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15 Sep, 2014

New Authority To Restore Historic Cairo

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 15 September 2014 (20 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.



Gambia to host Tourism Investment Forum

The Daily Observer – 10 September 2014 – The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), the institution mandated by Government to promote the Gambia as a Tourism Destination in collaboration with The Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), the institution responsible for the promotion and facilitation of investments in the Gambia have joined efforts to organize an international tourism investment forum in The Gambia from October 16- 18, 2014.

The investment forum is aimed at showcasing the immense investment opportunities in the tourism sector. It is expected to bring together tourism stakeholders from both within and outside the Gambia. Over the years significant achievements have been registered in the tourism industry. However, transforming the Gambia into a tourism haven can only be achieved through the collective efforts and with the partnership of local and foreign investors.

The Gambia, renowned as the ‘smiling coast of Africa’ and the Gateway to West Africa remains an attractive tourism destination given its unique geographical position and its strategic location, including her proximity to Europe and English as her official language.

The investment opportunities to be showcased at the investment forum include: upgrading of budget hotels to 3 star and 4 star hotels; maritime infrastructure – notably marinas; development of new 4 star and 5 star hotels; eco tourism; recreational parks; integrated resorts; community, culture and heritage tourism; river cruise excursions; eco-village and community based tourism; bike trails; and bird watching and recreational fishing.

With the untapped potentials of the tourism sector, there is urgent need for further strengthening of the sector with investments in the value chain. The Government of the Gambia through the GIEPA has a number of incentives to encourage and facilitate investments in the tourism industry, including tax breaks and free allocation of land under a lease scheme.

The forum is a three day event to be held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel and would provide business to business meeting opportunities between foreign and local investors. It will also allow participants to see, feel and explore at first hand the immense investment opportunities the Gambia has to offer in the tourism sub-sector.

Interested participants could register for the forum with the GTBoard or GIEPA by contacting:

Alagie Laye, GTBoard, Email: alaye@gtboard.gm. Tel: (+220) 4462 496 / 4463491 or Gina Y. Riley, GIEPA, Email: ygriley@giepa.gm. Tel: (+220) 4377377 on or before 28th September, 2014. All interested participants should provide their biography and business profile for ease of match making with the international participants.

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Zimbabwe urged to facilitate entry visa for Iranian traders

Tehran, Sept 11, IRNA — Iranˈs Deputy Foreign Minister for Afro-Arab Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has called for facilitation of entry visa for Iranian traders and businessmen to Zimbabwe.

Speaking in a meeting with the Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Simbanenduku Mumbengegwi in Harare on Thursday, the two sides discussed bilateral relations and cooperation on various political, economic and cultural fields.

Among other issues discussed at the meeting were increased investment by the Iranian private sector in Zimbabwe, the need to follow up and implement past agreements, planning to hold the next session of the Joint Commission, boosting of scientific and technological cooperation, and promotion of activities of the private sectors of Iran and Zimbabwe.

The two sides also underlined the need to further consolidate bilateral ties.

Amir-Abdollahian is on a tour of Africa which has already taken him to South Africa.

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Hong Kong issues first Islamic bond

(Xinhua), HONG KONG, Sept. 11 — The government of China’s Hong Kong announced the successful offering of its inaugural sukuk on Thursday under the Government Bond Program.

The sukuk, with an issuance size of 1 billion U.S. dollars and a five-year tenor, marks the world’s first USD-denominated sukuk originated by a AAA-rated government.

The sukuk was priced on Wednesday at a 2.005 percent profit rate, 23 basis points over five-year U.S. Treasuries.

The Monetary Authority, which represents the Hong Kong government in the offering, said the sukuk saw strong demand from global investors, attracting orders exceeding 4.7 billion U.S. dollars and allowing final pricing to tighten by seven basis points from its initial price guidance.

The sukuk was allocated to over 120 global institutional investors, with 36 percent of the sukuk distributed to the Middle East, 47 percent to Asia, 6 percent to Europe, and 11 percent to the United States.

Financial Secretary John Tsang said the government is pleased to see such strong demand for the inaugural sukuk, signifying an important milestone in the Islamic capital market’s development in Hong Kong.

The sukuk is expected to be settled on Sept. 18 and listed on stock exchanges in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Dubai.

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Indonesia’s Disabled residents hope to enter workforce with increased skills

Suherdjoko, The Jakarta Post, Semarang September 06 2014 – Life may have been tough so far for Munfaida and her husband Riyadi, two polio survivors living in Semarang, Central Java. However, they are optimistic about their future. The couple currently takes part in a training program in the city to improve their sewing skills.

“I have been working for the Ida Modiste garment shop in Semarang. I heard this training offers an intensive course, so I decided to join it,” she said recently.

Fellow participant Sidiq, who was born in Jakarta, shared the same enthusiasm.

“I must study hard. That is the key to success,” said Sidiq, who does not have a right arm.

Munfaida, Riyadi and Sidiq are among 23 people with disabilities from across the country who joined a two-month training program held by Better Work Indonesia (BWI), a labor program under the auspices of the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The program, which kicked off on September 1, is being held at the Griya Apac training center belonging to PT Apac Inti Corpora in Semarang.

BWI senior enterprise advisor Mohamad Anis Agung said the program was focused on improving participants’ skills in the garment industry.

“We initiated the pilot project to help the disabled community in seeking jobs in the garment sector,” Anis said, adding that the pilot project is funded by the Australian government, through its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Participants in the training session include polio survivors, hearing impaired people and those with upper or lower limb defects. The participants hail from various areas, including Semarang, Demak, Jakarta, Medan and Lombok.

According to the 2011 World Disability Report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, there are around 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide, nearly 785 million of whom are of working age, but the majority of whom are unemployed.

“Those who are employed usually get lower salaries compared to able-bodied workers. The ILO recorded that 24 million, or 10 percent of the Indonesian population, have disabilities, and only 11 million of them are employed,” Anis said.

He said the pilot project in Semarang was expected to improve access to decent employment for members of the disabled community.

“We believe the pilot project would improve the skills and ability of the participants, so they would be able to compete in the workforce,” BWI chief technical advisor Simon Feld said.

The Griya Apac training center was selected because it is equipped with sewing machines commonly used by garment companies. Other training centers, such as the one in Cibinong, Bogor, West Java, only have sewing machines that are suitable for household purposes.

Anis said that Article 14 of Law No. 4/1997 on disabilities stipulates that employers have a responsibility to give an equal chance to people with disabilities to work in their companies.

The law explains that a company should employ at least one person with a disability out of every 100 employees. Meanwhile, Article 28 of the law stipulates that violating Article 14 is punishable with six months’ imprisonment or a Rp 200 million (US$16,969) fine.

“However, many garment companies face difficulties in obtaining disabled workers who have adequate skills in sewing. On the other hand, many disabled people are unaware of job opportunities in garment factories,” said BWI disability program consultant Angela Friska, who is hearing impaired.

Griya Apac head Agus Subagyo said it was the first time that his company had provided training to people with disabilities.

“It (the training) is a positive challenge for us. We immediately built facilities, such as ramps, so (participants) could easily reach the training location. We also installed handles in the toilets,” Agus said.

PT Apac Inti Corpora assistant general manager of human resources and corporate affairs Djulian Imron said the program was also providing a learning experience for trainers.

“We are learning together. We learn to be patient because some of (the participants) are hearing impaired. We have to speak more slowly so they can read our lips and follow the lessons. This is a mutual learning process,” he said.

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Bollywood’s ‘Welcome 2 Karachi’ to wow Pakistan movie lovers

13 September 2014, Arab News, KARACHI: Karachi movie fans have applauded Bollywood for bridging gap between India and Pakistan through a number of initiatives, including the making of “Welcome 2 Karachi” film, which is excepted to release next year, Dawn reported.

Actors Jackky Bhagnani and Arshad Warsi have teamed up for Ashish R. Mohan’s comedy flick based on Pakistan’s commercial hub.

Actor Irrfan Khan was previously supposed to be one of the main leads in the film, but he decided to back out at the last moment owing to some creative differences.

According to the Indian Express, Jackky Bhagnani who was last seen in “Youngistaan,” has replaced Irrfan.

“Welcome 2 Karachi” is about two adventurers who get stuck in Karachi amid the political turmoil in the city.

When asked why he chose Karachi, director Rohit Shetty told Filmfare, “Karachi when compared to any other place is considered to be the most dangerous city, but it’s the people who make the perception. Good human beings are everywhere and that’s what I would like to show through my film.”

Talking about his character, Warsi spoke to Times of India, “My character is a little accident-prone as things keep happening to him all the time.”

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Kuala Lumpur International Tattoo 2014: Parade Of The World’s Greatest Cavalry Stars

Putrajaya, 12 September 2014 – Get set to be inspired by the greatest military parade ever held in Malaysia with exciting performances such as war dances, bag pipes and brass bands, precision marching, military demonstrations and artillery performances. These will be performed by the Royal Malaysian Police and the Royal Malaysian Army and trained soldiers and armed forces from other countries including Brunei Darussalam, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.

The Kuala Lumpur International Tattoo 2014 parade is co-organised by Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) and the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF), and is scheduled to be graced by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Raja Permaisuri Agong of Malaysia on 11 October 2014.

The military performance extravaganza will be held for three days from 10 October until 12 October 2014 at the Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, combined with various performances in shopping centres around Malaysia. It is here that you can enthral your senses with the iconic formation displays. Feast on your eyes on the sheer precision of the military drills. Be mesmerised by the powerful orchestral quality music presentations.

KL International Tattoo 2014 is one of the major events in Visit Malaysia Year 2014, and is organised with the vision of promoting friendship and cooperation between Malaysia and its overseas counterparts. The event will certainly be a colourful array of festivities with the participants marching clad in their ceremonial uniforms, complete with all the shiny pins and gear. The spectacular display aims to be a hit with both locals and international tourists, young and old alike.

To build the momentum of publicity and to get the public to know more about KL International Tattoo, MOTAC and the MAF have organised a series of KL International Tattoo 2014 pocket shows around Malaysia.

For more information, please visit www.vmy2014.com or https://www.facebook.com/VisitMsiaYear2014 today.

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First China Industrial Park to be built in Kazakhstan

URUMQI, Aug. 30, (Xinhua) — The world’s first overseas China Industrial Park will be built in Kazakhstan, a key project of China’s Silk Road economic belt initiative, according to a source close to the deal.

Covering a land area of 400 hectares in the Caspian port of Aktau, the park will be jointly invested by the Xinjiang Sanbao Industry Group, a foreign trade enterprise, and the construction investment and development company under the Urumqi Economic and Technological Development Zone (UETDZ).

Its costs will be no less than 100 million U.S. Dollars, said Gulzipa Yilas, an officer with the management committee of the export processing zone of the UETDZ.

The first-phase construction involves a land area of 100 hectares. Upon its completion, ten to fifteen competent manufacturers will be chosen to enter the park, said Yilas.

Situated in the Aktau special economic zone, the park is only three kilometers away from the Aktau Port and enjoys a variety of preferential policies in line with Kazakhstan’s laws on Special Economic Zone, said the officer.

As the Aktau port is Kazakhstan’s only international terminal for the transportation of dry cargo, crude oil and oil products, this park will allow China to boost its trade with the countries who share the coastline of the Caspian Sea with Kazakstan, such as Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan, and facilitate Xinjiang’s local enterprises to enter the overseas market, said Yilas.

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Iran to hold Intl. biscuits, cookies and chocolate exhibition

Tehran, Sept 13, IRNA – The 13th Iran Int’l Biscuits, Sweets & Chocolate Machineries & Raw Materials Fair will be held in Tehran at the permanent international fairground on Monday, September 15.

Some 266 domestic and 50 foreign biscuits, sweets and chocolate companies will participate in the four-day exhibition which will be held in an area of 13,750 square meters.

Foreign companies from 21 world countries will put their products on display at the exhibition.

Spain, U.S., Austria, Italy, Germany, Britain, Ukraine, Azerbaijan Republic, Turkey, China, Denmark, Russia, Japan, Sweden, France, South Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and India are among the participating countries.

Meanwhile, holding educational workshops on promotion and effective marketing in confectionary industry is among programs to be implemented on the sidelines of the exhibition.

Iran exported $600 million worth of products in this category in the calendar year 1390 (2011-2012). Further export development is expected to take place under the 11th government.

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Germany aims to boost Iran university exchange program

Berlin, Sept 13, IRNA – A German delegation will head to Iran later in the day for talks with Iranian officials aimed at deepening bilateral academic ties.

The head of the Bonn-based German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Margret Wintermantel said in an exclusive interview with IRNA that as part of her visit, DAAD will open an official bureau in Tehran.

The largest of its kind in the world, DAAD is the German national agency for supporting international academic cooperation by offering scholarships and grants to qualified foreign students.

According to Wintermantel, the visit is aimed at “initiating new contacts between German and Iranian universities and deepening existing (academic) contacts.”

The German delegation, comprised also of several German university presidents, will tour universities and research centers in the Tehran and Isfahan area.

The delegation will also donate a substantial amount of German literature books to Shahid Beheshti University, said Wintermantel.

Germany is a top academic destination for Iranian students, ranked fourth after the US, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

There are currently some 6,118 Iranians studying in Germany, based on official statistics, including 2833 female and 3248 male students.

Five German universities preferred mainly by Iranian students are Aachen Institute of Technology, Berlin Technical University, Darmstadt Technical University, University of Stuttgart and University of Bochum.

Some 36 percent of Iranian students choose to study in the field of engineering, followed by 28.8 percent in mathematics and natural science and 11.7 percent in economics and social science.

The first-year enrollment of Iranian students at German universities has surged from around 400 students in 2002 to over 1400 in 2012.

DAAD is presently providing schalorships and grants to 551 Iranian students.

Meanwhile, Wintermantel urged Iranian officials to facilitate the academic transfer of those German students who wish to study in Iran, by helping with their enrollment at Iranian universities, offering scholarships and grants as well as Farsi language courses and speeding up the bureaucratic process of granting visa to them.

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Sharjah traces Indian, Pakistani printmaking

Sharjah, Gulf News, September 12, 2014: The first printmaking exhibition from the subcontinent to be held in the Middle East was launched at Sharjah Art Museum.

The exhibition, ‘Trajectories: 19th-21st Century Printmaking in India and Pakistan’ explores the influence of British colonialism and Western notions of beauty, chromolithographs and oleographs.

The exhibition will continue until November 20, The event is being held under the patronage of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Shaikh Sultan Bin Ahmad Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Centre and Sharjah Media Corporation, who was given a guided tour by guest co-curators Dr Paula Sengupta, an artist, academic, art critic and curator based in Kolkata, India, and Camilla H. Chaudhry, a Dubai-based independent curator from Karachi, Pakistan. They were accompanied by Manal Ataya, Director General of Sharjah Museums Department, and Hesham Al Madhloum, Director of the Art Directorate at the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah.

In total, 157 rare prints from 50 artists are on display at the show, which aims to introduce a UAE audience to the subcontinent’s major printmaking schools and movements, while also providing a bridge for discussion and dialogue regarding the multifaceted relationship between India and Pakistan.

The exhibition will take a journey back in time to the birth of Modernism, leading to the painful partition years, and follow artists’ responses to the shattering of their previous realities.

The vision behind ‘Trajectories’ is to introduce the UAE audience to the development of the printmaking medium, its significant schools, influences, and most ground-breaking works, while also providing a platform for a dialogue on the complex history of India and Pakistan.

Chaudhary is founding member of Art Chowk Gallery (Pakistan) and an independent curator who is currently based in Dubai.

On her experience of co-curating ‘Trajectories’, Dr Sengupta, said, “As a practitioner and historian of printmaking, to curate this exhibition for the Sharjah Art Museum is a dream project for me, because it has afforded the rare and unique opportunity of sharing a cultural space with Pakistan.

“The process of co-curating with my Pakistani counterpart, Camilla Hadi Chaudhary has led me on a journey of discovery as I’ve learned about printmaking practice in Pakistan post-partition years that had remained hidden behind borders despite the shared history of the subcontinent,” she added.

Co-curator Camilla Hadi Chaudhary, a founding member of Art Chowk Gallery (Pakistan) and an independent curator based in Dubai, said, “The exhibition spans a history that has seen much change and evolution in the region and that is reflected in the works on show. The most exciting part has been to study the confluence and divergence of art practices in the two countries that reflect shared history and distinct identities.”

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AhramOnline – Tuesday 9 Sep 2014 – Today, the Ministry of Antiquities established an independent authority to review the current condition of historic Cairo and provide a means of cooperation between the ministry and the authority’s members to develop the city and return it to its original allure.

The authority includes representatives of four ministries: Antiquities, Tourism, Endowments and Construction as well as the Cairo governorate.

Antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that this authority is to review the current condition of the streets and monuments and provide a complete plan for their restoration as well as develop the city’s surroundings to show its original atmosphere. He promised that all encroachment would be removed, streets would be paved and shops would be cleaned and polished to match the colour of the monuments that surrounding them.

Historic Cairo lies amid the modern urban area of Cairo overlooking Salah El Din Citadel and it displays a very distinguished collection of Islamic monuments from different Islamic ages such as mosques, madrasas (schools), hammams (baths) and fountains. When it was founded in the 10th century, it became the new centre of the Islamic world and reached its golden age in the 14th century.

The historic centre of Cairo bears impressive material witness to the international, political, commercial and intellectual importance of the city during the medieval period.

In the 7th century, when Amr Ibn Al-Ass conquered Egypt, Al-Fustat, Egypt’s first Islamic capital was built. During the domination of the Abbasids, Al-Fustat gradually declined in importance and was replaced by the northern suburb of Al-Askar, which included the governor’s palace, houses, shops and a mosque.

In 870 Al-Askar’s governor, Ahmed Ibn-Tulun made Egypt independent of the Abbasid Caliphate and founded the northeastern capital called Al-Qatai. But at the beginning of the 10th century, when the Abbasids regained control of the country, Al-Qatai was destroyed. They only spared the great mosque of Ibn-Tulun with its large courtyard surrounded by porticoes intended for teaching, punctuated by elegantly decorated round arches, believed to be the work of Iraqi artists.

The great period of the city’s splendour began at the end of the 10th century, when Egypt was conquered by the powerful Shiite Fatimids. A new capital called Al-Qahira was founded in 969 AD. The mosque of Al-Azhar was built between 970 and 972 under the Caliph Al-Muizz, to serve as a sanctuary and as a meeting place; it also housed a university which became an important centre for Islamic studies.

After the brief intrusion of Seljuk Turks and the attacks of the Crusaders, Egypt fell into the hands of Salah Eldin, founder of the Ayyubid era in 1172. This period coincided with the time of the Mamelukes, who replaced the Ayyubids and remained in power until 1257.

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Uganda: Namugongo Martyrs’ shrines To Be Turned Into World Heritage Site

KAMPALA, Sept 12 (NNN-NEW VISION) — The Ugandan government has set up a ten-man committee for the rehabilitation of the two Namugongo Martyrs’ shrines, which will include tarmacking the access road infrastructure.

Information and National Guidance Minister Rosemary Namayanja told the press at the media centre yesterday that Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting endorsed the committee to be chaired by General duties minister in the Office of Prime Minister Tarsis Kabwegyere.

It will include Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities minister Maria Mutagamba, Internal affairs minister Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Works and transport Minister Abraham Byandaala, Water and environment minister Prof Ephraim Kamuntu.

Other members are Lands, Housing and urban development minister Daudi Migereko, Energy and mineral development minister Irene Muloni, and that of Health Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.

The others are Finance, Planning and economic development minister Maria Kiwanuka, and the Chairperson of the National Planning Authority Kisamba Mugerwa.

“Government decided to upgrade Namugongo Martyrs shrines into a worship and tourism site of global repute. The objective is to develop conclusive facilities at the site for worshippers, pilgrims and tourists.”

“The comprehensive plan is to refurbish and expand the facilities as a blue print for the rehabilitation of such sites,” the Cabinet document read.

Among other upgrading activities, she added, is the upgrading and expansion of the narrow and often congested road network to and around the shrines.

“The buildings and sanitation facilities will be refurbished, while security systems are to be enhanced. Considering the growing significance of tourism to Uganda’s economy, the infrastructural improvements at Namugongo will be undertaken under an inter-agency arrangement with close over-sight by cabinet,” Namayanja said.

Namugongo has two Martyrs’ shrines, a Catholic and Protestant one. President Yoweri Museveni pledged sh 400m to the project expected to consume a total of over sh36 billion.

The cabinet sub-committee, she added, will explore and review the aspects that require refurbishment and guide the technical teams to ensure that the facilities and infrastructure are appropriately improved.

One of the committee members told New Vision yesterday that they will start with reviewing the current status of the two shrines, explore options for re-development and make recommendations to pave way for upgrading them into a “world class tourist destination”.

During a tour of the shrines in May to launch the refurbishment plans, Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, and his Church of Uganda counterpart Stanley Ntagali toured and broke ground for the foundation of the Uganda Martyrs Museum estimated to cost sh36b.

As part of the activities to commemorate the Uganda Martyrs Day on June 3, the Christian leaders accompanied by several other bishops of both the Catholic and Anglican faiths, also paid homage to both the Catholic and Anglican martyrs’ shrines, located in Namugongo.

The clerics toured the execution sites, first at the Catholic Shrine, and second at the Anglican Shrine. Stanley Ntagali preached at the Catholic Shrine, and Cyprian Kizito Lwanga at the Anglican Shrine.

The Rev. Fr. Joseph Mukasa Muwonge, promoter of the Uganda Martyrs devotion, took the bishops through the martyrdom of the holy martyrs, from the time Kabaka Mwanga executed them in 1885 to 1887. He told their (martyrs) story from Munyonyo to Namugongo, where they were put on the pyre and burnt to ashes.

Ntagali said: “the martyrs are our symbol of faith. They made Uganda proud by sacrificing their lives for what they believed in.”

Encouraging pilgrimages to the shrines, Lwanga said; “People come all the way from abroad, to see where the martyrs died. What about us? It does not have to be on the Martyrs Day. You can come any time. Let us promote what our forefathers started,” Lwanga said.

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Malaysia Has Training Capability In Islamic Banking

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 (Bernama) — Malaysia has the capability to help train many countries in Islamic banking products due to the country’s position as one of the key players in Islamic finance, according to a report.

In the report entitled ‘Malaysia, Gateway to Asean’, published by UK-based PMC Ltd on Tuesday, Tabung Haji Chairman Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim was quoted as saying the sector is expected to create more job opportunities in the future, further boosting the industry globally.

“Many people are not familiar with Sharia-compliant funds. Therefore, many countries send their people to Malaysia to get trained in Islamic banking products,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

The report said that the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM), the country’s arm of Islamic finance education system, has played its role in spreading the knowledge, keeping the industry ‘up-to-date’.

“IIUM promotes global exchange amongst students through its network with the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World, composed of 300 universities.

“IIUM also offers online programmes for international students and collaborates with IRTI, the research arm of the Islamic Development Bank,” the report said.

IIUM Rector Zaleha Kamaruddin, who was also cited in the report, said the university targets to make Malaysia the global training centre for the Halal hub, through exporting educational programmes internationally via new partnerships.

As for now, she sees the United Kingdom as the best place to offer such programmes due to the growing interest in Islamic finance.

“The global trend in education is exploring new frontiers and creating new products. (The objective is to become) an Islamic window to the Western world,” she said in the report.

IIUM is helping to push the boundaries of education, doing its part to create a pool of talented individuals who are in tune with the industry’s needs, said the report.

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Italy To Continue Economic Projects In Tunisia

ROME, Italy, Sept 11 (NNN-TAP) – Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, asserted his country’s readiness to develop pilot economic projects in Tunisia, such as that of Rejim Maatoug, in the country’s south.

During his meeting, Wednesday, in Quirinal palace in Rome, with caretaker President of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, on a two-day official visit to Italy, Giorgio Napolitano also emphasised the interest that Italy grants to the completion of the Tunisian transitory process.

The talk turned on bilateral relations, and the two sides’ attachment to a strategic partnership. Marzouki will start, today (Thursday), an official visit to the Vatican, where he will be received by Pope Francis.

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Malaysia To Open Three Overseas Agrobazaars Next Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 (NNN-Bernama) — The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry plans to open three overseas Agrobazaar outlets next year, one each in Hong Kong, Dubai and London, after Malaysia’s first outlet opened in Singapore in June.

Hong Kong is the gateway to China and surrounding regions, with Dubai and London acting as the gateway to the Middle East and European markets respectively, Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told reporters after opening the New Affirmative Action Movement (NAAM) Agro Symposium: Agriculture Driving Youths’ Economy here.

Ismail Sabri said the ministry plans to market products from Malaysian small and medium entreprises including mushrooms, honey and herbal products at these outlets, with financial assistance for interested youths from Agrobank and Tekun Nasional via the ministry’s Young Agropreneur Unit.

With youths comprising only 15 per cent of the board of the Farmers’ Organisation Authority, he said, the government aims to produce 1,000 young agropreneurs annually beginning this year.

These entrepreneurs could earn at least RM5,000 monthly, he said, adding the cooperation between the Young Agropreneur Unit and NAAM Foundation to raise youths’ participation in agriculture could help change their misperception that farming could not be a lucrative business.

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Oman And Egypt Sign MoU On Intellectual Property

MUSCAT, Oman, Sept 12 (NNN-ONA) – Forging a new relationship in the fields of intellectual property, science and technology, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) and the Egyptian Patent Office, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), at a ceremony held at Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Dr Ali bin Masoud bin Ali al Sunaidi, Minister of Commerce and Industry, signed the MoU with Egypt’s Professor Dr Mahmoud Mohammed Saqr, head of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology.

Following the agreement, MoCI’s Patent Office will receive technical assistance and training by the Egyptian Patent Office and the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology.

Sunaidi said that the assistance and expertise from Egypt will be invaluable to the sultanate.

“The sultanate’s rapid expansion and innovation in industries such as plastics, packaging, petrochemicals, mining and other areas, means an increasing number of patents are issued every year. Signing this MoU allows the sultanate to use the expertise of Egypt’s Patent Office. A training programme will also be launched, which will increase the efficiency of the Department of Intellectual Property in the Ministry of Commerce. This MoU is a preliminary step towards further cooperation in the fields of intellectual property, as well as, science and technology between the two countries.”

Professor Dr Saqr said, “Egypt is the only Arab country, registered with the World International Intellectual Property Organisation. There are approximately 140 patent examiners in several fields, evaluating up to 3,000 patents per year. This MoU will enable cooperation between the two countries. Training will be provided as per Oman’s needs, and a secure network will be set up to share information.”

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Oman Chefs Vie For Top Spot In Culinary Contest

MUSCAT, Sept 10 (NNN-AGENCIES)–More than 70 professional chefs from luxury hotels and restaurants of Muscat are vying for the top spots in the three-day chef competition being organised in conjunction with the ninth Food and Hospitality exhibition.

The exhibition was launched by the undersecretary at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr Ahmed Bin Nasser Bin Abdullah Al Bakri. Malaysia is one of the countries participating in the exhibition.

The chefs’ competition is divided into six categories – Fruit and Vegetable Carving, Live Sandwich, Tapas, Three-tier wedding cake, Petit Fours and Five Course Gourmet meal. Prizes for the 18 finalists will be awarded on the last day.

Speaking to the media, Al Bakri said the exhibition would provide a platform for SMEs to gain convenient access to business opportunities, help form new business partnerships, and expand their markets.

He added that this year the exhibition had set up a business matchmaking activity to enable international companies and brands to directly connect with potential buyers and partners in the local market as well as tap unlimited business opportunities in Oman.

“It also showcases more than 200 local and global brands and features the country pavilions of Italy, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and Iran”.

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WWF Lauds Guyana’s Pledge On Protected Areas

GEORGETOWN, GUYANA (NNN-GINA) — The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Guianas has welcomed Guyana’s recent endowment of US$10 million to the National Protected Areas Trust Fund (NPATF), signals the government’s recognition of the importance of protected areas to the nation’s well-being and its intention to sustainably finance protected areas.

“This major contribution more than doubles the endowment that includes previous commitments of US$5.3 million from the Government of Germany and US$3.5 million from Conservation International’s Global Conservation Fund; bringing the total NPATF endowment to US$18.8 million,” WWF said.

Proceeds from the endowment will support the management of Guyana protected areas, including Kaieteur National Park, the Kanuku Mountains, and Shell Beach, in perpetuity. These areas, together with Iwokrama International Centre, collectively cover 5.4% of Guyana’s territory.

WWF is supporting efforts to facilitate the Wai-Wai community’s goal of adding their Konashen Community Owned Conservation Area (KCOCA) to the National Protected Areas System.

The completion of this process will add another 2.9%, bringing the total area under protection to approximately 8.3%.

Guyana, as a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, has committed the nation to conserving 17% of its territory in protected areas by 2020; the growing NPATF endowment will provide resources to help meet this target.

WWF has further applauded the decision to use mining revenues to finance the NPATF.

Observing that Guyana is blessed with both rich natural and mineral resources, the WWF stated that the challenge is to achieve economic development, including the thoughtful exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth.

The organisation said this would not jeopardise the country’s rich biodiversity, varied ecosystems, and spectacular landscapes. “Utilising funds from the mining sector to support the NPATF is an example of how today’s mining can facilitate long-term conservation,” the WWF added.

WWF Guianas is part of the world’s largest conservation organisations.

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MIDA Frankfurt Expects High-Profile Traffic From Malaysia

FRANKFURT, Sept 6 (NNN-Bernama) — The Frankfurt office of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) is expecting several high-profile visits from Malaysia in the coming weeks, aimed at increasing the flow of German investments into Malaysia and promoting bilateral business and corporate ties.

Providing an overview of the visits and interaction between the Malaysian and German corporate sectors, MIDA Director in Frankfurt S. Siva told Bernama the interaction between the two sides was expected to peak after the exchanges, particularly after the much-anticipated visit of Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, the Minister of International Trade and Industry.

Mustapa will be holding special seminars in Munich and Dusseldorf to highlight the investment opportunities available to Germany’s corporate sector in Malaysia.

The minister will visit Germany from October 12-16.

The seminars in Munich and Dusseldorf, to be held on October 13 and 15, respectively, are aimed at informing and updating the German business community on the developments taking place on Malaysia’s economy front, particularly identifying key areas that offer opportunities for investment and business in the manufacturing and services sectors.

The Munich seminar will be opened by Datuk Helmut Baur, Honorary Consul General of Malaysia, with Peter Driesen, Chief Executive of the Munich and Upper Bavaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), giving welcome remarks.

This will be followed by a keynote address by Mustapa and guest speaker Birgit Bauer-Groitl, Managing Director (MD) of Deutsche Technoplast GmbH, which operates a production facility for plastic parts for the electronics industry in Melaka.

The Dusseldorf seminar will be opened by Timo Prekop, President and MD of the German Asia Pacific Business Association, popularly known by its German acronym OAV, followed by a brief address by Gerhard Eschenbaum, Deputy MD and head of international business division of the Dusseldorf CCI, welcoming the minister.

After Mustapa’s keynote address, Christian Wachtmeister, MD of Muhlbauer Technologies Malaysia and head of the corporate development of Muhlbauer AG, the parent company, will deliver his address as guest speaker.

Muhlbauer has a manufacturing facility in Melaka, producing machinery and equipment for the semiconductor industry, smart cards and identification documents, among others.

At the Munich and Dusseldorf venues, there will be business meetings between seminar participants and members of the Malaysian delegation accompanying the minister.

The seminars are being supported by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), CCI in Bavaria and Dusseldorf, OAV, Deutsche Bank and the German Malaysian Association in Bonn.

Besides the minister’s visit, MIDA’s Frankfurt office will receive an electronics and electrical industry mission from its head office in Kuala Lumpur, which will hold meetings with important electronics corporations such as X-FAB and Melexis, both of Erfurt and Jena Optics (Jena).

MIDA Frankfurt is also receiving in mid-September a mission led by the director of its textile and building materials division from its Kuala Lumpur head office. The mission will meet a German company, Naue of Espelkamp-Fiespel which produces geo-synthetics.

This will be followed by another mission from MIDA’s frontier technology division which will arrive here at end-September. This mission will do follow-up work with a Belgian company called Materialize which specialises in additive manufacturing.

The MIDA mission is trying to facilitate this company to set up an office in Malaysia, whose presence in the country is important for its drive to becoming a hub for additive manufacturing.

Towards end-October, MIDA Frankfurt will receive one more mission from its food technologies division which will hold talks with German companies. “The coming weeks will be very busy for all of us in the Frankfurt office,” Siva said.

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Houbara Conservation Project Launched In Bahrain

MANAMA, Sept 8 (NNN-BNA) — Bahrain is to develop the species of Houbara birds as part of efforts to conserve the wildlife.

King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa’S personal representative, President of the Supreme Council for the Environment, Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al-Khalifa launched the project.

The King gave directives to provide breeding habitats for Houbara birds (Chlamydotis undulate) in the Southern Governorate and protect them from overhunting and poaching.

Hamad Al-Khalifa conveyed greetings from the King to UAE President Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE Armed Forces Deputy Supreme Commander General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, wishing them health and happiness and their people further progress and prosperity.

In a statement , Hamad Al-Khalifa hailed the UAE leaders for constantly supporting Bahrain. He extended thanks to the Abu Dhabi Government for its support, hailing continuous cooperation with the UAE-based International Fund for Houbara Conservation, which offered Bahrain a number of Asian Houbara birds, also known as MacQueen’s houbara (Chlamydotis macqueenii).

Hamad Al-Khalifa described the project as vital to protect and conserve this species which is considered as an icon of Arab civilization and traditions, stressing the importance of providing sustainable habitat for houbara birds for future generations.

A specialized team has been commissioned to supervise the houbara conservation project in cooperation with the Supreme Council for the Environment and the National Guard.

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Iran scientific production grows

Presstv / 08 Sep 2014 – The Islamic Republic of Iran has ranked 17th in terms of science productions in medicine in the world, according to the latest statistics released by several international scientific centers.

According to the statistics, Iran produced over 39,000 articles in 2013, which gained the country the world’s 17th rank in science production and fixed its top position in the region, above Turkey.

The promotion is mainly due to the achievements at the two areas of medical researches and medical technology of Iran’s Pasteur Institute.

Iran’s scientific progress was the result of the country’s recent policies and programs to develop knowledge and facilitate researchers’ access to the world’s top academic resources.

Assessing and promoting research centers and universities of medical sciences as well as launching some 50 new research centers were among the activities that have paved the way for the country’s science improvement, according to the report of the Iranian Health Ministry’s Center.

In 2000, the Islamic Republic ranked 53rd in the world in terms of highly cited medical articles, but improved to the 23rd rank in 2011.

According to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Iranian researchers and scientists published a total of 60,979 scientific articles in major international journals from 1999 to 2008.

Iran has taken wide strides in science and technology in recent years despite US sanctions. Iran’s 2009 growth rate in science and technology was highest globally, being 11 times faster than the world’s average rate.

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Russia, Iran to use national currencies in bilateral trade

Itar-Tass / 10 Sep 2014 – Russia and Iran plan to use their national currencies in bilateral trade, Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on Tuesday. “Trade will be organized on the basis of our currencies,” he said after the 11th meeting of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission.

He also said that the meeting had yielded a protocol where Iran had expressed its proposals on cooperation with Russia, including simpler visa issuing procedures, insurance aspects, more favourable conditions for its exports of perishable products to Russia, scientific and technical cooperation.

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N. America’s first Islamic art museum to open in Toronto

AFP / 12 Sep 2014 – A shiny new Islamic art museum and cultural center will open in Toronto next week, becoming the first of its kind in North America.

Bankrolled by Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, the facility will feature more than 1,000 artifacts — including rare scriptures of the Quran from the 7th and 8th centuries.

There are fine collections of Islamic art in museums throughout Canada and the United States, but this will be the first devoted entirely to such works when it welcomes visitors as of September 18.

The Can$300 million (US$274 million) Aga Khan Museum and adjacent Ismaili Center are sprawled over 6.8 hectares (17 acres), hoping to cater to Muslims and others

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Saudi Arabia launches Haj health awareness campaign

Arab news / 12 Sep 2014 – The Ministry of Health has launched a multimedia awareness campaign to inform Haj pilgrims of the preventive measures that should be taken during their stay in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

Health Ministry spokesman Khalid Al-Mirghalani told Arab News that this year the ministry is harnessing all media channels to reach the millions of pilgrims coming from countries around the world to convey the health messages.

“In addition to the media channels, the ministry will distribute more than a million brochures in several languages spelling out guidelines to prevent the spread of infection among pilgrims and advising them of the precautionary measures to be taken against health problems,” Al-Mirghalani said, pointing out that the booklets are available in Arabic, English, French, Urdu and Bahasa Indonesia languages. “They will be distributed among the pilgrims, who speak the respective languages,” he said.

He added that the leaflets will tell the pilgrims of the health guidelines to be followed during their stay in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

In addition to these brochures, the ministry will also distribute leaflets containing visual messages of what the pilgrims should and should not do during their stay in the holy cities.

“We will also use the print and electronic media to convey the health messages to the pilgrims,” he said, adding that large bill boards will be displayed at strategic points in the holy sites to convey the health messages of the ministry. “We have made arrangements to convey these messages to the pilgrims with the help of a variety of visual aids,” he said.

Pilgrims have been asked not to keep their cooked food for more than two hours to prevent food poisoning.

They have also been requested to wash the fruits and green leaves before consumption. “Meat and vegetables should not be washed together in preparation for cooking,” he said.

The official said people should be careful when they mingle in mass gatherings. “It is advisable to wear masks in crowded places and change them frequently,” he said, adding that they should also pay special attention to personal hygiene and wash hands frequently. “Covering the mouth and nose while sneezing would help prevent the spread of disease,” he cautioned.

Pilgrims have been advised to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water or a disinfectant, especially after coughing or sneezing, to maintain personal hygiene and prevent infection. They are also asked to use napkins to cover their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

The Health Ministry has also issued a general advisory about maintaining personal hygiene, cooking and serving food hygienically in order to prevent diarrhea and vomiting, food poisoning, dysentery, typhoid and cholera. In addition, hands should be washed before and after eating.

Covering the face with a towel while sleeping in congested rooms also helps prevent respiratory infections.

Diagnosed cases of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, migraine, epilepsy, skin diseases, psychiatric illnesses and gastric ulcer should be properly controlled with appropriate treatment.

Prior to the commencement of the Haj season, the Foreign Ministry, on the advice of the Ministry of Health , sent out circulars to all Saudi embassies abroad detailing the quarantine requirements in the respective countries for the issue of the pilgrim visas.

Vaccinations for meningitis are mandatory for all pilgrims while those coming from endemic countries infected with various diseases, have to be vaccinated too. The Kingdom has banned pilgrims from the three Ebola-affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

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King Abdullah approves second Saudi causeway with Bahrain

Jeddah, Sunday 12 Dhul Qaada 1435/ 07 September 2014 (IINA) – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has endorsed the project to construct a second causeway that will link Bahrain with the Kingdom, according to the Bahrain News Agency.

King Abdullah’s endorsement of the causeway was announced during his meeting with King Hamad Bin Issa of Bahrain here on Friday. The new causeway, a terrestrial link, will be called the “King Hamad Causeway”. The new link is expected to consolidate economic, social and cultural relations and cooperation between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, of which Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are members.

King Hamad expressed his thanks and gratitude to King Abdullah for his generous initiative and his strong support to the consolidation of relations between the GCC countries. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain already have a sea link, the first causeway which was opened in November 1986.

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King Abdullah to host 1,000 from families of Palestinian martyrs for Haj

Jeddah, Monday 13 Dhul Qaada 1435/ 08 September 2014 (IINA) – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah will sponsor the Haj pilgrimage of 1,000 Palestinians whose family members were killed during the latest Israeli offensive on Gaza.

This brings to 12,000 the number of Palestinians, whose family members had either died or gone to prison, who have been personally sponsored by King Abdullah to perform the pilgrimage. Saleh Al-Asheikh, minister of Islamic affairs, endowments, call and guidance, appreciated the king for his support to Palestinians. “This display of hospitality by our leader emphasizes that our Kingdom is tasked with serving Islam, Muslims and the holy sites,” said Al-Asheikh.

The minister said this is the sixth such initiative in a row and is part of continued Saudi support for the Palestinian people. “The ministry has come up with a special program to host the Palestinian pilgrims and help them perform the religious rituals comfortably,” he said. “The ministry will make every effort to ensure that their stay is comfortable and their pilgrimage successful.”

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Makkah governor launches media campaign for pilgrims

Makkah, Wednesday, 15 Dhul Qaada 1435/ 10 September 2014 (IINA) – Makkah Governor Prince Mishal Bin Abdullah, who is chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, launched on Tuesday evening a major media campaign with a focus on performing Haj in legal ways through obtaining a permit.

The campaign’s theme is “The right way is Haj with a permit.” Speaking on the occasion, Prince Mishal said that all the concerned sectors have completed their preparations for a hassle-free Haj. “This year’s media campaign aims at preventing the negative phenomena and misbehavior as well as to prevent any violation of Haj rules and regulations,” he said adding that all ministries, government agencies and departments will take part in the campaign in partnership with the telecom companies.

Prince Mishal said the city is geared up for the big event. “All sectors are perfectly ready and we’ll not spare any effort in the service of the guests of Allah,” he added. The campaign aims to ensure that only persons with permits perform the Haj and that pilgrims and service providers comply with ethical and regulatory standards. All related ministries and government departments are participating in the campaign. The telecommunications sector, in its role as a strategic sponsor, has also been helping to create public awareness. “We are confident that we are striving, under the direction of the Saudi leadership, to offer the best services at the holiest locations on earth,” the governor said.

Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar said the permits have been introduced to limit the numbers of pilgrims because of space constraints. This could only be achieved by allowing individuals to perform Haj once every five years. “The introduction of the Haj permit is not to ban people from repeatedly performing the pilgrimage. It is a regulatory step taken in view of a threefold increase in the number of pilgrims which affects proper Haj organization,” he said. The prince also launched mobile and other handheld communication devices designed to check Haj permits. The campaign will feature promotions on satellite channels, radio, roadside screens, commercial centers and hospitals.

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Philippines to enact law for Muslim autonomous region

Manila, Wednesday, 15 Dhul Qaada 1435/ 10 September 2014 (IINA) – In a historic move, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has asked the country’s congress to swiftly enact a law creating a Muslim autonomous area in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic state.

The move aims at ending nearly five decades of conflict, which has seen the two sides signing a deal in March to end a rebellion that has killed more than 120,000 people, displaced two million and stifled development in the resource-rich region. Hopes for peace were thrown into doubt after the deal, when the rebels accused the government of reneging on the pact. However, intense negotiations rescued the deal under which the main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has agreed to disband and surrender weapons in exchange for powers over the economy and society in the Bangsamoro area.

Aquino is keen to see the deal in place before his term ends in June 2016. “We ask congress … to pass this bill in the soonest possible time,” Aquino said at the related ceremony. “If we are able to legislate this, we can give our Moro brothers enough time to prepare, thus enabling them to nurture the seeds of meaningful governance which were planted for the Bangsamoro.” Rebel leaders are expected to govern the new autonomous area during a brief transition period until elections in May 2016, in which the MILF will take part, transforming the guerrilla group into a political party.

The law creating an autonomous government to replace an existing autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao island, which Aquino described as a failed experiment, was a product of 17 years negotiations and months of drafting. Under the deal, the Bangsamoro autonomous region will have self-rule over an expanded area with wider powers to impose taxes and fees on permits and licenses.

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Father Christmas Museum breaks records in Antalya

ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency – One of the most visited locations in Antalya, the Father Christmas (Noel Baba) Museum in Demre, exceeded 85,000 monthly visitors for the first time this August.

The Father Christmas Museum’s site dates back to the 4th century A.D. and is considered holy, especially by Orthodox Christians. It is the only ancient structure with wall paintings in the region, drawing the highest number of tourists from Russia, followed by Germany and other European countries.

In August the museum was visited by 85,287 people, bringing in 832,537 Turkish Liras in revenue. In the same period of last year, the museum was visited by 81,865 people and earned 782,267 liras.

In the first eight months of this year, the museum received a total of 388,863 visitors, earning 4,028,653 liras. During the same period of last year, the number of visitors was 352,262 for 3,538,600 liras in revenue.

Another tourist attraction in Demre, the ancient city of Myra, was also rushed to by visitors in August. Myra hosted 63,335 people for 650,000 liras in revenue. The number of visitors in the same term last year was 66,277, earning 660,000 liras.

In the first eight months of this year, Myra hosted a total of 314,731 people, providing 3,534,000 liras. In the same time period last year, these numbers were 310,033 people and 3,208,000 liras, respectively.

Myra is very popular among tourists due to its remaining theater that has a capacity of 13,000 people, theater masks on ancient stones and rock tombs.

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Palace unearthed in Mersin’s ancient settlement Yumuktepe

MERSİN – Anadolu Agency – Ongoing archaeological excavations in one of the world’s oldest settlements, the Yumuktepe tumulus in the southern province of Mersin, have unearthed the remains of a palace. The palace dates to as far back as 4,500 B.C., and the quality of the pavement outside the palace was a big surprise for archaeologists.

Traces of settlements at Yumuktepe date back to 7,000 B.C. and settlements continued there until the 13th century. The excavation works in Yumuktepe are currently headed by Professor Isabella Caneva, from the Archeology Department in Italy’s Lecce University.

Caneva said this year’s works started one month ago and focused on the layers of the chalcolithic era in 5,000 B.C, yielding good results so far. The remains of the palace were discovered during works in previous years, she added.

“This year’s work completely revealed the outline of the palace. We call it palace because it is a big building. It is from 4,500 B.C., the late chalcolithic era. At these times, normal houses were very small but there is a very big hall here. Each room was also floored with adobe. There were nearly 200 cups and ceramics, which means the meal was cooked for many people here. People who lived here were not a normal family but a large or elite family,” Caneva said.

She added that the remains of the palace reflected the traces of many generations of Mesopotamian civilizations. “This place is more monumental and in higher quality when compared to normal houses. There is a very good pavement outside the palace. I have never seen such a pavement. It was a surprise,” she said.

Yumuktepe, also known as Soğuksutepe, was founded 9,000 years ago by Neolithic farmers, whose ruined homes now form the core of the archeological ruins. The first excavation was from 1936 to 1938 by J. Garstang. It was the only Neolithic site known of in the Near East until the mid-20th century. The well-watered plain of Mersin rises towards inner Anatolia on one side, and opens towards Syria and the Levant on the other. The charred remains of pistachio, oak and pine trees from the earlier levels at Yumuktepe shows that the area was much more densely forested than in modern times.

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Temple of Serapis in Ephesus undergoes restoration

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – The temple of Serapis, which was discovered in İzmir’s ancient city of Ephesus and is estimated to have collapsed in an earthquake, will be restored to its original condition. The ancient city of Ephesus receives approximately 2 million visitors from around the world every year.

Experts have said the temple, built in the 2nd century A.D. as a devotion to the Egyptian god Serapis, is the best preserved and largest temple in Anatolia. Constructed on an area of 7,700 square meters, the area of the structure is over 1,000 square meters.

Built 1,800 years ago, the temple’s remains have been left scattered about due to an earthquake, still it’s reported that nearly 100 percent of the temple’s pieces are still intact.

The restoration of the temple has been undertaken by the Ephesus Foundation and it is widely expected that the temple will become the second face of Ephesus, following the Celsius Library, after its restoration.

The Ephesus Foundation President, Ahmet Kocabıyık, said they would like to bring a new destination to Ephesus with the restorations. “The Celsius Library comes to mind when we say Ephesus, but when a temple like Serapis is revived, it may become the new face of Ephesus,” he said.

Kocabıyık said the most important point in the restoration process was placing the triangular roof, called a “pediment,” on top of the columns. “We have two alternatives for the removal of the roof. We will either put it on the columns or we will display it in another place. Most probably we will not be able to put the pediment on the columns because it weighs 600 tons. Placing it on columns will be seriously expensive. We plan to place it in another area and, in this way, visitors to Ephesus will see it,” Kocabıyık said, adding that the marble on the pediment has so far survived without being damage.

“We have good workers here. The restoration process will take nearly seven or eight years and we have a budget between $3-5 million. Placing the triangular section on the columns would no doubt double our cost,” he added.

The Director of the Austrian Institute of Archaeology and head of excavations at Ephesus, Sabine Ladstatter, said the remains and the strength of the blocks had been analyzed with ultrasounds for the restoration, as well as the land structure of the region.

Stating they had examined the possibilities to reestablish the temple, Ladstatter said work at the site would be finished in October and the application process would start later. She said for a work to be considered a restoration, 80 percent of the structure should be revived. “We have started working on doing this. The triangular structure is in the soil. It is an innovative idea to display this triangle in another place.”

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Bibliopole festival opens in Üsküdar

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – The first Üsküdar Bibliopole Festival in Üsküdar Square’s Ramadan Tent presents rare newspapers, magazines, posters, books and maps printed in the Ottoman era. The festival has been organized in collaboration with Istanbul’s Üsküdar Municipality and the Bibliopole Association.

Üsküdar Mayor Hilmi Türkmen said nearly 40 bibliopoles would meet readers for 15 days during the festival. He also said they hope to create a bibliopole bazaar in Üsküdar.

Türkmen said that the Ottoman-era works presented in the festival would be easily accessible to all those who arrive. “Among them are literary works including Servet-i Fünun, Sırat-ı Müstakim and Sebilü’r Reşat,” he said.

“There are also maps of old Istanbul and Ottoman resource books that have not been translated yet, plaques printed in the Ottoman era, used postcards from 1900s and handwritten documents and letters,” he added.

The festival will continue until Sept. 14.

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Turkey in major drive to upgrade its museums

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – In recent years Turkey has taken large strides to develop museums of international standards, which have opened one after the other. Radical change has been seen both in the museums’ physical structures and in the service mentality of Anatolia.

“Especially over the last 10 years, Turkey has gained speed and began establishing museums matching international criteria,” said Cultural Heritages and Museums Deputy General Director Zülküf Yılmaz.

Yılmaz said the definition of what constitutes a museum had already changed: Museums are no longer limited and static places, but instead have become social arenas where people interact with each other or objects, he said.

“We have started establishing modern museums as the necessity of the time. We need to open museums that offer education, maintenance ateliers (and) depots to keep artworks for at least 40-50 years, and places for visitors to eat, drink and shop, with large display areas as well,” Yılmaz said. He added that the country’s developments were reflected in the changes within its museums.

Yılmaz said while museum management diversified Turkish museums, they also enhanced existing ones. “We have policies for museums to go through a fast transformation process and acquire a new identity to suit the 21st century,” he said.

Turkey has 193 museums affiliated with the Culture and Tourism Ministry, 136 restored ancient sites and 195 private museums, according to Yılmaz. He said the number of museums in some developed countries reached into the thousands, citing the nearly 35,000 museums in the U.S.

“It is good when the number is many, but if you open new museums just to increase the number, you later begin to make concessions on their quality,” he said. “When we talk about thousands of museums, all of them cannot be at the standards of the New York Metropolitan Museum.” Yılmaz also noted economic conditions played a large role in the quality and quantity of museums in a country.

Yılmaz said the number of visitors to museums had increased considerably each year, adding the average visitor’s profile usually included those with middle- and higher levels of education. He said he wants people of all backgrounds to visit these museums, however.

Yılmaz said almost 65 museum projects are being conducted currently, adding some new museums will open to visitors shortly. Among these are the Hatay Archaeology Museum, the Şanlıurfa Museum, the Şanlıurfa Haleplibahçe Mosaic Museum, the Van Urartu Museum and the Çanakkale Troy Museum.

He also discussed a developing Journey to History project, which will present social and cultural activities in some museum exhibitions.

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Tajikistan holds melon-and-honey festival

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-09-10 DUSHANBE – Shoppers in Dushanbe and elsewhere in Tajikistan at the end of August had their choice of melon-and-honey fairs to visit if they wanted to get some fresh produce.

From August 23-30, the Agriculture Ministry sponsored a variety of fairs nationwide. They culminated in a produce festival in Dushanbe August 30.

In the capital, shoppers at four markets could choose from 118 tonnes of honey, 145 tonnes of melons and 375 other kinds of produce.

“The farming festival in Dushanbe attracted the best traders from district melon-and-honey fairs, who received invitations to compete in the capital for Agriculture Ministry awards,” ministry spokesman Nazrullo Dadabayev told Central Asia Online.

Although the markets in Dushanbe were open from 5am-6pm August 30, by noon, they already had sold out. The below-market prices encouraged customers to buy up everything. For example, a melon that would normally cost 15 TJS (US $3.01) or more per kg cost 10 TJS (US $2.01) or less per kg at the Dushanbe fair.

“I bought several Amiri melons at once,” Dushanbe resident Gulandom Safiyeva said.

“Melons of this type are grown only in Sughd Oblast, and we usually have to order them,” she said, referencing the practise wherein dealers will deliver melons out of the area. “But this time, traders delivered them to the capital and sold them below market price.”

Farmer Jurakhon Ochilov from Hamadoni District, Sughd Oblast, said he never thought he would be able to sell out his produce as quickly as he did.

“We were afraid we’d have to take half of our produce back home or look for vendors to buy it,” he said. “But to our surprise, we’d sold out everything by noon.”

Since Tajikistan has no official holiday honouring the harvest, honey-and-melon fairs can be considered a celebration of the harvest for the whole country, journalist Sadriddin Nurov said.

“At this time of the year, the bee-keepers are selling their produce,” he said. “There’s no more nectar for the bees to feed on.”

Tajiks, like the other Central Asian peoples, consider honey and melons delicacies, he said.

Zafar Azizov of Rudaki District, Region of Republican Subordination, purchased about 30 melons and several jugs of honey for his 14-member family. Many Tajik families like Azizov’s store melons and honey for the winter.

“Winters are cold in our parts, so tea with honey will keep both senior citizens and children warm,” he said. “They prevent them from catching colds too often.”

Melon-and-honey festivals are of symbolic importance to Tajiks, Sughd Oblast farmer Rahimjon Abdulloyev said.

“By tradition, Tajiks purchase winter melons in early autumn and keep them in cool and dark storage locations like basements,” he said. “The fair helped Dushanbe residents who lack the land to cultivate melons or honey buy those foods at a fair price.”

“We carried our produce to Dushanbe solely to take part in the farming festival,” Abdulloyev said. “Otherwise, we’d have had to sell it to a middleman, who would have resold it for a higher price.”

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Health and wellness vacations gain popularity in Kyrgyzstan

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-09-08 BISHKEK – Kyrgyz health resorts are building a worldwide reputation.

The Russian-language version of the National Geographic website is operating an online annual contest, the National Geographic Traveler awards, June 25-September 30. Readers may vote for their favourite travel destinations in 18 categories. Kyrgyzstan is joined by Hungary, Israel, Iceland, Slovenia and South Korea.

In August, Forbes’ Russian-language site included Lake Issyk-Kul on its list of the 14 most extraordinary travel destinations in the former Soviet Union. It cited two resorts, Issyk-Kul Aurora and Goluboi Issyk-Kul, near the lake. The list included destinations in each former Soviet republic outside Russia.

Health and wellness vacations in Kyrgyzstan are gaining popularity because of their benefits and the country’s unique climate.

“Treatment in Kyrgyzstan’s health resorts has been rapidly developing in recent years,” Chynara Tokobayeva, chief of the Trade Union Federation Health Resort Administration (FPK), said. “About 10,000 people vacationed at health resorts in 2009. Last year we took in almost 20,000 visitors at our 11 resorts.”

That trend benefits the resorts, which make more money, and the government, which reaps more in tax revenue.

A unique natural setting, pristine environment and organic food all make Kyrgyzstan’s health resorts appealing. “The low cost of the trips plays a significant role,” Tokobayeva said.

“Our prices are entirely affordable – a 20-day stay including three meals a day and all treatments costs 18,400 KGS (US $353),” Alchan Osmongaziyev, director of the Issyk-Ata health resort, said.

“Our health resort is one of the oldest in Central Asia,” Osmongaziyev said. “There are 130 mineral water springs here, half of which maintain a constant temperature of 38º-50º C. Mineral water springs have been a popular pilgrimage site among locals since ancient times. Mineral waters, mud baths and the unique mountain climate are the basic components of treatment here.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, health resorts were on the verge of shutting down in 1991-1992 because of financial problems. Eventually, though, they rebounded. Now they are largely self-sufficient and paying taxes.

“We paid 11m KGS (US $212,000) in taxes in 2013,” Osmongaziyev said. “Our (annual) payroll was about 15m KGS (US $289,000). In 2010 we took in 4,072 people. In 2013, it was 6,011 people.”

The vast majority of vacationers are Kyrgyz, but recently more Kazakhstanis and citizens of other CIS countries are coming, officials say.

Erbolat, 41, came from Aktau, Kazakhstan. “At first we wanted to go to Sary Agash (in Kazakhstan), but relatives advised us to go to Issyk-Ata in Kyrgyzstan,” he said. “The climate and mountain air are great here, and the river is lovely. My wife and I hope to get better here.”

“Our treatment is based on mineral water baths, mud baths and electrophoresis,” Kalima Asakayeva, the spa’s physician, said. “Our mineral water and additional procedures help to heal inflammations and strengthen immunity.”

The future of health resorts

Health resorts derive part of their revenue from the government and the rest from visitors.

“The Fund for Improving Workers’ Health partially finances us, and the Social Development Ministry also provides a small sum,” Tokobayeva said. “We finance everything else through our own efforts.”

The Economy Ministry has recently proposed to eliminate the Fund for Improving Workers’ Health, which uses revenue collected from companies to give Kyrgyz workers free trips to the country’s resorts. The business community supports the Fund’s elimination because it considers it an “inefficient way of improving health that places an additional burden on the business community.”

But the FPK has taken a stand against the initiative.

“We can help the poor regain their health through the Fund,” Tokobayeva said. “Thanks to the Fund for Improving Workers’ Health, (last year) we cured about 13,000 sick adults and more than 15,000 children … Workers received stays for free.”

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Bangladesh hosts 3rd Asian Tourism Fair

DHAKA, Sept 7, 2014 (BSS) – The third Asian Tourism Fair (ATF) will begin in the capital from September 11 with participation of eight Asian nations.

Numbers of tourism related organisations from host Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, China and Philippines will take part in the three-day fair at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital.

Monthly Magazine Parjatan Bichitra will organise the fair in cooperation with Bangladesh Tourism Board and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation with objective of promoting tourism of the region globally.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon will formally inaugurate the fair on September 11. Participating organisations will offer special discount on airfares and tour packages to the visitors.

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Indonesia calls on airlines to use environmentally friendly fuel

8 September 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Transportation has asked airlines operating in Indonesia to use environmentally friendly fuel in anticipation of the future depletion of fossil fuels, the ministrys Secretary General Santoso Edy Wibowo reported here on Monday..

“A new alternative is required in anticipation of the depletion of avtur in the future,” stated Santoso, adding that the growing airline industry in Indonesia will need more energy.

According to him, the government is currently developing green fuel technology, which is expected to be used in 2016. A non-binding government regulation supporting the use of biofuel for the airline industry will also be formulated, Santoso said.

Meanwhile, operational director from the national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia Capt Novianto Herupratomo expressed hope that the government will sell biofuel at a cheap price or, at least, a similar price with the fossil fuel avtur.

Currently, Garuda Indonesia is operating 96 airplanes using avtur. The use of avtur is predicted to rise from 1.8 billion liters to 2 billion liters in 2016. Novianto noted that Garuda Indonesia had tried to reduce the use of avtur by using new planes that are more economical.

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Indonesia urges accelerated railway development

10 September 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The construction of double-track railway in Java Island should be accelerated, the Vice Minister of Transportation Bambang Susantono reported here on Wednesday.

“The double-track railway construction in north of Java is almost complete except for the south lane, which is still under construction. We certainly hope that the next government will finish these projects,” Bambang stated at the National Seminar on National Logistics System.

According to him, the construction of double-track railways in the north and south of Java is considered very important and strategic, concerning 60 percent of the national economy is still centered in Java. The construction will also reduce the burden of road transport, in addition to improving the efficiency and competitiveness of train transportation.

The construction of double-track railway linking the northern coast of Jakarta to Surabaya, East Java, is already completed, making the travel time between these two cities relatively faster.

“A number of regents in the northern parts of Java said that the construction of double-track railway has boosted the economic sectors, such as tourism and investment,” Bambang noted.

Meanwhile, the construction of double-track railways in southern Java, connecting Jakarta to Surabaya, is still underway.

Bambang explained that the Northern Coast Road was overcrowded, considering nearly 90 percent of the road transports cross that route. The highway is prone to congestion, which in turn causes inefficiency.

“Not to mention during Idul Fitri holidays, the roads are extraordinary jammed, and hence train becomes a very appropriate alternative,” he said.

Data obtained from the Ministry of Transportation showed that Jakarta-Surabaya double-track railway along 727 kilometers is almost complete.

The double-track railway along 291 kilometers has been operational since before 2013. During 2013-2014, 368 kilometers of double-track railway has been in operation, and there are still unfinished railway tracks along 68 kilometers to connect Babat-Surabaya.

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Surabaya receives award for maintaining culture preserves

6 September 2014 Surabaya, E Java (ANTARA News) – The Education and Culture Ministry of Indonesia has awarded a medal to the Surabaya city government for its efforts in caring for culture preserves.

Secretary of the Surabaya city administration Hendro Gunawan said on Saturday that he was representing Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini in receiving the medal from Deputy Education and Culture Minister Wiendu Nuryanti at the National Museum in Jakarta on Friday night, Sept 5.

“Besides Surabaya, similar medals were also given to the Semarang, Surakarta, Yogyakarta and Sawah Lunto city governments,” he said.

Hendro said the Surabaya city government had been committed to protecting culture preserves by providing assistance, compensation, licensing privileges and incentives to the owners of buildings declared culture preserves.

Under regulation of the Surabaya mayor number 59 of 2007 on the conservation of buildings and environments declared culture preserves, the assistance could come in the form of periodical maintenance and consultations, he said.

Additionally, the compensation could cover tax relief or reduced levies, he said. The regulation also controlled the mechanism of reward and fines.

The regulation stipulates that owners of buildings declared culture preserves who have consistently cared for their buildings deserve to receive awards from the Surabaya mayor. On the other hand, if they renovate or demolish buildings without abiding by proper procedures, owners will be subject to sanctions, he said.

Hendro, who is former chief of the Surabaya city development planning agency (Bappeko), said the city administration has intensively encouraged the private sector to become involved in the conservation of culture preserves.

“Thank God the public, particularly the private sector, have positively responded to the call. This means that awareness of the need to care about culture preserves has really been instilled in the people of Surabaya,” he said.

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Indonesia to host its first maritime industry expo

10 September 2014 Surabaya, East Java (ANTARA News) – Indonesia for the first time will host Marintec Indonesia 2014, an international maritime industry exhibition and conference, at Jakarta International Expo on November 26-28, 2014.

Industrial Vice Minister Alex Retraubun told the media that the exhibition is a collaboration between Industrial Ministry and UBM Indonesia, with around 100 domestic and foreign maritime industrial companies ready to participate.

“Marintec Indonesia will bring together many business people, technical managers, operational experts in shipping, and offshore industries from across the world. About 250 national shipping industries will be invited,” he said at a conference related to the event.

He believed that the event could become a platform to exchange information and new ideas, which will increase business opportunities. Although Indonesia has a large maritime area, the country has not yet optimized its maritime potential to support national economic development.

“Our maritime potential is impressive, but, to be honest, we could not optimize it yet. I hope the new government will have a policy to increase the potential in order to support national economy,” he said.

Alex admitted that the maritime industrial sector has not been managed properly because it is currently being handled by a third level of government official. He wished that the government will be more concerned.

At the same time, UBM Asia Senior Vice President Christopher Eve stated that Indonesias maritime potential is remarkable and has an important role in supporting national economy.

“As a developing country, it is important for Indonesia to provide a modern and efficient commercial shipping fleet, including good maintenance of industry and shipyard,” he added.

Industries from China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, United Kingdom, France, and Indonesia will participate in the exhibition.

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UK Introduces Halal Loans for Students

OnIslam & News Agencies Thursday, 11 September 2014 LONDON – In a move expected to increase the number of Muslim students in British universities, the UK government has approved new Shari’ah-complaint loans for Muslim students, to help students overcome the latest rise in education fees.

Students taking part in the Takaful model “would not be borrowing money and paying it back with interest to a third party, which would not be compliant with Sharia law,” according to the government response in a report published on the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS), Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday.

“Instead the Takaful fund will be established with an initial amount of money that can be donated to the fund or on the basis of Qard Hasan (interest-free loan) and based on a concept of mutual participation and guarantee.”

The announcement came after four months of consultations on the so-called “Sharia-compliant Alternative Finance Product.”

After extensive consultations with around 20,000 people, 93% said students with religious objections to the charging of interest had been affected by the changes in tuition fees and student loans.

A huge percentage of Muslim students said the latest rise in fees, applied in 2012, forced them to abandon universities for finding the interest system against the principles of their faith.

One said: “Students, including myself, chose to stay at home through their higher education in order to take only the minimal loan necessary to avoid extra interest.

“Most significantly in my opinion, this seriously limits the options of universities that they can apply to as they can only apply to ones within a reasonable commutable distance.

“This might mean that they miss out on courses only available at specific universities, or miss out on applying for the best universities for their course of interest. This can hinder these students from the best career for themselves that they could possibly have achieved otherwise.”

After consultations, the “Takaful” Islamic finance model was selected as a potential product to be offered to Muslim students.

The government said it has been “working with the Bank of Britain and other Islamic finance experts to develop the Takaful model as a potential alternative to conventional student loans.”

“The overall message is that an Alternative Finance product would be welcomed by the majority although the Government would need to undertake further work to provide greater clarity,” the government said.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly two million. There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). There are nearly 90,000 Muslim students studying in higher education institutions.

Islam forbids Muslims from receiving or paying interest on loans. Introducing the Shari`ah compliant loans, would change minds of many Muslim students who decided earlier not to join universities due to the loan interest, according to the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).

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Iran seeks UNESCO Heritage status for Siraf port

PressTV – Tue Sep 9, 2014 – Iran is planning to offer the historical port of Siraf to the UNESCO for a possible inscription on the World Heritage list of the organization. Iran is slated to introduce Siraf, known today as Taheri Port, to the world as a historical Persian port which is located in the Persian Gulf.

Located 220 kilometers south-east of Bushehr and approximately 380 kilometers west of Bandar Abbas, the city of Siraf is noted for its many historic sites dating back to the Sassanid, Parthian and Islamic eras.

Archeological evidence unveiled that the port had been much larger before parts of it were submerged. “The submerged sections were once part of a large city which went under water after an earthquake.”

“Siraf is one of the most successful ports of the world” and “a picture of wealth and activity during the ancient times such as those we witnessed in Hong Kong, Venice, and Boston later on,” described the British archaeologist David Whitehouse who excavated the area during 1970s.

The excavations had yielded east African ivory objects, Indian stone pieces, and Afghan lapis in Siraf which confirm the use of the historic port as the main marine trade route during the pre-Islamic era and the first four centuries following the advent of Islam.

One hundred 35-130 meter deep stone wells and graves at the foot of the mountains surrounding the city are among some of Siraf’s unique archeological sites.

Islamic gravestones, the resting place of the Muslim scholar Ibn Sibeveyh, and a number of Towers of Silence and Zoroastrian temples portray the region’s religious diversity throughout history.

World Heritage site is a title that is given to the locations, which have “outstanding universal value” to all of humanity, according to the UNESCO description.

Armenian monastic ensembles of Iran, Bam and its cultural landscape, Bisotoun, Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Sheikh Safi al-din shrine, Shoushtar historical hydraulic system, Soltaniyeh, Tabriz historic bazaar complex, Takht-e Soleiman, Tchogha Zanbil and the Persian garden are some of the Iranian historical heritage that have been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List so far.

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Renowned Iran’s music ensembles go on stage at music festival

PressTV – Sat Sep 6, 2014 – Several renowned Iranian music ensembles have staged their programs during Tehran Music Festival arranged on the sidelines of Iran’s House of Music Celebration.

The ceremony opened by the performance of Hamavayan ensemble conducted by the eminent Iranian tar virtuoso Hossein Alizadeh.

Accompanied by the award-winning vocalist Mohammad Motamedi, the ensemble performed its concert in two sections; the first was dedicated to poems from classical Persian literature and the second one included songs by contemporary Iranian poets.

The audience also enjoyed another Iranian music band known as Pallett which presented songs from its debut album released in 2012.

The family music group Kamkars also presented several music programs in Kurdish at the event.

The festival will be continued until September 8 with several other programs including the concerts of Shams Ensemble led by Keykhosro Pournazeri and the vocalists Homayoun Shajarian as well as Ali Reza Qorbani accompanied by Eshtiaq ensemble.

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Tehran hosts 6th carpet, related industries exhibition

PressTV – Mon Sep 8, 2014 – Iran has mounted the sixth edition of International Floor Covering, Moquette, Machine made Carpet and Related Industries exhibition in Tehran, Press TV has reported. Some 110 domestic and foreign companies have flocked to the exhibition to introduce their most recent products.

The industries’ representatives attended the event to become acquainted with top producers and latest innovations in the industry.

“Companies producing machine made carpet had the biggest share in this year’s exhibition, comparing that of other related industries.”

Carpet industry is one of the most important sections in Iran’s textile industry, which has developed and grown significantly with $350million revenue, only in the previous year.

Machine made carpet industry have flourished to a size of 1000 producers that use the latest available technologies and good quality materials with modern and traditional carpet designs to provide unique products to domestic and international markets.

Total production of this sector currently stands at 100 million square meters of machine made carpets and floor coverings.

Iranian people have always showed great passion toward carpet industry and considered it as a work of art.

Iran exports carpets to at least 70 countries in the world. Experts attribute the increasingly lucrative market for Persian carpets worldwide to its quality, color and design.

Carpet-weaving is one of the most distinguished manifestations of Persian culture and art, which dates back to ancient Persia.

Persian carpets, in particular the hand-woven products, often feature geometric patterns which are a reflection of Islamic influences, although many Persian rugs depict natural scenes of animal and plant wildlife.

There is an estimated population of 1.2 million weavers in Iran, producing hand-woven carpets for domestic markets and international export.

The 2014 international machine made carpet and related industries exhibition kicked off on September 6 and will run until September 9.

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Iran’s Tabriz to ink sister city pact with Turkey’s Konya

PressTV – Mon Sep 8, 2014 – Iran is planning to ink sisterhood declaration of the northwestern city of Tabriz with the Turkish city of Konya during Tabriz commemorating week ceremony.

A number of municipal officials and ambassadors of Germany, Poland, Gaza, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan will be invited to the ceremony.

While Iran and Turkey have many common beliefs in culture, the decision was made to boost the two nations’ artistic exchanges, tourism and cultural ties.

The municipalities of Turkish eastern province of Erzurum and Iranian city of Tabriz had earlier signed a protocol that made the two cities ‘sisters’.

Tabriz is the capital of Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province and the second industrial city of Iran. The city is also known as Chocolate City of Iran.

As the fifth most populated city in Iran, Tabriz is famous and named as City of Firsts, City without Beggars, Cradle of Iran Investment and Iran’s healthiest City.

The city contains many historical monuments, but repeated devastating earthquakes and several invasions during frequent wars have substantially damaged many of them.

Many monuments in the city date back to the Ilkhanid, Safavid, and Qajar periods, such as Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2010.

The grand bazaar, situated in the middle of Tabriz, is one of the oldest bazaars in the Middle East and the largest covered bazaar in the world.

The monument was the first bazaar that the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Center selected as a valuable cultural heritage.

The oldest signs of the civilization in the city include an excavation site and museum in the city center with a history that dates back 2500 years.

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Egypt’s monuments on Google Earth Touring services

TNN – September 11, 2014 – Google announced on Wednesday that some of Egypt’s monuments, notably the pyramids at Giza, would be available on Google Earth Touring services. This was announced during a press conference held in the presence of Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou.

Google Earth Touring services will allow users to discover Egypt’s monuments and antiquities through panoramic photos, Google marketing manager in the Middle East and North Africa, Tarek Abdullah said.

It will include six of Egypt’s historical sites, including the Pyramids of Giza and Cairo’s 1,300-year-old Hanging Church. “Street View is a great source of planning for tourists and we hope more people will be inspired to travel to the country after viewing the images,” said Abdallah.

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Uganda Shops for Tourists in Booming China Market

The Observer – 10 September 2014 – Guangzhou- With China generating more outbound tourists than any other country on earth last year, and tourism overtaking remittances to become Uganda’s most lucrative export during the same year, it’s not surprising that Uganda Tourism Board is looking to cash in.

As part of its new strategy to explore the Far East and China in particular as alternative tourism markets, UTB recently led a delegation to the China Guangdong International Tourism Industry Expo 2014 in Guangzhou. Coordinated by Uganda’s consulate in Guangzhou, the multi-dimensional delegation included representatives of UTB itself, parliament, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Civil Aviation Authority, tour operators and the media.

The minister of Works and Transport, Abraham Byandala, later joined the team, representing his colleague, Maria Mutagamba, the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities who was unable to attend. While Uganda has previously targeted North America and Europe as the prime tourism markets and participated in expos in these countries, this was the first of its kind in China, and the scepticism could be immediately detected from the fact that only one tour company based in Uganda was represented.

But Paul Mukumbi, Uganda’s enthusiastic deputy consul based here, has no doubt that China is a tourist market Uganda can’t afford to ignore.

“We have been working on Europe and the United States but latest data indicates that China was the biggest producer of outbound tourists last year,” he said.

Like Mukumbi, from what she saw in Guangzhou, Flavia Kabahenda, the Kyegegwa Woman MP and chairperson of parliament’s committee on Tourism, was left convinced that UTB’s China move is on song. “This is a very good idea if we can harness it with a passion, not just interest,” Kabahenda said.

Her colleague James Mbahimba (Kasese municipality), also a member of the committee, concurred.

“This is a big market; we need to tap into it. If you see the turnout at this expo, you realise it’s a big market,” Mbahimba said.

Indeed, the turnout was great and Uganda’s modest stall attracted a lot of interest, even winning an award for excellent organisation from the organisers. While there is no doubt that Uganda could do with a piece of the Chinese tourist pie, the challenge is how to position the country to cash in.

Language and culture barriers, as well as inconvenient if expensive travel, were found to be the main obstacles, leading members of the delegation to advocate the restoration of a national airline or at least a direct flight, and more effort in teaching the Chinese language in Uganda.

“Our government must work on a direct flight to China,” said Kabahenda, plunging into a subject that splits opinions quite sharply back home.

But opinions on the matter here were rather at par, with MPs Kabahenda and Mbahimba arguing that the government should consider a national flag carrier as a road or any other piece of transport infrastructure instead of focusing on direct and immediate profits.

“Tourism has a very high return; so, the infrastructure would be worth it,” Kabahenda said. “A direct link in terms of transport would bring direct benefits,” Mbahimba added.

Having decried the cost of transport, saying the Chinese had complained that the $1,500 for a return ticket to Entebbe was on the high side, John Ssempebwa, UTB’s deputy chief executive officer, added that the Chinese had also complained that they are often abandoned at airports because they can’t speak the most commonly used languages in Africa, hence augmenting the case for a direct flight.

Illustrating the transport constraint rather succinctly, Gate 1 Tours and Travel proprietor Selgio Kansiime Muhangi pointed out that flying from Beijing to Guangzhou, a distance of about 2,000km, costs approximately $250, yet a flight from Entebbe to Nairobi, a flight distance of 520km, costs not less than $350!

With Kenya Airways in particular having Chinese air hostesses and announcements in the Chinese language on its Guangzhou -Bangkok-Nairobi flight, it’s harder for Ugandan tour operators to persuade Chinese tourists to venture further inland when that essentially means paying much more and enduring a language and culture nightmare.

A direct flight, on the other hand, whether a national carrier or not, would not only be cheaper but it would also minimise the language barrier by reducing flight time and ensuring Chinese-tailored on-board services.

Latest figures indicate tourism is now Uganda’s biggest export earner. It fetched $1.4bn in the 2013/14 financial year, up from $1.1bn the previous year, according to Bank of Uganda’s monetary policy for August. Remittances from Ugandans working abroad ($800m) are now second and coffee ($415m), third.

In 2012, a reputable online tour magazine named Lonely Planet ranked Uganda number one among the top countries to visit and the ripple effect of this endorsement has been evident, according to industry players.

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Sudan Defence Ministry Signs Contract for New Airports in Darfur

Radio Dabanga – 8 September 2014 – Khartoum — The Sudanese Ministry of Defence signed a contract on Sunday with the Khartoum Airports Holding to implement the construction of airports in Central and East Darfur.

The Ministry stated that the estimated costs of the new airports, to be built in Zalingei, capital of Central Darfur, and Ed Daein, capital of East Darfur, are US$ 25 million.

The signing ceremony took place in the presence of Defence, Gen. Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, and the head of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), Dr El Tijani Sese. The DRA will contribute SDG 75 million ($13 million) in support of the construction of the two airports.

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Saudi Education Ministry boosts entrepreneurship program

Arab News – 12 September, 2014 – The Education Ministry has entered into a strategic agreement with the Saudi Injaz Entrepreneurs Program to help young citizens start their own businesses.

This took place on the sidelines of the program’s annual ceremony held in Jeddah on Tuesday to honor the best supervisors, business idea, marketing plan, product, young entrepreneurs and sponsor companies.

Abdullah Rahemi, a member of the program’s board, emphasized that the partnership would enhance the economy by helping students identify career opportunities early and build self-confidence. He said the country needs more than doctors and engineers to ensure sustainable development.

He praised Minister of Education Prince Khaled Al-Faisal for supporting and endorsing the agreement. “We need self-grooming and self-development programs for young people to achieve the goal of serving the nation.”

He said other stakeholders that would help achieve these goals include the Ministry of Labor, sponsoring companies and volunteers.

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Bahrain Airport to upgrade ground handling services

Saudi Gazette – 11 September, 2014 – BahrainAirport Services Co. (BAS) has selected air transport IT specialist, SITA, to automate staff rostering and allocation at Bahrain International Airport in a new five-year deal. SITA’s resource management system will help the ground handler achieve its objective by increasing the efficiency and productivity of its airport staff.

Salman Saleh Al-Mahmeed, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Bahrain Airport Services, said: “SITA has helped us completely transform and automate our ground handling process. We now have a powerful, real-time planning tool, which gives us the intelligence to schedule and dispatch our all our employees at the airport and make sure we have the right people, in the right place, at the right time in a constantly changing environment.”

SITA is providing BAS with a complete end-to-end solution that connects employees on the move and their mobile devices with back office systems.

This ensures the ground handler can make decisions as needs change for more effective use of resources. For example if there are many aircraft arriving simultaneously, they can allocate more employees to certain tasks to improve efficiency. SITA’s resource management system gives Bahrain Airport Services a robust and completely automated planning solution.

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INTERPOL, Kuwait sign travel document accord

Kuwait Times – 11 September, 2014 – Kuwait and INTERPOL signed an agreement yesterday availing Kuwaiti security personnel to possess INTERPOL’s latest electronically-based travel documents to ease their travel worldwide by minimizing airport security red tape for them, a statement by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior said.

INTERPOL has developed its first ever travel documents (e-Passport Booklet and e-Identification Card). These are intended to enable officials working for INTERPOL and for its member countries’ National Central Bureaus and law enforcement agencies to travel internationally on official INTERPOL business, by benefiting from visa facilitations granted by member countries when assisting in transnational investigations or urgent deployments.

Kuwait has signed this agreement for its deep value to security personnel tasked with fighting transnational crimes that require quick response and ease of movement, said Lieutenant General Sulaiman Al-Fahad, assistant secretary at Kuwait’s ministry of Interior, in remarks he made to KUNA following signing the agreement with INTERPOL’s Secretary General Ronald Noble.

Noble told KUNA that he considered Kuwait among ITERPOL members that always show great support to the organization’s undertakings, noting that with Kuwait signing today’s agreement it would be very easy for Kuwaiti crime fighters to move around transnationally in their quest to acquit their duties efficiently.

Currently, 76 member countries have already accepted the INTERPOL Travel Document in both its forms (e-Passport Booklet and/or e-Identification Card) to be used in conjunction with a valid national passport. A further 105 countries are also in the process of recognizing these documents within the limits of their national laws.

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Qatar 2022 projects showcased in London

The Peninsula – 11 September, 2014 – The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) showcased the progress being made on infrastructure delivery ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar at the Soccerex Global Convention currently in session in Manchester .

Nasser Al Khater, Executive Director, Communications and Marketing, outlined the SC’s vision as Qatar gets ready to host the first ever Fifa World Cup in the Middle East. He was interviewed on stage by distinguished broadcaster Sir David Davies.

“We have had an open-air air cooled stadium in Qatar at Al Sadd since 2008, so the concept is real and works”, Al Khater said.

“During the World Cup, we operated our 2014 Brazil Fan Zone, an incredible facility where we had more than 10,000 people coming to watch games. Inside the temperature was lowered to between 12-15 degrees while it was very warm outside.

“We were very happy with the results and we’re pressing ahead not just with the cooling but with everything. We have spent a lot of money on infrastructure. Our Metro system is in full swing and a lot of work is being done on roads”, he said.

Al Khater noted that the two stadiums are under construction and by the end of the year we will have another three. “We’re ahead of schedule in terms of infrastructure. We’re in a good place and delivering ahead of time.

“We wanted to make sure we had local companies involved. We realised we needed international companies who had built stadiums of these magnitude in the past. We looked at joint ventures and this is a model we’re following. So far regional companies are involved as well, bidding for projects.

“We want the ideal solution for the World Cup with the minimum of disruption for the rest of football. For the players, heat won’t be an issue”, he said.

Al Khater added: “We will have cooled stadiums, training pitches and cooled public areas for the fans. There is a divide but that doesn’t surprise me. Some people will say its tradition and this is the way it must be. The world is divided. I would like to see a show of hands in here to see how many people think it’s unthinkable to host in the summer (around half).

On support of the Arab world, Al Khater said that there is a lot of football tradition and passion in the Arab world. The support is there. Everyone has a feeling of pride.It needs to come to the Middle East. The time is right for it, he added.

On crticism about labour issue, Al Khater said: “We try to clarify the facts. There has not been a single fatality on any World Cup project. We’re not running away or saying there are no problems.

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GCC firms pledge $ 19 billion investment in West Africa

Khaleej Times – 11 September, 2014 – Companies in the UAE and other GCC countries made a total commitment of $ 19 billion investments in a range of infrastructure projects across eight West African countries at the inaugural West Africa Investment Forum which concluded in Dubai on Wednesday.

A package of 17 infrastructure projects planned for the UEMOA (West Africa Economic & Monetary Union) region was announced at the forum with significant funding by UAE entities, organisers of the forum said.

In total, $19 billion has been secured for projects in a range of sectors including roads, railways, bridges, checkpoints, dry-ports, airports, energy, and food security and water.

The projects will be executed as public-private partnerships (PPPs) between the governments of the UEMOA member states and international commercial entities. The Forum was hosted and organised by UEMOA, Global Finance & Capital Limited (GFCL), and the West African Development Bank (BOAD).

Prominent exposure from GCC companies included a commitment of $ 16 billion by Trojan General Contracting (part of Royal Group, owned by Shaikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan) along with Earth Capital for equity participation in railway and road sector projects across the region; $ 1.98 billion by Essar Projects Ltd, UAE subsidiary of Essar Group, in road, bridge, airport and thermal power-plant projects in Benin, Guinea Bissau and Niger; and $ 700 million by Hasan Juma Backer Trading & Contracting, Oman, in a dry-port development project in Cote d’Ivoire. Senegal, which is among the region’s largest and most stable economies, proved the most popular investment destination in West Africa.

A number of important strategic partnerships for the implementation of projects were also announced at the forum. Among those, a strategic partnership agreement was made between UEMOA, BOAD and GFCL to create a company responsible for managing project execution and timelines, and to continue to seek foreign direct investment for future projects in the region.

Arun Panchariya, Principal and founder of GFCL, said rapid economic growth has made infrastructure an enormously promising investment opportunity across West Africa, and specifically the UEMOA region. “GFCL has been working in partnership with UEMOA for nearly two years to identify infrastructure requirements across the region, and seek the funding necessary to meet those requirements.”

He said the UAE entities, in particular, have shown impressive commitment to investing in the project package. “The discussions and agreements that have taken place at the forum demonstrate the success of GFCL initiative. We look forward to working closely with those organisations in the coming months. Our mission is to help West Africa unlock dormant assets for itself, so the region can begin to recognise its true economic potential,” said Panchariya.

Cheikhe Hadjibou Soumare, President of the Commission of UEMOA, said the ‘Invest in UEMOA’ initiative launched at the West Africa Investment Forum is important for the future of the region and constitutes a paradigm shift for the union in the face of important infrastructure challenges.

“These integrative infrastructure projects will have a strong regional impact. The West Africa Investment Forum heralds a new era of economic openness and is an opportunity to promote the region’s tremendous potential to institutional and private investors from around the world,” said Soumare.

Christian Adovelande, Chairman of BOAD, said the infrastructure projects announced at the forum, which are being made possible by commitment from the international investment community, attest to the emergence of West Africa as a region of growing global economic importance. “As an advocate for the region’s economic potential, I am confident that the West Africa Investment Forum has been a great success and further draws the attention of the international investment community to the genuine opportunities at hand.”

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Saudi Exhibition Bureau to host first meeting in November

Arab News – 12 September, 2014 – The Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB) plans to hold its first meeting here in November for professional, scientific, and medical associations under the Saudi Association Day title.

There are 155 professional associations in Saudi Arabia operating in medical, professional, and vocational fields, among others.

The Saudi Association Day will be held as part of the annual Saudi Convention and Exhibition Forum in the presence of Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, and under the patronage of Riyadh Gov. Prince Turki bin Abdullah who is also the chairman of the Tourism Development Council of Riyadh.

Tariq Alessa, SECB executive director, said the main objective of the event was to develop manpower skills in managing professional and trade associations in the Kingdom.

The other goal is to enhance the number of such high-profile meetings and conferences that will strengthen partnerships between the country’s national associations and their international counterparts thereby bringing international conferences and exhibitions to Saudi Arabia.

“Associations are useful in the conventions sector and many of the largest international conferences and congresses are held by local, national, and international associations,” Alessa said, adding that the SECB and its partners have worked on developing this program. The event supports the development of Saudi associations with the aim of enhancing their impact on the growth of conventions in the Kingdom.

He said SECB aims to build a strong and integral relationship with the association sector in the Kingdom, and conferences serve as an effective tool in providing scientific education and professional development for association members and officials.

He added that the association day event will add great value to the Saudi Conventions and Exhibitions Forum’s focus on the demand side of the exhibition and convention sector or ‘conference buyers,’ which will add to the forum’s objectives.

The meeting will include a series of educational workshops led by specialists in association and conference management. Topics will include successful association management, effective marketing of association activities and potential revenue growth processes.

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Emirates to launch second service to Dar es Salaam

Khaleej Times – 12 September, 2014 – Emirates, a global connector of people and places, will start a second service to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from October 26.

The new five-times-weekly service will complement Emirates’ existing daily operation, and further boost inbound and outbound passenger traffic and cargo flows between Tanzania and Dubai, as well as with Emirates’ worldwide network.

Emirates started a twice-weekly service between Dubai and Dar es Salaam linked with Nairobi on October 28, 1997, using an Airbus A310-300. Following steady growth and demand on the route over the years, the frequency and capacity was increased and the flight was delinked from Nairobi, becoming a daily non-stop service between Dubai and Dar es Salaam in 2006.

The new flight will be operated with an Emirates A330-200 in a three-class configuration with 12 seats in first class, 42 in business class and 183 in economy class, adding a total of 2,370 seats and up to 170 tons of cargo capacity a week on the route.

“Dar es Salaam is an important destination in our east African network,” said Orhan Abbas, Emirates’ senior vice-president of commercial operations for Latin America, Central and Southern Africa.

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