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30 Jun, 2014

Sydney To Host First Ramadan Festival

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 30 June 2014 (02 Ramadan 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil and Assistant Editor Sana Muqbil Shamsi wish all our readers RAMADAN MUBARAK. May the Holy Month of Reflection, Charity, Forgiveness and Prayer help raise our spirits and engulf our lives with happiness, fraternity, enlightenment and good health.



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.





Grand Mosque now offers live translation of taraweeh prayers

Makkah Mukarammah, Arab News, 30 June 2014 – The Grand Mosque authorities have intensified efforts to address the increasing number of pilgrims and worshippers and to facilitate their performing of rituals inside the mosque.

Most of the pilgrims coming from Asian countries are elderly and the local authorities are paying extra attention to ensure their visit to the holy sites is carried out smoothly and comfortably. Such services include an official translation and brief summary of the Qur’an and Islam after taraweeh prayer.

“We have been providing translation and brief summary and recitation of verses of Qur’an in Taraweeh into Urdu, English, French and Malay languages to foreign pilgrims immediately after the Taraweeh” Walid Al-Saqabi, manager of translation services in Grand Mosque told Arab News on Sunday.

Al-Saqabi added that the translation of tafseer of Qur’an will be available in an area near the King Fahd Gate and will start after the Taraweeh, adding that for some technical obstacle it was not possible to provide live translation of the Qur’an recitation during the prayer, as it is the case during the Friday prayer.

He noted that this service could be possibly expanded in accordance with the demand of visitors to the Holy Mosque, highlighting that special attention will be given to the sick and elderly by providing them with wheelchairs inside the Grand Mosque.

Around 10,500 wheelchairs are available for the use by people who are in need for such service, Mashleh Al-Mahmadi, manager of carts at Grand Mosque, told Arab News, adding that the relevant authorities will increase the number of wheelchairs as needed and all will be offered to worshippers free of charge.

Moreover, this year, authorities are testing 200 electrically operated carts, which will be offered to the pilgrims’ services once they are proven successful and pass the tests, adding that an additional 500 wheelchairs will be available for rent and will be operated by pushers who are authorized to work as such and will be wearing barcoded identification badges with their photos.

Al-Mahmadi said that the barcode system would enable the authorities to trace the wheelchair pusher in case of any violation, adding that the free wheel chairs are available in three locations at eastern part of Grand Mosque towards Ajyad area.

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Oxford Academic Offers Formula for Restoring Islam To Its Glory Days

KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 (NNN-Bernama) — The glory of Islamic civilisation seven centuries ago is, today, nothing but history.

All that is left is a legacy of knowledge that is being benefited by other communities.

Muslims today are no longer regarded as agents of knowledge or prosperity, never mind a symbol of political power. In the rare event Muslims are linked to political power, it is usually not in a positive context.

A potent formula to restore the former glory of Muslim civilisation has yet to be found. And if going by the numerous issues of disunity, tribalism and differing school of thoughts which Muslims today are fraught with, the idea seems almost impossible.

However, the founder and Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies Dr Farhan Ahmad Nizami, believed that as a Muslim, a person must always remain optimistic of his prospects and carry on despite the difficulty of his journey.


He opined that the regression of Muslim society today is due to the lack of confidence and self-esteem. During the heydays of Islamic civilisation, Muslims believed in the perfection of their religion. This had made them open to new ideas from the Greek, Persian and Indian civilisations.

In fact, they adapted into Islam the collective knowledge and philosophies of all civilisations, believing that the religion is holistic and capable of incorporating all positive values.

“While we memorialise the legacy of the Islamic past when naming public institutions or presenting past glories in books and museums, we should remember that this legacy was built on the Muslims’ confidence in Islam. This confidence was sustained by material prosperity, combined with sufficient degree of political and legal stability”, he said at the Syarahan (lecture) Perdana Putrajaya II here recently.

However, the political instability of Islamic governments towards the end of the era inevitably sent Muslim societies into poverty and colonisation. This indirectly weakened their confidence.

The lack of funds for education also ultimately led to the division between the secular sciences and Islamic sciences. Islamic science, such as the knowledge of fiqh and shariah, was given precedence through the building of religious schools. Those who wished to study secular sciences had to leave the country to do so.

The knowledge of science and engineering within Islamic civilisations, which was pioneered by Muslim scholars like Al-Khwarizmi, Al-Kindi and Ibnu Sina, died a slow death as a result.

“A division became established between religious and secular education, between old and modern, with Islam on the side of the old. That division is at the heart of the present challenges facing Muslims in every part of the world,” he said.


To return Muslims to the golden era of Islam, Dr Farhan proposed for more institutions and forums to be held to identify the challenges faced by Muslim societies today.

Such discussions must be followed up with solutions and resolutions as well as realistic means of achieving it.

“Among the general objectives, the most inclusive is to build commercial, financial trade and cultural ties between Muslim societies,” he said.

He also stressed upon the importance of tolerance and transparency between Muslim nations.

Dr Farhan said Muslim nations should forge more bilateral relations among themselves, particularly in the fields of business and economy, education and culture.

As Muslims, he said, the effort to build economic strength is a responsibility not only for the individual and his family, but also for his society and nation.

In fact, Muslims should work towards encouraging and propagating Islamic values in global economic activities, making them fair, charitable and free of usury and debts.

“More Muslims need to join, with each other, and with non-Muslims, in the urgent need to balance the creation and distribution of wealth so that the good life is available to all, including future generations.

“The Muslims’ ongoing efforts to develop techniques of financing and investment that are free of usury and uncertainty (speculation) are pertinent to the wider concerns about ethical investment, fair and genuinely free trade, and abolishing the export through debt-slavery, of poverty, instability and pollution to the poorest and weakest on this earth”, he said.

He acknowledged that one of the reasons for the lack of investment by Muslim companies in Muslims nations was due to the conflicts within the country.

“A reason why Muslims do not invest their wealth and talents in Muslim countries is that those countries are unstable, unsafe and unproductive to work in. This vicious cycle is not a function of those countries being Muslim; similar socio-economic conditions elsewhere have similar effects, (resulting in) an exodus of energy, talent and money”, he said.


To associate the Muslim identity with something more positive, Dr Farhan said fairness and equality must be made the main policy in every business dealing at every level of administration of a Muslim government.

“This means allowing independent centres of authority to emerge and recognising their concerns and aspirations. It means a redistribution of opportunities to acquire wealth and influence, so that decision making is not concentrated in the same few hands,” he said.

The Muslim identity should also be free from any form of politics or tribalism.

“The Quran emphatically censures those among the Israelites who claimed salvation on the basis of tribal belonging. The cornerstone of Islamic civilisation is its understanding that values, like knowledge and skill and virtue, are by no means a monopoly of the Muslims”, he explained.

According to Dr Farhan, the Quran has also dubbed the Muslims as “ummatan wasatan”, which can be interpreted as “the middle or moderate Community” or “the anti extreme or mainstream”.

“It must be inclusive and assimilative, go East and West and learning as well as teaching. That is an ideal worthy of presentation to all the peoples of the world. It is certainly the one that Muslims consciously sought to achieve in the past.

“The aim is not to have people identified as Muslims; the vast majority already do that. Rather, the aim is to enable them to prosper in the world in ways that express and test, inform and improve, their identity as Muslims”, he said.

On that note, he urged Muslim states to preserve the rights of women, particularly in getting education.


Dr Farhan said Muslims in Malaysia had proven that they could build their lives among other communities without sacrificing their religious and cultural beliefs.

The political stability and economic development in the country was also an example for other Muslim nations.

Dr Farhan said the main reason why this was possible in Malaysia was because Malaysian Muslims believed and practiced true Islamic teachings, which advocates tolerance and neighbourliness.

“Malaysia is a thriving nation where Muslims remain, through their embrace of modernity, true to what is universal in their cultural and religious values. I know there are tensions, and there are ways of peace. Differences intelligently managed have been converted into the advantages of diversity and moderation.

“It is very pleasing to be able to say that, it is Malaysia which took the lead in setting up the World Islamic Economic Forum. This initiative carries forward years of effort to improve economic cooperation between Muslim countries”, he said.

Malaysia has also, through its tertiary education programmes, encouraged the dissemination of knowledge among its students and academicians from Islamic countries.

So it is no wonder that Dr Farhan, during the press conference, described Malaysia’s potential in inspiring Muslim unity across the world.

“Malaysia could act as catalyst in the region as well as other parts of the world in the effort to overcome sectarianism by creating an environment for economic relationship and education”, he said.

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Algeria, Cuba Sign Two Agreements On Co-Operation In Health Sector

ALGIERS, June 27 (NNN-APS) — Algeria and cuba have signed two agreements on co-operation the field of health involving the sending Cuban medical teams to Algeria, according to the Algerian Ministry of Health, Population and Hospital Reform.

The first agreement is for the despatch of a multi-disciplinary Cuban medical team to Algeria to strengthen maternal and child health programmes in five southern and High Plateaus provinces — Adrar, Ghardaia, Ouargla, El Bayedh and Naama.

The second agreement deals with the sending of a medical team specializing in ophthalmology to reinforce the staff of El Ouad Hospital, which was built by the Cuban government as part of the Algerian-Cuban partnership.

Cuban Deputy Minister in charge of Public Health Marcia Cobas told APS, after the signing of the agreement here Tuesday that the Cuban medical teams would be responsible for boosting health sector in the concerned cities, to provide better care to the populations of the South and High Plateaus.

The agreement also aims to reduce patients’ waiting time by shortening the time between diagnosis and treatment, she added. — NNN-APS

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Indonesia Sees Chance To Develop Auto Industry In ASEAN Market

JAKARTA, Indonesia June 27 (NNN-Bernama) — The Indonesian government expects its auto industry to develop faster when the Asean Economic Community (AEC) kicks off next year, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

According to Indonesian Industry Minister MS Hidayat, the AEC will be an opportunity for the domestic automotive industry to develop and its competitiveness has been on the rise with huge investments in the last two years.

The minister promised that the government will support the industry’s efforts to raise its competitiveness.

Statistics from the Indonesian Industry Ministry show that the largest economy in Southeast Asia manufactured 1.2 million cars last year thanks to a network of over 1,500 factories producing components for the automotive industry. It expects to export 200,000 cars this year.

The country’s automotive industry ranks second after Thailand in the region.

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Malaysia Proposes Setting Up Of Islamic Innovation & Creativity Fund At IDB

JEDDAH, June 25 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia has proposed the establishment of an Islamic Innovation and Creativity Fund for the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to strategically address the issue of possible rise in youth unemployment among member countries.

Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah brought up the proposal during the working session of the IDB Board of Governors here Wednesday.

“The fund can be used to invest in start-up companies led by young entrepreneurs, providing loans and grants to fund their innovation, from product development to commercialisation,” he said.

He said by promoting entrepreneurship among Muslim youths worldwide, IDB could strategically address the issue of rising youth unemployment.

“Youth unemployment is one of the global challenges faced ever since the global economic crisis. The global youth unemployment rate has been steadily rising from 12.3 per cent in 2011 to 12.4 per cent in 2012 and hitting 12.6 per cent in 2013.

“By 2018, the global youth unemployment rate is projected to rise to 12.8 per cent and developing Muslim nations across the world are no exception to this trend,” he said.

Ahmad Husni said IDB should foster young entrepreneurs by funding start-up companies involved in developing innovative and creative product and services.

The fund can also act as a facilitator and assist in providing linkages between the young entrepreneurs in IDB member countries.

“We should provide opportunity to our young people as with education, they could go very far.

“In an economy with entrepreneurship, there would be people developing businesses and these would provide employment opportunities and positive spin-off effects.

“IDB should start creating a model of setting up the (Innovation and Creativity) fund and identify who the target groups are,” he said.

However, Ahmad Husni said IDB must study which countries were suitable to implement the innovative and creative economy as countries within the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have different levels of economic growth.

Sharing Malaysia’s experience, he said the country had established the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) after realising it could not forever depend on manufacturing or be at the lower end of the supply chain.

“We have identified that the next trend of economy would be based on innovation and creativity.

“Therefore, we provide training and linkages to our selected young entrepreneurs with our government-linked companies (GLC). When they have the right products, the linkages with the market are readily available,” he said.

Under the Bumiputera economic agenda, he said Malaysia established the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju), which organised some form of competition for local entrepreneurs, and the selected products would be linked up with the GLCs to gain access to the market.

“Interested IDB member countries can come over to Malaysia to familiarise with our model but they have to tailor it according to their own special needs,” Ahmad Husni added.

On the occasion of IDB’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, he said the bank had done immense work in the past 40 years to assist in developing and promoting member countries’ socio-economic growth.

At the core of this noble endeavour was the alleviation of poverty and uplifting of living standards such as health and education, for the betterment of the ummah, he said.

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Mausoleum located in the middle of the UNESCO protected site in Timbuktu, Mali

27 June 2014 – Two of the World Heritage mausoleums destroyed in Timbuktu have now been rebuilt through a partnership with local communities, the United Nations cultural agency said, adding that it will need an additional $8 million to finish the rehabilitation of the site and of libraries that could again store hundreds of thousands of Malian manuscripts.

“We are looking for $11 million,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Representative to Mali, Lazare Eloudou Assomo, said in New York.

The UN agency has been able to gather around $3 million through bilateral cooperation and other funding, he said, but “if we don’t have the $8 million, it would be difficult for us to implement our activities.”

Timbuktu was an economic, intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa during the city’s golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries. According to UNESCO, the three mosques and the 16 mausoleums comprising the property are part of the fabled city that was once home to 100,000 inhabitants.

The site was heavily destroyed by occupying extremists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.

In March, local masons working under the supervision of Imam of Djingareyber, and with support from UNESCO and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which is mandated in part to support the Government in cultural preservation, laid the first earthen brick to reconstruct two of the mausoleums.

“It’s a long and complex task. The monuments look very simple in their architecture but they are complex structures,” said Mr. Assomo, who spoke alongside Vibeke Jensen, Director of the UNESCO Office in New York.

In addition to their historical significance for the world, the site is entwined with the cultural and social fabric of the city and communities who live there. Each of the 16 mausoleums is the responsibility of a specific family who serves as its “custodian.”

“It is not only about rebuilding stones. It is also about keeping culture significant,” he stressed. Reconstructing the site has already contributed to “a kind of environment to foster peace reconciliation and social cohesion.”

In addition to the mausoleums, the plans include renovations of private libraries and sites to hold the estimated 300,000 manuscripts that were saved and temporarily secured in Bamako.

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Iranian film festival warmly received in Singapore

Jun 24, 2014 – The first Iranian film festival in Singapore has been warmly received by both Iranian and native residents of the Southeast Asian island country.

The Speaker of Singapore’s Parliament Halimah Yaqob along with a number of Singaporean officials attended the festival’s opening ceremony.

Hundreds of people also flocked to the Iran’s cinematic event and praised the screened movies.

Asghar Farhadi’s Academy Award-winning movie A Separation opened the festival on June 19.

The Hidden Half by Tahmineh Milani, The Wedlock by Rouhollah Hejazi, So Far, So Close by Seyyed Reza Mirkarimi and I Feel Sleepy by Reza Attaran are among the festival’s film lineup.

A number of Iranian films had been earlier screened at the Singapore’s annual International Film Festival (SIFF).

Iranian filmmaker and actor Mehrshad Karkhani’s National Alley was warmly received in the 24th edition of the Singapore International Film Festival in 2011.

Iran held the festival in Singapore with the aim of introducing the country’s culture and cinematic productions.

Iran’s embassy in Singapore in collaboration with the State’s Foreign Ministry and Singapore’s Cinema Association organized the festival.

Iranian film festival in Singapore came to an end on June 23, 2014.

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Stability in Xinjiang ‘controllable and guaranteed’: official

2014-06-12, (Xinhua) BEIJING — Stability in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is “controllable and guaranteed,” a local official said on Thursday.

Shi Dagang, deputy governor of the region, said at a press conference in Beijing that people can be reassured about traveling in Xinjiang, and that incidents of violence are very rare and isolated cases.

The remarks came two weeks after the second central work conference on Xinjiang, held in the wake of a series of bloody terrorist attacks in the region, including one in an open air market in the regional capital Urumqi that left 39 people dead and 94 injured on May 22.

At the central work conference, President Xi Jinping stressed that a priority of good governance is to improve livelihood so that people from all ethnic groups feel taken care of by the Party and state.

In a follow-up move, China’s top economic planning body announced last week that it will work to implement a variety of support policies in employment, education and poverty reduction in the region.

According to Shi, in the past three years, public expenditures on livelihood projects, which added up to 482.9 billion yuan (78.5 billion U.S. dollars), accounted for more than 70 percent of the regional government’s total public spending.

Chronic issues in housing, employment, education, social security and infrastructure are being solved, he added, noting that social stability and economic development are both indispensable and can reinforce each other.

Also at Thursday’s press conference, authorities confirmed that the fourth China-Eurasia Expo will run from September 1 to 6 in Urumqi, with a focus on the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt.

During the Expo, countries including Turkey, Belarus, Malaysia, India and Germany will put on events to boost investment and trade.

A textile-themed exhibition as well as a farm produce and food exhibition will also be held to help boost regional employment and promote Xinjiang’s agricultural sector.

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Tribal women produce 35% of handicrafts

Tehran, June 25, IRNA – Currently, tribal women produce 35 percent of handicrafts across the county, said a senior official of Iranˈs Tribal Affairs Organization.

Leila Sadat Balali added that a majority of their products include carpet, kilim (flat tapestry carpet) and tableau carpets, which generates income for them.

Balali said women make up half of the 1.2 million tribal population.

“Some 60 credit funds have been established for tribal women across 18 provinces. At present, women contribute 90 percent of tribal income,” she said.

Nomads have always played an important role in Iranian society. It is estimated that there are about one and a half million nomads in Iran, extending from the border of Turkmenistan to the warm waters of the Persian Gulf.

Iran is the largest concentration of traditional nomads in the world. These tribes include; Bakhtiyaris in the midwest, the Gilakis in the northern part (on the Caspian Sea Coast), Baloochis, in the east part of the country, Lors, and Kurds in the west and northwestern part of Iran.

These were the inhabitants who, in the first millennium B.C., swept down from Central Asia and settled in various parts of the Iranian Plateau.

There are many divisions and sub-divisions for each of the main tribes. In the modern Iranian society and with the expansion of education and better communications the young generation of Iranian nomads have made great progress supplying very intelligent engineers, medical doctors and scientists.

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Indonesian taxi company to spend $16 million to expand fleet

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, June 28 2014 — Publicly-listed transportation firm PT Panorama Transportasi (WEHA), better known as White Horse, has set aside Rp 194 billion (US$16.1 million) this year to expand its fleet, particularly regular taxis.

White Horse financial director Angreta Chandra said after a shareholders meeting on Friday that around 70 percent of the Rp 194 billion would be used to purchase 700 new regular taxis, while the remaining 30 percent would be used on other vehicles.

She said that 30 percent of the fund would be from internal cash, while the other 70 percent would be from bank loans.

“We see that demand for regular taxis in Greater Jakarta has surpassed supply,” she went on, adding that her firm currently operated 400 executive and 300 regular taxis in the city.

White Horse operational director Agustono Haliman said that he was upbeat that his firm would be able to cash in on Jakarta’s market.

“Taxi demand in public places, such as malls, airports and hotels, is still relatively high despite fleet expansion by other taxi operators,” he said.

The ratio of taxis to every 1,000 people in Indonesia is only 0.24, while the ratios in Malaysia and Singapore are 3.12 and 5.20, respectively, according to a 2012 Euromonitor biannual report.

The report also projected that Indonesia’s taxi demand would grow by 18.2 percent on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) throughout 2012 to 2016, while supply was estimated to grow by only 16 percent in CAGR over the same period.

Angreta said that she estimated that White Horse taxis would make up 40 percent of its total revenue, a surge from 29 percent last year, if all the new taxis hit the streets by the fourth quarter this year.

She said that while boosting revenue from its taxi service, her firm would also boost revenue from other fleet services.

Besides buying new regular taxis, White Horse will buy 218 rental cars, 18 intercity shuttle cars and 10 buses this year.

Angreta said that apart from the money allocated to fleet expansion, her firm had also allocated Rp 75 billion from last year’s rights issue to build new taxi pools in Greater Jakarta.

Other than taxis, White Horse, which is a subsidiary of the country’s largest tour and travel firm Panorama Group, currently operates 613 units consisting of buses, rental cars and intercity shuttle cars.

Angreta said that her firm targeted to book a 33 percent increase in revenue to Rp 315.2 billion this year, from Rp 236.9 billion last year.

The firm also aims for a 971 percent increase in net profit to Rp 18.9 billion this year from Rp 1.7 billion last year.

“We believe that the target is achievable, especially with our fleet expansion and taxi fare hike,” Angreta said, adding that her firm had just increased its taxi fare although the fuel price hike occurred last year.

White Horse’s revenue jumped by 18 percent to Rp 236.8 billion last year from Rp 201.2 billion in 2012.

The firm’s bottom line, meanwhile, slid 70 percent to Rp 1.7 billion last year from Rp 5.9 billion in 2012, mainly due to the floods across Jakarta and a 40 percent increase in the fuel price last year.

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No smoking in Abu Dhabi hotel lobbies

Abu Dhabi, June 28, 2014, Gulf News – Smokers can no longer light up in hotel lobbies and cafes and restaurants situated in lobbies in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The ruling, issued by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA), is part of a drive to ban smoking in enclosed public places, as stated under Federal Law No 15 of 2009. Circulated in January, the regulation called upon hotels, hotel apartments and tourism facilities to prohibit smoking in these public areas.

The statement by the ADTCA added that outlets that fail to comply with the standards would face punitive measures, although these were not specified.

According to the TCA Abu Dhabi’s April 2014 report, there are 153 hotels and hotel apartments in the emirate. Between January and April this year, 1.13 guests frequented these facilities, representing a 31 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.

Hotel personnel contacted by Gulf News said they were aware of the rule.

“We banned smoking in the lobby more than three months ago. For the convenience of smokers, we have other outlets other than the main reception area,” said Reema Baroudi, director of communication and public relations at the Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi.

At the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort, the practice has also been prohibited since February in the lobby, the coffee shop adjacent to it and the conference centre, said Yves Tarabout, the facility’s deputy general manager.

“Transition to no-smoking in these areas has been exceptionally smooth, especially as many of our customers would have experienced similar regulations in Dubai as well as in other countries,” Tarabout added.

Dr Widad Al Maidour, head of tobacco control at the UAE Ministry of Health, told Gulf News that the ADTCA’s initiative is a step in the right direction.

“It is an excellent effort as the Abu Dhabi Government works to make all public places 100 per cent smoke-free,” she added.

Ashraf, 29, a media executive from Syria, smokes more than a pack a day but said that it is incumbent upon smokers to respect the rights of those who don’t in shared spaces.

“Still, it is rather inconvenient that lighting up is not allowed in lobby-situated cafes as this diminishes the social experience for us,” he added

Since the beginning of the year, a number of other stipulations of the 2009 anti-tobacco law have come into effect. For example, in accordance with a ruling by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, cafes and restaurants offering shisha (tobacco water pipe) are now required to be located 150 metres away from residential buildings, schools and mosques. Otherwise, outlets may not include shisha on their menus.

Another by-law came into effect in January and it bans smoking in cars in the presence of children 12 years or younger. Under this standard, offenders can be face fines of Dh500 or more.

In addition, cigarette packs sold across the country have been mandated to display graphic warnings on the pack since January 2013.

Smoking in enclosed public areas has been banned in Dubai since 2007, and in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah since 2008. Ajman, too, has had a ban in place since 2010.

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UNESCO launches landmark study to assist media development in Palestine

Ramallah, 18.06.2014 – UNESCOPRESS – On 18 June, UNESCO launched its report on media development in Palestine, to an audience of more than 80 stakeholders, at an event organized in Ramallah and, simultaneously, through remote communications in Gaza.

The report is the result of an 18 months study carried out in partnership with the Media Development Center (MDC) of Birzeit University. It is based on UNESCO’s internationally-endorsed Media Development Indicators (MDIs) and is the third MDI assessment to be completed in the Arab region, after studies in Egypt and Tunisia.

The report recognizes the existence of a guarantee of the right to freedom of expression in the Palestinian Basic Law, which serves in lieu of a constitution, and calls for this to be strengthened. The recommendations highlight that existing legal restrictions on free expression should be amended to be in line with international standards of necessity and proportionality.

The study also encourages the national authorities to adopt a right to information law, drawing on extensive work already completed in this area with civil society organizations. It further recommends the establishment of an independent regulatory body, the transformation of the Palestinian Public Radio and Television Corporation into an independent public service broadcaster, and the promotion of community media.

The report proposes that the media industry develop an effective system for self-regulation, and invites universities to modernize their media programmes and consider the establishment of a Master’s programme on media. It acknowledges the efforts of the national authorities to involve civil society in the development of a new strategic ICT and digital transition plan and encourages them to continue following this approach.

The launch event for the report brought together representatives of both public and private media organizations, the government, civil society, universities, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and international partners.

Attending the launch on behalf of the Palestinian Government, Ehaib Bessaiso, Director of the Government Media Center and Government Spokesperson, stated: “We need this study and we need many contributions to the media. Without this, we will never be able to take a step forward.”

He added: “We promise that we as government will review all recommendations and work in full partnership to enhance media development for accountability and democracy.”

Lodovico Folin Calabi, Officer in charge of the UNESCO Office in Ramallah, explained that the study would “provide a reliable resource for policy makers, the media, civil society organizations, universities and training institutions, in order to promote an enabling environment for free, independent and pluralistic media in Palestine, with reference to key international standards”. The report also provides insight to priorities that donors and international partners can draw on to effectively target assistance based on the needs of national stakeholders.

The publication of the report comes two months after Palestine applied to join 15 international human rights conventions and treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. The publication also coincides with discussions in Palestine on the development and implementation of a National Media Strategy.

The public launch event discussed the main conclusions of the report as well as follow-up to ensure engagement with the report’s recommendations.

Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, who facilitated the panel on integrating the results of the assessment in Palestine’s National Media Strategy, encouraged continued dialogue amongst all relevant actors in order to identify areas of shared interest and ensure implementation.

“This study has the potential to bring actors together to take decisions and mobilize the resources needed to strengthen Palestine’s media and its service to society.”

Nibal Thawabteh, Director of the Media Development Center at Birzeit University, elaborated: “The study will feed into the National Media Strategy, and an action plan with working committees that will be set up on 26 June, and meet regularly afterwards to produce outcomes by the end of 2014.”

Other panel discussions covered promoting the safety of media workers, fostering transparency through the right to information, and promoting self-regulation and gender equality in the Palestinian media.

The MDI assessment process in Palestine was nationally-driven and involved wide-ranging consultations with key media stakeholders, in addition to desk-based research. ‎The consultations included a total of 58 in-depth interviews throughout Palestine and an opinion poll targeting 555 journalists across the West Bank and Gaza.

Careful attention was given to systematically including perspectives from all areas as well as to ensuring a gender-sensitive approach. The preliminary findings of the assessment were presented and discussed at two national conferences organized in July and December 2013, each attended by some 120 participants. The feedback received at these conferences was taken into account in the finalization of the report.

The assessment of Palestine’s media landscape using UNESCO’s MDIs was financed by Canal France International, the Government of Finland, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).

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OnIslam & Newspapers Tuesday, 24 June 2014 CAIRO – Australian Muslims are planning to invite Sydney community to attend the first ever Ramadan festival planned later in July to share the festivities of the holy month and break barriers inside the community.

“This is the first time we’re organizing the Ramadan Festival in Sydney,” Sarwat Hassan, one of the event organizers, told Blacktown Sun on Tuesday, June 24. “The Ramadan month is for the community, the “ummah”, to bring people together,” she added.

Opening doors to the whole community, Sydney’s first Ramadan Festival will take place at Blacktown’s Bowman Hall on July 19. The event, the first to be held in Sydney, plans a free family day that includes stalls with fashion, jewellery, clothing, food, henna and face painting.

The festival also offers an opportunity to “open up” and share Ramadan with more people, with Blacktown chosen as one of the first locations due to its high multicultural population. “It’s breaking down those barriers between people,” she said. “Our aim is to have this event in different suburbs across NSW in the future.”

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset. Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.

Away from the festival, Muslims from across western Sydney were putting final touches on their preparations to welcome the holy month. El-Kadomis, the father of seven and grandfather of 16, was preparing with his family to go through 30 days of fasting which will include abstaining from food and water from dawn to dusk.

After the sun has set, they will break their fast with prayers and a serving of food known as “iftar”, which can take place in the home or in a mosque. “Fasting is for the rich to feel what the poor feel,” said Neil El-Kadomi, 68, who is chairman of the Parramatta Islamic Cultural Association. “It gathers people together, to have iftar together. We talk to each other and get closer to God.”

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population. As of the 2011 census, Blacktown local government area had a total 17,501 people who identified as Muslim.

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Islamic Economic Forum to mark 10th Anniversary In Dubai This Oct

DUBAI, June 25 (NNN-BUSINESS WIRE) — Dubai Chamber and the WIEF Foundation said that the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum will be organised in Dubai from October 28 to 30, 2014, under the theme, ‘Innovative Partnerships for Economic Growth’ to reflect the emirate’s pursuit to play a key role in shaping the US$ 8 trillion Islamic economy.

The Forum, which will be held in Dubai for the first time, is expected to be attended by more than 2,500 participants from 140 countries.

The event will offer a global platform to form innovative partnerships based on the seven pillars of the Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative launched in 2013: Islamic finance, Halal food industry, Halal tourism, Islamic digital economy, Capital of Islamic art and design, Centre for Islamic economy standards and certification, and International centre for Islamic information and education.

“The global Islamic economy caters to a 1.6 billion population growing at twice the rate of the global population, which highlights its strong position. Dubai Chamber is keen to support this growth with recommendations and innovative solutions at the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum that will open new horizons for comprehensive economic development in line with our efforts to establish Dubai as the world capital of Islamic economy,” Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber, said.

Malaysia’s Tun Musa Hitam, Chairman of the WIEF Foundation, said: “The WIEF is happy to celebrate its 10th anniversary in Dubai, one of the fastest growing cities. Islamic economies present great opportunities for growth in view of their enormous size and massive purchasing power.

“As the land of creativity and a city that has embraced the culture of innovation, Dubai will help drive innovative partnerships to create Islamic economy solutions that cater to the needs of the era.”

The 10th World Islamic Economic Forum is being organised by the WIEF Foundation in collaboration with Dubai Chamber, as part of its efforts to support the vision of the emirate to become the global capital of Islamic economy.

Dubai had offered to host the Forum during the ninth session of the event held last year in London. For more information, visit the 10th WIEF website: www.10thwief.org.

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Malaysia To Showcase Assortment Of Food Products At NY Show

NEW YORK, June 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia will showcase a variety of processed food products at the three-day New York Fancy Food Show (NYFFS) which kicks off on June 29, 2014. The NYFFS, one of the biggest food shows in the US market, attracts a large turnout from overseas.

Malaysian Trade Commissioner here, Muhd Shahrulmiza Zakaria, said eight Malaysian companies will exhibit a wide range of food products.

“The participation in the NYFFS is aimed at popularising Malaysian cuisine which, in turn, will create demand for Malaysian food products, ingredients and spices, pushing Malaysia’s food exports which have a strong growth potential in a market that is open to new culinary products,” he told Bernama.

Muhd Shahrulmiza said the trade commission worked with a number of trade associations and other groups who had the reach not only to the buyers but also to consumers. “We also use trade shows such as the NYFFS to market our products.

“Trade shows are excellent marketing tools to present our products not only to the trade but also make consumers visibly aware of the range of food products Malaysia can provide,” he said.

He said the trade commission’s intention was not to cater to just the ethnic market but also the mainstream market. “We observe more and more Americans patronise Malaysian restaurants in New York. We are showcasing at the NYFFS a range of instant foods which are easy to prepare and do not need extensive cooking or preparation,” he said.

Some of the leading Malaysian food brands at the NYFFS will include Brahim’s (instant spices and ready-to-eat meals), Linghams, Sharifah, Julie’s Biscuits and S & P (coconut milk). Malaysia’s participation in the NYFFS is being organised in conjunction with the Malaysian Kitchen Programme.

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12 Countries Taking Part In Iran’s Tiles And Ceramics Expo

TEHRAN, Iran, June 23 (NNN-BERNAMA) – The 22nd International Tiles, Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Exhibition opened at the Tehran Permanent International Fairgrounds, Iran’s Mehr News Agency (MNA) reported.

Some 45 companies from 12 countries, including Italy, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Portugal, Russia, China and Turkey are participating in the four-day event, known also as Cerafair 2014.

Iran is currently the fourth leading producer and exporter of tile and ceramic products in the world.

The country produced 550 million square metres of tile and ceramic products and exported products worth over US$450 million in the previous Iranian calendar year ending Mar 20.

Iranian Deputy Industry Minister, Ja’far Sarqini, said, on the sidelines of the exhibition, that Iran has potential to boost exports to US$1 billion in the next five years.

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US$2bn fund to drive growth in Muslim world

Arab News – 27 June, 2014 – A $ 2 billion Islamic Development Bank Infrastructure Fund II (known as the “IDB Fund II“) was launched on the occasion of the bank’s 40th anniversary, said Ahmad Mohamed Ali, president of the IDB Group. The IDB Fund II is the largest private equity infrastructure fund dedicated to the 56-member countries of the IDB. The bank’s board of governors has reappointed Ali as its president for the next five years.

The IDB Fund II is supported by the Public Pension Agency of Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Finance of Bahrain and the Ministry of Finance of Brunei Darussalam as founding investors, with aggregate commitments totaling nearly $ 750 million for the first closing. A final closing with additional investors is targeted for early 2015.

The fund will have a broad sectorial focus beyond the core infrastructure sectors of power, telecommunications and transportation and will include investment in oil and gas, refinery and petrochemicals, steel and aluminum, mining, logistics and an allocation for health care, education and financial services.

The IDB Fund II is the successor to the $ 730 million IDB Infrastructure Fund I (the IDB Fund I), also supported by the founding investors, which achieved an IRR of 18 percent and an investment multiple of 1.7 times across signature projects such as AirAsia in Malaysia, the Saudi International Petrochemical Company (Sipchem) in Saudi Arabia and AES Oasis Ltd., with power assets in Pakistan, Oman and Jordan.

“Building on the successful track record of IDB Fund I, the IDB and founding investors are nearly tripling the size of the IDB Fund II to $ 2 billion,” said Ali. “The fund will mobilize up to $ 24 billion of aggregate financing to support the development of key infrastructure projects in IDB member countries.”

IDB and the founding investors have established ASMA Capital Partners, based in Bahrain, as a multi-fund asset management platform to manage the IDB Fund II.

The chairman of ASMA Capital is the president of the IDB Group and the vice chairman is Mohammed Al-Kharashi, governor of the Public Pension Agency of Saudi Arabia. Members of the board of directors are Abdullah Al-Ayadhi, representing the Public Investment Fund (KSA), and Sami Humaid, representing Bahrain’s finance ministry.

Mohammed Al-Kharashi said: “ASMA Capital is expected to play a significant role in assisting pension funds and other global investors seeking to deploy capital into infrastructure projects in select emerging markets for portfolio diversification and stable return.”

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Old Malay Manuscripts Show Wisdom, Knowledge of the Past

KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 (NNN-Bernama) — There has been manuscripts written by locals as far back as the 13th and 15th century that reflected the state of the Malay archipelago during times of peace and unrest.

The manuscripts also recorded the survival and lifestyle habits of the Malay people at the time It was written on stones, leaves, tree barks, animal hide, bamboo and other media no longer used today.

Unfortunately, many of the manuscripts did not remain in the Malay states. This is because of the mass copying and distribution of Malay manuscripts in the 19th century by Western collectors, researchers and orientalists.

The texts became the most effective weapon of the colonisers as it gave them access into the thoughts, strengths and weaknesses of the Malay people.

This led to the loss of many old Malay manuscripts from the original collection. The separated manuscripts were brought to Europe via sea. This became the reason why segments of old Malay manuscripts can today be found across the world. This in turn, resulted in inaccurate depictions of Malay history by orientalist scholars.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin in his opening speech of the Malay Manuscripts International Exhibition 2014 at the National Library recently said Malaysia had only been able to extensively study 30 per cent of the up to 10,000 year old Malay manuscripts scattered around the world.

Among the locations where the old Malay manuscripts are stored include the Leiden University in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom National Library and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

The Centre for Malay Manuscripts was established as a division of the Malaysian National Library in 1985, said its Director General Datuk Raslin Abu Bakar. Among its role is to search for, explore, research and disseminate the knowledge recorded in Malay manuscripts. The scripts are studied from time to time from the aspects of history, economy, literature and language.

“To date, there are nearly 5,000 manuscripts in our collection worth over RM100 million”, said Raslin. “We often encourage local experts, because we find them more involved”, he said.

Studying old Malay manuscripts was not an easy task because knowledge and literacy of the old “jawi” scripts was needed, said Raslin. Such expertise was, however, available at the National Library, he added. “We welcome anyone from the public interested in studying Malay manuscripts”, he said.

Raslin described the knowledge in Malay manuscripts that was being studied and benefited by foreign researchers as a lost opportunity. The manuscripts, written by the scholars then, covered a range of Islamic topics from history to jurisprudence.

It also described traditional Malay laws, knowledge of astronomy, language and nuances, herbal and medicinal knowledge and black magic and practices, among others.

“Anyone can access the knowledge stored within the manuscript. We have no rights to prevent them from accessing it, especially if they are academic researchers. But just imagine if it was our own people who studied the knowledge within these old medical journals and the herbal remedies used. They could develop quality products from their research of these old manuscripts”, he said.

The National Library is opening up its doors to Malaysians to learn about the old Malay manuscripts in its collection from June to August this year. The exhibition platform is a large traditional Terengganu vessel called the Pinis Gobel, that also serves to showcase the marine engineering prowess of the Malays back then.

The Pinis Gobel, a two-storey high structure covering an area of 30×100 square feet, is placed in the lobby of the National Library and is bound to captivate visitors. The exhibition themed “Merungkai Rahsia Manuskrip Melayu” (Unveiling the Secrets of the Malay Manuscripts), allows visitors to view the handwritten scripts of the Malays nearly 10 centuries ago.

One of them is a handwritten Quran using gold-coloured ink with filigree motifs, indicating the level of intricacy and finesse in the writer’s calligraphic abilities. Visitors will also get the chance to view popular classical texts such as “Hukum Kanun Melaka” (The Laws of Melaka). There is also “Hikayat Hang Tuah” (The Legend of Hang Tuah) written in the old jawi scripts.

The neatness and consistency of the script is awe-inspiring. There are also lifestyle guides of the people at the time including recipes for hot and cold delicacies and even a biryani rice recipe from the Malay people of the past era. There are also tips on clipping fingernails and remedies for stomachaches, among others.

The initiative of the National Library is also in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia 2014. It is hoped that the exhibition will help bring new value and interpretation to the knowledge and philosophies within the manuscripts.

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Garuda Indonesia Reinstates Jakarta-Haneda Flights

JAKARTA, Indonesia, June 23 (NNN-ANTARA) – Garuda Indonesia has reinstated its Jakarta-Haneda flights, to meet market demand and broaden its flight network, Indonesia’s ANTARA news agency reported. Garuda president director, Emirsyah Satar and Japanese ambassador to Indonesia, Yoshinori Katori, officiated the launch of the flights at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport recently.

The route will be operated by Airbus A330-300 planes. Emirsyah said, the reinstatement of the Jakarta-Haneda route is part of Garuda Indonesia’s efforts to expand its services to Japan and beyond. “The service allows passengers to continue their journey to other cities in Japan, with connecting All Nippon Airways flights or to the U.S. with code-share Delta Air Lines flights,” he said.

In line with the airline’s ‘Quantum Leap 2011-2015’ programme, Garuda Indonesia plans to purchase up to 27 new aircraft this year.

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UNESCO approves Battir, Palestine, As World Heritage Site

RAMALLAH, June 23 (NNN-WAFA) — The State of Palestine listed Battir as World Heritage Cultural Landscape during the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar, said a statement by Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities on Friday. The state of Palestine had submitted the site of Battir as an ‘Emergency Nomination’ based on current plans by the Israeli government to expand the illegal Annexation Wall through the heart of Battir putting the integrity of the site in jeopardy

Rula Ma’ayah, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, stated the importance of this third UNESCO recognition of a site in the State of Palestine, after East Jerusalem and the Nativity and Pilgrims Way in Bethlehem, as it is in the line of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities strategy to preserve Palestinian cultural and natural heritage sites and grow tourism development into those areas.

Ma’ayah described Battir as a symbol of Palestinian’s attachment to the land and the Olive Tree.

She stressed the uniqueness of Battir, a town that was on the Roman route from Gaza to Jerusalem, with terraces bearing witness to thousands of years of human activity with a continuous human presence around the springs from at least the Bronze Age (over 4,000 years). The terraces, irrigation system, and pools were an important milestone in agricultural activity of the area and have been in continuous use since Roman times.

The statement said, ‘the UNESCO vote confirms the Outstanding Universal Significance of the site, the terrace system, and its globally unique traditional water-sharing system that is still preserved today.’

It is among the very best examples of this type of terraced landscape, and rich with archaeological remains from throughout the historical record, said the statement. Battir is part of a long list of Palestinian Heritage Sites threatened by Israeli colonization policies in need of urgent international intervention, the statement concluded.

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UNESCO Recognizes Iran’s Shahre-E Soukhteh As Heritage Site

TEHRAN, June 24 (NNN-MNA) – Iran’s deputy-head of cultural and heritage organization said UNESCO has recognized ancient city of Shahr-e Soukhteh as a world heritage site

Mohammad Hassan Talebian told Mehr News that UNESCO recognized Shahr-e Soukteh as a world heritage site of the 3rd millennium BC as a major local commercial center between Mesopotamia and Send valley and central Asia. This in addition to the placid nature of the city helped recognition of the city.

During the UNESCO summit in Doha, Qatar recently experts raised the issue of protection of the site and all countries attending voted for the site to be recognized as a world heritage.

Several cases were addressed during UNESCO summit in Qatar including Iran’s Shahr-e-Soukhteh. The city was built 3200 years ago as a Bronze Age urban settlement, associated with the Jiroft culture and residents lived there for several historical periods.

One of the main reasons for its recognition by UNESCO is the sheer size of the city. There are many other reasons as following for UNESCO to recognize the city. Among them are – the first brain surgery in the world was done in 4800 BC in this city. The shoe making industry of the world was first started in this city.

The most ancient animation and moving images were created in this city displaying a goat gazing at a bunch of flowers.

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UNESCO adds Tatarstani site to World Heritage List

Rferl / 25 Jun 2014 – The ancient city of Bolgar in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The inscriptions came on June 23 at the ongoing 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar. Seven other sites in China, Costa Rica, Germany, Vietnam, India, the Philippines, and Denmark were also included. The Bolgar site in Tatarstan was an early settlement of the civilization of Volga-Bolgars that existed between the 7th and 15th centuries. It was the first capital of the Golden Horde in the 13th century.

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Jeddah Historic Area named UNESCO Heritage Site

Jeddah, Sunday 24 Rajab 1434/ 22 June 2014 (IINA) – The Jeddah Historical Area was declared on Saturday a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency.

Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, announced the inclusion of the historical area in the World Heritage site list after approval at the 38th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which is currently being held in Doha, the Saudi Press Agency reported. “The UNESCO’s decision would further highlight the Kingdom’s historical position and its rich heritage. The inclusion of another site to the UNESCO heritage site shows the depth of the Kingdom’s culture that represents a major platform and strong witness to the country’s role in the interaction with humanity through centuries,” Prince Sultan said. He added that the UNESCO’s decision represents part of the comprehensive initiative being taken under the King Abdullah Project for taking care of cultural heritage approved recently by the Cabinet.

Prince Sultan commended the great efforts made by Makkah Emir Prince Mishal Bin Abdullah and former emirs – Prince Majed Bin Abdulaziz, Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz, and Prince Khaled Al-Faisal – and Jeddah Governor Prince Mishal Bin Majed for working to get the historical area included in the Heritage Site list. He also thanked the governorates of Makkah and Jeddah, Jeddah mayoralty and owners of buildings and residents in the historical area for their active role in winning the recognition. Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah, is situated on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. From the 7th century A.D. it was established as a major port for Indian Ocean trade routes, channeling goods to Makkah.

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Jordan Tourism Minister Discusses Cooperation With UNESCO

AMMAN, Jordan, June 25 (NNN-PETRA) – Minister of Labour and Minister of Tourism, Nidal Qatamin, discussed ways to bolster cooperation with UNESCO, in the fields of tourism and antiquities.

At a meeting with the UNESCO representative in Jordan, Costanza Farina, the minister spoke about the Kingdom’s history and its heritage sites and Islamic and Christian religious shrines.

Qatamin also spoke about his ministry’s efforts, to attract more tourists and inspire them to stay for a longer period in the Kingdom, through tailored programmes. These efforts, he added, also aim to create jobs for Jordanians. Qatamin valued the UN agency’s support for the tourist sites in Jordan, noting that the Kingdom has a number of historical sites that are on the list of world heritage.

The UNESCO official, on her part, valued the efforts exerted by the ministry, to serve the tourism sector in Jordan.

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Rare Wildlife Sightings In Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah State

SANDAKAN, SABAH, (NNN-Bernama) — At exactly 5.00 pm, the writer and her friends climbed onto a boat at the Myne Resort in Kampung Bilit, Sabah, to sail along the Lower Kinabatangan river. As soon as the boat driver steered towards the river, a two-metre crocodile emerged from the waters just over 10 metres away from the boat.

The reptile’s presence caused us to experience momentary panic. However, the panic soon turned into wonder as we realised that it was the first time any of us had seen a wild crocodile in its natural surroundings. The boat stalled for a few seconds until the crocodile left, before resuming its journey that evening to the Tenigang River.

“The crocodile is actually afraid of the sound of the engine, and if given the choice, they would not like to bump into humans”, our guide-cum-boat driver assured us.

Our group was fortunate enough to cruise the river with a Myne Resort Kinabatangan worker called Tom. The 18-year-old, being from the Orang Sungai (river people) tribe, knew the river like the back of his hand. He also had a sharp eye for wildlife, easily spotting a large iguana camouflaged against the branch of a tree and slowed down the boat for us to see.

During the two-hour cruise that evening, we chanced upon 18 groups of wild monkeys, 11 of which were of the proboscis species. The rest were the long-tailed or pig-tailed macaques. “If we are lucky, we would also be able to see Orang Utan in the wild. But today, we will have to contend with looking at the large primate’s nesting area”, said Tom, pointing at the ape’s nest, located high up on a tree.

Kinabatangan is one of the locations in the world with the largest number of primates. There are 10 species here, including endemic primates that only exist in the Bornean Islands, namely the orang utan, the maroon langurs, the Bornean gibbons and proboscis monkeys.

The group also had the chance to view many rare bird species that evening, including several red eagles, the wrinkled hornbill, the rhinoceros hornbill, the white-crowned hornbill and the oriental-pied hornbill. The more common sight along the river were the yellow-beaked egrets and the smaller, black-beaked ones.

During the trip, the writer noticed there were many other boats cruising along the river as well, carrying Caucasian or Japanese tourists. The tourists were staying at the backpackers lodge located along the Lower Kinabatangan river.

On the way back to the Myne Resort, we were not only had the chance to enjoy a beautiful sunset, but managed to spot a pair of 1.5 metre-long crocodiles resting on the sandbanks.

We were told that cruising along the river in the early morning would provide us with a higher chance of spotting different types of animal species. Acting on the advice, our group got onto the boat at 6.00am the next morning, with Tom once again as our nature guide.

The atmosphere that morning was cool and tranquil. The fog that seemed to envelop the entire river, however, did not prevent us from witnessing the amazing biodiversity along the riverbanks.

Besides the many species of egrets, hornbills and kingfishers, we also spotted colourful butterflies of varying species. Some were the size of a 50-sen coin while others were as big as our palms, which we had never seen before in our lives.

One of the awe-inspiring sights was that of a medium-sized tree which seemed to have tiny white flowers growing around its trunk. Upon closer inspection, the tiny white flowers were actually white butterflies.

That morning, Tom guided us towards the Menanggol River.

While we were watching a pair of macaques swinging from a rubberised structure connecting two riverbanks, when Tom hushed us. He then slowed down the boat and steered towards the left of the bank. It turned out that the highly endangered pygmy elephant had just left the area. We had just missed it drinking from the river.

At first, we thought all we had left from the potential sighting was its plate-sized footprints, but when we concentrated, we found that we could still hear its movements against the trees and its trumpeting sounds slowly dying as it left the area.

Our disappointment for missing the very rare species was quickly remedied by the sight of another rarely-sighted and endangered species – the oriental darter.

The bird looked similar to the egret but was black in colour with webbed feet like a duck’s. We saw it perched on a branch some two metres away from the boat. It suddenly dove into the water and did not emerge, even after a minute. Only as we were about to leave did it reemerge, with a small fish in between its yellow beak.

Nature guides would usually advice tourists on such trips to not expect too much as wildlife sightings were very rare.

However, our trip proved to be one of those exceptions during which we were able to spot many rare species, especially in the Sukau area of the Lower Kinabatangan. Sukau is home to many rare and highly endangered species.

Perhaps the main factor enabling the sightings were the state government’s effort to create the “Corridor of Life-Lower Kinabatangan” and establishing an expansive wildlife sanctuary since 2002.

We were grateful to the Rileaf Project by Nestle for the opportunity to visit the Lower Kinabatangan. The project was for reforestation of selected locations along the Corridor of Life with the aim of providing food sources for the sanctuary inhabitants.

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Kazakhstan Emerging As Another Economic Powerhouse

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, June 23 (NNN-BERNAMA) – Kazakhstan, with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita almost similar to Malaysia’s, is emerging to be another economic powerhouse in Central Asia which is set to have a significant impact on Malaysia and the rest of the world.

The US$9,000 GDP per capita, fuelled mainly by its energy sector, has enabled Kazakhstan to set an ambitious task of transforming its economy into the 30 most developed in the world, by tapping the vast market potentials via the Eurasian Economic Integration (EEI).

The EEI, comprising Russia and ex-Soviet states of Belarus and Kazakhstan, will come into fruition in 2015.

This will expand Kazakhstan’s economy from a small market, consisting of a population of about 17 million people, to a combined market potential of over 200 million people, by eliminating trade barriers.

Its President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has won praises for bold measures, to steer the country on a strong economic growth path.

He has made Malaysia as model in the country’s development agenda.

Its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Erlan Idrissov, said, Kazakhstan was using opportunities to turn its landlocked country into land-linkedness.

Idrissov said, Kazakhstan has set ambitious plans to ‘green’ its economy, from a country rich in fossil fuel, to a more sustainable economic growth, by focussing on human capital and expanding into renewable energy.

“This is premised on an environment of peace, grounded by Kazakhstan’s long-term vision of peace and prosperity, for its multi-ethnic and multi-religious people, as it promoted its declaration of a nuclear free world,” he said.

Idrissov said this, at a media briefing, during the recent three-day Astana Economic Forum, from May 21-23, 2014.

Kazakhstan signed and ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, as an agreement to ban nuclear testings.

The central Asian nation, the top 15 countries globally, in terms of oil and gas reserves, holds three per cent of global oil reserves.

It is also surging into international prominence, rising from a nation dominated by nomadic tribes, to becoming a well-diversified economy, with modern infrastructure, aided by aggressive expansion and liberalisation of economy, to attract foreign investors and linking its economy with other economic blocs.

It is also fast establishing itself as an attractive place to invest in, by moving away from its stereotype as nuclear-testing sites during the Cold War era, into an urban progressive nation, after it gained its independence in 1991 and closed its nuclear-testing sites.

Last year, its economy achieved six per cent GDP growth and since 1993, it has clinched over US$160 billion in foreign direct investments.

Kazakhstan offers immense opportunities for Malaysian investors with its rapid economic development and international recognition.

Astana, its capital city, is becoming a world class place for holding international conferences and this has placed it on the road-map of international recognition.

The recent Astana Economic Conference here attracted over 10,000 participants from 150 countries.

Astana’s growing importance and international recognition will present opportunities for Malaysian investors, in the construction of highways, housing and potential demand for a new international airport.

Malaysian firms are now in discussions with government authorities, for the construction of a new airport.

The major sectors that attract Malaysian investors are oil field, tourism, cattle-breeding and Islamic banking.

The country, like Malaysia, managed to survive the 2008 global economic storm and is building its strength and resilience, to expand into other non-core industries besides its dominance in the global oil and gas and commodity-led sectors.

Kazakhstan, with a sizeable national fund, derived from its oil revenues, managed to stay afloat and rescued financially distressed industries during the peak of the crisis.

Now, the country is able to focus on its diversification strategies in the agriculture and mining sectors.

This is where Malaysian investors have immense potentials to offer, as the country strives to expand into the other sectors of the economy.

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Philippines leader pledges Muslim autonomy law by January

AFP / 28 Jun 2014 – Philippine President Benigno Aquino vowed yesterday to deliver self-rule to minority Muslims by January 2015, in line with a peace treaty signed with its largest rebel group. “We’re hoping that all the steps will be finished (so) that they can take position by January of 2015,” he told reporters.

The pledge followed Aquino’s surprise meeting in Japan on Tuesday with Murad Ebrahim, the country’s top rebel, to address growing concerns over delays in implementing the peace deal signed in March.

The pact made Murad’s Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government partners in a plan to pass a law creating the autonomous region by mid-2016, when Aquino is required by the constitution to stand down. Rebels have been battling for independence or autonomy in the southern islands of the mainly Catholic Philippines since the 1970s, with the conflict claiming tens of thousands of lives. A commission composed of rebel and government nominees drafted a proposed “basic law” for the autonomous region, and it was submitted to Aquino in April as part of a timeframe to have Congress pass it by June.

However, Aquino said yesterday: “There’s a need to further refine the language so that it really states a meeting of the minds of both parties.” Aquino said he and Murad reviewed the “broad strokes on how to come up with the basic law that will ensure swift passage in Congress,” during a 10-minute meeting on the sidelines of a Hiroshima peace conference.

He said their representatives are to meet again next week to thrash out the fine print of the document before Aquino is to submit it to Congress when it resumes sessions in late July.

Early passage will allow Aquino to name an MILF-led, 15-member “transition authority” that will temporarily lead the autonomous region until its residents vote for a regional assembly in May 2016.

This would give the transition team “time to demonstrate its abilities”, he said. The MILF, with 10,000 armed followers, is the biggest rebel group and its signing of the accord has raised hopes of an enduring peace in the south, despite other breakaway groups still vowing to fight.

The Hiroshima meeting was the second between Aquino and Murad in Japan since a 2011 encounter that built momentum in the peace process.

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Dubai Cares launches its Ramadan campaign 2014

The National / 28 Jun 2014 – The UAE will spend Dh125 million on a Ramadan gift to the world, aiming to provide clean drinking water to five million people. The UAE Suqia campaign – launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai – will work with Emirates Red Crescent to dig wells and build reservoirs and water-treatment plants.

The campaign begins on Saturday, according to state news agency WAM. “We have already begun some of the foundation work in Pakistan, and Erbil in Iraq,” said Mohammed Al Zaroni, head of the Red Cresent’s Dubai branch. “The Erbil project is a big one, which we estimate will help more than 100,000 people.

“We hope to have the project completed in about a week.” Mr Al Zaroni said the charity would then start drilling wells in Somalia. Water is the source of life. Nothing you do can be successful if there is no water,” he said.

“We have a number of countries on our list that we will be helping with water aid, including Kenya, Niger, Togo, Djibouti, Ethiopia and others,” said Mr Al Zaroni.

Organisers would not go into detail about costs as they vary from one country to another, depending on the conditions and requirements. But they estimated that on average every Dh1m donated would aid 40,000 people. To achieve the five million target the campaign would need to collect Dh125m.

From 2009 to last year, the UAE spent more than Dh1 billion in water aid to 61 countries around the world, with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development accounting for just over half of that figure. Afghanistan received more than Dh231m for drinking water projects in that time.

The World Health Organisation says that every year more than 3.4 million people die from water-related diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world. About 1 million people walk more than 10 kilometres to get clean water every day. UN statistics show 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.

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Twitter launches Ramadan ‘hashflags’

The Guardian / 28 Jun 2014 – Twitter has introduced its second set of “hashflags” for users observing Ramadan and celebrating Eid, following from the state-specific flags introduced during the World Cup. Users of the service tweeting #Ramadan or #Eid, in Arabic or English will see special icons – a crescent moon and Arabic calligraphy, respectively – next to the tags.

“This week, more than 1.5 billion Muslims around the world will observe the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar as Ramadan, the month of fasting,” says Twitter. “And they will also gather on Twitter to share their celebration. In fact, based on our research, people sent more than 74.2m tweets about Ramadan from around the world last year.”

Twitter’s data team put together a visualisation to show how users tweeted about Ramadan in 2013. In the US, “long summer days mean that people often tweet about how hungry and thirsty they are during Ramadan”, while in the UK and Malaysia, the word “happy” predominates. Prayer, or صلاة, “is mentioned most often in Ramadan tweets from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt”.

As well as adding a little extra colour to the site, Twitter is providing a more useful service to its Islamic users: from Friday, anyone can tweet Arabic news channel al Arabiya to find out when iftar is in their location. Users need to tweet #iftar and then their location (#london or #newyork, for instance) to @alarabiya to find out what time in the evening they can break their fast. To do the same with the beginning of the fast, they can send #imsak instead.

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Saudi women don’t need mahram OK for travel within KSA

Arab news / 27 Jun 2014 – Around 64 percent of Saudi women are unaware of their right to travel inside the Kingdom without obtaining the approval of their guardians, local media reported, quoting a recently published study. Similarly, the study found that 59 percent of Saudi men were oblivious that women are allowed to travel domestically without the prior consent of guardians.

The study, which was conducted by Khadija bint Khuwailid Center for Businesswomen at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was designed to measure public opinion regarding Saudi women’s participation in national development and the problems facing them in the labor market.

Around 3,000 male and female individuals above 18 years old were randomly selected from 11 cities across the Kingdom to participate in the study. The study also found that 66 and 70 percent of women and men respectively strongly rejected the idea of women traveling without their guardian’s consent.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Suleiman Al-Yahya, director-general of the Passport Department, said the department has no intention of canceling travel permits for women. The only exception will be made for women abroad on scholarship, he said.

Citizens living abroad will no longer need to employ paperwork agents or visit passport offices and will instead be able to use the Abshir online system. “This online system is fully protected from hacking attempts,” he said.

The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, has promised to implement an e-linkage project between the Social Affairs, Justice and Commerce Ministries. “Citizens find it easy to criticize system shortcomings because they are oblivious to the amount of work undertaken by the department in enhancing performance and expanding services,” he said. “The mediator phenomenon will soon disappear.”

“There are 500,000 Saudi citizens living in Egypt and 150,000 living in Kuwait,” said Ambassador Osama Al-Sanousi, undersecretary for Consular Affairs.

“The ministry, however, does not have accurate statistics about the number of Saudis living permanently in other countries because of the absence of a mechanism to monitor such figures,” he said. “As such, Saudis living abroad should register at the local embassies in the countries in which they reside.”

“In addition, Saudis living abroad should refrain from discussing sensitive topics and should only answer questions in the presence of a lawyer in the event of arrest,” he said. “Embassies are tasked with bailing out their citizens and protecting them getting into prison,” said Al-Sanousi.

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IDB, Gates to set up $2.5 billion fund to fight poverty

Jeddah, Thursday 28 Rajab 1434/ 26 June 2014 (IINA) – The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and billionaire entrepreneur Bill Gates plan to set up a $2.5 billion fund for the poor.

The fund will start with $500 million, which would be collected as grants from donors and countries, an IDB statement said. During a meeting with the IDB, Gates emphasized his organization’s desire to establish a partnership, especially to fight malaria and polio. Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, gave a presentation on the project during his meeting with the IDB’s board of governors. Gates also told the media that IDB President Ahmed Mohammed Ali and a host of other partners in the Middle East had been hugely helpful in fighting challenges such as polio and malaria. “It’s amazing what they’ve (IDB) contributed to global development over the last 40 years and we’re proud to be a partner,” Gates remarked.

He said: “Polio only remains in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria in terms of being rooted there, but there have been outbreaks recently here in the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq. And we’re working to eradicate it with a bunch of great partners from this region.” He added: “When you look at the picture of children dying across Muslim countries, you find a mixed picture; some countries have made huge gains, but there are others where far too many children are dying, not just from violence that you see most on the news, but often from diseases that we can cure with very little money.

He said: “That’s a tragedy that we can take positive steps to fix, right now, so my foundations are collaborating with partners across the Middle East to fix these global challenges in health and agriculture, many of which affect the Muslim world particularly.”

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Qur’an available in 72 languages at Makkah Grand Mosque

Makkah, Wednesday 27 Rajab 1434/ 25 June 2014 (IINA) – Saudi Arabia has almost completed elaborate and comprehensive arrangements for Qur’an recitation at Makkah’s Grand Mosque ahead of Ramadan. The Qur’an is now available in 72 languages.

“We have developed a state-of-the-art technology system that any smartphone user with a barcode reader application can use to download the Qur’an software inside the Grand Mosque in the language of choice,” Ali Hamid Al Nafji, a senior official at the Presidency of the Grand Mosque Affairs, told Arab News. “The Qur’an, along with commentary and translation, is available for download in most of the world’s major languages, including Sinhalese, Telugu, Somali and Chinese,” he said.

The number of shelves has been doubled to include more storage space for the holy books.”The number of shelves inside the Grand Mosque has been increased to 4,000 shelves containing 950,000 copies of the Qur’an in different languages for worshippers to read,” he said. The six imams appointed to lead the evening taraweeh and pre-dawn tahajjud prayers include Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, Saud Al-Shuraim, Abdullah Al-Johani, Maher Al-Muaiqly, Khaled Al-Ghamdi and Bandar Baleelah. Al-Sudais will lead the taraweeh prayers on the conclusion of the Qur’an at the end of Ramadan.

Security arrangements are in place to cope with the influx of pilgrims, with 2,000 surveillance cameras installed at strategic points inside the Grand Mosque and the central area in Makkah to monitor crowds, according to police officials. Makkah Regional Police Chief Maj. Gen. Abdulaziz Al-Asoli said in a press conference that special attention would be paid to crowd management inside the mosque. Traffic police officials also announced that vehicular movement would be strictly prohibited during Ramadan to facilitate pedestrian movement.

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Government to obtain loan to develop airport

Sun.mv – June 24, 2014 – Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb has said that the government has decided to take a loan to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Speaking at a press conference at President’s Office today, Adheeb said that numerous efforts are ongoing regarding the development of the airport, including efforts to obtain a loan from Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). He said that this loan will be used to expand the departure terminal.

Sources have told Sun Online that the government has decided to obtain a loan worth $600 million.

Earlier, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) also said that discussions are under way to remove Aqua Restaurant, to extend the terminal to include this area. Adheeb further said that an agreement will be signed soon to appoint Singapore’s Changi Airports as the Consultant for the development of INIA.

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Ancient Aegean city, Ottoman birthplace on World Heritage list

İZMİR/BURSA – Hurriyet – Bergama, the site of a world-famous ancient city in the Aegean province of İzmir, and the Cumalıkazık village in northwestern Bursa, have both welcomed a UNESCO decision putting the two spots on the prestigious World Heritage List.

Bergama Mayor Mehmet Gönenç on June 23 thanked everyone who contributed to the title process, recalling that the town’s entry to the list had been approved by all 21 members of the UNESCO committee.

“Bergama represents many archaeological remains dating back to Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, as well as prehistory,” UNESCO states on its website.

After the Persian and Lydian reign, the city came under the sway of Alexander the Great in 333 BC and became one of the outstanding trading and cultural centers of the Hellenistic period since 283 B.C. “During the rule of Eumenes II (197-159 BC) the Pergamon acropolis was adorned with the finest buildings, whereas the city became one of the most important centers of culture, architecture and sculptures in the Hellenistic World,” the website also reads.

The city continued to be an important center in Roman times, as it was the center of the diocese during Byzantine times.

The most remarkable monuments of the site are undoubtedly the Asklepion, located in the southwest of the town of Bergama; the Acropol or “upper city” situated on a hill of 300 meters, a middle city or “Roman city,” the Temple of Serapis (Red Courtyard) dated back to the 2nd A.D and the historic fabric with an organic form, including Turkish-Islamic art like mosques, madrasas, khans, bazaars and baths with many traditional houses.

The Acropolis is the site where the settlement first began in Pergamon. The main structures located in the Acropolis are the Temple of Athena, Temple of Dionysos, Temple of Agora, Zeus Altar, theatre for with a 10,000-capacity for audiences, library, heroon, palaces, arsenals, upper agora, stoas, propylon and the remains of some Hellenistic houses.

Asklepion, which was the healing center of the ancient time, signifies the term of the Place of Asklepios, who is one of Apollon’s sons and is the God of healing and medicine. According to the ancient historian Pausanias, Pergamum Asklepion was built in the first half of 4th BC in a place called Ayvazali today and operated until the 4th AD. It was also stated by the ancient historians that the healing cult was brought to Pergamum in the mid of 5th BC by Arkhias, who is the son of Aristakhminos from Pergamum.

Suggestion therapy, hydrotherapy and physical therapy, different methods of which are still used today, were applied to patients in Asklepion.

“It’s known that there were approximately 200 Asklepions in ancient times, however, when we compare the well-known Asklepions like Kos, Pelephones and Corinth, Pergamon Asklepion is one of the biggest and well preserved ones,” UNESCO said. “The round planned temples and library can’t be found in the other ones. The existence of this library suggests this place may be an academic institution, which separates it from the other Asklepions as well.

Bursa enjoys Cumalıkazık’s ‘Ottoman birthplace’ title

The village of Cumalıkazık in Bursa has also been included on the list, as it is the birthplace of the Ottoman Empire. Bursa Mayor Recep Altepe said his city had been struggling for the title since the early 2000s.

“The site illustrates the creation of an urban and rural system establishing the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century,” UNESCO says in a separate article on its website. The property illustrates key functions of the social and economic organization of the new capital, which evolved around a new civic center. These include commercial districts of khans, kulliyes (religious institutions) integrating mosques, religious schools, public baths and a kitchen for the poor, as well as the tomb of Orhan Ghazi, the founder of the Ottoman dynasty. One component outside the historic center of Bursa is the village of Cumalıkızık, the only rural village of this system to show the provision of hinterland support for the capital,” it adds.

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Centuries-old historical sites open to visitors in İzmir

İZMİR – Doğan News Agency – İzmir is expected to host more local and foreign tourists this year due to the opening of historical sites in the province. Works on the ancient sites are being accelerated in order to finish them for the summer season. Officials believe the number of visitors will increase to a great extent this year

İzmir is currently one of the centers of intense archaeological works in the country, with 22 excavations currently taking place. Works on these ancient sites have been accelerated recently in order to be ready in time for the upcoming tourist season during the summer months.

The Director of Provincial Culture and Tourism Abdülaziz Ediz said there was a noticeable increase in the number of local tourists at the ancient sites and museums. He said the number of foreign tourists began to increase with a rise in cruise tourism.

“With a history of 8,500 years, İzmir is an area where settlements have existed since the prehistoric age. It has hosted an array of cultures from various regions. There are 22 ongoing excavations, 15 are carried out by a Turkish team, three by foreign teams and four by museum directorates. We have accelerated work to open these excavation areas to visitors as soon as possible.

The ancient city of Metropolis in Torbalı will be open to visitors from the beginning of the season. The ancient site of Teos in Seferihisar will be finished toward the end of the season. Visits to the ancient prophecy center of Claros in the district of Özdere and Urla’s ancient city of Klazomenai will begin this year, too. The Ayasuluk Fortress, which is the most visited place after the ancient city of Ephesus and the House of the Virgin Mary in Selçuk, will be open to visitors – with some restrictions – this season,” Ediz said.

Ediz said people interested in archaeology were able to visit those sites, but they should be aware that there were no tourist guides or specialist facilities to meet their needs. “This is why tour operators did not include these locations in their programs.”

He said they believed the number of visitors to museums and ancient sites would increase to a great extent in 2014. “Companies that come to İzmir for meetings have started to dedicate one day of their programs (in visiting) ancient sites. This also caused an increase in cultural tourism among local tourists. Students also have a significant interest in visiting museums and ancient sites. We are working to increase our outreach to students by supporting projects that educate young people about these ancient sites,” Ediz added.

Annually, approximately 3 million people visit 16 museums and ancient sites in İzmir. The Ephesus ancient city has the highest number of visitors. This is followed by St. Jean Church in Selçuk, Acropolis in Bergama, Terrace Houses in Ephesus, and the ancient city of Asklepieion in Bergama.

The Prehistoric Life Museum, which is under construction in Yeşilova Mound by the Bornova Municipality, will open in July. The facility will be the sixth archaeological center that will open to visitors this season.

According to officials, it will be the one and only in Turkey. Associate Professor Zafer Derin, Yeşilova’s Mound deputy head of excavations, said the ancient city, scientific laboratories and the Neolithic village complex had been designed all together, so that visitors would be able to experience social life in the prehistoric age.

Besides Yeşilova Mound, the most important prophecy center of the ancient ages, Claros, will open to visits this year, too. Although it is not an ancient city, the prophecy center also draws many visitors. Metropolis and Teos are also expected to draw many visitors this year as well.

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Miniatures by Matrakçı Nasuh in tile collection

KÜTAHYA – Anadolu Agency – 2014 was launched by UNESCO as the Year of Matrakçı Nasuh, the Ottoman swordsman and miniature artist. A special tile collection is being created with his miniatures by a tile artist in Kütahya

On the 450th anniversary of his death, one of the most important statesmen in the era of the Ottoman Sultan Kanuni Sultan Süleyman, Matrakçı Nasuh is being remembered. UNESCO has also added him to its 2014 agenda to commemorate him throughout the year. As well as being a mathematician, miniature master and the inventor of the game “matrak,” Matrakçı Nasuh is also described as one of the most talented swordsmen in history.

A tile master living in the western province of Kütahya, Fahri Çetinkaya has created a collection by processing some of Matrakçı Nasuh’s miniature works onto tile. Working as a tile artist since 1982, Çetinkaya said he had also created a collection last year by processing the world map by Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis onto 59 pieces of tile, and some of those tiles were selected by the Culture and Tourism Ministry for display on museum.

HDN He said after Piri Reis, he had worked on the miniatures of Matrakçı Nasuh, and continued: “Matrakçı Nasuh was a very significant miniature artist at the time of Kanu Sultan Süleyman. When the sultan went to the Iraqi expedition, Nasuh painted the places he had passed. He also painted cities like Baghdad, Tabriz, Karbala and Aleppo. Our collection is made up of 19 pieces. They are floor tiles, vases, plates and bowls in various sizes. I also added mosaics to the collection. We plan to display them during the events held for the Year of Matrakçı Nasuh, to be organized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry,” he said.

Speaking about the features of his works, Çetinkaya said he painted Nasuh’s maps and miniatures on tiles and plates, and integrated them with mosaics.

The artist uses rare and matching colors in his works, he said, adding, “It was very important for us to be true to these colors. Design, painting, coloring, drying and glassing require a painful process. Lots of pieces were broken while working on these processes, but we did not give it up and worked hard.”

Çetinkaya said he had experienced an interesting similarity while creating the Piri Reis and Matrakçı Nasuh collections. UNESCO launched the year 2013 as the Year of Piri Reis, he said, adding, “This was a nice coincidence for us. I had been working on the works of Matrakçı Nasuh and this year is the Year of Matrakçı Nasuh,” he said.

Turkish historian Erhan Afyoncu has described Nasuh as a “Hazerfen,” a person with vast knowledge over various subjects. Afyoncu noted “His most important skill is swordsmanship. He traveled to Egypt and participated in games. After beating all of his opponents, he was praised by Egyptian rulers.”

Nasuh also received an imperial order from Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent for his sword skills.

The title Matrakçı is derived from a sword game, matrak, a historic form of swordplay to assist with training soldiers during peaceful times. It includes a long wooden stick, fencing and the aim is to hit the opponent first. “Nasuh was the master of that game,” Afyoncu said.

In his art miniatures, Matrakçı Nasuh created a style that focused on panoramic views of landscapes and cities painted with great detail. He miniaturized buildings, places of worship, surroundings and places where the Ottoman army rested.

Nasuh, of Bosnian descent, also wrote books on mathematics. Afyoncu said, “Those books included formulas to help bureaucrats with the treasury.” He said Nasuh wrote many books, some recently discovered, actually belonged to Nasuh himself. He died in 1564.

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Sculptors under age of 40 on terrace exhibitions across Istanbul

Hurriyet Daily News – Proje4L Contemporary Art Museum opens the summer with Terrace Exhibitions, which focus on the sculptures of artists younger than 40-years-old

Istanbul’s Proje4L Contemporary Art Museum, also known as Elgiz Museum, has opened its season with Terrace Exhibitions. Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News, director of the museum Billur Tansel said the terrace exhibitions have become a traditional event for the summer months.

Tansel said the terrace exhibitions began in 2012 and this year’s will be the third in the “Terrace Exhibitions” series. The exhibition shows the works of sculptors under the age of 40. Thirty-two sculptors’ works have been selected for this year’s Terrace Exhibitions. The exhibition, which opened June 18, will continue until Aug. 23.

The participants of this year’s exhibition include: Ahmet Özparlak, Ali Alizadeh, Aycan Güler, Ayşe Sultan Babayiğit, Bahadır Çolak, Bestami Gerekli, Caner Şengünalp, Çağdaş Erçelik, ÇayanYılmaz, Derya Özparlak, Esra Sağlık, Giorgia Razzetta, Güray Morgül, Güzin Merve Özgören, Hakan Bakır, Hakan Çınar, Halil Daşkesen, Hande Şekerciler, İmdat Avcı, Kutlu Alican Düzel, Mahmut Aydın, Meliha Sözeri, Nihan Gündüzalp Ölmez, Orkide Akkoç Sabit, Ramazan Duymaz, Saim Cem Arıkan, Şenay Ulusoy, Tanzer Arığ, Tuğberk Selçuk, Turgay Topçu, Uğur Hasekin and Ümit Turgay Durgun.

In 2013, Australian sculptor Andrew Rogers contributed as a guest committee member, raising the series to an international level. And this year, two artists have been invited to exhibit their works at the “La Balade de Séprais” in the Jura region of Switzerland.

“Elgiz Museum was founded in the middle of Istanbul’s skyscrapers. Our aim is to attract the working people in those plazas,” said Tansel. In the shadows of the skyscrapers and in the surroundings that are constantly changing, spectators can view art from a different perspective.

To make an interactive event, the museum also hosts a two-day event, titled: “Artistic Mind Fitness.” In this event, which started yesterday and continues today, the participants try to answer questions such as: what do I have to do when I stand in front of a work of art? What do I have to look for? What can I learn from looking at artwork?

“This will be a question to help people that are new to the field gain a deeper understanding of the role artwork can play as a learning tool for daily life. The event aims to create a strong link between participants and the artwork and link these two elements to life and business. The participants will be involved in an active search of meaning of the artwork, exploring guesses, debating the artists’ motives.”

While the museum is trying to attract people to the exhibitions after they finish work, Tansel said it is also very important to reach a younger audience. And for that aim, they are using social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As a museum director, Tansel said “a museum, in fact, all cultural institutions, needs support from municipalities. The museum sometimes receives support from municipalities, however, this is not enough and support should not be a one-time aid,” she said. “Because we are running a non-profit organization and every non-profit organization needs support. This should be done for the sake of culture and development,” she added.

The museum also runs a program with the Swiss and Spanish consulates in Istanbul. The aim is to present the works of foreign artists in the Elgiz Collection. “The next event will be with the Spanish consulate,” Tansel said.

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Uzbekistan simplifies business registration

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-06-24 TASHKENT – Starting a business in Uzbekistan now only takes 15 minutes. Ever since the government launched a business-friendly website at the beginning of the year, small-business people have been able to register a new company without having to wait several months or to collect heaps of various documents.

“Reducing the burden of paperwork and of bureaucracy … is essential in promoting business, and this is an area where we’ve made visible progress in the past few years,” Justice Ministry spokesman Salimjon Dosmatov told Central Asia Online.

The government has also worked to remove legal barriers that hinder economic activity. because “The first thing a would-be entrepreneur considers is the difficulty of keeping documents in order and of passing official inspections,” Dosmatov told Central Asia Online.

For example, the government in May imposed legislative restrictions on the passing of new rules and regulations capable of hindering entrepreneurs.

“As of June 1, any bill, act or decree regulating business activity will be screened for clauses potentially complicating entrepreneurship; if any such clauses are found, the document will be forwarded to the Justice Ministry for review,” Dosmatov said. “If complications happen to be unavoidable, the new rules will take effect no sooner than three months after they are published on official websites.”

Online business registration has been praised for simplifying the process.

“Thanks to this innovation, Uzbekistan ranks 21st in ease of ‘Starting a Business’ according to the World Bank,” Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan official Feruza Zufarova said. “Anyone can register a business online through the Common Portal of Government Services. To become an entrepreneur, you won’t have to meet with a single government official.”

The system is part of the on-going introduction of e-government. An entrepreneur can file all documents online, sign them electronically and pay with a debit card. “The procedure takes only 15 minutes!” Zufarova said. “To make registration even simpler, we are planning to reduce the fees for registering your business online and to eliminate many other requirements.”

Businesspeople have been actively using online instruments. Since January, the number of entrepreneurs’ complaints and applications filed through the Common Portal has nearly doubled compared to the number of such documents filed during the same period last year, saving time, money and the environment.

“The State Tax Committee (GNK) this year has been able to save about 5 billion UZS (almost US $2.2m) and about 100 tonnes of paper,” GNK spokesman Aleksandr Tsoi told Central Asia Online.

To launch a business in Uzbekistan is relatively inexpensive: an individual entrepreneur has to pay a registration fee of 92,000 UZS (US $40); a limited liability company, the country’s most popular form of business, pays 460,000 UZS (US $200).

“When I was starting up my business in 1998 … it was very difficult and required a lot of documents,” Tashkent entrepreneur Muzaffar Nazimov, who sells clothing, said. “Every official demanded money, threatening otherwise to shut down my business. Today, the situation is drastically different,” Nazimov said. “We feel protected by the state, and the opportunity to file reports and complaints through the Common Portal has truly lightened our load.”

“I never even imagined it would be that easy (to work),” Abror Muminov, general director of a Tashkent restaurant, who registered his business online, said. “For the first two years, all the newly established companies, including my own, are exempted from tax audits. So nobody’s going to bother me.”

The results of legislative innovations also show in the National Business Perception Index of Uzbekistan – a list of rankings compiled by the Tashkent-based Centre for Economic Research based on polls of 700 entrepreneurs from across the country. “The National Business Perception Index for the first quarter of 2014 recorded the highest figures ever,” Zufarova said. “Companies are reporting an increase in product orders and profits.”

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Bhutan keen for developing air connectivity, tourism

DHAKA, June 22, 2014 (BSS) – Bhutan has shown interest to develop air communication and tourism with Bangladesh. Bhutanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Pema Choden today expressed his country’s interest to Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon while met him at secretariat office. They also discussed about different issues of bilateral interest.

Citing strong historical relation, Rashed Khan Menon said Bhutan is the first country who recognized Bangladesh after the independence and the people of the country will remember it for ever. He said both countries could be befitted in the field of social development availing the advantages of existing bilateral relation.

Praising the continuous development of Bangladesh, the envoy said Bhutanese tourists have huge attraction on the historical Buddhist sites of Bangladesh. He hoped the bilateral relation of the countries will be strengthened further days ahead.

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Bangladesh launches world’s largest public portal

DHAKA, June 23, 2014 (BSS)- Bangladesh today formally launched the world’s largest public web portal opening up a unique window for building a hunger and poverty-free developed and prosperous country. The web portal containing 25,043 websites of government organizations started its formal journey on the occasion of the International Public Service Day today.

Internationally reputed information technology expert and Prime Minister’s Advisor on ICT Sajib Wazed Joy formally inaugurated the web portal named “The National Web Portal,” at a function at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). He opened the web portal by talking with the Comilla district administration through videoconferencing and pressing a laptop button.

The world’s biggest web portal was developed in Bangla under the auspices and supervision of Access to Information (a2i) Programme under the Prime Minister’s Office and with the technical assistance of the UNDP and USAID.

Through this, Bangladesh has set up a unique example of connecting 25,043 websites of government organizations to a same stint. These include 4550 websites of unions, 14,640 websites of upazilas, 4032 websites of districts, 455 of divisions, 64 of district councils, 488 of upazila parishads, 55 of ministries and divisions, 345 of directorates and 414 of city corporations and pourasabhas.

With Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan in the chair, the function was also addressed by State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak, PM’s Principal Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikdar, Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration Dr Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury and Senior Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office M Abul Kalam Azad.

Ministers, advisers to the Prime Minister, parliament members, senior secretaries of different ministries, senior government officials and representatives of development partners were present on the occasion.

Speaking on the occasion, Joy highlighted the Awami League government’s firm commitment to build “Digital Bangladesh” and stunning success of its programme. Referring to the 65th founding anniversary of Bangladesh Awami League today, he said the country is witnessing a “Digital Revolution” because of this oldest and traditional party of the country.

“This digital services or digital revolution would not have happened in Bangladesh, had Awami League not been born on this day,” he said. The Prime Minister’s ICT adviser said the Awami League government has been able to establish e-governance in the country at a faster pace to ensure transparency and accountability in the government activities.

He said that the AL government in its previous term had established over 4,500 Union Information and Service Centers and web portals in all the districts in just two years of its tenure ahead of the targeted three years.

Joy said that the “National Web Portal” containing 25,043 websites is now the biggest in the world as no other country has such a number of public websites.

He said that the main aim of the AL government’s digital revolution was to remove digital divide from the country and so that the common people are benefited through this digital revolution. “Our target was not to let it happen that only the rich would gain through Digital Bangladesh, while the poor people would be left out,” he added.

Joy added that the present government wants to further make easy the life of common people through digital method and to reach the government services to the doorsteps of the common people easily and speedily.

He also extended his heartfelt thanks to all authorities concerned including the PMO, a2i programme and the local IT firms under the BASIS for making all of these 25,000 websites. “None could imagine at what faster pace the websites have been developed and I feel proud of it,|” he said, adding local IT firms have developed most of these.

About the government’s bid to turn Bangladesh into a hunger and poverty-free middle-income country, Joy said that Bangladesh has advanced a lot in becoming a modern country, while it is in the mid-stage of materializing “Vision 2021”.

“Our target is not only to build Bangladesh as a middle- income country, our goal is also to establish Bangladesh as a developed country,” he said.

Joy said that Bangladesh’s march towards development would continue and none will be able to stop the advancement. “I have firm belief that we would certainly be a developed country and none will be able to stop it. We have proved that we could do and Bangladesh Awami League will be able to do,” he said.

a21 sources said the web portal that has 20 lakh contents has been developed to ensure getting services and information and establish a transparent, accountable, innovative and pro-people administration.

The citizens could very easily obtain information related to agriculture, education, health, law, tourism, human resources development and social security through the portal.

Besides there are 20 lakh contents in the portal that include educational institutions, circulars, gazettes, phases of getting 400 e-services, government forms, citizen charter, list of officials, over seven lakh e-directories, list of freedom fighters, information about development activities, public representatives, national e-service and different projects.

Moreover, 40,000 pictures of tourist spots, natural beauty, archeological sites and historical places have been placed in the web portal. The specialty of the national web portal is that a citizen could visit 25,043 websites of the entire portal through any website. A total of 50,000 officials and employees were given training under the a2i Programme to develop the national web portal, a2i sources said.

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Brunei’s Architectural Heritage on Display at National Archive Building

Sunday, 29 June 2014 BruDirect.com BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: The architectural design for mosques, building and homes in the Malay era of our country reflects the unique carving of the past and the present which have many differences. All of these can be viewed at the Art and Design and Creativity Exhibition currently being held at the exhibition hall of the National Archive Building at Jalan Dewan Majlis.

Overall, the archive materials are in the form of pictures of mosques and suraus which become the source of inspiration to build new mosque, however the concepts still intact.

According to the Archive Supervisor, Awg Md Ali Tundak, among the concepts used was in the shape of Islamic symbols, local Brunei tradition and the Malay Islam Monarchy.

Awg Md Ali also further explained in details on the current exhibition. Through the exhibition, the National Archive hopes members of the public will understand more on its function and roles, apart from becoming a place for research and reference.

The exhibition is still open for public viewing until December 9, including during the month of Ramadhan. The visiting hours are from 8.00am until 4.30pm, except on Fridays and Sundays.

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400 Brunei Businesses to Transform Tutong as Tourist Destination

Friday, 27 June 2014 BruDirect.com Tutong: Entrepreneurs and buildings owners also play a role in protecting the image of the Tutong District in line with efforts to make the district as a “Tourist Destination”. The Tutong District Officer, Awg Wardi Hj Md Ali stressed the matter during a get-together ceremony with entrepreneurs and building owners in Tutong Town yesterday.

The function was chaired by the Chairman of the Tutong Municipal Board, Hj Ali Matyassin. Also present was State Legislative member, Yang Berhormat Orang Kaya Maha Bijaya Hj Othman Uking. Four hundred entrepreneurs and building owners in the district were in attendance. They discuss the role and responsibility of entrepreneurs in providing the best services to the public.

Apart from that, the entrepreneurs and building owners were also urged to be more committed in together enhancing the health level, especially in public areas to uphold the image of the Tutong District in line with the aspiration “Membangun Bersama Masyarakat” (Develop Together With the Community).

Awg Wardi also urged the entrepreneurs and building owners to be involved in glorifying His Majesty the Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s 68th birthday celebration in the district as well as flying the national flags and putting up banners of the Royal Birthday which will be held in August. The get-together ceremony took place at the Sri Kenangan Hall of the Tutong Civic Centre.

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Nigeria: Kogi Moves to Develop Mount Pati as Tourism Haven

25 June 2014 – Leadership – The Kogi State Government on Wednesday revoked the Certificates of Occupancy of 367 plots on Mount Pati in Lokoja to allow for its development to a world class tourist site. The Special Adviser to Gov. Idris Wada of Kogi on Media and Strategy, Mr Jacob Edi, made the disclosure while briefing newsmen in Lokoja on the outcome of the governor’s recent working visit to the U.S.

Edi said the decision to develop the hilltop to a tourist haven was a fallout of series of meetings between the government and some private investors in the U.S. He said the mountain’s location was too strategic to be allowed to fall into individual hands for residential purposes.

Edi said the all year round good climate and the unusual vegetation the mountain was naturally endowed with had made it compelling for government to convert it to a world standard tourist site. The media aide said the American investors who had earlier visited the site for a feasibility study had agreed to fund the project 100 per cent.

He said the tourism project which would be executed between this year and 2016, would create many jobs and also enhance the government’s internally generated revenue. Edi also disclosed that the preliminary design of the project was ready, saying that it would have chalets, a golf course, volleyball and basketball pitches among others. He added that it would also have cable cars to ferry tourists from the hilltop across River Niger.

The media aide said the tourism project also entailed the re-development of Lokoja town into a modern city with all the areas within 16 miles to the city centre.

According to him, government will not hesitate to demolish houses where it is necessary and that the existing laws guiding such action will be adhered to strictly. Edi said the traditional ruler, chiefs and other stakeholder in Lokoja were fully involved in the plan and had actually given the government the go ahead. He said that the governor during the visit also met with some well established farmers and companies to finalise talks on the government agricultural transformation project.

According to him, the talks centred on government plans on large scale mechanised cultivation of rice, soya beans and maize in Bassa, Ibaji and Idah Local Government Areas of the state. He described the discussion as fruitful, saying that the companies had also agreed to train local farmers in techniques of modern farming.

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Nigeria: Bayelsa Hosts 2014 African Fashion Reception

27 June 2014 – Daily Independent – Abuja — The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation and African Union, Chief Edem Duke, has announced Bayelsa State as the host of the 2014 African Fashion Reception holding in Nigeria and Africa for the first time. The minister made this known while addressing pressmen in Abuja.

The President, Branzuk Gold Limited, Dr. Merit Obua, explained that the Africa Fashion Reception is an event organised by the world fashion organisation of which Nigeria is a member. She further stated that the Africa Fashion Reception is an activity marking the big World Fashion Week in October.

“As a countdown to that big world event, the six continents that are members of the world fashion organisation are expected to host a continental reception. So for Nigeria, we will host for Africa. I can boldly say that this event is going to bring a huge gain to the Nigerian economy through fashion.

“The truth is that Africa as a whole is already rich by herself but just needs assistance to develop and make viable its creative fashion industry to bring about meaningful development through wealth creation,” she stated.

Declaring the choice of Bayelsa as the host state for Africa Fashion Reception, Duke said the intention of the Bayelsa State government is to invest and enhance the fashion industry as a major tool to address the poverty alleviation, job opportunities challenges.

“What made Bayelsa the winner of this development is the fact that the state had expressed the desire to invest in the Fashion University which the world fashion organisation desires to establish in Nigeria for the whole world.

“And it also submitted that it desires to enhance the fashion industry as a major tool to address the poverty alleviation, job opportunities and empowerment for young Nigerians and young Africans. So these were the unique elements of the Bayelsa proposition and we, being aware of the fact that in the past several months, Bayelsa State has been the leading destination in entertainment and tourism activities around the country, we think we are proud to announce Bayelsa State as the host of the 2014 Africa Fashion Reception,” stated.

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Over 400 films at Tourism Film Festival in Baku

23 June 2014 – AzerNews – The second International Tourism Film Festival in Baku will gather 405 films from 55 countries. The festival, a non-profit cultural event aimed at promoting films on various aspects of tourism and selecting the most successful films that promote domestic and international tourism, will be held on June 25-29.

The competition section of the festival includes 68 films, which are divided into six categories. Seven Azerbaijani films will participate in the section. The festival will be opened in the Nizami Cinema Center at 7 p.m. on June 25 with screening of films in the “Country, region, city” category. The competition section will be screened free of charge from 2 p.m. on June 26-28.

Over 50 foreign guests are invited to the festival some of them are directors participating in the competition section while others are heads of tourism film festivals from around the world.

The project “Baku from sunrise to sunset” will be presented as part of the project “The world from sunrise to sunset” during the festival. Moreover, the festival will include master classes of Polish filmmakers, both theoretical and practical classes, and the young directors will shot a documentary about Baku.

Baku International Tourism Film Festival is a member of the International Committee of Tourism Film Festivals, based in Vienna. Organized by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the event also includes discussions among filmmakers, experts in tourism, and the media.

Movies will be evaluated by an international jury, consisting of local and foreign cinematographers and tourism experts. The holders of the top three places in each category will receive awards and diplomas. The director of the best film will be presented with the Grand Prix and an award of €4,000.

The first Baku International Tourism Film Festival was held in November 2013, attracting about 80 films from 31 countries in the competition section.

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Baku readies for Fashion Week

24 June 2014 – AzerNews – Fashion lovers and fashionistas of Baku are waiting for a large-scale event, Baku Fashion Week to be held with the participation of the famous Turkish designers and models in Azerbaijan’s capital on July 11-13.

The beautiful Four Seasons Hotel will host this grandiose show featuring 2014/2015 collections. Some 20 designers will present their collections during the week; the show will bring together 34 famous models. About 600 guests are expected to attend the Baku Fashion Week, which will become the first event of such scale to be held in Azerbaijani capital.

The first day of the event will feature runways of Hatice Gökçe, Nej and Hakan Akkaya. Moreover, designer Arzu Kaprol will present her installation and cocktail. The second day of the Baku Fashion Week will see runways of Turkish designers like Özlem Erkan, Jale Hürdo?an, Özgür Masur and Özlem Süer, while Selma State, Gizia, Zeynep Tosun and Dilek Hanif will present their collections on the third day of the event.

This great event is expected to attract great attention not only in the Turkic countries, but also in the world.

Being a professional designer over the past 13 years, Hakan Akkaya prepares custom made designs for both men and women and also designs pret-a-porter products. The founder and board member of Fashion Designers Association, Hatice Gökçe is the first and foremost name in men’s apparel in Turkey.

Another participant of the Baku Fashion Week, Arzu Kaprol, defines design as fashion architecture and creates modern and future-forward style, unique workmanship in details identified with the designer, timeless design and accessories, which refers to fashion culture of the future.

The major player on the Turkish fashion scene, Dilek Hanif is a designer-entrepreneur who has emerged as an emblem of modern Turkey.

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Azerbaijan’s Int’l Mugham Center in foreign media spotlight

25 June 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Uzbekistan’s www.sharh.uz website has published an article on International Mugham Center of Azerbaijan. The author says International Mugham Center is the Center of Azerbaijani arts and music aimed to promote, preserve and popularize specific genre of Azerbaijani music Mugam.

The Mugham Center was built on initiative of First Lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva. The author also informs about President Ilham Aliyev’s decree on the establishment of the Center. The author notes that President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and former UNESCO director general Koichiro Matsuura attended the opening of the Center.

The author says the Uzbek delegation also attended the events held in the center. Author Sharafaddin Tulaganov has presented the article to the competition on the “Best article of the year on Azerbaijan” in 2014.

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Luxurious Ramadan tents open in Dubai

27 June 2014 – TODAY.AZ – It may be a time of fasting, but the Muslim holy month of Ramadan can also be a time of indulgence. In several countries, there’s a tendency toward overeating as the traditional light dawn meal, the suhoor, and post-fast iftar get super-sized.

In Dubai, health warnings are issued — cases of diabetes and chronic indigestion have been known to spiral.

For those who can control their appetites and savor the experience, there’s a lavish world to be enjoyed in Bedouin-like tents laid on by luxury hotels in the United Arab Emirates. These elaborately decorated pool, beach or desert-side pitches compete with each other for Ramadan tent wow factor.

Some mega-tents seat hundreds. Live cooking stations and superstar Lebanese performers are all part of the fasting-to-feasting scene. So are shisha parlors — where revelers smoke multi-flavored tobacco with the hookah or hubble bubble water pipe.

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First ‘women-only political party’ created in Turkey

28 June 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Turkey’s new Woman Party (Kad?n Partisi) submitted a petition to the Interior Ministry to be formally registered as a political party on June 26. If the demand is accepted, it will become the country’s first ever official “women’s party” to participate in general elections, Hürriyet Daily News reported.

The initiative led by women rights activist, Benal Yazgan, pledges to continue the legacy of the Kad?nlar Halk F?rkas? (the People’s Party of Women) almost a century after its establishment. The movement that was created in 1923 by one of the most important female figures of the early Republic, Nezihe Muhiddin, but was never officially recognized. Nevertheless, it became an important milestone for the representation of women in society and politics.

The petition submitted to the ministry vowed that the new Woman Party (Kad?n Partisi) would “respect diversity.”

“We will fight against gender discrimination and inequality in society, as well as discrimination based on religion, language, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and (we will) fight against military and civil coups and hate speech,” the petition stated, according to the news website Bianet.

Male quota

It will also apply a “quota for men” to represent the party at general and local elections, and has also criticized the absence of any female candidates for this year’s presidential election in August.

The party vowed that men will also participate in all echelons of the party, and two men are among its nine founding members.

Among its demands, the party also calls for the construction of democratic political parties, transparency in election laws and the reduction of the electoral threshold to three percent.

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Ghana Gets First Qur’an Reality Show

OnIslam & News Agencies Sunday, 22 June 2014 ACCRA – Reviving the Islamic spirit of the holy month, Ghana announced plans to launch its first annual Qur’an memorization competition that is due to be aired on Television during Ramada.

“The Quran speaks to your mind, your heart and your soul, as it appeals to your conscience, feelings and you respond to it simultaneously”, Sheikh Usman Ibrahim Baari, the Chairman of the Qur’an competition committee, told Citi 97.3 FM on Sunday, June 22.

Themed “Promoting Islam through Demystification of the Holy QUR’AN”, the competition will work on raising awareness of Qur’an and Islamic teaching in the community.

The competition is organized by Sautul Islam Foundation (SIF) charitable organization and aims at promoting Qur’an interpretation among Ghanaian kids and youth. Held on a daily basis during the holy month, the competition is scheduled to be aired on Ghana Television (GTV).

Representatives for Ghana’s first Qur’an reality TV show have already been selected after regional-level competitions, according to Mr. Prince Moses Zakaria, the Secretary of SIF foundation. The secretary added that “the competition committee has divided the country into three zones, northern, middle and southern zones”.

Committee members believe that the competition will develop the skills of Muslim youth, reviving the teachings of the holy book and Sunnah.

The Noble Qur’an consists of 114 Surah (chapters) of varying lengths. Teaching children the glorious Qur’an and the Islamic principles is the responsibility of their parents from an early age which is the best period for implanting Islamic ethics.

The new competition has won plaudits from leading Muslim figures in the west African country.

Praising the Islamic project, Dr. Alhassan Yakubu, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, said “Muslim is encouraged by rules to believe in other messengers of Allah and read religious books that will draw them closer to Allah”. In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds. It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur’an.

Many men perform i’tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque. According to CIA factbook, Ghana is home to a Muslim population estimated by 17.6% of the country’s 25 million.

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Europe Hosts First Halal Tourism Confab

OnIslam & News Agencies Tuesday, 24 June 2014 ANDALUCÍA – In a bid to get a larger share of the thriving industry, Europe will host the first-ever halal tourism conference next September to showcase the latest trends and marketing strategies for tapping into the halal niche market.

“This is a groundbreaking event for halal tourism which is directly reacting to current market trends and addressing the needs of the industry,” Tasneem Mahmood, co-founder of the Halal Tourism Conference, said in a statement cited by Zawya on Monday, June 23. “It is the first time such a global event is being staged looking at halal tourism in detail.”

Held on 22-23 September in Spain’s Andalucía, the Halal Tourism Conference aims to provide halal investors with market intelligence, industry forecasts and trends to understand how to market the lucrative Muslim industry. With five key themes, the conference will focus on understanding halal tourism, offering statistics, economics and the potentials of halal tourism, Muslim tourists and consumer needs.

It will also tackle the mechanism of attracting halal tourism, developing strategies and the future for halal tourism in the mainstream market. The booming halal industry is expected to grow from about $1 trillion in 2012 into a $1.6 trillion industry by 2018, according to DinarStandard, a research firm specializing in Muslim markets.

“Every country and business needs to look at Halal tourism because it is growing so rapidly and the Muslim consumer is increasing spend on leisure holidays,” Mahmood stated. “It provides a great opportunity for every part of the travel sector.”

The two-day conference will be followed by a day tour in Andalucía. “On the close of the conference the 24th – 25th will bring a two day tour of the breath taking sites and heritage of Andalucia,” the Halal Tourism Conference wrote in statement obtained by onislam.net. “The tour is open to all Tour Package attendees.”

The first European halal conference aims to attract business delegates from across the world, drawing new investors to the fastest growing market sector. “Our research has shown there are so many countries and travel operators who can benefit from halal tourism but are currently missing out,” Mahmood said. “This conference will show the opportunities that are present and show you exactly how to grab them.”

The conference targets a wide audience from tourism boards, tour agencies, tour operators, restaurants, media, hotels, airlines and suppliers to the travel sector.

“It will be an excellent knowledge forum and an ideal platform for exchange of experience between experts in the industry and countries who are actively engaged in halal tourism,” she said. “This conference will also be a great way to network with leisure and travel businesses from around the world to develop new partnerships.”

Along with discussions and workshops, the conference will feature seminars from industry experts, workshops, networking sessions and an exhibition about the booming halal industry.

The concept of halal — meaning permissible in Arabic — has traditionally been applied to food. Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned. Now other goods and services can also be certified as halal, including cosmetics, clothing, pharmaceuticals and financial services.

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Woman Chairs US Largest Muslim Group

OnIslam Staff Friday, 20 June 2014 CAIRO – America’s largest Muslim advocacy group has picked Ohioan female Muslim lawyer Roula Allouch as its new acting national board chair replacing previous chair Omar Zaki who stepped down after two years in his post.

“I would like to thank Omar Zaki for his service to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and to the defense of civil rights for all Americans,” Allouch said in a CAIR statement obtained by OnIslam.net.

“I hope to continue and strengthen CAIR’s efforts to enhance understanding of Islam and Muslims, to encourage civic participation by American Muslims and to build coalitions with like-minded individuals and organizations to promote justice and mutual understanding.”

Allouch, an attorney practicing in Ohio and Kentucky, focuses on employment law, insurance defense and general civil litigation.

Allouch is a member of the American, Kentucky, and Cincinnati Bar Associations and serves as public service co-coordinator for the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and is the Kentucky young lawyer delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates.

She has also served as vice chair of CAIR’s board when Omar Zaki held the post of CAIR chairman.

Allouch has also served as president of CAIR’s Cincinnati chapter from 2008 to 2013.

Her choice was welcomed by Nihad Awad, CAIR National Executive Director, who praised her dedication.

“Roula’s dedication and legal expertise make her an ideal choice to head an organization that seeks to prevent the ongoing erosion of civil liberties in our society,” said Awad.

Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be the home of nearly 7-8 million Muslims.

Established in 1994, CAIR is a non-profit grassroots organization headquartered in Washington DC, with 35 offices and chapters across the US and Canada.

It strives to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

This September, the organization celebrates 20 years in action to serve the Muslim community and correct misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.

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Los Angeles Celebrates US Muslim Heritage

OnIslam & News Agencies Saturday, 21 June 2014 LOS ANGELES – Recognizing Muslim American community’s contributions and rich heritage, Los Angeles city council has declared July 2014 as Muslim American Heritage Month, a decision widely welcomed by the Muslim community.

“It’s a very important resolution. It’s historic,” Najee Ali, the project’s founder, told KCET on Friday, June 20.

“It will help bring Los Angeles Muslims closer to the mainstream and civic life and affairs of our city where we will have a chance every year to highlight the various cultural traditions of the Muslim community.”

“We can share understanding for many of our fellow Angelenos who know very little of the Muslim community, except for what they see on TV and the media, which is mostly negative,” he added.

The city council’s resolution to recognize July 2014 as Muslim American heritage month was adopted during a meeting last Wednesday.

It followed months of cooperation between the city council and Project Islamic Hope, an LA-based civil rights activist group, to produce an initial draft with the resolution.

“Residents from my community approached me to commemorate the Muslim community and culture, and I felt it was only appropriate to celebrate this culture as we do dozens of others in our city,” Council member Curren D. Price, who introduced the resolution, said.

“Our city’s diversity, and our acceptance and tolerance of our different beliefs, is part of what makes our city great.”

The decision makes Los Angeles as the second American city to recognize a Muslim Heritage month, following Washington DC.

The resolution notes that the celebration “will promote and encourage awareness of the significant contributions made by the city’s Muslim population in culture, social services, education, politics, business, technology, and the arts.”


LA City Council’s decision was welcomed by America’s largest Muslim civil rights advocacy group which praised the resolution as a celebration of diversity.

“We hope that this resolution will serve to expand the bridge between the Muslims of Los Angeles and the larger community by providing an opportunity to learn of the numerous contributions that Muslim Angelenos have made to this great city in the past, as well the impact of their current efforts,” said Yasmin Nouh, LA’s communications coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The city council’s adoption of this resolution has also sparked an example for other institutions to potentially adopt similar resolutions, Nouh added.

“In our current political sphere, it has unfortunately become acceptable to attack one’s political opponent on the basis of their relations with the Muslim community or incite fear of Muslims to garner support.

“In passing the resolution, the LA City Council has implicitly made a statement rejecting such fear tactics, and set an example for all public officials and institutions to aspire to,” she added.

California currently has the largest Muslim community in the US, with a majority residing in Southern California, according to USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

The state is also home to the largest number of mosques in the US.

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New Jeddah airport to open mid-2015

Arab News – 26 June, 2014 – The new King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah will open in the middle of 2015 with an increased capacity, a leading official said here on Tuesday. Abdul Hamid Abul Ora, director of the airport, told Arab News: “The new airport will have a capacity of 30 million passengers in the first phase, 45 million in the second phase, and up to 80 million in the final phase.”

The airport management is currently focusing on completing the first phase on schedule, he said. Abul Ora said there are penalties stipulated by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) for those airlines failing to offer proper services for passengers, including adhering to set flight schedules.

He said there are plans to establish an air cargo village after the development of the new airport, to cater for the nearly 20 percent annual growth in cargo. These villages in other parts of the world have been highly profitable, he said. Commenting on the recurring air-conditioning problems at the South Terminal Lounge, he said a budget has been allocated for upgrades there and at the north terminal lounges.

He said temporary units have been brought in at the south terminal while the work is under way. Each substitute unit has a cooling capacity of 50 tons. They are being installed in departure and arrival halls for a month, he said. A duty-free market would be launched at the new airport.

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Dubai launches new immigration smart service

Khaleej Times – 26 June, 2014 – Though the new smart services help customers submit and follow their applications as convenient and fast as possible, there is no single compromise for security or privacy rules, he noted. The Dubai immigration authorities on Thursday unveiled a package of new smart services which Emiratis, residents and companies can have access to via smart phones and tablets.

A top official said the move is in line with the smart government drive initiated by Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai in May 2013. “The move is aimed to make government services available on smart phones and tablets that customers can manage their applications round the clock at anywhere,” said Major General Mohammed Al Marri, Director General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai (GDRFAD).

Though the new smart services help customers submit and follow their applications as convenient and fast as possible, there is no single compromise for security or privacy rules, he noted.

Captain Salem bin Ali, Manager of AMER Customer Care Section – GDRFAD, said Emiratis may now have access to some smart services. “They may issue or renew the residence visas of their foreign wives and domestic helpers.” Residents may also issue, renew, and extend the residence visas of their families through smart phone services, he added.

Captain Bin Ali explained that applicants can check the list of the sponsored people on the file of the national or resident. “They may also follow their transactions step by step.” Companies can also follow their transactions through the smart services, he noted. “They can renew or cancel entry permits, and submit an application to the ministry of labour, let alone many other services available.”

Captain Bin Ali affirmed that the faster and easily accessible services are aimed to save time, money, and effort, expedite procedures, and far and beyond win customers’ satisfaction. “However, there is no compromise for security or privacy issues which are strictly handled that none can have access to any transaction unless it is his or hers.”

A new channel has also been dedicated for using the smart gate by simply scanning the barcode on the personal files of any national or resident upon arrival at the country entry checkpoint, he stated.

More than 100 e-Gates are installed at Terminal 1 and 2 of Dubai International Airport while 14 smart gates are available at Terminal 3 for over 17-year-old residents with free registration and activation. The smart gates can read electronic passports and accept Emirates ID or the e-Gate as an identification document. The gates use facial and eye recognition technology to identify and verify the user. Once the checks are made, the gate opens automatically for travellers to pass through to baggage reclaim areas.

The smart gates are meant to enhance passenger flow and comfort, particularly as the number of passengers expected to use Dubai International Airport are projected to cross 78 million in 2015 and 103 million in 2020.

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Etihad Airways starts mobile boarding passes

Khaleej Times – 27 June, 2014 – Etihad Airways has introduced mobile boarding passes on select routes for guests using its mobile online check-in facility. The new program offers increased check-in options, reduces paper wastage, eliminates the risk of boarding pass loss, and enables the storage of multiple boarding passes on one mobile device.

Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer, Etihad Airways, said: “Our aim is to simplify and streamline the departure and boarding experience.” The new mobile boarding passes will contain the same information as traditional passes including guest name, seat number, flight number, gate number and a barcode which will be scanned by an electronic reader at the departure gate. Guests will now be able to receive their mobile boarding passes directly to their smart phone, saved using the Passbook feature on iOS operated devices, or saved and sent to an email address.

The number of Etihad Airways airport gateways equipped with the mobile boarding pass readers will steadily increase as the airline installs the new technology across its global network.

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