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7 Apr, 2014

Sharjah illustrates true story of Islam through epic musical

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 07 April 2014 (07 Jumaada al-Thaani 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below 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.




Azerbaijan Int’l Travel and Tourism Fair 2014 Opens

Today at Baku Expo Centre the largest trade event in the tourism industry of Azerbaijan and the whole Caucasus region, the 13th Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Fair, AITF 2014, opened. The exhibition is organized by Iteca Caspian LLC and its partner, ITE Group plc.

The focused policy of the President has ensured the successful implementation of state programmes to attract the world’s major investment companies to the country, ensuring business development and supporting private sector companies engaged in tourism and the construction of a luxury tourism destination.

This was noted at the opening ceremony by Minister for Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Abulfas Garayev, who also observed that the holding in Baku of the 57th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe underlines the prestige of Azerbaijan, and certainly the significance of AITF 2014. The status of the exhibition is evidenced by its growth: today at AITF 351 companies and organizations from 38 countries worldwide are participating. This is the most respectable and prestigious event in the sphere of tourism in the whole Caspian region.

Speaking at the opening of AITF, UNWTO Secretary-General Mr Taleb Rifai stressed the importance of meeting with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to discuss the development of tourism in the country and the priority areas in the non-oil sector of the economy. Mr Rifai noted the success of the introduction of e-visa, and talked about the attractive image of Azerbaijan in terms of tourism, which will be further enhanced by future projects in Baku, like the European Olympic Games, the Islamic Solidarity Games, the Chess Olympiad and other international events.

Executive Director of ITE Group (UK) Mr Edward Strachan reported that, according to the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI), in 2013 the exhibition had the highest proportion of professional visitors – 79%. The experienced British expert expects at least the same figures this year.

AITF brightly opens the spring exhibition season in Azerbaijan and delights visitors with its variety of tourism offers. The lively representatives and generously equipped stands marked the opening of the exhibition with folk dances, original presentations and tasting sessions for national cuisines, thus demonstrating their goodwill and pleasure at meeting the first visitors.

This year the exhibition has broken its own records for the composition of exhibitors. AITF 2014 includes tour operators and travel agents, luxury tourism, hotels, adventure holidays, luxury holidays and business travel, as well as sporting, ecological and educational tourism offers. Every visitor, be that a tourist industry specialist or an entrepreneur, will find opportunities for business meetings, as well as opportunities to assess the innovations of their business colleagues. Organizers set Saturday as the last day of the exhibition to allow exhibitors to increase the time they have to communicate with end users.

The exhibition successfully combines the announcement of exciting destinations and presentations of market innovations with a wide range of tourist services from national groups; international offices; land, air and sea carriers; representatives of the hotel industry from different countries; and travel and trade associations. Great interest has been shown in the Real Estate Abroad and Medical Tourism sectors. These new directions are represented by private and public clinics and diagnostic centres in Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Russia, Lithuania, Greece and Cyprus.

One of the most interesting and colourful events of the exhibition is the large display from the Azerbaijani regions. Here there are opportunities to undertake a variety of tourism activities, including rural and ecological tourism, rafting, and skiing and coastal holidays. In the regional exposition 22 regions of Azerbaijan and about 60 hotels are participating, including some global hotel chains.

Since its foundation, AITF has had the active support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, and the patronage of UNWTO, the Association of International Tourism Trade and the Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation and the National Confederation of Entrepreneurs’ (Employers) Association of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The exhibition has been awarded the mark of quality from UFI.

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14 New Aircraft Join Iranian Civil Aviation Fleet

TEHRAN, March 31, (NNN-IRNA) –- Head of Iran Civil Aviation Organization (CAO), Ali-Reza Jahangirian, said on Sunday that some 14 new planes have joined the Iranian aviation fleet in the past two months.

Addressing a group of managers, he said purchase of the planes was not included in the accord, signed with the G5 1, but the group was obliged to remove barriers on imports of spare parts.

Iran has ordered purchase of plane parts through legal channels but no parts have been imported to the country by this time, he said.

The western companies claim that export of plane parts is subject to permission of the US Treasury Department, he said.

The CAO is to import new planes to revitalize its dilapidated planes, he said.

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Tashkent to host ICAO Seminar on Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) and Traveller Identification Management

A Regional Seminar on Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTDs) and Traveller Identification Management will take place on 8-10 April 2014 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The Seminar, hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan, is organized by ICAO and supported by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It will address MRTD standards and best practices, assistance and capacity-building needs of States, identification management and related border security issues.

The MRTD Seminar will assist Member States in Central Asia and Eastern Europe in implementing ICAO MRTD specifications and related ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs). The Seminar will specifically address the needs of States to further enhance the integrity of the passport issuance process and ensure robust identification management in order to maximize border security and facilitation benefits.

In particular, the Regional Seminar will focus on the ICAO Traveller Identification Programme (ICAO TRIP) Strategy which was approved by the Council and endorsed by the ICAO Assembly in October 2013. The Strategy, responding to the global driving forces and needs of Member States, provides a framework for achieving the maximum benefits of travel documents in the future. It brings together the elements of identification management and builds on ICAO leadership in matters related to Machine Readable Travel Documents.

The key point of the ICAO TRIP Strategy is a recognized need for a holistic and integrated approach to traveller identification management. The approach that links the five elements of traveller identification and border controls into a coherent framework: evidence of identification, document issuance and control, MRTDs, inspection systems and tools, and interoperable applications.

ICAO recognizes the benefits of traveller identification management to aviation security and facilitation. ICAO’s mission is to contribute to the capacity of Member States to uniquely identify individuals by providing tools and knowledge to establish and confirm the identity of travellers.

Another focus of the Regional Seminar in Uzbekistan is technical assistance and capacity building support to States in need. The TRIP Strategy, ambitious and relevant as it is, will bring results and benefits only if ICAO Member States implement it in practice. In many cases, challenges to implementation are lack of technical expertise or funding or both. The Seminar is an opportunity to discuss assistance needs with States and regional organizations in Central Asia, and explore ways for consolidating regional cooperation and more effective capacity-building assistance.

The effective co-ordination of regional capacity-building assistance is just one of the many reasons why the OSCE is supporting this seminar. Since 2003, the OSCE assists its participating States with strengthening the security of travel documents and their issuance processes in line with ICAO standards, and covering many aspects of the TRIP Strategy.

Projects, particularly in Central Asia, focus on upgrading technological security features of passports and making sure that the processes used to vouch for the identity of an applicant during the application phase are secure. The OSCE also promotes effective solutions at borders to cut waiting times for travellers whilst giving greater assurances to border control officers that travel documents are genuine.

Given the role of the OSCE as a regional platform for information exchange and implementer of UN instruments related to the fight against terrorism, the Seminar represents a continuation of OSCE efforts to prevent the cross-border movement of terrorists and other criminals using forged or fraudulent travel documents.

An industry exhibition will complement the Seminar with a broad range of products and services related to MRTDs, biometric identification, travel document security applications and border inspection systems. Seminar participants will have an opportunity to interact with ICAO industry partners and experts to discuss the latest available traveller identification technologies.

ICAO develops international specifications for passports, visas and ID cards used for travel, in order to ensure interoperability, enhance facilitation, increase confidence in the reliability of travel documents, and contribute to national and international security. ICAO-compliant secure travel documents – and a robust identification management regime – are powerful tools in preventing and combating terrorism and serious transnational crime. Any remaining weaknesses in identity management or travel document security flaws tend to be exploited by terrorists and criminals worldwide and present a weak link in global efforts to ensure security, stability, good governance and the rule of law.

A key finding in the 9/11 Commission Report was that “for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.” The issuance and integrity of travel documents, border security and identification management remain an important and integral part of global counter-terrorism capacity-building efforts in furthering the objectives of the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001).

As usual, MRTD Seminar speakers and facilitators include top experts in the field, policy makers and senior managers, practitioners and researchers, many from the relevant working groups of ICAO, ISO and other international organizations.

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Indonesia to have 299 airports by 2019

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, April 04 2014 – With 62 new airport projects currently in the pipeline, Indonesia could have 299 airports across the archipelago in the next five years, said Deputy Transportation Minister Bambang Susantono.

“They are not (all) as big as airports in major cities but they are essential to improve accessibility in our country,” Bambang said as quoted by Tribunnews.com on Friday.

Currently Indonesia is home to 237 airports, 16 of which are commercial airports in big cities, managed by state-run airport operators PT Angkasa Pura I (AP I) and PT Angkasa Pura II (AP II). The others fall under the Transportation Ministry’s technical management unit (UPT).

He said that most of the new airports would be built in eastern parts of Indonesia.

“Airports are the most effective way to help distribute both people and goods in places like eastern parts of Indonesia that have challenging topography,” he added. (nfo)

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Indonesian Budget carriers tap booming travel market

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta April 01 2014 – Twenty-eight-year-old Muhammad Fikri, an Indonesian now studying in the Netherlands, has just bought round-trip tickets from a low-cost airline for his solo trip to Italy this month.

Last year when he worked in a social business institution in Jakarta, Fikri was an avid backpacker exploring Asia on low-cost carriers. “I don’t have a huge budget, but I do have some money spare to travel abroad,” he said.

Fikri is one of many rising middle-class Indonesians using their disposable income for travel.

The Transportation Ministry estimated that the number of air travelers in the country will hit more than 100 million this year, 11 percent up from 2013’s estimated 93.56 million.

To meet the soaring demand, budget airlines Citilink, Lion Air and AirAsia have all set expansion plans for this and the coming years.

Unlike the three carriers, the future does not look so bright for Tigerair Mandala, which cut nine of its 20 routes last month due to the spiraling cost of aviation-turbine fuel as a result of the weakening rupiah.

Citilink, the budget airline unit of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, will receive eight Airbus A320s between June and December this year to cover international routes.

The carrier, which currently operates 22 aircraft, made its international-route debut last month with a flight from Surabaya, East Java, to Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Citilink CEO Arif Wibowo said the carrier would also offer other international flights connecting Surabaya to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, early this month and Singapore in May, as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Perth, Australia, in the coming months.

It targets to nearly double its aircraft to 50 units by 2015 and increase its scheduled domestic and international routes from 28 to 37 this year.

Lion Air, the country’s largest low-cost airline, will focus on adding several domestic routes this year.

“There are still many domestic routes that we haven’t covered yet,” said Lion Group corporate secretary Ade Simanjuntak.

The Lion Group operates low-cost carriers Lion Air and Wings Air, full-service carrier Batik Air, and the low-cost carrier joint ventures Malindo Air and Thai Lion Air in Malaysia and Thailand, respectively.

The group transported 36 million passengers, or around 40 percent of the country’s total air travelers last year, according to the Center for Aviation (CAPA). Of the 36 million passengers, 35 million took domestic flights, CAPA estimated.

Lion Air, which serves 36 domestic and international destinations with its 95 aircraft, is slated to open new local routes connecting Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, to Sulawesi cities, like Makassar, Palu and Manado, Ade said.

The carrier now flies abroad to, among others, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Singapore; and Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia.

Ade said that this year, the group only expected Batik Air, which was launched last May, to start flying to Singapore in November at the earliest.

The long-term plan to add hundreds of aircraft, he said, would still go ahead. The Lion Group has ordered at least 570 aircraft worth US$46 billion from Airbus and Boeing, with delivery up to 2028.

Indonesia AirAsia (IAA), an affiliate of the Malaysia-based AirAsia Group, will focus on international routes this year together with the group, said IAA spokeswoman Audrey Prograstama.

“We are very strong in international flights. The number of air travelers across Southeast Asia increased up by 20 percent in recent years,” she said.

IAA currently operates 30 aircraft on 12 domestic and 26 international routes.

Meanwhile, the number of low-cost carrier passengers will likely be unaffected by an increase to airport tax implemented by state-run airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I, which manages airports in central and eastern Indonesia, as of April 1 at its five international airports, said Association of Indonesian Air Ticketing Companies (Astindo) chair Elly Hutabarat. “The increase isn’t too significant, with the highest airport tax for domestic flights only at Rp 75,000 ($6.60).” (koi/dwa)

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Sharjah illustrates true story of Islam through epic musical show

DUBAI, Arab News, 1 April 2014 – Sharjah has launched its celebrations to mark the Sharjah Islamic Culture Capital 2014 with an epic musical show titled ‘Clusters of Light’ which depicts the true story of Islam.

The 90-minute-long show that aimed to rebrand the religion was mesmerizing for its use of many projectors that bathed the entire stage.

The show, which featured more than 200 actors and 70 musicians with cinematic visuals and live performances, narrated the story of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from his birth to his death.

The show started with the pre-Islamic period, showcasing the worship of idols and the popularly-known Year of the Elephant, in which Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was born.

The production also illustrated the historical journey of Isra wal Miraj, the first migration to Abyssinia and the major migration to Medina, the different Islamic battles, and finally the death of the Prophet.

Renowned Arab singers Hussain Al Jassmi, Ali Hajar, Lotfi Bouchnak, and Mohammed Assaf blew the crowd away with their impressive vocals as they sang the story of Islam’s beginnings.

The opening was inaugurated by Sharjah ruler Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, at the newly constructed Roman-styled amphitheater on Al-Majaz Island.

The 4,500-seater amphitheater, worth AED140 million, will be the official venue for the Sharjah Capital of Islamic Culture (SICC) 2014 celebrations and other international cultural and art events in future.

Clusters of Light was written by Abdul Rahman Al Ashmawi, a Saudi poet, and composed by the Bahraini artist Khalid Al-Shaikh.

The soundtrack was recorded by the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg in Berlin, led by the German composer Christian Steinhauser.

The show will be staged until April 4 at the amphitheater and will be staged in many other countries including Malaysia and Turkey.

AbdulAziz Othman Al-Twaijiri, director general of the Islamic Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), said the selection of Sharjah as the Islamic culture capital had been reached after the emirate fulfilled all the criteria of its contribution to the science and culture of Islam.

Sources told Arab News that there are tentative plans to translate the show into other languages with a view to attracting non-Muslim audiences worldwide.

The opening ceremony was attended by a number of sheikhs, UAE ministers and top officials from different countries.

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Morocco Launches Wide-Ranging Industrial Acceleration Plan

RABAT, Morocco–(BUSINESS WIRE)–April 03, 2014 – Moroccan Minister of Industry Moulay Hafid Elalamy unveiled on Wednesday “a national industrial acceleration plan” at a ceremony held under the chairmanship of King Mohammed VI and attended by hundreds of CEOs of Morocco and abroad.

The new strategy, which chiefly seeks to speed up the development pace of the industrial sector, provides for the creation of the “FDI”, a public industrial investment fund endowed with 2 billion euros. Mr. Elalamy, who is also minister of Trade, Investment and Digital Economy, stressed in his presentation the importance of building on the achievements already made.

Morocco’s global businesses allowed the country to make a breakthrough particularly in the sectors of aeronautics, car industry and offshoring, which attracted world companies, leaders in their field, such as Renault-Nissan, the Canadian Bombardier and others. These gains help the country to move towards more efficient ecosystems, strengthen its economic resilience and make it possible to eye a place among emerging countries.

The industrial acceleration program that will extend over the 2014-2020 period is expected to generate half a million jobs in the sector and substantially increase the share of industry in GDP from the current 14% to 23%.

The changes to be introduced under the new plan will help diversify and expand the industrial fabric and institute a better coordination and deeper partnership between large companies and SMEs.

It also focuses on supporting the transition of the informal sector to the formal economy. In this respect, a series of incentives and tax measures will facilitate the integration of very small enterprises in the formal economy. Also, the plan grants utmost importance to human resources, the aim being to respond better to Moroccan and foreign enterprises’ requirements.

The plan provides for other measures to better exploit and optimizes industrial zones and makes them more accessible to operators.

The plan on the other hand calls on all Moroccan economic operators to have “the Africa reflex” to upgrade Morocco’s partnership with African countries. Moroccan operators will build on the gains scored thanks to the personal involvement of King Mohammed VI, as evidenced by the Sovereign’s latest tour in some countries of West Africa, which confirmed the position of Morocco as a gateway for international investment in the continent.

In a nutshell, the plan seeks to build on the progress made thanks to a proactive policy of openness, to adapt the industrial sector not only to the needs of the labor market but also to the new situation of the country as an increasingly attractive destination for international companies and to take the most of its pivotal position between the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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Middle East investors keep snapping up trophy assets

Dubai, March 31, 2014, Gulf News – High net worth investors and institutions from the Middle East were generous in spreading their wealth across Europe’s commercial property in 2013-21 of the transactions valued at €100 million and over were conducted by them during the year.

Asian buyers, led by the Chinese, accounted for a further 22 such transactions, according to new figures released by the global consultancy CBRE, which also found that London topped the list of European investment destinations with €32.2 billion worth of commercial realty transactions. In all, European cities recorded €165.6 billion in commercial property deals last year.

The priciest deal was a £1.7 billion deal in London by St. Martins, owned by the Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund (SWF). In fact, there was another deal valued at the same level, this one engaged in by Singapore’s SWF, GIC. Both transactions were done late last year.

“The UK had a remarkable year in 2013… particularly the last four or five months when investment activity jumped sharply,” said Simon Barrowcliff, executive director for Central London Capital Markets, CBRE. “The rest of the UK saw a staggering 75 per cent year-on-year increase in the total value of activity as investors searched for yield.

“The improving UK economy is enhancing the prospects for commercial real estate in the rest of the UK and encouraging even cross-regional investors to venture outside London.”

Value gains

It is interesting that Middle East investors continue to see a lot of residual value in London property, of which the top-end ones recorded value gains well over the market average. In fact, there was only one UK-based investor who could get a hand on a €100 million plus property last year. They were just getting crowded by Middle East and Asian investors.

At the same time, the UK government was raising the barrier on premium properties being acquired as trophy assets by overseas investors. A capital gains tax will be imposed on overseas buyers from next year.

However, market sources say Middle East’s high net worth investors are likely to overlook that. “Capital gains tax is apparent in most markets around the world and now the UK will become no different,” said Paul Preston, who heads IP Global’s regional operations. “Markets where there is no CGT paid by foreign investors, have historically been volatile markets.

“I personally think that more and more people are buying property in London for investment purposes, whereas in years gone by, the trend was GCC buyers buying in London more for personal use.

“People who have the capabilities for investing millions of pounds are still buying the property they want and not looking to invest lesser amounts due to ‘Mansion Tax’. What we are seeing is that if people want something, they buy it.”

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Hotels in Dubai start charging ‘tourism dirham’

Dubai, March 30, 2014, Gulf News – : The tourism dirham, a new fee announced by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) in January, takes effect on Monday. The fee is imposed on guests staying at hotels and hotel apartments in Dubai per room per night. Hotels will collect the fee and pass it on to DTCM.

“The revenues raised from the tourism dirham will be used to fund the development of the emirate’s tourism and trade sectors, which includes investment into both enhancing the destination offering and into marketing,” Issam Abdul Rahim Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), a new affiliate of DTCM, told Gulf News in an emailed statement.

The corporation is responsible for the international promotion and marketing of Dubai.

Kazim did not provide a figure for the contribution of the tourism dirham to the tourism industry’s revenue.

A fee of Dh20 is charged by five-star hotels, Dh15 by four-star hotels, Dh10 by two- and three-star hotels and Dh7 by one-star or budget hotels, according to DTCM.

Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham is charging guests Dh10 per room per night, while Ramada Downtown Dubai is charging Dh20.

“We expect the success (of the tourism dirham) technically. However, operationally the hotels may face some challenges of collecting the fees from guests being new introduced charges,” said Christophe Landais, regional Managing Director of Accor, a French hotel operator.

He added that the fee will eventually “move smoothly” as guests become more aware of it.

Meanwhile, hotels on ClearTrip, an India-based travel website with operations in the UAE, are charging guests the tourism dirham on top of the price of the room, according to Tareq Khatri, the company’s Senior Vice- President of Business Development.

Khatri pointed out that the tourism dirham will not discourage travellers from staying at hotels in Dubai since they are paying a small fee. Similarly, Kulwant Singh, Managing Director of tour operator Lama Tours, said he did not believe there is any “negative sentiment” from customers.

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Tourists in Saudi Arabia repaid SR300,000 in excess charges

Jeddah, Arab News, 1 April 2014 – In an unprecedented move, more than 30 hotel and furnished apartment owners along Jeddah’s Corniche were ordered to pay back customers a combined SR300,000 in excess charges during the 10-day spring break, Mohammed Al-Ameri, executive director of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities in the Makkah region, told Arab News.

Many lodge owners had been found guilty of taking advantage of high demand and setting room rates way beyond their original price in contravention of a circular detailing official prices set by the commission and the Ministry of Commerce.

The findings were made during inspection tours conducted by the commission’s teams in Jeddah.

“Inspection teams immediately contacted the visitors and tourists and informed them that the excess money charged would be refunded,” said Al-Ameri. “Our branch in Jeddah had organized inspection tours around the clock in an effort to ensure commitment to pricing and licensing regulations.”

He called on citizens and residents to report price violations on 19988 or by submitting a formal complaint to the commission’s local branch.

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Bangladesh’s March Remittance Touches Nine-Month High

DHAKA, Bangladesh April 4 (NNN-Xinhua) — Bangladesh received remittance of 1. 27 billion U.S. dollars in March, the highest single month inflow in the current fiscal year 2013-14 ending in June, a central bank official said Thursday.

Bangladesh Bank (BB) General Manager AFM Asaduzzaman told Xinhua that “The inward remittance in March hit this fiscal year’s single-month highest at 1,273.36 million U.S. dollars.”

The previous highest amount remitted in a single month in the current fiscal year 2013-14 (July 2013-June 2014) by overseas Bangladeshis was recorded in January when they sent home 1,260.66 million U.S. dollars.

Despite the highest single inflow in March, remittances from some nine million Bangladeshis fell by about 6 percent year on year to 10,470.81 million U.S. dollars in the first three quarters of the 2013-14 fiscal year, the BB data showed.

Sources said the inflow of remittance suffered due mainly to sluggish overseas employment and political instability surrounding the country’s Jan. 05 national elections.

The inflow of remittances in the 2012-13 (July 2012-June 2013) fiscal year reached nearly 15 billion U.S. dollars, about 13 percent higher than the same period a year ago, the BB data showed.

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Opera Narrates Life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

OnIslam & Newspapers Monday, 31 March 2014 – CAIRO – Saving no penny, the wealthy Sharjah emirate has opened a huge musical opera that tells the story of life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), sending an out loud call for dialogue among different faiths.

“Dialogue and understanding of each other is the Islamic approach, and one that was adopted by the Prophet Mohammed, and it represented an important aspect of Islamic civilization,” Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, was quoted by Emirati newspaper The National on Monday, March 31.

The Sheikh was speaking at the Clusters of Light operetta which opened to the public on Sunday, March 30, bringing together the emirate’s senior officials with artists from throughout the Arab world.

The epic musical show was written by Dr Abdul Rahman Al Ashmawi, a Saudi poet, and composed by the Bahraini artist Khalid Al Shaikh.

The show had to be assembled in months by an international team that includes Piers Shepperd, technical director of the 2012 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.

The soundtrack was recorded by the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg in Berlin, led by the German composer Christian Steinhauser.

The show narrates the biography of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) from his birth until his passing, features more than 200 actors and 70 musicians, with cinematic visuals and live performances.

Mohammed Assaf, the popular Palestinian singer, opened the stage show, followed by artists such as Hussein Al Jasmi, Ali El Haggar and Lotfi Bouchnak.

It started with the pre-Islamic period, showcasing the worship of idols and the popularly-known Year of the Elephant, in which Prophet Mohammad was born.

It then highlighted key Islamic events, including the starting of the revelations, the historical journey of Isra wal Miraj, the first migration to Abyssinia and the major migration to Medina, the different Islamic battles, and finally the death of the Prophet.

For its makers, the opera about the life of Prophet Muhammad was a challenge they managed to pass.

According to the creative director, the first step for the international team was to watch The Message, a 1977 film about Muhammad’s life that showed the story from his direct perspective, conveniently keeping him off-screen.

“As we weren’t making a film, we didn’t have that luxury,” Lindsay told The Guardian.

“There’s only once in the show we refer to the prophet, and then we represent him as a source of light, which is accepted. For the rest of the time we didn’t need him in the story, as it revolves around him. The show is about what he’s doing, but it doesn’t actually need to show him.”

Shepperd said his involvement corrected many misconceptions he had on several subjects, including the position of women.

“If you look at the popular misconceptions about Islam, that isn’t the case at all. It’s great to be working on a show that explores those kinds of things,” he said.

Clusters of Light will be staged for another four days at the amphitheatre, after which the oratorio will travel to a number of other Arab cities around the world. Tickets for the show cost Dh50.

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Italian Cuisine Gets Halal Flavor

OnIslam & News Agencies Tuesday, 01 April 2014 – ROME – Introducing new investment opportunities to pull Europe out of crisis, World Halal Food Council has held a conference in the Italian capital to promote the production, logistics and commercialization of new investments according to Islamic standards.

“We are willing to invest in Italy, which we want to see become the hub of the Halal market in the Mediterranean,” Saudi sheik Fahah Alared, a member of the Committee for Islamization of Banks, told Italian news agency (ANSA) on Monday, March 31.

Halal products are a global market worth “13 trillion per year, growing 15% every year, reaching two billion Muslims,” he added.

Alared was speaking at the World Halal Food Council (WHFC) event held in Rome March 26-30.

The event organized by the Italian section of the Halal International Authority (HIA), the only organism recognized for the quality certification for products according to Islamic standards, gathered together representatives of the 57 Islamic states of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the first time in Italy.

The message of the meeting focused on promoting the growing halal industry, including Islamic finance and other products, as a means to pull Europe out of its crisis and Italy in particular.

This goal could be achieved by following Islamic and halal food standards in “production, logistics and commercialization” consistent with the precepts of Shari`ah laws.

The concept of halal — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food.

Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.

Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

Halal food is consumed not only by 1.5 billion Muslims around the world, but also by at least 500 million non-Muslims in the $2 billion global industry.

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

During the Rome meeting, attendants signed a new protocol agreement that announced the birth of “Italy Halal Hub”.

“We have signed an protocol agreement with the Government Agency of Malaysia for the development of the Halal market (and) for the birth of the ‘Italy Halal Hub’,” sheikh Alared told ANSA.

In this way “Malaysia, the largest Halal market in the world, will make its experience available to Italy, which will become the leading Halal hub in Europe, serving countries of the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Balkans and obviously European countries,” the sheik added.

Development would be based on “Islamic financing, which does not allow the application of interest, as it would be a capital sin” and see “investment through equity partnerships and the acquisition of company shares” with direct action “also in failing companies”.

The new halal hub would include investments in food, clothing, tourism, medicines and even cosmetics.

Among the 270 Italian companies that are already Halal-certified, many have seen production “grow to point of not being able to keep up with orders coming from southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia,” according to Alared.

These companies would meet with sheiks “willing to open new branches and hire personnel”.

“We are ready to invest also in infrastructure, but Italy must guarantee us official recognition of the Halal market, making certification mandatory among companies that are interested,” he added.

Italy has a Muslim population of some 1.7 million, including 20,000 reverts, according to the figures released by Istat, the national statistics agency.

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Bank of Korea joins Islamic Financial Services Board

Seoul, Saturday 29 Jamada Al Awwal 1434/ 29 March 2014 (IINA) – South Korea’s central bank has joined the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), one of the main standard-setting bodies for Islamic finance, as regulators across Asia build closer ties to the growing industry.

Guidelines issued by the Kuala Lumpur-based IFSB are gaining prominence as the industry takes a greater share of the banking sector in several majority-Muslim countries and expands into new markets. The Bank of Korea is the 59th regulatory body to join the IFSB, bringing total membership to 184, joining the likes of the central banks of Luxembourg and Japan and the monetary authorities of Hong Kong and Singapore. The move could augur stronger links between South Korea and Islamic finance hubs in Southeast Asia.

South Korea’s Export-Import Bank of Korea already has a bond program in Malaysia that can issue Islamic bonds, or sukuk, although it has yet to tap the market. This week, Hong Kong lawmakers passed a bill that will allow the AAA-rated government to raise around $500 million via sukuk, or Islamic bonds. In a separate statement, the IFSB also adopted a revised guideline on the supervision of Islamic finance institutions, helping tighten regulatory oversight of industry practices. The latest update complements stricter Basel rules, agreed globally to make banks safer after the 2007-09 credit crisis. In the past two years, the IFSB has issued separate guidelines on liquidity risk management, stress testing and capital adequacy.

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Kazakhtan scientist proves Navier-Stokes equations, answers million dollar question

Astana (IINA) – Mukhtarbay Otelbayev, a professor at the Eurasian National University’s department of methods of mathematical simulation, published a paper in the Mathematical Journal in which he proves the existence of a solution to an equation deemed one of the hardest in the world. The Navier Stokes Equation is One of seven Millennium Prize problems, which were set by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000.

The equations are useful in academic and economic spheres as they may be used to model the weather, ocean currents, water flow in a pipe and air flow around a wing. They describe the physics of many things, including the “lift” phenomenon of the modern airplane. The Navier–Stokes equations in their full and simplified forms help with the design of aircraft and cars, the study of blood flow, the design of power stations, the analysis of pollution, and many other things.

Although the original equations were written down in the 19th century, our understanding of them has remained patched with no central proof the equations general principles. The challenge has been to make a substantial progress toward a mathematical theory, which will unlock the secrets hidden in the Navier-Stokes equations. The equations named after British and French Engineer Claude-Louis Navier– and Britain’s George Gabriel Stokes, are also of great interest in a purely mathematical sense which explains the amount of researchers within academic circles, numbering at around a thousand five-hundred.

The Clay Mathematical Institute, a UK non-profit organization based in Providence, Rhode Island, USA describes the equations as those that are believed to explain and predict fluid motion. The institute has called this one of the seven most important open problems in mathematics and has offered a US$1,000,000 prize for a solution or a counter-example. While confident in his findings and sure the academics in the West will have to agree, he says he does not want to spend the reward money on himself, saying the salary he currently earns suffices him and his wife. He says if the money is allowed to be kept by him, his wife will be ready to find use for it, whereas if she agrees, he would give the money to an orphanage.

“Over the years there have been several alleged solutions to the Navier-Stokes problem that turned out to be wrong,” says Charles Fefferman of Princeton University, who wrote the official formulation of the problem for Clay. “Since I don’t speak Russian and the paper is not yet translated, I’m afraid I can’t say more right now.” However, Otelbayev is a professional, so mathematicians are paying more attention to his proof than is typical for amateur efforts to solve Millennium Prize problems, which are regularly posted online. Mukhtarbay Otelbayev who is currently is 71 has been working on this equation since 1979, is a doctor of physics and science at the Eurasian National University in Astana as well as director of Eurasian Mathematical Institute, Kazakhstan.

The Russian-speaking Misha Wolfson, a computer scientist and chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is attempting to spark an online, group effort to translate the paper. “While my grasp on the math is good enough to enable translation up to this point, I am not qualified to say anything about whether or not the solution is any good,” he says.

Stephen Montgomery-Smith of the University of Missouri in Columbia, who is working with Russian colleagues to study the paper, is hopeful.”What I have read so far does seem valid,” he says “but I don’t feel that I have yet got to the heart of the proof.”

Otelbayev says that three colleagues in Kazakhstan and another in Russia agree that the proof is correct.

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Gulf states to invest $737 million in Morocco tourism infrastructure

Casablanca, Wednesday 02 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 02 April 2014 (IINA) – Arab Gulf states will invest $737 million in tourism infrastructure in the port of Casablanca in the first of a series of such projects, a statement from Morocco’s royal cabinet said on Tuesday.

The states will use their Wessal Capital joint venture, one of the vehicles created by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states to support the Moroccan and Jordanian monarchies during the Arab Spring uprisings. The fund is focused on tourism development in Morocco and is supported by Qatari fund Qatar Holding, the Kuwait Investment Authority’s Al Ajial Investments, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Aabar, Saudi Investment Fund and the Moroccan Fund for Tourism Development (FMDT).

Four Gulf states – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates – agreed in 2012 to provide aid worth a total $5 billion to Morocco between 2012 and 2017 to build up its infrastructure, strengthen its economy and foster tourism. The Wessal Capital funds worth $3.4 billion are separate from the aid package, the statement carried by the state news agency said. “Wessal Casablanca-Port will reconvert a part of the Casablanca port … to create an urban center which would make the city’s coastline and its old medina a high-end destination,” it added.

Moroccan King Mohammed has kept his distance from Gulf Arab monarchies since his coronation in 1999, making far fewer official visits to the region than his late father King Hassan. However, concern over social unrest has brought Arab monarchies closer to each other.

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Qatar to provide $1 billion to Sudan

Khartoum, Thursday 03 Jamada Al Akhir 1434/ 03 April 2014 (IINA) – Qatar will deposit $1 billion at Sudan’s central bank as part of an aid package, Khartoum said on Wednesday.

The announcement by Sudanese Finance Minister Badr El-Din Mahmoud came at the end of a one-day state visit to Khartoum by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Mahmoud, speaking to journalists at Khartoum airport, said Qatar also planned to invest in large agricultural and energy projects in Sudan, a country vital to Egyptian interests because of its location upstream on the river Nile.

Mahmoud said the deposit was the second part of an aid package but declined to give details of the first part.

In a written statement, Sheikh Tamim said his visit “comes to confirm the two countries’ desire for continued dialogue and coordination on issues of mutual interest.” Egypt has accused Qatar of meddling in its internal affairs and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Amid war, world record set in Damascus

AFP / 02 Apr 2014 – A group of Syrian artists in Damascus has created the world’s biggest mural made of recycled materials, a rare work aimed at brightening public space in a city sapped by war and sanctions.

The brightly colored, 720-sq meter work was constructed from aluminum cans, broken mirrors, bicycle wheels and other scrap objects and displayed on a street outside a primary school in the center of the Syrian capital.

The mural’s lead artist, Syrian artist Moaffak Makhoul, said the idea behind the project was to give ordinary people a chance to experience art and relieve some of the pressures of daily life as the country’s three-year-old conflict grinds on.

“In the difficult conditions that the country is going through, we wanted to give a smile to the people, joy to the children, and show people that the Syrian people love life, love beauty, love creativity,”he said.

Guinness World Records has declared the work the world’s largest mural made of recycled materials.

Syria is sunk in a civil war that has killed over 140,000 people, forced millions more to flee their homes and devastated much of the country’s infrastructure, economic activity and urban life.

Central Damascus has been relatively shielded from the worst fighting, although a little over a year ago rebels controlled a ring of suburbs and were launching incursions that threatened government control over parts of the city center.

Gains over the past few months by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Damascus’ outskirts and along the nearby Lebanese border have strengthened the government’s grip on the capital.

Makhoul said he saw the mural as a fitting project for the times because it could help ease the frustrations of normal people. “I found it to be the most appropriate time for this. Now is when we need to do something,” he said.

“I’ve been sad to see a lot of my colleagues, artists, all traveling abroad and leaving. God be with them and give them luck – but the country also needs all of us.”

The mural took about six months to complete and was finished in January with the help of about six artists.

Students at the school nearby said they were happy with the completed work. “It’s really great – it’s made me more excited to come to school,” said one student, Shams Khidir.

Mohamed, another passerby, said he had watched the project develop from its beginning while passing by the wall.

“It’s really great work. It made me feel we can benefit a lot from things we aren’t using,” he said.

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Helpline for Muslims opens in Kazan

islam.ru / 02 Apr 2014 – First helpline for Muslims will be opened in Kazan, the press service of Tatarstan Myftiyat reports.

Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan Republic jointly with the Union of Muslim youth of Russia will start this social project. The telephone number of the helpline is (843)202-4-202. It will be available to get answers on Islamic questions as well as to get psychological and legal assistance.

The project will involve three experts: Muslim psychologist, an expert on Shariah issues and secular lawyer.

At the opening ceremony of the Muslim helpline, it will be also announced by the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Tatarstan that 2014 Year is “The Year of revival of religious values”.

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Indonesia records fastest 2013 Travel & Tourism growth of G20 countries

WTTC / 03 Apr 2014 – Indonesia grew its economic contribution from Travel & Tourism by 8.4% in 2013, the largest growth of any G20 country. That is according to the latest research from The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the global authority on the Travel & Tourism Industry.

WTTC’s 2014 annual Economic Impact Report shows that Indonesia recorded double digit growth in international visitor spending (15.1%) and 7.2% economic growth in domestic tourism last year.

David Scowsill, President and CEO of WTTC, says it has been a fantastic year for Travel & Tourism in Indonesia; “Indonesia is expanding its economy rapidly and, as a result, the burgeoning middle class is travelling for business and leisure. The country is also experiencing an expansion in international visitors bringing valuable export income to the country, partly encouraged by the devaluation of the Indonesian rupiah against the US dollar. As the country moves from agriculture to a service-based economy, Travel & Tourism is increasing and the economy overall is reaping the rewards”.

In 2014, WTTC’s research shows that Travel & Tourism’s direct contribution to the Indonesian economy is expected to grow by a further 8.1%, outperforming the general economy by 2.8 percentage points. WTTC’s 2014 forecasts predict double digital growth for international visitor exports (14.2%) and continued above average growth for domestic tourism spending (6.3%).

Mr Scowsill continues; “2013 was a great year for Travel & Tourism. But 2014 is set to see a further boom in visitor numbers, tourism receipts and job creation. If Indonesia continues to invest in promotional activity and bring in visa facilitation policies, it is set to again be one of the winners for Travel & Tourism this year. It is vital, however, that such impressive growth goes hand in hand with policies to ensure the future sustainability of the sector. Indonesia has many natural and cultural riches and these need to be protected for the future”.

The WTTC research also highlights the size of Travel & Tourism around the world:

• In 2013, Travel & Tourism contributed US$7 trillion to the global economy and is expected to grow by 4.2% in 2014. The total global contribution of Travel & Tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was 266 million jobs (8.9% of total employment) – one in 11 of all jobs on the planet;

• In 2014, the industry globally is expected to grow by 4.3%

Mr Scowsill says 2013 proved another successful year for the Industry; “Travel & Tourism’s contribution to the world economy grew for the fourth consecutive year in 2013, helped especially by strong demand from international travellers. Visitor exports, the measure of money spent by these international tourists, rose by 3.9% at a global level year on year, to US$1.3 trillion, and by over 10% within South East Asia. It is clear that the growth in Travel & Tourism demand from emerging markets continues with pace, as the burgeoning middle-classes, especially from Asia and Latin America, are willing and more able than ever to travel both within and beyond their borders”.

However, Mr Scowsill reminds Governments that they need to take action; “Travel & Tourism forecasts over the next ten years also look extremely favourable, with predicted growth rates of over 4% annually that continue to be higher than growth rates in other industries. Capitalising on the opportunities for this Travel & Tourism growth will, of course, require destinations and regional authorities, particularly those in emerging markets, to create favourable business climates for investment in the infrastructure and human resource support necessary to facilitate a successful and sustainable tourism industry. At the national level, governments can also do much to implement more open visa regimes and to employ intelligent rather than punitive taxation policies. If the right steps are taken, Travel & Tourism can be a true force for good”.

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Old Turkish books return to life in library

BURSA – Anadolu Agency – Old books are being renovated in the restoration section of the first madrasah library of the Ottoman history in the northwestern province of Bursa. Organic material, acid-free paper and silk are used in their detailed restoration and the books are presented to serve researchers.

The “Paper and Cover Restoration” section at the İnebey Manuscript Library is home to the books that have been destroyed by humidity, fungus and book worms. These books are going through processes like page cleaning, cover restoration and decoration. Two books restorers working for the library have revived some 800 books since 2010.

The director of the library, Osman Nuri Solak, said all books destroyed by detrimental effects were being restored in detail, from their pages to their cover. “If there are chemical and damaging effects on the pages of these books, we first clean them. Then the book goes through the restoration processes on each page. The restoration ends with the binding of the book,” he said.

Once the restoration is done, each of the book’s pages is transferred into the digital environment in high resolution, said Solak.

damage and materials used for restoration did not harm the books. He said they used organic materials and acid-free papers in the restoration, and said, “Sometimes a book may be completely unbound or its inner pages may be destroyed. If there is deformation on the book, we intervene. First of all, we disassemble the book and complete the missing parts with Japanese paper. If there are book worms, we clean them one by one with a lancet.”

Bilmiş said the books were going through the pressing process later on, and continued: “In the final process, the edges of Japanese papers are trimmed to become integrated with the book. We use thrown silk to sew the back of the manuscripts. This is a completely natural and silk material. Then we work on the cover of the book. The size of the book is taken and an appropriate cover is made according to it. It is also decorated. Finally, I assemble the cover to the book and the restoration is complete.”

Bilmiş said they could also make covers for historic unbound works according to their era. He said they used leather similar like the original leather used in the work’s cover. “We use saffian and goat skin. We trim it manually and bring it to the size of A4 paper. We dry the trimmed leather on glass and the dried leather becomes suitable for processing. Then, we attach it to the books. If ornamentation is necessary, we make some applications. Ornamentation is made with gold. We press the gold leaf, add water to it and use very thin brushes for ornamentation and we get a cover similar like an original manuscript cover,” he said.

Another restorer working for the library, Hüseyin Delil, said the books have various damaged parts and they needed to clean them page by page to get rid of those damages. He said dust on books is cleaned with a thin brush specially produced for book restoration, and then a kind of eraser or wet cleaning materials are used to clean the dirt. “In this way, pages get wet and becomes suitable for pressing, the next process,” he said.

Delil said the cover of the books could be made with book sleeves, like in their own era, adding cover restoration of manuscripts and printed books was done in different ways. He said that partly leather was used in printed books. “Designs are made with leaf gold on the cover of manuscripts, but printing blocks are generally used for printed books,” he said.

Delil said books with fungus were the most damaged ones, adding the restoration process varies between one day and one month.

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Europe’s first trick art museum in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – There are no historical artifacts, national treasures or masterpieces, but people of all ages are flocking to a bizarre and colorful new museum in Istanbul where visitors can partake in the artwork.

Located at Vialand in the Eyüp district, Alive Museum is Europe’s first – and the world’s largest – museum dedicated to trick art.

This art form originated in Japan and spread throughout the Far East, gradually gaining worldwide popularity. Dating back about 2,000 years, it became an established art form by the time of the Renaissance era. The theme is essentially the same as the illusion: that of that of time.

Unlike other museums where signs such as “do not take photos” or “do not touch” abound, this museum is all about taking photos and being part of the art.

Featuring over 100 three-dimensional images, the gallery offers visitors the chance to fully integrate into the artwork on the walls and floors, rather than simply looking at them.

Some of the pieces are reproductions of paintings drawn by famous artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, as well as interpretations of well-known images from history.

Paintings of cliffs, wild animals and Obama are the most popular exhibits in the museum with the U.S. president are proving popular with foreign visitors. “Arab tourists especially line up to have their photo taken with the Obama image,” Derya Yılmaz, Alive Museum’s general manager said. It takes around one and a half hours to visit the whole museum, which covers an area of 3,000 square meters, but some visitors spend much more time there. Alive Museum, which hosts around 100 pieces of art, will change images regularly.

For further information about the museum, please visit canlimuze.com

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Five premieres at the State Opera & Ballet

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – The State Opera and Ballet (DOB) will stage the premieres of five new works in April. According to a written statement made by the DOB General Directorate, new opera and ballet works will be on stage in Ankara, İzmir, Mersin, Antalya and Samsun.

The İzmir DOB will stage the Turkish premiere of the modern dance “Dance Celebration,” which presents music by Vivaldi, Paganini and Bach. The work was choreographed by Silvano Correa Riberio. The Ankara DOB will bring Bizet’s world renowned “Carmen” opera to the stage on April 26. Recep Ayyılmaz will perform the piece on stage.

The Samsun DOB is preparing to stage Franz Lehar’s operetta “The Merry Widow” on April 7, while the Mersin DOB will present to its viewers “Karyağdı Hatun” for the first time on April 8. The stage director of the piece is Gürçil Çeliktaş. Additionally, the Antalya DOB will present a classical Turkish ballet, Ferit Tüzün’s “Çeşmebaşı” and Çetin Işıközlü’s “Judith” on April 8.

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Turkish cinema to have largest database

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – A project has been initiated to create a database and archive Turkish cinema. Within the scope of the Turkish Cinema Researches project, all audio, visual and written materials related to Turkish cinema, beginning from the Ottoman era, will be handled and recorded. When the project is done, the most comprehensive database and archive of Turkish cinema will be available for everyone.

The Foundation for Sciences and Arts (BİSAV) and Istanbul Şehir University Cinema Television Department are jointly carrying out a comprehensive and detailed classification work for Turkish cinema with the support of the Istanbul Development Agency.

Through the website www.tsa.org.tr, which will address everyone trying to reach any information about Turkish cinema, it will be possible to reach documents under tens of thousands of titles in categories such as film, person, book, article, interview and thesis.

The TSA archive unit, which is planned to be formed within the scope of the project, will be open to the use of researchers and academics.

Project coordinator Murat Pay said the prior goal of the project was to keep the 100-year archive of Turkish cinema in a systematic way for the next generations.

He said their work would be a solid foundation for new researches on cinema history, and added, “So far, eight private and two state archives have been revised. We are getting in touch with professional bodies, associations and sector companies to exchange information. We have followed the traces of early period Turkish cinema in collaboration with some 15 film libraries abroad. In this scope, 3,000 issues of 60 various cinema magazines from the Taksim Atatürk Library and Beyazıt State Library have ben digitalized. Also some 5,300 posters from the archive of the Beyazıt State Library have been photographed.”

The project will start its test broadcast in June. The project’s advisory board includes names like Giovanni Scognamillo, Burçak Evren, Semih Kaplanoğlu, Peyami Çelikcan, Yalçın Yelence, Abdülhamit Kırmızı and Celil Civan. The archives of collectors like Agah Özgüç and Vadullah have been donated for the project.

Some 13 people are working for the project full time and part time and it receives support from many volunteers.

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Tulip time starts in Istanbul, decorating everywhere

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – Istanbul will be able to smell the flowers once again as the ninth International Istanbul Tulip Festival gets underway around the city.

Costing a total of 5 million Turkish Liras, 20 million tulips of 211 different species have been planted in gardens, parks and squares all around the city from Tuzla to Silivri. During the festival, which is being organized by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Emirgan Woods, Taksim Square, Hıdiv Woods, the Göztepe Rose Garden, the Büyük Çamlıca Woods, Sultanahmet Square and Gülhane Park will host various events.

As part of the events, the Istanbul Tulip Cup, an international women’s tennis tournament, will be held at the Kadıköy Göztepe Park from April 21 to 27. An exhibition featuring contemporary interpretations of the Turkish art of illumination will also be open at the Taksim Cumhuriyet Art Gallery between April 7 and 13.

As well as the sales of many tulip-themed products, there will be painting and photography exhibitions and music concerts. At the same time, marbling artists will also perform their trade live for art lovers.

There will also be a competition for most beautiful tulip photo during the festival. A tulip sculpture exhibition is also on the list of activities for the festival.

The tulips to be planted in the city were grown by villagers in the Central Anatolian province of Konya’s Çumra district, as well as Silivri, Çatalca, Şile, Pamukova and Geyve. The commercial cultivation of the tulip began in the Ottoman Empire. Tulips are one of the traditional symbols of Istanbul.

The festival will continue until April 30.

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Qatar Airways wins Best Premium Service Facilities award

Sun.mv – March 30, 2014 – Qatar Airways Premium Terminal at Doha International Airport has won the Best Premium Service Facilities at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2014, held this week in Barcelona, Spain.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal has taken home the prestigious award. More than 50 World Airport Awards were presented to winners over the course of the evening on Wednesday.

The award is based on 12 million questionnaires completed by passengers from over 100 different countries, which covered more than 385 airports and 400 airport hotels worldwide, over a nine-month period.

The award was accepted on behalf of the airline by Qatar Airways Chief Commercial Officer, Marwan Koleilat.

“We are very proud to have won this award for the fourth consecutive year. It is a great testament to the hard work and efforts of all Qatar Airways staff striving to go that extra mile to deliver top-notch customer service every day. The travel experience for any passenger starts at the airport, and so our Premium Terminal has proved to be a real winner focusing on satisfying the needs of our passengers by providing them with only the best of airport experiences,” Mr. Koleilat said.

The awards ceremony, which was held at Fira Barcelona, brought together airport CEOs and management, as well as selected airport hotels.

Qatar Airways was also recently named Best Business Class by Business Traveller readers in the United Kingdom and Best Middle East Airline by readers of Business Traveller, Asia-Pacific.

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Economic self-reliance accelerates Bangladesh women empowerment

RANGPUR, March 31, 2014 (BSS) – The economic self-reliance, achieved by the rural women in recent years, has been improving their life standard side by side accelerating women empowerment in the northern region.

Thousands of the distressed and have-nots group rural women have become able to drive away abject poverty, commonly known as seasonal ‘monga’ through various income generation activities under GO-NGO assistances during the past five years.

Executive Director of Northbengal Institute of Development Studies Dr Syed Samsuzzaman said the rural women have been contributed largely in poverty alleviation and ‘monga’ eradication setting up a difference in their life standard.

The massive social safety net programmes and employment generation activities of the government have been playing very effective role in eradicating the seasonal curse of ‘monga’ once for all from the region, he added.

The socio-economic condition of the distressed rural women has improved because of their engagements with various income generating activities under effective GO-NGO-private initiatives, said Head of Programme of RDRS Bangladesh Monjushree Saha.

The small-scale enterprises, cottage industries, sewing, micro- credit activities, homestead farming, pisciculture, trades, rearing poultry birds, animals, afforestation and other programmes helped the distressed women in achieving economic self- reliance.

Monjusree specially mentioned that the easy-term and interest-free loans, training for unemployed women for self- employment, assistance of the government, NGOs, donor agencies, development partners also played important roles in eradicating poverty.

Additional Divisional Commissioner (General) Narayan Chandra Barma said the government still continues implementing comprehensive social safety-net programmes in a coordinated manner and effectively to close doors for ‘monga’ permanently.

Successful implementation of VGF, VGD, employment generation, various allowances and other safety-net programmes have been proved effective in assisting the distressed people including women to improve their macroeconomic condition.

“The seasonal ‘monga’ that caused miseries to the poor, mostly distressed women and children in the pasts, would never come back, as the government continues implementing huge social safety-net programmes to improve life standard of the poor, he added.

Chilmari upazila chairman Shawkat Ali Sarker, Bir Bikram, said the economic well-being achieved by the distressed women has been helping them sending their children to schools though many of them used to live under abject poverty in the pasts.

Taramon Bibi, Bir Pratik, said nobody can now find adolescents as domestic helps even in char areas where people had to starve during the seasonal lean periods in the pasts as their socio- economic conditions have been improved largely.

While talking to BSS, successful rural women Rashida, Kamrun Nahar, Soheli, Hasna, Shyamoli, Sokhina, Renuka Rani and Kabita, who led miserable life even a decade ago, said they have achieved self-reliance, driven away ‘monga’ to lead better life now.

The women, including landless and distressed, divorcees and widows, unemployed young girls and housewives, said with smiling faces that they are now confident about brighter future of their children because of economic success.

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Biman resumes flight to Frankfurt

DHAKA, March 31, 2014 (BSS)-Biman Bangladesh Airlines resumed its Dhaka-Frankfurt flight today after a suspension of almost seven years, creating the 19th overseas destination of the national flag carrier.

The flight BG 055 took off Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Frankfurt at 10 am this morning after having an inaugural ceremony at the airport.

Biman will operate the flights on the new route to German business hub Frankfurt twice in a week with its newly inducted Boeing 777-300ER.

Charge d’ affairs of German embassy here Dr. Fereidi Nando Gon Weyhe inaugurated the new route at a simple ceremony at the airport when Biman’s Board Chairman Air Marshal Jamal Uddin Ahmed (retd) was present.

The Flight BG 055 will leave Dhaka on every Friday and Monday at 10 am for Frankfurt and reach there at 18:40 local time. Similarly flight BG 056 will leave Frankfurt at 20:10 local time on Friday and Monday and arrive in Dhaka at 13:00 hour local time next day.

Frankfurt came under Biman’s wings in 1986 and Biman had served the route for more than 19 years at a stretch.

The flight was suspended in 2006 in the wake of aircraft constraints. Now with the acquisition of new aircraft, the airline is considering resumption of flights to places where it had presence in the past.

It is expected that the route will give a boost to Bangladesh-German bilateral trade, Biman officials said.

The national flag carrier had offered 50 percent discount to its airfare for the resumed inaugural flight to Dhaka-Frankfurt-Dhaka.

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Jakarta monorail project to be completed in 2017: Adhi Karya

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Publicly traded construction company PT Adhi Karya Tbk said construction of Jakartas monorail project linking Bekasi-Cawang and Cibubur-Cawang will start in 2015 to be completed in 2017.

Construction of the Jakarta Link Transportation (JLT) will start in April , 2015 although it has yet to wait for the presidential regulation on monorail.

“With or without presidential regulation, construction will start in April 2015 and it is to be completed in 2017,” president of the state construction company Kiswodarmawan, said after a shareholders meeting here on Thursday.

Kiswodarmawan said the presidential regulation serves only to facilitate realization as everything has been prepared.

A number of requirements for the execution of the project include ground plan and draft plan for execution,as well as operational right, business license, construction license and financial closing have been secured, he said.

“All licenses and approvals from the regulator have to be secured in the next year,” he said.

The presidential regulation of which until now there has been no sign that it is about to be issued, will serve only as complement, as basically the monorail will be built under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, he said.

“With assignment from the minister of state enterprises , the project could be implemented. This a fact that we have to do,” he said.

The project is owned by a consortium of four state companies PT Industri Kereta Api (INKA), PT Lembaga Elektronika Negara (LEN), PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom), and PT Jasa Marga Tbk.

Based on the project master plan, which has been drafted and submitted to the government, the project will cost around Rp8.3 trillion.

“Bank loans make up 70 percent of the cost with the consortium putting up the remaining 30 percent in cash.” Kiswodarmawan said.

The monorail will have at least 10 stations to be built in areas close to shopping centers, apartments and office complexes, Pundjung Setya Brata, a senior official of Adhi Karya, said.

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Indonesian, English pianists collaborate in Steinway and sons` piano launching

Tue, March 25 2014 London (ANTARA News) – Indonesian young pianist Elwin Hendrijanto and English Pianist Dominic Ferris have a collaboration performance during the launching of Steinway and Sons Arabesque piano series.

“I am happy that I can play the Arabesque piano series and be part of its launch, as most of the wood used in this piano were Sulawesis black wood, famously called Makassars ebony here,” Elwin explained, after performing some compositions in London, on Tuesday.

Elwin Hendrijanto and Dominic Ferris are known to play piano as a duo, called “Piano Brothers” based in London.

During the performance, the Piano Brothers played several compositions from classic “Autumn Leaves” to contemporary “Rolling in the Deep” by singer Adele.

The Piano Brothers also involved the audience in the performance by encouraging them to clap or hum the lyrics of some of the compositions.

As part of the launch, Elwin also composed a music score titled “Ballade for Steinway” for an official video in the Arabesque piano series.

Elwin graduated with First Class Honors in the postgraduate program of films music score and piano performance at the Royal College of Music in London, through Prince Bernhard Cultural Funds Scholarship Program.

Up to now, Elwin has been trying to build his musical career in London.

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Sriwijaya Air takes over Batam-Natuna route from sky aviation

Wed, April 2 2014 Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) – Sriwijaya Air has taken over the flight service on the Batam-Natuna route from Sky Aviation, which has stopped operation since mid March 2014.

Sriwijaya already started serving the route on March 24 three times per day, head of the general administration of the Hang Nadim International airport of Baram, Suwarso said here on Wednesday.

Sriwijaya takes off from Batam at 11.10 local time every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday using Boeing 737-300/400/500 aircraft, Suwarso said.

“Currently it is only three times a week. We hope the airline could serve regular flight everyday on the route,” he said.

Sky Aviation stopped operation in the region on March 18, 2014 including flights to Pontianak, Natuna, Anambas, Bandar Lampung, Pangkal Pinang and Palembang.

“Until now Sriwijaya has taken over only the Batam-Natuna route. Other routes are still open for other airlines,” he said.

The Batam-Natuna route is also served by Wings Air, Suwarso said, adding the nations flag carrier Garuda Indonesia also plans to serve the route that will take around 90 minutes.

Sriwijaya Air also serves regular flights between Batam and Jakarta and between Batam and Jambi each once per day.

The Batam Management Body (BP Batam) predicted that the number of air passengers and flight from and to Batam would increase 30 percent this year.

“This year a number of airlines will increase their frequency and new airlines will serve regular flights to and from the airport,” BP Batam spokesman Dwi Djoko Wiwoho said.

The countrys largest airline Lion Air has made Hang Nadim as its hub airport to link the countrys western and eastern regions.

Nam Air, Malindo Air, Batik Air will also soon start operations from Batam, Dwi said.

Meanwhile, Garuda Indonesia and its subsidiary Citilink plan to increase flights from Hang Nadim, he added.

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Indonesia to build 62 new airports

Sat, April 5 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Transportation Deputy Minister Bambang Susantono said Indonesia planned to build 62 new airports in the coming five years so that the number of airports in the country would increase to 299.

“There are now 237 airports in Indonesia. Of the number, 13 are managed by airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I, 13 by PT Angkasa Pura II and the remaining ones are operated by the UPT of the Directorate General of Air Transportation,” the deputy minister noted in written statement here on Saturday.

The sizes of airports operated by the air transportation directorate general are not as large as airports found in various big cities in Indonesia, he explained.

But the presence of the smaller airports are important for accessibility in the regions. Many of the new airports will be developed in Indonesias eastern regions.

The distribution of airports in Java and Sumatra is one for each of a distance of 100 km, Kalimantan and Sulawesi 60 km and Maluku, Nusa Tanggara and Papua 30 km, he said.

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Mozambique Forum Ponders Aviation Liberalization

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – 26 March 2014 – Maputo — On March 20, at the invitation of the CTA, stakeholders from civil aviation and tourism sectors gathered to comment the results of the assessment study on the economic impact of the liberalization of the civil aviation in Mozambique, funded by the SPEED project from USAID.

The study presented by Rafael Enriquez – expert in planning of infrastructure and civil aviation presented the following facts :

Current situation of civil aviation in Mozambique: -2008: opening of airspace, Decree 39/2008 – Art.44 : any company wanting to operate on the market can do it if meeting the requirements.

-2010: the International Organization of Civil Aviation reported a significant number of deficiencies from national authorities in the exercise of their supervisory functions concerning aviation safety.

-2011: the European Commission put all airlines registered in Mozambique on its blacklist. The ban is not specifically associated with the company Linhas Aereas de Moçambique (LAM), but with the regulatory institution: the Institute of Civil Aviation of Mozambique.

-2007: LAM is awarded, for the first time with an audit certificate on operational safety from the International Association of Air Transport (IATA), it will be certified in 2009 and 2011 again.

-Reform proposals: – Major airports and domestic airlines have to come under the control of the private sector.

The roles of policy maker, regulator, technical operator and investigator of accidents must be strictly separated.

Why liberalizing?

Liberalization means letting the private sector manages the business instead of the State.

Civil aviation and tourism are 100% interconnected. Currently, the tourism sector has not yet reached its full potential and is not growing at the same pace than the rest of the economy.

The liberalization of air transport allows the development of tourism and economy. If the market is liberal, the increased volume of passengers will reach 6 to10 million briefly , while if it is conservative, it will reach less than 3 million. João Martins de Abreu, president of the board of the Institute of Civil Aviation of Mozambique (IACM), interviewed shortly after the presentation noted that the IACM is currently implementing measures to overcome the requirements asked by the International Organization of Civil Aviation (IOCA) to allow domestic airlines to fly to the European airspace. For example, the IACM modernized itself, is not anymore responsible for making surveys and recruited new talent managers. The European Union reassessed quarterly the IACM, this one hope that the flight restrictions will be up shortly.

It is necessary to create trust.

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Gambia holds Tourism and Fishing Competition

The Daily Observer – 2 April 2014 – Apart from the traditional activities, tourists to Destination Gambia continue to enjoy their holiday, with a different range of activities, such as cultural, adventure to other forms of leisure and sporting activities. The latest among the sporting activities was Tourism and Fishing Competition, entitled ‘The Gambia Beach Championship,’ sponsored by the Gambia Tourism Board, in collaboration with Green Mamba and Green Tech Industry.

The sport fishing also known as recreational fishing competition brought together 30 contestants, out of which 25 were among the world best anglers. The competition that started three years ago by Bernard Westgarth, in partnership with Tony Taabal within a short-term has become a widely recognised event in Destination Gambia.

Meanwhile, The Gambia is no doubt a peaceful nation that restores faith in human relations, and as well offer tourists abundant opportunity to interact, make new friends, so as to make their stay in the country a memorable one.

Sport fishing is another event that helps tourists to relax, and not spend the whole day lying on sunbeds or swimming all day at their hotels and lodges. It was a fascinating competition that took the 30 contestants round four different beaches, namely Bijilo beach; Gunjur beach; Banjul and Sanyang beaches, respectively in four days without interruption. In beaches around the Tourism Development Area (TDA) different fish are available for anglers to catch, among them, are ‘snaper;’ butter fish; captain fish; stingray fish; jelly fish and more that your hook can pick. High tide is the best time for fishing, hence it is the time more fish come out as there is always more water, this makes fishing very good in The Gambia, taking into account that there are lots of fish here, as compared to England.

The event was no doubt a fun-day, as everyone constantly checked their fishing rods to see if it is shaking, signs of a catch, while the zone commandant never rested at any point. This annual event sponsored by the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), is tipped to compete in future with some other countries or island beaches where recreational fishing is viable, so as to make it a recognised event. This is due to the fact that Destination Gambia is well-known among tourists where both experts and amateur, international anglers and local fishermen can fish without a hassle or problem. However, to do sport fishing all you need is a rod, reel, line, hooks, baits , among other devices. You also need what is termed as terminal tackle, which is used to affect or complement the bait, although you can as well use lures in place of bait. Similarly, along the River Gambia recreational fishing can as well be conducted from the boats, especially if you want to catch big fish. The Gambia Tourism Board and Ministry of Tourism and Culture, will hopefully make this event a sustainable and permanent one in the annals of tourism calendar in The Gambia.

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Uganda Tourism Set for the Nordics

East African Business Week – 31 March 2014 – Uganda — Uganda will this May show its tourism and investment potential to the Nordic countries.

This will be the first time Uganda will exhibit in these countries also commonly referred to as the Scandinavian countries. They comprise of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, this will be a great opportunity for Uganda to tap into this market which ranks third highest in terms of tourists that visit Uganda from Europe.

“We envisage that with this kind of forum, the number of visitors from these countries will increase. We have an opportunity of a hall designated for us and partners like Brussels Airlines have come with competitive ticket rates. The Embassy has also negotiated very competitive rates,” said Asiimwe.

In partnership with Uganda’s Embassy in Denmark, Uganda will host all the five Nordic countries in Copenhagen, Denmark, with a view of increasing both the tourists and showcasing investment opportunities.

He said tourism is now Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner. It should be noted that last year, tourism generated over $1.1b according to figures that were released by the World Bank.

Margret Ageti Otteskov, the in charge of Trade, Investment and Tourism at Uganda’s embassy in Denmark said a number of dignitaries will be present at the May 23 event in Copenhagen.

“This will brand and promote Uganda as an investments destination. We expect a number of travel agents, tour operators and travel writers. We shall also launch the Explore Africa Magazine,” she said.

The embassy also negotiated a 50% discount on all air tickets for people going for the forum. They also negotiated a competitive rate with hotels for affordable accommodation.

Andrew Sseguya, the Executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority noted that about 7 to 10% of visitors to Uganda’s national parks are from Nordic Countries.

“I’m excited that we’re part of this promotion. This will be our second time to take part in this exhibition though it will be the first time for UTB,” he said.

Sseguya added that close to 80% of the visitors to Uganda are nature based tourists who have great love for the wildlife and national parks. He said they will ask people from the Nordic countries to invest in the tourism infrastructure and accommodation.

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Malaysia PM Launches Masterplan To Boost Langkawi Tourism

LANGKAWI, Malaysia March 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak n Sunday launched the Perdana Quay Development Masterplan here and expressed the hope to see three million annual tourist arrivals to this legendary island, injecting RM3.8 billion into the economy.

He said tourism was a key element of the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to turn Malaysia into a high-income nation by the year 2020.

“I want to see three million tourist arrivals here each year, bringing RM3.8 billion into the economy and creating at least 4,200 new jobs for Malaysians,” he said at the launch.

Najib said that six years from now, the government wanted to welcome 36 million tourists to Malaysia and collect RM168 billion in receipts annually – or more than RM3 billion per week.

“It is an ambitious target, yes, but we are well on the way to reaching it. This year alone, 28.8 million people are set to visit Malaysia, an increase of 12 per cent on last year.

“We are now the second most-visited destination in all of Southeast Asia,” he said.

# Uganda To Develop “Idi Amin Trail” As Tourist Attraction

KAMPALA, April 1 (NNN-NEW VISION) — All major ethnic groups in Uganda, with their unique cultures and attributes, will be classified into tourism clusters which will be marketed and promoted as part of a new set of proposals to promote domestic and international tourism.

The proposals, announced by Stephen Asiimwe, the chief executive of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), last week, will also see the often ill-mentioned legacy of former Ugandan president Idi Amin turned into an attractive and profitable tourism trail that matches other global tragedies-turned-tourism-hotspots like the Holocaust Museum in Germany or the Rwanda Genocide.

“Idi Amin is the most popular Ugandan ever but no one is making use of him. We have to develop this trail,” said Asiimwe at the post-ITB Berlin briefing here Wednesday.

Among the major cluster groups are Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro, Kigezi, northern Ugandan, eastern tourism forum. The other trails to be created are Imbalu carnival, Kampala carnival, school outreaches.

“In June we hope everybody participates in the Uganda Martyrs Trail. We have cut Uganda into clusters — a sustainable domestic domain is critical for development,” said Asiimwe.

The proposals are part of efforts to see the tourism industry turn a new page after years of living below its potential.

Asiimwe announced that the Ministry of Finance had committed to giving it 2.0 million US dollars in the next financial year, which is a big shot in the arm following years of under-funding.

Part of the efforts will be geared towards marketing Uganda to its neighbours so that more people from the Est African Community (EAC) come to Uganda to reverse the current scenario in which a majority of Ugandans travel to Kenya.

UTB Chairman James Tumusiime said his dream is to ensure that by the end of the current board’s three-year tenure, Uganda will have a National Tourism Fair. “We want this to be our legacy. There is no forum to provide info on what Uganda can offer,” he said.

Acting director of tourism Grace Mbabazi Aulo asked the promoting agencies to build on the goodwill and several accolades that keep pouring in about Uganda’s unique blessings.

Edwin Muzahura, the head of marketing at UTB, disclosed that their findings indicated that Uganda had one of the highest visits by foreign guests to its stall at the Berlin fair ever. Some 700 guests visited the stall in the three-day event while close to 100 deals were sealed.

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Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 In Miri Sarawak April

MIRI (Sarawak, Malaysia), April 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Sarawak is eyeing to woo jazz music lovers particularly from Asean countries to spice up its Borneo Jazz Festival 2014 next month.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) CEO Rashid Khan said the state was targeting visitors from niche markets like Brunei, Singapore and the Philipines, as well as domestic tourists from Sabah and the peninsula.

“This year we aim to increase local participation in Sarawak, from an average 9,000 to 10,000 people

“For the first time ever, this year Borneo Jazz Festival will have two special jamming sessions with the invited musicians; those interested can bring along their musical instruments to participate,” he told a news conference here Tuesday.

Rashid said the jamming session would allow seasoned jazz musicians all over the world to share their experience with local or other jazz music enthusiasts.

Meanwhile, Miri Mayor Lawrence Lai said May would be the busiest month for the city as it would celebrate a month-long annual Miri City Fest now entering it ninth edition.

“We have lined up 52 events for Miri City Fest and plus the festival, it will certainly boost our tourism industry,” he added.

The ninth edition of the festival would be held on May 9 and 10 at Parkcity Everly Hotel Miri involving jazz musicians from Indonesia, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Malaysia.

Among those performing are Mario Canonge from France, YK Samarinda(Indonesia), Anthony Strong (United Kingdom), Brassballett (Germany), and Diana Lu an Junkofunc (Malaysia).

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Malaysian Firms Should Tap Timor Leste’s Business Potential

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia April 1 (NNN-Bernama) — The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao, has urged Malaysian companies to leverage on the country’s untapped business potential in various sectors including healthcare, infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries and natural resources.

He said Malaysia’s success stories in the petroleum, tourism and agriculture industries had provided Timor Leste with a model of success that they can learn from and on which the country can base its future cooperation.

“It is clear to me that there is so much scope and opportunity for our two nations to work together to support economic growth and development.

“Timor Leste provides an attractive business environment for foreign investors.

“With our open economy, expansive fiscal policy, sustained economic growth, comprehensive infrastructure programme, low tax rates and strong government support for foreign business, we are a good place to consider investing,” he said.

Gusmao said this in his speech at the forum on Trade and Investments Opportunity in Timor Leste, organised by the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste in collaboration with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) as well as the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, in conjunction with his three-day official visit to Malaysia.

Also present was Deputy Minister of MITI, Hamim Samuri.

Gusmao said Timor Leste is improving its irrigation, road access and seed varieties to actively transform from a subsistence-based agricultural system to a market-based system, adding that over 70 per cent of its population lived in rural areas.

In line with its unspoilt tropical island with stunning beaches and coral reefs, the country also plans to build more hotels, restaurants and hospitality services.

The prime minister also said Timor Leste sought to further exploit its natural resources particularly in the petroleum industry.

The country has only tapped offshore petroleum resources and all revenue flows directly into its sovereign wealth fund called the Petroleum Fund, which has grown from US$1.8 billion in 2007 to US$15 billion today.

“As we build this new regional hub for the petroleum sector, there will be many opportunities to work with Malaysian businesses and benefit from Malaysian investment and expertise,” he added.

Bilateral trade between Malaysia and Timor Leste amounted to US$21.2 million in 2013, which was the highest to date.

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Malaysia Remains Focus Of Global Halal Industry

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia April 2 (Bernama) — Malaysia remains the focus of the global halal industry going by the 26 nations, including 12 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members, participating at the Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS 2014).

This is also despite much speculation over Malaysia’s economic scenario, post the Flight MH370 airplane tragedy.

The largest gathering of the global halal industry players will be held here from April 9-12 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) .

In a statement today, the MIHAS secretariat said Saudi Arabia, Thailand, South Africa, Taiwan and South Korea, are among the participating nations.

Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) Chief Executive Officer Datuk Wong Lai Sum said she is confident that it will be “business as usual” for MIHAS this year, although all concerned are deeply saddened by the MH370 tragedy.

She said over the past 10 years, MIHAS had built a strong brand name both locally and internationally, as the premier sourcing centre for halal products and services.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Trade Commissioner based in Bangkok, Niqman Rafaee said Thailand has the biggest participation at Mihas this year.

“Thailand, with 36 booths, will be represented by a strong delegation of officials and companies,” he added.

In 2013, the event played host to over 500 export-ready companies from 30 countries. There were 18,223 trade and business visitors from 65 countries.

MIHAS 2014 projects sales of about RM500 million compared to RM411 million last year, and attributed to a better outlook in the global economy, higher demand for halal products and services, as well as the larger number of booths available this time.

MIHAS offers immense opportunities for exhibitors to establish trade links with the global market, particularly in Asean.

With an Incoming Buying Mission (IBM) at the event, exhibitors can expect to meet international buyers across the world and conduct one-to-one business meetings.

MIHAS is part of the “World Halal Week” comprising two major events. The other is the World Halal Conference.

The events are being held by Matrade and the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) under the auspices of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

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Moroccan King Launches 2014-2020 Industrial Development Plan

CASABLANCA, April 3 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has launched the kingdom’s 2014-2020 National Industrial Development Plan, a leading programme to follow-up on the earlier Emergence Strategy.

At the launching, Industry, Trade, Investment and Numeric Economy Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy made a presentation on the new plan which he said represents “an evolution of emergence towards performing ecosystems in order to consolidate gains and expand results”.

The ambitious plan will reinforce Morocco’s economic resilience, confirm its place among emerging nations in America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa and secure Morocco’s economic track.

Building on the kingdom’s “achievements and assets, such as aeronautic, car-making and off-shoring, this strategic plan is inclusive and re-integrates our traditional job-creating industries”, he added.

The minister noted that the plan would be based on ten key measures, including the creation of a new dynamic and a new relationship between large groups which would act as steering enterprises, and small and medium enterprises (SME’), reinforcement of the status of industry as a job-generating activity, particularly for young people, and optimization of the social and economic impact of public procurement through industrial clearing.

According to El Alamy, the new plan will endeavour to support transition from the informal to the formal sector through the establishment of a complete mechanism for the integration of very small enterprises, meet the essential stake of matching skills with enterprise needs, setting up a public industrial investment fund, with a budget of MAD 20 billion by 2020, and the creation of more accessible for-rent industrial parks.

The plan also features follow-up of free trade agreements (FTAs), currently being negotiated, permanent monitoring of the respect of the existing FTAs, the establishment of a “Deal Making” culture in seeking foreign direct investment (FDI) and increasing Morocco’s African calling.

Implementation of this set of measures will allow for the creation, by 2020, of half a million jobs, half of which will be generated by FDI, as well increasing industry’s share of the gross domestic product (GDP) by nine percentage points, from 14 per cent to 23 per cent in 2020.

Concerning governance, El Alamy announced the future creation of an inter-ministerial committee in charge of co-ordinating and implementing the industrial growth plan which is set to turn Morocco into “an industrial and social champion”, noting that Morocco boasts “collective energy and human and material means to achieve this necessary transformation”.

Following this, the King chaired the signing ceremony of 14 documents, including 33 conventions related to the 2014-2020 industrial growth plan. The ceremony took place in the presence of the head of government, advisers to the King, government members, representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Rabat and several industrial professionals and operators.

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World Bank US$1 Billion For Infrastrucutre Development In Nigeria

ABUJA, April 3 (NNN-NAN) — Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a subsidiary of the World Bank, has announced that it will provide more than one billion US dollars (about N165 billion) support for infrastructure development in Nigeria.

Its Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Michel Wormser, said at a briefing for the media here Wednesday that the money would come in the form of guarantees for the execution of infrastructure projects and programmes.

“Over the next couple of years, I expect that MIGA will provide guarantee above one billion dollars in Nigeria. This is primarily going to be in the energy sector,” he said.

“And, the discussions that we are going to have today is to precisely identify with the government and agencies where they would see the highest value from MIGA involvement, given the development priorities of the country.’’

He added that the World Bank was well known for providing support to private enterprises which could create jobs and encourage investments in the country, MIGA would provide mitigation of the risk which would allow investors to come into the country and help Nigerian investors to go to other countries.

“So, the reason for my trip is to present the role that MIGA can play in helping the government in some infrastructure development that it is seeking and to help generate jobs by improving the environment in which enterprises operate,” he said. “It is also to talk to Nigerian investors and see how MIGA can be helpful to them as they go outside of the borders of Nigeria.”

He said that he had inter-acted with private sector operators and banks on how they could partner to ensure long-term financing with minimal risks. He stated that major areas of investment interest would be energy, ports, manufacturing and others that require foreign direct investment (FDI).

Wormser disclosed that MIGA had in past provided guarantees of about 364 million USD in Nigeria, adding that current investment would concentrate on energy “to strengthen investment in gas for power transmission and generation”.

“MIGA can help in all of these areas by supplementing all the other investments that government is doing and the support it is getting from the other actors,” he said.

He said that Nigerian economic growth had become envy of many countries, stressing, however, that there was a need to create jobs and competitiveness in the system.

“The banks want to be part of that story, want to participate in the scaling up of the infrastructure and they see the power sector as providing great opportunities as well as challenges, because of the reforms that are going on. What MIGA can do is to help these banks to take the risk of these investments by mitigating some of the perceived risks that are going to be over a long period of time as the reform consolidates and institutions mature.”

Wormser said that the coming of sponsors into the country to “re-assure risk-bearing” was a good intervention that would help to grow bank businesses.

On other investments in Africa, he said that MIGA invested more than 50 per cent of its new commitment in Africa, adding that ”in Cote d’Ivoire, we provided 750 million dollars guarantee for two billion dollars investment”.

“So, the message we are bringing to Nigerian private sector and government is that we could even do more for Nigeria. We want to focus on the right sectors which are going to make a difference for the citizens of Nigeria.”

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Eco Bank To Support Iran’s Plan On Regional Cooperation

ANKARA, April 3, (NNN-IRNA) – ECO Bank of Trade and Development has agreed to financially support Iran’s plan to improve regional economic cooperation in the Middle East and North Africa.

Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohsen Sadeghi told IRNA on Wednesday that the signed agreement is a follow-up of ECO Economic Cooperation meeting held in Istanbul last September.

He added the ECO Bank had declared, in the meeting, its support for plans of ECO transportation, agriculture, and trade committees.

Sadeghi said in Iran’s plan, some tactics in marketing and transportation fields have been envisaged.

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Mozambican President: Investing In Africa Can Boost Peace, Security

BRUSSELS, April 4 (NNN-AIM) — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has declared that investing in transport, communications and energy infrastructures is not just a business opportunity, but also a guarantee of peace, security and well-being, since today’s world is characterised by a growing inter-dependence between states and continents.

Speaking during the two-day 4th European Union-Africa Summit which ended here Thursday, he cited the example of the growth in railways, roads, ports, airports, telecommunications and electricity grids in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Despite the significant advances which African countries have been making, the gap between the need for social and economic infrastructures and what has been achieved is enormous, he said, citing data from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which show that the continent only invested annually in infrastructures 4.0 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), while an ideal figure would be around 14 per cent.

Nonetheless, Guebuza believed that rather than regarding this simply as a constraint, African countries had been able to transform the current deficit in infrastructures into an opportunity to attract direct private investment to complement the efforts made by the public sector.

“The response has been positive, both from national and foreign private investors, when they identify and recognize the potential to do business with a sure return on their investments,” said Guebuza.

Africa had been organizing itself to articulate its needs in a structured and collective manner, he added, citing the AfDB’s Africa 50 Infrastructure Fund, the African Union’s Plan for Infrastructure Development (PIDA), the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, and the SADC’s infrastructure master plan.

One aspect common to all these programmes, said Guebuza, was their cross-border nature. They thus promote regional and continental integration and economies of scale.

Guebuza added that the participation of the private sector in this area contributed to reducing public debt, which had traditionally been used to finance infrastructures. This private participation, he claimed, had strengthened the business fabric of the countries concerned and stimulated other sectors of the economy.

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Dammam airport to open new routes for investment

Arab News – 05 April, 2014 – Efforts have been stepped up to privatize King Fahd International Airport (KFIA) in Dammam and to transform it into an integrated economic city, said Yousuf Al-Dhahiry, director general of the airport.

“The airport has made profit in 2013, and this is happening after years of financial deficit,” he said.

Al-Dhahiry highlighted KFIA’s efforts to attract more international airlines. “We have set up a marketing department and it has been successful in bringing more international airlines to the airport.”

He disclosed plans to develop KFIA to meet the requirements of passengers for the next 30 years. “The new expansion project will create a lot of investment opportunities,” he said, adding that the project would be completed by 2018.

Al-Dhahiry said the expansion plan would make KFIA more attractive for privatization.

He said a number of projects are being implemented now to develop the airport’s infrastructure, including its data network, flight system and modernization of the arrival and departure lounges.

The airport’s cargo hub would be operated by the middle of this year, the director general said. “We have signed contracts with five companies to operate the cargo hub,” he added.

The total number of passengers who used the airport annually has exceeded 7.5 million.

The airport located about 100 km away from downtown Dammam has been facing difficulty to get passengers and airlines.

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Oman experts study farmers’ market

Gulf Daily News – 02 April, 2014 – Agricultural experts from Oman have visited the country to explore the weekly Bahraini Farmer’s Market.

The four-man delegation was here as part of a tour of the Gulf as they study how to set up one of their own.

They visited the market at the Agriculture Centre in Budaiya, as well as its future site at Howrat A’ali.

“It’s a creative and interesting idea,” said Oman’s Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry agricultural and livestock marketing and investment director-general Munir Al Lawati.

“You cut out the middlemen, so you benefit farmers and the consumer. We also believe that it has helped farmers produce more, as they see what their competition in the market is and what people want.

“Also, through the breakfast, there is the gathering of families on a weekly basis, so it has a great family atmosphere.

“Painters and artists who work there give it a nice touch as well.”

Mr Al Lawati said the experts heard about the market through conversations with officials during mutual exchanges of projects and opinions.

“We started our tour in Qatar to look at what they had to offer, before moving on to Bahrain,” said Oman’s Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry agricultural and livestock marketing director Mohammed Al Baloshi.

“It’s different to what’s going on here in Bahrain. We’re then visiting Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“The farmer’s market is very important because it increases farmers’ income and improves the economy. It gives them a place to sell in a direct way and that’s what we’re interested in. Consumers get high-quality produce at a low, competitive price. Everyone wins.”

Oman’s Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry agriculture advisory directorate assistant manager Ahmed bin Yousif Al Baloushi said one of the unique aspects of Bahrain’s market was that it was held at a farm in the Agriculture Centre.

“The importance of the market lies in the fact that it introduces Bahrainis to Bahraini produce,” said Oman’s Agricultural Association for Al Batinah Region Farmers’ chairman Saed Al Kharusi.

“They then introduce it in their diet and see the difference between the imported and local produce.

“Even between farmers, there is a distinct difference.

“There’s a large variety, for instance all the different kinds and colours of cherry tomatoes.

“It’s clear that farmers are aware of nutrition and this is a great step forward.”

Farmers’ Market executive manager Amani Abu Idris was proud to host the delegation.

“Their response had been very positive and they were delighted with the market,” she said. “They didn’t think they would see as much variety and produce as they did.” This week’s farmers’ market on Saturday will also host a Berries Festival.

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Oman tourism: Tourists throng Salalah archaeological sites

Times of Oman – 02 April, 2014 – A total 7,334 people visited Al Baleed Archaeological Park, Frankincense Land Museum and Samahram Archaeological Site during the month of March, according to the statistics released by the Department of Frankincense Land Sites at His Majesty the Sultan’s Adviser’s Office for Cultural Affairs.

Al Baleed Archaeological Park and Frankincense Land Museum received 4,147 visitors while Samahram Archaeological Site received 3,187 visitors.

Al Baleed Archaeological Park, Samahram, Shasr area ‘Wabar’ and Wadi Dokah are recognised on the World Heritage List under the name ‘Land of Frankincense’ sites.

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Saudi Arabia ranks 62 on global tourism index

Arab News – 03 April, 2014 – The World Tourism Organization (WTO) has ranked Saudi Arabia at 62 among 142 countries on its global travel and tourism competitiveness index.

The WTO released the statistics at the ongoing Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market (STTIM).

The data revealed that the Kingdom was ranked at six in 2011 and 14 in 2013, showing it was offering less competitive pricing.

The WTO statistics showed that the Kingdom earned SR28 billion in 2013 from spending by 23 million domestic tourists, and SR48 billion from international tourists who made 13 million trips.

Switzerland, Germany and Austria lead the world in terms of their travel and tourism industry competitiveness, with Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Canada, Sweden and Singapore completing the top 10, according to the WTO.

Tourism is among the largest employers in most countries. Encouraging travel boosts consumer and business confidence, strengthens two-way trade and promotes export income.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), the organizer of the STTIM, has been trying to boost job creation in the industry. Its recent exhibition found jobs for 703 Saudis in ticketing, air cargo, travel and accounting positions.

The citizens only required secondary school qualifications, and would earn SR4,500, plus allowances and perks granted by travel and tourism companies and agencies.

New employees had to undergo training over six to 10 months to improve their English, computer literacy and other job skills.

German Porras, a WTO consultant and former secretary general of tourism in Spain, during his keynote address at the STTIM workshop on safety and security, highlighted international standards needed for success in the industry.

He said it was important for countries to have safety and security plans as part of their national tourism strategies.

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Jeddah tourism portal launched

Arab News – 03 April, 2014 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is planning to promote Jeddah, the gateway to the Two Holy Mosques, as one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the Kingdom.

The SCTA has already begun to flag Jeddah as the most preferred tourist destination in the Kingdom.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the SCTA, launched a web portal, www.visitjeddah.com, on Tuesday night as part of an initiative to promote tourism in Jeddah at the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market 2014 (STTIM 2014) at Riyadh, Yaser Al-Abadi of SCTA told Arab News on Wednesday.

He said that the web portal team has done an impressive job in promoting the tourism industry through digital channels, and particularly on its website dedicated to Jeddah with comprehensive information on the Bride of the Red Sea and its major attractions.

Mohammed Al-Amri, director of SCTA, said the portal is one of the initiatives of the Jeddah Tourism Development Council headed by Prince Mishal bin Majid who encourages the use of the latest technology to serve the visitors.

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Oman Convention Centre set to unlock potential of SMEs

Times of Oman – 03 April, 2014 – The Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre will stimulate numerous opportunities for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Sultanate’s evolving meetings and conventions industry and reinforce the prospect of forging business partnerships with local suppliers at a special networking event planned at the InterContinental Hotel Muscat on April 8.

In collaboration with the Public Authority for SME Development, AEG Ogden and Omran have identified more than 600 SMEs that have the potential to benefit from the opening of Oman’s new home for business and the additional tourism events that will be generated.

“According to Public Authority for SME Development, 90 per cent of all firms in Oman are SMEs, therefore, we are working closely with the authority to re-align Omani SMEs with the meetings and conventions economic model. We invite all interested SMEs to register and take advantage of the event which will prove to be the perfect opportunity to learn more about each other and how we can leverage future business partnerships,” said Trevor McCartney, general manager of Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre. “Our strategy is to put local-based suppliers at the top of the list as the preferred choice to meet requirements of both construction and post opening phases,” said Trevor McCartney, general manager of Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.” Representatives from Omran along with the convention centre will be available to share latest developments and establish a two-way stream of collaboration across various segments of the conventions industry’s value chain.

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