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28 Apr, 2014

Photo exhibition highlights “Cairo: The Crossroads of Faith”

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 28 April 2014 (28 Jumaada al-Thaani 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.




PUTRAJAYA, 2 April 2014 – Local and international visitors can look forward to having a memorable time in Malaysia as the month of May will be celebrated with various cultural, sports and musical tourism events. Some of the highlights include:


As one of the highlights of the Gawai Dayak celebrations, the Sarawak World Harvest Festival 2014 is an ethnic festival which provides a captivating insight into the cultures, traditions and aspirations of Sarawak’s Dayak community.

Highlights of the event include theme play, “Miss World Harvest Festival 2014”, “Ironman WHF 2014”, Dayak Food Festival and concert by international artistes. Let’s learn more about Sarawak!

Organiser: Sarawak Cultural Village

Date: 2 – 4 May 2014

Venue: Sarawak Cultural Village, Sarawak

Contact: +6 082 846 411

Website: www.scv.com.my

SABAH FEST 2014 – A Cultural Extravaganza!

Explores the romance and nostalgia of Borneo through the biggest and grandest cultural celebration in Sabah!

Handicraft-making demonstrations by local experts, pocket shows of traditional music and dance performances, as well as various traditional foods to sample are all part of this much anticipated three-day cultural extravaganza.

Sabah Fest 2014, a celebration of Sabah’s Natural Charms!

Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board & Sri Pelancongan Sabah

Date: 2 – 4 May 2014

Venue: Auditorium, Department of Culture and Arts Sabah (JKKNS), Sabah

Contact: +6 088 212 121/ +6 088 232 121

Email: shahira@sabahtourism.com

Website: www.sabahfest.com


In conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014 and Visit Sarawak Year 2014, the Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 is organised to give all Jazz lovers a fun-filled and entertaining experience.

The impressive line-up includes Iriao from Georgia, Vocal Sampling from Cuba, Brassballett from Germany, Mario Canonge from Martinique/France, YK Band from Indonesia, Anthony Strong from UK, and Sarawakian artiste Diana Liu who will represent Malaysia/USA/Taiwan, together with her band members including drum virtuoso Lewis Pragasam.

Organiser: Sarawak Tourism Board

Date: 9 – 10 May 2014

Venue: Parkcity Everly Hotel, Miri, Sarawak

Contact: +6 082 423 600

Website: www.jazzborneo.com


Hitch a ride with the longboats and watch how the surfers, jet skiers or boatmen braving the Batang Lupar’s Benak waves – the 4th largest in the world among the Top Ten Tidal Bores!

Also known as the “town of peace”, Batang Lupar Sri Aman in Sarawak is one of the four places in Asia that experience the unique tidal bore phenomenon. Highlights of the event include the Regatta Batang Lupar (longboat paddling competition), Benak surfing, speed boat competition, jet-ski competition and Miss Tourism Benak.

Organiser: Pejabat Residen Bahagian Sri Aman

Date: 16 – 18 May 2014

Venue: Batang Sri Lupar, Sri Aman, Sarawak.

Contact: http://www.sriamanro.sarawak.gov.my/


Malaysia’s premier cultural extravaganza – the Colours of 1Malaysia 2014 is back to dazzle locals and tourist with its colourful sights and sounds!

Delight your senses with a cornucopia of traditional performances, colourful parades and exhibitions by various ethnic groups in the country. The streets will be filled with an array of stalls selling local delicacies, arts and handicraft, as well as holiday packages introducing the wonders of Malaysia.

Have fun, be part of the flash mob and go jamming with fusion rock and traditional music by Man Kidal’s team!

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia

Date: 24 May 2014

Venue: Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur

Contact: +6 03 2693 7111

Website: www.vmy2014.com


Colourful kites of all sizes and shapes including the famous traditional Kelantanese ‘wau’ will dominate the sky for the 32nd Kelantan International Kite Festival 2014!

This annual 4-day festival draws local and international kite fliers from as far as Belgium, China, Germany and Japan. Check out the highlights of the event such as beach soccer competition, kite-making contest, “dikir barat” competition and silat demonstration. Be “wau”ed and more!

Organiser: Kelantan Tourism Information Center (TIC)

Date: 28 – 31 May 2014

Venue: Pantai Geting beach, Tumpat, Kelantan

Contact: www.tic.kelantan.gov.my


Come and celebrate the annual ‘Tadau’ (festival) ‘Kaamatan’ (after harvest) in Sabah as it marks the end of the harvesting season and the beginning of a new season for the Kadazan-Dusun community.

Don’t miss the Unduk Ngadau (State Harvest Beauty Queen) and Sungdoi (Kadazan Idol), which are the main highlights of the festival. Be enthralled by the cultural performances, traditional games and delicious delicacies served by the local folks!

Organiser: Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA)

Date: 30 – 31 May 2014

Venue: Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA), Penampang, Sabah

Contact: Dr. Benedict Topin, +6 088 713 696

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26,000 tourists in Egypt on Easter Sunday despite Euro travel alerts

Ahram Online, Sunday 20 Apr 2014 – Around of 26,000 tourists arrived at Egypt’s various airports from international destinations Sunday to celebrate Easter and the spring festival (Sham El-Nasim), reported state-owned Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

The name Sham El-Nasim (Inhaling the Breeze) comes from the ancient Coptic language that in turn is derived from Pharaonic language.

Al-Ahram detailed that 2,799 tourists came from Israel’s Eilat to visit Egypt through Taba. Some 8,000 tourists arrived at Marsa Allam Airport in Southern Egypt, mostly via international flights.

Red Sea tourist-friendly city Hurghada saw the most visits Sunday, with 15,560 tourists arriving mostly visiting from Russia, Germany and England.

Some 43,000 tourists arrived in the South Sinai resort of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada combined over the last two days.

Egypt’s ailing tourism sector, which contributes 11 percent to the country’s GDP, saw its revenues fall 41 percent to $5.9 billion in 2013 compared to 2012.

Last week, Germany’s second-biggest airline, Air Berlin, cancelled flights to Sharm El-Sheikh due to deteriorating security conditions for foreign tourists in the Sinai Peninsula.

The airline’s announcement follows warnings by Belgium, Germany and Switzerland for their nationals to avoid Sinai following recent terrorist attacks there.

In February, three South Korean tourists were killed in a bomb attack on a bus in the first assault on tourists since former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July 2013 spurred an Islamist insurgency.

For its part, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism announced plans to take a series of precautionary measures to bolster security in Red Sea touristic cities

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Infra Oman 2014 To Kick-Off Next Oct

MUSCAT, Oman, Apr 19 (NNN-ONA) – Activities of the 4th Infra Oman 2014 will kick-off at Oman International Exhibition Centre, on Oct 20th, 2014. The three-day event will be organised by Al Nimr Expo.

Salim bin Omar al-Hashmi, CEO of Al Nimr Expo, said that, the event will highlight the requirements of construction and infrastructure projects, such as roads, airports development, railways and ports.

In a statement to Oman News Agency (ONA), al-Hashmi pointed out that the event is a direct gateway to the opportunities in this sector, as it will enable the companies to play a prominent role in the country’s development.

He added that the event will bring together all leading companies in the industry, ministry officials, CEOs and other senior managers, pointing out that Infra Oman will serve as an ideal platform, for networking with key decision makers and expanding business contacts.

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Int’l Resistance Film Festival 2014 to be held in Iran

Apr 20, 2014 – Iran is planning to hold the 13th edition of the International Resistance Film Festival (IRFF), presenting screen productions on the theme of ‘Sacred Defense.’

The Islamic Revolution and Sacred Defense Cinematic Community will hold this year’s festival with special focus on “Resistance, Wisdom and Prosperity.”

The event will be presented in the three sections of ‘International Competition’, ‘Imad Moqniyeh Award’ and the ‘Outlook of Iran’s Resistance Cinema in the World’.

While the festival aims at expanding the ‘Culture of Resistance’, it welcomes the works with focus on the resistance of Muslims and the oppressed worldwide.

The event will also host the films presenting ‘A revealing image of the US and Zionism crimes in the world’, ‘Regional and worldwide spread of the Islamic Awakening’, ‘A world free of terrorism and nuclear weapons’, ‘The role of Zionism and Wahhabism in desecration of Muslim beliefs and Prophet.’

‘Hollywood’s role in promotion of violence’, ‘Terrorism and sectariarism’, ‘The role of resistance in promotion of the culture of war, Influence of the Islamic Revolution in the world, Iranophobia and Islamophobia are also among the topics on which the participated films are required to focus.

The year’s special section will be ‘Imad Moqniyeh Award’ with focus on terrorism and the crimes of Takfiri and Wahhabi groups. A number of meetings and conferences are also programmed to be held on the sidelines of the event.

The 13th International Resistance Film Festival is scheduled to take place on Iran’s Sacred Defense Week from September 22 through 29, 2014.

The festival marks Iran’s Sacred Defense during the 1980-1988 Iraqi-imposed war, when Iranian soldiers fought against the executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces and defended the Islamic Republic against enemy aggressions.

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Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards BIMP-Eaga Held in Bandar Seri Begawan

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, April 23, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Enterprise Asia hosted the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (APEA) 2014 BIMP-EAGA at the Empire Hotel & Country Club, on Sunday 13th April 2014.

The inaugural ceremony was a great success, and saw entrepreneurs from across the BIMP-EAGA region honoured for their outstanding achievements. This was a new initiative from Enterprise Asia, Asia’s leading non-governmental organization, known for its mission and vision of promoting entrepreneurship in the region.

“I consider the winning of this prestigious award as a significant recognition for my personal achievement in sustainable business growth and development. It recognizes our Company’s presence and outstanding performance in the business sector and promotes the spirit of entrepreneurship. It provides a platform of networking and opportunity for business activities in the BIMP-EAGA Region,” says Francis Lau Choo Yew from LCY Development Sdn Bhd.

Another winner of the night, Mohamed Zackiriah Nazeer Ahamed from Nazmi Textile Mall says, “It’s an honor to win the APEA for the 3rd time and more so for this inaugural APEA BIMP-EAGA since Brunei is part of the BIMP-EAGA, the close connectivity that the ASEAN region enjoyed had provided him the opportunity to sell his high-quality products outside Brunei.”

The Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards is an International recognition program, organized on a national front, in over 16 countries annually. This year, Enterprise Asia with the cooperation and support from the BIMP-EAGA Business Council took the prestigious and coveted awards to new heights, with the hope of reaching out and helping more entrepreneurs in Asia. The awards saw participation from Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, as well as parts of Indonesia and Philippines.

“We’ve identified the BIMP-EAGA region as an important part of our expansion plans, in order to continue with our entrepreneurship development agenda in the region and help the entrepreneurs and the economy to grow” said Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn, Chairman of Enterprise Asia. “We are already present in over 16 countries in Asia, promoting entrepreneurship through our various programs and initiatives; engaging the BIMP-EAGA region has allowed us to further reach out to entrepreneurs, who, perhaps, had limited access to such platforms as the APEA”.

When asked about the process of selecting participants and winners, he said, “We study various organizations and their CEO’s or Directors for the duration of 6 months to a year, regardless of the industry they represent. Winners are selected only after they’ve satisfied these rigorous and stringent processes, and of course, not all participants emerge as winners.”

Entrepreneurs who meet the minimum criteria for participation are invited to participate by Enterprise Asia. All the submitted documents and information are filtered and prepared for the judging process. As part of the judging process, participants are required to complete an evaluation process which includes reviews of the participating companies’ finances, the strategic and innovative approach of the entrepreneurs leading them, as well as an on-site audit and interview by Enterprise Asia’s representatives. All findings are then reported back to the advisory panel and panel of jury, before the final verdict on the winners is released.

“I am very humbled by the receipt of this award and thankful to all those who made it possible and it is indeed a huge encouragement for us to continue surpassing our expectations.” says Norhana Haji Abdullah, Primeart Sdn Bhd.

A total of 13 entrepreneurs were honoured and recognized as winners of the inaugural Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards 2014 BIMP-EAGA. Enterprise Asia continues to strive forward with its annual programs, in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and India, all coming up in the second half of 2014.

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Preparations for Haj to begin early

Jeddah, Arab News, 25 April 2014 – Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar announced Wednesday that his ministry would begin allocating spaces for pilgrims at the holy sites of Mina and Arafat among the Tawafa organizations next week. “The move will enable Tawafa organizations to make early arrangements to receive pilgrims,” he said, and added that his ministry would coordinate with the Finance Ministry to carry out maintenance works on all tents.

Hajjar said the measure were taken on directives of higher authorities to keep the tents and other facilities and services ready to receive pilgrims ahead of the annual pilgrimage.

The minister expected substantial progress in services rendered by various departments during the upcoming Haj season. About 3 million pilgrims are expected to perform Haj this year, including 2 million from abroad. Saad Al-Qurashi, chairman of the National Committee for Haj and Umrah, welcomed the ministry’s early distribution of space and tents in the holy sites, saying it would have a big impact on improving Haj services. “We have called on authorities in the past to allocate tents well in advance of Haj,” Al-Qurashi told Arab News.

He said the move could help reduce charges imposed on domestic pilgrims. Prices for normal Haj services for domestic pilgrims had gone up to SR12,000 during the last Haj season. “The early distribution of tents means substantial improvement in services being rendered by Tawafa organizations and Haj service companies to foreign and domestic pilgrims,” he said.

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Tourism Malaysia Ho Chi Minh Thanks Vietnam Travel Trade Partners

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM, 21 APRIL 2014: Tourism Malaysia Ho Chi Minh City recently organised an ‘Appreciation Luncheon with Vietnam Travel Trade 2014’ on 18th April 2014 at Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The Luncheon was hosted by Y.B. Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia.

Among the dignitaries who graced the event were Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thuy Duong, Deputy Director of Representative office of Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City together with others representatives from local authorities in Ho Chi Minh City and Mr. Shazryll Zahiran, Consul General of Malaysia in Ho Chi Minh City.

YB Senator Dato’ Maznah Mazlan, Deputy Chairman of Tourism Malaysia and Y.Bhg. Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, Director General of Tourism Malaysia and Mr. Syed Yahya Syed Othman, Acting Director of International Marketing (Southeast Asia) and Mr. Ahmad Zaki Mohd Salleh, Director of Tourism Malaysia in Vietnam were also present.

This special luncheon aimed to showcase Malaysia’s appreciation to the travel trade fraternity to Vietnamese, especially with the Visit Malaysia Year celebrations.

A token of appreciation was also given by the Minister to the top 10 travel agents in Ho Chi Minh City for contributing to the promotion of Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

The luncheon was held in conjunction with YB Minister’s attendance at the 11th ASEAN Socio- Cultural Community (ASCC) Council Meeting in Hue from 18 – 22 April 2014.

Vietnam is among Malaysia’s top 15 generating markets with 2013 showing a growth of 11.17 per cent from 211,008 arrivals in 2012 to 235,700 in 2013.

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Reshuffle In Tourism Malaysia Top Management

PUTRAJAYA, 24 APRIL 2014 –Tourism Malaysia is pleased to announce a change in the top management involving the positions of Deputy Director General (Planning) and Deputy Director General (Promotion) that took effect on 1 April.

Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin, who has served as Tourism Malaysia’s Deputy Director General (Planning) for the past six years now heads the divisions under the ‘Promotion’ portfolio consisting of Advertising; South East Asia; North and East Asia; America/ Europe/ Oceania; South Asia/West Africa/Africa; and Communication and Publicity.

Meanwhile, Madam Chong Yoke Har who was previously the Deputy Director General (Promotion) since 2012 now handles the ‘Planning’ portfolio whose purview include Domestic Promotions, Research, Information Technology, Finance, Industry Development, and Promotion Support divisions.

Both Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin and Madam Chong Yoke Har are no strangers to the tourism industry as they joined the Tourist Development Corporation Malaysia (TDC) in 1978 and 1983 respectively.

Before being appointed as the Deputy Director General (Planning) of Tourism Malaysia in October 2008, Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin served in various positions. He was the Director for Advertising and Publicity Division from 2006 to 2007 and South Asia/West Africa/Africa and Oceania Division in 2008.

While attached to Tourism Malaysia’s International Marketing Division from 1996 to 2003, Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin successfully completed two overseas assignments. He headed Tourism Malaysia’s office in Seoul from 1991 to 1996 and the office in Jeddah from 2001 to 2003.

Madam Chong Yoke Har was the Director of Research Division from 2006 to 2008 and Director of International Marketing (North and East Asia) from 2008 to 2011 before serving as the Deputy Director General (Promotion) of Tourism Malaysia since April 2012.

With their vast experiences in the tourism industry, they are now in the best positions to steer the tourism industry effectively and efficiently towards the realisation of the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan’s goals.

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Amateur Golfers Head To Sabah For Second Round Of WAITGC 2014

KOTA KINABALU, 21 APRIL 2014 – International and local amateur golfers are all geared up to compete in the qualifying round 2 of the World Amateur Inter Team Golf Championship (WAITGC) 2014 in Kota Kinabalu today.

The four-day event, from today till 24 April, is participated by 14 teams from Australia, 10 teams from Brunei, 2 teams from Singapore and one team from Malaysia.

Golfers will first play at the 6,197-metre, par 72 Dalit Bay Golf & Country Club. Designed by Ted Parslow, the course is located about 35km northeast of Kota Kinabalu, nestled in the heart of the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort. The 18-hole wetlands course is bordered by the Mengkabong and Tambalang rivers with the former mangrove swamp offering a fusion of risks and rewards to delight and test the skills of golfers of all levels.

Dalit Bay’s signature hole is its 163-metre, Hole 11. It is a relatively easy par 3 with the South China Sea surrounding the tee. The challenge lies in cutting across the Tambalang river mouth in order to land the ball on a gently contoured green flanked by bunkers. The imposing sight of the majestic Mount Kinabalu in the background presents a unique marking point for the pin.

From Dalit Bay, the participants will proceed to the Karambunai Resort Golf Club, which is designed by renowned golfing architect Ronald Fream. This par 72, 18-hole course is surrounded by breath-taking views of Karambunai Beach, the South China Sea and Mount Kinabalu, presenting a unique golfing experience. The course presents fair but demanding challenges for every level of player. It is Sabah’s most distinctive golf course and one of Southeast Asia’s premier seaside resort.

The first qualifying round of WAITGC 2014 took place in Johor last month. After Sabah, the subsequent four qualifying rounds will take place at eight different golf courses in Penang, Langkawi, Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur/Putrajaya.

WAITGC is played in Strokeplay gross for the gross category and Stableford for the nett and senior category. Since its debut in 1994, WAITGC has emerged as a well-regarded tournament and one of the highly anticipated golfing events in the region.

Organised by Tourism Malaysia, it attracts more than 500 participants every year. The home-grown event not only tests the golfing skills of the participants but also encourages them to discover the many colourful cultures and traditions in Malaysia, as well as the country’s delectable cuisines and fascinating tourist attractions. The participation of international media has also boosted the stature of the event and placed Malaysia on the world map.

WAITGC is managed by the Golf Club Managers Association of Malaysia (GCMAM) and sanctioned by the Malaysian Golf Association.

For more information, please contact the WAITGC secretariat at 03-5633 2079/5634 2078 or visit www.ewaitgc.com.

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Kyrgyz begin building alternate north-south highway

2014-04-21, BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan began building an alternate north-south highway April 1, Transport and Communications Minister Kalykbek Sultanov said.

The new highway will begin operation in late 2016, he said according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz service. It will span 433km, reducing the distance between Issyk-Kul Oblast and southern Kyrgyzstan by 330km, he said. Plans include building a tunnel under the Kok-Art mountain pass.

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Kyrgyz to develop 17 border zones

2014-04-22, BISHKEK – The Kyrgyz cabinet April 21 ordered the development of a general development plan for 17 border districts in Batken Oblast, according to the government press office. The plan is meant to halt an ongoing economic exodus from the districts, which officials fear could undermine national security.

Officials hope to build a number of roads that bypass Tajik and Uzbek enclaves, which would enable travellers to avoid border disputes. They expect to complete building the EU-funded Pulgon-Kok-Talaa road this autumn.

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Benazir Bhutto Women Cricket Challenge Trophy starts April 30

2014-04-25, LAHORE (CentralAsiaOnline) – The third Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women Cricket Challenge Trophy will take place April 30 to May 4 in Lahore, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced April 24.

The Zarai Tarqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL), Saif Sports Saga, Omar Associates and Higher Education Commission (HEC) teams will compete in the Twenty20 (T20) championship at Gaddafi Stadium, the PCB said.

All teams will play against each other, while the two top will qualify for the Trophy match May 4.

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Islamic Development Bank to help Kyrgyz livestock breeding

2014-04-25, BISHKEK (CentralAsiaOnline) – Kyrgyz and Islamic Development Bank (IDB) officials discussed April 24 the allocation of US $1.5m (81.6m KGS) to improve livestock breeding, according to the Kyrgyz government.

The IDB will contribute a US $1.38m (75.1m KGS) grant. Kyrgyzstan will provide the remaining US $120,000 (6.5m KGS).

The agreement came during discussions between First Vice-Prime Minister Tayyrbek Sarpashev and an IDB delegation. Development of artificial insemination will boost dairy and meat production, Sarpashev said. The project is expected to start in July and to last 3 years.

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World Bank improves Central Asian roads

2014-04-25, BISHKEK (CentralAsiaOnline) – The World Bank (WB) approved US $45m (2.4 billion KGS) in combined loan and grant funds April 22 for the first phase of the Central Asia Road Links Programme, the WB said in a statement. Kyrgyzstan is contributing US $9m (489.5m KGS).

The phase will be implemented in Kyrgyzstan in 2014-2019. Workers plan to rehabilitate cross-border road connections between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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Work to begin on world’s tallest ‘Kingdom Tower’ in Jeddah

Jeddah, 20 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 20 April 2014 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia is to begin constructing what it plans to become the world’s tallest tower, with a whopping $1.23 billion being shelled out to stunt Dubai’s Burj Khalifa by almost 600 feet.

Standing a massive one kilometer-high, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah will require 5.7 million square feet of concrete and 80,000 tons of steel, according to a report in Saudi Gazette newspaper. Overlooking the Red Sea, the skyscraper will feature a five-star Four Seasons hotel, apartments, office space and an observatory. However, the delivery of concrete and steel to the higher floors may prove a challenge.

“When the Burj Khalifa was built (the current Guinness World Record holder for tallest man-made construction), six million cubic feet of concrete was pushed through a single pump at night when temperatures were low enough to ensure that it would set, which could be an option in Saudi,” The Telegraph reported this week. The sharp-angled design of the tower will also prove a challenge. Gordon Gill, of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, the design architects for the building, told Construction Weekly that “because it changes shape every few floors, the wind loads go round the building and won’t be as extreme as on a really solid block.” Another issue will be the fact that the tower’s structure “needs to be able to withstand the saltwater of the nearby ocean,” the Telegraph added. The finished structure will reportedly be 200 floors high.

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Muzdalifah turns into a gallery of Haram Mosque’s Ottoman era portico

Muzdalifah, Tuesday, 22 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 22 April 2014 (IINA) – The holy site of Muzdalifah now houses a portion of the Abbasid-Ottoman era portico of the Grand Mosque, waiting to be restored after completion of the ongoing expansion of the Mataf (circumambulation area) and the largest ever expansion of Islam’s holiest mosque by the end of 2015.

Located 3.6 km west of Arafat’s Jabal Al-Rahmah (the Mount of Mercy), there is a mammoth iron fenced compound in Muzdalifah where these invaluable architectural artifacts have been kept since demolition of the portico started in November 2012. Currently, according to a report in Makkah Arabic daily, hundreds of architects and craftsmen are engaged in refurbishing these precious pieces of history.

The mammoth Muzdalifah compound houses several huge warehouses, wooden offices and several tons of materials in different shapes, colors and weights. Nobody is allowed to enter the venue without obtaining prior permission and an entry card. For the past several months, only a few trucks carrying these artifacts and licensed private cars have been granted entry into the compound. The domes and the hallway on the eastern section of the Grand Mosque, which have already been removed, found a place in the compound.

The Saudi Binladin Group, which is carrying out the massive Grand Mosque expansion project, have entrusted the task of restoring and refurbishing the Ottoman-era portico to Gursoy Group, one of the leading Turkish companies specialized in restoration work. The late Ottoman rulers Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan Selim II and his son Sultan Murad IV supervised the construction of these porticos. This renovation resulted in the replacement of the flat roof with domes decorated with internal calligraphy and supported by new columns. These domes and columns are acknowledged as the earliest architectural features of the mosque.

Gursoy Group specializes in renovation of buildings, especially historical mosques in Turkey. Their last project was the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul. In the Kingdom, the company has undertaken the monumental task of performing maintenance and refurbishing of all pieces and parts of the portico. After a team inspected the mosque and determined which of the portico’s sections in the mosque are from the Ottoman era, they were detached and packed up so they can be restored. The company’s workers carefully collected each piece, numbered them and packed them in hundreds of wooden boxes. The pieces were then shipped to Muzdalifah, where they will be pieced together.

When exploring the mechanism used by the Ottomans to build the domes, Saudi and Turkish companies discovered the secrets of Islamic architecture. Experts from Gursoy said they investigated the way in which the domes were built and concluded that they have never seen such a method used in the past. They are keen to preserve these artifacts in their full magnitude and restore the portico with the same skillfulness it was built in the 10th century Hijri. Some of the columns of the portico date back to the Abbasid period.

Experts also found an immense variety of columns and pillars used in the portico. Some of them bore the characteristics of pre-Islamic Greek architecture and others date back to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. Most were from the Ottoman period. Diligent craftsmen and technicians are doing a painstaking job to remove dyeing materials used in previous renovation works from the Islamic inscriptions and ornamental and decorative works in the interior parts of the domes in order to restore them to their original state.

There are a lot of pillars, columns and boards bearing inscriptions and writings chronicling their donations by caliphs, sultans and kings during different phases of the expansion of the Grand Mosque. Some of them date back more than 1,200 years. Their restoration also highlights the evolution of various kinds of Islamic calligraphy, artistic creativity and Islamic architecture.

The Grand Mosque’s Ottoman-era structure consisted of about 2,754 historical pieces, including 496 marble columns, 881 arches, 152 domes and 993 portions of balconies. Turkish experts working on the restoration of the domes described the architect who followed a unique method in their construction as a genius.

The architect was Sinan Pasha (1499-1588), the father of Turkish architecture. Sultan Suleiman (1520-1566) commissioned Sinan, his chief architect, to renovate the mosque. This renovation resulted in the replacement of the flat roof with domes decorated with calligraphy internally and the placement of new support columns. Sinan, who was the architect of more than 440 structures across the Ottoman Empire, used the engineering technique of keeping empty space inside the structure and the corner arch method while constructing domes for the Grand Mosque.

Turkish experts found that rocks from Mount Shumaysi in the neighborhood of Makkah were used to carve most of the columns used in the portico. According to the Mataf expansion plans, the portico will be rebuilt a few meters away from their original position after the restoration work is completed. The level of portico will be parallel to the Mataf and will be linked with the basement floor having a depth of 27 meters. The current expansion will increase the capacity of the Mataf three-fold to accommodate 150,000 worshipers an hour instead of the present capacity of 50,000.

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Mass medical graduation in Libya

Benghazi, Wednesday, 23 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 23 April 2014 (IINA) – There were several thousand smiling faces in Benghazi when 700 medical students took part in a graduation ceremony attended by friends and families.

It was the second graduation of medical students from the Faculty of Medicine at Benghazi University since the revolution, and the 37th since the faculty, formerly the Arab Medical University, started, according to a report in Libya Herald. Many of those attending spoke of this being “good news” for Benghazi.

“We’re very happy,” said one parent. “This generation will build Libya and we believe they will succeed. It shows there is hope in Libya, that it is a good country.” Another parent echoed the notion, pointing out that the young doctors had been working in hospitals in Benghazi, such as the Jelaa Hospital, where there had been a number of attacks. “It did not make them stop. They were determined to continue.”

All of those who graduated yesterday took much longer than planned to reach the present point. The revolution interrupted their studies. “We stopped for a year and half,” explained one new doctor. The revolution, and those who died in it, was commemorated in a particularly poignant way at yesterday’s ceremony. Posthumous degrees were handed to the families of four medical students killed during the revolution who would have graduated this year.

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World’s largest desalination plant goes on stream in Saudi Arabia

Ras Al-Khair, Wednesday, 23 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 23 April 2014 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Water and Electricity Abdullah Al-Hussayen commissioned the first phase of world’s largest desalination project here on Tuesday.

The plant for production and pumping of desalinated water and generation of electricity is located in the Ras Al-Khair Industrial City, 75 km north-west of Jubail. The plant is set to generate 15,000 jobs. Al-Hussayen, who is also chairman of the SWCC board, said that the project, which is estimated to cost a total of more than SR27 billion, consists of the largest desalination pumping plant ever built in the history of SWCC.

“The plant has the production capacity of 1.025 million cubic meters of desalinated water per day and electricity production capacity of 2,600 MW. The plant will supply 1,350 MW of electricity to Maaden, and 1,050 MW to Saudi Electricity Co., in addition to 200 MW to be used within the plant,” he said.

A total of 800,000 cubic meters of water will be supplied to Riyadh city while another 100,000 cubic meters to Al-Washm, Sudair, Majma, Al-Zulfi and Al-Ghat regions. A total of 100,000 cubic meters will be supplied to the regions located north of the Eastern Province, including Hafar Al-Batin, Qaisoomah, and Qaryat Al-Olya.

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Indonesian President opens Inacraft 2014

April 23 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the company of First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, opened the 16th Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair, Inacraft 2014, at the Jakarta Convention Center on Wednesday.

The president, on the occasion, expressed his hope that Indonesian handicraft industry will continue to be developed in order to compete in foreign countries.

“Keep on developing the craft industry with high spirits,” the head of state remarked in his opening address.

On the occasion of launching the Inacraft 2014, President Yudhoyono was also accompanied by Coordinating Minister for Economy Hatta Rajasa, Trade Minister M Lutfhi, and Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo.

Themed “From Smart Village to Global Market” with the subtitle “The Charisma of Central Java”, the show will be held from April 23 to 27 at the Jakarta Convention Center with new and profitable business opportunities are showcased to all the participants.

Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair is one of the leading gift and handicraft industry related trade events in Indonesia.

The show goes a long way in helping participants learn more about the latest market trends and industry developments from this sector.

More than 1.5 thousand professional exhibiting companies are present at the show, including a large contingent of foreign exhibitors.

An extensive array of home decoration items, garden designing concepts, gift products, embroidered garments and fashion apparels are on display at the show, offering top notch corporate networking scopes to corporate attendees as well.

Exquisite batik prints and paintings are exhibited at the show as well.

Senior representatives from the National Handicrafts Council and other governmental organizations also feature amongst those present at the show.

According to data from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, handicraft industry in 2013 contributed Rp92.6 trillion against the national economy.

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Ternate to be designed as tourism city

April 23 2014, Ternate, North Maluku (ANTARA News) – The central government, through the ministries of tourism and creative economy, education and culture, and public works, has planned to design Ternate as a tourism city in Indonesia.

“The central governments commitment to turning Ternate into a tourism city is proven through the allocation of funds in significant amounts to revitalize Fort Oranje in the city center,” Mayor Burhan Abdurrahman stated here on Wednesday.

Burhan pointed out that as a historical city, Ternate has a variety of excellence in the field of tourism, and thus, the city administration is committed to making tourism as one of the leading sectors in North Maluku province.

According to the mayor, the central government has fully supported the Ternate city administrations efforts to develop the tourism sector, particularly in the city and generally in the province.

Therefore, he noted that the funds obtained from the central government will be spent on the revitalization of Fort Oranje, built by the Dutch in 1607.

He noted that the revitalization of Fort Oranje was part of the local administrations efforts to design Ternate as a tourism city in North Maluku.

“Ternate is also part of the Indonesian Heritage Cities Network (JKPI) and therefore various efforts to optimize the tourism potential in the city should be supported by all parties,” Burhan pointed out.

Meanwhile, Regional Legislative Assembly (DPRD) spokesman Asghar Saleh confirmed that the central governments attention to the tourism development in Ternate was inseparable from Burhans attempt to lobby the government.

“The effort of the Ternate mayor to lobby the central government has gained a strong support to develop the city into a tourist destination in North Maluku,” Asghar stressed.

However, he added that the effort to turn Ternate into a tourism city will materialize only if all public elements support the Fort Oranje revitalization program and for other historical sites in the city.

Asghar noted that besides being the city of trade and service in North Maluku, Ternate also has high tourism potential that could be developed to increase local peoples economy and welfare.

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South Sulawesi receives award as Best Province

April 26 2014, Makassar, S Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – South Sulawesi Governor H Syahrul Yasin Limpo received a supreme civil award of the state from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for making South Sulawesi the best province in Indonesia. “This is the award that we have received for the third consecutive year,” Syahrul said here on Friday.

During the conferment ceremony, President Yudhoyono highly appreciated Governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo who had successfully made South Sulawesi the best province in Indonesia for three straight years.

Yudhoyono said the award dubbed Samkaryanugraha Parasamya Purna Karya Nugraha was rare, because it was based on complex variables with thousands of indicators that must be fulfilled to achieve it.

Syahrul said a series of awards that he had received, including Samkaryanugraha Parasamya Purna Karya Nugraha, was the result of solid cooperation and synergy between the local government and the stakeholders, particularly the people of South Sulawesi.

By receiving the samkarya award, the South Sulawesi government had secured three supreme civil award of the state, according to the regional administration bureau at the secretariat of the South Sulawesi province.

The three supreme awards were Bintang Mahaputra Utama, Satyalancana Karya Bakti Praja Nugraha, and Parasamya Purna Karya Nugraha(*)

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Enabling Policies for Financing Energy Efficiency Investments

Beirut-Tunis, 16 April 2014 (Communication and Information Unit)– On 14-15 April 2014, the Tunisian capital hosted a regional policy seminar organized by Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in collaboration with the Tunisian Agency for Energy Conservation (ANME), the Energy Department of the League of Arab States (ED LAS), and the Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), on policy reforms to promote financing of energy efficiency (EE) investments with the aim of strengthening the capacity of national and local policymakers in the region.

The seminar was held at the Hotel Ramada, Gammarth, and attracted the participation of representatives from the public and private sectors in the ESCWA member countries as well as from concerned regional and international organizations.

The objective of the regional seminar was to focus on policy reforms that could promote financing of energy efficiency investments with the aim of strengthening the capacity of national and local policymakers in the region. The participants in the seminar considered case studies for three countries from the Arab region to develop a better understanding of their positioning in the international investment market for energy efficiency projects. The Tunisian Agency for Energy Conservation (ANME) presented the Tunisian experience in setting up a favourable institutional and policy framework and they identified desirable changes to existing policy, legal and regulatory frameworks leading to a more favourable investment climate for EE projects.

The Seminar included a presentation of three case studies conducted by ESCWA in three countries to develop a better understanding of their positioning in the international investment market for energy efficiency projects, namely: Egypt (Transport Sector), Kuwait (Building Sector) and Tunisia (Industry Sector).

The Seminar also focused on updating of recent work developments in the Arab Region related to EE, including the design and implementation of national EE plans, the latest and most important outcomes of studies conducted by the RCREEE in this regard, which include the latest analysis of EE indicators, and on the identification of required or desirable changes to existing policy, legal and regulatory frameworks leading to a more favourable investment climate for the EE projects.

The Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) is one of the five UN regional commissions. It provides a framework for the formulation and harmonization of sectoral policies for member countries; a platform for congress and coordination; a home for expertise and knowledge, and an information observatory. ESCWA aims at supporting economic and social cooperation between the region’s countries and promoting development process in order to achieve regional integration.

Libya, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of Tunisia became members of ESCWA in September 2012. By this new membership, the number of ESCWA countries rose to 17, including: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, The Sudan, The Syrian Arab Republic, The United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

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New Schools Open in Gaza

23 April 2014, Gaza (UNWRA News release) – For many of the more than 230,000 Palestine refugee kids attending UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools in Gaza, even getting to the classroom can be a challenge. If schools are located too far away, kids may have to walk long distances; along the way, they confront traffic, road accidents, severe weather and other challenges. With all the obstacles confronting their right to education, getting to school shouldn’t be hard. That’s becoming a little easier thanks to a new donation from KfW, the German Development Bank, which made it possible for UNRWA to build a number of new schools.

They’re already having an impact. One parent, Hani Abdel Bari, explains that moving to the new, closer Zaitoun Elementary Boys’ ‘B’, in Tal El Hawa, south of Gaza City, has made his son a more well-adjusted and high-performing student. He added that it’s become easier for him and his wife to communicate with the school and manage their son’s education. Another parent, Hanin al-Sammak, agreed. Her son used to go to a private school, but now, with the shorter commute, “I can communicate more with my son, and I have more time to follow up and supervise his lessons.”

Two fifth-graders, Samih Yaghi and Majd al-Ifranji, are excited. Samih notes that now he gets to school on time, not tired from the long commute, while his friend is happy to have more time for hobbies. Parents, too, have benefited: Escorting his son to a faraway school every morning made Hani Abdel Bari late to work on several occasions. For parents busy trying to educate their children and earn a living, every little bit helps.

Um Ali’s daughter Dina attends a new girls’ school, Al Amal Elementary. She used to spend a lot of time taking her daughter back and forth to school. Now, she can pay more attention to Dina’s education. Um Ali says, “I notice significant improvements in her achievement, and I thank UNRWA for their tireless efforts to improve students’ education.”

A third-grader at Al Amal, Zinab Radi, expresses the joy Gaza kids feel with their new schools. “I really like my school, my teachers and my friends. I’m very happy with it. I arrive on time and save a lot of time to do my homework and practise different activities”, she says, looking forward to new opportunities and new challenges in a brand-new school.

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Book release: Restoration of Mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina

IRCICA, Istanbul — This book is a comprehensive record of the restoration work coordinated by IRCICA on five monumental mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina namely Neziraga Mosque in Mostar, Sevri Hadži Hasan Mosque in Mostar, Karadjozbeg Mosque in Mostar, Hadži Alija Mosque in Počitelj, and Aladža Mosque in Foča. The first four restorations were carried out as individual projects each after the end of the war. The fifth one is under implementation.

Reconstruction of Neziraga Mosque in 1999, which was the earliest of the above projects, formed an example for not only the four other projects but for many other similar efforts. All five projects were financed through donations: Neziraga Mosque project by H.H. Sheikh Hadži Hasan Mosque by the World Monuments Fund, New Yamani, President of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2004). Technical design for the restoration of Aladža Mosque has been financed by ISAR Waqf, Istanbul.

Amply illustrated with colour photographs and supplemented with maps and drawings, the book can serve as a rich reference for those interested in any aspect of these mosques and their restoration: history, characteristics, rebuilding, restoration of outer and interior elements including decorations and inscriptions, among others. The elaborate Introduction of the book gives a comprehensive overview of the Islamic urban heritage in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the history of its formation, mosques in particular and their architectural monuments underwent throughout history and particularly a brief history of each of the cities where these mosques are located, describing the background and environment of each of the mosques under study.

In the Islamic urban context, destruction of a mosque means loss of the core and disruption of the pattern. Restoration of the core therefore means recovery and rehabilitation of the area. The value added to the building is in itself significant since it reflects communal consciousness of cultural identity on local level and professional concern for conservation of heritage on general/global level. In all their theoretical and practical aspects restoration is closely connected with the historical, cultural and social environments attached to each site and structure. The projects described in the book are significant case studies reflecting these and other facts and considerations involved in any historical restoration work.

Click here to order the book: http://www.ircica.org/restoration-of-mosques-in-bosnia-and-herzegovina/irc956.aspx

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The first issue of Ircica Journal, an interdisciplinary refereed journal of scholarship published by the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (Ircica), has just been released. Ircica Journal will be published two times annually (Fall and Spring) and will include scholarly articles in English, French and Arabic.

The Editorial Office of the Ircica Journal is based at the headquarters of the IRCICA in İstanbul.

Ircica Journal will include articles on all aspects of Islamic civilisation such as the history of culture, art, science, philosophy, literature, traditional handicrafts and archaeology. Ircica Journal aims to preserve the tangible and intangible heritage of Islamic civilisation, comprising of its written, architectural, cultural and artistic forms.

Ircica Journal welcomes previously unpublished manuscripts on manifestations of Islamic civilisation in different regions within and outside the Muslim world including the Balkans, Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia. The intellectual outputs are hoped to serve the needs of researchers specializing in the fields of history, cultural studies, sociology, architecture, international relations and anthropology. Ircica Journal considers all manuscripts on the strict condition that they have been submitted only to Ircica Journal, that they have not been published already, nor are they under consideration for publication or in press elsewhere.

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AmBank Group Treats Clients To The World Premiere Of Sinbad The Musical

KUALA LUMPUR, April 22 (Bernama) — AmBank Group recently entertained its clients to a magical musical experience through a special showing of Sinbad The Musical at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (“KLPAC”) on Saturday, 12 April 2014.

The event, which started off with cocktails at 6.30p.m., saw AmBank Group’s Senior Management entertaining clients from AmGeneral Insurance, AmSignature Priority Banking, AmBank Cards, Auto Finance, Retail Banking as well as AmBank Group’s Deposit High-Networth Clients. After the cocktail session, those present listened to a short welcoming speech from Mandy Simpson, Chief Financial Officer, AmBank Group and were later ushered into Pentas 1of the KLPAC for the show.

Sinbad The Musical is an international collaboration between Australia and Malaysia, directed by Joe Hasham OAM which features performing artistes such as Mikey Hart from Australia, who plays Sinbad, Gene Sharudyn from Singapore, who plays the Vizier, Anrie Too from Malaysia, who plays Fatimah and many other theater performers from Malaysia, Australia, Singapore and the Philippines.

The production is the biggest musical to date that the Actors Studio has ever presented with a cast of 10 principal artists, an ensemble of 30 singers and dancers, an eight piece band, an original music score with 15 uplifting songs and dance routines as well as an assortment of glamorous costumes, sets and theatrical effects.

The show proved to be a wonderful new musical extravaganza of great fun and pure entertainment with high adventure and true romance that provided an enjoyable evening out for the AmBank Group clients, providing a relaxed evening for the management team and clients to connect outside the office environment.

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RM1 Billion Worth Of Trade Values Of Halal Products And Services Transacted During MIHAS 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 (Bernama) — The 11th Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS 2014) was held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from 9 – 12 April 2014 organized by MATRADE, an agency of Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). MIHAS is the largest Halal trade fair that focuses on the sourcing of Halal products and services to international markets. The 4-day event was filled with traders, international delegations, global Halal producing companies and representatives from key industry stakeholders that include government agencies, certifying bodies and trade development centres.

In conjunction with MIHAS 2014, MATRADE has organised an Incoming Buying Mission (IBM) on April 8 where buyers and sellers met over a pre-scheduled business meetings. 400 buyers from 41 countries participated in this business meeting among which include China, Japan, Korea, India, Mongolia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey and Qatar.

Combined sales generated during the exhibition and Incoming Buying Mission (IBM) programme was RM966.4 million, an increase of 21% compared to the total sales recorded last year which was RM798.72 million.

The key sectors which attracted strong interest among buyers at the exhibition were beverages, processed and ready to eat products, frozen food, seasonings and spices. However, the non-food and services sectors such as toiletries, body care, hygiene and financial products made a significant contribution of RM82.9 million from RM489.2 million sales generated during the event.

The 4 day MIHAS attracted 20,818 visitors from 60 countries, an increase of 12.5% compared to the number of visitors last year. The exhibition participated by 521 companies from 26 countries offered 620 booths. Among the countries participated this year were from Brunei, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, China, Belgium and Chile. The number of participating companies for MIHAS 2014 has also increased by 21% compared to last year’s figure of 430 companies.

MATRADE had organized market briefing sessions for Malaysian SME’s during this event by providing opportunities that currently exist in the global Halal market. Speakers shared valuable insights into the Halal market in United Kingdom and Belgium while another segment highlighted opportunities in franchising in the Halal Industry.

For the first time this year, MIHAS 2014 has partnered Saudi Arabia through Saudi Export Development Authority (SEDA) to further strengthen the relationship between both countries and help create more opportunities for both countries to collaborate and tap into the huge Halal market demand within the Gulf Cooperation Council. Adding to the excitement, this year’s MIHAS has also established strategic collaboration with MAYBANK Islamic as MIHAS 2014 partner.

This year, MIHAS award presentation to three MIHAS exhibitors in recognition of their active participation in MIHAS and the Halal industry in general. The award for the Best Pavilion received by Saudi Export Development Authority (SEDA). Saudi Cold Storage Sdn. Bhd. on the other hand, bagged the Most Promising Entrepreneur title while Best Product Packaging Award was given to AMER – The Art of Taste CC from South Africa.

MIHAS 2014 is part of the “World Halal Week” that consists of two major events – Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) and World Halal Conference by two organisations – Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) respectively under the auspices of Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Next year’s MIHAS will be happening from 1st to 4th April 2015 at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), Malaysia.

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Iran, Turkey to boost sea trade, tourism

Asalouyeh, Bushehr Province, April 27, IRNA – Iran and Turkey enjoy good potentials to expand sea trade and tourism cooperation, Head of Izmir Chamber of Commerce Akram Demir Tash said on Sunday.

Talking to IRNA, he noted that Iran-Turkey recent agreements call for expansion of all-out relations between the two nations particularly in the areas of tourism and sea trade.

He underlined that promotion of bilateral ties would lead to increase in trade exchange from the current dlrs 15 billion to dlrs 30 billion by 2015.

Iranˈs Bushehr province has good potentials in all fields including petrochemical and agricultural areas, the official reiterated.

Heading a delegation of 62 Turkey businessmen, Demir Tash arrived here this morning.

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Museveni Woos Turkish Investors

KAMPALA, April 26 (NNN-NEWVISION) — President Yoweri Museveni has called on Turkish entrepreneurs to tap the abundant opportunities that Uganda has in value addition of agro-products and minerals.

He specifically urged them to work out projects in relation to value addition to the maize crop that Uganda produces, leather and minerals such as cement and iron ore. He also concurred with the proposal to build hotels to cater for the budding tourism industry.

The President was meeting a delegation from Kolin Construction, Tourism, Industry and Trading Company which is incorporated in Turkey. The Turkish entrepreneurs were led by Company Chairman, Naci Kologlu at State House, Nakasero.

Museveni assured the Turkish entrepreneurs of government readiness to help them build a hotel in Kampala and also promised to facilitate them to establish a cement factory in the country.

The Kolin Company Chairman, Naci Kologlu informed President Museveni of the progress so far attained by his company in the construction of the Hoima – Kaiso-Tonya road in Bunyoro in western Uganda.

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Morocco: Tourists Show High Levels Of Satisfaction, Ministry

RABAT, April 22 (NNN-MAP) –The results of the tourist satisfaction survey of the 4th quarter of 2013, showed “high” levels of satisfaction and intention of return among tourists visiting Morocco, said the Ministry of Tourism.

“The satisfied and very satisfied tourists represent 81 pc of respondents, while fairly satisfied were 17 percent against the dissatisfied 1 percent.

Moreover, 83 percent of foreign tourists say they were very satisfied or more than satisfied with their visit to Morocco more than the other countries they have visited before,” the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

In terms of intention to return, the survey reveals that the share of tourists who want to revisit Morocco account for 92 percent of the tourists surveyed.

This “faithful” part of tourists reached 97 percent among Belgians and 94 percent among Germans and Frenchmen.

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Abu Dhabi Looks To Build On Growing Brazilian Tourist Arrivals

ABU DHABI, April 21 (NNN-WAM) — Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry is heading for the World Travel Market Latin America later this month with a nine-strong delegation out to nurture growing tourism traffic from Brazil.

Led by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, a dedicated pavilion at the trade show, which runs in Sao Paolo on April 23-25, will be looking to entice more Brazilian travellers onboard Etihad Airways’ daily service from Brazil’s commercial capital as arrivals from the country trend at double-digit growth.

“The Brazilian market, with its huge population and high available spend, is of enormous potential, particularly from the stop-over point of view as Brazilians travelling to the Far East and Australia can connect easily via Abu Dhabi and may choose to break their journey to rest and take in the sights,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Promotions and Overseas Offices Director, TCA Abu Dhabi.

In the first two months of this year, some 1,612 Brazilians stayed in Abu Dhabi’s hotels and hotel apartments, which is an 83% rise on January and February last year. On average, the Brazilian guests stayed 3.34 nights and they delivered in total 5,389 guest nights, which is up 37% on the two months comparison.

“When we’re in Sao Paolo we will be looking to establish long term business relations with Latin American tour and travel operators for the FIT, leisure and MICE segments to double our inbound arrivals,” said Babar Saeed, Managing Partner, Oryx International Tourism.

“We are working on joint promotions for the Brazilian market with selective five star hotels in Abu Dhabi to include a special visa price offer as well as a leisure group offer.”

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Jordan’s Tourism Revenues Rise By 11% In Q1

AMMAN, April 22 (NNN-Petra) — Jordan’s tourism sector grew by 11 percent in the first quarter of 2014, a rise of three percent compared to the same period of 2013, according to Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nidal Qatamin.

The minister pointed to the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) figures which showed that tourism revenues in the first quarter of this year stood at JD728 million compared to JD655 in the same period of last year.

At a press conference on Monday, he said that the number of overnight visitors in the first three months of this year stood at 932,000 compared to 904,000 last year due to a rise in the number of foreign tourists visiting the Kingdom.

Qatamina added that the number of same-day visitors dropped by 19 percent, noting that this is good for the ministry which seeks to increase the number of overnight visitors. — NNN-PETRA

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Muscat’s Hotel Occupancy Up By 15%

MUSCAT, Oman, Apr 22 (NNN-ONA) – The hospitality sector in MENA is off to a strong start in 2014, and GCC cities like Muscat, Doha and Dubai are witnessing robust growth, according to a survey.

Muscat’s hospitality sector saw an increase of 15.5 per cent in Jan 2014, compared to the same period last year, mainly due to growth in average hotel occupancy from 71 per cent to 85 per cent.

The boom has been attributed to the Ministry of Tourism’s partnership with Oman Air, as well as a number of hotels, to launch holiday packages ‘Oman Short Breaks’ to attract more visitors from other GCC countries.

Commenting on the survey, Yousef Wahbah, partner and head of MENA Transaction Real Estate at EY said, “This year, Jan was good for the hospitality industry in the Middle East, with several GCC cities, including Dubai, Doha and Muscat witnessing robust growth in their hospitality Key Performance Indicators. As usual for the winter months, GCC recorded positive growth across its key hospitality markets with its mild winter weather and numerous events attracting tourists from across the world.”

Wahbah said that Dubai’s hospitality market recorded an average occupancy rate of 87 per cent in Jan 2014. “In addition, over 2,780 new hotel rooms in the four and five-star segments were added last year. The city’s hospitality market also saw a jump in average room rates from US$308 in Jan 2013 to US$337 in Jan this year.”

During Jan, Doha’s hospitality market recorded average occupancy levels of 70 per cent, an increase of nine per cent over the same period last year. “The increase is primarily due to the growth in business travel, as several project tenders have been issued in relation to the Qatar World Cup in 2022. Additionally, Doha International Airport announced a record 2.2mn passengers travelled in Jan this year, an increase of 18 per cent from Jan last year.

“The rise in Doha’s average occupancy saw an increase in average room rates from US$230 in Jan 2013 to US$243 in Jan 2014.”– NNN-ONA

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Travel Malaysia 2014 Kicks Off To Attract More Singaporeans To Malaysia

SINGAPORE, April 26 (NNN-Bernama) — Travel Malaysia 2014 officially kicked off Friday at the Singapore Expo Convention & Exhibition Centre with a hive of activities to attract more Singaporean travellers to Malaysia.

The fair is organised by IBT Investment Ltd and is supported by the Express & Excursion Bus Association (EEBA) in cooperation with Tourism Malaysia as its title sponsor.

Speaking at the launch of the fair, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board Deputy Director-General (Promotions) Datuk Azizan Noordin said that the three-day event features more than 100 booths and close to 40 exhibitors, which include express bus ticketing agents, travel agents, resort operators, homestay and property owner and other major players in the tourism industry.

“This event creates opportunities to meet with members of the Malaysian tourism industry to explore new business opportunities, expand existing ones, formulate joint packages, plan event-related activities to further help develop the industry for mutual benefit,” he said.

“Travel Malaysia” is a consumer-driven initiative by EEBA since 2005 that is focused on promoting Malaysia as a unique tourist destination and to increase tourist arrivals to Malaysia during the mid-year school holidays.

It is part of EEBA’s on-going effort in developing market growth in interstate travel via express buses and coaches to Malaysia.

EEBA whose members are mainly express bus operators providing interstate land travel to Malaysia.

Of the 25.72 million visitors to Malaysia from January to December 2013, 51 per cent, or 13.18 million are from Singapore, which is an increase of 1.3 per cent over the same period for 2012.

An estimated one third of this number, or about 4.34 million, are visitors who travel via land transport to Malaysia annually.

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ISESCO to participate in FAO meeting on agricultural heritage systems

Rabat 25/04/2014 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) will take part in the FAO’s Steering Scientific Committee on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), to be held at FAO’s headquarters in Rome, on 28-29 April.

The meeting will discuss ways to develop the GIAHS Partnership Initiative over the pilot phase, through focus on how to use the lessons learnt in the Global Environment Facility pilot countries for further development of the GIAHS Initiative. The participants will also consider ways to strengthen synergies with other FAO objectives through greater collaboration with other sectors and regional organizations, and explore the possibilities of creating innovative partnerships and collaborations to enhance the Initiative. The meeting will also provide an opportunity to share ideas for strengthening the GIAHS corporate programme, through such various means as twinning, south-south cooperation, and monitoring and evaluation modalities.

Experts from the UAE, Oman, Tunisia, Algeria, Indonesia, Tanzania, China, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Turkey, Italia, the USA, Peru and Chile will take part in the meeting, along with the representatives of FAO, UNESCO and other relevant international organizations.

Dr Aicha Bamoun, programmes specialist at the Science Directorate, who will represent ISESCO in the meeting, will submit a presentation on “the Promotion of the GIAHS Programme and its Integration into ISESCO’s Strategies”.

For the record, ISESCO and FAO are bound by a MoU co-signed in Rome in 2011, which provides for promoting endogenous agricultural knowledge and preserving GIAHS in the Islamic world.

The Initiative, centered on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage (GIAH) proclaimed as a universal heritage, was launched by FAO in 2002 with a view to preserving and promoting GIAH around the world.

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ISESCO to attend 3rd International Forum for Ancient Cities in Tangiers

Rabat 22/04/2014 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) will take part in the Third International Forum for Ancient Cities which will be organized by the Réseau méditerranéen des villes antiques (the Mediterranean Network for Ancient Cities) and the Urban Commune of Tangiers, on 24-26 April 2014, in Tangiers (city in the north of Morocco), on the theme of “Heritage: Opportunities and Challenges of Sustainable Development”.

The Forum is aimed at raising awareness about the importance of preserving and rehabilitating the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of ancient cities, promoting cultural tourism in these cities and involving the civil society in developing and following up projects aimed at enhancing the living conditions of ancient cities’ inhabitants.

Participants will discuss the following topics: “Heritage and Sustainable Development”, “Public Policies for Promoting the Heritage as a Lever of Sustainable Development”, “Cooperation, Partnership and Solidarity Mechanisms for the protection of the Heritage”, “Services and Development of Mediterranean Cities: Heritage Cities of the 21st Century”, “What Future for the Heritage in Areas in a Crisis Situation”, and “Heritage and Sustainable Development in Africa”.

ISESCO will be represented at this Forum by Dr Abdel Aziz Salah Salem, Archaeology Expert at the Culture and Communication Directorate, who will present a paper at the first working session on “ISESCO’s efforts in preserving the heritage for the achievement of sustainable development through the Islamic World Heritage Committee”.

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ISESCO supports Nigerien educational NGO

Rabat 25/04/2014 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has provided financial and technical support to the association El Abbas, a Nigerien NGO with a leading experience in the education of girls in vulnerable situations. ISESCO’s aid will be used for conducting a field survey of Quranic schools in the city of Niamey, with a view to creating a comprehensive database of traditional Quranic schools, and identifying their needs in a bid to develop appropriate plans for improving their educational system.

The aid is part of the implementation of the programmes and activities scheduled under ISESCO’s Action Plan for 2013-2015, and aimed at strengthening Member States’ capacities in developing policies, strategies and plans on literacy and non-formal education.

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ISESCO to hold training session for Islamic education teachers, Granada

Rabat 24/04/2014 – The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), jointly with Kuwait’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, and in coordination with the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain (UCIDE), will hold a capacity-building training session for Islamic education counselors and teachers, in Granada, Spain, on 27-30 April 2014.

As well as enhancing the teaching skills and knowledge of 25 Islamic education counselors and instructors in Spain, the session will explore obstacles to bringing Islamic education teaching up to the latest standards, while respecting the Islamic culture specificities. The training session also aims to stimulate contact and expertise sharing in this field.

Dr Youssef Abodaka, Programme Specialist at the Education Directorate, will represent ISESCO in this activity.

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Iranian, Portuguese civil aviation organizations to bolster cooperation

Tehran, April 26, IRNA – Heads of Iranian and Portuguese civil aviation organization on Saturday discussed ways to expand bilateral ties and cooperation on aviation services.

Director General for the Legal and International Affairs Department of the Civil Aviation Organization Mohammad-Saeed Sharafi said that the Iranian director of civil aviation held talks with the Portuguese counterpart on the grounds for cooperation between Iran and Portugal.

Sharafi said the two officials voiced willingness for conclusion of an agreement about the aviation cooperation between Iran and Portugal. He said that an agreement has been drafted and Iran and Portugal would sign the agreement after formalities were observed.

IRNA reported that Iranian head of the Civil Aviation Organization briefed the Portuguese counterpart on the current level of cargo and passenger transport from Iran to the overseas.

Iran is keen on setting up regular passenger flight by a Portuguese airliner from Iran to South America and a direct flight between Iranian and Portuguese capitals to carry Iranian passengers to South America and vice versa.

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Photo exhibition highlights “Cairo: The crossroads of faith”

By Gamal Nkrumah

Cairo, 24 April, 2014 (AlAhram Online) – Prince Taz Palace, constructed in 1352 AD on the occasion of the marriage of the Mamluk Emir Taz to the daughter of Sultan Al-Nasir Mohamed, was the perfect setting for Sherif Sonbol’s exquisite photographic exhibition Cairo: The Crossroads of Faith. I was struck by Sonbol’s ingenious attention to detail. He looks at the most tangible common denominators: synagogue, church and mosque in Sonbol’s Cairo look remarkably alike. To begin with, they all have the majestically straight spine of an ancient Egyptian temple. It is as if the architects executed unison patterns.

It bears thinking about in an age of religious intolerance and confessional strife. Stucco mihrab facades and wooden openwork screens, floral patterns of domes and stained glass, perhaps only benches and icons distinguish churches from mosques in Cairo. So it is heartening and revealing of a continuum not only of the core substance of monotheistic faiths, but also of the appurtenances of architectural features of the houses of worship of the three monotheistic religions with the ghost of the ancient Egyptian temple hovering above, or hiding behind the scenes.

Yet, over the millenniums, architects reinvented the genre. The genius of Sonbol is to spot the similarities and make them abundantly clear. He confides to me that without Khaled Galal, the head of the Cultural Development Fund of the Ministry of Culture. “He suggested the idea of the exhibition in the first place, and marketed the concept to the Minister of Culture Saber Arab. I owe the success of the exhibition to them and I was ecstatic,” Sonbol elucidates.

Diplomats galore graced the opening of Sonbol’s exhibition. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Egypt Toshiro Suzuki attended, and so did the Czech Ambassador Pavel Kafka, as did Al-Ahram Chairman Ahmed Sayed Al-Naggar.

The most poignant feature of Sonbol’s most recent exhibition is capturing the shared history of the three monotheistic religions from an architectural perspective. The onus is on the authentic Egyptian specificity. The Ben Ezra Synagogue is one of the most renowned in Cairo. Sonbol zoomed in on the interior, as opposed to the exterior, views. The mastaba, an ancient Egyptian architectural design, the bima or orator’s podium used for reading the Torah during services, and the haykal or Ark of the Covenant, are stunningly projected. As in antiquity the bima is set in stone, or rather marble.

Sonbol’s photograph enjoins the viewer to trace the inner worlds of the ancients and display the richness thereof. The land for the synagogue was purchased in 882 AD by one Abraham ibn Ezra of Jerusalem. Ben Ezra Synagogue is fabled for the geniza, or store room, that was found in the 19th century to contain a treasure of abandoned Hebrew secular and sacred manuscripts. The collection, known as the Cairo Geniza, is one of the most superlative medieval Jewish Egyptian collections.

According to tradition, the synagogue was built on the site where the baby Moses was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. The mastaba in Ben Ezra Synagogue is believed to be the place where Moses prayed for God to intercede with the Pharaoh on behalf of his people.

Sonbol stresses the intensity of the visible emotional architectural features of several key historic Cairene mosques. Ibn Tulun Mosque, for instance, is a unique relic amalgamating architectural features of both Sunni and Shia Islam in a most fascinating fashion. The mosque was commissioned by Ahmed ibn Tulun the Abbasid governor of Egypt from 868–884 AD.

This enchanting grand ceremonial mosque was intended as the focal point of Ibn Ţūlūn’s capital Al-Qattai, a city that was razed in the early 10th century AD, and the Ibn Tulun Mosque was the only architectural structure that survived from Al-Qattai. A peculiar architectural feature of Ibn Tulun Mosque is its minaret with a helical outer staircase unique in Cairo and reminiscent of the Samarra Minaret still standing in contemporary Iraq.

This particular mosque was restored in 1177 AD under orders of the Fatimid Shia wazir Badr Al-Jamali, who left a second inscription slab on the mosque which features a Shia version of the shahada, the declaration of faith in Islam “There is no god but God, Mohamed is the messenger of God” on the facade, but unique in predominantly Sunni Egypt includes “Ali (the Prophet Mohamed’s son-in-law) is the vice-regent of God” etched on the facade. Ali, of course, is venerated by Shia Muslims.

The stained glass and floral patterns of the dome of Abu Al-Dahab are similarly astounding. “Only once a year, and for one hour does the sun rays shine through the dome. I waited patiently for several weeks to capture the wonder,” Sonbol assures me.

Sonbol, as an accomplished photographer is essentially a communicator of ideas. Incidentally, certain scenes in the James Bond classic The Spy Who Loved Me were filmed at the Mosque of Ibn Tulun. The Rifai Mosque is equally impressive. Sonbol spotted a particularly unique curiosity. It contains a chapel, actually a tomb of the French wife of the Khedive Ismail, whose mother, Khushyar Hanim, commissioned the construction of one of the most magnificent mosques in Cairo.

The Hanging Church, which has 110 invaluable Coptic Christian icons, is perhaps the most outstanding and celebrated Coptic Christian church in Cairo built in Basilican style with central nave and aisles. The entrance portal to the church has, if one overlooks the crosses, an unmistakably Islamic architectural feel. The central altar room, or ambon, is almost identical to the minbar, Muslim pulpits of a mosque.

Sonbol is intriguingly literate in what previous voices from the distant past wished to convey. Over the altar screen of the Hanging Church lies a long row of seven large icons, the central one of which is Christ seated on the Throne. On one side, the icons of the Virgin Mary, Archangel Gabriel and Saint Peter are lined up. On the other, icons of Saint John the Baptist, Archangel Michael and Saint Paul, captured by Sonbol.

The photographs of this particular exhibition demonstrate how Sonbol is keen to transmit his curiosity, and this comes across in the comely Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George in Cairo that dates back to the 10th century. He ignores the much photographed facade and instead focuses on the Sleeping Mary, so called. The passage in undercroft, s curious cavern-like catacomb, that leads to a well, believed to be a source of miraculous healing water, that once quenched the thirst of the Holy Family during their sojourn in Egypt.

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Royal Air Maroc receives New ATR 72-600 Aircraft

Marrakech, 25 April 2014 – Moroccan carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) received on Thursday a new ATR 72-600 aircraft, bringing to 48 the number of its fleet.

The new plane, a sample of which is exhibited by the RAM at the “Marrakech Air Show 2014,” was purchased by RAM Express, a subsidiary air company of RAM. This is the fifth engine by the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR owned by the national air company.

It will reinforce the fleet of RAM Express operating domestic and international flights mainly towards Spain and Portugal.

The ATR 72-600 is a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner. The aircraft seats up to 78 passengers in a single-class configuration, and is operated by a two-pilot crew.

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Moroccan Tourism revenues exceeded 4 bn MAD in March 2014

Rabat, 25 April 2014 – The tourism sector generated last March revenues totaling 4.291 billion dirhams, announced communication minister, government spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi.

This is an increase of 11% compared to the same period in 2013, said El Khalfi at a press briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting, on Thursday in Rabat.

During the first quarter of the year 2014, tourism receipts reached 12 billion dirhams, recording a rise of 3% versus the same period in 2013, he added.

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Exhibit of Iran’s old maps registered at UNESCO kicks off

Tehran, April 26, IRNA – An exhibition of Iranˈs historical maps registered by the UNESCO, has been kicked off at the Foreign Ministryˈs Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in Tehran.

The exhibition is being held in line with the UNESCOˈs Memory of the World Register of cultural heritage items program which is the bodyˈs flagship program that aims to ensure the preservation and dissemination of valuable archive holdings and library and museum collections worldwide. It is one of the three UNESCOˈs initiatives for protecting and raising awareness of the global cultural heritage.

A collection of 60 maps is on display at the exhibition.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Irina Bokova in a meeting held on the sidelines of the exhibition on Saturday morning urged the need to strengthen bilateral relations.

The UNESCO chief arrived in Tehran on Friday for a five-day visit. This is the first visit to Iran by a UNESCO director-general in ten years.

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Iranian epic Shahnameh jointly published by Iran, US

Tehran, April 26, IRNA – A new edition of Shahnameh (The Book of Kings) written by the ancient Iranian poet Aboulqasem Ferdowsi (935–1020), jointly published by Iran and US, will be put on display in the 27th Tehranˈs International Book Fair, scheduled for April 30-May 10.

The new edition is a version of the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasb (r. 1524–76), which is arguably the most luxuriously illustrated copy of Ferdowsiˈs epic ever produced in the history of Persian painting.

According to Director General of the Vijeh-Nashr Publication Ahad Rezaei, the new eddition was jointly published by his publication and the US Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Shahnameh is an 11th-century epic Persian poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Iran (Persia), Azerbaijan and the Persian-speaking world. Consisting of some 50,000 verses, the Shahnameh tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of the Persian empire from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century.

Rezaei told IRNA that the new eddition is a 42-cm-long illustrated book in 174 pages with a silk binding and gold cover.

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Avaz to hold concert tour in Turkey

Tehran, April 26, IRNA – Avaz music ensemble is planning to hold concert tour in several cities in Turkey as well as music program on the Turkish nationwide channel Hayat TV.

The program is scheduled to begin at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara in late May, the English-language newpaper ˈIran Dailyˈ reported.

The ensemble’s next stop will be at the Nazim Hikmet Cultural Center in Istanbul. The city’s Mekan Hall is also to host the group. They will then perform in a city in eastern Anatolia, named Agri.

Comprising of Iranian and Turkish musicians and music players, the ensemble had earlier performed in Ankara and several other Turkish cities in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Iranian vocalist Hadi Sepehri and Turkish musician Kemal Binici established the ensemble.

The vocalists of the ensemble sing in Persian, Turkish and Azeri languages.

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Tehran photo exhibit highlights daily life in Switzerland

Tehran, April 26, IRNA – Tehran’s Arasbaran Cultural Center is currently playing host to an exhibition of photos depicting various aspects of daily life in Switzerland.

Entitled “Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Again Winter”, the exhibit displays 50 photos, which have been taken by Ali Kakvan, a Ph.D. student of technology at Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology, the English-language daily ˈTehran Timesˈ said on Saturday.

Kakvan created the collection during his six-month sabbatical leave in Switzerland.

The collection also highlights photos of streets, monuments and nature scenes. The exhibit runs until May 1 at the center located on Jolfa St., near the Seyyed Khandan neighborhood.

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Wilayat of Manah / Archeological Landmarks Depicting Heritage Tourism

Manah, Apr 19 (ONA) — The Wilayat of Manah in the Governorate of A’Dakhiliyah is one of the wilayats that have many heritage and tourism attractions, which mirror the rich and deep-rooted history and culture for the wilayat throughout ages.

Manah is known for having a number of forts, castles, towers and old districts that have remained for ages. During the blessed era of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, thee archeological sites were renovated and restored. The wilayat has been also provided with the required development projects and facilities to meet needs of the people at the different parts of the wilayat.

One of the major heritage and tourist attractions of the wilayat is “Al Fiqain Castle” in Al Fiqain village, which was built almost 400 years ago namely in 1027 AH corresponding to 1617. The castle has been completely renovated. The damaged parts have been restored and re-opened for the public during the Omani Heritage Year in 1994. Since that time, it receives tourists from inside and outside the Sultanate.

“Harat Al Bilad” or Al Bilad District in the Wilayat of Manah, located at the epicenter of the wilayat, is one of the oldest districts in the Sultanate. Al Bilad District, the oldest residential area at the wilayat, contains houses that are surrounded with a great boundary for protection.

Al Bilad District, which maintains the old Omani architectural designs, includes four archeological mosques namely Al Sharah, Al Ain, Al Rahba and Al Aa’li, which date back to 909 AH.

The Ministry of Heritage and Culture is implementing a project to renovate the Al Bilad District to maintain it in a good condition.

Bait Al Hisn or Hisn Najad, located at the southern side of the district, is one of the attractions of the wilayat. It is named after Sheikh Najad bin Moosa, one of the renowned scholars in the wilayat. In 1350 AH, some towers were added and a boundary has been fixed.

The’ Grand Mosque, a rectangular mosque built of mud in 941 AH / 1534, is located near the Bait Al Hisn.

The wilayat is also known for many traditional crafts, such as Omani sweet “Halwa,” rose water, silver works, textiles, date-palm frond works, blacksmith and carpentry.

The wilayat is also known for traditional art performances, such as Razha, A’zi, Taghroud, Hamble Al Boosh, Al Tariq, Al Wailiyah, Zafat Al Kaitha and Al Maghayidh.

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New MSM Sharia Index to Come into Effect Tomorrow

Muscat, Apr 19 (ONA) —Muscat Securities market (MSM) will begin on Sunday the new sample of MSM Sharia Compatible Index after having earlier announced the names of the sample companies.

Jamila bint Ali al-Hamhamyah, Director of Operations Department at MSM told Oman News Agency (ONA), that the sample includes companies from the regular market and parallel market, noting that the preliminary study prepared by the specialized company includes one company from the third market, but lack of liquidity due to weak trading in the third market led to the exclusion of the company from the sample.

She added that the sample of the new index comprises 30 public company listed on MSM and whose activities are compatible with the requirements of Sharia regulations approved by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), including 19 companies of the industrial sector, 8 of the services sector and 3 of the financial sector.

She pointed out that the sample is reviewed every three months by adding any company that meets the standards or delete any company that no more meets those standards.

The index comprises: Al Anwar Ceramic Tiles, Al Jazeera Services, Al Izz Islamic bank, Bank Nizwa, Construction Materials Industries, Dhofar Beverages, Dhofar Poultry, Gulf International Chemicals, Gulf Mushroom Products, Majan Glass, Muscat Gases, Muscat Thread Mills, National Biscuit Industries, Nawras, Oman Chromite and Oman Chlorine.

It also contains Oman Cement, Oman Fisheries, Oman Flour Mills, Oman Oil Company, Oman Refreshments, Oman Sweets, Omantel, Oman Textile Holding, Port Services Corporation, Raysut Cement, Shell Oman Marketing, A’Saffa Foods, Voltamp Energy, Al Batinah Development and Investment.

Observers affirm that Islamic indexes applied by financial markets will attract a new segment of investors as they meet their expectations and they prefer a reliable resource for identifying investments that are compatible with the Sharia, which will contribute to the development and growth of the Islamic finance market sector through providing non-traditional investment options.

The Sharia compatible standards according to AAOIFI include two levels: business activities criteria and financial criteria.

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Infra Oman 2014 to Kick-off Next October

Muscat, Apr 19 (ONA) — Activities of 4th Infra Oman 2014 will kick-off at Oman International Exhibition Centre on October 20th, 2014. The three-day event will be organized by Al Nimr Expo.

Salim bin Omar al-Hashmi, CEO of Al Nimr Expo said that the event will highlight the requirements of construction and infrastructure projects, such as roads, airports development, railways and ports.

In a statement to Oman News Agency (ONA), al-Hashmi pointed out that the event is a direct gateway to the opportunities in this sector as it will enable the companies to play a prominent role in the country’s development.

He added that the event will bring together all leading companies in the industry, ministry officials, CEOs and other senior managers, pointing out that Infra Oman will serve as an ideal platform for networking with key decision makers and expanding business contacts.

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Petra hosts Training course on English news editing

Amman, April 26 (Petra) — A training course reviewing English news editing styles kicked off on Saturday at the Jordan News Agency (Petra) Training Centre. The course, sponsored by Zain, is being held in cooperation with International News Editing (INE), an international agency specializing in providing services for news agencies around the world.

Trainer Robert Besser of INE will focus on editing local and regional news stories, and present them in a professional manner for English readers.

Participants in the three-day course will also discuss various headline and lead paragraph styles and methods for writing and editing stories, in accordance with the latest journalistic approaches.

Petra Director General Faisal Al Shboul underlined the importance of the training course in polishing the skills of Petra journalists and improving the agency’s English news bulletin.

The agency, he added, puts all its potentials and logistics at the service of journalists.

Besser affirmed that Petra journalists have the potential and skills to provide advanced-level news stories.

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The dream chasers of Istanbul’s islands

April 24, 2014, ISTANBUL, Anadolu Agency – A Turkish island has played host to scenes of almost biblical proportions as thousands of people descended to take part in a very unusual religious festival which sees observant Muslims take part in an Orthodox Christian ritual.

The largest of Istanbul’s Prince’s Islands – Buyukada – saw pilgrims of many faiths mixing with hordes of Istanbulites taking advantage of the Children’s Day national holiday. Throngs of people made their way to the site of an ancient monastery – Aya Yorgi – on the island’s tallest hill to make wishes.

April 23 – Saint George’s Day – is marked in other places, particularly England where he is the country’s patron saint, but the ‘Big Island’ gathering took on a much more international character.

Yucetepe was the rallying point for pilgrims to climb the 200-metre hill in sweltering heat, unwinding balls of yarn along the way in silence, some praying for health, happiness or more worldy wishes, such as a job or a new apartment.

With the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul’s islands as the backdrop, many repeated their wishes quietly after taking a vow of silence while walking up the path, loosening tiny strings along the way. The strings were knotted to a tree at the start of their hike in line with the popular belief that these actions will make their dreams and prayers become reality.

Selvi, a 52-year-old Istanbulite housewife, was performing her third pilgrimage. She told AA that performing prayers in the church did not conflict with his faith as a Muslim since “God is one and can hear you anywhere”.

Selvi was exchanging her ‘wish-keys’, a tiny set of replica keys held during your prayers and later brought back to the island when your wish comes true. These are thrown into the sea, exchanged for actual keys to new apartments, something which – given Turkey’s construction boom in recent years – makes such wishes much more realizable.

The wish-keys are only one sort of desire on sale from the canny vendors who lined the route to take advantage of the massive crowds at the site. For the fortunate few whose wishes come true, cube sugars and sunflower oil are available to be doled out to fellow visitors – an obligation demanded in return for their good fortune.

Twenty-nine-year old Gözde Akyuz, who was handing out these cube sugars to other visitors, told AA that she had returned to the island site 10 years from having her wishes come true; she has graduated successfully as an engineer and now owns a house.

The story of Aya Yorgi dates back to the Middle Ages, when monks at the site buried sacred items in an effort to save them from maurauding Crusaders. According to the story, a shepherd saw Saint George who told him the burial spot.

The shepherd, as told, finds the sacred objects after walking up to the hill in silence on bare feet, digging at the spot where the church bells are heard the loudest.

The story fits in with the context of other European pilgrimages such as Reek Sunday in Ireland, when barefoot pilgrims climb 700-meter Croagh Patrick mountain and the Camino de Santiago across France and Spain, where the faithful walks the holy route which runs for almost 800 km.

Not everyone was truly a believer in the wish-keys or the strings strewn along the path to Aya Yorgi. Standing by the side of the route, noting down prayer requests from visitors was Luke Creighton, an American who has taught English in Turkey for five years. Creighton said these acts reveal people to be desperately in need of help and peace and who would do whatever it takes to find it.

Creighton was far from being the only foreigner at the site; many groups and organizations including Turkish-Christian churches and even Korean-American Christians were among those who braved the crowds.

A pastor from one of California’s Korean congregations, Paul Kim, was surprised by the participation of Muslim Turks in personal prayer sessions being performed by some of his compatriots along the path, where many were singing hymns both in English and Korean.

Amid all these holy festivities some people had more earthly issues on their mind; at the bottom of Yucetepe hill, horse carriage drivers, more used to taking tourists around the island, were enjoying the good business brought by the faithful needing transportation. One told AA that he expected to make 1,000 liras – an average monthly salary in Turkey – in one day alone, perhaps proving that, sometimes, God and mammon can be strung together.

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Anatolian dancers to perform in Antalya

April 22, 2014, ANTALYA Anadolu Agency – The Turkish dance troupe Fire of Anatolia, will perform on Tuesday at Gloria Aspendos Arena in Turkey’s coastal province of Antalya.

Mustafa Erdogan, general art director of the group, said that the Fire of the Anatolia promoted Turkey to around 35 million people. The group has been promoting Turkey in around 97 countries since 2010.

The group has performed in Russia, U.S., China, Mexico, Europe and Balkan countries so far, Erdogan said.

As one of the largest dance groups in the world, the Fire of Anatolia aims to introduce Anatolian culture and history to the world, according to Erdogan.

The Fire of Anatolia, which consists of 400 dancers from Cuba, Russia, Britain and Georgia, is also expecting the Chinese dance group Shaolin Monks to join. “We need support for our performance’s new version, “The Gate of East,” Erdogan said.

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Pakistan delegation attends 99th commemoration of Çanakkale battle

ISTANBUL, 24 April 2014 (APP): Pakistan’s Minister for Defence Khawaja Muhammad Asif represented Pakistan at the 99th commemoration of the Çanakkale (Gallipoli) battle. The Pakistani delegation, alongwith other international guests invited from the world over, visited the site of this great battle of the World War I at Canakkale today. They remained at the Gallipoli peninsula and offered prayers for the Turkish soldiers who laid their lives in defence of their country.

Çanakkale (Gallipoli) campaign is one of the wars of survival in Turkish history. The campaign is regarded as a defining moment in the nation’s history. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the founding of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who first rose to prominence as a commander at Gallipoli.

Ambassador of Pakistan in Turkey H.E. Mr. Muhammad Haroon Shaukat, Consul General Istanbul Dr. Yusuf Junaid and Naval Attache Cap (PN) Zaka ur Rehman also accompanied the Pakistani dignitary.

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Japan pledges $52m to support Pakistan energy sector

Associated Press of Pakistan, April 25, 2014, ISLAMABAD: The government of Japan has expressed its intention to provide a concessional loan of approximately $52 million to Pakistan for supporting Pakistan’s energy sector reforms. Hiroshi Inomata, Ambassador of Japan conveyed this message during his recent call on Senator Ishaq Dar, Minister of Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatisation.

This loan is planned to be co-financed by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, says a statement issued by the Embassy of Japan here Thursday. The government of Japan and the government of Pakistan will work together to prepare for signing a bilateral agreement on Japan’s loan at an early stage. “Japan recognises that the energy sector reforms are a matter of critical urgency in Pakistan,” stated Hiroshi Inomata. “We are pleased to work with the government of Pakistan to tackle the power crisis in cooperation with other development partners,” he remarked.

The Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and Japan have worked with the Government of Pakistan to develop a reform programme and set agreed policy targets to manage tariff and subsidy, improve sector performance and open the market to private participation, besides improving accountability and transparency in the energy sector. This loan is provided to facilitate the government of Pakistan to achieve these targets.

It is expected that pursuing this programme will not only promote the energy sector reforms but also improve the government’s fiscal situation and stimulate economic activities. Japan has been extending active support to the energy sector of Pakistan over the last three decades.

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Pakistan plans Gwadar as a ‘free port’ similar to HK, Dubai, Singapore

April 25, 2014 – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday said the government plans to develop Gwadar as a ‘free port’ along the lines of Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong ports. The Planning Commission has been tasked with an exercise to hire international consultants for this purpose, he said while talking to media persons here after attending a briefing on the pace of ongoing development projects in Balochistan.

Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik and Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif were also present on the occasion. The Prime Minister said the government had a broad-based plan for the development of Gwadar under which the port city would have a state-of-the-art airport and a fully developed seaport.

He said a new security force would also be raised for the security and protection of foreign nationals, particularly the Chinese citizens, working on various projects in the area. The Prime Minister said the civil and military leadership were on the same page and committed to working together towards making Pakistan a developed, peaceful and secure country and retrieve it from the challenges it was facing.

“We are together and want to retrieve the country from various challenges. We are committed and we will do it,” he added. The Prime Minister said during the meeting that the matters relating to development of Balochistan, peace and security and Pak-China Economic Corridor were discussed. The ways and means to connect Kashgar (China) and Gwadar through road and rail links were deliberated in detail, he added. The Prime Minister said Director General Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) briefed the meeting about the pace of work on various road projects in the province.

Nawaz expressed his government’s resolve to lay a network of roads in Balochistan during the current PML-N government’s tenure. The Prime Minister appreciated DG FWO Major General Muhammad Afzal for his dedication in the development and construction work in Balochistan with the support of Army Staff. He said the development work in Balochistan by FWO was not aimed at making profits. The Prime Minister said he would also convene a cabinet meeting in Balochistan.

Nawaz was highly appreciative of the policies of reforms, good governance and merit, initiated by Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik. “He is doing a good job,” he remarked. Earlier, during the briefing, the PM was apprised that in relation to Pak-China Economic Corridor, Rs 162 billion had been allocated for Balochistan only. He was informed that the provision of clean drinking, a 300-bed hospital, a technical training centre, a 19-km expressway and the expansion of airport and port had also been planned for Gwadar.

The PM appreciated the role of federal agencies, Army, FC and police towards improving the law and order situation in Balochistan during the last 10 months. He directed the Finance Minister to release Rs 1.6 billion for the dredging of port. The PM said Gwadar should be developed as a free port along the lines of Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong ports, adding that interests of local people should be protected while developing Gwadar.

The PM said the development of Gwadar would prove to be a game changer not only for Balochistan but for the region. The PM and the Chief Minister appreciated the services of DG FWO for ensuring quality, transparency in development and construction work through a fast-track process. The Chief Minister Balochistan while thanking the PM said that for the first time in the history of the province, 78 percent development budget had been released till now and Rs 110 billion had been received under the 7th NFC Award for Balochistan.

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BMCCI urges govt to set up Multimedia Super Corridor for IT’s growth

DHAKA, April 26, 2014 (BSS) – Bangladesh Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) has urged the government to look into the possibilities of establishing a Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) like Malaysia to enhance the growth of IT sector.

BMCCI Secretary General Raquib Mohammad Fakhrul made the urge when a delegation of the chamber met State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak on Thursday.

Mohammad Fakhrul briefed the minister about the activities of BMCCI saying that the bilateral business body is aimed at promoting the bilateral trade and investment in the two brotherly countries.

He said that the BMCCI is going to organize 3rd Showcase Bangladesh 2014 in Kuala Lumpur at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC). The showcase will be arranged in cooperation with Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industries and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism of Bangladesh, he said.

He said the BMCCI has focused areas: Branding of Bangladesh, supporting Malaysian entrepreneurs to strengthen their network in Bangladesh business.

Among others, BMCCI Treasurer Syed Almas Kabir, BMCCI members Mojaher Uddin Chowdhury, Mamunur Rahman and Director General of ICT Directorate Mustafa Kamal Uddin were present.

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Tender next month to upgrade Joydebpur-Elenga road in Bangladesh

TANGAIL, April 26, 2014 (BSS) – Work for upgrading the 70-kilometre highway from Joydebpur to Elenga of Tangail to four lanes is expected to begin in September this year as the government is going to invite tender next month to implement the project.

“We will invite tender next month to implement the Joydebpur- Elenga project and if everything goes well, we will be able to start work of the project in September this year,” said Communications Minister Obaidul Quader here today.

Talking to journalists at Elenga Bus Stand of Kalihati in thedistrict after visiting Bangabandhu Bridge and Tangail highway,he said the project has been initiated to improve connectivity ofthe country’s northern districts with the capital city as well aswith the neighbouring states.

In this connection, he said the highway is the part of SAARC highway corridor-4, Asian Highway-2 and Asian Highway-41. The cost of the project which is scheduled to be completed inMarch 2018 has been estimated at about Taka 3066 crore. Under the project, five flyovers, 26 bridges and 60 culverts would be constructed, he added.

The minister said about 35 hectares of land had already been acquired in Gazipur and Tangail districts for the project.

Responding to a query, the minister categorically said that the government would not compromise with anybody at the cost ofgetting due share of water in the river Teesta.

“We have many outstanding issues like water sharing, border agreement and corridor with India,” he said adding that all the issues would be resolved through bilateral discussions.

Replying to another question, he expressed the hope that the friendly relations that exist between Bangladesh and India would remain intact in future. “Bangladesh’s relations with India would not be hampered following takeover by any government in that country,”he added.

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Duty-free market access, GSP to dominate at first TICFA meet

DHAKA, April 26, 2014 (BSS) – The first meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA), which has already been effective since January this year, will begin in the capital on Monday.

“We’ve good preparations for the meeting.duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access and GSP will be the key agenda in the first TICFA meeting on Bangladesh side,” Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed told BSS today (Saturday).

Mahbub described the two-day meeting as a high-level bilateral engagement between Dhaka and Washington and said it will help find ways for increasing trade and investment between the two countries.

The Commerce Secretary said a high-profile US private sector trade delegation is already in Dhaka to hold first meeting of the TICFA to discuss these issues.

“Of course, Bangladesh will have many issues they want to raise and America will have issues. We’ll raise them and discuss them and try to find a way forward with the shared objective of increasing trade and investment between our two countries,” US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena told journalists earlier.

A leading economist say strengthening the Bangladesh-US trade and economic relations is extremely important for maintaining the pace of sustainable economic development of Bangladesh.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told the news agency that the TICFA may open up opportunities for both Bangladesh and the US to further deepen and broaden trade and economic relations for mutual benefit.

“I see the meeting is important for two reasons — first meeting in Dhaka and the tune Bangladesh is going to set for the meeting will be important for coming years,” he said.

The economist said “Our efforts would be on how we can have greater market access to the US market and duty-free market access too.”

Prof Mustafiz said, “Obviously Bangladesh will have an interest that the US Administration would play a role in placing a bill on zero- tariff market access in the US senate since Bangladesh signed the TICFA”

About the widely-talked issue of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the financial analyst said both Bangladesh and the US will speak about the tariff facility in the inter-governmental meeting.

Bangladesh can raise in details the steps it has taken to win back the GSP from the US and the US will also tell to this end, he said.

“If the US side raise about Intellectual Property (IP) issue, Bangladesh should seek technical support strategically from the US government for protection of the IP rights,” said the financial analyst.

Many experts believe that the TICFA will also protect and promote our interests in areas of transfer of technology, compulsory licensing including in sectors like pharmaceutical ingredients, biotechnology, energy related technology transfer and others and technical assistance for capacity building under the terms of the Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement.

The misguided negotiations between 2003 and 2012 on TIFA/TICFA have caused Bangladesh immense losses, depriving the country more beneficial and deeper access to the US market for a decade till to date, they said.

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Air connectivity, new bridge to promote Bangla-German trade

DHAKA, April 9, 2014 (BSS) – Bangladesh business community doing trade with Germany finds the resumption of the Dhaka- Frankfurt Biman’s flight as the means to infuse elixir into further promoting bilateral commerce and investment to the greater benefit of the both economies.

Talking to BSS in Frankfurt, business persons of both Bangladesh and Germany said that this flight would greatly contribute towards considerably augmenting the both way trade,that has long been stopped due to the absence of direct air communication between the two countries for eight years until recently.

“We most heartily welcome resumption of the Biman’s direct air connectivity with Frankfurt as it would now stand pout as a bridge between the two countries, thus bringing two peoples closer to each other,” Bangladesh born German businessman Anowarul Kabir said.

Due to shortage in the number of wide bodied aircraft, Biman had to stop its regular flight to Frankfurt in 2006. On March 31 this year, the present government taking into cognizance the importance of such a connectivity with this highly important European city from business point of view resumed the flight.

“It’s a pleasure for all of us that Biman carrying the sweetness of my home is back here in Frankfurt, Kabir, also the President of German-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and industry said.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines resumed its Dhaka-Frankfurt flight on March 31 after a suspension of eight years, creating the 19th overseas destination of the national flag carrier.

Biman is operating two flights a week — Fridays and Mondays — to the new destination via Rome with the brand new Boeing 777-300 ER with 419 seats.

Manfred Schleiffer, sales manager of Air Logistics, Biman’s cargo handling agent in Germany, said they are targeting eight to ten tonnes of cargo per flight from Frankfurt. Hans Sneider, a local importer, was otherwise happy to see the direct air connectivity between his country and Bangladesh as he has long been in search of a direct link with Dhaka to import finished garment products for the German consumers.

“Now I can fly to your country without any transit, buy cloths for our consumers and make my stay in Dhaka enjoyable. I have heard about Bangladesh many times,” he told BSS with a big smile. Kabir, who runs a textile business, said prospects for carrying cargo to Bangladesh from Frankfurt is good apart from carrying passengers. Passengers’ response to Biman would depend on its marketing and other services in the highly competitive airlines business, he said.

Bangalees living in Frankfurt suggested that Biman needs to offer wide range of connecting flights from Dhaka to Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia to attract tourists from Germany and other neighboring countries.

Vice President of Bangladesh-German Chamber of Commerce and Industries Farooq Siddiqui said the time for starting Dhaka- Frankfurt flight is perfect as the trade volume between Bangladesh and Germany is growing fast.

Noting that Germany is the second largest country of importing Bangladesh’s RMG products, Farooq said Biman can make its German route profitable by carrying cargo. “As it’s the only direct flight to Germany, it will make an opportunity to export Bangladeshi agro based product to one of the major European economy,” he said.

Rokonuddin Sarker, a 26-year Bangladeshi studying in Germany, was in the inaugural flight and welcomed the Biman’s move as it’s air fare is cheaper compared to other airlines. “From now on, we don’t need to spend long time for transit like before,” he said.

Commercial Counsellor of Bangladesh Embassy in Germany M Abdur Rauf said it’s a good initiative by the national flag carrier to resume its flight to Frankfurt as the trade between Bangladesh and Germany has doubled from 2.1 to 4.2 billion US dollar over the last four years.

If Biman makes its new route to Frankfurt successful, it must target the German nationals especially the businessman instead of targeting only expatriate Bangladeshis,” he said.

“Germany is not like UK or USA in terms of numbers of NRBs.Only 7,000 to 8,000 Bangladeshi expatriates live here, so we have to target German nationals as Biman’s passengers and it’s very much possible with proper marketing,” he said.

Jamal Uddin Ahmed, chairman of the Biman board, hopes the carrier would be successful on the route by maintaining services, as a lot of tourists visiting Nepal, Myanmar and Thailand would travel by Biman. Biman’s direct connectivity with Germany would open a new window of opportunities for trade, tourism and cultural exchanges between the two countries, he added.

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Economic conference kicks off in Amman

Amman, April 19 (Petra)–The first economic conference entitled “Jordan’s Economy in a Changing World ” kicked off in Amman to discuss solutions to budget deficit and indebtedness.

The one-day event, which is organized by the Jordan Society for Scientific Research (JSSR) will also review challenges facing the Jordanian economy, proposed economic policies to overcome the current economic situation as well as a number of economic and investment issues.

Minister of Industry and Trade Hatim Halawani, who deputized for Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, said in remarks that Jordan has reached a state of stability and economic balance after the deficit registered in previous years as well as the burden shouldered by Jordan as a result of hosting more than 1.3 million.

“Reserves at the Central Bank of Jordan was less that $6 billion at the end of 2012, but these reserves have doubled after the government took a series of measures,” the minister added.

Halawani pointed out that the budget deficit was controlled in parallel with the implementation of an economic program with the International Monetary Fund, noting that expenditure was cut while imports were increased.

He said that economy registered a growth of 3 percent in 2013, noting that it is expected to reach 5 percent over the next three years.

President of the JSSR said that the Jordanian economy has suffered from the repercussions of the global economic crunch, the Arab Spring and regional developments, adding that these reflected on the budget deficit but Jordan was able to overcome their impact.

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Jordan to take necessary steps to safeguard Al-Aqsa, protect Muslim worshipers

Amman, April 21 (Petra) – Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications Mohammed Al-Momani on Monday said that Jordan, in coordination with the State of Palestine, will adopt the necessary measures to safeguard Islamic and Christian sites in the holy city of Jerusalem and defend Muslim worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Intensive efforts and consultations led by the Jordanian diplomacy are being conducted to emphasize the Kingdom’s firm stance against Israeli violations in Al-Aqsa Mosque, he said, adding that under the directives of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has instructed the Embassy of Jordan in Israel to take steps to ensure the safety of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the protection of the worshippers therein.

Al-Momani, who is also the government spokesperson, explained that intense discussion with the State of Palestine is underway to study some practical measures that will ensure the protection of Palestinians in Jerusalem, deter and prevent Israel from implementing its rejected plan to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque and halt the Israeli soldiers’ continued attacks against Palestinian worshippers.

“These steps will be taken with the support of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation as well as a number of European Union countries,” the official added.

Al-Momani renewed calls to the world’s pro-peace and justice states to further concentrate their efforts to protect the identity of the holy city, preserve its authenticity and heritage and to express their clear position regarding the recent Israeli violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque, which he said is being exposed to the worst forms of daily attacks by the Israeli occupying forces.

The minister also stressed Jordan’s harsh condemnation of the Israeli government’s protection of and strong support for hundreds of Jewish extremist settlers who routinely stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque provoking the Muslim worshippers therein.

The government spokesman also expressed his country’s rejection of Israeli measures banning Islamic endowment staff from entering the mosque, adding that this was a flagrant violation of the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan and a clear violation of international laws and conventions of the de facto heritage of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The Israeli army yesterday smashed a number of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s doors and removed a number of its windows before spraying pepper gas on the worshippers inside the mosque, resulting in serious injuries to dozens of them.

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Medical Tourism a Boost for Tunisia

27 March 2014, tunisia-live.net – An unconventional brand of tourism is becoming ever more popular in Tunisia. People come from near and far to take advantage of the country’s well-developed and affordable medical services. This medical tourism is something the government should embrace and promote abroad.

On Friday and Saturday, the Tunisian Medical Tourism Forum will bring together medical and tourism professionals in Hammamet.

The number of tourists visiting the country for medical purposes is increasing every year. The majority are coming from Libya because of the better leve of care available in Tunisa. In 2013, more than one million Libyan citizens visited Tunisia, with many suffering from conditions that could not be properly addressed in their own country, according to the committee organizing this weekend’s event.

Before their 2011 revolution, many Libyans would visit private Tunisian hospitals for even a regular check-up, with their government footing the bill. Even now, they will have their medical care paid for as long as they can provide evidence from a Libyan doctor that they are really sick, the committee said.

European patients also visit Tunisia for medical reasons. They find the prices here extremely attractive and can combine their treatment with rest and relaxation in hotels, especially during the winter when prices are low. Many hotels cater to such clients, providing spas and medical centers in their facilities.

Plastic surgery and dental procedures also attract many patients from Europe and Asia, with the number increasing year by year. The professionals meeting in Hammamet will likely encourage them to choose Tunisia to spend a nice vacation and profit from medical centers in the major coastal regions including Tunis, Bizerte, Tabarka, Sousse, Sfax, Gabes, and Jerba.

Tunisia is also famous for its hot water springs found all over the country, mainly in Tunis, Hammam-Lif, Korbous, Jebel Oust, Ezzeriba, Zaghouan, Hammam Ejjedidi, Nafta, and Hamma Gabes. The temperature of these hot water springs can reach 65 degrees celsius and are believed to be a good remedy for rheumatism and other diseases. Unfortunately, these hot water springs are not considered by the Ministry of Tourism to be attractive touristic destinations, and therefore no advertisements for them exist.

Tunisia’s Medical Tourism Forum will offer visitors a good opportunity to learn about these appealing aspects. Visitors will probably also discover other incentives to visit Tunisia, a country that can provide care and entertainment at a low cost, something the government should embrace and advertise.

Ali Ben Mabrouk is a former journalist at Le Quotidien and English teacher. The opinions expressed by the author do not reflect those of Tunisia Live as a publication.

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Tunisia Starts First Post-Revolution Census

23 April 2014, tunisia-live.net – Tunisia’s National Institute for Statistics today begins gathering information for the country’s census, the first held since the 2011 revolution.

The last census, held every ten years in Tunisia, was conducted under the regime of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Tunisia’s current president questioned the accuracy of the 2004 data.

“All the numbers in the past that were published in all topics were either false or vague,” President Moncef Marzouki said Tuesday in a video on the Tunisian presidency’s YouTube account.

Taha Khsib, the general director of the census, denied that false data has been presented in the past, but acknowledged that certain information had been suppressed by authorities.

“All the data published on the website is true,” Khsib told Tunisia Live, adding that the census had conformed with international standards for data collection. “But the state used to interfere with publication.”

For instance, rates of extreme poverty in some regions would not be published, he said.

“The data published in 2004 is getting old,” he said. “The census will provide decision makers, including researchers and governors, with the exact socioeconomic data of the regions.”

The census questionnaire includes around 150 questions, covering topics such as profession, socioeconomic data, marital status, education rates, and literacy, Khsib said.

From April 23 to May 20, around 15,000 census agents will carry out face-to-face interviews with members of households, according to Khsib. The census will cost 40 million dinars ($25 million).

Preliminary results will be published by September 2014 and the final results will be announced in 2015.

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“Tunisia-Gulf Investment Forum” May 5-6, 2014

TUNIS, (TAP) – The Tunisia-Gulf Investment Forum will be held on May 5-6, 2014, in Tunis. The gathering, to be attended by Tunisian and Gulf countries’ senior officials and businessmen, aims to make known the business climate and the opportunities provided to business leaders of this region.

Private carrier Syphax Airlines celebrated, on Thursday at the Tunis-Carthage Airport, the departure of its direct commercial flight Tunis-Montreal, in the presence of Director General of Civil Aviation Kamel Ben Miled and Ambassador of Canada in Tunis Sébastien Beaulieu.

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Mehdi Jomaa inaugurates 31st edition of National Handicrafts Fair

TUNIS (TAP) 25 April 2014 – The 31st edition of the National Handicrafts Fair was inaugurated, Friday, in El Kram exhibition centre, by interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa.

Mr. Jomaa announced that a strategy is being prepared to promote the handicrafts sector as part of a participatory approach between the concerned Ministries, which will strive to overcome the difficulties faced by the handicrafts activities.

This strategy aims to encourage and boost the private initiatives in this sector which plays a key role in the vitalisation of the economic channel and job creation.

The Prime Minister also called to exert all efforts to achieve the success of the tourist season and make of it an efficient engine for the development of the handicrafts sector.

The Prime Minister who was accompanied by Ministers in charge of Economic Affairs, Trade and Handicrafts, and Culture as well as President of the Tunisian Industry, Trade and Handicrafts Union, visited several stands and lent a listening ear to the concerns of the craftsmen.

Minister of Culture Mourad Sakli said to TAP news agency, that a project is being implemented, with the Trade and Handicrafts Department for the creation of regional centres of intangible heritage to make known the traditional know-how and the riches of human skills. The aim being to help them settle in their regions and preserve them to sustain this heritage and these historical references for the future generations.

Nearly 580 exhibitors, including 420 Tunisian craftsmen coming from the 24 governorates of the country are taking part in this fair. Algeria is the honorary guest of the 2014 edition of the National Handicrafts fair with a strong participation (11 craftsmen).

Organised at the initiative of the National Handicrafts Office (ONA) and the National Handicrafts Federation, this edition gathers various handicrafts products namely textile, pottery, jewelry, fashion accessories, scents, traditional pastry, interior decoration, architecture handicrafts, tableware, traditional furniture…

The sector of handicrafts includes 76 branches, 1,455 handicrafts enterprises and 523 exporting firms. Some 142,00 craftsmen and craftswomen work in Tunisia. The sector of handicrafts contributes by 2% of the national exports for a value worth 559 million dinars and provides some 7,184 jobs.

Besides, the fair includes round tables and reflection workshops.

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Saudi students hold cultural event at Wichita State University

Washington, Jumada II 10, 1435, Apr 10, 2014, SPA — Students at Wichita State University (WSU) had the opportunity Tuesday to learn about Saudi culture.

Saudi Culture Day educated students about the history and traditions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Attendees followed photographs on poster boards that featured a glimpse of the kingdom’s history. Saudi students explained the significance of each photograph and the clear differences between the past and today.

“I think it’s really cool,” sophomore Brooke Adams told the Sunflower, WSU’s student-run newspaper. “It was very informative.”

Saudi student Adeeb Al-Qhtani gave a brief presentation about the history of the Kingdom. He said that it is important to inform the WSU community about Saudi culture.

“When I first came here, most of my American friends and the international students had no idea what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looks like or what we have there,” Al-Qhtani told the newspaper. “Most of them, unfortunately, have bad stereotypes about us.

To try to help overcome those stereotypes and educate students about Saudi culture, Al-Qhtani began hosting events with his friends by forming the Saudi Student Association.

“I think it worked. People like it and people started changing some bad ideas they already had about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Al-Qhtani said.

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New TV Channel to be Launched in Afghanistan

April 26, 2014, Kabul (BNA) It is expected that a new television channel on tourism and health (supported by Video Motion Picture) would be launched soon with the support of the ministry for information and culture.

According to BNA, the deputy for publication of the ministry for information and culture, Seemin Hassanzada in meeting with the general director of the company (Video Motion Picture) exchanged views on launching the new television channel to broadcast on tourism and health, saying taking such step is recommendable. Hassanzada also added that the ministry for information and culture with keeping in mind the importance of public health is agreed with launching such television channel would provide necessary support in this regard.

Briefing on the programs of the company, the director general of Video Motion Picture said, “The proposed television would broadcast on Dari and Pashtu languages and all its staff and employees will be Afghans. Supporting the project, Nabi Farahi the deputy on tourism with the ministry for information and culture also called for launching joint tourism company of Afghan-India. He also added with keeping different climates in the two countries, tourism attraction and visiting thousands of Afghans to India for medical treatment and getting education and business, this company will provide facilities to the citizens of both the countries including visa, transport and hotel for accommodation.

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Chubby vintage bus ‘Tosun’ hits Istanbul’s roads again

Residents and tourists in Istanbul are lining up to ride a vintage bus from the city’s past, the Tosun, after the vehicle – Turkey’s first locally produced bus – was returned to the roads following popular demand.

Turkish manufacturers first produced the Tosun in 1968 as part of a move to reduce dependence on Italian imports.

In 1984, the buses were taken out of service. But after a period of 29 years, the Tosun has begun to serve both Istanbulites and foreign tourists again,with riders expressing their happiness at seeing the nostalgic form of the transport.

The vintage bus runs twice a day on the Edirnekapı-Taksim route.

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OIC Chief Welcomes Agreement on Palestinian Reconciliation

24/04/2014 – The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Iyad Ameen Madani, welcomed the agreement signed by the delegations of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Hamas Movement on Palestinian resolution, based on agreements done in Makkah Al-Mukarramah, Cairo and the Doha Declaration. This is a key pillar of and an important step towards restoration of unity and cohesion among the Palestinian people, which enables them confront the grave challenges imposed by the Israeli occupation and Israel’s disregard for the peace process through the settlement and blockade policy and systematic assault on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Secretary General stressed the need to quickly translate the agreement to political reality, stressing at the same time the continuous readiness of the OIC to contribute to steps which could strengthen Palestinian national unity.

The Secretary General added that the Palestinian reconciliation is an urgent need for the protection of the higher Palestinian interests and towers above all other interests and relations. He also said that all efforts being made to reclaim legitimate Palestinian rights and establish the Palestinian state on the 1967 border with Al-Quds as its capital must emanate from a Palestinian entity united in its positions, decision, policies and objectives.

Iyad Madani called on the international community to support the Palestinian national reconciliation efforts and provide the means for their success considering the role of such efforts in promoting peace and stability in the region.

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Kazakh Development Bank to allocate more than $38bln for lending

ASTANA. KAZINFORM, 26 April 2014 – The Development Bank of Kazakhstan (DBK) signed a loan agreement with JSC “Halyk Bank” to provide seven billion tenge (182.01 tenge = 1 USD) fo lending of private businesses facilities.

The contract was signed within the framework of the program for supporting Kazakhstan’s industrial-innovative development, by funding second-tier banks, DBK press service said.

The report noted that thereby the Kazakh Development Bank, within the framework of the program, allocated some 45 billion tenge to six Kazakh commercial banks for lending private entrepreneurship, according to trend.az.

JSC Bank CenterCredit received 11 billion tenge, JSC Tsesnabank – 10 billion tenge, JSC Kazkommertsbank- 2 billion tenge, SB JSC Sberbank – 11 billion tenge, SB Alfa-Bank – 4 billion tenge and JSC Halyk Bank of Kazakhstan- 7 billion tenge.

As of April 10, Kazkommertsbank has financed projects worth 685 million tenge, Tsesnabank – 318 million tenge. Furthermore, more than 20 projects worth over 23 billion tenge are on the approval stage of the second-tier banks which cover such industries as machinery, metallurgy, chemicals and petrochemicals, food industry.

The Development Bank of Kazakhstan’s program, the launch of which was announced in December 2013, expands the access of private enterprises in a relatively “long” (up to five years) and “cheap” loans in tenge. DBK lends to banks at 7.9 percent per annum, while the nominal rate should not exceed 11.5 per cent per annum for business. Loan amount per borrower makes up from 500 million to 4.5 billion tenge.

JSC Development Bank of Kazakhstan – National Institute for the modernization and development of non-oil and infrastructure sectors of the economy of Kazakhstan was established in 2001. The main activities of the bank are development of industrial infrastructure and manufacturing industries, encouragement of foreign and domestic investment into the country`s economy.

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Astana to complete EXPO 2017 exhibition area ground-works in 2014

ASTANA. KAZINFORM, 25 April 2014 – “The initial constriction works of the EXPO 2017 exhibition area will be completed this year,” Talgat Yermigyayev, Astana EXPO 2017 National Company CEO, said at today’s meeting on further development of Astana city chaired by the Head of State.

“We will start pre-construction activities in May, and then in June we will start building the Kazakhstan National Pavilion. In two months we will proceed to the construction of the international theme-based corporate pavilion, and the pavilion of the international NGOs. The office of the organizer will be built in August. The ground-works of the exhibition area stretching over 25 ha will come to an end this December,” Yermegiyayev said.

According to him, construction works will be completed by December 2016 at large. Early 2017 the member countries will start assembling their own pavilions.

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