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2 Jun, 2014

World Cup 2014 in Brazil ready to welcome Muslim fans

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 02 June 2014 (04 Sha’baan 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



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.



EU announces new support for the Palestinian people

European Commission Press release, Brussels, 28 May 2014 – The European Union has made available €200 million to ensure support to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in order to provide vital basic services to the Palestinian people (such as education, health relief and social services).

This is the first tranche of EU support to the Palestinian people for 2014 and consists of two main actions: a contribution of €130 million, through the PEGASE mechanism, to the Palestinian Authority and a contribution of €70 million to the General Fund of UNRWA.

Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, commented: “The EU intends, through its contributions to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, to help sustain key Palestinian institutions and to provide a social safety net for refugees.”

The Commissioner added: “The PEGASE mechanism is open for contributions to Member States and other donors wishing to deliver their support to the Palestinian Authority through a rapid, well-functioning and transparent system”.

PEGASE (which stands for the ‘Mécanisme Palestino-Européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-Economique’) is the mechanism through which the EU helps the Palestinian Authority build the institutions of the future independent Palestinian State. Through the payment of salaries of civil servants and pensioners it ensures that essential public services keep operating; in addition PEGASE provides for social allowances to those Palestinian households living in extreme poverty. As was the case in 2013, the EU PEGASE contribution for 2014 includes a component of €13 million to alleviate the debts of East Jerusalem hospitals and promote the reform of the health referral system.

Via UNRWA, the EU is delivering its support to Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, enabling refugee families and their children to attend school, to receive medical attention and to survive economically, this way keeping alive the values of humanity, solidarity and dignity of the refugees.

The EU has been a major donor and a reliable partner to both the PA and UNRWA, providing over €300 million each year to the Palestinian people, including the 5 million refugees.

Since its establishment in early 2008, the PEGASE mechanism has sustained the Palestinian Authority (PA) in its effort to pursue the fundamental values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Through PEGASE, the EU allocates two types of financial support to Palestinians, both support for PA recurrent expenditure and the delivery of public services and support for long-term sustainable Palestinian development. The EU assists the PA to pay the salaries of public workers and to pay social allowances to vulnerable families.

The path to democracy and state-building is however hampered by several constraints, such as a serious deterioration of the economic situation.

The PA and UNRWA are now both facing an extremely deep financial crisis, for reasons that are different, but concurrent. The PA suffers from an overall worsening of the economic situation; a fiscal crisis aggravated by uncertainty over the transfers of revenues from Israel and diminished donors contributions; UNRWA is facing increasing costs due to the demographic trends and the consequences of the Syrian crisis.

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Bolshoi’s Lead Dancer Looks Forward To First UAE Performance

Abu Dhabi, 1 June 2014: Maksim Surov, the 27-year-old star of Russia’s acclaimed Bolshoi Ballet, is on his way to the UAE capital for his debut performance in the Emirates.

Maksim, who joined the Bolshoi in 2008 and has taken the lead in most of the theatre’s signature roles, will be the ‘Prince’ in next month’s ‘Cinderella’ performances, which will run at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) as part of Abu Dhabi Summer Season.

“This will be my first visit to the UAE and I’m really excited about it as I have heard many positive things about the country from friends who have visited – about hospitality and the friendliness of the local people as well as the beauty of the cities. I hope we get a warm reception when we’re there and look forward to meeting responsive ballet lovers.”

Fourteen performances of ‘Cinderella’ d by The Royal Moscow Ballet with Maksim and his fellow Bolshoi lead Chinara Alizade are slated for ADNEC from June 6. For Maksim, the Abu Dhabi dates represent a double-first – the first-time in a new country and his first public performance in Cinderella.

“As Cinderella is a proprietary edition of The Royal Moscow Ballet, I have never played the role before so it’s a kind of premiere for me,” explained Maksim. “I can tell you though that it’s been crafted as a very beautiful, magical story about love with many bright moments. However, I would watch out in Act 2 for a very beautiful adagio of Cinderella and the Prince which I can promise won’t leave anyone indifferent.”

‘Cinderella’ by The Royal Moscow Ballet is one of the largest productions undertaken in the Emirates with a cast and artistic and technical supporting crew of over 70, including 33 dancers and 30 members of the The Royal Moscow Orchestra.

The ballet, which is set to the music of 20th century Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, is the curtain raiser of Abu Dhabi Summer Season, which runs June 5- 31 August with a blockbuster programme of world-class shows and concerts.

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Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate headed to China

Press Trust of India, New York, June 1, 2014 – Satyamev Jayate, an issue-based television show hosted by Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, is headed to China after Star India sold the rights of the popular show to a production company there.

“When we did the first season of Satyamev Jayate, we got inquiries from many parts of Asia and some parts in Africa. But the country from where we saw the maximum interest was China and we have just sold the rights of the show to a production company in China,” Star India CEO Uday Shankar told a session organised by the Paley Media Centre here Friday.

While no further details were given about how the show would be aired in China, Shankar later told PTI that the rights were sold under syndication where a party in China was interested in the show and took its rights.

He also said that the show would not have happened if it was not for the support of 21st Century Fox co-COO James Murdoch, who was present at the Paley Centre event.

Shankar said he was told by his company’s executive that he was “going totally out of line” when he discussed the concept of Satyamev Jayate, a talk show first aired in 2012 and conceptualised to shine light on sensitive social issues.

Shankar spoke with Murdoch and asked if he had his approval to go ahead and “risk this whole investment.”

“He (Murdoch) said ‘we would live’,” Shankar said as the audience broke into laughter.

He said the network is working on a new season of Satyamev Jayate that will be aired soon. “The show requires immense amount of research. We are working on that. Hopefully there will be a new season soon,” he said.

Murdoch in his address said Star’s path in India has not always been easy and the market is still very complicated.

He, however, said that Satyamev Jayate has become a “phenomenon” in India and “galvanised” the nation by shining a light of some of India’s most sensitive social issues and taboos like female foeticide, inter-caste marriage, child sex abuse and voting corruption.

Shankar is the first CEO from the Indian media and entertainment industry to address the prestigious media council.

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China, Malaysia target $160b trade volume

BEIJING, (China Daily) June 01, 2014 – Employing subtle wordplay about Vice-Premier Wang Yang’s name – “Wang” means money and “Yang” means love in Malaysian – the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the relationship between China and Malaysia will continue to thrive through economic success and true friendship.

The remarks, which Najib made at the opening ceremony of China-Malaysia Economic Summit, not only concluded his trip to China, but also further cemented the four-decade relationship between the two countries.

On Saturday, the sides signed a joint communique to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties. The two sides pledged to carry forward their links to achieve a targeted trade volume of $160 billion in 2017. They also agreed to upgrade economic and financial cooperation, especially in the production of halal food, water processing and railway construction.

The signing ceremony took place in the West Lobby of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the same place where Najib’s father – the then-Prime Minister Adbul Razak – led an ice-breaking trip to Beijing to establish diplomatic relations in 1974.

“Sino-Malaysian relations have grown into a towering tree over the four decades, and will blossom and bear fruit in the future,” Premier Li Keqiang said upon signing the communique.

“Like all friendships, ours is testing sometimes,” Najib said, acknowledging that the search for the missing flight MH370 has been a frustrating time.

However, he said he believed the two nations will become even closer through the tragedy, because “true friendship becomes a supporting force for each other in times of difficulties”.

Najib promised to continue the search for the flight, which went missing on March 8 with 154 Chinese passengers on broad, until the aircraft is found. Malaysia also agreed that China should take part in future search efforts using side-scan sonar equipment.

China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for five consecutive years, with the volume of bilateral trade reaching more than $106 billion in 2013.

Malaysia is China’s biggest trading partner among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the third country in Asia to have an annual trade volume with China of $100 billion, after Japan and South Korea.

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Food Tourism Set To Boost Visit Malaysia Year 2014 Promotion

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia May 23 (NNN-Bernama) — The Citarasa programme is set to make Malaysia a major international food tourism destination, hence boosting the country’s tourism sector. Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said some of Malaysia’s traditional dishes had been recognised internationally.

“Penang Laksa, for example, was voted the seventh most delicious food (out of 50) in the world under the CNNGo International Food Survey in 2012,” he said at the opening of the Citarasa Kuala Lumpur programme at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTic), here, Friday.

His speech text was read out on his behalf by the ministry’s secretary-general Dr Ong Hong Peng.

“This shows that Malaysian food have become increasingly popular among the international community,” said Nazri, adding that the Citarasa programme was seen as significant and would be extended nationwide in promoting Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

He said the organising of this programme was timely as the ministry was trying to further promote Malaysia’s food and beverage (F&B) sector to the world. “In 2013, 12.5 per cent or RM8.18 billion from the tourism revenue came from the F&B sector.

“The programme also opens doors for small food industry operators, thus giving a positive impact on their economy,” he added.

Nazri also noted the win by Ipoh-born and UK-based Catherine Chin Wan Ping in the UK Master Chef competition with her dishes of nasi lemak and wanton soup, which further popularised Malaysian food.

The Citarasa Kuala Lumpur programme from May 23 to 25 features 14 stalls at MaTic promoting dishes from the respective states like Ikan Patin Masak Tempoyak (Pahang), Nasi Gulai and Pulut Mangga (Perlis), and Otak-Otak (Johor).

Besides Citarasa, the ministry will also extend the Citrawarna, Arts Festival and Museum Festival to the states in efforts to promote Malaysian culture and arts.

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Coup In Thailand May Send Tourists To Malaysia, Bali

NEW DELHI, India May 23 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourists from India might give Thailand a miss during the peak travel season and head towards other destinations such as Malaysia and Bali amid the military coup on Thursday, said a news report.

Thailand could lose its position as the top overseas destination for Indian tourists and for a country that survives on tourism, the Times of India reported. Tour operators feel Indian tourists might be cautious and head to other destinations like Bali, Malaysia, Cambodia and Hong Kong instead.

“It is too early to assess the impact. There could be an impact in the short term and people might switch to neighbouring destinations. Malaysia and Hong Kong stand to benefit,” Cox & Kings’ head, relationship, Karan Anand told the English daily.

“Protests in Thailand, which have been going on for a while, were confined to parts of Bangkok and people have been skipping the city and flying straight to Pattaya or Koh Samui.”

Thailand is a favourite with Indian travellers as it has options to suit all budgets. It’s not only leisure travellers, but also corporates offering tours as incentives to top performing employees that choose the country.

“Due to the elections in India, many people delayed their summer travel plans and we saw an increase in bookings to Thailand in the past 10 days,” MakeMyTrip, chief business officer-holidays, Mohit Gupta said.

Tourism in Thailand has been affected by the political unrest in the last few months.

“In packages combining Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, customers have been asking us to drop Thailand and include another country,” Asia Pacific Tours’ President and Chief Executive Officer, M K Ajit Kumar said.

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More Tourists Are Visiting Iran

TEHRAN, May 27 (NNN-FNA) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomed the outstanding increase in foreign tourists’ visits to the country, and said many Iranian hotels have been reserved by them to the end of 2014.

“Many hotels in Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd and Kashan have been reserved for the Iran tours of European firms until the end of (the Iranian months of) Aban and Azar (November and December 2014), which shows the growing trend of tourism in Iran,” Rouhani said, addressing the managers and deputies of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization here.

He said that the number of tourist visits to Iran have tripled in the first two months of the current Iranian year (which started on March 21) compared with the same period last year. Rouhani called for the further activities and investment of the private sector in Iran’s tourism industry.

President Rouhani stressed his government’s support for investment in Iran’s economic sector by the country’s expatriates who are now living in different countries.

“The government’s approach in the development of the tourism sector is based on preparing the bed for the presence of the private sector, and we welcome the presence of Iranian investors (who live) in or outside the country in this ground,” Rouhani told a meeting with the lawmakers of the Western Kohkilouyeh and Boyerahmad province.

He underlined that the government will grant the necessary facilities and aid to the private sector to help improve and boost the country’s air and land transiting capacity and hotel construction to attract more tourists.

President Rouhani also stressed the need for bringing back the Iranian elites from abroad and attracting even the elites of other countries to help Iran’s progress and advancement in different political, economic and cultural areas.

“We should attract the elites of other countries who like Iran, in addition to our own elites who are now residing in foreign countries,” Rouhani said, addressing a ceremony to honor the country’s top university professors, artists and elites.

The president noted that for the attraction of elites, other bodies like the parliament should also help the government to achieve its goals.

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Qatar Airways Commences Service To Edinburgh

DOHA, Qatar, May 29 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways, the award-winning five-star airline, has commenced services between Edinburgh and Doha, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

The inaugural flight, which landed at Edinburgh International Airport on Wednesday, was welcomed with a traditional water cannon salute and the classic sound of Scottish bagpipes.

This new Scottish addition to the Qatar Airways route map, is the airlines 141st global destination, which will significantly reduce journey times, for those travelling from Edinburgh to locations around the world.

With smooth and frequent connection times in Doha’s brand new Hamad International Airport, passengers flying from Edinburgh will now be able to arrive at their final destination, whether it is Doha in the Middle East or further afield, without the need for any domestic transfers within the UK.

Qatar Airways Chief Commercial Officer, Marwan Koleilat, said that, the service will not only benefit the local market in Scotland, but also attract a significant amount of business and trade links for those wishing to travel to Edinburgh from all corners of the world.

“The start of the service not only offers travellers from the Scottish capital access to the Middle East in under seven hours, but also a quicker total journey time to other popular destinations in Asia, India and Australasia, through our brand new airline hub, Hamad International Airport,” he said.

The most popular destinations for those using the new route are likely to be in Asia and Australasia, with journey times to Melbourne reduced from approximately 26 hours, with two transfers, to just 20 hours with one quick international transfer.

Hamad International Airport is the world’s newest airport and the world’s latest global gateway, which will raise the bar on passenger expectations, thanks to its state-of-the-art facilities and passenger focused design.

Designed to accommodate 30 million passengers annually, rising to 50 million upon full completion, the airport covers an area of 29 sq. km and is 60 per cent built on land reclaimed from the Gulf.

The new Edinburgh route is not only the first for the city to the Middle East region, but will also be Edinburgh’s first scheduled service, on one of the world’s newest aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Humza Yousaf, said that, the service will help promote Scotland as a great place to do business. “By removing the need for extra connecting flights, it will also make Scotland a more attractive destination for tourists,” he said.

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Tourists Spent Rm19.8 Billion On Shopping In Malaysia in 2013

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia May 29 (NNN-Bernama) — Foreign tourists spent RM19.8 billion on shopping in the country last year, a 6.3 per cent increase from RM18.6 billion in 2012, said Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said the retail sector constituted 30.2 per cent of the total tourist expenditure in 2013 against 30.7 per cent in 2012.

The retail sector is indeed a lucrative component of the country’s tourism industry, registering the second biggest share of tourist expenditure after the accommodation sector, he said when launching Encorp Strand Mall in Kota Damansara here Wednesday night.

A sprawling mixed development in Kota Damansara, the three-storey shopping mall, which has a 435,000 sq ft floor area and a multi-storey parking for 2,500 cars, is the flagship of Encorp Strand.

Muhyiddin said the year 2013 registered RM65.4 billion in tourist receipts, an increase of eight per cent against RM60.6 billion in 2012.

Muhyiddin said through close cooperation between the government and the tourism industry players in developing the country’s retail sector, Malaysia had garnered various international recognitions.

“For two consecutive years, 2012 and 2013, Kuala Lumpur was ranked by CNN Travel as the world’s fourth best shopping city after New York, Tokyo and London,” he said.

He said Encorp Strand, which boasted an innovative plan and conducive infrastructure, could help stimulate the economic growth of the Kota Damansara satellite town.

The development will also indirectly support the Greater KL/Klang Valley Masterplan to become be one of the 20 world’s metropolis that would be conducive for economic growth and living experience, he added.

“I am confident that spurred by a leading brand and exciting activities for the whole family and visitors, Encorp Strand Mall will be a preferred shopping centre in Kota Damansara and the Klang Valley,” he said.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Idris Jala and Encorp Berhad chairman Dr Md Hamzah Md Kassim were present.

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Tourism Malaysia Aims Rm41 Billion Revenue From ASEAN Tourists

KUALA TERENGGANU, Malaysia May 29 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism Malaysia is aiming RM41 billion in revenue from Asean tourists’ expenditure in the country for this year, said Asean Tourism Malaysia director Syed Yahya Syed Othman.

He said Tourism Malaysia was confident the target could be achieved with various strategies and promotions, including introducing the East Coast region as a new tourist destination for regional tourists.

“This year we anticipate an increase of 20 million Asean tourists to Malaysia from 19 million last year,” he told reporters after feting participants of the ‘East Coast Trail’ programme here Wednesday night.

He said last year’s figure comprised 74 per cent of the overall 25 million tourists visiting the country. The three-day programme was organised to attract more tourists from Asean countries to visit the East Coast region and subsequently raise the state’s economic growth, especially in the tourism sector.

“We are inviting tourism agents, media groups, bloggers and film producers from throughout Asean to visit places of interest in Terengganu, including Kelah Sanctuary in Tasik Kenyir.

Tourism Malaysia was holding matching business sessions between tourism agents from Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu and those from Asean countries to discuss on producing new products that focused on the East Coast region, he said.

He said at present many tourists from Asean countries still did not know that many attractive places could be found in the three states.

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1,000+ delegates expected at Tunisian Economic Forum

TUNIS, May 29 (NNN-AFRICANMANAGER) – More than 1,000 participants from 32 African countries are expected to attend the second edition of the Tunisian Economic Forum, scheduled for 5 and 6 June in Tunis, on the theme “Tunisia and Sub-Saharan Africa: Strategy for Sustainable Integration”, the Co-ordinator of the Forum, Mohamed Badira, announced here Tuesday.

“The forum will provide an opportunity to discuss political and economic relations between Tunisia and the African countries.

It will also discuss the strategy to be implemented for better relations,” Badira said, noting that the continent was the promising market to which all countries of the world are turning to for investment and trade.

The forum which will see the participation of businessmen, economic and financial actors from African countries, will be opened by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, and witnessed by Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, and the former President of Botswana, Festus Mongae.

According to Badira, the forum is an opportunity for participants to adopt diverse African strategies for greater economic integration.

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Matrade Takes Showcase Malaysia To India’s Silicon Valley

BANGALORE, South India May 29 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) has taken its “Showcase Malaysia” trade show to Bangalore, one of India’s fastest growing cities and the country’s own Silicon Valley. As the capital of Karnataka, Bangalore is a major economic hub and the fastest growing major metropolis in India.

This is the fourth edition of Malaysia’s solo exhibition in India. The last three editions of Showcase Malaysia were held in Mumbai, Pune and Chennai in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.

The three-day exhibition kicked off on Thursday at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) and will be open to the trade/business community and the public until May 31.

Pre-scheduled business meetings are also being organised for Indian companies to meet up with their Malaysian counterparts. This year, Matrade is also featuring pocket talks, which are open to all visitors, on topics such as beauty, perfumes and biotechnology.

India has been one of Malaysia’s largest trading partners in the South Asia region since 1998. For the first quarter of 2014, total trade between Malaysia and India was more than US$3 billion, with imports from India at about US$1 billion.

Of the US$13.4 billion trade with India in 2013, Malaysia exported goods valued at US$8.2 billion and imported goods worth US$5.2 billion, with US$2.9 billion balance of trade in its favour.

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Eurasian Economic Bloc to be set up in 2015

ASTANA, May 29 (NNN-Xinhua) — The heads of state from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed a treaty here Thursday to launch a European Union-style bloc to facilitate the free flow of people, capital and goods within the three countries.

The agreement, inked by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Russian President Vladimir Putin, will come into force on Jan. 1, 2015.

“Our meeting today of course has a special and, without exaggeration, an epoch-making significance,” Putin said at the signing ceremony of the treaty forging the Eurasian Economic Union.

“We are creating a powerful and attractive center of economic development, a major regional market bringing together over 170 million people,” he said, adding the pact would allow the three countries to exploit their economic potential and strengthen their positions in global markets.

The alliance is aimed at boosting ties between the three countries, which are already part of a customs union created in 2010 in an effort to build a free trade rival to the 28-nation European Union.

The treaty commits them to guaranteeing the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor, and to implementing coordinated policies in such key sectors as energy, industry, agriculture and transport.

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Bookings Bounce Back Strongly For MAS In Southeast Asia

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia May 26 (NNN-Bernama) — Despite being affected by the MH370 incident, Malaysia Airlines has managed to bounce back as far as bookings are concerned, mainly for travel within Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand in the past several weeks.

Commercial Director Hugh Dunleavy said prospects for the China market continued to be conservative in view of the missing MH370 aircraft but the airlines would not abandon the market.

He told Bernama today that shareholders of the national carrier, mainly Khazanah Nasional Bhd, as well as, other stakeholders, were engaged in discussions over the company’s cost structure, with a view of making it a financially viable entity.

Asked whether this included taking Malaysia Airlines private, hiving out some units such as engineering and reviewing operations, as well as, long-term food and beverage contract, he said “shareholders are not discounting anything.”

On the airline’s turnaround plan, where MAS was expected to return to the black by year-end, he said it would be “delayed by about a year”.

For the first quarter, Dunleavy said overall traffic was up 11 per cent, year-on-year, while passenger revenue was up 9.0 per cent and capacity rose 19 per cent.

“We were tracking significantly higher traffic until the MH370 incident. We do believe that there is traffic out there and our goal is to capture that traffic but at a revenue that makes sense for the airlines,” he said.

On its fleet renewal programme which it has been aggressively pursuing over the past two years, he said by June 15, all of the older Boeing 737-400 aircraft would depart the fleet and be replaced by next generation modern 737-800 aircraft, which have more fuel efficient engines.

Elaborating on the impact of the MH370 incident, he said traffic was looking good due to strong bookings, however, about half of the traffic was dropped after the incident occurred on March 8.

Passenger travel patterns for the last 10 weeks had also changed following the incident, whereby there were higher percentage of consumers opting for short-haul travels within Southeast Asia.

Malaysia Airlines, which had temporarily ceased advertising and marketing activities as a mark of respect for the family members and next-of-kin of the MH370 passengers, resumed promoting the airline a couple of weeks ago via trade partners and travel agencies.

“Moving forward, Malaysia Airlines will come back and it will come back strong. We will be competitive in all the markets that we serve,” he added.

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Record Turnout For Fiesta Malaysia In Melbourne

MELBOURNE, May 26 (NNN-Bernama) — More than 23,000 people flocked to the Fiesta Malaysia 2014 yesterday, which showcased Malaysia’s wonderful diversity, culture and cuisine to a delighted crowd.

Organised by the Malaysian Students Council of Australia, Victoria (Masca, Vic), and supported by the Malaysian Consulate-General here, it was held at the Federation Square in central Melbourne, where people of all ages streamed to the event throughout the day.

“This is fantastic and a great credit to our students who spent months planning the fiesta,” Consul-General Dr Mohd Rameez Yaaya told Bernama.

“Last year, about 18,000 people came to our fiesta…and this year’s figure is overwhelming and encouraging for the students and Malaysia,” he said.

Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) chairman, Malaysian-born Chin Tan said Fiesta Malaysia was one of the best organised and well-patronised social occasions in Victoria.

“This gives Malaysia a good profile,” he said, adding that Mohd Rameez had played a big role in promoting Malaysia since arriving here more than two years ago.

Masca president Raymond Loh paid tribute to the hard work put in by his committee of about 20 members and 40 volunteers.

“We had a very good team,” said the Monash University law student who is from Johor Baharu, Malaysia.

Mohd Rameez, in launching the fiesta, said Malaysia’s “rich multicultural diversity was in itself, a unique culture.”

Malaysian High Commissioner in Canberra, Zainal Abidin Ahmad conveyed best wishes to the Masca organising committee over the success of the fiesta.

The fiesta featured 20 food stalls, several colourful cultural performances and a durian-eating competition. Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines had booths which drew many inquiries.

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Algeria’s GDP Expected To Hit US$227 Billion In 2014

ALGIERS, May 27 (NNN-APS) — Algeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow by 4.5 per cent to reach 18,191 billion dinars (about 227.3 billion US dollars) in 2014, compared with a growth of 3.0 per cent in 2013, according to figures published by the Directorate-General for Forecasting and Policies (PPB) at the Ministry of Finance.

The Ministry of Finance banks on reviving economic growth which had slowed down in 2013 to 3 per cent, after expanding by 3.3 per cent in 2012.

In 2013, Algeria’s GDP stood at DZD 15,521 billion, or less than the previous forecast of DZD 17,771 billion, anticipated by the PPB, according to the closing figures of this department.

Even if global growth experiences a significant increase in 2014, non-hydrocarbon exports will maintain a downward trend, according to the PPB’s projections.

The growth of non-hydrocarbons is expected to reach 5.4 per cent in 2014 after expanding 6.3 per cent in 2013 and 7.1 per cent in 2012. Oil should represent 27.5 per cent of the entire GDP in 2014, according to the PPB’s projections.

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Important Call to Promote Indonesian Pearl Industry Globally

JAKARTA, Indonesia May 27 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia, one of the largest pearl producers, needs to further promote its pearl potential throughout the world, so that it can gain maximum benefits from the commodity.

“Indonesia has become the biggest South Sea pearl producer since 2005. It has controlled 50 percent of the worlds pearl production. Its export value has reached US$29 million,” stated Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif C. Sutardjo.

Even though Indonesia is the worlds biggest producer, its pearl industry has not yet been able to dominate the worlds pearl market. Sutardjo noted that the Indonesian South Sea Pearl (ISSP) was yet to become popular in the world market, even though it has a very high economic potential.

The Indonesian pearl has an incredible economical potential, and Indonesia is already the worlds largest producer of South Sea Pearl (SSP), but the fact remains that the commodity is not extensively known in the international pearl market.

Therefore, the government will hold an Indonesian Pearl Festival (IPF) to showcase its pearl potential to businesses.

The government is partnering with the private sector to launch a number of initiatives aimed at boosting its pearl industry. One of the initiatives is the IPF, which will be held on August 27-29 in Jakarta.

The production centers of Indonesia’s South Sea pearls are the waters of the provinces of Bali, West Nusa Tenggara (particularly on Lobok and Sumbawa islands), Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua, among several others.

In Lombok, Indonesias pearl production is known as South Seas golden pearl and is cultivated in the western coastal areas of the islands.

As the largest South Sea pearl producer, Indonesia produced 12 tons of the commodity in 2005 and increased production to 18 tons in 2009.

One of the pearl production centers, Sulawesi, also has potential pearl cultivation areas. In Gorontalo, the local government has even sought Japanese collaboration in order to develop a pearl production center.

According to North Gorontalo Deputy District Head Roni Imran, the Ehime Economic Council of Japan has offered assistance for development of the pearl industry in North Gorontalo district, Sulawesi.

On Friday, Roni stated that the Ehime Economic Council of Japan can easily provide assistance as long as the local pearl farmers were united in preserving the environment, so that it remains free from contamination.

“It will provide ample assistance for the development of dry pearl breeding, including the development of high technology in agricultural development as far as the environment can be preserved,” Roni added.

During a visit to Japan, North Gorontalo District Head Indra Yasin signed a cooperation agreement with the Japanese side at the Ehime University.

In the meantime, North Sulawesi Governor Sinyo Harry Sarundajang on Thursday visited a pearl production firm operating on Gangga Island in North Minahasa District. The governor observed the sea pearl culture process, starting from oyster shell seedling, osculation or injection, preservation, and harvest process.

The pearl cultivation business was carried out by PT Hiroguchi Sinar Insani on the Gangga Island in North Minahasa District.

Aware of the pearl potential, the government is planning to further boost its achievement. Moreover, Indonesia has all the requisite means for mastering pearl cultivation, such as pearl farming areas, human and natural resources, support devices, and technology.

After all, pearl is a mainstay commodity for Indonesia as most of the South Sea pearl reserves are located in the Indonesian waters, remarked Minister Cicip Sutardjo.

“Pearl is one of Indonesia’s mainstay commodities as it has very good development prospects,” the minister asserted.

The demand for pearl ornaments and its prices continue to increase from year to year, he noted. In a bid to educate the society on pearl cultivation, the government has also published a book on the ISSP last September, which is the first-ever book on South Sea pearl.

In the global pearl trade, Indonesia is ranked ninth or has a 2.07 percent market share with its total pearl exports valued at US$ 1.4 billion.

Marines Affairs and Fisheries Ministry Director General of Fisheries Product Marketing and Processing Saut P. Hutagalung explained that the world pearl market is dominated by four main types of pearls: South Sea Pearl produced by Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, and Myanmar, Fresh Water Pearl produced by China, Akoya Pearl produced by Japan and China, and Black Pearl by Tahiti.

Indonesia’s pearl exports were shipped to Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Switzerland, India, New Zealand, and France, the minister pointed out.

Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo reiterated that the value can be further increased since Indonesia has supporting factors, such as pearl culture locations, workers, equipment, and technology.

Therefore, the government thorough the marines affairs and fisheries ministry will continue to encourage the intensive promotion of the ISSP, so that it can contribute to the development of the national economy.

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Malaysian Agriculture Products On Show In Netherlands

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia May 28 (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysian agricultural products will be promoted to the global market at Tong Tong Fair 2014 in The Hague, Netherlands from May 29 to June 9.

Counselor of the Malaysian Agriculture Representative Office in the Hague, Ahmadul Mokhtar Mohd Hayani said Malaysia will promote mangosteen, jackfruit, star fruit and agro-based products such as frozen pastry, personal care products based on seaweed, instant coffee and orchid.

“Malaysia’s participation will enhance the image of our variety of food products in the Netherlands market. The 56th Tong Tong Fair is set to give a new dimension to the promotion and marketing of Malaysian agriculture products,” he told BERNAMA, in Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday.

Ahmadul said Malaysia’s participation in the annual show will provide a bigger market for Malaysian agriculture products.

“The Netherlands is a major route for the entry of Malaysian agriculture products to over 45 European countries,” he said.

Chef Norman Musa will be specially flown in from the United Kingdom to make a cooking demonstration using Malaysian agriculture products. Last year, Tong Tong Fair recorded 100,000 visitors.

Ahmadul said Malaysia is expected to generate business of more than the RM90,000 recorded last year. The export of Malaysian fruits to the Netherlands in 2013 rose to RM25 million from RM24 million in 2012.

“Malaysia expects the total value of exports to rise in 2014 based on the introduction of several promotional and marketing instruments,” he added.

Tong Tong Fair is recognised as the largest consumer show in the Netherlands with participation of over 150 exhibitors from 20 countries.

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Istanbul Hosts 9th Turkish-Arab Economic Forum

ISTANBUL, May 24 (NNN-KUNA) — The Turkish city of Istanbul will host the Ninth Turkish-Arab Economic Forum on Wednesday and Thursday May 28 and 29 which is expected to see the participation of a large number of Arab and Turkish economic and business leaders.

In a press statement issued Friday, the forum organizer Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group said that the meeting will serve as a platform for dialogue and communication between Turkish officials, investors and business leaders and their Arab counterparts.

It added that the forum would tackle a wide array of issues with the special focus on the macroeconomic developments, strategic policies, and major investment opportunities in Turkey and Arab countries.

The organization of the event for the ninth year in a row reflects the great success it has achieved in the previous editions, it said, adding that over 400 will take part in the forum including several Turkish and Arab ministers.

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Ottoman history to be taught to UK A-Level students

World Bulletin / 24 May 2014 – The United Kingdom is planning to introduce the study of the Ottoman Empire and Rise of Islam to A Level students at colleges and sixth-forms to next year’s curriculum.

Mike Goddard, the history examiner of the UK’s national exam board, was reported by BBC Turkish to have had received criticism for always focusing on the same subjects from the twentieth century, and had decided it was time to add more variety to the curriculum.

Genghis Khan, India’s Babur Dynasty, Middle-Eastern history and the Arab Spring will also be made available for history students taking the pre-university exams. Should the exams board approve the plan, these subjects will be available as of September 2015.

History is the fifth most studies subject among students in the UK.

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A hotel for pilgrims at Haj terminal

Arab news / 26 May 2014 – An exclusive hotel will finally be opened Tuesday for pilgrims who miss their flights at the Haj terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA).

“A hotel has been established for pilgrims by the Civil Aviation Authority as per directives issued by Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah,” said Abdul Hamid Aba Al-Ari, director-general of KAIA.

“The hotel consists of 117 rooms and suites that can accommodate 450 guests and also has six royal suites and six executive VIP suites,” he said.

Aba Al-Ari said that the hotel has a spacious restaurant with international cuisine and a wider lobby area that can accommodate another 500 people. The hotel will also cater to cabin crew staff.

“The hotel is being built and operated by the Saudi Binalden group through state-of-the-art technology and skilled professionals,” he said.

The Saudi Binladen Group recently reached an agreement with the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to modernize the Haj terminal and to facilitate a wide range of services to pilgrims through the Build, Transfer and Operate (BTO) module for 20 years.

The modernization and refurbishment project involved complete revision of the layout of the terminal. The terminal has been reconstructed to meet the needs not only of traffic passing through the terminal during the Haj period, but also during the Umrah seasons.

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World Cup 2014 in Brazil ready to welcome Muslim fans

The National / 30 May 2014 – In a rundown Sao Paulo street, squeezed between a graffiti-covered sports bar and a dilapidated unisex hairdressers, lies a little haven of Islamic tranquility.

Here, while Brazil is rushing to be ready in time for next month’s Fifa World Cup, staff at the Federation of Muslim Associations in Brazil (Fambras) are calmly preparing their own warm welcome for the 600,000 foreign football fans expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

Fambras has several initiatives to “help dispel prejudice and ignorance of Islam”, said Ali Hussein El Zoghbi, the federation’s Brazil-born vice-president.

A written guide has been produced as well as a smartphone application, a cuddly bearded mascot called Salaminho (Little Salam) and a hotline to advise visitors on how to observe Islam while in Brazil.

June 28 marks the start of the knockout stages of football’s grandest showcase and for a growing number of Brazil’s residents, it also marks the likely start of Ramadan.

Although still a small minority among Brazil’s estimated 202 million people, the Muslim population is on the rise after an influx in recent years of refugees from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

There are no reliable figures for the number of Muslims in Brazil. Mr El Zoghbi estimates the country is now home to about 1.5 million Muslims, the largest concentration of which can be found close to Iguazu Falls. With tens of thousands of Muslims expected to visit Brazil during the World Cup, the country’s 80-odd mosques can expect to be in high demand this Holy Month.

“We expect around 50,000 Muslim fans to visit for the World Cup, mainly from Iran, Nigeria and Algeria, but also from countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia and the Gulf region,” said Mr El Zoghbi, sitting under a framed photograph of Mecca and flitting between Arabic and Portuguese.

“We see this as a great chance not only to welcome Muslims, but also to spread the positive word of Islam to non-Muslims.”

The 28-page booklet, Muslim Fan Guide — Salam Brazil, is written in English, with a French version in production. It details everything from prayer times and mosque locations in each of the country’s 12 host cities to information about Islam in Brazil. Helpful phone numbers, including the UAE Embassy, are also included.

Six of the 32 nations in next month’s tournament are from countries where Islam is significantly present, said the tourism ministry.

Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon, Iran, Ivory Coast and Nigeria all have large Muslim populations. Nations such as France and Germany also have Muslim players, including Franck Ribery and Mesut Ozil.

“In some of these countries — Iran is a good example — football is a national passion like it is in Brazil,” Mr El Zoghbi, whose father moved to Sao Paulo from Lebanon in 1949, said. “We have contacted all 32 teams and told them we are available to help in whatever they need.”

André Lara, Mr El Zoghbi’s Brazilian colleague at Fambras, sips an Arabic coffee as he details the plans further. The federation will visit the base hotels of each of the six countries before the teams start to arrive. There, hotel staff will be briefed on the workings of Ramadan and any special requirements that may be expected of them.

As well as printing 65,000 guides, Fambras will launch its smartphone app on Sunday. It will include a compass to locate the direction of Mecca and a list of halal restaurants in each of the host cities.

A 12-hour daily phone service — in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and Portuguese — will also launch before the tournament starts.

A branded “Salam Bus” will travel around the country distributing a wide range of books in several languages, added Ahmed Khalaf, an Egyptian who works at Fambras. The bus will carry the slogans “Conheco o Islam” (Know Islam) and “Islam é Paz” (Islam is peace).

“I have lived in Brazil for four years,” Mr Khalaf said. “The situation is different as the Muslim here is in the minority, but the most important thing is still to make sure your religion is the most important part of your life. For instance, I make all my prayers, even if I am on the metro. People take an interest and ask me questions, but it is never a problem. People are open-minded.”

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Makkah Project To Counter anti-Islam campaigns

Makkah, Tuesday, 28 Rajab 1434/ 27 May 2014 (IINA) – Makkah governorate and the municipality have designated a one million square meter area for a project that will defend Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and explain the true nature of the Prophet’s teachings, Makkah daily reported.

Called “Peace be upon the Prophet,” the project is described as a city designed to combat the malicious campaign launched against the Prophet of Islam in several countries. The project will be located outside the Haram boundaries on the Al-Haramain Expressway and will give non-Muslims a firsthand view of the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) and Islam. The city will include the project’s main headquarters, an exhibition, university, electronic gate center, library, printing press, translation center, hotels and other facilities. The project will also oversee the printing of an encyclopedia on the Prophet (pbuh) his companions and Islam.

The encyclopedia will include various subjects about the Qur’an and Sunnah in 500 volumes, covering 350,000 pages and consisting of three million titles. The encyclopedia has been registered with the Ministry of Information in the Kingdom, and in other countries such as Egypt and Malaysia, and the final touches are being given to 80 volumes.

The exhibition will consist of Allah’s 99 names, an explanation of the Prophet’s character and manners, Islam and other prophets and messengers. The library will contain everything that has been published about the Prophet and Islam in Arabic and several other languages. The media center will include a number of satellite channels and media in different languages to highlight the cultural and educational teachings of Islam. The electronic center will include a number of websites dedicated to the Prophet (pbuh) and Islam.

The translation center will be responsible for translating all works into various languages, and will commence with translations into commonly-spoken languages first, followed by other languages. The printing press has already received the necessary license from the Ministry of Information and will publish all documents regarding the project. The publishing center has also finalized the necessary legal procedures to establish an electronic publishing gateway dedicated to the project. The university will specialize in the Qur’an and Shariah, and graduates will be granted certificates in such subjects.

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Trial run of new Jeddah airport early next year

Jeddah, Tuesday, 28 Rajab 1434/ 27 May 2014 (IINA) – Jeddah Governor Prince Mishal Bin Majed inspected the progress of works at the new King Abdulaziz International Airport, which will start experimental operation early next year.

More than 26,000 engineers and workers belonging to 100 companies are racing against time to complete the first phase of the SR27 billion project before the end of the current year. With the completion of the project, Prince Mishal said, the airport with world-class facilities will be one of the largest airports in the Middle East and Asia, connecting the West and East.

“The airport will have the highly advanced facilities in terms of passenger lounges, air traffic control towers and support services. Its control tower, with a height of 136 meters, will be one of the largest towers in the world,” he said adding that the project will generate jobs for thousands of Saudis, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Prince Mishal also drew attention to a number of projects being implemented in the Jeddah governorate, especially the public transport project, including metro, which is aimed at reducing traffic congestion in Jeddah city. Prince Mishal was accompanied by senior General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) officials including Faisal Al-Sugair, vice president. Al-Sugair said the experimental operation of the new airport is expected to be completed within the first six months of 2015.

“About 65 percent of the project has been completed and the remaining works of the infrastructure projects and experimental operation of roads and flyovers at the airport are expected to complete within three months.” The new expansion will increase the airport’s annual capacity to 30 million passengers in the first phase and 80 million in the final phase.

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Qatar Airways commences full operations at Hamad International Airport

Sun.mv – May 28, 2014 – Qatar Airways on Tuesday commenced full operations at its new hub, Hamad International Airport (HIA). Operations for all airlines have been transferred to HIA and the first Qatar Airways commercial flight landed in HIA from Bahrain at 9:10 a.m. Arabia Standard Time, according to a Qatar Airways press statement on Tuesday.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker described the commencement of operations from HIA as a milestone in the history of Qatar Airways, and said that it will allow the airline to fully realize its ambitions.

“The moment we have all been building towards for many years arrived today as QR1113 touched down, marking the historic start of our full operations at the world-class Hamad International Airport,” said Akbar Al Baker.

“Qatar Airways will be able to offer an exceptional passenger experience, as HIA has been designed with passengers foremost in mind. The airport will also be able to accommodate the world’s largest aircraft, such as our much-anticipated Qatar Airways Airbus A380 which will commence operations to the UK in June and France in July,” Qatar Airways’ CEO said.

Passengers on Tuesday were greeted at HIA with roses, dates, coffee, chocolate and Qatari flags. The state-of-the-art airport is equipped with a number of services including free Wi-Fi, play areas for children, multiple quiet areas to relax, and an array of shopping and eating options.

HIA also has 70 retail outlets offering a large selection of designer labels, high street fashion, electronics and gourmet foods from over 30 cafes and restaurants.

The new airport is located 16km from the centre of Doha and 4km from Doha International Airport.

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Turkey’s Haydarpaşa Station like an history museum

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – A significant piece of cultural heritage for Turkey and a symbol of Istanbul, the Haydarpaşa Railway Station is like a museum of history with objects from the Ottoman era. One of Istanbul’s most iconic sites, the station was built 106 years ago during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II.

The station was built by German architects Otto Ritter and Helmuth Cuno, as the starting point of the Istanbul-Baghdad, or Hejaz railway. Many of the station’s sections and the passenger lounge were opened on Aug. 19, 1908.

On the first day of its opening, the station suffered a fire and was only reopened on Nov. 4, 1909 after a restoration process. The building was used as an armory during the War of Independence and World War I, but was sabotaged on Sept. 6, 1917 when the armory exploded. The station then completely collapsed. On the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic, the station was rebuilt to its original state and a comprehensive restoration was also carried out in 1976.

Some sections of the station were damaged during the Independenta tanker accident in 1979, when a large Romanian crude oil carrier exploded after colliding with a Greek freighter at the southern entrance of the Bosphorus. The wreck burned for weeks, causing heavy air and sea pollution around the Istanbul area and the Sea of Marmara.

During the most recent fire in 2010, the central and northern parts of the Haydarpaşa Station’s roof were badly burned. After the fire, the restoration of the building was initiated, and the tender process for the complete restoration of the building is still ongoing.

The structure served as a train station from the first day of its opening, but it was it was temporarily closed to long-distance trains on Feb. 2, 2012, for at least 30 months, to allow for the construction of the Istanbul–Ankara high-speed railway and the Marmaray rail transport project. Finally, as announced by the Turkish State Railways, the only remaining train service from Haydarpaşa, the suburban line to Pendik, closed on June 19, 2013 for at least 24 months for line improvement works.

Currently, the upper floors of the station are used by the Turkish State Railways Regional Directorate. The building – which is still home to historical objects such as a library, a cabinet, tables, chair, and stoves from the Abdülhamid II era – is now like a museum.

There is a lobby, an education and conference room and a local office on the 3rd floor of the station. The first emblem ever used by the Turkish State Railways draws attention on the cabinets, featuring iron wings coming out of a rail wheel.

According to information provided by the Turkish State Railways, a reconstruction plan for the protection of Haydarpaşa Station and the wider Kadıköy neighborhood has been made, as the station is located in a historically protected area. The planning works have been made in collaboration with civil society organizations, universities and public bodies. According to the regeneration plan, the ground floor will continue as a railway station and the other three floors currently used by the Turkish State Railways will become cultural and accommodation areas.

On Feb. 17, the 2nd Istanbul Administrative Court suspended the execution of the plan and the court process is still continuing.

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Meeting held for ancient city of Karkamış

GAZİANTEP – Anadolu Agency – Archaeological excavations are continuing in the southeastern province of Gaziantep’s ancient city of Karkamış. At the head of the excavations, Professor Nicola Marchetti provided information about the excavations at a press conference. He said establishing an archaeology park in the ancient city would draw many tourists to the region.

The most important areas in the excavations are a lower palace and a lower city, which they had unearthed two years ago, and there were two temples in this area, said Marchetti, adding the most important stage of the excavations would be finished this year.

He said a literary inscription featuring the Babylonian god Marduk was the most important work found in the region and such an inscription is not likely to be the sole find and that there is likely a library somewhere in the vicinity.

Marchetti said the excavation area was forbidden and at this time, no one can enter it. But in case of the establishment of an archaeology park, free visits would begin.

“We have previously opened archaeology parks in Tilmen and Taşlıgeçit, but Karkamış covers an area of 90 hectares. A comprehensive work is necessary to open the park. Our goal is to open this area as soon as possible. We have some projects and digital models prepared. I think the tourist potential here is limitless. The world knows Karkamış. We think tourists will rush to this place if an archaeology park is opened,” Marchetti said.

The professor said Karkamış had received tourists throughout history, adding they had found a silver coin from the Austrian Emperor Leopold II-era in 1697, adding, “We know a visitor came here in 1699. He was not an archaeologist, but a writer. This writer said he visited Jarabulus in April 1699. We believe this coin belonged to him because this place is very close to Karkamış.”

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Kyrgyzstan to introduce biometric passports

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-05-26 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is reforming its passports to keep up with the times.

In accordance with a 2003 plan adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, 188 countries including Kyrgyzstan agreed to introduce machine-readable passports containing biometric information.

“Biometric passports are being introduced to ensure national security, reduce corruption, unify and automate databases and protect citizens’ voting rights,” said Eldiyar Ubaliyev, deputy chairman of the State Registration Service (GRS).

The project’s first and most critical stage involves establishing the Unified State Population Registry (EGRN.) Creating a centralised informational system will greatly expand the reach of e-service nationwide and save time and resources.

“Citizens may voluntarily opt to obtain a biometric passport, and the government will be responsible for their production,” Ubaliyev said.

Kyrgyzstan has allocated 250m KGS (US $4.8m) toward obtaining equipment to manufacture biometric passports. Introducing biometric passports will simplify international travel and will increase access to and quality of government services, officials say.

“But perhaps the main thing is that biometric data are fundamental … to a national voter registry,” Ubaliyev said. “Having a well-defined database will allow us to conduct fair elections.”

But Kyrgyzstan is giving itself time to adjust. “For now there’s this common fallacy among the public that next year’s elections will use biometric passports, which is not so,” Ubaliyev said.

The country still plans to use old passports rather than biometric ones to verify voter identification in next year’s elections, he said. On the whole, Kyrgyz citizens are in favor of the change and consider it in step with the times.

“Biometric passports are convenient for frequent travellers,” political scientist Denis Berdakov said. “At present, many countries … have created special corridors for travelers with biometric passports, and those lines go significantly faster … having an biometric passport makes life much easier.”

Officials envision three stages to the project: first, organisational and technical matters; second, automation; and third, the transition to next-generation passports. Authorities intend to finish collecting biometric data by the end of 2014.

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Women entrepreneurs assured increased allocation of lands in industrial zones

DHAKA, May 24, 2014 (BSS) – Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu today praised the contribution of the women entrepreneurs to the national economy and assured them of increased allocation of lands in the country’s industrial zones so they can contribute to the national economy further.

He was speaking at an award giving ceremony of the Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) at the multipurpose hall of the Diploma Engineers Institute in the city. BWCCI arranged the function titled ‘BWCCI Progressive Award- 2013’ in cooperation with Green Delta Insurance Company Ltd and IFAD group.

BWCCI President Sangita Ahmed presided over the function while Managing Director of Green Delta Insurance Company Ltd Farjana Chowdhury, director of IFAD group Tasfin Ahmed, founder president of the trade body Selima Ahmad and senior vice- president of BWCCI Munmun Rahman also spoke.

Amu said the women are still lagging behind in terms of their involvement in the country’s trade and commerce. “We feel proud of the womenfolk for their praiseworthy role both in home and abroad,” he said.

Referring to the initiatives of BWCCI to honour successful women entrepreneurs, the minister said the trade body is not only making the women self- reliant but also giving a big boost to the women empowerment.

The government will provide the women with all out support from the ministry of industries to set up manufacturing units, said the industries minister.

Women are now suffering from violence and discrimination, Sangita Ahmed said and added that the womenfolk advanced much during the last few decades but the progress is not up to the mark due to policy supports.

“Women entrepreneurs deserve increase allocation of lands in industrial zones for their contribution to the national economy,” said BWCCI president.

Selima Ahmad, who got the prestigious Oslo Business for Peace award, said Bangladesh’s women policy has been working in the whole world.

The women entrepreneur demanded that the government should increase the strategic amenities and infrastructural supports for women so that they can transform them into SME entrepreneurs from entrepreneurs.

A total of seven women entrepreneurs were given the ‘BWCCI Progressive Award-2013’ this year.

The awardees were Ayesha Akhter from Barisal, Shamim Ara Lipi from Chittagong, Farjana Fatema Borna from Dhaka, Tanzima Jesmin from Khaulna, Chandana Ghosh from Rangpur, Morium begum from Rajshahi and Farida Alam from Sylhet division.

Besides, two journalists — senior reporter of Baishakhi TV Imtiaz Shahriar Imon and Staff reporter of a Bengali daily Samokal Shamsul Haque Mohammad Miraj — were also honoured for their reporting on women empowerment.

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Cox’s Bazar to be developed as Special Economically Zone

DHAKA, May 24, 2014 (BSS) – Planning minister AHM Mustafa Kamal today said Cox’s Bazar will be an economically prosperous zone within the next five years as the government has taken a plan to set up a power plant, deep-sea port and special economic zone (SEZ) in Cox’s Bazar.

“World’s largest sea-beach is in Cox’s Bazar but it is still not known to all . . . the government will build Cox’s Bazar as a special tourist zone and set up a SEZ to attract foreign investors,” said the minister while visiting marine drive in Cox’ Bazar, said a release.

Communications minister Obaidul Quader was with the planning minister during the visit.

Mustafa Kamal said the marine drive, an 84-km long road along the sandy beach, is expected to be completed by 2015. Once completed, tourists can travel from Cox’s Bazar to Teknaf by road enjoying the spectacular view of the Bay of Bengal on one side and lush green hills on the other, he added.

He said the local administration has already been given order to recover government land from illegal occupants. He sought media’s support and cooperation in this regard.

The minister said the government will set up a power plant at Matarbari in Maheshkhawli and build a SEZ at Kutubdia that will make this seaside town as an attractive zone to investors from home and abroad.

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Bangladesh projects 8% tourism growth: WTTC

DHAKA, May 25, 2014 (BSS) – The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has forecasted that total contribution of travel and tourism sector to Bangladesh GDP will rise by 7.9 percent in the 2014.

“The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was Taka 460.3 billion (4.4 percent of GDP) in 2013 and is forecast to rise by 7.9 percent in 2014 and to rise by 6.5 percent per year to Taka 935.5 billion (4.7 percent of GDP) in 2024,” WTTC said in its recently published Bangladesh Economic Impact Report 2014.

In 2013, the report said Bangladesh travel and tourism sector directly supported 13,28,500 jobs that is 1.8 percent of total employment and it is expected to rise by 4 percent in 2014.

In Bangladesh, travel and tourism investment in 2013 was Taka 40.5 billion that is 1.5 percent of total investment, it said adding that the investment should rise by 3.4 percent in 2014.

The report said Expenditure by foreign visitors are expected to grow by 7 percent in 2014 to Taka 8.9 billion and rise by 5.7 percent per annum to Taka 15.5 billion in 2024.

The Leisure travel spending by both foreign and domestic tourists generated 73 percent of direct travel and tourism GDP in 2013 in amount Taka 276.9 billion which is 26.9 percent more compared with business travel spending of Taka 102 billion in the same period. Leisure travel spending is expected to grow by 6.5 percent in 2014, it added.

The report said business travel spending is expected to grow by 8.6 percent in 2014 to Taka 110.7 billion and rise by 5.5 percent per year to Taka 188.4 billion in 2024.

About the Domestic travel spending the report said it generated 97.8 present of direct travel and tourism GDP in 2013 compared with 2.2 percent for foreign visitors. The report said Domestic travel spending is expected to grow by 7 percent in 2014 to Taka 396.7 billion and rise by 5.8 percent by per year to Taka 699.9 billion in 2024.

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Bangladesh holds tourism fair

DHAKA, May 27, 2014 (BSS) – A three-day international tourism fair with the participation of six countries will begin in the capital from Friday to give a boost to the country’s tourism industry.

The Tour Operator Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), apex body of the country’s tour operators, will organize the fair for the fifth time titled “EBL-BTTF-2014 International Tourism Fair” at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed will inaugurate the fair on May 30 while Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon will close it on June 1. It was disclosed today at a press conference organized by TOAB at a city hotel.

TOAB President Toufiq Uddin Ahmed and director Toufiq Rahman spoke at the press conference, among others. About 100 organisations from six countries – Malaysia, Thailand, India, Nepal Bhutan and host Bangladesh – will take part in the fair, Toufiq said adding that Tourism Malaysia will join the fair with a major stake.

The organizations include national tourism organisations (NTOs), airlines, tour operators, hotels, resorts, travel trade bodies, financial and educational institutions.

During the three-day exhibition, the participating organisations will offer special discount in airfares, tour packages and a host of other attractive offers to the visitors. Colourful cultural show will be staged every evening.

In the sideline of the fair, a seminar on “Independence memorial and our tourism” and a roundtable discussion titled “Tourism and skill human resources” will be held at 3 pm on May 30 and June 1 respectively. The fair will remain open for all from 10am to 8pm on all the three days.

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Sail Raja Ampat to be launched on June 21, 2014

May 26 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Sail Raja Ampat 2014 is ready to be kicked off at Waisai Torang Cinta (WTC) beach, Kota Waisai, Raja Ampat, West Papua, on June 21, 2014.

“Sail Raja Ampat is ready to be implemented,” Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif C Sutardjo said on Saturday when inspecting the preparations for the international maritime event in Raja Ampat.

A total of 18 countries are expected to take part in the Raja Ampat Sail 2014. A number of participants to the Raja Ampat Sail 2014 would use ships from their countries.

As part of the Sail Indonesia series, Sail Raja Ampat is the sixth after Sail Bunaken in 2009, Sail Banda in 2010, Sail Wakatobi-Belitung in 2011, Sail Morotai in 2012, and Sail Komodo 2013.

The international event is organized with the aim to promote tourism in the regions, accelerate the development programs, and open up the isolated or remote areas. The main objective is to improve the welfare of the people.

The agenda of Sail Raja Ampat will include a marine research expedition, a yacht rally, national and international seminars, civic mission, free medical services, a tourism promotion and sport competitions.

Sail Raja Ampat will also be linked to Lake Sentani Festival 2014.

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Uganda to Host Tourism Gala

East African Business Week 25 May 2014 Kampala — About 500 delegates are expected in Kampala during November to attend the 39th Congress of the Africa Travel Association (ATA). The Congress will take place from November 11th to 16th at Speke Resort Munyonyo.

The ATA Uganda Chapter President Susan Muhwezi said recently this is the second time Uganda will host this kind of event . Several hundred delegate will come from North America.

“This congress will not only drive mass numbers to Uganda, but it will also be an eye opener of Uganda to the world,” Muhwezi said. She was recently elected President of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association.

Africa Travel Association is the leading global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-Africa partnerships.

ATA was set up in 1975 to serve both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry.

Membership comprises of African governments, their tourism ministers, tourism bureaus and boards, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, front-line travel sellers and providers, tour operators and travel agents, and affiliate industries.

Uganda’s tourism minister, Maria Mutagamba, promised to send invitations to all African tourism ministers. She thanked ATA for accepting to bring the Congress to Uganda. She gave assurances all guests will enjoy their stay in the country.

“Those saying Uganda didn’t benefit from CHOGM (2007 Commonwaeth Summit) and no reason to host such high level events are lying,” she said.

Stephen Asiimwe the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board said the ATA event would be a major step for Uganda to establish a stronger presence in the North American market which is one of the priority target markets.

He said there will be Business-to-Business meetings that will be arranged so as to encourage investment in domestic and regional tourism. The Congress will also bring in large numbers of travel writers and engage young people in tourism.

Edward Bergman, the ATA Executive Director thanked President Museveni and the Patron ATA Uganda Chapter Janet Kataha Museveni for the hospitality and for accepting to host this year’s event.

He said food is a hot topic in America. He said they will be flying in top chefs as a way of promoting culinary tourism.

Meanwhile, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is upgrading its IT systems to allow the viewing and purchasing of gorilla tracking permits online by only registered Uganda tour operators, East African Business Week has learnt.

According to Jossy Muhangi UWA’s Public Relations Manager, the system they had developed to kick start the programme allows every interested party globally to view and purchase the permits.

“We have not yet fully rolled out that project. We still need to work on our systems to ensure that the permits can only be seen and purchased by registered Ugandan operators. sThe system we had put in place allows every one worldwide to view and purchase,” Muhangi said last week.

The issue of putting the permits online was a centre of controversy late last year. Local tour operators were strongly against it, arguing that it will kick them out of business.

They said large global tourists’ suppliers would buy all the permits, hoard them and put Ugandan operators at their mercy. It required the intervention of Maria Mutagamba, the tourism minister, to cool tempers down both at UWA and the tour operators.

“We have agreed to put the gorilla permits online. But, they will only be viewed and purchased by local tour operators,” Mutagamba later said. “Before this initiative tour operators would congregate to our reservation office for inquiries and eventual purchase.”

However, Geoffrey Baluku, the Secretary General of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) thinks this is a difficult project UWA is venturing into. “Tour operators are securing permits normally as it was before. It seems our UWA friends didn’t know what they were putting themselves into,” he told East African Business Week.

On January 13, 2014, representatives from Uganda Tourism Association, UWA and AUTO held a meeting with the Minister. They amicably resolved that gorilla permits will go online but will be viewed and booked by registered Uganda tour operators on behalf of individuals and international tour operators.

It was further decided that this would only happen after Uganda Wildlife Authority has tested the system and also trained tour operators on how to use the system.

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“From Tradition to Future: Azerbaijan Glamour” project

30 May 2014 – TODAY.AZ – ‘From Tradition to Future. Azerbaijan Glamour’ project is to be launched at the Heydar Aliyev Center on May 31. In the framework of the project, Renato Balestra, a renowned Italian fashion designer, will present his new collection nurtured by the traditional Azerbaijani ornaments.

The garments will feature traditional designs used in the Azerbaijani national costume and carpet patterns along with elements of fire and pomegranate.

Inspired by the Oriental flavor, the designer succeeded in incorporating the Azerbaijani motifs into the European fashion.

The project aims at supporting Azerbaijan’s national values and traditions by integrating local ornaments into the world of fashion and thus promoting synthesis between the European and Oriental cultures.

About 40 samples of garments are to be presented at Renato Balestra’s fashion show. Worldwide famous Russian model Irina Shayk is expected to attend the fashion show.

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New international seaport for Baku in 2015

27 May 2014 – AzerNews – Azerbaijan’s Transport Ministry plans to fully commission the new international sea trade port in the Alat district by the end of 2015, Deputy Transport Minister Musa Panahov told Trend Agency last week. He said it is planned to put the ferry terminal of the new port into operation in August 2014.

“Transfer of existing Baku international sea port from the capital will be carried out by the end of 2015,” Panahov stressed. A new port at the Alat settlement in Baku’s Garadagh district is currently under construction by the Complex Construction Directorate under the Transport Ministry.

Construction work which started in November 2010 is carried out in three stages. The first phase of the project involves the construction of two ferries and three cargo berths for receiving containers and conventional bulk carriers; the second phase of the project envisions the construction of three additional cargo berths, and the third one concerns the construction of two more cargo berths.

In the first stage, the port will be capable of handling up to 10 million tons of cargo; in the second stage, its capacity will reach 17 million tons of cargo, and in the last stage, the port will handle 25 million tons of cargo.

In addition to a logistics center, a free economic zone will be created in the territory of the port in the future. Construction work will cost the Azerbaijani government more than $1.1 billion.

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Turkey tops destination list of Azerbaijani tourists

29 May 2014 – AzerNews – Azerbaijani tourists will give preference to Turkey this year, Chairman of the country’s Tourism Association (AzTA) Nahid Bagirov said. Beginning from mid-June and throughout summer Turkey, Greece and Montenegro will be the most visited countries, Bagirov told Trend agency.

“Our tourists prefer Turkey because it is a neighboring country, there is no language barrier, and the level of tourist services is high,” Bagirov said. Travel agencies should show an interest in the countries visited by Azerbaijani tourists and to work in this direction, he added.

The AzTA head also stressed that the association organizes study tours for travel agencies and thereby seeks to organize tours to new destinations.

Taking this aspect into account, Azerbaijani Airlines (AZAL) will start operating seasonal direct flights to Turkish resort towns, including Antalya, Bodrum, and Izmir.

Turkey, one of the world’s major centers of summer and winter tourism, is the most popular destination for tourists, for whom the large number of hotels with reasonable prices is of great interest.

Azerbaijanis who wish to relax in a pleasant and cozy atmosphere are likely to choose Turkey, preferring to stay in Antalya, Kemer, and Bodrum. The number of Azerbaijani tourists in Turkey was 600,000 in 2013, and is expected to reach 700,000 this year.

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Hong Kong Muslims “At the Peak”

OnIslam Staff Saturday, 24 May 2014 CAIRO – Hong Kong’s Serving Islam Team has hit back the streets, inviting world Muslims to attend the largest Islamic convention in the area to fro two days of fruitful lectures by world’s most renowned scholars to stress the importance of preserving Islamic identity.

“Nowadays, Muhammad has turned into MOMO or Mo, Yusuf into Joe or Joseph and Fatimah into FIFI!! What is happening to the Muslims? Why are they not proud for being Muslims? Why are they losing their identity?” Wael Ibrahim, founder and chairman of Serving Islam Team in Hong Kong, wrote on his Facebook page.

“This issue shall be discussed in details Insha Allah by our learned speakers during the coming conference #AtThePeak #HongKong 2014,” Ibrahim, a professional trainer on Presentation Skills, BA Islamic Studies, added.

Launched in 2013, ‘At The Peak’ is an annual Islamic Convention that takes place in Hong Kong. The title “At The Peak” was chosen as the peak is one of the landmarks of Hong Kong and the highest point in town.

The aim of the convention is to motivate the people of Hong Kong (Muslims and Non-Muslims) and encourage them to reach the Peak of success in this world and on the Hereafter. Held on May 24, 25, the theme this year is “Muslim – ID Unity”.

A host of leading Muslim figures will attend the conference as Mufti Ismail Menk, Sheikh Abdulbary Yahya, Sheikh Kamal ElMekki, Sheikh Waleed AbdulHakeem and Br. Wael Ibrahim. The event includes kids playing area, food corner, exhibition area and Islamic bazaar.

Serving Islam Team (HK) was founded in 2003 by Br. Wael Ibrahim in Egypt. Initially the idea was to train the Egyptian youth on entertaining tourists and presenting Islam to them in a friendly manner, through different activities including distributing free books, arranging mosque tours etc.

In 2005-06, the activities were moved to the Philippines to move later in 2009 to Hong Kong. According to the group’s website, their stated mission includes sharing and portraying the true, beauty & peace of Islam in accordance with authentic sources.

They also aim to revive Islamic spirit, culture and clear misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.

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Finnish Muslims Raise Hijab Awareness

OnIslam & News Agencies Monday, 26 May 2014 HELSINKI – A group of young Finnish Muslim women have started a new project to clear misconception surrounding their Islamic headscarf, or hijab, and educate others about the choice Muslim women take to preserve their identity.

“We call ourselves Northern Hijabees and we are originally from all corners of the world, which enrich us as human beings and also the project,” Kochar Mahmoodi wrote on Aquila-style magazine on Monday, May 26.

“There are 24 of us – between the ages of 15 and 29 years – working on this project, and we come from different backgrounds.”

Working actively for years, Finish Muslim girls have organized sports events, Ramadan iftars and even movie nights. The girls, however, were always faced with questions surrounding the headscarf asking whether they sleep, smile or even shower while putting on their hijab.

Facing discriminatory reactions sometimes, they decided to break their silence and take action to clarify the true nature of hijab for Muslim women, starting their new Hijabiksi project.

Hijabiksi is a combination of the word “hijab” and “-iksi”, which in Finnish means “to become something”. Combined, these two words represents someone who wears the hijab. The Hijabiksi project aims to break the prejudice towards headscarves by raising people’s awareness of hijab.

“It all started when an employee from the Centre of International Mobility (CIMO), an agency partly funded by the government, noticed our active participation in the Finnish community,” Mahmoodi wrote.

“He encouraged us to take part in the European Union Youth in Action program, which supports projects offering non-formal local or international learning opportunities for and with young people.

Taking the first step, they arranged a training session with the CIMO where they discussed Muslim women position in their city, Turku. The session was the first step after which they applied for the Hijabiksi project, which was accepted in November 2013.

The group has also launched their own blog and Facebook page to publicize their activities and daily encounters surrounding hijab. “We are organizing an outdoor event in Turku city centre on 7 June, where we will assemble a tent with a small photo booth,” Mahmoodi said.

“Passers-by may ask questions, try on the hijab and take a picture of themselves wearing one. A gallery is planned for 18th June of the pictures taken during the event.”

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

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

Hijab has been in the eye of storm since France banned the headscarf in public places in 2004. Since then, several European countries have followed suit.

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Five Muslims in World’s 100 Powerful Women

OnIslam Staff Thursday, 29 May 2014 CAIRO – Five Muslim women have made it to Forbes’ annual list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, the announcement made after the 2014 edition was released on Wednesday, May 28.

The list of 100 women has been chosen from over 250 candidates from around the world from eight categories or power bases: billionaires, business, celebrity, finance, media, philanthropy and NGOs, politics and technology.

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wajid has been given the rank of 47 on the list, the highest among the five. Bangladesh’s PM was followed by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of International Cooperation and Development in United Arab Emirates at number 55.

From the business field, Saudi Arabia’s Lubna S. Olayan, CEO of Olayan Financing Company, was listed as the 86th most powerful woman.

The fourth Muslim woman who made it to the list was Sheikha Mayassa Al Thani; daughter of Qatar royal family and chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority. Al Thani has been ranked on 91.

The fifth place reserved by Muslim women was granted to Fatima Al Jaber at 94th rank. She is the Chief Operating Officer of leading construction firm Al Jaber Group in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The top-notch list was topped by powerful German Chancellor Angela Merkel who reserved the place for the fourth consecutive year. Janet Yellen, the first-ever female chair of the Federal Reserve, made a strong debut in the number two spot.

This year’s list features nine heads of state, 28 CEOs, 18 entrepreneurs, 13 billionaires and nine celebrities, according to the business magazine’s summary. Forbes says the 100 female leaders have a social media footprint that exceeds 812 million followers and fans.

Islam, as a divine religion, sets down rules that strike a balance between men’s responsibilities and women’s rights. Woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind.

By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect. She is entitled to equal rights, she undertakes equal responsibilities, and she has as many qualities and as much humanity as her partner.

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UK Muslims Promote Tobacco-free Ramadan

OnIslam & Newspapers Thursday, 29 May 2014 CAIRO – Muslims in London Borough of Tower Hamlets have launched a new campaign to help smokers quit tobacco before the holy fasting month of Ramadan, offering them counseling and health services.

“Ramadan is an ideal time to start healthy habits,” Dr Somen Banerjee, director of public health at Tower Hamlets Council, told East London Advertiser on Wednesday, May 28. “The health and financial benefits of quitting tobacco extend beyond a few weeks as you greatly reduce your risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.”

The new Quit Tobacco Before Ramadan campaign is run by the council in collaboration with stop smoking advisers, local Imams, health professionals and the Bangladeshi Stop Tobacco Project.

Ahead of the holy month, the council will set up advice centers at mosques and libraries across Tower Hamlets. The Tower Hamlets borough was picked for having the highest levels of smoking and smokeless tobacco use through shisha pipes in London.

The campaign launch comes ahead of the annual World No Tobacco Day on May 31, led by the World Health Organization, which calls on countries to raise taxes on tobacco. The number of Tower Hamlet smokers has been decreasing recently after about 1,400 people signed up to local quit smoking services since April.

“I really encourage people of all ages to speak to your GP or pharmacy and take on the challenge of stopping smoking before and beyond Ramadan,” Dr Sam Everington, chair of NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group, and a local GP, said.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million. In Ramadan, fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

Muslims also dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds. The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.

Scholars in many parts of the world have already taken on smoking. In 2006, Lebanon’s top Shiite scholar Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fadlallah issued a fatwa ordering his followers to stop smoking.

Saudi scholars have supported a major crackdown on smoking in the holy city of Makkah. In January 2009, about 700 scholars of Indonesia Ulemas Council (MUI) banned smoking in public places and for children and pregnant women. But they stopped short of issuing an all-out ban on smoking.

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US Convention Offers Window to Islam

OnIslam Staff Friday, 23 May 2014 CAIRO – Thousands of Muslims from across the US have been invited to attend the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) to shed light on the fundamental principles of Islam, offering a window to the fastest growing religion across the globe.

“For several decades Islam has been in the forefront of discussions in America and across the globe and more so since the tragic event of 9/11,” a statement published on ICNA site reads.

“Americans begin to express fear more than ever before, raising questions such as what is Islam? Who are Muslims? What are the tenets of the faith? How “to trust” or “not to trust” a Muslim neighbor, co-worker, a friend or a fellow citizen.

“Much of this fear and mistrust stem a lack of knowledge about Islam and Muslims. Then there are those who would recycle hearsay and call it Islam, feeding the flames of fear and ignorance.”

More than 20,000 Muslims from across the United States are expected to attend the convention of the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) which runs from Saturday May 24 – 26, 2014.

This year’s theme of the three-day convention, which opens tomorrow, is “Islam; Faith * Submission * Service”.

“This year ICNA-MAS would like to present facts about: What does it mean to have faith in God, The Creator of all that exists? How is it expressed in everyday life? How does faith make us better human beings?” ICNA website says.

“Then when we have faith in The Creator how do we submit to Him? How important is it to submit to The Almighty in order to grow spiritually? What happens when man submits to his desires and ego? Customs and heresies? Falsehood and evil?”

A host of leading Muslim figures will attend the conference as Nouman Ali Khan, founder and CEO of Bayyinah Institute, Sheikh Omar Suleiman, member of the Islamic Circle of North America’s Shari`ah Council and ICNA’s Institute of Learning Foundation (ILF), and prominent Sh. Yasir Qadhi.

The event would also be attended by Ustadh Wisam Sharieff of Bayyinah Institute, Sheikh Abdul Nasir Jangda, Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Dr. Jamal Badawi, Professor Emeritus at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

“Renowned speakers and thinkers from across the United States will gather to shed light on these very fundamental principles of Islam,” ICNA website added.

“They will tell how through faith, submission and service the hearts were ignited and the light of Islam reached every nook and corner of this globe. And it is through faith, submission and service we can make this world as better place.”

Another parallel event will be hosted by Young Muslims (YM) organization under the theme “Hearts of Glass: Shadows of Doubt”.

The event will take place at the Baltimore Convention Center, the premier location for conventions, tradeshows and expositions in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.

ICNA is one of the largest, non-profit, grassroots Muslim organizations in North America with many projects, programs, and activities designed to help in reforming society at large.

Since 1968, ICNA has worked to build relations between communities by devoting itself to education, outreach, social services and relief efforts.

Unfortunately many enthusiastic journalists pick up these hearsay stories and create explosive headlines claiming this is what Islam is and these are the Muslims. Not to mention how erroneous is their perception of both Islam and Muslims.

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Saudis seek out Cameroon for investment and tourism

Saudi Gazette – 27 May, 2014 – The 42th Cameroonian National Day was celebrated on May 20, with Saudi Arabia represented by Abdallah Al Qarni, Assistant Secretary of State of the Governorate of Riyadh at the reception offered by the Ambassador of Cameroon in Saudi Arabia Iya Tidjani.

Cameroon is located on the west coast of Africa bordered to the west by the Gulf of Guinea, to the northwest by Nigeria, to the northeast by Chad, to the east by the Central African Republic and to the South by Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Cameroon is the symbol of institutional stability with an economy in constant progress in an open and democratic society. It has a favorable business environment. The Investment Charter is one of the key legal incentives for business in Cameroon.

The economy is based on agriculture, oil production and a sizeable food processing industry, mining, aluminum production and tourism.

Cameroon produces cocoa, coffee, tea, cotton, banana, rubber, palm oil, sugar. It exploits oil, natural gas, bauxite, iron, gold, diamond, sapphire, cobalt, nickel and other minerals.

Other avenues as agriculture and economy need to be explored. Cooperation in these areas already exists but needs to be diversified.

Cameroon has provided in its investment Charter several measures of facilitation of the implantation of foreign investors which could benefit the Saudi investors.

By their commitment to international peace and security and their deeply belief in the virtues of multilateralism, the Republic of Cameroon and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia established diplomatic relations in 1961 which are marked since then by the accreditation of successive Ambassadors of Cameroon in Riyadh and the Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia in Yaoundé.

The relations between the two countries have grown over the years. Nearly fifty Cameroonians are enrolled in Arabic language and religion courses in Islamic universities in Medina and Riyadh.

Several social and industrial achievements are financed by Saudi Funding Development.

The volume of Saudi investments in Cameroon is around SR250 million. Cameroon imported SR21 million in 2009, SR82 million in 2010 and SR63, 5 million in 2011 from Saudi Arabia. Cameroon exportations to Saudi Arabia were SR11 million in 2009, SR7 million in 2010 and SR8 million in 2011.

The tourist traffic between Cameroon and Saudi Arabia is at an appreciable level. These last few years, nearly 6000 Cameroonian tourists visited the Kingdom mainly for religious reasons. On Saudi side, there is a real excitement to the tourists performing the movement in Cameroon especially to hunt.

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Bahrain’s investment potential showcased

Gulf Daily News – 27 May, 2014 – The Economic Development Board (EDB) has met delegates from China and Malaysia to showcase investment opportunities in Bahrain and further strengthen bilateral ties.

The EDB is hosting journalists and editors representing a number of high-profile Chinese publications including the China Business Journal, Global Entrepreneur, and Economic Daily.

The trip follows the two nations celebrating 25 years of bilateral relations last month, and His Majesty King Hamad’s visit to the China-Arab States Expo opening ceremony as the first guest of honour, at the invitation of the Chinese government.

The four-day visit includes meetings and interviews with a number of public and private sector representatives such as the EDB, Central Bank of Bahrain, the Bahrain International Investment Park, Chinamex Bahrain Management Company and China Harbour Engineering.

“Trade and culture ties have existed between Bahrain and China for years, evident in finds in archeological sites across Bahrain, dating to more than 500 years ago,” Transportation Minister and EDB acting chief executive Kamal Ahmed said.

“Today, alongside trade, Chinese businesses have also been utilising Bahrain’s status as the gateway to the GCC market, which is worth more than $ 1.5 trillion, and expected to reach $ 2trn by 2020.

“Leading Chinese companies, like Huawei, Bank of China, and China Harbour Engineering, are taking advantage of our low operating costs and highly skilled workforce by setting up business in Bahrain,” he added.

In 2011, China became the largest importer to Bahrain, with non-oil imports totaling more than $ 1 billion.

With approximately 1,000 Chinese nationals living in Bahrain, China is currently the third largest non-GCC market for Bahraini exports.

Meanwhile, a delegation from Malaysia-based Pharmaniaga, a leading manufacturer and distributor of generic drugs and distributor of medical devices, also met Mr Ahmed.

The discussion centered around the company’s future plans, as well as the various investment opportunities found in the Kingdom, which are led by the country’s liberal economic environment.

Also explored were policies governing the manufacturing sector and efforts by the EDB to drive foreign direct investment into the kingdom and encourage companies to make Bahrain a headquarters for their operations in the region.

“It is our pleasure to meet the delegation from the Malaysia-based Pharmaniaga to discuss and explore Bahrain’s investment opportunities and economic climate,” EDB executive director of the business development Viviam Jamal said.

“We are proud of the fact that many large international companies such as Pharmaniaga find Bahrain to be an ideal location from which they can take advantage of the growing GCC market.

“This is indicative of the kingdom’s positive and competitive economic environment, which actively encourages investment, and also boasts one of the most highly skilled workforces in the region.”

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Qatar records 9pc rise in tourist arrivals

The Peninsula – 27 May, 2014 – The number of tourist arrivals in Qatar for the first quarter totalled 387,022, representing a strong nine percent year-on-year increase, says Qatar Tourism Authority’s (QTA) first quarter report released yesterday. According to the report, all key indicators of the tourism sector demonstrated improvement and growth from the previous year comparable period.

Visitors increased from most corners of the globe, with particularly good performance coming from within the GCC countries. Overall, GCC tourists were up by 5 percent, with Saudi Arabia the largest single source of visitors with 188,621 travelers and Kuwait the fastest growing with 42 percent. Overall visitors from other parts of the world rose by about 26 percent.

The average hotel occupancy rate rose from 68 percent to 75 percent, assisted by the 1.9 percent decrease in available rooms from 13,551 in Q1 2013 to 13,251 in Q1 2014 due to renovation-related closures. Total Revenue at 4 and 5-Star hotels increased by 5.4 percent, reaching a total of QR999.4m for the quarter. For the first time, QTA included 3-star hotel revenue data in the quarterly report, with total revenue reaching QR1m in a growing area of the hotel market.

The total number of hotels under construction increased to 125 properties in the first quarter 2014 from 124 at the end of 2013, corresponding to 21,812 rooms expected to be delivered.

In a sign of further development, the first quarter of 2014 saw QTA and public and private sector stakeholders launch the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030. Formulated as the roadmap for the development of the industry in the coming decades, it will guide QTA’s efforts towards making Qatar ‘a world-class destination with deep cultural roots.’ QTA has a key role to play in coordinating the development of a sustainable tourism sector in Qatar, and growing tourism’s contribution to a diversified national economy.

A diverse range of events and activities in Qatar, and increased regional and international presence during the first quarter of 2014 contributed to growth in the leisure sector.

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Enterprise Qatar launches portal to promote SMEs

Gulf Times – 27 May, 2014 – Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) development company – Enterprise Qatar (EQ) – has unveiled its brand new online portal to promote entrepreneurship and develop business leaders in the country. In partnership with Thomson-Reuters, Enterprise Qatar yesterday launched ‘BusinessPulse.qa’ at the third QITCOM 2014, with the aim to address major challenges facing SMEs in Qatar.

On the launch of the new portal, Omran Hamad al-Kuwari, chief executive officer, Enterprise Qatar, said: “BusinessPulse.qa is the culmination of our efforts and dedication in building a culture of entrepreneurship in Qatar. It provides a comprehensive set of databases containing valuable information and knowledge to assist SMEs, in addition to helping various governmental administrations, businessmen and entrepreneurs in making the right decisions.

“The launch of this portal reflects Qatar’s commitment to develop the private sector, as it strongly believes that SMEs constitute the very foundation of a diversified and sustainable economy. This is, therefore, an important move towards building a knowledge-based economy, the main objective of the National Development Strategy, which also aims to develop the private sector as the driving engine for sustainable economic development.”

Qatar currently ranks 54th out of 144 nations on the Knowledge Economy Index, and EQ is striving to improve the country’s ranking in the coming years.

Dr Rasha Awad, executive director, EQ, said: “The portal provides a useful electronic and interactive forum, whereby SMEs can exchange expertise and share successes. The site showcases many stories about successful enterprises and business leaders, as well as provides information, ideas and access to a comprehensive set database of the small and medium enterprises in the region, all of which will help entrepreneurs and SMEs develop and be even more successful.

“EQ in partnership with Thomson-Reuters, is seeking to become Qatar’s main business portal, through providing a well-integrated business environment to serve and support entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises. Therefore, we invite all the major companies in Qatar to register in the portal to directly communicate with SMEs, and share ideas and suggestions on how to further develop the business pulse portal.”

The portal includes five major sections, which help to provide a network of interactive communication between entrepreneurs, policymakers, companies and governmental institutions.

The ‘Business Tools’ section provides different applications and tools to help entrepreneurs find and develop different business ideas. It also provides information about using technology, available funding, insurance, promotion, sales, import and export, human resources, legal services, in addition to providing access to a database of ideas and projects.

The ‘Business Support’ section provides a comprehensive set of services, which help SMEs and entrepreneurs communicate with experts, in addition to EQ services such as its feasibility studies ‘Jadwa’; its legal services ‘Oqood’; its auditing services ‘Tadqeeq’; and ‘Eyada’, which helps companies facing problems.

The ‘Success Stories’ section allows SME owners to share their success stories whilst also reviewing others. The ‘Knowledge Centre’ contains a rich database with all relevant knowledge to investors, entrepreneurs and SMEs. The information includes the pillars and guidelines of national development, economic and business laws and regulations, and different periodicals.

Finally, the ‘Newsroom’ contains all the local, regional and international news stories that interest entrepreneurs, as well as important events and conferences that will be held in Qatar. It also has archives of press releases, presentations and videos.

BusinessPulse.qa is the first portal of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, and it can be downloaded in both languages (English and Arabic) on mobile devices. As the first official sponsor of the business pulse portal, QNB will provide through the portal, entrepreneurs and SMEs with access to financial support.

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Dar alHerfya displays premium handicrafts

Khaleej Times – 29 May, 2014 – With an aim to support more than 1,100 families by 2016, Dar al Herfya is showcasing premium handicraft products at the 15th GCC Joint Exhibition & Conference in Sharjah.

It’s Oman-based specialised investment company in quality development, production, marketing, promotion and for Omani handicrafts to be sold locally and internationally such as leather, fabrics, palm frond, fabrics, silver and textiles, along with other products that are made locally by Omani craft persons.

“We act as a meeting point for all Omani talents and we pool them for better results. Most of our products are produced and designed locally by young talented Omanis. Our main job is to enhance the quality and value of the products by repackaging,” Dar alHerfya chief executive officer Zuwaina Sultan Al Rashid told Khaleej Times.

“I believe it’s kind of CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiative as we support more than 400 families at the moment compared to 305 (families) last year. Our aim is to support at least 1,150 families in the next two years,” Al Rashid explained.

“Our clients are multinational companies and hotels,” she said, adding: “We ensure that our clients are fully satisfied with our creative designs as the chosen designs shall be exclusive to one’s organisation to preserve and promote one’s corporate identity.”

The company’s objective is to encourage and motivate talented Omani craft persons and designers and help them market and promote their products.

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700 bus stations planned for Dammam, Qatif

Arab News – 29 May, 2014 – Dammam and Qatif would have 700 bus stations when the Eastern Province’s public transport system is complete, according to the region’s mayor. Fahad bin Muhammad Al-Jubair said here recently there would also be 16 stations where commuters can switch between buses and trains. There would be 7,000 parking lots at the stations.

This information was revealed during a meeting at the mayoralty headquarters between Al-Jubair and the consultant in charge of the public transport project in Dammam and Qatif.

Jamal bin Nassir Al-Mulhim, the mayor’s deputy for reconstruction and projects, Abdullah bin Ali Al-Qarni, the mayor’s deputy for services, and several of the mayoralty’s general managers were present at the meeting. There were also representatives from the Ministry of Transport in Riyadh and Eastern Province road security department in attendance.

The officials at the meeting watched a presentation on the transport project, which outlined the feasibility, costs, design and bus and rail routes. Al-Jubair said the mayoralty would soon establish a company commissioned by the Council of Ministers to manage the project. Work has started on training local companies and contractors, and the project would be put out to tender.

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Hospitality, business upbeat on new QA connection to Istanbul

Gulf Times – 29 May, 2014 – Turkish business and hospitality sectors are upbeat about the new route of Qatar Airways to Sabiha Gokcen on the Asian side of Istanbul. Qatar Airways that flies four times a week to the new destination, had its inaugural flight on last Thursday.

With proximity to some of the highly developed industrial cities of Turkey such as Kocaeli, Bursa, Izmir and Sakarya, Sabiha Gokcen Airport is one among the two international airports serving the city of Istanbul. It is expected that the new route will boost the already-strong ties between the two countries.

“Istanbul is a magical city that is rich in history and culture so we are thrilled to be providing this new scheduled service to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen, an airport that serves as a vital connecting hub between Asia and Europe,” Marwan Koleilat, Qatar Airways chief commercial officer, told a press conference after the inaugural flight.

One of the leading producers of organic food items in the country, Gourmet Nar is already in consultation with some of the Qatari business houses to set up retail outlets in Qatar.

Speaking to Gulf Times, marketing manger Asli Aksoy said: “We are already in the final stages of the negotiations. At present, we can not disclose the names and details of our partners in Qatar but soon we will finalise the deal and will come out with the details. The new route will help us in a big way to promote our business as Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is very crowded”

The Armaggan Stores, another chain of concept store that displays and sells artworks to jewellery to eatables to textiles and more, is also part of the Gourmet Nar.

“We are also planning to expand the business and we might even reach Qatar soon. The store has also a restaurant on the top floor that prepares food with organic products,” said Halil Can ozyoruk, department manager of the store.

Nar offers the natural and regional products of Anatolia with production and packaging techniques that match their purity, specialty and intrinsic value. The variety of the rich Anatolian soil and the environment that produce these natural products is the primary source of the healthy Mediterranean cuisine.

Cuneyt Mengu, CEO and president of Mercan Tourism which is the leading tour operator in Turkey said that it was a great opportunity for the country to expand the relationship with Qatar and other countries in the Gulf and the Middle East . “The new routes provide innumerable possibilities to attract more visitors to Istanbul. With Qatar Airways flying to the city 14 times a week, it is a great opportunity to expand our reach to more people in Qatar and the Middle East,” he said.

Daniele Fabbri, manager Hotel Conrad, Istanbul, said: “Everyday we receive more tourists to Istanbul. The population of the city is almost 15mn already. We have brisk business almost all the year and the additional four flights by Qatar Airways are sure to increase our customer base. We have started the renovation of the hotel and we will be happy to receive more guests from Qatar and the Middle East.”

With the new route, Qatar Airways will be serving travellers from the Asian side of Istanbul, in addition to Ataturk Airport which currently services the population in the European side of the city separated by the Bosphorus.

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Agreements signed between Bahrain and Tajikistan

Gulf Daily News – 29 May, 2014 – A New era of co-operation was ushered in yesterday between Bahrain and Tajikistan after a series of agreements were signed in the presence of King Hamad and President Emomalli Rahmon. Present at the ceremony at Sakhir Palace was Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.

Eight agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) were signed. They included:

An MoU on bilateral consultation between the two countries’ foreign ministries signed by Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa and his Tajik counterpart Seraj-Alddin Aslof.

The two ministers also signed an agreement on exchanging aviation services between the two countries.

An MoU on enhancing co-operation in cultural and art fields was also signed between the Foreign Minister and Tajik Minister of Culture Shams-Alddin Arombikov.

Another MoU on tourism was signed between the Foreign Minister and chairman of Tajik Youth, Sports and Tourism Committee and First Vice-President of the Tajik Olympic Committee Malik-Shah Namtov.

Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa and his Tajik counterpart Abdul-Salam Qerbanov signed an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation.

The Finance Minister also signed an agreement on encouraging and protecting investment with Tajik Investment Committee chairman Qader Qassim.

He also signed an MoU with the Tajik Economic Development and Commerce Minister Sharif Rahimzadah on economic, commercial and technical co-operation.

Health Minister Sadiq Al Shehabi signed an MoU on co-operation in the health fields with the Tajik Health Minister Nasrallah Salimzadah. The signing of agreements and MoUs confirm Bahrain’s keenness to reinforce historical bilateral relations in all fields.

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Saudi youth discover vast career opportunities in hospitality

Arab News – 30 May, 2014 – Hilton Worldwide hotels across Saudi Arabia celebrated the hospitality industry recently by participating in Careers@hilton Live: Youth In Hospitality Month. It was the company’s largest ever global career event showcasing to young people the many opportunities available in the company.

Throughout the month of May, Hilton Worldwide’s KSA-based hotels took part in a host of events designed to inform and excite young people looking for employment and to highlight the valuable long-term job prospects and considerable opportunities that are available in the industry.

This month long initiative is part of Bright Blue Futures, a global program that encourages Team Members to donate their time and expertise to help young people achieve stability and prepare them for a brighter future.

Mahmoud Mokhtar, vice president, Hilton Worldwide, Saudi Arabia, said: “The future success of our business will rely on the success of the next generation taking full advantage of the extensive opportunities available in the industry.”

He said: “In Saudi Arabia, we are on course to open more than 20 new hotels in the Kingdom in the next four years and we will have career vacancies to suit every skill and preference. The month-long Careers@Hilton event has provided the perfect platform to highlight the diversity of opportunities on offer and to promote the very best the company can offer its team members.”

In Saudi Arabia, Hilton Worldwide hotels in Jeddah, Madinah and Riyadh took part in the initiative with a range of local community activity, including:

A visit by Hilton Worldwide’s senior leadership to Laureate Riyadh Hospitality & Tourism College where 250 students enjoyed a discussion and insight into the world of hospitality at Hilton Worldwide.

The event also included a live cooking demonstration.

In Madinah, students from Madinah College students were invited to Hilton Madinah to experience first-hand the delights of a hospitality career. The students were offered job shadowing experience across a range of departments including restaurants and kitchen and front office

Jeddah Hilton invited young Saudis from Prince Sultan Hospitality College to develop their skills in the hospitality field for a full day of job shadowing and exploring the hospitality career opportunities. The event provided exposure to youth candidates in the field of restaurants and kitchens and front office. Student guests were also given the opportunity for career counseling with field experts

Globally, young people — the biggest demographic in the world — are facing serious challenges building and growing careers. In 2013, nearly 74 million young people were unemployed.

Career preparation is crucial for these young people and their contribution to our global economy. The travel and tourism industry is the world’s single largest employer, supporting one in every 11 jobs worldwide, and will need to play a leading role in addressing the youth unemployment challenge.

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