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4 Aug, 2014

IDB Calls for Nominations: Islamic Economics Prize 2015

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 04 August 2014 (07 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.





Ancol Dreamland Jakarta attracts 78 thousand holidaymakers

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Ancol Dreamland Recreational Center in North Jakarta was visited by about 78 thousand holidaymakers on the second day of the post-fasting Idul Fitri or Lebaran holidays on Tuesday. “We predict that the number will continue to increase in the evening because the data we have revealed was recorded till 12 noon,” Matty informed ANTARA News.

She pointed out that the number of visitors will peak on Wednesday and Thursday, but the Ancol Dreamland Recreational Center has made the necessary preparations to handle the flow of visitors until a week after the Monday-Tuesday Idul Fitri D-Day.

In the meantime, some 40 thousand visitors are expected to throng the Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park (TMII), also popularly known as Taman Mini, on Tuesday, stated TMII Information Center Manager Suryandoro.

“By 12 noon today, some 25 thousand people had visited the park, and by 2 p.m., the number had increased to 30 thousand visitors. We predict that the visitor count will reach between 35 and 40 thousand,” Suryandoro claimed here on Tuesday.

He added that the figure showed a 25 percent increase as compared to those visiting TMII on the first day of the post-fasting month of Idul Fitri or Lebaran on Monday.

A total of 20,159 people visited the East Jakartas park on Monday (July 28). Surandoro expressed hope that the number of visitors this year will increase by 10 percent from that in 2013, which was 350 thousand visitors.

The TMII spokesman earlier noted that the management has set a target to attract 400 thousand visitors during the 2014 Lebaran holidays.

“The number of visitors to Taman Mini during this years Lebaran holiday season is forecast to increase by 10 percent as compared to last year,” Suryandoro remarked.

He noted that a total of 350 thousand people visited Taman Mini during the Lebaran holidays last year, and the number during the same period this year is expected to reach at least 400 thousand.

Suryandoro expressed optimism that the target of 400 thousand visitors can be achieved as the Lebaran festivity coincides with the school holiday.

“The school holiday, which is in conjunction with the Lebaran festivity, will contribute to an increase in the number of visitors to Taman Mini,” he pointed out.

According to Suryandoro, during the Lebaran holiday season this year, Taman Mini will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to attract as many visitors as possible.

He noted that particularly from July 28 to August 10, 2014, the entry ticket fare to Taman Mini will be raised from Rp10 thousand to Rp12 thousand per person.

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Action star Jackie Chan appointed Indonesian Tourism Ambassador

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 29 Juli 2014 – An action star from Hong Kong, Jackie Chan, was appointed as Indonesian Tourism Ambassador for the Chinese market.

Director of Tourism Promotion of Foreign from the Culture and Tourism Ministry Nia Niscaya said here on Tuesday that the Indonesian government would be officially appointing veteran actor Jackie Chan, born in Hong Kong, April 7, 1954, as Indonesian Tourism Ambassador immediately.

“The inauguration will be held on August 30, 2014, in China International Travelmart event in Guang Zho,” said Nia. On that occasion, Jackie who has appeared in 100 movies, will sing the song Bengawan Solo, which is popularly known to Chinese public. The song will be recorded and can be downloaded freely at the website cn.indonesia.travel.

Jackie who is also Cantopop and Mandopop singer will be in charge of promoting tourism in Indonesia as part of his activities. The ministry chose the actor who had studied acting since the 1970s, considering his action that is well-known even internationally.

“It will be very beneficial for Indonesia, and we hope to attract 1 million tourists from China this year,” he noted.

Such promotion, said Nia, was effective because the Indonesian government did not need to spend any money as compensation to the designated ambassador. However, its impact was relatively large when the ministry had appointed economist Philip Kotler as Indonesian Tourism Ambassador a few years ago.

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Switzerland, Azerbaijan may abolish visa regime

Baku, Azerbaijan, August 1 – The visa regime may be abolished between Switzerland and Azerbaijan, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Mahmud Mammadguliyev said on August 1. He underscored that the two countries have completed the negotiations on the visa regime and readmission.

“We hope that these documents will be signed and ratified in the near future,” the deputy minister said. Once this process is completed, the holders of diplomatic and service passports will be able to travel without visa, while the number of the required documents and the fee will be reduced for the ordinary citizens.

“We may also agree on the complete abolition of the visa regime in the future,” Mammadguliyev added. He stressed that 240 Azerbaijanis study in the Swiss universities and 70 of them study under the state program.

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Businessman donates EGP 20 million to “Long Live Egypt” fund

Friday, 1 August 2014 – Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has thanked businessman Mohamad el-Hawari on his EGP 20 million donation to the “Long Live Egypt” fund, designed to support the country’s economy. The businessman, who owns famous supermarket chains Hyper Market, delivered two checks with donated sum to the prime minister.

Premier Mahlab has already received the businessman at the cabinet headquarters yesterday on the first day after Eid al-Fitr vacations. Such a donation comes to the interest of the pan-Egyptians and will help achieve development in all domains, said Mahlab.

Following the meeting, Hawari said that his donation to the “Long Live Egypt” fund was a duty for him and all Egyptians. He further affirmed that Egypt deserves that we should side with her. Egypt has given us much but took nothing, Hawari added.

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Persian language courses taught in 300 universities abroad

Tehran, Aug 2, IRNA – International Affairs deputy of Saˈadi Foundation said here Friday that courses related to the Persian language are now taught in 300 different universities around the globe.

ˈPersian language and literature major is offered in 160 universities abroad, while courses related to the Persian language, such as orientology, studies of Islam and studies of Iran are taught in 140 other universities around the world,ˈ Seyyed Mohammad-Reza Darbandi told the IRNA Arts and Culture Desk.

He further elaborated that in 15 thousand students in 15 Egyptian universities, 4,000 students in 11 Pakistani universities, 5,000 students in five Syrian universities, 25,000 students in 30 Indian universities, 200 students in six Italian universities, and 150 students in five German universities are studying the Persian language and literature major today.

Darbandi said that introduction of the Persian language as an optional 2nd language in the high schools of the Asian and European countries is one of the ways for promotion of expanding the Persian language and literature in the world.

The International Affairs deputy of Saˈadi Foundation reiterated that presently the high school students in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Turkmenistan Central Asian republics can choose from among the Persian, Arabic, German and Hebrew languages as their 2nd language.

Darbandi added that the Saˈadi Foundation is engaged in negotiations with the education ministries of other countries, too, to convince the concerned officials there to offer the Persian language to their high schools students as an optional 2nd language.

Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages and the only South-Western Iranian language. It is primarily spoken in Iran (Persia), and as a different dialect in Afghanistan (officially known as Dari since 1958 for political reasons), and Tajikistan (officially known as Tajiki Persian since the Soviet era for political reasons), and some other regions which historically came under Persian influence.

The Persian language is classified as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of Sassanid Persia, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Persian is a pluricentric language and its grammar is similar to that of many contemporary European languages. Persian is also so called due to its origin from the capital of the Achaemenid empire, Persis (Fars or Pars) hence the name Persian (Farsi or Parsi).

There are approximately 110 million Persian speakers worldwide, with the language holding official status in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. For centuries Persian has also been a prestigious cultural language in other regions of Western Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia by the various empires based in the regions.

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Iranian films for Hiroshima film festival

Tehran, Aug 2, IRNA – Five Iranian movies will participate in the 15th Hiroshima International Animation Festival in Japan.

‘Gilaneh’ by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, ‘The Bonus for the Silence’ by Maziar Miri, ‘Track 143’by Narges Abyar, ‘Night Bus’ by Kioumars Pourahmad and ‘All Alone’ by Ehsan Abdipour are among the lineup for the 2014 Hiroshima festival. The winners of the festival are to be honored with the Japanese symbol of peace, the Paper Crane.

The Paper Crane recalls the story of Sadako Sasaki who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 11 due to the radiation from the atomic bomb in Hiroshima when she was two.

According to the traditional Japanese belief, the paper crane is a symbol of luck and based on this, Sadako spent her time in a nursing home creating origami cranes in the hope of making a thousand of them to be granted a wish.

While Sadako made only 644 cranes in seeking her wish of living, she met her death in October 1955. After Sadako’s tragedy, the paper crane was popularized as a peace symbol.

Established in 1984, Hiroshima International Animation Festival is a biennial manifestation held in Hiroshima city.

The festival is held in the spirit of love and peace as a project commemorating the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima by the United States during the final days of World War II in August 1945. The 15th edition of the festival is programmed from August 21 through 25, 2014.

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Iranian violinistˈs melodies to be released soon

Tehran, Aug. 2, IRNA – Melodies composed by the late Iranian violinist Homayoun Khorram will be released soon.

Reza Khorram, the son of Homayoun Khorram, said ten melodies composed by his father have never been released before, according to Saturdayˈs edition of the English-language paper ˈIran Dailyˈ.

“These are based on poems by Houshang Ebtehaj and Bijan Taraqqi. They will be released in an album after we find a qualified vocalist,” he said.

He also noted that some of Khorram’s memorabilia will be donated to the Music Museum to be displayed for enthusiasts.

Khorram was an Iranian musician, composer, violinist, and a former member of the High Council of Iran’s House of Music.

During his career, specially as soloist and composer in the famous radio musical program ‘Golha’, Khorram composed a variety of songs for distinguished vocalists such as Hossein Ghavami and Mohammad Reza Shajarian.

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Emirates innovates with inflight entertainment for the visually impaired

DUBAI, U.A.E., 30th July, 2014 – Emirates, the global connector of people and places, continues to set industry standards by becoming the first airline to introduce Audio Description on movies for visually impaired customers on its inflight entertainment system, ice Digital Widescreen.

Emirates’ ice (information, communication and entertainment) was recently awarded the ‘World’s Best Airline Inflight Entertainment’ award at the SKYTRAX World Airline Awards for the 10th consecutive year. ice now offers Audio Description soundtracks on 16 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures films including Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks, Cars 2, Monsters University , Marvel’s The Avengers, Toy Story 3 and all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Audio Description, increasingly common in cinemas and TV, is a recorded narration explaining the scene during the gaps in dialogue, while the film soundtrack continues at its normal pace.

In 2007, Emirates also worked with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures to introduce Closed Captions, the technology used by the hard of hearing, for the first time in inflight entertainment. As well as showing the actors’ dialogues in subtitles, Closed Captions also include references to sound effects used in the movie. This August ice Digital Widescreen will offer over 50 movies with Closed Captions.

“Our focus is not just the depth and diversity of our on-board entertainment, but also relevance. Making entertainment accessible to our diverse customers is very important to us. It was our motivation to introduce movies that can be enjoyed by customers with visual difficulties. Our greatest satisfaction comes from delivering an exceptional customer experience, which we hope our constant innovation fulfils. In future, we want to add more content with Audio Description, so visually impaired passengers can be entertained with an even wider choice of content when flying with us,” said Patrick Brannelly, Emirates’ Vice President Corporate Communications Product, Publishing, Digital & Events.

Emirates’ award-winning ice Digital Widescreen offers a staggering choice of over 1,800 channels of entertainment, including over 400 movies from around the world, hundreds of hours of TV and thousands of hours of music from contemporary to classical. Customers onboard Emirates’ new Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft will now be able to enjoy the ice system on larger personal TV screens with HD resolution: 27-inch in First Class, 20-inch in Business Class and 12.1 inch in Economy Class.

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Garuda Indonesia launches Go Round Asia with SkyTeam

LOS ANGELES, 28 July 2014 – SkyTeam, the largest airline alliance in the Asia Pacific region, has launched its new Go Round Asia and Southwest Pacific Pass, providing customers with a flexible way to explore 26 countries. The latest in SkyTeam’s series of regional travel passes, the Go Round Asia and Southwest Pacific pass has been designed as a ‘mini-Round the World’ ticket that offers cost savings on flights operated by SkyTeam members serving these regions.

Customers wishing to purchase a Go Round Asia and Southwest Pacific Pass can choose from a minimum of three to a maximum of 11 flights for travel in Economy or Business Class. Fares are calculated within three mileage bands of 13,000, 17,000 and 21,000 miles and travel must begin and end in the same country and at least one stop must be in Australia or New Zealand.

Unlike SkyTeam’s other regional travel passes, the Go Round Asia and Southwest Pacific pass can be purchased without an intercontinental round-trip or Round the World ticket and is valid for travel originating within the region. Plus, travelers can buy a pass three days in advance of their travel dates.

“Our Go Round Asia and South Pacific pass combines an exciting range of destinations with flexible, cost-effective travel thanks to our vast network throughout these regions,” said Mauro Oretti, SkyTeam’s VP Sales and Marketing. “We’ve taken the Round the World concept and delivered it on a smaller scale to offer as many as 11 flights for customers wanting to travel extensively in this part of the world, whether for business or leisure.” Customers can contact their local SkyTeam airline, reservation center or travel agent for details and bookings.

Facts & Figures Countries included: Asia – Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines , Russian Federation East of the Urals,Singapore, South-Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam; Southwest Pacific – Australia, Guam, New Zealand.

Other SkyTeam Go Passes include: Go Round the World, Go Africa, Go Greater China, Go Europe, Go Mexico, Go Russia and Go USA and Canada.

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IDB Calls for Nominations: Islamic Economics Prize 2015

7/13/2014 – The Islamic Development Bank Group is pleased to invite individuals, universities, academic, financial and Islamic institutions throughout the world to nominate whoever they deem eligible to be awarded the IDB Prize for the year 1436H (2015) in the field of Islamic Economics. The Prize which aims to recognize, reward and encourage creative efforts of outstanding merit in the field of Islamic economics, consists of a citation carrying the IDB’s emblem and a cash award of 30,000 Islamic Dinars (approximately US$ 45,000).

The deadline for nomination is 12 Safar 1436H (4th November 2014).

This international award, which alternates between the fields of Islamic economics and Islamic banking and finance was instituted in 1408H (1988). Since then, 32 personalities and institutions have been awarded this Prize.

Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Ali – President, IDB Group: “The Islamic Development Bank Prize in Islamic Economics & Islamic Banking and Finance is an undertaking that reflects brightly on the Islamic Development Bank’s continued efforts and constructive work to serve the knowledge of Islamic Economics and Finance. The Prize is addressed to creative and pioneering scholars and practioners, giving recognition to their outstanding contributions in promoting the theoretical and practical aspects of economics, banking and finance under the umbrella of Islamic Shari’ah. Honoring these eminent scholars and practioners, is an inspiration for all specialists to give their utmost in developing ever-better research methods and capabilities.”

The Islamic Development Bank Group has the pleasure to invite individuals, universities, academics, financial and Islamic institutions from all over the world, to nominate whoever they deem eligible to be awarded the IDB Prize for the year 1436H (2015G) in the field of Islamic Banking and Finance.

04 December 2014: Deadline for receiving nominations

​April 2015: Announcement of the Laureate (s)

June 2015: Award ceremony

For further details: http://www.irti.org/English/Awards/Pages/IDBPrize.aspx

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Royal Brunei Airlines Returns to Bali

Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) has resumed flights to Bali, Indonesia four times a week starting Saturday 26th July 2014.

Bali, an island province of Indonesia and the largest tourist destination of the country, is renowned for its arts, which includes traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.

RB’s Deputy Chairman, Dermot Mannion said, “The Commercial team does regular route studies for ways to develop and increase connectivity for our markets. In their latest studies, Bali has emerged a frontrunner in providing connections for key markets in London and Dubai and also for regional destinations like Hong Kong and Shanghai. We are delighted to include Bali, an exciting holiday destination, into our network.”

The return of RB to Bali will allow for more holiday options for the travelling Bruneian. For RB’s regional customers in Shanghai and Hong Kong, it is a fantastic value offer where customers can combine their travel to visit Brunei and onwards to the tourist haven of Bali. For long haul customers, it is a convenient route to the island of Bali and enjoy a half day stopover in Brunei on their return sector.

RB four weekly flights to Bali will be operated by an Airbus A319 narrow body aircraft.

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Royal Brunei Airlines returns to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

July 25th, 2014 – Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) plans to resume flights to Ho Chi Minh City with the frequency of four times a week starting Friday, 17 October 2014.

Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon boasts charming French colonial architecture and wide boulevards thronged with traffic. It is a gateway to experience Vietnam’s bustling city that set the economic and cultural pace of the country. The city is famous for its attractive tourist entrepreneurial landmarks.

The return of RB to Ho Chi Minh City will create more holiday options for the travelling Bruneians. For both RB’s regional customers in Kota Kinabalu, and for long haul customers especially our Melbourne, Dubai and London it is a fantastic value offer where customers can combine their travel to visit Brunei and onwards to the bustling Ho Chi Minh city.

RB four times weekly flights to Ho Chi Minh will be operated by an Airbus A319 for flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays while on Sundays the flight will be operated by an Airbus A320.

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Amman Airport welcomes over 3.5 million passengers during H1 2014

31 July 2014 – Airport International Group (AIG) has released QAIA’s traffic statistics for H1 2014, which showed continued robust growth in terms of passenger and aircraft figures.

During the period between January and June 2014, year-to-date (YTD) statistics for passenger traffic (PAX) surged by 12.94% and aircraft movement (ACM) rose by 8.59%, registering at 3,576,262 PAX and 36,049 ACM. The month of June brought the first half of 2014 to a positive conclusion by welcoming 687,804 passengers and 6,573 aircrafts, which is represented by a 10.47% and 9.19% increase respectively, in comparison to the same month 2013.

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KL to host Malaysian Premium Travel Fair and Global Cruise Tourism Conference

The Malaysian Premium Travel Fair 2014 and the Global Cruise Tourism Conference 2014 are to be held from the 7-10th August 2014 at the prestigious Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the Chairman of the two events, YBhg Dato’ Mohd Khalid Harun told a press conference. He was accompanied at the event by partners of the event namely YBhg Dato’ Azizan Noordin, Deputy Director of Tourism Malaysia, YB Dato Hj Mohd Sharkar Hj Shamsudin, Chairman of Pahang Tourism Exco and Puan Rafeah Ariffin, Senior General Manager, KPJ Healthcare Berhad.

YBhg Dato Khalid stressed the fact that “This is the right market segment that the tourism players of Malaysia have to target. Malaysians are becoming more affluent and with that they want certain lifestyle and luxury benefits. They are willing to pay Premium price for these Premium and Niche products. Quality and Service is Paramount to these consumers. So, the Malaysia Premium Travel Fair & Global Cruise Tourism Conference 2014 is the ideal opportunity for the travel and tourism industry sector to reach out to over 30,000 high end consumers.”

The Travel and Tourism industry of Malaysia simply cannot be going for only quantity and neglect the quality. We have a target of 36 Million visitors and an income projection of RM136B to achieve by the year 2020. To achieve that, we must change our focus to the tourism products and services that provide a higher return. Events like the Malaysia Premium Travel Fair & Global.

Tourism Pahang, who are the Favourite Domestic Destination Partner, shall be promoting the high end tourism products and services from Pahang during the event. Tourism Pahang Pavilion in Hall 5 shall have a variety of exhibitors ranging from Travel Agents and Tours operators, Hotels & Resorts, Nature and other tourism attractions.

KPJ Healthcare Berhad’s Puan Rafeah added “KPJ shall be providing FREE Basic Health Screening i.e. Blood Pressure and BMI during the 3 days of the Event from 8- 10th August 2014 in Hall 6, KL Convention Centre”.

“For those wanting to check on their Cholesterol & Glucose Levels, these tests would also be conducted but at a very minimal cost”. KPJ is synonymous with high end Health and Medical Tourism. “We are the market leader in Malaysia for Medical Tourism and it is only right that we are part of the leading Premium Event in Malaysia whose focus is the leaders of the corporate & government sectors, which is the ideal target market for KPJ Healthcare”

ABOUT MALAYSIA PREMIUM TRAVEL FAIR 2014: Date: 8-10 August 2014; Venue: Halls 5 & 6, KL Convention Centre: No. of Booths: 220; No. of Exhibitors: 55; Favourite Domestic Destination Partner: Tourism Pahang; Main Exhibitors: Tourism Pahang. Expected No. of Visitors: 30,000 over 3 days

ABOUT GLOBAL CRUISE TOURISM CONFERENCE 2014: Date: 7-8 August 2014; Venue: Plenary Hall, KL Convention Centre; Time: 9.00 a.m – 6.00 p.m. No. of Delegates: 350; Speakers from: Egypt, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand; Theme: Advancing the Growth in Cruise Tourism.”

For further information, www.witmevents.com

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Tunisia: Ritz Carlton to open hotel next to Carthage Palace by end of 2014

The first hotel chain of the Ritz Carlton in Tunisia should be ready and open at the end of the year. The hotel has 129 suites and seven outlets of food and drinks, a health spa and even a large ballroom. The hotel is located next to the Presidential Palace. It was named Carthage Sidi Bousaïd. It is also very close to the ancient ruins and archaeological sites of Carthage.

“We are honored to have been selected by the Tunisian Tourist Development Company to manage this incredible hotel,” said Herve Humler, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.

“We believe that this beautiful destination with its rich history and cultural diversity will offer our discerning customers a new unique and exciting location to explore when it will be launched in late 2014.”

For his part, Omar Jenayah, CEO of the Tunisian Tourist Development Company, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain in its first project in Tunisia. The rich heritage and history of the Ritz-Carlton are well suited to the historical heritage of Tunisia. ”

Asked about the growth potential of the Ritz-Carlton in the region, Herve Humler added, “We continue to explore other opportunities and destinations in the Middle East and Africa. With the right hotel in the right places, I believe that the expansion in this region is an essential part of our future strategy. ”

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First Edition of Sahrawi Festival on August 8-15 in Nancy

17 July 2014, Paris, Algerian Press Service – The Sahrawi Association of Solidarity for the Autonomy and Sustainable Development Project will organize, on August 8-15 in Nancy (north-eastern France), the first edition of the Sahrawi Festival held under the theme “Sahara: culture, history and belonging.”

The event, on the occasion of celebrations marking the Throne Day, embodies the different aspects of the Saharan provinces, along with their civilizational heritage, customs and traditions, the organizers said.

It is also meant to spread knowledge about the Hassani culture as an element that makes up the Moroccan civilization and reaffirms the unwavering attachment of Sahrawi population to the glorious Alawite throne.

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President Karzai Submits Hand-Written Holy Quran To National Archive

Sunday, July 27, 2014 Kabul (BNA) Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan submitted yesterday a handwritten Holy Quran of a Zabul resident and two other copies of the Quran granted to him as gift during visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran to national archive for further preservation.

Presidential press office stated BNA, in a ceremony held on this occasion at presidential palace with participation of Hazrat Sibghatullah Mujadidi and Minister of Information and Culture Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, President Karzai submitted a handwritten Quran gifted to him by a Zabul resident Mawlavi Bakht Jamal Alefi Tokhai and two other copies of the Quran gifted to him by Iranian officials during his visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran to head of national archive Mrs. Masooma Nazari for further preservation in the archive.

It is worth mentioning that the Holy Quran, written by Mawlavi Bakht Jamal Alefi Tokhai, is with a length of 1.25m and a width of 1m. Meanwhile, in the ceremony Minister of Information and Culture Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen submitted a printed copy of Holy Quran prepared by an Afghan named Bakhtyari to President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

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Manuscript of Holy Quran Unveiled

Sunday, July 27, 2014 Kabul (BNA) The manuscript of holy Quran printed with the support of ministry for information and culture and Baihaqi directorate was unveiled in a ceremony addressed by Dr. Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, minister of information and culture yesterday.

BNA correspondent reported, in the ceremony among others also attended by presidential advisor on religious affairs Nematullah Shahrani, deputy chairman of senate Mohammad Alam Izedyar, Dr. Raheen in his speech said that it is the first time that such decorated copy of holy Quran has been published by the ministry of information and culture.

Published in 604 pages and 500 copies by Behaqi Publication directorate in the Azadi printing press of the ministry for information and culture, the minister Dr. Raheen said, adding well-known calligrapher Bakhtiari and his team contributed in miniaturizing and golden work of the holy book.

Highlighting the background of the manuscript of holy Quran, Dr. Raheen added that the holy Quran is the source of guidance. He also added that the artisans in Afghanistan since old days have been serving the religion of Islam and calligraphy is one of the means that they have used in publishing Quran and interpretations.

Dr. Raheen added that the work for publication of the manuscript of holy Quran was begun three years ago with the hard work of three committees including writing and proof reading and the work was accomplished at the end of Ramadan this year.

He also said that our artisans have served the Islamic civilizations over the past 1400 years.

Prof. Shahrani and Ali Mesam Bakhtiari also spoke at the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, both Dr. Raheen and Shahrani had presented appreciation letter of the ministry for information and culture to Bakhtiari and his team for printing the holy Quran and also copies of the holy Quran were distributed among the participants at the ceremony.

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Turkey raises tourism income in first half of year

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – While the average foreign visitor spent $759 per capita, the average expenditure of Turkish citizens living abroad was $1,325 per capita.

Turkey’s tourism income has soared by 6.3 percent in the first half of the year largely due to Turks living abroad, who almost doubled foreign tourists visiting the country in terms of spending, official data has shown.

The nation’s income from tourism reached $13.78 billion from last year’s $12.96 billion for the six-month period, according to figures announced by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK).

For the second quarter, income earned from visiting tourists increased 7.9 percent compared to the same quarter of last year, reaching $9 billion.

Foreign visitors accounted for 84.5 percent of this income, while Turkish citizens living abroad accounted for the rest, according to the released data.

However, in terms of average expenditure per capita, Turks living abroad outscored their foreign counterparts in the second quarter.

While the average foreign visitor spent $759 per capita, the average expenditure of Turkish citizens living abroad was $1,325 per capita. The overall average expenditure per capita was $818.

Meanwhile, during the quarter, the number of Turkish citizens traveling abroad increased by 11.3 percent, reaching 2.4 million, spending an average of $687 per capita.

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KU students head to China for training course

KUWAIT, Aug 1 (KUNA) — The first batch of students of the Electrical Engineering Department, the Faculty of Engineering and Petroleum, Kuwait University, left for China on Friday evening to attend a training course at the premises of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen province.

The course is being organized under an agreement inked by dean of the faculty Dr. Hussein Al-Khayyat and Huawei representatives on June 26, said Dr. Mona Al-Basman, supervisor of the team, in statements to KUNA.

“The team is made up of 10 excellent students, males and females,” she said, voicing hope that they will make the best use of the field training course, which takes place in one of the most industrialized countries of the world.

“The team will visit Beijing before proceeding to Shenzhen,” Dr. Al-Basman pointed out.

She thanked Huawei for shouldering its corporate social responsibility and providing this chance to Kuwaiti students, and Dr. Al-Khayyat for his constant rehabilitation of the students ahead of their joining of the labor market. (end) asa.hb.gb

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HAI provides aid campaign for checking points travelers in West Bank

RAMALLAH, 2nd August, 2014 (WAM) — Human Appeal International (HAI) has provided aid for travelers between West Bank’s cities, who wait for hours at Israeli checking points, due to the situation in Palestine.

Ibrahim Rashid, Director of the Human Appeal International Office in the West Bank, said that the humanitarian campaign was necessary and part of it has been carried out during the Holy Month of Ramadan through the provision of snack meals for stranded fasting people at Israeli checking points in their way to the Palestinian cities and villages.

He added that HAI has continued the campaign after Ramadan and has witnessed a huge turn out from beneficiaries. Rashid added that Checking Points Iftar Project is part of the HAI’s annual Ramadan campaign of “Seeds of Goodness” that targets one million Palestinian underprivileged families and will continue till Eid al-Adha at a total cost of AED 15 millions and targets one million Palestinian beneficiaries.

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First phase completed of Date Palm Tree DNA Profiling project

ABU DHABI, 2nd August, 2014 (WAM) — U.A.E. Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) has completed the first phase of its ‘Date Palm Tree Identification through DNA Profiling’ project, through a collaboration with United Arab Emirates University.

A team from the ministry has collected 165 plant samples from mother date palm trees this year, the samples were taken from MOEW’s Al Hamraniya Agricultural Research Station, Debba Experiments Station, and Al Dhaid Experiments Station.

The initial phase has three major stages, starting with collection of samples, extraction and propagation of DNA, data analysis, determination of genetic series and keying of gene identification number in the international database. Within the first phase, 30 samples were collected from Al Hamraniya Agricultural Research Station, 20 from Debba Experiments Station, and five from Al Dhaid Experiments Station. The samples were then sent to the U.A.E. University in preparation for the project’s second phase which is extraction of DNA.

Engineer Saif al-Shara’, the Assistant Undersecretary for Agricultural and Livestock Affairs, stated: “The U.A.E. is one of the largest producers of dates in the world. It has around 160 species of dates across the U.A.E. In line with our commitment to protect palm trees and dates production, it is important to offer all kinds of support to preserve, identify and classify all genetic assets of date palm trees.

“It is also important for us to establish a reference database for all the types of palm trees found in the U.A.E., as well as identify and document the extent of their diversity. DNA profiling is recognised as one of the most accurate techniques to ensure genetic stability of plants. It is also one of the internationally recognised means to determine genetic kinship with all other living organisms.” He further pointed out that the project will help increase the contribution of palm tree planting and date production to the country’s gross domestic product by improving the quality of the product and promoting its economical value.

The ‘Date Palm Tree Identification through DNA Profiling’ project is poised to make positive impacts on the country. One of these outcomes is determining the identity of original species that have successfully adapted to the country’s climate, thus enabling their preservation. The project also aims to record the genetic codes of every species as well as strengthen the competencies of the ministry’s human resources by giving them the opportunity to pursue graduate studies relevant to palm trees.

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Algerian singers Idir, Mami at 10th Twiza Festival of Morocco

TANGIER (Morocco), 22 July 2014 – Algerian singers Idir and Mami will participate in the 10th Mediterranean Festival of Tamazight Culture “Twiza” in Tangier (north of Morocco), which will be held from 14 to 17 August under the theme “Africa to Africans,” said the local press.

Several figures of the African song will be present in this cultural event, namely Moroccan Saad Lamdjarred, Nigerian Ismael Lô and Ivorian Tikken Jah Fakoli.

The cultural plurality will be highlighted during this meeting through the organization of literary debate as well as book, painting and handicraft exhibitions.

Idir is one of the biggest Tamazight song stars in Algeria, becoming famous after his hit “Avava Inouva” in 1976, a piece which was translated into several languages.

For his part, Mami knew his success in the world in 1999 after performing “Desert Rose” with British pop music star Sting.

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Seddik Zebiri, Seeds of Creation at London African Music Festival

01 August 2014, Algerian Press Service, LONDON – Algerian singer Seddik Zebiri and his group “Seeds of Creation” will participate alongside about fifty African groups in the 12th London African Music Festival which will take place from 19 to 28 September, said the event’s organizers.

“Seeds of creation,” which will present songs from its jazz, afro-blues, reggae and Kabyle musical repertoire, will represent Algeria in this festival together with “Casbah Blues” and talented pianist Kad Achouri.

Algerian traditional outfits, typical music instruments, like the mandole and some traditional and modern percussion instruments, are among the assets of “Seeds of Creation,” created in 1979 by Seddik Zebiri who left Algeria in 1970.

His album “Hackney Vibes,” released in 2012 and includes nine titles including “Berber Emotion,” was a great success.

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More road-transport infrastructure around the Baku Olympic Stadium

Baku, July 24 (AzerTAc). President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has reviewed the progress of construction of the road-transport infrastructure around the Baku Olympic Stadium.

Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov informed the head of state that the construction work in the first part of the Hasan Aliyev Street-Ziya Bunyadov Avenue-Olympic Stadium highway was continuing on schedule. A large part of work on the project has already been completed. The 17km highway will have four to six lanes. The next phase will see the construction of three bridges.

It was noted that the first bridge would be 125 metres and the second 162 meters in length. The third bridge, designed for pedestrians, will be 115 metres in length.

In addition, a 900-meter pedestrian crossing and two tunnels will be built here.

The head of state was told of the work to be carried out in the second part of the Hasan Aliyev Street-Ziya Bunyadov Avenue-Olympic Stadium highway. It was said that a 5km road would be laid out under the project. A bridge and two tunnels would be built over the road to link the Baku Olympic Stadium with the Olympic village.

President Ilham Aliyev was informed about the construction of road junctions and pedestrian crossings on a M4 18km Bilgah-Novkhani-Shamakhi highway.

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World Bank grants $50 mln to improve access to basic services in Yemen

WASHINGTON, Aug. 02 (Saba) – The World Bank’s (WB) Board of Directors has approved a $50 million grant to support the government’s efforts to improve access to basic services for the underserved communities.

The International Development Association (IDA) grant, the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, will supplement an ongoing program that has increased school enrollment, especially for girls, improved access to water, boosted agricultural productivity and incomes, provided better public health services and promoted mobility through rural road improvements.

According to a WB press release, the additional funds are destined for the Community and Local Development Program (CLDP), a core component of the Social Fund for Development Phase IV Project (SFD IV) covering the years 2011 to 2016. While expanding access to basic services, the program also empowers local communities by putting them in charge of identifying infrastructure projects that address their specific needs. A pipeline of 563 CLDP sub-projects has been prepared, 70 percent of which were selected through community demand.

“Meeting the basic needs of Yemenis is vital for sustaining the country’s political transition,” said Wael Zakout, World Bank Country Manager for Yemen. “The Social Fund for Development has proved to be an effective organization, continuing to function throughout the crisis, and its system of autonomous, regional offices allows it to operate in the entire country – even in remote areas with limited government presence.”

Along with encouraging voice and participation in the selection of sub-projects, the program will support the national priority of decentralization. The CLDP includes an Empowerment for Local Development Program designed to build the capacities of communities and local authorities to implement the sub-projects they identify.

“Several of the activities funded by the program have also been developed to promote inclusion,” said Mira Hong, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “The needs of girls and women are a primary focus, for instance, with increased access to schools and reproductive health services. More than half of the health and education professionals that have so far been trained through the program are women.”

To date, SFD IV has created 24 million days of employment and benefitted 4.5 million Yemenis, with women representing 2.5 million. The total budget for the six-year project is US$1.2 billion, of which IDA has financed US$85 million, and the government along with 12 other donors has committed US$760 million. The additional US$50 million grant from IDA is also intended as a catalyst to attract more donors.

In January 2014, the Bank’s active portfolio in Yemen consisted of 32 projects (including recipient-executed trust funds) with about US$900 million in net commitments, focused on increasing access to basic social services, improving infrastructure, and enhancing governance and institutions.

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Industrial Production gradually resumes at Aleppo, Syria

Aleppo, SANA – Members of the Board of Directors of the Industrial City in al-Sheikh Najar in Aleppo discussed Friday the situation of the city and the ongoing steps to restart work after army restored security and stability to it. Aleppo Governor Mohammad Wahid Akkad said that the governorate has spared no effort to secure all needed services to the city, in addition to offering facilitations to the industrialists to ensure their return to work.

“More than 10 factories in the city have already resumed production,” the Governor stressed, describing that as “a positive sign”.

Director of the Industrial City Dr. Mohammad Hindiyeh said that various technical maintenance teams have begun work to rehabilitate the sabotaged infrastructure and fix the severe damages to the primary service and industrial facilities sustained during attacks by the armed terrorist groups.

“The situation of the Industrial City is steadily improving,” said Hindiyeh, echoing the Governor’s optimism, reaffirming that a number of facilities and industrialist have actually resumed work and production.

Meanwhile, Electricity Director Abdul-Ilah Talaleni said that the largest part of high voltage power lines have been rehabilitated and work is underway to restore electricity supply to the city. The army units restored security and stability to the Industrial City of al-Sheikh Najar on July 4th, after destroying the terrorists’ last dens and gatherings in the area.

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Turkish firm reveals 9-year disability project results

Monday, June 09, 2014 ISTANBUL – A major Turkish telecoms company has released results of a nine-year project to increase employment among the country’s 8.5 million disabled citizens. Turkish GSM operator AVEA’s senior official Fusun Feridun claimed on Monday that various firms had hired 3,000 disabled people over almost a decade.

An IPSOS survey of the company’s disabled staff also revealed that employment had changed disabled staff members’ lives, such as increasing self-confidence, boosting chances to socialize and plan for the future.

However, some disability activists have said there is a long way to go before Turkey’s disabled enjoy full access to employment rights.

AVEA has been working with the Istanbul-based Physical Disability Foundation to increase employment among Turkey’s disabled citizens since 2005.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, the foundation’s chairman, Kahraman Emmioglu said that employment remained a major issue for disabled people. “When they are employed, they began to believe that their handicap is not a problem at all,” Emmioglu said.

Twelve percent of Turkey’s population is disabled. These citizens’ problems vary depending on the nature and level of their disability. Along with problems surrounding everyday access, employment is one of the major issues.

More than 75 percent of disabled people are unable to participate in the workforce, according to Turkey’s Family and Social Policies Ministry. Nevertheless, a 2010 Turkish Statistic Institute research showed fifty percent of disabled people want to work in suitable positions.

To overcome these employment problems, the government introduced a central exam for disabled people in 2011. The first exam took place a year after and resulted in more than 5,000 people being employed in public positions. The exam was repeated in 2013 and 2014.

The government introduced a work quota scheme in 2005 for private companies and public institutions, legally binding them to employ disabled people. For example, companies that employ more than 50 people should hire at least two disabled members of staff.

The state has also introduced various incentives, such as tax cuts, for those private companies that employ disabled people.

Nevertheless, activists claim that prejudice against disabled people in workplaces remains. For example, they are often paid the minimum wage although their contribution and professional background may command a higher wage.

Their chance of promotion is limited compared to other workers. “Some companies even resist hiring disabled people,” Emmioglu added.

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Pakistan Govt committed to make SMEs more productive

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (APP) – Islamabad—Chairman Board of Investment (BOI) Dr Miftah Ismail said that under the vision of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to generate more employment opportunities and to encourage entrepreneurs, Board of Investment has established facilitation centers in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta.

He was talking to the media regarding progress on this initiative of BOI here on Monday. “Pakistan’s small, micro, and medium enterprises that in many cases are informal units. This part of the sector turns out much of the country’s private output and accounts for the largest portion of its jobs. However, it remains financially constrained, with little access to infrastructure, lack of knowledge regarding modern technology, disadvantaged when dealing with labor, and with virtually no ability to influence the policymakers”, said Chairman BOI.

He further mentioned that the contribution of SMEs to Pakistan’s economy, employment and poverty reduction can be seen from the fact that 90% of all private sector manufacturing units employ less than 99 workers and the SMEs employ some 80% of non-agricultural labor force.

They contribute about 40% to GDP and generate 25% of exported manufacture.

“So we have decided to start these facilitation centers to help this large segment of entrepreneurs to set up their businesses on a fast track basis and supporting them in starting a business dealing with construction permits, paying taxes, trading across borders and enforcing contracts”, he said.

He further said that hundreds of complaints and requests are received to the facilitation centers of BOI. “Our facilitation centers have registered the issues of SMEs regarding lack of proper infrastructure un-skilled manpower shortage of finances access to the utilities, district police issues taxation issues competition acquiring of land getting NTN etc. necessary instructions regarding the concerned departments were given to resolve the issues of SMEs”, he remarked.

In reply to a query, he said that in addition to establishment of facilitation centres, BOI in consultation with Finance Division, FBR, SECP, and EOBI including provincial governments has developed an implementation plan under Phase-I for investment facilitation and business improvement to simplify the procedures and to reduce the time/ cost for improvement of business climate in Pakistan.—APP

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MoIT setting up holistic ICT parks to promote exports

Friday, August 01, 2014 – Islamabad, (APP): The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications (MoIT) is in process to shift from small Software Technology Parks (STPs) to holistic ICT Parks to encourage emerging technologies.

The proposed Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Parks will be developed with state of the art infrastructure aiming to bring together world class technology in a multipurpose environment.

The parks will promote academia industry collaboration to mitigate gaps between academia and IT industry boost IT exports and provision of cloud based ICT infrastructure and shared services and to create a springtime environment and culture conducive to vibrant and dynamic innovation.

The ministry in its list of new initiatives has said in addition to IT companies enterprises from a wide spectrum of sectors will be encouraged to locate to the ICT parks. This will help encourage establishment of R&D centers to facilitate the IT telecom pharmaceutical medical devices biotechnology & nano technology banking and space sector promotion of renewable energy.

It said the concept of ICT Parks had been approved by the Planning Commission and MoIT was in the process of preparation of PC II in consultation with World Bank Office in Pakistan. The World Bank has expressed its desire to invest up to US 45 million in this project.

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Gulf Air increases services to Kuwait

Manama, July 31 — (BNA): The Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, will increase its flights between Bahrain and Kuwait from 40 to 42 flights per week. The national carrier’s decision to add frequencies to the Kuwaiti capital followed an increase in passenger demand between the two countries.

Gulf Air’s Acting Chief Commercial Officer, Ahmed Janahi commented on the enhanced flight schedule: “We are delighted to announce two additional frequencies between Bahrain and Kuwait to further strengthen our regional network. Our Kuwait-Bahrain route sees consistently high seat factors and in response to the growing passenger demand, the introduction of 2 more weekly flights to Kuwait should reinforce Gulf Air’s longstanding commitment to our valued neighbor. With 42 weekly flights between Bahrain and Kuwait, travellers from across the Gulf Air network can take advantage of our fast and easy connections via Bahrain as we continue to strengthen our GCC and MENA network. We expect to see continuing strong demand on our Kuwait route and will continue to cater to our customer base there.”

Building upon a relationship that dates back to Gulf Air’s maiden flight into Kuwait City in 1959, the State of Kuwait remains a strategic destination and market for Bahrain’s national carrier. Recognizing the key importance of the Kuwait market for Gulf Air, one of the airline’s high-demand routes, the airline hopes to further develop the market and take advantage of fast-growing traffic from Kuwait by connecting it to various destinations across the entire Gulf Air network.

As one of the largest Middle East networks with double daily flights to more than 10 regional cities, the Kingdom’s national carrier is well positioned to link Kuwait to key business and leisure destinations in the region and beyond with excellent connectivity via Bahrain in less than 3 hours.

The two additional weekly frequencies between Bahrain and Kuwait will operate on Saturdays and Sundays departing Bahrain at 13:15 to arrive into Kuwait International Airport at 14:20 and departing Kuwait at 15:05, arriving in Bahrain International Airport at 16:05.

Flights can be booked online at www.gulfair.com, by calling the airline’s 24 hour Worldwide Contact Centre on (+973) 17373737, or through any Gulf Air sales offices and approved travel agencies.

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Kazakh bee apiary provides region with unique honey

03.08.2014, (Kazakh TV) – Bee apiary provides Atyrau region with a unique honey, which contains no sugar. By the way it is used mainly for the production of pharmaceutical preparations. Tamila Rozmetova, Executive Director Of Enterprise: – Capacity of enterprise is 2.5 tons of honey per year. Basically, it goes on the state order for pharmaceutical purposes. This honey is used for the treatment of diabetes and other diseases.

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Specialists from Central Asia to share experience on pasture management

Bishkek, August 2 / Kabar /. Some 20 representatives of governmental and non-governmental sectors from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan will visit Kyrgyzstan from August 4 till August 11, 2014 to increase their expertise in pasture management.

The study tour will take place within the framework of the EU FLERMONECA project (Forest and Biodiversity Governance, including Environmental Monitoring), financed by the European Union and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH (the German federal enterprise for international cooperation). Kyrgyzstan is a pioneer in pasture reform and is of great interest among neighboring countries in Central Asia.

Participants will visit pasture committees and meet with representatives of national and international organizations which are involved in the sustainable development of pasture reform in the country and become familiar with the successes and lessons learned, both at the institutional and local levels. This tour will contribute to the promotion of pasture management processes and support of current technical and political discussions in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Participants are expected to improve and strengthen cooperation in the use of integrated ecosystem management to combat land degradation and to improve environment conditions.

Tajikistan is in the process of implementing the law “On pastures” that was adopted in March 2013. The country has a legal framework for the effective use of pastures in the country, as well as relevant institutional structures. The Pasture Users Unions (PUUS) and local communities that promote the interests and rights of users and support good management practices are among them.

However, there are problematic issues, such as a lack of access to pasture land, loss of pathway to a distant pasture, underand over-grazing, poor financial mechanisms for sustainable management and others. Turkmenistan identified the need for a law on pastures, which would not only regulate the management of pasture lands, but would also contribute to the conservation of ecosystems in the country.

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Jordan introduces Islamic bond rules

Amman, Sunday, 29 Ramadan 1435/ 27 July 2014 (IINA) – Regulators in Jordan have introduced a set of long-awaited rules for the issuance of sukuk or Islamic bonds, paving the way for both the public and private sectors to tap into growing demand for sharia-compliant investments.

Jordan is one of several Muslim-majority countries keen to develop their domestic Islamic finance sector and the government is studying a proposal to issue a sovereign sukuk, mirroring efforts by Egypt and Tunisia. In June, both Senegal and Britain issued sukuk, while Luxembourg and Hong Kong have issuance plans. Jordan’s new rules cover the structuring, issuance and trading of sukuk, according to a statement from its Securities Commission late on Thursday.

The regulator held a seminar last month with banks and underwriters to help them identify potential issuers. The Kingdom has an established Islamic banking sector but sukuk have been slow to appear. Local company Al-Rajhi Cement has thus far been the only one to issue a sukuk, an 85 million dinar deal in 2011. Lawmakers passed legislation in 2012 allowing the government to issue sukuk but the sector has been held back by, among other things, legal limitations on the transfer of assets required to underpin such transactions.

In April this year lawmakers cleared away those obstacles by enacting two by-laws that allow sukuk to be issued without a transfer of assets to special purpose vehicles, and specifying the structures that can be used. These include ijara, mudaraba and musharaka, all common Islamic finance formats. Sukuk would be a welcome investment tool for Jordan’s four Islamic banks: Jordan Islamic Bank, Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank, Islamic International Arab Bank and the local unit of Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank.

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Bids opened for $250mn Oman Cultural Complex

MENAFN – Muscat Daily – 02/08/2014 — After announcing the appointment of the UK-based international consultancy and construction company, Mace as project manager for the Oman Cultural Complex (OCC), the Ministry of Heritage and Culture (MoHC) has now invited bids for the construction of the US250mn (RO96.26mn) iconic complex.

The Tender Board on July 20 announced the tender to be open for excellent and international grade companies and to submit documents for construction of the complex.

The complex which will have three major buildings of national interest, has already evinced interest from four big construction companies which include Carillion Alawi, Services & Trade Company, Consolidated Contractors Company and Al Turky Enterprises.

The document distribution will continue till August 28, while the last date for submission is October 29.

Considered to be one of the most iconic buildings envisaged for Muscat, OCC will be established by the ministry as part of its strategy to promote cultural and artistic innovations.

The three major buildings in the complex include the National Library with a capacity to house five million books, National Archives which will act as a four-storey exhibition cum public event area, a research and administration wing, and the third the National Theatre which will accommodate more than a thousand guests.

In addition, there will be four buildings which will house a children’s library, cinema gallery and workshop, literary society headquarters, a lecture hall and retail areas.

Landscaping will comprise lavish Oasis Fruit Garden which will accommodate 1,100 palm trees, 750 fruit trees and 32,500 smaller trees and shrubs.

Due to the centre’s high profile it will act as a dedicated vibrant space to collect, preserve and display live and historic contemporary arts and culture in Oman. It will also aim to be a hub that will link local and international knowledge and cultural industries to help develop Oman’s cultural scene.

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Malaysian Halal Exports Can Be Significantly Increased By Strengthening Trade Hub

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Aug 2 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Malaysia’s halal exports of between RM30 billion and RM32 billion a year can be significantly enhanced by strengthening the country’s position as a halal trading centre and be less dependence on domestic production.

Managing director/chief executive officer of Halal Industry Development Corp (HDC), Jamil Bidin, said the industry was still not crowded and firms must grab the opportunities not only as manufacturers but also as trading companies.

He said the country was already the world’s leading exporter of halal ingredients required in various industries, such as food and beverages (F&B), cosmetics, emulsifier and medical and wellness.

Jamil said to kick-start the drive, HDC has enlisted 10 anchor companies, out of 801 exporting companies registered with the agency, to lead the initiative with the corporation’s guide and assistance.

“These companies are encouraged to focus on growth market such as China and West Asia with huge Muslim population,” he told Bernama in an interview.

Jamil said non-traditional halal markets, among them Japan, were quickly catching up.

He said Japan was aggressively developing its own halal industry due to increasing demand for halal products and the expanding halal market.

“Recognising Malaysia’s experience and expertise in halal products, Japan, China and Latin America countries seek HDC’s assistance to increase halal awareness and develop their own halal industry.

“This is a healthy progress. We need connectivity and network. We cannot be alone in this industry,” he said.

The global halal market is currently estimated at US$2.3 trillion covering both food and non-food sectors. The estimated Muslim population worldwide is over 1.8 billion.

In the first quarter of this year, Malaysia exported halal products worth RM9.2 billion.

Jamil said this growing acceptance has also shown that Malaysia’s halal companies had the capabilities and capacities to cater to the needs of the global market.

The main products exported are halal F&B, which continued to be the leading sector, with exports valued at RM3.5 billion, or 39.9 per cent, of total halal exports.

This is followed by halal ingredients valued at RM3.0 billion, palm oil derivatives (such as oleochemicals) at RM1.4 billion, cosmetics and personal care at RM573 million, industrial chemicals (such as manufacturing processing aids) RM524 million and pharmaceuticals at RM113 million.

In the F&B sector, the top five products exported are edible products and preparations; cocoa and cocoa preparations; prepared cereal and flour preparations; coffee; and, margarine and shortening.

The top five halal export markets are China, US, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. — NNN-BERNAMA

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Oman Tourism: Salalah’s cool clime a big draw for tourists

August 02, 2014, Times of Oman – Muscat: Salalah, the land of frankincense clothed in lush greenery and its hills engulfed in white fog, was the most-sought destination of both nationals and expatriates in Oman to spend the Eid Al Fitr holidays which also coincided with the Khareef (monsoon) season, residents claimed.

“All the main tourist spots like Manreef cave, Mugshasyl beach and frankincense museum were brimming with visitors. Long queues of vehicles were seen on the roads which sometimes led to traffic jams. This time, the climate was perfect. Visitors were delighted to experience the drizzle and fog,” KS Mohammed Ali, a long time resident in Salalah, said. According to a National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) report, 74,100 tourists had visited Salalah till July 29.

According to a tweet by the NCSI, only 60,000 visited Salalah during the same period in 2013.

“Of the visitors this year, more than 67 per cent were Omanis and the rest were from the neighbouring countries,” the NCSI tweeted.

On July 1, quoting travel agents in Muscat, the Times of Oman reported that Salalah is the most sought after destination for both nationals and expatriates in Oman to spend their Eid Al Fitr holidays.

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

Last year, the travel agents had a good many bookings for Iran and other Middle East countries. But this time that trend was not so visible.

The hoteliers are also in an upbeat mood after seeing the number of tourists growing.

“During the Eid holidays, we witnessed a huge rush. The occupancy rate was around 95 per cent. Mainly, our customers were from different Gulf Cooperation Council countries. We had special brunch offers. The climate is perfect and we are expecting more tourists during the season,” Manuel Lebonian, general manager of Crowne Plaza Resort in Salalah, said.

Last month, Oman Air had also increased the number of Muscat-Salalah services from 52 flights per week to 84, to fly from July 24 till September 15, to cope with the increasing popularity of the destination during the Khareef season.

According to Khareef Salalah 2014 first statistical report, the number of visitors to the Dhofar governorate since the start of the monsoon stood at 31,128, including Omanis and international visitors who visited during June 21 to July 16, 2014 period.

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Mauritania airline gets new Embraer aircraft

Africa Manager – National flag carrier Mauritania International Airlines (MAI) has taken delivery of a new Embraer-145 aircraft for domestic and international flights, the airlines has announced

The 50-passenger aircraft, which has four hours of flying time over 3,000km, will serve regional and sub-regional capitals, including Dakar (Senegal), Banjul (Gambia), Casablanca (Morocco), Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire), Bamako (Mali) and Conakry (Guinea).

The Brazil-made plane is considered one of the most modern aircraft with an excellent technology, the company said.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz led the team of officials who received the plane.

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Entries sought for US$150,000 Africa Innovation Prizes 2015

JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, August 1, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The African Innovation Foundation (AIF) (http://www.africaninnovation.org) is calling on all African innovators to submit their entries for the fourth edition of the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) competition (http://www.innovationprizeforafrica.org). The IPA is presented annually, enabling and encouraging African pioneers to develop creative ideas and techniques to overcome some of the challenges faced by the continent and support sustainable development.

“At the African Innovation Foundation we are passionate about Africa and its potential, that we firmly believe will be led by empowering a new generation of African innovators and entrepreneurs. But we also recognise that this new generation needs the resources and the opportunities to realise their ambition,? said AIF and IPA founder Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais. “IPA provides a platform to encourage and harness these entrepreneurial skills in order to help improve the lives of Africans and to help realise untapped potential. The prize is also a great way of unleashing creativity and promoting growth within the African continent.”

The IPA is becoming integral to facilitating ground-breaking thinking, creativity and driving awareness to the outstanding work being done in Africa by Africans. IPA 2013 winner, AgriProtein went on to raise $11 million to build its first two commercial farms in Cape Town.

“Africa needs meaningful investment to alleviate poverty and provide inclusive prosperity. To achieve this, we need to be able to provide environments that promote quality investment for the people and reduce risks. Forums like the IPA are necessary to make the most of the continent’s investment,” said AgriProtein spokesperson, David Drew.

All innovations are evaluated based on the following criteria: originality, marketability, scalability, social impact and scientific/technical aspects. The best submission will be awarded a grand prize of USD 100 000. The second prize of USD 25 000 will be awarded to an innovator with an innovation which has the best commercial and business potential. An additional award is a special prize granted to the innovator whose innovation has the best social impact in the community.

The IPA encourages entries in five key categories: Agriculture and Agribusiness, Environment, Energy and Water, Health and Wellbeing, ICT applications, and Manufacturing and Services Industries.

Recognising home grown innovative ingenuity, the prize contributes to increased funding of start-ups, adoption of new and emerging technologies and accelerated growth of the private sector. With ever changing economic and social environments, it is critical that proposed solutions tackle issues affecting African lives, and that they are effective and are different from the existing ones.

IPA 2014 named Dr Nicolaas Duneas and Mr Nuno Pires from South Africa the winners of the grand Prize and received USD 100,000 for their Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix (Altis OBM TM), the first injectable porcine derived BMP medical device in the world – an innovative product for the treatment of bone injuries and voids through the use of a regenerative biological implant.

The IPA also beckons all investors, governments and other stakeholders interested in evaluating, investing and maximising the continent’s resources to participate in this innovative and empowering initiative and make a significant change through generous contributions that will accelerate the Africa’s economic growth.

The IPA honours and encourages innovative achievements that contribute toward developing new products, increasing efficiency or cost savings in Africa. The prize also encourages private equity investors, government and development leaders to invest across sectors and build a climate that fuels Africa’s economic growth. For more information and additional media background go to http://www.innovationprizeforafrica.org , and follow the IPA on Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/IPAprize) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/InnovationPrizeforAfrica).

The deadline for submitting applications for IPA 2015 is 31 October 2014 at 24h00 GMT.

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Saudi Arabia approves $14bn education projects

Saudi Arabia has approved 5,700 new educational development projects worth SR54 billion ($14.3 billion), said a report. The new projects were aimed at creating a qualitative improvement in the country’s educational environment, Education Minister Prince Khaled Al-Faisal was quoted as saying in the Arab News report.

The projects include 1,500 nurseries, 500 educational complexes, 800 large schools, 400 small schools and renovation of 2,500 school buildings.

New university projects worth SR2.5 billion were also signed for the benefit of universities in Taif, Jazan, Hail, Tabuk and Majmaa, and Prince Salman University, said the report. They include the second phase of the medical college project in Taif and third phase of student hostels.

Meanwhile, the ministry aims to include all schools in its electronic web by 2017, said the report.

The project to provide all schools with the electronic web comes under the ministry’s plans to implement the electronic learning concept in all classes, adding that the plan will involve installing smart boards, it said.

It will be implemented next week in 50 schools in three different areas and is expected to be completed in five months, it added.

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Partnership To Support SMEs In Fast Growing Islamic Finance

July 9, 2014 – Manama: The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private-sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today to promote SME growth in Bahrain by providing support, Sharia compliant products, and training.

Under the terms of the joint partnership, the ICD will establish a world class Islamic Ijara Company in Bahrain to help SMEs succeed by offering Sharia-compliant financing products. The proposed Ijara Company will also be used as a training centre to help Bahrainis in the area of Islamic finance. In addition, ICD plans to set up a software development centre in Bahrain to develop software solutions for Ijara, Takaful, Mortgage and Islamic Banking, for export to the international market.

Moreover, the ICD will assess the feasibility of establishing an SME Fund in partnership with the EDB, with the aim of supporting and investing in SMEs based in Bahrain

Commenting on the MOU, Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and Acting Chief Executive of the Bahrain EDB, said:

“We are delighted to announce this partnership that will provide a significant boost to the Islamic finance sector, not just in Bahrain but in all ICD member countries and beyond. Bahrain currently plays host to one of the largest concentration of Islamic financial institutions in the world, and the new Ijara Company will add to the wide range of Sharia compliant products and services on offer, particularly for SMEs. Bahrain is already home to a number of independent organisations all committed to the development of the sector. Central to this is our education system which has enabled the Kingdom to boast one of the most highly skilled workforce in the region. The new training on offer as a result of this agreement will further reinforce Bahrain’s status as a knowledge hub for the Islamic finance industry.”

During the signing ceremony Mr Khaled Al-Aboodi, the CEO of ICD, said: “As one of the leaders of the Islamic finance industry, Bahrain was an obvious partner for these exciting new projects. Not only is Bahrain the ideal location from which SMEs, both Bahraini and international, can launch new ventures to access the Gulf region’s fast economic growth, but the Kingdom’s strong business regulatory environment provides the support and expertise required for new and growing businesses in the Islamic finance industry.”

Islamic banking has already taken off internationally, and Islamic finance banking assets are expected to have reached $1.7 trillion at the end of 2013, suggesting an annual growth of 17.6% over last four years. Bahrain is widely recognised as a global leader in Islamic finance, playing host to a number of organisations committed to the development of Islamic finance, including the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM), the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions, the Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA), the Thomson Reuters Global Islamic Finance Hub, and Deloitte’s Islamic Finance Knowledge Center, making the Kingdom a content and knowledge hub for the industry.

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