnIslam & News Agencies Wednesday, 26 March 2014 HELSINKI – A Helsinki court ruling to fine managers of clothing retailer for discriminating against a veiled Muslim employee has won the praise of law professors and Muslims alike as a first step towards preventing abuses at workplaces in Finland.

“Even if there are image reasons that lie behind it, an employer should be prepared that this kind of situation is going to come up,” Seppo Koskinen, a professor of labour law at Turku University, told Yle on Tuesday, March 25.

The case first came up when a Muslim employer was asked not to wear headscarf while being in the clothing store.

Discussing the issue with the managers, the new worker, who had been hired on a one-month contract, was fired on the first day work for donning Islamic headscarf, or hijab.

The case was looked at Helsinki District Court on Monday which decided 20 day-fines against the store managers.

The case is not the first to raise debates in Finland surrounding religious outfits.

Faith-based attire, including headscarves and turbans, has aroused debate and legal disputes around the European country.

The issue has come up in other cities, such as Vantaa where Sikh bus driver Gill Sukhdarshan Singh in February won the right to wear his turban on the job.

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

Hijab has been in the eye of storm since France banned the headscarf in public places in 2004.

Since then, several European countries have followed suit.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that employers cannot ban such symbols on the basis of corporate image.

Job Bias

Members of the Muslim minority have praised the court ruling as a first step towards correcting misconceptions about Muslim women.

“Sometimes people imagine that immigrant women, particularly Muslim women, don’t want to work; or that they’re forbidden to do so by their husbands or their religion. But this is not true,” Roda Hassan, a Turku city councilor who works as an interpreter and translator, said.

“These women want to work but society discriminates against them,” she added.

The Muslim councilor called for Finnish employers to adjust to the country’s changing demographics, urging them to follow the suit of retail chain HOK Elanto and the Helsinki healthcare system who offer small as part of work uniforms.

“Those who work in hospitals have their own outfit that include a separate small scarf. It doesn’t interfere with their work,” notes Hassan.

Koskinen expects such options to become more common in Finland.

“For instance, in Sweden, a police officer can wear a scarf or a Jewish kipa,” he points out.

“We may still have a hard time understanding this liberal approach. But it works in Sweden, so why not here?”

There are between 40,000 to 45,000 Muslims among Finland’s 5.2 million population.

Islam was introduced to Finland by Baltic Tatars at the end of the 19th century.

The Baltic Tatars arrived in Finland as merchants and soldiers at the end of the 19th century. They were later joined by other family members.

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Philippines signs historic deal with Muslims

World Bulletin / 28 Mar 2014 – The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a historic peace agreement Thursday in Manila, the country’s capital, in an effort to end a conflict that has split the country for decades.

The agreement represents the culmination of diplomatic efforts aimed at ending a 40-year conflict in Mindanao, home to much of the country’s Muslim minority, that has left at least 120,000 people dead, most of them civilians.

More than a thousand people filled the tent set up on Malacanang Palace grounds while hundreds of Muslim groups gathered in Quiapo — the Muslim area in the country’s capital — in anticipation of the historic event.

The agreement will give greater autonomy to the regional government in predominantly Muslim Bangsamoro, in the south of Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro autonomous government will have its own budget and police powers. A transitional body will be put in place, with local elections scheduled in 2016.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, known as the MILF, and several other armed groups have fought to gain independence for the Catholic country’s predominantly Muslim south, determined to earn what leaders on the ground term “a better life” for the country’s Muslim population.

The violence has also left large parts of the country’s fertile southern region mired in poverty.

“No more war”

During the ceremony, Teresita Quintos Deles, the president’s advisor on the peace process, declared that the signing would bring peace to the country.

“No more war, no more children scampering for safety, no more evacuees. …no more poverty, no more fear…Tama na (Enough), we are all tired of them,” she said in a speech at the Malacanang grounds.

“Our common intentions will drive us forward,” she told the audience, which included hundreds of members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Agreement for the benefit of all”

MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the agreement also benefits the Moro National Liberation Front – the second largest armed group in Mindanao — as well as the other groups in the Muslim southern island.

“I would like to impress upon all of you that the MILF will not and does not ever claim sole ownership to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The MILF recognizes … the valiant efforts and sacrifices of countless people for freedom and self-determination,”Ebrahim said before the signing.

He said the MILF would only serve as a gatekeeper during the transition to a Bangsamoro autonomous political entity.

“It will not be a government of the MILF but the government of the Bangsamoro,”he said.

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Jeddah to host first ‘Textile Arabia’ show

IINA / 25 Mar 2014 – Jeddah is set to become a local and regional focal point for the rapidly expanding textile industry. Yesterday, the first “Textile Arabia” exhibition started at Jeddah Center for Events and Forums.

It is the Kingdom’s premier international exhibition for apparel, machinery, clothing, printing, fabrics and accessories. Al Harithy Company for Exhibitions (ACE) announced that the new annual event will bring together 120 leading manufacturers, international exhibitors, experts and industry decision-makers from Saud Arabia, Pakistan, Taiwan, UAE and Italy. Zahoor Siddique, Vice President of ACE, said “the creation of this important new exhibition for the country’s textile industry comes as manufacturers are preparing to make massive investments and because the Saudi textile market is experiencing unprecedented growth created by the explosion in population and the huge surge in the property market.”

Organized by ACE in collaboration with the textile and clothing committee at JCCI, Textile Arabia 2014 will occupy 40,000 m2 of total area of exhibition space. Textile Arabia will focus on the immense market potential as a comprehensive event representing all areas of the transport, import / export and manufacturing cycle. According to Siddique, the Saudi textile standing currently at more than SR10 billion and its imports are increasing at 13-15 percent annually. Ihram for men and abayas for women form a large section of this expanding market due to the increasing number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims. Tents and towels are also in great demand.

The dedicated textiles machinery and accessories show will be a one-stop shop for decision-makers within a wide range of businesses. These include textiles and fabrics, fibers and Abayas, Thoubs & Ghuthras, leather goods, home furnishings, textile dyes and treatments as well as machinery & related services. Mohammed Al Shehri, chairman of the textile and clothing committee at JCCI, said “the aim of this exhibition is to introduce the techniques and modern production methods that are used internationally and to boost the national industry by opening doors for new job opportunities for the youth in this sector and enhance their competitiveness in the garments’ sector.”

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US Authorizes Academic Exchanges with Iran

Trend.az / 26 Mar 2014 – The U.S. State Department’s Persian-speaking spokesman Alan Eyre said the treasury license on academic exchanges with Iran indicates the commitment of the U.S. to boost friendship and academic relations between the two countries’ peoples.

The license will develop academic relations between the two countries, Eyre told Trend on March 22.

Under General License G, issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on March 19, the U.S. academic institutions can enter student-exchange agreements with Iranian universities, and provide scholarships to Iranian students seeking to study in the U.S.

The license permits the accredited U.S. universities to export some educational services, including university entrance examinations.

“The U.S. Administration has provided an opportunity for Iranian students seeking to continue their education in the United States academic entities by this license,” the spokesman said.

Eyre also emphasized that both Iranian and American peoples will benefit from strengthening cultural and academic ties between the two countries.

Iranian students can also participate in undergraduate level online courses, including Massive Open Online Courses, coursework not part of a degree seeking program, and fee-based courses, according to the U.S. Treasury’s License.

On March 20, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in his own Nowruz message, welcomed in particular the prospect of more educational exchanges between the U.S. and Iran, saying it would “reaffirm our belief that strengthening cultural and academic ties between our two countries benefits our two peoples.”

Lifting some limitations against Iranian students, such as unblocking some $400 million in Iranian frozen assets to help pay the costs of Iranian students abroad, was included in the interim Geneva nuclear deal.

Under the deal between Iran and the P5+1 group (five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) which took effect on Jan. 20, the six major powers agreed to give Iran access to its $4.2 billion in revenues blocked overseas if the country fulfills the deal’s terms which offer sanctions relief in exchange for steps on curbing the Iranian nuclear program.

Iran and P5+1 intend to continue their talks to reach a final agreement to fully resolve the decade-old dispute over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program.

The U.S. and its Western allies suspect Iran of developing a nuclear weapon – something that Iran denies. The Islamic Republic has on numerous occasions stated that it does not seek to develop nuclear weapons, using nuclear energy for medical research instead.

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Pakistan’s first women-only bus service

BBC / 25 Mar 2014 – Authorities in Pakistan have launched a minibus service exclusively for women travelling between the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Women in Pakistan often run the risk of being physically and verbally abused while travelling on public transport – but previous attempts to introduce women-only buses in other cities in Pakistan have failed.

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UNRWA leads way with region’s first “green school”

UN Multimedia / 26 Mar 2014 – An innovative project to build an environmentally friendly school has been started by the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.

The agency says the project has come about after intensive work by its engineers in cooperation with Italian design firm Mario Cucinella Architects.

According to UNRWA, the concept of the ‘green school’ refers to a stand-alone school building, which relies only on renewable, free, locally available resources such as rainwater as well as solar and ground energy.

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, who laid the cornerstone for the school in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, said there are three reasons why the school is so important.

“The first is that it is a sign that UNRWA, while remaining loyal, remaining faithful to its mandate, it’s also able to do new things. The second reason is that the environment, the care, the attention for the environment is one the greatest if not the greatest priority for the United Nations. The third reason why I think it’s important is precisely the blockade issue.” (29″)

The “green school” project in Gaza is supported by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development through the Islamic Development Bank.

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Islam Cultivates Malawians Life

OnIslam Correspondent Friday, 21 March 2014 – LILONGWE – Despite its minority status, the influence Islam has been widening on Malawi’s cultural and socio–economic aspects over the past years, setting a phenomenon and a model to other religions in the largely Christian dominated Southern African nation.

“Since its introduction, about two hundred years ago, Islam has over the years become so influential,” Sheikh Ahmed Chienda, one of the country’s renowned Shariah scholars, told Onlslam.net.

“Malawians of diverse religious persuasions have been influenced, culturally, socially and economically. We have touched the national hood of Malawi as a religion.”

“We could be in a minority, but our influence on various aspects of life has been very phenomenal and that needs not to be over emphasized. Islam has emerged as a model to other religions. We are a religion that dictates how life ought to be lived. That’s the reason it’s called the way of life,” Chienda added.

The Islamic effect was reaching out to different aspects of life.

For many years, circumcision was been restricted to Muslims only, but now it’s become a common practice among Malawians of diverse religious beliefs to go for circumcision.

“Over the years, Christians resisted our teachings on circumcision, but today, they have embraced it wholesale as the only sure way to be clean and prevent sexually transmitted diseases, where possible, to us this is a breakthrough,” Chienda said.

The widening phenomenon has even affected the government which, in collaboration with the world Health Organization (WHO), launched a voluntary campaign for male circumcision.

“We have through our teachings advanced for circumcision. Today, every religion has accepted our teachings on this. This shows how much influence Islam has become in Malawi on various aspects of life” said Chienda.

Malawi is a secular nation with diverse religions. Islam is the second largest religion in the southern African country after Christianity.

Official statistics suggest Muslims constitute 12 percent of the country’s 14 million people, but the umbrella Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) puts the rate at 36.

Circumcision is a confirmed Sunnah in Islam as an act pertaining to fitrah (pure human nature).

The practice is also mandatory for Jewish males according to biblical texts.

The World Health Organization has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised.

Economy Too

Concurring with Chienda, Dr. Imrah Shareef Secretary General of the country’s supreme Muslim Body, Ulama Council of Malawi, said economically Islam has influenced the country’s economic progress throughout the path of its 50 years of independence.

“For over 50 years, the country’s economy has been controlled and driven by the Muslim community, who has invested in various business undertakings,” Shareef told OnIslam.net.

“Through these undertakings, the community has employed people of other faiths.”

According to Shareef, the Arab Muslim traders who introduced Islam to the country have cultivated in Malawians of all religious beliefs and the culture of entrepreneurship.

“This is how far Islam has gone to influence the economic direction of Malawi over the years,” said Shareef.

The country’s National coordinator of the Halal Department of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) Sheikh Salim Chikwatu said that through the halal concept, which advocates for strict hygienic food standards, Islam has become a “huge influence” in the country.

“It’s becoming extremely difficult for business people in food industry who are not adhering to the halal concept to make a mark in their businesses,” Sheikh Chikwatu told OnIslam.net.

“Malawians of all faiths have now embraced fully this concept. This is a clear indication that Islam has become an influential religion in this regard in the country,” he added.

On promotion of decency in dressing Chienda said, Islam has gone far a head of other religions in the country for maintaining a “proper dressing code” especially for women.

Recently, the hijab has become a common form of dressing among Muslim women in the country.

“Muslim women today in Malawi have become role models. They have become symbols of decency, courtesy of the dressing code Islam has promoted for women over the years since its introduction,” Chienda said.

“This dressing code has even compelled women of other faiths to embrace Islam, so that they should dress in Islamic way.”

Despite challenges Islam has experienced over the years, Chienda is very optimistic that the religion will remain a way of life for the majority of Malawians in the country.

“We have gone through numerous challenges since time immemorial, but we remain very optimistic and determined to make Islam become a way of life for Malawi,” said Chienda.

“We will continue to wield much influence to take the country to order religiously or otherwise.”

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Hijab Shines At Tokyo Fashion Week

OnIslam & News Agencies Sunday, 23 March 2014 TOKYO – Fashionable modest Islamic designs have hit the catwalk at Tokyo Fashion Week, stealing the camera lights at the Japanese capital with designs that blend the traditional Muslim headscarf with haute couture.

“The modest hijab is not actually a restriction” in fashion, designer Windri Widiesta Dhari told reporters after her stylish designs hit the catwalk, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, March 23.

“It’s how you cover yourself and look more elegant in a way that has a loose fit.”

Held twice a year, Tokyo fashion week has witnessed the participation of a number of aspiring Asian designers who presented hijab fashion to the world.

Participants include NurZahra which rolled out its autumn/winter collection “Layers of Fidelity”, turning the modest hijab into sophisticated fashion.

Blending cotton or silk into her hijab, NurZahra collection includes natural dye prints that rely on a traditional Japanese tie-dye technique called shibori and the Indonesian batik method.

With patterns ranging from mini mandalas to Turkish geometrics, Dhari plays with multiple layers of fabric to freely shape her silhouettes.

The collection also included a hat that spreads wide in the back, a throwback to the sixties with elements resembling a long-ago royal head piece.

“The concept of the hat was actually inspired by the style in one from 1963,” Dhari said.

“I was looking for vintage hats that could be used to cover your hair and also your neck.

“I used that inspiration and then mixed it with a traditional ethnic concept, so it becomes something very unique.”

For Dhari, the new designs have mixed traditional scarf’s modesty with a stylish, comfortable accessory.

“We want to inspire people to think that wearing hijab is not something difficult, and could be worn by anyone,” she said.

Another Indonesian brand, Major Minor, hit the runway for the first time, showcasing styles incorporating mainly monochrome tones and simple silhouettes.

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

Islamic fashion is part of a growing appetite for Shari`ah-related industries and assets, ranging from finance to halal food.

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

Japan today is home to a thriving Muslim community of about 120,000, among nearly 127 million in the world’s tenth most populated country.

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Dubai rolls out medical tourism strategy

Gulf News / 26 Mar 2014 – Dubai plans to attract thousands of medical tourists from Russia, CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, South Asia and GCC states and has earmarked seven specialities that will bring patients for treatment to the emirate.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) yesterday rolled out the initiative that will bring in Dh1.2 billion in revenue from patients and their families and make Dubai one of the top medical tourism destinations around the world.

By the end of this year, special packages will be rolled out for patients that will include the cost of treatment, the visa cost, air ticket, and leisure activities for patients’ families. The DHA is working with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing to “lock in” the prices and with the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs to make the visa process easier for those coming here for treatment.

“Dubai already has several elements that make it a favourable destination for medical tourism. Developing a strategy helps ensure the complete process from the time a patient visits Dubai for medical tourism right through the discharge and follow-up stage is smooth, “ said Eisa Al Maidour, Director-General of DHA, announcing the plan to the media.

Dubai already attracts medical tourists from diverse countries such as Nigeria, the US, Pakistan and India for treatment for fertility to heart operations.

“We are relying on Dubai’s strengths by building a health system that supports excellence in health care with a focus on health-care professionals, health investment and excellence in services across a diversified range of medical specialities,” Al Maidour said.

The specialities range from plastic surgery and dental care to preventive health checks and wellness.

The DHA will launch a special portal for medical tourism and launch medical tourism packages that will be promoted in a target market, said Dr Ramadan Ebrahim, director of health regulation at the DHA and director of the Medical Tourism Project.

He said the hospitals are internationally accredited and the emirate has more than 25,800 health professionals in the private sector who speak more than 40 languages.

He added that 107,000 medical tourists visited Dubai in 2012 and the revenues generated totalled Dh652.7 million. He said in four years’ time, by 2016, there will be a 15 per cent jump, bringing the total number of tourists to 170,000 and revenues to Dh1.2 billion. By 2020 Dubai will attract 500,000 tourists, shooting up the revenues to Dh2,6 billion.

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Islamic NGOs Lead Relief In Pakistan

OnIslam & News Agencies Wednesday, 26 March 2014 SINDH – As famine hits Pakistan’s southeastern Tharparkar Desert, Islamic NGOs are leading relief efforts to bring happiness to the drought-affected people, amid government’s apathy to the humanitarian crisis..

“It seems if the government does not consider us its responsibility,” Saleem Nuhrio, a resident of Khari Pisayio, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday, March 26.

“Not even a single government official or the elected parliamentarians have so far visited us despite the fact we are just 5 kilometers away from Diplo city,” he added.

Reports of drought-induced famine in Tharparkar district appeared earlier in March, shifting attention to the deteriorated situation of living in the deprived desert after the death of 4 million animals.

In the remote district, the only sign of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was the flying tri-color flags in Mithi, the headquarter of Tharparkar district.

But, flags were not enough to feed hungry citizens where severe drought has denied its residents of food supplies and clean water.

Amid government’s apathy and absence of politicians’ role, religious political parties like Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Daw’ah’s are leading humanitarian reliefs through their affiliate NGOs, Al-Khidmat Foundation and Falah-e-Insaniat.

“We have not so far seen those who we voted for in the elections,” Nuhrio said. “We have only seen these Maulvis (religious leaders), who have provided us with rations and water.”

Al-Khidmat and Falah-e-Insaniat have been offering humanitarian aid including food supplies through their huge camps based in Mithi city in Thar’s headquarter.

The camps, constantly visited by residents, include rations of drinks, fodder and medicine donated by philanthropists.

Hundreds of meals are also served daily by Al-Khidmat, the largest NGO in Pakistan, along with offering vaccinations to animals at a make-shift veterinary hospital.

On the other hand, the low-profile aid by the PPP did not attract needy residents.

“These are the two things the government has done for us in last 66 years,” Nuhrio said, pointing at an electricity pole and a hand pump that draws sub-soil water.

For Islamic NGOs in Thar desert, relief camps were not a seasonal event that offers a temporary service to the people of the remote area.

“We are not here only to combat this famine-like situation. It happens every year,” said Abdul Rasheed, Al-Khidmat’s secretary. “We plan to minimize the famine risk as much as possible,” Abdul Rasheed added.

Fighting drought, Al-Khidmant foundation has constructed 400 wells across Thar, 200 of them contain sweet water.

“We plan to provide soft loans to over 2000 families that have lost their animals, so that they can re-establish their businesses,” Abdul Rasheed, revealed.

In one of the worst- affected villages, Khari Pisayo, Falah-e-Insaniat led a food drive last week, distributing two-week worth rations of food among residents.

“We have to maintain our stocks for coming summers. God forbid, if there is no spring rains, things may get worse in summer,” said Nadeem Ahmed, a Jamaat-ud-Daw’ah (JuD) spokesperson.

“We conduct a survey of a village and check the national ID cards of residents to confirm whether they are locals or have come from other places to extort aid.”

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“Market of Halal products” forum in Moscow

islam.ru with Muslimeco / 26 Mar 2014 – On April 1 in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation a roundtable discussion will be held on the topic “The market of Halal products and services and it’s prospects” under the aegis of Russia Muftis Council and Economic Department.

Among the topics to be discussed are – the religious market (halal) of goods and services in the modern Russian: history, figures, and features; components of halal market: food industry, tourism, services, media, and financial sector. The central topic of the discussion will be the “the results and prospects of Moscow Halal Expo.”

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Turkish bid to rebuild Islamic heritage in Timbuktu

AA / 27 Mar 2014 – Turkey is to support the rebuilding of an Islamic heritage site in Timbuktu which was destroyed by armed groups in 2012, the United Nation’s cultural agency’s (UNESCO) representative in Mali Lazare Eloundou said on Wednesday.

“Turkey along with UNESCO is ready to work to rebuild mausoleums, tombs and mosques which UNESCO started on March 14, at an estimated cost of around $11 million,” Eloundou said.

He emphasized that Timbuktu was an economic, intellectual center for Muslims during the 15th and 16th centuries in Africa.

According to UNESCO, 14 historic mausoleums were heavily destroyed and at least 4,200 manuscripts were burnt during the clashes between government forces and rebels in 2012.

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Adana to host world theaters once again

ADANA – Dogan News Agency – The Sabancı International Adana Theater Festival, jointly organized by Sabancı Foundation and Culture and Tourism Ministry State Theaters, will open for the 16th time this year on April 14.

The festival program was announced at a press conference in the southern province of Adana on March 25 with the attendance of Sabancı Foundation Director Zerrin Koyunsağan and Adana State Theater General Art Director Mustafa Kurt.

Koyunsağan said the foundation continued to support culture and art events in the country to increase the audience numbers, adding, “We have created the Adana Theater Festival considering the late Sakıp Sabancı’s dream to turn the city into a culture hub. We have been making this dream a reality for 16 years.”

She said that with special events for the 40th anniversary of the Sabancı Foundation, the festival would host newcomers this year. “World renowned French group Ilotopie, which performs on water, will mark the opening of the festival this year. We will also view shows by groups from Iran, Azerbaijan, Spain and Romania. Istanbul’s art lovers will also enjoy the festivals with shows at the Sabancı University Show Center. We invite all locals to the opening ceremony in the River Seyhan on April 14,” she said.

Speaking at the ceremony, Kurt said, “Thanks to the festival, Adana is mentioned as a city of art festivals. Our festival has become a tradition which makes us proud.”

The Adana Theater Festival, which is Turkey’s longest-running theater festival, will host 21 theater troupes, 16 from Turkey and five from abroad this year. Spain’s Yllana, Iran’s Inruzha and Azerbaijan’s State Academic National Drama Theater are among them.

From Turkey, City Theaters, State Theaters and private theaters will join the festival with many performances. “The Miser,” “Hamlet,” “The Wren” and “Good Night Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet” will be some of these performances.

The festival that will be held at the Hacı Ömer Sabancı in Adana and Sabancı University Show Center in Istanbul will continue until May 16.

Since 2005, the festival has presented the Sakıp Sabancı Lifetime Achievement Award to those who have made contributions to the development of the art of theater. The award is presented at the opening ceremony of the festival. So far, the names that were deemed worthy of the award include Cüneyt Gökçer (2005), Macide Tanır (2006), Bozkurt Kuruç (2007), Yıldız Kenter (2008), Genco Erkal (2009), Müşfik Kenter (2010), Gülriz Sururi (2011), Haldun Dormen (2012) and Rutkay Aziz (2013).

This year’s award recipient artist will be announced in the opening ceremony.

The Adana Theater Festival has hosted 74 foreign theater groups from 38 countries and more than 5,000 artists in 15 years. The number of performances has amounted to 573. The event has been witnessed by more than 80,000 audience members every year from all around Turkey.

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Historic Istanbul dock now shop book-coffee-gift

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – A building on one of Istanbul’s historic docks, Katip Çelebi, no longer functions as an aid to shipping. Instead, it now stands ready to receive visitors as a combined bookstore, coffee house and gift shop, the only one in the city dedicated to Istanbul.

The old building in the Eminönü neighborhood has been recently turned into a book shop where people can enjoy a cup of coffee and a good read with a panoramic view of one of the most significant cities in history, Istanbul.

Local visitors and international tourists will find a broad range of souvenirs. All of them reflect the life, history, and beauty of Istanbul, and they are sold under the brand name Hediyem Istanbul (My Gift Istanbul), which was created in 2013 to promote the city with various paraphernalia, including bags, cups, purses, notebooks, pens, magnets, bottles, and more.

“Let’s imagine that you are planning a day out with your whole family,” Fatih Yavaş, Istanbul Culture and Art Products Inc. Co. Projects Manager, said. “The father plans to read a book or a journal while drinking a cup of coffee; the mother wants to get away from housework and buy some souvenirs; and the children are eager to be busy with children’s books accompanied by their parents. Well, there is just the place: Istanbul Kitapçısı located in the historical port of Katip Çelebi,”

“With a new concept, we created a place for the coffee and book enthusiasts where they can also enjoy the great scenes of Istanbul with Çamlıca Hill on one side and Galata Tower on the other,” he said. “Our aim is to please people here surrounded by books, coffee, and Istanbul-designed gifts.”

Istanbul Kitapçısı, or The Istanbul Bookstore, which started publishing in 2005 has been selling books related to the culture, history, literature, arts, and civilization of Istanbul, Turkey’s economic, cultural, and historical heart.

Among its publications is a remarkable series called “Hundreds of Istanbul,” including such books as “A Hundred Fountains of Istanbul,” “A Hundred Newspapers of Istanbul,” “A Hundred Buildings of Istanbul,” “A Hundred Villages of Istanbul,” and “A Hundred Architects of Istanbul.”

Yavaş said the series had attracted great attention and that work was underway to publish more books in the series. “Istanbul Kitapçısı also offers many books in foreign languages which all tell something about this magnificent city, like ‘Step by Step Istanbul: European Capital Of Culture,’ ‘The World Beneath Istanbul,’ ‘Istanbul: 8000 Years Brought to Daylight, Marmaray, Metro, Sultan Ahmet Excavations,’“ he said.

Today, there are six branches of “Istanbul Kitapçısı” across the city, including one on İstiklal Avenue, one in Kadıköy, another in the Panorama 1453 Historical Museum, two in Süleymaniye district and the newest one on the old Katip Çelebi dock, which is the only one with coffee house and gift shop inside.

“A few new branches will be opened: first in Beşiktaş port, later in the Üsküdar and Kuzguncuk neighborhoods,” Yavaş said. “We are now on the bottom rung of the ladder. There is a long way to go; we need to work hard to publish more books which will offer an insight into the history of Istanbul, which has been the center of many civilizations.”

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Maldives to introduce free travel pass for students

Sun.mv – March 27, 2014 – Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) has announced plans to introduce a ‘student pass’, to facilitate free travel for students between Male’ and Hulhumale’.

Business Development Executive of MTCC Ismail Farig told Sun Online that the pass will be provided to students of schools located in Male’ who live in Hulhumale’, and students of schools located in Hulhumale’ who live in Male’.

MTCC said that students must register with HDC in order to obtain this new student pass, and registration was opened last Tuesday. MTCC announced plans to introduce free travel for students on 20 March, and students can start using the new pass already on 1 April.

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Plan to transport 25 million faithful in peak Umrah season

Makkah, Tuesday 24 Jamada Al Awwal 1434/ 25 March 2014 (IINA) – The Central Haj Committee discussed on Monday a comprehensive plan to transport 25 million Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque in Makkah during the remaining months of the Umrah season, including Ramadan and the annual summer vacation, when a huge influx of pilgrims is expected.

Makkah Governor Prince Mishal bin Abdullah, who is also chairman of the committee, presided over the meeting.

According to the plan, the worshippers will be transported to and fro between the Grand Mosque, various districts, parking areas and bus stations at the entry and exit points to Makkah. The plan aims at facilitating smooth flow of pilgrims and visitors as well as vehicular traffic. Addressing the meeting, Prince Mishal underlined the need for exerting all efforts to render the best possible services to the pilgrims and visitors to Islam’s holiest shrine. He called for beefing up field monitoring to ensure flawless implementation of the plan and intensifying awareness programs among residents and those associated with pilgrims’ service.

He also thanked Minister of Education Prince Khaled Al-Faisal for his outstanding services and great efforts to improve the facilities and services for pilgrims during his tenure as emir of Makkah and chairman of the Central Haj Committee.

The meeting also discussed a report of the Agency for Umrah Affairs at the Ministry of Haj about the current Umrah season and the number of pilgrims who arrived and left the Kingdom. It also reviewed the plans and programs of the Ministry of Haj, Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Makkah Mayoralty, King Abdulaziz International Airport and the National Water Company in extending services and facilities to Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the holy city in the Umrah season.

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Pilgrims City to be named after King Abdullah

Makkah, Wednesday 25 Jamada Al Awwal 1434/ 26 March 2014 (IINA) – The new full-fledged pilgrim city to be established along the Jeddah-Makkah Expressway will be named after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, said Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar.

“It will be a smart city equipped with the most advanced facilities and systems,” he told Makkah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah while giving a presentation on the project. Hajjar said the city would be designed to become an outstanding landmark in Makkah, adding that it would provide all services required by pilgrims coming for Haj and Umrah. “All residential and administrative services will be made available for pilgrims in the city, which will be linked with the Grand Mosque and the center of Makkah with a public transport system,” he added.

“This city was planned to reduce congestion in areas around the Grand Mosque,” the minister said. The city will have government department offices, residential buildings, health facilities, Tawafa, Zamzam and transport offices, shopping centers, exhibitions centers, mosques and a Haj museum. Hajjar also briefed the newly appointed governor on his ministry’s efforts to improve services to the guests of God. Prince Mishaal urged the ministry’s officials to double their efforts in the service of pilgrims.

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Kyrgyz Chamber of Commerce seeks to develop economy

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-03-27 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is talking about the growing importance of its Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) in developing the economy, partly by trying to adapt to better profit from exporting goods.

The textile industry is one segment that is drawing attention because of its vital economic role. The garment industry is an economic engine for women: its 3,000 enterprises employ about 150,000 workers, more than 90% of whom are women, according to the government.

Textiles and sewn garments account for 6.9% of total goods production, according to the Ministry of Industry and Energy. However, export of Kyrgyz textiles and garments in the first 10 months of 2013 fell 18% compared to the first 10 months of 2012.

Industry insiders blame that trend on the import of cheap clothes bearing phony “Made in Kyrgyzstan” labels.

Traders who sew such labels on shabby foreign clothes are damaging the development of the garment industry, Nelli Gumerova, an instructor of garment manufacturing at the Jalal-Abad Economics College affiliated with the University of Economics and Entrepreneurship, said.

Foreign partners are losing faith in Kyrgyz goods after receiving inferior foreign garments tagged as Kyrgyz, she said.

Unscrupulous businesses are also passing off shoddy foreign furniture as “made in Kyrgyzstan” too, furniture manufacturers have said.

“We work hard to ensure that our products become famous abroad, but counterfeit items nullify everything we do,” manufacturers complained at a February 17 Bishkek roundtable organised by the CCI.

The government is aware of the problem and is working to eliminate it. “We shall provide economic (breaks) for export-oriented enterprises,” former Economy Minister Temir Sariyev said in February. “We must solve the problem of goods being imported with ‘Made in Kyrgyzstan’ labels already sewn on them and ban the import of such products.”

CCI certificates are the primary confirmation of a product’s Kyrgyz provenance. Sariyev urged the CCI to “strengthen oversight of documents to prevent the import of phony goods.”

To help stamp out the phony “Kyrgyz” merchandise, the government in January ordered a ban on the import of textiles with “Made in Kyrgyzstan” labels and also the formation of a commission to inspect Kyrgyz garment factories. The commission, which has begun work, includes specialists from the Kyrgyz Association of Light Industry Enterprises.

Kyrgyz manufacturers need government protection, particularly when trying to export, Gumerova said.

Indeed, a failure to enact preferential policies could doom fledgling industries, Farhad Tologonov, director of the Association of Light Industry Enterprises, said.

The association wants the government to help reduce the cost of manufacturing furniture in Kyrgyzstan.

It also is calling on Bishkek to devise a five-year programme that either reduces or eliminates customs duties on the import of accessories and raw materials needed to make furniture. It also hopes for customs reform so that furniture manufacturers may export their products outside the boundaries of trade organisations like the WTO (of which Kyrgyzstan is a member) without being taxed or assessed customs duty.

Manufacturers want a tax cut, too.

“We pay 2% (of income), while trading firms pay 1%,” Tokon Ibrayev, the owner of a door and window factory in Jalal-Abad, said. “So it becomes more profitable to sell goods than to make them. … We manufacturers create jobs. The laws and regulations must be changed.”

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Turkmenistan looks to help its citizens find jobs

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-03-28 ASHGABAT – The Turkmen government is making strides to create more jobs so that citizens need not travel abroad to find work, officials say.

About 56,700 jobs are expected to be available to be filled in 2014, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Bekmurad Shamuradov said at a February 28 cabinet session. The vacancies and future openings exist in both the public and private sectors, he said.

The existence of so many job openings should reduce unemployment and curtail the perpetual exodus of job-seekers to countries like Turkey.

Though some critics consider the stated number of job openings an exaggeration, the ministry is standing by the figure.

“An analysis has been made, and the figures are accurate,” Rakhim Mollayev of the Labour Ministry Social Protection Department said.

Turkmenistan acknowledges a 5% to 8% unemployment rate, but some observers say the rate is higher.

Job creation in the right areas needed

Lebap and Dashoguz oblasts have some of the country’s highest unemployment rates and experience much of the country’s emigration forced by its surplus of labour, Aina Nazarova, an analyst at the Ashgabat-based Institute of Strategic Planning and Economic Development, said.

“The government should create more jobs in these oblasts or permit their inhabitants to work where there are vacancies,” she said, proposing an end to the practice of expelling labour migrants caught living in Ashgabat without the required residence permits back to their home oblasts.

More than 56,000 Turkmens of working age left Lebap and Dashoguz oblasts in 2013 to work in other countries, according to unofficial data, and many, according to the migration service, overstay their visas.

When Turkmens can’t find work at home and are barred from working in industrialised cities, their only recourse is to work illegally in Turkey or Arab countries, Nazarova said.

Proper training, reforms sought

Unemployment requires a comprehensive approach to solve, experts agreed.

“The government must urgently increase the quotas for hiring (secondary school) graduates and develop a programme for retraining personnel,” Nazarova said, adding that Turkmenistan has too few chemists, technologists in processing industries, and IT and oil and gas specialists, primarily because of the lack of adequate training in those fields.

“The first thing we should do (to resolve that) is establish contacts with other ministries and figure out their requirements for specialists, and then take specific proposals to the government for opening schools or revamping existing ones,” Mollayev said.

Many workers or would-be workers frustrated by their struggles have expressed a willingness to receive further training.

Dashoguz native Momin Haiitbayev, who helps vendors in his city’s central bazaar by carrying goods in his wheelbarrow between a warehouse and the vendors’ stalls for about 40 TMT (US $14) daily, draws encouragement from the cabinet acknowledging the presence of unemployment and discussing solutions.

“I’m 33 and tired of pushing my wheelbarrow to the market every day,” he said. “If they told me that I should re-train for an in-demand specialisation and then would be offered work, I’d be happy to go to re-training courses.”

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Bangladesh makes history in singing national anthem

DHAKA, March 26, 2014 (BSS)-Bangladesh today made a new world record singing its national anthem by 254,681 people in chorus on the National Parade ground in the capital Dhaka this morning.

To join this great occasion, people from all walks of life thronged the National Parade Ground to be a part of the event ‘Lakho Konthe Sonar Bangla’.

At 11:20am, the entire parade square was pulsated with the sonorous rendition of the anthem ‘Amar Sonar Bangla, Ami Tomay Bhalobashi’ by 254,681 people in unison.

Bangladesh witnessed this historic moment on its 44th Independence and National Day, when a record number of people from all walks of life gathered there and sang the national anthem in chorus.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina along with her cabinet members, MPs, politicians, cultural personalities, workers and students participated in the biggest show of the rendition of ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’.

Several thousands of people also gathered around the National Parade Ground with a festive mood and sang the national anthem to join the historic event.

The Parade Ground turned into a human sea when thousands of people from all walks of life poured into the venue for taking part in the gala event.

Sponsored by the cultural affairs ministry and supervised by the Armed Forces Division, the programme was telecasted live by all TV channels.

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Bangladesh Seed industry to explore global market

DHAKA, March 23, 2014 (BSS) – Bangladesh seed industry is set to explore global market with an initiative of the world leading agro-science company Syngenta.

The Switzerland-based company, which has been operating in 90 countries including Bangladesh with more than 28,000 employees, is going to start exporting vegetable seeds from Bangladesh to other countries.

“The first consignment of five metric tons of bean seeds will go to India on March 27”, Mahbub Rahman, Lead of the Research and Development of Syngenta Bangladesh told BSS.

He said another consignment of five metric tons of bean seeds would follow the first one soon and eventually Syngenta Bangladesh would start exporting tomato and okra seeds to India.

He said all the seeds would initially go to Syngenta India and to Syngenta companies in other countries in the long run.

“There is a good export market for Bangladeshi seeds as the quality and price of the seeds produced here are comparatively attractive for importers,” the Syngenta official said.

Mahbub was not sure about the size of the seed export market in India, but expected that his company would get good response from Indian farmers.

Currently, Bangladesh is exporting sesame seeds to different countries, but the export amount was not significant. With exporting vegetable seeds, the earning from this non-traditional sector is expected to increase considerably.

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Preserving Traditional Games the ASEAN Way

Saturday, 29 March 2014 – BruDirect.com – Bandar Seri Begawan: The flagship project of the mini Festival of ASEAN Cultural Expressions that was opened at the Airport Mall in Berakas on Wednesday was among efforts by the ASEAN cultural and arts sector to preserve traditional ASEAN Games and promote them to the community.

The aims are to enhance community spirit and create unity, as well as instill pride in each member nation.

In the aspect of culture, traditional games reflect different cultural expressions and can improve relations and understanding. Apart from that, some traditional games contain elements of education for the younger generation and also the local communities.

Exposure to the traditional games in the early stages of life would help the youths to understand better the region’s unique history where cultural similarities and differences co-exist at the same time.

Indonesian delegate Toto Enrdroyono said they brought several traditional games that possess educational values. Brunei Darussalam delegate, Awg Hj Mahrin Haji Abas believed part of the mini festival shared his experiences with fellow delegates.

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Women in Brunei Enjoy Equal Opportunity

23 March 2014 – BruDirect.com – Bandar Seri Begawan: Women in Brunei Darussalam are most fortunate and grateful that the Government of Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam had given equal opportunity in education, training, health care, salary, employment and business ventures and the likes.

In Brunei Darussalam’s national vision 2035, it is recognized that there will be equal opportunities in the in the workforce for women and their contribution to nation building is acknowledge.

This was highlighted by the Attorney General in delivering a talk entitled “Breaking the Leadership Glass Ceiling” in the Women Executives Roundtable programme.

Being one of the highly acclaimed women achievers and leaders in the country, Yang Berhormat Datin Seri Paduka Hjh Hayati Pehin Orang Kaya Shahbandar Dato Seri Paduka Hj Md Salleh shared her inspirational stories and journeys in careers and life.

Yang Berhormat Datin Seri Paduka also reminds that as individuals, man or woman, they can inspire and be inspired.

The one-day programme, attended by more than two hundred senior female officers from the public sector and private sectors, aims to offer new insights and perspective from the inspirational leadership journeys and successful stories.

Members of panel included the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Dyg Hjh Normah Suria Hayati Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Awg Hj Md Jamil Al-Sufri.

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Brunei holds 4th Islamic Aspiration Week

Tuesday, 25 March 2014 – BruDirect.com – Bandar Seri Begawan: In a bid to realise the motto of University Brunei Darussalam (UBD) “Towards Complete Individuals”, the university yesterday held the 2014 Launching Ceremony of the 4th Islamic Aspiration Week.

According to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UBD, Associate Professor Dr Azman Ahmad, the 2014 Islamic Aspiration Week carried the theme “Under the Shade” where Muslim individuals can share and follow the right path of Islam.

The Aspiration Week can also introduce UBD Undergraduate Association Religious and Spiritual Executives to religious executives at other Institutions of Higher Education such as UNISSA (University Islam Sultan Shari Ali), KUPU SB (Kolej Perguruan Ugama Seri Begawan Sultan), ITB (Institute Technology Brunei) and Brunei Polytechnic as well as share ideas and suggestions in conducting religious activities.

Throughout the Aspiration Week, an exhibition and sale stalls are put up by members of the Event Committee. The exhibition is open to the public from 9 in the morning until 4.30 in the afternoon.

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Bangladesh Boasts Cultural Show in Oman

Friday, 28 March 2014 – Brudirect.com – Bandar Seri Begawan: The Bangladesh community in Brunei Darussalam organized a Cultural Show and Dinner on the occasion of the 44th Independence Day of Bangladesh at the Al-Hilal Restaurant in Jalan Sultan last night.

The guest of honor was Mohammed Abdul Hye, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Brunei Darussalam.

Following a welcoming speech by the event’s chairperson, the attendees watched music videos themed after the 44th Independence Day of Bangladesh. The event was filled with patriotic poems and drama performances by members of the Bangladesh community. It concluded with a souvenir presentation by the guest of honor to committee members.

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Manado-Davao route to be reopened

Sat, March 29 2014 Manado, North Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – The North Sulawesi provincial administration welcomes plan to reopen direct flights between Manado and Davao of the Philippines.

Provincial administration spokesman Yudhistira Siwu said Vice Governor Djouhari Kansil had met with Philippine Consul General Jose Burgos to discuss the plan in Manado.

The plan was first suggested at a meeting between Jose Burgos and Sangihe Regent HR Makagansa, when the Philippine official visited the regency early March, Siwu said here on Saturday.

He said the reopening of the route linking the Sam Ratulangi airport of Manado and Davao via Naha Sangihe airport and Melounguane Talaud airport would contribute to economic and tourism cooperation and expansion in Davao and North Sulawesi.

Earlier the route was served by Merpati airlines and the defunct Bouraq airline and Sriwijaya Air using Bombardier and ATR aircraft.

This time the route would be served by Garuda Indonesia, the country’s flag carrier. Siwu quoted Jose Burgos as saying that the first flight would be on 21 April 2014.

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Sail Raja Ampat will boost Indonesian marine tourism

Fri, March 28 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia’s international marine event Sail Raja Ampat, to be officially kicked off by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Raja Ampat, West Papua on June 21, is expected to help boost the country’s tourism.

The event was particularly expected to promote tourism in West Papua and accelerate the tourism development in the province, Minister for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Sharif Cicip Sutardjo commented in a statement here on Friday.

Raja Ampat has one of the most beautiful marine panoramas in the world that could attract many foreign tourists, he explained.

The government will organize Sail Raja Ampat 2014 with the aim to accelerate the development and improve the welfare of the people in West Papua.

“The international sail event has become a model for the development acceleration program on islands and in remote areas,” he elaborated.

The minister believed that Sail Raja Ampat will become an effective way to promote Papua and surrounding areas as a favorite destination for domestic and international tourists.

The theme of Sail Raja Ampat is “Developing Marine, Taking Raja Ampat to World Tourism Fora.”

Coordinating Minister for Peoples Welfare Agung Laksono stated the objective of organizing Sail Raja Ampat is to accelerate the regional development, improve infrastructure, and stimulate investment in the host region.

“In Raja Ampat, there is a geo park which is more beautiful than the one in Halong Bay Vietnam,” Minister Agung Laksono pointed out.

Sail Raja Ampat is to be organized on June 21, almost coinciding with Sentani Festival, which is held annually in Papua on June 19.

Since 2009, Indonesia has organized the annual Sail Indonesia five times – Sail Bunaken 2009, Sail Banda 2010, Sail Wakatobi- Belitong 2011, Sail Morotai 2012 and Sail Komodo 2013.

Sail Raja Ampat is expected to have participation from, among other places, Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, Thailand, The Philippines, and the United States.

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Lake Toba declared as Toba Caldera Geopark

Fri, March 28 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Yudhoyono officially designated Lake Toba as Toba Caldera Geopark, in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, on Thursday.

The confirmation of Toba Lake as a geopark is crucial in supporting Indonesia’s plan to propose Lake Toba caldera geopark to be included in UNESCO’s Geopark Global Network (GGN).

“Lake Toba geopark has a unique geological aspect. This confirmation is the foundation on which it could be proposed to UNESCO,” pointed out Oki Oktariadi, a geologist of the energy and mineral resources ministry’s geology agency as quoted in a statement published on the Cabinet Secretariats official website.

The government hopes that the UNESCO recognition will be won in 2015.

Lake Toba caldera geopark has education and social development functions, but the condition of Lake Toba currently needs to be improved.

The 11th European Geopark Conference held in Arouca, Portugal, September 19-21, 2012, agreed to recognize the exotic island of Balis volcanic area around Mount Batur as a member of the Global Geopark Network.

Batur Global Geopark, centered on the active Batur volcano, is located in Kintamani district, northeast Bali, between two round calderas – large volcanic craters that formed about 22 thousand years ago.

Indonesia is also considering proposing other geoparks to be recognized by the UNESCO, Merangin in Jambi, Mount Rinjani in West Nusa Tenggara, Raja Ampat in West Papua, and the Sewu Karst regions in Central Java.

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Egypt Promotion Program to Lure Arab Tourists

Egypt State Information Service – 26 March 2014 – Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou said Friday 21/03/2014 that a new promotion program will kick off for Arab tourists next summer.

In a bid to bring back tourism to its previous levels after being dramatically affected by political turmoil during the past three years, the ministry developed a special program with competitive prices for Arab countries, Zaazou said.

Speaking with an Arab media delegation in Alexandria, the minister said the program would include concerts and parties in which famous singers and figures would take part.

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Hagia Sophia – Exquisite Museum of Islamic, Christian Influences

Daily Trust – 22 March 2014 – Turkey — From the date of its construction in 537 AD, the beautiful Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and in 1204 to 1261, it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building then became a mosque from 1453 to 1931, before being secularized and opened as a museum in 1935.

To this first-time tourist, the mention of Hagia Sophia by a guide suggested a visit to one of royal palaces for a queen or princess during the Ottoman period. But it’s even more interesting, as it is a beautiful, historic monument. The Turkish masterpiece was designed by Greek scientists called Isidore of Miletus, a physicist and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician. Hagia Sophia is located on the European part of Istanbul and due to its historic significance and importance, it was chosen a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985. In its 1,400 years of existence, it has served as a cathedral, mosque and now a museum. It was built in the remarkably short time of about six years, being completed in 537 AD.

Origin of Name

Hagia Sophia, in Greek, means Holy Wisdom. The exquisite, even if ancient, architectural work was originally built as a cathedral in Constantinople, then the capital of the Byzantine Empire (now Turkey). The state, officially Christian, originally formed the eastern half of the Roman Empire and was still in existence after the fall of Rome. The Hagia Sophia has remained a significant place for Christians till date.

On entry, a visitor sees the Hagia Sophia’s beautiful mosaics at the entrance depicting the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, Saint Joseph and others. It remains the only church that was not destroyed after the victory by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered this main church of the Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque. By this point, the Church had fallen into a state of disrepair. Nevertheless, the Christian cathedral made a strong impression on the new Ottoman rulers and they decided to convert it into a mosque. (The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics are currently on display in the museum).

Islamic features, including the four famous minarets, were added. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

The prophet Muhammad, PBUH, had prophesied that the first Muslim to pray in Hagia Sophia would go to paradise. Since then, it was a great ambition for Muslim leaders to visit Hagia Sophia.

As a museum

In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered that Hagia Sophia would become a museum. In 1935, Hagia Sophia was fully converted into a museum of Turkish Republic and became one of the most significant monuments not only in Turkey but in the world with its architecture and its historical richness.

The uncovering of mosaics had already begun in 1931 by the leadership of Thomas Whittemore. This time the white plasters covering the mosaics were pulled out, carpets on the floor were removed and the original marble décor could be seen for the first time in centuries. Hagia Sophia Museum opened in 1 February 1935. A historian, Vlasto, once asked: “What is the secret of Hagia Sophia and other structures which have been standing for centuries? These structures are evidence that Turks give importance to science and fine arts as much as their swords.”

Hagia Sophia with its madrasas, mausoleums, tombs, gathering place, elegant library built by I. Mahmud, gallery, fountain and school, has been described as one of the most important Islamic sites in the world.

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Uganda Looks to China, Middle East to Boost Tourism

Forum On China-Africa Cooperation – 21 March 2014 – Kampala — Uganda is shifting its concentration from the traditional tourism markets of Europe to China and the Middle East in a bid to boost its tourism revenue, a top government official said here on Tuesday.

Maria Mutagamba, minister of tourism, told Xinhua in an interview that China and the Middle East are increasingly becoming lucrative markets that need to be explored.

“In 2006, this was the manifesto undertaking. Government at that time realized that we need to enter the Chinese market and bring the Chinese to Uganda. This year we have gone out to actualize it,” she said.

Working with the state-owned Makerere University, a team of Chinese volunteers are teaching the Chinese language in a bid to build the capacity of interested Ugandans to speak Chinese.

Mutagamba also said that learning the Chinese language will be introduced at the soon to be established tourism training institute in Jinja, eastern Uganda.

The government is also working with international airlines to start having direct flights from China to Uganda to facilitate connectivity. Already China Air is carrying out a feasibility study.

“We think with connectivity improved, visas being made easier, we should be able to attract Chinese,” she said.

“We are also trying to cater for the rich Middle East, they really want to come here and spend their time in a good ambience. We are really looking at luxury tourism. These people enjoy sport hunting, water sports,” she said.

To achieve these ambitions, the East African country is making major changes in its tourism sector in a bid to increase the country’s competitiveness in the lucrative business.

Mutagamba said her ministry has developed a 10-year tourism master plan that will revolutionise the sector and bringing in more revenue. Uganda earns over 1.3 billion U.S. dollars in tourism revenues annually from over 1.4 million tourists.

“We have produced a master plan which we are submitting to Cabinet within a few weeks. Once it is approved, that will be our road map. How we want to move the next 10 years,” she said.

She said her ministry is also undergoing a restructuring phase to make it more relevant to the changing needs of the industry. The minister recently appointed a new board at the Uganda Tourism Board, a government agency charged with marketing the sector.

In a bid to boost the country’s tourism sector, the World Bank last year approved 25 million dollars out of the 100-million- dollar loan that will be used to boost the country’s competitiveness.

“This time we are embarking on a massive marketing campaign and we want to make sure we broaden our clientele and our market. We are more than willing to go out into new markets like China, Middle East, Asia and America,” the minister said.

She said 12 million dollars out of the 25 million dollars will be use to construct a state of the art tourism training institute.

“Within the next three years, we should have a modern three star hotel which is meant for training and producing employees that are able to meet the challenges of a demanding sector.”

The government has also agreed to reduce the period and area of coverage of concessionaires in the country’s national parks in a bid to open up the parks for construction of more accommodation facilities. Currently the country faces bed shortage in case there is an influx of tourists at the parks.

“Very soon we shall be invite investors to identify themselves with sites they want to develop,” she said.

Mutagamba said as government develops the road infrastructure to the various tourist sites in the country, it is also looking at partnering with investors to help standardize and improve the airstrips spread all over the country.

“That is another business opportunity. Somebody can come in and run charter flights or even regular flights to Bwindi, Kidepo or other parks,” she said.

Uganda boasts rich flora and fauna including the endangered mountain gorillas.

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Tourism, Fishing Sports Competition in Gambia

The Daily Observer – 28 March 2014 – A four-day Tourism and Fishing sports competition organised by the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) in collaboration with other stakeholders in the tourism and the fishing sectors is currently underway at the Lemon Creek Hotel beach in Bijilo.

The competition that brought together over 30 foreign competitors and locals is meant to develop a new product in tourism as regarding sports and fishing and as well showcase a niche market to consolidate on the existing small-scale Fishing Competition in the country.

Benjamin A Roberts, the director general of GTBoard, welcomed the competitors from their various destinations to the Gambia for the competition during a press briefing held at the Green Mamba Gardens in Senegambia that preceded Wednesday’s events. Roberts noted that Fishing is an international sports full of excitement and fun that attracts lots of fans, adding that for this being the case, “at the end of the four days, a champion will emerge.”

The launching of the competition fully sponsored by the Gambia Tourism Board according to DG Roberts was in respect to their collaboration and cooperation with organisers.

He added that the GTBoard and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture by extension are hoping to make the programme sustainable and permanent in the calendar of events of tourism in The Gambia. The event he disclosed started three years ago and is being overseen by Tony Tabbal in partnership with Bernard Westgarth.

And according to GD Roberts, with GTBoard support, The Gambia would eventually be on the map of the world in terms of fishing. He added that GTBoard’s aspiration over the event is to take the competition to a higher level whereby winners will not only take home trophies but huge cash prizes as well.

On the sustainability of the event on the tourism event calendar, he said that the ongoing competition will serve as a pilot project hence a committee is already constituted to actually look at the possibility of making it a permanent sport. He disclosed plans to hold another event in October.

The GTBoard boss finally thanked the collaborators, committee members, the security and the GTBoard officials for the support and cooperation in the event and assured them that as the year progress, everyone will begin to see further development of the programme.

Tony Tabbal expressed his sincere thanks to GTBoard for sponsoring the competition. Tabbal, who is also a competitor and as well part of the organisers in conjunction with Bernard Westgarth, outlined the rules and regulations of the game. He said he hopes to make it a big and successful event when he started the project three years ago with his partner, so that it can raise the fishing profile in the Gambia to where it used to be in the past. He therefore reiterated his acknowledgement to the support from the GTBoard.

Tabbal also used the briefing to sensitise the competitors especially the local fishermen to participate in the competition and how to practice sustainable ‘catch and release’ techniques.

Bernard Westgarth share similar sentiments. He applauded the GTBoard for the move. He said among the competitors were 25 anglers of the best in the world which alone he noted is good news for the competition.

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Uganda to Market Idi Amin Good Side for Tourism Purpose

East African Business Week – 24 March 2014 – Kampala — Uganda Tourism Board, the official government tourism marketing arm has developed plans to start up a tourism trail for the late former Ugandan dictator president Idi Amin Dada with an aim of increasing on the tourists numbers.

Idi Amin was Uganda’s president between February 1971 and January 1979. He came to power after toppling his former boss Milton Obote in a military coup. He died in August 2003 after his family decided to disconnect life support machines of which he had spent several months due to kidney failures in a Jeddah hospital in Saudi Arabia. He was buried in Ruwais Cemetery in Jeddah in a simple grave without any fanfare.”

Apart from the bad things of Idi Amin, he did some good things. Wherever you go they ask about Amin. He is still stuck in people’s minds. We shall develop a trail for him to market it for tourism purposes,” said Mr. Stephen Asiimwe the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board while making a presentation about their future plans to drive tourists to Uganda. He said they have developed a domestic, regional and international strategy to market and promote Uganda’s tourism.

“In the domestic tourism strategy, we have a strong cluster support like the Buganda Tourism Expo, Busoga Tourism Initiative, Bunyoro, Kigezi, Eastern Tourism Forum, and Northern Uganda” He explained

Among other initiatives include the school outreaches, imbalu carnival, Idi Amin Trail; we’re to develop, Kampala Trail, Uganda Martyrs Day Festival, Cultural events, Kampala Carnival, Sports events like golf tournaments.

These all have great potential to drive tourists’ numbers,” he added.

In the regional tourism marketing strategy Asiimwe said they will target people from the neighboring EAC states, encourage excursions by regional tour operators, carry out media familiarization trips and do a lot of promotion on the social media.

“We shall have road shows, share signature events like Kwita Izina, Magical Kenya, Karibu Festival through encouraging reverse travel and through the use of the EAC Tourist Visa and regional collaborations,” Asiimwe told a collection of private sector investors in tourism, government officials and parliamentarians at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.

At the international scene Asiimwe hopes to challenge negative pre-visitor perceptions of famine, hunger and wars, engage international public relations firms in key source markets and engage buyers in international firms.

He said they will do fam trips with media companies and travel writers abroad to change perception such that they can have a first-hand feel of Uganda’s tourism, work out collaborations with embassies, foreign missions abroad and participation in international tourism fairs.

In the quality assurance division, Asiimwe said they will ensure that all private investors in the sector are licensed and registered; they will enforce and monitor standards while carrying out inspection, grading, classification of tourist facilities and standards.

“To ensure investment promotion, we shall create a tourism investment portfolio with all the benefits that will accrue on Returns on Investments, identify special economic and investment zones and engage government agencies like Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Investment Authority to remove red tape.”

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Gambia: Destination Gambia Tourism Grew 9% in 2013

The Daily Observer – 26 March 2014 – The number of tourist arrivals to Destination Gambia from the month of January to December 2013 has surpassed the number of arrivals from January to December 2012.

Statistically, the number of tourist arrivals by air for the year 2012 stood at 157,323 while year 2013 air arrivals is 171,200 and this did not factor the number of arrivals by sea and land. These figures, according to Adama Njie, director of marketing GTBoard, “has shown a record growth of 9 per cent as it does not include the number of arrivals through land and sea.”

Taking into consideration the figures of the air tourist arrivals for 2013, which is 171,200 compared to 157,323 of 2012, (an increase of 9%) the two years under review, Destination Gambia tourist arrivals are impressive when compared to UNWTO projected growth of 3 to 4 per cent in 2013. Focusing on the 2013 tourist arrivals, according to the GTBoard analysis, out of the recorded 171,200 arrivals British tourists were the most registered, 45,866 (26.79) followed by the Dutch 25,517 (14.90) Swedish 7,953 (4.65); Nigerian 7,124 (4.16) respectively.

Among other nationalities that visited the Gambia were Danish; Finnish Norwegian; German; Belgian; Spanish; French; American; Italian; Austrian; Czechs; Irish; Polish different African nationals among other tourists. Most of these tourists visited the Destination Gambia for different purposes like business; educational; leisure; conference and adventure.

This is an impressive achievement for the sector. Adama Njie said this was attainable with the full support from the president of the Republic, who is the number one promoter of tourism and culture and as well the minister of Tourism and Culture with and his permanent secretary, as well as the teamwork of the staff of GTBoard led by Robert. Adding to this the success is part of efforts of other stakeholders and with some of the officials of MoTC and GTBoard that are behind the scene.

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Gambia: MOTC, GTBoard to Improve Kunta Kinteh Product

The Daily Observer – 26 March 2014 – For history, heritage, diversification and posterity purposes, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) and The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) is ready to make the Juffureh/Albreda – a Kunta Kinteh Product a sought-after not only in Destination Gambia but in Africa and worldwide.

Benjamin A Roberts the Director General of GTBoard disclosed at Juffureh/Albreda, the village which became world famous back in the 1970s through the publication of Alex Haley’s book entitled “Roots.” He said this during an organised cleansing exercise by the GTBoard in conjunction with tourism stakeholders as they were joined by the inhabitants of the village.

The cleansing exercise was timely especially as the 11th Edition of the Roots International Festival is at the corner. He said this is readily planned through a concept and the strategy already documented to improve the Juffureh/Albreda Kunta Kinteh “Roots” Product. This is a great plan that will be achieved over the next two seasons as stakeholder committees comprised of GTBoard, MoTC, NCAC, FTO will all be commissioned with the hope that UNESCO will come onboard to support the project through the engagement of the NCAC.

The importance of this cleansing exercise at this tiny and less populated village is enormous due to the fact that it will make the environment more appealing to tourists and visitors. It will also make them feel comfortable with the sanitary conditions and the cleanliness of the village. This is what the GTBoard boss said: “We will send positive signals to the visitors” as the inhabitants stand a better chance of enjoying some plans in the offing for the village.

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Tunisia To Play Crucial Role In Africa’s Agri Policies

TUNIS, March 28 (NNN-TAP) — Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa asserted, Friday, that “encouraging African young people to invest in the agricultural field requires improving their living conditions in rural areas and easing procedures of creating projects and developing support structures”.

He stressed, during the works of the ministerial meeting as part of the 28th FAO Regional Conference for Africa, the need to “give more attention to youth, motivate them and improve their working conditions in the agricultural sector.”

“Tunisia urges young promoters to invest in the agricultural sector by granting them property loans as well as facilitating the procedures for renting agricultural lands at preferential prices, and the implementation of a strategy for the creation of nurseries within the Higher Agricultural Institute” the PM reminded.

Minister of Agriculture Lassaad Lachaal stressed that Tunisia, which will chair the FAO conference for the next two years, “will play a significant role in developing and implementing agricultural policies giving priority to youth employment, which will be adopted by Africa.”

In turn, FAO Director-General José Graziano Da Silva emphasised the need to develop co-operation between African countries so as to achieve food security and provide employment to youth.

The ministerial meeting of the FAO conference, whose works took place on March 24-27 in Tunis, was attended by delegates from 51 African countries, including Ministers of Agriculture as well as representatives of FAO and its regional offices in Africa.

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Two More Colossal Pharaoh Statues Unveiled In Egypt

LUXOR, Egypt, Mar 24 (NNN-MENA) – Archaeologists on Sunday unveiled two colossal statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in Egypt’s famed temple city of Luxor, adding to an existing pair of world-renowned tourist attractions.

The two monoliths in red quartzite were raised at, what European and Egyptian archaeologists said, were their original sites in the funerary temple of the king, on the west bank of the Nile.

The temple is already famous for its existing 3,400-year-old Memnon colossi — twin statues of Amenhotep III, whose reign archaeologists say marked the political and cultural zenith of ancient Egyptian civilisation.

“The world until now knew two Memnon colossi, but from today, it will know four colossi of Amenhotep III,” said German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, who heads the project, to conserve the Amenhotep III temple.

The existing two statues, both showing the pharaoh seated, are known across the globe.

The two restored additions have weathered severe damage for centuries, Sourouzian said.

“The statues had lain in pieces for centuries in the fields, damaged by destructive forces of nature like earthquake, and later by irrigation water, salt, encroachment and vandalism,” she said, as behind her excavators and local villagers washed pieces of artefacts and statues unearthed over the past months.

“This beautiful temple still has enough for us to study and conserve.”

One of the “new” statues — its body weighing 250 tonnes — again depicts the pharaoh seated, hands resting on his knees. It is 11.5 metres (38 feet) tall, with a base 1.5 metres high and 3.6 metres wide.

The second statue, of Amenhotep III standing, has been installed at the north gate of the temple.

The team of archaeologists also showed several other ancient pieces of, what they said were, parts of other statues of the ancient ruler and his relatives, including a well-preserved alabaster head from another Amenhotep III statue.

“This piece is unique, it is rare, because there are not many alabaster statues in the world,” Sourouzian said.

Sourouzian said, the aim of her team’s work was to preserve these monuments and the temple itself, which, according to her, had suffered at the hands of “nature and mankind.”

“Every ruin, every monument has its right to be treated decently,” said Sourouzian, whose dream as a student was to conserve the Amenhotep III temple. “The idea is to stop the dismantling of monuments and keep them at their sites,” she said, adding that what was required was steady “international funding” to conserve such world heritage sites.

The ongoing work to conserve the Amenhotep III temple is entirely funded through what she said were “private and international donations.”

Luxor, a city of some 500,000 people on the banks of the Nile in southern Egypt, is an open-air museum of intricate temples and pharaonic tombs.

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Tourism Is Backbone Of Guyana’s Economic Growth – Tourism Minister Ali

GEORGETOWN, March 24 (NNNN-GINA) — The Guyanese government has designated tourism as a priority sector of the economy, contributing 7% to the Gross Domestic Product and providing directly 2,000-3,000 jobs.

The sector was described by Minister of Tourism Irfaan Ali as the backbone of the future economic growth and development of the country.

With the wealth of world class natural tourism attractions including vast trails of wilderness, rainforests, river systems, mountains and a variety of cultural and historic recognition of the country’s abundant natural resources, Guyana’s tourism product continues to grow and attract significant interest from investors and visitors alike.

Over the last 10 years, visitor arrivals have been increasing significantly to Destination Guyana, and in 2013, it was one of three countries in the Caribbean to record a double digit growth with an 11.7 percent increase.

The increase represents visitors from across the Caribbean region, especially from Suriname, Brazil, and Jamaica. This is a result of several initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Tourism, along with the GTA, including familiarisation trips, British Birdwatchers’ Fair in London, and Trade Shows in New York and Canada.

The year has begun began very aggressively for the sector with two international endorsements for the country. The National Geographic Traveler Magazine listed Guyana among the top 21 places to visit in 2014 while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) listed the country among the top five.

Both endorsements would have cost Guyana millions of dollars in advertisements. Many new initiatives have been planned for the sector to spread its wings and create new opportunities. The “Challenge Caribbean’ will be launched in collaboration with Kanuku Tours which will include hiking along the Shamrock Point mountain range in the Kanuku. This will be marketed in Jamaica and Trinidad to bring regional tourists.

University of the West Indies students will also be targeted for ‘back pack tours’ in collaboration with Essequibo tour operators. Work is ongoing to get at least 200 students to come in for a four- day period, Minister Ali said.

Reflecting on international shows in Guyana, he said they will continue even as Easter and Rodeo are continuing to be marketed comprehensively in Jamaica and Suriname. Intentions are aimed at Fly Jamaica for a comprehensive tour package to encourage Jamaicans to come to Guyana.

The ‘Gold Festival’ will be launched to draw visitors to Guyana to engage in panning for gold. This will involve small gold miners and registered jewellery houses coming together to showcase the El Dorado and encourage regional participants into Guyana. This is expected to be launched during the CPL Cricket period in Guyana this year. Persons will be taken to a mined out area where they would be exposed to panning for gold.

Four cruise ships are expected in Guyana in 2014, with the first one ‘Minerva’ to arrive on Monday, March 24 with over 360 passengers. Additionally, the annual Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) meeting is also slated for Guyana this year with more than 200 Caribbean officials expected to arrive.

More than 50 visiting yachts arrived in Guyana last year, and already over 10 have visited for this year. The yachting rally 2014 is hoped to attract more than 50 yachts.

Meanwhile, plans are also underway through a proposal from an international investor to build a marina in Guyana. He is expected to present his proposal before the end of June.

Further, a Tourism Market is planned along the Lamaha Canal where a section can be set aside for local craft, culture and food. This is expected to attract tourists from cruise ships.

The GTA is also to be reworked and reorganised to become more proactive, aggressive and efficient in the delivery of its service.

Minister Ali also welcomed the exciting launch of new investments, including night clubs, restaurants, the golf course and hotels such as Park View and Marriot. The latter is slated to open its doors by the middle of the year.

He also mentioned hotels in Lethem and another international brand hotel which will be coming to Guyana this year. He especially commended the Tuma Sàlà, Guyana’s first indigenous cuisine restaurant and urged local support for it.

Minister Ali also focused on the beginning of the construction of the 18- hole golf course on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway which would also attract tourists.

He commended the new flight services such as COPA and CONVIASA to Guyana which would enable more travellers to visit the country.

The Tourism Minister also pointed out that many concerts and festivals organised here have seen visitors arriving just to attend.

Arrivals in Guyana increased to date by 6.3% this year he observed, and “we will continue our aggressive marketing in the regional markets of Suriname, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago,” the Minister declared.

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Qatar Airways’ Launches Flights To Djibouti

DOHA, Qatar, Mar 24 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways has announced a further expansion of its network in Africa, with Djibouti joining its growing list of destinations, served directly from the airline’s Doha hub.

Thrice-weekly non-stop flights will operate from Doha to Djibouti, beginning July 27, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Sunday’s announcement comes as Qatar Airways prepares for busy months ahead, with the launch of scheduled flights to Philadelphia and Larnaca in Apr, Edinburgh and Istanbul in May, Miami and Tokyo in June and Dallas/Fort Worth in July.

Djibouti has an economy largely concentrated in the service sector, and the country has limited international air services – a void Qatar Airways is set to fill.

“Djibouti is another example of Qatar Airways’ commitment, to opening up access to destinations largely underserved by international airlines and have great market potential,” said Qatar Airways chief executive officer, Akbar Al Baker.

“Last Sept, we launched thrice-weekly operations to neighbouring Ethiopia. These destinations, in the Horn of Africa, have great potential, linking up with key feeder markets in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and other parts of the world,” he said.

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Saudi tourism sector set to create 1.7 million jobs

Gulf Today – 29 March, 2014 – A recent report released by the Saudi Commission on Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has indicated that Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector is set to create 1.7 million jobs over the coming six years, as the President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan Bin Salman told.

The tourism sector contributes to 2.6 per cent of the Saudi economy. In line with this, Ziyad Bin Mahfouz, President, Elaf Group of Companies and a member of the Makkah Tourism Development Council, shared that the country’s rapidly developing tourism industry is on the right track to success-achieving continuous Year-on-Year (YoY) growth with the prospects of gaining better results in the next few years.

Bin Mahfouz, declared during the period of preparation of this year’s edition of the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market (STTIM), that these positive results can be attributed to the ongoing efforts of tourism companies to contribute effectively to the development of the industry through participation in specialized events or by providing attractive tourism offerings that fall in line with the directives of the SCTA.

Bin Mahfouz also informed that Elaf is contributing to the industry through its continuing process of expansion and opening of a yet new property such as Elaf Al Salam, in Makkah Al Mokarrama. Additionally, Elaf Group is participating at STTIM for the fifth year in a row, which is being held from March 30 to April 4, 2014 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.

During the event, the Elaf Group will be taking part in a number of panel discussions related to timely tourism topics like safety and security in hotels and furnished apartments; the role of new transportation projects in enhancing and developing tourism sector; investment in events and festivals; how tourism associations can help the tourism sector; investment in tourism sector (current & future) and building destinations — local & international experience. Elaf will also be participating in sessions on emerging tourism aspects like including how to maximize your return from the booking systems; exhibition and convention licensing and venue policies such as the National Program for Exhibitions and Conferences.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry is one of the key pillars of the economy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In line with this, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) will organize its 7th Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market 2014 exhibition (STTIM 2014). In support to this major event, Abdul Latif Jameel Real Estate Investment Company (ALJREIC), owner and developer of Anjum Hotel in Makkah, sponsored this prestigious business-to-business and business-to-consumer travel show.

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Green light for BD55m resort in Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 27 March, 2014 – Plans have been announced to build a BD55 million tourist resort opposite the Arad Fort in Muharraq.

Councillors yesterday gave the project the green light despite concerns it will be built on land that has yet to be reclaimed and could harm the protected Arad Bay.

The exact details have yet to be released, but it is expected to feature a hotel, luxurious villas and a traditional Bahraini marketplace surrounded by natural scenery.

The project is being carried out by Bahrain developer Bareeq Al Retaj Real Estate Services, which can now approach ministries and government bodies for permits to carry out work.

Area councillor Ali Al Muqla played down fears about the environmental impact of the resort.

“Concerns that the project will block water currents from Arad Bay are untrue despite the Royal Court banning developments at the site,” he said.

“Anyway for the development to go ahead an environmental, traffic impact and technical assessment has to be complete.

“The developers presented an initial version to us, but they will need to supply further details.

“For now we believe that the project is beneficial to the tourist development of the area and for that we want it to go ahead.”

Mr Muqla, who is the Manama Municipal Council vice-chairman, said the developers had agreed the resort and marketplace would be alcohol free.

“We are very pleased the developers have stated in writing that there will be no alcohol and we hope the project, which will open in the coming years, will be a huge attraction for families not only from Bahrain, but also from other parts of the Gulf and all around the world,” he said.

“It is located near Bahrain International Airport, the Arad Fort and Arad Bay, and will itself have huge attractions for families within the resort so we believe it would be successful.”

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Iran to Establish Free Zone in Jask

Islamic Republic News Agency – 27 March, 2014 – According to the petroenergy news network SHANA, Akbar Torkan said the proposal has been presented by the Coordinating Council of Free and Special Economic Zones. He said that Jask enjoys great potential for petrochemical and refining industries.

Torkan said Rouhani has ordered the establishment of Iran’s second oil exports terminal in Jask in parallel with Kharg terminal.

“Kharg, our first terminal, is off Gulf, and Jask, our second terminal, will be off the Sea of Oman,” he said.

Torkan said a 1,200-kilometer pipeline will be laid in Jask to carry crude oil from Goreh to the Coast of Oman.

He also expressed hope that international conditions would let European companies come and invest in Iran.

“Of course the European companies are willing for trade ties with Iran and they have maintained their relations and they continue technical talks, but the practical stage will be when they are free from US pressures,” said Torkan.

“Economic activities with European companies have not yet started,” he said.

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Iran to boost links with Nowruz region countries

Islamic Republic News Agency – 28 March, 2014 – President Rouhani travelled to Kabul to attend the Fifth International Nowruz Festivity on Thursday and underlined necessity of maintaining heritage of Farsi-speaking countries.

The president underlined joint cooperation among Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan to preserve common heritages of Farsi Language countries and underscored necessity of maintaining and expanding Persian and Islamic culture.

Referring to necessity of more convergence among Farsi speaking people in the region, Rouhani called for development of ties among countries of Farsi civilization region.

He expressed Iran’s readiness to develop cooperation in the fields of transit, railroad, transferring water and electricity and the other industrial projects in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Rouhani also underlined necessity of all-out fight against radicalism and terrorism and by expressing pleasure for holding Shanghai summit meeting in Dushanbe, expressed Iran’s readiness to contribute to holding the meeting there.

Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon referred to a number of useful and effective big projects done by Iran in Tajikistan and added that Sangtoudeh Power Plant supplied electricity to tens of thousand of people in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

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Mozambique Wants Stronger Business Sector – Pres Guebuza

MAPUTO, March 29 (NNN-AIM) — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has declared that Mozambique is committed to the creation of a stronger business class with the capacity to establish partnerships with foreign counterparts, in an environment of mutual respect and benefits.

Speaking at the opening of a business seminar on the theme “Portugal and Mozambique: Encouraging Partnerships for Sustainable Development”, Guebuza explained that there are many opportunities in Mozambique which require greater commitment from national and foreign businesses.

He added that the government is continuing to do all in its power so that Mozambique becomes a world reference point for foreign investment in an environment of a fair division of the benefits from these investments.

“We make a positive assessment of the bilateral relations between our two countries”, said Guebuza. “Over the last six years, Portugal has injected into the Mozambican economy more than six billion US dollars of investment”.

He added that agriculture, renewable sources of energy, fisheries, tourism, infrastructures, industry and trade are among the areas which need partnerships in order to take advantage of the vast business opportunities which Mozambique offers.

Added to this potential, he said, are the initiatives opening with the new discoveries of mineral resources. These provided the space to establish partnerships in providing services to support the extractive industry.

Such partnerships “will complement the role played by the public sector in creating an environment favourable for investment”, Guebuza said.

For his part, Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho recognized that Mozambique is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, with a growth rate of 7.1 per cent in 2013. Projections indicate that growth is likely to continue at a similar rate for the next few years.

“The economic climate is very favourable, and inflation remained stable in 2013, at around 3.5 per cent”, said Passos Coelho.

In recent years, he continued, the Mozambican government had made a clear decision to embrace major investment projects centred on the exploitation of natural resources such as coal and gas. “It is envisaged that these projects in Tete and Cabo Delgado provinces will catalyse other major investments in productive infrastructures”, he said,

Portuguese companies, Passos Coelho claimed, are committed to contributing to all these projects, and to supporting the development and competitiveness of the Mozambican economy.

The Portuguese Prime Minister added that his government has managed to unblock instruments for commercial financing and the promotion of business cooperation to a total value of 134 million euros (about 184 million US dollars).

In making available such a large sum, he said, Portugal was demonstrating its commitment at bilateral level, and, above all, was suggesting to international investors that they ought to opt to put their money into Mozambique.

The government had unblocked these finds (originally promised in 2009) “despite the situation that Portugal is going through”, said Passos Coelho. “This is a particularly significant financial effort, and is a clear demonstration of the priority we grant to our relations with Mozambique”.

He stressed that trade between Mozambique and Portugal had grown strongly in 2013. Portuguese exports to Mozambique were 14 per cent higher than in 2012, reaching 326 million euros. Trade the other way is much smaller, and reached only 62 million euros – but this meant that Mozambican exports to Portugal grew by 281 per cent in the space of a year.

Mozambique was an increasingly important customer for Portuguese companies, said Passos Coelho, and occupies 19th position in the ranking of the countries with which Portugal traders. Mozambique is Portugal’s fourth largest trading partner in Africa,

He said that Portuguese direct investment in Mozambique reached 172 million dollars in 2013, and created 9.962 new jobs, 4,532 more than in the previous year.

In terms of Foreign Direct Investment into Mozambique, Portugal occupies third position, and Portuguese companies have the largest number of projects approved (168 in 2013) by the Mozambican government’s Investment Promotion Centre (CPI).

Passos Coelho claimed that “on average every million dollars of Portuguese direct investment created 58 jobs, much higher than the average for the other investors”.

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Syria Launches Commercial Airline

DAMASCUS, Syria, Mar 27 (NNN-SANA) – A new Syrian airline plans to start flights from the war-torn country in May, a company manager said, following months of gains on the battlefield by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The launch of Kinda Airlines, a private company, illustrates how Assad has been able – in part – to weather the three-year conflict, securing the capital and areas of the Mediterranean coast, even as rebels advance in the north and east.

Esmail Sharaf, Vice Commercial Manager, said that Kinda Airlines will operate out of Damascus International airport and the coastal city of Latakia. It aims to fly to more than 10 destinations within a year, including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq, and “hopefully Lebanon and Jordan.”

He said, the company had registered a Boeing 737-400 from Jordan Aviation, and signed a contract for an Airbus 320 with Aeolus Air, a company registered in Gambia, and with offices in the United Arab Emirates.

Rebels have taken several military airports and last year fired on Damascus International airport.

Sharaf said, there had been a lot of demand for a second carrier other than the national airline Syrianair, which he said, had flown out of Damascus throughout the conflict.

“Damascus (airport) has been very safe in the last six or seven months,” he said, in a telephone interview.

Kinda Airlines’ debut flight was first scheduled for Jan. It was delayed until Apr 1 and again, Sharaf said, until May 1, due to “documents that are not ready and some paperwork inside Syria.”

The start-up has also had to deal with wide-ranging European Union, Arab League and U.S. sanctions on Syria. Syrianair has had to ground planes in the past, when it was unable to buy new parts for its fleet.

“(Sanctions are) making it very, very difficult. Hopefully we have passed through all these difficulties,” Sharaf said.

Syrianair maintained a 40-year monopoly until 2008, when parliament approved the creation of Syrian Pearl Airways (SPA), a venture by Rami Makhlouf, Assad’s maternal cousin, who is under sanctions.

SPA closed only a month after its launch, when the Spanish company which leased its planes, had to terminate the contracts due to U.S. sanctions.

Sharaf said Kinda Airlines’ three main shareholders were all private Syrian citizens.

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US Muslims Mobilise to Feed Hungry

OnIslam Staff Wednesday, 26 March 2014 CAIRO – Applying Islamic ethics in everyday life, US Muslim organizations in St. Louis, Missouri, are planning the first Walk+Run event to raise money for the needy and the homeless in the eastern American state where almost a quarter of population live in poverty.

“As American Muslims, our faith teaches us that feeding others is a right that they have on us,” Abbas Ali the co-founder and current President of Project Downtown St. Louis (PDSTL), said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net on Tuesday, March 25.

“Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that one of the best aspects of Islam is to feed others and greet those who you know and don’t know.”

PDSTL is a youth-based community service organization that has been feeding the homeless and hungry every Saturday morning in front of a local Islamic Center.

Offering help to their community, the organization planned the first Walk+Run event next April 20.

The event is hosted by PDSTL, the Muslim Student Association Unity Project (MSA Unity) and the St. Louis chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-St. Louis).

It was suggested to offer help to an increasing number of people living in poverty in St. Louis.

According to the St. Louis area food bank, the city of St. Louis has 80,675 people living in poverty which is 23 percent of the population.

There are 135,000 youth who are at risk of hunger and 85 percent of children enrolled in St. Louis Public Schools rely on free or reduced-cost meal programs.

Organizers hope that the money raised during the event would be used to provide summer meals for families whose children no longer get free or reduced school breakfasts and lunches.

“We hope to attract people of all faiths to participate in this walk+run against hunger,” said Faizan Syed, executive director of CAIR-St. Louis.

“Our goal is to raise funds to feed the hungry and homeless within the city and to raise awareness of the problem in our community.”

Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.

An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.

Another US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.

According to Islamic Shari`ah, a capable Muslim pays 2.5 percent mandatory payment and spend it to help the poor and the needy.

In August 2013, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) was recognized amongst the top 10 highly rated charities in the United States.

The ranking was announced by Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities which has developed an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 6,000 of America’s best-known charities.

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