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25 Aug, 2014

High-Tech To The Rescue For Indian Haj Pilgrims

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 25 August 2014 (28 Shawwal 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.



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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




Africa-Malaysia Fashion Show One Of Malaysia’s Tourism Highlights – Sept 2014

PUTRAJAYA, 18 August 2014 – A mix of art, cultural, sports, nature and international fashion events wraps up the third quarter of 2014. Here are some of the highlights of September 2014:


Witness the story of Kuala Lumpur unfold on stage as three best friends – Mamat, Meng and Muthiah head to the capital city to seek their fortune during the 1880s.

The show promises to be a colourful and entertaining multi-cultural experience for all – a lively musical showcasing the rich diversity of the people who built Kuala Lumpur. It is an inspiring tale of friendship, perseverance and finding joys in a simple cup of teh tarik.

Organiser: Enfiniti Vision Media
Date: Ongoing
Time: Twice Daily: 3pm – 6pm and 8.30pm – 9.30pm
Venue: Panggung Bandaraya, Jalan Raja, Kuala Lumpur
Price: RM45 – RM60
Contact: +6 03 6142 9877
Website: mudkl.com


The renowned Sarawak Regatta 2014 is back in Kuching! Started from the Brooke era, the traditional longboats race aimed to stop racial wars among local tribes where headhunting was largely practiced.

The colourfully designed and decorated longboats can accommodate up to 30 paddlers on the boat. Aside from boat races, highlights of the event include “Brooke Swim”, kayaking and duck catching competitions.

Organiser: Resident Office Kuching Division
Date: 4 – 7 September 2014
Venue: Kuching Waterfront, Kuching, Sarawak
Contact: +6 082 507 051/ 055
Website: www.sarawaktourism.com


For the first time, a global summit on media in the development, education and wellbeing of children is taking place in Asia!

The 7th World Summit on Media for Children (WSMC) 2014 aims to improve the quality of media for children through networking, debates and workshops on content creation from more than 2,000 producers, broadcasters, media regulators, educators and community leaders.

If you are someone who works in the field of childhood development with an interest in media, this Summit is for you!

Organiser: Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU)
Date: 8 – 10 September 2014
Venue: The Royale Chulan Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6 03 2282 3592
Website: www.wsmc2014.org


The largest fishing competition in Malaysia is here! The Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge (RPBIC) 2014 is an annual offshore fishing competition that practices the “Catch and Release” method.

RPBIC takes advantage of the active migration season of the billfish, such as marlin and sailfish which pass through the Rompin area from the northern hemisphere to Australia, between March and September.

Loaded with dynamic bursts of excitement for the experienced angler, it is a highly anticipated event especially for those who seek adventure and eco-friendly sports.

Organiser: Pahang State Government, Tioman Development Authority & Pahang Tourism
Date: 12 – 14 September 2014
Venue: Pantai Lanjut, Rompin, Pahang
Contact: +6 09 514 1206
Website: www.rpbic.com.my


The ‘Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur 2014’ will play host to the best line up of players in its young history. Nick Kyrgios, the 19-year-old Australian player who won the 2013 Australian Open Boys’ Singles event will be making his Malaysian professional debut this year.

Other than world-class tennis action, highlights of the event include the signature catch-the-ball promotions with prizes, the on-court coin toss and also daily autograph sessions with the players. Come and support them!

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia
Date: Qualifying Weekend, 20 – 21 September 2014
Main Draw, 22 – 28 September 2014
Venue: Putra Stadium, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6 03 9222 8881
Website: www.malaysianopentennis.com


It is now bigger and better!

Kite enthusiasts from all across the globe will bring their new creations and fly these magnificent art pieces at the 10th Borneo International Kite Festival 2014!

Highlights of the festival include the Stunt Kite/ Revolution Kite performances, the 1st Asia Pacific Sport Kite (dual-line) Championship, Creative Kites Display, ‘wau’-making workshop, and cultural night performances.

Organiser: Borneo International Kite Festival Secretariat, Bintulu Development Authority (BDA)
Date: 24 – 28 September 2014
Venue: Old Bintulu Airport, Bintulu, Sarawak
Contact: +6 086 332 011
Website: www.borneokite.com


Nineteen celebrated fashion designers from across the Africa continent including Tina Lobondi, Taibo Bacar and Mina Evans are invited to present their “Fall 2014” collections in Malaysia.

AMIFS 2014 is a platform to celebrate the work of Africans and African inspired designers by promoting their rich cultural heritage especially in the Asia Pacific continent.

Organiser: Standard Pacific Global Sdn. Bhd. & Astral Skyline (M) Sdn. Bhd.
Date: 24 – 28 September 2014
Venue: Avenue K Shopping Mall
Contact: +6 017 6434 912 (Puan Zainun)
Website: http://www.africa-malaysiafashionshow.com/


Calling all birding enthusiasts; grab the chance to see vibrant-coloured birds from Kingfishers to the elusive Borneo Bristlehead at the 6th Borneo Bird Festival 2014!

Spread over 3 days, the event offers various activities such as bird photography, guided bird walks, a bird race and a bird watching competition. The event aims to raise awareness of over 568 bird species in Sabah, four of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board
Date: 26 – 28 September 2014
Venue: Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC) Sandakan, Sabah
Contact: +6 088 212 121 (Noredah Othman)
Website: www.borneobirdfestival.com


Missed the 3-in-1 sports challenge in Desaru? Upcoming is the Asia Pacific Ironman Langkawi 2014 for you to prove your mettle as a triathlete again!

Ironman is triathlon’s marquee challenge and this ultimate endurance race requires the completion of 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and 42.2 km of running, all three in a single day. Take a truly Malaysian cultural journey through tropical, hilly and demanding terrain!

Organiser: Ironman Malaysia
Date: 27 September 2014
Venue: Langkawi, Kedah
Contact: +6 03 7491 0505
Website: http://ap.ironman.com/triathlon/events/asiapac/ironman/malaysia

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Saudi govt publishes list of low-cost Haj service providers

Makkah, Thursday 25 Shawwal 1435/ 21 August 2014 (IINA) – The Haj Ministry has published the list of companies that provide low-cost Haj services. The full list is available at http://www.haj.gov.sa/ar-SA/Pages/Low-cost-camps.aspx.

The announcement came as Makkah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah has called for qualitative improvement in Haj services. “We have to exert maximum efforts to remove all obstacles for the success of this great annual event,” he told senior officials. He noted the progress achieved by the Haram expansion project, the Haramain Railway linking Makkah and Madinah, and the new Jeddah airport, saying it reflects the government’s endeavors to boost pilgrim services.

Nearly 2.5 million pilgrims are expected this year to perform Haj, which is scheduled to start on Oct. 2. The first group of Hajis will arrive here from South Africa on Aug. 25. “The service to the nation means facilitating things for the welfare of citizens and residents and providing better services applying the easiest methods,” the governor said.

The governor said his administration would expand electronic and computer facilities to provide quality services. Prince Mishaal said he was determined to end the problem of stalled and delayed projects. “We don’t want to see any stalled project in the region,” he said, adding that he would personally follow up every project.

Haj Minister Bandar Hajar, meanwhile, urged Haj-related departments and agencies to take effective measures to expedite arrival and departure procedures of pilgrims to avoid delays at Jeddah and Madinah airports. “We have to apply modern technology to improve services to the guests of God,” the minister said while speaking to officials of the United Agencies who receive Haj pilgrims on arrival in the Kingdom.

Officials of United Agencies briefed Hajar on their efforts to reduce the time of stay for pilgrims at airports and other entry points and their deployment of highly qualified employees to extend better services. Hajar urged United Agencies’ executives and employees to put greater efforts to improve services, being the frontline staff who deal with pilgrims upon their arrival at airports and other land and sea entry points.

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Turkish director dedicates award-winning film to his mother

Sarajevo, Sunday 28 Shawwal 1435/ 24 August 2014 (IINA) – Turkish director Erol Mintas won the “Heart of Sarajevo” prize on Saturday for the best picture at the 20th Sarajevo film festival.

Mintas’s “Song Of My Mother” — a moving story of an elderly Kurdish woman yearning to return to her home village in Eastern Turkey — was also given a $21,390 main prize ahead of eight other competitors. “I have dedicated this film to my mother who lived in an Istanbul suburb where many Kurdish families found shelter during the 1990s,” Mintas said after receiving the award.

Feyyaz Duman won the best actor award for his role in the same film. The best actress award went to Mari Kitia for her role in the Georgian film “Brides,” an insight into the country’s harsh penal system through the eyes of the inmates’ wives and family.

The film also marked Tinatin Kajrishvili’s directorial debut. Kitia was awarded “for playing a complex role leading the cast with strength and dignity,” said the international jury chaired by Hungarian director Bela Tarr. Oscar-winning US actress Melissa Leo and London-based Tate Modern director Chris Dercon were also among the jurors.

On Thursday, the festival — created as an act of resistance to the siege of the city during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war — awarded a special $11,520 bursary to two Gaza directors, Abdel Salam Shehadeh and Ashraf Mashharawi. Only Mashharawi was able to attend the festival due to the latest surge of violence in Gaza.

The festival, which opened on August 15, offered its biggest ever line-up of films, with 247 movies from 60 countries screened during the nine-day event. A retrospective of films by British director Michael Winterbottom was also screened. This year’s honorary guest was Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.

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Arab news / 19 Aug 2014 – The Indian Haj mission has introduced several high-tech measures to facilitate the pilgrimage of 136,000 Indians coming for Haj this year.

“We will make use of every form of new-age technology, from Google Maps and smartphone applications, to Facebook, YouTube clips and text messages, to make the journey of our pilgrims as comfortable as possible,” said Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak at a press conference on Monday. “The idea is to use every available tool and gadget to keep pilgrims in our loop of communication.”

Having been the Haj consul in Jeddah from 2008 to 2011, Mubarak is fully aware of the challenges that pilgrims face.

“One of the major problems that Indian pilgrims encounter during Haj is losing their way and being unable to find their accommodation, especially in the tent city of Mina, which is where most of the rituals are conducted,” he said.

An Internet-based, user-friendly smartphone application that is compatible with both Android and Apple operating systems has been launched to address this issue.

Dubbed the “Indian Haji Accommodation Locator,” the application has a distinct icon reflecting the colors of the Indian flag. The app can be downloaded for free via Google Play Store and iTunes.

“Once downloaded, all you have to do is click on the app’s icon and enter any pilgrim’s cover number or passport number and you will get comprehensive details about their accommodation, including building number, tent number or ‘maktab’ (office) number, plus an easy-to-follow satellite or a regular road map that will lead you to their location, whether in Makkah, Mina or Madinah,” said Mubarak.

The consul general said every pilgrim coming from India is provided with a Saudi cellphone SIM card which they activate upon arrival.

“Connectivity is not a problem at all,” he said. “We send short text messages to these numbers to keep our pilgrims informed about important and immediate developments.”

Mubarak acknowledged that the majority of pilgrims are unaware of the new technology or even the latest gadgets.

“Not everyone has a smartphone and not every pilgrim has the wherewithal to download the application or understand its complexities,” he said. “However, there are hundreds of volunteers ready to help pilgrims, but the pilgrims themselves are not in a position to explain their exact location.”

Pilgrims and volunteers often speak different Indian languages, making communication difficult.

“Any volunteer can just look at the number on the pilgrim’s steel bracelet that he wears at all times and punch in those details to find out the pilgrim’s exact location,” he said.

“We are doing this for the first time. We may encounter issues, but my mission’s mandate is to minimize the suffering of pilgrims.”

Of the 136,020 pilgrims arriving in the Kingdom this year, 100,020 are coming through the Haj Committee of India, while the rest are being brought in by private tour operators, popularly known as PTOs.

The first Indian Haj flight will arrive in Madinah on Aug. 27 from Kolkata, while the first flight in Jeddah will arrive on Sept. 7 from Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

Saudi Arabian Airlines and Air India will transport pilgrims from 21 embarkation points in India, including Varanasi, Delhi, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bangalore, Bhopal, Calicut, Goa, Guwahati, Mangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Indore, Jaipur and Nagpur.

More than 55,000 pilgrims will land in Madinah, while 44,810 will land at Jeddah airport’s Haj Terminal.

A staggering 13,127 pilgrims are above the age of 70. “We are making extra efforts for senior citizens,” said Mubarak. “We are trying to accommodate them in buildings that have easy access and are close to the Grand Mosque,” he said.

Pilgrims have been divided into two categories. Those in the premium “green” category will be housed in Makkah in buildings that are within 1,500 meters of the Holy Mosque’s outer courtyard. The others will be accommodated in the nearby Aziziah district. “A regular and free transport service has been provided for pilgrims in Aziziah,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has reduced the Haj quota for pilgrims coming from abroad by 20 percent in view of the ongoing expansion work in the Grand Mosque. This is the second year that the quota has been slashed, and is also poised to remain reduced during next year’s Haj. “However, from 2016, we expect our quota to be back to normal,” Mubarak said.

Out of the 360,000 Muslims who had applied for Haj in India this year, only 136,000 could be accommodated within the quota.

“For every pilgrim who had been selected, four were rejected,” he said.

Deputy Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh and Press Consul Irshad Ahmad also addressed the press conference.

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Chinese gov’t announces aid to Maldives

MALE, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) — The Chinese government has pledged 16 million U.S. dollars in aid to Maldives, the President’s Office said on Monday as President Abdulla Yameen continues his visit to China. In addition to the 16 million dollars, an agreement was reached to provide the Maldives police service with 150 motorcycles.

The grant aid is to be used for development projects in the Maldives, the statement from the President’s Office said. At separate meetings held on Saturday afternoon, discussions between Chinese and Maldivian officials were focused on the investment opportunities in Maldives, and the mega development projects.

Yameen also met officials from Tuniu, one of China’s top travel agencies, and attended a lunch hosted by the group. The Maldivian government is seeking concessional loans from the Chinese government to finance “a large portion” of a project to build a bridge connecting the capital Male with nearby island Hulhumale, President Yameen told reporters ahead of his visit.

The two governments are also focused on several other investment opportunities including tourism investment and cooperation on the Maritime Silk Route policy.

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Jokowi-JK brings new hope for Indonesian maritime awakening: academician

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 20 August 2014 – The pair of elected President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla (JK) has brought new hope for national maritime awakening, according to an academician.

“The commitment of the Jokowi-JK pair to include maritime affairs in one of the flagship programs is a new hope for national maritime awakening,” Prof. Jamaluddin Jompa, the dean of Hasanuddin Universitys Faculty of Marine Sciences and Fisheries noted here on Wednesday.

Speaking at a discussion on “Challenge to Realize the Vision and Mission of Jokowi-JK,” Jamaluddin remarked that Indonesia has huge potential to become a great nation in the realm of maritime affairs.

He pointed out that Indonesia is the center of biodiversity and the country with the largest number of islands. Its fisheries potential is worth 65 million tons per year. The fourth-largest populated country in the world enjoys a strategic geographical location and has abundant energy, mineral, and natural resources.

“But the country faces many obstacles in terms of lack of qualified human resources in maritime affairs, the mastery of science and technology, basic infrastructure, and government priority to utilize those resources to become a great nation,” he remarked.

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Malaysia On Track To Achieve Visit Malaysia Year Target

SINGAPORE, Aug 18 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is on track to achieve its Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) growth target in terms of tourist arrivals by year’s end, said Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab.

“VMY is on track in terms of our number target. We have our major challenges starting from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, then a few incidents of security in Sabah and finally the downing of flight MH17.

“Despite all that, I am pleased to report the reaction from neighbouring countries, particularly Singapore and Indonesia, have actually more than covered the setbacks that we got from markets like China in particular and the other long haul sector was actually a knee jerk effect after all the things that happened,” he told Bernama.

Mirza was here to attend a Malaysian production musical theatre Bahayanya Wanita (The Dangers of a Woman) at the Star Theatre@the Star Performing Arts Centre here on Saturday.

Among artistes performing include Zizan Razak, Umie Aida, Erra Fazira, Erma Fatima, Lana Nordin, Johan As’ari and Nora Danish.

Malaysia High Commissioner to Singapore, Datuk Husni Zai Yaacob and wife, Datin Norshiha Hasbullah, and Tourism Malaysia director for Singapore Noor Aine Ismail were among dignitaries, who attended.

According to Mirza, the regional market had been supportive.

“With 10 per cent growth month to month until May, we will be there for VMY. We hope China (tourists) comes back, if China comes back we will be on a very strong footing,” he said.

Mirza said similarly for the other markets, the drop in tourist arrivals was a temporary setback and believed with more effort they would be able to lure the tourists to Malaysia.

Following the missing MH370 incident, it was reported there was a reduction in the number of tourists from China to Malaysia.

The VMY 2014 initiative targets to attract a new record of 28 million international tourist arrivals and RM76 billion in tourist receipts.

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Jordan’s Tourism Revenues Top US$2.5 Billion In July

AMMAN, Jordan, Aug 19 (NNN-PETRA) – Jordan’s income from the tourism industry reached USD 2.5 billion in July, 2014, an increase of ten percent, compared with USD 2.3 billion in the corresponding month last year.

The rise in income occurred due to the increasing number of tourists coming from Qatar, Libya, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, United States, as well as, Jordanians living abroad, Central Bank of Jordan said, in a statement.

Jordan turned to be a tourist destination for many countries in the region, due to its many tourist, and entertaining sites and its security, and political stability, despite political and security tensions in the countries of the region, the statement added.

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Qatar Airways To Boost Flights To Istanbul

DOHA, Qatar, Aug 19 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways is responding to the increased demand for its services to Istanbul, by announcing an addition of three weekly flights to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport, making the route daily, commencing Oct 26, 2014.

The non-stop, four-flights-a-week service, from Doha to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport, was initially launched on May 22 this year, marking Qatar Airways’ expansion to its third route in Turkey.

The airline currently operates to three destinations in Turkey – Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport (four-weekly-flights), Istanbul Ataturk Airport (10-flights-a-week) and Ankara (four-weekly-flights).

With the additional flights from Doha to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport on Oct 26, the number of flights to Istanbul rises from 14 to 17 frequencies each week.

Qatar Airways Group, Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker said, “Qatar Airways passengers, looking to travel to Istanbul, will have even more choice with further convenience and flexibility to their travel plans.

“The extra flights will also be a great boost for the travelling public from Istanbul, to cities around the world.” Turkey’s tourism industry has experienced a recent upward surge and Istanbul is growing commercially serving as a vital connecting hub between Asia and Europe.

Now, passengers to and from Istanbul will have better connections across a number of routes in the airline’s extensive network of global destinations, including popular destinations such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bangkok, the Maldives, Bali, Singapore, Melbourne and Hong Kong.

Qatar Airways, the State of Qatar’s national airline, has seen rapid growth in just 17 years of operation, to the point where, today, it is flying a modern fleet of 135 aircraft to 144 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

The Doha – Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport Three Additional Weekly Flights Schedule Commencing Oct 26: Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

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Oman Air Gets Approval To Fly To Manila, Says Report

MUSCAT, Oman, Aug 20 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Air’s request to fly direct flights to Manila has been approved, according to a Philippines media report.

The Philippines Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), had denied Oman Air the approval last June, because of limited infrastructure at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. Expansion work at the airport’s Terminal 1 has paved the way for the flights to operate.

The news portal of TV5 – www.interaksyon.com – quoted Jose Angel Honrado, general manager of the state-run Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), as saying that approval has been given, to requests from Oman Air and Garuda Airlines to operate at NAIA Terminal 1, which is currently undergoing a US$26.5 million expansion and is expected to be ready by 2015.

Honrado said that the two airlines are looking to fly ahead of the completion of the rehabilitation. “I think as soon as possible,” he was quoted as saying. Oman Air did not respond to a request for a comment on the report.

CAB had informed Oman Air last year that the gateway to the region’s fastest-growing economy was already congested. “We are denying foreign airlines, such as Oman Air and Jet Airways. It’s not that the market is becoming less vibrant. The reason is due to the limited infrastructure,” a senior industry official was quoted as saying then.

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Malaysia-Brunei Border Crossings To Exceed Three Million In 2014

MIRI, Aug 20 (NNN-Bernama) — Over three million visitors are expected to go through the Malaysia-Brunei border immigration checkpoint at Sungai Tujuh here by year’s end compared to 2.9 million visitors in 2013.

Sarawak Assistant Minister for Communication Lee Kim Shin said the Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoint had registered an average of 250,000 visitors per month from January to July this year which contributed to congestion during the school holiday and festive season.

“We have received a lot of complaints from the public that the long queue at Sungai Tujuh Custom Immigration Quarantine (CIQ) Complex has been getting worst, especially during peak seasons that can last to up to over three hours and sometimes even longer,” he told a news conference here.

Earlier he chaired an emergency meeting with Sungai Tujuh CIQ Immigration chief Yahya Suhaili to address the congestion woes at Sungai Tujuh immigration checkpoint.

“After a discussion with the Immigration Department, I have requested that the problem is resolved by year’s end or early 2015,” he said adding that currently there are 22 lanes or counters being built for arrival and departure purposes at Sungai Tujuh CIQ that were not utilised fully.

He said at present only 17 counters were in operation daily.

“I was made to understand that due to manpower shortage in the department it cannot open all the counters during peak seasons and to solve the problem I have requested it to have additional staff as soon as possible since Sungai Tujuh is the main gateway to Sarawak by land,” he said.

Apart from increasing immigration personnal, the Miri City Council had also been urged to expedite the implementation of the RM1.5 million landscape project at Sungai Tujuh CIQ, including the proposal to build an arch,” he said.

He said the department had been asked to work together with the council to check on suitable sites for public toilets in the vicinity.

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Egypt, India Discuss Promoting Cultural Interactions

CAIRO, Aug 20 (NNN-Bernama) — India and Egypt have discussed ways to promote cultural interactions between the two countries as they prepare for the third edition of ‘India by the Nile’ festival scheduled in April next year, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

India’s ambassador to Egypt Navdeep Suri and Egyptian Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour held talks on Wednesday on the festival’s preparations and programme, and boosting translations of Indian publications into Arabic.

Next year’s festival will feature new attractions, including an exhibition of soldiers who fought in World War I in Egypt and an expo on Egyptian and Indian handmade and traditional products.

Former Indian ambassador to Egypt Pascal Alan Nazareth will give a lecture on his new book titled ‘Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership’ which has been translated in various languages including Arabic in India.

“We are working with Egypt’s Ministry of Culture to release an Arabic version for distribution in next year’s festival,” Suri said.

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More Than Four Million Passengers Travel Via Muscat Airport

MUSCAT, Oman, Aug 21 (NNN-ONA) – Air traffic movement at the Muscat International Airport witnessed an increase in the first quarter of 2014, as the total number of flights and passengers registered a marked increase.

While the number of flights rose by 1.3 per cent to 40,204 by the end of June 2014, compared to 39,695 flights during the same period last year, the 4,430,676 passengers who passed through the airport in the first half of 2014, accounted for a 7.5 per cent increase, compared to 4,122,548 passengers, during the same period last year.

The total number of international flights at Muscat International Airport was 35,510 in the first six months of 2014, compared to 35,206 flights registered during the same period in 2013, a growth of 0.9 per cent.

A recently published air traffic report, issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), revealed that the total number of passengers on international flights passing through Muscat International Airport – including arrivals, departures and transit passengers – increased by 7.5 per cent, to 4,040,128 passengers, compared to 3,758,421 passengers, over the same period last year. Of these, 2,004,476 were classified as arriving passengers, 2,018,544 as departing passengers and 17,108 were transit passengers.

During the same period, the total number of domestic flights through Muscat International Airport until the end of June touched 4,694, compared with 4,489 over the same period last year, representing a 4.6 per cent growth.

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Japan Projects Record Number Of Malaysian Tourists

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysian tourists to Japan this year is likely to hit another record high, thanks to the visa waiver programme introduced in 2013 and Japan catering to more Muslim tourists, says Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO).

For the first seven months of the year, Japan welcomed 132,400 Malaysian tourists, a year-on-year, growth of 63 per cent.

“If the growth momentum continues into the second half, traditionally a peak traveling season, Malaysian arrivals in Japan will achieve another record high,” said JNTO Singapore Office Deputy Director Susan Maria Ong at a press conference here Thursday.

After Japan introduced visa exemption for Malaysians holding biometric passports in July last year, local tourists to Japan hit a record 176,713 in 2013, up 35.7 per cent, from the previous year.

Japan is also warming up to the idea of serving the vast Muslim tourist population.

“Muslim-friendly services such as prayer facilities are now available in major airports and shopping malls, and more hotels and resorts have started to serve halal menus,” Ong said.

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China Plans To Invest In Iran’s Tabriz Tram Project

TEHRAN, Aug. 18 (NNN-FNA) –Chinese companies plan to invest in a Tram project to be constructed in the Northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, a senior Chinese official announced on Sunday.

“The Tabriz tram will have the highest standards in terms of safety, comfort, beauty, speed and quality,” a senior Advisor of China’s CT Group Company said.

He noted that Tabriz tramline will have a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour and will work in different weather conditions.

The Chinese official noted that Tabriz tramline can replace 50 buses and 200 taxis while it will cost much less.

Last month, Chinese officials held talks with their Iranian counterparts to finalize a deal on financing railway development projects in Iran.

“Our priority is the development of railway through attracting finance and recently we have reached an understanding with China, which is being finalized now,” Deputy Director of Construction and Development of Infrastructures Transportation Company (CDITC) Seyed Massoud Nasr Azadani told FNA after the talks.

He, meantime, said that proper conditions are also ready for the Iranian companies to invest in building railway lines in the country.

Earlier this month, a senior trade official announced that Chinese companies are interested to invest in strategic projects of Iran.

“Chinese companies are ready to cooperate with this province in the construction of the second phase of the monorail as well as the telecommunication networks, airport and highway construction projects and they intend to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard,” Top Adviser of China’s Gansu Governor General Oyang Jian said in Qom.

He pointed to the activities of Gansu province in recent years, and said, “Gansu province is the first Chinese province that has set up a trade delegation.”

The Chinese official noted that the value of Gansu-Qom export/import has exceeded $100 million, and said since Gansu and Qom are sister provinces their cooperation should further increase.

He expressed the hope that Gansu and Qom provinces would increase their cooperation in the agriculture and energy sectors.

Gansu is a province of the People’s Republic of China, located in the Northwest of the country.

Iran is currently China’s third largest supplier of crude, providing Beijing with roughly 12 percent of its total annual oil consumption.

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Malaysia’s Agrobank Launches Syariah-Compliant Trade Financing, Services

NILAI, Aug 19 (NNN-Bernama) — Agrobank has launched short-term syariah-compliant trade financing and services for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), commercial and corporate sectors involved in local and foreign trade.

President/chief executive officer, Wan Mohd Fadzmi Wan Othman, said with the facility, Agrobank would be the first development finance institute in the country to have its own trade financing service.

“Among the trade finance finance products are letter of credit-i, murabahah trust receipt, trade working capital financing-i, bank guarantee-i, shipping guarantee-i and forward exchange contract.

“The products will help the customers manage their cash flow more efficiently so that they will be more focussed on their business,” he said.

Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, officiated the launch of the products in conjunction with the seminar ‘Economic Consultation and Management of Agriculture Technology 2014’ here Tuesday.

The seminar was jointly organised by Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Agrobank and Universiti Putra Malaysia.

Wan Mohd Fadzmi said businesses required more working capital to further enhance local, foreign and cross-border transactions.

“The trade financing products and services will help them as they will easy sources of cash flows,” he said.

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China Potential Market For North Sulawesi’s Exports

MANADO (North Sulawesi) Aug 19 (NNN-Bernama) – China is a potential market for North Sulawesi province’s export commodities, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reports a local industry and trade official as saying.

T. Hasudungan Siregar, head of Foreign Trade Unit at North Sulawesi Industry and Trade Office, said Tuesday the province exports various commodities to China almost every week.

In early August, North Sulawesi exported 154.5 tonnes of coconut fiber valued at US$41,306 and 2.28 tonnes of dried butter wafer cake worth US$7,656.

The province also exported coconut by-products including coconut powder and coconut cake along with nutmeg and fishery products in the last few months.

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UAE To Attract More Malaysian Firms To Invest

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 20 (NNN-Bernama) — The Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) free trade zone in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) aims to increase the number of Malaysian companies in the zone to 80 over the next three to five years from 30 currently.

Its chief executive officer, Peter Fort, said Malaysian companies were under-represented in the RAK free trade zone, which has attracted some 7,500 companies from over 100 countries.

“Many local companies have yet to explore the opportunity in using the zone as a launch pad into the Middle Eastern and African markets, and this is set to change as the RAK authority is beefing up efforts in marketing the tax-free haven to this region,” he said.

Fort said this to reporters after speaking at a seminar on ‘RAK free trade zone: Your gateway to the UAE and the Middle East markets’ here Tuesday.

The RAK authority has shifted its focus to Asia, US and South America over the past 12-18 months, from its earlier targets in the Middle East and Europe, he said.

“We are now proactively spreading words of RAK out to new markets such as China, South Korea and Malaysia,” Fort said, citing healthcare, food manufacturing, services and manufacturing as sectors that local firms could tap into.

“Among the local big names which had a foothold in RAK are Eversendai Corp Bhd (structural steel turnkey and power plant contractor); Shin Yang Shipping Corp Bhd (shipping company); and Power Root Marketing Sdn Bhd (energy drink producer),” he said.

Fort said RAK attracted 3,000 companies last year, increasing the total to 7,500. The free trade zone expected the total number of firms to surpass 8,000 this year, he said.

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Iran To Produce 400,000 Electric Motorcycles To Help Reduce Air Pollution

TEHRAN, Aug 20, (NNN-IRNA) — Iran plans to place 400,000 electric motorcycles and 140,000 hybrid taxi cabs on the market as part of a plan backed by the Oil Ministry to help environment protection, said the managing director of the Iran Fuel Conservation Company (IFCC).

Elaborating on the government’s above-stated plan, Nosratollah Seifi said: “Due to incomplete combustion, some motorcycles pollute the air four times as much as automobiles.”

According to “Tehran Times”, Seifi stated that some production companies have held talks on manufacturing electric motorcycles with officials of the Ministry of Industry and Mines and the Interior Ministry, adding that if the plan is implemented, a manufacturer will receive $300 for each electric motorbike it produces.

Once the plan is implemented, only electric motorcycles will be allowed on the streets of central Tehran. He added that the IFCC also has a plan to get rid of 140 taxi cabs that use gasoline and replace them with 140 hybrid or CNG-powered taxi cabs.

However, the CNG-powered vehicles must be able to travel 400 kilometers on a full tank of fuel in order to be covered by the plan, whereas the vehicles currently being used can only travel 150 kilometers on a full tank of fuel.

He noted that the IFCC devised plan must be approved by Iran’s Economic Council and implemented by other relevant organizations.

Measures have been taken to provide domestic companies the technical expertise necessary to manufacture electric cars, and test production is scheduled to begin in a few months, Seifi said.

And if hybrid cars cannot be produced domestically, they can be imported, he stated. In addition, the manufacturer will receive $6000 for each vehicle produced, he said.

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Malaysia Enhances Agricultural Cooperation With ASEAN

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 20 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia, through the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry, will expand and strengthen cooperation among Asean countries in agriculture and forestry sectors in three special meetings over four days starting Tuesday.

The matter will be achieved in the Special Senior Officials Meeting of the Thirty-Fifth Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (Special SOM-35th AMAF), Special Senior Officials Meeting of the Thirteenth Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry Plus Three (Special SOM-13th AMAF Plus Three) and the First ASEAN-Russian Federation Senior Officials’ Meetings on Agriculture (1st ARSOMA).

“The meetings are preparatory meetings involving senior Asean Agriculture and Forestry officials with dialogue partners such as China, Japan and South Korea and Russia on various policy issues, implementation milestones and new proposals in agriculture and forestry sectors among Asean countries before being tabled at the 36th AMAF-SOM meeting on Sept 23 and 24 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar for consideration at ministerial level,” said an Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry statement, here.

The AMAF meeting is a scheduled meeting under the Asean cooperation framework since 1979 and is an annual meeting among Asean countries especially in agriculture and forestry including the sub-sectors of commodity and food.

Malaysia’s participation in the meeting is a commitment to the implementation of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint as well as an extension of the chairmanship of AMAF by Malaysia through the organising of 35th AMAF in Kuala Lumpur last year.

Ministry deputy secretary-general Raihan Sharif in his opening speech said the meeting covered the diversification of cooperation forged in AMAF through food supply assurance, food security, agricultural and forestry cooperatives, cooperation in agriculture and promotion of forestry products.

“Asean cooperation in food, agriculture and forestry in the global trade situation today is more focused on improving local products for the international market apart from sustaining agricultural products.

He said the special SOM meeting would also discuss the initiatives led by Malaysia for an Asean Seed Council. “This is to set up an efficient mechanism to ensure the supply of seeds is adequate,” he said.

The matter will be implemented through an efficient output of quality seeds according to international standards to ensure the quality of food supply in the region.

He said the organising of the meeting and Malaysia’s role as the chairman was relevant and significant for the achievement of Asean’s objective to emerge as a single market and production centre.

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Global Islamic Finance Forum In Malaysia Sept 2-4

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Over 100 key finance and economic leaders from around the world will share insights and experiences on key issues in Islamic finance at the Global Islamic Finance Forum (GIFF) 2014 here from Sept 2 to 4.

Organised by the Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM), the forum will feature multi-track programmes, an industry-wide dialogue and networking, AIBIM President Datuk Mohd Redza Shah Abdul Wahid said.

He said the forum themed ‘Marketplace for Global Linkages’ would also provide a platform for international business opportunities.

The forum will have special presentations from the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, the International Islamic Capital Market Forum, the Global Ratings Conference, the ISRA International Colloquium, and the Islamic Venture Capital and Private Equity Symposium 2014.

The highlights of the forum include a special session on developing the marketplace for global linkages, an Islamic banking and finance forum, a regulator forum, a CEO Roundtable, and a green financing dialogue.

For further information on GIFF 2014 and registration, please visit www.giff.com.my.

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Malaysia’s Handicraft Corp Makes Strong Pitch In New York Show

NEW YORK, Aug 21 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysia Handicraft Development Corporation (MHDC) is making a strong pitch at the ongoing New York trade fair for consumer goods and gift articles called “NY Now” from Aug 17 to 20.

The eight exhibitors under the MHDC umbrella are showcasing a wide range of products ranging from batik to gift items.

MHDC Chairman Sohaimi Shahadan said the fact that the event constituted a ‘good platform’ afforded exhibitors an excellent opportunity to exhibit their products before discerning buyers.

MHDC statistics revealed that Malaysia’s exports of these items amounted to US$13 million (RM42 million) in 2013, with the United States absorbing about 10 per cent of such exports.

Malaysia’s major markets for such products were, however, Hong Kong and Europe.

Explaining the objective behind the participation of the exhibitors at the event, Sohaimi said that the exhibitors were eyeing the lucrative American market.

The exhibitors who had participated in the 2013 show under the aegis of the MHDC, which is under Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture, had contracted business worth some RM1 million directly from their participation last year. This year’s targeted business is around RM1.5 million.

Many of the exhibitors are looking for agents and distributors in the United States to market their products.

The MHDC Chairman also looked around at the quality, designs and packaging of products of exhibitors from other countries.

“Besides getting a good first-hand exposure to what other suppliers have to offer, you also learn a lot about the buying behaviour of customers at such international venues,” he said.

But he said the products showcased by Malaysian exhibitors were “competitively priced besides being unique in design and substance” which attracted a continued flow of visitors to the Malaysian pavilion on the trade fair’s opening day.

Besides, the eight Malaysian exhibitors, there were also US-based Asian companies that were showcasing products from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.

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Indonesia To Sell Syariah Bond Worth Rp1.5 Trillion

JAKARTA, Aug 21 (NNN-Bernama) — The Indonesian government plans to auction three series of Syariah bond to raise Rp1.5 trillion next week, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported a government statement as saying.

The government will sell two series of project based Syariah bond and one series of short term Syariah bond, the debt management directorate general said in a statement on Wednesday.

The project-based bond consists of the series of PBS005 and PBS006 and the short term bond is SPN-S13022015.

The funds to be raised from the bond sales would be used to help finance the 2014 state budget, the statement said.

The PBS005 series would have a maturity on April 15, 2043 with yield rate of 6.75 per cent and the PBS006 series with a yield of 8.25 percent would be due for repayment on Sept 15, 2020.

The short term Syariah bond would be repayable on Feb 13, 2015 with yield in discount and land and buildings as collateral.

The auction would be open to be held by Bank Indonesia with both institutions and individuals invited to bid, Antara said.

Earlier this week, the government raised Rp15 trillion from the sales of five series of bond for the same purpose.

The bond auction was oversubscribed with demand valued at Rp21.68 trillion, the debt management directorate general said in a statement. The bond series were auctioned with yields ranging from 6.89 per ent to 9.15 per cent, and maturities from June 11, 2015 to 15 March 2034.

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Malaysia Eyes Rm150 Mln Revenue From Travel Fair

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 (NNN-Bernama) -– The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) expects to rake in RM150 million in revenue from its travel fair next month as more people are ready to travel in the second half of the year.

The figure will be a rise from the RM130 million to RM140 million in receipts garnered in the March fair, said Matta Fair Organising Chairman, Rocky Khoo.

“We expect the visitor numbers to increase by 10-15 per cent to as high as 120,000 this time,” he said in a press conference today to announce the upcoming travel fair.

The bi-annual Matta Fair will take place on Sept 5-7, 2014, with the participation of 650 exhibitors occupying 1,171 booths, versus 400 exhibitors and 1,058 booths in March.

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Makkah Clock Tower to open for tourists after Haj

Arab news / 18 Aug 2014 – The Makkah Clock Tower, the second tallest tower in the world, is to open for tourists after Haj 2014, according to officials. Tourists will have to buy tickets to visit the tower top.

The gigantic Makkah Clock project was constructed on top of Tower No. 5 of the King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project, which consists of seven towers. The tower includes hotels on which the clock is situated.

Overlooking the Grand Mosque, the Makkah Clock Tower (a.k.a. Abraj Al Bait Towers) is 601 meters high with 76 stories and 858 suites. “A large number of visitors of different nationalities will be allowed to visit the tower to get a close look at the interior of the Clock Tower,” an official told Arab News.

“There will be tickets to visit the tower. This procedure will be announced after this year’s Haj season,” said the official. A number of hotels inside the tower attracted many visitors who were keen to enjoy the view of the Grand Mosque, especially during Ramadan.

“The Clock Tower revived our business during the last three years,” said Abbas Subhi, marketing manager at a hotel located in the Clock Tower. “Most of visitors come only to stay in our roof to enjoy the panoramic view of the Grand Mosque. The Clock Tower supports tourism,” he told Arab News.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah had ordered the largest clock tower in the world to be built in Makkah.

The clock is placed at a height of 380 meters and can be seen from all sides.

The name of Allah has been inscribed on each of the four clock faces. Two of the clock faces, including the inscription, are 80 meters high and 65 meters wide, and the dial diameter is 39 meters.

The King Abdul Aziz Endowment Project, which overlooks the Holy Mosque, is one of the world’s largest construction projects.

Makkah Clock Tower is just a meter taller than Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, which held the distinction as the world’s tallest from 2010 until it was dislodged by 634 meters tall Tokyo Skytree in Japan.

Tokyo Skytree is the world’s second tallest structure, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (launched in 2010), which stands at 829.8 meters.

According to Infoplease.com, a tower differs from a building in that the latter has floors, and is designed for residential, business, or manufacturing use. Towers are generally telecommunications towers, which may have observation decks or restaurants, but do not have floors all the way up.

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John Lewis offers hijabs school uniforms in new clothing line

DailyMail.co.uk / 18 Aug 2014 – John Lewis is offering the hijab in its school uniform department for the first time.

The headdress is to be sold in the company’s stores in London and Liverpool after it signed contracts with two schools – one which was set up to educate Muslim girls and a second that welcomes pupils from all religious communities.

The hijab covers the head and chest and is worn by Muslim women after the onset of puberty as a sign of modesty in the presence of men who are outside their immediate family.

It is different from the niqab, which is a full face veil and has proved divisive in schools and public life, for example if wearers are giving evidence in court.

There has been controversy over whether it is right for girls attending state schools to wear religious dress rather than the standard uniform.

But the fact that a mainstream retailer is starting to stock the hijab alongside blazers and blouses is likely to be welcomed as a breakthrough by Muslim parents who have so far had to rely on specialist shops.

John Lewis has won the contract to supply uniforms to the Islamia Girls’ School in north-west London, which was established in 1983 by Yusuf Islam – known as the singer Cat Stevens until his conversion to Islam in 1977.

It is selling a white hijab for £9, alongside a teal blazer carrying the school badge, which costs £65, a long ankle-length grey skirt at £40, and other items.

John Lewis will also be supplying the hijab as part of the uniform for Belvedere Academy in Liverpool, which is a non-denominational girls’ school with pupils from a wide range of religious backgrounds.

Belvedere, founded 130 years ago, was the first independent school in the country to become an academy in 2007. The comprehensive has been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

John Lewis said it is simply responding to demand.

A spokesman for the department store said: ‘We provide uniforms for 350 schools across the country. The school informs us of the items they want us to sell as part of their uniform list.’

Last year, former Lib Dem Home Office minister Jeremy Browne, triggered controversy by calling for a debate on whether women should be banned from the wearing the veil in public places such as schools.

He suggested Muslim girls were being pressurized into wearing the religious dress, saying: ‘We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.’

His comments were rejected by Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation who said he was ‘disgusted’ by them, adding: ‘Whatever one’s religion they should be free to practise it according to their own choices.’

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Saudi female scientist to speak at world science conference

Arab news / 21 Aug 2014 – A leading Swiss scientific foundation has chosen a female Saudi Shoura Council member to speak alongside international personalities at a conference highlighting the role of science in finding solutions to contemporary global problems.

Hayat Sindi, a biotechnologist, will speak at the TEDxCERN event, which will be held on Sept. 24 under the slogan “Forward: Charting The Future With Science.”

Participants will discuss research, inventions and ambitious projects that aim to mobilize science at the service of humanity and overcome challenges in the health, environmental and educational domains.

“Science is both the exploration of worlds beyond the imagination and a part of everyday life — a vital ingredient in confronting the challenges we face today and in the future,” said Brian Cox, event host. “TEDxCERN will showcase ideas at the frontiers of science from remarkable people.”

Sindi will be among leading personalities in the research field, including leading geneticist and molecular biologist Nina Fedoroff, entrepreneur and scientist Danielle Fong, nanomaterials researcher Julia Greer and mathematician and philosopher John Mighton.

“Dr. Sindi has played a pioneering role in providing health care and scientific opportunities for women in the Middle East in a way that mobilizes science and innovation for future planning and improvement,” said Claudia Marcelloni, event manager.

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Turkey favourite destination for UAE nationals

Gulf Today / 21 Aug 2014 – UAE tourists would like to visit Turkey as their next European holiday destination in new research which looked at past and future travel behaviour across the Middle East and Far East.

The Muslim Travel Index Europe 2014, released on Wednesday, has shown that Turkey is the number one country of choice for tourists in the UAE as a future place to visit.

According to a detailed study of UAE residents, Turkey topped the list with 39 per cent of the vote with England in second place with 38 per cent, followed by Spain, 37 per cent and France (36 per cent). Italy also made the top five with 35% of the vote.

The biggest reason tourists, at 71 per cent, said that they wanted to travel to Turkey to visit the country for the first time and experience what it had to offer. This was followed by 59 per cent wanting to know about its Islamic heritage. The research found England was the most popular destination previously with 42 per cent having visited the country. The Index also revealed the importance of adhering to Islam while travelling abroad with a huge 93 per cent of Emiratis saying it was important that the country they were visiting had facilities that catered for a halal lifestyle.

The Muslim Travel Index Europe 2014 looked at the attitudes and behaviour of majority Muslim populations to tourism in the future and their experiences of countries they have already visited in Europe. The full report will be launched next month at the world’s first ever Halal Tourism Conference being held in Spain.= The halal tourism sector was worth €103 billion in 2013 representing around 13 per cent of global travel expenditures. This figure is expected to reach €141 billion by 2020.

“This Index is an excellent indicator of the travel needs of UAE tourists using past and future data and findings,” said Tasneem Mahmood of CM Media, who are organising the world’s first halal tourism conference in Spain in September.

“It is a great detailed analysis of how catering for the needs of UAE tourists will lead to an increased number of visitors to Turkey, England, Spain and all of Europe.

“This research represents a great opportunity for tourism boards, tour operators, travel agencies, hotels, restaurants and the entire sector across the world in understanding the needs of UAE tourists and how to address them especially considering how much they love travelling.”

The Muslim Travel Index Europe 2014 gave a deep insight into the behaviour of UAE tourists. Of those surveyed, 42 per cent had previously visited England, 26 per cent had been to Italy and 24 per cent to Turkey.

Of those who had been to England, 69 per cent said it was because they wanted to go sight-seeing while 57 per cent wanted to come for the cooler climate.

Official data from the UK Government showed that 262,000 visited the UK in 2013 from the UAE spending Dhs156 a day – the second highest of any country coming to the UK- contributing billions to the economy.

Around 29 per cent of those who had previously visited Europe stayed for less than seven days while a further 24 per cent stayed for 10 days. Of those surveyed 43 per cent travelled to England for a holiday break with family.

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Followers of all faiths attend US Muslim convention

Peoria, Wednesday 24 Shawwal 1435/ 20 August 2014 (IINA) – Hundreds of Muslims and followers of other religions from Midwest states have thronged to Peoria city in the Midwestern US state of Illinois to attend the 2014 Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Midwest convention, opening a window of peace to those wishing to learn more about tenets of Islam.

“We want to give an opportunity to give a lesson of Islam from the scholars. If people have any questions, difficult questions, they can ask them,” Journal Star reported Dr. Sabeel Ahmed of the Islamic Circle of North America. “We are here to erase some misconceptions.”

Dr. Ahmed was speaking at a “Window of Peace” open house on Sunday, August 17. The event, part of 2014 Islamic Circle of North America Midwest Convention, which launched on August 16, started late on Sunday morning to allow Christians to attend after finishing their church prayer. Entering the Peoria Civic Center, visitors, either Muslims or non-Muslims, were greeted with a cordial “as-salamu alaykum”.

Along with Dr. Ahmed, Dr. Mohammed Yunus of the Islamic Circle stood in front of roughly 50 people to outline the shared tenets of Islam and Christianity. Both faiths, according to Yunus, shared the belief in heaven and hell, the belief in a merciful God, a love for peace and a need to do good in the world. “We are all children of Adam and Eve,” Imam Musa Azam, a speaker at the convention, said just outside of the open house. Azam was there as an audience member, interested to see what bridges there were between different faiths. “The similarities outweigh the differences between our faiths,” he said.

Yunus then invited questions from the audience, bringing Muslims’ relationship to Jesus to the forefront of the open house quickly. “Jesus is a prophet of God, just like Noah, Abraham, Moses and Muhammad, peace be upon him,” Ahmed said. “In our faith, Jesus is not the destination; no one else is the destination. God is the destination.” Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously. In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called “Isa”. He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).

Organizing this year’s convention, ICNA officials hope to erase misconceptions about Islam. One of the basic issues discussed was Islam’s relationship with women and what Yunus said was “a major misconception of Islam: that we allow the beating of women.” “The Qur’an says ‘paradise is under the feet of your mother.’ Those that beat women in the name of Islam, they are nothing but ignorant,” Yunus said.

Ahmed referred to the minister who burnt copies of the Holy Qur’an in 2010 as non-representing to the Christian tenets. “Just like the fact that Terry Jones doesn’t reflect Christianity, that the Crusades don’t reflect Catholics, that kind of violence doesn’t reflect Islam,” he told attendants.

Azam, who had come from Highland, Ind., saw a shared humanity in the convention’s host city. “That’s what we’ve discovered with our time here: Peoria has very open arms and welcomes all of us with big smiles,” Azam said. “There’s a genuine curiosity here, and it’s our job to approach our neighbor and let them know that we have the same principles of love and respect.” Running from August 15-17, this year’s ICNA presented facts about: What does it mean to have faith in God, The Creator of all that exists? How is it expressed in everyday life? How does faith make us better human beings?

The theme chosen for this year’s convention is Islam: Faith. Submission. Service. The United States is home to a Muslim minority of between six to eight million. ICNA is one of the largest, non-profit, grassroots Muslim organizations in North America with many projects, programs, and activities designed to help in reforming society at large.

Since 1968, ICNA has worked to build relations between communities by devoting itself to education, outreach, social services and relief efforts. Unfortunately many enthusiastic journalists pick up these hearsay stories and create explosive headlines claiming this is what Islam is and these are the Muslims. Not to mention how erroneous is their perception of both Islam and Muslims.

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India to help restoration of ancient mosques in Maldives

Sun.mv – August 21, 2014 – A delegation of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has visited the Maldives to conduct a study for the restoration of ancient mosques in the country.

The High Commission of India in the Maldives said in a statement that the four-member team, led by Additional Director General of ASI Dr BR Mani, visited the Maldives from 14 to 20 August on the invitation of the Maldivian government.

The team visited several mosques in various islands of the Maldives and held meetings with the Maldivian delegations in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and the Department of Heritage, led by Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, and Deputy Minister of Education and Director of Heritage Department Yumna Maumoon.

According to the High Commission, both sides welcomed a proposal for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between ASI and the Department of Heritage for restoration, renovation and preservation of ancient cultural heritage in Maldives with the technical expertise of ASI and training of Maldivians in India in this critical area.

The ASI delegation visit is a follow-up of the visit of Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed to India in April 2014, during which co-operation between India and Maldives in this area was discussed. India had previously assisted the Maldives in restoration of several ancient mosques including Hukuru Miskiy (1988), Eid Miskiy (2006), Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu Miskiy (2004) in Male’, and Fenfushi Hukuru Miskiy in South Ari atoll (2001).

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Turkey named fifth top tourism choice of Muslims

LONDON – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkey has been named the fifth European destination that Muslims from the Middle East and the Far East would like to visit as their next holiday, in an index topped by France.

The Muslim Travel Index Europe 2014 has shown that Turkey is only fifth in the list of countries that appeal to Muslim tourists as a future place to visit, according to a statement released by the Halal Tourism Conference organizers on Aug. 19.

According to the research, France topped the list with 30 percent of popular destinations while Italy and Britain shared second spot with 28 percent. Germany and Turkey made the top five with 26 percent of the vote each, the statement said.

Experts say that the study shows the potential for Turkey of halal tourism which could be worth billions of dollars to the economy annually, especially due to its strong Islamic heritage.

The index revealed that 93 percent of those traveling abroad said it was important that the country they were visiting had facilities that catered to a halal lifestyle.

The halal tourism sector was worth 103 billion euros in 2013, representing around 13 percent of global travel expenditures. This figure is expected to reach 141 billion euros by 2020.

“We already know that Turkey is already very popular with the Middle East and Malaysian countries, but as the research shows, there is a lot more who would like to come. With the history of Turkey and its strong Islamic heritage and attractions, this is a huge market for the country,” said Tasneem Mahmood of CM Media, which is organizing the world’s first halal tourism conference in Spain in September with the sponsorship of Turkish Airlines.

“For example, 39 percent of residents from the UAE said they would like to visit Turkey for their next holiday. Furthermore, these markets travel in different times of the year which means there are opportunities across 12 months,” he said. “This research represents a great opportunity for tourism boards, tour operators, travel agencies, hotels, restaurants and the entire tourism sector in Turkey.”

He also said there was an increasing need to understand the requirements of Muslim tourists among European countries as they realized the lucrativeness of the markets.

Halal food ‘important’

The Muslim Travel Index Europe 2014 showed that 71 percent of those who wanted to come to Turkey said they wanted to visit because they had never been before and would like to experience the country.

A further 58 percent wanted to come because Turkey has a strong Islamic heritage that they wanted to learn about. Over half, 53 percent, wanted to come for the sight-seeing while 52 percent wanted to experience Turkish culture.

A huge 97 percent said it was important the country of destination provided halal food while 89 percent said it was important to provide praying facilities.

The Muslim Travel Index Europe 2014 looked at the attitudes and behavior of majority Muslim populations to tourism in the future and their experiences of countries they have already visited in Europe.

The survey was conducted with residents from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia who are already frequent visitors to the United Kingdom.

The Halal Tourism Conference, which will be held on Sept. 22 and 23, will bring together the travel industry from around the world to discuss ways of tapping into the niche market.

The event, which is being hosted in Andalusia, aims to equip delegates with market intelligence, industry forecasts and trends to understand how to market to the lucrative Muslim consumers and benefit commercially.

The two-day event hopes to attract tourism boards, tour agencies, tour operators, restaurants, media, hotels and airlines. The event will also feature seminars from industry experts, workshops, networking sessions and an exhibition.

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Marmaris takes action to draw Turkish tourists

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – Marmaris, a favorite especially among British tourists, aims to draw Turkish tourists who spend much more money than foreigners.

One of the most visited tourist places in the western province of Muğla, Marmaris was also very popular during the Ramadan holiday. The 8 percent of Turkish tourists in the district increased to 25 percent during the holiday. As shopkeepers were pleased with local tourists’ potential of spending money, tourism officials in the town have initiated efforts to make Marmaris a center of attraction.

The South Aegean Hoteliers Association (GETOB) President Bülent Bülbüloğlu said they would meet Turkey’s leading agencies to bring Marmaris to the forefront in Turkish tourism. He said these agencies’ newspaper ads were mostly focused on Bodrum, Alanya and Çeşme, adding, “A few hotels from Marmaris were included in these ads. We have invited the owners of big travel agencies.”

He said they would hold a meeting for domestic markets and tell them their expectations and then would take necessary steps.

Bülbüloğlu said facilities in Bodrum had reached maximum occupancy during the Ramadan holiday and in the case of focusing on the local market, occupancy rates would be full throughout the season.

He said Bodrum had become a center of attraction in domestic tourism since it was preferred by many Turkish and foreign famous artists, sportsmen and businessmen and Marmaris was also as attractive as Bodrum. “We are not late yet. If we start today, I believe we will be in a better position than Bodrum in a few years,” he said.

Bülbüloğlu said Marmaris was strong in the foreign tourist market and it was a handicap for the domestic market.

“Marmaris hosts 1 million British tourists annually, whereas Bodrum cannot exceed 400,000. It regressed in the British market this year. Marmaris is stronger than Bodrum in the Dutch market. The strong British market in Marmaris intercepts the domestic market. For example, if we give 100 rooms to the British market in May and June, we should also give rooms in July and August. Bodrum does not do it because its domestic market is very strong in July and August. The 100 rooms given to Brits decreases to 10 in Bodrum in these two months.”

He said if they can solve the quota problem with tour operators, agencies, hoteliers and the airport, Marmaris would take the share it deserved in the domestic market.”

Noting that Turkish tourists spent more money than foreigners, Bülbüloğlu said Turkish tourists went on holiday to spend money. “Especially restaurants see this,” he said, adding, “Turkish tourists go on holiday to eat and drink. We, as a nation, want to have a feast during dinner. Foreigners are more picky.”

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Street art comes to museum

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Istanbul’s Pera Museum is hosting, for the first time in Turkey, an exhibition on one of the art world’s hottest topics, Graffiti and Street Art. Artists from all over the world are being exhibited, providing interesting examples examining the concept of “graffiti” and “bringing the street to the museum,” as well as creating a platform for discussion and debate.

Hosting more than 20 artists from the United States, Germany, France, Japan, as well as Turkey, the exhibition, curated by Roxane Ayral, will include works by distinguished names from different generations and disciplines such as Futura, Carlos Mare, Cope 2, Turbo, Wyne, JonOne, Tilt, Mist, Psyckoze, Craig Costello (aka KR), Herakut, Logan Hicks, C215, Suiko, Evol, Gaia, Tabone, Funk and No More Lies, along with selected photographs from the archive of leading artists Martha Cooper, Henry Chalfant and Hugh Holland.

Graffiti and street art have moved out of their underground era and are no longer recognized as vandalism, but rather as a global art movement.

Curator Ayral, who lived in France for 13 years, said she was inspired by graffiti artists there. Ayral wanted to bring to Istanbul the concept of graffiti as self-expression, where it has been labelled “political art” since the 80’s.

“Since the 1990’s, the appreciation for graffiti and street art in Turkey has increased quite significantly and with this exhibition graffiti and street art are being presented in a museum setting for the first time striving to carry into the present both the scope and the cultural diversity of a phenomenon with a rich history that has influenced not only a small artistic circle, but several generations. The exhibition offers a historic review with its selection of international and native artists, by bringing together the current dynamics of the street, different styles and aesthetic notions, the exhibition addresses this art movement through an interdisciplinary approach, which also incorporates photography and music,” she said in a written statement.

As artists create an international value through their increasingly diversified works of different styles and techniques, this art movement evolves from being an individual struggle for existence and addresses larger masses by embracing social issues. Expanding its audience as a result of the subculture they create through music and dance, graffiti and street art are not just artistic forms of expression, but they also manifest a certain way of living.

As society embraces graffiti and street art, museums, galleries and publications respond to the increasing demand. Receiving more importance and categorized now within a more professional context as Contemporary Urban Art, graffiti and street art continue to be a hot topic of debate among art circles.

One of the graffiti artists, Fernando Carlo, a 46-year-old New Yorker, who also goes by the nickname Cope 2 said he wanted to bring a flavor of what he has been doing on the streets of New York for the past 35 years.

“I wanted to bring it to the people in Istanbul so they can see this is what we did in the early 80’s. This is how it started,” he said. Graffiti art took off in New York in the 70’s and is recognized as the birthplace of the art form.

Turkish graffiti artists, 26-year-old Atakan “Funk” Özdemir and 33-year-old Tabone have opposing styles but work together. Özdemir says his style is “new school” and futuristic while Tabone’s style is classic. “It is nice to see two different styles together,” they said. Tabone also pointed out the difficulties of working in Istanbul. “There is a political fear of everything in Turkey,” he said adding, “That’s why it is more difficult to work in Istanbul.”

The exhibition “Language of the Wall: Graffiti / Street Art,” which opened on Aug. 13, will continue until Oct. 5 throughout the city with the contribution of the municipalities of Beşiktaş and Beyoğlu.

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Turkey’s fine art collection goes digital

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkey’s history of cinema, theater, opera, show, politics and advertisement is now digitally available thanks to the Fine Arts System recently formed by the National Library in Ankara.

Anyone who becomes member of the website of the library will be able to access the collection of visual and auditory materials that have been gathered through donations, change or purchase.

The system includes nearly 20,000 film posters for now, and in the near future, the paintings of notable Turkish painters, historical maps with strategic importance, stamps, postcards and others will be presented to researchers.

The system will also enable users to buy copies of the materials in return for a small price.

The largest poster collection of Turkish and foreign cinema and theater, as well as posters from many other events, such as promotions, education and conferences can be seen in the system.

All of the gramophone records in the library, dating back to 1913-1960, have been transferred to the digital environment. A collection consisting of some 5,000 songs is now available in mp3 format.

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City of mother goddess opens to tourism

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – The ancient city of Metropolis, a premier caravan site of yesteryear that was located on major trade routes, will soon begin drawing in visitors from near and afar thanks to significant investments to open the location up to tourism.

Excavations in the ancient city, which is located in İzmir’s Torbalı district, have been carried out by Culture and Tourism Ministry, Celal Bayar University, Sabancı Foundation and Torbalı Municipality. The historic structures in the ancient city have been preserved to a great extent, while necessary investments have been completed for Metropolis to gain the status of an ancient site. The ancient city is expected to open this year.

Celal Bayar University Archaeology Department Professor Serdar Aybek said Metropolis was established in the third century B.C. and was an important city of trade along with Ephesus and Smyrna. It was known as the “Mother Goddess City” in mythology, he said.

Although the city was not particularly large, its structures were more aesthetic when compared to other cities of the same era, while the marble workmanship used in the public buildings was also unique, he said.

“The artistic style of the theater, assembly building and baths in Metropolis is very important. Structures were built like a sculpture. Excavations show us that the city is bigger than we estimated. For example, excavations are continuing on the third biggest bath in the city. It covers an area of some 6,000 square meters and is a magnificent structure. We see that the infrastructure of the Roman-era bath has survived so far to a great extent,” Aybek said.

He said the baths not only functioned for cleaning but also served as a space for socialization, and that people spent most of their time in the baths during the day. Cold and hot water, massage rooms, restrooms and areas for political discussion were all offered at the baths, he added.

“There were also service corridors used by servants who served royal people at the bath. These baths are engineering wonders,” Aybek said.

Aybek said that even the ash from wood and olive residues, which were used to warm up the baths, were revealed during the excavations. “Those who want to get information about daily life in the ancient age should definitely visit Metropolis.”

Aybek also said visitors would be able to travel through history at Metropolis using modern technology as part of the investments to open the ancient site up to contemporary tourism.

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Panoramic museum for Nemrut sculptures

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – Huge sculptures on the world heritage site Mount Nemrut, which have been exposed to open air for more than 2,000 years, will survive with a panorama museum. Imitations of the sculptures will be made for the museum in the case they disappear someday because of climate conditions.

The possible effects of corrosion caused by climate conditions have been on the agenda of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums. Following talks with academic organizations about the preservation of these sculptures, the idea of establishing a panorama museum has arisen.

The first steps have been taken for the structure. When the Adıyaman Panorama and Archaeology Museum is finished, visitors will find themselves on Mount Nemrut.

The museum will be established on an area of 30,000-squaremeters, 10,000 of which will be a closed area. The archaeology section of the museum will display works from the early Bronze Age to the end of the Ottoman era on an area of 2,000-squaremeters. The museum will also have a depot, cafe, conference hall, foyer, ateliers, museum stores and a library.

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Issyk-Kul becomes Central Asian vacation region for children

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-08-20 ISSYK-KUL, Kyrgyzstan – Children of border guards from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan recently had a memorable summer camp experience on the shore of Lake Issyk-Kul.

From July 25 to August 6, more than 60 of them, ages 12 and under, relaxed at the “Border Co-operation: Issyk-Kul 2014” camp at Kyrgyzstan’s top tourist attraction.

The Kyrgyz government, supported by the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, organised the camp, Gulmira Borubayeva, spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz State Border Service (GPS), said.

“Apart from this, we organised a big programme for the children from other countries to teach them about traditional Kyrgyz culture,” she said.

This year the government also has allocated 5m KGS (about US $98,000) to organise summer vacations for 6,000 children from underprivileged and one-parent families in children’s camps on Lake Issyk-Kul and in Osh and Jalal-Abad oblasts.

Meanwhile, the Bishkek municipal education office reports that of 111,534 schoolchildren attending the capital’s schools, more than 21,000 are defined as being from underprivileged, single-parent and low-income families and the Bishkek mayor’s office has allocated 2.2m KGS (more than US $40,000) to organise summer vacation activities for 2,530 of such children.

“This year, 39 of Bishkek’s 94 schools organised a simultaneous summer vacation … with a varied programme for educational purposes,” Saule Meirmanova, director of the Bishkek municipal education office, said. “The children will be in these camps from morning until 2pm.”

Sergey Kapinos, head of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, expressed the hope that this initiative would enjoy future support.

“In July, the pupils and teachers of High School No. 1 in Chui Oblast and School No. 52 in Osh organised a joint summer camp,” Kapinos said in describing one of the school sessions. “The children could mingle without the interference of adults, breaking down religious stereotypes in friendly and relaxed circumstances.”

The programme included swimming, English lessons, sports and master classes in leadership with the participation of Kyrgyz stars and TV journalists, according to the Ministry of Education and Science.

What 10-year-old Kubat Jusubaliyev of Bishkek remembers most about his summer vacation is how he and his parents went with other children on a trek in the city’s outskirts.

“It was unforgettable,” Kubat said. “We camped out in real tents; my parents and I baked potatoes over an open fire. I learned so much about life in the mountains.” His parents said they were ecstatic to receive a call from the camp inviting them to join the children on a two-day trek.

“In everyday life, you don’t always find such productive time off with your child,” Kubat’s mother, Aigul Jusubaliyeva, said. “We were delighted with the tour.”

The state-backed initiative is an alternative to costly private camps. “We phoned one of these (private) camps, which is in the city,” Meimanbek Zakirov, a father of three children from Shopokov, said. “They told us that a four-week vacation for children costs 15,000 KGS (US $300) each … but my entire monthly salary is only 18,229 KGS (US$350).”

Private camp organisers typically lease private villas, adapting them to the needs of children’s summer facilities.

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Turkmenistan modernises agricultural infrastructure

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-08-19 ASHGABAT – Turkmenistan’s leadership is aiming to create an abundance of foods at home by boosting production and processing of produce and animal products, media reported in July.

That trend comes as good news for the public, because new grain elevators, livestock farms and greenhouses, as well as capacity for producing baked goods, candy, sausages and dairy products, will provide jobs and reduce unemployment.

“The consumer market is gradually changing to benefit our own producers,” Palvan Khezretov, a former commodities scientist at the Ministry of Trade, said.

“At the beginning of the millennium, 95% of goods in the food category were of foreign origin. This figure has shrunk … to about 65-70%.”

Flour was cited as an example that has seen a turn-around.

“Consumers now prefer domestic flour, which in certain respects (iron and folic acid content) is better than imported flour,” Khezretov said.

State-owned Turkmengallaonumleri (Turkmen Bread Products) attributed that victory to two factors.

The first is that the country’s tenant grain farmers were able to supply all the wheat the country needed. The second is that flour-milling complexes equipped with the latest technology, including the new elevators.

“In June this year alone, we simultaneously began using eight new elevators with total capacity for 360,000 tonnes of wheat. … We’ve installed everywhere the latest equipment from Italy, Switzerland and other European countries,” Orazly Gugeldiyev, an engineer-technologist at Turkmengallaonumleri, said.

A similar breakthrough is expected soon in meat and dairy categories in which imports still command high market share.

“Now, under one $2m (5.7m TMT) contract alone, Turkmenistan is procuring whole-fat dehydrated milk from Belarus, Poland and Ukraine,” Ministry of Economic Development economist Begench Charyyev said. “But soon there will be enough local fresh milk on the market.”

New livestock-farming complexes began operation in July in Akhal and Dashoguz oblasts. “These complexes are designed to hold 1,000 head of cattle and to produce 4,000 tonnes of milk and 150 tonnes of meat per annum each, and also to produce 20 different kinds of dairy products,” Charyyev said.

Consumers are already beginning to benefit from the arrival of local food producers on the market, according to specialists.

“Instead of imported buffalo meat in tasteless briquettes, customers are now eagerly buying expensive but tasty beef or lamb slaughtered locally, and instead of imported chicken thighs, consumers are turning toward products by the local Gush Tollumi poultry complex,” Palvan Khezretov, who has years of experience in selling food, said.

However, Turkmenistan lags far behind foreign suppliers in such areas as vegetables, fruit, sugar, butter and eggs, many in the Ministry of Economic Development say.

“We are suggesting the development of fruit and vegetable growing, which will enable the existing vegetable- and fruit-canning facilities to be used to their full capacity,” Charyyev said.

Emphasis on private producers

Dynamic growth in farm production already is happening. In the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year, production of fruit and vegetables is up 2.4%, of meat 1.8% and of milk 3.3%, according to government statistics.

For further growth, private producers need active encouragement and conditions for efficient and fully appreciated work, specialists consider.

“At this stage, the state should be concerning itself with the diversification of agricultural produce, allocating more land for orchards, kitchen gardens and vineyards, and should free some tenant farmers from the obligation to grow cotton or wheat,” Gugleldiyev said.

The country’s main hopes rest on private producers.

“Our private producers are as good as educated market analysts,” Gugleldiyev said. “They can instantly figure out what the market craves today and what it’ll want tomorrow. Then they begin to grow what the customers want.”

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Faridpur – Panchuria – Rajbari rail service resumes after 16 years

Faridpur, Aug 19, 2014(BSS):- The Faridpur – Rajbari railway services which was closed about one and half decades ago will resume tomorrow on regular basis after constructing new 30 kms. track and reconstructing seven railway stations.

Railway Minister Md. Mujibul Haque will inaugurate the much awaited service via Panchuria in a function to be held in the afternoon at the newly renovated Faridpur station in the town. Overseas Employment and Expatriate Welfare Minister Engineer Khondoker Mosharraf Hossain will be chief guest while Railway Secretary Abul Kalam Azad will chair the function attended by high officials of railway department and local officials.

According to official sources, the rail service was abandoned on March 15 of 1998 when it was found to be economically not viable due to mismanagement of the concerned authority.

However on last March 10 of 2010 the project was again taken up to ultimately connect line with Padma bridge. The 30 kms new railway track and seven stations in this route was renovated and reconstructed at an estimated cost of Taka 90 crore and took four years time.

The newly renovated stations are Rajbai, Panchuria, Khankhanapur, Basantapur, Amirabad, Ambicapur and Faridpur. However it was learnt that the train will stop at three stations now for manpower constraint. The trial service of this new line was done on last August 7.

This service will help the people of this area to travel and carry goods at much cheaper cost, informed some concerned officials.

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Raja Ampat ready to charm sail’s participants

Senin, 18 August 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – “Dont die before going to Raja Ampat,” West Papua Governor Abraham Octanianus Aturury recently stated while promoting Sail Raja Ampat 2014 in Jakarta.

He is not exaggerating while describing the panorama of Raja Ampat, which has abundant natural resources and underwater beauty that has been included in the list of the worlds ten best underwater paradises.

As a marine tourism destination, Raja Ampat offers maritime attractions, but visitors can also indulge in activities such as bird-watching.

Raja Ampat has rare species of birds such as King Cockatoo (Palm Cockatoo) and Cendrawasih or Bird of Paradise. It offers unforgettable adventure activities such as diving, snorkeling, trekking, hiking, fishing, and fish-feeding at certain spots.

Aryati, a domestic tourist from Surabaya (East Java Province), recalled her experience while holidaying with her children, Nino and Dio, in Raja Ampat.

As a dean of Pathology of the medicine faculty of the University of Airlangga, she decided to take a leave and brought a tourism package offered on an Internet website.

She chose a three-day stay package to explore the beauty of the Piainemo Isle, Hidden Bay, Arborek and Pasir Timbul tourism kampongs, which have distinctive features.

One has to climb a 35-meter-high wooden stair to reach the top of a cliff in Piainemo. From the top, tourists can enjoy fascinating views of several green isles spread across the blue sea.

Piainemo is also dubbed as “Little Wayag” because its panorama is similar to Wayang Isle, the icon of Raja Ampat District. Tourists, however, prefer to visit Piainemo as it is closer than Wayag.

Wayag is located in the northernmost area and takes six to seven hours to reach. “Wow! It is worth it to climb such an exhausting flight of stairs for this amazingly beautiful scenery,” Aryati breathlessly remarked.

In Hidden Bay, tourists can enjoy a cluster of hundreds of coral isles, which feels similar to walking into a labyrinth.

Another interesting destination is Arborek tourism kampong, which is also a good location for snorkeling and diving. “Actually, a three-day stay is not enough to enjoy the beautiful panorama of Raja Ampat. Ideally, it should be one week to explore every location,” Ranny Tumundo, a tourist guide in Waiwo Resort, Waisai, emphasized.

Coordinating Minister for Peoples Welfare Agung Laksono earlier explained that the objective of organizing Sail Raja Ampat is to accelerate regional development, improve infrastructure, and boost investment in West Papua.

“In Raja Ampat, there is a geopark that is more beautiful than the one in Halong Bay, Vietnam,” Minister Agung Laksono claimed.

Raja Ampat, which literally means “Four Kings”, is derived from a local myth and has one of the most beautiful marine panoramas in the world.

The archipelago comprises around 1.7 thousand islands and encompasses more than 9.8 million acres of land and sea off the northwestern tip of the West Papua Province. It has four major islands: Waigeo, Salawati, Batanta, and Misool, which are home to ancient rock paintings.

In 2012, Raja Ampat has been included in the Real Wonder of the World list. It has been recognized as one of the worlds 10 most beautiful diving sites and rated number one for its rich diversity of marine flora and fauna.

It has 1,320 fish species; 75 percent of the worlds coral species, 10 times the number of corals in Caribbean; five species of rare turtles; 57 species of mantis shrimps; 13 species of marine mammals; and 27 species of rare fish.

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

The international maritime events are organized with the objective of promoting tourism in the regions, accelerating the development programs, improving access to isolated or remote areas, and improving the welfare of the people.

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AFW designers join traditional contest marking independence day in Surabaya

Minggu, 17 August 2014 Surabaya, East Java (ANTARA News) – Asian Fashion Week (AFW) 2014 designers took part in a traditional contest to mark the 69th anniversary of Indonesian independence at the Surya Park here on Sunday.

“For the first time ever, I play this game. I am delighted to be here. Surabaya residents are very hospitable and friendly. They are like my family,” said Vietnamese designer Doan Quynh Nhi who took part in a chips-eating contest.

AFW is for the first time ever held in Indonesia with Surabaya as the host. In a flag-raising ceremony to mark the 69th anniversary of Indonesian independence, the Surabaya city administration invited designers from 16 countries to take part in the traditional contest.

The contest featured a number of games including eating chips, putting pencils into bottles, and bakiak (wooden clog) racing.

A Russian designer emerged as the first winner in the game to put pencils into bottles, with an Australian designer trailing behind in second place.

The game brought together designers from Brunei, Australia, Russia, Sri Lanka, Bolivia and Nepal.

The designers also took part in bakiak racing. They were divided into three groups with each group comprising five people. The first group consisted of Russian, Bolivian, Australian and Mexican designers, the second group comprised Nepalese designers and the third group represented Russian designers.

To enliven the independence day commemoration, Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini also took part in the chips-eating contest along with Asian fashion Week 2014 participants.

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East Java allocates rp500 billion to develop southern coastal highway

Minggu, 17 August 2014 Surabaya, E Java (ANTARA News) – The East Java provincial government has decided to allocate Rp500 billion in funds to develop the provinces southern coastal highway after the central government has stopped financing the project.

The funds would be taken from the provincial budget, East Java Governor Soekarwo said here on Sunday.

“The central government has stopped financing the construction of the southern coastal highway and consequently, the East Java provincial government will continue the project using provincial budget funds,” he said.

The central government had stopped financing the project since last year because it had no funds for the project, he said.

“We still receive assistance from the central government but the assistance is only used to repair bridges. Even the amount of the assistance is very small so it is not enough to finance the project as a whole,” he said.

The funds from the provincial budget would be used to repair and widen the road to seven meters from six meters to allow vehicles to move more freely, he said.

He said the central government had switched much of its funds to develop trans Sumatra or Kalimantan highways.

“The East Java provincial government could not do much when the central government stopped financing the project. However, we are still negotiating with the central government to continue the project to meet the wish of the East Java community,” he said.

The 627-km highway stretches from Banyuwangi district in the east to Pacitan district in the west.

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Surabaya to host Investor Summit and Capital Market Expo 2014

Rabu, 20 August 2014 Surabaya, East Java Province (ANTARA News) – Surabaya city will host the Investor Summit and Capital Market Expo this year, Chief of Information and Education at the Indonesia Stock Exchange (BEI) Nur Harjantie remarked here on Wednesday.

“The event will be held at the Grand City Convention Center on August 20-21.Capital Market as an Everyday Lifestyle is this years theme,” noted Harjantie.

According to Harjantie, the investor summit event does not target a certain number of visitors, but rather it wants to promote capital market investment potential in Indonesia. She expressed hope that the investor summit will increase the number of investors investing in Indonesias capital market.

As of July 2014, the number of stock market investors in Indonesia reached 500 thousand people.

“By 2015, we want to have 1 million investors,” Harjantie added.

However, there will be challenges while increasing the number of investors in Indonesia such as the lack of awareness among Indonesians about the capital market, she pointed out.

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Egypt: Marsa Alam City Becomes Part of Luxor – Governor

Aswat Marriya – 21 August 2014 Cairo — The Red Sea touristic city of Marsa Alam has become a part of Luxor, the Upper Egypt’s governor announced on Thursday as reported by the state news agency MENA.

Local Development Minister Adel Labib announced on Thursday that the borders of upper Egypt governorates will be changed, reducing the total area of the Red Sea governorate.

Annexing Marsa Alam city to Luxor will expand its total area to 92 million acres, which is up to ten times and half of its current area and will make Luxor the biggest governorate, Tarek Saad Eldin, Luxor’s governor, said.

This step has followed studies within the government’s plan to amend borders between governorates.

A new road will be constructed to connect Luxor to Marsa Alam.

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Nigeria: Domestic Tourism – Abuccima Joins Forces With NTDC

Daily Independent – 21 August 2014 – The Abuja Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ABUCCIMA) has pledged to form a strategic alliance with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) to promote Nigeria’s tourism industry, using domestic tourism as a catalyst.

The First Deputy President of ABUCCIMA, Mr Tony Ejinkeonye, who led the four-man delegation on a courtesy call on the Director-General of NTDC, Mrs Sally Mbanefo, lauded the unprecedented feats of the NTDC boss since she assumed office, saying that her efforts has put Nigeria’s tourism industry, via domestic tourism, on the pedestal of rapid development.

“Sally Mbanefo really deserve a resounding applause for her immense and unprecedented strides at promoting domestic tourism in Nigeria, which in turns will create wealth and employment for the people at the grassroots level, and encourage integration of culture within Nigeria,” Ejinkeonye said.

Mr Ejinkeonye gave assurance of an abiding alliance with NTDC, saying that “there is continuity in ABUCCIMA system of government, which will ensure that our alliance with NTDC is continual.

“We will ensure that we explore the good number of foreigners who participate in our trade fairs to promote the domestic tourism promotion initiative of the Sally Mbanefo led-administration.”

Mbanefo in her response enjoined the private sector to associate with NTDC, saying that “we need the private sector’s participation in the development and promotion of tourism in Nigeria.

“We need the private sector to take over the ownership of Nigeria’s tourism industry.”

Mbanefo explained further, “we started the restructuring and repositioning of the Nigeria’s tourism industry from scratch.

“We have started creating awareness on our rich domestic tourism, encouraging Nigerians to travel within Nigeria, and also foreigners to visit Nigeria and appreciate our fascinating tourist sites and crowd-pulling cultural festivals. Our goal is that in the next two years, we should be able to have developed at least one tourist site in each of the six geo-political zones in the country.

“We are promoting domestic tourism to create wealth and jobs at the grassroots level, to reduce urban migration, to encourage integration of culture within Nigeria and to encourage unity.

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Gambia: Tourism Ministry Strengthens Ebola Preparedness

By Yunus S. Saliu

The Daily Observer – 19 August 2014 – The Ministry of Tourism and Culture, through the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), Monday donated various items to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in an effort to strengthen the country’s preparedness against the deadly Ebola disease that has been affecting four West African countries since February.

The donated items included: 100 bed sheets, pillows and pillow cases; nine giant size dustbins; 9 x 2,000 liter water tanks; 18 knapsack sprayers; 25 Wellington boots; 18 water containers and cups; 35 packs of chlorine tablets; hand sanitisers x 10 cartons; and hand-held thermometers x 11, amongst others.

The institutions that provided sponsorship are: Zenith Bank, Senegambia Beach Hotel, GTBoard; Gamtel/Gamcel, Kombo Beach Hotel, Brussels Airlines, Gambia Bird, Emporium, and Air Rep Service.

Handing over the items to the Health minister on behalf of Minister Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, Transport, Works and Infrastructure minister, Balla Garba Jahumpa, who is overseeing the Tourism and Culture Ministry, said the items are meant to boost the country’s preparedness against the contagious disease.

He described Ebola as a very serious outbreak that is causing uproar not just in African countries, but also throughout the world. He applauded the initiative of the Tourism and Culture minister, GTBoard and other stakeholders for their support to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on this cause.

The minister affirmed that The Gambia is still an Ebola-free nation, but hastened to stress that there should be no room for complacency. “The items will be used at the airport and borders for controlling and monitoring in order to keep the disease at bay,” he said.

Jahumpa thanked the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, GTBoard, tourism stakeholders and other sponsors for the donation, while offering his prayers to countries affected by the disease.

Receiving the items, Health minister, Omar Sey, said the gesture came hard on the heels of the recently held strategic planning meeting on how to prevent the disease and improve the surveillance system, especially concerning the tourism sector.

He expressed his Ministry’s delight for the gesture, assuring that the items will go a long way towards preventing the disease from spreading over to the country.

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Nigeria: ‘Oluminrin Fall, Most Popular Tourist Site’

Daily Independent – 19 August 2014 – Osogbo — Following the increasing patronage within one year, Osun State Tourism Board has disclosed that it has evolved measures to approach genuine investors to collaborate with the state on the development of some tourist locations especially Olumirin water fall in Erin-Ijesa and Ayikunugba water fall in Oke-Ila to international standard.

The chairman of the board, Abimbola Daniyan, stated this in Osogbo while addressing press conference on the on-going annual Osun-Osogbo Cultural Festival.

He explained that the Oluminrin water fall, Erin Ijesa, was attracting more tourists attention in the country saying that the site had played host to almost 40,000 tourists within the year.

Daniyan said the seven-steps Oluminrin Falls, now plays host to 7,000 tourists every month adding that “the state tourism board has implemented Osun Tourism Master Plan, OTMP, in the last one year.

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Mobile App Makes Prayers Easier

OnIslam & Newspapers Tuesday, 19 August 2014 CAIRO – An Islamic mobile application, The Imam App, which made prayers much easier for thousands of new Muslim reverts for its multiple features, is seeking funds to be developed for wider accessibility.

“Basically, I felt it was a bit complicated to pray and remember everything, being a native German speaker,” S. Matthias Mende, a German entrepreneur who created The Imam App, told Khaleej Times on Tuesday, August 19.

“I thought many people have the same complication on how to pray alone correctly, but are shy to speak and ask.

“With this app, (all they have to do is) press the start button and pray instantly and correctly.”

Mende, who reverted to Islam in 2008, has created the app which provides Muslims simple instructions that help them pray at the accurate time with the counter and Qibla compass functions.

It also offers animation showing the proper body position relevant to the prayer through “PRAY TRAINER or “LEARN how to PRAY” feature, besides including list of upcoming Islamic events.

“Much like karaoke-style,” the soft-spoken Mende quipped.

“So it’s very easy to understand and memorize.”

Consultancy for creating the app was provided by Shaikh Mohammed bin Majid Al Maktoum who does the Adhan at Jumeirah Mosque and Abdul Khaliq from the Al Farooq Omar bin Al Khattab Mosque.

Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rak‘ah.

The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with fajr prayer at dawn.

Then prayer times are divided from the time the sun declines, which is mid-day, until the darkening of the night, includes Zuhr (noon prayer), Asr (evening prayer), Maghrib (sunset prayer) andIshaa’ (night prayer).

In order to develop an android version of the application that is available only on Apple store, the founder is seeking funds with aim to collect $33,000 by August 26.

“I am trying hard to get funding to finalize this app… to take it to the next level,” said Mende, who is also chief executive officer and founder of Memmos Enterprises, one of the UAE’s most diversified organizations offering many targeted and integral solutions for companies’ needs.

“I don’t appreciate charging money for something that should be free to help and teach.”

The app developments would also include adding 15-20 different languages, an extra feature for the Qiblah, a smart marketing campaign and two more “amazing features.

“I could imagine some extra features but they need to be financed. I can’t be the only person doing that; I am kind of sad that nobody is interested to donate money to bring this app to the next level,” Mende said.

“I’ve been trying to find support since August 2013 and failed… people like the app a lot, but are not interested to support it.”

Encouraging Muslims to adhere to prayers, the app creator said: “Never give up on Allah and always try to push hard,” Mende said.

“This life is only a test. Everyone cooks his/her own soup; as more good we do, a better place we can secure on Judgment Day.

“I am far from perfect, so I need this blessing… I try to motivate by teaching with this app, so people can keep the faith and strengthen it by education and easy learning.”

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flynas passenger traffic scales new heights

Saudi Gazette – 21 August, 2014 – flynas continues to acquire the largest share in the domestic air transport market reaching 16.5 percent by end of July of this year compared to 14.4 percent during the same period in 2013.

The preliminary statistics have also revealed that flynas has transported about 1.25 million passengers locally during the above mentioned period, compared to 775,000 passengers during the same period in the previous year, which amounts to 32 percent in growth. These results were achieved following a series of operational expansions for flynas in the domestic air transport market.

Wael Al-Sarhan, Director of Marketing and Communications at flynas, said: “Our domestic destinations have been growing due to the increasing demand by our customers and to cope with this, we have increased our flights to fulfill our role as the national carrier providing reliable air transport services to citizens and residents in the various regions of the Kingdom.”

Al Sarhan added “we would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to the management of King Khaled International Airport for their unwavering support to flynas, which has contributed greatly in our achievements to date.”

King Khaled International Airport management said domestic air transport at the airport is experiencing strong and sustainable growth. KKIA continues to work closely with the national carriers to meet the growing need for domestic flights. With flynas at the heart of this progress exhibiting solid collaboration which has made these results possible.

Operating from King Khaled International Airport as its hub, flynas currently covers six domestic destinations and is preparing to add three new destinations as part of its strategy to transport 20 million passengers a year by 2020.

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Saudi Arabia debuting at World Travel Market

Saudi Gazette – 21 August, 2014 – World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, is delighted to welcome representation from Saudi Arabia onto the exhibition floor for the first time this year, as the Saudi government unveils plans to invest heavily into its tourism industry over the next decade.

Representation from The Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA), along with the country’s national airline Saudi Airlines and flynas, the leading low cost Saudi airline offering cheap flights to the Middle East, Europe and Asia will all be exhibiting at WTM in London on Nov. 3-6, 2014.

Last year WTM facilitated business deals worth more than £2.2 billion – with Middle Eastern exhibitors benefiting from £144 million of business. This was generated through contracts signed with WTM Buyers’ Club members at the event or from further negotiations, which will conclude before WTM 2014.

The plan for the Saudi government to invest over £18 billion in tourism from 2013 to 2023 was reported last year in a MENA tourism and hospitality report by research consultancy Aranca. Their main objectives are to provide employment opportunities for the many Saudi graduates and cope with the increasing number of visitors, which is estimated to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2 percent to 21.3 million over the next decade.

The SCTA recently announced its £1.85 million plan to set-up tourist information centers across the country that provides information on domestic events.

Ramadan festivals have just been held in several regions around Saudi, with the country witnessing an upward trend in domestic tourism. The SCTA reporting a 25 percent increase in domestic trips in the Kingdom from 19 million in 2012 to 23.8 million trips being made last year.

Hamad A Alsheikh, VP for Marketing and Programs at the SCTA, said on their main reasons for being at WTM for the first time this year: “Saudi aims to highlight the historic potentials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a crossroad of civilizations through displaying part of its history, heritage, achievements and tourism potentials by way of print material and direct communication.

“We plan to highlight and introduce the existing tourism investments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in different fields, especially in the convention and exhibition sector and accommodation sector, in addition to other tourism and investment areas.”

World Travel Market Senior Exhibition Director Simon Press said: “I am delighted to see Saudi at World Travel Market this year for the first time; it’s great that the government has put the spotlight on tourism within the Kingdom and can see the huge potential and benefits it is likely to reap.

“I am confident that WTM will aid Saudi with their ambitious plans, and ensure plenty of networking and business deals are facilitated over the four days of the event.”

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Sharjah’s beach hotels attract 180,000 tourists

Khaleej Times – 21 August, 2014 – Europeans formed the largest segment of Sharjah’s tourists who stayed at the beach hotels during the first half of this year, followed by GCC tourists.

Hotels and beach resorts across Sharjah have been witnessing a heavy turnout of international tourists and visitors, with over 180,000 vacation-goers visiting the emirate’s beach side hotels in the first half of the year.

Europeans formed the largest segment of Sharjah’s tourists who stayed at the beach hotels during the first half of this year, followed by GCC tourists. With the emirate hosting several special events and activities during the long summer months, there are expectations of a further increase in the number of tourists this holiday season.

Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, director general of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) said that the heavy turnout at beach hotels and resorts in the emirate has exceeded expectations. According to SCTDA statistics, guests at these special beach hotel facilities swelled to more than 180,000 during the first half of this year registering around 80 per cent occupancy rates.

Al Midfa said that numerous cultural, artistic, entertainment and shopping festivals hosted by Sharjah, not to mention special promotions offered by major malls and shopping centers since the beginning of the year, have added to the emirate’s attractions in the eyes of visitors. He drew attention to the fact that hotels in the emirate had been encouraged by the Authority to offer special concessional rates to both visitors and residents.

Referring to the growing popularity of beach tourism, Al Midfa said that Sharjah is the only emirate that offers access to the coasts of both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. He added that Sharjah is keen to build more world-class hotel and tourist facilities, with the highest standards of safety and the best of leisure, water sports and recreational activities.

Sharjah is an ideal beach tourism destination both for the country’s residents and international tourists who head to the emirate especially during the summer season and prefer to spend their holidays in hotels. High-end luxury hotels and resorts offer top-notch, world-class services and are conveniently located along the coast and across the emirate for both professional and amateur water sports and leisure enthusiasts to families seeking rest and relaxation.

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Gulf Air launches reporting tool to promote transparency

Gulf Daily News – 21 August, 2014 – Gulf Air yesterday launched “EthicsPoint”, a third party, anonymous, Internet-based reporting tool designed to help ensure greater transparency in the airline’s operations.

It will also help meet one of the objectives of Bahrain’s national carrier’s successful 2013 strategic restructuring.

“When Gulf Air first commenced its strategic restructuring, we were committed to ensuring greater transparency in the airline’s operations and empowering every member of the Gulf Air family to voice their concerns, positive suggestions and feedback,” Deputy Prime Minister and Gulf Air chairman Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said.

“Today, I’m pleased to announce that we are delivering on that promise. We are committed to cultivating a positive work environment and building a culture of integrity and ethical decision-making that extends the airline executive management team’s open door policy and provides a new level of support for each member of the national carrier’s workforce,” he added.

Appointing NAVEX Global, a leading provider of case management services, the comprehensive and confidential reporting tool “EthicsPoint” is being rolled out across the organisation to assist in identifying and addressing any organisational misconduct by empowering Gulf Air employees to report any violation of policies or standards, concerns or positive suggestions and feedback.

All cases submitted to EthicsPoint will be delivered to impartial parties in Gulf Air’s Audit Committee and board for investigation and appropriate action.

Gulf Air’s 2013 strategic restructuring plan delivered positive financial and operational results putting the national carrier firmly on track towards achieving long-term commercial sustainability and strengthening its position as a key national infrastructure asset that provides business links, which are important for Bahrain’s wider economic development.

EthicsPoint is committed to defining best practices for integrated Governance, Risk, and Compliance.

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Saudi Arabia second biggest family tourism spender

Arab News – 21 August, 2014 – Saudi families spent more than SR64 billion ($ 17 billion) on tourism abroad in 2012, making the Kingdom the second biggest family tourism exporter, local media said quoting data released by Dubai Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).

Iran ranked first, spending $ 18.2 billion, while travelers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) spent $ 10.1 billion and Kuwaiti tourists $ 7.4 billion during the same period, the local daily reported.

The report, originally based on data released by Thomson Reuters, said family tourism has accounted for 12.5 percent of the global tourism market and grown in value, from $ 137 billion in 2012 to $ 140 billion in 2013.

Tourism spending is projected to reach over $ 181 billion by 2018.

In a related development, Saudi Arabia and Morocco were rated favorably as global tourist destinations, according to data released by Crescent Rating, a leading Muslim travel rating organization based in Singapore.

The Kingdom scored 6.5/10 and Morocco 6.4/10. Malaysia, which attracted more than 170,000 visitors from the Gulf alone during 2013, came first, scoring 8.4, the paper said.

“Tourists from the GCC accounted for 31 percent of overall spending on tourist activities in Malaysia despite the fact that they represent only 3 percent of the Muslim population in the world,” the report said.

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Smart initiatives begin for Expo 2020

Gulf Today – 21 August, 2014 – Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) has launched a number of smart initiatives that confirm its readiness to achieve the Smart Dubai initiative announced by Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to transform Dubai into the smartest city in the world over the next three years through 100 initiatives and 1,000 smart services to enhance the quality of life in Dubai.

DEWA said the Smart Dubai initiative’s plan is based on six main sectors that focus on achieving a smarter economy, smarter lifestyle, smarter transportation system, smarter governance, smarter environment and smarter generations within 3 main themes, namely: communication, integration and cooperation. The initiative aims at creating a new reality and contributes to achieving a qualitative shift in the services offered to partners and customers.

The city’s services and facilities will be managed through interconnected smart systems to enhance the quality of life for Dubai’s residents and visitors.

DEWA has also outlined its ten-year plans for raising its production capacity and is currently upgrading the efficiency and capacity of its infrastructure to generate, transmit and distribute electricity and water to secure the needs of customers, meet the increase in demand for water and electricity, and satisfy requirements for Expo 2020.

Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA, said: “In support of the wise vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, we have laid out a clear strategy to support Dubai’s efforts in hosting Expo 2020.

Our plans and preparations include launching smart and pioneering initiatives that create opportunities to support sustainability, which is a main theme on the Expo’s agenda.

“We will focus on diversifying energy and water resources with special focus on smart services and systems.”

The CEO went on to say that DEWA’s strategy is in line with Expo’s theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and the three subthemes of sustainability, opportunity, and mobility.

“We are committed to fulfilling His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s promise to host the best Expo the world has ever seen. Our smart projects and initiatives will help improve the quality of life in the coming years. We will be able to provide our Expo guests with smart services and utilities that meet the highest international standards, and achieve Dubai’s objectives to create a better future for its citizens and residents,” added Al Tayer.

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