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19 May, 2014

Qatar Airways to shift to new Doha airport hub on 27 May

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 19 May 2014 (20 Rajab 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



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


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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.





Global Islamic Finance Forum 2014 to be held in KL

Kuala Lumpur, 16 May (Bernama) — The Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM) will organize the fourth Global Islamic Finance Forum (GIFF 2014) in Kuala Lumpur from 2 to 4 September 2014. Themed “Marketplace for Global Linkages”, this forum aims to deliberate on the various opportunities that Islamic finance can offer to the global financial community by bringing together key industry players from the Islamic Finance and non-Islamic finance communities.

GIFF 2014 will bring together global Islamic financial industry players, market participants, Shariah scholars and regulators to discuss on the recent developments and the future landscape of the Islamic financial industry.

This event will be organized in collaboration with Bank Negara Malaysia, Securities Commission Malaysia, Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA), International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), International Shariah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA) and IBFIM, in support of the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) initiatives.

The multi-track events in GIFF 2014 include, among others, the Regulators Forum, International Islamic Capital Markets Forum, Islamic Banking & Finance Conference, CEOs Dialogue (Banking and Takaful), Executive Master Class, Islamic Finance Colloquium, and Islamic Venture Capital & Private Equity Symposium. A series of side events will also be organized throughout GIFF 2014 including exhibitions from local and international organizations, networking sessions and private business meetings.

In view of the growing global interest in Islamic finance, GIFF 2014 is expected to draw interest from Chairmen, CEOs and top level management local and international participants from the Middle East, European and Asian countries among others. GIFF 2014 will showcase renowned international and local speakers to discuss and deliberate on topics that are of focus and concern to Islamic finance practitioners.

Taking cue from its predecessors in 2008, 2010 and 2012, GIFF 2014 continues to serve as a platform for the financial industry players, business community and market participants to network, build relationships and explore potential business deals.

Attendances, while FREE, are by invitation only and open to those who register online and have an active interest in this fast growing industry. To register, please visit http://www.aibim.com/giff2014 or send your enquiries to giff2014@aibim.com .

The Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM) or Persatuan Institusi-Institusi Perbankan Islam Malaysia was established in 1996 as the Association of Interest Free Banking Institutions Malaysia, with objectives of promoting the establishment of a sound Islamic banking systems and practices and also aims at promoting and representing the interests of its 26 member banks and to render where possible such advice or assistance as may be deemed necessary and expedient to members.

For More Information: Encik Adil Adra or Encik Anwar Chamil, adil@aibim.com or anwar@aibim.com

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Dragonair Ready To Operate Hong Kong-Kuching Flights

SRI AMAN, May 18 (Bernama) — Dragonair, a Hong Kong-based airline is ready to offer direct flights from Hong Kong to Kuching, said Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said following a discussion held during the Routes Asia Conference 2014 held in Kuching in March, a Dragonair technical team had come here over several related matters before starting the air service.

“This is an indication of their interest to have direct flights from Hong Kong to Kuching.”

Abang Johari said this after witnessing the Pesta Benak Sri Aman 2014 at the banks of Sungai Batang Lupar, here, Sunday.

Dragonair, an affiliated member of the Oneworld airline alliance, operates 41 passenger aircraft to 46 destinations in the region.

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A Feel Of Malaysia In Washington

WASHINGTON DC (Bernama) — The Passport DC ‘Around the World Embassy Tour’ programme involving foreign missions in Washington D.C on May 3 found Malaysia being the centre of attraction.

This is particularly so as Malaysia has been in the limelight in the US of late, firstly the event came at the heels of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Kuala Lumpur in April and secondly the Malaysia Airlines missing flight MH370 that captured the world’s attention.

The one day programme that was organised by the Cultural Tourism of District Columbia (DTDC), around the International Court area where many of the foreign missions are located at the US capital, witnessed street festivals, performances and exhibitions.

The programme is to enable the locals to get to know the international community, especially from the heritage, food and cultural viewpoint.

Acting Charge D’Affaires of the embassy Ikram Mohamad Ibrahim said the visit of the president, has opened the avenues for Americans to get to know better of Malaysia.

This is the second time the embassy hosted the programme organised by DTDC and the crowds were certainly bigger this time around. The Women’s Association of Malaysians Missions (Perwakilan) also lent a helping hand.

“The visitors really enjoyed the feel of Malaysia. They took part in cultural events like the Magunatip dance, the traditional dance of the Muruts in Sabah, the kompang beats by a group of Malaysian undergraduates, and the folk songs rendered by the embassy staff.

“Many tried their hands in the traditional games like congkak, batu seremban and sepak takraw as well,” said Ikram to Bernama when met at the programme.

The visitors too took the opportunity to get the latest information on tourism, investment, trade and education opportunities and the Malaysian made products from the officials of various Malaysian agencies.

Among the departments and agencies that participated in the programe include Tourism Malaysia and Malaysian Palm Oil Board.

He said the main hall of the embassy that was embellished with Malaysian crafts, teak wood items, pewter and silk was crowded since the door was opened to the public.

Early birds even received unique door gifts, the bunga telur (decorated hard boiled eggs).

Apart from that, visitors too had the opportunity to don the traditional Chinese, Malay and Sabahan attire and have their photograph taken with the Petronas Twin Towers (KLCC) backdrop. The costumes were made available by Tourism Malaysia based in New York.

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia’s Vice President for East America, Ahmad Johanif Mohd Ali noted that; “This is the second time we are participating, and for this year, we conducted some activities to captivate the audience and opened an information counter”.

After watching many of the presentation, visitors has a taste of Malaysian delights prepared by Perwakilan members, embassy staff and the Malaysian restaurants sold at reasonable prices at the stalls.

The beautifully embellished stalls sold Nasi Lemak, Nasi Kerabu, Roti Chanai, Satay, Goreng Pisang, Ais Kacang, Teh Tarik and traditional kuih.

Meanwhile, a husband and wife team Dan and Jean Jazuzzi from California, who were visiting their daughter who lives around the district were elated to see the “kompang” performance by Malaysian students.

“It’s our first time to watch something traditional from Malaysia, and it is so much fun, we heard so much about Malaysia and the culture”, said Jean.

Andrew dressed in Baju Melayu, while Veronica in Chinese costume and their son Lukas Akola, in the Sabahan garb were seen taking a lot of photos with the KLCC backdrop.

Andrew said Veronica, who hailed from Russia, would be visiting Malaysia soon and that is the reason why they visited the embassy on that day.

“We wanted to know more about the people, culture and food before heading to the country. I will not be joining my wife this time as I will be deployed to Pakistan for a year starting next month but hope to get the opportunity to visit beautiful Malaysia one day”, he added.

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Malaysian tourism minister emphasizes bilateral tourism with Jordan

Amman, May 14 (Petra) – Malaysian Minister of Tourism and Culture Dato’ Seri Mohamed Bin Abdul Aziz stressed the importance of collaboration between his country, Jordan and Palestine in the field of religious tourism.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Abdul Aziz said he held talks with his Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts and discussed ways of enhancing tourism cooperation, pointing to preparations for new agreements in this regard.

He also stressed his country’s willingness to put Jordan and Palestine on the Malaysian tourism map, expressing interest in the religious sites in the Kingdom, particularly those on the World Heritage List.

Director of Jordan Tourism Board Abdul Razzaq Arabiyat said that the Board is making great efforts to promote Jordan’s tourism in the Malaysian market, focusing on the Malaysian pilgrims desirous of visiting the Kingdom and Palestine through joint tourism programs.

A total of 8,500 Malaysian tourists visited the Kingdom during the first quarter of this year, compared to 25,000 last year.

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Iran saffron production up by 20% last year

Mashhad, May 18, IRNA — Iranian saffron production last Iranian year (ended on March 20, 2013) registered 20 percent growth compared to the preceding year, official with Agricultural Jihad Ministry announced on Sunday.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the ceremony marking inauguration of Hall for Executives of Mashhad Goods Stock Exchange, director general for the Ministryˈs vegetables, ornamental and pharmaceutical plants affairs, Hassan Khadangi said that based on the statistics, the cropˈs under cultivation area stands at 85,000 hectares.

Saffron production for 2013 was 311 tons, registering a 20 percent rise compared to the figure for the 2012, he said.

Khorasan-e Razavi province produces 80 percent of Iranian saffron as the first producer of the crop in country while South Khorasan province is the second with 18 percent of total output.

Khadangi further noted that Iran produces 94 percent of the worldˈs total output, while the remaining countries produce only 20 tons of saffron.

He said that some 137 tons of saffron valued at 200 million dollars were exported last year.

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Qatar Airways upgrades Saudi network to 79 flights weekly

JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS, 18 May 2014 – Qatar Airways has inaugurated its seventh gateway into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by adding the city of Al-Ahsa to its ever-growing network.

The new route to Al-Ahsa International Airport will comprise four weekly non-stop flights from the airline’s hub in Doha, and will increase the number of Qatar Airways’ weekly flights to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 75 to 79.

The inaugural flight, which carried Qatar Airways dignitaries, was greeted with a traditional water cannon salute, and Naif Al-Ghamidi, Al-Ahsa airport director, led the welcoming committee.

The launch is part of the continued expansion of Qatar Airways’ services to Saudi Arabia which began in 1997 with non-stop flights to Jeddah. Since then, the airline has added Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah, Gassim and Tai’f to its portfolio of destinations within the Kingdom.

“We have offered our excellent global connectivity to customers from Saudi Arabia for more than 15 years, and with the introduction of this new route, we look forward to offering our five-star services and global connectivity to even more customers to and from Al Ahsa,” said Akbar Al-Baker, Qatar Airways CEO.

“As we continue to expand our network and receive more aircraft, we will keep looking at opportunities to add capacity to our existing network and further strengthen our links within the Gulf.”

The new Al-Ahsa route will be served by an Airbus A320 aircraft in a two-class configuration, with 12 seats in Business Class and 132 seats in Economy.

In addition to this new route, Qatar Airways has also recently announced plans to double its weekly frequency to Gassim, and increase the number of flights to Madinah from weekly flights to daily operation.

Details of the new routes and additional frequencies are as follows:

Al-Hofuf (Saudi Arabia), a new service of 4 flights per week starting on 15 May 
Gassim (Saudi Arabia), doubling from 4 to 8 flights per week from 15 May 
Madinah (Saudi Arabia), increased from 5 to 7 flights per week from March 30.

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 17 years of operation, to the point where today it operates a modern fleet of 134 aircraft to 138 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

Over the next few months, the network will grow further with new routes to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Turkey (May 22, 2014), Edinburgh, Scotland (May 28, 2014), Miami, US (June 10, 2014), Haneda, Japan (June 18, 2014), Dallas/Fort Worth, USA (July 1, 2014) and Djibouti (July 27, 2014).

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Jakarta National Museum marks 236th anniversary

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, May 18 2014 – Hundreds of school students from across Jakarta flocked to the National Museum on Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat in Central Jakarta as the museum kicked off a weeklong festival on Saturday to celebrate its 236th anniversary.

Various programs were held simultaneously on the opening day, most of which demanded visitor participation.

On the first floor of the museum’s main building, for example, visitors could join various activities in the batik-making booth, wayang (traditional puppet) booth, ceramic-painting booth and the kids’ corner.

Other programs being held during the festival include creative competitions, a photo exhibition, video mapping and a seminar on the Singhasari kingdom.

The interactive booths proved to be effective in attracting students from elementary to high school.

SMP 29 junior high school student Arfia Estiningtyas and her classmate Tiara Gita were among those busy covering batik motifs with wax at the batik-making booth.

“It looks easy but is actually complicated. I keep dripping the hot wax,” Arfia said.

While agreeing with her friend, Tiara hoped the museum would hold similar programs in the future.

“Museums become more attractive with this kind of activity,” she said.

Muhammad Hafiz, a student of SD Kenari elementary school, pointed out that even though he had participated in such activities at school, doing so at the museum had given him a new experience.

“It is more exciting here with a lot of other students from other schools,” he said.

Puppeteer Amat Kusaini said the creation of such programs was essential for museums to survive.

“I have developed a modern wayang for a year now and it is proven to be more attractive to children. I usually use the puppet to tell traditional tales. Within a minute, a crowd of children flocked to my booth. So, innovation is important to preserve culture,” he said.

Museum guide Muswan Daromi said the museum had seen a significant increase in visitors over the past few years.

“The National Museum sees hundreds to thousands of visitors daily, mostly students. It is partly thanks to the government policy obliging schools to take their students to museums,” he said.

National Museum director Intan Mardiana said the management had added more interactive and educative programs to lure visitors.

The museum is currently being revamped, with a third of the building under construction. The renovation is targeted to be completed in 2017.

The new museum will have a theater, laboratory, food store, café and souvenir shop.

The Education and Culture Ministry’s culture director general, Kacung Marijan, assured the museum would keep up with digital technology development.

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Pakistani students win special award at Intel ISEF 2014

LOS ANGELES, 18 May 2014 (DAWN.com) : The week-long Intel International Science and Education Fair 2014 came to an end over the weekend with the Grand Awards Ceremony held at the Los Angeles Convention Centre.

The Special Award winners included recipients from Pakistan.

The winning students from Daanish Girls School, Hasilpur, were awarded $1,000 by King Abdul-Aziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity.

The students, Sana Batool, Shazia Bibi and Iqra Irshad were honoured for their project titled working of wind turbine with low air pressure.

Their teacher Sara Saeed, also present at the event, was thrilled by this acknowledgement.

The Daanish Girls School is a boarding school system that enrolls only those students whose household income is less than six thousand rupees.

Fourteen-year-old Iqra Irshad from Ahmedpur prefers mathematics “but my teachers say my physics is quite good”.

She plans to have a career in electrical engineering. Resident of Vehari and the daughter of a farmer, Shazia Bibi said that this was the first time in her family a girl was obtaining higher education. She intends to become a mechanical engineer.

Sana Batool from Bahawalpur, the daughter of a seamstress, however plans on becoming a civil servant.

Earlier, speaking to Dawn, the participating students said that they had thoroughly enjoyed the opening ceremony which included exchanging of pins and badges with students of other countries.

Haris Bin Ashraf of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zahid College, DHA, Karachi, said that he wore the traditional attire of sherwani and Jinnah cap at the function due to which many students came up to him to get their picture taken.

“It was so much fun,” he said. He was participating in the world’s largest science fair along with his classmates Babar Shah and Tahir Ajmeri with their group project on converting plastic garbage into combustive oil and other commercial products.

“People are so curious about Pakistan and several students came to us to get their photos taken,” said Iqra.

On Thursday, the students got a chance to showcase their projects to the general public at the convention centre.

Talal Agha of the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School who had created a surveillance spy robot using C-sharp programming was seen explaining his project confidently to several students and teachers who visited his booth.

Other participating students and their projects included cure of piles by Syed Minahil from Forward Girls College, Hayatabad, Peshawar and prevention of ozone layer by environment protection filter by Sidra Riaz of the Katchi Memon Academy, Gaya Girls College, Karachi.

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Oman Air Ropes In London Cabs For Ad Campaign

MUSCAT, Oman, May 14 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Air has launched a major advertising campaign with the airline’s brand emblazoned across some of London’s iconic ‘black’ cabs.

For the next 12 months, 12 traditional London taxis will feature stunning images of Oman and four of the airline’s most beautiful onward destinations.

The taxi campaign aims to generate greater awareness about Oman Air, the multi-award winning national airline of Oman, and the many stunning destinations it flies to, including the Sultanate itself.

Painted in the distinctive turquoise of the airline’s corporate identity, each cab features one of four striking images of Oman on one side, together with photographs of one of four beautiful locations — Sri Lanka, Maldives, Thailand or India — on the other side. In addition, Oman Air-branded taxi receipts are handed out to customers to complete the advertising exercise.

As the only airline to fly daily, non-stop from London Heathrow to Muscat, this is the first time the airline has undertaken an advertising campaign of this scale, using taxis, in the city.

Acting Country Manager, UK and Ireland, Jamal Al Azki, said, “The quintessentially British black cab provides the perfect platform to promote the Oman Air brand in a unique and dynamic way.

Londoners are keen travellers and the city also attracts huge numbers of visitors every year. We are confident that the taxis will become a talking point and will generate interest in visiting Oman, with its breath-taking landscapes and unparalleled hospitality.

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Mozambican Flag Carrier to Buy 3 New Boeing 737s

MAPUTO, May 15 (NNN-AIM) – Mozambique Airlines (LAM) has signed an agreement formalizing a contract with United States aircraft manufacturer Boeing for the acquisition of three New Generation Boeing 737-700 aircraft.

The contract, signed here Wednesday, represents an investment of 225 million US dollars by LAM, which intends to use the new short- to medium-range airliners to diversify its routes on the domestic and regional markets.

The first of the new planes should arrive in May 2015, and the others will arrive in 2016 and 2017. Each of the planes will have been manufactured in the year of its delivery. The new acquisitions bring to 15 the number of planes in the LAM fleet.

Speaking at the contract signing ceremony, LAM Chief Executive Officer Marlene Manave said the acquisition of the Boeing 737s was part of the company’s strategic plan to expand and strengthen its fleet, and to rationalise its resources.

Manave added that LAM needed planes which are rather larger than the ones it is currently flying and which can travel longer distances without the need to refuel.

The 737-700s can accommodate 126 passengers, seated in two travel classes. Boeing claims that they are the most fuel efficient, single-aisle aircraft in production. They have a range of 5,500 kilometres (almost a third more than earlier 737 models), a cruising speed of almost 950 kilometres an hour, and can fly at a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet (12,500 metres).

“These aircraft will be used in all the provincial capitals on the domestic market, as well as on routes to Ethiopia and Zambia,” Manave said. “They will also fly to Dubai and Mumbai from Nacala.” A new international airport is under construction in the northern Mozambican city of Nacala.

Miguel Santos, Boeing’s Director for Africa, said this purchase marked the return of LAM to the US company. LAM had previously purchased Embraer-190s from Brazil and Bombardier Q-400 aircraft from Canada.

Santos claimed that with the New Generation 737s, fuel consumption would be 27 per cent less than with the older models of the 737, and it had lower maintenance costs. Santos declared that Boeing had a 65 per cent share of the African aircraft market.

Deputy Transport Minister Manuela Ribeiro encouraged LAM and Boeing to expand their co-operation in the technical field and to train new professionals for the aeronautical industry.

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Moroccan Flag Carrier Strengthens African Network

CASABLANCA, MOROCCO, May 16 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco’s national airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), has strengthened its African network with two new services to reach 31 destinations across the continent.

The national flag carrier said in a statement here Thursday that it would serve N’Djamena, Chad, beginning g July 17, 2014, with three flights a week, and will launch in December a new route from Casablanca to Abuja, Nigeria, also with three weekly flights.

RAM already has an Casablanca-Lagos active route, which will be reinforced in June 2014 by scheduling direct daily flights instead of five a week.

Flights on the Casablanca-Accra route will also reach seven a week up from the current five.

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Malaysia to Participate In Expo Milano 2015

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia May 15 (NNN-Bernama) — The Expo Milano 2015 would serve as a platform for Malaysia to gain more investments, says Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said the international expo was worthwhile participating in as it would attract investments from up to 20 million people expected to patronise the exhibition which would run for five months beginning May 1, 2015.

“What we are hoping for is more investments than what we have invested,” he said at the soft launch of the Malaysian Pavilion for the Milano Expo 2015 here Thursday.

Themed, “Feeding The Planet, Energy For Life”, the expo which would be held in Milano, Italy, is aimed at addressing the universal and complex theme of food and nutrition.

“This time, there will also be a very strong trade and investment focus, and we are hoping for a bigger visitor turnout,” he added.

Muhyiddin said in Sept 2012, the Cabinet agreed for Malaysia to participate in the expo because it was in line with Malaysia’s focus on trade and investment promotion.

He said Malaysia’s objective of participating in the exhibition was to promote Malaysia as an advanced and preferred investment destination. It was also intended to showcase Malaysia’s diverse capabilities and counter negative publicity especially for palm oil and forest-based products.

“It is also to highlight technological advancements and innovation; promote tourism and hospitality industry; and showcase Malaysia’s cultural heritage and traditions,” Muhyiddin added.

The exhibition would also highlight the country’s transformation agenda of sustainability and inclusiveness by focusing on various efforts undertaken under the Economic Transformation Programmes National Key Economic Areas especially in the agriculture, oil palm and natural rubber sectors.

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Uganda, Rwanda Advancing Mombasa-Kigali Railway

KAMPALA, May 16 (NNN-NEW VISION) — The governments of Rwanda and Uganda are working closely to procure the consultancy for the feasibility studies and to mobilise funds for the construction of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Project set to run from the Kenyan port of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean through Uganda to Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

The feasibility studies will precede the preliminary design for the railway, says Monique Mukaruliza, Rwanda’s national co-ordinator of the tripartite Initiative, who adds that Uganda and Rwanda will jointly procure consultancy services for the Kampala-Kigali section which is expected to go through Mirama Hills, according to a report in Rwanda’s New Times newspaper.

“Rwanda is jointly working with Uganda in the feasibility studies and fund mobilisation to ensure the project becomes a success,” added Mukaruliza, a former minister of East African Community (EAC) Affairs.

The ministers of finance of the two countries have been directed to explore financing options. “For the financing of the SGR Project, the Summit of Heads of State (of the EAC) directed the ministers of finance to explore financing for the project, approaching both the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the China Export-Import Bank,” she said.

Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda signed an MoU with the AfDB on the financing modalities of the project in February 2014 in Kampala aimed at making the project bankable where parties shall work together for the development, structuring, costing, financing, construction and operation of the railway, which is estimated to cover a distance of nearly 3,000 kilometres.

The EAC Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Co-ordination Authority report released earlier this month indicated that the government of Rwanda had secured funds to finance the preliminary designs of the section from Mirama Hills to Kigali.

Last weekend, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda joined his East African counterparts involved in the project — Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Salva Kiir of South Sudan — in signing a deal with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, on the financing of the first phase of the project from Mombasa to Nairobi.

The first phase of the project is expected to cost 3.7 billion US dollars, with China expected to fund 90 per cent of the project while the other 10 per cent will be provided by the Kenyan government.

The SGR Project is aimed at providing efficient and cost effective rail transport for both freight and passengers across the East Africa region. It is intended to reduce the cost of doing business by reducing the cost of transport, a move which could turn East Africa into a competitive business hub.

The project, expected to be completed by 2018, will cover a distance of 2,935 km and have features such as passenger trains with a speed of 120 km per hour and freight trains designed to move at 80 kph.

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Oman Looks Ahead to Ninth Five-Year Plan

MUSCAT, Oman, May 16 (NNN-ONA) – The Secretariat General of the Supreme Council of Planning (SCP), met yesterday under the chairmanship of Sultan bin Salim bin Said al Habsi, SCP Secretary-General, in the presence of a number of under-secretaries and governors, to discuss preparations for the Ninth Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).

The meeting discussed the mechanisms for preparing for the ninth five-year plan and the role of the municipal councils in the various governorates, in addition to briefing the attendees on the pivots and priorities of the plan which is the latest plan within the framework of the Oman Vision 2020.

The meeting briefed the attendees on the position of strategic urban development project, as the consulting companies are expected to begin conducting studies, for the preparation of development strategies for each governorate as planned.

The meeting comes within the context of closer partnership between the SCP, represented by its Secretariat General, government officials, in related sectors, and the governorates, in an effort to come up with a unified system in the strategic plans of the Sultanate, including the five-year plans and long-term visions.

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West Bank Exhibit Gives Gaza Artists Rare Showcase

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, Palestine, May 15 (NNN-WAFA) – The Gaza Strip is tough turf for artists. An Israeli-Egyptian border blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory, keeps them away from an international audience and potential buyers, while the local art market is close to nil.

A new exhibit now offers them a chance to showcase their work outside Gaza.

Fifty-three paintings and two sculptures by 45 artists have gone on display in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said Haneen Qatamesh, a spokeswoman for one of the sponsors, the Palestinian company PADICO. Since Saturday’s opening, 12 works have been sold for prices ranging from $850 to $9,000, she said.

However, a majority of the artists were unable to attend their own show.

Gaza and the West Bank lie on opposite sides of Israel, and since a Palestinian uprising in 2000, Israel has severely restricted travel between the two territories which the Palestinians hope will one day be part of their independent state, along with east Jerusalem. Israel captured the three areas in the 1967 Mideast war.

Qatamesh said, only 12 artists received Israeli travel permits to attend the exhibit, or less than half the number of artists who applied.

Among those forced to stay home was Ismail Dahlan, a 36-year-old painter from the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, who has three works at the Ramallah show. His colorful paintings depict the characters, customs and daily life of a place he’s never been to — Hamama, a former Palestinian village, in what is now Israel.

Dahlan’s family fled to Gaza in the Mideast war over Israel’s 1948 creation. They were among more than 700,000 Palestinians, who were uprooted during that war. Today, the refugees and their descendants number more than 5 million, most of them living in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, according to the United Nations.

Dahlan said, his paintings are based on the stories his parents told him about their home village.

“I start to draw a picture in my mind of the towns that I cannot reach, through information obtained from my parents and my grandfather, and I start to imagine how my country looks and the people’s daily habits, which I cannot reach and see,” he said.

Organisers of the exhibit said, they hope it will give the artists needed exposure.

Samir Hleileh, the CEO of PADICO, said, he became aware of the Gaza artists’ difficulties, during a trip to the territory. “Most of the artists could not leave Gaza, to visit markets like Dubai or New York or London or even Ramallah,” he said.

Gaza’s isolation deepened after the 2007 takeover of the territory, by the Islamic militant Hamas. In response, Israel and Egypt enforced a border blockade that prevents most Gazans from leaving their territory.

Other sponsors of the Ramallah exhibit included a U.N. agency and the Artist Pension Trust, an international organisation that allows selected artists to buy into a retirement plan through their works, rather than money.

Some 2,000 artists from 75 countries have joined the fund in the past decade, spokeswoman, Lidia Fabian, said. Some of the Gaza artists are being considered for membership, but the vetting is ongoing, she said.

“Our main focus is to give artists worldwide financial security and international exposure,” she said. “For artists from Gaza, it is difficult to have a door to the outside world. This exhibit will get them some more publicity.”

Dahlan, the Gaza painter, said, Gaza artists won’t have a future, as long as they can’t travel.

“The local market is not promising,” said Dahlan, a father of four, who has sold four paintings so far and currently earns $300 a month, painting sets and doing other jobs in a local theater. “We have many artists here and all of them are looking for a window to get out and show the world their talents.”

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Iranian Cars Find Market In Iraq

TEHRAN, May 15 (NNN-FNA) — Iranian spare parts manufacturing companies say demand is growing for the products of the Iran-Khodro Company (IKCO) in Iraq’s market.

“The Iraqi people’s increasing demand for purchasing cars from companies like IKCO has brought up a golden opportunity for developing the car business in this promising market,” said Zamzam Spring Company’s production manager, Ahmad Shirazi.

According to Shirazi, IKCO is quite aware of this market’s capacity and during the past years the company has assembled cars in ZSCo with the production capacity of 10 cars per hour and “this trend is improving”.

“The quality of IKCO cars and the widespread network of sales and after-sales service in the different provinces of Iraq have resulted in great popularity of these cars,” he said.

“Geographical proximity of Iran and Iraq is considered as a noticeable advantage for IKCO as is the low cost of shipping and transport and the provision of spare parts in Iraq’s market in the shortest possible time,” said the ZSCo CEO.

The sales manager of ZSCo’s central dealership, Bashar Sharif, said that the Iraqi market was a strategic one for IKCO, and added that the company was trying to acquire an appropriate share of Iraq’s market by applying new methods of marketing and sale and after-sales services and boosting the quality level of the car.

He also pointed to IKCO’s rivals such as the Chinese and Korean carmakers that had waited for an opportunity to strengthen their presence in Iraq’s market, and stressed that IKCO could maintain and improve its position by offering newly designed cars.

“I believe IKCO cars outpace their Chinese rivals in the Iraqi market with regard to quality and durability, while this company has established sale and after-sales services around the country, something that other carmakers haven’t done much about,” Sharif added.

ZSCo, the company in which IKCO cars are assembled is located in the industrial city of Alexandria, 50 kilometers Southwest of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The 240 thousand square meter area houses 18 thousand square meter production shops with the capacity of 120 thousand cars annually.

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Firefly To Expand Reach In Indonesia

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 (NNN-Bernama) — Firefly, Malaysia’s premium short-haul airline is planning to expand its regional reach in Indonesia.

This follows the cooperation agreement signed with Citilink, a low cost-carrier of the Garuda Indonesia Group.

Through the cooperation, the two airlines hope to seize the opportunities in the emerging market of Asean through an expansion of existing routes.

Chief Executive Officer Ignatius Ong said in a statement that Firefly was delighted to be working with LCC to provide travellers in Malaysia and Sumatera greater connectivity and customer benefits.

“This strategic partnership was formed to expand our network and increase profitability. Unlike code sharing, the agreement will bring more traffic into Malaysia and help Firefly grow as an airline with added revenue,” he said.

Citilink President and Chief Executive Officer Arif Wibowo said the business expansion is an attempt to reach a broader market in the region, in line with its commitment to provide interconnectivity between cities in the Asean market.

Firefly is also expected to launch two new routes in September this year, namely, to/from Penang – Krabi, and Johor Bahru – Ipoh .

Fares for flights from Penang to Krabi will start at RM149 one-way and Johor Baharu to Ipoh at RM59 one-way.

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Saudi Arabia plans new pilgrimage airport at Taif

Reuters / 09 May 2014 – Saudi Arabia is planning to build a new international airport to serve pilgrims to Mecca in the nearby city of Taif, its General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) said on Thursday.

GACA is preparing a tender and will ask consortia of international and local companies to bid to develop the airport, and aims to award a contract in the first half of 2015, spokesman Khaled al-Khaibani said.

He said it will be developed on a build-operate-transfer basis, in which a developer finances the construction and recoups its investment by operating the airport.

The airport will serve visitors for the annual haj, as well as umrah, a lesser pilgrimage to Mecca which can be performed at any time of year.

GACA’s board approved the project on Wednesday and is working with the International Financing Corporation, the consulting wing of the World Bank, to help prepare the tender, the spokesman said.

Most of the several million haj pilgrims coming from abroad each year now arrive at a special terminal in Jeddah’s international airport, but others fly into Medina, the city where Islam’s founder established the first Muslim community.

The existing airport at Taif serves domestic flights.

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Iran Plans to Launch New Generation Space Explorers

Trend / 12 May 2014 – The head of Iran’s Aerospace Research Institute said the country plans to launch a new generation of space explorers weighing 300-500 kg, which will jet-boost in higher altitudes compared to the previous rockets, FARS news agency reported.

Mohammad Ebrahimi told Mehr News Agency that Iran’s Aerospace Research Institute has an orbital and suborbital project to send the living creature to the space.

He said, “first we will send the living creature to suborbital space and then with the advancement of the technology, it would be sent orbital space and beyond; our ultimate goal is sending the first man from Iran to the space.”

Ebrahimi said that in current Iranian year (started March 21) the institute had several plans to send the new generation of explorers to space and added that like the new explorers, they are not cylindrical, but like world standard explorers.

He said that to reach the capability to send a man to the space first we should send an object up to 150 to 200 Kilometers height suborbital space and then, “we should send this object to space to the orbit of 250 Kilometers around the earth, both plans need a carrier”.

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Russian Muslims to attend third Gulf Halal Conference

Islam.ru and Agencies / 14 May 2014 – Under the auspices of His Excellency Dr Naif Ajaj Al-Ajmi, Minister of Justice and of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs,Third Gulf Conference on the Halal Industry will be held between 13-15 May 2014 in Sheraton Hotel, State of Kuwait.

The Conference is organised by Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs & Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR).

The Third Gulf Conference on the Halal Industry and its Services is being held under the title “Developments in the Halal Industry” in order to focus and keep abreast of developments in the Halal industry and to review Halal-related affairs from an Islamic legal and health perspective.

Delegation of Russiam Council of Muftis, which consists of the deputy head of the Council Renat-harzat Abyanov, the head of International department of the Council Ildar Galeev and the deputy of general director of “Halal” International Center of Standardization and Certificationon and International activities Samat Sadikov, will also participate in the event.

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Slovenia produces second headscarfed Muslim EP nominee

The BosniaTimes / 15 May 2014 – Slovenia has nominated a headscarfed Muslim woman to represent its Social Liberal Party in the upcoming European Parliament elections on May 25.

Faila Pasic Bisic, a women’s rights activist, is now the second headscarfed Muslim women to seek election into the European Parliament after Greece’s Anna Stamou.

Anna Stamou, a member of Greece’s Eco Green Party, stated her struggle to end discrimination against Muslims in her country as a reason for her candidacy. Slovenia is allocated eight seats in the European Parliament.

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Halal Expo to held in Moscow

HalalExpo / 15 May 2014 – For the first time this year Moscow Halal Expo 2014 will give a seminar on a topic “Doing business according to Shariah laws”. The seminar will be part of business program of the Exhibition and will last for two days: on the 5th and 6th of June, 2014.

The moderator of the seminar is a certified shariah control expert of the activities of Islamic financial institutions AAOIFI (Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions), a Bachelor of Islamic Law of the Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University, Bulat Mulyukov, who has an extensive experience in the organization of Shariah review and control of Russian Islamic financial institutions.

The aim of the seminar is to promote the standards of doing business on the principles of Islamic finances. Much attention during the seminar will be paid to the examination of the main mistakes that businessmen make while concluding a contract.

The Moscow Halal Expo Exhibition is to unite more than 200 exhibiting companies from Russia, CIS countries, South-East Asia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries. The Exhibition consists of block-sectors on the following subjects: “Food & Agro“, “Tourism & Recreation“, “Perfumery & Cosmetics“, “Style & textiles“, “Catering“, “Health & Fitness“, “Education & Publishing“, “Finance & Investment“, “Services & Technologies“, “Media“, “Arts and decoration“.

With the increasing number of Muslims the demand for halal products is growing every year. However, halal products and services are popular not only among Muslims, but also among people of other faiths and philosophies, as halal products are known for their quality and the halal industry based on mutual respect and honest cooperation.

Halal tourism sector from year to year expends its scopes. Key tourism markets of the world have demonstrated a strong interest in Islamic tourism. However, halal tourism market remains underdeveloped, and the demand for halal services is constantly increasing.

“Halal Tourism Projects” roundtable focuses on the following issues:

• Analysis of the current status and prerequisites for development of halal market services;

• Requirements and certification rules of halal services;

• Ways of creating ideal conditions for Muslim tourists;

• Additional opportunities to attract Muslim tourists;

• Service on “halal” standard;

• Discussion of topical issues of halal industry;

• Exchange of experience with foreign countries;

• Formation of mechanisms for further development of the “halal” sector in Russia.

The event will begin at 3:00 p.m.

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Festival for Muslim youth to be held in Kazan

islam.ru / 15 May 2014 – The opening ceremony of the “Maksat”- VIII International Festival of Youth was held in the mosque of Kul Sharif in Kazan. The event, which runs until May 20, will bring together more than 100 young activists from 20 regions of Russia and foreign countries to exchange experience, to create new productive relations, as well as to strengthen the unity between believers. The festival will be also attended by respected guests from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus. Delegation from Crimea will participate in the event for the first time.

International Festival “Maksat” is the Muslim Youth Festival, which has been conducted for 7 years. Organizers of the event, in connection with the increased number of participants, decided to combine during the event scientific and secular aspects in an effort to acquaint countrymen with traditional religious, moral and cultural values.

The event is organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Tatarstan, the Spiritual Administration of Tatarstan Muslims, the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Tatars, Youth center “Idel” with the support of the Office for Cooperation with Religious Organizations of the Department of the President on matters of domestic policy.

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Qatar Airways to shift to new Doha airport on 27 May

Sun.mv – May 11, 2014 – Qatar Airways will officially start operating from Hamad International Airport (HIA) on 27 May 2014, making HIA the new base for the State of Qatar’s national carrier, the airline has said today.

Qatar Airways, which has been operating out of Doha International Airport for 17 years, has grown from regionally operating only a handful of aircrafts to managing 134 aircraft flying to 138 international destinations.

The new airport is designed to support the growth of the airline and the move to HIA is set to compliment Qatar Airways’ five-star service, said Qatar Airways.

“We have been planning for this day for a long time and May 27 will be a momentous day for both the State of Qatar and Qatar Airways as we commence operations from Hamad International Airport,” said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.

“This airport will redefine the international traveller experience and set a new benchmark for airport excellence, and will enable Qatar Airways to offer our passengers an unrivaled experience.”

Located four kilometres from the current Doha International Airport, HIA was built on land 60% reclaimed from the sea. The airport, which will operate Concourses A, B and C initially, can accommodate 30 million passengers annually and eventually accommodate 50 million passengers a year through the airport’s full capacity when Concourses D and E are fully operational.

The airport features 138 check-in counters across 5 islands, comprising of 108 counters for Qatar Airways’ Economy passengers and all other airlines; 14 seated check-in areas for Qatar Airways’ First Class passengers; and 16 counters dedicated to Qatar Airways’ Business Class passengers. In addition, HIA will operate 41 contact gates, which will increase to 65 once the airport opens Concourses D and E with six of the gates being fully dedicated to servicing the Airbus A380 aircraft, of which Qatar Airways has 13 on order with the first delivery expected in early June.

Travellers transiting through HIA can experience the new 600,000 square metre passenger terminal complex, which features arched columns, generous natural lights as well as works of art commissioned specifically for airport. High-end retail and food and beverage outlets; activity nodes, which include computers with internet access, children’s play and rest areas; and countless other designer and functional touches will take the HIA travel experience to a whole new level.

Following the soft opening of the airport on 30 April, 10 airlines are already flying in and out of Hamad International Airport, including; Biman Bangladesh Airlines, flydubai, Air Arabia, Iran Air, Air India Express, Yemenia, Pakistan International Airlines, Syrian Airlines, Pegasus Airlines and Nepal Airlines.

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Addu City in Maldives to promote guesthouse tourism

Sun.mv – May 12, 2014 – Addu City Council has today called for expression of interest for the development of guest houses in the city.

Mayor of Addu City Abdulla Sodig told Sun Online today that local and foreign investors have been invited to express interest for the guest house project, which includes the establishment of guest houses with 2,000 beds in six areas in Addu City.

He said that the purpose of encouraging guest house tourism in the city is to create jobs and facilitate development.

He informed that privately-owned land will be leased for the development of guest houses, which will be done by holding discussions with owners of uninhabited land plots regarding leasing them long-term.

Sodig further informed that the land plots chosen for this project will be larger than 4,000 sq ft and each guest house will consist of 1,000 rooms, and restaurants will also be developed near the guest houses.

He thanked the government and the people of Addu City for their support for this project.

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Maldives bid to put more women in influential posts

Sun.mv – May 15, 2014 – Government has assembled a regulation to increase the number of women in influential political posts to 33 percent, Dr Mariyam Shakeela.

Speaking at an event at STELCO to mark the International Women’s Day today, the Health and Gender Minister said the decision to place a minimum requirement through regulation is part of the government’s policy to empower women and provide them with opportunities in politics.

“Under a policy to provide political careers for women, we are trying to pass a cabinet paper to increase the number of women in politically empowered positions to 33 percent. Once the regulation comes into force, it will increase women’s influence in national, economic, social arenas,” said Dr Shakeela.

The Health and Gender Minister also announced that the government has established a council for economic empowerment to encourage women’s participation in economic activities.

“I hope this council provides further economic opportunities for women and create awareness amongst women on economic issues,” said the Gender Minister.

The Ministry of Health and Gender is further working, with support from the Asian Development Bank, to assemble a Gender Equality Law, a framework to set legislative standards in the Maldives to comply with the Constitution and international conventions that Maldives has acceded.

Minister of Health and Gender Dr Mariyam Shakeela noted in her speech today that numerous educated women are barred from contributing to the country’s development because of their gender and that the gender gap must be closed, especially in opportunities to contribute for the development of the country.

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Warhol, Chambers at Istanbul’s Pera Museum

Hurriyet – ISTANBUL – The Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum is hosting two new exhibitions by two masters of the art world: Andy Warhol and Stephen Chambers.

Warhol’s selected works from the Zoya Museum Private Collection in Modra, Slovakia, can be seen in the exhibition “Andy Warhol: Pop Art for Everyone.” Included in the show are silkscreen series and drawings exhibited for the first time in Turkey, iconic works such as “Campbell’s Soup,” “Cowboys and Indians,” “Endangered Species” and “Flowers,” accompanied by portraits of well-known important figures.

More than 20 years after his death, Warhol remains one of the most influential figures in contemporary art and culture. His life and work inspire creative thinkers worldwide thanks to his enduring imagery, his artfully cultivated celebrity, and the ongoing research of dedicated scholars. His impact as an artist is far deeper and greater than his one prescient observation that “everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes.”

In the 1960s the division between highbrow and lowbrow culture was still very marked. It was guarded by the greatest authorities of the day in the field of criticism and aesthetics, Clement Greenberg in America and Theodor Adorno in Europe. Pop Art violated that divide, bringing art closer to everyday life and reiterating the question of the connections between art and life.

It certainly signaled the coming of change, significant change, but in the late 1960s it was hard to say what that change would involve, whether it be simple acceptance of Pop Art as another artistic style, or bringing art out of the cloistered world of highbrow culture.

Curated by Edith Devaney, Curator of Contemporary Projects at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, presents a survey of British artist Chambers’ painting and graphic works, shown alongside his vast multi-part print, “The Big Country.”

This selection seeks to explore the origins of “The Big Country” (2012), demonstrating that its development is firmly rooted in the artist’s past practice and deeply indebted to the European tradition of art. The sense of a story being told is a feature of many of Chambers’ works, and writings are often a stimulus for this, as seen in Chambers’ Flemish Proverbs series, which are also exhibited.

Inspired by the landscape and scale of the American Western film “The Big Country” (1958), Chambers’ immense work explores a myriad of fictional encounters between real and imagined historical figures.

The notion of the journey and discovery of new lands has here expanded into a depiction of the five continents and the points of departure from one continent to another, raising a fascinating take on the perils and challenges of migration.

The intriguing narratives and powerful atmosphere of exploration and discovery emerge from the deliberately fragmented presentation of this work, forming a technically complex print that seamlessly fuses the analogue and the digital. Chambers’ employment of decorative elements, a flat perspective and fantastical story-telling, highlight the influence that early Italian Renaissance painters, such as Giotto and Uccello, have had on his work.

Chambers is primarily a painter; however, printmaking has always formed a significant part of his work.

He has noted in the past that prints produced by artists whose main discipline is not printmaking, can often be the most compelling. For such artists, printmaking offers another element of expression and provides an opportunity to experiment, a notion which is borne out in Chambers’ finished monumental work.

The exhibitions will be running through July 20.

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Underground venue promotes Turkish ceramics history

Hurriyet – NEVŞEHİR – The owner of a ceramic company in the central province of Nevşehir’s Avanos district has opened a ceramic museum in a rock carved space underground. The Cappadocia Underground Ceramic Museum covers an area of 1,500 square meters and is 15 meters deep.

The owner of the museum, Güray Tüysüz said the history of potters dated back to the ancient ages. He said Avanos had a very significant place in the arts of pottery since the time of the Hittites, but has not had a museum depicting its history.

Tüysüz said his family had been dealing with pottery and ceramics for the last five generations and establishing the museum took some time since the area was an archaeological site. Following five years of work, they established the rock-carved museum, he said, adding Turkey’s first underground museum, which has three sections with eight-10 rooms each, was set to open in July.

Tüysüz said the museum did not have financial motivations, but it was a cultural project of their family. “This is a gift from us for the next generations. It will be affiliated with the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

All of the 650 artifacts on display have been registered with the Nevşehir Museum Directorate. We have paid for most of the artifacts. Our applications to the Nevşehir Museum Directorate were welcomed. It took 15 years to gather the artifacts and finally we received our collector certificate.

Some people donated their artifacts to the museum. A German company sponsored the complete central heating system. The Ahiler Development Agency granted 160,000 Turkish Liras as well. The main issue here was the convenience of the rock. But it was hard and we finished the project.” he said.

Tüysüz said the first section of the museum would show the developments in the field of ceramics in Anatolia from the first age to the 20th century and the second section would display pieces by living famous ceramic artists. An exhibition area would be opened in the third section, he said, and continued: “The café and library are in this section. It will serve as a museum during the day and host meetings, with events and concerts at night.”

Tüysüz also noted the prestige meetings of the Nevşehir Governor’s Office, university and municipality would be held in the museum, adding it would also be open to students. “This project is the first in Turkey and maybe in the world.”

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Antalya ranks first in Blue Flag beaches

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – The southern province of Antalya holds the world record for having the highest number of “Blue Flag” certified beaches.

Antalya has 197 beaches and six marinas awarded with the Blue Flag, a voluntary eco-label issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education to beaches and marinas with high water quality, cleanliness and environmental standards.

Antalya’s regional Blue Flag coordinator Lokman Atasoy said the city’s aim was to sustain the quality of the certified beaches and increase the number of beaches that deserve a Blue Flag.

“Tourists visiting Turkey increasingly care more about the water quality and eco-friendly beaches,” he said, adding the Blue Flag had an increasing role in the preferences of tourists. “In recent years, tourism companies also ask about the Blue Flag. It is not enough to claim the water is clean; you have to prove it.”

All Blue Flags are awarded for one season at a time. If the criteria are not fulfilled during the season or the conditions change, the Blue Flag may be withdrawn.

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Ancient Kazakh town of Taraz awaits tourists

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-05-14 TARAZ – A long-forgotten old town could become Taraz’s ticket to a tourism boom.

“Ancient Taraz and the other historic sites of Zhambyl Oblast can attract many tourists to Kazakhstan,” archaeologist Karl Baipakov said. “Eventually Taraz will become the country’s main centre of tourist attractions.”

Ancient Taraz is more than 2,000 years old. Archaeologists say they will lobby to have UNESCO declare the excavated and preserved city a World Heritage Site.

Until recently, ancient Taraz lay hidden under the modern city, mainly under the Central Market, which had a brisk trade in vegetables.

Archaeologists invested great effort in having the market moved so that they could excavate the ruins underneath.

Excavation has turned up historic monuments, mediaeval mosques and baths, and the ruins of ancient Taraz.

During the past 10 years, the city has been transformed beyond recognition and can justly claim to be one of the country’s main attractions.

While tourism numbers are rising, with about 86,000 hotel bookings in 2013, up 11% from 2012, according to the statistics office for Zhambyl Oblast, it’s still too early to characterise development of tourism in the oblast as a fait accompli.

Local officials and travel agency owners say a few obstacles are standing in the way of transforming the legendary mediaeval city into an oasis for foreign tourists.

Access to Taraz is the main hurdle, with industry specialists saying the area’s roads and transportation system need to be upgraded.

“We’re preparing a letter that we’ll send to the oblast governor,” Asan Koshmambetov, director of the Regional Chamber of Entrepreneurs, said. “On the basis of a multi-lateral agreement among our organisations, tourist agencies and local authorities, we intend to contribute to the development of tourism in the region.”

Meanwhile, next year workers are expected to complete the Western Europe-Western China International Transit Corridor, a World Bank-funded highway, to open access to the area.

Taraz Airport has also been renovated, with reconstruction of a runway (completed last October) and of the passenger terminal (completed this year). Flights are expected to serve destinations like Aktau, Antalya (Turkey) and Dubai soon.

The area also plans to develop its lodging business.

Presently, 67 businesses are ready to help tourists find a place to stay. Taraz has a service allowing travellers to rent apartments by the day. The apartments range in cost from 2,500 KZT (US $14) to about 6,000 KZT (US $33) a day.

“The apartments are hardly ever empty,” Aida, a Taraz woman who rents out apartments daily, said. “We work officially; we pay our taxes. I own two apartments and have leased several others that I sublet daily or even hourly. My guests mostly are entrepreneurs who come to Zhambyl Oblast on business or local tours.Foreign tourists almost never come by.”

In conjunction with the opening of the transit corridor, developers plan to build guest houses, restaurants and ethnic villages with yurts.

Tourism advocates also called for better dissemination of tourist information. Even though 29 travel agencies operate in Taraz and in the other districts of Zhambyl Oblast, information about tours in the region is not easy to find.

“All the Zhambyl newspapers recently said that tourist bus trips were being organised, but the trips never started up,” Taraz retiree Aleksei Nosov, who yearns to show off his region to his grandchildren, said. “We have everything for tourists but still don’t see many of them.”

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Pride of Brunei Malays in Fabric Intertwined

13 May 2014 BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Woven fabric is one of the Brunei cultural heritages that should be preserved and made to last until eternity opens. In a continuous effort to raise the status and preserve such idiosyncratic element and to acknowledge the importance of local woven material, a Brunei Woven Fabric Exhibition is being held at the Brunei Technology Museum in Kota Batu.

The exhibition was officially opened yesterday by the Yang Di-Pertua of Adat Istiadat Negara, Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pg Anak Hj Abd Aziz Pg Jaya Negara Pg Hj Abu Bakar. The theme of the Exhibition is “Tradisi dan Simbol” (Tradition and Symbol).

At the ceremony, members of the Exhibition Committee received Certificates of Appreciation. The Exhibition is a project conducted by undergraduates of the Brunei Studies Academy (APB) of University Brunei Darussalam (UBD) as part of their research programme.

The exhibition which runs for about two months showcases various types of traditionally woven cloths which serve unique significance and meaning among the indigenous Bruneian Malay community as well as in the Royal and State Customs and Traditions. Apart from the effort to raise the status and further strengthen the position of woven cloth as the official fabric for ceremonial function, the exhibition also aims to become a reference platform for the public to know more about woven material.

At the same time, a book entitled “Kain Tenunan Pakaian Beradat Istiadat Kebudayaan Melayu Brunei Darussalam” was also launched. The Book written by a Senior Lecturer at the Brunei Studies Academy, UBD, Dr Siti Norkhalbi Hj Wahsalfelah, discusses the use, role and symbolism of the woven material in the Brunei Cultural Adat Istiadat.

The book also contains a collection of pictures of Brunei woven fabric worn as official attire in Brunei Royal Adat Istiadat. One of the activities of the Brunei Woven Material Exhibition is a Workshop on Making of ‘Dastar’ or Men’s Traditional Headgear and ‘Menapih Sinjang’ or wearing the short sarong for men.

Twenty participants from various government agencies are attending the workshop which is organised by the Malay Islamic Monarchy Executive Council (MTMIB).

The workshop is managed jointly by the Department of Adat Istiadat Negara, the Museums Department and the Brunei Studies Academy, Universiti Brunei Darussalam. It is conducted by the Senior Assistant Yang Di-Pertua of Adat Istiadat Negara, Yang Amat Mulia Pg Seri Wijaya Pg Hj Ahmad Pg Md Yusof.

During the workshop, the participants are exposed to the history of wearing the ‘Dastar’ and ‘Sinjang’ as well as demonstrations on the correct method of the art according to the guidelines provided. ‘Menambat Dastar’ and ‘Menapih Sinjang’ are among the core culture of clothing among Brunei Malays.

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United Airways of Bangladesh starts Dhaka-Doha flight

DHAKA, May 15, 2014 (BSS) – One of the country’s private airlines United Airways (BD) Limited started its maiden Dhaka-Doha flight last night. The inaugural flight took off Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 10.45pm yesterday. The airlines will operate two flights to Doha on Wednesday and Saturday every week.

The one way special fare for Dhaka-Doha is Taka 23,936 and return fare is Taka 44,757 inclusive of all taxes, a press release said here today.

Chairman and Managing Director Captain Tasbirul Ahmed Choudhury inaugurated the first Doha flight as the chief guest at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport last night.

United Airways, the first ever and the only listed company in the capital market in aviation sector of Bangladesh, is now operating international routes from Dhaka to Jeddah, Muscat, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Kathmandu, and Kolkata and also from Chittagong to Kolkata.

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Bangladesh plans Cox’s Bazar as modern tourist city

COX’S BAZAR, May 10, 2014 (BSS) – Civil aviation and tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon today said the government has taken a massive programme to develop Cox’s Bazar as a modern tourist city.

“The government will give allocation of funds for the development of Cox’s Bazar because the Prime Minister is interested for its overall development . . . if necessary, we’ll take private sector’s support for the development of this tourist city,” he said during a meeting with officials of different tourism centres here.

He said necessary safety and security measures will be taken for the sea-beach and others tourist sports. A strong beach management committee will be formed to look after security and other issues of the sea-beach, he added.

Principal secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Abdus Sobhan Sikder, tourism secretary Khorshed Alam, Ashek Ullah Rafiq MP and deputy commissioner Md Ruhul Amin, among others, addressed it.

Abdus Sobhan Sikder said steps will be taken to put safety nets around Cox’s Bazar beach areas. Tourism secretary Khorshed Alam said the ministry will submit a development plan for Cox’s Bazar to the Prime Minister within a week.

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Japan pledges support for Bangladesh archaeological development

DHAKA, May 11, 2014 (BSS) – Japan government is keen to provide all possible support to Bangladesh for development of the country’s cultural and archaeological sectors.

The assurance of assistant came while Japanese Ambassador Shiro Sadoshima called on Cultural Minister Asaduzzaman Nur at the ministry here, an official handout said.

During the meeting, the minister and the Japanese envoy discussed various matters related to bilateral issues and mutual interest between the two countries.

The minister said Bangladesh is a prime land of archeological sites but excavation of archeological artifacts and its maintenance have been hampering due to lack of fund and skilled human resources.

Nur also said practice of cultural activities has been decreasing at the district level due to scarcity of proper auditorium. “We would like to seek assistance from the friendly country of Japan to complete the tasks,” he said.

The Japanese Ambassador said his country will provide all possible assistance to Bangladesh’s endeavor in developing the cultural and archeological sectors.

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Bangladesh project to develop entrepreneurs

DHAKA, May 11, 2014 (BSS) – The government today formally launched ‘Freelancers to Entrepreneurs Development Programme’ in all 64 districts simultaneously aimed at developing entrepreneurship on outsourcing.

Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui inaugurated the programme at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division.

State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak, secretary of ICT division Md Nazrul Islam Khan, representatives of different government and non-government organizations, among others, were present on the occasion.

Latif said “We are implementing the Freelancers to Entrepreneurs Development Programme to build entrepreneurs for boosting ICT sector further.”

The government has a target to develop entrepreneurs aimed at increasing foreign currency income through online outsourcing, he said adding “We will provide all-out support to them to ensure better contribution to IT sector.”

Palak said Information Technology (IT) export could reach one billion US dollar in five years, if the present trend continues.

“The country is now exporting 200 million US dollar in the IT sector and we have a huge potentiality of one billion IT export in next five years,” he added

The programme sources said Freelancers to Entrepreneurs Development Programme is one of the four-stage action plans to flourish the country’s IT sector and increase its growth.

Nazrul Islam Khan said developing freelancers as entrepreneurs will be another step towards the target of creating Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) professionals in the country.

He said the government had taken a four-stage action plan a few years back for boosting growth of IT sector and meeting the growing international demand of BPO professionals.

As part of its plan, the government trained the IT literate people on Search Engine Optimization, Graphics, Design, animation and various issues relating to outsourcing and has created 15,000 freelancers in the districts in 2013, the ICT Secretary said adding the programme to create another 55,000 freelancers by 2014 in districts and upazilas is going on in full swing.

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Indonesia to host int’l tuna fishery workshop

Mon, May 12 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia will host an international tuna fishery workshop to highlight the fact that several fishery industries in the world are still interested in Indonesias commodity.

“Indonesia will host an international workshop on Tuna fishery in Jakarta during May 19 to 20, 2014,” the maritime affairs and fisheries ministrys Fishery Marketing and Processing Director General Saut Hutagalung stated here on Monday.

According to Saut, the ministry will host the seminar in coordination with the Backward Region Development Ministry in a bid to improve the economic condition in several rural areas.

He reiterated that many countries consider Indonesia as a potential country that can supply fishery commodities at a global level.

The international communitys interest will be reflected by the participation of foreign countries in the fishery workshop.

“Moreover, the seminar and workshop will be held in conjunction with the international tuna conference in Bangkok, Thailand,” Saut added.

Earlier, the Fishery Ministry had participated in the Seafood Expo by showcasing the Indonesian Pavilion stand in Brussels, Belgium, during May 6 to 8, 2014.

The expo had 1,690 participants from 75 countries and was also visited by 26 thousand people from 145 states.

Meanwhile, the total potential shipment transaction during the exhibition in the coming 3 to 6 months is forecast to reach more than US$40 million.

According to the Indonesia Statistic Center, the total Indonesian fishery exports to the European Union area in 2013 were 92.7 thousand tons that reached a value worth US$486.7 million. The center noted that tuna fish has contributed 41.8 percent of the total number.

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Bandung Institute gets Islamic Development Bank award

Fri, May 16 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia’s Bandung Institute of Technology’s Research and Community Service Center (LPPM-ITB) has received the Islamic Development Banks (IDB) Award in the science and technology category.

Ministry of Finances Head of Communication and Information Center Yudi Pramadi stated here on Friday that the award was the result of a comprehensive cooperation between the Finance Ministry, Fiscal Policy Department, and LPPM-ITB during the nomination and diplomacy process ahead of the event.

Yudi, on behalf of the ministry, also delivered a congratulatory message to LPPM-ITB on receiving the award.

“The Ministry of Finance will facilitate all students, academicians, and research centers in Indonesia to continue the tradition of receiving international awards in the future,” he remarked.

As the award recipient of IDBs Awards in the science and technology category, LPPM-ITB received US$100,000 prize that is expected to be used for innovation and will help to contribute to the field of science and technology for community development.

Since 2002, IDB has awarded prizes for science and technology to organizations or research centers that fulfill two categories: an outstanding contribution in science and technology for socio-economic development of the IDBs member countries and an outstanding contribution in various studies.

In 2013, Indonesia also received an IDB award for women’s contribution to development that was bestowed on Tri Mumpuni for her efforts in developing the rural community through the installation of a hydroelectric power plant.

IDB is a multilateral financial institution for development, which has a key mission to reduce poverty in its member countries. One of IDBs efforts to alleviate poverty is to encourage creation and innovation by scholars and research institutions that has a positive impact on the development and prosperity of the people.

The support for creation and innovation was manifested by IDB through the IDB Awards that is held annually and the prize is delivered during the annual assembly of IDB. The awards have three categories: Womens Contribution to Development, Science and Technology and the Islamic Economics and Islamic Banking and Finance.

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Nigeria Compiles Festivals Calendar to Boost Domestic Tourism

Daily Independent – 15 May 2014 – In a move meant to promote the course of domestic tourism in Nigeria, the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, has requested states, local governments and relevant tourism agencies to forward details of their cultural festivals to the corporation.

The details of the cultural festivals, our correspondent gathered, would make up the National Domestic Tourism Cultural Calendar of the corporation, which will serve as a veritable portal for domestic and foreign tourists on the innumerable rich tourist sites and cultural festivals in the country.

The compilation of the Calendar of Cultural Festivals, according to the NTDC boss, is to stimulate domestic tourism in the country.

Mbanefo pointed out that she made it a point to visit traditional rulers in every state she went because they are the custodians of culture and heritage.

According to the NTDC boss, she is promoting domestic tourism to empower local governments at the grassroots level, create jobs, reduce urban migration, to encourage integration of culture within Nigeria and to encourage unity.

She added that if other Nigerians visit tourist sites in the local communities, jobs will be created and revenue will be generated for the states.

Mbanefo explained that the submission should include name of festival, site of celebration, period of celebration, brief description of festival and the historical significance, such as masquerade, water regatta, fishing or yam festival, among others.

“These details should be forwarded, with supporting videos or CD coverage of previous editions of events, to the corporation, not later than Monday, 30 June, 2014,” Mbanefo added.

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Egyptian Ministries Cooperate to Support Tourism

Egypt State Information Service – 14 May 2014 – Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said on Tuesday 13/5/2014 that his ministry and the Ministry of Tourism set plans of cooperation to increase activity of travel business. The minister made the remarks on the sidelines of a conference at the ministry.

The ministry provides LE 80 million in support to the tourism industry through discounts and exemptions for airplanes in the tourist destinations.

Asked about the open skies policy, the minister underlined its effect on Cairo International Airport, saying all airports in Egypt were open for all international airlines. In 2025, EgyptAir fleet would include 127 airplanes, the minister said.

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Nigeria Blessed With World-Class Tourist Sites: Expert

Daily Independent – 15 May 2014 – The President, Nigerian Art Group and Consultant, Public-Private Partnership, National Gallery of Arts, Dr Patrick Ifechukwude Okpah, says Nigeria has numerous tourist sites of international standard to showcase.

Although such sites rank among the best in the world, he identified the problem as the inability to package them properly to attract visitors and leisure seekers.

“Basically, when you talk about tourism, it is actually what the people have that they will showcase to lure visitors. Nigeria has lots to showcase. From Lagos to Maiduguri, Port- Harcourt to Kaura Namoda, we are blessed abundantly with all forms of tourism sites. I think the problem lies in packaging these products for world’s view.

“If we are able to package our tourism potentialities well, it will be okay for the sector. Tourism does not happen without content, people cannot leave where they are around the world to come and see nothing, so if we are able to establish content, which we have, able to package and promote the contents locally and internationally for people to appreciate and being sure of what they will see having putting good aura around the contents will boost patronage of tourism in Nigeria”, he stated.

He said the country needs to get serious about finding an alternate source of revenue to oil and that tourism, as well as agriculture, is veritable avenues that can fetch the country with substantial revenue.

“What I am saying is that we have two major alternate sources of revenue to oil already. We are blessed with agriculture and abundance in tourism sites. We have tendered agriculture above subsistence level, but we have not done anything other than creating a weak structure for tourism.

“Tourism alone is enough to generate the needed revenue for the country. If our leaders can muzzle the political will, network agriculture with tourism, Nigeria and Nigerians will be smiling and reaping the fruits of tourism, but as we are now, there is no serious commitment from the government”, he added.

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Nigeria Top Source Market for Gambian Tourism

This Day – 16 May 2014 – Banjul — Government of the Republic of The Gambia has identified Nigeria as a viable partner to grow its tourism sector. It said the tourism sector with 16% contribution to the GDP is the second largest contributor to its economy after agriculture and there is need to leverage other economies for growth.

The Gambia Minister of Tourism and Culture, Mrs. Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, who stated this while entertaining questions from journalists at the 11th edition of the International Roots Festival themed “Celebrating Unity Through Culture” in the Banjul, described Nigeria as a big brother Africa that stands in the best position to lift the Gambia Tourism sector.

While calling on Nigerian investors to leverage the country’s rich tourism potential, the minister said there was a need for massive infrastructural development in the sector which she said had employed a large number of youths in the country.

To further strengthen the relationship between Nigeria and The Gambia on the regional tourism development dream, Jobe-Njie, disclosed that her country was in the final stage of a discussion to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with Nigerian Tourism Board.

She said special incentives have been put in place by The Gambian government to encourage investors, adding that the Gambian Investment and Export Promotion Agency is on the ground to render necessary support to potential investors.

According to her, investors in the nation’s tourism and hospitality industry will enjoy free land allocation and tax holidays to enable them to recoup their investment in good time.

“When you want to invest in The Gambia tourism sector, we give you land free of charge and also an incentive certificate that guarantee you approvals for duty waivers on all raw material imports.

“Besides when the tourism business kick-starts, investors will have a corporation tax holiday for up to five years,” Jobe-Njie said. On what has been the impact of the Roots Festival so far on the sector, she noted that tourism and the hospitality sectors in the country have witnessed a steady phenomenal growth in the last ten years.

Jobe-Njie, who admitted that the country still experiences shortage of hotels during winter seasons when many tourists visits the country said The Gambian government is looking up to Nigerian investors to help bridge the ‘gaps’ which she said, are capable of boosting the hospitality industry.

Meanwhile, THISDAY findings revealed that official statistics from The Gambia which has a population of about 1.7 million, tourism creates jobs for over 75,000 people.

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New Oman airports to give a fillip to aviation

Oman Tribune – 16 May, 2014 – Dr Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communication, said on Thursday that the aviation sector in the Sultanate is set to see a major boost as work on the new Muscat International Airport and Salalah Airport nears completion.

The minister visited the Oman Airports Management Company where he stressed the government’s keen interest in the industry and its support to it. He hailed the important role played by the company in the vital projects which would soon occupy centre stage among the world’s airports with the various advanced programmes and ambitious plans especially with regard to operations and training of national cadres.

The high profile airport ventures involved many ancilliary projects and industrial projects.

After visiting the various departments of the company including information technology and training, Futaisi said, “We need to take advantage of the experience and expertise in the area of operation of airports globally, especially with the lack of sufficiently qualified hands locally with specialisation in certain areas.”

The minister noted that there was a remarkable development seen in the work in terms of lounges and other areas like restaurants that reflects the interest of the company to keep up with all stages of the implementation of the work.

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Expo on Bahrain opens in London

Gulf Daily News – 16 May, 2014 – A conference and exhibition showcasing Bahrain’s multicultural society opens in London today. “This is Bahrain” is taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre and will commence with a keynote address by the UK’s Prince Andrew, Duke of York.

It is being organised by the Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations (BFEA), which says it is on a “mission” to portray a different image of Bahrain than one promoted by opposition groups.

However, secretary-general Betsy Mathieson denied there were political motives for organising the forum and said the BFEA was not a government-funded body.

“People say why are you expatriates organising this?” she told a media briefing in London yesterday. “My answer is quite simple: we expatriates are part of the rich fabric of the family in Bahrain. We have been for centuries. We own properties there, we own businesses, our children are educated there and it is our home.

“We are part of the family and we have every right to protect our families, our investments and our future. The negative images we see and hear being portrayed about Bahrain internationally have one very negative effect on everyone in Bahrain, and that is the economic situation.

“It starts to affect our economy negatively because inaccuracies are being portrayed outside and once the economy is affected it affects everyone who lives in Bahrain. We are not there for a political reason – we are totally non-political.

“We are not supported financially by the government. The BFEA is not an officially sponsored government organisation. Absolutely not.”

Ms Mathieson revealed there were plans to hold a similar event next month in Geneva, while a return to London and visits to other cities were planned for after Ramadan. Up to 28 expatriate organisations from Bahrain are taking part in the exhibition that kicks off today’s activities.

They include representatives of different religious communities in Bahrain, as well as expatriate clubs and St Christopher’s School. “We are showing how everyone is allowed to practise their culture in Bahrain,” said Ms Mathieson.

“The main feature of This is Bahrain is that we are celebrating our freedom of religion and our cultural diversity.”

The exhibition will be followed by a panel discussion led by speakers including Ms Mathieson, Shura Council member Abdulrahman Jamsheer, academic Dr Mohammed Al Kozai, businessman Yousef Salahuddin, former ambassador to the US Huda Nonoo and cleric Shaikh Mohsen Al Asfoor.

Anti-government activists are expected to attend the event and Ms Mathieson said everyone would be allowed to have their say.

“We want to provoke discussion,” she said. “We do expect that there will be negative comments made (by government opponents) and that’s absolutely fine. We all have the right to freedom of expression and to say what our beliefs are.

“We have invited every Bahraini who is living, working and studying in the UK and are happy to have anyone there. It is a totally inclusive event.”

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Mianeh-Tabriz railway connects Iran to Europe

Islamic Republic News Agency – 16 May, 2014 – Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoondi said here on Friday that Mianeh- Tabriz railway is designed to connect Iran to Europe.

Akhoondi made the remarks while inspecting the progress of the construction project of Myaneh-Tabriz double track railway in East Azarbaijan province in northwestern country.

He underlined that investment for construction of the project would be finalized in near future. Some 180km of 200km Mianeh- Tabriz railway is under construction and constructing the remaining rout will be started in near future, he added.

Once the project is implemented, the path of Tabriz – Tehran railway would be reduced to approximately 5.5 hours.

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Huge Sharjah tourism road show across Europe

Khaleej Times – 15 May, 2014 – To fulfil its 2020 strategy, and promote Sharjah in major regional and global markets, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) has unveiled a massive road show across major European cities along with a number of tourism and hospitality sector partners from May 19 to May 23.

The first part of the European road show includes Austria, Germany and Switzerland, assisted by the European overseas office.

Mohamed Ali Al Noman, Chairman of the SCTDA, emphasised the importance of the European road show at a time when travel companies are finalising their product portfolios for 2015. Al Noman is confident that the promotional tour will contribute to the successful promotion of the emirate in these significant markets.

Al Noman pointed out that Europe is a major outbound tourist market for Sharjah that still has potential for growth as evidenced in this year’s figures, with more than 250,000 European tourists in Q1, up 22 per cent over the same period last year.

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Hiring women top priority for Saudi companies

Saudi Gazette – 15 May, 2014 – The employment of women in Saudi Arabia has experienced a steady increase over the last few years, which has been widely attributed to KSA companies making the move to prioritize the hiring of female employees.

The growth in employment comes as a welcome surprise amidst the fact that the Kingdom has the lowest proportion of female employment as compared to other neighboring countries.

Ahmed Ashadawi, Chairman of the Board of Directors, AlKhaleej Holding, and President of Alfalak Electronic Equipment & Supplies, said: “We managed to achieve a higher proportion of the required employment of Saudi women, they count for as 35 per cent of our employees. We aim to keep abreast of developing and training our Saudi nationals to continually improve the services we provide.”

He made the comments on the sidelines of a recognition ceremony for Al Falak’s employees, which was held at its headquarters in the Eastern region. The company honored 132 employees for their many years of service with Al Falak — 107 employees for five years of service; 13 employees for 10 years of service; four employees for 15 years of service; four employees for 20 years of service and four more for 25 years. Al Falak has more than 7500 employees, 95 per cent hold university and occupational degrees, including more than 3600 Saudis, while 35 per cent are Saudi females.

Ashadawi explained that that Al Falak employees have kept pace with the company’s growth and development; extending its activities to multiple computer programs and services, communication systems, security systems, education and training and qualification in the field of electronics, telecommunications, computer and the English language. Al Falak Group’s services are now covering key areas like the KSA, Gulf region and the Middle East through its presence in markets of UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.

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Flynas expansion plans on track

Arab News – 15 May, 2014 – Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, flynas, concluded another successful participation in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) by drawing key dignitaries who praised the efforts of the airline in its journey of transformation into a global carrier and its commitment to maintaining its edge as a reliable and responsible domestic carrier.

The four-day event featured visits by key Saudi dignitaries and created an opportunity for the airline to share its various activities, programs and initiatives.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), visited the flynas pavilion during the first day of ATM and praised its efforts.

The prince was also briefed on the airline’s expansion plans into both the local, regional, and now the international markets following the successful launch of flynas Global Flights Program which expanded the airline’s reach into three continents — Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Faisal bin Hamad Al-Sughair, vice president of the General Authortity of Civil Aviation, visited flynas on the last day of the show and received a full briefing on the airline’s transformation program highlighting its commitment to the domestic markets which represents around 70 percent of the airline’s total business.

Commenting, flynas CEO Raja Azmi said: “We are honored with the visits of Prince Sultan bin Salman and Faisal Al-Sughair, which reflect Saudi Arabia’s commitment to building a robust air transport industry and support key Saudi enterprises.”

He said: “We are quite pleased with the opportunity to share our vision with the visitors and highlight the key milestones in our journey.”

Azmi added: “Exhibiting at ATM gave us the opportunity to enhance Our presence at the region and highlight the successful transformation of flynas into a global airline, a transition which has been brought about by massive investment in people, new aircraft and equipment, as well as significant enhancements to our services including the introduction of Business Class and Economy Plus in response to overwhelming customer demand.”

Adding his comments, Wael Al-Sarhan, flynas director of marketing and communication, said: “Our journey is just beginning as we embark to create a strong aviation brand from Saudi Arabia to the world as well as establishing Jeddah as a regional hub for the flynas Global Flights Program.”

He said: “At the regional level, the UAE is a both a growing and strategic market for flynas and we plan to increase the number of flights into Dubai and Sharjah to cater for the high demand from the business, tourism, education and religious tourism sectors.”

Al-Sarhan continued: “At the same time, we are expanding our reach to new destinations around the world and as a result we are progressing towards becoming a leading airline in the global aviation industry. So far this year we have introduced nine key new destinations; London, Manchester, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Casablanca and Cairo, and as part of our Global Flights Program we have hosted launch events to celebrate our entry into these important markets. In addition, to further strengthen our position we are participating in aviation, travel and tourism trade shows in the countries where we now operate.”

The highly successful launch of flynas with a new brand identity and major upgrades to its service offering, together with the focus on adding new destinations and widening the scope of its customer segmentation while continuing to provide convenient, comfortable, low-cost flights, are all key parts of the airline’s 20X20 strategy targeting 20 million passengers yearly by 2020.

The Arabian Travel Market is the leading international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals from across the globe and attracts high level decision-makers and buyers representing every aspect of the leisure travel industry.

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QInvest, LSE to host Islamic finance seminar in London

Gulf Times – 14 May, 2014 – QInvest, in partnership with London Stock Exchange (LSE), will host an Islamic Finance seminar in London on Friday, bringing together issuers to explore the opportunity of raising capital through Shariah-compliant sukuks.

Alexander Armstrong, head of financial institutions and structured finance at QInvest; Hani Ibrahim, head of debt capital markets; Stella Cox, managing director at DDGI; and Debashis Dey, partner at Clifford Chance are expected to make presentations at the seminar.

Highlighting that LSE is a key global venue for the issuance of sukuk, Pietro Poletto, head of fixed income markets, LSE, said participation in alternative investment financing is steadily growing in the UK and the bourse is well placed to be the centre of western Islamic finance.

To date, over $ 38bn has been raised through 53 issues of these alternative finance investment bonds on LSE markets.

“The move by London to position itself as a global Islamic finance hub has provided an immense boost to the sukuk industry. It has acted as a catalyst for developing a legislative and regulatory environment conducive for Islamic bonds, thereby encouraging more activity from issuers,” according to Armstrong.

The sukuk market is building strong growth momentum with demand continuing to outstrip supply due to the continued growth in Islamic banking and financial assets, Ibrahim said.

“As issuers are increasingly looking for ways to diversify their funding, we expect a busy year in 2014, with increased activity from outside of the Middle East and North Africa region, including the UK and Europe,” he added.

The total value of sukuk issuance over a 20-year period up to 2010 amounted to $ 201.6bn, while the value in the last three years (2011-2013) has exceeded $ 336bn.

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Malawi to Get First TV Islam Soon

Sunday, 11 May 2014 – CAIRO – Malawian Muslims will have their first Islamic television channel soon as preparations continue for the construction of its studios and planning of its programs.

“We have identified the place where the TV station will be situated; it will be housed in the Globe House at Yiannakis in Limbe, Blantyre,” sheikh Mustahab Ayami, a senior advisor to TV Islam project, told Malawi Muslims official website.

“We have also already designed the studio and right now we are visiting other existing television stations to appreciate what they are doing so that when we roll out we should give our viewers nothing but the best.”

TV Islam got its license in 2013 when Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) issued licenses to several radio stations and TV stations.

Some stations have already rolled out while some are waiting for the official migration from analogue to digital broadcasting. TV Islam is also waiting for the digital switch to give quality picture to its viewers.

Ayami said that the TV is at an advanced stage and will soon hit the airwaves for viewing, urging Muslims to send their suggestions on how the station should be operating.

“I would like to take this opportunity to ask Malawians to start sending their views on the how they want their TV to be operating,” Ayami said.

“People can send their views through the following address: tvislam@gmail.com,” he added.

Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity. It accounts for 36% of the country’s now 16million population.

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Italian Halal Food Lures UK Muslims

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 – CAIRO – The first ever Italian halal food has opened its door in Bradford, offering a new European flavor to the Muslim professionals who usually face restricted choices in non-halal restaurants.

“All our meat is halal so, among other diners, Cona will give young professional Asian people the chance to eat quality Italian cuisine in a fine dining restaurant environment,” Armi Ahmed, one of two Asian businessmen who launched The Cona restaurant, told The Telegraph & Argus on Wednesday, May 14.

“This is a unique concept and we believe it is the only restaurant of its type in the UK.”

Both Amri and Oman Rana, another Asian businessman, launched the Cona restaurant in Bradford to appeal to the growing number of Muslims.

Named after an Italian city outside Venice, the restaurant focuses on European food choices, especially the Italian, to overcome shortage in non-halal restaurants.

The restaurant, capable of hosting 40 guests, can be hired for special occasions.

“We are both Asian businessmen but did not want Cona to be another Indian restaurant as Bradford already has many good examples of that,” Armi, who is trained in fashion at the University of Bradford before pursuing a business career in office products, said.

“Cona will offer casual fine dining at reasonable prices. We are open for every age, but are targeting the restaurant at young professionals in the area.

Along with serving diners in its food court, Cona offers hand-made sandwiches during lunchtime to serve workers in local offices which employ around 1,000 people.

It also offers a one-hour business lunch menu in the restaurant.

“I’m a Bradford lad and felt there was scope for a high end venue in the city, which is something that is lacking at present,” he added.

“We chose Little Germany as the location as we believe there is great potential through being close to the city centre where regeneration is progressing and because many people live and work round here.

“We want The Cona to be a distinguished venue which appeals to many types of people from professionals to families,” said Armi.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

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

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.

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Oman a new market for boating industry

Oman Daily Observer – 13 May, 2014 – Experts have recently revealed that the Sultanate has a high potential to become a new destination for boating and yachting.

“We have seen yachting and boating developed quicker in the UAE and Kuwait. But if you look at the next wave of countries, like Oman and Qatar, they are catching up very quickly with the other two that have traditionally been the yachting and boating markets in the GCC,” said Erwin Bamps, Chief Operating Officer at Gulf Craft, a leading producer of fiberglass boats and yachts in the Middle East and Africa, in exclusive comments to the Observer. He further added that three superyachts were sold to buyers from Oman last year.

Speaking about the prospects of the development of boating and yachting activities in Oman, Erwin commented, “The whole spectrum of what people wish for is going to develop as the market is waking up. There is a growing demand for boats as hotels want to entertain their guests, and marinas have added value to the apartments,”

Asked about their business plan in the country, he mentioned “Our vision is to promote the full aspect of yachting and boating, and to give everyone a chance to go on water.

In other words, we are trying to focus on diversifying the range of sailing experiences offered rather than the development of the product itself.

Also, we are currently developing a technical support for the Omani market which is important for the owners as yachts and boats are complicated products. We will be able to support the owners with immediate and high quality service,”

Erwin also said, “We would like to see more marinas opening and not just around Muscat, but also down to Salalah and up to north as that will enable people to make more trips.”

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