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14 Jul, 2014

Tourism Malaysia Promotions Back to Normal In China

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 14 July 2014 (16 Ramadan 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines 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.





Niavaran holds Bismillah festival

Tehran, July 8, IRNA — Niavaran Cultural Complex will host the 11th Bismillah International Festival from July 11-21, 2014. The festival will be organized by the Center for Promoting Qurˈanic Arts in a joint effort with Niavaran complex.

The event is scheduled to host various Qurˈanic artworks created by Iranian and foreign artists in two main sections of logotype and poster centered on the theme of ˈBismillahˈ.

ˈBismillahˈ is the Arabic word which is used as the collective name of the phrase ˈBismillahi-r Rahmani-r rahimˈ meaning ˈIn the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Mercifulˈ.

Numerous graphic, photography and calligraphy works will also showcased at the festival.

Works by artists from Denmark, the UAE, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Tunisia will be featured in the event.

Out of 4,375 entries submitted to the eventˈs secretariat, 135 have been selected for display at Niavaranˈs Gallery#1.

Winners in each section will be presented a cash prize of $1,000, while $600 and $300 will be granted to those standing second and third, respectively.

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New Malaysian Centre to become hub for environment and biodiversity research

KOTA KINABALU, 4 July (Bernama) — Yayasan Sabah and PETRONAS today launched the development of the Imbak Canyon Studies Centre (ICSC) located near Imbak Canyon Conservation Area (ICCA) in Ulu Kinabatangan, Sabah.

The project, implemented under the Phase 2 of Yayasan Sabah – PETRONAS Imbak Canyon Conservation Partnership, received a total funding of RM77 million from PETRONAS.

The 27-hectare ICSC is scheduled for completion in 2016 and is poised to become the central hub for research and studies on environment and biodiversity in the area. It will house an office complex, laboratories, research stations, education complex and other related facilities.

Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman launched the ceremony, which also attended by Director of Yayasan Sabah, Datuk Sapawi Bin Haji Ahmad and President and Group CEO of PETRONAS, Tan Sri Dato’ Shamsul Azhar Abbas.

”The partnership between Yayasan Sabah and PETRONAS represents both organisations’ solemn commitment towards preserving pristine ecology for the benefit of present and future generations,” said Tan Sri Dato’ Shamsul Azhar.

Meanwhile, Datuk Sapawi added that the ICSC would strengthen the position of ICCA as a centre of learning in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, as well as for gene bank conservation and exploration for pharmaceutical and biotechnology potentials.

Under Phase 1, PETRONAS contributed RM6 million in 2010 to support Yayasan Sabah’s activities in conserving Imbak Canyon for three years. The activities include environmental education, community outreach, public awareness, research, ethno-forestry study and documentation, capacity building, formulation of the ICCA management plan and initial works toward the construction of ICSC.

With the latest funding, PETRONAS has committed a total of RM83 million towards conserving the Imbak Canyon.

In addition, the fund was also used for the construction of the Imbak Canyon Information Centre and a Jetty, located in Kampung Imbak; as well as establishment of Porters and Guides Assocation.

The 30,000-hectare ICCA is a pristine rainforest located deep in the heart of Sabah and it is one of the four conservation areas managed by the Yayasan Sabah. The other conservation areas are the Dannum Valley, Maliau Basin and Silam Coast.

In 2003, Yayasan Sabah voluntarily designated ICCA as a conservation area for research, education, training and recreational. In 2009, it was formally given legal protection as a Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve by the Sabah State Government.

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International section of Qurˈan exhibit opens in Tehran

Tehran, July 7, IRNA — The international section of the Holy Qurˈan Exhibition opened Saturday evening with the participation of over 30 artists and researchers from 16 nations.

According to Mehrdad Agahi, director of the eventˈs international section, the opening ceremony was attended by the head of the Culture and Islamic Relations Organization (ICRO) as well as envoys and foreign guests.

Tuesday edition of the English language newspaper Iran Daily wrote that twenty artists and ten researchers from Egypt, Lebanon, Russia, Spain, Malaysia, Turkey, Croatia, Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait and some other countries are participating in this yearˈs event.

Foreign artists are showcasing works in sections such as calligraphy, illumination, painting, visual arts and voluminous works.

ˈDistinguished calligraphers from Turkey, India and Pakistan have made the international section more fascinating,ˈ Agahi said.

ˈA Pakistani artist is presenting a copy of the Holy Qurˈan he inscribed on a 1.5x 1.5 meters hide with a certain geometric style.ˈ

Famous Syrian calligrapher Muhammad Salem Nwelaty was commemorated at the opening ceremony. Agahi said the artist was to attend the exhibit. However, he had a heart attack on his way to Tehran and passed away.

Agahi, who is also the director general of the ICROˈs cultural and artistic cooperation affairs, said workshops are being held by artists at the event in order to help the audience become acquainted with their artistic creations.

Referring to panel discussions on the sidelines, he said that researchers from Russia, Malaysia and Iraq, explore contemporary Qurˈanic activities, while a Pakistani scholar will hold a roundtable conference on Qurˈanic lifestyle. A Tunisian researcher will also speak about the concept of ‘Taˈvilˈ in Qurˈan—the ultimate meanings of words which may be concealed in forms of irony or metaphor.

The roundtables are held every night at 11 p.m. at the Sacred Defense Garden Museumˈs Center for International Conferences.

In order to prepare for the international section, the ICRO invited artists and researchers through call-ups issued in the past three months and sent to cultural centers of Iranian embassies in 60 states.

This is the 12th edition of the International Section of the Qurˈan Exhibition, and the ICRO has organized the event each year, with the exception of last year.

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Mahmut Tursun, pioneer of Xinjiang farm products on the internet

(People’s Daily Online) July 07, 2014 – Mahmut Tursun, the vice general manager of Vizdan in Kashgar, expresses his desire to help the farmers of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region stay in their home towns and have a decent and prosperous life. Vizdan is in cooperation with two thousand farmers and has achieved considerable fame on the internet.(People’s Daily/ Li Yumeng)

“Samat Awut, a farmer in Aksu, provides us with agricultural products. His ten thousand tons of chick peas were sold by us last year. Subsequently, he doubled his planting area. We even have clients in Paris and New York,” Mahmut Tursun said. He is the vice general manager of Vizdan in Kashgar, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the president of the Vizdan farmers’ specialized cooperative in Shufu County, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

His parents, farmers in southern Xinjiang, raised six children by growing 14 mu of fruit trees and producing other agricultural products.

He still remembers the difficulties his family encountered in his childhood. He told People’s Daily Online that his home town abounds with cotton, grain and different kinds of fruits, but his parents lost money as their quality agricultural products could not be transported promptly and sold effectively due to the remote location, a lack of access to information, and poor logistics.

In 2011, Zhang Ping, Liu Jingwen and two other young people from Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province, volunteered to support the development of Kashgar and met with Tursun as volunteers. Together they created a shared dream of selling the agricultural products of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region online.

They found that most farmers still used traditional methods to grow their agricultural products, seldom using fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in good quality. They also discovered that most specialized cooperatives in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region only engaged in product processing and sales, without any marketing. Some farmers and township companies knew little about online sales and sold their quality agricultural products without any packaging. The products had to be stored in bulk due to the lack of access to customer demand information. Some companies made use of e-commerce platforms to sell agricultural products, but most of these were dry fruits rather than the famous Turpan grape, the bergamot pear of Korla and the pomegranate of Kashgar.

Liu Jingwen and Zhang Ping helped local farmers to promote their products on the internet, and they sold more than three hundred kilograms of apricots, dates and other local products. Thus, Tursun became aware of the great impact of the internet on agricultural development in remote regions. He resigned his position at the Turgart port of Kashgar customs and opened an online store with the Uygur name Vizdan (‘Conscience’ in English) with the four volunteers.

Everything was hard in the beginning. One of their partners let them use his own well-known Taobao shop free of charge, and the honest Uygur farmers proposed that Vizdan should sell their walnuts first and pay them later. They also sent private messages through Sina Weibo to web celebrities. Vizdan’s blog was posted in the micro blogs of celebrities such as Yao Chen, the queen of the micro blog. Wang Juntao, a forerunner in e-commerce, volunteered to serve as chief adviser to Vizdan and offer professional suggestions on business operations.

In March 2012, Vizdan launched its service and began promoting its products via social networks and e-commerce platforms. In spite of good sales, Vizdan was soon faced with the problem of poor logistics, a problem shared by all the e-commerce stores in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

“Wang Juntao suggested that we should enter into a partnership with the e-commerce stores in Beijing, send the goods to our Beijing partners based on forecasted sales, and let them deliver our goods. Thus, we solved our problem and became capable of delivering our goods to any place in China within three days,” Tursun explained. He also gave the reporter his predictions for the development of Vizdan for this year: “Due to the partnership with Beijing e-commerce stores, we will grow and provide many more varieties of local agricultural produce.”

Through experience, Tursun and his team realized that in the expansion of their business they should make a priority of good communication with farmers in border areas inhabited by the ethnic minority groups. Moreover, they should overcome the language barrier to communicate with local farmers, among whom ninety percent knew little about the internet. In that context, they urged officials from different ethnic groups to cooperate with each other. They provided local farmers with more than 100 jobs for people responsible for procuring and sorting the agricultural products. Lastly, they built an alliance with e-commerce companies to solve the problem with logistics. To date they have built 30 purchasing centre in Aksu, Hotan and other places across Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and two offices in Kashgar and Turpan, to handle business in southern Xinjiang and northern Xinjiang.

“Currently, sixty percent of our products are sold by the B2C stores while the rest are sold by the Taobao shops,” said Tursun. “Vizdan is a combination of cooperative and company. We make use of social networks, B2C stores and C2C Taobao shops to sell our products. The B2C stores not only sell our products but also provide the C2C Taobao shops with the logistics service of warehousing, while the social networks build our image and Taobao shops sell our products directly.”

With some two thousand farmers acting as suppliers, and fifty thousand regular clients, Vizdan has achieved some renown among online shops. Tursun expressed his wish to share the experience and standards of Vizdan, expand cooperation with farmers, and build the Vizdan cooperative alliance for the purpose of helping those farmers stay in their home towns and enjoy a decent and prosperous life.

Guo Yanqin is the director of rural regional development centre at Xinjiang University of Finance and Economics. She says that Vizdan represents a businesslike approach to the management of agriculture, updating information to satisfy consumers at home and abroad and making it possible for these consumers to access the fresh, delicious and authentic agricultural products of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

This article was edited and translated from 《吐尔逊用网络打开家乡优质农产品新市场》,source:People’s Daily,Author: Hu Renba


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‘Eat smaller meals in Ramadan’

RIYADH: Thursday 10 July 2014, Arab News- Muslims should eat smaller meals to gain the full benefit from fasting in Ramadan because this allows the body to clear out toxins and heal itself, according to a local doctor.

Wisam Al-Dulaimi from Dallah Hospital said recently that Muslims should avoid eating large meals for iftar. “Scientific studies have proven that the body requires large amounts of energy to complete the digestion process after a large nutritious meal, which in turn directly affects the body’s energy needs for normal bodily functions.”

“Studies have also confirmed that fasting directly distributes the energy generated by the body toward the elimination of toxins in the glands and nervous system.”

Fasting enables the body to get rid of accumulated diseases, toxic waste and dead cells. In addition, it also helps grow new cells, develops tissue, and distributes oxygen evenly in the body.

He said that it is human nature to fast. For example, if children are sick they would lose their appetite and go through a period of fasting, which “directs all the energy generated by the body to fight the illness.”

He cited a saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as quoted by Imam Ahmad: “Fast and you will be healthy.”

Fasting is a “form of relief for various organs in the body, such as the stomach and liver, since these organs are the most commonly affected by fatigue due to constant daily use,” he said.

“Studies have shown that fasting for one day rids the body of 10 days of accumulated waste and toxins. Therefore, it is safe to say that fasting the entire month of Ramadan rids the body of a full year of toxins.

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United Arab Emirates Water Aid Campaign Donations Exceed Aed121Mil In 15 Days

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 13 (NNN-WAM) – On its 15th day running, the sum of donations collected by the UAE Water Aid campaign has reached AED121.097 million, through generous contributions from government entities, community institutions, businessmen and individuals alike.

The amount collected can provide fresh drinking water to more than 4.8 million distressed people in poor countries; 97% of the campaign’s target of 5 million people.

The Water Aid Campaign was launched by UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, to provide access to fresh drinking water for 5 million people around the world, who suffer from shortage of potable water. The World Health Organisation (WHO) figures, show that a child dies every 21 seconds from a water-related illness, and 9,863 people die every day from thirst and water related diseases.

Donations on the 15th day included AED3 million from MBC Group Chairman, Al Waleed Al Ibrahim, AED2 million from Emirati businessman, Saeed Al Kindi, AED2 million from Al Tayer Group, and AED1 million from Damac Chairman, Hussain Sajwani.

Other generous donations included AED0.5 million from the Canadian University in Dubai, AED0.5 million from Emirati businessman, Ahmed Abdullah Al Shafaar, AED0.25 million from the American University in the Emirates and AED200,000 from the Directorate General of Civil Defence – Dubai.

The UAE Water Aid campaign is set to conclude on Wednesday, July 16. Donations collected until now are enough to dig wells that provide clean drinking water to more than 4.8 million people, in areas lacking potable water in various poor regions of the world.

The UAE people’s immediate response and ongoing support to the UAE Water Aid campaign, underlines the noble values of the people of the country. Media outlets around the globe have valued UAE role, as capital of humanitarian initiatives, highly commending the role by Sheikh Mohammed, in the various areas of charitable and humanitarian work.

UAE Water Aid campaign comes in the light of the aggravation of water scarcity issue in many parts of the world over the past decades. This scarcity has resulted in threatening the life of millions of people, heralding grave dangers, if world countries and international bodies do not initiate prompt plans and strategies, so as to bring forward radical solutions for this issue in afflicted areas.

World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show that more than 3.4 million die every year, due to thirst and diseases caused by unclean water.– NNN-WAM

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Beautiful Iftar at the Prophet’s Mosque

MADINAH: 9 July 2014, Arab News – The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during Ramadan is a beautiful place where Muslims imbued with the spirit of tolerance and forbearance can be seen coming to both the mosque and its spacious courtyards. The gathering for iftar has become a famous Ramadan tradition in Madinah with its citizens eagerly looking forward to it every year.

For many years now, citizens of Madinah have been making preparations for iftars during Ramadan by decorating the Grand Mosque and equipping it with essential supplies.

Abdulaziz Ali, a citizen said: “I have been able to prepare an iftar table in the Grand Mosque for more than 15 years. I bring traditional food items such as dates, yogurt, coffee and bread. All Muslims make special efforts to provide iftar for people in the Grand Mosque which is known for its great rewards.”

There is stiff competition for acquiring the tables which cost between SR 2,500 and SR 10,000.

Dates, water, yoghurt and coffee are allowed inside the Grand Mosque. But outside the mosque, one can avail any meal of his choice including chicken, meat, rice, fruits and many more delicious meals prepared for those who are fasting.

He added: “My children help me prepare the tables inside the Grand Mosque, and with time our iftar spot has become well-known.”

He clarified that on the first day of Ramadan, he goes to the Grand Mosque early to reserve his spot for iftar, as everyone is in a pursuit of feeding other fasting Muslims.

Majed Bahlawan said to Arab News: “I have been supervising iftar inside the Grand Mosque for more than 9 years. I know each table’s holder and I admire the generous habit they have inherited from their parents.”

It has been a tradition for many years for the residents of Makkah and Madinah to prepare iftar tables inside the two holy mosques. Pilgrims and visitors have applauded this rare tradition which provides succor to those who are fasting and increases the feeling of companionship and camaraderie among fellow Muslims.

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Fasting clears the body of all wastes, toxins

Jeddah, Sunday 15 Ramadan 1435/ 13 July 2014 (IINA) – Scientific studies have proven that the body requires large amounts of energy to complete the digestion process after a large nutritious meal, which in turn directly affects the body’s total need for energy that is required for normal bodily functions, according to a medical expert. Studies have also confirmed the role of fasting and how it directly distributes the energy generated by the body towards the elimination of toxins in the glands and nervous system. Furthermore, fasting enables the body to get rid of accumulated diseases, toxic waste, and dead cells. In addition to that, it also aids in the growth of new cells, the development of tissues, and proportionally distributing oxygen in the body, Dr. Wissam Adil from Dallah hospital said. “There are some examples that confirm that it is human nature for one to fast, for example when a child is ill, he/she loses their appetite to eat, thereby going through a period similar to that of fasting, which in turn directs all of the energy generated by the body to fight the illness. In the Hadith by Imam Ahmad “fast and you will be healthy” which is a direct indication that fasting is a form of medication and healing,” Arab News daily reported quoting him as saying.

Dr. Wissam added that fasting is a mandatory form of relief for various organs in the body. Such as the stomach and liver, since these organs are the most common to be inflicted with fatigue due to constant day to day use. Studies have shown that fasting for one day rids the body of 10 days’ worth of accumulated wastes and toxins, therefore it is safe to say that fasting the entire month of Ramadan rids the body of a full year of toxins.

Dr. Wissam said that fasting is the oldest form of healthcare; studies have proven its unequivocal positive impact on fighting the diseases of the mouth and teeth. Teeth are a specialized type of bone that is subject to the same laws of nutrition as the rest of our bones are. It has always been a misconception that fasting and the decreased intake of food may affect the teeth, however recent studies have shown that there is no direct correlation between the two, on the contrary teeth and surrounding tissue show improvement during fasting with lower rates of dental pain.

Dr. Wissam advises people to stay away from eating very large meals for Iftar, and for one to be satisfied with what the body needs. He added that people need to stay away from fat that requires a lot of energy to digest, breakdown and absorb, and for people to stick to nutritious and balanced meals in reasonable quantities. Finally doctor Wissam added that the difference between fasting and malnutrition should be noted. Fasting is something sent to us by Allah and his holy messenger and should be for a limited time during the year, while malnutrition is a serious illness that must be treated. The period of psychological and spiritual reassurance that comes with fasting during the holy month of Ramadan contributes to the improvement of functionality of many vital organs, as well as being an opportunity to get rid of harmful toxins and aids in the rebuilding of fragile tissue.

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Tourism Malaysia Promotions Back to Normal In China

Kuala Lumpur International Airport, 10 JULY 2014: It was the wee hours of the morning, but the arriving Chinese tourists on a charter flight from Wuhan at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July 10 had smiles on their faces.

The flight, one of many during the year-long charter agreement between Tourism Malaysia and Hubei Wanda New Airlines Travel Services based in Wuhan, marks a symbolic new stage of the Malaysia-China tourism recovery plan following the disappearance of flight MH370 in early March.

“The Wuhan-Kuala Lumpur charter flight route is a major development to regain our footing in the China market and it reflects the strong, long-standing partnership that we have with our China counterparts,” says Chairman of Tourism Malaysia YBhg. Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen.

Until recently, Tourism Malaysia had suspended its advertising and promotions in China during the critical weeks of the MH370 investigation.

“During that time, we maintained constant personal contact with our China partners, engaging with them and communicating with them, so as to uphold the relations that we had built over the years. They have been extremely supportive of our efforts, then and now,” YBhg. Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng says.

To reassure its partners of Malaysia’s commitment to tourism promotions, Tourism Malaysia started a series of familiarisation trips for CEOs of major tour operators in China. The first programme in the series took place from 26 April to 3 May and involved 10 major tour operators from Northern China. Using Malaysia Airlines services, the participants experienced tourism products such as Penang, Royal Belum Rainforest, Perhentian Island, Redang Island, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur. They were also introduced to new tourism products such as Fly and Drive, cycling tourism and ecotourism.

By then, Tourism Malaysia’s promotional efforts had been shifted to second- and third-tier cities in China. Among the positive outcomes of the effort was the agreement for Hubei Wanda New Airlines Travel Services to offer thrice-weekly Wuhan-Kuala Lumpur charter services for the duration of one year. Discussions are also underway for Air China to resume its direct flights from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur.

YBhg. Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng says, “The turning point to our promotional efforts came when YAB Prime Minister of Malaysia visited China in late May. His visit was essential to further strengthen government and tourism relations between the two countries at a critical juncture.”

Tourism Malaysia has since gone into full promotion gear in China by organising FIT (Free Independent Tourist) seminars in Xian, Wuhan, Chengdu and Xiamen; supporting the Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) with their B2B seminar with China travel agencies; and organising familiarisation trips to Malaysia for C-trip travel agents in Shanghai.

Tourism Malaysia is also working with AirAsia and AirAsia X on a tactical campaign in the second half of the year to promote Malaysia among the family, couples and singles segments. YBhg. Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng says, “The AirAsia and AirAsia X brand has been flying strong in the region and we are excited to be working together with them to regain market confidence. I believe the China market will welcome this collaboration.”

She adds, “Globally, we are strengthening promotional efforts in the region as well as in medium-haul markets such as Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei, India, West Asia and Australia, which we hope to see immediate returns. For the long term, we are focusing on the Europe and the Americas.”

Tourism Malaysia is exploring all avenues of promotion including digital marketing to help local and international airlines to step up promotions of online ticket sales.

Tourist arrivals in the first four months of 2014 saw a 9.9% increase year on year. However, China arrivals registered a 19.5% dip in April following the MH370 incident.

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Ramadan App Tops Google Store Downloads

OnIslam & News Agencies Sunday, 06 July 2014 DUBAI – A new android application for the Muslims’ holy fasting month Ramadan has been ranked at the top of downloads by Google play store during the holy month after it was installed by thousands of users.

“The feedback has just been overwhelming,” Carib Pulishing CEO Andreas Roell announced in statement cited by Presswire.

Launched two weeks ago by Carib Publishing, RAMADAN PHONE 2014 application aims to give Muslims a rich spiritual experience through its integrated features.

The Ramadan app provides users a temporary experience “because users have to launch it each time they want to use it, and then exit out of it when they want to use their regular phone features”.

Creating a Ramadan-themed environment, the app offers various graphics that presents the soul of the holy fasting month.

“Experience Ramadan like never before! Turn your phone into a complete experience to celebrate the Holy month with Ramadan Phone – rich in graphics, tools and resources all related to Ramadan,” the Ramadan app wrote in its website.

“From daily changing prayer themed wallpapers and lock screen images, to custom Holy month phone icons along with calendars, prayer schedules, audio recitations, the complete Holy Quran and so much more – you will receive an experience that is both dynamic and life changing.”

Developers of the app, which was produced in less than 60 days, aspire to make it the most downloaded app at Google store for the year after being ranked the most downloaded by Google store in the Ramadan category.

“This is the first in a series of themed experiences we will be developing in the next few months,” said Roell.

The highly rated Ramadan app was announced to offer free access for its Muslim users around the world.

The creative Ramadan app has several features that include, audio recitation of Ramadan prayers, extensive selection of Ramadan songs as ringtones, a compass to Makkah and full screen view of the Islamic Hiijri Calendar

It also offers full Qur’an translations with phonetics, prayer schedule, reminders for iftar and fasting times, sending Ramadan greetings directly to contacts, vital health tips for Ramadan, along with holy messages and prayer messaging throughout the day with easy access.

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.

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Ramadan Colours Kashmir Valley

OnIslam Correspondent Tuesday, 08 July 2014 SRINAGAR – As the holy month of Ramadan knocked the doors in Kashmir, an army of professional drum beaters were all set to go out in streets to wake up people to get their Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) as they prepare for lengthy day of fasting.

“Though the practice of beating drums is dying a silent death due to on-going turmoil in the disputed territory ‘Kashmir’, however, in villages and some towns the practice is still being practised,” Mohd Sultan Sheikh, a professional Drum beater locally called as ‘Sehar Khan’, told OnIslam.net.

“It is almost after fifteen years I am going out to awake people and hope God will give me credit after my death,” he added.

Sheikh is one among the hundreds of Kashmiris who has adopted this practice and perform his duty during the holy month of Ramadan.

The trend goes back to decades ago in which Muslims in Kashmir have been listening to the beats of drums during the early wee hours even during the difficult times.

“In early times there were no watches and the drum beating was the only way to wake up during Ramadan for taking suhoor,” he said, adding that drums are still seen beating during Ramadan in both villages and towns.

Qadir Kumar, a professional drum beater who turned 70 is enthusiastic and waiting for the moon has different view point about fasting during Ramadan.

“I have been beating drum to awake the villagers on Ramadan days since last forty years but now people make use of Alarm watches and getting habitual to it,” he told OnIslam.net

“I don’t have words to explain the speciality about Ramadan, the month acts like a purifier for Muslim Ummah and the ‘IMAAN’ gets fresh during the month and everybody prays all the five times and remain away from wrong doings,” Khan told OnIslam.net.

Ahead of the Holy month of Ramadan, Muslims all over the Indian administered Kashmir have started to move to their homes to spend the month with their family members and relatives.

“The month not only keeps us healthy but gives us a chance to adhere to the principles of Islam and to keep ourselves away from all evils,” Moulvi Mohd Imran told OnIslam.net

He added that fasting keeps Muslims away from all bad habits whether it is smoking, drinking or doing unnatural things.

“The month of Ramadan brings us together and even we invite the non-Muslims on Iftar so as to draw their attention towards the specialities of Ramadan and its benefits,” Moulvi Imran told OnIslam.net.

During the holy month, special programs are organised at the local mosques to educate Muslims about the significance of Ramadan fasting.

“Fasting gives Muslims power to patience, self-control and spirituality and it is presumed that the month brings one closer to Allah,” Moulvi Imran added.

For Irshad Ahmad of Achablal village of south Kashmir, spending Ramadan with family not only strengthens the relations but the faith as well.

“I came here to sped the holy month with my family and friends so that my fasting is not disturbed,” he told OnIslam.net.

“Drum beating was a continuous process during the month but after turmoil erupted in the valley the custom getting vanished in the Kashmir,” he added.

Muslims of Kashmir have been celebrating all the festivals with their Hindu Brothers and special dishes are prepared on the occasions, said Wali Mohd Mir of north Kashmir.

“Special invitations are sent to the neighbours, particularly Hindus, for Iftar parties during the month of Ramadan,” he told OnIslam.net.

“The purpose of the invitation was only to let them to feel as what the fasting is all about,” he added.

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Glasgow Muslims Observe Special Ramadan

OnIslam & Newspapers Thursday, 10 July 2014 CAIRO – Like millions of Muslims across the world, Glasgow Muslims celebrate Ramadan on their own way through several activities that have been promoting the holy fasting month for years in Scotland.

“There is a lot of awareness of Ramadan in Glasgow through media and integration with local people, so everybody knows about it,” Mohammed Ishaz, assistant Imam at Al’Furqan Mosque on Carrington Street, told the Daily Record on Wednesday, July 10. “They respect that.”

For Ishaz, observing Ramadan in Glasgow is different from being in a Muslim country like Saudi or Pakistan.

“The long days in Glasgow make it harder to fast here. But in Pakistan it is very hot, so you can’t live for long without water,” Ishaz explained.

“So here it is a long day but you don’t feel thirsty. It’s about the same level of difficulty.”

Promoting integration in the community throughout the holy month, Al’Furqan Mosque holds sessions and discussions with refreshments.

“Some people say, ‘We have been passing the mosque for 30 years, and we always wonder what goes on inside,” Haq Nawaz Ghani, an assistant at the mosque. “Rather than try to combat negativity, we thought, let’s do something positive.”

In Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, 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.

Scotland is home to more than 500,000 Muslims, making up less than one percent of the population.

Radio Ramadan

Founded in 1996, Radio Ramadan that airs during Ramadan only has more than 200 passionate volunteers.

In Glasgow, Radio Ramadan offers a special flavor to the holy fasting month.

Taking an eight-hour plane journey to Glasgow, a Pakistani Muslim businessman travels every year in Ramadan to sing live on his show at Glasgow community station Radio Ramadan.

“I sing poems in Punjabi for my listeners,” the Pakistani Zafar Iz Balbabar, 49, said. “I have a business so I don’t do it for money. I do it out of love. I do it for the community. I prefer to spend Ramadan in Pakistan but I learn from listening to other Radio Ramadan programs about religion.

“I enjoy being in this exciting place with so much happening,” the Pakistani textile factory owner added.

Founded in 1996, Radio Ramadan that airs during Ramadan only has more than 200 passionate volunteer.

“People phone in at the start of the month asking to get involved,” Mazhar Khan, coordinator at Radio Ramadan, said.

“They say, ‘I’ll sweep the floor, I’ll clean the toilet, I’ll do whatever just to get involved’.

“You get older people who have never presented in their lives, suddenly interacting with thousands of listeners.”

With more than 15,000 listeners a day locally, Radio Ramadan donations campaign could collect £125,000 within the last 10 days of Ramadan in 2013.

“We have 10 telephone lines. We’ve had people calling in from Malaysia and Iraq who are tuning in online because they want to enter a competition,” Khan said.

They feel they are doing something positive – that’s what draws people to Radio Ramadan.

“People are doing it voluntarily because it is something good, it gives you spiritual fulfillment,” Khan said.

“People miss it when it goes off air. They are in tears and say it is a shame you are gone. They wish there was some continuity.”

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London Synagogue Hosts First Ramadan Iftar

OnIslam & News Agencies Wednesday, 09 July 2014 LONDON – In the first event of its kind, Muslims in North West London have been invited to break their Ramadan fast at a Jewish synagogue, spreading a message of peace, tolerance and coexistence.

“It is my first time in a synagogue and it’s been a wonderful experience,” Hamza, 17, told BBC Radio 5.

“It told me that there is actually hope and peace in humanity… and I was received wonderfully,” he added.

Hamza is one of London Muslims who were served iftar meal at Golders Green Synagogue. The invitation was seen by faith leaders are a letter of peace, tolerance and coexistence.

“My name’s Nabila and I am a writer and it’s the first time actually I have come to a synagogue and it is actually special,” another Muslim participant in the Iftar said.

Britain is home to a Muslim community of nearly 2.7 million.

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Muslims in Britain take part in flashmob style ‘Big Iftar’

London, Sunday 08 Ramadan 1434/ 06 July 2014 (IINA) – The tradition of breaking fast among friends, neighbors and the needy has been part of the Islamic tradition for centuries. Here in the UK, the desire to share the spirit of Ramadan has given rise to a growing popularity of flashmob Iftars and public Iftars at places of worship, community centers and even parks. This year is no different, Al Arabiya News reported.

‘The Big Iftar’, a community-led scheme, supports and promotes communities, regardless of their background to break bread together. What started as a small scale initiative last year, has generated a growing interest with more than 100 public Iftars, linked to the project, already being planned across the country. The initiative has even received a mention in the British Prime Minister’s YouTube Ramadan message at the start of the holy month. This year ‘The Big Iftar’ is not only encouraging interfaith Iftars at synagogues and churches but also creative Iftars by supporting the project Dine@Mine, inspired by the hit British television series ‘Come Dine With Me’ so that families and individuals can invite people to their homes.

At a time when local and international news can affect community relations here in the UK, Julie Siddiqi the National Co-ordinator for The Big Iftar explains how the scheme provides communities the opportunity: “to build new relationships and alliances with people who can stand together and say no to being divided or kept apart.”

This year, the award winning, student-led initiative, Ramadan Tent Project, is hoping to continue challenging current stereotypes of Muslims by inviting both homeless people and the public at large for Iftar meals, that includes pop-up lectures. Having catered for more than 4000 participants last year, the team of student volunteers are running public Iftars everyday for the whole month, from a small marquee set up near School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Speaking to Al Arabiya News, Omar Salha, founder of Ramadan Tent Project explains that: “Much of the discourse on Muslims in the media is generally generated by non-Muslims… the Ramadan Tent Project provides Muslims a chance to talk about themselves and Islam in their own words. “The project has been described as “unique” with steering committee also composed of non-Muslims who take part in the decision-making processes.” British Muslims this Ramadan are experiencing over 19 hours of fasting by abstaining from both eating and drinking during the day. Alongside fasting, many are hoping to achieve heightened spirituality and devotion to God through increased prayers, introspection and being more charitable through Zakat (compulsory yearly charity) offerings as well as contributing to voluntary charity, known as Sadaqah.

The month of charity and hospitality comes at a time in the UK when Muslims have been named as ‘Britain’s top charity givers’, giving an average of almost £371 each a year. This was also recently mentioned by by Prime Minister David Cameron, in his video message to mark the start of Ramadan 2014, when he stated “Here in Britain, Muslims are our biggest donors – they give more to charity than any other faith group.”

Whilst pop-up flashmob Iftars and impromptu community based Iftars initially began through groups of youngsters and students wishing to organize and spread the hospitable and charitable spirit of Ramadan, it has now become common place across many cities in the UK. With multiple public Iftar events planned across the country, not only are these public Iftars expanding their outreach and feeding more people, but also increasingly becoming part of the British Muslim social calendar.

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Bangladesh’s 2013-14 Fiscal Exports Hit All-Time Yearly High

DHAKA, Bangladesh July 10 (NNN-Xinhua) — Bangladesh grossed the highest ever yearly export income in the immediate past 2013-14 (July 2012-June 2013) fiscal year as demand for garment products further soared on Soccer World Cup 2014 in Brazil, officials said Thursday.

An Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) official told Xinhua export income in the 2013-14 fiscal year grew 11.65 percent year on year to exceed 30 billion U. S. dollars for the first time.

“2013-14 fiscal year exports reached 30,176.80 million U.S. dollars, setting a new record,” said the official who preferred not to be named.

With 2.80 billion U.S. dollars export earning in June, up 3.50 percent over the same period a year ago, he said the country’s overall export earnings in the last fiscal year, however, fell short of target by 1.06 percent.

Bangladesh’s export income in the previous 2012-13 fiscal year was registered at 27.03 billion dollars. In 2012-13 fiscal year, export grew 11.18 percent year on year but fell short of target by 3.51 percent.

The growth in 2013-14 fiscal year attributed to demand for ready-made garments in many key global markets where merchandise exports bolstered owing to Soccer World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

Soccer World Cup has come as a big boon for Bangladesh’s ready- made dress makers as they bagged about 1 billion dollars in export orders to sew clothing for fans of the participating teams, industry insiders say.

Garment makers say they have made millions of pieces of soccer jerseys, T-shirts, flags and hats for fans of all the World Cup’s 32 teams and already sent their products to all across the world.

“We’ve received orders to make the World Cup related merchandise worth of nearly 1 billion U.S. dollars,” said Mohammad Hatem, acting chief of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

Bangladesh’s earnings from garment exports, which make up more than three fourths of the country’s annual incomes since the beginning of this decade, surged to 24.491 billion dollars in 2013- 14 fiscal year, according to EPB.

The EPB data showed knitwear garment export grew 15.02 percent to 12,049.81 million dollars while woven garments increased 12.70 percent to 12,442.07 billion dollars, comparing with the same period of last fiscal. The EPB data showed that other major exportable items, like frozen foods, home textiles, leather and leather products and footwear, also had well performance in the last fiscal year.

After achieving double-digit export growth in the last fiscal, the Bangladesh government surged its export target by over 11 percent to 30.05 billion for the current fiscal.

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Guyana, Suriname Seeks Stronger BRICS Ties

GEORGETOWN (Guyana), July 11 (NNN-CARIBBEANNEWS) — Guyana and Suriname are keen to cultivate stronger ties with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) countries, especially that the group is set to launch the New Development Bank (NDB) as an alternative to the World Bank and the IMF.

President Desi Bouterse of Suriname and Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar will attend a special meeting of BRICS and South American leaders in Brazil on July 16 at the invitation of host President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil.

The Guyanese president told the Guyana Times on Thursday that “it is important for Guyana to be there as part of the UNASUR and to broaden relations”, noting that the BRICS Bank to be launched will be of pivotal importance to Guyana, since it will be another developmental alternative to the US/Europe-dominated World Bank and IMF.

He said, “The bank will be very important because it will be an alternate resource.”

For too long, developing countries, who have borrowed heavily from the World Bank and IMF, have complained that such financial assistance often comes at a high cost — needless meddling in their sovereign affairs by Western powers.

The Guyana Times, which reflects the view of the government there, said, “Of interest to Guyana and the other poorer countries invited to the BRICS summit is that, in this summit, BRICS will emphasise social inclusion and sustainable development which is the theme of the meeting: “Inclusive growth: sustainable solutions.”

President pro tempore of the Union of South American Countries (UNASUR), Desi Bouterse of Suriname, is keen to forge stronger ties with BRICS countries, especially since his government has accused foreign governments of meddling in Suriname’s internal affairs. Suriname was once a colonial possession of the Netherlands.

Bouterse is keen to expand South-South cooperation and has placed great importance to ties with BRICS countries. The Surinamese leader wants to see the development and production of its “natural resources to create the means for a more balanced economy and a stronger base” for his people.

Suriname has expanded its international economic and political relations with diverse partners such as MEROSUR, UNASUR, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Islamic Development Bank more recently.

According to the Guyana Times, “Also of interest to Guyana are plans which the other South American nations are jointly exploring – the creation of a communications system to curtail US spying in the region. Part of the final communiqué could call for an end to mass surveillance, like that carried out by the US’s NSA.”

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Mozambique Launches Beira-Zimbabwe Road Project

TICA, MOZAMBIQUE, July 11 (NNN-AIM) — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has officiated the start of renovation work of the EN6 road between the Indian Ocean port of Beira and the town of Machipanda on the country’s border with Zimbabwe.

The ceremony took place in Tica Thursday, the second day of Guebuza’s “Open and inclusive presidency” visit to the central province of Sofala,

The Mozambican government will spend 410 million US dollars on the full rehabilitation of the 287-kilometre-long road, using a loan from the Chinese Export-Import Bank (Exim Bank).

The work, which is due to be completed in the second half of 2017, will see the road being substantially widened, the building of 1.7 kilometres of bridges, 900 metres of culverts, fifteen intersections, two weighbridges and six police control posts.

Toll stations will be erected along the route at Chimoio, Nhamatanda and Dondo. Currently, the only major road in the country with toll gates is the Maputo-South Africa Motorway, operated by the South African infrastructure company, Trans-Africa Concessions (TRAC).

The Chinese Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group (AFECC) is building three workyards along the route of the EN6 and mobilising the necessary machinery.

The National Road Administration (ANE) has appointed Shenyang Engineering Supervision and Consultation to supervise the work.

Hundreds of people witnessed the ceremony to launch the project, during which President Guebuza hailed the current level of co-operation between Mozambique and China. He called on the local population to look after the roadworks because the current road cannot meet their needs for transporting people and goods, resulting in a loss of income for families along the road.

The road will also expand the hinterland of Beira port into Malawi and Zambia, both landlocked countries, like Zimbabwe. Beira port serves as an important gateway for these countries’ exports and imports.

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Qatar To Get Underwater Theme Parks

DOHA, Qatar, July 9 (NNN-QNA) – A US-based reef developer is in talks with local partners to create a series of “unique and spectacular” underwater theme parks for waterfront resorts in Qatar, it is learnt.

The next-generation artificial reef sites, being designed by Los Angeles-based Reef Worlds, to look like ancient “lost cities,” are slated to open early next year. The project proposes to rebuild regional reef habitat and allow select waterfront resort development partners, capture a slice of the global $3 billion dive and snorkel market.

Reef Worlds development teams are in discussion with two resort developers, to bring these sites to the region. To a query, a company spokesman said, “We are at the MoU (memorandum of understanding) stage and have not signed contracts – yet.”

Dave Taylor, director of development for Reef Worlds, said, “Qatar has a unique tourism problem that we address. When one considers the 350 miles of coastlines surrounding Qatar, scuba diving and underwater exploration is not on the Top Ten list, and yet it is almost everywhere else in the world. We want Qatar to be on the global tourism stage.”

According to him, the revised plan is to develop Dynamic Reef sites for Qatar. “The difference between an artificial reef and a Dynamic Reef is the tourism and media aspect.”

The project has its focus on environment protection. “The Gulf region is in trouble with 40-50% coral and reef loss. We see Dynamic Reefs as a smart and sustainable way to bring back regional habitat.”

The company has plans to expand with waterfront resort developers from Qatar to South East Asia, in places where tourism and regional habitat could get an immediate boost with the addition of bespoke next generation artificial reefs.

“The Reef Worlds brand is all about sustainability and the creation of new habitat while at the same time adding instant tourism revenue and excitement to waterfront resorts,” said Taylor. “With the help of Reef Worlds design teams, resorts are rediscovering acres of property, client engagement and new sources of revenue.”

Taylor said that at present, Qatar did not have a very large footprint in the dive and snorkel tourism space, though it did have miles and miles of great coastlines. “With a little vision, Qatar Tourism could put in place a series of sites that would dominate the global conversation about new habitat creation and become the number one Gulf state for dive and snorkel tourism.”

In the region, Bahrain and Oman have together spent $40-60 million on artificial reefs. “The Muscat project was 2km long and cost about $20 million. We could do the same thing in a series of smaller sites outside every waterfront resort development in the region, boosting tourism and habitat in a very substantial way,” Taylor said.

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Iran Plans “Resistance Economy”

TEHRAN, July 8, (NNN-IRNA) – President Hassan Rouhani stressed that his government has a written program to emerge from economic recession and begin economic boom upon principles of resistance economy.

The president was giving a report on his administrationˈs efforts to deal with economic problems in the meeting of the countryˈs senior officials with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadhan.

He said the country was facing with a raging inflation in the past years, but the government with the help of Majlis (parliament) and Judiciary and support of armed forces and all officials and government bodies could take very good steps toward reducing inflation

He added that his government intends to reduce inflation figures in the next year (1394) to under 25 percent and in the year after (1395) under 10.

The government, in important issues such as water sources, with support and guidelines of the Supreme Leader has taken big steps in different parts of the country.

In the field of health, the government has taken important steps too and now 1.2 million people are taking advantage of this move in the hospitals.

President Rouhani described regional situation difficult and said that message of the Islamic revolution was brotherhood, friendship and unity among world Muslims, but ill wishers did not want such a movement in the Islamic countries to happen.

A few people claiming Islamic jihad are creating disunity in the Islamic world; they are supported politically by the international Zionism and financially by certain countries, but Iran will continue its work in fighting against violence and barbarism, said the president.

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“A Day in the life of a Muslim” contest to be held in Moscow

islam.ru / 05 Jul 2014 – Organizers of the annual exhibition of halal products “Moscow Halal Expo” announced a nationwide contest among youth. The contestants will have to shoot video clips about Islam. Young people are invited to shoot social and humorous video, which will reflect the authors’ views on the current situation of Islam, or will show the viewer the true spirit of the religion.

Dinara Ramazanov, the organizer of the competition, noted that its aim to unite the Muslim youth and to give them an opportunity to fulfil their potential.

“One Day in the Life of a Muslim” contest is held not for the first time. In June this year, at the fifth Moscow Halal Expo exhibition, it were announced names of the winners of the previous contest.

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Quranic exhibition opens in Istanbul

Kuzey news agency / 09 Jul 2014 – Hand-written Qurans along with the ones written in several languages are exhibited in Istanbul during holy month of Ramadan, the month when the Holy Quran was first to be revealed by Allah.

Organized by Insan Publications, the exhibition hosts several valuable pieces including one of the most precious of them, a facsimile of the Quran of Uthman, the third caliphate of Muslims who were assassinated while reading Quran.

The facsimile of the Quran of Uthman has been published by Research Center for Islamic History Art and Culture (IRCICA). Another valuable piece is the Quran published by Ahmed Karahisari, a well-respected Islamic scholar.

The oldest Quran presented is 300 years old, which is present alongside Qurans in 48 languages from 78 countries. The languages varied from Korean and Zulu to Kashmirian and Telugu.

The coordinator of the exhibition Yunus Ipek said “We are presenting various Qurans for people to feel the spiritual pleasure of Quran by seeing it. There are several Qurans in different languages ranging from the ones spoken in India to Uighur. Ornamentations and calligraphies are also presented in the event.”

The exhibition is in the mall of Istanbul’s Moi Art Hall and will remain open during Ramadan.

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Astana man will travel to Hajj on foot

islam.ru / 09 Jul 2014 – Dulat Imankazhy, a resident of Astana is planning to go to Makkah to perform Hajj on foot, Azan.kz news agency reports. The starting point on the way to the holy places will be “Nur Astana” mosque in Kazakhstan.

50 years old, Dulat Imankazhy, is a financier. He is fond of running and pedestrian walks.

“My journey would be 7,000 miles. I will walk through such countries as Azerbaijan, Kuwait to reach Saudi Arabia. Allah give strength to withstand the distance! “- said Dulat in an interview to local newspaper.

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New book features Kiswa as top Islamic symbol

Arab News / 10 Jul 2014 – The Kiswa, or covering of the Kaaba, has been featured as one of the most important symbols of Islamic society in a new publication launched in Sharjah on Monday.

The book is entitled “Islamic Textiles from the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization.” The publication has pictures of the textiles created through the generations for Islam’s holiest places in Makkah and Madinah.

“This beautiful and scholarly book is the first comprehensive guide to these magnificent textiles, which have all been collected over a 20-year period by Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Qasimi, member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates, the ruler of Sharjah, and president of the American University of Sharjah,” said Manal Ataya, director general of the Sharjah museum.

Ataya said this was the second publication from the museum highlighting key pieces from its collection.

“This series is intended to draw attention to the artistic, historical and religious significance of our collections, and also enable a wide audience to share in their beauty and learn about their provenance.

Academic and religious scholars will also find these publications invaluable.”

She said the textile collection featured in the book ranges from the 17th century to the 21st.

“It stands as a peerless showcase of the exceptional resources, precious materials and artistic excellence that has been lavished on these textiles throughout the ages, and which continues today.

It also speaks of Muslims’ heart-felt sense of duty and dedication in preserving and perpetually honoring them,” she said.

She said the museum launched the book on July 7, during the staging of “Travel through the Land,” an exhibition that explores transportation across various ages and brings together artifacts, 3D models, paintings and photographs from seven different museums that fall under the Sharjah museum.

This exhibition is the museum’s cultural contribution to the Sharjah Ramadan Festival 2014 — a major celebration that has been organized to mark the emirate’s year as the Capital of Islamic Culture.

The publication is available at the book fair area of the Sharjah Ramadan Festival, Expo Center Sharjah and the Sharjah museum’s gift shop.

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300 electric wheelchairs for Umrah performers

Saudi Gazette / 10 Jul 2014 – The Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has provided over 300 electric wheelchairs for Umrah performers. This is in addition to the 10,000 free wheelchairs.

Special teams have been tasked with organizing the movement of wheelchairs and ensure that only authorized people are allowed to push them. Wheelchairs are available in the eastern courtyard of the Grand Mosque and in the Ajyad area.

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Japan woos Muslim travellers ahead of 2020 Olympic Games

AFP / 11 Jul 2014 – Prayer rooms, hijabs made from local silk and even halal-certified whale meat are appearing in Japan as tourism bosses wake up to the demand from Muslim travellers.

For a largely homogeneous country with only about 100,000 practising Muslims, that means groping its way through unfamiliar customs as it looks to tap a growing market to help it double the number of overseas visitors by 2020.

“Muslim travellers still do not feel comfortable here,” said Ibrahim Haji Ahmad Badawi, head of Malaysian food company Brahim’s, during a recent seminar on halal tourism in Tokyo. “The government seems to have understood this.”

Last year, seminars like this one were held in 20 different regions in Japan, where hoteliers and restaurateurs were invited to learn how to cater to Muslims.

The Osaka Chamber of Commerce handed out 5,000 leaflets as a guide to what can and cannot be eaten – the idea of forbidding consumption of things such as alcohol or pork is anathema to omnivorous and foodie Japan.

With the Islamic world currently observing Ramadan, tourism to Japan is being promoted heavily in mainly-Muslim South-east Asia. Visa requirements for Malaysia and Thailand were relaxed in 2013. Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, is slated to follow shortly.

According to the Japanese Tourist Office, the number of Indonesian visitors in 2013 was up 37 per cent on the previous year, while 21 per cent more Malaysians came.

Chinese tourist numbers have recovered from their plunge following the spat that erupted in 2012 between Beijing and Tokyo over islands in the East China Sea.

But broadening the appeal of Japan as a destination is key if the industry is to meet the 20 million visitors target set for 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games.

The influx of athletes and spectators the event will bring is also playing into the drive to make the country more Muslim-friendly.

“Can you imagine the number of Muslim athletes who will then come to Tokyo? We’ll have to feed them,” said Mr Badawi.

His company has already signed a deal with All Nippon Airways, one of Japan’s biggest carriers, to supply inflight halal meals, Mr Badawi said. Large hotels have also approached him for advice on how they can cater for Muslim guests.

For Mr Badawi, despite Japan’s slow start, the direction of travel is clear: Muslims looking for holiday destinations will come, and in bigger numbers, giving Tokyo an ever-larger slice of a US$600 billion (Dh2.2 trillion) global pie.

Slowly, various regions across Japan are catching on. Major airports have prayer rooms, and tourists looking for the perfect present can pick up hijabs made from Japanese silk as they pass through Kansai International Airport, near Osaka.

Longer-term visitors are also being catered for, with 19 universities offering halal menus in their cafeterias in a bid to boost the number of Muslim students.

Customers looking for an authentic – but halal – Japanese dish already have a choice in Tokyo, including a yakiniku barbecue restaurant run by Roger Bernard Diaz, a Sri Lankan Catholic who converted his business, but not his religion.

He said the change had brought him customers from South-east Asia and even the Gulf.

But sourcing produce can be difficult. “It’s hard to find all the ingredients,” he admitted while pulling a Brazilian-raised halal chicken from a dedicated freezer.

Muslims who want to sample whale meat are also catered for after Japan’s whaling mothership, which slaughters the animals on its controversial hunt, was certified halal-compliant last year.

The Japan Halal Association, which was founded in 2010, is one of only two bodies that can grant this status in the country.

Its chairwoman, Hind Hitomi Remon, said business was brisk.

“We are an associate member of the World Halal Council,” she said. “Since 2012, we have issued certificates to 40 companies, and that number is set to rise a lot this year,” a fact she said was directly attributable to Tokyo being awarded the 2020 Olympic Games.

Japanese producers are also preparing to export items such as halal-certified soy sauce and even rice, grown in northern Akita prefecture.

But until the numbers swell a little bit more, businesses catering to Muslims still have to keep an eye on what other customers want.

Mr Diaz, the yakiniku restaurant owner, said about half of his customers were Muslim, yet he still had to cater for his other patrons. “It’s hard to do business here without selling alcohol,” he said.

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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.

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Locals hope to lure tourists to Gideros

KASTAMONU – Anadolu Agency – Local officials are working hard to attract tourists to Turkey’s hidden bay, Gideros, in the Black Sea province of Kastamonu’s Cide coast, an area that was inhabited 3,500 years ago by Amazons, the female warriors of antiquity.

A crescent-shaped-walkway surrounded by trees will be one of the main projects to make Gideros the country’s latest up-and-coming tourist destination, said Cide Mayor Nejdet Demir, adding that he wants to illuminate the bay at night so tourists can see its beauty “around the clock.”

Although the Black Sea tides are often quite rough, the water in the bay is so clear that even fish can be seen swimming in the bay, Demir said, adding that the blue waters of the bay were surrounded by green hills sloping down to the shoreline. “Little ships are able to hide in this bay when the sea goes wild,” Demir said, adding that he thought tourists would be delighted by the new crescent-shaped-walkway.

Unlike southern Turkey’s tourist city of Antalya, Gideros, located north of the city of Kastamonu, is untouched, unknown and less expensive.

Once used by pirates and smugglers, the bay is also of Turkey’s protected archeological sites. It has been inhabited by various tribes since ancient times, and has been mentioned, under its previous name, Cytorus, by Homer in the Iliad. The name of Cide itself is thought to possibly derive from Cytorus.

The mayor said he hopes Gideros does not stay undiscovered for long. The area, he said, is waiting to entice visitors from around the world with its natural beauty.

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‘Before you die, take a Bosphorus tour’

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The Bosphorus Strait that runs through Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, has been named as one of the 50 places in Europe a person should visit in their lifetime, according to Business Insider magazine.

The waterway bisecting the European and Asian shores of Istanbul was the 39th item in the list thanks to its “geographic uniqueness.”

Meanwhile, the list begins and ends with France. The first “to-do” on the list is to take a “stroll along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, in the south of France,” while number 50 is to “admire Claude Monet’s enormous series of ‘Water Lily’ murals at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.”

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A children’s guide to Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – A new book published by Can Publishing House, “Istanbul for Kids” contains much information the city’s residents may even be surprised to learn.

“Evliya Çelebi wrote a few of the oldest known vampire stories … Galata is the only bridge which gives its name to a card game in the world … Bosphorus Bridge hosted the first tennis match played intercontinentally in the world in 2005,” are examples of some of the facts the book presents.

The book is a rare English directory for millions of young tourists who visit Istanbul every year, along with every traveler ready to explore the city.

Written by Australia-based Burçak Gürün Muraben, “Istanbul for Kids” combines many locations, people and periods starting from Galata to Eminönü, from the Maiden’s Tower to Hagia Sophia, from Grand Bazaar to Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi and brings the city’s history to present time.

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Classical music to echo in Gümüşlük

BODRUM – Doğan News Agency – The 11th International Gümüşlük Classical Music Festival will kick off July 12 with a concert by renowned pianist Gülsin Onay, who will perform at the festival’s unique venue, the Koyunbaba Antique Stone Quarry.

Famous Russian pianist Ilya Itin, French piano virtuoso Jean-Bernard Pommier, violinist Olga Martinova, oboe artist Celine Moinet, bassoonist Rui Lopez, Trio Milhaud and soprano Çimen Seymen will be among some of the performers at the festival.

Piano and violin master classes, which are organized every year during the festival, will take place at the Gümüşlük Academy. Between July 14 and 21, Turkish pianist Elif Şahin will give classes; from July 22 to Aug. 6, a piano master class will take place with festival guests Itin, Onay, Pommiern and Kemal Gekic; and Olga Martinova will give a violin master class to young talents between Aug. 3 and 9.

“The heart of classical music will beat in Gümüşlük. Art lovers in Gümüşlük and holiday goers will have the chance to listen to the world’s most important artists and legendary names. Some artists will be here for the concerts, as well as being on holiday. In one of my concerts, I will take the stage with my son Erkin. Young people who were invited to this festival will have the opportunity to attend master class workshops with the artists (who are performing at the festival). Gümüşlük Festival has succeeded in being among the world’s best known festivals with artists from Canada to Africa and Russia wanting to attend the festival,” said Onay, the art consultant of the festival.

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Documentary on centuries-old Mağlova aqueduct near Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – The filming of a documentary on Istanbul’s masterpiece the Mağlova aqueduct has begun. The documentary, which was produced and directed by Umut Mete Soydan, has received funding from the Directorate General of Cinema at the Culture and Tourism Ministry. Among the consultants selected for the project are NTV historian Hüseyin Irmak, Water Foundation Deputy Chairman Associate Professor Ali Uyumaz and Vice Dean Professor Nur Urfalıoğlu from the Faculty of Architecture at the Abdullah Gül University.

The 36-meter-high and 258-meter-long Mağlova aqueduct is one of the most significant parts of the city’s historical waterway. Located on the borders of the Alibeyköy Dam, the Mağlova Aqueduct has been standing strong for 450 years.

The aqueducts, reservoirs, cisterns and fountains were built during the Roman, Byzantine and the Ottoman periods as a response to the lack of fresh water resources in the city. The artifacts, which were built by the famous Turkish architect, Mimar Sinan, on orders from Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, are full of unique historical, cultural and architectural features.

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More young Kazakhs fast during Ramadan

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-07-09 ALMATY – Like the other Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan is witnessing a resurgence of interest in Islam 23 years after the atheistic Soviet Union collapsed.

More than 70% of the population is Muslim. That figure exceeds 98% among ethnic Kazakhs, according to government data based on the 2009 census.

“Only 30% of believers attend mosques, and 60% of (those attending) are young people,” Ongarkaji Omirbek, spokesman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan (DUMK), told Central Asia Online. “Young people have begun to observe the fast more enthusiastically. According to our data, their number has increased by 30% in the last five years, and by 5% in this year alone.”

Seidakhmet Kuttykadam, a political scientist, offered three reasons for the increase in the number of young people expressing more of an interest in religion and observing the fast.

“Firstly, it’s fashionable. Secondly, it’s food for the soul, because the road to religion was closed for many years. And thirdly, it is due to the fruitful work of the DUMK and of foreign missionaries coming to Kazakhstan,” Kuttykadam said.

Religiosity among the young pleases the DUMK, which attributes the tendency to the rise of a generation not educated under official atheism. “This is the generation that grew up after independence, that wasn’t poisoned by Soviet (atheistic) ideology,” Omirbek said.

Motivations for fasting vary.

“I have to earn money during the holidays,” 19-year-old Almaty undergraduate Elmira Bolysbekova said. “My parents live in the countryside, so I have to rent accommodations (at school), and this costs quite a bit of money.”

Fasting allows her to save some money. “For the first few days fasting was hard, but now I am gradually getting used to it,” she said.

For others, the fast offers a way to move beyond the pressures of day-to-day life.

“I am accustomed to observing the fast every year; it’s not a negotiable matter,” Almaty resident Azamat Bayaliyev said. “I might change my job, but I’ll always fast. We’re not only abstaining from food; we’re thinking of virtue and of all the good things on Earth.”

Although the growing interest in religion is generally seen as positive, some expressed caution about the expectations that come with that.

“I’m pleased that the number of young people going to mosque, reading namaz prayers and observing Sharia law is rising year to year, but … fasting in such hot weather affects their health,” Aigul Kojakhmetova, a specialist at the Kazakh Academy of Nutrition, said. “Everybody ought to drink 2 litres of water a day. … This (hardship) ought not to be inflicted on a young person.”

And Kuttykadam emphasised the need to monitor the younger generation’s interest in religion. “The main thing is to ensure that there are no radical movements behind it,” he said.

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Bangladesh minister calls for “tourism friendly environment”

DHAKA, July 10, 2014 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today urged the deputy commissioners to come forward to create awareness among the people about creating a tourism friendly environment in the country.

“Creating a tourism friendly environment is very tough without public awareness,” he said addressing the conference of deputy commissioners (DCs) at the Cabinet Division of Bangladesh Secretariat.

The role of DCs is very important to ensure social security and create public awareness for the development of tourism sector, the minister said.

Speaking on the occasion, a number of DCs said Bangladesh is a land of natural beauty. They expressed their views on attracting foreign tourists.

The minister said there some social and religious hindrances to poor arrival of foreign tourists here.

He referred to the instances of Malaysia and the Maldives and said these two Muslim-majority countries attract overseas tourists because of huge public awareness there.

The minister hoped that steps would be taken to open Ishurdi Airport and resume Biman flights on Syedpur, Barisal and other local routes. Steps would also be taken to renovate existing motels and building some new models for tourists, he added.

Presided over by Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, the conference was also addressed by State Minister for Textiles and Jute Mirza Azam, Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khorshed Alam Chowdhury and Textiles and Jute Secretary Fani Bhushan Chowdhury, said an official release.

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Bangladesh to back mobile app for public services

DHAKA, July 8, 2014 (BSS)- The government will provide support to Bangladeshi mobile application (app) developers to develop applications for various public services of different ministries, directorates and departments to make it available for smart phones and ensure people’s easy access.

“We’ll encourage the Bangladeshi mobile app developers who have been trained up under a programme of the Information and ommunication Technology (ICT) Division to develop app for various public services to ensure people’s easy access to it,” said ICT Secretary Md Nazrul Islam Khan (N I Khan).

He told this while inaugurating a day-long Boot Camp, jointly organized by ICT Division and Multimedia Content and Communication Ltd. (MCC) at the auditorium of Sher-e-Bangla Medical College, Barisal today.

Over 500 youths from Barisal division who took 5-day hectic trainings on mobile app, participated in the Boot Camp to recap the experiences they gathered.

N I Khan said the government, as part of its plan, has successfully been able to reach services at the doorstep of the people by establishing 4,547 Union Information Service Centers (UISCs) across the country and this time it has been relentlessly trying to ensure people’s access to public services through mobile phones.

“The government will welcome you and provide support if you develop mobile apps for various services of different ministries, directorates and departments to make it available in the smart phones,” he said.

“The number of smart phone users who are increasing rapidly in the country after introduction of 3G could easily get various public services if you develop mobile apps,” he added.

ICT Secretary said Bangladesh Bank has already removed barrier to register with reputed app stores like Google play, Nokia for the display of mobile application developed by Bangladeshi app developers by introducing virtual card.

“We’re harnessing the young talents and developing them as mobile app developers to tap business from the billion dollar mobile app market,” he said, adding that the government wants to see the IT literate youths and entrepreneurs as IT industrialists who will be given space in the high-tech and software parks now under construction in divisions and districts.

Chaired by Mobile App Development Project Director Dr Abul Hasan, the function was also addressed, among others, by principal of Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Prof Dr Ranjit Chandra Khan, Vice-Chancellor of Barisal University Prof Dr Harun-ur-Rashid Khan. Additional divisional commissioner and deputy commissioners of four districts of Barisal division attended the function.

Dr Abul Hasan said the ICT division has provided training to 2500 youths so far and developed them as mobile app developers who are now confident to develop app for various services.

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UNESCO checks out Gunungsewu sites

Mon, July 7 2014 Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) – A team of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has started to verify feasibility of Gunungsewu sites located in Yogyakarta, Central Java and East Java, to be included in the Global Geopark Network (GGN).

Gunung Kidul Districts Secretary Budi Martana said here that the team led by Cristine Rangnes arrived at Gunung Kidul Tourism and Culture Department on Friday (July 4) and the verification was scheduled to be completed on July 8.

The verification had been started from Pacitan (East Java) to Wonogiri (Central Java) and would end in Gunung Kidul (Yogyakarta).

“For the verification in Pacitan next week, Gunung Kidul District Head Badingah will go with the team,” said Budi.

During the visit in Gunung Kidul, the verification team will assess geological sites, including Pindul Cave, Wedi Ombo Beach, Nglanggeran Ancient Volcano, and Bobung Tourism Village.

“All the locations are ready to be visited, as we had prepared to pass the UNESCOs verification without any exception,” said Budi.

Regarding the preparation, Budi said the government had conducted simultaneous tourism trainings for the locals.

“We also held a study-tour to Mount Batur sites in Bali for a comparative study,” he added.

Besides Gunungsewu, Indonesia also proposed Merangin sites in Jambi Province to be included in the GGN.

“Each of the sites has its own specifications. Hence, we are optimistic they will pass the verification,” said Budi.

The Gunungsewu sites, literally means thousand mountains, has 119 caves below of about 40,000 karst (limestone) cone hills in 13,000 square kilometer area.

The GGN was established in February 2004, after a decision by the committee of international experts on geological heritage convened at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, by the invitation of the UNESCO Division of Earth Sciences, 17 members of the European Geoparks Network and 8 Chinese Geoparks.

Under the umbrella of UNESCO, GGN provides a platform for cooperation and exchange between experts and practitioners in geological heritage, and its promotion.

In 2014, the GGN was made up of 100 Geoparks from 30 countries in three continents.

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Indonesia to donate U$1 million in aid to Palestine

Fri, July 11 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia will donate US$1 million worth of humanitarian aid to Palestine, Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Djoko Suyanto said here on Friday.

This was one of the decisions taken at a plenary cabinet meeting presided over by the President that day, he said at a press conference after the meeting.

How the donation will be put into use is yet to be discussed by the foreign ministry with the Palestinian embassy, he said.

At the opening of the meeting, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had condemned the recent Israeli attack on Gaza Strip in Palestine.

He said Indonesia continued to take efforts to stop the violence diplomatically through the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Non-Aligned Movement.

He said the Israeli military action must be stopped. A truce must be negotiated under the supervision of the United Nations, retribution must be prevented, and humanitarian aid must immediately be extended to the victims, especially women and children, in Palestine.

He said he will communicate with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is the current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, to discuss the Palestinian problem.

“I will communicate with the Iranian president in his capacity as the chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement to discuss what can be done to end the violence,” he said.

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Gambia: UTG Tourism and Hospitality Students’ Tour

The Daily Observer – 9 July 2014 – One among the curricula of the tourism and hospitality students during their mandatory course term is to make different round trips of identified places across the country, even beyond the shores of their country of study to enable them familiarise themselves with some tourism attractions; cultural and heritage sites; infrastructure and conservations in the length and breadth of the destination.

The rationale behind this is to engage them to see physically the facilities in the destination and acquire additional information to the theories already learned in the classroom. Tourism is said to be a temporal movement of people from one destination to another for the purpose of holiday, education, leisure, business, sports, agriculture and so on. In The Gambia, the importance attached to the tourism sector is enormous, due to its contribution to the socio-economic development of the country.

It constitutes 12 to 16 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and it creates both direct and indirect jobs for people; and it is also a major source of foreign exchange earnings for the Destination Gambia. In this vital sector, one of the tourism components of the Vision 2020 is to increase the number of tourist arrival in the destination from over 170,000 to 500,000 in the next six years. Recently, the tourism and hospitality students of the only national university in the country, the University of The Gambia (UTG), embarked on a four-day local destination study and familiarisation tour to different sites, tourist attraction areas and available facilities across the country. This 4-day farm-tour has opened them to many things as regards to maintaining, improving and marketing the destination to achieve the tourism component of Vision 2020.

Serially, the group of the students including their lecturers visited places, like Fort Bullen at Barra. Fort Bullen was an anti-slave trade base as it was built to discourage and stop slavery. After the popular Fort Bullen, they crossed to the Berending Crocodile Pool, which is believed to be a praying site where people from all walks of life come to pray, especially barren women and job-seekers. From Berending, the crew continued to Juffureh/Albreda to see the Kunta Kinteh Island, formerly known as James Island.

At the Island, there is the ruin of the slave house where slaves were kept before being transported to the new world (America and Europe) for sale before the abolition of slave trade. The museum was also visited where ancient equipment and instruments, such as guns and pistols, bow and arrows, slave chains, whip, among other valuable things, were kept.

The students in their quest for more knowledge visited the stone circle at Wassu. It is the burial ground for the kings, queens and the royal families. The stone circle is believed to also serve as a praying site since great people were buried there. Among other places visited by the tourism and hospitality students of the UTG are Janjangbureh, Mungo Park Memorial at Karantaba-Tenda in the Central River Region, though the place is being abandoned for quite a longtime, due to its accessibility, Memorial Pyramid of the British Explorer which the navigator still visible till date. It is the resting place of the great explorer widely believed to be one of the discoverers of the River Gambia.

Another interesting, but very touching and emotional site to the students was the remains of slave house in Janjangbureh where captive slaves were usually assembled for shipment to the new world. There is an underground house where rebellious slaves are kept and put in terrible conditions to make them powerless so that they can be easily transported to America and other parts of Europe.

However, some parts of the slave house wall have fallen apart and the building is almost deplorable. In Basang are highlands and hills that can serve as tourist attraction and the students took their time to explore the areas which is ideal for bird watching and river cruising along the River Gambia, as it is the exit point towards the Futajallon. More places were explored by the students at the Lower River Region and among them was the Kiang West National Park. The Park which was recently extended from 11,000 hectares as part of the ongoing developments at this national reserved forest now has an area of 19,000 hectares and is one of the most unique sites in terms of wildlife in The Gambia.

The park is located on the south bank of the river in the Lower River Region in the Kiang West district. The park was established in accordance with the principles of the Banjul Declaration to conserve and protect the country’s remaining fauna and flora in 1987. It has different parts, such as the dry deciduous wood lands; guinea savanna; and extensive stretches of mangroves; creeks and tidal flats. The mammals that are secured at the tidal flats include the West African Manatee Nile, crocodile and tracks of different wildlife such as marsh mongoose; bush bucked; ‘sitatunga’ and Antelopes. The park also consists of different types of fauna and anti fauna and is believed that it inhabits over 250 bird species and has three major bolongs (creeks).

The creeks serve as a breeding, resting, safe, and feeding covers for different wildlife species. It has three main attractive sites, namely ‘tubabkollon’ which is located on the west of the park and provides viewing condition with the opportunity to observe warthogs, bush bucks and sitatunga which forage along the grass land. The ‘nganinkoibolong’ is another one located on the eastern edge of the park and it provides rich feeding for various wildlife species. It is the best area to sight antelopes.

The Jariabolong has an excellent cover of small bolong and provide sighting of manatee and sitatunga crossing the Jali Island. The Atlantic hump back dolphin is occasionally seeing on the Jalibolong. The park also provides the inhabitants with medicine, agricultural food, fishing and a means of transportation that entirely depends on the park’s natural resource base to meet their daily household needs.

During the period of the tour, the students took their time as well to visit different lodges; motels and other places at the North Bank; Lower River; Central River; Upper River Regions, which enabled them to make some recommendations as regards to their studies and findings.

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Direct Flights Between Nigeria and Jamaica Planned

8 July 2014 – This Day – Work is currently underway to establish direct flights between Nigeria and Jamaica as soon as possible. Officials from the two countries are working to conclude a Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) to set up flights from Lagos, Nigeria, to Kingston, in Jamaica.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri, said the agreement would be concluded at the forthcoming third session of the Nigeria-Jamaica Joint Commission.

The minister who spoke at the weekend, said it was believed that a direct flight from Nigeria to Jamaica would connect the Caribbean region to Africa and unbundle the existing opportunities on both sides.

This, she said, was in view of the almost zero trade and investment statistics existing between the two countries.

She added that when implemented, travelling from Nigeria to Jamaica, which currently takes about 17 hours irrespective of the route taken, would only take about eight hours if direct from Lagos to Abuja to Kingston.

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Kampala Art Biennale to Boost Tourism

8 July 2014 – The Observer – Kampala will this August become the first city in Africa to host an art biennale.

Biennale is Italian for “biennial” or “every other year” and can be used to describe any event that happens every two years. Venice Biennale, the first art biennial to be held, in 1895, is among the most popular ones in the world.

Kampala Art Biennale now joins the list, thanks to Kampala Arts Trust, a collection of visual and performance art practitioners in Kampala. The biennial exhibition will showcase contemporary art from Africa with the goal to expose, educate and create debate about the value of art.

The one-month-long exhibition taking place at Uganda museum, Nommo gallery and Makerere art gallery has attracted 45 artists from 13 countries. However, there will be other venues that will stretch to upcountry towns. Running under the theme “Progressive Africa”, Kampala Art Biennale will engage African painters, photographers, illustrators, cartoonists, writers and all 2D media artists.

“Most renowned artistes are Africans living in the diaspora. This biennale has concentrated on artists living in Africa because they are most under-represented at major events,” noted Daudi Karungi, the brains behind the exhibition.

The renowned visual artist, who has practised for the last 15 years, says artists have exhibited in galleries and at international festivals, but there is a lot to be desired in the appreciation of art at home.

“There is need for exposure of Kampala as an arts city. That is why we came up with the art biennale, a grand art exhibition that will happen every two years,” Karungi said.

“We sent out calls allover Africa, focusing on 2D artwork for the purposes of a simple picture impression. We don’t want to confuse the public we are trying to introduce art to. We want the public that we are trying to lure to start with a picture before they get in more complicated things like installation and video art.”

Art, according to Karungi, is tourism.

“People plan their holiday when the biennale is going to happen if they want to go to Venice. So, we want people to plan their holidays to Uganda around August every other year, so that they can come and see the best of art in Africa while they see other things like wildlife,” he said.

The exhibition is supported by Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Nile Gold, Bollore Africa Logistics, Fotogenix, The Hub, Bayimba and SMS media, among others. UTB’s CEO Steven Asiimwe said the exhibition is a new competitive edge against the country’s neighbours.

“We believe this event will bring out the best in our people and see more visitors coming into the country,” Asiimwe said.

He also revealed that as a way of making the country more competitive, UTB will soon unveil the cuisine day where they will showcase Uganda’s unique food such as luwombo, atapa, malewa and mugoyo.

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Nigeria: Bayelsa Sets Up Institute to Boost Tourism

9 July 2014 – Daily Independent – Yenagoa — Tourism and hospitality development in Bayelsa State have received a boost with the commissioning of the state-owned International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality by the governor of the state, Seriake Dickson.

To this end, Dickson has called on regulatory agencies and other stakeholders in the tourism sector to collaborate with the institute’s management to actualize the goals for which it was established.

Dickson, who spoke at the commissioning of the institute located along Elebele/AIT Road in Yenagoa, described the facility as the first-ever international tourism and hospitality institute set up to train both middle and senior level manpower in the sector within and outside the country.

He stated that the institute would issue certificates in line with international standards.

He said the establishment of the institute underlined government’s determination to develop the tourism industry as part of efforts to diversify the state’s economy and create job opportunities for Bayelsans to enable them contribute their quota to the economy.

He said: “We are here to make a statement about our seriousness to make tourism a major plank for the diversification of the economy of our state. Hopefully, that will also impact on the national economy.

“We are also making a statement that tourism is a serious business. I would like to use this opportunity to call on all the regulatory agencies and other bodies and those that are working with this institute, the rector and his team, to ensure that the objectives of this institute are met. This institute is meant to bring opportunities to our people here in Yenagoa.

“We want to begin the process of training people in the tourism industry. I want to particularly call on the youths of Bayelsa to take advantage of the various opportunities we have created for them.”

The Minister of Culture, Tourism and Orientation, Edem Duke, commended the state government for being in the vanguard of advocating the development of the culture and tourism sector in preparation for an economy beyond oil and gas.

Duke noted that Governor Dickson had exhibited sufficient commitment with the huge investments made in the tourism sector and urged the people to key into the vision of the present administration.

Also, the rector of the institute, Prince Efere, said the institute when operational, would be self-funding towards generating revenue for the state.

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Cultural heritage project presented in Baku

10 July 2014 – AzerNews – Baku hosted a presentation of a project called “Support for conservation and development of the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan” by the Independent Research Center ELS.

The presentation was attended by prominent public figures and representatives of cultural and artistic fields.

The project, financed by the Council of State Support to NGOs under the president of Azerbaijan, presupposes publishing albums and compact disks of the winners of competition “New songs for children 2013”, Head of the center Irada Yagubova said.

The collections will be distributed in kindergartens of Baku and Sumgayit.

The event also included discussions on preservation and promotion of cultural heritage, training of teachers and other issues.

During the discussions was raised the issues of provision of schools with musical instruments and other problems identified within the research.

In their speeches, Vice-Rector of the Baku Music Academy Gulnaz Abdullazade, Chairman of the Education Council Ajdar Agayev, composer, People’s Artist of Azerbaijan Oktay Zulfuqarov, Representative of the Institute of Education’s Problems Natig Akhundov spoke about the educational process, as well as inconsistencies in the textbooks.

Speakers noted that music lessons, shop classes and sports should not take the second place in schools’ programs. Finally, some proposals were made to resolve the existing problems in this area.

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July 25 launch for Ankara-Istanbul high-speed rail

09 July 2014 – TODAY.AZ – The long-awaited high-speed railway line between Turkey’s capital Ankara and its largest city of Istanbul will be launched by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on July 25, Turkey’s Transport Minister Lutfi Elvan announced Tuesday, Anadolu Agency reported.

“It will open on July 25; any kind of delay is out of question,” Elvan told Anadolu Agency in the Turkish parliament.

The rail is expected to help save almost 40 percent of travel time between Ankara and Istanbul by cutting the journey to 3.5 hours.

Originally planned to be operational in May, the project has been delayed by several months due to sabotage attempts.

There are currently three high-speed rail lines in Turkey between Ankara, Konya and Eskisehir, all central Anatolian provinces.

Turkish State Railways had announced in January that it would invest almost half of its 2014 budget (1.8 billion liras) in high-speed trains, as part of a wide array of construction projects planned for Turkey’s founding anniversary in 2023.

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Saudi domestic tourism stronger than expected

Arab News – 11 July, 2014 – Authorities expect domestic tourism to be even more extensive than official figures suggest.

Sources had previously announced that domestic tourism is on the uptrend, with a total number of 23.8 million domestic tourist trips recorded across the Kingdom last year, up from 19 million the previous year.

“Yet the total number could be even higher since there were many families and individuals who traveled privately and were therefore unrecorded,” Awad El-Haj, the manager of a furnished apartment in the Suleimania district in the Saudi capital, told Arab News on Wednesday.

“The official figures were issued by the government through the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA),” he said. The data was gathered from travel agencies and other allied sectors in the industry.

El-Haj said that there are families or individuals who travel and stay with relatives or friends in Jeddah or Alkhobar.

He added that their travel was not officially recorded and therefore not included in the total number of domestic travelers last year as recorded by travel agents and tourism authorities.

Anter Ibrahim, a supervisor at the 40-room Taleen Furnished Apartments, added that these travelers also spent money on various things, but that their expenses were not officially recorded.

He said that many of the travelers to Alkhobar, for instance, caught fish which they cooked and ate or bought the catch of others, but that no receipts were issued, so their expenses were not officially recorded.

“The amount spent by a family or individual domestic traveler may be not that much. However, if you put together the total expenses of several families and individuals who traveled in their private capacity last year, the amount is considerable indeed,” he said.

He noted that a report recently stated that domestic traveler expenses last year were pegged at SR28 billion, but that “this figure could be much bigger if all the expenses of the families or individuals who traveled in their private capacity had been recorded.”

Some 203,200 people are employed in the local tourism industry.

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Diriyah expected to ramp up tourism revenues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tourist, service projects for Khareef completed

Oman Daily Observer – 08 July, 2014 – The Committee on Performance Raising, Development of Service and Tourist Sites in the Governorate of Dhofar completed the development of a number of beautification measures in the governorate, in addition to launching tourist and service projects for the Khareef season.

The committee chaired by Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, is responsible for supervising the implementation of tourist and service projects for the visitors to the Governorate of Dhofar during the Khareef season, for the second consecutive year. The Committee is expected to meet during the next week. Members of the Committee will conduct inspection visits to all projects and sites to supervise the workflow and the provided services.

Among the major projects undertaken by the Committee in preparation for the Khareef season is the Traveller’s Oasis which is a main centre for providing assistance and services to all visitors to the governorate during the Khareef season.

Another project is Al Sa’adah Recreational Square, which aims to offer a new and distinct events during the Khareef season. Another project is Al Mughsail Beach Resort which is a tourist site that attracts a large number of the visitors to the governorate and the development and beautification of Al Dahareez.

The Committee will also provide mobile toilets in a number of tourist sites on the roads leading to the Governorate of Dhofar.

Among the important tourism projects is the tourist information centres provided by the Ministry of Tourism at the airports and border outlets of the Sultanate. The call centre of the Ministry of Tourism (8007799) provides its services. A special team has been assigned to run the centre during the Khareef season to respond to quarries around the clock.

Work is under way to launch the e-tourism website in conjunction with the Salalah Tourism Festival. The site will provide services of tourism promotion of Dhofar Governorate and is supported by the launch of Smartphone application.

The Committee undertook a new project to provide integrated data to provide booking and hotels for visitors to the governorate during the Khareef season. The project will provide adequate information about hotels, major existing and future projects and their locations from 2013 to 2016.

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UNESCO recognition boosts Jeddah’s historical district

Arab News – 09 July, 2014 – The recognition of the Historic Jeddah district as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), would boost tourism in the area, a senior official from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) said here recently.

Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Ghabban, SCTA’s vice-president and general supervisor of the King Abdullah Project for the Care of Cultural Heritage, said the area was exceptional in many ways, including its architecture.

“The buildings here reflect the special architectural identity of the Red Sea and it was, since the early years of Islam to the present, a major gateway for millions of pilgrims on their way to the holy city of Makkah,” he said in a statement.

“We should know that the ancient pilgrim routes were abandoned for a long time in the past for several reasons, including political and economic reasons, and Jeddah was the only available gateway.”

He said the area was important for its mosques, endowments, Haj routes, souks and diverse population that reflected the “cultures of Islamic nations.”

He said the Kingdom had failed to get UNESCO to declare the area a world heritage site in 2011. It then worked on the area for three years, from 2011 to 2014, before making a second successful application.

He said work currently includes architectural and surveying projects, in addition to the restoration of the wooden facades of buildings in the area.

Meanwhile, Masher Al-Naeem, general supervisor of the National Urban Heritage Center of the SCTA, said UNESCO recognition means that more people would visit the area.

Al-Naeem urged property owners in the area to turn their buildings into heritage hotels.

This is the first area recognized by UNESCO not owned by the state. Madain Saleh in Madinah and the Turaif Quarter in Al-Dariyah, Riyadh, are state-owned and already registered as world heritage sites.

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Dhofar governorate develops new tourism sites

Oman Tribune – 09 July, 2014 – In a bid to implement the Royal Directives to raise efficiency and improve services at tourist sites in the Governorate of Dhofar, serving primarily visitors to the Governorate of Dhofar during the Khareef season, Dhofar governorate in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism is working on other tourist sites where work is scheduled to be completed by this month.

The Special Committee of Annual Khareef Season in Dhofar governorate for this year has been implementing number of service projects and tourism as a first stage to improve and develop tourist sites and the provision of services to provide necessary facilities and services for visitors to Salalah.

The service projects include tourism promotion and awareness, which is divided into a number of new projects in addition to ongoing projects from last year, which contributed to the success of the last Khareef season.

Work on upgrading and developing services and tourist sites has to be completed before the start of the Salalah Tourism Festival, which will kick off on the second day of Eid Al Fitr.

A traveller oasis was opened in Hamrir in the Wilayat of Salalah. It is an integrated rest area with full tourist services. The project is composed of luxury tents, including administrative tent, which provides tourist information and outlets for hotels and furnished apartment booking.

There is also an outlet for the Public Authority of Consumer Protection, marketing outlets for telecommunication companies. The second tent contains restaurants; the third for marketing of crafts. There is also an outlet for Omani Women Association in Salalah and another outlet for craftswomen.

Al Saadah entertainment venue is one of the new projects undertaken and completed this year. The venue is designed to hold new and special events different from the ones held in Dhofar during the Khareef season. Apart from the functions and events, the venue has a corner for shopping, which is called ‘Ruwad’, or pioneers, in Arabic. The corner can accommodate up to 100 participants. The idea is to help young investors and the SMEs market their products.

More developments have been introduced at the Al Meghaisel Beach. Attracting a huge number of local community people, tourists and expats from other governorates, the beach is one of the most important tourist attractions in Dhofar.

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Oman Convention Centre to create 18,000 jobs

Times of Oman – 10 July, 2014 – Up to 18,000 permanent jobs will be created and two more hotels will come up once the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) is completed, Omran said.

According to a study released by Omran, in addition to creating jobs, the mega-project, when completed, will generate OMR295 million in local spending and also contribute OMR200-240 million to the national economy by 2030.

Omran is the company set up by the government to deliver major projects and to manage assets and investments in the tourism sector.

“The work of the OCEC is proceeding apace. It will be completed by 2016 Q4 and, moreover, a few more tenders for the Convention Centre and two hotels will be announced in the third quarter of this year,” Abdul Wahid Al Farsi, acting chief communications officer at Omran, told the Times of Oman.

According to Omran, the project will require 12,000 construction workers by 2015 when construction reaches its peak.

Construction of the exhibition halls started in 2013 while Omran supervised the design, tendering and construction of the whole project to ensure that it is on schedule for OCEC’s opening in 2016.

“In addition to the exhibition centre (set for completion in second quarter of 2015), the OCEC complex will include four hotels, a business park, retail shopping areas and serviced apartments,” the official added.

The completed OCEC will feature the largest fixed seating auditorium in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (3,200 seats) and the largest car park structure in Oman (4,200 spaces), the country’s largest district cooling plant (32,500 refrigeration tonnes), the largest steel truss span (80 metres) supporting the Exhibition Halls, and the largest dome in Oman (120 metre span).

In addition, the OCEC’s Business Park will feature the largest gross floor area in a purpose-built corporate office building in Muscat.

In 2013, the OCEC team awarded a total of OMR82,171,247 worth of tenders and issued new consultancy and construction tenders valued at OMR66 million.

A consultancy services tender was awarded for designing an 800-employee staff accommodation to house the staff of the Convention Centre and hotels.

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Qatar’s hospitality sector sees bullish trend

The Peninsula – 06 July, 2014 – The current year has started on a positive note for Qatar’s hospitality sector.

Hotels have seen strong inflow of tourists in the first half, taking occupancy level to up to 85 percent.

Industry experts say the opening of Hamad International Airport has played a crucial role in bringing cheers to hotels.

“First half the year has been very good for the sector as the occupancy rate was 70 percent. The main reason for the strong inflow of tourists was the opening of the airport.

“Hotels also offered discounts of up to 5 percent,” said Mustafa Hanini, General Manager, Fraser Suites Doha.

He said Fraser Suites mostly attracts European tourists and its occupancy was 80 percent.

A campaign by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) to attract tourists also wooed transit passengers.

Hoteliers say majority of tourists, around 30 percent, were from GCC countries.

Mashoor Al Rafai, General Manager, Concord Hotel, said the first half of the year was better than the six months last year as occupancy rates were higher this year. The sector benefitted from QTA initiatives, he added.

Copthorn Hotel benefitted the most because of its vicinity to the airport and its occupancy rate was 85 percent. Majority of tourists came during weekends and public holidays.

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More projects in offing to boost Oman’s tourism industry

Oman Tribune – 06 July, 2014 – In a bid to boost the tourism sector in the Sultanate, Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) has lined up an array of development projects in different areas of the country.

Eng Wa’el Bin Ahmed Al Lawati, CEO of Omran, said that the company is carrying out feasibility study for 12 tourism projects in different areas, including water parks, Omani castles and forts development and building eco-tourism resorts.

Lawati said that 2013 was marked by significant progress in two major projects — the Alila Al Jebel Al Akhdar Resort and Atana Musandam. These projects will be opened in the second quarter of this year, he added.

He said that in 2013, the company awarded tenders worth 78 million rials to build Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, energy centre and parking area and a 1 million-rial tender for the Traveler’s Oasis project in Salalah.

Apart from that, the company also awarded tenders worth 120 million rials for developing three hotels and okayed contracts worth 85 million rials last year for enhancing the tourism sector. In addition to that, 170 million-rial tenders are also under process.

The construction work in Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre continued in 2013, as the company awarded tenders worth 82.2 million rials, in addition to 66 million rials tenders for construction consultancy services.

Besides, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with Oman National Investment Corporation and Al Futtaim Group of UAE to develop and manage the largest shopping centre in the Sultanate as part of Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Enhancing the tourism sector is vital for diversifying the national economy and boosting the non-oil revenues. The Sultanate is also bidding to make the country a top tourist attraction on the regional and international map.

Developing large scale tourism and attracting more tourists could be one option to reduce imbalances in these accounts. The current account surplus to GDP averaged 9.5 per cent during 2010 to 2013.

The Eighth Five-Year Development Plan has been laying special emphasis on promoting opportunities of sustainable tourism development by allotting lands, encouraging investments in hotels, developing integrated tourism complexes and parks in various parts of the country.

Further, the government has been very pro-active in attracting FDI and also exploring international partners who could invest in the Sultanate.

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Growing role of Islamic economics in spotlight

Arab News – 06 July, 2014 – A number of key economic topics from the Islamic point of view are being analyzed at the two-day 35th Albaraka Symposium for Islamic Economics, taking place at the Jeddah Hilton.

The symposium, which opened on Saturday, encompasses the role of the state in business activities based on Islamic economic principles and the role of endowment in the development and fight against poverty and unemployment.

Saleh Kamel, chairman of the board of trustees, iqraa Waqf for Employment and Business Expansion, said: “This forum is not only for Islamic banking but also covers the entire gamut of Islamic economy.

“We have been talking about Islamic banking and finance for about 20 years. This year, we went back to its inception 35 years ago when we discussed everything within the framework of Islamic economics, including zakat and riba (interest), “ Kamel said.

According to him, Islamic banking rules are many. Muslims understand them better and they can give the humanity a good life, especially in the present tough days.

“For that, we need to start to talk about everything concerning them. Let us start the first meeting with masrafia alijabia (positive banking). This is one of the Islamic banking tools suggested. But, what we should also focus on is the responsibility of the state in Islam in the economic welfare for all, “ he said.

On Sunday, Kamel added, the symposium will focus on alwaqf.

“What has happened now is that alwaqf has disappeared in Muslim countries, while in the West most of the universities and research centers as well as human rights organizations are being run on the basis of alwaqf. But here (Muslim countries), it (alwaqf) has disappeared. Alwaqf is, in fact, the major part of Islamic economics.

“If we try to understand this, then the Islamic economy will develop for the benefit of all humans, not only Muslims,” Kamel added.

Riyadh Yousif Al-Rabiah highlighted the importance of positive banking where banks get their revenue out of the depositors _ money and not from people who borrow money. The people who borrow pay only the cost of the loan without any interest. This will keep them away from riba.

Abdulmohsen Al-Fares, CEO of Alinma Bank, said Islamic banks can play a positive role in economic development and employment creation.

Abdulaziz Al-Fozan, professor of comparative jurisprudence at the Higher Judicial Institute and board member of the Human Rights Commission, said a series of Islamic transactions are gaining acceptance in the Western countries, especially after the global financial crisis witnessed in 2008.

Al-Fozan stressed the need for enlightening individuals and Islamic financial institutions on the importance of social responsibility and social solidarity, and their position in the Shariah, and how to convince them to keep committed to these elements voluntarily without the need for the introduction of a binding law to this end.

Al-Fozan also called for drawing up clear-cut criteria for the assessment of the efficiency of financial institutions and their effective role in social responsibility and social solidarity.

Adnan Ahmed Yousif, board member and president & chief executive of Albaraka group, said that the group’s assets increased from $ 4.1 billion in 2003 to more than $ 21 billion currently. “Investment increased to around $ 160 billion whereas deposits reached $ 18 billion,” he said.

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GE to train Saudi women engineers

Saudi Gazette – 07 July, 2014 – Following GE’s organized visits to Effat University in Jeddah and its participation at the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) Career Fair, the company has offered on-the-job training opportunities to five Saudi women engineers who will be trained across diverse businesses of the company in the Kingdom.

Hisham Albahkali, GE’s President & CEO for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, said: “We participate in career fairs and organize student outreach initiatives to identify Saudi youth talent, and to strengthen awareness among students, particularly females, on the array of diverse job opportunities offered by GE in the Kingdom. Providing coop training opportunities highlights our commitment to diversity and empowering Saudi women in the workplace, which reflects the vision of the government.”

As part of GE’s partnership with different universities in the Kingdom to offer co-op programs to their students, GE has hired four fresh graduate students from Effat University, as co-ops with the GE Power & Water business. Three of them will join the GE Manufacturing Technology Center in Dammam, and another will join the Power Generation Services business in Jeddah. One Saudi female engineer was hired through GE’s participation at the KAUST Career Fair, who will be training with the GE Oil & Gas business at the GE Saudi Innovation Center for three months.

GE has invested SR22 million over three years to provide annual scholarships that will benefit 60 Saudi university students. Educational scholarships are provided to 30 students of the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM), while 30 scholarships are provided exclusively to female students from various universities in the Kingdom.

With three offices and six facilities, Saudi Arabia accounts for the largest GE workforce in the Middle East with over 1,400 employees driving the healthcare, transportation, power, oil & gas, water, and aviation businesses. More than 500 GE turbines currently generate over 50 percent of Saudi’s electricity, and the company’s advanced technology supports the production of 150 million liters clean water daily, delivered to the country’s remotest corners.

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