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

7 Jul, 2014

Non-Muslims Attempt Ramadan fast in Turkey

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 07 July 2014 (09 Ramadan 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



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



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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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






PUTRAJAYA, 2 July 2014 – The months of July and August offer local and foreign visitors a line-up of well-balanced events comprising shopping, food, culture and festive celebrations. Some of the major tourism highlights include:
The mega sale is still here!
The 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival 2014 continues in July! Deemed as the “Mother of all Sales”, the mega sale carnival brings you a string of irresistible offers, special promotions and crazy discounts.
With two months of shopping frenzy, shoppers get to enjoy mega shopping excitement, dining options, endless entertainment and fun-filled activities put together by malls and retail stores throughout Malaysia! Experience a wholesome shopping spree!
Organiser: Tourism Malaysia
Date: 28 June – 1 Sept 2014
Venue: Nationwide
Contact: 03 – 2614 8691

As the Muslim fasting month begins, a long line of street-side stalls will sprout up all over the country at local bazaars, offering a sumptuous array of local delicacies especially traditional Malay food for Muslims to break their fast.
A jovial mood pervades these bazaars as everyone shops around for the best bargains on food, clothing, and religious items! Unique to Malaysia, the Ramadhan Bazaars can be found at most cities and towns throughout the nation, and is a sunset shopping and fasting experience for all.
Date: 29 June – 27 July 2014
Time: 5pm – 6pm
Venue: Nationwide

The TRAIL is back! The anniversary of the historical city of Melaka being declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008 is celebrated with a host of delectable traditional cuisine and cultural performances by the Baba & Nyonya, the Portuguese, and the Chitty.
As the celebration takes place, the historical significance of the city is being highlighted through the conservation of places such as the A’ Famosa, St John’s Hill and numerous museums.
Organiser: Melaka Historical City Council/
Melaka Museums Corporation (PERZIM)
Date: 7 July 2014
Venue: Bandar Hilir Melaka, Melaka
Contact: +6 06 232 6411

After fasting from dawn to dusk for a month, this is the time to celebrate! Hari Raya Aidilfitri marks the end of the Ramadan month (fasting season) and every year this festive occasion is celebrated in a grand scale in Malaysia.
The highlight of this joyous occasion is the open house where the Muslims will invite their friends from various ethnics and cultures to their house to join in the merrymaking and enjoy traditional Malay favourites such as ketupat, rendang and satay!
Date: 28 – 29 July 2014
Venue: Nationwide


Similar to Melaka, but the annual celebration of George Town’s inscription as UNESCO World Heritage Site welcomes a brand new date this year, which coincides with the national month of August.
This community-centred festival-within-a-festival features a diverse range of acts, from traditional dances and martial arts demonstrations, to exhibitions and street performances; from the re-enactment of street life in the 1900s, to food fests and special tours and talks; all devised and conducted by members of the communities of historic George Town.
Organiser: George Town Festival Secretariat
Date: 1 August – 31 August 2014
Venue: Esplanade, Pulau Pinang
Contact: +6 04 261 6308
Website: www.georgetownfestival.com

Endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia and Tourism Malaysia, the Malaysia Premium Travel Fair (MPTF 2014) and the Global Cruise Tourism Conference (GCTC 2014) are two niche events specially catered for high-end tourism products and service providers.
MPTF 2014 is the first travel fair in Malaysia targeted at the luxury segment. It will feature business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) components. The fair exhibitors are comprised of premium and boutique airlines, cruise liners and yacht clubs, helicopter tour service providers, luxury hotels and resorts, NTOs and MICE event organisers.
GCTC 2014 is targeted at the emerging cruise tourism sector. Experts in the cruise industry will be presenting on the theme “Advancing the Growth in Cruise Tourism.”
Organiser: WiTM Events Sdn. Bhd.
Date: GCTC 2014 (7 – 8 August 2014)
MPTF 2014 (8 – 10 August 2014)
Venue: GCTC 2014 – Plenary Hall,
MPTF 2014 – Hall 5 & 6,
Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), Kuala Lumpur
Time: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Website: www.mptf.com.my
Contact: +6 03 9201 1201
Email: nurshaidah@witmevents.com

The biggest tourism event in Sibu, the Borneo Cultural Festival 2014 is an annual week-long celebration that no visitor to Sibu should miss!
With a variety of dances, food, folklore, music and traditional games on display, the event is a showcase of the rich and diverse cultural background of the Sibu community such as Iban/ Bidayuh/ Orang Ulu (Dayak Pavilion), Malay/Melanau and Chinese.
Organised by Sibu Municipal Council, Sibu Borneo Cultural Festival 2014 aims to promote the ‘beauty in ethnic diversity’ within Borneo Island to the world.
Organiser: Sibu Municipal Council
Date: 15 – 24 August 2014
Venue: Sibu Town Square
Contact: Ms Teng Ming Min, +6 084 332 392
Website: http://www.smc.gov.my/

“Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!” Hari Kemerdekaan is a national holiday which is celebrated on 31 August every year to commemorate the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule in 1957.
Traditionally, a grand and colourful parade will be held in the morning at the Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur for everyone to attend and celebrate this important occasion together. Similar parades will also be held in every state simultaneously. This year’s celebration marks the 57th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence.
Date: 31 August 2014
Venue: Nationwide / Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur.

Back to top


PARIS, 30 June 2014 – Tourism Malaysia received the Trophy Innovation Award 2014 in the “Best Innovation for Communication Campaign by Foreign Destinations” category at the event held in Paris on 26 June.

The Ambassador of Malaysia to France His Excellency Tan Sri Ismail Omar and the Director of Tourism Malaysia (France, Spain and Portugal) Abdul Rahim Haron accepted the award on behalf of Malaysia.

“The effectiveness of digital communication and social media has truly helped us advance our reach throughout the country, and most importantly it enabled us to regularly engage socially with the market here, as well as share the best that Malaysia has to offer,” said Abdul Rahim after receiving the award.

The 3rd edition of the Trophy Innovation Award was organised by France’s leading travel trade magazine L’Écho touristique. The winners were chosen by a panel of eight distinguished judges who are key decision makers from the French travel and tourism industry.

Tourism Malaysia through its Paris office submitted its entry on the effectiveness of its creative communications campaign, launched in January 2013, in raising the awareness of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign among tourism industry players, media and the general public. An innovative communication plan created a wider accessibility to consumers, which efficiently promoted Malaysia.

The domestic tagline, themed ‘Malaisie – Fascinante Depuis Toujours’ or ‘Malaysia – Always Fascinating’, helped build the claim on events, festivals and promotions that visitors can look forward to when they visit Malaysia in 2013-2014 .

For the campaign to be successful, Tourism Malaysia Paris integrated its local campaign with global advertising efforts, combining the strengths of digital/social communication with strategic marketing actions, partnerships, public relations, distribution, training and familiarisation.

In 2013, Malaysia welcomed 145,108 French tourists, which was an increase of 6.6% compared to the previous year. To date, Tourism Malaysia Paris has 31,144 fans on Facebook!

Back to top

Morocco: Royal Air Maroc announces flights to Ndjamena

Rabat, Morocco (PANA) – Moroccan flag carrier Royal Air Maroc has announced the launch of twice-weekly flights from Casablanca to the Chadian capital, Ndjamena.

The airline announced the new flights in a statement issued here Wednesday, saying the flights would be operated using a new generation Boeing 737 aircraft.

The Chadian capital becomes the 32nd destination of Royal Air Maroc, which has also proposed a third flight to the Chadian aviation authorities.

The new destination will strengthen the network of Royal Air Maroc in Africa and its role as a liaison company between the continent and the rest of the world, the statement said.

Back to top

Togo: Lomé airport gets ‘safe airport’ certificate

Lomé, Togo (PANA) – The Airport Company of Lomé-Tokoin, which manages the international airport of Lomé, the Togolese capital, has received a certificate that gives it the status of a “safe airport”, sources close to the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) told PANA on Saturday in Lomé.

The certificate presented to the company on Friday follows efforts by the authorities for high airport safety standards, Colonel Gnama Latta, Director of the Togolese Civil Aviation Agency, said, stressing that the Lomé airport was aiming at “zero accident”.

The certification is valid for three years. Sources close to the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) say that the Lomé airport is the first in the ASECNA zone to receive such a certification.

Lomé airport will at the end of the year inaugurate a new terminal of 21,000 square metres that meets the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards which will enable the airport to handle about 2 million passengers every year as against 400,000 at present.

Back to top

Tunisia, Libya sign agreement on civil aviation

Tunis, Tunisia (PANA) – The international civil aviation training centre in Tunisia on Friday signed an agreement with the Libyan-African company that allows the Libyan holding company to buy 27% of the capital of the Tunisian civil aviation and airport office, sources said in the Tunisian capital.

The centre also signed two framework agreements with the Libyan air transport company, Libya Airlines, and Afrique Airlines, enabling the two companies to benefit from training led by the centre.

Among those present at the ceremony were the Libyan minister of Telecommunications, Abdelkader Mohamed Ahmed and the Tunisian minister of Transport, Chihab Ben Ahmed.

Mr Ahmed said that other partnership projects between the two companies would be implemented.

Back to top

Dr Mahathir Calls For More China-Malaysia Islamic Expos To Promote Understanding

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 (Bernama) — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has expressed hopes that more China-Malaysia Islamic exhibitions would be held to promote better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

He said such exhibitions could be an eye-opener for the people to learn and appreciate each other cultural and religious values.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding between people of different religions,” he said adding that this was unfortunate as all religions espouse friendship and understanding between people of different faiths.

Speaking at the breaking of fast in conjunction with the China-Malaysia Islamic Culture Expo 2014 here today, he urged Malaysians to respect and be sensitive to one another values as it would enhance peace, harmony and unity.

Present were his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang, and Cheng-Ho Multi Cultural Education Trust founder Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew.

Expressing his admiration towards Muslims in China, he hoped Muslims in Malaysia would continue to strengthen Islamic values.

“Muslims in China have lived through different ages with rulers who didn’t understand Islam. But Alhamdulillah, they continue to maintain their faith and they don’t seek revenge against people who have oppressed them,” he said.

Back to top

Look Beyond Malaysia, Local SMEs Urged

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 (Bernama) — Local entrepreneurs have been urged to expand their businesses beyond Malaysia and not be too comfortable with their domestic operations.

Making the call, property tycoon Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, chairman judge of the SME Innovation Challenge 2014, said Malaysian small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) tend to be too comfortable with their current business level given the various types of support by the government.

“They are easily satisfied with having a RM5 million market capital while the capital market of SMEs in Singapore and Hong Kong are in millions of Singapore dollars or US dollars.

“When you want to buy a piece of land in London, it will cost you 500 million pounds and with the RM5 million market capital, you are unable to make that purchase,” he told reporters at the launch of the challenge here today.

Liew, who is also Eco World Development Group Bhd Director, urged entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses to drive the economy and help Malaysia achieve high-income nation status.

The competition, organised by Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd, kicked off today in conjunction with the Young Entrepreneurs’ Conference 2014, where 20 finalists will receive mentorship from top business leaders and a chance to win cash prizes of up to RM600,000.

Meanwhile, online shoe seller Christy Ng, who bagged the RM250,000 grand prize at last year’s challenge, urged SMEs to use the competition as their stepping stone in the industry.

“The SMEs will have nothing to lose if they join. Furthermore, it is a great platform to discover yourself and meet other great entrepreneurs,” she said.

Ng said her company’s sales and orders have doubled, with the majority coming from overseas such as the United States, Canada and Australia.

“We are confident that we will do better this year not only because of the fund, but also from all the mentorship, guidance and publicity.

“Whether you win or not does not really matter because there is still a lot to gain just by joining,” she added.

Back to top

Umrah visas to exceed six million this year

Makkah, Sunday 08 Ramadan 1434/ 06 July 2014 (IINA) – The Ministry of Haj expects the number of visas for Umrah visitors to exceed 6 million this year, with over 400,000 likely to arrive this month alone.

Bander Al-Hajjar, minister of Haj, said the ministry issued more than 6 million visas, adding that more than 5.6 million pilgrims arrived for Umrah, of whom 5.3 million had already left Saudi Arabia. “The Saudi government has completed all preparations. We have been implementing several projects aimed at facilitating the Umrah season and to accommodate the large number of visitors,” said Al-Hajjar. These projects are unique and unprecedented in the history in terms of diversity, speed and efficiency, he added.

The government’s measures seek to cover all aspects of development to meet the future needs of pilgrims and visitors of Madinah in order to provide them with the best services from the day they arrive in the Kingdom until they leave. The Kingdom has given top priority to the development of the two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah. According to sources, the government has spent more than SR 250 billion on Haram and Haj expansion projects, which include the expansion of mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) in order to increase its capacity from 48,000 to 130,000 per hour.

The ongoing work has reduced the mataf’s capacity to 22,000 per hour, a reason that prompted the government to reduce the number of foreign Haj pilgrims by 20 percent and domestic pilgrims by 50 percent, in order to prevent stampedes and ensure the security and safety of the guests of God.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has ordered that work on the expansion project of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah should start immediately in order for it to be completed in less than two years. The mosque building will sprawl over an area of 614,800 square meters or 1060 X 580 meters while the combined space of the mosque and plazas will be 1,020,500 square meters or 1300 X 785 meters, which can accommodate one million worshippers inside the mosque and 800,000 others in the plaza.

Back to top

Malaysians Can Write To PM On Country’s Tourism Industry

CYBERJAYA, July 4 (NNN–Bernama)– Malaysians can have the opportunity to write unofficial letters to Prime Minister Najib Razak to channel their ideas and suggestions to enhance the country’s tourism industry through the ‘2014 1Malaysia Letter-Writing Competition.’

Communication and Multimedia Communication deputy secretary-general (Communication) Datuk Che Azemi Haron said the tourism theme was chosen in conjunction with the ‘Visit Malaysia Year’ with more participation expected this year compared to 79,875 last year.

Participants can select one out of the three Malay titles, namely “Kenapa Malaysia Menjadi Destinasi Pilihan Pelancong Asing” (Why does Malaysia become the destination choice of foreigners), “Pengalaman dan Keistimewaan Melancong di Malaysia” (Experience and uniqueness of travelling in Malaysia) and “Cadangan Untuk Meningkatkan Industri Pelancongan di Kawasan Anda yang Berkonsepkan Pelancongan 1Malaysia” (Suggestions on enhancing the tourism industry in your area through the 1Malaysia tourism concept).

Apart from the primary school category (150-250 words), secondary school 350-500 words) and aged 18 and above open (550-700 words), he said the new category being introduced was for the disabled, aged 9 to 45 (not more than 300 words).

“The letter must be hand written and cannot be typed except for the visually disabled which has to use the braille typewriter with the work to be submitted with translation into Malay,” he told a news conference here Friday.

The fifth edition of the competition is organised by Pos Malaysia Bhd and Malaysian Communcations and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) jointly with the ministry and Education Ministry from July 1 to August 31.

“We have also make the 100 best letters every year into four books over the past four years and these will be published for the public with the cooperation of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) soon,” he said.

He said besides encouraging a writing culture among the young generation and Malaysians as well as enhancing competency in writing, the competiton could also increase awareness on the importance of the tourism industry.

Ten winners from every cateogy will receive cash, stamp album, certificate, netbook and other prizes, worth RM72,800, which is expected to be held on October 9 in conjunction with World Post Day celebration.

Those keen to take part can surf the website www.pos.com.my, www.skmm.gov.my or at facebook account www.facebook.com/surat2014 and www.twitter.com/surat1malaysia

Back to top

Oman to Open 22 Tourism Sites for Invesment

MUSCAT, Oman, July 1 (NNN-ONA) – The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has identified 22 locations for investing in the tourism sector. The locations include construction of a 20,000-square-metre tourist camp and a 15,000-square-metre tourist centre in Al Khoudh, in the Muscat governorate.

In the Dhofar governorate, the MoT is offering three locations, including a 5,000-square-metre skating and entertainment indoor resort, to be constructed in the industrial zone in Salalah, 10,000-square-metre entertainment tourist centre for women and children, in the wilayat of Mirbat and a 10,000-square-metre entertainment tourist centre in the wilayat of Thumrait, in addition to various projects in other governorates.

This move will help the small and medium enterprises in the tourism sector. The ministry requires potential investors to apply for one plot of land and priority will be accorded to citizens of governorates, where the projects are coming up. Applications for the investment opportunities are being received since June 1, 2014.

Back to top

Indonesia Projects 9.5 Mln Foreign Tourists This Year

JAKARTA, Indonesia July 1 (NNN-Xinhua) — Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Marie Elka Pangestu said on Monday that the nation may see incoming of foreign tourists this year up to 9.5 million people, or exceeding the target.

The minister said that in the first five months this year the nation saw 3.7 million foreign tourists, or 9.96 percent over last year’s tourist numbers registered in the corresponding period, which stood at 3.364 million people.

“The foreign tourist visit growth during that period approached 10 percent, higher than our target initially set between 6 to 8 percent,” the minister said here.

In May alone, a period regarded as low season in tourism activities, the nation saw incoming of foreign tourists at 752,363 people, or higher than 700,708 in the same month last year, the minister said.

Indonesia recorded 8.6 million foreign tourist visit throughout last year, or 7.37 percent higher than 8.04 million recorded in 2012.

To attract more foreign tourists, the tourism and creative economy ministry set up cooperation with state-run flag carrier airlines Garuda Indonesia in setting Wonderful Indonesia logo in the airlines’ 22 planes serving international flights to 17 countries across the world.

Back to top

Doha To Become Emirates’ Best Connected Destination

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 1 (NNN-WAM) – Doha is set to become Emirates Airlines’ best served destination, with seven daily flights going to the Qatari capital from Dec 1.

Doha will take the top spot, when it goes from six to seven daily flights, overtaking Bangkok ‘s six daily services, Emirates said in a press release.

The extra flights to Doha are part of a 28 flight boost to the airline’s Middle East services, whereby flights to Muscat will increase from two to three a day, Bahrain from three to four daily services and Kuwait will increase from five to six flights daily.

With the changes in place as of Dec 1, Emirates will offer 276 weekly flights to destinations across the Middle East, out of its hub at Dubai International.

“This is a significant enhancement of our services in the region, giving our customers more choice and convenience,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations Centre.

“With seven flights a day going into Doha, nowhere else on the Emirates network will offer as many daily flights. This overtakes Bangkok and is ahead of Singapore and London Heathrow.”

“The extra frequencies will provide even more scope for customers to enjoy our award winning services, such as the “ice” in-flight entertainment system, loaded with up to 1,800 channels of movies, TV programmes, games and music, which can all be explored while savouring gourmet chef prepared cuisine,” Al Mualla added.

Apart from Doha, Muscat, Bahrain and Kuwait, the airline’s 276 weekly departures to destinations in the airline’s Gulf, Middle East and Iran region (GMEI) also cover Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen.

Back to top

Malaysian Tourism To Promote Books Popular With The Japanese

TOKYO, Japan July 3 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board will continue working with the Malaysian Institute of Translation and Books (ITBM) to promote books which are popular with the Japanese in an effort to attract them to visit Malaysia.

Its director, Noor Azlan Abu Bakar, said the Japanese were very interested in reading materials on culture, history and folklore such as about Puteri Gunung Ledang, as well as mystical stories.

“We will promote more reading materials like these to the Japanese, as well as comics which depict the Malaysian culture and history.

“I was very excited when the comic series Kampung Boy by Mohd Nor Khalid or Lat was translated into Japanese, because we know the Japanese love comics or ‘manga’ as they call them,” he said here today.

He was speaking to reporters after visiting the Malaysian Pavilion and attending the poetry recital by Malaysian poets, Dr Zurinah Hassan and Dr Siti Zainon Ismail at the Tokyo Big Sight in conjunction with the 21st Tokyo International Book Festival (PBAT21) in Japan, held from July 2 to 5.

Meanwhile, on efforts to promote Malaysia to the Japanese in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014, Noor Azlan said continuous action was being taken to promote Malaysia to the Japanese in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

“The tourism promotions began at the end of last year and have been increased this year, including posters on billboards, taxis and television advertisements in Japan,” he said.

He said the board was targeting 600,000 Japanese tourist arrivals in Malaysia by the end of this year.

Between January until June, there were 187,000 Japanese tourist arrivals recorded in Malaysia, compared to the 160,000 for the same period in 2013.

“For the whole of 2013, there were 513,000 Japanese tourist arrivals in Malaysia, with the popular destinations being Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Melaka and Penang,” he said.

Back to top

Oman Tourism Ministry Opens Up 22 Locations For Investment

MUSCAT, Oman, July 4 (NNN-ONA) – The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) has announced the earmarking of several thousand square metres of land for tourism investment projects, with the main aim of boosting entrepreneurship. Twenty two locations across the sultanate have been identified as locations for environmental camps, shopping and entertainment centres, and a series of three and four-star hotels.

According to the ministry, Oman Development Bank (ODB) is expected to play a big role in these development projects by providing the required funding to Omani entrepreneurs.

In a statement, MoT said, the tourism industry ‘is one of the most important sectors to which ODB gives great attention, to create more new jobs and develop the national economy.’

In Muscat governorate, the ministry has opened up 20,000sq m for an environmental tourism camp and a 15,000sq m site for an entertainment centre. An entertainment centre for women and children will come up over 10,000sq m in Mirbat, Dhofar. Another 5,000sq m here have been allocated for a skating and entertainment centre.

The projects announced for Buraimi include a 166,991sq m hotel and shopping centre, an environmental tourism camp, spread over 107,077sq m, and a four-star hotel and villas complex in Hay al Nafahat on 50,000sq m.

Investment opportunities in Dakhliyah include a three-star hotel and restaurant complex in Samail, a 12,000sq m entertainment centre in Jebel Akhdar and a 10,000sq m tourism camp at Nizwa.

For North and South Batinah, the ministry announced a 10,000sq m tourism camp in Sohar, a 9,000sq m restaurant complex in Rustaq and a 13,000sq m environment-friendly rest house in Al Awabi.

Apart from these, a three-star hotel in Al Qabel, an entertainment centre in Mudhaibi, a three-star hotel in Sur, a restaurant complex and three-star hotel in Al Kamil W’al Wafi, and a three-star hotel in Jaalan Bani Bu Hassan are also planned.

ODB has approved financial support to 338 tourism related projects at a value of RO42.2mn, the ministry said. Hamad al Harthi, acting general manager of ODB, said, “The efforts by MoT are based on its strategy to further support the national economy and optimise the tourism capacities we have in Oman.”

Back to top

Iran Calls On Regional States To Help Revive Silk Road

TEHRAN, July 2 (NNN-FNA) — Iranian Ambassador to China Mehdi Safari underscored the key position of the Silk Road as a link connecting the North-South and East-West corridors, and called on the regional countries to do their best to revive the ancient path of trade once again.

Speaking in a seminar held at Renmin University of China in presence of representatives from 12 countries on Monday, Safari said Iran’s determination to help revive the Silk Road indicates the significance Tehran attaches to enhanced cooperation between China and West Asia.

The ambassador referred to Iranian President Hassan Rouhaniˈs meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization last September in which the two presidents called for further promotion of Tehran-Beijing ties.

The Silk Road is an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, as well as North and Northeast Africa and Europe.

The Silk Road gets its name from the lucrative Chinese silk trade, a major reason for the connection of trade routes into an extensive trans-continental network.

Back to top

Siqaya service back in Holy Mosques to revive tradition

Arab news / 02 Jul 2014 – A Saudi charity organization aims to revive the Siqaya service, an old tradition that has become obsolete by time where pilgrims, guests and visitors of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah were offered water during the holy month of Ramadan as a gesture of good will by the natives.

The Siqaya system was carried out mainly during Ramadan, which involves serving guests with water held in a pot strapped to the back of its beholder, called Saqqa. The saqqa (the person serving water) in the old days enjoyed great respect from the visitors for the services he would offer to them by quenching their thirst.

“We are supplying Zam Zam water, cold water, juice and coffees to visitors in the Two Holy Mosques,” said Abdullah Al-Marghani, coordinator of Siqaya program, adding that the liquids will be stored in healthy and hygienic containers, which are being carried by our volunteers who will be touring in the Two Holy Mosques’ campus.

Over 100 volunteers have been deployed to serve the guests of Allah, he said, adding that the volunteers will be wearing green uniforms and can be easily spotted inside the holy mosques and also at the main entrances of the mosques and other assembly points carrying water containers on their back.

He said the containers are properly equipped to preserve cold and hot water and other liquids for as much time as possible as visitors can choose the kind of drink they prefer.

Al-Marghani said the new service aims to bring back to minds the good well traditions that used to prevail by the ancestors who used to exert great efforts in service of the holy mosques visitors during the holy seasons.

Back to top


World Bulletin / 03 Jul 2014 – It is during this time of the year – according to the Islamic lunar calendar – that many Muslims across the world welcome the arrival of Ramadan fasting; for the many foreigners living in Turkey it is a time of adjusting to a new way of life.

Ramadan is the most important time of the year for Muslims as the revelation of the Holy Quran to the Prophet Muhammad happened during this month.

The significance of this holy month is felt by most Muslims all around the world and even non-Muslims, some of whom have tried fasting to deepen their understanding of this important tradition.

“Ramadan to me signifies spirituality, empathy, discipline, sharing and family happiness,” says Felister Gesare Orangi, a 23-year-old student from Kenya.

Having spent three years in Turkey, she previously fasted for around two weeks during Ramadan. She said she was honored to be invited for evening meals by the families of friends and for the iftar – fast breaking – dinners specially arranged by her university for its international students.

“For me, Ramadan is important for three reasons: inner strength; empathy; and reflection. Having to fast for more than 14 hours strengthens you to be disciplined in the face of temptations; it cultivates your empathy – especially for those who do not have as much as you do – and therefore makes us more

humane and builds your spirituality through the reflection that this is inevitable whenever there is scarcity,” Felister says.

Izabela Piekarczyk from Poland, who lived for over two years in Turkey, says she participated in two Ramadan periods.

“Living in Turkey and being interested in Islam made my try to fast as the Muslims do – just for a couple of days, though. I have to admit that the first day was the hardest,” she says.

“I think the body is not prepared for 14 hours of fasting. I had to work and it was so hot outside. I will never forget the short nap where I dreamed of food for the first time in my life. But I loved the evening ezan (call to prayer) and iftars shared together with my friends.”

She says she loved going to Sultan Ahmet square in Istanbul to see happy families sharing their iftar.

Eating fast and heavily after long hours of hunger, however, may turn those pleasant family meals into bad memories says dietitian Ahmet Gurapaydin who describe how it is common to have one meal (known as sahoor), just before sunrise and another (iftar), directly after sunset.

“It is better if you break your fast with a glass of water, which is followed by eating a type of fruit like dates or figs,” the dietician says, adding: “Never skip the sahoor meal and avoid the fatty food in the way that you avoid the sins during Ramadan.”

He said people should consume more high-protein and low-fat food during this month to be more resistant to hunger.

Many people believe that fasting is beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgences.

Macedonian student Natasa Petkovska, 27, who is doing an MA in Turkey, believes that the effects of any fasting are extremely beneficial for the psyche from a nutritional aspect. “Maybe the only downside of the Ramadan fast is the nightly binge eating,” she adds.

This will be her first fasting experience – except for the time when she tried fasting for the Great Lent, an Orthodox Christian observance – and she says she is eager to attend some special Ramadan organizations with friends.

“Ramadan is a pleasant time for me, because I have been attending a number of nice iftar meals organised by my Turkish Muslim friends, though I have never tried fasting,” says Spanish citizen Christian Pablo Martin Asuero, director of the Cervantes Institute in Istanbul, who has spent nine years in Istanbul.

“I respect it as a religious practice, and I completely understand how people can be motivated to stay hungry even during long, hot summer days. It makes them feel an empathy with those who lead a poor life and helps them build ‘bridges’ between Allah and themselves.”

He says the only disadvantage of Ramadan is finding a cab during iftar hours. “Taxi drivers are extremely angry as they cannot smoke for long hours, and we have no choice but to adjust to this new way of life during the month,” he adds laughing.

Back to top

Women-only beach to open in Bahrain

Gulf Daily News / 03 Jul 2014 – It will be located at the southern end of a new public beach currently being developed in Askar. Guards will be deployed to keep men away, Southern Municipal Council chairman Mohsin Al Bakri told the GDN.

The women’s beach is part of a longer stretch of public coastline undergoing a BD1.5 million development.

“The women’s section, which will be the southern part of the new Askar coast, will be open at all times – but will be guarded to ensure no males trespass or peep,” said Mr Al Bakri. “We haven’t decided yet what types of partitions will be used, but the place will be secure. The council and the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry want to provide a suitable environment for women to enjoy their time in line with Islamic values and traditions.

“It is the first coast of its type in Bahrain that is women-only and we want it to come out in the best shape possible, since others could be interested in having one in their governorates.”

The Southern Municipal Council said it came up with the idea after women complained that men bothered them whenever they went to a public beach.

It was approved by the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka’abi.

“Even in public places some privacy is needed, especially when there are parasites searching for entertainment or to hook up with someone,” said Mr Al Bakri.

“Women feel offended and they either decide to go when there are few people, or don’t go at all and sit at home. The new beach will be open daily and women can come at any time with assurances that their privacy will be protected.”

Back to top

Algeria National Team Donates £5m Prize Money to Gaza

ITAR-TASS / 03 Jul 2014 – Footballers of Algeria’s national team will donate their World Cup match bonuses to the residents of Gaza Strip, local media reported team captain Islam Slimani as saying. “They need that money more than we do,” said the striker of the African team. According to some reports, the sum will be around $9 million. Algeria made it to the Round of 16 at the World Cup in Brazil. They were defeated by Germany.

Back to top

World’s first on-line Islamic festival to be held in Kazan

islam.ru / 03 Jul 2014 – Event is organized by the Union of Muslim youth. The festival program includes several sections on topical issues of contemporary Muslim life: Islamic law, creed and morals, Islamic economics and sports. The festival will be held in 15 languages, and the number of its listeners will be about 35,000.

According to the website of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan, today was held a meeting of the organizing committee, during which it was said that the technical part of the preparation for the festival is almost complete. It remains to confirm the themes of the speakers and to send invitation letters.

Back to top

Free Iftars Help Pakistani Poor

OnIslam with News Agencies / 04 Jul 2014 – For needy Pakistanis, free meals offered every days at sunset for iftar during the holy month of Ramadan is the only way to make ends meet for their families.

“Usually there is one bread earner who has to feed a family of say 10 people,” Organizer Abdul Razak Bhatti told Voice Of America.

“So, obviously their basic needs are not met and then there are rising electricity bills, natural gas bills and other such matters that it becomes extremely difficult for the family to live on the fewer resources.”

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started this year on Monday, June 30, in Pakistan.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset. The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

Around the globe, Muslims observe Ramadan with a set of traditional rituals including family gathering at iftar, religious lessons, special evening prayer and helping the poor.

In Pakistan, scores of free food points are across country, where Iftar and Suhoor are offered to the poor and travelers during the holy month of Ramadan.

Mohammad Amir, who works at a tailor shop, is one of those who saves money for his family and children by eating for free.

Though it might be embarrassing for him to sit in an open area and wait for charity food, he is forced sometimes to get free meals because his income is not enough to buy food for his entire family.

Asad Ullah, who works as a security guard, is another Pakistani who visits the free food camp every Ramadan. He hopes the money he saves will help him buy new clothes for his children.

Back to top

7.5 million iftar packets to distribute at Makkah Haram

Makkah, Wednesday 04 Ramadan 1434/ 02 July 2014 (IINA) – Philanthropists will distribute more than 7.5 million packets of iftar meals among worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah throughout Ramadan.

“Everyday they supply 250,000 iftar meals, of which 80,000 meals are distributed in the northern courtyard and 70,000 in the southern courtyard,” said an official in charge of distributing the meals.

“We also distribute 90,000 to 120,000 meals in Azza and Shamiya courtyards,” the official said, adding that a large number of young Saudis participate in the massive operation. The Charitable Warehouse in Makkah said it has set out a plan to distribute 90,000 iftar meals inside the mosque and 120,000 meals among worshippers sitting in the courtyards. “We are taking help of 120 workers,” said Abdullah Al-Nafie, director of the charity.

He added that the workers are trained for 20 hours with the support of the Dawa Center in Makkah.

Mohammed Ali, a volunteer, said he was happy to distribute iftar meals among the pilgrims and other worshippers at the Grand Mosque. “I come to the Haram with other friends after Asr to participate in this noble program. We are doing this only to get the reward from the Almighty.”

Abdul Wahid Al-Qurashi, another volunteer said: “I have been participating in this program for the last many years. Iftar meals are distributed among worshippers sitting inside and outside the mosque. It’s a big operation and needs the support of many volunteers.”

Back to top

Maldives urges greater development of Small Island Developing States

Sun.mv – July 3, 2014 – Maldives Minister of State for Environment and Energy Abdulla Majeed, speaking at the First Session of UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), has called on the international community pay adequate attention to the issues of the small island developing states.

The First Session of UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) was held from 23 to 27 June at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

Referring to the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States to be held in Samoa next September, State Minister Abdulla Majeed said that the UNEA must take stock of how the assembly has progressed and where it has failed.

He queried whether the international community pays adequate attention to the issues of the group of over 40 small island developing states, if there were sufficient exchanges of technology with these nations and if new resources were made available to them.

Speaking at the First Session of UN Environment Assembly, Abdulla Majeed reaffirming Maldives’ commitment towards sustainable development, and highlighted the difficulties faced in the Maldives in the aspect in terms of ecological fragility and structural vulnerability.

Majeed also assured the UNEA gathering of Maldives’ commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and noted its progress thus far, having achieved 5 of the 8 MDGs, making Maldives a front-runner in the South Asian region.

Back to top

Qatar Airways introduces in-flight Iftar boxes during Ramadan

Sun.mv – June 30, 2014 – Qatar Airways will provide an Iftar meal box to its fasting passengers travelling on the airline’s intra-Gulf routes during the holy month of Ramadan, Qatar Airways has said.

The meals can be chosen instead of the inflight food and beverage service on board intra-Gulf Qatar Airways’ flights. It allow those passengers observing Ramadan to break their fast with a fresh and healthy choice of food and beverage, the airline said.

Contents were selected to allow passengers a fresh meal at whatever time they chose to eat and typically include; bottled water, Arabic sweets, a vegetarian and non-vegetarian sandwich wrap, healthy snacks, a banana and a yoghurt drink, Qatar Airways said.

A spokesperson from Qatar Airways said that the airline recognizes that passengers who are fasting during Ramadan might chose not to eat at the times the airline provides its typical food and beverage service.

“These Ramadan boxes ensure that all of our passengers have a conveniently parceled meal to enable them to break their fast at their convenience, whether it be on board one of our flights or later during their onward journey,” said the Qatar Airways spokesperson.

Qatar Airways, the State of Qatar’s national airline, has seen rapid growth in just 17 years of operation, to the point where today it is flying a modern fleet of 134 aircraft to 143 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

Back to top

Maldives tourist arrivals increase by 11 percent

Maldives welcomed a total of 518,166 tourists from January to May 2014, registering a strong growth of 11.9 percent compared to the same the period of 2013.

According to numbers published by the Tourism Ministry on 25 June, Maldives received 91,296 tourists in May 2014, a 14.9 percent increase compared to May last year.

Tourist arrivals from the European region reached a total of 253,602 at the end May 2014. Europe remains as the market leader with a marginal growth of 0.7 percent for the period.

Total arrivals from the Asia and the Pacific region for the period from January to May 2014 was recorded to be 229,847, a 24.7 percent increase over the same period of 2013.

Americas, which was the third leading region with 3.4 percent shares, brought in 17,470 tourists to the Maldives during the period January to May 2014, a growth of 32 percent.

Maldives received a total of 141,249 tourists from China at the end of May 2014, a 23.3 percent increase over the same period of 2013, the most arrivals received from a single country.

Back to top

‘Meat eater’ tombs in Assos display the taste for flesh

ÇANAKKALE – Anadolu Agency – The ‘meat-eater’ tombs of the ancient city of Assos in Turkey’s northwest acquired fame throughout the world as bodies inside the tombs used to decompose within a short period of time

Forget about lions, tigers or other big predators, the real carnivores in Assos in Çanakkale are the ancient city’s tombs, whose stones are famous for causing bodies to decompose in record time.

“The tombs here are first cut roughly, and their interior is carved. We know that the decorations on the tombs were made in the graveyard. Some long-time researchers have been trying to find out if the bodies decomposed in the tombs because of the stone used. Some researchers claim that the tombs include lots of aluminum material, and that that causes decomposition. Maybe the locals of Assos found that aluminum burned the skin and put this material inside the tombs for the body to decompose within a short time. In this way, the tombs of Assos have become famous around the world,” said Çanakkale 18 Mart University (ÇOMÜ) Archaeology Department Professor Nurettin Aslan, who is the head of the excavations in the ancient city.

Aslan said the word “tomb” first appeared in Assos and was used as a concept to explain the stones in the city.

The professor also said the Roman writer Plinius, in his a 37-volume work titled “History of Nature,” talked about the type of stone used in the Assos tombs.

“He says the bodies that are put inside the tombs, which are made of this stone, completely decompose in 40 days. We know that other ancient resources mention the fame of this type of stone. Thanks to these resources, we found out that magnificent tombs were made of this stone,” he said.

Arslan also said the empty tombs were sent to other countries. “The fact that these tombs are in different countries show that they were very expensive tombs. We can say that the Assos tombs were particularly preferred by people who read Plinius. The tombs are generally two meters long and 80-to-90 centimeters wide. It is possible to see wider and longer tombs in Assos, too. Their weight is about three tons. The most important feature of tombs is that their material is andesite stone and they are decorated. They are unique to Assos only. For example, all tombs in Rome have three wreathes in their long side. It is two in the ones made in Assos.”

Examples of the special tombs still exist in stone pits on the north side of Assos, the professor said.

Back to top

Rock tombs focus of interest in Antalya

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – Rock tombs are on display in the ancient city of Myra, located in the province of Antalya, displaying interesting glimpses into the past

Rock tombs in the ancient city of Myra in the southern province of Antalya’s Demre district have drawn great interest from tourists throughout the year. The rock tombs date back to Lycians and are located in the upper part of a Roman theater in the ancient city, which is also famous for the Byzantine-era St. Nicholas Theater. The ancient city received over 130,000 visitors in the first five months of the year.

The ancient city of Myra served as the central city of the Lycian Union. Many structures were built and renovated in the city with the help of wealthy Lycians. During the Byzantine era, it was one of the leading cities in terms of religion and administration. Because of earthquakes and floods, Myra began losing its importance in the 7th century and became a village in the 12th century.

The embossed and plain rock tombs are located on both sides of the Roman theater. Most of the tombs appear like large houses from a distance, while some are in the shape of a temple. The tombs show the Lycians’ use of wooden house architecture. Inside the tombs are human figures, depicting the deceased and their relatives.

Pamukkale University Arts and History Department member Murat Dağdelen said the rock tombs are suitable for carving and processing and each clan had its own burying traditions.

“We can see the examples of every kind of tradition of burying the dead in Anatolia,” he said, adding that rock tombs had become common in 1000 A.D.

Dağdelen said the Urartians had become famous for processing tombs and made great contributions to give shape to rock tombs.

“Rock tombs exist in 47 different areas in Turkey. They were popularized by the Urartians and they now serve as sites for tourism. Particularly foreign tourists show great interest in rock tombs. They also contribute to the country’s economy,” he said.

Works for a giant museum

Other ancient Lycian works in Demre will be taken under protection in the Lycian Civilizations Museum, which is under construction in the Andriake port of Myria. Works for the museum will be finished soon.

Built with a cost of 8.355 million Turkish Liras, the museum has open and closed areas. The structures that have been unearthed during the five-year excavations will be included in the open section of the museum. The Roman-era granary, which was built in 129 A.D., has been restored for the closed section of the museum.

The 56-meter-long granary has seven rooms. The walls of the granary have been restored and its roof was covered with tiles. A 16-meter-long Roman-era boat was placed in front of the granary.

Also, an observation tower was built for visitors to observe birds living in the bird sanctuary next to the ancient city.

Back to top

Kazakhstan develops its national sport

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-07-01 TARAZ – Taraz, a cradle for Kazakh sports heroes, is witnessing a resurgence of interest in the country’s ancient form of wrestling, called “kazak kures,”

“Kazak kures” means “Kazakh wrestling” in Kazakh.

“Three months ago, the Taraz akimat decided to establish the Kazak Kures Club,” Zhambyl Administration of Physical Culture and Sport Deputy Director Nurjan Joldasbekov said. “Now in our oblast, 1,383 athletes are practicing the sport under the direction of 53 coaches.”

Interest really picked up after the kazak kures championship was held last year in Taraz, with dozens of young men enrolled in the sport locally, he said.

Nationwide interest has grown, too. In 2012, 81,774 students took kazak kures lessons, up from 68,158 in 2011.

Zhambyl wrestlers have been a consistent medal-winning force at national and international tournaments. Notable athletes include heavyweight Beybit Ystybayev from Taraz, who won the Kazakhstan Barysy tournament in 2012.

Such success is no accident, many local residents say, pointing out that legendary Kazakh strongman Baluan Sholak was born 150 years ago in the very same oblast.

“Southern Kazakhstan was always praised for its mighty batyrs (warriors),” Taraz resident Kanat Karbayev, a passionate fan of kazak kures, said. “Baluan Sholak is our pride. … Contemporary wrestlers have taken on their (ancestors’) spiritual strength and courage. That’s why I enrolled my 9-year-old son Bolat in kazak kures. He’s become a man in only six months.”

“I know that it’s helping me develop,” Bolat said. “You have to stand up for yourself and your country.”

Monetary gain also motivates the competitors. Mukhit Tursynov, the winner of this year’s Kazakhstan Barysys tournament, held in June in Astana, pocketed US $150,000 (276.9m KZT).

Eighteen sports schools are offering kazak kures lessons in Zhambyl Oblast.

“Kazak kures is very appealing and provides discipline,” Ruslan Mukhametgaliyev, a coach at the oblast boarding school for gifted athletes, said. “Originality manifests itself in all aspects of the sport.”

“Paluns (wrestlers) wear special jackets called chapans,” Mukhametgaliyev said. “The cloth belt is called a belebeu, and it is an important part of an athlete’s equipment, because wrestlers grab and throw each other for it. Bouts take place only in a standing position, unlike other forms of wrestling.”

The 1,383 oblast residents already practicing Kazakh wrestling will be joined by novices in several months. The Taraz Arena sports centre, built last year, soon will open its doors for kazak kures classes.

“It’s a matter of time … the Kazak Kures Club is undergoing registration (as an organisation),” Joldasbekov said. “As soon as it obtains legal status, kazak kures classes will start at the Tazaz Arena.”

Back to top

Bangabandhu Safari Park newest attraction in Bangladesh

GAZIPUR, July 4, 2014 (BSS) – The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park in Gazipur has emerged as one of the most gorgeous destinations of the country.

The park located in the Bhawal mouza has become a hive of activity due to the relentless efforts of Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina. By this time it has become a focal point for entertainment, bio-diversity, tourism, particularly eco-tourism, education, research and employment.

The deciduous ‘Shal’ forest stretches over 4 thousand 909 acres of land in the Bara Rather Mouza of Maona Union of Sreepur Upazila and fragmented parts of Pirujali Mouza of Pirujali Union of Gazipur Sadar upazila.

In 2010, the park’s work started with a projected costing Taka 63.99 crore. On February 2, 2011, work on the park started, formally and on October 31 the same year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the park.

Explaining the background, forest conservator, wild life and nature expert, Dr Tapan Kumar Dey, said the deciduous forests of Gazipur were historically a part of the Bhawal estate. After the Land Tenancy Act of 1950 the land was bestowed on the Forests Department.

He said as the forest is near Dhaka much of the bio- diversity has been lost to industry, encroachers and land grabbers. The untreated effluent of factories has also adversely affected the environment and bio-diversity.

Dr Tapan Kumar Dey went on, ” The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman loved forests and wildlife. In 1974, he ordered the establishment of “Champa Forest Rest House” in Gazipur’s Bhawal National Park to develop eco-tourism and provided funds from the treasury for it.”

It is learnt that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had advised the construction of the park with ingredients of the Safari World in Thailand and the Bali Safari Park in Indonesia. Consequently the park has emerged as one of the best in South and South-East Asia. Here, wildlife can live, roam and breed, freely. Tourists get the privilege of watching them from moving vehicles.

This park has much wildlife that has been reintroduced or is fenced in. They include, tigers, lions, elephants, giraffe, zebra, bear, blue cow, deer, hippopotamus, kangaroo, monkey, hanuman, black buck, sambar, crocodile, vulture, ostrich, serpent, peacock, macaw, crane, swan and pheasant.

The park has four types of thematic areas. These are: Core Safari Park, Safari Kingdom, Bio-diversity Park and Extensive Asian Safari Park.

No tourist can enter the core park without vehicles. There are two minibuses and two safari jeeps for their convenience. Tourists can avail them to tour the area.

On the other hand, in the Safari Kingdom tourists can take a stroll. Here the wildlife is fenced in. Besides, there is scope for education and research on wildlife, too. In the Safari Kingdom there are hill gates, nature watching equipment, aviary, marine aquarium, dark garden, pelican island, gray hornbill aviary, etc.

The main idea of the Bio-diversity Area is to conserve the gene pool of rare and endangered plant species. Plants of different species are planted here and it has been built as a replica of the National Botanical Gardens.

And the Extensive Asian Safari Park has been created with all Asian herbivorous and small carnivorous animals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Habitats, foraging grounds, forest, garden and wetlands suitable for wildlife and migratory birds have been created.

On the other hand, a 38-acre Bangabandhu Square has been created that extends from the gate of the park to the car parking area and includes the entertainment garden administrative building.

In front of the main gate a huge parking lot has been established. Here, there are attractive fountains with murals and models, reservoirs and lakes, an information center, rest house, nature history museum, eco-resort, etc.

Sohel Rana from Sirajganj was mesmerized seeing the Bangabandhu Safari Park. He said, if I had not come here, I would not have understood the difference between a zoo and a safari park. In zoos we see wildlife in cages, here, we saw them in the open. It was really great riding a safari jeep and seeing wildlife roaming around in the open.

Currently, the entry fee for the safari park is Taka 50 for adults, Taka 20 for children under 18 and Taka 10 for students.

Besides, fees for educational groups of 40 to 100 are Taka 400, while it is Taka 8 hundred for groups of over 100. For foreigners the charge is 5 US dollars or equivalent to Bangladesh currency.

Back to top

KatakIjau Organises Expo Ramadhan Kareem at Indoor Stadium

Saturday, 05 July 2014 BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: As part of Katakijau Charity Project, a nine-day Ramadhan Expo was launched at the Hassanal Bolkiah Indoor Stadium yesterday and saw the Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports officiate the launching.

The ceremony began with the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah. Yang Mulia Datin Paduka Hjh Adina Othman proceeded to cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the expo followed by the presentation of mockup cheque worth BND$1,000 to representative of “Tabung Kasih Belia” and “Tabung Orang Kurang Pendengaran” (Foundation for the Hearing Impaired) respectively.

Yang Mulia Datin Paduka Hjh Adina was then escorted by Yang Di-Pertua of Kumpulan Bertindak Bantuan Kemanusiaan Katakijau to tour the available booths, engaging in brief conversation with vendors manning their respective booth.

A wide variety of items are currently on sale at the expo, ranging from food and beverages to clothing and accessories. Majority of the entrepreneurs are involved in online business through social media such as Facebook and Instagram. This nine-day-long entrepreneur expo seeks to provide additional income for the vendors while contributing to the burgeoning business milieu at this month of Ramadhan.

Proceeds from this expo (after deducting operation cost) will be donated to Titian Ramadhan Katakijau Project in which this local NGO will give selected orphans the opportunity to shop for the necessities for the coming month of Aidilfitri celebration such as clothes, shoes and others. Around ten to fifteen orphans will be taken for Iftar. This project will begin on the third week into Ramadhan.

Back to top

30 million Indonesians expected to travel during Idul-Fitri

Thu, July 3 2014 Sampit, C Kalimantan (ANTARA News) – Around 30 million people are expected to return to their hometowns to celebrate Idul-Fitri holidays (mudik) at the end of Ramadan, a deputy minister said.

“Of the total, around three to four million will travel through sea transportation,” Transportation Deputy Minister Bambang Susantono said here on Thursday.

He said that the number of holidaymakers this year will rise from that in the previous year, but the increase will not be significant.

He said that around 160 thousand travelers to Java Island will arrive from Kalimantan.

The government will deploy at least 1,200 ships to cater to mudik travelers who will arrive at their hometowns through sea.

He pointed out that the capacity of the ships was already adequate, but on certain days during the peak season the capacity could become inadequate.

“We have also checked the preparedness of seaports, which will be used by the mudik travelers,” he said.

Bambang added that all seaports that will be used by travelers had begun preparing themselves.

The government has assured that fares will not be increased but will be the same as that in the previous year. This will be valid across the country.

Back to top

Tunisia Looks to Tourism Amid Terror Threat

Magharebia – 27 June 2014 – Najjar in Tunis — Tunisia’s new tourism minister is too busy trying to save the sector to let terrorism slow her down. Amel Karboul is plunging ahead with an ambitious plan to restore the country’s position as a premier destination for Maghreb and European visitors.

Times are tough for Tunisia’s tourism sector, mostly because of security concerns. The minister knows this all too well; two terrorists arrested in Sfax this month admitted to planning her murder.

The suspects had links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Akher Khabar reported. Yet even as the assassination plot came to light, the tourism minister remained optimistic, calling for joint efforts by the government and private operators to salvage the sector responsible for 7% of GDP and some 380,000 jobs.

“It’s up to each of us to do what is necessary to ensure the quality of services and products offered to foreign and local tourists,” Karboul told the Tunisian Hotel Federation (FTH) on June 10th.

The meeting came one day after the group issued a scathing statement voicing frustration over the slow pace of the sector’s recovery.

Tourism is considered a pillar of the Tunisian economy and a tributary of social development. So if it suffers, the repercussions are widespread.

Hopes were high among the FTH that the constitution and change of government would erase what it called the “bad image created by three years of instability”.

“FTH was convinced that the Tunisian tourism would resume with expected growth. It is clear, five months later, that we’ve wasted this capital, since the results are not there,” the hoteliers added.

The tourism minister targets 7 million visitors this season, which will help replenish state coffers and provide new jobs.

The goal will be realised by improving the quality of training, polishing the image of Tunisia abroad, diversifying tourism products and boosting investment in domestic travel, Karboul told Magharebia.

The sector has shown some modest gains.

“The first quarter of 2014 saw a 4.5 per cent increase in visitors compared to the same period in 2013, thanks to a great number of Maghreb tourists, especially Algerians,” Tunisian National Tourism Office (ONTT) head Wahida Djait said.

“The number of tourists who visited Tunisia during this period exceeded 1,110,000, which is close to the level recorded during the same period of 2010, the reference year for Tunisian tourism,” Djait added.

Whether a real turnaround is on the horizon depends on security.

Training sessions and monitoring equipment have recently been provided to security officers working in hotel units, FTH chief Radhouane Ben Salah told African Manager on June 15th.

Tunisian Federation of Travel Agencies (FTAV) head Mohamed Ali Toumi agreed, noting that improved security would “support the Tunisian tourism sector and contribute to attracting more foreigners”.

Restoring security is no easy task, the government concedes.

“Every day, suspects are arrested, weapons and explosives seized and terrorist operations are aborted,” Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou told the National Constituent Assembly on June 23rd.

Security also remains the most important concern for workers in the tourism sector in Tunisia.

“Tunisia is not Libya or Algeria,” says Mostafa Tej, 41. “We do not have gas and oil, but we have a beautiful country that can be used to improve the tourism sector.”

“But because of the continuing terrorist threat to Tunisia and especially the worsening situation in Libya, we cannot achieve the required level and bring tourists back to Tunisia,” he adds.

The misfortune of Tunisia is that it remains hostage to the security situation in Libya, experts say.

According to Tunisian Centre for Global Security Studies (CTESG) head Nasr Ben Soltana, “disorder in Libya will have serious repercussions on the security situation in Tunisia”.

“Terrorists will seek to exploit it and ignite the situation in Tunisia, and open new fronts to slide the region to instability,” he adds.

Afif Kochok, the owner of a hotel in Tunis, says that “confronting any sort of terrorist attack cannot be done by ordinary security agents”.

“They do not have weapons and are not qualified for that,” he says. “There is equipment such as infrared cameras that detect movement at night, but unfortunately installing them in hotels is too expensive.”

“Despite all the difficulties, Tunisia remains a favourite destination for many European tourists. They total about a million and half yearly,” he tells Magharebia.

European visitor numbers need to grow, but tourists from Maghreb countries still flock to Tunisia.

For Algerian tourist Mouez bou Ghadrouf, Tunisia’s appeal lies in “the beauty of the country, its welcoming attitude and excellent services, and its cultural and geographical proximity”.

“It’s true that I refrained from visiting the year that followed the revolution, but I came back because the security situation has improved a lot and there’s no need to fear,” he says.

Libyan tourist Salah Mosrati visits every month to shop.

“It’s our favourite destination,” he tells Magharebia. “Besides, the critical situation in Libya makes us think that we should leave for good and settle in Tunisia.”

Back to top

Uganda: Afrika Dreams in Local Tourists Push

The Observer – 3 July 2014 – There are very many ways one could enjoy a weekend. Some go to the theatre or concert while others try out wild adventure.

That is where Afrika Dreams Safaris comes in. The travel company will be launching its bungee jumping programme this Saturday. According to the company’s operations manager, Simon Mukisa, the weekend safari is dubbed Catch your dreams.

It is aimed at getting Ugandans to embrace the many tourism destinations in the country, and the activities that come with them, that have previously been sought after by visiting foreign tourists.

“We are trying to let Ugandans in on the activities that characterise some of our best safari packages at an affordable price,” he said.

The actual bungee jumping, he says, will take place at 2pm in Jinja, though before that, all interested parties will have to meet and set off from the company’s office at Kamu Kamu Plaza in Kampala. Adrenaline junkies will have to part with Shs 150,000 which Mukisa says includes lunch and transport.

Mukisa notes that this is the third activity they are organising this year after two others codenamed Access Kampala, which were held in May and June. Bungee jumping is a sport that involves jumping from a tall structure with the feet tied to a large elastic cord.

The structures are usually fixed objects, such as buildings, bridges or cranes. But it is also possible to jump from a movable object, such as a hot-air balloon or helicopter. Many participants get the thrill from the free-falling and the rebound.

When one jumps, the cord stretches for a limited distance downwards, then pulls the jumper back upwards as the cord recoils, and continues to oscillate up and down until all the kinetic energy is dissipated.

Back to top

Zazou, German Amb. Confer On Restoring Tourism Flow to Egypt

1 July 2014 – Egypt State Information Service – Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou held talks with German Ambassador in Egypt Hansjorg Harber on means to boost touristic cooperation and restore tourism flow to Egypt.

This comes as part of the efforts aiming at promoting Egyptian-German relations and enticing German tourists to visit Egypt more often.

Zazou asserted the depth of the Egyptian-German relations and the keenness of the government to activate bilateral ties especially in the field of tourism.

Back to top

“Silk Road” musical festival starts in Azerbaijan

01 July 2014 – AzerNews – The fifth International Musical Festival of “Silk Road” will kick off in Azerbaijan with a ballet based on a piece from the symphonic Mugham “Rast” by famous Azerbaijani composer Niyazi.

The event to be held in the northern city of Shaki on July 1-5 will pay some special attention not only to the countries of the “Great Silk Road”, but also to the Turkic-speaking countries.

The Chairman of Azerbaijan Composers Union, Professor Firangiz Alizadeh said: “We annually organize the international music festival “Silk Road”. This year we celebrate the anniversary of the festival, and so we want to hold it on a large scale.”

“The festival program includes performances of the soloists of Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, Istanbul ensemble “Modern folk Muzic”, Indian group “Nrityarupa”, Azerbaijan ensemble of ancient musical instruments, Baku Marionette Theatre, Chinese song and Dance Ensemble,” she underlined.

Alizadeh expressed gratitude to the Azerbaijan Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Executive Authority of Shaki for their support in organizing the festival.

The advisor to the Culture and Tourism of the Turkish embassy in Azerbaijan Seyit Ahmet Arslan said that in previous years the representatives of Turkey participated in the festival.

“This year, Turkey will be present by famous ensemble “Modern folk Muzic”. Hopefully, guests of the festival will like their performance,” he said.

Head of Culture and Tourism Department of Shaki region Mirvari Zeynalova noted that festivals organized in previous years were held at a high level.

The program of the festival will also include a fashion show of national costumes of 11 Turkic-speaking countries and special musical performances organized by the International Organization of Turkic Culture TURKSOY.

Moreover, the festival will witness an exhibition of the artists from Turkic-speaking countries.

Honored Artist of Azerbaijan, Head of the Azerbaijan ensemble of ancient musical instruments Munis Sharifov stressed that the team is looking forward to perform in Shaki.

For the first time, the festival will be attended by guests from Northern Cyprus, Macedonia and Montenegro.

Art groups from India and China will give their theatrical performances of the national traditional arts for Shaki residents and guests of the festival. The performances will include dances, singing, playing on the national instruments, choral music, as well as exotic national costumes and ancient rites.

The final day of the festival will feature the gala concert of Russian Symphony Orchestra “Hermitage” from St. Petersburg.

As part of the festival, a concert of the winners and participants of Eurovision song contest is also expected, which will definitely bring new emotions, colors and rhythms to the cultural event.

Artists from seven countries will show on the canvases their observations of the festival.

Shaki has been one of the major cities along the Silk Road for centuries. The city boasts of its great silk factory that produced silk products for over four centuries.

The “Silk Road” Festival in Shaki is a joint project by Azerbaijan’s Composers Union and the executive power of Shaki. It was also supported by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Foundation supporting the national heritage of Azerbaijan.

Back to top

Saudi establishes camel milk firm in California

Arab News – 02 July, 2014 – A young Saudi has established a company selling camel’s milk in the United States, despite the animals reportedly being the source of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.

According to a report in a Los Angeles newspaper, Walid Abdulwahab, 23, set up the company as part of his class project at the University of Southern California.

The lighthearted slogan of his company, Desert Farms, is “Make every day a humpday.”

Supplied by seven small camel farms, most of them owned by Amish, the Santa Monica-based company recently sold camel milk of $100,000, as it spreads its claims of nutritional and health benefits, the report stated.

“What we know about the camel milk is that, in terms of health, it outperforms every other dairy beverage,” Abdulwahab reportedly said.

With no appreciable difference in taste from cow’s milk, camel’s has 50 percent less fat and about 40 fewer calories per cup. It also has about the same amounts of other nutrients. Desert Farms sells milk raw or pasteurized, with the pasteurized version in most stores, the report stated.

But it doesn’t come cheap. A pint, or almost 500mls, costs $16 to $19 online (SR60 to SR71).

The report stated that Abdulwahab’s project was inspired by a visit home to Saudi Arabia. After investing his own funds to launch in January, he now supplies camel’s milk to stores in Northern California, in addition to selling it online.

Around 80 percent of its products are sold to families that have autistic children, because camel’s milk apparently helps to improve the motor skills of these children.

“Camel milk has been used for centuries in the Middle East by nomads and Bedouins, and they swore by it,” he said. “That’s why people have faith in it, it’s a historical product.”

While researching his class project, he learned that some farms in the West and Midwest, mostly owned by Amish, milked camels. He approached them, and soon seven small farms began supplying milk for Desert Farms, the report stated.

According to Abdulwahab, cows outnumber camels by about 18,000 to 1 in US, making cow’s milk less pricey.

“Nobody has tested camel’s milk scientifically,” said Jay Gargus, director of the University of California Irvine Center for Autism Research and Translation.

After partnering with Christina Adams, a writer who has reported success with camel milk and her own son, the Irvine labs began tests this month to “see if there’s some basis to it,” he reportedly said.

Back to top

Oman: Salalah is top summer spot to spend Eid Al Fitr holidays

Times of Oman – 02 July, 2014 – Salalah is the most sought after destination for both nationals and expatriates in Oman to spend Eid Al Fitr holidays, travel agents claimed citing ticket booking figures.

“For the Eid Al Fitr holidays, we have quite a good number of ticket bookings for Salalah. Lack of interest in foreign destinations due to lesser number of holidays and unavailability of tickets to these places is making travellers opt for Salalah,” Raji DeMonte, general manager at Universal Travel and Tourism Agencies, said.

“Last year, we had a good many bookings for Iran and other Middle East countries. But this time that trend is not so visible. Instead, people are preferring to go to Salalah. The climate is also perfect in Salalah to enjoy the holidays. For those who want to beat the Muscat heat, Salalah is a perfect getaway,” Raji added.

“Moreover, this time, there are no tickets available to the South Asian countries. Almost all the tickets were purchased in advance by those who had left Oman for summer vacations. So, if somebody even plans to go to a South Asian destination, it is quite impossible,” Raji added.

Eid Al Fitr holiday is likely to start on July 28. The one-month long Khareef season in Salalah began on June 21.

Tuesday, Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate, announced its plans to increase the number of Muscat-Salalah services from 52 flights per week to 84, for the July 24 to September 15 period, to cope with the increasing popularity of the destination during the Khareef season.

In 2013, the total number of visitors during Khareef season (June 21 to September 21) increased by 23.5 per cent to 433,639, compared to 351,195 visitors during the same period in 2012.

“It is true that we have only a few bookings for foreign destinations during Eid Al Fitr holidays, but people have already started to book tickets to foreign destinations during the Eid Al Adha holidays,” Renny Johnson, executive manager at Mezoon Travel, said.

“We have bookings for the UK, France and Switzerland. We even have bookings for many hot destinations in Far East countries,” Renny added.

While talking about the foreign destinations, Renny’s opinion also resonated with those of Raji that many are heading for Salalah to escape the heat and enjoy the Eid Al Fitr holidays and Khareef festival.

According to a top official in Oman Air, with up to 14 scheduled flights a day from Muscat, and a minimum of 10 per day, Oman Air is offering a record number of seats to Salalah from Muscat this summer, thus providing a perfect introduction to the area’s natural beauty, rich culture and superb hospitality.

“There is no better place to escape the heat of the Middle East summer. However, seats are selling out fast, with more visitors planning to visit Salalah and Dhofar region. Hence we would advise travellers to book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment,” Abdulrazaq Alraisi, chief commercial officer at Oman Air, said.

Back to top

Oman Air’s launches real-time ‘missing miles claim’

Saudi Gazette – 03 July, 2014 – Oman Air has made it even easier for its Sindbad members to claim their missing miles, following the introduction of a real-time ‘Missing miles claim’ function on the airline’s website at sindbad.omanair.com.

Occasionally, for a variety of reasons, Sindbad miles do not get registered to members’ accounts and members have to claim for these retroactively. With this improvement, members can submit these claims online and they will be processed instantly in real-time, Accepted claims will be updated in member’s account immediately. If claims are rejected, members will be notified of the reason for the decision straight away.

The process is very simple. All that the members have to do is enter their ticket number, together with a minimal amount of additional information, into the online ‘Missing miles claim’ form and click submit.

Abdulrazaq Alraisi, Chief Commercial Officer at Oman Air, said: “With the introduction of real-time missing miles claims processing, Oman Air’s Sindbad members can now submit miles claims online and know the status of their claims immediately, making the experience faster, simpler and hassle free.”

“This is just the latest step that Oman Air has taken in increasing the ease, convenience and choice that we offer to our most valued customers.” By flying with Oman Air, or any of its partner airlines, or by purchasing goods and services from Oman Air’s many global partners, Sindbad members earn miles both in the air and on the ground. Sindbad miles can be used for free flights, flight upgrades, exciting raffles, promotions and more. Membership has three tiers, starting with Sindbad Blue membership and progressing through Silver to Gold membership. Each tier offers a wide range of benefits, with higher membership status bringing exclusive lounge access, extra baggage allowance, priority check-in and other privileges.

Back to top

Ramadan mobile apps add to spirit of the Holy Month in Qatar

The Peninsula – 02 July, 2014 – Mobile technology has come in handy for people fasting during this Ramadan. Lots of applications (apps) are available for mobile users, especially designed for the holy month. They help people with fasting, tell them about Ramadan ‘Duas’, songs, greeting cards, messages and wall papers.

There are also apps which have recipes for Ramadan while some others help people remember all the good things they can do during this Ramadan. The apps are available on iOS and Android phones and most can be downloaded for free.

Resala Ramadan app details about the most basic principles to fast during Ramadan.

Ramadan Duas app is for people who want know formal duas for the month. It also has an introduction that sheds light on the importance and significance of Ramadan, duas for the three Ashras of Ramadan with Arabic and Roman translation and audio recitation of each dua for knowing the right pronunciation. Other apps with similar features are Ramadan Dua, Ramadan Dua 2014 and Ramadan Guide.

Ramadan Achievements App helps people remember all good things they can do during the holy month. It has a list of good things that reminds users to send a neighbour Iftar snacks, feed a homeless person, feed a poor person in another country, greet everyone with a smile and salaam today, pray all five daily prayers in the mosque, donate money to charity and similar things

Ramadan Recipes App is an interactive magazine that includes 90 easy-to-make recipes designed for Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr. It offers recipes for Iftar and Suhoor and dessert recipes to offer to guests. All recipes are explained step by step and illustrated with a photo for each step to remain faithful to the spirit of the recipe. Some recipes are accompanied by short videos.

Ramadan Greeting Cards, Ramadan Karim Cards, Ramadan Wallpapers, Ramadan Lanterns Livewallpaper, Ramadan Livewallpaper, Ramadan Songs are applications which have greeting cards, wallpapers and songs.

If you are looking to send special messages, then you can download Ramadan Messages, Ramadan SMS 2014, SMS Ramadan Apps which have messages in Arabic and English.

“I have installed some apps in my mobile which help me to observe Ramadan. I send Ramadan messages and wallpapers to my friends every day,” said Kashif Bhatti, who lives in Najma.

Back to top

Artificial reefs boost marine life in Oman

Times of Oman – 02 July, 2014 – A partnership between Vale and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has helped improve the marine life along the coast of Liwa.

In coordination with the local fishermen, 400 artificial reefs were installed in four different locations in the waters of Harmool, Al Ramliya and Nibr to enhance biodiversity and raise the number of fish in non-restricted fishing areas for commercial use.

The two-year project was divided into three stages to allow for constructive assessment and evaluation of its outcome. The artificial reefs were dropped in each of the four locations between the depths of 10 and 28 metres.

In addition, four demarcation buoys equipped with solar powered navigation beacons were installed to mark the location around the Al Ylah Mountain to protect the existing natural reefs. Assessments carried out by the ministry and local fishermen have indicated an increase in the quantities of fish caught which, in turn, underlines the improvement in this important source of livelihood.

Dr Hamed bin Said Al Oufi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for the Fisheries Wealth, explained, “In the past, fishermen built reefs out of basic materials such as rocks, tyres and the barks of palm trees. Today, with the advancement in the industry, we have invested in the research and development of environment-friendly reefs, creating a reef management system that has allowed us to reduce pollution caused by these materials, especially in shallow waters.”

Back to top

Emirates to fly seven times daily to Doha from Dec 1

Gulf Times – 02 July, 2014 – Doha is to become Emirates’ best served destination with seven daily flights to and from Dubai from December 1. Doha will take the top spot when it goes from six to seven daily flights, overtaking Bangkok’s six daily services.

The extra flights into Doha are part of a 28-flight boost to the airline’s Middle East services, the Dubai-based airline said in a statement.

The details of the extra daily Emirates flights to and from Doha are as follows: EK 881 departing Dubai at 7.20pm and arriving in Doha at 7.30pm (all local time) and EK882 departing Doha at 9.25pm and arriving in Dubai at 11.30pm.

Muscat will go from two to three flights a day, Bahrain from three to four daily services and Kuwait will increase from five to six flights daily.

With the changes in place as of December 1, Emirates will offer some 276 weekly flights to destinations across the Middle East out of its industry-leading hub at Dubai International.

“This is a significant enhancement of our services in the region, giving our customers more choice and convenience,” said Khalid al-Serkal, Emirates’ manager in Qatar.

“With seven flights a day going into Doha, nowhere else on the Emirates’ network will offer as many daily flights. This overtakes Bangkok and is ahead of Singapore and London Heathrow,” al-Serkal said.

“The extra frequencies will provide even more scope for customers to enjoy our award winning services, such as the ice in-flight entertainment system loaded with up to 1,800 channels of movies, TV programmes, games and music, which can all be enjoyed while savouring gourmet chef prepared cuisine,” al-Serkal added.

Back to top

Gulf Air increases Egypt flights

The Peninsula – 02 July, 2014 – Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, has increased its flights to Cairo from 10 to 12 per week to meet the rising demand following successful negotiations between the civil aviation authorities of the two countries.

Gulf Air’s new schedule to Cairo, effective from July 23, will see additional flights between Manama and the Egyptian capital. With one of the largest Middle East networks, Bahrain’s national carrier is well positioned to link the Egyptian capital to several key destinations in the region with excellent connectivity via Bahrain to prominent cities in the Gulf, the Indian sub-continent, United Arab Emirates, Bangkok, Thailand Delhi, in less than two hours.

Back to top

Bahrain to host Routes Mena event

Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) has announced that it will host the first ever Routes Mena in Bahrain in November 2015. The inaugural event will see route development professionals from across the Mena region gather to discuss air service development to, from, and within the region in a three-day forum. “It is with great anticipation that we welcome the Routes Mena 2015 to Bahrain,” said Mohammed Yousif Al Binfalah, chief executive officer of BAC, adding: “We are delighted to be bringing this prestigious event to Bahrain where we can show our visitors, the warm and welcoming culture of our people. ”

Back to top

Gama Aviation opens private terminal at Sharjah Airport

Saudi Gazette – 03 July, 2014 – GAMA Aviation FZE has opened its exclusive executive terminal (FBO) at Sharjah International Airport, creating a full service private aviation hub serving Sharjah, Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

The new facility, which is the latest stage of development by Gama Aviation, its investors including Crescent Enterprises, Growthgate Capital, and Sharjah’s Department of Civil Aviation, was inaugurated by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Thani during an evening ceremony held after the Isha prayer.

The facility at Sharjah International Airport is already performing above its target for weekly movements as operators and owners seek to cut the transit time of principals and crew to the Northern Emirates.

Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Airport Authority, said: “Sharjah is getting increasingly popular for general aviation and business jet operators, given its uncongested ease of operations and speedy processes. Our partnership with Gama Aviation and their initiative in providing a world class executive terminal, at Sharjah International Airport, further enhances this reputation, thereby contributing to fulfilling Sharjah’s aspiration of a premier private aviation hub in the region.”

Marwan Khalek, CEO of Gama Aviation, added: “We have long seen the strategic potential of Sharjah as a private aviation hub. Our new lounge facility complements our dedicated hangars, maintenance facilities and fuel services. Phase two is to commence shortly with the development of a new hangar which will incorporate an expanded maintenance facility as well as a much needed increase in aircraft storage capacity.”

Badr Jafar, CEO of Crescent Enterprises, also a Gama Aviation shareholder, highlighted the importance of the new terminal to Sharjah. “Over the last decade, Sharjah has developed into an internationally recognized hub for low-cost aviation and air freight. Much less well known is the extent of the airport’s private aviation operations, which will be given a further boost with the opening of the new Gama Aviation terminal. Furthermore, it will help grow Sharjah’s aviation economy by creating new employment opportunities and up-skilling the region’s talent.”

Karim Souaid, Managing Partner of the specialist private equity firm Growthgate Capital, a shareholder in Gama Aviation’s MENA business, said: “As Marwan explained, there are strong growth opportunities for Sharjah. With Dubai International Airport closing a runway and restricting slots to private aviation during the past few months, and Dubai World Central still starting up, Sharjah Airport and the facilities offered by Gama Aviation have become a natural choice for those requiring to access the Northern Emirates quickly and effectively.”

Back to top

New road linking S. Arabia to boost trade and tourism

Oman Tribune – 03 July, 2014 – IBRI Government Organisations and private enterprises began adopting and welcoming the road project that is being implemented on both sides of the Rub Al Khali border crossing in the Governorate of Al Dhahirah between the Sultanate and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

Eng. Salim Bin Saud Al Kindi, Director-General of the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Livestock at Al Dhahirah Governorate, said that he expected the new link to boost trade and tourism between the two GCC countries.

Al Kindi said the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Wealth is working with other concerned authorities to construct a veterinary facility between the Sultanate and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They are exploring the possibility of establishing some animal and agricultural projects in places that have easy access to water.

Ahmed Bin Said Bin Abdullah Al Riyami, Director of the Department of Awqaf and Religious Affairs at Al Dhahirah Governorate, said that the road linking the Sultanate’s border with Saudi Arabia is very important as it will shorten the distance for Umrah and Haj pilgrims. He added that the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs will establish a mosque on the Oman-Saudi Arabia road with all utilities.

Nasser Bin Saleem Al Tamimi, Director of Customer Services at Public Authority for Electricity and Water in Al Dhahirah Governorate said there are plans to make a water survey that will include making a hydrology research of the area and to locate water. As a result of this study, it will be possible to dig wells to meet the demand for water. With the availability of necessary technology, thea quality of water can be ensured and continuity can bestudied.

Back to top

Salalah Declaration to enhance regional medicinal plant ties

Oman Daily Observer – 03 July, 2014 – The 1st Indian Ocean Rim Association’s Meeting and Exhibition on Medicinal Plants concluded with participating countries signing the Salalah Declaration on Applied Research, Technology Transfer and Commercialisation of Medicinal Plants and Herbal Medicine in the Indian Ocean Rim. Organised by the Oman Animal and Plant Genetic Resources Centre (OAPGRC) in partnership with Dhofar University and the Indian Ocean Rim Association’s Regional Centre for Science and Technology Transfer, the Salalah Declaration aims to enhance regional medicinal plant co-operation through high-profile events and annual joint activities.

Attracting over 40 from public and private sector scientists and researchers from nine countries, Dr Nadiya al Saady, OAPGRC’s Executive Director and co-organiser of the Salalah event, said: “Medicinal plants play an important role in today’s healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. Oman has been blessed with over 250 reported species of medicinal plants that could play a role in treating some of the world’s current and future diseases.”

Signing the Salalah Declaration, member states agreed to improve the IORA Medicinal Plants Network through regular meetings and training programmes. Kamburawala Kankanamge and Don Somathilaka Ranaweera of Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike Memorial Ayurveda Research Institute, India’s Anil Kumar Tripathi of the CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants and Ibrahim Jantan of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia proposed to host IORA medicinal plant and herbal medicine technology meetings later this year as well as in 2015.

“Given the success of the Salalah meeting, we’ve agreed to hold this conference and exhibition annually and in a different IORA country each year. Representatives from Egypt, Thailand and the Seychelles have already expressed interest in hosting future IORA medicinal plant events,” remarked the OAPGRC Executive Director.

As part of the Declaration, an IORA Medicinal Plants and Herbal Medicine Standards Committee has been established and will be chaired by Dr Anil Kumar Tripathi of India’s CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants with members from Oman, Malaysia, Iran, Thailand, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Egypt. The committee will draw up IORA certification standards for the commercialisation of medicinal plants and related technology.

Hosts of the event, Dhofar University, has agreed to collaborate with India’s CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants on developing biodiversity and conservation research and academic programmes with a specific focus on Dhofari medicinal plants. University personnel also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ExirGolSorkh, Zardband Pharmaceuticals, Rosepharmed Biotechnology, Magnolia Flavour & Fragrance, Kimiagar Toos, Goldarou and Iran Darouk to collaborate on developing and transferring herbal medicine production methods.

Dr Al Saady: “This was an extremely important and highly successful meeting. We were able to extend medicinal plant co-operation among the Indian Ocean Rim Association’s twenty member states. We were also able to connect with the business community who provided the all-important commercial perspective on the medicinal plant market. Indeed, the popularity of medicinal plant medicines is increasing at a significant rate. Today, it is a $60 billion industry and global demand is growing at 8–10 per cent annually. We look forward to developing private sector ties that will further enhance the conservation and commercialisation of medicinal plants and herbal medicines in the IORA region.”

Back to top

New Bahrain Visa Policy benefits businesses and tourism

Bahrain News Agency – 03 July, 2014 – The Economic Development Board (EDB) has highlighted details of a new visa policy that allows nationals of more than 60 more countries to obtain a visa on arrival, bringing the total number of countries with this option to nearly 100.

The new visa policy will be implemented in 2015 and is a significant development, with the potential to affect over 2.5 billion people who can now obtain a one month visa on arrival, with the ability to renew for another three months. In particular, the new visa policy will further enable expatriates who do business in Bahrain, to easily travel in and out of the Kingdom more easily, as well as boosting the tourism industry.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, First Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the EDB, presented the new visa policy in a Cabinet meeting earlier this week, emphasizing that reforms such as this, which support the business environment in the Kingdom, will help to continue to attract inward investment and drive forward economic growth and job creation.

H.E. Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and Acting Chief Executive of the EDB, commented: “Throughout history, Bahrain’s economic progress has been built on a tradition of openness, based around its role as an established hub for trade and investment. The new visa policy – one of the most flexible visa policies in the region – follows that tradition, enabling citizens from more than 100 countries to enjoy easier and quicker access to the Middle East’s most open economy, as ranked by the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.”

The decision to revise the visa policy was taken based on key trends in the investor base in the Kingdom, including a 58% increase in international investors who own businesses in Bahrain between 2005 and 2012, and 50% increase in Arab investors with 17% in non-residence equity owners. The UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014, released last month, confirmed that total foreign direct investment (FDI) into Bahrain in 2013 was $ 989 million, an increase of 11% on 2012, outpacing global average growth of 9%.

Back to top

Etihad Airways eyes Europe aviation

Khaleej Times – 04 July, 2014 – The president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, has urged Europe’s governments and airlines to embrace external investment to help strengthen the aviation sector.

Speaking in Vienna at a European Union conference on air transport competitiveness in Europe, Hogan said aviation was a global, not regional, industry, generating strong economic and social benefits.

He said his airline wanted to engage with Europe for mutual gain.

“Consolidation of airlines is critical to sustainable air services,” Hogan said. “External investment is not a threat. It is an opportunity to strengthen airlines, and to support employment and economic growth.”

Etihad Airways has acquired minority stakes in three European airlines — airberlin (29.2 per cent), Aer Lingus (4.99 per cent) and Air Serbia (49 per cent) — and is finalising the acquisition of a 33.3 per cent stake in the Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline, which operates as Etihad Regional.

Etihad Airways has also announced its intention to acquire a 49 per cent stake in Italy’s Alitalia, subject to regulatory approval.

Hogan said Middle Eastern airlines were coming under increasing scrutiny in Europe, as opponents cited the expansion of Gulf carriers as a major competitive threat.

“All Gulf carriers are not the same,” said Hogan. “We are different sizes, have different hubs and follow different strategies. We are actually vigorous competitors with each other.” He said Etihad Airways, in particular, had become a major focus of larger competitors who feared and opposed its investment strategy.

“Etihad Airways is wholly-owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi. We received start-up capital, like every airline does, but we receive no state subsidies, no free fuel and no reduced airport charges in the UAE.”

Hogan said the European airline industry was built upon decades of government ownership and support, and that even after privatisation or part-privatisation, government bailouts, debt waivers and various forms of subsidies had continued.

He cited examples of direct state aid totalling €14.2 billion, including an €800 million payment by the German government to Lufthansa to support a pension fund gap, state aid of €1.1 billion for Swiss following the collapse of its predecessor, Swissair, and the Austrian Government’s absorption of €500 million of debt accrued by Austrian Airlines. Both airlines are now subsidiaries of Lufthansa.

“Gulf carriers are not the cause of Europe’s aviation challenges,” Hogan said, adding that the industry was already facing serious problems decades before Etihad Airways was established in 2003.

He said the biggest problems facing the European industry were long-standing issues including congestion from under-investment in airports and airspace management, high operating costs at traditional hub airports, high labour costs and inconsistent and inequitable taxes levied on airlines and passengers.

The rapid and broad growth of low cost airlines has also impacted heavily on legacy airlines, causing a major shift of intra-Europe traffic to budget operators and losses by legacy carriers on short and medium-haul routes.

In 2013, the 10 member carriers of the European Low Fares Airline Association operated 915 aircraft and carried 216 million passengers, or 43 per cent of all scheduled intra-Europe air traffic.

“We understand and respect the fact that European airlines have their own business models, and we understand and work within the rules of Europe,” Hogan said. “We have a different business model to suit our different requirements.

“To grow, we need scale. We cannot match the size of long-established competitors, including other Gulf carriers, so we have developed a strategy of growth through partnership,” he said.

Back to top

Saudi Arabia notes uptrend in domestic tourism

Arab News – 04 July, 2014 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA) has noted an upward trend in domestic tourism thanks to the number of Saudis and foreigners traveling within the Kingdom during Ramadan.

“One reason for this is the SCTA’s support for local tourism by ensuring quality, controlling prices and diversifying tourist destinations,” Mishari Al-Naim, built heritage head at the SCTA, told Arab News on Thursday.

He said that festivals are being held in several regions with the advent of Ramadan coinciding with the summer season.

Al-Naim said that locals will witness a Ramadan festival, whose activities will continue for 34 days from the beginning of Ramadan into the following month, with special events highlighting local traditions and customs.

Taif, meanwhile, will hold the “Al-Khalidiya entertainment and marketing festival” for the summer, which includes a site for families and features many entertainment and education sites, in addition to areas for recreational and fireworks displays.

In Hofuf, the Al-Ahsa tourist family festival will also be held at the King Abdullah Environmental Park for a month.

The Jazan summer festival in the heritage village continues to attract the public, while Al-Baha’s summer festival will also run during the month of fasting.

Al-Naim noted that there were more than 23.8 million domestic trips made in the Kingdom last year, up from 19 million the previous year.

An SCTA report said that expenditure for domestic tourism last year exceeded SR28 billion and that the number of Saudis working in the tourism sector touched more than 203,200.

The figure represents 27.1 percent of the total employees in direct jobs, pointing out that the contribution of domestic tourism to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to SR75 billion in 2013.

Back to top

New bus tours of Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 04 July, 2014 – Visitors will soon be able to tour Bahrain by bus and sightsee archaeological, cultural and tourism attractions.

Buses will be bought from Spain as part of efforts to boost and diversify the tourism industry in Bahrain.

Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa yesterday unveiled the plan as she held a Press conference with the general manager of City Sightseeing, the world’s leading open top bus tour operator.

It follows a memorandum of understanding signed with Spanish Industry, Energy and Tourism Minister Dr JosŽ Manuel Soria on the sidelines of King Juan Carlos’ visit to Bahrain.

Bahrain will join 107 cities benefiting from City Sightseeing tourism services in the world.

Back to top

Saudi Arabia, first Arab country to set up monuments system

Arab News – 05 July, 2014 – General Supervisor of King Abdullah Cultural Heritage Project and vice president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Ali Al Ghabban said Saudi Arabia is one of the first Arab countries to set up a monuments system with the aim to protect the heritage sites in the Kingdom for their cultural significance and their value as an economic resource.

“Saudi Arabia is one of the first Arab countries to set up a system for monuments,” Al Ghabban said in a press statement issued yesterday.

Applauding the issuance of the new system of monuments, museums and architectural heritage which was issued by the Council of Ministers recently, Al Ghabban asserted that the new system of monuments enhances the protection of national heritage sites as resources for economic benefit.

He added that the former system was issued 40 years ago but it was necessary to effect some changes in light of an evolution in the government’s interest in preserving architectural and urban heritage including museums to develop a system for the protection of monuments.

He revealed that the new system had been under study for a long time with concerned partners prior to being released with requirements which would enhance the process of preservation, protection and investment.

“The new system focuses on the importance of monuments, their preservation and as an important area of investment to benefit the country’s economy,” Al Ghabban underlined.

He further said the new system devotes a special chapter to urban heritage and museums and takes care of investment in national heritage. It also ensures economical benefits with regard to the sunken monuments and seeks cooperation from scientific missions, exploration operations and archaeological surveys to cope with new developments.

It further classified the architectural heritage, which is recorded as a national heritage with various categories and also supports the creation of a fund to support urban and general heritage, the SCTA deputy said.

“All of these combine to make the new system an important step toward the protection and development of the national heritage and culture,” Al Ghabban asserted.

According to him, the important additions of the new system are in the area of protection where government agencies including the ministries of Municipal and Rural Affairs, Agriculture, Transport, Petroleum and Mineral Resources and other agencies are obliged to operate in locations that are earmarked for developmental projects to ensure there are no sunken or visible monuments there.

“It is necessary to coordinate with the SCTA to ensure that the sites have no monuments,” he stated adding that the system gives the tourism commission a period of four weeks to respond.

“This system has been applied in the past with the Ministry of Petroleum and succeeded without affecting the ongoing developmental work in any way. It will also work with the ministries of Transport and Municipal Affairs, Petroleum and Agriculture,” he said.

The SCTA has developed mechanisms that enable government agencies to respond to these kinds of applications which aim to protect our national heritage as an economic resource in addition to their cultural significance,” Al Ghabban concluded.

The Kingdom is currently in the process of preserving its unique Islamic and cultural identity by showcasing its heritage in national oriented programs such as the Janadriyah Festival which is held annually in the Riyadh region.

Back to top