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

1 Sep, 2014

Spanish Chain To Help Convert Oman’s Forts, Castles Into Hotels

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 01 September 2014 (06 Dhul Qi’dah 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines below 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.



Maldives unique coral stone mosques eye World Heritage Site status

COLOMBO, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) — Maldives unique coral stone mosques, long an attraction to millions of tourists and an embodiment of the country’s rich cultural heritage, may be picked as a World Heritage Site.

A team of experts from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has arrived in the Maldives to assess the nomination of the coral stone mosques to the World Heritage sites list.

According to the Ministry of Education, six coral stone mosques were included in a tentative list last year, according to local newspaper Minivan.

“Since then the Maldives has started working on preparing the dossier up to their criteria to inscribe the stone mosques of the Maldives in the final list of the World Heritage list,” the ministry explained.

“First draft of the nomination dossier needs to be sent to UNESCO by September of this year to be inscribed in the year 2016. This team of experts will be guiding through the documents that are being prepared and they will be verifying whether the dossiers are up to the criteria of UNESCO.”

Prior to departing on Aug. 29, the team of experts are due to visit the six coral mosques, two of which are in the capital, with the rest located in Alif Dhaal Fenfushi, Raa Meedhoo, Haa Alif Ihavandhoo and Laamu Isdhoo.

In April, the Department of Heritage announced an exhibition to raise public awareness about the six coral mosques.

The Maldives was historically famous for the cowry trade and as a transit point for seafarers crossing from East to West and vice versa. The initial settlers were from India, Sri Lanka, East Africa, Arabia, Persia and the western parts of the Malay Archipelago. The Maldives boasts a cultural fusion with a history that extends to 300 BCE, and an interesting interaction between different religions and importantly between Buddhism and Islam, notes the UNESCO website explaining the reasons behind the mosques being nominated for the World Heritage Site list.

The local people practiced Buddhism until the conversion of Islam in 1153 CE.

“Construction in ancient Maldives was mainly dependent on the local availability of materials. Coral stone and timber were the only long lasting materials available and coral stone became the primary building material for monumental buildings,” it said.

Live reef coral boulders or Porite corals are removed from the seabed, cut to stone blocks while they are soft and air-dried before it gets used for construction. They were highly suitable for architectural and sculptural works. Coral stone construction methods or coral carpentry existed as early as the Buddhist period and continued until the introduction of masonry in the late 18th century.

Coral stone mosques are most outstanding in their design, decoration and grandness. The walls of the mosques are built of finely shaped interlocking coral blocks. The amount of detail and decoration that goes into these buildings simply displays the extent of the skill of the local people.

“It can be concluded that stone construction in the Maldives became more refined during the Islamic period and the stone building and especially stone carving techniques of the east African Swahili region influenced the already developed techniques of the Buddhist period. It is the fusion of these cultures that led to the emergence of new techniques which is seen in the coral stone mosques in the Maldives,” says the report officially submitted by the Maldives government to UNESCO for consideration.

The Friday Mosque in Male is the most important heritage site of the country with continuous use from the time of construction. The mosque building is the biggest and one of the finest coral stone buildings in the world. In 2008, UNESCO included Male’s Friday Mosque and its complex in their Tentative World Heritage List.

Located in the capital island Male, the Friday Mosque was built in 1658 during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar I (1648-1687), replacing the original mosque built in 1153 by the first Muslim Sultan of THE Maldives, Sultan Mohamed Bin Abdullah.

The Maldives government insists the coral stone mosques of the Maldives represent a unique example in the Indian Ocean of an outstanding form of fusion of coral stone architecture.

“They have Outstanding Universal Value as an example of a type of coral stone architecture with coral carvings and detailed lacquer work quality not seen in any part of the world. The architecture, construction and accompanying artistry are in themselves a work of human creative achievement,” the report added.

Chinese tourists, who make up the largest contingent of arrivals to this idyllic group of islands, also sightsee at these remarkable locations. Enditem

Back to top

World Bank US$100 Million Project to Support Skills Development, Job Creation in Morocco

WASHINGTON, August 26, 2014 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$100 million project in support of the government of Morocco’s ongoing efforts to boost employment and improve the quality of jobs. The project will focus on ensuring the skills taught in universities and vocational training programs match the needs of the labor market, increasing the efficiency of employment services and broadening their reach to disadvantaged segments of the population, promoting micro-enterprises while formalizing the employment conditions for the many currently employed by them, and reinforcing the governance of the labor market.

The Second Skills and Employment Development Policy Loan (SEDPL2) is the second in a programmatic series of two projects aimed at addressing employment. A principal aim of the SEDPL2 is to support the development of a clearer path from school to work. The reform of educational and training programs will improve the job prospects of graduates, by equipping them with the right skills, while more effective employment services will match them with available jobs. The project will also support government plans to expand the reach of the national employment agency, ANAPEC, beyond graduates, to offer services to less-qualified individuals.

Another policy initiative supported by the SEDPL2 will be to create a new legal status for self-employed individuals who want to exit the shadow economy and pay taxes, in exchange for a package of benefits; including access to credit and affordable social security. Finally, the project will contribute to improving the quality and availability of information needed to make employment policy decisions.

“Unemployment continues to be a critical development challenge for Morocco,” said Simon Gray, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb Region. “The government is taking significant steps to improve how institutions respond to the needs of young people, in terms of providing them with the skills that are most relevant to the job market, as well as empowering them to create their own opportunities. We are pleased to be working closely with the authorities to support these and other efforts to boost employment.”

In preparation for the launch of the program’s second project, the government undertook a number of initiatives. These included the signing of agreements with thirteen new private sector providers of vocational training; the launch of a support program for Non-Governmental Organizations, which will be funded to provide training programs to out-of-school youth from disadvantaged backgrounds; the launch of an 18-month pilot program to extend the coverage of ANAPEC to non-graduates in five local offices; the adoption of a draft law to promote micro-enterprises; and the establishment of a National Observatory for Employment.

“As a result of the reforms supported by this project, we hope to see more people employed in more productive jobs with better working conditions,” said Nadine Poupart, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “The project also aims to reach a broad cross section of society, with equal access for women as for men and programs designed specifically for young people from disadvantaged areas.”

Back to top

Healthcare Investor Focus on Malaysia Grows, Bolstered by Government Support and Medical Tourism

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Malaysia is turning out to be the new healthcare investor destination as a proactive government and burgeoning aging population fuel the demand for healthcare services. In 2013, Forbes ranked it as the third best country to retire in, and the aged care industry is expected to be worth $1.2 billion by 2020. Medical tourists and foreign retirees too are choosing Malaysia due to the lower cost of healthcare and other incentives. Overall, there will be no shortage of customers for domestic and foreign healthcare providers in the country.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Malaysia Healthcare Outlook, covers the scope of the healthcare services, connected health, medical devices, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and aged care segments. In 2013, the hospital market was the top segment in terms of revenues, followed by the pharmaceutical and medical devices segments. Targeting the hospital, pharmaceutical and medical devices segments will be wise as they are expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 17.3 percent, 11.4 percent and 14 percent, respectively, for the 2012-2018 period.

“With the Malaysian Government’s launch of Entry Point Project (EPP) to expedite the approval process for foreign investment and reduce regulatory hassles, the country has become an attractive destination for foreign healthcare investors,” said Frost & Sullivan Healthcare Research Analyst Dr Siddharth Dutta. “The healthcare industry also remains a lucrative space for domestic companies, which are being supported in their expansion plans by venture capital and funding agencies like Khazanah Nasional.”

However, the bureaucratic process to set up businesses is still relatively tedious and can deter investment in the healthcare industry to some extent. Moreover, widespread bribery and corruption, shortage of qualified healthcare professionals and skilled workers, and lower awareness of advanced healthcare technologies is reducing the quality of healthcare services.

In addition, competition from private aged care homes and the imposition of the six percent goods and service tax (GST) in 2015 will drive healthcare costs up and further weaken the value proposition of market participants.

“To effectively penetrate the Malaysian market, multinational healthcare companies must enter joint ventures with local manufacturers and contract manufacturing organizations,” stated Dutta. “This will create a symbiotic ecosystem, in which local companies will have access to capital, technology and intellectual property while their counterparts will benefit in terms of capturing a bigger market.”

Both multinational healthcare companies and local participants could consider adopting a segment-specific focus to stand apart from the competition. Some healthcare industry players are already using this approach by concentrating on the halal medicine segment.

Back to top

United Arab Emirates to restore Museum of Islamic Art

27 Aug 2014, Al Ahram Online – After a seven-month hiatus, restoration work of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in central Cairo is finally set to begin.

The MIA was subjected to severe destruction and damage in January after a car bomb exploded outside the adjacent Cairo Security Directorate. The blast of the bomb destroyed the façade of the building and the nearby Egyptian National Library and Archives building.

After several meetings and discussion, The United Arab of Emirates offered to restore the whole museum in collaboration with foreign experts from Italy, Germany and the United States.

Antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the Emirates will not only provide the required budget to return the MIA to its original lure but to provide all security equipment and state-of-the-art showcases.

The restoration will also include the renovation of the museum’s walls, columns and foundations.

He went on to say that the museum halls and treasured collection will be arranged as they were before with the exception of the souvenir hall that was located in the core of the museum. “It will be relocated to another place at the end of visitors’ path,” explained Eldamaty.

He said that in mid-September a delegation of the International Committee of Museums (ICOM) is to visit Egypt and embark on a tour of the MIA to inspect its recent situation and suggest ideas for its restoration. Collaboration methods are to be also discussed.

The Museum of Islamic Art was home to an exceptional collection of rare woodwork and plaster artefacts, as well as metal, ceramic, glass, crystal, and textiles objects of all Islamic periods from all over the world.

The museum is a two-story building, with the lower floor containing an exhibition hall that displays 2,500 artefacts in 25 galleries. The second floor and the basement are to be used for storage.

The blast of the car-bomb not only destroyed the façade of the building, but also damaged the large columns at its front.

The interior of the museum was topsy-turvy, with a number of ceilings inside the building collapsing, and some artefacts being damaged.

Many of the glass window panes that once decorated the building have also been shattered, and damage has been caused across the façade, which has lost some of its decorative casing.

The authentic wooden gate of the museum inlaid with silver and iron geometric motifs has been totally destroyed, while the adjacent annex built in a similar architectural style to house the administrative offices after the museum’s restoration and re-inauguration in 2010 has also been damaged.

Now a new hope is in the air.

Back to top

Garuda to launch intra-Sulawesi and intra-West Nusa Tenggara flights

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, August 29 2014 – National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has announced the launch of intra-Sulawesi and intra- West Nusa Tenggara routes on Sept. 1 to enhance regional air connectivity in the country.

The carrier is set to connect Makassar in South Sulawesi and Kolaka and Baubau, both in Southeast Sulawesi, and Mataram and Sumbawa Besar in West Nusa Tenggara.

The three routes will be served by a French-Italian twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner Avions de Transport Regional ATR 72-600 with a capacity of 70 passengers.

Garuda sales and marketing director Erik Meijer said the opening of the new routes showed the carrier’s commitment to expanding its network across the archipelago.

“It is also our commitment to help spur the nation’s economic growth by enhancing air connectivity in the regions,” Erik said in a statement on Friday.

He also said the new routes were an answer to rising travel demand in eastern Indonesia, which was due to improvements in regional economies over the past few years.

The airline will fly between Makassar and Kolaka and Makassar and Baubau once a day and four times a week on the Mataram-Sumbawa Besar route.

In addition, he said Garuda would increase the Makassar-Luwuk flight frequency from once to twice daily as from Sept.1. On Aug. 26, the airline signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Timor Leste flag carrier Air Timor S.A. in Dili.

The MoU was signed by Garuda president director Emirsyah Satar and Air Timor director Belchior Francisco Bento Alves Pereira and witnessed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Timor Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.(nfo)

Back to top

Tabriz introduced to OIC as exemplary city

Tehran, Aug 31, IRNA — Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) has introduced Tabriz in northwest Iran as an exemplary tourism city to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Morteza Rahmani Movahhed, the deputy head of ICHHTO, said Tabriz in East Azarbaijan province plays a key role in introducing the rich culture and heritage of Iran.

He hoped that the city would be selected as the tourism capital of Muslim nations in 2016.

Movahhed said the city has great tourism potentials, including famous historical and cultural monuments and magnificent nature.

“Two monuments of the city have been registered on UNESCOˈs list,” he said, adding that Tabriz has a variety of handicrafts and is also the hub of health tourism.

It has high potentials in ecotourism, boasting of Arasbaran forests and Kaboutar Cave.

OIC, an international organization founded in 1969, has 57 member states. It has a permanent seat in the United Nations. The official languages of OIC are Arabic, English and French.

If the city is selected as an exemplary tourism city in 2016 by the organization, it could boost tourism in the region.

Back to top

Etihad Airways To Acquire 33.3% Of Darwin Airline

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Aug 25 (NNN-WAM) – Etihad Airways is comfortable with the process of review, by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), concerning the agreement to acquire 33.3 per cent of Darwin Airline.

Etihad Airways was advised in June by FOCA, that changes to the agreement would be needed to secure regulatory approval. Since then, it has been working with FOCA and is amending the agreement to ensure it complies with regulations.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, said, “We are comfortable with FOCA’s review and understand and support the need for there to be absolute clarity, that Etihad Airways does not, cannot and will not exercise control over Darwin Airline.

“While our initial agreement has required amendment, we are seeking, as any minority investor would, protection for our investment. This is about protection, not control.

“Etihad Regional was, and will continue to be, majority owned by Swiss shareholders and operated by Swiss management.”

A 66.7 per cent investment in the airline will be retained by Swiss investors and no Swiss interests will be compromised by Etihad Airways’ investment.

“We have a high regard for the management of the business, and its capability to build a stronger regional airline that increases competition and choice for air travellers, especially in Switzerland,” Mr Hogan said.

Back to top

9th Gulf Blind Forum Opens In Salalah, Oman

MUSCAT, Oman, Aug 25 (NNN-ONA) – The 9th Gulf Blind Forum opened at the auditorium of the Directorate-General of Heritage and Culture in Salalah, under the auspices of Sayyid Mohamed bin Sultan al-Busaidi, Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar.

The five-day forum is organised by Al Amal Society for the Blind in Dhofar Governorate, under the theme, “Khareef: Forum of the Blind.”

Awadh bin Rajab Shrooba, Head of Al Amal Society for the Blind in Dhofar Governorate, gave a speech, during which he stressed the importance of the Gulf Forum for the Blind, to allow blind people highlighting their talents and different creations, along with personal experiences in challenging disability.

The opening ceremony of the forum, which is part of the Salalah Tourism Festival 2014, included a welcoming poem, and a religious chant, in praise of Prophet Mohammed, in addition to traditional Omani arts.

At the end of the ceremony, the chief guest distributed certificates to the forum’s supporting and sponsoring individuals, public and private entities.

The 9th Gulf Blind Forum includes lectures, discussion panels and workshops, that aim at developing and benefitting from the experiences of individuals and Al Amal Societies in the Sultanate, as well as societies of the GCC, Iraq and Yemen, participating in the forum, in addition to visiting major tourist and entertainment attractions, in Dhofar Governorate and Salalah Tourism Festival.

Back to top

Qatar Airport Prepares For Back-To-School Rush

DOHA, Qatar, Aug 26 (NNN-QNA) – Hamad International Airport (HIA), Qatar’s new world-class gateway, is preparing for the increase of arrival passengers, during this busy back-to-school period.

Staff at HIA have taken a range of measures, including extending the queue layout at the taxi pick up points, to ensure passengers receive rapid on-going travel service, deploying extra staff within the terminal, to offer guidance and advice, and placing additional baggage trolleys, within the baggage reclaim hall.

Members of the public, collecting arriving passengers, can avail of the free parking at HIA for the first 30 minutes, in the short-term car park. Thereafter, the short-term car park is charging QAR 5 per hour, after the first 30 minutes.

Prior to exiting the passenger terminal, payments for the short-term car park must be processed at the parking payment machines, located in the bridge connecting the Passenger Terminal Complex to the car park.

Free parking can also be found in the long-term car park, which includes a bus ride to the bus terminal at HIA. All unattended vehicles parked on the curb side throughout the HIA facility will be towed away by the authorities.

Abdulaziz Al-Mass, Vice President Commercial, at HIA said, “We are much better equipped to handle the increase in passenger traffic this summer, and with the modern technology available to us at Hamad International Airport, we can ensure that all our passengers enjoy a seamless, hassle-free experience.”

Back to top

Qatar Airways To Raise Frequencies To Dubai

DOHA, Qatar, Aug 26 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways announced plans to increase its frequencies to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), effective Oct 26, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

From that date Qatar Airways will operate 14 flights per day to Dubai International Airport and four daily flights to Dubai World Central’s Al Maktoum Airport.

This popular Gulf route is currently served by the airline 91 times a week, and will be increased to 98 flights a week, Qatar Airways said in a statement.

The 14 daily flights will depart Doha on the hour and from Dubai International on the half- hour, it added.

Apart from Dubai, Qatar Airways also currently operates three flights a day to Sharjah, in the UAE and six daily flights to Abu Dhabi, UAE’S capital.

Qatar Airways group CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said that the airlines was dedicated to increasing its presence in key markets, like the UAE and adding capacity on one of its most popular routes, like Dubai.

“As one of our closest neighbours in the Gulf, it is of key importance to offer excellent and frequent air travel connections to the UAE, and the increase in capacity will offer our passengers an even wider variety of options, when they are looking to reach their final destinations,” he added.

Qatar Airways operates one of the largest global networks and as such, presents a unique advantage for passengers seeking to reach Europe, the Middle East, Asia Pacific, Africa and the North and South American markets, with its seamless connections via Doha, Qatar’s capital.

The airline has seen rapid growth in just 17 years of operation, to the point where, today, it is flying a modern fleet of 135 aircraft to 144 key business and leisure destinations across the globe.

Back to top

Uganda: Tourism Bodies Combine To Grow Sector

KAMPALA, Aug. 27 (NNN-NEWVISION) –The tourism fraternity is in honeymoon mood after Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) liaised to make Uganda the tourism Mecca of Africa.

This was revealed during a cocktail celebrating the launch a Strategic Plan 2014-2019 at Serena Hotel Kampala which comes at a time when the tourist arrivals logged by 2010 were; Kenya 1470,000, Tanzania 754,000 and Uganda 946,000.

These figures have changed lately, following cancelations of bookings in Kenya after a spate of terrorism attacks and threats there.

“We are pleased to have partnered with UTA to develop a five year strategic plan as a road map for greater coordination and engagement in the sector,” said the UNDP Country Director Almaz Gebru. “We expect that as you embark on implementing it, you will use it as a basis for decision making on priorities and actions required to accelerate tourism.”

“And its contribution to economic growth, social inclusion and environmental preservation,” stressed Gebru.

The minister of tourism Maria Mutagamba representing the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi in speculating that if Uganda is to achieve the MDG, Uganda biggest export, tourism cannot be ignored.

“The contribution of tourism to the economic development of Uganda is well accentuated in Uganda Vision 2040,” said Mutagamba.

“This cannot be achieved without the private sector. This plan will enable government to support UTA and have it implemented.”

UTA president Herbert Byaruhanga expressed his dedication to cooperate and coordinate the entire industry.

“The relationship between UTB, UTA, Uganda Hotel Owners Association, Uganda Bird Guides Association and Uganda Tour Drivers Association has never blossomed like it is today,” said Byaruhanga. The challenge is on us to identify the key strategic issues and propose strategies.”

UTA is the umbrella body which brings together all those mentioned including Uganda Travel Agent Association and Uganda Community Tourism Association.

Back to top

Call to Invest In Indonesia’s Samosir’s Hospitality Industry

PANGURURAN, North Sumatra, Indonesia Aug 27 (NNN-Bernama) — The investment opportunities in the hospitality industry in Samosir island district, North Sumatra, are still wide open for both domestic and foreign investors, noted Samosir District Head Mangindar Simbolon.

“Investors still have a wide opportunity to invest in the hospitality industry here as the number of tourists visiting Samosir Island continues to increase every year,” Indonesia’s Antara news agency quoted Simbolong as saying here on Tuesday.

He emphasised that investment and business in the hospitality industry remained promising due to increasing occupancy rates from year to year.

“The number of tourists visiting Samosir continues to increase, particularly during the holiday season,” the Samosir district head stated,

He added that the local administration in cooperation with the culture and tourism office was intensively promoting Samosir`s tourism potential, among other things through “Horas Samosir Fiesta.”

He remarked that the Horas Samosir Fiesta is an annual event of the Samosir district office of culture and tourism in North Sumatra to promote the local tourism potential.

Simbolon noted that the fiesta is intended to support Samosir district administration`s vision of making the district an innovative, environmentally based tourism destination in an effort to make “Visit Samosir 2015” a success.

Back to top

Abu Dhabi To Attract More Tourists From India

ABU DHABI, Aug 27 (NNN-Bernama) — With visitors from India emerging as the largest number of Abu Dhabi’s international hotel guests over the past year, the emirate’s tourism industry is embarking on a five-city road-show aimed at keeping the destination foremost in the country’s outbound influencers’ mind-set, reports Emirates News Agency (WAM).

From Aug 25-29h, some 14 Abu Dhabi tourism stakeholders, including Etihad Airways, Yas Island, hotels, tour operators and attractions, will join the road-show across the Indian cities of Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai and New Delhi on a trip organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).

In the first six months of this year, 107,995 Indian guests checked into Abu Dhabi’s hotels and resorts – a growth of 35 per cent over the same period last year. The arrivals delivered 408,862 guest nights, which was up 22 per cent year-on-year with the average-length-of-stay being 3.79 nights.

“The destination is benefitting from excellent air uplift from India at the moment with our national airline, Etihad Airways, and its partner Jet Airways, providing convenient and quick travel options to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), from tier 1 and tier 2 cities all over the country,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director, Promotions and Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi.

“This will be boosted further this February when Etihad launches daily flights from the West Bengal capital of Kolkata to Abu Dhabi.” Currently Etihad Airways operates 112 flights per week from 10 Indian destinations to Abu Dhabi International.

“We anticipate further consumer interest coming for the destination with the planned release this October of the much-anticipated Bollywood movie ‘Bang Bang’, starring Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif, parts of which were shot in Abu Dhabi,” added Al Nuaimi.

“We also expect our profile in India to rise with the opening shortly of Sanjeev Kapoor’s ‘Signature’ restaurant in the Nation Towers on Abu Dhabi Corniche.”

Indian weddings are being actively pursued by Abu Dhabi stakeholders. The iconic Yas Viceroy – the only hotel in the world straddling an F1 race track – says it has successfully handled three huge Indian weddings over the past few years.

Al Ain Zoo is also reporting increased visitation from Indian travellers swayed by its special discounted family packages and its Asian Month event – an Indian traditions-themed month.

“The Indian market is huge in the UAE now in terms of tourists and residents,” said Ghanim Mubarak Al Hajeri, the zoo’s Director General.

Back to top


MUSCAT, Oman, Aug 29 (NNN-ONA) – A selected group of forts and castles of historic and architectural value, dotting Oman’s landscape, may be transformed into luxury heritage hotel properties, in a move that would add to the sultanate’s tourism potential.

Offering consultancy on the project will be Paradores Consultancy, an arm of Spain’s prominent luxury hotel chain, Paradores de Turismo de España, which runs 94 hotels, set in palaces, fortresses and historical buildings.

Oman is the first foreign destination, where the state-owned establishment will be setting its foot. The business will run on the franchisee model, a path of expansion Paradores launched this year.

A report in the Spanish national daily ABC, said that the Spanish government has designed a new business plan for the network, and has set up a new entity, Paradores Consultancy.

“One of the first orders for the new establishment will be advising the Sultanate of Oman, to launch its own chain of hotels set in historical buildings, on the lines of Paradores hotels. The work is to start from Sept,” it reported.

Oman and Spain had a few years ago signed a contract, to conduct a comprehensive study on developing forts and castles into heritage-style hotels.

Taking this initiative forward, this Apr, a Spanish delegation, accompanying King Juan Carlos I to Oman, gave a detailed presentation on the study, before senior officials from the ministries of Tourism and Heritage and Culture, and Omran.

In fact, King Carlos himself, championed the Paradores brand during his visit.

In the presentation, Zaballa Gómez, director general of Paradores, listed the forts and castles in Oman, which could be chosen for the initiative, and had made recommendations on the suitability, advantages and disadvantages of each site, besides suggesting initiatives to ensure economic viability of the new hotels.

Also during this visit, an MoU with Spain was signed, to draw a roadmap for viable tourism cooperation.

Ahmed bin Nasser bin Hamad al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, who had signed the MoU with Jose Manuel Soria, Spain’s Minister of Industry, had expressed hope to benefit from the Spanish experience in tourism development.

Mehrzi had said that the MoU would cover investment, exchange of visits and include forming a committee, to lay down guidelines of further prospective cooperation. Apart from Oman, the company is in talks with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Morocco.

Back to top

Gulf Air Launches New Entertainment Channel

MANAMA, Bahrain, Aug 25 (NNN-BNA) – Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, at a joint press conference, held at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Bahrain (RCSI, Bahrain), launched a new onboard channel called, ‘Helwa Ya Bahrain’ further supplementing the airline’s extensive in-flight entertainment offering, with a dedicated channel showcasing Bahraini productions and featuring a health programme, with a newly produced RCSI Bahrain instructional video on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) procedures.

Available on-board all Gulf Air flights starting Sept 1, Helwa Ya Bahrain will showcase Bahraini productions and will initially have two sets of programmes – the popular Bahraini TV show, Sawalef Tafash and Bahrain Health, a health programme with a variety of instructional features, including a first aid video on CPR procedures that was produced by RCSI, Bahrain.

A survey in Nov 2013, carried out by RCSI, Bahrain, found that almost one third of the public in Bahrain had witnessed a person in cardiac arrest. RCSI, Bahrain acknowledged the public’s eagerness for training in CPR and came up with the idea to produce the video in Arabic.

Increasing the number of the public trained in CPR has the potential to save lives and strengthens community safety in Bahrain. The CPR video features famous Bahrain footballers – Humood Sultan and Mohamed Salmeen, along with RCSI, Bahrain Community Engagement volunteers.

Gulf Air’s director of Corporate Affairs and Communications, Mohammed Amin Hulaiwah commented, “As the country’s national carrier, we are delighted to give our passengers the opportunity to enjoy locally-produced shows – whether for entertainment or public service. We hope our passengers will enjoy and learn from watching our newest channel and we promise them many more exciting additions to our in-flight entertainment offering, in the very near future.”

Back to top

Burundi To Host Islamic Culture Conference

MUSCAT, Oman, Aug 26 (NNN-ONA) – A delegation from the National Records and Archives Authority (NRAA), under the chairmanship of Dr Hamad bin Mohammed al Dhoyani, recently visited Burundi, to look into the preparations for the third ‘International Conference on Islamic Civilisation and Culture, and the Omani role in the Countries of the African Great Lakes.’

The delegation held the first preparatory meeting under the chairmanship of Dhoyani and Mohammed Rukara Khalfan, ombudsman of Burundi, to discuss all aspects of the conference in detail.

The conference venue was decided at meetings held with the organisational committee. The meeting also discussed accommodation of VIP’s and participants, and arrangements for exhibition that will be held on the conference’s sidelines.

The NRAA delegation met members of the main conference committee, which has members from the office of Burundi’s president, its foreign, finance, information and interior ministries, the intermediary office, Burundi University and the University of Peace and Friendship.

Subordinate committees, such as the committee of organisation and reception, committee of information, scientific committee and the committee of public service and transport, have also been formed to look into the preparations of the conference.

Meanwhile, Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Burundi, affirmed the country’s readiness to host the conference and the exhibition.

The Burundian government also praised the keenness of the Omani government and promised hospitality and cooperation to the attendees.

The press release stated that the conference aims to conduct an in-depth study on the history of Islamic civilisation and culture, and the sultanate’s role in the African Great Lakes states.

It also aims to address the elements of unity of its provinces, the rich diversity of communities, the continuation and changes in their norms and traditions and the impact of co-existence on cultural and urban life.

The symposium will also address the role of civil communication to further develop relations between Oman and East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes. The conference will discuss the history and civilisations of Oman, East Africa and the Great Lakes states.

More than 126 researchers from various countries have applied to participate in the conference. The papers to be presented will be based on international archives on history and a majority of them will be presented for the first time.

The conference aims to rediscover through these researches, the various aspects of the Omani civilisation.

Back to top

Tourism Malaysia Proposes Visa-On-Arrival (Voa) Via Singapore

BEIJING, China, Aug 23 (NNN-BERNAMA) – Tourism Malaysia has proposed the Visa-on-Arrival (VOA) facility, targeting Chinese and Indian tourists, via land checkpoint for travellers visiting Malaysia from Singapore.

Currently, travellers can only apply for VOA at the following air checkpoints, namely KL International Airport (KLIA), Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT, KLIA), Penang Airport, Sultan Ismail Airport, Senai, Johor Baharu, Kota Kinabalu Airport, Sabah; and Kuching Airport, Sarawak.

The facility aimed at increasing the competitiveness of Malaysia, to boost the tourism industry, compared with neighbouring countries, said the Chairman of Tourism Malaysia, Dr Ng Yen Yen.

For instance, she said, Thailand had granted a three-month visa free policy for Chinese tourists, beginning Aug 9 this year, some offered electronic visa (e-visa) or visa-free facilities.

Hence, Ng pointed out that the policy adjustment would definitely help in boosting Malaysia’s tourism industry. She disclosed this to Malaysian reporters here on Saturday during her visit in China.

The disappearance of Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370 on Mar 8, and kidnapping incidents in Sabah, had dented Malaysia’s tourism and shelved the Visit Malaysia 2014 campaign.

In order to draw more Chinese tourists, Ng said, the tourism ministry had carried out a series of “silence promotion” in China, instead of advertising the promotion on billboards.

Hence, Ng said, tourism officers had been intensifying the promotion by organising a face-to-face meeting with the local travel agents and key decision-making industry players.

She said, local tour agencies and social media personnel were also being invited to participate in the familiarisation trips to visit Sabah.

Back to top

Malaysian Product, Cultural Fair In Qingdao Draws 500,000 Visitors

BEIJING, Aug 25 (NNN-Bernama) — A 10-day Malaysian Product and Cultural Fair in Qingdao city in China’s eastern Shandong Province has successfully attracted some 500,000 local visitors.

The event, held on Aug 6-15, aimed at delivering better experience of Malaysian culture, products and services to the people there, the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) said in a statement Monday.

It said as part of the Malaysia Kitchen Programme (MKP), the event had not only integrated various fields of Malaysian brands such as food, tourism, education and agriculture, but also introduced different Malaysian brands to China and encouraged trade between the two countries.

Malaysian Ambassador to China, Iskandar Sarudin, described food as the key element of MKP which has succesfully introduced Malaysia and its culture to the Chinese.

“We are using food to build up relationship between Malaysia and China. Chinese friends will get to know the country and our culture better when they taste the delicious Malaysian food,” he said during the opening ceremony of the fair. Malaysian Product and Cultural Fair was co-organised by Matrade and Qingdao Parkson Group.

The MKP, a global initiative of the Malaysian government, aims at promoting Malaysian restaurants overseas by creating demand for Malaysian cuisine through an integrated, holistic and multi-pronged promotion programme in collaboration with restaurant operators.

Apart from Beijing, Qingdao is MKP’s second destination in China.

Back to top

Omani Products Expo Inaugurated At Hypermarket In Salalah

MUSCAT, Oman, Aug 26 (NNN-ONA) – Geared towards boosting a nationwide campaign, to promote local products, “Omani,” an exhibition, was inaugurated at Lulu Hypermarket in Salalah today, under the patronage of Sheikh Salim bin Suhail Bait Said, Member of Majlis A’Shura, Representative of Salalah.

Organised by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE), the Omani Products Exhibition comes, in line with the ongoing Salalah Tourism Festival 2014.

Sheikh Salim Bait Said, affirmed that the exhibition comes at a time when Dhofar Governorate is witnessing a huge turnout from all over the world and specifically from the GCC countries. “PEIE is undertaking remarkable efforts to support locally-manufactured products, which have gained high quality and great demand from consumers. Taking into account the outstanding quality of these products, they have eventually become our first choice while purchasing goods,” he pointed out.

This exhibition comes as part of a campaign to promote and create awareness on the locally-manufactured products, to mark their presence in all governorates of the Sultanate, through commercial centres. The exhibition, which continues till Aug 30, at the Lulu Hypermarket in Salalah, offers an opportunity to the visitors to Dhofar Governorate, during Khareef (Autumn) season, to get acquainted with the unique characteristics of Omani products.

On his part, Eng. Basim bin Ali al-Nassri, Director General of Marketing and Media at PEIE, and a member of coordination committee, for joint external Omani products exhibitions, said, “The Public Establishment for Industrial Estates is organising the Omani Products Expo at Salalah Lulu Hypermarket, for the second consecutive year. In fact, PEIE, represented by the national campaign of promoting local products “Omani,” is continuing its endeavours to promote Omani products and aims at making these products the first choice for consumers.”

The Omani Campaign (Origin Oman) has recently launched a website, to complement the role played by the campaign, in supporting locally-manufactured products. The website offers visitors a range of electronic services through the link, www.originoman.om, which comprises an introduction to the campaign, latest news and a calendar of upcoming events.

The website has been designed to encourage consumers and organisations, to purchase locally manufactured goods and services, promote national pride and loyalty, and emphasise the economic importance of buying locally made products. Various services will be added to the website during the upcoming period.

On the preparations for the 3rd Omani Products Exhibition (OPEX), scheduled to be held in Dubai, from Sept 14 to 16, 2014, Eng. al-Nassri noted that the number of confirmed companies has exceeded 75, untill the committee’s last meeting, that was held recently.

Back to top

Qatar Grants Morocco US$136m To Finance Development Projects

RABAT, Morocco, Aug 26 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar offers Morocco, USD 136 million, to finance irrigation and pastures projects, in the desert areas in northern, central and southern parts of the Kingdom of Morocco.

The grant agreement was signed here by Qatar’s Minister of Finance, Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, on one hand, and Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance, Mohammed Bou Said and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Aziz Akhannouch, on the other.

Following the signing ceremony, Akhannouch said, the first project would be, to improve irrigation of 2,500 hectares, boost food security and combat poverty, through varying plantations.

The project, to be implemented in Wazzan, north-central Morocco, will also help boost farmers’ income, making the best use of natural resources, through drip irrigation, he added.

As for the second project, which costs USD 109 million, it targets the development of pastures and organising movement in a total area of 16 million hectares, in Sous-Massa Draa and Guelmim-Es Semara regions.

It aims to improve the pastoral environment of the region and living and educational conditions for the people there, about 100,000 people.

For his part, the Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance, Mohammed Bou Said, referred to the bilateral ties as “a model partnership between two countries, which has witnessed a boom, especially in the agricultural sector.”

Today’s grant is part of Qatar’s contribution to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) USD 5-billion donation to Morocco, over five years, Al-Emadi said. Earlier, Moroccan Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, received Al-Emadi and both underlined the strong bilateral ties, especially on the economic level.

Back to top

Malaysia Promotes Local Food Industry In Peru

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) is organising a specialised marketing mission on processed food to Lima, Peru Wednesday.

The mission is in conjunction with ExpoAlimentaria 2014, one of South America’s largest trade fair on food and beverages (F&B), from Aug 27-29.

In a statement today, Matrade said local companies joining the expo include manufacturers of snacks and confectionery, health supplements, food ingredients as well as equipment and logistics providers for the food industry.

Malaysian Trade Commissioner in Chile, Ezzwanee Ahmad said F&B products from Asia are gaining acceptance in the market with consumers opening their palates to new flavours.

She said importers are seeking new products from other countries to be introduced to the market in tandem with this consumer trend. “This is a good opportunity for Malaysian F&B companies to tap into the market,” she added.

Ezzwanee said Peru had shown signs of economic recovery since 2010, with all import sectors recording growth of more than 30 per cent.

Consumer goods had the highest recovery at 40 per cent followed by raw materials and intermediate products at 38 per cent.

Malaysia’s trade with Peru in 2013 was RM607.4 million with exports valued at RM370.3 million and imports at RM237.1 million.

Major exports were electrical and electric products, rubber products, palm oil, wood products, textiles, clothing and footwear as well as processed food.

Back to top

Malaysia: Five-Year Multiple Entry Visa For Investors In Dec

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 (NNN-Bernama) — In a move to facilitate the mobility of human capital with the implementation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) next year, Malaysia, on its part, will open applications for five-year multiple entry visas for investors by December.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said applications can be made at the Expatriate Services Division of the Immigration Department which was launched in June.

Najib said the move was taken to support the movement of business visitors, investors and fund managers, including those from beyond Asean such as India and China.

“Freer mobility of business visitors, investors and skilled professionals are key to support trade and investment,” said Najib at the Business Leaders’ Dialogue Session here.

He said since Malaysia would assume the chairmanship role in 2015, it was important for Malaysia to prepare for this key milestone in Asean’s integration which promised greater opportunities for Malaysia.

Najib also said to ensure opportunities in Asean reached all levels of the community, including the young, Malaysia would launch an Asean Internship Programme called “My Asean Internship Programme”.

Through this programme, Malaysian companies would host Malaysian youths for internships overseas in Asean countries and youths from Asean countries for internships in Malaysia.

Leading employers who have agreed to pioneer this initiative include CIMB, Malayan Banking Bhd, Axiata and Sime Darby Bhd.

“At the moment, awareness about the opportunities arising from the AEC remains low, even among entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” Najib added. The Business Leaders Dialogue was attended by 40 corporate leaders representing public-listed companies and government-linked companies.

Back to top

World Islamic Economic Forum In Dubai In Oct

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 (NNN-Bernama) — The 10th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Dubai from Oct 28-30, 2014, aims to forge greater collaboration between nations, bringing a new era of prosperity for the global economy.

WIEF Foundation Chairman Musa Hitam said the Islamic economy is not insulated from happenings around the world and the foundation aimed to bring to the fore opportunities which will ensure continued progress for the economy and the people.

“The three ways we can achieve this are by exploring prospects in smaller, non-majority Muslim markets, leveraging the continued growth of Islamic finance, and represented in our theme for 10th WIEF, “Forging Innovative Partnerships for Business Success”.

“The upcoming Asean integration in 2015, as well as the increasing purchasing power of Muslim consumers, underscores the strong growth potential of the Islamic economy,” said Musa who today unveiled details of the upcoming forum.

He said the priority was to bring global leaders, businesses and all members of the community together to realise these opportunities for sustainable development worldwide. “We all have a part to play,” he said at a media briefing on the upcoming 10th WIEF here Tuesday.

Musa said more than 2,500 participants from 140 countries were expected at the forum as Dubai focuses on shaping the US$8 trillion (RM25 trillion) Islamic economy.

Recognised for its significant contributions to progress in the global Islamic economy over the last 10 years, Musa said the annual forum would highlight Dubai’s pursuit to play a key role in shaping the targeted Islamic economy.

According to the foundation, the 10th WIEF will introduce new features to celebrate Dubai as the land of creativity and city which embraces the culture of innovation, such a platform for entrepreneurs and innovators to give a 15-minute pitch on stage as well as a business match-making programme.

It said there will also be a specialised session on the second day of the forum to inaugurate and drive the halal bio-economy agenda, focusing on food security, healthcare and well-being of the global Muslim community.

“Mobilising Capital from Waqf, Pension Funds and Unit Trusts: Developing Best Practices” is another thought-provoking panel discussion which will be introduced at the 10th WIEF, it added.

Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, said Dubai, already the region’s key business hub, is the gateway for businesses to unlock the potential of the Islamic economy across the Gulf and wider Middle East.

“We are confident that more partnerships would be forged when global leaders and businesses converge in Dubai for the forum,” he said.

Back to top

Call For Greater Collaboration To Internationalise Islamic Finance

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Collaboration between Islamic finance market players must be strengthened further in the effort to ensure continuous growth of the industry, especially in the international arena, said Kamarul Ariffin Mohd Jamil, Chief Executive Officer of Affin Islamic Bank Bhd.

“A lot of effort has been taken by regulators and players so far in growing the Islamic finance industry and in providing competitive and sustainable offerings, whether for the traditional or non-traditional markets.

“However, greater collaboration among stakeholders would provide the necessary leverage to stimulate further growth

“If you believe in internationalising Islamic finance, there is no other way to do it other than through collaboration,” he said in a statement to Bernama Wednesday.

Kamarul also said the size of the global Islamic finance industry was estimated to have reached US$1.8 trillion in 2013.

However, it remained a fraction of the size of the overall global financial industry with concentration mainly in majority-Muslim markets such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, which led the global industry in terms of asset size.

He also highlighted the fact that interest to venture into the Islamic finance industry has been expressed by non-Muslim countries such as Germany, Luxembourg, France, Australia, South Korean and Japan.

The establishment of market infrastructure and regulatory frameworks in these countries are currently at various stages of development, he added.

“You need the supporting infrastructure in order to grow that part of the market. The industry also needs more professionals who are conversant and well trained in Islamic banking and finance,” he said.

Currently, a large number of them are in traditional markets such as Malaysia and countries in the Middle East, while in non-traditional market the numbers are still relatively lower, said Kamarul.

“In a way it is a chicken and egg situation; whilst established Islamic banks may need to move up and branch out into other countries by establishing a representative office or foreign subsidiary, they would only be able to do so effectively if the country they wish to move into has the required infrastructure, including a clear regulatory framework,” he explained.

Global expansion may also require Islamic banks to grow their existing capabilities or enter into strategic collaborations, he said.

Dialogue amongst industry players is another key component to help expand Islamic finance and this is the main objective of the Global Islamic Finance Forum (GIFF), which will be held in Kuala Lumpur on 2-4 September 2014.

GIFF 2014, organised by the Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM), of which Affin Islamic Bank Bhd is a member and Kamarul is the Deputy President.

“We recognise, currently, there is no real forum catering for markets with different levels of development and we hope GIFF will be the forum,” said Kamarul, adding that GIFF will provide a platform for market players to collaborate and help new entrants develop Islamic finance in their respective markets. The forum, to be opened by Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz, is themed “Marketplace for Global Linkages”.

It aims to share lessons learnt in developing Islamic finance, including Malaysia’s experience in building a comprehensive ecosystem for the industry and spur cross border transactions.

Back to top

Master Planning For Dubai Expo 2020 Site Well In Progress

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Aug 28 (NNN-WAM) – Next stage design master-planning, is well in progress for Dubai Expo 2020’s host venue, Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali – a 438-hectare site, that includes the dedicated gated 150-hectare Dubai Expo 2020 area, and an additional surrounding residential, hospitality and logistics zone.

The work is being undertaken by a consortium made up of HOK and Arup, which continue their association with the project from the successful bid phase.

“Expos have been home to some of the world’s most landmark structures, from the Crystal Palace in London to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Dubai is committed to building on this tradition and making the entire site an experiential environment that fully embodies the essence of our theme, ‘connecting minds, creating the future’,” said Reem Al Hashimy, U.A.E. Minister of State, Managing Director of the Dubai Expo 2020, Higher Preparatory Committee and Director-General of Dubai Expo 2020 Office.

The team of lead architects and urban planners, HOK, with infrastructure experts and engineering partners, Arup, were selected because of their successful involvement with the master plan during the bid phase and their detailed knowledge of the project, as well as relevant expertise on other mega events internationally.

“The master plan design and execution is driven by a clear vision for its legacy, integrating sustainable urban development with opportunities to foster economic and social development for the emirates, for the country and for our region,” said Helal Almarri, Director-General, Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing; CEO, Dubai World Trade Centre and Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Preparatory Committee member.

The HOK-Arup consortium will support the Dubai Expo 2020 in the development of strategic and operational components of the Expo master plan, including sustainability practices; development of building, pavilions, urban design and engineering guidelines; spatial planning; public realm and landscaping; graphics and wayfinding signages; as well as overlay, event operations and facilities management.

Furthermore, they will assist in transportation and pedestrian modelling; capacity assessment for utilities, infrastructure, security, logistics and environmental design practices as well as detailed integration of the site into the wider Dubai infrastructure. Aligned with the Smart City development priority, outlined in the Dubai Vision 2020, mandated by Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Expo site is also being designed to serve as a prototype showcasing cutting edge ICT innovations, that can deliver a unique educational and entertainment experience across the entire Expo site and beyond.

“HOK and our consultants Arup are pleased to re-engage with this landmark project, allowing us to continue on the next chapter and help in the development of a master plan that sets new precedents for hosting a global event of this type. Dubai Expo 2020 will ensure the site leaves behind an iconic legacy befitting of this truly generation defining event,” said Daniel Hajjar, Senior Vice President, HOK.

The contract tenure for the master planners will run until the completion of all requirements for the mandatory Registration Phase, due to be approved by the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), the governing body of the World Expo, by Nov 2015.

Site readiness activity is currently underway on the Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali site, with full-fledged construction beginning after BIE approval is received.

At its peak, the Dubai Expo 2020 exhibition site at Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali is designed to accommodate up to 300,000 visitors, with average week-day attendance expected at 153,000.

Running Oct 2020 through Apr 2021, the Expo will launch the country’s Golden Jubilee celebration and serve as a springboard, from which to inaugurate a progressive and sustainable vision for the coming decades.

Back to top

AirAsiaGo Eyes Over 50% Revenue Growth This Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Aug 28 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsiaGo is aggressively pushing its business forward to grow its revenue by over 50 per cent this year, and maintain this momentum into 2015.

The online travel portal also intends to re-invest in its web operations and marketing in order to capture some 15 per cent of Southeast Asia’s online travel market share by 2017. However, the portal declined to disclose any figures.

To meet its ambitious targets, AirAsiaGo General Manager Darren Goh Boon Yew said it would be leveraging on the different points of sales, which are expected to grow at different speeds and scale based on market maturity, online penetration and the country’s overall economic growth.

“Mature markets like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are expected to have slower acceleration, while Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan are expected to grow faster,” he told Bernama in an email interview. One-third of AirAsiaGo’s business comes from Malaysia, he added.

Goh also believed that the high target would be backed by mobile web, higher travelling demand and AirAsia’s new route launches.

The portal is expected to introduce its mobile web by the fourth quarter of this year, which will see conversion improvements of over 45 per cent when it migrates all its sites by next year.

The travel portal targets the Asian millennial leisure travellers as the Gen Y often seeks and relies on information available on the web, are highly into social media and high technology and prefers travelling to global destinations at low cost.

“Millennial travellers, those born after 1980, are very high on brand awareness but are not loyal, they focus on price, convenience and reviews from peers. Social networks plays a big role in influencing purchase decisions, therefore it is important to pay attention to how travellers utilise various social media platforms,” he added.

On the back of these reasons, he noted that AirAsiaGo’s business was expected to be bullish in the second half of the year.

Asked on the aviation industry’s performance, Goh said that the travel and tourism industry would continue to show robust growth in the second half of 2014.

“The recent MH17 and MH370 tragedies have deeply impacted not only Malaysia, but the entire world. The tragic loss from these recent disasters will stay with us for many years to come. Tourism and air travel may be impacted in the short run, but it will pick up later,” he added.

AirAsiaGo is managed by AAE Travel Pte Ltd, a 50-50 joint venture (JV) between low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd and Expedia Inc, an online travel company.

AirAsiaGo currently contributes 20 per cent to AAE Travel’s bottom line and this is expected to grow by five per cent annually.

Back to top

Malaka – The Jewel of Malaysia

World Bulletin / 26 Aug 2014 – Composed of thousands islands and a multicultural society, Malaysia is a wonderful hotspot for travelers who are seeking history, natural beauty and a mixture of different cultures.

One of the several attractive cities, Malaka, comes to the forefront for its strategic importance along with other touristic characteristics. Various nations had fought to seize control in Malaka due to the strategic strait going through the city. In the15th century, the autonomous Malaka Sultanate had been taken over first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British. All the previous states that controlled the city left considerable historical pieces such as a Dutch water mill and a Portuguese castle.

One can clearly observe the European impact on the city’s architecture. Malaka was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2008. Two bridges binding the two sides of the Malaka strait is among the symbols of the city. As a reflection of cultural heterogeneity, Malaka’s Chinese neighborhood is booming with Chinese culture. At the same time, Muslims rush to mosques during praying times. Therefore, the city is a rare example of the mixture of Chinese and Muslim cultures.

The house of Sheikh Shemseddin Sumatrani, an influential religious figure in Malaka, was transformed into a museum, constituting a prominent part of Islamic architecture. Modern structures are also found as one goes to the north of Malaka River.

Malaka is known as a touristic city today. Hotels serve for tourists along the river. They enjoy boat tours through the river and can relax in the restaurants and cafes along it. Some of the most touristic places in Malaka are the mosques. Fathur Rahman Mosque qnd Kampung Hulu Mosque are some of the rare combinations of Malay and Chinese culture, and Kling mosque is designed according to Indian Islamic architecture.

Fathur Rahman is considered the meeting point of Muslims. Having been built in 1730, the mosque got today’s appearance after renovation work in 1978. Composed of two blocks, the mosque has a mixture of Chinese and Islamic architecture.

Whereas Fathur Rahman is located in the city center, Kampung Hulu Mosque is in a village close to the center. The huge traditional Malay drum hanging over the mosque’s door represents Malay components in Islamic culture. The drums had been used for call for prayers in some religions other than Islam and it was also useful for communication during wars. The two gun carriages standing in front of the mosque indicate the mosque was in the front line in the past wars.

Indian Muslim businessmen sponsored the construction of the Kling Mosque in 1748. The distinguishing character of the mosque is that it is built by wood. Having similar architectural properties with other regional mosques, Kling has gold-decorated columns which sparks interest. While frugality dominates the mihrab, golden designs in the pulpit attract attention.

The graveyard juxtaposing the mosque stands like a witness to the region’s past.

Back to top

Alaska Set to Open First Mosque

OnIslam with News Agencies / 28 Aug 2014 – A relatively small Muslim community in America’s far north western state of Alaska have put final touches on their first mosque. “It will be a two-story building. The men will be in the prayer area on the first floor and the women will be on the second floor,” Heather Robertson Barbour, a Muslim who lives in Anchorage, told PRI on Tuesday, August 26.

“There will be a balcony where women can watch the Imam when he does sermons,” Barbour added.

For decades, Muslim community in Anchorage, Alaska, used to hold their gatherings and communal prayers in a rented space in a shopping mall. “It’s a small place,” Barbour said.

Over the years, the Muslim community in Alaska has grown larger and the space they rented became too small. With the growth of the Muslim community, demand increased for a larger place to host Muslim prayers.

The idea for the mosque came about a few years ago and after years of fundraising, construction finally began in 2010. Finishing the first phase in the mosque, the second phase of the construction consists of creating classrooms, offices and a library.

Because of harsh winters and heavy snowfalls in Alaska, the mosque will not have a dome. However, the cold weather hasn’t stopped the flow of immigration to Alaska, creating diverse Muslim communities of all backgrounds.

“We have people from all over the world,” Barbour said. “We have people from southeast Asia, south Asia, India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Europe.”

The diversity of the society was widely accepted in Anchorage. “If, say, an Arab tries to impose their culture, Pakistanis say, no, that’s not Islamic. You have to go to the books, you have to research,” Barbour said.

Opening their new mosque, Barbour thinks Muslims there will feel more organized. The place will give them more of an identity.

“We’ll have the facilities. We won’t have a kind of a rag-tag operation,” she says.

Back to top

Smart prayer rug presented in Dagestan

Islam.ru / 22 Aug 2014 – This prayer rug is equipped with sensors that help Muslims don’t lose count of rak’at and correctly perform all the movements.

“If a believer makes a mistake the sensors start to make vibrating signals, which do not interfere with the process to focus on prayer,” – told the inventors, IslamDag.ru news agency reports.

Using special rugs to perform the obligatory prayers is not obligatory. Muslims use small rugs, turning them towards the Kaaba to be confident in the cleanliness of the place of prayer.

The inventors of the smart rug has patented their invention in Russia and are going to get an international patent. They said that the device will be in demand as about 1.6 billion Muslims live around the world.

Back to top

Turkish film wins ‘Heart of Sarajevo’ award

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

Mintas’s “Song Of My Mother” — a moving story of an elderly Kurdish woman yearning to return to her home village in Eastern Turkey — was also given a $21,390 main prize ahead of eight other competitors. “I have dedicated this film to my mother who lived in an Istanbul suburb where many Kurdish families found shelter during the 1990s,” Mintas said after receiving the award. Feyyaz Duman won the best actor award for his role in the same film. The best actress award went to Mari Kitia for her role in the Georgian film “Brides,” an insight into the country’s harsh penal system through the eyes of the inmates’ wives and family.

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

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

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

Back to top

Layered meanings for the art viewer

August/28/2014 – Hurriyet Daily News – Mixer Art Gallery’s summer exhibition, “Non-existing Images” curated by Mehmet Kahraman and Elvin Vural, brings various art disciplines together. It is possible to see different art works such as photography, drawing, painting, videography and neon installations. The exhibition welcomes artists such as Bengisu Bayrak, Dilek Öztürk, Ella Becker, Sema Özevin, Sırma Doruk, Ömür Alptekin and Tuğçe Çubukçuoğlu.

“Non-existing Images” builds its theoretical framework on the multi-layered relationship between the image and the viewer, according to curators Kahraman and Vural. Speaking about the exhibition and its concept, the curators explained:

“We have taken the concept from the approach of Bourriad’s ‘relational aesthetics.’ According to this approach, the meaning of the image can change all of the time in the mind of the viewer. It can narrow down, expand. In short, it is flexible. That is what the viewer encounters in the exhibition, by looking at the works of the artists. The interpretations that the viewer holds always change.”

“Each form we see in various media (usually on surfaces), eventually becomes first a continuum and then a completion in the viewers’ minds, with regards to their own existential incompletion,” Vural said.

The exhibition demonstrates that in tandem with the idea that the image is incomplete on its own and can only be complete in the mind of the viewer, the artwork faces countless different interpretations and transforms into many unique reflections.

The artworks allow the viewers to interact with various mediums, as the range of disciplines supports the exhibition’s theoretical framework.

Bayrak’s paintings visualize forgotten notes and Öztürk’s self-portraits, placing herself in urban spaces, point to the inherent continuity within stories. Alptekin’s drawings tend to transform into a pictorial superstructure but have not yet accomplished to do so, and Özevin’s photograph installation interacts not only with itself, but also with the viewer. This artwork supports the idea that with each and every look, the viewer faces a different image, yet a non-existing one.

The works in the exhibition have been chosen exclusively. The works usually focus on blurry bodies and large spaces. In fact, these images are here to create a different understanding of looking at art. By looking at these images, the viewer can create their own understanding, meaning there are layers to the meaning of the works.

While choosing the works, the curators tried to choose works related to each other. “However, at the end, we have seen that the works we have chosen all belong to female artists,” said Vural. Noting that the curators did not do this on purpose, she added that as a result, the harmony between the images and the relation between the works made the exhibition a whole.

The exhibition will be on display in Tophane’s Mixer Art Gallery until Sept. 14.

Back to top

Historic theater presents 21st Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The southern province of Antalya’s historic Aspendos Theater will host the 21st International Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival between Aug. 30-Sept. 24. The festival has been organized with the collaboration of the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the State Opera and Ballet General Directorate since 1994. It gained international status in 1998, being one of the most important organizations in the international art scene.

So far, the festival has brought together many Turkish and foreign artists and groups in the extraordinary acoustics of the 2,000-year-old Aspendos Theater.

This year, the festival will host İzmir, Mersin, Antalya, Ankara and Antalya opera and ballet directorates, as well as foreign guests including the Budapest Operetta and Musical Theater and Italian Taormina Festival Opera.

The opening of the 21st International Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival will be held by Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” on Aug. 30. The work will be staged by the İzmir State Opera and Ballet.

The opera tells the story of an Ethiopian princess Aida, who was captured and enslaved by Egyptians. An Egyptian military commander, Radames, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the pharaoh. To complicate the story further, the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris is in love with Radames, although he does not return her feelings.

The festival’s second guest will be the Mersin Opera and Ballet on Sept. 3 with “Notre Dame de Paris” by Cesare Pugni and Bujor Hoinic. Staged by Volkan Ersoy and Armağan Davran, the opera is the story of Quasimodo, who is an abandoned child left at Notre Dame and his love for a French gypsy woman, Esmeralda.

On Sept. 6, the festival’s first foreign guest will take the stage. The Hungarian troupe Budapest Operetta and Musical Theater will perform “Operettas Gala.” The audience will be entertained with the legendary melodies of the best Austrian, German, French and Hungarian operetta-composers in an impressive environment by the leading stars of the Budapest Operetta and Musical Theater. The concert will feature the beloved melodies of the most popular operetta composers including Johann Strauss, Jacques Offenbach and Emmerich Kálmán in Aspendos’ enchanting setting, in a genuine Viennese, Parisian, Venetian, Oriental, Transylvanian and Hungarian spirit.

The Antalya State Opera and Ballet will perform Verdi’s “La Traviata.” Recognized as one of the most famous and popular operas in the world, “La Traviata” has had a long history since the first performance in 1853. It is based on the renowned French writer Alexandre Dumas’ novel “La Dame aux Camélias” (The Lady of the Camellias).

The ballet “Harem” by Merih Çimenciler will be performed by the Ankara State Opera and Ballet on Sept. 13. The work has been staged many times in Turkey and abroad, receiving great interest. It is a love story that surrounds Çeşmidil, Gülbeden and Kemal in the Ottoman seraglio.

On Sept. 17, the Aspendos Theater will host a historical character, Attila the Hun. Verdi’s famous opera will be performed by the Ankara State Opera and Ballet. In the opera, Attila invades Italy. The Huns celebrate their victory as a group of captured Roman women are brought in. The Roman leader is Odabella, daughter of the Lord of Aquileia, who was killed by Attila. She declares that Italian women will always defend their land. Impressed by her courage, Attila offers to grant her a favor and Odabella asks for a sword. When Attila gives her his own, she vows to use it against him.

The festival’s other foreign guest is from Italy, the Taormina Festival Opera, which comes from the International Taormina Festival in Sicily. It will be on the stage Sept. 20 with Puccini’s “Tosca.” It is based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 French-language dramatic play “La Tosca” and is a melodramatic piece set in Rome in June 1800, when the Kingdom of Naples’ control of Rome was threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy.

The closing event of the festival will be performed by George Frideric Handel’s famous “Hercules.” The Turkey premiere of the work will be performed by the Ankara State Opera and Ballet. It is a musical drama in three acts.

Back to top

Göbeklitepe: The world’s oldest sculpture workshop

ŞANLIURFA – Anadolu Agency – The world’s oldest discovered temple, Göbeklitepe, is also the oldest known sculpture workshop, according to excavation findings at the site, which have been ongoing for 20 years.

The excavations at Göbeklitepe, which is located in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa and is described as the “zero point in history,” are being carried out by the German Archaeology Institute and the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry. German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, who died a few months ago, had been the head of the excavations.

Associate Professor Cihat Kürkçüoğlu from the nearby Harran University’s (HRU) Arts and History Department, said works in Göbeklitepe had revealed human sculptures from the Neolithic age, wild boar, fox and bird limestone fossils, as well as many arrow heads made of tinderbox.

Kürkçüoğlu said these findings revealed that the art of sculpture and stone relief dated back to 12,000 years ago. “These are the oldest monumental sculptures in the world,” he added.

He said they had found small sculptures from between 10,000 and 20,000 B.C., called the “Venus sculptures,” but the stone reliefs on T-shaped stelas in Göbeklitepe and in the Nevali desert are “the oldest sculptures in the world.”

A 1.80 meter-high limestone sculpture, known as “Balıklıgöl Man” or “Urfa Man,” which was found during the excavations close to the Balıklıgöl lake in 1995, dated back to 10,000 B.C.

“This shows us that Göbeklitepe is the birthplace of plastic arts. It is a temple but at the same time it’s the world’s oldest sculpture workshop. You expect primitive examples of stone sculptures but you find very improved, aesthetic and artistic sculptures. This surprised us greatly. Some compositions in Göbeklitepe are even good enough to make today’s graphics jealous. As the archaeological excavations progress, I believe we will find older prototypes,” he said.

Kürkçüoğlu added that he had asked university groups visiting the ancient site to teach their students that the history of sculpture started at Göbeklitepe. “Just like the alphabet starts with A, the history of plastic arts starts with Göbeklitepe,” he said.

Back to top

Ancient throne discovered in excavations at Euromos

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – Excavation works in the ancient city of Euromos, located near the city of Milas in the western province of Muğla, have revealed the remains of a 2,300 year-old throne.

The ancient city of Euromos is home to some of the most well preserved temples in Anatolia. This year excavation works have been headed by Associate Professor Abuzer Kızıl.

Kızıl said they were very excited about the new findings, discovered close to a 3,000-person capacity ancient theater.

“(The throne) is a marble seat and was found very close to the theater’s stage. We believe it belonged to a noble person who lived in the city. We have named it ‘proedria.’ There was also a cylindrical altar right next to it. It will be the benchmark for our future excavations. We got chance to analyze the theater better and will continue working on it,” he added.

Kızıl also believes the seat may have belonged to a woman due to its relatively small frame, adding “there are hearts and various motifs inscribed (on the chair).”

Back to top

Swat Museum Set To Re-Open 6 Years After Attack

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-08-29 SWAT – As another sign that cultural activities are returning to the area, Pakistani officials are making arrangements for the Swat Museum to re-open more than six years after militants attacked it, forcing it to be closed.

“The situation is normal, and the general public are taking interest in all activities,” Faiz-ur-Rehman, the museum’s curator, told Central Asia Online of life in the area today. The museum is still closed but will re-open after a proper ceremony, he said.

“The days are gone when the Taliban virtually ruled the valley,” he said, predicting the re-opening will bring back hundreds of foreign tourists. “They were enemies of culture, but now the evil forces have been defeated.”

Swat was part of the Gandhara Kingdom, which existed from 530 BCE to 1021 CE, and boasts a rich archaeological heritage, including unique stone Buddha statues and stupas, many of which were housed in the museum.

During the Swat Taliban’s reign of terror in 2007-2009, residents witnessed numerous atrocities, including attacks on government installations, schools and health facilities.

The museum, inaugurated in 1963 by then Pakistani President Ayub Khan, was among those institutions that were attacked. Militants bombed it, damaging more than 150 items and forcing the museum’s closure in 2008.

Since the military’s victory over the Swat militants in 2009, though, life has gradually returned to normal and culture is returning to the area.

Officials had moved the artefacts to Taxila, Punjab Province, to preserve them after the 2008 attack; now that the museum’s reconstruction – which took several years and was funded by Italy – is complete, archaeologists are bringing back the antiques.

“All of the objects belong to Swat and are placed in chronological order from the Stone Age to the British era,” Rehman said. The return to peace is also giving the economy a needed boost.

“Archaeological activities, with the help of the Italian mission (that rehabilitated the museum), have restarted in the area and so far we have preserved six sites,” Rehman said. “The Italian archaeologists have started repairing the face of the Jehanabad Buddha (a 7-metre-tall 7th-century CE statue that the Taliban defaced in 2007), and we are hopeful very soon it will be brought to its original position.”

Other activities related to the conservation, exploration, reconstruction and training of workers are in progress, he added.

“It was a great source of income for us,” 18-year-old Swat resident Akhtar Ali said of the Jehanabad Buddha. “Before the Taliban damaged the face of the rock engraved with the Buddha’s image, many tourists from Japan, Thailand, Nepal and many other countries came to the site, but the militancy ruined our business,” he said.

Ali said he was optimistic tourists would return. “We hope that the good times will come again … and our business will start again,” he said.

Already, there is an indication of that as tourists, especially from Punjab, have started visiting the area again. “We enjoyed the summer festival in Kalam (August 4-7) and also visited the archaeological sites that show the Gandhara civilisation,” Allah Ditta, a resident of Bahawalnagar, Punjab Province, said. “We will come again next year for the summer festival and hope by that time the museum will be open too.”

Back to top

Tajikistan, Kazakhstan promote economic co-operation

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-08-27 DUSHANBE – Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are becoming ever-closer economic partners. In the first half of 2014, trade amounted to US $414.5m (2.1 billion TJS or 75.4 billion KZT).

In comparison, last year, their trade reached US $711.2m (3.5 billion TJS or 129.4 billion KZT). Tajik exports to Kazakhstan totalled US $85.5m (425.5m TJS or 15.6 billion KZT); imports, US $625.7m (3.1 billion TJS or 113.9 billion KZT).

“Kazakhstan sees Tajikistan as a major partner in Central Asia,” Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in Astana August 12. “There are about 40 companies with Kazakhstani capital operating in Tajikistan … we need to increase bilateral trade and expand co-operation.”

“From 2006 to the present day, Kazakh investments in Tajikistan have added up to US $498m (2.5 billion TJS or 90.6 billion KZT),” Izzatullo Nurulloyev, chief of the Agreements and Investments Projects Department at the Tajik State Committee on Investments and State Property Management (GKIUGI), said. “The 2013 investments amounted to US $24.7m (122.9m TJS or 4.5 billion KZT), whereas those of the first half of this year alone, to US $17.3m (86.1m TJS or 3.1 billion KZT).

Kazakhstan is Tajikistan’s number one investment partner in Central Asia, and one of the top 10 countries investing in Tajikistan,” he added.

The two countries co-operate mainly in banking, business, manufacturing and agriculture, as well as in other areas. From 2010 through this July, the Tajik Tax Committee registered 56 companies with Kazakhstani investment.

“Kazakhstani investments in Tajikistan have increased because the investment climate in Tajikistan is improving, (with) appropriate revisions to Tajik law,” Nurulloyev said. “The two countries both belong to the (CIS) … and as fellow member-states, they have co-operated at the highest level.”

Kazakhstan’s Kazkommertsbank operates in Tajikistan; the Istaravshan-based soft drink maker Obi Zulol partially belongs to Kazakhstani investors; Air Astana flies between Almaty and Dushanbe; and a branch of Kazakhstan’s Rahat Confectionery makes candy in Tajikistan. “Production has increased 15% this year,” Ekhsonullo Karomatulloyev, food production director of Obi Zulol, told Central Asia Online. “Obi Zulol is a company producing … soft drinks, tea, bottled water, juices, etc. … In the first seven months of this year, the company produced drinks worth (more than 100.4m TJS) (US $20.2m or 3.7 billion KZT).”

Familiarity has helped the countries build co-operation.

“Kazakhstani companies work very well in Tajikistan,” Matlyuba Uljabayeva, director of the Association of Small- and Medium-Sized Business of Tajikistan, said. “We have much in common in terms of culture. Because Tajikistan borders Afghanistan, Kazakhstan also is interested in having us perform as a transit country.”

A Kazakhstani-Tajik Direct Investments Fund was founded in Dushanbe at the end of 2010, but it never went into operation. The co-founders were the KAZYNA Sustainable Development Fund of Kazakhstan and the GKIUGI on the Tajik side. The fund’s charter capital was slated for investment in different projects in Tajikistan.

The start was a bit rough, one observer said.

“Those ideas, just like the fund itself, have never been implemented,” Saimiddin Dustov, leader of the Tajik NGO Indem, said. “I think that … not the best Kazakhstani investors came to Tajikistan at first. But we have huge potential … and everything is gradually working out.”

“Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, in contrast with other CIS countries, have developed their relations fairly smoothly and successfully,” Tajik economic analyst Nur Safarov observed. “The two countries’ presidents maintain friendly and partner-like relations, which is of no small importance in the context of Asian traditions.”

Back to top

Bangladesh tourism minister bid to promote hill district

DHAKA, Aug 28, 2014 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today underscored the need for taking the country’s tourism sector forward with united efforts of all.

“The country’s hill districts are a very potential zone for tourism, and Bangladesh would be an attractive place for the tourists if we could advance the sector by creating a proper environment,” he said.

The minister said this while addressing a function on the occasion of handing over local tourist spots to the hill districts at Hotel Sonargaon in the city.

PM’s Advisor on International Affairs Dr Gawher Rizvi, State Minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts Bir Bahadur, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the CHT Affairs RAM Ubaidul Muktadir Chowdhury, Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Md Khurshed Alam Chowdhury and Secretary of the CHT Affairs Ministry Nabo Bikram Kishore Tripura also spoke on the occasion.

Terming the CHT Peace Accord as a historic incident, the minister narrated his role as a mediator. “The CHT deal was kept in the cold storage during the period from 2001-2007,” he said.

Later, three separate agreements were signed with the three hill districts. The CHT Affairs Secretary and respective secretaries of the hill district councils inked the deals, an official handout said.

Back to top

Indonesia a model of Islamic democracy and harmony

28 August 2014 Nusa Dua, Bali (ANTARA News) – Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani lauded Indonesia for being a role model of Islamic democracy and harmony amid the emergence of radicalism in the region.

“The OIC secretary general opined that Indonesia can also be a role model for other OIC member states because the country has embraced a modern Islamic lifestyle, which is also part of the solution to the problem,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa remarked here on Thursday.

Madani said Indonesia can also be a model of Islamic harmony, democracy, and modernization for other counties around the world, particularly when sectarianism has become a serious issue in the region with the emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Boko Haram in Nigeria, he noted.

Therefore, Marty pointed out that ISIS and Boko Haram did not reflect the real essence of Islam, so the OIC member states should come together and explain the true teachings of Islam to the rest of the world.

He stated that during the meeting, President Yudhoyono and Madani discussed issues related to cooperation in education and human rights, and Indonesias role in Myanmar concerning the Rohingya ethnic group.

Back to top

Bandung, W. Java, to host Intl Muppet Show

29 August 2014 Bandung, West Java (ANTARA News) – An international muppet show by t Magisch Theatertje from the Netherlands will be held in Bandung, West Java, on September 5, 2014, a local artist reported here on Friday.

“The Dutch theater company will perform at Saung Angklung Udjo, as one of their show series in Indonesia,” chairperson of Saung Angklung Udjo, Taufik Hidayat noted.

He explained that t Magisch Theatertje was a show art and international visual community that had a track record of performing in more than 35 countries around the world at various international festivals.

The show in Bandung was organized in collaboration with the Dutch Cultural Center Erasmus Huis in Indonesia and the Sudanese Cultural Center Saung Angklung Udjo. “This art show group will perform at Erasmus Huis, Jakarta, on Saturday and Monday,” Taufik noted.

They will perform art show for children titled A Little Fairy Tale and for adults titled Cantos Animata, both directed by Charlotte Puijk-Joolen, with Ananda Puijk as the doll mover and Roel Puijk as the technical support.

According to Taufik, the art show group has vast experience of performing shows in various international festivals, and has won numerous awards.

t Magisch Theatertje is a very unique theater company because its repertoire is doll for adult audiences. Charlotte Puijk-Joolen, a Dutch artist, is the creative genius of t Magisch Theatertje, which focuses on the field of Puppet Theater.

Besides being the artistic director, Charlotte also designs, creates, and performs in the shows.

Since establishing t Magisch Theatertje in 1996, Charlotte has held shows for adults and children, which has given an international reputation to the art group.

Back to top

Indonesia`s trademarks to be franchised to intl market

29 August 2014 Semarang, Central Java (ANTARA News) – The Indonesia Franchise Association (AFI) is planning to franchise a number of local trademarks to the international market, chairperson of AFI Anang Sukandar said here Friday.

“Next month, we will hold a business meeting with a number of Indonesian workers in Taipei, Taiwan, to introduce local trademarks to the international market through a franchise business,” he stated.

According to Sukandar, Indonesian workers are no longer associated with domestic servants. They are also professionals who work as teachers, office employees, and small businesspersons who could potentially become franchise entrepreneurs overseas.

“There are some 500 Indonesian workers in Taipei. We hope they will be interested in the franchise business for some of the brands we offer,” he noted.

Some Indonesian brands that will be brought to Taipei are Es Teller 77 and Joyo Cup, which are famous for their beverage menus. Food brands that will be brought to Taipei are Donat (Doughnut) Double Date, Kebab Baba Rafi, Bakmi Batavia, and Bakmi Naga. The other two brands are noodle specialists.

“We think the workers abroad would make excellent franchise business investors (to help us enter) the international market. They often start to think about investing in the country in which they work, and a franchise business could be considered an alternative investment,” Sukandar said.

ASEAN Economic Community initiatives are scheduled to be implemented in 2015. “If they want to take their business to Indonesia, they do not need any permission to do so,” he added.

Taipei is not the first city to be considered by the AFI for expanding the franchise network of Indonesian brands. Previously, Singapore and Malaysia were both considered satisfactory markets for these brands.

“In the near future, we will go to Hong Kong as a lot of Indonesians are working there. In addition, the salary is quite high,” Sukandar noted.

Back to top

Nigeria Tourism Corp Promotes Children’s Cultural Festival

Daily Indepdent – 28 August 2014 – As part of efforts to promote domestic tourism, the Director-General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, has included the Osun Children’s Cultural Fiesta as a major component of the annual OsunOsogbo Festival.

At the just concluded OsunOsogbo Festival, Mrs. Mbanefo noted that there must be an inclusion of culture/tourism in the school curriculum to enable children grasps the basics of same as they grow.

Her words: “The children’s cultural fiesta has come to stay as part of NTDC’s promotion of the cultural festival. We are reaching out to schools and talking to them to make tourism part of their curriculum. As part of subjects that they must pass, let the children grow with the culture, proud to speak their languages anywhere in the world. If you are fluent in English and unable to speak your mother tongue, you seem lost.”

The NTDC boss made these comments in a speech delivered at the Osun Children Cultural Fiesta held at the Ataoja’s palace in Osogbo on August 21, 2014.

She extolled the rich Yoruba culture saying that the Corporation is determined to ensure that all the cultural festivals in Nigeria would be promoted and marketed to the outside world as part of Federal Government’s effort to make tourism a major revenue spinner for the Nigerian economy.

On the children’s fiesta, NTDC organized competitions to encourage the children. They came in four categories like drumming, dancing, cultural fashion parade and Yoruba spelling and a total sum of two hundred thousand naira was expended as prize money to the winners of the various competitions. She said the festival is a veritable platform for cultural exchange in the country.

“It is a channel at which culture is being exhibited and exchanged to the world.

“South West Culture is the richest because civilization came early and was properly documented and handed down to generations.

“Osogbo Festival is unique to the Corporation and is included in our calendar of cultural events. Osun cultural festival is very unique to NTDC because it is one of the numerous festivals of international recognition, enlisted as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO including Sango Festival that has been exported to over forty countries of the world,” she said.

Mrs. Mbanefo noted that the festival witnessed a ground breaking collaboration between NTDC and Osun Government, adding that the partnership necessitated a team of researchers from NTDC being on ground to collect data of many tourists both local and foreigners that attended this year’s festival.

“This is done because the Corporation must seek to determine how popular the festival is to the world and get records of the tourists that attended the festival. The idea is for the federal government to determine its commitment to continuing support for the festival,” she said.

Mr. Ayo Olumoko, Managing Director, INFOGEM Limited and Marketing Consultant of the Festival, lauded the efforts of NTDC in promoting the Osun Cultural Festival with the inclusion of the Children Cultural Fiesta. According to him, the synergy with NTDC has become necessary in view of the fact that government alone cannot drive domestic tourism.

“Mrs. Mbanefo has set a pace, the State of Osun and the organizing committee of the event appreciates her efforts,” he said.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that the great Osun Osogbo Festival is a ceremony celebrated annually for twelve days. It is celebrated to mark the commemoration of events that led to the founding of Oshogbo town and the renewal of ancestral bonds between the Osun goddess and the people of Osogbo.

This pact of association, which is rekindled every year in the month of August is said to be the foundation of the festival celebrated in memory of the goddess and the pact of association.

Osun is the Yoruba impersonator of the “water of life” and the spiritual mother of Osogbo. Osun goddess, according to the belief of the worshippers and faithful is a giver of children and cures infertility and other ailments. People around the state believe that any barren woman who drinks the water drawn from the flowing river must conceive and give birth to children.

Osun is believed to be one of the wives of Sango, the god of thunder and former king of Oyo. She is widely worshipped in Yoruba land and specifically along the stretch of the country through which the River Osun flows.

Back to top

Gambia Lawmakers Ratify Tourism Agreement With Turkey

The Daily Observer – 25 August 2014 – Gambian lawmakers Thursday ratified an agreement meant to boost cooperation with the trans-continental country of Turkey in the field of tourism.

The agreement, which hitherto signed in Banjul on 24th September 2012, was brought for lawmakers’ approval by the Transport, Works and Infrastructure minister, Balla Garba Jahumpa.

The two countries are well known tourism destinations that could learn from each other’s experience and best practice. The Gambia and Turkey share very close bilateral ties in many fields of mutual interest and benefits. The Gambia is keen on changing the seasonality trend of its tourism sector and Turkey can be a key player in the transformation process, said Minister Jahumpa, who stepped in for the Tourism and Culture minister.

“The parties shall exchange information pertaining to tourism planning and investments, protection and conservation of natural and cultural resources, tourism accommodation, travel agencies, investment opportunities and other related matters,” he told National Assembly members. The minister further explained that the parties shall also participate in each other’s tourism exhibitions, congresses and other promotional activities.

“Given that the Turkish parliament has already ratified the agreement, ratification by The Gambia will be in tandem with diplomatic protocols more so when the issue of ratification was raised at the last Turkish Gambian Joint Commission Meeting held in Banjul in April, 2014. Ratification of Agreement will thus open wider the doors of cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism for mutual interest and benefits”, he remarked.

Seconding the motion, the NAM for Niamina West, Hon., Lamin Jadama, said the importance of tourism to the Gambian economy and by extension to the livelihood of all Gambians and non-Gambians alike is an open secret. He said the parties shall take the necessary measures to develop and enhance the tourism relation between the two countries.

“For this purpose, they shall facilitate and encourage all activities of private sector and national tourism administration in their respective countries,” Jadama asserted. The Bakau NAM, Hon. Kalifa Jammeh also lauded the agreement between the two allies.

Back to top

Tourism Becomes Uganda’s Main Export

The Observer – 26 August 2014 – Uganda has a new top export earner. Tourism has for the first time become Uganda’s biggest export earner after it fetched $1.4bn in financial year 2013/2014, up from $1.1bn the year before, according to the central bank’s monetary policy statement for August.

Workers’ remittances, long the dominant sector when it came to calculating export receipts, has been knocked down to the second position, with coffee in third. Remittances, which is the amount of money Ugandans living abroad send home, was roughly $800m during financial year 2013/2014. Although the African Development Bank expects this figure to reach $1bn this financial year

Meanwhile, coffee, Uganda’s main traditional cash crop, earned about $415m for the period between April 2013 and March 2014, according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority. Tourism was boosted by glowing reports of the country’s attractions among international tourism catalogues. Uganda is regarded Africa’s best destination for birders. The country boasts of more than 1,058 bird species, accounting for 11 per cent of the globe’s total, and half of Africa’s.

In 2012, a reputable online tour magazine, Lonely Planet, ranked Uganda number one among the top ten countries to visit. The journal said: “After all, this is the source of the river Nile – that mythical place explorers sought since Roman times. It’s also where savannah meets the vast lakes of East Africa, and where snow-capped mountains bear down on sprawling jungles.”

It added: “Uganda is Africa condensed, with the best of everything the continent has to offer packed into the small, but stunning destination,” it said.

Stephen Asiimwe, the chief executive officer of the Uganda Tourism Board, told The Observer that the Lonely Planet ranking had a very big impact on increasing the number of holiday makers coming to Uganda. “It was a huge plus for us,” he said.

Other key attractions have come on board, Asiimwe added. Celebrations to mark Martyrs day every third day of June continue to attract thousands of people, and there are plans by UTB to market it as a tourism attraction. Cultural events such as the circumcision ceremony, Imbalu, in Mbale attracted thousands of people.

Asiimwe said there were many cultures here that could be developed to become tourism attractions.

“Tourism is not only about wildlife and nature. We have 56 tribes and all have different cultures and heritages and all are unique. This is something we are looking at.”

In Kenya, the Maasai are used as a tourist attraction.

Uganda is expected to host the Africa Travel Association conference in November, which could boost tourism numbers. This is a huge annual world congress of tourism lovers, which attracts delegates from all over the world. Asiimwe said the event could attract more than 800 delegates.

“It will be a big boost. The delegates will visit almost every pocket of this country. This is an opportunity for hoteliers, transporters, and entrepreneurs,” he said.

Asiimwe said UTB would embark on an aggressive marketing to sell the country. He pointed out that they would advertise on international media networks like CNN and the BCC.


There have been challenges for the sector, though. UTB has insufficient funds to promote the industry. This financial year, the board was allocated Shs 5bn. However, Asiimwe says, this is too little for an industry that is now a top export earner for the country. He said government should double their budget to at least Shs 10bn annually.

Meanwhile, Bank of Uganda’s monetary report noted that the country’s trade account continued to deteriorate. Trade deficit, which is the amount of money a country spends to import above what it earns from exports, grew to $2.34bn last financial year from a $2.12bn in 2012/13.

“The deficits on the trade account and income account more than offset the surplus on the services and foreign transfers,” BOU said.

A widening trade deficit usually leads to the depreciation of the local currency as importers pay more for foreign currency, and ultimately could put further pressure on the rate of inflation. Private transfers have also declined to $934m from $976m in 2012/13.

BOU says the drop was partly down to the “disruptive impact of the war in South Sudan.” Uganda earned about $240m annually from South Sudan before war broke out in the country.

Back to top

Destination Gambia Safe for Visitors

The Daily Observer – 27 August 2014 – In spite of the fact that the Ebola outbreak is causing uproar not just in African countries, but also throughout the world; The Gambia remains one among those Ebola-free countries in the region, as rigorous campaigns and sensitisation of people on the deadly disease that is beginning to have a negative impact on Africa’s tourism industry is in high gear across the country.

On record, since the outbreak of this disease in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia later exported it to Nigeria, it has killed over one thousand people out of over two thousand suspected or confirmed cases.

The official word on the risk of the Ebola virus to air travel, the tweets released of August 14, the World Health Organisation (WHO) described air travel, even from affected countries, as “low-risk.”

The government of The Gambia, through the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare; Tourism and Culture continued to strengthen the country’s preparedness against this virulent disease.

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture, through the Gambia Tourism Board on their preparedness towards the disease had donated various items to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, as it will help to strengthen their readiness in terms of fighting, monitoring and mounting surveillance at the airport, seaports and boarder towns across the country.

This effort is in line with the UN health agency’s call for exit screening at certain international airports, seaports and major ground-crossings will help in fighting the disease against importing it into the country. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that anyone showing symptoms consistent with the virus should not be allowed to travel normally.

Among other things, everyone should note, according to the agency is that transmission of this disease requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposure for the average traveler.”

As travel and tourism is concerned, the Gambia Tourism Board is really taking great step in working with concerned partners, such as the WHO, MoHSW, among other institutions, as sensitisation is concerned. This will give the general public the prerequisite information on the Ebola virus.

According to Momodou Bah, the director of Quality Control and Licensing at GTBoard said their message to the general public includes the measures to be taken in case of unlikely outbreak of the disease.

The Gambia is very much concerned of this disease, because of its sensitivity which is the reason why the GTBoard is taking the lead in the sensitization process to prevent the disease from gaining access into the country.

Preventing the disease from entering the country is a collective effort that involved not only the health and GTBoard but as well as the GCAA, GIA, tour operators, travelling agents, airline operators among other stakeholders as sensitization, prevention and response.

To avoid contracting the disease, Bah stated that there is a need to avoid shaking hands with people, adopt principle of ‘Don’t Touch,’ frequent hand-wash, using of disinfectant gel to rub hand and other parts of exposed body. You are advised to visit the physician or any hospital, if you are experiencing any sign or symptom like continuous high fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, and hemorrhoids. Recently, the symptom might not come with any signs of hemorrhoids, because the signs and symptoms are changing; it can be deceitful at times and can also come in flu, malaria.

The worries over the outbreak have caused several flight cancellations or flight debars from one country to others, especially in countries where the disease is killing people. For safety purposes, The Gambia government has already cancelled flights out of the affected countries in West Africa. However, The Gambia still remains heaven on earth and a safe abode for tourists.

According to a statement released by the WHO last Wednesday, the outbreak continues to be confined to four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. “The situation in Lagos, Nigeria, where the first imported case was detected in July, looks reassuring,” the WHO statement added. “At present, the city’s 12 confirmed cases are all part of a single chain of transmission.”

Momodou Gassama, health promotional officer at the WHO – Gambia Office discussed the negative impact of Ebola virus in Africa, especially as travel and tours are concerned, especially being the first time of the virus in West African countries. The Ebola virus used to be in Eastern parts of Africa, like Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central Africa.

Going back to history, in 1976, it occurred simultaneously in DR Congo and in Sudan, but never in West Africa until recently, this is one of the reasons why it is causing havoc where it was never experienced before.

Back to the signs and symptoms again, according to Gassama, when it occurred in Uganda, it was like blood diarrhea, rashes but now in different forms. Whatever form, remember the precaution as stated above by Momodou Bah, prevention is better than cure, even cheaper than cure!

Back to top

Cross-Border Ecotourism Promotion Envisaged in Congo Basin

Cameroon Tribune – 24 August 2014 – Workshop participants in Congo Brazzaville are discussing the sustainable management of forest resources.

Managers of reserved areas in the Congo Basin want to derive more income by ensuring that the resources are managed sustainably. In this regard, stakeholders on August 19, 2014, began meeting in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, to chart out a new cross-border ecotourism promotion strategy.

Organised by the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha International Commission, CICOS, participants are expected to draw up work plans on the joint management of cross-border wildlife resources in line with current international norms. They will also seek to proffer suggestions on ensuring an enabling environment for the promotion of international ecotourism by involving local people in the sustainable management of wildlife resources in their communities.

The Congo Basin spans across six countries – Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, the Congo Basin is one of the most important wilderness areas still left in the world. At 500 million acres, it is the world’s second-largest tropical forest. The region boasts a mosaic of rivers, forests, savannas, swamps and flooded forests teeming with animals such as gorillas, elephants and buffaloes.

There are approximately 10, 000 tropical plant species, 30 per cent unique to the region. Endangered wildlife, including forest elephants, chimpanzees, bonobos, and lowland and mountain gorillas, inhabit the lush forests. Some 400 other mammal species, 1,000 bird species and 700 species of fish, are also found there. The Congo Basin has been inhabited by humans for more than 50,000 years. It provides food, fresh water and shelter to more than 75 million people who belong to nearly 150 distinct ethnic groups.

Back to top

Detroit Welcomes US Muslim Convention

Onislam – Saturday, 30 August 2014 DETROIT – Attracting Muslims from around the world to the Motor City, the Islamic Society of North America has brought its 51st annual convention to Detroit for the first time, in an event expected to attract more than 20,000 attendants.

“Welcome to Detroit, the Comeback City. We are proud to have one of the nation’s largest Muslim communities,” Michigan’s own Governor Rick Snyder said in the inaugural session, welcoming all attendants, OnIslam.net correspondent reported.

He went on to thank the Muslim community for interfaith efforts with Christian and Jewish organizations. “We have a history of success in partnering with Christians, Jews and Muslims, and we need to share that with the world,” he added.

Kicking on Friday, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) 51st annual convention opened at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

This year’s 51st convention is held under the theme, “GENERATIONS RISE: Elevating Muslim American Culture.”

At the inaugural session, moderated by ISNA Vice President Azhar Azeez, a diverse group of Muslim leaders were present along with members of the interfaith community and political leaders.

Imam Mohamed Magid, ISNA President, delivered a warm welcoming address, greeting attendees and encouraging them to enjoy their time in the city.

The event was brought to Detroit for the first time thanks to the efforts of an American Muslim, Syed Mohiuddin, who worked with several organizations to put things in motion.

At the opening session, he spoke briefly, thanking the volunteers and organizations that worked so hard to bring the convention to Detroit. He told the masses, “Detroit brightest days aren’t just ahead, they’re right now.”

Newly appointed Executive Director, Hazem Bata shared his excitement for this convention. He told the audience, “Don’t just participate, engage. Let us know what ISNA can do to help your community.”

The opening session was attended by a galaxy of Muslim figures, including Michigan State Representative Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim woman elected to Michigan legislature, also addressed the audience.

“You’re going to feel the strength of my residents, but you’re also going to feel the Love of my residents,” she said. Adam Shakoor, Former Chief Judge of the 36th District Court and Deputy Mayor of Detroit, was also in attendance.

He said that he was a part of a generation called to activism. “It meant that we had a role as citizens of activism…. we were a part of our future, and of resolving problems in our communities, our nation, and the world,” he said.

Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Kristen Church in America, also spoke. “We have a very good partner in ISNA, and we look forward to continuing to build on the legacy we have begun,” she said.

ISNA leadership echoed the sentiments of these speakers, highlighting their excitement of what’s next for ISNA in the local community, and world at large.

“Is only fitting that the convention comes to Detroit. It’s the home of the country’s first free standing mosque, opened in 1921,” Mukhtar Ahmed, ISNA Director of Program and Educational Services Department, said.

Kashif Siddiqi, the President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), shared similar opinion.

“We’re all a part of the social fabric of this community, and we must remain so. I personally challenge you all to make a difference,” he told attendants.

ISNA Co-Chair, Suhaib Sultan, told attendees that, “The idea is that the thing and the old will connect. All of the stains will examine how we work together across generations, and how do we move to the next level as American Muslims.”

Back to top

Bahrain Tourism industry set for overhaul

Gulf Daily News – 30 August, 2014 – Tourism and hospitality industries are gearing up for a major overhaul.

A new categorisation of hotels is expected to be announced in October, setting new quality standards.

The Tourism Directorate will announce the new roadmap as part or plans to revamp the entire hospitality sector, sources told our sister paper Akhbar Al Khaleej.

The blueprint will apply to luxury four- and five-star hotels, apartments, boutiques, floating restaurants and other hospitality facilities.

The new criteria will also apply to new hotels to be built in Bahrain.

The sources reported a big surge in demand for licences to construct luxury four- and five-star hotels in view of the strict regulations enforced on three-star hotels. Investors planning to build new luxury hotels in Bahrain will have to comply with new stringent criteria.

The regulations will include the size of rooms and beds, height of the mattresses, quality of the furniture, bed covers, pillows – even the type and size of soap used in toilets.

Existing hotels will, however, be exempted from certain criteria which concern particularly the size of rooms and reception lobbies as their redesigning and resizing would be impossible.

Back to top

Emirates Arik Air sign agreement

Khaleej Times – 29 August, 2014 – Emirates and Arik Air will also explore other areas of cooperation for the future, including frequent flier programmes, passenger and cargo handling.

Emirates Airline has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, or MoU, with Arik Air, West Africa’s leading airline, to develop and expand their existing commercial relationship and explore further areas of co-operation.

Emirates and Arik Air currently have a one-way interline agreement, whereby Emirates passengers are connected throughout Nigeria and West Africa via Arik Air’s current domestic and regional network.

The MoU was signed earlier this week by Adnan Kazim, Emirates Divisional senior vice-president, Planning, Aero-political and Industry Affairs, and Chris Ndlulue, Arik Air’s managing director, at Emirates Group Headquarters in Dubai.

“Both Emirates and Arik Air have expressed interest in exploring ways to expand our existing commercial relationship and to look at different areas in which we can cooperate that will be mutually beneficial to both airlines, including seamless connectivity for our customers on our respective networks. We also intend to explore the potential of code-share arrangements as passenger traffic flows mature between both parties’ networks,” said Kazim.

“Arik Air is delighted to partner with Emirates. Both airlines share a similar vision of convenience and safety for our customers. While Arik Air is happy to open its network in Nigeria and West Africa to Emirates passengers, we are excited at the vast worldwide network of Emirates being made available to Arik Air’s passengers. The invaluable cooperation between the two airlines offers a lot of synergy to both airlines in achieving their objectives,” added Ndlulue.

Emirates and Arik Air will also explore other areas of cooperation for the future, including frequent flier programmes, passenger and cargo handling.

Nigerian Arik Air is the largest airline in Western and Central Africa and has developed and successfully operates an extensive domestic route network in Nigeria, and regionally across Western Africa from its twin hubs in Lagos and Abuja, and to Johannesburg in South Africa and inter-continentally to New York and to London from its Lagos hub.

Emirates is one of the world’s leading international airlines and flies to more than 140 destinations in 81 countries across six continents. It operates the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft and Airbus A380s.

Back to top

GCC visitors throng Salalah Tourism Festival

Times of Oman – 30 August, 2014 – The Salalah Tourism Festival (STF) this year is drawing large crowds not only from Oman but from other GCC countries as well.

“The festival is drawing tourists due to a rare geographical phenomenon of delicate drizzles, which begin in the last week of June and continue till September,” said a member of the Salalah Tourism Festival panel.

Among this year’s attractions are exhibitions of a traditional village where more than 1,000 craftspersons present their skills and products, souvenirs and other objects. There are more such facilities in Salalah, Taqah and Mirbat. The festival opened on the second day of Eid and will continue till September 6.

This year’s Khareef Festival has seen close collaboration between the public and private sectors, which is reflected at different venues, including the Global Village where hundreds of stalls would be set up by both Omani and foreign entrepreneurs.

Inter-wilayat competitions of traditional song, dance and folklore has always been a centre of attraction among the festival’s visitors. Last year, 12 traditional folklore shows were performed by troupes showcasing the rich heritage of Oman. The whole of Salalah goes green during this time, giving a rare feeling to the tourists, especially those who visit from the countries where rains are a rare.

The festival attracts a large number of tourists from the neighbouring GCC countries as also from Europe and other Middle Eastern countries. Over the years, Salalah has earned a reputation as one of the best summer destinations in the entire Middle East.

It may be recalled that the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) report showed that the overall number of visitors – including Omanis – in the period between June 21 and August 20 – stood at 352,755, compared to 303,365 in the same period in 2013, representing an annual growth of 16.3 per cent.

Omani nationals comprised 74 per cent of the visitors, while 12.7 per cent were UAE nationals and 4.9 per cent were from other GCC states.

Back to top

Qatar Airways to operate two daily flights to Madinah

The Peninsula – 27 August, 2014 – Increasing passenger demand has prompted Qatar Airways to introduce an additional daily flight to Madinah with effect from October 26, 2014.

The airline had increased its flights to the Saudi city from five per week to daily flights only in April this year.

Qatar Airways currently operates 79 weekly flights to Saudi Arabia, which will rise to 86 flights per week with the introduction of the additional flights to Madinah.

The Doha-Madinah additional daily flight schedule will be (all times local): QR1174 will depart from Doha at 0055 hours, arriving in Madinah at 0320. QR1175 will depart from Madinah at 0420, and arrive in Doha at 0625.

Back to top

xxx Buraidah hosts world’s largest dates market

Arab News – 27 August, 2014 – The world’s largest dates festival is in full swing in Buraidah. Brisk business is being reported daily, as hundreds of tons of high-quality dates, harvested in the Qassim region, are being brought into the festival.

The farming community in Qassim, which was once renowned for harvesting quality wheat, now harvests the “Sukkari” type of dates, considered one of the most popular kinds, both in the Kingdom and in the Gulf region at large.

“The dates festival in Buraidah is not only an event, but a lifeline for thousands of farmers and youth who depend on the income generated from the cultivation and farming of this gem,” Mohammed Al-Harbi of the Buraidah festival told Arab News.

“We receive 1,000 vehicles loaded with dates daily and have provided employment for nearly 2,500 people, who do anything, from loading and unloading produce to selling dates at the market,” he said.

“We have noted a 12-percent sales increase compared with previous years. The dates festival has made over SR125 million in sales over the past few days alone.”

“In fact, sales are expected to further increase from Monday and last two weeks. This is considered peak season for the market.”

More than 25 million kg of dates are being sold at the festival, with prices ranging from SR25 to SR50 per kilo depending upon quality.

The Sukkari type comprises more than 95 percent of all dates, he said.

“Nevertheless, 77 percent of what we receive is of first-class caliber thanks to farmers deploying scientific harvest methods to maintain the quality, taste and color of the produce.”

Al-Harbi also said that the festival will be inaugurated by Deputy Qassim Gov. Prince Faisal bin Mishaal on Thursday.

“Last year’s festival recorded a record SR1.4 billion in sales,” he said.

The Qassim Municipality maintains the market, which spans 300,000 sqm, accommodating thousands of trucks and long, refrigerated trailers and boasting vast loading areas.

Buraidah’s dates market is the largest in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Qassim region has around 7 million dates palm plantations, the highest of any region.

The Ministry of Agriculture encourages palm tree-farming, allocates land and helps farmers purchase farming equipment.

The ministry also provides farmers with long-term loans through the Saudi Arabian Agricultural Bank and provides temporary visas during harvesting season.

Expatriates used to have a free hand in the dates market, but Saudi youth have taken over the scene during the past two years, restricting the role of expats in the industry.

Buraidah’s dates festival is a major generator of income for the Qassim region, in which agriculture and palm cultivation are prime activity.

Back to top

Next Dubai Expo 2020 phase design set to start

Khaleej Times – 28 August, 2014 – The next-phase design and master planning for Dubai Expo 2020’s showpiece venue is making headway as the site’s readiness activity gets into full swing.

The 438-hectare Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali host venue is being designed to create a spectacular showcase befitting the tradition of world expos that leave behind an iconic architectural legacy, the Dubai Expo 2020 Office said in a statement on Wednesday.

A consortium made up of HOK, the US-based lead architects and urban planners, and Arup, infrastructure experts and engineering partners, will undertake the design and master planning work. HOK and Arup have been involved with the expo project since the successful bid phase.

“Expos have been home to some of the world’s most landmark structures, from the Crystal Palace in London to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Dubai is committed to building on this tradition and making the entire site an experiential environment that fully embodies the essence of our theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’,” said Reem Ibrahim Al Hashemi, UAE Minister of State, managing director of the Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Preparatory Committee and director-general of the Dubai Expo 2020 Office.

The expansive Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali complex features a centrepiece Dubai Expo 2020 gated facility spread across 150 hectares and a surrounding residential, hospitality and logistics zone.

Construction works will begin after November 2015 following the approval by the Bureau of International Expositions, or BIE, the governing body of the World Expo.

“The masterplan design and execution are driven by a clear vision for its legacy, integrating sustainable urban development with opportunities to foster economic and social development for the emirate, for the country and for our region,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of the Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, CEO of the Dubai World Trade Centre and Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Preparatory Committee member.

The HOK-Arup consortium will be involved with the development of strategic and operational components of the Expo masterplan including sustainability practices; development of buildings, pavilions, urban design and engineering guidelines; spatial planning; public realm and landscaping; graphics and way-finding signage; as well as overlay, event operations and facilities management.

The consortium will also assist in transportation and pedestrian modelling; capacity assessment for utilities, infrastructure, security, logistics and environmental design practices, as well as detailed integration of the site into the wider Dubai infrastructure. Aligned with the Smart City development priority outlined in the Dubai Vision 2020 mandated by Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the and Ruler of Dubai, the Expo site is also being designed to serve as a prototype showcasing cutting-edge ICT innovations that can deliver a unique educational and entertainment experience across the entire Expo site and beyond, the Expo 2020 Office said.

“HOK and our consultants Arup are pleased to re-engage with this landmark project for its next phase and help in the development of a master plan that sets new precedents for hosting a global event of this magnitude. Dubai Expo 2020 will ensure the site leaves behind an iconic legacy befitting of this truly generation-defining event,” said Daniel Hajjar, senior vice-president at HOK.

The contract tenure for the master planners will run until the completion of all requirements for the mandatory registration phase, due to be approved by the BIE by November 2015.

The Dubai Expo 2020 exhibition site is designed to accommodate up to 300,000 visitors at peak time, with average week-day attendance expected at 153,000.

Running from October 2020 through April 2021, the Expo will launch the country’s Golden Jubilee celebration and serve as a springboard from which to inaugurate a progressive and sustainable vision for the coming decades, the statement said.

Back to top

Hi-tech online Bahrain visa system to be launched

Gulf Daily News – 28 August, 2014 – A hi-tech system will be inaugurated on October 1, making it possible for visitors from 102 countries to secure their entry visas online.

The scheme will be launched by the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) in co-operation with the Central Informatics Organisation (CIO). The new electronic system will enable Bahrain’s embassies abroad to issue visas directly.

A batch of Foreign Ministry employees attended a workshop as part of NPRA’s efforts to train them on the new cyber system. The streamlined e-visa issuance system has so far been restricted to 38 countries.

‘The new system will expedite visa services for people wishing to visit Bahrain for tourism or business purposes,’ e-Exits Division chief Thabit Al Shoroqi said.

He said the system will ease business and tourism visa issuance at embassies to enhance the development of Bahrain. It will also enable the Foreign Ministry to monitor performance of Bahrain embassies to ensure fast processing of visa applications.

Back to top

Oman Chamber chief discusses steps to boost tourism

Oman Daily Observer – 28 August, 2014 – Said bin Saleh al Kiyumi, Chairman of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) yesterday met Mohsen bin Khamis al-Balushi, Advisor of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Board member of Oman Air and Paul Gregorowitsch, CEO of Oman Air.

The meeting discussed several points of importance regarding the development of the Omani economy, in cooperation with the relevant agencies, in addition to discussing the operation of direct flights to several countries.

The two parties thought that such flights serve the country’s economic development, taking into consideration the study to operate direct flights from Muscat to Guangzhou in China due to its economic weight and wide experience in business.

The meeting also discussed the need for concerted efforts to promote tourism to the Sultanate and the great role played by air transport in tourism promotion.

The two sides agreed to hold a meeting for OCCI, Oman Air and other agencies will work together for the betterment of tourism sector in the country which will help boost the economy.

Back to top

Flydubai expands to 80 routes

Khaleej Times – 29 August, 2014 – Flydubai announced the addition of three new East African routes, bringing the total number of destinations in the carrier’s network to 80.

With the launch of flights in September 2014 to Bujumbura in Burundi, Entebbe in Uganda, and Kigali in Rwanda, flydubai will fly to nine destinations in Africa.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of flydubai, said: “We are delighted to announce the launch of three new East African destinations which also sees flydubai become the first national carrier from the UAE to fly to Rwanda and Burundi, underlining our commitment to opening up underserved markets.”

Flydubai’s operation to these emerging markets will provide passengers with a reliable, direct and high-quality service. Business Class, which is made available for the first time between Dubai and Burundi, will give passengers travelling to these new destinations a more comfortable and personalised travel experience.

“We have announced 17 new destinations since the start of 2014, matching the total number of destinations flydubai launched last year. We look forward to continuing to expand our network as we remain committed to supporting Dubai’s trade and tourism sectors,” added Al Ghaith.

In addition to operating between Dubai and these three new cities, flydubai has obtained the rights to carry passengers between Uganda and Burundi. Within Africa, flydubai currently operates flights to Alexandria in Egypt, Khartoum and Port Sudan in Sudan, Juba in South Sudan, Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa as well as Djibouti’s capital Djibouti. Flydubai will operate daily flights between Dubai and Entebbe starting from September 27, 2014. Economy Class return fares from Dubai to Entebbe will start at Dh1,600 including 20kg checked baggage, while Business Class return fares will start at Dh6,500 and are inclusive of all taxes and 40kg checked baggage.

Flydubai will operate two flights a week between Dubai and Bujumbura via Entebbe starting from September 30, 2014. Economy Class return fares from Dubai to Bujumbura will start at Dh1,500 including 20kg checked baggage, while Business Class return fares will start at Dh5,800 and are inclusive of all taxes and 40kg checked baggage. Flydubai will operate three flights a week between Dubai and Kigali via Entebbe starting from September 27, 2014.

Economy Class return fares from Dubai to Kigali will start at Dh1,300 including 20kg checked baggage, while Business Class return fares will start at Dh4,500 and are inclusive of all taxes and 40kg checked baggage.

Back to top

Dubai to host third edition of Oman Products Expo

Emirates 24/7 – 29 August, 2014 – Dubai will host the third edition of the Oman Products Exhibition (Opex 2014) to be held between September 14 and 16 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

The distinguished bilateral trade relations and strong bonds between Oman and the UAE paved the way for choosing Dubai as the host for Opex 2014, said Ayman Al Hasani, Vice-Chairman, Head of Industry and Mining Committee, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He explained that Dubai was their obvious choice as the emirate is a global business hub, while its preparations for hosting Expo 2020 offered many opportunities for stronger trading ties.

Recent figures reflect well on the non-oil bilateral trade between the two countries, he said. “As officials in both countries work hard to strengthen economic ties and to maximise common interests, expectations for the economy for year 2014 are high.

Annual growth in non-oil sector is expected to reach 5.5 per cent supported by a huge public investment program. Real GDP is also expected to grow by 5.1 per cent, reflecting a slower rate of increase in oil production,” he said.

“The organising committee aspires to bring together a wide variety of high quality Omani products from various sectors, including: food and beverages, furniture, aluminium products, building and construction materials, textiles and fabrics, perfumes and cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, logistics and utilities.

We are also looking forward to important participation from small and medium enterprises and number of entrepreneurs,” he added.

Back to top