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

22 Sep, 2014

Free Admission To Egyptian Museums On World Tourism Day Sept 27

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 22 September 2014 (27 Dhul Qa’dah 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.




Malaysian handicraft store Karyaneka has launched its first online portal and mobile application, which allows customers worldwide to purchase Malaysian-made handicrafts of outstanding craftsmanship. Karyaneka teamed up with two leading local e-commerce portals, FashionValet.com and Groupon.com to set up the online portals: http://www.karyaneka.my and http://www.karyanekastore.my. The full catalogue of its products includes pewter, woodcarving, silver brassware, Malaysian fabrics like songket and batik, and many more. This initiative was made possible through its partnership with Tukul Cipta Industri Sdn Bhd (TCI). Executive Director of TCI Abdul Munaf Dr. Sultan believes that this new venture will help the globalisation of the local arts and crafts industry. TCI will also introduce Karyaneka through various platforms such as online sales, vending machines at strategic tourist spots and kiosks, online and offline catalogue-based sales as well as boutiques in major cities around the world. Currently, the catalogues are available at all hotel rooms in the Klang Valley. The initiative aims to bring Malaysia’s heritage to greater heights internationally, even to London, Paris and New York City via the Karyaneka International boutique cafés, which will create a positive impact on Malaysia’s arts and crafts industry.

For more information, visit Karyaneka’s website at http://www.karyaneka.my and http://www.karyanekastore.my.


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.




Iranian documentary wins at Kazan Int’l Muslim Film Festival

Sun Sep 14, 2014, IRNA – Iranian filmmaker Salem Salavati’s documentary The Last Winter garnered top award at the 10th Kazan International Muslim Film Festival. Salavati received the Best Director Award of the festival during awards ceremony held on Friday, September 12.

The 77-minute film is an allegory in which the depicted family represents those ones who are unable to change their resigned way of life.

The Last Winter is an expanded version of his previous short Snowy Dreams with the same picturesque winter scenery, calm, realistic life style and culture of Iranian Kurdistan.

The film was screened at the 2013 Golden Apricot Yerevan Film Festival as well as at the Focus on Kurdish Film Section in the 2013 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in Czech Republic. Some 500 screen productions from 57 countries took part in this year’s festival and competed in various categories.

Established in 2005, Kazan international film festival is held in the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan. The festival, also known as the Golden Minbar International Film Festival, is held as a place for regular meetings and an exchange of experience between filmmakers from Russia and Islamic countries.

The purpose of the event is creation of an objective representation of Islam and Muslims in Russia and international community. The participated films are required to reflect spiritual and moral values as well as cultural traditions.

The motto of the festival is “Dialogue of cultures through the culture of dialogue.” The 10th Kazan International Muslim Film Festival took place from September 5 to 11.

Back to top

Maldives gives airport contract to Chinese firm during Xi’s visit

MALE – The Maldives signed a deal with a Chinese firm to upgrade its international airport on Monday as Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the main island on his first trip to a region that India has long regarded as falling within its natural sphere of influence.

The contract to expand Male airport has been given to Beijing Urban Construction Group Company Limited after the Maldivian government cancelled a US$511 million deal with India’s GMR Infrastructure two years ago.

India has been concerned about growing Chinese involvement in the Indian Ocean as Beijing opens its purse strings and builds a network of ports dubbed the String of Pearls.

Mr Xi was in Male as part of a South Asia tour that will also take him to Sri Lanka and India where he will hold the first summit meeting with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.

Back to top

University of Iranian Islamic genuine arts to be set up

Tehran, Sept 20, IRNA – Renowned master of Persian painting, Mahmoud Farshchian said on Saturday that negotiations are underway with relevant officials to set up university of Iranian Islamic genuine arts in the current Iranian year (started March 21).

He said that he has already discussed the issue with Vice President for Planning and Strategic Supervision Mohammad Baqer Nobakht and Secretary for High Council of Cultural Revolution Mohammad Reza Mokhber-Dezfuli.

Farshchian noted that establishment of the university is one of essential needs of the country because the Iranian genuine arts are in poor conditions.

Referring to Iran’s ranking in the art of carpet weaving, he said, “Once Iran had final word in the art in the world, but currently, Iran stands 40th.”

Most of the countries in the world including Italy and Austria boast centers for studying their genuine arts but Iran lacks such centers, the master said.

Units of Iranian arts, lofty arts of handicrafts, designs of rugs and carpets, management of artworks will be taught at the university, he noted.

Back to top

Malaysia International Gourmet Festival to be held 26-28 Sept

Taste MIGF – The Preview Event for the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival Taste MIGF takes place from 26th to 28th of September 2014 at the Sunway Pyramid Convention Centre. From 11am to 10pm on Saturday, 27th and Sunday, 28th September, food lovers can partake in a Super Gourmet Safari in one spectacular and specially created location – The Theatre of Cuisines. Here they can buy Gourmet Dollars to exchange for bite sized samples from the Festival restaurants.

From 11am to 4 pm on Friday 26th September and from 11am to 10 pm on the weekend of 27th and 28th September, visitors can also shop at the Epicure International Gourmet Village, attend Master Chefs’ cooking classes and enjoy wine appreciation talks and other culinary happenings. A new inclusion this year is the LuxuryPlus Showcase which displays high end properties and investment opportunities among others and provide those present with the opportunity to hear from the industry’s best. Opening hours are as per the Epicure International Gourmet Village.

Enjoy a Super Gourmet Safari! In the specially created “Theatre of Cuisines”, where the Festival restaurants are showcased, visitors can buy “Gourmet Dollars” and enjoy a “Super Gourmet Safari” sampling creations from Malaysia’s leading chefs as they serve up tasting portions from their Festival Menus. These special portions are big enough to exhibit the creativity of the Festival chefs but small enough to allow tasting as many dishes from as many restaurants as possible. Live music and cooking demonstrations take place, providing a fiesta-like atmosphere for all visitors.

The Theatre of Cuisines will open to the public for a fabulous gourmet weekend from 11.00am to 10.00pm on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th September.

Get your Gourmet Dollars First! To go on your Super Gourmet Safari, you will need Gourmet Dollars that have been created with the benefit of diners in mind. They help to minimise queues and delays for people waiting for their change. Gourmet Dollars will be available for purchase on the day of the event itself; however, you can avoid valuable time on that day and enjoy a 5% discount if you pre-purchase Gourmet Dollars at www.tastemigf.com.

Shop At The Epicure International Gourmet Village! TasteMIGF will also feature an “Epicure International Gourmet Village”, situated right next to the Theatre of Cuisines. Here, more than 80 purveyors of the finest gourmet food, wines, cigars, and much more, offer their wares in a festive, bazaar-like atmosphere. The Epicure International Gourmet Village will open to the public from 11.00am to 4.00pm on Friday 26th September and again from 11.00am to 10.00pm on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th September.

Enjoy Epicure Lifestyle Workshops! This is a unique opportunity to get to know the Festival Master Chefs as they share their culinary secrets. There will also be wine appreciation, mixology classes and many other activities throughout the 2-day weekend. The line-up is still being arranged, however to pre-register early to book your seats, please log on to www.tastemigf.com. Cooking Classes and Workshops will be conducted on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th September from 1pm until 8.30pm. The full schedule of classes and workshops will be available at www.tastemigf.com .

Back to top

Albania’s lesson in Muslim-Christian tolerance

Saturday 20 September 2014, Arab News – MALBARDH, Albania: Perched up an Albanian mountain, the medieval church of St. Nicolas was rebuilt from a crumbling ruin with help from local Muslims after the fall of communism, a symbol of the religious tolerance Pope Francis will be celebrating here on Sunday.

Majority Muslims and the tiny Catholic and Orthodox communities all faced persecution under the ruthless regime of Enver Hoxha, who in 1967 declared Albania the first atheist country in the world.

Countless churches and mosques were destroyed at the time — as many as 1,820 Catholic and Orthodox places of worship according to the Vatican — with scores of clergymen executed or dying in detention.

Nobody in the Muslim village of Malbardh, 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Tirana, remembers exactly who built St. Nicolas church or when. Already in a poor state when the communists took power, it was left to crumble to ruins.

But after the fall of the regime in 1992, Malbardh’s Muslims took ecclesiastical authorities by surprise by asking together with their Catholic “brothers” for permission to rebuild the church on its foundations.

“They did not take us seriously. They thought we were trying to get noticed, but we wanted at all costs to rebuild this church,” said Hajdar Lika, a sprightly 77-year-old Muslim.

To get to the church, visitors have to take an off-road car, donkey or pilgrim’s stick up a steep, winding path high above the village.

Surrounded by his Muslim friends, Nikoll Gjini, a Catholic in his 60s, gestures proudly toward the new church, shaded by majestic oak trees. “Without their help with building materials and construction work, we would have never been able to rebuild it,” said the former chemical industry worker.

At the tiny church, a priest celebrates mass only on major holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but the “holy place” is vital for the small community.

Here in Malbardh, Muslims make up around 90 percent of the village’s 2,500 inhabitants, with the remaining 10 percent Catholic.

Nationwide, some 56 percent of the population of three million are Muslim. They are followed by Catholics who make up 15 percent, and Orthodox Christians who account for 11 percent.

Pope Francis, who pays a one-day visit to Albania on Sunday, chose it for his first European trip in a tribute to the peaceful coexistence of its Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, who share power in a national unity government.

“The pope’s visit is a reason for pride for all Albanians, regardless of their religion,” said Malbardh’s 42-year-old mayor Agim Lika.

“As a small country, with a tiny Catholic community, we are delighted to be chosen by the pope for his first visit in Europe.”

Locals in Malbardh have long worked to keep their different communities close, and believe the Muslim majority owes protection to the minority Catholics.

“In our village, when someone gets married, according to tradition there must be witnesses from both faiths,” said Hajdar, a former railroad worker with a cigarette poking out from under a nicotine-stained white moustache.

In Derven, some 20 kilometers away, it is a similar story. Muslims also helped Catholics rebuild their chapel which was destroyed in 1967 by the communists.

“My most important mission was to clean up a land contaminated with the venom of dictatorship and atheism,” said father Carmine Leuzzi, looking back on those years.

The priest, sent to Albania from Italy’s Bari, has been watching over 500 Catholic families in Derven for the past 18 years.

“On Sunday, we will all go together to Tirana for the Holy Father’s mass, and I hope those who cannot go will be watching on television.”

Back to top

Garuda named “Best Airline in Australasia” for second successive year

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, September 19 2014 – Flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has been named the best airline across the Asia and Australasia regions for the second year in a row by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX).

Garuda Indonesia was named APEX’s “Passenger Choice Award” winner again as chosen by passengers in the region on Monday in a ceremony held in Anaheim, California, beating out other regional carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Korean Air and EVA Air.

The award is based on a comprehensive survey assessing an airline’s quality of service, products and innovation, along with customer satisfaction.

Garuda Indonesia services director Faik Fahmi said the award was yet another important milestone for the airline because it showed that the world acknowledged the airline’s efforts at development.

“This award would not be possible without the commitment and the hard work of all Garuda Indonesia staff in order to provide the best service possible to our customers,” Faik said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

In the same week, the airline also received the Gold Award from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), for their immigration on board (IOB) service and their service quality, which has adopted the concept of the “Garuda Indonesia Experience”.

Faik Fahmi also accepted the award on behalf of the company at the awards event in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This year has proven to be a notable year for Garuda, with the flag carrier already receiving numerous awards and titles from international associations, including “The World’s Best Cabin Crew 2014” by UK-based airline alliance network Skytrax, at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK in July.

Back to top

China, Malaysia join hands in port partnership

(Xinhua) 2014-09-15 NANNING — China has signed an agreement with Malaysia to establish a sister port partnership between two major shipping cities as the two countries seeks to rejuvenate the ancient maritime Silk Road.

The Qinzhou Port in South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has become a sister port of Kuantan, a port city in Malaysia, following an agreement signed in Nanning city, capital of Guangxi on Monday.

Taking immediate effect, the two ports will cooperate in various fields including shared shipping lanes, logistics, information exchange and talent training, said Li Xinyuan, mayor of Qinzhou city.

The sister partnership between the two ports is part of a plan to establish a network of cooperation among port cities in ASEAN members, Li said.

The two port cities have close economic and trade relationships. China and Malaysia have been constructing sister industrial parks in Qinzhou and Kuantan respectively since 2011. Building sister industrial parks is regarded as an innovative experiment by China and Malaysia in rebuilding the maritime Silk Road.

Southeast Asia has long been an important hub in the historic maritime Silk Road, a commercial route on which China sold silk, ceramics and tea to overseas markets.

Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed a 21st century maritime Silk Road during his visit to Indonesia last October. Qinzhou, the most important container hub on China’s southwestern coast, will become a leading city along the 21st century maritime Silk Road, Li said.

Back to top

Lotus Halal ETF and the rising profile of Islamic finance in Nigeria

BusinessDayOnline / 18 Sep 2014 – Lotus Halal ETF, a non-interest capital market product which tracks the NSE Lotus Islamic Index (NSE-LII) was launched back in August.

The NSE-LII index tracks the performance of 15 Sharia-screened equities listed on the stock exchange. Some of companies comprised in the index include Cadbury Nigeria, Dangote Cement and Unilever.

The fund was launched with the aim of providing alternative ethical investment in Nigeria and caters to investors seeking to invest in ethical products, avoiding companies involved in the production of goods and services such as alcoholic beverages, interest-driven financial services, and adult entertainment.

The fund targets the Muslim population of about 88 million that have a preference for Sharia-compliant finance practices such as non-interest financing.

“Interest has been strong,” says Hajara Adeola, the managing director of Lotus Capital in an interview. “We expect that the offer will be fully subscribed”.

On a broader note, the Islamic finance industry, supported by the government, continues to enjoy a more profound profile.

In 2013, the SEC established a Non-Interest Capital Market 10-year Master plan Committee, to develop strategies to foster the Sharia compliant sector.

The Debt Management Office has also given a time frame through 2017 for the debut of a Nigerian sovereign Sukuk. A ‘Sukuk’ is the Islamic equivalent of a bond.

Differing from the typical bond which grants ownership of a debt asset, a Sukuk will grant the investor a share of the underlying asset, along with equal cash flows and an equal amount risk.

Typically banning interest, the Islamic bond will pay the returns from proceeds of the underlying asset in order to comply with Islamic law.

In September 2013, Osun state, in the Cocoa producing hub, sold about $64 million or N10 billion naira of Sukuk; becoming the first state in Nigeria to explore this alternative form of financing.

In June this year, Senegal issued $208 million of debt, beating both Nigeria and South Africa, which are yet to issue national Islamic bonds.

Hong Kong, on Friday, 11th September, issued $1 billion sovereign Islamic bonds, in its first ever issue.

The issue generated a demand 4.7 times greater than the planned offer. Hong Kong’s offer of $1 billion received orders worth $4.7 billion.

In the UK, ‘Sukuk’ bonds were sold for the first time in June this year.

The UK, along with Hong Kong vies for the position of top Sharia-compliant global financial hub.

Globally, Islamic bond offerings rose 27 percent to $24 billion in 2014 from last year, according to Bloomberg data. Islamic banking assets this year have hit the $2 trillion mark.

South Africa, which has the largest stock and bond market in Africa, plans to issue a sukuk this year, its National Treasury said in April.

According to SEC Rules, “Public companies (including Special Purpose Vehicles), State Governments, Local Government, and Government Agencies as well as multilateral agencies are eligible to issue, offer or make an invitation of sukuk upon seeking the Commission’s approval under set rules.”

To formally sell Islamic debt, key legislative amendments will have to be made to address issues such as double taxation on capital gains.

Back to top

Restoration To Resume On Pyramid Of Djoser In Egypt

SAQQARA, Egypt, Sept 18 (NNN-MENA) – The Egyptian government has been conducting a huge restoration project of the world’s first stone architecture — the pyramid of Djoser. But after the Jan uprising, the project was delayed. The government says it will soon continue.

Egypt is expecting its tourist capacity to return back to normal soon. So, it is getting prepared by launching a nationwide restoration campaign for its antiquities. And not far from the popular Giza pyramids, lies the most important ancient site in Egypt and probably the world, Saqqara. Yet it is not as popular.

Djoser Pyramid, the first great stone architecture in the history of mankind, but as it could collapse at any time, it has not welcomed visitors for 30 years.

The restoration process is tricky. As many stones on the outer skeleton were damaged, the government replaced them with new ones. Many experts criticised this move, as it takes away the pyramid’s ancient looks.

But the chief engineer of the project says, the replacement is within the acceptable international standards.

“The UNESCO sets guidelines for us to operate. And according to the regulations, it’s acceptable to replace up to five percent of the structure. We only replaced two percent. Without this replacement, particularly inside the pyramid, it would have collapsed a long time ago,” Djoser renovation project chief engineer, Michel Farid, said.

The landscape in Saqqara is unique. Two ceremonial rooms surround the pyramid, one has a lotus flower on it, representing the South of Egypt, and the other has papyrus for the North. It was believed that in this way, the gods would honour the soul of King Djoser, for maintaining the unity of Egypt, which his ancestors achieved.

“We’ve almost finished the interior. It is very safe and secure. We are doing our best to welcome back tourists,” antiquities minister, Mamdouh Damaty, said.

The restoration project began in 2006. But after the Jan revolution it was stalled for three years. And when the government resumes operation, it will still take them two more years to complete the project.

The restoration project began in 2006. But After the Jan revolution it was stalled for three years.

Back to top

Egypt’s Soul Of Oriental Classic Singing Lives On

CAIRO, Sept 15 (NNN-KUNA) — Stalwart of the oriental classic singing, Umm Kalthoum, has remained alive years after her demise and that is through her museum on the Nile, where recorded echoes of her mesmerizing voice sound more dazzling, as they mingle with the rustling ripples of the river waters.

Dr. Nahla Mattar, the museum curator, said that the museum, located in Al-Roda district in southern Cairo, witnesses presentation of at least one of her songs, recorded or sung by gifted amateur singers, every month.

The museum management plays host to famous musicians, such as the maestro Salim Sahab, to lecture about the songs, their meanings and history of composing them.

Attendees are also entertained with unique pictures of the late classic singer and costumes she used to wear at her soirees at theatres full packed with her fans.

“Umm Kalthoum gallery is a platform that narrates story and history of one of the stalwarts of the Arab and Egyptian art,” Dr. Mattar said, indicating that the decoration, the location and the nearby panorama of the Nile contribute to re-creating the dazzling atmosphere the great singer used to furnish her audience with.

Ahmad Mamdouh, in charge of public relations’ affairs at the museum, told KUNA that some of the displayed pictures show Umm Kalthoum with the late leaders, namely Jamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Al-Sadat, indicating her close ties during her times with the top decision-makers. She appears in some of the pictures in her village, Temai Al-Zhaira, during her childhood.

Moreover, the museum provides some of her films, that had been produced since 1935 — such as “wedad,” “nashid al-amal,” “dananeer,” and “aida.” It also keeps original scripts of her songs’ lyrics, like “etna umri” and “laylat hob.” An archive, containing books and clippings of what the press had written about Umm Kalthoum, is also kept.

Umm Kalthoum was widely famous of her powerful voice, marathon singing and strong effect on the audience. The Arab media continue to broadcast her recorded songs till today — favored particularly by seniors.

Back to top

The Battle To Preserve Bethlehem’s Cultural Heritage

BETHLEHEM, Palestine, Sept 18 (NNN-MA’AN) – When Palestinian filmmaker Leila Sansour left Bethlehem in the 1980’s, there were no military checkpoints intimidating the city, no separation wall jutting into residential gardens, and no Israeli settlements dominating the horizon.

“I grew up in a very idyllic town, but I didn’t think of it like that as a child. There were forests of olive trees, fig trees, apricot trees and huge fields filled with grape vines,” she told Ma’an. “All of this is lost in Bethlehem. Now what we have is a concrete forest of buildings.”

Sansour’s new documentary, Open Bethlehem, is the culmination of a 10-year journey of emotional reconnection, with a city she left as a teenager, to experience the wider world.

It is also a tribute to the legacy of her father, who founded Bethlehem University.

“My father was very involved and very committed to the Palestinian cause and believed an educated people could fight better for themselves,” she says.

After his early death, Sansour says, she was haunted by his legacy and the intimate moments spent discussing Palestine’s future, and was drawn to return during the Second Intifada.

The filmmaker lived through military curfews, the siege of the Nativity Church, and the building of the separation wall, and spent five years filming the changing fortunes of her hometown.

“Bethlehem for me is a city of contrasts. It is parochial, but very international. It is pastoral, yet sits on the edge of a desert. There are layers of contrast in how famous and celebrated it is, yet how brutalised it is by the occupation.”

The fabric of everyday life in the city has fundamentally changed since Sansour left in 1983.

The ancient city, which gave birth to Christianity, is now guarded by Israeli military watchtowers, which jut into main thoroughfares and an 8-metre high concrete wall, which abuts residential properties, dissecting the population from Jerusalem, historically Bethlehem’s twin city.

Israeli soldiers raid the city almost daily, to arrest Palestinians, and the rolling hills surrounding the city have been replaced by concrete Israeli settlements.

Only 13 percent of the Bethlehem governorate is available to Palestinians, due to Israeli restrictions. Sansour says, the Israeli military occupation is threatening the very survival of a way of life, which had thrived for generations.

“I think Bethlehem is a microcosm for Palestine, and a very good one. There is almost no aspect of the nature of the Israeli occupation, that does not hit you face on. We need to fight tooth and nail for Bethlehem, if we want it to survive as the city we know; otherwise it will just disappear.”

Back to top

LEAD STORY: Free Admission To Egyptian Museums On World Tourism Day Sept 27

CAIRO, Egypt, Sept 17 (NNN-MENA) – Ahmed Mutawa, director of the Archaeological Sites Development Department, said, all museums will be for free on World Tourism Day on Sept 27, in order to encourage visitors to see Egypt’s diverse heritage.

He said, the ministry will celebrate for two days with cultural events, including folk dances and workshops for children, to produce mini art models, embodying the treasures they saw in the museums.

Minister of Antiquities, Mamdouh al-Dadamaty, has launched a campaign to promote domestic and foreign tourism, in conjunction with World Tourism Day, in order to reassure the world that Egypt is safe and secure.

Egypt struggles to restore tourism, after it was affected by the aftermaths of the 2011 and 2013 events, against former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi.

Lately, several countries have reduced their travel warnings for Egypt.

Back to top

Five Tourism Ventures Await Approval In Oman

MUSCAT, Oman, Sept 18 (NNN-ONA) – As many as five major tourism projects, which are aimed at attracting both international and domestic tourists, are expected to get the green light from authorities before the year-end, a senior official of the Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) said.

These ventures are part of a long-term plan to develop 12 tourism projects, that would encourage foreign tourists to extend their stay in the country and also help to develop domestic tourism.

“A feasibility study of some projects has been completed, but we haven’t got an approval from the board,” said Wael bin Ahmed Al Lawati, chief executive officer of Omran.

He was speaking on the sidelines of Dossier Construction Summit 2014, organised by the United Media Services, here yesterday.

The proposed projects, which have been identified by Omran, include a theme park and developing of forts, castles and old towns, as attractive tourist destinations, along with an eco tourism project.

“Conducting a feasibility study, finding the right location and the right operator for the (proposed) theme park, takes a lot of time. It is a complex project,” he added.

Engineer Al Lawati said, Omran is also in the process of setting up a heritage company for developing forts, castles and old towns. “Some of these will be developed into heritage hotels. This is a major focus,” he added.

Citing reasons for developing the projects, Al Lawati said, it was aimed at creating more tourist attractions that would encourage foreigners to extend their stay.

Domestic tourists also require facilities for entertainment, he added.

Abdul Wahid Al Farsi, vice president – external affairs, Omran, said last month, that, among the 12 projects, some of them may be developed by Omran alone, while others would be either joint ventures with partners or those which private investors could develop as their own.

Referring to the eco tourism venture, Al Farsi said, “We haven’t identified the location and the size of the project. A feasibility study is still underway.”

Omran and its joint venture partner are also developing several hotels in different parts of the country, to enhance the number of rooms, which will attract more tourists.

Back to top

Resource-Rich Aceh Keen To Attract More Investors

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia Sept 15 (NNN-Bernama) — Resource-rich Indonesian province, Aceh, is keen to have more investors, including foreign companies, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Chairul Tanjung as saying.

Acheh was providing wide opportunities for foreign businesses to invest in the province, he said at a meeting of the Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) forum here on Sunday.

“I hope you will come to Aceh and Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah is delighted to receive all of you,” he told businessmen of neighbouring countries attending the meeting.

According to Antara Aceh, which is located on the western tip of Sumatra island is rich in natural resources, particularly in the agricultural and mining sectors.

In the agricultural sector, the province has processing and packaging facilities for coffee and cocoa while in the mining sector, Aceh has several gold and copper mining sites along with non-metallic mining sites for andesite and limestone.

According to data from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), foreign direct investment to Aceh stood at US$94.2 million in 2013, US$172.3 million in 2012, US$22.5 million in 2011 and US$4.6 million in 2010.

The IMT-GT, which was initiated in 1991 and inaugurated in July 1993 is aimed at helping the three countries develop their resources.

Chairul expressed the hope that the meeting of the IMT-GT forum held here would encourage local entrepreneurs to develop the creative economy in the province.

He emphasised that all IMT-GT programmes would automatically play an important role in enhancing cooperation among the three nations.

Back to top

Bahrain Focussed On Economic Vision 2030

TUNIS, Sept 18 (NNN-BNA) — Bahrain’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ghanim bin Fadhl Al Buainain, affirmed the comprehensive outlook of the Economic Vision 2030 for Bahrain, launched by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, which determines a clear destination for continued development in Bahrain’s economy as well as reflects objectives aimed at creating a better life for all Bahraini citizens.

He was speaking at the 28th session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), held here Wednesday under the theme “Challenges and Opportunities of Social Justice in the Arab Region”.

He said that the Economic Vision 2030 is based on three main principles – sustainability, justice and competitiveness, adding that it was established after four years of extensive discussions with leaders in the public and private sectors, including the relevant governmental organisations, consultants and international organisations.

He said that the Economic Development Board launched a programme for economic and institutions reforms as part of the vision, and has a leading role in cooperation with various ministries to establish the first “National Economic Strategy” as a roadmap to achieve this vision.

He said that Bahrain established Tamkeen in August, 2006, as one of initial projects for national reforms and the Economic Vision 2030, which was responsible for developing the sector and enable it to be a key component in boosting the economy.

Tamkeen aims at bolstering the process of establishing and developing institutions and provide support to boost productivity and growth among individuals and establishments.

He said there were also other programmes aimed at achieving these two objectives, which were established following extensive studies to establish the shortfalls in the labour market among individuals and establishments, and the means of resolving them.

The Minister of State pointed out that Tamkeen pumped more than BD166 million in December 2011 in the Bahraini private sector through its various programmes, benefiting more than 100,000 of individuals and establishments.

He said that the financing capabilities of Tamkeen reached more than BD166m, enabling more than 3,000 citizens to find suitable jobs and supporting more than 1,000 establishments to take part in prestigious trade exhibitions in Bahrain and abroad.

The bureau aims at launching more than 20 new initiatives, varying from training to human resources development programmes, either for students, employees, businessmen or job seekers.

This is in addition to other programmes that boost the productivity of individuals and establishments by integrating the culture of the means to succeed in the private sector and others aimed at developing the performance of establishments, in addition to financing programmes and other national projects to promote investment in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The Minister of State expressed his thanks and appreciation to the government and people of Tunisia for the hospitality and the honour of Bahrain to chair the 28th session of the ESCWA.

He affirmed the important role of the commission in encouraging economic and social development in countries in the region as well as bolstering cooperation for comprehensive development.

He stressed the importance of the case of small and medium establishments, including its development and encouraging further creativity and innovation, which will result in bolstering growth and investment as well as encourage the youth in this regard.

This, at the end, will result in creating further job opportunities, reduce unemployment rates, increase incomes, combat poverty and improve standards of living, he said.

Back to top

Malaysia seeks to boost trade with China

Monday 15 Sep 2014 – Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – Malaysia and China signed a cooperative deal on twinning of the Malaysian port of Kuantan with the Chinese port Guangzhou, to boost trade cooperation between the two countries.

The Malaysian Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry, Guangxi Zhuan, who is currently visiting China, said the agreement aimed at boosting the bilateral trade to US$160 billion by 2017.

The minister made these remarks following a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Lee Chi Leong and signing cooperative deal, reported Malaysian news agency, Bernama.

It is noteworthy that Malaysia is a major exporter of rubber, palm oil, crude oil and gas, and electronic components to China.

Back to top

Chinese Ningxia Muslims to perform Haj for the first time

Jeddah, Tuesday, 21Dhul Qaada 1435/ 16 September 2014 (IINA) – Minister of Haj Bandar Hajjar held a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador Mustafa Yang Djibo at his office on Sunday to discuss the arrangements for Haj pilgrims from China.

This year, an estimated 14,000 Chinese pilgrims will be performing the annual pilgrimage. Haj Ministry sources said that the Chinese envoy shared the operation plan with Hajjar and also thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for extending Haj services to the pilgrims. Additionally, Djibo hailed the ministry’s efforts in ensuring the comfort of the pilgrims, ministry sources added.

For the first time, Chinese pilgrims from Ningxia, an autonomous region will be performing the Haj this year. The first flight with 297 pilgrims from Ningxia arrived in Jeddah on Saturday. A total of 2,833 pilgrims are scheduled to arrive from this part of China.

Some pilgrims expressed joy at being able to perform the pilgrimage noting that their parents had been unable to do so owing to the restrictions in the past, Chinese media said. Around half of China’s 20 million Muslims live in Ningxia, where the people identify their ethnic group as Hui, a recognized minority in China. Unlike the Uighur Muslims in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, otherwise known as East Turkestan, where the Muslims are largely of a Turkic ethnic background, the Hui population is a Sinitic race that has accepted Islam.

Back to top

Riyadh museum displays 30,000 pre-Islamic currencies

Riyadh, Wednesday, 22 Dhul Qaada 1435/ 17 September 2014 (IINA) – A museum in Riyadh has 30,000 currencies dating back to the pre-Islamic era, including notes and coins in stone, silver and gold — the largest such collection in the country.

The Dyar Al-Ezz Museum in Al-Muzahmiyya, 40 km west of Riyadh, has been licensed by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). It also has a large collection of other antiquities, including more than 60,000 stamps. Saeed Al-Ghamdi, the owner of the museum, said he is expanding the building to double its current size. The museum welcomes students, charities and Qur’an memorization societies in the mornings. In the evenings, the doors are open to tourists and delegations. He said the 460-square-meter museum has hosted delegations from several countries and participated in many events and festivals in cooperation with the Riyadh municipality.

Last month, more than 350,000 tourists visited. The museum is preparing to participate in the upcoming Saudi National Day celebrations. The museum is divided into three halls. The first one, of 340 square meters, contains the currencies in stone, gold, silver and copper, some of which are rare and date back to the pre-Islamic era. It also contains Islamic currencies from the 14th century, in addition to many from the GCC states and elsewhere. The second hall is named “The Good Old Simple Days,” over an area of 70 square meters. It contains old cooking, eating and drinking vessels, pottery, pieces made from animal skin, arms and some ancient home devices and appliances. The third hall, covering an area of 50 square meters, has stamps and old publications.

It contains a collection of more than 60,000 stamps, documents, magazines and rare photos.

The SCTA plans to develop the museum into one of Riyadh’s most prominent tourist sites, in coordination with tour operators. The SCTA has been developing several private museums in the country to preserve the Kingdom’s heritage. It recently organized the first-ever forum for private museum owners with the faculty of tourism and antiquities at King Saud University. Riyadh region is rich in historic and heritage landmarks. Its museums were developed and equipped to contain items representing the ancient civilization of the Arabian Peninsula.

Back to top

Maldives to launch upgraded ferries in 2015

Sun.mv – September 10, 2014 – Maldives Transporting and Contracting Company (MTCC) has said that ferries with improved ventilation and speed, for operation between Male’ and Hulhumale’, will be introduced mid-next year. General Manager of MTCC Ismail Adhuham said this in an interview to Sun Online today.

“The vessels we use were not built for the purpose of operation as ferries. The problems we face now can be solved by designing vessels to be used as ferries. Several such designs have now been finalised,” said Adhuham.

He said that the new ferries introduced next year will not only have improved speed and ventilation, but also increased capacity.

“We will not introduce all the new ferries at once, instead, there will be about a two-month gap between each new ferry. Since they are new designs, we have to obtain feedback to improve them even further,” he said.

He noted the increase in complaints regarding the standard of ferry services, and said that one reason for this is that this service is provided at a loss by MTCC.

He explained that this is because the land given to the company by the government to cover this loss, has not been handed over by the City Council.

Recently, Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) expressed interest in introducing ferry services between Male’ and Hulhumale’. MTCC has declined to comment on this matter.

Back to top

MoU on Male’-Hulhule’ bridge project signed with China

Sun.mv – September 15, 2014 – The governments of Maldives and China have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding the Male’-Hulhule’ bridge construction project.

The ‘MoU on Promoting the Construction of the Male-Hulhule’ Bridge Project’ was signed by Minister of Tourism of Maldives Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor, and Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng, at a ceremony at the President’s Office today.

A total of nine agreements were signed between the two governments today.

The ‘MoU on Strengthening the Cooperation’ was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives Dunya Maumoon, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China Wang Yi.

The ‘MoU on Establishing the Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation’ was signed by Minister of Economic Development of Maldives Mohamed Saeed, and Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng.

The ‘MoU on Marine Cooperation’ was signed by Minister of Environment and Energy Thoriq Ibrahim, and Administrator of the State Oceanic Administration of China Liu Cigui.

The ‘MoU on Health Cooperation’ was signed by Acting Minister of Health, Minister of Defence and National Security of Maldives Colonel Retired Mohamed Nazim, and Wang Fukang, Ambassador of China to the Maldives.

The ‘MoU on the Establishment of a Joint Meeting Mechanism to Deal with the Issue of Safety of Chinese Tourists in the Maldives’ was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon, and Wang Fukang, Ambassador of China to the Maldives.

The ‘MoU on the Tourism Infrastructure Development Project’ was signed by Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor, and Mo Wenhe, Chairman of China Harbour Engineering Company Limited.

The ‘Preliminary Contract Agreement Expansion and Upgrading of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport’ was signed by Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited Ibrahim Saleem, and Li Daosong, General Manager of the Overseas Business Department of Beijing Urban Construction Group Company Limited.

Finally, the ‘MoU on the Greater Male’ Power Station Project’ was signed by Abdul Shakoor Solih, Managing Director of STELCO, and Ho Xiatun, Executive Vice President of Sino-Hydrop Corporation Limited.

Back to top

Maldives participates in International Russian Travel Market

Sun.mv – September 16, 2014 – Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has participated in the International Russian Travel Market, OTDYKH 2014. Secretary General of MATATO Ibrahim Munaz told Sun Online that eight parties, including resorts and local travel agencies, will be co-exhibiting with MATATO at OTDYKH, organised by Euroexpo.

He said that the main purpose of participating in this fair is to seek opportunities for the local tourism sector and travel entrepreneurs.

MATATO said on its website that according to an independent survey, OTDYKH Leisure is the number one platform in Russia to conclude business in the travel and tourism sector, and four days at OTDYKH Leisure will allow the participants to access one of the fastest-growing tourism markets in the world with over 19 million outbound travellers per year, and use the professional atmosphere to meet decision-makers and establish face-to-face contacts and business relations with local partners from all over Russia and the CIS.

MATATO said that the exhibitors will benefit from extensive PR and marketing campaign on major Russian TV, radio and in print media. The fair will take place in Moscow from 16 to 19 September.

Back to top

IUCN to hold marine festival in Maldives

Sun.mv – September 17, 2014 – The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has decided to hold a marine festival in the Maldives, to increase awareness on marine environmental issues.

The “Moodhu Maakan’du Fest 14”, organised by the IUCN in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, and Alifu-Alifu Atoll Council, will be held in Alifu-Alifu Mathiveri on Saturday.

IUCN said that from now on, the festival will be held in Alifu-Alifu Atoll every year.

The festival is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under Project Regenerate, which deals with strengthening efforts to protect coral reefs from the effects of climate change.

IUCN said that courses on snorkelling and swimming, and the chance to experience scuba diving will be offered at the festival.

The festival area will have a stall by the Maldives National University (MNU) to provide information on higher education opportunities in environment studies, while the Maldivian Red Crescent (MRC) will offer a First Aid Training Program, said IUCN.

With more than 200 member countries, IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network. The organisation has had a presence in the Maldives since 1985.

Back to top

Gifts to Ottoman sultan go on display

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News – 19/09/2014 – Boasting artifacts from all over the world, a new exhibition has opened in Istanbul showcasing the gifts received Sultan Abdülhamit II, one of the most controversial figures in the late Ottoman Empire.

The “Enthronement Gifts” collection at Istanbul’s Yıldız Palace Museum features 18 valuable gifts that were sent to the sultan on his 25th silver jubilee in 1901.

The exhibition, opened in the Kaskat Mansion inside the palace, tells the story of enthronement gifts in an epic way and also sheds light on an important era in the Ottoman era.

HDN Speaking at the opening ceremony, Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said such exhibitions also had a political dimension, as well as artistic and cultural dimensions. “It gives us an opportunity to refresh our memory.”

While Abdülhamit is often remembered as a paranoid tyrant that resorted to pan-Islamism in a bid to provide an ideological underpinning to the declining empire, as well as a ruler who presided over militias known as the Hamidiye that massacred hundreds of thousands of Armenians and attempted to forcibly Sunnize communities like the Alevis, he has been defended by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), an ideological successor to his policies.

“According to some, he was a sultan to be criticized because of his politics and though administration,” Çelik said. “But according to some, he was a statesman with foresight due to his movements in defense, law, education, culture, public works and foreign policy. But something that is overlooked is that Abdülhamit II acceded to the throne during the hardest days of the Ottoman Empire when its land was being (encroached upon) by all regional powers. This is why he should be evaluated considering the conditions of his time. He was a significant statesman who got the empire to survive.”

HDN The minister said Abdülhamit had conducted many activities not only in Anatolia but also in Damascus and Tripoli. “He had a clear attitude toward unsolved problems in foreign policies. When the World Zionist Organization assured him of wiping out all the debts of the Ottoman Empire in return for the Palestinian land, the sultan replied, saying: ‘I won’t sell even a piece of the homeland. This homeland belongs to my nation, not to me. This land was taken by shedding blood and can (only) be given in the same way.’”

One of the attendees of the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s wife, Sare Davutoğlu, said the gifts sent to the sultan showed the power of an empire even at a time of dissolution.

She said the sultan was also known for his reconstruction activities in Istanbul and other parts of the empire.

“Many buildings, including the Sirkeci and Haydarpaşa train stations and the Darülaceze (almshouse) reminds us of Sultan Abdülhamit every day we pass by. The other buildings built in various places such as schools, hospitals, government office and others show us his vision,” she said.

Haydarpaşa is currently at the center of a wrangle in which developers are attempting to convert the train station into a hotel as part of a larger, insatiable drive to maximize profits from Istanbul’s valuable real estate.

The exhibition of Enthronement Gifts will continue through Oct. 17.

Back to top

Excavations in Patara end with surprising discoveries

ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency – 18/09/2014 – This year’s archaeological excavations in the ancient city of Patara, located in the southern province of Antalya’s Kaş, have ended. Among the findings this year were the statuette of the goddess Asteria and a seal owned by the Egyptian king Ptolemares and his wife Arsinoe.

The excavations in the ancient city of Patara, one of the six big cities of the Lycia Union, have been continuing for 26 years. This year 30 academics, five archaeologists, 14 archaeology students and 20 laborers worked for 2.5 months in the ancient city.

In addition to the goddess statuette and the seal, a Lydian coin dating back to 610-570 B.C. and a figurine from 3,000 B.C. were unearthed this year in the area.

Head of the excavations Professor Havva İşkan Işık said they had worked in three areas, including the Tepecik Acropol, Port Bath and Great Basilica. “Among the findings, the figurine, from 3,000 B.C., the early Bronze Age, made us the happiest. It gave us clear information about the history of Lycia,” she said.

As for the coin, the professor said, “This is one of the secondary emission coins printed right after the first coin in history. It is the earliest coin discovered in the Lycia area. There was also a road guide monument that we found many years ago. It shows the distance between all of the cities of Lycia. A milestone of this monument is also among this year’s findings.”

Back to top

Mount Nemrut promoted with phone apps

ADIYAMAN – Anadolu Agency – 19/09/2014 – Mount Nemrut, a world-heritage site in Turkey’s southeastern province of Adıyaman, will now be promoted in the virtual environment with new Android applications.

According to a statement made by the Adıyaman Governor’s Office, the apps called the “Mount Nemrut Interactive Simulation,” “Antiochos Talking,” and “The Lost Treasures of the Komagene Kingdom” are now accessible on the Internet.

Adıyaman Gov. Mahmut Demirtaş said they had created a professional promotion portal to show the city’s natural, cultural and historical values. “To make the portal, we took visuals from various historical and touristic places using various shooting techniques. We will promote these apps in social environments,” he said.

Back to top

Aga Khan Museum brings artistic riches to Toronto

TORONTO – Hurriyet Daily News – 18/09/2014 – The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which is dedicated to presenting an overview of the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage, is opening its doors to the public today, becoming the first of its kind in North America.

Bankrolled by Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, the museum features rare scriptures of the Quran from the seventh and eighth centuries.

At a preview last week, a piece of carved marble from 10th-century Spain was among the works that sparked particular interest.

There are fine collections of Islamic art in museums throughout Canada and the United States, but this is the first devoted entirely to such works when it welcomes visitors.

The museum’s permanent collection of over 1,000 objects includes masterpieces that reflect a broad range of artistic styles and materials. The portraits, textiles, miniatures, manuscripts, ceramics, tiles, medical texts, books and musical instruments represent more than 10 centuries of human history and a geographic area stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to China.

Designed by architect Fumihiko Maki, the museum shares a nearly 60,000-square-meter site with Toronto’s Ismaili Center, which was designed by architect Charles Correa. The surrounding landscaped park, designed by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic, provides an exciting new green space for the city of Toronto.

“One of the lessons we have learned in recent years is that the world of Islam and the Western world need to work together much more effectively at building mutual understanding , especially as these cultures interact and intermingle more actively,” said the Aga Khan. “We hope that this museum will contribute to a better understanding of the peoples of Islam in all of their religious, ethnic, linguistic and social diversity.”

From their earliest origins, Muslim civilizations have been characterized by a remarkable diversity of geographies, languages, and cultures. Toronto – and Canada more generally – is internationally recognized for embracing such diversity. The city therefore provides an ideal home for an institution that strives to promote mutual understanding, respect and tolerance among the world’s cultures.

“The Aga Khan Museum has an international outlook,” said Henry Kim, director of the museum. “Home to a collection of astonishingly beautiful works of art, it will showcase the artistic creativity and achievements of Muslim civilizations from Spain to China. I think local and international visitors will be greatly surprised when they discover just how much the arts of Muslim civilizations are a part of our shared global cultural heritage.”

The museum also plans to host traveling exhibitions, concerts, as well as international conferences and seminars. “Canada is a model and global hub of diversity, ethnicity and inter-mingling cultures, so Toronto became the natural choice for us to set up a modern cultural center showcasing Muslim civilizations,” said Luis Monreal, head of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Since 2007, over 1 million people have experienced the splendor of the Aga Khan Museum Collection.

Many museums around the world, including the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul, the Louvre in Paris, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore have all hosted temporary exhibitions of major works of art from the Aga Khan Museum Collection.

The Aga Khan Museum has been established and developed by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture focuses on the physical, social, cultural and economic revitalization of communities in the developing world, but some of its programs, including the museum, span both the developed and developing worlds.

Back to top

Kyrgyzstan seeks to unite Central Asian artisans

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-09-16 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan’s several thousand artisans are trying to expand their industry and build ties to counterparts elsewhere in Central Asia.

A helpful partner is the Bishkek Business Club (BDK), which is working – with EU support – to foster the handicraft industry. In January, the BDK and EU launched a two-year-long project to support the industry, called “Handicraft and Business through Regional Integration and Fair Trade Market.”

“The project budget is €587,000 (41m KGS),” BDK project manager Elvira Karipova said. “Its goal is to develop the handicraft industry in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. … The project covers practically all forms of handicrafts and supports artisans, especially in rural areas. They don’t have access to a large market, they don’t have the internet and they don’t know how to advertise their products, but they have talent.”

“We want to help more than 200 artisans and publish information about them online,” she said.

Having worked on ideas since January, the BDK has developed recommendations for legal reforms to help artisans, Karipova said.

“We’ve met with artisans and received recommendations from them,” she said. “A huge problem for them is that they can’t export their crafts because there’s no (customs) classification for handicrafts. We’re working on that right now.”

As part of the “Handicraft and Business through Regional Integration and Fair Trade Market” project, Tajik masters of ceramic, wood and felt handicrafts and jewelry making came to Kyrgyzstan for a two-week, two-part workshop starting July 21, Central Asia Invest said in a statement. The first week took part in Bishkek and the second in Cholpon-Ata on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.

The Tajiks spent the first week working with four Kyrgyz masters and an Italian designer on creating “new products reflecting the best of Tajik and Kyrgyz traditional techniques, re-elaborated through the lens of European modern design,” Central Asia Invest said. During the second week, they sold their creations at the Oimo Handicraft Fair in Cholpon-Ata.

“The visit was quite useful for Tajik artisans,” Karipova said. “Our masters worked with felt so well that they made the odour disappear … (they) weren’t shy about sharing their secrets with their Tajik colleagues.”

At the Oimo fair, the Tajiks sold their wares alongside Central Asian and Afghan counterparts.

“Many craftspeople made new contacts at the fair, opened up opportunities for future sales and sold a lot of merchandise,” Karipova said. “We’re heading toward establishing joint handicraft enterprises among the Central Asian countries.”

Handicrafts have proven to be a lucrative career, Jumagul Tashiyev, a potter from Bishkek and participant in the BDK-EU project, said.

“I make vases, dishes, souvenirs and jewelry from clay,” he said. “Customers flock to buy them. I get the raw materials in Ivanovka, Chui Oblast, and then I mix them up on the clay mixer in my studio and pass them through the sieve by hand and pour them into the mold.”

“My wife and children work with me,” he said. “If we didn’t have handicrafts, I don’t know how we’d live. I raised and educated all three of my children thanks to handicrafts. … That’s all I need for a good life.”

Another BDK-EU project participant, Sukhrob Saidov, a potter from Tajikistan, attributed his skills to ancestors who passed them down generation to generation starting in the 19th century.

“Starting everything by yourself means being an artist, technician and mathematician,” he said. “It’s different at a factory, where you do just one thing. … (As a craftsman), you draw the sketch yourself, calculate the kiln temperature yourself, knead the clay and find the raw materials. … I need to keep on applying my skill and pass it on to my children.”

Back to top

Brunei, China Ink MoU to Promote Halal Food Industry

Friday, 19 September 2014 BruDirect.com – Bandar Seri Begawan: The Halal Industry and Bio Industry are among the sectors identified for expansion in the Government’s effort to diversify the economy. Development of the two industries will not only contribute to the nation’s gross domestic product but also create job opportunities to Bruneians.

In this regards, the Government of His Majesty the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam makes a new commitment towards the Implementation of the Brunei Bio-Innovation Corridor (BIC) by partnering the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of People’s Republic of China and Chile.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Government of His Majesty the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and the Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomus Region of People’s Republic of China to explore opportunities in creating a new supply chain linking Brunei Darussalam and the Guangxi.

Signing on behalf of the His Majesty’s government was the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Dyg Hjh Normah Suria Hayati Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Hj Awg Md Jamil Al-Sufri while the Guangxi was represented by its Deputy Governor, Zhang Xiaoqin.

The signing ceremony took place at Marriot Hotel in Nanning and was witnessed by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar and the Governor of Guangxi, Chen Wu.

In addition to the interests from Japan, Korea and Europe, new initiatives are established with a number of countries in South America who are interested in exporting Halal Certified Food into the Chinese Market. Brunei Darussalam is well positioned to bridging the gap between Europe, South America and China.

Back to top

Bangladesh PM assures completing Padma Bridge by 2018

TUNGIPARA, Gopalganj, Sept 19, 2014 (BSS)- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today assured completing the construction of the Padma Bridge by 2018 saying the bridge would be a reality during the tenure of her present government.

“River training and construction work of the main Padma Bridge will begin at the same time and construction work of the dream project would be completed by 2018,” she said.

The Prime Minister was addressing a civic rally after inauguration of a number of projects. She arrived here this morning in a day-long visit. Gopalganj district administration arranged the rally.

Earlier, the Prime Minister inaugurated power connection for 12,000 families of 55 villages under Tungipara and Kotalipara upazilas, Tungipara 5-KVA Power Sub-Station and 30-kilowatt solar panel at Tungipara Upazila Parishad Building.

She also inaugurated a 39-meter Guarder Bridge on Razapur Kheyaghat-Jaharerkandi Road, a 17- meter RCC Guarder Bridge on Purba Latenga -Pashchim Latenga Road and a 30.05-meter Guarder Bridge on Bandhabari Union Parishad-Bhai Bhai Bazar Road under Kotalipara upazila and Tungipara Upazila Sonali Bank Bhaban.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said country’s southern part had been neglected for a long time. Her government has taken pragmatic initiative for development of the region.

In this regard she pointed out about construction of the Paira Bandar, a naval base and establishing a division of Bangladesh Army in the southern part.

Sheikh Hasina said her government has taken steps for creating residential facilities for rural areas alongside constructing flats for urban people. Gradually residential flats would be constructed in every union, she said adding there would have no thatched house in the country.

The Prime Minister assured that the government would construct houses for those people who lost their houses in recent flood.

She said around one crore people have got job during her present tenure. “Besides, 24 lakh people have gone abroad with job after taking training on different trades,” she added.

“We are working round the clock for changing the lots of the people and materializing the dream of Bangabandhu to build a happy and prosperous nation,” Sheikh Hasina said adding she is ready to make any sacrifice for the cause of the people.

Reiterating her party’s election commitment to reach electricity to every house, she said her government has initiated a massive programme to materialize the vision. Under the programme, she said nuclear power plant is being constructed and projects were taken for generation of power from coal, biogas and 30 lakh solar panel.

Back to top

Try Bangladesh, local & foreign investors urged

DHAKA, Sept 18, 2014 (BSS) – An environment-friendly atmosphere is now prevailing in Bangladesh but it has to work more to improve it further along with ensuring availability of power, gas and other infrastructure facilities.

The country’s leading businesspeople and top government officials came up with such a suggestion during a session of the International Investment Forum, held at a city hotel yesterday.

Board of Investment (BoI) chairman Dr SA Samad presided over the session where Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman, MCCI president Rokeya A Rahman, BUILT Chairman Asif Ibrahim, EPB Vice-Chairman Subhashis Bose and Rajib Kumar, among others, took part in the discussion.

BoI executive member Delip Kumar Das presented the keynote speech. SA Samad said an investment-friendly environment is prevailing in the country and anyone can invest here without any hassles. All investment-related works, including company registration, can be done online, he added.

About energy, power and infrastructure, he said the government has made huge investment in these sectors over the last few years and the situation is improving gradually. He urged businesspeople to invest in power sector.

In his speech, Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman said infrastructure sector, including gas and electricity generation, roads, highways and bridges, hotels and other tourism facilities, tertiary healthcare hospitals, developing land, sea, and airport facilities, LNG storage terminals and other physical infrastructures, and manufacturing of solar PV panels are major opportunities for foreign investors in Bangladesh.

Manufacturing for Bangladesh’s own large domestic market with a sizeable middle-class population would also be attractive for international entrepreneurs, he added.

“As the chairman of Foreign Loan Scrutiny Committee of BOI and also governor of Bangladesh Bank, I would like to reassure the foreign investors with our highest level of commitment to facilitate prompt decisions in collaboration with other ministries and agencies including BOI and NBR in approving foreign private loans and addressing and resolving any related issues promptly as and when it arises, he added.

“Investors can take advantage of the ample investment opportunities on offer in the dynamically growing Bangladesh economy, in sustained, stable spell of six plus percent annual average real GDP growth for over a decade now,” the governor said.

Back to top

Indonesia, Portugal agree to help Timor Leste development

19 September 2014 Lisbon (ANTARA News) – The governments of Indonesia and Portugal have agreed to cooperate in assisting in the development of Timor Leste.

“We discussed the possibility of cooperation with Portugal, Indonesia and Timor Leste. We can do much to help Timor Leste in the fields of democracy and economy,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said during a joint press conference with Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva at the Portuguese Presidential Palacio de Belem here on Friday.

President Yudhoyono said that with this assistance, Timor Leste, is expected to benefit from the cooperation.

In the meantime, President Silva said Indonesia, Portugal and Timor Leste have good relations. “That can explain how Timor Leste can be assisted in developing its economy,” he said.

The one-hour meeting between the two heads of state included discussions on various matters relating to cooperation, particularly after the two countries normalized relations in 1999.

“I am convinced that with the current visit, we can find cooperation opportunities in the future. I agreed to cooperate in the economic field. We also have potentials to increase cooperation in the maritime and fisheries sectors,” President Yudhoyono said.

President Yudhoyono also touched on the efforts of both nations to increase people-to-people contacts through, among others, cultural and tourism sectors.

“We can also increase cooperation in the people-to-people relations and news agency cooperation. We also agreed to increase cooperation at the ASEAN and European Union levels,” Yudhoyono added.

After the meeting with Silva, Yudhoyono will proceed to the official residence of Prime Minister Coelho for a meeting and lunch reception to honor the Indonesian head of state.

In the afternoon, Yudhoyono will meet Portuguese House Speaker Maria Assuncao Esteves in the Parliament building. Lisbon Mayor Antonio Costa is planning to give the key to Lisbon to Yudhoyono to symbolize the friendship between Portugal and Indonesia.

In the evening, President Silva and First lady Maria Cavaco Silva will host a state banquet for President Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono.

The ongoing state visit to Portugal is the second visit for an Indonesian president, after President Soekarno’s trip in 1960. Indonesia and Portugal established diplomatic relations in 1950.

In 1999, Indonesia and Portugal resumed diplomatic ties after resolving the East Timor issues. East Timor was a Portuguese colony for more than 450 years.

East Timor, which comprised the eastern half of Indonesias island of Timor, located in East Nusa Tenggara Province, merged into Indonesia in 1975.

Later, on August 30, 1999, in a UN-sponsored referendum, a majority of East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. Following a UN-administered transition period, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent nation on May 20, 2002.

The bilateral relations between Portugal and Indonesia have been strengthened during the administration of Yudhoyono and two-way trade between Indonesia and East Timor reached US$200 million.

Back to top

Singapore Airlines targeting eastern Indonesia flight

12 September 2014 Makassar, S Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – SilkAir, a subsidiary company of Singapore Airlines, has targeted the flight market in eastern Indonesia to boost its flights operation.

“The eastern part of Indonesia has a potential market, which we believe will increase in the future,” the Assistant for Sales and Reservations of SilkAir Yumiana stated here on Friday.

Yumiana said SilkAir has been operating in Makassar since 2013.

“Makassar city is the air hub for eastern Indonesian flights, thus the passengers not only come from the city, but also from other areas in eastern Indonesia,” Yumiana pointed out.

According to Yumiana, SilkAir has three flight schedules in a week, with an average 80 percent of the seats occupied. The total number of seats occupied will increase during school holidays.

SilkAir is targeting the middle to higher class groups by offering several services.

“We have offered 30 kilograms of baggage capacity for economy class and 40 kilograms for business class, as well as in-flight meals,” Yumiana noted.

Currently, SilkAir has direct flights operating from Makassar to Singapore and other destinations, such as Beijing, India, and Europe.

“By promoting our brand, in the future, the number of passengers can be increased from Makassar as well as from other cities in eastern Indonesia,” Yumiana added.

Back to top

Indonesia to develop trans-Sumatra toll road

19 September 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Trans-Sumatra Toll Road Development Project will soon commence following the signing of the order by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

“Yesterday (Thursday, September 18), the presidential regulation for the Trans-Sumatra Toll Road Development Project was signed by President SBY. So, PT Hutama Karya could prepare itself for the groundbreaking in the middle of next month,” affirmed State Enterprises (BUMN) Minister Dahlan Iskan here on Friday.

In the presidential regulation, Yudhoyono has assigned PT Hutama Karya as the governments representative to implement the development project.

Dahlan stated that soon after the Perpres (presidential regulation) was passed, he directly urged PT Hutama Karyas board of directors to commence work on the project.

“I think Hutama Karya is ready to start the development of the Trans-Sumatra Toll Road Development Project in line with the results of the meeting with other state-owned construction companies,” he reported.

He remarked that the 2.7 thousand-kilometer Trans-Sumatra Toll Road Project will be carried out based on a “build-sell” scheme in the same manner such projects are executed in China.

“Toll road development in China is very fast because it is based on a “build-sell” pattern. Hutama Karya will adopt the pattern in cooperation with other state-owned companies,” he emphasized.

Dahlan proposed that the pattern can also be combined with a turn-key system wherein each concerned party was bound by a working contract, but the company placing the order will issue payments only after the job is 100 percent complete and approved by it.

With the build-sell scheme, Hutama Karya could thus involve PT Jasa Marga Tbk as a standby buyer of a toll road section to be built.

“The proceeds from selling a section could be used to finance the development of other sections,” Dahlan pointed out.

With regard to construction, he explained that Hutama Karya would cooperate with other state-owned construction companies that have experience and financial capability such as PT Wijaya Karya, PT PP, and PT Adhi Karya.

It was earlier reported that PT Hutama Karya would not receive capital injection worth Rp2 trillion from the government as outlined in the 2015 budget, but it could still be proposed when the revised budget is discussed by the new government later.

President Yudhoyono is scheduled to hand over power to President-elect Joko Widodo on October 20 following the July 9, 2014, presidential election.

The Trans-Sumatra Toll Road Project will be divided into four main and three priority corridors.

The four main corridors are Lampung-Palembang (358 kilometers), Palembang-Pekanbaru (610 kilometers), Pekanbaru-Medan (549 kilometers), and Medan-Banda Aceh (460 kilometers).

Investment for the four corridors is estimated to reach Rp298 trillion. The three priority corridors are Palembang-Bengkulu (303 kilometers), Pekanbaru-Padang (242 kilometers), and Medan-Sibolga (175 kilometers).

Back to top

Monorail train to connect three terminals in Soetta airport

12 September 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Plans are being developed for a monorail train system to connect the terminals at Soekarno-Hatta (Soetta) International Airport, Cengkareng, on the outskirts of Jakarta.

“Sang Dara is a monorail train that will connect three terminals at the Soetta airport,” Darmawan, monorail technician from PT Adhi Karya, said here on Friday.

The monorail system is being developed by three state enterprises – Adhi Karya, National Electronics Institute (LEN), and Indonesias railway industry INKA.

“Sang Dara” will move along rails automatically to connect Terminal 1, Terminal 2, and Terminal 3.

The free monorail train will stop in each terminal as it travels along a three-kilometer route. “Sang Dara” will operate from 5 am until 11 pm every day, unless special flight schedules call for the train to continue to operate.

Construction work for the monorail train will begin in late 2014 and take two years to finish, said officials.

Back to top

Nigeria: Med-View Begins Flight Operations to Dubai

Daily Independent – 19/09/2014 – The Managing Director, Med-View Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, has disclosed that the airline will commence flight operations to Dubai in November 22 and fly to Jeddah in January 2015.

He said this in an interview in Accra shortly after Med-View airline commenced scheduled flight operations to Kotoka International Airport on Monday.

Bankole explained that the regional airline will commence Dubai route on November 22, 2014, bringing to two the number of Nigerian carriers operating into the route and that the airline will also start the Jeddah route would starts in January 2015.

The planned commencement of the Dubai route will be coming barely 40 days after it started operation to Accra with a Boeing 737-500 series

Recalled that Arik Air, one of Nigeria’s carriers had over a month ago commenced a three-time weekly flight to Dubai from the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMIA), Lagos.

He said, “We are commencing with Dubai on the 22, November. You can write it down. Then, Jeddah, January 10, 2015. It is done already. All are open, certificated and approved and after that, we are going to stop for six months before we take any leg again. It is not easy to run this business, but we assure our passengers that we will do it well for them.”

He also appealed to the government to create more comfortable environments to all operators in Nigeria especially in the area of Jet A1, which he noted had been on the high side over the years.

On how the airline hope to sustain operations on that route considering the stiff competition on route, he said that Med- View is ready for the fair competition, adding that when the airline starts the Lagos -Dubai route passengers can be in Accra and board to Dubai.

Back to top

Nigeria Tourism Corp Pledges Support for Yabatech Tourism Village

Daily Independent – 18/09/2014 – The Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) has thrown its weight behind the move by the management of Yaba College of Technology, Lagos to establish a Tourism Village in Epe, Lagos State.

Director General of NTDC, Chief Dr (Mrs) Sally Mbanefo, while addressing the five-man delegation from the foremost college of technology in Nigeria, commended the initiative of the institution to establish a tourism village, which according to her, will enhance better and practical understanding of the course in the institution.

“This is a good development in the educational sector. We need to accord good attention to the study of tourism, not only in tertiary institutions, but right from the primary schools.

“To ensure true and rapid development and promotion of tourism in Nigeria, with domestic tourism as a catalyst, we must consciously infuse tourism interest in the minds of young ones, right from their primary school days.

“We will intensify efforts at incorporating tourism in the academic curriculum in Nigeria. We will achieve this in collaboration with the Ministry of Education,” Dr Mbanefo disclosed.

The NTDC boss who stressed the need to educate young ones in Nigeria on tourism, culture and tradition revealed that domestic tourism development and promotion are keys to a sustainable wealth and job creation, integration of culture and encouragement of unity in Nigeria.

“I am passionately promoting domestic tourism to empower local government at the grassroots level, create jobs at local governments, reduce urban migration, encourage integration of culture within Nigeria and to encourage unity,” Dr Mbanefo added.

She charged the management of the institution to ensure that practical is given high priority over theory during the course of study of the students.

Hon. Philip Olabode Aivoji, member of the Governing Council of the institution, who led the five-man delegation, earlier in his speech, commended the efforts and activities of the NTDC boss, which according to him, are geared towards true and lasting development of tourism in Nigeria.

Hon Aivoji said: “We believe in Dr Mbanefo’s domestic tourism initiative as a viable catalyst to national development, creation of wealth and job, especially at the grassroot levels, and we have been busy instilling it into our students. Studying tourism guarantees self-reliance. This is because you can stand on your own, becoming a tour guide, for instance.”

The Head of Department of Leisure and Tourism Department of the institution, Mr Okunlola Gabriel, who corroborated Hon Aivohi’s submission, disclosed that the school management wanted to expand the department and move it to the permanent site in Epe, Lagos State.

Department of Leisure and Tourism of Yaba College of Technology according to the HOD was created in 2007.

“We plan to promote Nigeria’s local dishes, hence we made it part of our curricular,” Okunlola said.

Ensuring timely actualisation of the establishment of the Tourism Village, Dr Mbanefo set up a planning committee, which comprise of directors, deputy directors and members of the delegation from the institution.

Back to top

Nigeria: Tourism, Other Sectors Get N41.6 Billion World Bank/DFID Funds

Daily Independent – 18/09/2014 – This certainly a good news for stakeholders in the tourism and other non-oil sectors in Nigeria, as these sectors have been provided with $260 million or N41.600 billion by the World Bank and United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) to boost production and creation of jobs through capacity building in the country.

The jobs, which will be created across six non-oil sectors of the economy, will come under the Growth and Employment in State (GEMS) project over the next five years (2013-2018).

Based on a growth and employment study, six industries were identified for intervention in order to improve the value chain, create wealth and reduce poverty. The non-oil sectors include include Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Entertainment, Wholesale and Retail, Construction and Real Estate, Hospitality and Tourism, and Meat and Leather.

This came with the recent tour of the six geo-political zones to sensitise stakeholders and prospective beneficiaries on how to access the grant/fund.

The World Bank and DFID released $160 million and $100 million respectively to support and scale up the activities of investors in the non-oil sector through capacity building.

The sensitisation, which came to Ibadan penultimate week at the Premier Hotel, Ibadan, attracted selected audience that cut across the Tourism, Hospitality and the Light Manufacturing Agro Processing Sector.

The initiative, which is powered by the Growth and Employment in States (GEMS) is an employment project supported by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment (FMTI) and funded by the World Bank and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The project is aimed at job creation and increased non-oil growth in specific high potential value chain sectors.

Speaking during a workshop on GEM road map for Hospitality/Tourism and Light Manufacturing/Agro Processing Sector clusters in Ibadan, GEMS Project Coordinator, Alhaji Yunusa Labaran, who represented the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Abdulkadir Musa said the employment project was formulated by the ministry and supported by World Bank and the DFID.

Labaran who spoke on the objective, approach and process of the World Bank /DFID funded project for the non-oil sector, said the choice of Ibadan, which was not originally in the list of zones for the workshop, was a calculated attempt to reach more stakeholders concentrated in the city.

According to Labaran, “The World Bank has provided $160 million concessionary loans and the DFID $100 million as grant for the implementation of the project in Nigeria.”

The funding support from the World Bank and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for Nigeria is expected to generate thousands of jobs across the country.

“The project, which had started running since June last year and will expire September 2018, is aimed at creating jobs and increasing non-oil sector growth in specific high-potential value chain sectors.”

He also said the project identified entertainment industry, ICT, hospitality and tourism; meat and leather, light manufacturing and agro processing; construction/real estate as well as wholesale and retail, as eight sectors based on their growth and employment potential the project will address.

“To address gaps that prevent key growth centres from expanding and hiring more Nigerians; to provide technical assistance and linkage services to small producers in the eight sectors to enable them to supply local and global supermarket chains.

“The project is also aimed at improving the business enabling environment so that the businesses can grow faster, and become more profitable.”

Responding to question from the stakeholders on the fear that the funds may be difficult to access, Alhaji Labaran assured all and sundry of the team’s resolve to make the funds available to everyone provided did not run foul of the laid down procedure for accessing the loan and grant provided by the World Bank and DFID respectively.

According to him, “Every beneficiary must fulfil the required framework of accessing the fund through close monitoring and supervising of projects.

There must be something concrete in terms of individual efforts to show that the clusters representing the different component of the non-oil sector are genuine.

The resource person for the Hospitality and Tourism for the GEMS, Mr Abiodun Odusanwo, highlighted the need for tourism stakeholders to form a formidable platform that will provide the opportunity for their various clusters to benefit from the World Bank/DFID funded projects.

“The project will provide for investments to address gaps that prevent key growth centres from expanding and hiring more Nigerians, in particular the young and poor.

He added that it will support small and medium enterprises develop new business models, train the labour force to enable Nigerian businesses to participate more successfully in national and global supply chains, create more value in Nigeria, and employ more Nigerians, improve the business-enabling environment so that businesses can grow faster and become more profitable.

For Mr Olusola Ajayi, also a specialist handling the Light Manufacturing/Agro processing sector, who gave an overview of the sector under his portfolio beckoned on players to make use of the opportunity not only to boost productive and growth of their businesses but also to create sustainable jobs for others.

“This is an opportunity for the non-oil sector to make a difference as improving the investment climate through economic diversification for overall competitiveness.”

Back to top

Nigeria to Develop Tourism Potential of Multi-Purpose Dam

Government of Nigeria – 17/09/2014 – The Federal Government is set to develop the tourism potentials of the multipurpose Kashimbila Dam in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba state by setting up a Project Delivery Team of Kashimbila Resort Project.

The Inter-Ministerial committee of the Project Delivery Team is made up of the officials of the Federal Ministries of Water Resources, Niger Delta Affairs, Mines and Steel Development and Tourism Culture and the National Orientation Agency. The Committee is charged with the responsibility of carrying out the feasibility study of the dam in order to explore its tourism potentials.

The chairman of the Committee who is also the Director of Dams and Reservoir Operations of the Ministry of Water Resources, Engr. Reginald Ikpeawujo stated that the Kashimbila dam which was started in 2010 and which is to be completed before the end of 2014 has hydropower component of about 40 megawatts, irrigation potentials of about 2000 hectares of land and a capacity to contain 500 million cubic meter of water.

Conducting the team round the Project facilities over the weekend, Engr. Reginald Ikpeawujo stated that because of the multi-purpose nature of the dam, it is ideal for other uses apart from hydropower generation and irrigation. “The dam should be able to combine modern projects and ecotourism which include nature scenery, conferencing and creation”, he explained.

Briefing members of the Committee, the Project Manager of the construction company SCC Nig. Ltd, Engr. Micheal Rolben said that the proposed Kashimbila Resort Project when completed would include, Visitors’ Center for ticketing, exhibition gallery and gallery of arts and crafts. Also, it would have a mini theater attached to the visitors ‘center, an Eco-lodge accommodation system and Ecotourism encompassing natural landmarks ,man -made attractions, fishing/boating, camping, horse riding and bird viewing amongst others.

He added that the dam was constructed to check and control the amount of water that could come from Lake Nyos in Cameroon incase it breaks up.

Back to top

War gives inspiration to Gaza’s artists

AP, Thursday 11 Sep 2014 – Palestinian filmmaker Khalil Mozayen’s latest work was already complexly layered — a movie within a movie about a director and screenwriter producing a film about an honor killing in the Gaza Strip.

Then the latest Gaza war burst in to add yet another layer: An Israeli airstrike levelled the 13-story apartment tower where Mozayen’s office, studio and archive were located. So he filmed the mountain of rubble and used it for the final scene of his movie, “Sarah 2014.”

Mozayen had hoped to create a film not connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he and his screenwriter Naim al-Khatib said they decided they couldn’t avoid addressing the war.

“It is like, as a Palestinian, you don’t have the right to have your own dream, that everything in your life has to have something to do with war and (Israeli) occupation,” said al-Khatib, who also plays the fictional screenwriter in the movie.

“The occupation crashed our privacy … and the war became an integral part of the film’s ending,” he said.

The themes and reality of war impose themselves on Gaza’s small but vibrant arts scene, and the latest war has been a powerful inspiration for its artists in their new work.

The 50 days of fighting, which ended with an indefinite truce on Aug. 26, was the deadliest and most ruinous of three such conflicts between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers since late 2008. More than 2,143 Palestinians were killed and 100,000 left homeless.

The artists also incorporate the death and destruction into themes drawn from the other realities of life in the tiny Mediterranean coastal strip — a seven-year blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt and the restrictions on freedoms imposed by Hamas on a society that is already deeply conservative.

Manal Miqdad, a 27-year-old poet, has lived through all those restrictions.

She wanted to study music, but there was no place to teach her that, so she joined the information technology department in the Hamas-run Islamic University, where a flowing robe and a headscarf are obligatory for women.

When she fell in love with a colleague and a fellow music buff, she could not be alone with him except on a handful of occasions. Once, plainclothes Hamas security men stopped the couple as they walked together, demanding to know if they were married or related.

After seeing each other for four years, his family prevented them from marrying. His mother, a native of Gaza, objected to her son marrying into a “refugee” family. Miqdad’s family hails from the village of Hamamah, now in Israel, just outside Gaza.

Thrown into depression, Miqdad said she didn’t leave her home for 243 days and attempted suicide twice. Her boyfriend eventually left Gaza.

“You cannot love in Gaza, it’s a crime,” she lamented.

She recalled how during the Israeli war on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, her family fled their home and discovered when they returned that Hamas fighters had stayed in their house during their absence. The fighters left an apologetic note, saying they had taken some honey and eggs.

The house was undamaged except for one item: a piano the family had received as a gift only a month earlier. Miqdad has been playing it just before the family fled. Now the keyboard and strings were ripped apart. “It was obvious who did that,” she said.

The pain and frustration came out in poetry Miqdad wrote in the latest war. She posted it on social media during the fighting and it quickly spread as online volunteers translated it into English, French and, significantly, Hebrew.

She was so terrified by the bombardment that she hardly left home, cooped up in a hall between the bathroom and the kitchen that the family deemed the safest place.

“Security in Gaza is to look for the safest spot in a dangerous place,” she bitterly mused in one of her poems.

“In Gaza, how many times must we die to convince life that we deserve one?” she wrote. “And how many miracles do we need to defend our dreams and dignity?”

During the war, painter Basel al-Maqosui wanted to show the world something beyond the death and destruction.

“People outside will look at the gruesome images of Gaza’s dead and wounded for a day, maybe two, but not longer,” he said. “I wanted to give the world something they can look at day after day for as long as the war lasted.”

Al-Maqosui normally paints with oil on canvas, but he needed a quicker medium. There was also the question of how to deliver his work to an outside audience amid war and blockade.

The answer: Photo collage and social media.

The artist, a 42-year-old father of five, took advantage of the brief reprieves in the fighting to photograph some of the most devastated parts of Gaza. He then paired them with images of some of the world’s most famous paintings by Monet, Cezanne and Picasso and posted them on social media.

His work, along with similar production by other artists, attracted much attention in Gaza and abroad.

Al-Maqosui and other artists are partners in Windows From Gaza, a cultural center used as an art gallery and for art courses for children — one of only a handful of galleries in the territory. He and others point to the challenges of being an artist under rule by Hamas.

They recall the suspension for three months in 2010 of a project to give children cameras to take photographs while they investigated it. Eventually, Hamas allowed the project to go on.

“We have learned to be our own censors,” said Shareef Sarhan, a photographer and artist associated with Windows from Gaza. “We set our own ceilings rather than, as artists, push the boundaries of artistic expression.”

The filmmaker Mozayen said he intended for “Sarah 2014” to be a look at women’s rights in a deeply patriarchal society and more universal issues of human suffering — to tell the world “that we are human and have human issues like everyone else.”

Made on a shoestring budget of $220,000, “Sarah 2014” tells the story of a film director, played by actor Jamal Abu Komsan, and a script writer, played by al-Khatib, cooperating on a movie about a Gaza woman who disappeared, most likely killed by her family for entering at relationship with a married man.

When the strike, only hours before the Aug. 26 truce, flattened the apartment tower, Mozayen went to film the site. Last week, he climbed up the rubble on a ridge-like section 20 meters (yards) up.

“This is a godsend. Hollywood producers would pay millions for a location like this and I got it for free,” he quipped.

The final scene twists the movie within a movie and reality versus fiction.

The director and screenwriter stand in front of the huge pile of wreckage, arguing over whether to include the images of the war’s destruction in the final scene of their movie. The screenwriter argues against it, complaining the film is being pulled away from its intended subject.

“Man, I wish I could be an ordinary human being for once. Someone whose pain is caused by normal causes,” he tells the director. “I am fed up with being a Palestinian.”

Back to top

Domestic tourism needs investments

Arab News – 19 September, 2014 – Domestic tourism is in need of more investments from the private sector especially with several Saudi cities having succeeded in attracting local tourists, Abdullah Salem, the tourism sector manager at Al-Rowabee Center for Economic studies told Arab News.

“Jeddah and Dammam are the most popular tourist destinations for local visitors. However, these cities need huge investments from the private sector to create more entertainment venues,” he said.

He pointed out that the demand on the domestic tourism sector had increased by 25 percent in the last two years leading to a hike in the prices of resorts and entertainment venues in Jeddah and Dammam.

“Fewer than 25 percent of Saudi businessmen have made investments in the local tourism sector,” Salem said, adding that the ongoing developments in the local infrastructure in the major Saudi cities had played a big role in attracting local tourists.

According to a report by the Tourism Information and Research Center (MAS), there will be a 10 percent increase this year in incoming tourist flights compared to last summer. It added that about 4.8 million visitors were expected to visit the different cities for tourism. It is estimated that domestic tourism spending this year will reach SR10.5 billion, 18 percent more than last year’s SR8.9 billion.

However, the local tourism sector contributes to only 2.6 percent of the Saudi economy. A recent report released by the Saudi Commission on Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) indicates that Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector is set to create 1.7 million jobs over the next six years.

“The Saudi hospitality sector is earmarked to attract the most investments from the private sector. Seventy percent of the hospitality investments in the Kingdom are centered in the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. This is expected to grow in addition to increased investments in hotels, particularly the three-star category, resorts and upscale furnished apartments in other major cities of the Kingdom in the future,” Youssef Adnan, deputy chief of a real estate company told Arab News.

Back to top

Productive families launch ‘Made in Asir’ tag

Arab News – 19 September, 2014 – Families in Asir will take part in a new program to boost tourism in their area.

Jasser Al-Herbish, chief of the National Handicraft Program at Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), announced a development plan for Asir’s handicrafts through Made in Asir program. The program comes within the “Asir, a touristic venue all year long” initiative that hopes to give tourism in the area a boost.

Al-Herbish said that the program included 200 families from Asir working to produce products with a registered trade mark or brand name waiting to be launched in the market soon.

The products of the new brand name will be marketed at exhibitions in the region, supported by the National Handicraft Program and targeting tourists or local visitors, or local and international exhibitions. Marketing possibilities also include electronic trade by putting the items for sale through the Internet and social media websites.

Al-Herbish added that the first stages of the National Handicraft Program include collecting information and proposals. The program invites craftsmen, craftswomen and interested designers to take part in this phase through the electronic websites of the National Handicraft Program and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities by providing their crafts and marketing them as gifts as well as developing their products and committing to receive training.

Al-Herbish said that an agreement was reached between the SCTA and the Tourist Development Council in Asir to execute plans in support of the handicrafts sector in the area. These plans include conducting financial studies of the handicrafts market, identifying the high seasons and peak time, and best marketing locations.

The program also aims to design partnerships with the governmental institutions specialized in providing support training and support, as well as advancing cooperation between charitable societies and craftsmen who currently receive direct training.

The training programs in Asir comprise providing training for 12 craftsmen on collecting honey and teaching 12 craftswomen on making wood stools in Rijal Alma’ for the period of 10 weeks. Another part of the program indirectly addresses businessmen to host craftsmen and women at major shopping malls in Abha, Khamees Mushayit and neighboring villages.

Al-Herbish stressed that the most important targeted sales sites in Asir are King Fahd Cultural Center “Muftaha village,” “Rijal Alma,” and Mahail Asir (under construction in cooperation with the Municipality of Mahail Asir).

Regarding Bllsamar scanning, he pointed that this initiative comes under the guidance of the President of the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities, Prince Sultan bin Salman, in preparation for launching the first Righteousness and Productive Families Festival.

The scanning process includes identifying the number of artisans in the province and classifying them according to most important crafts to maintain, support and protect from extinction. “All the financial costs for these activities will be paid from the program’s budget,” Al-Herbish said.

With regards to the efforts made by the national program in Asir, Al-Herbish said that the program in the region worked to document the crafts threatened to be extinct, and broadcasted YouTube videos about the artisans. He explained that the most important craft to be preserved include Al-Qat, wicker industry, Sadu, making Asiri clothing, making stools and wooden beds as well as processing plants and aromatic herbs.

In addition to marketing productive family products project, there is another project in collaboration between the Department of Education in Asir and the National Program to train art teachers. 47 male art teachers and 67 female art teachers benefited from the project.

Apart from the role of these crafts as a national heritage, they help provide families with a living income. It’s even hard to carefully identify how much money workers in this profession make, “Undoubtedly, these families benefit widely from these artisans. It’s hard to identify the correct amount but data indicates large economic revenue,” he said adding that this is proved by the participation of 100 families at Abha Festival.

Al-Herbish reminded of the National Program’s participation in the Fourth Architectural Heritage Forum that will be held in Asir. “A private corner will be offered for the National Program whereas three speakers and ten artisans will participate in the activity apart from the gifts that will be made by the craftsmen and women,” he revealed.

The National Handicraft Program is one of the most important aspects of King Abdullah Project for Care of Cultural Heritage of the Kingdom that was adopted by the Council of Ministers to preserve the national cultural heritage and bring awareness to its economic and cultural role and advertise its uniqueness locally and internationally.

Back to top

Cruise Arabia sails off to Europe to woo tourists

Khaleej Times – 20 September, 2014 – Cruise Arabia, the collaborative initiative formed by Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, or DTCM, to promote the Arabian Gulf as a cruise destination, participated in the recent Seatrade Med Convention in Barcelona, Spain.

Aimed at raising awareness of the Arabian Gulf’s unique destination offering among major players from the international cruise industry, the Cruise Arabia partners showcased cruise tourism opportunities in the Arabian Gulf and the diversity of the region’s destination offering — including its city skylines, desert landscapes and beaches; the world’s most sophisticated malls and traditional souks; natural wilderness and adventure experiences; and its art, culture and heritage. They also shared details of the region’s world-leading hotels and burgeoning gastronomy scenes to encourage tourists to extend their stays prior to or to do post-cruise travel.

With over 4,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors, the Seatrade Med Convention is one of the most important trade events in the world for the cruise tourism industry and provides an ideal platform for engaging with travel trade professionals from European markets.

Co-participants attending this event alongside Cruise Arabia include local Dubai-based DMC’s Gulf Ventures and Orient Tours, shipping and freight service providers Rais Hassan Saadi Group, marine terminal handler DP World and Abu Dhabi Ports Company.

Hamad Mohammed bin Mejren, executive director of business tourism at the DTCM, said: “Seatrade Med Convention 2014 provided an ideal opportunity to engage with the European cruise industry and travel trade professionals — one of the most important segments for building our regional cruise tourism sector. It is a chance to enlighten this critical audience about the extraordinary experiences of cruise travel in our region and to increase the number of passengers considering and ultimately booking cruises in the Arabian Gulf.”

“We expect the upcoming cruise season to surpass last year’s especially with the new multi-entry UAE visit visa for cruise tourists that was announced last August at just Dh200. The number of vessels using the Dubai Cruise Terminal as their home port has increased to six this season, these vessels are also expected to make a total of 83 trips in comparison to the 63 trips that were conducted in the previous 2013-14 season.”

“We are expecting a total of 110 ship calls carrying around 381,500 passengers in comparison to 93 ship calls carrying 320,000 passengers last year.”

Khalid Al Zadjali, director of tourism events at the Oman Ministry of Tourism, said: “It gives us immense pleasure to have joined hands, once again, with the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority to promote Cruise Arabia. We are convinced that this partnership will create strong synergy in promoting cruise tourism in the UAE and Oman, enabling tourists to explore the rich and ancient culture of the region, blended with modernity at all levels.”

“Oman is undergoing a rapid tourism growth with cruise shipping being a major contributing component. To further boost cruise tourism in the region, the Oman Ministry of Tourism, along with the DTCM and TCA, participated in the Seatrade Med 2014 event with the aim to promote Cruise Arabia to the international travel vendors and cruise services providers.”

Sultan Al Dhaheri, acting executive director Tourism at the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, said: “We have used this leading industry forum to launch an intensified Cruise Abu Dhabi promotional campaign, and with our partners at Abu Dhabi Ports Company, reveal the concept design for the planned, permanent Zayed Port Cruise terminal.”

“We are also reinforcing our position as a thriving cruise destination to the world’s leading cruises lines with the intent to develop joint marketing and promotional campaigns to support their commercial activities. Additionally, we are spreading word of the impending addition of a dedicated cruise tourism section to our www.visitabudhabi.ae online destination resource.”

Formed in September 2013 with a shared aim to grow and evolve the cruise tourism segment, the Cruise Arabia partners have committed to making a significant investment to the cruise industry across the region, developing its segment infrastructure and creating current and future employment opportunities. A key aim of the partnership is to encourage a new generation of tourists to cruise in the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, spanning new travellers from traditional markets in Europe and North America as well as those from emerging markets including China, India and the GCC.

Back to top

Jubail airport handles first civilian flight

Arab News – 20 September, 2014 – The first civilian aircraft landed at Jubail airport on Thursday morning, marking its transformation from a purely military facility.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) had overseen the revamp of the airport at Jubail Industrial City.

It was originally constructed by the Royal Commission of Jubail and Yanbu for private aviation, until it was decided to use the large nearby King Fahd International Airport for this purpose. The Ministry of Defense then took over the facility for use by the country’s navy.

However, the royal commission announced earlier this year that the facility would also handle private aircraft starting this September. It launched a project to renovate the airfield and handle some infrastructure that had remained incomplete when it first changed into a military facility.

The airport is now open for private aviation serving companies in Jubail and Ras Al-Khair industrial cities and neighboring towns. GACA and the navy are working on a plan to use the area in front of the naval forces’ airport in Jubail Industrial City to establish a domestic airport.

Mosleh Al-Otaibi, chief executive officer of the royal commission, announced the opening of the airport recently. “After obtaining a license, completing the landing areas and watch towers, the airport has started operating. It will be for civilian and military use.”

According to data made available to Arab News, the airport will serve more than 500,000 passengers including visitors and investors from inside and outside the Kingdom. This includes expatriates from more than 70 countries working in the area.

The airport is close to Al-Na’areya, Al-Khafji, Al-Elyia village, Khurisaniyah and other areas where Saudi Aramco operates.

Employees and businesspeople are optimistic that the airport would provide further support for the growing aviation industry, and support tourism and other important sectors of the economy.

Jubail is one of the leading industrial cities in the world featuring a range of petrochemical enterprises.

Back to top

SMMEs to benefit from Dubai’s Expo, tourism plans

Khaleej Times – 19 September, 2014 – Standard Chartered estimates that around 300,000 direct jobs and around a million indirect jobs will be created in the UAE by 2020.

Start-ups and the small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) are most likely to be the biggest beneficiaries as Dubai gears up for Expo 2020 and to meet its target of receiving 20 million visitors, said Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing.

Almarri, who is also CEO of Dubai World Trade Centre and Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Committee member, outlined how Dubai’s goal of welcoming 20 million visitors by 2020, up from 11 million in 2013, will deliver strong business avenues for Entrepreneurs and SMMEs as the diversification of service offerings swell to accommodate the expected influx.

“Entrepreneurship — big or small — is one of the most globally consistent and relevant phenomena, redefining the economic landscape in the developed and developing world. As such, the targeted doubling of tourism numbers, coupled with human capital development, are major contributors to sustainable growth,” he said to the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) event in Dubai,.

“We are all aware that today, the return on human capital is growing more rapidly than the return on financial capital. We want to make sure that the increased spectrum of opportunities being created across the tourism infrastructure and service sector value chain actively attracts innovative and dynamic businesses — both domestically and internationally.”

Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) comprise more than 90 per cent of all Dubai-registered companies, representing 42 per cent of the labour force and contributing 40 per cent of Dubai’s GDP.

“Dubai has always been representative of an economy built on the strength of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and as we move towards the UAE’s Golden Jubilee in 2021, we expect to harness the full potential of the young and high-growth businesses around the world. We offer a very strong and highly democratised proposition for Start-ups and SMMEs — from access to tools, infrastructure, policies and the wider ecosystem, through to options for full foreign ownership across our many free zones. As a strategic priority for the Emirate, we will continue to work very closely with policy makers and the international business and investment community to enable this sector to thrive moving forward,” Almarri said.

He also cited the role PPPs and SMMEs will play in the delivery of Dubai Expo 2020, the first event-of-its-kind to be staged in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

“Across the entire Expo project, there will be opportunities for small, medium and large business types to support and leverage the event, through tailored initiatives as well as a comprehensive service and delivery programmes. The investments made by the host city and participants, as well as incoming visitor spend, will directly and indirectly generate significant GDP contribution for Dubai, the UAE and the region, the benefits of which must truly enable accelerated growth of smaller scale enterprises,” said Almarri.

In May, the International Monetary Fund said it is likely to raise its 2014 economic forecast for Dubai. The emirate’s economy grew at its fastest pace last year since 2007, expanding 4.6 per cent as core sectors including tourism, retail, real estate, logistics and hospitality witnessed solid growth.

Standard Chartered estimates that around 300,000 direct jobs and around a million indirect jobs will be created in the UAE by 2020. Since 25 to 30 million people are expected to visit during the expo, 90 per cent of the jobs available will be in the travel and tourism sector. These job opportunities are expected to be created from 2018 to 2021.

Almarri said the scale of growth that Dubai expects to retain momentum for over the coming years, aligned with its tourism strategy, which will help drive foreign direct investment into the country, in turn will attract skilled human capital, and increase our global competitiveness. “ Added to this, from an entrepreneurship and SMME perspective, there are a number of developing government-backed business ecosystems being driven by an increased focus on attracting incubators, accelerators and investment funds needed to help them grow.”

Speaking on the side-lines of the event, Vikram Shroff — EO President 2014/15 and Director of Regal Group said that SMEs would be a significant influencer in domestic and regional growth prospects.

“The future of every country is the SME segment and the UAE, especially Dubai, is no different. Dubai has rolled out the red carpet for entrepreneurs to open up companies with very transparent procedures. Once a business owner sees that his or her investment has potential to grow and that the government is pro-business, why wouldn’t they choose to set up shop here for their Middle East expansion?” he said.

Aman Merchant, CEO and co-founder of Impact Hub Dubai — part of a global entrepreneur network which has more than 50 locations globally and a network of 8,000 ‘Hubsters’ — echoed the sentiments, earmarking Dubai’s pro-business mentality as a critical factor.

Back to top

Oman to hold 2nd National Dates Festival from Oct 14

Oman Daily Observer – 17 September, 2014 – The second National Dates Festival, to be held in Nizwa from Oct 14 – 19. The announcement was made by Shaikh Salah al Mawali, Director General of SMEs, Public Authority for SMEs Development (Pasmed) at a function held yesterday under the auspices of Khalifa bin Said al Abri, Acting Chairman, Pasmed. The festival aims to give a boost to small and medium enterprises.

Eng. Munir Hussain Ali al Lawati, Director General of Marketing and Investment, Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, said Oman boasts of having over 100 varieties of dates, which in turn are used for making a large number of products.

One of the aims of the six-day festival is to create an awareness and expand the local market for Omani dates so that farmers do not export dates to other countries, he told the Observer.

As part of the festival, many events, including lectures, workshops and various programs in the field of manufacturing and marketing of dates will be held, said Ruqaia al Mani, CEO of Arabic Gate Company. The festival has been well marketed in the Gulf States; therefore a big visitor turnout is expected like last year.

The festival also encourages farmers, producers and manufacturers to maintain high product quality and pay attention to packaging and observe all the norms of food safety.

The festival, organised by Pasmed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and some private sector sponsors, is growing in popularity and stature with each edition.

The festival offers a free tent area to the participants along with 100 cartons of 10 kg capacity, 300 bags to store dates and 300 shopping bags.

There is also a plan to include dates in the program packaging and marketing of the Pasmed and to insist on the private sector companies and government agencies to buy Omani date products.

Besides the daily event from 4 pm and 10 pm, there will be workshops for farmers and traders, factory owners, owners of units manufacturing and packaging dates, and SME entrepreneurs.

The first Dates Festival was held with the participation of more than 50 SMEs.

By holding this festival, Pasmed aims to create a permanent market for Omani dates and give consumers an opportunity to choose from the different varieties of Omani dates.

Experts say the date palm occupies about 84.9 per cent of the total fruit area and about 49.3 per cent of the total agricultural land, not only the domestic demand is met, but significant surplus for export is generated. Tremendous development has occurred in the production and the distribution of date palm during the last three decades. Date palms are grown in around 35000 hectares, and include more than eight million trees.

Back to top

Three Saudi universities improve global rankings

Arab News – 18 September, 2014 – Three Saudi Universities have improved in rankings in the QS World University Rankings for the 2014-2015 academic year out of a total of 800 universities on the index.

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) ranked number 225, surpassing the renowned Paris Sorbonne University and the UK’s Dundee University, as well as the University of Miami and other well-known institutions.

King Saud University (KSU) also ranked 249, sharing the spot with the American University of Beirut, while King Abdulaziz University (KAU) ranked number 334, surpassing City University in London and the University of Iowa.

King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KACST), meanwhile, ranked number 296, making these the only Arab universities in developing countries to make into the top 300.

Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University ranked within the top 500, taking over universities such as Hull in Britain, Boston University in the US and Mumbai University.

The ranking describes KFUPM as an average-sized university, with 12,000 students, and interest in scientific research among students as “very high.”

Both KSU and KAU were described as “very large” institutions, with about 30,000 students each. Interest in research at both institutions was also described as “very high.”

Institutions that were surveyed were each examined for research potential, employability, quality of faculty, innovation, specialization and facilities.

KSU scored high for employability, as well as for quality of facilities. The university was also described as easy to attend and ranked high for innovation.

KAU also ranked high in terms of employability among graduates, in addition to quality of faculty, facilities, foreign student enrollment, innovation and ease of enrollment.

The university was one of the only Arab and developing countries to rank among the top 300 universities, with the exception of the other Saudi universities mentioned.

Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah ranked in the 551-600 category, while King Khalid University in Abha came in 601-650 ranking. King Faisal University ranked 701.

Back to top

$140bn earmarked for Qatar infrastructure projects

The Peninsula – 18 September, 2014 – Qatar has earmarked more than $ 140bn for infrastructure development projects, including an extensive transport network (railway and roads) over the next five years, said HE Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, the Minister of Transport.

He was speaking at a three-day event titled “Global Infrastructure Conference” which kicked off in South Korea yesterday.

“Qatar ranked first in terms of development projects in GCC countries with those being implemented for FIFA 2022 and to meet the Qatar National Vision 2030,” he added.

“Qatar has allocated more than $ 140bn to build transport networks and other development project over the next five years,” said the minister.

The Minister has given a presentation in the conference on key development projects being taken place in the country including Doha Metro project being implemented by Qatar Rail, New Sea Port Project that is considered the biggest project in the Middle East. He also shed light on the expansion of the facilities of the Hamad International Airport.

The minister called on companies including South Korean ones in the conference to invest in the development projects of Qatar.

Regaring the key terms and condition for bids, the Minister said: “We cannot compromise with our quality standard and other issues like health, safety and security, innovation and sustainability. The companies interested in participating in bids should comply with Them.

The minister held a meeting with his Korean counterpart on the sideline of the meeting to discuss several issues of common concerns in the transport sector.

Back to top

Bahrain airport to be showcased at forum

Gulf Daily News – 18 September, 2014 – Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), the manager and operator of Bahrain International Airport (BIA), is gearing up to participate in the upcoming 20th World Routes Development Forum and Exhibition.

The event is being held in Chicago, US, from Saturday to Tuesday.

In addition to attending the summits and interactive sessions, BAC will also be leading Bahrain’s delegation during the flagship event and will host a dedicated BIA pavilion in an effort to promote the kingdom.

World Routes is a significant global gathering for aviation organisations from across the globe.

The three-day event brings together more than 3,000 delegates representing the largest range of airlines, airports tourism and civil aviation authorities from over 80 countries, offering networking opportunities with lucrative business prospects.

‘Our efforts are to achieve maximum exposure both through active attendance at the forum and the exhibition,’ BAC chief commercial officer Mohamed Khalil said.

‘As we steadily enhance BIA as a friendly and efficient airport, World Routes provides an essential platform for showcasing our vision to the international aviation community and attracting new airlines to make our airport their regional hub,’ he added.

BAC, in partnership with the Culture Ministry, Bahrain Airport Services, Bapco, British Petroleum Company, and Chevron, will also be promoting BIA and the kingdom through the dedicated pavilion at the exhibition.

The delegation aims to showcase the key competitive advantages of BIA in the region which revolve around the airport’s strategic location in the Gulf as well as its efficiency and award-winning friendliness in servicing its passengers, customers and tenants.

The exhibition will also serve in marketing Bahrain as a key tourist destination and attracting potential interest from airlines to explore new routes linking Bahrain to the world.

‘Established in the early 1930s as the first international airport in the Arabian Gulf, BIA has a deep-rooted history in the aviation industry that sets it apart from other airports,’ said Mr Khalil. ‘Routes World allows us to showcase our capabilities and success stories to the world. This year is of greater importance since BAC has proudly won the bid to host the first ever Routes Middle East and Africa (MEA) event in May next year,’ he said.

‘We want to let the aviation industry know that we are ready to welcome them to Routes MEA and treat them to a warm and friendly hospitality as is customary of Bahrain, its people and by extension BIA,’ he added.

BAC is the authority responsible for enhancing BIA and increasing the airport’s contribution to the local economy. It is also responsible for elevating the airport’s operations, infrastructure and services.

Back to top

Jeddah skyscraper on target for planned 2018 completion

Arab News – 19 September, 2014 – Kingdom Tower, the world’s tallest tower, located in northern Jeddah, has reached an important milestone in the project that will set another new world record — the world’s tallest construction crane.

The singularly soaring skyscraper that will ultimately earn the accolade of world’s tallest building, with a height of more than 1 km, demands equally unique construction equipment, methods and materials, including the custom-built cranes supplied by Germany’s Liebherr & WolffKran. The enormous yellow lifting devices, known as climbing cranes are designed to accompany the tower’s growth both externally and internally, in the latter case utilizing any of the building’s 65 interior elevator shafts to make the climb.

“Now that we have completed our subterranean work, we are airborne,” said Mounib Hammoud, CEO of Jeddah Economic Company. “The unprecedented size and height of Kingdom Tower means we can only utilize the very best in equipment, material and methods. Liebherr’s and WolffKran very impressive and innovative cranes fit this bill.”

The largest of the six cranes Liebherr type 357 HC-L can lift up to 18 tons at a speed of 44 meters/minute, with heights to parallel that of the tower. The cranes are attached to the body of the building but sits atop a phenomenally narrow tower support of only 2.4 meters X 2.45 meters.

But it is not just the size that makes these new cranes unique. They feature the latest in heavy-lifting technology that will allow them to withstand harsh weather conditions, in particular, the strong winds that can sweep across the spectacular heights at which the cranes will ultimately be deployed. To operate this type of cranes, special highly experienced and certified operators will be hired.

With the tower’s foundation now in place, vertical, above-ground construction commenced in September. Plans call for the first ten floors to be completed by the end of the year.

The Kingdom Tower features 170 stories, seven stories of which will be allocated for the five-star Four Seasons Hotel offering 200 rooms and 121 luxury serviced apartments, and seven stories for offices. The tower will also have 61 stories that include 318 housing units of various types amenities, gyms, spas, cafes and restaurants, two sky lobbies and world’s highest observation decks, located on the 644 meter-height, enabling visitors to view Jeddah and the Red Sea from high in the sky.

Back to top