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8 Sep, 2014

Website launched for Palestine Museum of Natural History

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 08 September 2014 (13 Dhul Qa’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.




Understanding Iranian culture overseas

Tehran, Sept 6, IRNA – A group of experts and I seek to conduct research for better understanding the culture of old Iran while respecting the independence of other nations, said Abdolhamid Mirdamadi, deputy head of Iranology Foundation for research.

Abdolhamid Mirdamadi made the statement in an exclusive interview with ˈIran Dailyˈ published Saturday, excerpts of which follow:

IRAN DAILY: You are determined to conduct research on Iranian culture beyond the country’s borders as one of your most important programs. What is it about?

MIRDAMADI: Parts of countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf littoral states were inside Iran in the past.Even, Balkan states were also considered part of Iran. They used to speak the Persian language.

Q What are the benefits of understanding Iranian culture?

A The benefits include raising public awareness regarding Iran’s historical background, civilization and culture as well as promoting patriotism and reinforcing pillars of national identity and resistance against Western cultural invasion.

Q How many researchers and thinkers are involved in this study?

A Currently, five outstanding Iranology professors are conducting the research. They are faculty members of top universities in the fields of Iranian culture and Iranology.

Q Please explain the measures you want to implement during your tenure.

A The library of Iranology Foundation is the sole specialized library in the field of Iranology. We seek to gather all books written about Iran in this library. Because, I think researchers involved in Iranology field need these books.

Also, launching a gallery of photographs on Iranology of provinces is another plan. We intend to collect all images registered about Iran in this section.

Q You had announced that the reference book of Iranology of provinces is being compiled. Is it complete?

A Yes, the book has been compiled. The book introduces a comprehensive compilation of culture, customs, traditions, history, and luminaries of provinces.

Cultural elites, researchers and Iranologists played a role in compiling the reference book that comprehensively presents the culture and history of provinces in different generations, he concluded.

Iranology Foundation is the most important cultural entity for studies in Iranian culture and civilization.

Established in 1997, the foundation is affiliated to Presidential Office. Hassan Habibi, former vice president in Mohammad Khatami’s administration, established the foundation.

After his death, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appointed Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Khamenei as chairman of the foundation in July 2013.

Mirdamadi has written over 50 articles on culture, law and religions. He has also compiled 15 books on subjects such as religions and dialog among religions.

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Iranians produce honey-thyme cough syrup

Tehran, Sept 6, IRNA – A team of researchers from Yas Darou Pharmaceutical Company has produced syrup from honey and thyme extract for cough relief.

Gholamreza Amin, managing director of the company, said that the company made the medicine with the support of Presidential Office’s Department of Science and Technology, according to Saturdayˈs edition of ˈIran Dailyˈ.

“The medication named HoneyThyme Syrup is a phlegmatic and cough relief syrup,” he said, adding that a herbal anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea medicines have also been produced by the company.

Amin further said product license has been issued by Iran’s Health Ministry for 623 herbal medicines.

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Website launched for Palestine Museum of Natural History

By Prof Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh, Volunteer Director, Palestine Museum of Natural History (Bethlehem

We announce the launch of http://www.palestinenature.org/ and associated facebook and twitter for the new Palestine Museum of Natural History. Thanks to our volunteers: webmaster Basil and server logistics Dany. On the draft webpages you will find:

  • In the ‘home’ page selected photos from our thousands of photos of nature in Palestine and easy access to other pages
  • In ‘About Us’ sections on history, mission, and goals of the museum
  • In ‘Research’ a glimpse of our diverse research activities
  • In ‘News’ page summaries of activities and ongoing new developments
  • Ways you can support us by donating or volunteering or networking with us
  • and much more

Your input on web structure and your contribution of ideas and material would be appreciated. We are building something unique and different based on volunteer efforts in Palestine so we need you. Please also visit us (physically or virtually on the web). You can also share (like) our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Palestine-Museum-of-Natural-History/1454309858180882
and/or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PalMNH email us at info@palestinenature.org to give us feedback and suggestions and also if you can help. We will try to grow the website (and the museum) quickly with your help.

Mission: The Palestine Institute of Biodiversity Research and Palestine Museum of Natural History (PMNH) will work to research, educate about, and conserve our natural world, culture and heritage and use knowledge to promote responsible human interactions with our environment.


1) Explore and research the diversity of the fauna, flora, and human ethnography via collections and research.

2) Environmental protection and responsible interaction between people and the environment. This includes building environmental awareness and encouraging conservation of natural resources including connecting this to Palestinian heritage.

3) Use the knowledge gained and the books and databases and collections to promote science education so that this institute becomes one that helps all segments of society in areas like biology, ecology, technology, archaeology, ethnology etc.

4) Cataloging and building a physical and an electronic data base of all animal and plant species existing as well as beginning to catalog and preserve objects/specimens related to natural history and biodiversity (including human diversity and history).

5) Develop respect a) for ourselves (self empowerment), b) for our fellow human beings (regardless of background), and c) for all living creatures and our shared earth.

We need YOUR support. Contact us at nfo@palestinenature.org info@palestinenature.org

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KL to host South Indian International Movie Awards

As Indian cinema is making a strong impact globally, it’s time for South Indian Cinema to claim its space in the realm of world cinema. It’s time for Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam industries to occupy centre stage. It’s time to put our hands together to welcome SIIMA.

SIIMA, an acronym for South Indian International Movie Awards, is a one-of-its-kind endeavour to present South Indian Cinema on a global platform. SIIMA promises to be an event that film lovers across the world would sit up and watch with bated breath. After creating history in the previous two years, this year SIIMA travels to the enthralling city of Malaysia taking the South Indian Cinema a step ahead on the global platform by making a mark overseas.

SIIMA is scheduled to be held on September 12th & 13th, 2014 in Kuala Lampur– Malaysia. It is a magic waiting to unfold. It is a celebration to honour the abundant talent in south cinema in addition to bringing fans and their favourite stars closer. Film lovers, supporters, fraternity and admirers from all over the world will come together to celebrate South Indian Cinema while millions across the globe will witness history being made on their television screens.

The awards night is packed with scintillating performances and breathtaking acts by some of the biggest stars from the four industries.

The south Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA) is a 2-day event awarding the artistic and technical achievements of the South Indian film industry.

It is a celebration to honour the abundant talent in South Indian cinema in addition bringing fans and their favourite stars closer. Film lovers, supporters, fraternity and admirers from all over the world will come together to celebrate South Indian Cinema while millions across the globe will witness history being made on their television screens.

The awards night is packed with scintillating performances and breathtaking acts by some of the biggest stars from the industry.

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Malaysian Open Tennis to feature top stars

The Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur celebrates its sixth anniversary this year and tennis fans across the country are in for excitement and thrills, as three of the world’s top-ten confirm their participation, as the country celebrates Visit Malaysia Year. Once again the specially built indoor courts at Putra Stadium, Bukit Jalil, will be the host venue for the US$ 1,022,255 ATP 250 tournament, which takes place from September 20 – 28.

The star line-up include Argentinian great, world No.7 and US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro, Kei Nishikori, currently ranked #10, and who is the second Asian man to reach the world’s top-ten and hard-hitting, big serving Canadian Milos Raonic. Sanctioned by the Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia, the Malaysian Open is one of the more popular events on the ATP World Tour.

Tickets prices range from RM 10 to RM 160 with free admission between Saturday, September 20 and Tuesday, September 23.

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Airasia X’s Indonesian Affiliate Gets Air Operator’s Certificate

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia X Bhd’s affiliate, PT Indonesia AirAsia Extra (IAAX) has officially received the Air Operator’s Certificate from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Ministry Transportation of the Republic of Indonesia, making it the first long-haul low-cost carrier there.

In a statement here,AirAsia X said the approval would allow IAAX to to proceed with its application for operating permit and airport slots for its intended international routes.

“IAAX will announce the commencement date of its commercial operations once details have been finalised. IAAX will operate the Airbus A330-300s aircraft, featuring two-class configuration with 12 business class seats and 365 economy seats,” it added.

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India, Bangladesh To Ink MoU In Traditional Medicine

NEW DELHI, Sept 5 (NNN-Bernama) — India and Bangladesh are due to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of traditional medicine and homoeopathy.

“This (the MoU) will be of immense importance to both countries considering their shared cultural heritage,” the Indian government announced in a statement. It said that the MoU would also provide a structured frame work for cooperation between the two countries for the promotion of Indian traditional systems of medicine and homeopathy in Bangladesh.

The total exports of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Ayush) products from India in 2012-13 was Rs.2167.57 crore (US$358.42 million). India’s exports of herbal and Ayush products to Bangladesh for 2013-14 was Rs. 31.85 crore (US$5.27 million).

The Department of Ayush, as a part of its mandate to propagate the Indian systems of medicine globally, has taken effective steps by entering into MoUs with the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM), China (the MoU has since expired), Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago and Hungary for cooperation in traditional medicine.

MoUs are proposed to be signed with Serbia and Nepal for which the Cabinet has given its approvals. Consequently, the Ministers of Health, Government of Serbia and Government of Nepal have been invited to visit India for signing of the MoUs.

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Moroccan Cultural Delegation Visits China

RABAT, Sept 3 (NNN-MAP) — Officials from Morocco’s Ministry of Culture have a working visit to Beijing during which they discussed with their Chinese counterparts ways to strengthen cultural relations between Morocco and China.

This Aug 29-31 visit, which was made at the invitation of China’s State Administration for the Press, Publishing, Radio, Film and Television, a government regulatory body, was marked by talks on ways of strengthening biltaeral cultural relations and the implementation of the agreement to be signed soon between the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and the Chinese body.

The Ministry of Culture said in a statement here Monday that the agreement was aimed at translating into the Chinese language various Moroccan literary works and for them the translated works to be published by Chinese publishing houses and the translation into Arabic of Chinese works and their publication by Moroccan publishing houses.

The Moroccan delegation which visited China consisted of Hassan El Ouazzani, the director of the Book Department at the Ministry of Culture, Abdeljalil Nadem, who represented the Moroccan Dar Toubkal publishing house, and Abdelkader Retnani, representing the La Croisée des Chemins publishing house.

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Qatar Airways Offers New Service To Cape Town

DOHA, Qatar, Sept 3 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways will launch direct flights between Doha and Africa’s Cape Town, five times weekly, beginning Nov 3, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported. Cape Town, which is currently served three times a week, via Johannesburg, is one of the airline’s most popular African destinations.

Qatar Airways is offering the non-stop service to Cape Town, for the first time, thanks to rising passenger demand to the city, a press release said. The airline will fly Boeing 787 aircraft on the route. All Qatar Airways passengers now fly via its new hub at Hamad International Airport in Doha.

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Malaysia Poised To Be Top Destination for Turkish Travellers

ISTANBUL, Sept 5 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is poised to be a destination of choice among Turkish travellers as the country offers affordable and attractive packages during holidays, said Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

He noted that Malaysia had already received 12,775 Turkish tourists last year, and following the opening of the Malaysian Tourism Office in Istanbul the same year, the number of visitors from Jan to May this year increased 62 per cent.

“With our favorable exchange rate, you will also find that Malaysia is a value-for-money destination. Our hotel rates, food and beverages, and other holiday lifestyle choices are among the lowest in price but highest in quality.

“I would even dare to say that in Malaysia, luxury is highly affordable,” he said in his welcoming speech during a hi-tea session with Turkish tour operators and media at the Clarion Hotel and Suite here Thursday.

Mohamed Nazri is currently in Turkey in conjunction with the opening of the Malaysia Cultural Week, an event aimed to promote Malaysia and to further introduce Malaysian culture to the international community.

During his speech, Mohamed Nazri also acknowledged that the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign has targeted around 28 million visitors with 13,000 from Turkey.

“Accessibility between our two countries has also shown great improvement with 36 weekly flights servicing the Istanbul-Kuala Lumpur route, both through direct and indirect flights on Turkish Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways.

“With our presence here, we hope to see more direct flights from here which will give more options in terms of air accessibility for people of both countries,” he added.

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Iran, Kazakhstan To Boost Economic Ties

TEHRAN, Sept 2 (NNN-Bernama) — Iran and Kazakhstan have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance economic ties, Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported.

The MoU was signed by Iranian Roads and Rural Development Minister Abbas Akhoundzadeh and Kazakh Minister of Investments and Development Aset Issekeshev on the sidelines of the 13th Joint Commission of Iran-Kazakhstan Economic Cooperation in Tehran recently.

Under the MoU, Iran’s Social Security Investment Co. (SSIC) and Kazakh National investment Agency (Kaznex) will conduct feasibility studies on implementation of joint investment projects in construction of cement and pharmaceutical companies in Kazakhstan, and urea-ammonia factory in both countries.

Other areas include joint investment in mining industries, tile and ceramic production, joint efforts in modernising Aktau port in Kazakhstan, health tourism development and setting up of two joint trade companies to facilitate trade transactions.

Kazakhstan has declared willingness to invest in Iran’s industrial projects due to Kazakh companies’ capabilities to provide funds needed for oil and gas projects.

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Palestine Exports Surplus Guavas To Jordan

NABLUS, Palestine, Sept 4 (NNN-MA’AN) – The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture exported 20 tonnes of guavas to Jordan on Wednesday, and is working to export another 15 tonnes this week, a Palestine Authority (PA) official said.

Tareq Abu Laban, marketing manager, at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Ma’an that the PA received permission from Jordan, to export 70 tonnes of Palestinian guavas.

Abdullah Lahlul, deputy minister of agriculture, told Ma’an, that the ministry exported 720 tonnes of guavas at the beginning of the year, and 900 tonnes last year, amounting to roughly 10-15 percent of Palestinian annual production.

Israel maintains complete control over all border crossings, in and out of the West Bank, restricting Palestinian imports and exports.

In recent months, however, Palestinian authorities have tried to increase the territory’s economic independence and increase trade relations with Jordan and other regional states.

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Emirates launches direct flights to Oslo

Saudi Gazette – 04 September, 2014 – EMIRATES, a global enabler of trade and business, has expanded its Scandinavian reach on Sept. 2 with the start of its daily non-stop service to Oslo.

Emirates’ daily flight to Oslo, operated with a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, is the first international service to offer a First Class product in Norway. The inaugural flight Tuesday was welcomed by Avinor CEO Dag Falk-Petersen, along with partners from the travel trade and local media. A contingent of Norwegian business leaders based in Dubai also accompanied senior Emirates representatives on the inaugural flight. It is estimated that over 1,200 Norwegians currently reside in the United Arab Emirates.

Thierry Antinori, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Our new service to Oslo will play an important role in developing new opportunities for major Norwegian industries through enhanced connectivity via the Dubai hub. Norway’s booming oil, gas, maritime, fishing and telecom sectors will all derive substantial benefits from new links provided by Emirates to over 49 destinations in the Far East and Australasia, West Asia, Indian Ocean and Middle East, resulting in a spectrum of new economic activity. Customers will also be able to experience our flagship A380, connecting to 14 destinations in the Far East, Middle East, Australasia and Indian Ocean. Additionally, more Norwegian travellers will be able to discover Dubai’s cosmopolitan world- class attractions via Emirates’ direct daily service.

Tapping into markets like Norway, which are currently underserviced in terms of international connections, has been a key driver for our success in the past and we are confident that Oslo will be another example of this. We also anticipate healthy demand for our First Class product, which is aligned with the needs of our corporate travelers out of Norway. We consistently invest in and refine our product, and our suites have set the industry standard by providing passengers an exceptional level of privacy coupled with attentive luxury details,” he added.

CEO of Avinor, Dag Falk-Petersen, said: “We are thrilled that Emirates are now launching direct flights between Oslo and Dubai. The partnership with a leading global brand such as Emirates is of great importance for us at Oslo Airport. The new direct route with Emirates facilitates for a host of new travel opportunities to Asia and Australia with only one stop, and provides faster connections to destinations such as Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.” The UAE and Norway enjoy a trade relationship estimated at €245 million, and this new service is expected to further enhance economic links between the two countries.

There are nearly 70 Norwegian companies that actively operate in the UAE, with oil, gas and shipping as prominent source industries. Several Norwegian companies are based in Dubai which acts as a hub for their activities in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Well-known companies like Jotun have been actively part of Dubai’s construction industry, most notably providing exterior paint for Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.

Emirates has also been actively engaging with Norwegian brands such as VOSS, a premium bottled water served since 2011 to Emirates’ First Class passengers on its Boeing 777 fleet and First and Business Class passengers on board its A380 fleet.

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Heritage makes Najran a top tourist destination

Saudi Gazette – 04 September, 2014 – Almost on the Yemeni border in the southwest of the Kingdom, Najran is one of the most fascinating places in the Kingdom that has attracted thousands of tourists from within and outside the country.

Set in a sprawling oasis, this area has been inhabited for about 4,000 years and was once a major stop on the frankincense route.

Najran is surrounded by several archaeological and historical sites scattered in its suburbs. This has enabled it to possess various geographical natural sights that include numerous services and public utilities, thus making it a top tourist destination.

The region is replete with numerous heritage and historical sites dating back to thousands of years, like the Trench archaeological site located in Al-Qabil district in the south of the valley. It includes masonry buildings, castles and historical drawings and inscriptions that narrate the story of the People of the Trench, mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Najran city also has distinctive Islamic and historical sites including Al-Dharwa in Rijla and Qarn Al-Za’faran in Al-Shurfah.

Raum Castle is located between Mount Abu Hamdan and Mount Saadan in the western part of Najran. It is some 1,800 meters above ground level and overlooks the farms and villages scattered on the banks of Najran Valley, like Al-Hudhun, Al-Mofajah and Zu Al-Harith villages in a magnificent view.

Each of the region’s 34 valleys contains 12 heritage houses including palaces and castles, or what is known as the clay Al-Duroob houses, amid the date palm trees and farms on the banks of Wadi Najran. These are favorite places for tourists and visitors to get acquainted with the old art of construction and unique architectural engineering in building clay houses.

The historical Aba Al-Saud market in Al-Balad has economic and historical importance due to the heritage handicrafts the region is famous for, like Najrani daggers (Janbiyah), aside from leather goods, embroidery and clay and stone vessels.

Visitors to the region are keen to purchase them to present as gifts to their near and dear ones.

Najran city enjoys a distinctive geographical diversity, making it a beautiful place with mountains on the western, northern and southern sides. Valleys descend from these mountains and flow to Najran Valley, which bisects the city into northern and southern parts. Date and wheat farms as well as grape vineyards are scattered on the banks of Najran Valley and adjacent to the Al-Duroob houses. Sand dunes of the Empty Quarter (Al-Rub’ Al-Khali) surround the city from the eastern side.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, Saleh Muhammad Al-Mraih, director general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in Najran, said the region has over 20 hotels and over 130 licensed furnished residential units to receive visitors.

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China-Eurasia Expo Boosts Silk Road Economic Belt

URUMQI, Aug 30 (NNN-Bernama) — The Fourth China-Eurasia Expo due to open on Monday aims to be a bridge to facilitate economic and technical cooperation among countries along the ancient Silk Road, Xinhua news agency reported.

Chi Wenjie, deputy secretary-general of China-Eurasia Expo Secretariat, said Saturday that 10 forums and exchange activities will be held during the six-day event.

The forums include the China-Eurasia Economic Development and Cooperation forum, Eurasia News Media Forum, Central Asia Technological Innovation and Cooperation Forum, and the summit on the application of the Beidou navigation satellite system.

Initiated by Chinsese President Xi Jinping, the Silk Road economic belt revival project may see the involvement of more than 40 Asian and European countries and regions with a combined population of three billion.

Forty-eight countries and regions from Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Oceania and Africa have confirmed their participation at the expo.

The expo covers a floor area of 89,000 square metres and has four exhibition areas highlighting international cooperation, new high-tech, services and merchandise trade and overseas delegates.

International organisations will hold a number of events during the expo, including a roundtable forum of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and the Mayors’ Forum along the Silk Road.

A total of 44 high-ranking officials from United Nations Development Programme, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and other countries will take part in the forums.

Delegates from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China are expected to explore cooperation in the fruit industry.

More than 110 ethnic textile and attire companies in Xinjiang will display their products at the expo to facilitate textile cooperation with foreign enterprises.

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Iranians Invent Device to Increase extract of wonder-herb saffron

TEHRAN, Aug 30, (NNN-IRNA) — A knowledge-based company has developed a device, the first ever, in Iran, which will produce saffron extract.

Vahid Gorji, managing director of the project, said 1,000 15-cc vials of saffron extract have been exported to Switzerland recently and negotiations are underway to also export the product to the US.

“The company plans to export 20,000 vials of the product, each costing $6, monthly,” the English-language paper ˈIran Dailyˈ quoted him as saying recently.

The dried stigmas of saffron are used to make saffron spice. It can take 75,000 saffron blossoms to produce a single pound of saffron spice.

Saffron is largely cultivated and harvested by hand. Due to the amount of labor involved in harvesting, saffron is considered one of the world’s most expensive spices. The stigmas are also used to make medicine.

Saffron extract is a natural weight loss supplement, which suppresses appetite. It reduces emotional eating and controls cravings between meals. This extract may help lower high cholesterol, regulate blood pressure and improve mood. In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth.

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Uganda: Chinese Firm Given $8 Billion Railway Deal

KAMPALA, Aug 30 (NNN-NEW VISION) — The Government has signed an agreement, finally giving away the giant and lucrative deal to upgrade and expand Uganda’s railway network to standard gauge, to a Chinese firm China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC). The deal is estimated to be worth $8b (about sh20trillion).

Two Chinese companies – CHEC and state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) – have been involved in a fight for the deal. CCECC had earlier in 2012 been given the deal, which was later cancelled by the Government.

On Wednesday, Eng. John Byabagambi the state minister for works and representatives of the CHEC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which in principle gives the deal to the firm.

According to Suzan Kataike, the spokesperson of the works ministry, Byabagambi said they will be no delays in the construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) from Malaba to Kampala and Bukasa port.

“The minister signed a new MoU with CHEC to construct the standard gauge railway line and terminated the MOU we had with CCECC,” she told New Vision.

According to the agreement, CHEC will work closely with the UPDF Engineering Brigade and also construct a polytechnic school in Uganda for continuous training of army officers in technical and engineering skills.

A statement issued by CHEC’s representatives also expressed commitment to the above MoU singling out that the Government of South Sudan has also selected the company to upgrade her railway line.

The East African Community member states have set March 2018 as the target for the upgrading of the regional railway network to standard gauge system.

“Through our partnership with the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF), we will collaborate to build a pioneering UPDF Corps of Engineers by training army officers in infrastructure development. UPDF will work with CHEC in construction of the standard gauge railway. This initiative will also include the construction of a UPDF Polytechnic which will continue training officers,” the statement noted.

Meanwhile, the ministry of works also issued a separate statement dismissing as inaccurate the feasibility study done by CCECC for the SGR project.

“The feasibility study, read together with the supplementary comments and responses provided by CCECC do not fit the purpose intended to move on to the next stage of negotiating a commercial contract in light of the time frames set out in the SGR protocol,” the ministry statement said.

CCECC claimed it invested sh50b ($19.3m) on feasibility studies for the routes covered under its MoU with the Government.

The feasibility study was one reason CCECC is advancing to claim the SGR project. Kataike said that the contract with CHEC would put a stop to a previous protracted battle among the railway actors that had threatened to delay the railwayline construction.

On July 23, the High Court had overruled Byabagambi’s decision to cancel the CCECC deal. The court asked the Government to negotiate with the company over the deal.

Early this month, Byabagambi invited CCECC for talks, but they stalled after two days of meeting at the Uganda Railway Corporation headquarters after CCECC representatives cited bias on the side of the Government team headed by the minister.

Subsequently, Byabagambi wrote on August 22 to CCECC representatives cancelling any further talks with them and instead called on CHEC for more fruitful negotiations about the railway line.

“I have been given a green light by the Government departments to move along with negotiations, but with other companies, which will be invited to submit their bids, including China Harbour and not with CCECC,” he said.

However, CCECC’s representatives (Ligomarc) told New Vision that “gloves are now off” and that they will continue to challenge Byabagambi’s decision to award the contract to CHEC.

The fight between the two Chinese companies had put government in a fix and also sucked in ministers.

The SGR is one of the Northern Corridor infrastructure projects that the East African Community partner states started planning as early as2004, but in June 2013, the presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda agreed to fast-track it, with a March 2018deadline.

The Standard gauge is a used railway track gauge. Except for Russia, Finland, Portugal and some upgraded lines in Spain, all high-speed lines are this gauge.

However, in Africa only South Africa and Ethiopia have SGR.

According to available information, currently, the fastest train along a narrow gauge rail is Australia’s Queensland Rail’s tilt train with a maximum speed of 210km/h compared to SGR trains which can do up to 320km/h.

The faster the rail system, the more passengers it ferries in a single day.

The SGR project agreed on by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan will see establishment of SGR line connecting Mombasa to Malaba (with a branch line to Kisumu City) onward to Kampala, Kigali (with a branch line to Kasese town) and Juba (with a branch line to Pakwach town).

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University of Florida to launch Islamic study center

AP / 02 Sep 2014 – The University of Florida is launching a center for global Islamic studies. The Gainesville Sun reports that the center has already been approved by university officials and will be announced when UF’s Board of Trustees meet this week.

Officials in the school’s Center for African Studies and the Department of Religion have been working to open the center for a year. They have brought together a cross-section of faculty from religion, science, history, anthropology, languages, literatures and cultures.

The center is set to launch Sept. 18-19 with a conference on “Global Islam and the Quest for Public Space.”

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Malaysia set to become global halal hub by 2020

TheMalayMailOnline / 03 Sep 2014 – Malaysia is in a strong position to become the global halal hub in 2020 with almost 4,500 companies having the halal certification in the country as of March this year. Sabah’s Assistant Industrial Development Minister Datuk Bolkiah Ismail said the figure was a 35.5 per cent increase over the 3,319 companies during the same period last year.

“To date in 2014, Sabah has 249 companies that are halal certified with 105 being Bumiputera-owned.

“Of this number, 20 are multinationals, 125 small industries and 104 medium sized,” he told added.

Bolkiah said this when officiating the state-level Halal Outreach Programme (HOPE) 2014, here today.

The text of his speech was delivered by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Datuk Hashim Paijan.

He said to date, there were 21 Halal Parks throughout the country with 20 operational, including the POIC Lahad Datu Halal Park in Sabah, as well as halal entrepreneur development programmes.

He urged halal entrepreneurs in Sabah to strengthen their business, enhance quality, improve competitiveness as well as widen the markets for their products and related services.

“The government is confident that the call for companies in Sabah to improve their involvement in the development of the halal industry will have a very strong overall impact on the national economy,” Bolkiah said.

Meanwhile, he expressed the hope that the Halal Outreach Programme will provide a platform for local entrepreneurs to obtain information on the marketing of products and services at the international level through panel dialogues, briefings by related government agencies and the sharing of knowledge, among others.

The two-day programme which attracted about 100 participants is organised by the Halal Industry Development Corporation and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

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Dubai Converts Take First Steps Into Islam

OnIslam and News agencies / 04 Sep 2014 – Assisting new reverts in their first steps in Islam, an Islamic center in Dubai has hosted a gathering to welcome new reverts who have found Islam recently to offer them a better understanding of the faith and help them stay firm in their beliefs.

“I feel different now, for me Islam is peace,” Fatima, a former Protestant receptionist who became Muslim on July 20, told UAE newspaper The National

“It was so difficult for me to fast but it also taught me patience. Being faithful and embracing Allah is everything for me,” the new Muslim who fasted for the first time during Ramadan added.

Gathering with more than 250 converts from various faiths, Fatima was speaking during the New Muslim Retreat, an event organized by the Islamic Information Centre at the Dar Al Ber Society.

The event is the first in a series of lectures and meetings to help converts to better understand Islam. Hosting reverts from various faiths, including Christianity and Buddhism, the gathering drew people from Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Uganda, India and Europe.

Like Fatima, many were encouraged by friends or colleagues and gained hope after taking the life-altering decision of becoming a Muslim.

“Deep inside I feel free, I know peace now,” said Ibrahim, 25, once John Robert, an office messenger from the Philippines. “Arab friends encouraged me and I read about Islam before I found myself,” he said.

“My mother does not fully accept, but inshallah, she will also serve Islam someday.” The centre welcomed 1,950 new Muslims last year and 1,200 so far this year. The event organizers hope it would allow reverts a deeper understanding of Islam and Qur’an.

“This is more a cultural gathering to learn their concerns and involve them in prayers,” Rashid Al Junaibi, the director of the Islamic Information Centre, said.

“It will help complete their journey to Allah, answer questions, clear misconceptions about Islam. We ask them to concentrate on good manners, respect elders, practice Islam not just in name, be a good Muslim and give to charity if they have wealth.”

Ahmed Hamed, an orator on Islam and comparative religion, said the aim was to help followers to stay firm in their new beliefs.

“It is important to keep them steadfast on the faith they have chosen willingly,” he said. “We hope to empower and counsel them. They will face many challenges, get asked questions, and we hope to revive and re-energize their faith.”

In previous years, the event came as a turning point for some new Muslim reverts.

“I had an argument with two Muslim friends about who made the universe, and that got me thinking,” said Abdul Rahman, 47, a security guard who was a Sri Lankan Buddhist named Kishen Ranila.

“My friend told me praying to Allah would change my life. And after praying five times a day my behavior is different, I want to live properly and not do any harm,” Abdul Rahman, who accepted Islam two years ago, said.

“I have felt the power of Allah because after praying, my wife who was sick for a long time is now fine. I worshipped statues before but now I live a true life and can pray directly to Allah,” he said.

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Halal Guide app launched in Tatar language

islam.ru / 04 Sep 2014 – During the forum of the World Tatar youth, which took place in August, was a presentation of the new version of Halal Guide in the Tatar language.

Developer and author of the application Ayrat Kasimov said that creating of the version in the Tatar language was logical, because the largest number of halal places and institutions around Russia located in Kazan, and the Tatars make up the most part of the Muslim Ummah of Russia.

The applicationwas launched in June 2012. There are plans to create versions in French, Arabic, Turkish and English.

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Saudi Arabia grants $28 million to fund Burkina Faso airport

Thursday 04 Sep 2014 – Ouagadougou (IINA) – The Saudi Fund for Development has granted Burkina Faso financial aid worth 14 billion CFA francs (US$28 million) to finance construction of Donsin international airport, located 30 km northwest of the city of Ouagadougou, according to a statement by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

In this context, Burkina Faso obtained this financial aid in the form of a loan with 30 years repayment period, 10 years grace period and an interest rate of 1% to finance this airport project.

The Saudi Fund has also pledged, at the request of Burkina Faso authorities, to increase its activity in the country in order to support the country’s development efforts.

Burkina Faso has strategy for accelerated growth and sustainable development, based on the priority areas of development, such as increasing agricultural production, developing road infrastructure, improving the power supply and providing basic social services.

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Dubai company launches world’s first ‘halal’ wine

Dubai, Tuesday 07 Dhul Qaada 1435/ 02 September 2014 (IINA) – Responding to demands of the Gulf Emirate luxurious residents, a Dubai company has announced the launch of the world’s first ever “halal” fizzing wine that includes a “24-carat edible gold leaf” with zero alcohol.

Lussory Gold is “an alcohol-removed halal sparkling wine” – and that the gold leaf “rises and falls in rhythm with the wine’s bubbles,” Emirates 24/7 newspaper reported quoting the company Lootah Premium Foods. The wine, from the vineyards of La Mancha, Spain, is “made in the exact same way as regular wine or champagne,” the food and drink firm said. “Lussory is a 100 per cent halal product with 0.0 per cent alcohol content.” Islam takes an uncompromising stand in prohibiting intoxicants. It forbids Muslims from drinking or even selling alcohol.

The general rule in Islam is that any beverage that gets people intoxicated when taken is unlawful, both in small and large quantities, whether it is alcohol, drugs, fermented raisin drink or something else. A British study released in November 2010 found that alcohol is a more dangerous and lethal drug than heroin or crack cocaine. Alcohol is blamed for the death of 195,000 people in the 27-nation European Union every year and more than 10,000 deaths were due to alcohol-related road accidents, with young people especially at risk.

It is also blamed for 7.4 percent of all ill-health and premature death in the EU, a 2006 EU-commissioned report said. Releasing the new product, the Dubai company hopes to tap into a huge market. “We have experienced great demand for first-class halal champagne from our consumers and clients, wishing to offer a premier experience at weddings, birthdays or corporate events,” Tony Colley, General Manager of Lootah Premium Foods, said.

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CCTV cameras installed at Maldives ferry terminals

Sun.mv – September 4, 2014 – Police have commenced efforts to install CCTV cameras at ferry terminals in Male’, Vilimale’ and Hulhumale’.

Police said that this is part of the efforts to prevent crime and ensure peace and order in the country, and that cameras have already been installed at the Male’ Ferry Terminal in Hulhumale’.

Police said that discussions have been held with Maldives Transport and Trading Company (MTCC), regarding increasing security for people traveling between Male’ and Hulhumale’, and Male’ and Vilimale’.

This includes discussions regarding connecting the cameras installed at the ferry terminals to the police network, said the police spokesperson. The equipment required for the installation of the cameras will be supplied by MTCC.

Police have checked the footage of the CCTV cameras at Hulhumale’ Ferry Terminal in Male’, as part of their recent search operation for missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

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Tourist arrivals increase by 11.8 percent

Sun.mv – August 31, 2014 – Tourist arrivals for the Maldives has increased by 11.8 percent during the first seven months, from January to July 2014, compared with the corresponding period last year.

Statistics published by the Ministry of Tourism show that tourist arrivals during this period reached a total of 701,704, while the amount for last year was 627,639, registering an increase of 11.8 percent.

During the month of July, highest tourist arrivals was from Asia and the Pacific. The total arrivals from the region reached 340,901 at the end of the period, registering a healthy 21.9 percent growth for the period from January to July 2014, compared with the same period of 2013.

Arrivals from Europe reached a total of 313,115 at the end of the period from January to July 2014, registering an increase of 1.4 percent for the period.

Maldives welcomed a total of 214,518 tourists from China during the period from January to July 2014, which was an increase of 19.8 percent compared with that of the same period in 2013.

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New Maldives SEZ Act will help boost mega-investments

Sun.mv – September 4, 2014 – Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb has said that with the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act, the government now has the legal power required to attract foreign investment.

Adheeb made this remark while speaking at a forum on SEZ, shown on TVM on Wednesday evening.

“Until now, no government had this power. Through this law we have gained the power to hold negotiations to attract one, or two billion dollar investments to the Maldives. Now, for example, we can plan $1.3 billion or $1.5 billion dollar investments for Ihavandhippolhu (atoll). We can present the incentives, the packages,” said Adheeb.

The Tourism Minister said that the announcement once a year of the projects planned for the year, as required by the SEZ Act, would be a ‘strong message’ for investors.

He said that the determination of the Special Economic Zones would facilitate economic growth for the atolls that have fallen behind in terms of development; and that under this concept, the benefits of just one project in one region, would be seen across the country.

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Ancient Lycian road now has detailed map

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – Within the scope of the “Ancient Lycian Roads Map and Trekking Guide Project,” a detailed map of the Ancient Lycian Road has been drawn by the Antalya Governor’s Office and Culture and Tourism Directorate.

The road starts from the popular tourist town of Fethiye in the western province of Muğla and ends in the southern province of Antalya’s Hisarçandır village.

The road was established by the Lycians in 2000 B.C. and later used by many other civilizations, including the Romans. The historic route has so far only been used by professional outdoor sportsmen, but the directorate hopes it will now regain its former glory. The facilities, trekking routes and paths to the mountain are marked one by one in the map, which will allow tourists and nature lovers to travel on the route easily.

Culture and Tourism Provincial Director İbrahim Acar said the Teke peninsula was named Lycia in history, and the coastal cities were all connected through the roads of the time. With the project, he said the paths between the Lycian cities had been marked and the Ancient Lycian Road had come to light again.

Acar described the map, which has been approved by the Defense Ministry and the Tourism Ministry, as “a first of its kind,” adding that the main purpose of the project was to promote cultural values in rural areas as an alternative to coastal tourism. “With this map, visitors will be able to see the mountains easily by following the route,” he said.

“Besides cultural promotion, people living on the route of the ancient road will have chance to sell their natural products like milk, yoghurt, molasses to trekkers and contribute to their budget,” he added.

Some 8,000 copies of the maps and guide books have been published in the first stage and delivered to district administrations, municipalities and tourism centers.

“The maps give information on accommodation places, transport opportunities, archaeological inventory, cisterns, geographical information and some practical information. The books that are given with the map provided information about the roads that once connected the ancient Lycian cities to each other,” Acar said.

For the preparation of the maps and books, views were exchanged with the world leading outdoor sports organizers, and the end product is available in four languages: English, German, Russian and Turkish.

In 2015, the goal is for 100,000 mountain and outdoor sportsmen to use the road, Acar said, “as a first step.”

“Within the scope of the route, local and foreign tourists may send requests to the email address antalya@kulturturizm.gov.tr,” he added.

More details can be found via www.likyayolu.gov.tr and www.lycianway.gov.tr.

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80 art galleries from 24 countries meet in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The second ArtInternational art fair will be held at Haliç Congress Center in Istanbul from Sept. 26 to 28. Art enthusiasts will enjoy artwork from 80 different galleries from 24 countries around the globe, including Finland, the United States, China, and Saudi Arabia.

Twelve galleries from Turkey were chosen by the selection committee after considering their past success at international exhibitions. Along with last year’s participating galleries –Galeri Mana, NON, Pi Artworks, PILOT, Rampa, Art Sümer, and x-ist – the fair will host four new Turkish galleries, including Dirimart, Galeri Nev, Rodeo and Sanatorium for the first time.

ArtInternational 2014 will bring together some of the most iconic names in contemporary art. London’s Andipa Gallery will exhibiting art work from David Hockey, Banksy and Damien Hirst, not to mention some pieces from the revolutionary “pop art” pioneer Andy Warhol.

Visitors will be able to view the work of Peter Burke, one of the most famous sculpturists known for his steel and iron works featuring the human form. The 2003 Turner Prize Winner, Grayson Perry, who is mostly known for his ceramic vases, will present his autobiographical work entitled “Claire,” where he is depicted as his female alter-ego.

ArtInternational, regarded as one of the highlights of last year’s arts events, will be managed by director Dyala Nusseibeh, and artistic director Stephane Ackermann. The selection committee includes Olivier Belot (Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris), Ursula Krinzinger (Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna), Leila Heller (Leila Heller Gallery, New York), Leyla Tara Suyabatmaz (Rampa Gallery, Istanbul) and Yesim Turanlı (PI Artworks, Istanbul-London). The organization of the fair is handled by global events company Angus Montgomery and leading fair organizer in Turkey, Fiero Milano Interteks.

An important addition to this year’s fair is ArtInternational’s collaboration with artsy.net. Through artsy.net, art lovers will be able to view the fair online before its opening and will be able to purchase artwork online during the fair.

For more information on galleries that will be participating at the event, as well as photos from last year’s fair, click here.

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Hittite civilization discussed at congress

ÇORUM – Anadolu Agency – The Ninth International Hittitology Congress, organized by Hitit University in the province of Çorum, began on Sept. 1 with 196 academics from 23 countries participating. The congress is held every three years, creating a space for the discussion of the Hittite and Anatolian civilizations. The first congress was held in Çorum in 1990.

In his opening speech, Çorum Governor Sabri Başköy stated the Hittite civilization was tied to Çorum, home to many civilizations throughout its history.

“Archaeological works have continued for many years in five different locations in Çorum, including the ancient sites of Hattusha, Alacahöyük, Şapinuva, Eskiyapar and Resuloğlu. We, as the governor’s office, visit the excavation areas and make the necessary contributions,” he said. He added that the excavation areas have seen many changes since the last conference held in Çorum.

The mayor said excavations each year revealed new archaeological data or new artifacts, which will be discussed during the conference. “This makes us very excited, as well as the excavation teams. We organize a workshop every year at the end of the excavation season to discuss the new findings and other scientific data,” he said. “I believe this congress will be a very productive one.”

The Cultural Heritage and Museums’ Deputy General Director Zülküf Yılmaz said Turkish society held sympathy and love for the Hittites.

“This is a civilization in which many innovations were made in history. We see the Hittites in Anatolia from 1700-1800 B.C. We know they came to Anatolia and associated with the local public, without causing any fights or wars; they approached Anatolian values with great respect and made investments there. The Hittites contributed to the development of many things on this land and they made the first great treaties and contracts,” Yılmaz said.

Hittitology Congress Chair Professor Ayşegül Süel said academics from various countries have come together in the congress to share scientific data on the Hittite civilization. She said Çorum had so far hosted the Hittite Congress five times.

“These congresses are eagerly awaited by all academics working in this field,” she said. “It is a civilization we should admire due to its administrative structure, law, religion, architecture and women’s rights. The international treaties signed by the Hittite state became a model for the world.”

The congress will continue until Sept. 7. Participating academics are from countries such as Germany, Italy, the United States, England, Russia, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Argentina, Spain and Israel. Some 36 sessions will be held in English, and the presentations will be gathered in a book after the congress ends.

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Turkish archaeologists discover ancient Roman church in Kosovo

PRISTINA – Anadolu Agency – A Turkish archaeologist team headed by Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Professor Haluk Çetinkaya has found traces of a Roman church from the fourth century B.C. close to the Kosovar capital Pristina.

Çetinkaya said they first found the baptistery and then reached other parts of the church at the ancient site of Ulpiana, adding that the house of worship collapsed in an earthquake at the end of the fourth century before being restored one century later. The church is estimated to be nearly 19 meters long and will be completely unearthed next year.

“The church’s material, coins and the skeletons that were found in there are important in dating the church,” he said. “People were buried right next to the baptistery. We have examined the skeletons in the laboratory and found out that they date back to the beginning of the fifth century. We found 101 coins in the church area. Almost all of them are from the fourth century.

“This is a significant criterion for dating. Considering all these, we say that the church belongs to the fourth century. On the other hand, the use of cross was forbidden in the floor of churches in the first quarter of the fifth century. Here, a cross was used in the floor, and this is why the church dates back to before the fifth century.”

The excavation works started in Ulpiana, one of the most important settlements in the region in the Roman Empire, in 2012 with a cooperation treaty with the Kosovar Culture Ministry.

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Millennia-old sunken ship could be world’s oldest, researchers suggest

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – Underwater excavations led by Ankara University’s Research Center for Maritime Archaeology (ANKÜSAM) have uncovered sunken ships ranging from the second century B.C. to the Ottoman period in İzmir’s Urla district.

Urla Port is one of Turkey’s rare underwater excavation sites. Professor Hayat Erkanal, the head of Limantepe excavations for the underwater ancient city of Klozemenai and director of ANKÜSAM, said the port dates back to the seventh century B.C. Klozemenai, he explained, was a coastal town, making it the home of many sunken ships from different eras. An earthquake in the eighth century left the city underwater.

He said the team is currently working to determine the features and correct age of its most recent shipwreck find.

There are two other sunken boats that compete for the title of the world’s oldest, Erkanal said. The Uluburun shipwreck, found off the coast of Kaş, is around 3,500 years old, while the sunken ship of Hatshepsut, the fifth pharaoh of Ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty, is dated to be around 150 years older.

“If we confirm that the sunken ship (we have found) is 4,000 years old, it will be a very important milestone for archaeology,” Erkanal said.

HDNErkanal said materials removed from seawater must be cleaned of salt to prevent further decay. This process is conducted in a large restoration and conservation laboratory at the recently opened Mustafa Vehbi Koç Maritime Archaeology Research Center and Archaeopark. The process of removing a sunken ship from the water can take approximately seven to eight years, Erkanal said.

Erkanal said that through its discoveries, the team is working to make the sea map of the region. “We’re also working on a project to turn the region, which has a lot of important (information) for world maritime history, into an experimental archaeology center,” he said.

The team will also focus on removing and displaying an Ottoman ship from the site, planning to begin work in the next year. Citing only a few other Ottoman-era shipwrecks that have been discovered in Limantepe, Erkanal said there is a “significant deficiency” in the archaeological record.

“It is unfortunate that we don’t have even one example to show our sea forces that ruled the Mediterranean in the past,” he said.

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Kyrgyzstan pushes for nationwide fluency in Kyrgyz

Centralasiaonline.com – 2014-09-04 BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is pushing to have its entire population learn Kyrgyz.

The government will carry out a two-year programme in partnership with UNICEF as part of a comprehensive effort to spread Kyrgyz fluency nationwide. The partnership starts this month, with various national programmes scheduled to end in 2017.

“Out of 500m KGS (about US $10m) allocated for the (comprehensive) programme, nearly half (240m KGS (US $4.5m)) is to be spent on book publishing; the rest will go to finance the establishment of (language) study centres and websites,” Almazbek Kulmatov, deputy chairman of the National Commission on State Language Development, said August 19.

In Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz is the “state language” while Russian is the “official language.” Knowledge of Russian has dwindled in the countryside and among younger Kyrgyz but remains strong in the cities.

“City dwellers in Kyrgyzstan generally have a poor knowledge of Kyrgyz,” Ziynagul Mederbekova, a teacher of Kyrgyz at Public School No. 78 in Bishkek, said. “That’s because the kindergartens are Russian-speaking and parents don’t speak Kyrgyz to their children because they have a poor command of the language themselves.”

Less than two-thirds of residents are fluent in Kyrgyz, according to the government. Authorities have expressed concern about that situation’s implications for national unity.

“Today, we must create the conditions for studying Kyrgyz and for using it full scale in all areas of public life,” Kulmatov said. “Kyrgyz should play an integrating role among the people … and in national ideology and inter-ethnic relations.”

The government should promote the language policy at a national level, teachers and civic leaders say, calling for assistance to those who have poor or no knowledge of Kyrgyz at all.

“The new campaign not only will help develop (knowledge of Kyrgyz) – it will improve the overall level of education and contribute to greater inter-ethnic harmony,” Mederbekova said. “For the more than 80 ethnicities living in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz might become a unifying factor.”

Bishkek resident Igor Savelyev, 37, an ethnic Russian, said he would take advantage of the programme to learn Kyrgyz.

“It’s normal to speak the language of the country you live in,” he told Central Asia Online. “I couldn’t learn Kyrgyz before because there were no free courses available. I need to speak Kyrgyz not only because employers require me to, but also because I have to be able to communicate with my clients coming from remote villages.”

Currently, work is underway to develop training programmes for each target audience, whether they be youth or adults, Kulmatov said, and money will be allocated for books and other teaching aids.

“Also, schoolteachers will be trained to teach language classes (free for the students) in schools and universities in Jalal-Abad, Osh, Karakol and other cities and district capitals throughout Kyrgyzstan,” he said.

Such policies need to become permanent if Kyrgyz-fluency promotion is ever to succeed, specialists say. “We are leading a large-scale effort in cities across Osh Oblast to teach Kyrgyz to oblast and local government officials so that they run their offices in Kyrgyz,” Almagul Tilekmanova, an employee of the National Foundation for State Language Development, told Central Asia Online. “Also, we provide language courses for prosecutors and court and law enforcement personnel.”

“In addition to seminars, we organise cultural and scholarly events dedicated to the Kyrgyz language,” she added. “Now the country’s universities are welcome to join in to make Kyrgyz the language of education and scholarship.”

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More Kazakh women run own businesses

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-09-03 TARAZ – Women are becoming a growing presence in the Kazakhstani economy.

Statistics bear out that progress. In 2013, women owned 330,000 businesses, 41% of the country’s total, according to the government. That represents a six-point increase from 2011.

The smallest portion of the women (15%) was engaged in manufacturing, which usually requires the most outlay for equipment and land, but 30% provided services, while 55% were engaged in retail sales.

Even though the number of businesswomen is growing, they’re still disproportionately clustered in small companies, economists say.

“The smaller the business and the volume of its production or services rendered, the more women you’ll find there,” Lyazzat Ibragimova, board chairwoman of the DAMU Entrepreneurship Development Fund, said.

“I don’t think there’s any malice behind it,” Zhambyl Oblast businesswoman Irina Lopukhova said. “It happens for objective reasons. Single mothers often open their own small businesses just to support their children. Or there are housewives who open, say, a kiosk at the market with their own limited funds and at their own risk. Men just have more money, connections and opportunities.”

Some women, though, have managed to develop impressively large firms. They include Saule Rysbayeva of Taraz, whose modest jobs in the Soviet era included factory quality-control inspector and shoe-factory Komsomol functionary. After the Soviet collapse, she opened a printing business.

“March 30, 1992, was the starting point of our journey into the previously unknown world of business,” Rysbayeva said. “We didn’t know how many joys and difficulties this journey would bring us; after all, we were the first entrepreneurs in the oblast. … We didn’t have a place to put our business, nor did we have the machinery we needed. … We didn’t have the money either. But we were full of determination.”

Her plans bore fruit. During the past 22 years, Rysbayeva and Co. has become the undisputed leader in printing services in the oblast.

The vast majority of Zhambyl residents now order business cards, flyers and similar products from Rysbayeva’s firm.

Understanding businesswomen’s economic potential, the Kazakhstani government is offering aid.

In Kazakhstan, women can count on preferential loans. The state pays half of the interest that banks earn on such loans. So instead of paying the 14% annual interest that their male counterparts usually face, female entrepreneurs may borrow money at 7% interest.

Yelena Tsoi, an entrepreneur from Karatau, took out such a loan. It allowed her to hire two employees for her grocery store and to expand her merchandise.

“My bank loan through the ‘Female Entrepreneurship’ programme greatly helped us,” she said. “Thanks to our large selection, our store is now popular amongst locals. We’ve even offered discounts for retirees and the disabled.”

Entrepreneurs with existing loans have the opportunity to refinance them in search of lower interest rates and monthly payments. The government also offers business service support, which includes personnel training and advice on preparing business plans and on keeping accounting and tax records.

The government is allocating special grants of 3m KZT (US $16,500) each to implement the programmes deemed worthiest. This year, it awarded grants to five women. The government is expecting those winners soon to launch a factory for Kazakh traditional clothing, a hosiery factory, a laundromat and two health spas.

“In the Orient, women earlier were supposed to keep the home fires burning instead of going out to make money,” Raushan Sarsembayeva, president of the Association of Businesswomen of Kazakhstan, said. “The state is now actively recruiting women into small and mid-sized businesses. It is critical to reduce female unemployment and to improve women’s economic position and quality of life.”

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Uzbekistan builds, modernises its highways

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-09-02 TASHKENT – Seeking strategic value and economic growth, Uzbekistan is busy building and repairing its roads.

During Soviet times, Uzbekistan ended up with an extensive road network.

Uzbekistan has more than 183,000km of motor roads. International highways constitute about 4,000km of the network. More than 85% of the country’s freight and 95% of its passengers travel by road, according to the state-owned Uzavtoyul (Uzbek Highways).

“Roads are the country’s main transport arteries,” Maksim Tarasenko, an analyst at Ekonomicheskii Vestnik (Economic Herald) magazine, said. “The various oblasts of Uzbekistan are not yet connected by rail. Since 1991 highways have remained the only way to go from the centre of the country to … the Fergana Valley and to Surkhandarya Oblast in the south.”

“The government is allocating considerable funds for building new roads and repairing the old ones,” Komiljon Shamsiddinov, spokesman for Uzavtoyul, said. “In the first six months of this year alone, we spent about US $250m (587.2 billion UZS), which is 27% more than in the same period last year.”

That increased cost is because the country has built or repaired almost twice as much road length as normal. So far, 900km of highway has been built or repaired this year, up from 500km during the same period a year ago. Uzbekistan constantly is buying road-building equipment to tackle its agenda.

“This year we’ve bought more than 250 pieces of equipment,” Shamsiddinov said. He could not provide statistics about how that figure compares with normal, but the country projects buying 450 pieces of equipment for the project, he said.

Current road programme dates to 2009

In 2009, President Islam Karimov approved the programme for modernising the National Highway. Authorities by 2016 plan to upgrade all roads connecting to that highway to the highest category in Uzbekistan. They intend to invest more than US $3.5 billion (8.2 trillion UZS) in the Beineu-Kungrad-Bukhara-Samarkand-Tashkent-Osh Highway, covering more than 2,500km.

And the Asian Development Bank is contributing money to help Uzbekistan rebuild more than 220km of the A380 highway and to link the A380 to Kazakhstan.

“The existing roads leading to the highway will be considerably modernised,” Shamsiddinov said. “Most of the highway will be four lanes with an asphalt surface. … It’ll be able to carry 13-tonne loads, as opposed to the old standard of 10 tonnes.”

This year, almost 550km of new roads leading to the future National Highway will open, the government says.

Apart from the building and reconstruction of roads, the programme also envisages the development of the National Highway’s infrastructure. The government plans to spend about US $100m (234.9 billion UZS) on it.

“By 2016, 234 facilities such as parking lots, campgrounds, mechanics’ garages, medical centres, fuel stations and hotels will be built along the highway,” Malik Yaksartov, a spokesman for the Republican Road Fund, said. “These facilities will make it possible to travel through the whole country in safety and comfort.”

Completing the National Highway will attract transit freight to Uzbekistan, helping fill the country’s coffers, economists say.

“We estimate that we could have 1m tonnes per year of transit freight starting in 2015,” Tarasenko said. If that figure is achieved, it would represent more than a three-fold increase from the 280,000 tonnes of freight shipped in 2011, according to the Uzbek International Forwarders Association.

“(Reaching) that goal will enable the country to make an (annual) profit from international shipment amounting to about $50m (117.4 billion UZS),” Tarasenko said, attributing the potential economic growth to the ambitious road plans. “The development of our roads will give a boost to small and medium businesses, particularly in the remote regions through which the highway passes.”

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Bangladesh ‘cultural centers’ to be set up abroad

DHAKA, Sept 2, 2014 (BSS) -“Bangladesh Cultural Centers” will be established in important cities of the world.

Minister for Cultural Affairs’ Asaduzzaman Noor talking to BSS said, “To showcase the culture of Bangladesh, cultural centers would be established in important cities of the world. This is the directive of the prime minister. Initially we have selected three cities: Kolkata, London and new York.”

He said there is a Bangladesh center in London. The cultural center would be established there. In Kolkata we have a building. It was the property of Hossain Shaheed Suhrawardy’s maternal uncle. An information officer from the information ministry is currently stationed there. It has a library, too.

But this house is too small to house a cultural center, so we are looking at other options, Noor said.

Explaining the choice of cities, the Cultural Minister said, “There are plenty of Bengalis in London and New York. They also have links back home. As for Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, we have great cultural affinity with it: sharing a common language, literature, art and culture. Communicating with them would be easy.”

“After that we are thinking of setting up another cultural center in New Delhi,” he said. Cultural Ministry sources said that necessary steps were being taken for setting up cultural centers of international standard, abroad. Besides, the foreign ministry and other concerned ministries were looking at possible locations, probable budgets and other details.

Currently Bangladesh has a number of information centers in different cities of the world but they are very small. They are not in a position to host cultural centers.

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Pottery artifacts from 14th century found in Kambelo, Maluku

3 September 2014 Ambon, Maluku (ANTARA News) – Pottery fragments from Tiongkok dating back to the 14th century when Yuan Dynasty ruled the country were found in Kambelo, South Hoamoal sub-district, West Seram district, Maluku, in June 2014, an archeologist stated on Wednesday.

These are the oldest foreign pottery artifacts that have been found so far in Maluku area, Syahruddin Mansyur from the Archeology Office of Ambon emphasized.

“Kambelo is a locus of settlements that has an old pottery chronology compared to that of the artifacts found in other areas in Maluku. The earlier data shows that the pottery artifacts are mostly from the 18th to 20th centuries,” he explained.

Syahruddin affirmed that the artifacts, which were discovered during the 14-day excavation, indicate the presence of foreign ceramic trading in Kambelo and its vicinity.

It shows that in the past, the area was an important trading post because of its strategic position in one of the worlds busiest trading lanes.

“The pottery artifacts not only come from Tiongkok but also from Vietnam and Japan,” he noted.

According to Syahruddin, the history sources state that Kambelo was an important port during the Hoamoal Kingdom.

During the past, Kambelo was one of the important ports for spice trading in Maluku.

Kambelo was well known as the largest clove producer in Maluku in the 16th century.

In the early 17th century, the British and Danish had established trading representative offices in Kambelo before clove trading fell into the hands of the Dutch trading company, Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) and Hoamoal was controlled by the Dutch.

“The Hoamoal Kingdom had a relationship with the Sultanate of Ternate, but due to differences in political views, disunity occurred between these two kingdoms. Hoamoal then decided to establish and develop its own trading lane,” Syahruddin remarked.

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Indonesian domestic tourists’ spending reaches Rp76.16 trillion

1 September 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The total spending by domestic tourists in the first semester this year reached Rp76.16 trillion.

“Until the first semester, this year, a total of 107 million domestic tourists have travelled across the country spending up to Rp76.16 trillion,” Tourism Minister Mari Elka Pangestu stated here on Monday.

She remarked that with this achievement, she was optimistic that the target of 255 million tourists will be reached by the end of this year in view of several national and international events to be held in various regions this year.

“To further increase the number of domestic tourists, direct promotion needs to be carried out in main markets along with increasing cooperation with airline companies,” she asserted.

She pointed out that tourism and creative economy have become one of the sources of national economic growth.

The rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of the tourism sector until mid-2014 reached 6.86 percent or was higher than the national growth rate of 5.17 percent.

In all, contribution of tourism to the GDP based on the current price in the first semester has reached Rp136.76 trillion.

“Most of it came from restaurants reaching Rp104.06 trillion, hotels Rp19.51 trillion, and the recreational sector Rp13.18 trillion,” she stated.

She noted that creative economy grew 5.12 percent, which was almost equal to the national growth in the first semester.

The value added by the sector in the period was estimated to reach Rp111.2 trillion with fashion, culinary, handicrafts, publication, and printing being the largest contributors.

“The four sub-sectors are closely linked with tourism, and thus, the growth in the tourism sector will boost growth in the creative economic sector and the other way round. The synergy between the two sectors can be a reliable source of national economic growth,” she added.

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S Halmahera, N Maluku promote seaweed cultivation

4 September 2014 Ternate, N.Maluku (ANTARA News) – The administration of South Halmahera District, North Indonesia’s Maluku Province, has been promoting the cultivation of seaweed to increase income for people living in the coastline areas and small islands in the district.

The public relation and protocol official of the district Daud Jubaidi said here on Thursday, ever year the administration allocates budget to support seaweed cultivation.

The program of cultivation has shown good results, with more people living in coastline areas and small islands cultivating seaweeds.

“The people are interested in seaweed cultivation as it does not require much capital, and in addition, they can earn money within 45 days,” Daud noted.

The marketing of seaweed products is satisfactory, as currently, a seaweed processing industry has been constructed in Ternate that accommodates the seaweed from South Halmahera and other districts in North Maluku.

Daud said the district administration has been seeking the possibility of involving investors to improve seaweed cultivation and processing in order to raise added values.

The potential for seaweed cultivation in South Halmahera is great, as 300 islands are situated that are suitable for the cultivation.

Other districts in North Maluku that produce seaweed are Ternate, Morotai Island, and Taliabu Island, with a total production reaching to 30 thousand tons per year.

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Uganda Park Wins Tripadvisor Award of Excellence

East African Business Week – Kampala — TripAdvisor has awarded the 2014 Certificate of Excellence to Queen Elizabeth National Park found in western Uganda’s western.

This means Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) has consistently earned outstanding feedback from TripAdvisor travellers.

According to the certificate signed by Marc Charron the TripAdvisor President for Business, the prestigious award is based on quality of reviews and opinions earned on TripAdvisor over the past year.

The park is named after Queen Elizabeth II and was established in 1954 two years after her coronation to the throne.

Commenting on the award, Nelson Guma the QENP Area Conservation Manager thanked members of the ‘Friends of Queen Forum’ for their contribution towards the achievement.

“This has been possible partly due to our collaboration through the ‘Friends of Queen Forum’ where we focus on promoting Queen Elizabeth National Park as a destination, commit ourselves to provide best services and survey visitor satisfaction to ensure that visitors get the best experience.

“The recognition demonstrates that this forum is the right mechanism for collaboration to support the park management to conserve the spectacular landscape and unique biodiversity resources that offer unrivaled products we promote,” Guma said.

QENP spans the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, Bushenyi and Rukungiri. Its location by road is approximately 376 kilometres southwest of Kampala, Uganda’s capital.

The area of the park extends from Lake George in the northeast to Lake Edward in the southwest, and includes the Kazinga Channel that connects the two lakes.

However of recent, the park is facing an invasion of deadly weeds known as Lantana Camara and Congress weed, which are poisonous to the wildlife.

It’s the second biggest National park in Uganda.

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Azerbaijan-EU visa pact takes effect

01 September 2014 – TODAY.AZ – The negotiations for both the Visa Facilitation Agreement (VFA) and Readmission Agreement (RA) between the European Union (EU) and Azerbaijan took place in 4 official rounds of negotiations held in Baku and Brussels between February 7, 2012 and July 5, 2013, the delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan said Sept. 1.

On 29 November 2013 the European Union and Azerbaijan signed the visa facilitation agreement in the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. On 28 February 2014 the EU and Azerbaijan signed the agreement on the readmission of persons residing without authorisation.

The two parties notified each other that the internal procedures have been completed. It has to be noted that the UK, Ireland and Denmark are not bound by the agreement.

So far, the EU has signed visa facilitation and readmission agreements with 12 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Cape Verde1. Around 11 of them having entered into force (Cape Verde is still pending).

The agreement makes it easier and cheaper for citizens of Azerbaijan, in particular those who travel most, to acquire short-stay visas allowing them to travel to and freely throughout most EU countries. A short-stay visa is a visa for an intended stay of no more than 90 days per period of 180 days. Under the agreement, visa fees will be reduced from €60 to €35, and some categories of citizens are to be exempt from the fees altogether.

For some categories of frequent travellers and under certain conditions, member states are supposed to issue multiple-entry visas with a validity from one to up to five years. Holders of diplomatic passports are exempted from the visa obligation. The agreement also provides that the visa handling fee will not be collected for certain categories of applicants, including members of official delegations, children below the age of 12, pensioners, researchers and students. Implementation of the provisions of the agreement is subject to application of full reciprocity by all parties of the agreements.

Readmission agreements set out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of EU member states and Azerbaijan. They regulate when and how to take back people who are illegally residing on the territories of the parties. They cover not only the illegally staying nationals of both parties but also third country nationals and stateless persons being in an irregular situation provided they have a clear link with the requested party (e.g. visa or resident permit). Full respect of Human Rights as provided by the European Convention of Human Rights is guaranteed during the application of readmission agreements.

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Shaki to host first International Theater Festival

05 September 2014 – TODAY.AZ – The ancient, most beautiful, original and interesting city of Azerbaijan Shaki, famous for its historical monuments, will host the first International Theater Festival. Azerbaijan State Theater of Young Spectators will participate in the event, to be held on September 11.

The theatre will stage the play “I came, girls” (“War”) based on the same named play of the Swedish playwright Lars Noren.

Leading theater groups operating in the country and also a series of foreign theater groups will take part in the festival. Azerbaijan celebrates the day of national theatre on March 10. The gala opening of new 142 theatre season will be held in Shaki.

History and development of Azerbaijani theater requires a separate story, since namely in this county the first theater and the first opera was staged in the Muslim East. The theatrical art of Azerbaijani people is rooted in the ancient folk festivals and dances.

The history of Azerbaijan theater started with spectacles “Vizier of Lankaran khan” and “Hadji Gara”, based on plays Mirza Fatali Akhundov in March-April 1873.

These first amateur performances staged by students of real school by initiative of Hasan-bay Zardabi and with the active participation of the Najaf-bay Vezirov and Alekber Adigezalov have become a powerful impetus for the establishment of a national theater.

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Arabian Travel Market 2015 to focus on $140b family market

Saudi Gazette – 02 September, 2014 – Family centric travel, which accounted for more than 12.5 percent of the $ 1.07 trillion global tourism market, has been selected as the official show theme for Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015, which takes place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre on May 4-7, 2015.

According to Thomson Reuters’ data, the value of the global family tourism market was $ 140 billion in 2013. That figure is set to rise to over $ 180 billion by 2018 with growth expected to continue at a rate of 4.79 percent annually until 2020, compared with just 3.8percent overall tourism growth.

“Demand for inter-regional family travel will also remain robust through to 2020 and beyond. The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that the GCC population would soar to 53.5 million by 2020, 24 percent of which would be under 15 years of age,” Nadege Noblet, Exhibition Manager of Arabian Travel Market, WTM Portfolio, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

The Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative has identified the UAE as a top source market for family travel, with spending power worth over $ 10 billion. Additional research data from technology and payments business Visa, showed that Saudi Arabians are the world’s biggest spenders when overseas, racking up a per capita average of US$ 6,666 per trip. In stark contrast UK-based shopping platform ‘Give As You Live’, revealed that the average British family of four spends US$ 5,800 on their annual holiday.

“Although family travel is growing, these contrasting spending patterns present strategic challenges as well as opportunities for government bodies, hotels and tourism services providers throughout the region with a clear need for a wide spectrum of family-focused offerings to satisfy budget sensitivities as well as cultural expectations,” said Noblet.

The ATM 2015 line-up will include a number of dedicated seminar sessions addressing these issues with panel-led discussions on how Gulf destinations can boost their appeal to the lucrative family tourism market and develop family-specific amenities, the pressing need for value-for-money accommodation options and – at the other extreme – the rise in aspirational travel from high-spending families for whom the experience outweighs the expense.

In the Middle East, GCC families often travel in large groups and companies like Millennium & Copthorne are honing in on the demand for value-for-money accommodation with the development of new brands designed to service the unique needs of travelling families.

“Historically, attracting families to stay at your hotel has involved creating special packages or seasonal offers, while juggling with yield and room configurations. With our recently launched Millennium Executive Apartments brand, we can now offer a tailored product with a simplified rate structure,” said Naeem Darkazally, Vice President of sales and marketing for Millennium and Copthorne Middle East & Africa.

Driving family business throughout the year is also linked to destination attractiveness with cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai already offering world-class family attractions as well as shopping, summer and Ramadan festivals.

“Family travel is no longer simply about maximising revenue streams during school holiday periods, putting temporary beds into existing rooms and adding kids’ activities to a one size fits all entertainment programme. There has to be a sense of anticipation, inclusion, engagement, dedication and of course value,” said Noblet.

The Family Travel theme will be added to the ATM 2015 collection of exhibition trails including budget travel, health and wellbeing, shopping, transportation, luxury travel, sports travel, culture and heritage and adventure travel.

The 2015 event will also grow with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to build on its record-breaking achievements this year, which saw total attendance increase by 12percent to reach 33,000 exhibitors and visitors.

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West African forum to focus on $20 billion investment prospects

Khaleej Times – 02 September, 2014 – The eight Franco-phone countries, members of UEMOA (the West African Economic & Monetary Union), boast a combined gross domestic product of $ 75 billion.

Heads of state from eight West African countries are scheduled to attend next week in Dubai an investment forum aimed at offering GCC investors opportunities in the $ 20 billion annual infrastructure spending required for the continent’s fastest growing region.

The inaugural West Africa Investment Forum (WAIF), which will take place at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai on September 9, will have the presence of heads of state of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

The eight Franco-phone countries, members of UEMOA (the West African Economic & Monetary Union), boast a combined gross domestic product of $ 75 billion. Also participating in the high-profile event will be presidents of UEMOA and the West African Development Bank, organisers of the forum, Global Finance & Capital Limited (GFCL), said on Monday.

Arun Panchariya, principal and founder of GFCL, said the forum would include final signatures on a range of critical infrastructure projects for the eight UEMOA nations with a combined value of around $ 20 billion.

The forum will be an ideal platform for senior representatives of the Middle East’s major sovereign wealth funds, investment banks and private equity players as well as representatives of many of the world’s most influential multi-lateral organisations to explore investment opportunities in one of the most growth potential economic blocs in the world, said Panchariya.

Over the past decade the size of the African economy has more than trebled, with West Africa now the fastest growing region on the continent. This year’s African Economic Outlook report, produced by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme, indicates that a favourable macro-economic climate across West Africa means that growth is likely to accelerate above seven per cent in the next year, compared with 5.7 per cent for the continent as a whole.

“Infrastructure investments in Africa have not kept pace with the growth in demand and the sector has now become one of the most promising investment opportunities, as well as being the key to unlocking the region’s immense economic potential,” said Panchariya.

According to World Bank estimates, Africa needs $ 93 billion annually to cover its investment needs in infrastructure until 2020. Of this only a third of this amount—$ 31 billion is currently available to African governments.

Hamad Buamim, director general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was recently quoted as saying that Gulf companies could fill the void and invest in this profitable sector, with Gulf states allocating $ 61 billion to investment in Africa annually. According to the published figures, Gulf investments in Africa in the period from 2003–2012 totaled $ 144 billion.

Panchariya argued that infrastructure investment in Africa has not kept pace with the increased demand generated by rapid economic growth and a population exceeding one billion.

“Infrastructure is an enormously promising investment opportunity across West Africa, and specifically the UEMOA region. The forum will demonstrate to Middle Eastern and international investors the importance of working with regional bodies such as UEMOA to help unlock the region’s potential,” he said.

Panchariya said the purpose of the forum is to discuss investment opportunities in greater detail, as well as to formally sign a multi-billion dollar package of infrastructure development deals.

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Massive growth potential for sukuk market in GCC

Saudi Gazette – 02 September, 2014 – The global sukuk industry is expected to be one of the fastest growing segments of the Islamic finance industry with huge growth potential in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region; particularly in Dubai where sukuks are expected to play an important role over the next decade in securing funds for the substantial line-up of new projects, a report by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has stated.

The observations in the report, based on UK Islamic Finance Secretariat (UKIFS) and Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) data, are important in view of the 10th World Islamic Economy Forum which will be organized in Dubai on Oct. 28-30, 2014 by Dubai Chamber and the WIEF Foundation.

“Islamic economy has become increasingly relevant in the modern world, offering new hopes of revival for the fragile global economy. The 10th World Islamic Economy Forum in Dubai will put the spotlight on the massive opportunities available in various segments of this growing sector,” said Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber.

“The Dubai Chamber research note highlights the sukuk market as one of the most attractive areas of Islamic finance that has attracted considerable interest from the business community worldwide. In addition, the sukuk market has remarkable growth avenues that can be effectively tapped to support the growing investment requirements in various sectors,” Al Ghurair added.

While the GCC and Malaysia have emerged as the main hubs for sukuk issuance, the main issuers of the sukuk in the global market are sovereigns, followed by corporates and government related enterprises. Countries such as Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal and Oman are set to be key markets for sukuk, Dubai Chamber observes in the research note.

However, sukuk issuance is not limited to Islamic countries. In 2014, a number of high profile debut sovereign issuances are expected to take place in countries such as the UK, Ireland, and South Africa. It is further anticipated that sovereign issuances by the UK are likely to spur interest in Europe for sovereign Sukuks as they provide access to the growing Islamic liquidity pool, the report says.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), over $ 16 billion of sukuk are expected to be issued by 2014 with Dubai already emerging as a center for this asset class. The UK, which announced its maiden sovereign sukuk issue at the 9th WIEF in London last year, has already completed the issue earlier this year. With so much activity in the sukuk market, development and implementation of laws and regulations for the issuance of sukuk has been introduced by a number of countries, including those in North Africa, PricewaterhouseCoopers observes.

Currently, compared to the conventional bond market, the sukuk market is still relatively small. According to the Dubai Chamber research note, global financial assets are dominated by Islamic banking assets, which accounted for about 80 per cent of the total assets in 2013 while sukuk made up just 15 per cent of the market. However, the good news is that sukuk bond issuance has significantly grown over the last decade. The Dubai Chamber report, citing data from Rasameel Structural Finance, shows that the issue of sukuk bonds has registered cumulative annual growth rate of about 47 percent over the period 2001-13.

The upward positive momentum is more pronounced from 2010 when the global sukuk market, having overcome the initial shock of the financial crisis, witnessed a very successful run. In 2012 it crossed the $ 100 billion mark with issues valued at about $ 137 billion, and in 2013, it surpassed $ 100 billion for the second consecutive year, despite slowing down 12 per cent compared to 2012 with issues worth $ 119.7 billion, the Dubai Chamber research note says.

The slowdown, which was evident during the first three quarters of 2013, has been mainly attributed to the Federal Reserve (Fed) announcement in May 2013 to cut-back on the US monthly stimulus program. The report observes that the announcement by the Fed had a profound effect on the global bond market which saw prices of fixed-income instruments, including sukuk, falling sharply as fears spread that the reduced bond purchases by the Fed would push investors to higher yielding assets on an improving US economy. Now with the Fed’s aggressive bond-buying program tapering since January 2014, sukuk issuance may again be impacted in 2014, the report states.

The report further noted that despite the huge potential for growth and the increased diversity of sukuk products, the market not only requires more instruments but existing ones need to be refined as some sukuk structures are yet to gain wider acceptance. The market is also struggling with legal uncertainty over regulatory disparity in different countries, Dubai Chamber report noted.

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Qatar to launch ATMs for people with special needs

The Peninsula – 02 September, 2014 – Banks have been asked by the regulator to install automated teller machines (ATMs) at select locations across the country for people with special needs.

The directive to the effect has been issued by the Qatar Central Bank (QCB) as part of a broader policy to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy equal rights and access to technologies provided by both, public and private sectors.

The telecom sector regulator ictQatar launched an electronic accessibility policy with the above goal in mind some three years ago.

As part of the policy, the QCB has asked banks to install ATMs that could be used by people on wheelchair as well as those who are visually impaired.

Banks should take into consideration the height of ATMs, and the track for movement of the wheelchair. And ATMs that allow the use of Braille alphabets and voice software technology should be installed for the visually impaired.

For every 20 normal ATMs, a bank must have an ATM for people with special needs, the QCB said in its guidelines that were framed earlier but were brought into public domain recently.

If a bank has less than 20 ATMs it must have at least one ATM dedicated to people of special needs, the regulator said.

Such ATMs should be properly distributed. They should be installed in malls, tourist places, at the airport, hospitals and other service locations. While installing these ATMs banks must comply with the instructions that have been issued for controls and standards of security precautions, the QCB said.

About the general ATMs the regulator said that if they are down or run out of cash during rush hour, the licence of such machines would be cancelled, and no further ATM licence would be granted to for a period decided by the QCB.

If this is repeated three times, the regulator would take “decisive action” concerning granting licence for ATMs, said the QCB. All ATM locations must have Pinhole and Surveillance cameras installed. These cameras must have recording devices with at least 120 days’ capacity.

All ATMs must have fraud detection devices fitted within them, said the QCB, whose guidelines also cover mobile (vehicle-mounted) ATM facilities.

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Al-Baha palace work nears completion

Arab News – 02 September, 2014 – The ongoing restoration work at a famous Al-Baha palace museum is nearing completion thanks to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

“The efforts made by the SCTA in restoring the Bin Rakosh Palace in Al-Baha complements the projects it has taken on in the region at large,” said Awad Al-Zahrani, director-general of museums at the SCTA.

“Other sites, such as the Ze Ain heritage village and other local natural parks, are also slated for completion,” he said.

According to Al-Zahrani, rehabiliation works are in line with the commission’s commitment to preserve urban heritage sites in the Kingdom, which will boost domestic tourism, as well as create employment opportunities for local youth.

“Bin Rakosh Palace is a significant site containing the region’s most significant architectural elements,” he said. “It is expected to be a distinct landmark following its rehabilitation.”

According to the SCTA, the site is designed to include several museums, including a history museum, among others.

The SCTA recently began implementing the second phase of the palace restoration project in order to make it open for the public as soon as possible.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, SCTA president, had visited the restoration project in mid-June and was briefed on the new developments and repairs after the SCTA signed an agreement with the owner, who gave away the palace for the commission to restore and develop free of charge for 20 years.

Bin Rakosh Palace is a historical and tourist landmark in the region and one of the oldest historic mansions. It consists of five large houses, each containing three floors, in addition to a council hall used by the tribe and a mosque.

The palace also contains dormitories for servants, a water well, an internal courtyard and two other constructions around the palace, forming an integrated system of residential houses, including a school, a mosque, horse stables, wells for watering and orchards.

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India allocates $100m for Iran port

Tehran Times – 02 September, 2014 – India has earmarked $100 million for the development of Chabahar port in Iran so as to improve trade with Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries, Afghan envoy to India Shaida Mohammad Abdali said.

“Ultimately the port connects Central Asia with South Asia. And we have in-principle agreed. The draft has been circulated, and India has already pledged $100 million for upgrading the port,” Abdali told PTI.

Iran plans to develop the southeastern port of Chabahar with or without India’s cooperation, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported recently, citing Ali Jahandideh, the deputy head of the Ports and Maritime Organization.

Jahandideh said that India has raised the issue of investment in Chabahar on the east coast of the Sea of Oman for years but no deal has been signed yet.

The port is of strategic importance to India as Pakistan does not allow transit facility from India to Afghanistan. Abdali said that because of the problems related to ports in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan decided to use the Chabahar port for import and export of goods.

“So we worked with the Indian government and all the three parties agreed that the Chabahar port will be upgraded and the two countries (India and Afghanistan) can operate and also do business with Iran,” Abdali said.

Chabahar port will provide India an alternative route for trade to Afghanistan, an official of Federation of Indian Exports Organizations had said earlier. Currently, the bilateral trade between India and Afghanistan is pegged at over $ 600 million.

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Dubai set to host 2015 Aviation Africa Summit

Arab News – 03 September, 2014 – Dubai will be hosting a two-day 2015 Aviation Africa Summit on May 10-11, 2015. The summit will focus on strategies, opportunities and the challenges affecting the industry. A key focus area will be the safety challenges in the region.

NEXUS from Saudi Arabia and Wyvern Consulting from the US have joined up with this event to become main sponsors.

The link with these two companies is a perfect fit for the Aviation Africa event, which has launched to address the growth opportunities in the African continent for the aviation industry. NEXUS, which launched in 2010 and is based in Jeddah has opened a regional office in Rwanda and already identified the opportunities the region can offer.

Wyvern Consulting is a US company providing safety intelligence data and onsite risk assessments to business and private aviation communities for over 20 years. NEXUS are now their international partner covering the Middle East, Asia and Africa regions.

NEXUS provides Flight Operations and Support with a massive commitment to safety and with Wyvern Consulting supplying the safety intelligence data, this partnership will have a lot to contribute to this focus area.

Alan Peaford, Managing Director of Aerocomm Ltd and responsible for creating the summit’s program, said: “We are delighted to welcome Nexus and Wyvern Consulting to the Aviation Africa 2015 event. I recently visited Nexus at their head office in Jeddah and was very impressed with their level of service across the business aviation sector and their level of commitment to safety, security and people. We will be covering all these topics in our summit program and it is companies like Nexus and Wyvern that will be important contributors to the summit discussions.”

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flynas adds flights to Tabuk, Ha’il, Al-Qassim

Saudi Gazette – 03 September, 2014 – flynas, Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, has announced the launch of new domestic destinations from King Khaled International Airport starting on Sept. 23, 2014 with one flight daily to Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Tabuk and an average of four flights per week to Ha’il international Airport.

In addition, flynas will operate daily flights from King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah to Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz Airport in Al-Qassim starting from the beginning of October 2014.

In conjunction with the 84th National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, flynas also announced a major promotional surprise that allows guests to travel to all parts of the Kingdom by SR84 only on the National Day of Saudi Arabia, Sept. 23, 2014.

The announcements were made during a press conference organized by flynas at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh on Monday, which was attended by Yousef Bin Ibrahim Al-Abdan, General Director of King Khalid International Airport, management executives from flynas and journalists from the local and regional media.

Speaking at the event, Al-Abdan said: “We are always pleased to cooperate with flynas in providing better services for travelers through King Khalid International Airport since Saudi Arabia’s national carrier is playing a leading role in the evolution of the air travel industry in the kingdom through initiatives such as adding new destinations to its internal and external networks and continuously launching outstanding travel offers, as well as participating in national celebrations and other events.”

Wael bin Mohammed Al Sarhan, General Manager of Marketing & Communication at flynas, for his part, said: “As part of flynas’ initiative to enhance its competitive position in the air transportation market at King Khalid International Airport we are pleased to start our new flights to Tabuk and Hail In conjunction with the Saudi National Day, 23 Sep 2014.

“Moreover, we are pleased to unveil the special promotional surprise offered by flynas to its guests on the occasion of the 84th National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where guests can travel to all destinations within the Kingdom by SR 84 only on the 23rd of September. This special offer is our contribution to the celebrations of Saudi National Day and an expression of our pride in belonging to our beloved kingdom, as well as a gesture to our loyal guests from all over the kingdom.”

As part of its 20 × 20 strategy that targets transporting 20 million passengers a year by 2020, flynas has recently begun to expand its operations both domestically and internationally, in addition to the adoption of a new concept in the world of aviation – LCC + – which gives flynas guests the option to add multiple features to their travels, including launching business class service, pre-ordering hot meals, pre-booking for smart entertainment services on long-range flights, and other services, while continuing to provide the flights at extremely competitive prices.

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Oman to issue US$1.3bn of bonds

Arab News – 04 September, 2014 – Oman is expected to issue 500 million rials ($ 1.3 billion) worth of conventional and Islamic sovereign debt early next year, and aims to choose the arranging banks in October, said the head of the country’s first full-fledged Islamic bank.

Last month, the Finance Ministry received applications from banks to arrange the issuance, with plans to raise 300 million rials via conventional bonds and 200 million rials with sukuk, said Jamil Al-Jaroudi, chief executive of Bank Nizwa.

“We expect it to be in the market in the first quarter of 2015,” Jaroudi told Reuters on the sidelines of the Global Islamic Finance Forum.

The issuance would be in local currency and would apparently be separate from an international, US dollar-denominated sovereign bond issue which Oman has said it may conduct.

The government currently issues little debt beyond domestic issues of development bonds worth around 100 million rials. But government spending has been rising sharply in the last few years, increasing pressure on the government to develop its presence in the debt markets.

The sovereign sukuk would be the government’s first issue of Islamic bonds, and would be welcomed by the sultanate’s nascent Islamic finance industry, which currently has access to only a small number of Shariah-compliant investment products.

Oman began to introduce Islamic finance in 2012, becoming the last of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states to do so, and its Islamic capital market is undeveloped. The central bank has said it will wait for a sovereign sukuk issue before developing its own set of Shariah-compliant money market tools.

“When we started as an Islamic bank we didn’t have a place to put our money before deploying it as capital. Until now we don’t have a sovereign instrument tool to manage” interbank funding needs, Al-Jaroudi said.

Last November, Omani real estate developer Tilal Development Co. sold 50 million rials of sukuk, the country’s first and only corporate sukuk issue.

In May this year, the Islamic unit of Bank Muscat, Oman’s largest lender, said it planned to issue as much as $ 300 million worth of sukuk, pending regulatory approval.

Oman has two full-fledged Islamic banks, Bank Nizwa and Alizz Islamic Bank, as well as several Islamic windows at conventional banks, including Bank Sohar, Bank Dhofar, Bank Muscat, Ahli Bank and National Bank of Oman.

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Riyadh to host first scientific, medical societies meet

Arab News – 05 September, 2014 – The capital will be the venue for the first professional, scientific and medical societies’ meet in the Kingdom in early November, in order to strengthen the capacity of the societies for the desired growth in conference sector.

The meet will feature a number of workshops aimed at developing specialists who will take part in the Societies conferences and manage them and offer their expertise in the effective management and marketing of the societies as well as finding ways of developing avenues of the societies in the Kingdom.

The significant meet will be hosted along with the 2nd Saudi Conventions and Exhibitions Forum (SCEF), 2014 in Riyadh from Nov. 9-11 to be held with the support of Prince Turki bin Abdullah, governor of Riyadh region and chairman of Riyadh Tourism Development Council (RTDC).

The National Conventions and Exhibitions Program (NCEP) will organize the first meeting of the professional societies under the title Saudi Societies Day.

The meet, which is scheduled to be held in conjunction with the SCEF 2014, will be held on Nov. 9, the inaugural day of the forum, and will be attended by Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, a top official at NCEP, a SCTA program said on Wednesday.

Commenting on the first such meet of the professional societies in the Kingdom, Tariq Abdul Rahman Al-Eisa, NCEP executive director, said: “The main objective of organizing the Saudi Societies Day is to develop capabilities of business heads, chief executives and officials working in the management of professional, scientific and medical societies in the Kingdom, so as to acquire the ability to organize distinctive meetings and conferences as well as enable them to build partnerships with their counterparts in the international societies. Thus succeed in attracting international conferences to the Kingdom.”

He added that professional societies are the most influential bodies on the conference sector and that many of the conferences, forums, meetings and seminars held all over the world are organized by the national, international and regional societies.

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