Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

21 Jul, 2014

Bethlehem Christians join the Ramadan fast in interfaith solidarity

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 21 July 2014 (23 Ramadan 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil and Assistant Editor Sana Muqbil Shamsi wish all our readers EID UL FITR MUBARAK. We pray that the Holy Month of Ramadan has led to some deep soul-searching and that the year ahead will see the Islamic world emerge from its state of self-inflicted darkness, disunity and despair and finally attain enlightenment, peace and wisdom.



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.





World Bank approves $300 million interest free loan for Egypt

Cairo, Ahram Online, 13 Jul 2014 – The World Bank has approved a $300 million interest free loan to Egypt to fund micro and small enterprises (MSEs), Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, Egypt’s minister of industry, commerce and small and medium enterprises, announced on Sunday.

Egypt’s government plans to cooperate with the World Bank in building infrastructure for small and medium enterprises, particularly in the impoverished Upper Egyptian governorates, Abdel-Nour said during his meeting with a delegation from the World Bank.

The World Bank is currently developing a strategy for joint projects with the Egyptian government for the upcoming period, said Naggi Bin Haseen, executive director for trade and competitiveness projects in the Middle East at the World Bank.

Last month, the World Bank approved an $8.10 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for Egypt’s Sustainable Persistent Organic Pollutants Management Project (POPs).

Back to top

Trans-Sumatra road project to start in October

The Jakarta Post, July 14 2014 – The long-awaited Trans-Sumatra highway project is now set to kick off in October instead of September. State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said on Saturday that state-owned construction company PT Hutama Karya, which was appointed by the ministry to construct the first four segments of the highway project, had already finished its business plan, and thus could start the 16-month project on Oct. 9.

The first four segments connect Medan to Binjai in North Sumatra, Pekanbaru to Dumai in Riau, Bakauheni to Bandar Lampung in Lampung and Palembang to Indralaya in South Sumatra.

The company, however, would still need to submit its business plan to the Public Works Ministry to be approved, he said.

“In principle, the groundbreaking may start on Oct. 9, on the condition that a presidential decree (on the appointment of Hutama Karya as the project’s contractor) is issued no later than July 21,” he said after meeting with executives of several state enterprises at the ministry.

The Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister is currently working on finalizing the draft of the presidential decree, according to Dahlan.

Coordinating Economic Minister Chairul Tanjung previously said the government had decided that construction of the toll road should begin in September before the new government took office in October.

The 2,700-kilometer toll road project will stretch from Aceh to Lampung in 24 sections connecting major cities in Sumatra.

Deputy for infrastructure at the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas), Dedy S. Priatna, earlier said that total investment for the four sections would reach around Rp 47 trillion (US$4.06 billion).

To construct the entire toll road, the government needs to acquire 218,976 million square meters of land.

But Dahlan said that no significant land acquisition issues would hinder the first phase of the project because it would be built on land mainly owned by state-owned companies, such as plantation firm PT Perkebunan Nusantara VII, despite the fact that the government was currently still negotiating on some plots of land to be used for the project and was paying out for some other plots of land.

The project would also involve several other state-owned companies, such as cement maker PT Semen Indonesia and toll road operator PT Jasa Marga, as well as, if possible, several regional administrations for financing matters, he said.

The Trans-Sumatra toll road project is part of the infrastructure projects under the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development (MP3EI), which is expected to support ASEAN connectivity projects.

ASEAN connectivity projects are designed to connect ASEAN member states to one another.

The Office of the Coordinating Economic Minister earlier said it was moving to fast-track 15 priority infrastructure projects for groundbreaking or completion this year.

Among those projects are the Rp 14.9 trillion Cilamaya Port in West Java, the Rp 8.29 trillion Kertajati Airport in West Java, the expansion of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Banten and the completion of the Rp 4 trillion Jatigede Dam in Sumedang, West Java.

As of April, the dam was 87 percent complete and still needed around $55 million in funds to be finished.

Back to top

Lebanon outlines plan to promote rural tourism

Jul. 15, 2014, The Daily Star, BEIRUT: Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon announced his plan to launch a five-year national strategy aimed at boosting rural tourism in Lebanon.

The minister announced his plan during a visit to Nabaa al-Safa to check on the waste cleaning work implemented by the “Darb Al Jabal” association in cooperation with volunteers from Ain Zahalta and the Chouf.

In his speech, Pharaon emphasized the importance of rural tourism and the need to rationalize water consumption in order to help the tourism sector in rural areas.

He added that he is working with concerned parties in the country to solve the water shortage issue which was caused by the drop in rainfall rates in Lebanon during the past fall season.

Back to top

EgyptAir to launch direct flights from Cairo to New Delhi

Ahram Online, 15 Jul 2014 – EgyptAir signs an agreement to launch a direct flight line between Cairo and New Delhi; adding three weekly flights to India.

The minister of tourism, Hisham Zaazou, said that the move is part of Egypt’s plan to open new tourism markets in countries such as China and India.

EgyptAir already operates four weekly flights between Cairo and Mumbai.

The partnership between Egypt and India involves the coordination of tourism events such as exhibitions, caravans and festivals in both countries, said Zaazou.

The minister explained that the main attraction of the Indian market is the high purchasing power of its citizens.

Last April, Egypt hosted the ‘India by the Nile’ festival for the second consecutive year. During the event, Zaazou voiced hopes of Egypt welcoming up to one million tourists from India within the next three years.

Back to top

Holy Ramadan: Guide to Islam in Venezuela

Jul 14, 2014 – Venezuelans have been acquainted with the religious customs at the holy month of Ramadan during a variety of celebrations held in the Muslim communities, press TV has reported.

Fasting month of Ramadan generates curiosity among Venezuelans who follow other religions while they see Muslims who abstain from food from dawn to dusk to try to purify themselves both physically and spiritually.

They even flock to Muslim communities to get a better understanding of Islamic fervor, values and traditions.

“In Venezuelan capital city, Caracas, people from all religions come to Muslim sheiks to be taught about the holy Qur’an and Islamic values,” Iran’s Ambassador to Venezuela Hojatolah Soltani explained.

Nearly three hundred thousand Muslims are living in Venezuela, according to government statistics.

Over the past decades, thousands of Muslims have immigrated to this country from Middle Eastern countries including Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

In month of Ramadan, as the most sacred month in the Muslim year, Muslims enter into a holy period of fasting during which food and drink is served daily, before sunrise and after sunset.

Muslims cease all consumption of food and drink during the hours of daylight for the entire lunar month.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar, is the time to focus on self-reformation and prayer. It’s also a festival of giving and sharing.

Muslims believe Ramadan to be an auspicious month for the revelations of God to humankind, given the belief that it was in Ramadan when the first verses of the Holy Qur’an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The month comes to an end with the celebration day called Eid al-Fitr or the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast’.

Back to top

Jordan’s tourism revenues reach $2.3 billion in 6 months

Amman, July 15 (Petra) — The Kingdom’s tourism revenues rose by 13.6 percent in the first half of 2014, standing at $2.3 billion (JD1.6 billion), compared to $2 billion in the same period of 2013, according to the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ).

The bank added that tourism revenues rose by 11.6 percent in June this year, standing at $421.3 million, compared to $377 million in the same month of last year.

The CBJ attributed the steady growth in the Kingdom’s revenues to rising religious and medical tourism revenues.

Back to top

Iranian Artists displaying works at own house

Tehran, July 17, IRNA – Renowned Iranian artists are displaying their works in an exhibition titled ‘Art Ceremony’ at Tehran’s Artists House.

Paeez, Zemestan and Momayyez galleries are displaying works by sixty artists, including Parviz Kalantari, Kambiz Derambakhsh, Manouchehr Mo’tabar, Fereydoun Omidi, Reza Bangiz and Farah Abolqassem, said ˈIran Dailyˈ, in its Thursday edition of the newspaper.

Shirin Ettehadieh, Ali Taraqi-Jah, Pejman Rahimzadeh and Habibollah Derakhshani are also attending the gala.

Jamshid Haqiqatshenas, director of the galleries of Artists House, said, “The show has been organized for the lunar month of Ramadan which is named as the month of God’s festivity.

“This is the third year we are holding the exhibit with the aim of reinforcing spiritual creativity, manifestation of aesthetics as well as themes related to the holy month of Ramadan.”

The artist, who has two works on display, said the galleries of Artists House exhibit works by individuals and organizations. Joint projects and events with other allergies such as Tehran Photography Expo and Photo of the Year Festival are also on agenda.

The exhibition will run through July 24. Artists House is located at Art Garden, North Mousavi St., Taleqani Ave.

Back to top

First green mosque opens in UAE

July 18, 2014, Gulf News, Dubai: Khalifa Al Tajer, claimed to be the first eco-friendly mosque in the Islamic world, was opened to worshippers in Dubai on Friday by the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF).

The mosque, which can accommodate 3,500 worshippers, is located at the Port Saeed area in Dubai and spans more than 9,754 square metres with a built-up area of around 4,180 square metres.

Tayeb Al Rais, secrtary-general of the AMAF, said the new mosque sets a good example for mosques to be built in the future.

“It is Dubai Municipality’s and the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities responsibility to guide donors who want to build mosques to follow green and eco-friendly standards, and this mosque could set an example of why it is a good move.” Al Rais said.

He said the AMAF was delighted to welcome worshippers the new mosque during Ramadan. “Through this mosque, we hope to inspire many more such eco-friendly initiatives that are in line with Dubai’s vision for a sustainable future.”

Islam puts emphasis on being environmentally consciousness. “We hope the mosque will continue to remind worshippers of their duties towards the environment, of which we are the custodians,” he added.

This is the first mosque to be built by the AMAF, as they built it on behalf of an anonymous sponsor. “We are having discussions with the DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority), to build a second green mosque in the JLT (Jumeirah lake towers) area.”

Built with the standards and specifications required for green buildings in mind, the mosque aims to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for conformance to the sustainability requirements of the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

“A team will visit and evaluate the mosque in a year to see if we qualify for the silver certification.” Al Rais said.

The mosque integrates latest green technologies, such adjusting the speed of water flow from taps in the ablution areas and recycling the used water from ablution in washrooms and for plant irrigation.

The exterior lighting poles of the mosque are fitted with solar panels, the battery storage systems are powered by solar energy, and the water heaters also have solar panels.

Energy-saving LED lights are used all over the mosque, and the lights are controlled by a sensor system that automatically switches the lights on during prayer times and if there are people in the pareyer hall, and off if there is no one, as to conserve energy.

There is also a climate control system installed for regulating the air-conditioning units according to prayer times and number of worshippers.

Al Rais led the opening ceremony in the presence of Dr Hamad Al Shaibani, Director General of the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities and senior representatives from AMAF and other government organisations.

Shaikh Salih Al Maghmasi, imam of Al Quba Mosque in Madinah, delivered the inaugural Friday sermon at the mosque.

Back to top

‘Beautiful voices’ mesmerise Quran listeners

July 17, 2014, Gulf News, Dubai: Quran reciters moved the audience in a packed hall in a Dubai contest late on Wednesday night. The ‘Most Beautiful Recitation Contest’ was held as part of the Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA).

Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum facilitated officials on stage on Wednesday.

The main memorisation component of the DIHQA contest had already ended on Tuesday night. DIHQA, now in its 18th edition, is held every Ramadan at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

On Wednesday, around 10 young reciters poured their hearts into the recitation, beautifying it and winning praise from the audience.

Mohammad Yasin from Yemen and Anees Al Fadheel from Libya were the first to start, reciting chapters of the Quran – from memory or by reading from the book at times.

People in the audience could occasionally be heard whispering ‘Subhan Allah’ (Praise God) or Allahahu Akbar (God is Great) in appreciation of the recitation.

The winners will be honoured during the closing ceremony of DIHQA on Friday night at the Cultural and Scientific Association in Al Mamzar area.

The first winner will be awarded Dh250,000, the second will be given Dh200,000, and the third Dh150,000. Other runners-up also receive sizeable cash awards.

Besides the regular panel of DIHQA judges, a specialised judge is assigned to the recitation component of the contest to look at tone and intonation used by skilled reciters.

Quran recitation has its own set of rules that govern aspects such as pronunciation, pace and rhythm of the verses. On top of the rules is the art of beautifying the recitation, which is highly encouraged and praised in Islam.

The recitation component of DIHQA was introduced in its night edition following a suggestion by Ebrahim Bu Melha, chairman of the DIHQA organising committee.

He is also Adviser to the Ruler of Dubai for Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs.

A DIHQA statement said “the goal is to serve the Book of Allah, show the love of Muslims for this Book and compete in its memorisation and recitation”.

Recitation contestants are divided into five categories: Buds (below 15 years), Youngsters (15-25 years), Youth (above 26 years), Mosques Imams, Most beautiful Adhan (Call to Prayer).

On Friday, Dr Ahmad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Mufti of Al Azhar institution in Egypt, who was named Islamic Personality of the Year by DIHQA, will also be honoured. Al Tayyeb will be awarded Dh1 million as part of the award.

Back to top

First-time experiences of Ramadan by expatriates in UAE

July 20, 2014, Gulf News, Dubai — Abu Dhabi: The first-time experience of Ramadan for expatriates can differ from one country to another. For many of the UAE’s expats witnessing it for the first time, the holy month has been a wonderful experience with its many facets appealing to their sense of family values, compassion, generosity and harmony.

The daily iftar meals that are a fulcrum for friends and family to get together to partake of the end of the fast is a particularly warm and enriching experience. From hotel tents for iftar and the special night prayers (or Taraweeh in Arabic) to late mall opening hours, residents take in the spirit of Ramadan with eagerness and a sense of respect.

Although members of the public are advised to refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public, in addition to wearing modest clothing, these rules are not considered burdensome by the majority and are observed as a courtesy towards worshippers.

The altruistic aspects of Ramadan such as the distribution of free daily iftar meals to labourers, to the less fortunate and the disabled provided by charities and government entities are a source of inspiration for first-time observers. Due to these initiatives and many others, expats from different backgrounds have been able to recognise the essence of charity that defines Ramadan and how it encourages community-based collaborations in helping those in need.

Gulf News spoke some Muslim and non-Muslim residents who are spending their first Ramadan in the country. Despite religious variations, both groups felt included and respected in the different activities of Ramadan and have built an understanding and appreciation of its spiritual, social and cultural significance.

Read the rest: http://gulfnews.com/in-focus/ramadan/general/first-time-experiences-of-ramadan-in-uae-1.1359316

Back to top

Moroccan, Spanish Kings Inaugurate Tourism Training Center

15 July 2014 – Maghreb Arabe Presse – Temara — HM King Mohammed VI and HM King Felipe VI of Spain on Tuesday inaugurated a hotel and tourism training center in the Guich Loudaya district in Temara, suburb of Rabat.

The 18 million-dirham project, carried out by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, reflects the particular interest that HM King Mohammed VI gives to the youth, real wealth of the Nation regarding the role they have to play as a stakeholder in the process of Morocco’s social development.

The new center, which also reflects the Sovereign’s determination to integrate this segment of society in the various reforms initiated in the Kingdom, confirms, once again, the choice of the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity to make training a vital socio-professional integration tool.

Built on 8.300 sq. meters (2.750 sq. meters covered), the training center includes a pedagogical hotel (reception, four bedrooms, Moroccan living room, modern living room), a catering pavilion (kitchen, restaurant and a conditioning room), a commissary and classrooms, as well as other facilities.

A partnership between the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity (6 million dirhams) and the Office of Vocational Training and Job Promotion (12 million dirhams), the new center will train skilled human resources in hotel and catering business.

The new facility, whose construction works were launched by HM King Mohammed VI on July 13th, 2013, will facilitate access to training for candidates from remote regions, especially girls, as it will provide support to young leaders of projects in the hotel and tourism business.

This project further consolidates the various actions taken by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity in the region of Rabat-Salé-Zemmour-Zaer, aiming at developing the potential of the youth and improving their living conditions.

Back to top

SWISS to resume flights to Muscat And Dubai On July 20

MUSCAT, OMAN, July 12 (NNN-ONA) – Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) will resume its daily flight on the Muscat-Dubai sector from July 20.

A press release stated that the airline’s flights were temporarily discontinued on this sector, due to upgradation work of the runway at Dubai International Airport, from May 1 to July 19. ‘It will resume operations with flights LX242 and LX243.’

SWISS will operate A330-300 to Zurich via Dubai, with three class configuration – first, business and economy, offering travellers connections to and from Europe, the US and Canada.

SWISS serves 84 destinations in 40 countries all over the world from Zurich, Basel and Geneva. With a fleet of 90 aircraft, SWISS transports around 16 million passengers every year.

Back to top

China Still Ranks Third In Tourist Arrivals In Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia July 16 (NNN-Bernama)– China still ranks third in terms of arrival of its citizens to this country despite the missing MH370 flight incident, says Tourism and Culture Ministry’s secretary-general Dr Ong Hong Peng.

“There was a loss of 19 per cent in April, this year and two per cent in March. But we will be happy if we can maintain last year’s total arrival of 1.7 million from China though we are quite confident to get some growth by the year-end.”

Ong said this to Bernama after being a guest in Radio Televisyen Malaysia’s ‘Selamat Pagi Malaysia’ programme, here, Wednesday.

He said the projected growth was achievable due to the overall number of Chinese visitors all over the world which was growing at a fast pace, hence the road to recovery in Malaysia could be even faster.

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia director-general Mirza Mohammad Taiyab said that one contribution to the decline of Chinese tourist arrivals in Malaysia was the disruption of promotions in China during the MH370 crisis.

“Because of the sensitivity, we suspended our promotions in our advertising in the international media, particularly in China because we didn’t want to be there telling different things when everybody was concerned about the missing aircraft.

“So when we suspended the promotions, that has an effect on people’s awareness and interest in purchasing holiday packages to the country,” he said to Bernama.

For April 2014, China ranked third with 132,158 arrivals in the Malaysia Tourist Arrivals by Country statistics, behind Singapore in first place and Indonesia in second.

In April 2013, China was in the same rank with 164,175 arrivals.

Ong believes the good relations of 40 years between Malaysia and China could still draw tourists from China to Malaysia.

“I think we will pick up towards the later half of the year, as now we are starting to do the promotion and with the prime minister’s visit to China, we trust that ties between these two countries will strengthen,” he said.

Back to top

Emirates’ Superjumbo Begins Kuwait Flights

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, July 18 (NNN-KUNA) – Emirates introduced its scheduled A380 service to Kuwait on Wednesday, marking the airline’s 25th anniversary of flights to the country.

“We would like to express our special thanks to Kuwait, the aviation authorities and Kuwait International Airport, for their continued support over the past 25 years and for allowing us to bring the A380 into their country.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for customers travelling to and from Kuwait, to enjoy the pride of the Emirates fleet,” said Sheikh Majid Al-Mualla, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Centre.

Emirates began flights between Dubai and Kuwait on July 16, 1989, and the airline now serves the route five times daily, with a combination of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

The Emirates A380 on the Kuwait route will offer 14 first class private suites, 76 flat-bed seats in business class and 399 seats in economy class, Mualla added, noting that flights on the Kuwait route will operate daily at 4:00 pm local time. “The five daily flights will soon be six.”

Kuwait is only the second market in the Middle East to be served by the airline’s flagship aircraft after Saudi Arabia.

Emirates currently operates its A380’s to 28 of its 143 global destinations. Passengers travelling on Emirates’ A380 in first class can step out of their private suites and visit one of two onboard shower spas, where they can freshen up with a shower before landing.

Both first and business class passengers can also chat over drinks and snacks in an onboard lounge. Throughout all cabin classes, passengers have access to Wi-Fi, the award-winning ICE entertainment system and gourmet cuisine prepared by chefs and served by a multinational cabin crew.

Back to top


OnIslam & News Agencies Friday, 11 July 2014 BETHLEHEM – Sharing their fellow Muslims the spiritualities of the holy month, Christians in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem have been observing Ramadan fasting in continuation of a centuries-old tradition of interfaith solidarity.

“My grandmother used to fast,” Mike Kanawati, a Christian resident of Bethlehem, who manages a souvenir and jewelry shop, told Al-Arabiya News.

“Both Christian and Muslim fasting, and we were raised this way to show respect for and solidarity with other religions,” Kanawati said.

Kanawati stressed that the meaning of fasting is the same in both Islam and Christianity.

“Fasting, either the Christian or the Muslim way, makes one feel the suffering of those who do not have food,” he added.

Kanawati said he was proud “like many other Christians” of fasting the Muslim month of Ramadan and stressed that doing so in no way diminished his Christian faith.

On the other hand, Muslims too usually share their Christian friends their fasting by abstaining from eating cheese, meat and milk, in demonstration of solidarity with the Christians. The tradition was preserved over generations of Muslims and Christians who coexisted in Bethlehem for hundreds of years.

Bethlehem has a Muslim majority, but is also home to one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities.

In a survey of Bethlehem’s Christians conducted in 2006 by the Palestinian Center for Research and Cultural Dialogue, 90% reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% said that the Palestinian Authority respects Christian heritage in the city, and 78% reported that the emigration of Christians from Bethlehem was due to the Israeli travel restriction in the area.

Back to top

Sudan To Host African Finance Ministers Meeting In Sept

KHARTOUM, July 18 (NNN-SUNA) — Sudan will host the meeting of Ministers of Finance and Governors of one of the African groups in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Khartoum on Sept 3 and 4, says the State Minister for Finance and National Economy, Magdi Hassan Yassin.

He told a meeting of Sudan’s Higher Preparatory Committee here Thursday that the ministerial meetings were aimed at putting forwards the vision of the African leaders on how to deal with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to achieve development and economic progress in Africa.

The meetings would focus on regional economic integration and would provide a good opportunity for Sudan to showcase a good image of the various economic gains and developments in the country.

Back to top

Iran Taking Part In Silk Road Expo In China

TEHRAN, July 14 (NNN-Bernama) — Iran will take part in China’s first Xi’an Silk Road International Tourism Expo from Sept 19 to 21, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.

The expo to be held in Shaanxi province in north west China aims to promote inbound and outbound tourism projects and boost exchanges and cooperation on Silk Road themed tourism efforts, China’s People’s Daily Online reported.

Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) will participate in the event.

Issa Nour-Elahi, head of North Khorasan’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department, said Monday artists from the provinces of North Khorasan, Mazandaran, Golestan and Khorasan Razavi will join the expo.

Some 500 exhibitors from 30 countries and regions from China and abroad are expected to take part in the expo.

Back to top

Official: Iran, European Companies Start Investment Talks

TEHRAN, July 11 (NNN-FNA) — The National Iranian South Oil Company has begun negotiations with several European firms to pave the ground for their investment in different projects in Iran, the company’s chief announced.

Grounds are prepared for the presence of foreign investors in Iran’s oil and Gas projects and the NISOC has already started negotiations with the European companies, Managing-Director of the NISOC Hamid Bovard said Wednesday evening.

He added that some investment projects have been prepared to be delivered to the European firms.

European companies are making increasing demands for cooperation with Iran after Tehran and the world powers struck a deal in November which removes sanctions against the country.

Many European countries, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, are planning to enhance their economic relations with Iran, a business powerhouse in the Middle East region, as sanctions imposed against Tehran are partially suspended.

“Optimism is predominating that there has finally been something of a relaxation in political relations and therefore in business possibilities,” Head of Trade Relations at the Association of German Chambers of Commerce Volker Treier said in January.

The association invited the representatives of German private sectors to hold a meeting over doing business in Iran and the interested representatives “filled the room very quickly”, Treier added.

Dutch ambassador to Iran Jos Douma held a similar meeting in the Netherlands in January to discuss the terms of cooperation between Tehran and the Dutch companies which are eager to return to the Iranian market.

Paris is also sending the executive representatives of around 100 French firms to Tehran for “exploratory” negotiations with Iranian officials in a bid to tap into the potential for mutual economic cooperation between the two sides.

On January 20, Iran and the six powers started the implementation of the historic nuclear deal which the two sides struck in the Swiss city of Geneva on November 24, 2013.

After endorsing the agreement with the world powers, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif underlined that the six world powers have recognized Iran’s enrichment program.

As part of the deal, in exchange for Iran’s confidence-building bid to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, the six world powers agreed to lift some of the existing sanctions against Tehran.

Back to top

Iran tourism organisation introduces creative cities to OIC

Tehran, July 16, IRNA — Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) has introduced Tabriz in northwest Iran and Yazd in central Iran as creative cities to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said a senior official of ICHHTO.

Thursday edition of the English language newspaper Iran Daily quoted Mohammad Reza Pouyandeh as saying that the UNESCO’s Cultural Department has implemented a project named “Creative Cities”, ISNA reported.

“OIC has also defined a similar project and asked member-states to introduce two creative cities for 2016 and 2017,” he said.

“We introduced Tabriz for 2016 and Yazd for 2017 to OIC on the basis of seven UNESCO criteria for creative cities such as food, music, literature, customs and urban furniture. “

Pouyandeh noted that all information regarding these cities are prepared and will be sent to the OIC Secretariat.

“Recently, in a global conference held in Malaysia, good ideas titled Think City were raised. Currently, it is being implemented in some cities of Malaysia,” he said.

The official also said the plan to designate creative cities could also be implemented at the national level.

“We have planned a similar project inside Iran to select certain cities to create competition and use the potentials of their municipalities. This is a plan implemented by ICHHTO annually to introduce the creative cities,” he said.

Back to top

Tehran to host confab on promoting science in museums

Tehran, July 15, IRNA — The Fourth Conference on Promotion of Science in Museums and Cultural Centers will be held at University of Tehran from November 18 to 19.

Iranˈs Science and Technology Museum (ISTM) in Tehran will organize the two-day event, English language newspaper Iran Daily is to write on Wednesday.

Jytte Thorndahl, president of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Science and Technology (CIMUSET), will attend the conference.

Mehrdad Vahdati, the head of ISTM, said establishing cooperation among science and technology museums and cultural centers across the country is one of the goals of the event.

The main topics on the conference agenda are cultural institutions and promotion of science, methods and outcomes of promotion of science in museums and cultural centers, the role of museums in education and appreciation of science by youths.

Vahdati added that the oldest object in the museum belongs to Parthian period (about 2,100 years ago). He criticized the lack of space for objects devoted to the museum.

The ISTM, established in 2010, is affiliated to the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. Its main mission is to introduce scientific achievements of Iranians in pre- and post-Islamic Iran.

Experts interested in participating in the conference should send their articles to the secretariat of the event by October 7.

CIMUSET is composed of museum professionals from the fields of science and technology. The committee is not only dedicated to traditional museums of science and technology, largely historical and collection based, but also to contemporary science centers, working primarily to popularize and promote science and technology among children and young people all over the world.

Back to top

Books group bonds Muslim and UU Church women

UU World / 16 Jul 2014 – Once a month for the past two years women from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, Md., and women from a local mosque have been getting together for dinner and to talk about books.

The group was brought together by Qur’an-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones. Well, not directly, of course. Jones would never approve of such interfaith fraternizing.

More properly, the group developed out of the friendship between the Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay, senior minister of the UU church, and Tazeen Ahmad, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which is headquartered in Silver Spring.

A little background: following Jones’ initial effort to burn a Qur’an in 2010, the UU congregation reached out to members of the mosque. Even before that, Maclay had received a Holy Qur’an from Imam Shamshad Nasir of the Ahmadiyya Community.

When Jones came back into the news again in April 2012 for burning another Qur’an, Maclay donated hers to a new scripture library at her congregation. It was the first book for the library.

A church member wrote about the gift in a letter which was published in the Washington Post. Word spread through the Muslim community about the gift and Ahmad got in touch with Maclay. “The letter inspired me. I felt like I had to reach out to her,” said Ahmad.

The two women decided to work together. The question was how. Ever since 9/11 UUs in Maclay’s congregation had expressed interest in establishing relationships with local Muslim communities, but no one was quite sure how to go about it. There would be initial get-togethers, but after that it was hard to find a way to continue.

That question was still in the air in 2012. “We were trying to figure out what would be the glue that would allow us to continue to meet long enough to forge relationships,” said Maclay. “Our goal was to build community. Muslims in this country are incredibly isolated and that’s a dangerous and unjust situation.”

Ahmad too had been looking for ways to create community with other groups. She echoed Maclay’s observation that it was challenging to keep an interfaith relationship going. “Initially people are always very nice, but then after the event that brought us together we go our separate ways. We wanted to connect on a deeper level.”

The two figured it might be easier for women of a combined group if they had something to focus on besides each other. To determine what that might be, Ahmad and Maclay met once a month for a full year for lunch. “I shared about who I am, how I live, what kinds of relationships I have,” said Maclay. “She talked about what she did and what she cared about. We had really good conversations and it made a huge difference. The more I got to know Tazeen, I knew we could make this work.”

At the end of their year of meeting together the two decided to form a book group, inviting women of both faiths. Almost 20 women gathered in Maclay’s living room for the first session. Now, for almost two years they have met in members’ homes for a dinner and discussion about the book of the month. At the end of the evening they pick a book for the next month.

Ahmad, who has just completed a journalism degree program, said there was a little apprehension at the first meeting, “but by the end we were all very comfortable with each other.” Most of the women come directly from work, and discuss the books over a meal that is sometimes quite elaborate, given the multitude of cultures that are present.

“Food creates a very comfortable atmosphere,” said Ahmad. “What I notice is how happy everyone is to be there, and how animated the meetings are.”

Books the group has read include The Spiral Staircase, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Train to Pakistan, Caleb’s Crossing, Gilead, and Nathan the Wise, a German Enlightenment play.

“The books give us an opportunity to look at issues from different perspectives and to learn about the misconceptions we might have about each other. That’s been the beautiful part,” said Ahmad. One of the books the group read was Karen Armstrong’s Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time. Said Maclay, “It was a different experience when half the people in the room were of that faith.”

Maclay believes the group will endure. “We’ve built important friendships and a real understanding of each other as individuals. We have long-running jokes together. The group is important to us all, but what’s been a wonderful surprise, it’s also joyous to us all. We love each other and we love being together. I hope this never ends.”

Back to top

Sunshade built on bridge used by disabled pilgrims in Makkah

Makkah, Saturday 14 Ramadan 1435/ 12 July 2014 (IINA) – The Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has built sunshades on the Ajyad Bridge leading to the first flour of the Grand Mosque to protect wheelchair-borne worshippers from the heat, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The passage is specially meant for pilgrims with special needs for reaching the temporary circular bridge for circumambulation (tawaf) around the Holy Kaaba. German PVC materials have been used to construct the 105-meter-long sunshade, which has a width of four meters. The project was carried out in line with the directive of Sheikh Abdurahman Al-Sudais, head of the presidency.

Sultan Al-Qurashi, director of projects at the presidency, said the Ajyad Bridge is contributing significantly to the smooth flow of pilgrims from the southeast courtyard of the mosque to the first floor by cutting short the distance across the crowded courtyard. There are escalators to take worshippers from the bridge to the roof of the mosque.

Back to top

İzmir Festival hosts an iconic dance show

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – Established by Martha Graham as one of the most important dancers and choreographers of the 20th century and recognized as the “Picasso of dance,” the Martha Graham Dance Company will take the stage at İzmir Kültürpark on July 17 within the scope of the 28th International İzmir Festival.

With its iconic program that consists of choreographies that are full with rich historical and thematic narrations, the company will present a visual feast at the İzmir Festival.

The company will perform the choreographies titled “Panorama,” “Errand,” “Echo” and “Rite of Spring.” Twenty-two Turkish dancers will take the stage in “Panorama.”

The festival, which kicked-off June 14, will continue until Sept. 3 in various venues of the city, including the ancient theater of Ephesus, the Library of Celsus, the Kültürpark Open Air Theater, the Çeşme Hagia Haralambos Church, the Ahmet Adnan Saygun Art Center, İzmir Economy University and Şirince St. John Baptist Church hosts the festival’s events this year.

Back to top

Sunken ships off Anatolia should be open to tourism

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – Sunken ships that have been discovered in the seas surrounding Anatolia should be open to tourism to improve diving tourism in the country, according to the Turkish Foundation for Underwater Archaeology (TINA) President Oğuz Aydemir.

Aydemir thinks sunken ships cannot be protected, while Turkish Underwater Sports Federation President İnkılap Obruk claims Turkey would rival the Red Sea if sunken ships were open to diving tourism.

Turkey drew attention from the world when the 3,400-year-old Uluburun ship was found in 1984. The sunken ship and remnants discovered within it are currently being displayed at the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum. An Uluburun replica, which was constructed in 40 days, is one of the most popular diving places in Kaş’s Limanağzı area. It is difficult to protect the hundreds of sunken ships and ancient cities. The areas around the sunken ships are forbidden for divers since the cost of underwater excavations and conservation process is too high and because of safety concerns for treasure hunters.

HDN Aydemir, the head of TINA, which supports a project of Dokuz Eylül University on Turkey’s sunken ships inventory, said scientific work revealed that Turkey was the number one in the world in terms of underwater richness.

He said Turkey’s underwater archaeology had great potential to serve the country’s cultural tourism, noting that the regions around sunken ships were forbidden zones for diving activities, but the measures were insufficient in protecting sunken richness.

“It not possible to guard these sunken ships all of the time. Unfortunately, illegal diving cannot be prevented. There are many countries in the world that open their sunken ships to tourism providing their protection. For example, Croatia’s underwater richness cannot even be compared to ours and they have a rational system. They surround the sunken ships with steel cases and provide diving opportunities under the surveillance of licensed diving schools. We can do it in Turkey, too. The relevant ministry, volunteer organizations and academics can work on it. Many sunken ships are close to popular tourism hubs. They should be brought into culture tourism.”

Aydemir said that the goal of TINA was to recover a sunken Ottoman ship, adding, “It has not been possible so far to remove an Ottoman ship and present it to academics. We cannot display even one example of a sea fleet that was dominant in the Mediterranean in the 16th century.”

Obruk said the sunken ships and ancient sites were unprotected and illegal diving damaged them. He said, “After the removal of objects that could be displayed in museums, it is a tradition to show the remains to the world. But we cannot explain to officials. When diving is forbidden, a sunken ship is robbed in three-five years. It is not possible to prevent it.”

He said Turkey did not have rich natural beauties like the Red Sea since it is located in a tropical climate zone, but was rich in terms of sunken ships. “For example, there are sunken ships from various periods in Bodrum’s Yassıada Island. A few years ago, we requested to take photos when we organized the World Underwater Screening Championship, but we were refused. However, the team included people working for world leading organizations. We missed a big promotion opportunity,” he said.

Back to top

Kazakhstan bids to host 2022 Winter Olympics

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-07-16 ALMATY – Almaty is one of three finalists still competing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

That decision, rendered in July by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), leaves Almaty to vie with Beijing and Oslo for the honour. The IOC plans to announce its decision next summer.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstanis are excitedly discussing their country’s chances of hosting the Games for the first time. Officials like the mayor are expressing optimism.

“Almaty truly could win,” Mayor Akmetzhan Yessimov said. “Our task now is to develop the city. The public needs to understand the importance of the Olympiad, which will become another impetus (to development).”

Others are less optimistic about the city’s chances.

“The IOC takes into consideration the applicant country’s experience in hosting major international competitions,” Aydar Alibayev, chairman of the Union of Consumers of Financial Services of Kazakhstan, said. “Kazakhstan, unfortunately, has no such experience.”

Almaty co-hosted the 7th Asian Winter Games with Astana in 2011. But the 2011 Asian Winter Games had 26 countries, compared to the 2014 Winter Olympics’ 88.

“Almaty also lacks the necessary infrastructure,” Alibayev continued. “We have stadiums, but they’re old.”

Another issue is that the 2018 Winter Olympic Games will be in Korea, and the 2020 Summer Games will be in Japan. The IOC typically tries to rotate host countries among the different continents, Alibayev said.

Still, those drawbacks aren’t keeping Kazakhstanis from aspiring for Almaty to host the Games.

“Of course, it’s very prestigious to host the Olympic Games, and Almaty would gain in beauty and in dynamic development,” Aidarkhan Kussainov, director of the Almagest consultancy, said. “But … Almaty doesn’t meet the listed requirements for holding major events. We don’t have facilities for rare sports in Kazakhstan, like curling, bobsled and short-track speed skating.”

But those things can be remedied, Alikhan Kanapiya, a former HSBC banker, said.

“Bear in mind that Kazakhstan is showing good economic growth. And after production starts at the Kashagan oil field, government revenues will grow significantly,” he said.

Preparing the city to host the Olympiad would cost at least US $20 billion (3.7 trillion KZT), economists predict, pointing to the need for such things as sporting facilities and hotels.

“Many countries gave up on this ambitious idea because of economic considerations,” Alibayev said, meaning the withdrawals of bids by Poland and Ukraine

But some economists and Almaty residents take great encouragement from the thought of hosting the Games.

“As a citizen, I would be proud of my country. … It’s a good advertisement for the country and an opportunity to show the whole world the charms of Kazakhstan,” Kanapiya said. “As a finance specialist, I understand that it would provide an influx of investment into the city’s infrastructure, which means there would be a real chance of increasing the city’s prestige.”

In a year, Kazakhstan will learn how justified its hopes were.

Back to top

Bangladesh to become middle-income nation by 2021: Joy

RANGPUR, July 13, 2014 (BSS) – Prime Minister’s IT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy at Pirganj yesterday said Bangladesh is becoming a middle-income nation by 2021 through proper implementation of the digitisation programme and a developed country by 2041.

He said one lakh Wi-Fi zones will be established across the country to enable the people to use internet facilities for free in near future and “every house will get power supply as there is no electricity crisis in the country”.

“The government set up 25,000 computer laboratories in the educational institutions during the last five years and we have a plan to establish Wi-Fi zones in every school, madrasha, college and university,” Joy said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son and noted IT expert Joy said this while attending different functions at Kochhimon Nesa Girls’ High School and other educational institutions and addressing a farmers’ gathering at Pirganj Government High School ground in Pirganj upazila.

Earlier, having some rest at his paternal house in Fatehpur village after arriving from Dhaka, Joy offered Fateha and munajat at the grave of his father noted nuclear scientist Dr MA Wazed Miah, paternal grandfather, grandmother and relatives at their family graveyard.

Later, Joy inaugurated new computer laboratories at Kochhimon Nesa Girls’ High School, Pirganj Women’s College and Pirganj Model Girls’ High School. The computer laboratories were set up with the assistance of Bangladesh Computer Council.

He also launched there Wi-Fi internet connection at Pirganj Government High School, Shah Abdur Rouf College and Kochhimon Nesa Girls’ High School side by side with inaugurating 3G internet service of TeleTalk.

Post, Telecommunications & Information Technology Minister Abdul Latif Siddiki presided over the launching ceremony of computer laboratories, Wi-Fi connection and 3G internet service of TeleTalk at Kochhimon Nesa Girls’ High School ground.

State Minister for Jute & Textiles Mirja Azam presided over the farmers’ rally on ‘Production of high yielding variety jute & jute seed and improved technology for retting of jute fibre’ at Pirganj Government High School.

In the beginning of the rally, Sajeeb Wazed Joy formally inaugurated power supply connections for 3,024 new consumers of 50 different villages in the upazila amid rapturous applause of the mammoth audience.

Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, who was elected from Rangpur-6 (Pirganj) constituency, attended the occasions as the chief guest.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, State Minster for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Moshiur Rahman Ranga, State Minister for ICT Junayed Ahmed Palak and Organising Secretary of Awami League (AL) Khaled Mahmud Chowdhury MP and central AL leader SM Kamal spoke as the special guests.

Rangpur district AL Acting President Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed, its General Secretary (GS) Advocate Rezaul Karim Raju, President of Pirganj upazila AL Motaharul Haque Bablu and Project Director of the Directorate of Jute Mangal Chandra Chanda also addressed.

Joy said Bangladesh is not afraid of any country, will fight for its national interests with any country and the people of Bangladesh, not the foreigners, will decide the future of the country.

Expressing solidarity with the demands of the people of Pirganj, Joy said the government has a plan for establishing agro-based industries in Pirganj as well as in the whole northern region.

Reiterating his commitment of supplying natural gas to the northern region, Joy said that gas will be supplied in near future to the region and also pledged to establish a Textile College at Pirganj and develop the whole northern region.

Referring to the maritime victory, Joy said, “We have conquered the sea in the legal battle against India after winning against Myanmar and it happened during the tenure of AL government.”

He called upon all not to forget the contributions of AL and the facilities being provided for the people by the present government as AL has been working relentlessly for development of the country and welfare of the people.

Back to top

Bangladesh to see breakthrough in tourism by 2015

DHAKA, July 13, 2014 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister and Workers’ Party President Rashed Khan Menon yesterday said the country will witness a break- through in the tourism sector by next year as the government is going to take multifarious programmes to attract more foreign tourists.

“We’ll try to make a break-through in the country’s tourism sector by next year..our efforts will be on to increase the sector’s contribution to GDP from 2.1 percent now,” Menon told a discussion on ‘Development of Southern Part and Tourism Industry’ at a hotel in the city.

Barisal Division Development Forum (BDDF) arranged the seminar, which was followed by an Iftar Mahfil.

Dhaka city president of Workers’ Party Abul Hossain presided over the function while lawmaker Sheikh Tipu Sultan, Professor of Dhaka University Dr Sikdar Hedayet Khan and central committee members of the party addressed.

Tourism development activist Ziaul Haque Hawlader presented the keynote paper on the problems and prospects of tourism industry. Menon said Barisal division is still deprived of development compared to other divisions in the country. He favoured projecting Barisal’s unique potentials before all to lift the division out of the deprivation.

Listing the government’s various development projects, he said a number of mega infrastructure projects in the list have specially been designed for Barisal division.

Citing an example he said Kuakata Watch Tower would be set up through Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

Besides, the minister said, steps have also been taken to set up world-class motels there aimed at utilizing untapped potentials in Barisal.

“We want to bring more tourists in Bangladesh’s attractive tourist destinations. One tourist create jobs for three people,” said Menon. Referring to Malaysia and Maldives, he said these Muslin countries have developed a lot in the tourism sector but Bangladesh is lagging behind despite existence of untapped tourist resources.

Back to top

Qatar Airways wins three major awards at Skytrax 2014

Sun.mv – July 16, 2014 – Qatar Airways has won three top awards at the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards including the World’s Best Business Class for the second year in a row, the airline said on Tuesday.

Qatar Airways won three awards – World’s Best Business Class, which it has now won three times, Best Airline in the Middle East for the eighth time, and Best Business Class Airline Lounge for the second time consecutively. Qatar Airways was also voted runner-up Airline of the Year.

Commenting on the awards, CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways is focused on providing the best quality product and service for our passengers, and we are very proud to have Skytrax recognise our airline, our people and our products via these awards.”

Skytrax is acknowledged around the world for being the only truly global, independent aviation industry monitor. Results of the 2014 World Airline Awards are derived from millions of passenger surveys involving travellers from 160 different countries.

Qatar Airways has three aircraft on display at the Farnborough Air Show 2014 – the Airbus A350, which is featured in the flying display, and Airbus A320 and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on static display.

Back to top

Gambia Launches Tourism Promotion Campaign in Nigeria

16 July 2014 – The Daily Observer – The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) in collaboration with the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), in their quest to break into the regional market and increase the arrival numbers of tourists and investors from the Nigeria market to Destination Gambia on June 25th launched its first sub regional tourism campaign initiatives before a large crowd at the Protea Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria.

Nigeria is the most populated and leading business country in Africa, and The Gambia – a country with a stable political climate with a functioning and vibrant economy which are important factors that determine where foreign investors can seed their money, can be regarded as a match made in heaven.

The launching of the Smiling Coast of Africa in Nigeria with the newly appointed PR and the marketing campaign was done following the signing-in of Advertising Techniques Limited (ATL) as the GTBoard’s PR and Marketing Representative in Nigeria. The well attended launching which was meant to woo more tourists and investors to the destination to enjoy the investment opportunities available in the country were witnessed by different investors; tour operators; top government officials among other notable people.

The Gambia launch and investment outreach mission delegation to the launching of the destination in Nigeria includes Naffie Barry, PS Ministry of Trade Industry, Regional Integration and Employment; Cordu Jabang, DPS Ministry of Tourism and Culture; Bakary K Jammeh, Chairman GTBoard; Benjamin A Roberts, DG GTBoard; Fatou Jallow, CEO GIEPA; Ebou Sillah, Liaison Officer, Gambian Embassy in Nigeria; Adama Njie, Director of Marketing GTBoard; Musa Bah, Director of Investment Promotion and Facilitation – GIEPA; and Haddijatou Njie, Director Sales and Marketing – Red Croc Resort and Ocean Bay Hotel. At this first of its kind launching in the sub region, the investment opportunities available in The Gambia for Nigerians to explore were highlighted.

Benjamin A. Roberts, the director general of the Gambia Tourism Board in his keynote address delivered on behalf of the Hon. Minister for Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mas Jobe-Njie, focussed on the numerous and unique selling points of the Destination Gambia; the hospitality of the people; its rich and diverse culture and investment opportunities which are enormous among other issues.

From other available opportunities opened to tourists and investors in the Gambia as outlined by DG Roberts were the focus of the Gambia Tourism Board and the Vision 2020 tourism focus; the reason for choosing Nigeria and why the Gambia is a better place for the Nigerian tourists and investors; the trend of the Tourism Industry; opportunities presented by the trends and what Nigerian tourists and investors stand to gain from visiting and investing in The Gambia.

As seeing is believing, the launch and investment outreach mission team also used the opportunity to showcase the Destination Gambia’s video clips for the audience to see the beauty of The Smiling Coast of Africa. Cordu Jabang, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture on behalf of the team dwelled on the tight and strong relations between Nigeria and The Gambia and the reasons for this to be cemented through tourism.

The launching also accorded the team the opportunity to meet and engage different media and their personnel and potential investors with investment interests in The Gambia.

Among the visited media houses (print and electronic) in Nigeria by the launch and investment outreach mission delegation before and after the launching were City People Media Group led by Seye Kehinde, Editor-In-Chief. It is a newsmagazine that has been in existence for almost two decades with three forms of publication – two fashion magazines and one glossy magazine targeting affluent Nigerians. The magazine currently showcases Destination Gambia in Nigeria in terms of its audience.

The team was received at the Business Day Newspaper, another leading business newspaper targeting the elites and business minded Nigerians. Business Day Newspaper is available in 33 states across the country with an average print and circulation of 45,000 copies per day.

The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) was among the visited electronic media houses. Radio is another platform that can be used to reach some average numbers of Nigerians. Taking into consideration the large number of Nigerians that listen to radio while on or got stuck in the traffic anywhere and anytime of the day and night, as well as the literacy level and the high percentage of the Nigerian populace that listen to local dialect stations such as Ibo, Hausa, Yoruba and Pigeon English are high.

This was attested by Ike K Okere, director of the FRCN, Lagos due to the fact that it is only FRCN radio, the only radio station in Nigeria with a coverage network of 33 radio stations with 30 FM radio stations across Nigeria plus more than 150 reporters; 5 stations streaming live online; and 3 of the FM radio stations are located in Lagos (Center of Excellency). These 3 FM radio stations include Metro FM – an entertainment station targeting young audience; Radio One FM – a news channel targeting the matured audience and Bond FM station called the language channel that broadcasts in Ebo, Hausa and Yoruba languages respectively.

Mega Lectrics (ML) Limited, a privately owned radio station that operates 3 radio stations in Lagos and Ibadan received the launch and investment outreach mission delegation at their Lagos office by their CEO alongside his management team. The three operated radio stations are Classic FM – targeting the mature audience; Beat FM targeting the younger audience while Naija FM broadcast programmes in the local languages primarily “Pigeon” English which is virtually speaking and understood by average citizens. ML stations are in partners with the South African Tourism Board; DSTV; Etihad Airways and Air France which has overtime provided them with requisite experience in destination marketing with over 230,000 face book followers and users.

The Nigeria national television known as Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was also visited by the delegations.

Courtesy calls were also made by the launch and investment outreach mission delegation to the Hon. Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Lagos State among other top government offices in Nigeria.

Back to top

Mozambique President Inaugurates Hotel Complex in Beira

14 July 2014 – Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – Beira — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Sunday inaugurated a luxury hotel complex in Beira, capital of the central province of Sofala.

The “Golden Peacock Resort Hotel” has 190 rooms, two presidential villas, a nightclub and two restaurants. A further twenty houses are still under construction.

The thirty million US dollar project was built by the Chinese Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group (AFECC), who will also manage the hotel.

According to the Minister of Tourism, Carvalho Muaria, the project will stimulate national tourism, particularly in the centre of the country.

He stressed “Mozambique still needs this type of infrastructure, and this investment demonstrates the ability to achieve great things”.

Work on the hotel began in 2011 and the first phase was concluded in December 2013.

AFECC is also carrying out the renovation of the EN6 road between Beira and the town of Machipanda on the border with Zimbabwe.

Back to top

High Expectations As Commercial Flights Begin in Dutse

17 July 2014 – Daily Trust – Dutse — Commercial flight operations have commenced at the newly built Dutse International Airport on Monday.

The first aviation outfit to start business at the airport was Overland Airline.

Governor Sule Lamido, the Emir of Dutse Alhaji Nuhu Muhammadu Sanusi and other dignitaries as well as passengers boarded the maiden flight to Abuja.

Hundred of Jigawa people were at the airport to witness the flight which, according to some people who spoke to Daily Trust, has launched Jigawa among committee of state with functional airport in Nigeria.

In his remark at the launching ceremony, the Managing Director of Overland, Captain Edward Boyo, said the Jigawa airport is a beautiful edifice whose design and implementation was second to none in Nigeria.

He said Jigawa has joined the league of states with standard airport, adding that the airport will create job and serve as a catalyst for the economic development of the state.

Boyo said the runway which is about 3 miles can take a Boeing 747, adding that the setting of arrival and departure wing of the airport showed the wisdom and leadership vision of Governor Lamido.

Back to top

African Fashion Meets Hospitality in Yenagoa

11 July 2014 – Daily Independent – Bayelsa State has again proved that it has become the tourism and entertainment nerve centre of Nigeria. This, it did last weekend with the successful hosting of African Fashion Reception (AFR), the first to be held in Nigeria.

Held in the popular Banquet Hall, Yenagoa, the show which ran for three days, July 3 to 5, attracted the best of African designers from 26 African countries whose designs were showcased on the run way by both Nigerian and Caucasian models.

The designers whose creative ingenuity were showcased on the runway in front of tourism cum entertainment loving governor of the rich oil state, Hon. Seriake Henry Dickson, were Nigeria’s Zizi Cardow who is the CEO, Zizi Industrial Clothing Company Limited, Debrah Moses Emeto of Debby African Stitches and Keto Couture, Botocy from Botswana, Rubicon, South Africa, Rwanda was represented by Inco, Angola had Lisete, from Burkina Faso came Bazemm’se, Lily Alfonso came from Malawi, Egypt had Nesma Helmy while Akou and Urban Roots represented Cote D’Ivoire and Ethiopia respectively.

Others were Papy Valeria from Mali, Hall of Peters, Ghana, Gabon was represented by a designer who was voted Best Young Designer of Gabon for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Guinea had Alpha Oumar Ly Alpha Bah, Senegal was represented by Diarra Bousso, Chrystalix represented Cameroon, Namibia had Amakeya Design whose founder is a postgraduate student of Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa, Morocco sent in Darkaoui Hanna, Sierra Leone had Keepeekee, Diana Magese came from Tanzania, Grace Wllace represented Togo just as Faith Mulenga Kabende came from Zambia while Rumbie ny Rumbie came from Zimbabwe both Cindy Monteiro and Ecriture came from Cape Vert/Cape Verde and Congo respectively.

The event of the night kicked off with a performance from Bayelsa State Cultural Troupe after a welcome speech by the Director General of Bayelsa State Tourism Development Agency (BSTDA),Mrs. Ebizi Ndiomu-Brown in which she highlighted the achievements of the Bayelsa State government of Dickson in the tourism sector in just three years.

According to her, the state has benefitted hugely from the many entertainment events that has taken place in the state since the coming of Dickson.

“All the events that we have hosted have helped in opening up the state to investors, tourists; it has afforded our people the opportunity to network with stakeholders in these non-oil sector and it has shown in the level of development that has taken place in hospitality sector,” Ndiomu-Brown to the audience.

She told the gathering that the achievement would not have been recorded if the governor did take the issue of tourism development seriously by creating BSTDA adding that the state will still host the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria pageant, cultural festival and the second edition of Bayelsa International Jazz Festival this year.

On his part, a visibly happy Governor Dickson in his speech described the state as the headquarters of Nigeria’s entertainment and pledged to stop at nothing in supporting entertainment events. And that his vision is have major international entertainment events hosted in the state every month.

He listed the infrastructures he has built to encourage the growth of tourism and entertainment to include the International Institute of Tourism, which he urged the youth to take advantage of.

He also disclosed that his administration is building a world class golf course with which he hopes to host a world class golf event.

According to him, the successful hosting of the African Fashion Reception, the state which before now known as African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) state has added fashion to it.

He called on those in the hospitality industry to invest in the state.

The Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Edem Duke, who also represented President Goodluck Jonathan delivered the president’s goodwill message.

Aside the models who paraded the run way with their designs, the evening was spiced up with performances from G Bone, a comedian, and the Mamuzee Twins.

African Fashion Reception was organized by Merit Gordon Obuah in conjunction with the ministry of tourism.

Back to top

‘Nigeria to Fight Negative Perception With Tourism’

14 July 2014 – Daily Trust – The federal government has launched an initiative tagged “Nigeria, Our Heritage Project” as part of efforts aimed at improving a positive perception agenda for Nigeria.

The initiative seeks out for Nigerian companies to be major stakeholders in building a new Nigeria as well as support enterprises that promote the positive perception of the country.

In his address at the launch of the project in Abuja, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke said the project also seeks to chronicle Nigeria’s past and present while projecting progressive initiatives for the future.

“Through the Nigeria, Our Heritage Project we shall celebrate the rich cultural inheritance and vast economic endowment of Nigeria as well as the large market the country offers,” the minister said.

He said the western media did not see anything positive about Nigeria hence their consistent negative report against the nation, noting that Nigerians all over the world have stretched the boundary of creativity, but this was not appreciated by purveyors of negativity against the country.

“In the last few months, there has been a global conspiracy against Nigeria; a lot of indignity has been dished to the leadership and humiliation to the country by western media; Nigerians have stretched the boundaries of creativity and stretched milestones, there is a need for a new story of Nigeria to begin,” Duke said.

He said the project will take the form of publications, documentaries, and conferences/events under committees that will comprise some of Nigeria’s finest scholars with Prof George Obiozor as chairman.

Back to top

Nigerians Spend N300 Billion Annually On Hotel Accommodation

14 July 2014 – Vanguard – Nigerians travelling within Nigeria spend at least $2 billion, about N320 billion every year on hotel accommodation.

Travellers at the arrival wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport II Ikeja in Lagos.

Founder/ Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s Online Hotels Booking Limited, Hotels.ng, Mr. Mark Essien disclosed this when speaking to Vanguard on the operations of the hotel booking portal and the potential of online hotel booking business in Nigeria.

Hotel.ng, an online hotel booker officially launched in January 2013 and has over 4, 000 hotels listed on its website and currently process over 400 bookings daily.

“Hotel booking or travel in general is always a massive part of every economy. Hotel booking in Nigeria alone is $2 billion worth annually. This means that every year, Nigerians traveling within Nigeria spend at least $2 billion, about N300 billion in hotel accommodation. This is a result of an independent verifiable survey conducted by Euro Monitor. So all we are doing is making this transaction easier online, so that some part of that $2 billion will be ours. I think we are sitting on a very high potential business,” he said.

Mark however noted that despite the increase in internet access, a lot of educating still needs to be done to drive further patronage of online businesses.

“Right now, there are about ten to twelve billion Facebook users, out of the over 60 million internet users in the country, and the way I see it is that, if you look at the number of Facebook users and divide it by two, those are the people that are sophisticated internet users, people that will use a service such as ours. All those other 25 million may have 3G access on their phones but it doesn’t really mean that they have understood how to use the internet.

“So apart from having access which has been done very well in Nigeria, the next step is for people to realize what benefit of using the internet is. This is because a man may want a hotel; he would just phone a friend asking for a hotel not knowing that he could open a browser and see all the results right there. So there is an educational process that needs to happen and when that happens, we will see a huge explosion in the number of people resorting to the internet for business services.”

He also decried the payment challenge confronting them as greater percentage of attempts to utilize card payment has been failing.

“There are lots of payment related challenges in Nigeria. Only thirty percent of attempts to pay with cards work on our website. 70 percent of card payments are currently failing,” he said.

However, with eight different payment methods, the firm has started working with other online payment processors to facilitate payments through every other means.

He further noted that the vision of the company remains building a strong and profitable Nigeria business that will extend to serve the whole of Africa.

“What we are staring now is a proof of concept. We are doing well, we have built a good Nigerian business but I want us to extend to Africa. We are going to build a Nigerian company that will be the biggest hotel booking agency in Africa,” he said.

Back to top

Baku sets to host Int’l Sport Film Festival

17 July 2014 – AzerNews – The second Baku International Sport Film Festival (BISFF) will be held at Nizami Film Centre on November 17-22.

The festival will be co-organized by Culture and Tourism Ministry, Youth and Sports Ministry and National Olympic Committee.

The festival is aimed at promoting films which contribute to the development of sports. The other goals of the festival are as follows: encouraging filmmakers to make more films, attracting the attention of other nations to Azerbaijan’s potential in sports on the eve of First European Games scheduled for 2015 in Baku.

Presented films will be judged by an international jury of seven members, including cinematographs and experts.

The jury will pick up three films in 5 categories including: Sport and World, Sport and personality, Feature film, TV Movies and Programs and National Films.

The winners will be awarded with diplomas and cash prizes. The best film of the festival will get a Grand Prix.

Seminars and discussions among film authors, sport experts and media will be held along the festival.

The interested filmmakers can present their works to the festival through www.bisff.az website.

The first Baku International Sport Film Festival was held in October, 2012. People from 20 countries presented more than 50 feature and documentary films then. The festival had only two categories: “Sport and Society” where Azerbaijani film director Arzu Urshan took the first place and “Sport and Personality” where the winner became Vladislav Tertyak from Russia.

The festival is part of the Milan-based International Federation of Sport Movies and Television (FICTS).

Back to top

Islamic Book Sales Boom in Bangladesh during Ramadan

OnIslam Correspondent Thursday, 17 July 2014 DHAKA – As Ramadan moon rose in the sky, Bangladeshi publishers of Islamic books, Qur’an and Hadith braced for a successful season where Muslims focus on purchasing Islamic literature, defying government restrictions imposed over the past years.

“I have been buying Qur’an, Hadith (Prophet’s sayings) and mainly spiritual Islamic literature around the year, but some obstructs has been created by the present government on Islamic literature,” Md. Zahedul Islam Tareque, Chief Operating Officer of a private commercial group, told OnIslam.net.

According to Tareque, the present Bangladeshi government has been imposing restrictions since 2007 on purchasing or selling Islamic books.

He claimed that police has harassed publishers and sellers for possessing Islamic literature accused of belonging to “terrorists” and “fundamentals”.

Due to such restrictions, he said that the people of Bangladesh have not been able to buy Qur’an and Hadith.

“If anybody buys Islamic literature, he will be harassed by the government administration and blamed as Islamic extremist and terrorist” Tareque claimed.

He added that that government should change her attitude and give the opportunity of freedom of press and opinion to all groups.

Tareque was speaking at the Islamic Book Fair organized in Dhaka at the south premises of Baitul Mukarram Mosque, the national mosque of Bangladesh.

Offering Bangladeshi’s a better chance to find Islamic literature, the book fair is expected to run from the first of Ramadan till its end.

“There is an ideological change in the Muslim mind and society in Bangladesh during Ramdan,” Mohammad Nuruzaman, an Islamic analyst, told OnIslam.net.

“So that most of the Muslim try to buy some Islamic books mainly Masala Masael books, meaning rules and regulations, related to the prayer and fasting and supplication,” he added.

Offering special discounts on Islamic books during the holy fasting month, Ramadan Islamic book fair has witnessed a huge success this year.

“Publishing and sales of Tafsirul Quran, Hadith and Islamic literature have been decreasing around 70 percent in recent years because of government restrictions and barring to Islamic da`wah activities in Bangladesh,” Abdus Sabur Matubbur, Assistant Professor of Bangladesh Islamic University, told OnIslam.net.

He said that the increase in sales is usually accompanied by the month of Ramadan when spirituality increases due to prayers and Qur’an.

Nizamuddin, an executive of IFB, said that books on the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions are best sellers at the fair.

“We also give 25 to 35 percent less commissions for sales on all Islamic books during Ramadan especially fair time,” he said.

Mizanur Rahman Mithu, proprietor of Sonali Sopan, a publishing house, shared a similar opinion.

“Sales of Tafsirul Quran, Hadith and Islamic books are increasing cause of creating a congenial atmosphere during the Ramadan period throughout Bangladesh,” he told OnIslam.net.

He said that there is no problem in the sales of Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic Books in Ramdan as the government does not interfere during the holy month.

“We have been publishing 168 items including Qur’an, Hadith, Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and Islamic books since long,” Rashid Ahmad, salesman of Maktabu Ashraf told this OnIslam.net.

“In Ramadan period, our sales increase due to the religious environment of the month,” he added.

Back to top

Italy’s Hidden Islam Uncovered

16 July 2014 OnIslam & Newspapers CAIRO – An Italian award-winning photographer has lifted the veil on problems facing Italian Muslims to find a suitable place for worshipping, with the large minority being forced to pray in garages, gyms, and shops, The Guardian reported.

“In Italy the right to worship, without discrimination, is enshrined within the constitution. There are 1.35 million Muslims in Italy and yet, officially, only eight mosques in the whole country,” Martin Parr wrote in introduction to Nicolo Degiorgis’s award-winning photobook Hidden Islam.

“One consequence is that the Muslim population have accumulated a huge number of makeshift and temporary places of worship. These are housed in a variety of buildings including lock ups, garages, shops, warehouses and old factories.”

In his book, Hidden Islam, Degiorgis contrasts the peace of prayer with the tension of politics by looking at how and where Muslims worship in Italy, a country with an estimated 1.45 million believers but only eight official mosques.

The book moves from city to another, showing Muslim worshippers kneeling or prostrating in small, hidden places like shops, back gardens or warehouses.

In Treviso, where local worshippers purchased a building, they have been prevented by the local authority from turning it into a mosque despite the right to worship being freely enshrined in Italian law.

In North Italy, where Degiorgis comes from, the rightwing party, Lega Nord, has risen in popularity lately due to its hard line on immigration and anti-Islamic views.

The book received this year’s author book award at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival.

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

Back to top

Diriyah expected to ramp up tourism revenues

Arab News – 12 July, 2014 – Diriyah in the Saudi capital has the potential to become a key tourist destination following the completion of the renovation work on its historic mud houses and other buildings, according to sources.

“Diriyah is unique for its fascinating history. It is expected to ramp up tourism revenues once the renovations of the mud houses are completed and promises to be a major tourist destination now that the Kingdom has stepped up efforts to diversify the economy,” said Saad Al-Bazei, a Shoura member and writer.

Al-Bazei, a former professor at the King Saud University (KSU), noted that Diriyah was once the capital of the first Saudi state and that the government is hoping to open it up to tourists and visitors through the ambitious renovation project currently under way.

He added that Diriyah boasts a major tourist attraction in the form of Turaif, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 29, 2010. Turaif is the second historic site in Saudi Arabia to be added to the World Hertage List, following Madain Saleh in 2008.

Experts say a new building technology is being used in the renovation of the buildings in Diriyah which is in accordance with an earlier official announcement.

Abdullah Arrukhban, director of Urban Development at the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA), said: “The project to develop Diriyah is aimed at restoring it to its original historical specifications in terms of architecture and environment and adapting it to modern requirements.”

The new building technology referred to involves cladding and the use of Riyadh stones, experts said.

Cladding involves demolishing a mud house and rebuilding it or changing its façade by using aluminum cladding, according to Eller B.Mendoza, a project architect at Al-Afaq Al-Nunirah Contracting Est.

Another technique is the use of Riyadh stone or concrete blocks to construct a wall and then paint it to resemble a mud house. After constructing the concrete block wall, a plaster of cement is applied. This is painted over to look like a traditional mud house.

According to Mendoza, the ADA has been trying to preserve the traditional image of buildings by using Riyadh stones especially at the Diplomatic Quarter.

“Riyadh stone, which is like a marble slab has been used at the Al-Tuwaiq Palace, Cultural Palace and the ADA building,” said Mendoza.

The Kingdom aims to double tourism revenue by 2020 as part of plans to diversify its economy, according to Fahd Al-Rasheed, CEO and managing director of King Abdullah Economic City.

He said that the tourism sector offers “massive opportunities” for growth on the back of a major investment that is being made to build a high-speed rail network and expanding airports across the country.

He added that new infrastructure is being added to boost Umrah and Haj arrivals from 10 million a year to 20 million annually, as well as expand domestic tourism from 200 million room nights to 700 million room nights a year over the next five years.

Back to top

Armenia, Iran to start cooperating in tourism area

Tehran Times – 12 July, 2014 – Armenia’s government approved a memorandum on mutual understanding with Iran in tourism development.

Garegin Melkonyan, the first deputy economy minister, was quoted by the government’s press office as saying that the agreement to lay groundwork for negotiations between the two countries.

The agreement implies establishment of a joint commission for developing a two-year program of cooperation with Iran’s appropriate agencies.

According to official reports, some 5,400 Armenian citizens traveled to Iran and 110,000 Iranian citizens visited Armenia in 2013.

Back to top

International Textile Fair to make Dubai debut

Khaleej Times – 13 July, 2014 – The two-day fair will attract textile manufacturers and designers from China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Italy and other countries.

Dubai will stage its first-ever International Textile Show on November 3 and 4 at the Dubai International Exhibition and Conference Centre, bringing together textile manufacturers and designers from all over the world.

The International Textile Fair, or ITF, is expected to give a further boost to the booming UAE textile industry, which was valued at $ 13.2 billion (Dh48.5 billion) in 2011, and is growing at 9.9 per cent annually, according to industry figures. The ITF will be the first dedicated international textile show in the Gulf region.

The two-day fair will attract textile manufacturers and designers from China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Italy and other countries. The organisers are targeting trade visitors from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the UAE, Oman, Iraq, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other GCC countries to visit the fair.

“Shows like these are held regularly in cities like Paris, Milan and New York and it is high time Dubai staged such an event,” said Dilip Nihalani, whose company, Nihalani Brothers, is one of the oldest players in Dubai’s textile trade. “Dubai has emerged as a leading retail fashion hub and what was missing was a top-class international fabric show. This fair will fill the gap.”

The International Textile Fair is supported by the Textile Merchants Group, which represents 800 wholesale textile traders of Dubai. The show will be held twice a year at the Dubai International Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Back to top

Emirati tourists to Egypt climb 35 per cent

Khaleej Times – 13 July, 2014 – The results indicate increases of 35 per cent in tourists from the UAE, 6.3 per cent from Saudi Arabia and 10.8 per cent in tourists from Kuwait.

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Egyptian Tourism Authority, or ETA, has announced tourism statistics for May 2014, revealing a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting Egypt from the GCC.

The results indicate increases of 35 per cent in tourists from the UAE, 6.3 per cent from Saudi Arabia and 10.8 per cent in tourists from Kuwait. The positive trend in growth comes as a result of the efforts put forth by the ministry and the ETA in their “Wahashtouna” campaign, which was launched earlier this year to promote tourism from Arab and Gulf nations. The surge of tourists was aided by the increasing stability and security in popular Egyptian destinations including the cities of Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada.

While there was a decrease of 26.2 per cent in the overall number of incoming tourists from around the world, the number of Emirati tourists increased from 7,591 tourists during the first five months of 2013, to 10,250 tourists during the same period in 2014. The months of April and May saw the most significant growth, recording a 36.6 and 27.3 per cent growth, respectively, in the number Emirati tourists visiting Egypt this year when compared to the same time period in 2013.

The average stay for the Arab tourist — particularly GCC nationals — increased from 9.5 nights in 2013 to 11.6 nights in 2014.

Back to top

Italy earmarks $ 6.66 million for Mena projects

Gulf Today – 13 July, 2014 – The Government of Italy announced the earmarking of funds to finance projects by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) worth a total of $ 6.66 million (Euro 4.9 million) that will be implemented in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, as well as in Ethiopia and Mozambique.

An agreement on this was signed in Vienna between Italy and UNIDO. Italy will contribute EUR 600,000 to a European Union project in the MENA region, which focuses on fostering entrepreneurial cooperation in the cultural and creative industry demonstrating the potential for the national and regional development in this field in the Southern Mediterranean.

This is expected to serve as a first step for further larger scale projects which are to be supported by different financial institutions and promote new employment opportunities and inclusive growth in the region.

Another project worth a total of EUR 972,000 will promote female entrepreneurship for inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Tunisia, and in the United Arab Emirates.

It will help enhance women’s economic inclusion and create conditions for a sustainable and inclusive growth by harnessing the potential of women entrepreneurs in the MENA region.

UNIDO will offer its technical assistance to the MENA Business Women Network, which consists of ten national businesswomen’s organisations, representing almost 2,500 members. The project will help provide better quality and demand-driven services to women entrepreneurs to create and grow their businesses and will directly promote 200 promising women-led investments in the region through training, counseling, identification and facilitation of business partnerships opportunities and access to finance.

In Lebanon, a project worth EUR 855,000 will support host communities in the North of the country and in the Bekaa Valley affected by the high influx of Syrian refugees.

UNIDO will work to enhance the capacity of Lebanese institutions to deal with the crisis, and improve host communities’ production capacity enabling them to respond to local and external market demand, while generating livelihood support and economic recovery for both themselves and the Syrian refugees.

In Ethiopia, Italian funding will allow UNIDO to focus on developing productive work for young people, especially women, through promoting micro, small and medium enterprises.

The three-year-long project, worth EUR 600,000, will assist the Government of Ethiopia in its effort to create employment opportunities for women and young people through the promotion of investment in the productive sectors of the economy and support efforts to accelerate women’s economic empowerment.

In addition, the contribution to another project in Ethiopia, worth EUR 1.5 million, will focus on improving the sustainability and inclusiveness of the Ethiopian coffee value chain through developing public-private partnerships.

In Mozambique, UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Italy will help with technical assistance to small and medium enterprises in the agricultural sector. The project, which has a total budget of EUR 400,000, was developed in response to a request from the Government of Mozambique. It will support the countryís Strategic Plan for Agricultural Sector Development (PEDSA), which aims to unleash the vast potential of Mozambican agriculture by creating an integrated, prosperous, competitive and sustainable agriculture sector over the next decade.

Back to top

SR6b road project to link Asir and Jazan

Saudi Gazette – 13 July, 2014 – Emir of Asir region Prince Faisal Bin Khaled announced the issuance of the approval of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to carry out a road project linking Asir and Jazan regions at an estimated cost of SR6 billion, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

Prince Faisal said the road starts from Al-Far’a recreation park in the south of Abha to Beesh in the north of Jazan region with a length of 135 km. It will be a dual carriage way with all services needed to facilitate the movement of travelers between the two regions.

The approval also includes carrying out of a road project linking Makkah and Jazan regions via Asir region at a cost of SR4 billion. The road will be provided with all the required services and rest houses. This comes within the King’s approval for carrying out road projects at a total cost of SR24 billion.

The Emir of Asir expressed thanks and appreciation to King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin for the care, attention and development Asir region gets at par with the other regions.

Back to top

Oman Air boosts commitment to improve customer services

Saudi Gazette – 15 July, 2014 – OMAN’s Minister of Transport and Communications Dr Ahmad Al Futaisi, presented certificates to 29 staff of Oman Air after the completion of a three-month workplace training course focusing on customer services within airport operations.

In addition to managers and staff from Oman Air’s strategically-vital customer services department, the ceremony was attended by the Chief Executive of the Public Authority for Civil Aviation Dr Mohammed bin Nasser Al Zaabi, managers from Oman Airports Management Company, airport developers ADPI and a number of other guests.

Salim Al Kindy, the acting Chief Executive Officer of Oman Air, said: “This course reaffirms Oman Air’s commitment to providing the highest quality of training, which will ensure both that we offer our customers excellence in everything we do, and that staff receive the training and support they need to make progress within their chosen careers.”

“It is especially appropriate that Oman Air offers this training in Salalah, as the airport is at the forefront of Oman’s ambitious airport expansion project. This will see many thousands more air travellers flying with Oman Air and being welcomed to Oman. The huge influx of visitors now arriving in Salalah to experience the Khareef is just a taste of what is to come.

“As the national airline of the Sultanate of Oman, Oman Air is proud to be playing a leading role in this aspect of our nation’s growth and prosperity, and to providing the training necessary to achieve this.”

Back to top

Iran plans to boost trade with UAE

Tehran Times – 15 July, 2014 – Iran has prepared a comprehensive plan to increase its trade with the United Arab Emirates significantly, the deputy director of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran stated.

“The comprehensive plan will raise the trade between the two countries significantly,” the Mehr news agency quoted TOPI official Aboutaleb Badri as saying on Monday.

The Persian Gulf states have announced interest in improving economic ties with Iran, he said, adding that Qatar and Oman are also keen to give a boost to their trades with Iran.

For the better part of the past two decades, the United Arab Emirates — more specifically, Dubai — has been among Iran’s top trading partners. In fact, Dubai became the natural trading platform for international exports to Iran that would be re-exported through the emirate.

The UAE was the 2nd biggest trading partner of Iran in the previous Iranian calendar year, which ended on March 20, 2014, according to the Iran Customs Administration.

Iran exported $3.62 billion worth of non-oil goods to the UAE and imported $ 11.85 billion worth of non-oil goods from the Persian Gulf state.

On June 1, a trade delegation consisting of the ministers of agriculture and infrastructure, the heads of the chambers of commerce of the seven Emirates in the UAE and their accompanying business representatives visited Iran.

This was the first high-level UAE trade delegation to Tehran after an eight-year absence. The UAE business delegates represented five sectors: oil and gas, banking, food industry, automotive traders and investment companies. The trip coincided with the official visit to Iran by the emir of Kuwait as well as the presence of a Qatari delegation in the southern port of Bushehr, all signs of improvement in the relations between Tehran and Iran’s southern neighbors.

In 2010, the value of trade between Iran and the UAE stood at $ 20 billion, rising to $ 23 billion in 2011 and then dropping to $ 17 billion in 2012 and $ 15 billion in 2013.

In the past few years, the trade between these two neighboring countries declined as a consequence of external sanctions, especially U.S. pressure on Emirati companies and banks not to engage in trade with Iran. As a consequence, Dubai gradually lost its competitive advantage as a re-exporting hub for Iranian businesses.

Back to top

Middle East and North Africa hospitality outlook still positive

Khaleej Times – 15 July, 2014 – The outlook for the hospitality industry across Middle East and North Africa remains positive despite the forthcoming “usual slowdown” in the market during the summer months every year, according to latest benchmark survey of Ernst & Young, or EY, for May 2014.

The Mena hospitality industry remained largely stable in May despite small declines in a few markets. The industry is expected to see a slowdown in the summer months, but as a whole strong growth will persist through the rest of 2014.

“May 2014 was another good month for the Mena region’s hospitality industry. As we move into the summer months, we can expect to see slight decreases in occupancy rates, largely due to the change in climate, decrease in visitors and slowdown from the Holy month of Ramadan,” Yousef Wahbah, Mena head of transaction real estate at EY, said in a statement to Khaleej Times on Monday.

In May, Dubai’s hospitality market witnessed a slight drop, with overall average occupancy decreasing by approximately 3.2 percentage points over last year. This was coupled with a slight drop in average daily rate, or ADR, of 1.2 per cent and decrease in revenues per available room, or RevPAR, by 2.5 per cent.

“This is mainly due to the additional supply of over 3,400 new branded hotel rooms, all within four- and five-star hotel segments, which have been added to Dubai’s hotel supply over the past year,” Wahbah said. He said the May 2014 performance slowed compared to April, which is in line with the city’s typical summer season.

“Occupancy fell by approximately five per cent month-on-month basis, while average room rates decreased from $ 327 in April 2014 to $ 244 in May 2014,” he said, adding that month-on-month RevPAR also dropped below the $ 200 barrier as it decreased from $ 276 in April 2014 to $ 194 in May 2014.

Habib Khan, general manager of Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, remained optimistic about Dubai’s hospitality outlook in 2014 and said the industry performed well in the earlier part of the year and it will sustain the trend.

“We are optimistic and expecting the same trend till the end of year 2014 as demand has increased for Dubai and with new routes of Emirates and increased influence of Etihad Airways, it’s likely to bring more footfalls towards Dubai,” Khan told Khaleej Times.

“We secured adequate business for the next season and finalised some new group series during ITB. Summer will be slightly slow, but we are expecting better than last year and the booking trend had shown a positive sign for summer 2014,” he added.

About hotel performance, he said it was excellent in terms of room rate during the first quarter as ADR improved by five per cent compared to last year. However, occupancy is down about two per cent this year. “We had explored some new markets and the response is positive as we recorded more group movement in the last three months than the FIT travellers,” he said.

The EY Middle East benchmark survey said key hospitality markets in the Mena region including Manama, Amman and Doha witnessed positive increases in May 2014.

Manama recorded an increase in RevPAR of approximately 36.3 per cent in May 2014 due to an increase in average occupancy from 34 per cent to 46 per cent. This was coupled with a slight increase in ADR of 2.4 per cent.

“These increases can be largely attributed to a number of conferences held in Manama and in May, the city hosted events for the petrochemicals, property, construction and architecture industries,” Wahbah said.

In Qatar, Doha’s hospitality market continues to record positive growth in 2014, with RevPAR increasing by approximately 18.7 per cent in May. This increase in RevPAR was mainly attributed to a rise in average occupancy from 68 per cent in May 2013 to 79 per cent in May 2014. In addition, ADR saw an increase of 3.3 per cent in May.

Makkah and Sharm El Shaikh, however, saw a decline in their hospitality market performance in May 2014 when compared to the same period last year.

The hospitality market in the holy city of Makkah witnessed a decrease in RevPAR, from $ 80 in May 2013 to $ 58 in May 2014, mainly due to a drop in ADR by approximately 28.4 per cent. The decrease in ADR can be attributed to the hotel operators’ pricing strategies in order to attract visitors to Makkah.

Back to top

Navigation app boon for Haj pilgrims from India

Arab News – 16 July, 2014 – A new state-of-the-art navigation system is being introduced to help Indian pilgrims to find their way to their places of accommodation in Makkah during Haj, Indian Consul General B. S. Mubarak told Arab News.

“Pilgrims will wear identification tags on their wrists that will be connected to the mobile phone devices of mission officials and volunteers,” he said.

The consulate is the first foreign mission in the Kingdom to come up with this innovative GPS app, which will be available for use by both Indian pilgrims and expats in the western region.

“Though we have many volunteers helping missing pilgrims find their way, most fail to effectively explain where they are, making it difficult for officials to find them. This new app will help us overcome logistical problems encountered during this busy season,” said the diplomat.

More than 136,000 pilgrims from India are expected to perform Haj this year.

“The new app will be available for download on the IOS and Android platforms of smartphones during Haj,” he said.

Indian pilgrims will be provided with Saudi SIM cards prior to boarding their flights to Jeddah and Madinah and will receive an app downloading message upon arrival.

The consulate recently launched a Facebook page in a bid to connect with the Indian community, enabling expats in both the Kingdom’s western and southern regions to interact with their local mission and engage with fellow Indian expats.

“Our new Facebook page is the perfect way for Indian expatriates to get more information about issues that matter and provide their input,” he said.

The website contains vital information about community welfare and procedures related to complaints and labor-related issues.

Back to top

Madinah governor launches electronic donation service

Arab News – 17 July, 2014 – Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman and president of the Saudi Anti-Cancer Society inaugurated the National Commercial Bank service for electronic donations, allowing bank customers to donate directly from their current accounts to more than 80 charities in the Kingdom free of charge.

The program, which was launched to coincide with the month of Ramadan, allows customers to donate through the NCB Online and NCB e-Mobile portals.

Yousef Al-Maimani, member of the NCB Board of Directors, attended the inauguration event at the office of Prince Faisal bin Salman, one of the biggest supporters of charitable work in the Kingdom.

The launch of the service reflects the bank’s efforts to explore new channels related to charity work in the Kingdom by creating direct connections between the donor and the receipt, as well as the bank’s efforts to continuously evolve and develop its electronic services and banking solutions for customers.

The NCB’s support to charitable organizations stems from the organization’s belief in the importance of advocating for social responsibility, as well as its organizational strategy to assist charities achieve their goals and deliver services to community members across the Kingdom.

The new service is available to all bank members, allowing them to submit their donations via direct transfers from the NCB mobile app or online account. The service is currently in its first phase, with additional mobile and ATM services to be added in the future.

The main advantages offered by the service include the option of sending donations to multiple charities, as well as the possibility of converting donations securely, conveniently, and confidentially. Clients are also able to set a daily limit that suits the clients’ preferences and the channel being used.

Last year, the NCB provided assistance and support to 326,037 beneficiaries through 466 charities located throughout the Kingdom, thus demonstrating the bank’s commitment to supporting charitable organizations in achieving their development goals and serve the community. The NCB’s ongoing mission is to address the direct and actual needs of and contribute social initiatives through specific services that assist all members of the community.

Also on Tuesday, Prince Faisal launched an initiative to support the private sector’s investment in the private education. The initiative aims to encourage the participation of the private sector to increase its investments in the education sector of the Kingdom.

“This initiative will support the investments in the private education and represents a part of development projects package launched by the Emirate of the region to promote the comprehensive development in the region,” Prince Faisal said during the event, which was held at a hotel near to the Prophet’s Mosque, in the presence of a number of officials, experts and businessmen.

Back to top

New destinations, aircraft fuel flydubai’s 2014 growth

Khaleej Times – 17 July, 2014 – Flydubai continues the expansion of its network with the announcement of two new destinations — Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Zagreb in Croatia — and five new aircraft deliveries during the rest of 2014 will support its route expansion.

The Dubai-based airline will commence its operations on newly announced destination in December this year, which will bring the number of destinations the carrier serves in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to 26. The airline serves a total of 75 destinations with 38 aircraft. Its fleet size will reach 43 aircraft by the end of 2014.

The carrier has announced 11 new routes so far in 2014 and already started operations on four new routes – one in Saudi Arabia and three in India. Later this year flydubai will begin flights to Moscow, Russia; Shymkent, Almaty, Kazakhstan; Sarejavo, Bosnia; Zagreb, Croatia; Aden, Yemen; and Khadahar, Afghanistan.

“We remain focused on opening up underserved markets and strengthening air links from Dubai’s aviation hub to the region. The new flights to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia represent new opportunities for travel, trade and tourism for passengers in both countries and the UAE,” flydubai chief executive officer Ghaith Al Ghaith said in a statement on Wednesday.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research, said flydubai’s increased market penetration into Eastern Europe leverages the strength of its product and network as well as the inherent demand for travel that has been overlooked by other carriers.

“This innovative and forward-looking airline has used its aggressive expansion to fuel not just its organic growth, but the initiation of new services to cities like Zagreb and Sarajevo underscores the fact that not only it is catering to demand that’s there and under served,” he said.

Flydubai will become the first carrier to operate direct flights from Dubai to Sarajevo and Zagreb. The airline is also the first Dubai-based airline to serve Almaty and Shymkent in Kazakhstan and flights to these routes will commence in September. In addition, business class will be available on all four of these routes, providing passengers with additional convenience and comfort as they travel.

Jeyhun Efendi, senior vice-president commercial (UAE, EU, ME, CIS) at flydubai, said Kazakhstan is a growing economy with a wealth of investment opportunities and exciting tourist attractions, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia have an abundance of nature and culture to explore.

The airline has the most comprehensive network of all Middle Eastern carriers to the CEE and CIS regions and has built up a network of: nine points in Russia, three points in Ukraine and two points in Kazakhstan in addition to Ashgabat, Baku, Belgrade, Bishkek, Bucharest, Chisinau, Dushanbe, Sarajevo, Skopje, Tbilisi, Yerevan and Zagreb. “The airline will ensure route expansion with more 737-800s joining the fleet and it will also improves cost of operations by spending less on fuel and offer attractive fares to entice both leisure and business class customers,” Ahmad said.

“Flydubai was the first and arguably still is the only hybrid airline offering a full end-to-end business class package that is usually the reserve of full service carriers. This growth will not just fill the flydubai coffers, it will strengthen their profitability for this financial year too,” he said.

Back to top

Huge potential for ‘green tourism’

Arab News – 17 July, 2014 – In the wobbly world of Saudi tourism things are looking up. Well, sort of. The tourism industry took a hit last month when the Saudi stock market fell more than 100 points in a single day, and the tourism sector recorded its worst performance by slipping 2.96 percent.

And visitors’ visas were inexplicably stopped for foreigners to visit the Dhiba governorate, 180 miles west of Tabuk, the region that features an endless pristine coastline with its coral reefs and unusual archaeological sites. Scuba diving was a top activity among foreign visitors. The region once attracted hundreds of American and European tourists, but numbers have fallen significantly with only domestic tourists visiting.

The issue as to whether Saudi Arabia will step up its game and encourage foreigners to spend their tourist dollars in the Kingdom remains rather murky. But that hasn’t stopped a number of Saudi entrepreneurs from mapping out a strategy to take advantage of this industry’s potential.

One intriguing tourism project is the brainchild of Aziza Turkistani, a Saudi woman who has been licensed for eight years to operate tours in Makkah, Jeddah and Taif. Her primary aim was to provide transportation for pilgrims to Makkah, but she is also focusing her business on attracting Saudi and GCC women with tourist packages to Makkah and Jeddah.

Perhaps more important, Turkistani sees the Saudi tourism sector as female-friendly since there are no social or religious issues that would prevent women from working as operators. Another Makkah tour operator, Aziz Awlya recently told a local magazine that he sees the potential for “green tourism” that more or less caters to re-energizing visitors who want a break from a hectic lifestyle. He sees the potential for safari packages that attract non-Muslim foreign visitors to the Kingdom’s seas, mountains and the Bedouin life.

Indeed, once thought of as a wasteland, even by many Saudis, the desert holds the key to a thriving tourism industry. Dune riding, sand surfing and camel and horse races incorporate extreme sports and recreation with the Saudi lifestyle. A less physical aspect of a tourism package would be access to historic landmarks, such as Al-Hijr and At-Turaif District in Ad-Dir’iyah among the countless other historic areas. Tour packages to Makkah and Madinah are obvious choices for domestic and Muslim tourists, but the desert also provides a wider range of experiences for both domestic and foreign tourists that have yet been exploited to its greatest advantage.

While an additional benefit would be the increase in seasonal employment for young Saudis, the downside are Saudi Arabia’s rather lax environmental laws that could lead to damaging plant life, animal habitats and archaeological sites. Desert tourism could very well die out before it had a chance to bloom if strict laws protecting the desert are not passed before the number of tourists increase.

Many Saudis are unsure just how much we should open our country to foreigners. The idea of tourists, particularly non-Muslims roaming the deserts, mountains and even the souks in small villages can be a little disconcerting. We are not accustomed to such experiences.

But there is perhaps no better public relations campaign available that can change the perceptions of foreigners of our country than a cohesive strategy that allows visitors the freedom to explore without damaging our environment, our culture and threatening our religious way of life.

Back to top

Iran’s 3-month carpet exports rise 23%

Tehran Times – 17 July, 2014 – Iran exported 1000 tons of hand-made carpets in spring 2014, a 23 percent growth in weight compared to spring 2013, the acting director of Iran’s National Carpet Center said on Wednesday.

The exports amounted to $ 57 million in value in spring 2014, which corresponds to the first quarter of current Iranian calendar year, the Tasnim news agency quoted Hamid Karegar as saying.

He said Iran exported $ 314 million worth of hand-made carpets in the past Iranian calendar year, which ended on March 20, 2014.

Iran’s carpet exports declined in recent years, mainly because of the Western sanctions imposed against the country over its nuclear program, he added.

In February, the former director of Iran’s National Carpet Center said sanctions against exports of Iranian carpet may be lifted in the second half of 2014.

Mohammad Baqer Alikhani added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has negotiated with the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) to lift the sanction in the second half of the current year.

Sanctions against exports of Iranian carpets had been imposed directly by the U.S., he noted.

Back to top

Kuwait airport to accept new destinations during summer

Kuwait News Agency – 18 July, 2014 – Kuwait International Airport will begin operating new direct flights during the summer season to destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Philippines, Slovenia and Turkey, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said on Thursday.

Bosnia and Herzegovina Airlines will launch the Sarajevo-Kuwait-Sarajevo as of July 24 until October 25, while Bulgarian Air Charter will operate one weekly return flight to each of the Black Sea resorts of Varna (July 31-October 10) and Burgas (August 4-September 9), according to DGCA official Sultan Al-Shuwaiei.

As for the Philippines, Cebu Pacific Air plans to launch a Manila-Kuwait-Manila route between September 2 and October 25, while Slovenia’s Adria Airways will fly once weekly to Ljubljana from July 26 to September 11.

Turkey’s Atlasjet Airlines prepares to offer regular flights to Istanbul between July 24 and October 25, while Freebird Airlines will offer one flight a week between Kuwait and the Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon and northwestern city of Bursa between July 29 and October 9.

Back to top

Push to promote tourism

Gulf Daily News – 18 July, 2014 – Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa yesterday met top officials from four-and five-star hotels and briefed them on plans to promote the tourism sector.

Culture Ministry assistant-under-secretary for tourism Shaikh Khalid bin Humood Al Khalifa attended the meeting at Bahrain National Museum.

The minister stressed the importance of promoting tourism and urged all parties to join efforts “to make Bahrain brighter”.

She said the decision to ban alcohol and nightclubs in three-and four-star hotels is aimed at regulating activities in certain facilities and ensuring they are used properly.

She pointed out that the edict does not, however, stipulate the suspension or closure of any three-star hotel facilities.

She stressed the importance of enhancing hotel services, announcing that no further measures would be taken regarding licensing and facilities.

She also announced that a meeting would be held at the information centre at Bab Al Bahrain on July 23 to outline the ministry’s tourism strategy for 2015-2018. Shaikh Khalid stressed a drive would be launched to periodically review the performance of hotels. “Copies of the performance reviews will be sent to hotels so that they stay updated on the standard of their services,” he said.

Back to top

Dubai flocks in as Ramadan Night Market opens

Khaleej Times – 18 July, 2014 – The Ramadan Night Market opened on Thursday at the Dubai World Trade Centre to a huge crowd that comprised both locals and expats, and companies that showcased nearly every product under the sun.

The event, which will continue till July 27, is open to visitors from 8 pm till 2 am.

“This is the first time I am attending the market,” said Mary, a visitor from Uzbekistan, who had come to Dubai on a vacation.

“I have seen night markets in Bangkok, but they are on the street. This is so organized,” she spoke in awe of the elaborate arrangements.

As is the case in such events, the food and gadget stalls saw the most footfalls, with people gathering much before the event officially opened.

“I have already turned down three customers. I cannot serve them before 8 pm,” said Govind, a manager at an Indian food stall.

“They queue up even while I am setting up the stall. I am sure they will keep coming even after the ‘closed’ sign is put up,” he added. The stall in question serves savory Indian snacks such as gol gappe, bhel puri and paani puri, so neither Govind nor the customers can really be blamed.

“We even keep the pamphlets hidden,” said Allan, a manager at a stall showcasing cameras and other electronic and electrical products of a Japanese company. “I run out of them in 10 minutes.”

This year’s night market has nearly 350 stalls, and visitors have a chance to win international trips, cars and several other daily prizes. Free entry and parking have only acted as a catalyst to boost footfall.

Visitors will also be able to bid for mobile phones and tablet devices starting from Dh 1.

“We have come a long way since our inaugural edition in 2012. We are bigger, better and a more exciting marketplace with matchless family bonding opportunities. We aim to provide visitors a great ambience, unique shopping experiences, great deals and offers from participating retailers,” Sunil Jaiswal, CEO, Sumansa Exhibitions, organisers of the Ramadan Night Market, had told Khaleej Times earlier.

While the market had a lot to offer traditionally in terms of food and clothing, exhibitors had done well to adopt the latest the modern world had to offer.

Juice and ice-cream stalls showcased their menu on iPads, a couple of stalls accepted customer registration via WhatsApp messages, while a Taiwanese company asked customers to like their Facebook page on the spot to avail discounts. But if there was an award for the most engaging exploitation of man’s love for gadgets, it would be Chinese car company Chery. All a visitor had to do was click a selfie with the car and post it on Facebook. The picture with the maximum likes wins the car.

The most gripping sight of the day, however, came from the most unexpected place. It was a Chinese couple munching gol gappas at Bikanerwala.

Back to top