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20 Oct, 2014

Jeddah Mosque Becomes Disabled-Friendly

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 20 October 2014 (26 Dhul Ḥijjah 1435). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.




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

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


The Islamic Tourism Centre in Malaysia has launched a vibrant new website presenting Malaysia as a prime destination for Islamic tourism and a global halal hub. The website offers a wealth of information on Mosque trails, Islamic Museums, Ramadan & Eid-ul Fitr, Muslim-Friendly Tour Highlights, as well as a Muslim Visitor’s Guide, Halal Directory and Souvenirs Directory. Located strategically at the heart of Southeast Asia, Malaysia is well-known for its natural beauty and diverse cultural landscape. At its social core are three of Asia’s oldest civilisations – Malay, Chinese and Indian – as well as the ethnic communities of Sabah and Sarawak, resulting in a unique and inspiring blend of cultures. With an abundance of halal food, prayer facilities and Islamic attractions, Malaysia perfectly caters to the needs of Muslim travellers. The ITC plays a pivotal role in bringing Malaysia to the forefront of Islamic tourism. It works with industry players to build their capacity in Islamic tourism, thus ensuring that the needs of Muslim visitors are better served. ITC has also taken several initiatives in standardising industry’s best practices through research, seminars, workshops and industry outreach programmes. Now is the perfect time to experience the country’s multitude of Muslim-friendly tourism products – Islamic architectural heritage, halal gastronomic delights, vibrant Islamic festivals and world-class Islamic events – all guaranteed to give visitors an incredible time.

Click here to see the fabulous new website

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.



Saudi Shoura council approves tourism strategy

RIYADH: ARAB NEWS, 14 October 2014 – The Shoura Council passed a bill regarding the general strategy for national tourism development at its 58th session in Riyadh on Monday.

The bill is a modified version of the tourism strategy adopted in 2003, Assistant Chairman of the Council Fahad Al-Hamad said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency.

The bill has updated the strategy to keep pace with the modern developments in the country over the past decade and also to increase the role of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

The strategy covers the executive plan for the public and private sectors, the required programs, budget and proportion of contribution to be made by the SCTA and the government and private sectors. The strategy envisages the employment of tourism as an economic tool to generate more job opportunities for Saudis, the development of small and medium establishments, prompting balanced growth in all provinces and planning for balanced and sustained tourism development highlighting the cultural, urban and social dimensions of the country.

The Administrative and Human Resources Committee read its recommendations which included changes in the current regulations governing the recruitment of temporary and seasonal workers. It recommended limiting the period of temporary visas for seasonal work to a maximum of four months. It also recommended that penal measures be taken against violators of the regulation.

Al-Hammad said the council also discussed the annual report of the Zakat and Income Committee. The committee recommended speedy development of the new administrative structure and operating systems in the department for the improvement of its performance.

The council discussed the annual report of the Committee for Transport, Telecommunications and Information Technology. It demanded that the Ministry of Transport report on the progress in the implementation of the national strategy for traffic safety issued by the Council of Ministers, which aims to curb traffic accidents in the country.

The committee asked the Transport Ministry to come up with more information on the achievements of the public transport projects being implemented in various cities including the construction of cargo depots at city entrances.

While some members wanted to know the reasons behind a large number of roads in poor condition or without maintenance for months, one member asked for a comprehensive survey of the state of roads in the Kingdom and the allocation of funds for road maintenance.

Another member demanded to know why roads in remote regions were suffering from poor maintenance and one member recommended that ports be used for travel within the Kingdom to take the strain off surface transport.

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Bangladesh Nobel Winner Yunus wins Centennial Fund award

RIYADH, ARAB NEWS, 14 October 2014 – Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus was picked up for the 2nd Global Entrepreneurship Award (GEA-2014) under the umbrella of the Centennial Fund (CF) chaired by Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, deputy minister of foreign affairs.

This was announced by the secretary-general of the award, Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi, who said the GEA-Award committee’s decision was based on Yunus’ distinguished efforts at highlighting the culture of entrepreneurship.

Al-Mutairi did not disclose the names of the other winners. Last year there were 18 winners from four countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen.

As many as 600 candidates from 42 countries had submitted their entries in six different categories this year for the best action plan, the best feasible project idea, the best pioneering project, the best mentor and guide, the best existing project and the best leading figure. Yunus won the award for the best leading figure.

According to Al-Mutairi, the award under the name of Prince Abdulaziz is the first on a global level to honor outstanding entrepreneurs and also encourage pilot projects. It aims to recognize distinguished works in the Kingdom and internationally.

Al-Mutairi, who is also CF’s head, said the awards presentation ceremony, to be held on Nov. 3 here, will be attended by a large number of economists from Gulf states and across the world. Prince Abdulaziz will give away awards totaling SR1 million for the distinguished works.

He said the prize distribution ceremony will coincide with the launch of the first World Conference on Entrepreneurship, and the start of the 3rd World Global Week’s events for Entrepreneurship Guidance in its third season.

“The launch of the award is a continuation of the efforts of the Kingdom’s leadership that reflects Prince Abdulaziz’s efforts to help young people realize their ambitions and shape their own future.” Al-Mutairi underlined the role played by the international jury in all branches of the award and the integration of work with other committees that operate according to a plan of the CF’s awards committee. He added that the winning projects were evaluated by members of the jury consisting of experts from within the Kingdom and abroad.

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Sharjah Exhibition On Islamic Culture Opens

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates, Oct 15 (NNN-WAM) – Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the exhibition titled ‘Early Capitals of Islamic Culture – The Artistic Legacy of Umayyad Damascus and Abbasid Baghdad (650–950)’ at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation (SMIC), yesterday.

The exhibition presents over 100 archaeological finds, Islamic calligraphy, decorative arts, and exquisite artefacts from the first century of Umayyad and Abbasid rule, centred on their capitals Damascus and Baghdad. The artefacts are part of the collections displayed at the Berlin Museum of Islamic Art, the first and oldest museum of Islamic art, outside the Islamic world.

Open from today to Jan 17, 2015, the exhibition invites visitors to immerse themselves in the ancient urban legacy of these two famed cities and explore archaeological items from Umayyad desert castles and the Abbasid capitals outside Baghdad, Samarra.

The artefacts are placed in chronological and thematic order, as a part of a wider story that gives a historic overview of urban, architectural and artistic developments.

“Everyone talks about politics and war, but we talk about culture,” said Dr Stefan Weber, Director of the Berlin Museum of Islamic Art and curator of the exhibition, at a press conference held at the event’s opening.

He highlighted the importance of developing relations between museums inside and outside the Arab world, in order to better understand the history of Islamic art and civilisations.

The displayed artefacts, which were shipped from Berlin to Sharjah over two days, highlight the transfer of knowledge and artistic traditions between cultures and civilisations, and reveal the dynamic complexity of cross-culture relations between the ruling elites and the rest of the world, during the earliest evolution and expansion of Islamic culture.

“This exhibition — together with a series of professional development workshops this year — is a direct result of our comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with Sharjah Museums Department and the German Goethe Institute signed in 2013,” said Dr Weber at the opening.

The event is organised by the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD) and the Berlin State Museums, as part of a series of events in celebration of Sharjah as 2014 Capital of Islamic Culture.

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Salmiyah Theatre, Step In Developing Culture – Kuwaiti Minister

KUWAIT, Oct 17 (NNN-KUNA) – The opening of the Salmiyah Theatre is one of the steps being made, to develop cultural establishments in Kuwait, Information Minister, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, said, on Thursday.

The comments came as Sheikh Salman, also State Youth Minister and President of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters, was handing out awards to cultural icons from around the six-state neighbouring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

He noted to a “comprehensive cultural and arts development strategy, which has received the support of the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.”

Expressing delight at their attendance, he said that the honoured cultural personalities “have done their best, to enlighten the path of knowledge and awareness, through their intellectual wisdom.”

Their honouring today “goes far beyond being a symbolic gesture and is considered an appreciation of culture and a victory for the illumination of the human mind.”

The awareness of nations is assessed by the treasure trove of scientists and thinkers they possess,” he added.

The event was also attended by GCC culture ministers, alongside the secretary general, who are attending joint talks in Kuwait.

For his part, the GCC chief, Abdullatif Al-Zayani, praised the combined efforts to promote culture across the six states.

The event comes a day after the grand opening of the National Library of Kuwait, which was held under the patronage of the Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and attended by him.

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Oman To Take Part In 1st GCC Tourism Ministers Meeting

MUSCAT, Oman, Oct 14 (NNN-ONA) – Oman, represented by the Ministry of Tourism, will take part today (Tuesday), in the 1st meeting of the GCC Ministers of Tourism, due to be held in Kuwait.

The Sultanate’s delegation to the meeting will be led by Ahmed bin Nassir al-Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism. The meeting comes to complement the joint cooperation efforts in the field of tourism, in the GCC countries, as well as the proposal forwarded, to raising the representation level in the tourism cooperation committee to ministerial level, and approval of the GCC Ministers of Tourism to hold an annual ministerial meeting for tourism and to hold the first meeting this year.

During the meeting, the GCC Ministers of Tourism will discuss a number of recommendations raised by the GCC Undersecretaries of Tourism during their preparatory meeting.

Agenda of the meeting includes a number of topics, such as, the proposal of setting up an independent authority, concerned with activating and promoting interregional tourism among the GCC countries.

The meeting will also discuss reports of the technical committees, in respect to the unified Gulf tourism visa and the joint topics related to tourism training, as well as, role of the private sector in the tourism industry.

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New Tourism Strategy To Create More Jobs In Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Oct 14 (NNN-SPA) – Saudi Arabia will use tourism as an economic tool to create more jobs for Saudis, as well as to develop small and medium enterprises (SMEs), according to the revised tourism strategy, approved by the Shoura Council.

Fahaad Al-Hamad, assistant president of the Council, said that the Shoura Council endorsed the general strategy for the development of domestic tourism, following a directive from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah.

The Council session was chaired by its President, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Asheikh.

Al-Hamad said, the revised strategy also envisages promoting balanced development of all regions, and planning tourism development in a balanced and sustainable way, with a focus on the Kingdom’s social and cultural dimensions.

The strategy consists of working plan for the public and private sectors, pertaining to tourism development, with programmes and required budgetary allocations, in addition to specific percentage of contributions from SCTA, as well as from the government and private sectors.

Al-Hamad said, the Council’s decision came after a report was read out by Fahd Al-Anzi, deputy chairman of the committee for the economic and energy affairs.

The approved strategy is an updated version of the plan approved in 2003 (1424H), in line with the King’s directive to modernise the tourism sector, keeping pace with the changes that have taken place over the past years, and giving more avenues to organise the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

The Council also discussed an amendment in the regulations for issuance of temporary visas for seasonal workers for a maximum of four months and charging fee for issuance of visa.

Taking part in deliberations, some members called for the lifting of restrictions on issuance of these visas for the Haj season only, saying that visas can be issued for agriculture and other seasonal jobs. They suggested that labour offices in each province could be entrusted to decide which are the trades to be included for seasonal visas in their respective regions.

Some members wanted issuance of these visas in all seasons, while some others demanded raising the period of visa to six months and to a similar period beyond that, in case the employer substantiates the necessity for an extension to complete the work or project undertaken by him.

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Dubai’s 555-Metre High Tower Clinches Another World Record

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Oct 15 (NNN-WAM) – At 555 metres (1,821 ft) high, Dubai on Tuesday, clinched its newest Guinness World Records title. And with it, Emaar Properties, the developer of Burj Khalifa, has unveiled a one-of-its-kind journey for every individual, to the highest man-made vantage point on earth.

For the first time, Emaar is opening its doors for the public, to such uncharted heights, with the launch of the all-new ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY.’ Here, visitors can soak up unmatched views of the city and beyond, and feel the exhilarating air from an outdoor terrace and relax in a premium lounge.

The grand unveiling of ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY’ was made even more momentous, with the adjudicators of the Guinness Book of World Records, officiating Dubai’s newest tourist attraction, as the ‘Highest Observation Deck’ in the world.

Burj Khalifa bagged the laurel from Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, which held the record for its observation deck at 488 metres (1,601 ft) high.

The new honour adds to Burj Khalifa’s three existing Guinness World Record titles, for the Tallest Building, the Tallest Man-made Structure on Land Ever and the Highest Restaurant from Ground Level for At.mosphere.

With the new launch, Emaar is also scaling up the visitor experience, with two additional observation points in the global icon.

Apart from ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa’ on Level 124, that will continue to operate as normal, the tower now offers an additional ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY’ journey, with two stops – at the observation floors on Level 148 and Level 125.

‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY’ at Level 148, is the crowning glory and the ‘hero’ level, where for the first time, Dubai residents and visitors can scale up 555 metres (1,821 ft), and step out to an outdoor terrace – the highest viewing point on earth in a building – which opens to “mesmerising” views of the city and beyond.

Ahmad Al Falasi, Executive Director, Property Management of Emaar Properties PJSC, said, “At the Top is today, one of the world’s most compelling tourist attractions. With the introduction of ‘SKY,’ we are scaling up the entire journey to Burj Khalifa by offering a truly premium experience that will be a lifetime’s memory for every visitor. We are doubly delighted to clinch the Guinness World Records title that adds to the glory of Burj Khalifa and enhances the reputation of Dubai.”

Talal Omar, Country Manager for the Middle East and North Africa for Guinness World Record, said, “Burj Khalifa has done it again, surprising the world with its iconic scale and the ongoing creative enhancements. The new Guinness World Records title is another feather in the cap for Dubai, a city that has now one of the fastest growing repertories of the world’s most fascinating achievements.”

Emaar said, ‘At the Top, Burj Khalifa’ has already defined its credentials, as one of Dubai’s most popular tourist attractions, having welcomed over 1.87 million visitors in 2013.

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Uganda, Rwanda To Promote East Africa As Single Tourist Destination

KAMPALA, Oct 15 (NNN-NEW VISION) — In its commitment to promote East Africa as a single tourist destination, Uganda is partnering Rwanda to jointly promote two-way tourist traffic between the two countries.

Speaking during the 52nd Post-Ugandan independence celebrations in Kigali, Tuesday Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, said the move, which was championed by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in partnership with the Rwandan Development Board, is aimed at defending both the security and business developments of the two countries.

“People-to-people relations between Uganda and Rwanda is a very important step to strengthening the tourism sectors of the two economies, both of which come as their country’s biggest revenue earners, contributing over 1.0 billion USD to either country.”

More than 5,000 people, including Ugandans in Rwanda, diplomats and friends of Uganda in Rwanda attended the celebrations.

UTB Chief Executive Officer Stephen Asiimwe said the two countries would have healthy tourism exchanges whenever marketing opportunities such as tourism exhibitions are held in the two countries and the Great Lakes Region in general.

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75 Per Cent Of Asean Tourism Plan 2011-2015 Achieved

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Oct 15 (NNN-Bernama) — About 75 percent of 86 measures outlined in the Asean Tourism Strategic Plan (ATSP) 2011-2015 have been completed.

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the plan was formulated to enhance competitiveness and Asean tourism cooperation in moving towards the establishment of an Asean community in 2015.

The ATSP, he said, focused on a three-pronged strategy, namely developing experiental and innovative regional products, increasing the quality of human resources, services and facilities as well as enhancing and accelerating travel facilitation and Asean connectivity.

With the ATSP 2011-2015 coming to an end and Asean Economic Community (AEC) 2015 just around the corner, the Asean national tourism organisations had started looking into the successor plan, he said.

Mohamed Nazri said this in his keynote address on “AEC 2015-Where is Tourism Heading?” at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Hub City Forum: Kuala Lumpur, here Wednesday.

“During the ATSP post-2015 period, it is hoped that Asean will be a quality tourism destination offering a unique and diverse experience, and committed to responsible, sustainable and inclusive tourism development,” he said.

The minister said further strategies would need to be formulated to enhance competitiveness, strengthen human capital development and enhance strategic partnership among Asean states and the private sector.

The strategies, he said, should also look at intensifying joint tourism product and package development, improving air, land and sea connectivity, addressing visa facilitation issues as well as crisis management and climate change.

The one-day forum was attended by some 250 participants comprising local and international travel and trade members.

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Malaysia, Turkey To Enhance Tourism Cooperation

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia and Turkey are expected to continuously enhance the bilateral collaboration and cooperation in many sectors especially in the tourism industry.

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the ‘Turkish Day’ event, for example, was one of the mechanisms to strengthen the good relations between the two countries as both had shared a long friendship and rich histories.

“In enhancing rapport to gain better understanding of cultures between Turkey and Malaysia, organising a programme of such nature (Turkish Day), will undoubtedly serve as a connecting bridge for both nations,” he said in his welcoming remark at the Turkish Day 2014 event here.

Also present were Turkish Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Abdurrahman Arici and Turkish Ambassador to Malaysia Ugur Dogan.

The event, which is being held at Pavilion shopping complex here from Wed until Oct 17, was organised by Turkish Embassy, in conjunction with 50th anniversary of Malaysia-Turkey diplomatic relations, which was established in 1964.

At the event, a Turkey’s troupe showcases the vibrant Turkish cultures, including crafts, arts, dances, foods and music. Meanwhile, Arici said Turkey also looking forward to foster good bilateral relationship with Malaysia in cultural exchanges.

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Abu Dhabi Eyes Halal Tourism

ABU DHABI, Oct.16 (NNN-WAM) — Abu Dhabi is poised to become a leading destination for Halal Tourism, a fast emerging concept in the tourism industry that offers a range of holiday packages adhering to Islamic beliefs and practices.

Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, is roping in tour operators and hospitality groups to offer tailor-made packages to Halal tourists who do not wish to compromise their Islamic values while holidaying.

“We are working on a specific strategy for Halal tourism. It includes bringing together a range of products which would qualify as halal tourism but have never been collated to make a substantial offering,” Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director Promotions and Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi, told the XPRESS supplement of the Gulf News English daily.

Halal Tourism packages include hotel stays with halal food and non-alcoholic beverages, separate leisure facilities for men and women and visits to mosques and places of Islamic heritage.

“We can meet specific Muslim demands on a number of fronts and halal F&B is one of them. We also have a number of high and medium quality alcohol-free hotels and segmented sessions for women,” added Nuaimi.

The Tourism Authority is already in talks with leading UK-based Halal tourism operator, Serendipity, to test the market.

“We can link Muslim countries from the East to the West via Abu Dhabi International Airport, and we hope that many will choose to break their journey in the emirate and eventually become convinced to stay longer,” Nuaimi added.

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Malaysia Exports Rm9.2 Bln Of Halal Products

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia exported halal products worth RM9.2 billion in the first quarter of this year, said Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hasan Malek.

He said this showed that local companies involved in the manufacturing of halal products had the capability and capacity to cater to the needs of the global market.

“Malaysia is already the world’s leading exporter of halal ingredients required in various industries such as food and beverages (F&B), cosmetics, medical and wellness,” he said when addressing the National Conference on Marketing Halal and Funding Solutions 2014 here.

Hasan pointed out that the halal F&B continued to be the leading sector, with exports valued at RM3.5 billion or 39.9 per cent of total halal exports.

This, he said, was followed by halal ingredients worth RM3 billion, palm oil derivatives (RM1.4 billion), cosmetics and personal care (RM573 million), industrial chemicals (RM524 million) and pharmaceuticals (RM113 million).

Hasan said the top five halal export markets were China, the United States, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan.

He noted that Malaysia’s halal exports of between RM30 billion and RM32 billion a year could be significantly enhanced by strengthening the country’s position as a halal trading centre.

The two-day conference beginning today is jointly organised by Angkatan Koperasi Kebangsaan Malaysia Bhd (Angkasa), Koperasi Rakyat Indah Kuala Lumpur and AYS Group.

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Emirates Traditional Handicrafts Festival Launches Debut Programme

ABU DHABI, Oct.16 (NNN-WAM) — Visitors to the First National Traditional Handicrafts Festival running in Al Ain from Oct. 23 to 29, will be treated to a series of live traditional competitions and displays aimed at enlivening generations-old handicrafts.

Organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, the festival is set to shed light on the importance of traditional handicrafts and industries to Emirati heritage, and strengthen national identity through local crafters efforts to revive, preserve and teach these crafts to future generations.

Dr. Nasser Al Humairi, Director of TCA Abu Dhabi’s Intangible Heritage Department, said, “The festival is an opportunity for craftspeople to meet and demonstrate their handicrafts skills, while heightening the importance of the preservation of these skills to Emirati society.”

“We have an ambitious strategy to keep heritage and traditional handicrafts alive for future generations, and in creating a national celebration, this festival allows us to connect the preservation of our heritage, with a symbolic and deep-rooted sense of belonging to the country,” he added.

A series of displays and competitive demonstrations promoting the preservation of skills are a central component of the festival according to Saeed Hamad Al Kaabi, Head of Traditional Handicrafts and Products.

“Our ancestors developed a number of handicrafts and industries to meet their daily needs, and these pieces were considered creative works of art with an aesthetic element. However, skills have receded under the pressure of highly advanced, modern industries and we hope by creating a competitive element, contestants will be motivated to develop innovate ways to further our preservation goals,” he explained.

The competitions include craftsmanship, Al Yola dance, making Arabic coffee and preparing traditional dishes.

The handicrafts competition includes three categories, palm frond items, Al Sadu weaving and liberal professions. Participants have to be over 15 years old and must present works incorporating materials from the local environment.

Entries in the liberal professions category must add a modern touch while preserving traditional identity at the same time.

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Malaysia Agro-Tourism Expo Targets 3.5 Million Visitors

SERDANG, Oct 13 (NNN-Bernama) — The biennial 2014 Malaysian Agriculture, Horticulture and Agro-tourism International Show (Maha) targets 3.5 million visitors and RM15 million in sales.

The 11-day event beginning Nov 20, will be held at the Malaysian Agro Exposition Park Serdang here.

Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he hoped the event would be more successful, compared to previously via a massive campaign being carried out.

“Many new booths are introduced, including for young entrepreneurs and an involvement of 2,200 local and foreign exhibitors,” he told a media conference after handing out the ministry’s 2014 Excellent Service Award here.

Ismail Sabri said 2014 MAHA would not merely focus on profit and sale but stressed on the direction and future of the national agricultural sector.

“We have two days of trade shows for entrepreneurs to meet entrepreneurs, and for buyers to meet sellers. But more importantly, are the seminars held during Maha,” he said.

Earlier, Ismail Sabri flagged off the 2014 Maha Promotion Young Tour convoy involving departments and agencies under the ministry to promote the event.

The programme will be held simultaneously in five zones, namely the North Zone, East, South, Sabah and Sarawak, via the organisations of numerous activities, with the local communities.

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Iran’s Economy Out Of Recession

TEHRAN, Oct 14 (NNN-IRNA) – President Hassan Rouhani said the government has been successful in reducing point-to-point inflation rate down by 31 units to 14.4 percent, adding that this is unprecedented in the history of Iran’s economy.

Speaking in a televised interview, the president said that out of the inflation rate of 45% in the 12 months of the last year more than 20% has been reduced but this did not mean that prices will not go up rather the increase will be in a gentle slope.

Referring to the increase in price of foodstuffs which is highly important for the people, Rouhani said if statistics of the month of Shahrivar 1392 (August/September 2013) is compared to the same period a year ago (1391) it will be realized that the inflation rate was 45% to 77% in some items in one year.

“In the month of Shahrivar this year compared to the last year we had inflation but it was not 70% to 30% rather the figure for the inflation stood at maximum 12% and minimum 6% for those items.”

Therefore, he further remarked, the government has controlled inflation and at the same time been able to come out of recession.

He said presence of different investors in Iran and the meetings that are held outside the country on Iran’s economy are all indicative of the fact that Iran’s economy has come out of the recession, Rouhani said.

“Up to the end of the calendar year our target is to bring inflation rate below 20% although in the past we had promised the people to bring the rate down below 25%… The goal is to realize an economic growth rate of plus 3% by the end of the year and people know that we do not follow slogans and have tried to abide by our promises”, he said.

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LEAD STORY: Jeddah mosque becomes disabled-friendly

Jeddah, Tuesday, 20 Dhul Hijjah 1435/ 14 October 2014 (IINA) – A mosque in Jeddah that has started delivering Friday sermons in sign language and uploading them on YouTube has become a social media hit.

Khadija Baghalaf Mosque in Al-Naseem district is attended by 250 hearing-impaired people every Friday who wish to benefit from the special programs developed especially for them. Also, these programs are being followed through social media by thousands of people from over 70 countries, Makkah daily reported.

Imam of the mosque Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghamdi said he used to see a number of hearing-impaired people praying at the mosque, interacting with him and greeting him. After communicating with them he found out that they did not understand what was recited in the prayer and what he said in the Friday sermons.

The program for the hearing-impaired worshipers started by providing them with an interpreter for the Friday sermon and some lessons in the mosque delivered in sign language. The idea was expanded by delivering these lessons through social media and YouTube. Al-Ghamdi said the program targets deaf people and relatives and teachers interested in learning sign language, as well as muezzins (people responsible for the call to prayer) and official authorities.

“Through interaction with the worshippers in the mosque I realized the suffering of deaf people and the lack of services for them. “I also recognized the inability of deaf people’s families to communicate well with them. “We thought about a program aiming to train these people.”

Discussing the relationship of the mosque with this category of people, Al-Ghamdi said the mosque is an important school of life and plays a big social role.

“Also, people who cannot speak or hear do not receive a lot of support. They represent a forgotten category of people. One does not understand their suffering except those who are close to them.” He said those in charge of the program aimed to instill Shariah teachings in people who are deaf and integrate them in society. The aim is also to change attitudes toward the deaf in society and enhance their sporting, social, cultural and vocational skills to ultimately enable them to work.

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University of Central Florida hosts interfaith dialogue

Florida, Thursday, 22 Dhul Hijjah 1435/ 16 October 2014 (IINA) – The University of Central Florida and the Grand Voices Project will host a one-day conference on interfaith dialogue an cultural understanding on Thursday.

Several national and international figures will address the event, which will be held at the university’s Student Union hall. They included Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, high representative of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and Arsalan Suleman, U.S. Special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Imam Mohammed Musri, Rabbi Steven Engel and Reverend Bryan Fulwider from the popular “Three Wise Guys” local radio show, as well as leaders from the local Sikh and Jewish communities will also take part, according to organizers.

The purpose of the meeting is to focus on strategies to promote interfaith understanding in response to sensationalized media coverage of religious violence in recent months as well as addressing the problems in interpersonal understanding in the 21st century. Multiple panel discussions focusing on various facets of these topics will be held with the objective of creating a synthesis of perspectives in the interest of balance and pluralism, according to David Dumke of University of Central Florida and Amirah Masnavi, official of the Grand Voices Project.

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Quran and science conference to be held in Maldives

Sun.mv – October 16, 2014 – The Islamic Foundation of the Maldives has announced plans to hold a conference on Quran and science for the first time in the Maldives. The conference will be held on 24 and 25 October at the National Art Gallery.

Spokesperson for the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives Ahmed Firas said that during the conference, discussions will be held on subjects such as miracles of the Quran, science and evolution theory, Quran leads the way to science, Quran denies Darwinism, facts of creation, miracles in human creation, and creation of the universe.

Speakers at the conference include two Turkish scholars – neurosurgeon Dr Ahmet Oktar Babuna, and economics and social politics expert Ali Sadun Engin.

The Islamic Foundation said that the conference can accommodate up to 100 participants, and has urged people wishing to participate to contact the foundation for registration.

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Maldives gazettes 12 percent GST regulation for tourism sector

Sun.mv – October 9, 2014 – The regulation detailing the changes to the rate of Goods and Services tax (GST) for the tourism sector starting from 1st November has been gazetted.

According to the regulation released by Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) last Thursday; there would be changes in the procedure of GST payment due to the change in the tax rate.

MIRA said that because there is change in tax rate from 1st November, there would be changes in time of GST payment. For example; although a service was started to a customer from October and if the payment is made in November; GST must be charged at the rate of 12%, irrespective of the fact that part of the services supplied were provided in October.

The regulation also stated that if a registered person supplies goods and services on a 24-hour basis, the rate of tax applicable to the value of supplies made before 00:00 hours on 1st November 2014 shall be 8 percent and the rate of tax applicable to the value of supplies made on or after 00:00 hours on 1st November 2014 shall be 12 percent.

MIRA said that registered persons, who adopt a three-month taxable period, need to submit their GST before 28th January 2015 with the change in rate GST.

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Pamukkale most visited among Turkey’s ancient sites

DENİZLİ – Anadolu Agency – With its unique beauty and iconic white travertine stones, Pamukkale is the most visited among the ancient sites Turkey has to offer

A “white haven” in the western province of Denizli, Pamukkale, which means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, ranks first this year among Turkey’s ancient sites in terms of the number of visitors and earnings.

Pamukkale, which offers a unique beauty with its white travertine created by carbonate minerals left from the flowing water, draws interest from visitors throughout the year. This year, the number of visitors increased by 9.6 percent in Pamukkale compared to last year and rose to number one among 78 tourist sites in the country.

Denizli Culture and Tourism Director Mehmet Korkmaz said the city had 10 different tourism varieties, including thermal health, culture, faith, sports, shopping, plant, botanic, ornithology and ecotourism, and it serves tourism throughout the year with a bed capacity of 18,700 and an international airport.

The city is also one of the leading tourist destinations thanks to Pamukkale, which is unique in the world and listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, said Korkmaz.

“The Culture and Tourism Ministry is responsible for the operation of 313 museums and sites countrywide. Among these places, 125 are free of charge for visitors and 110 museums and 78 sites have entry fees. Pamukkale is one of those 78 sites. Considering the data of the last eight months recently revealed by the ministry, the Pamukkale site surpassed the ancient site of Ephesus and ranked first among historic sites. We are the number one in the country as a result of our service. The Culture and Tourism Ministry, Denizli Governor’s Office Culture and Tourism Directorate promote Denizli and especially Pamukkale in all national and international fairs. This promotion plays a great role in drawing more visitors,” he added.

As of the end of September, the number of people visiting Pamukkale was 1,542,328, an increase of 9.6 percent on last year, said Korkmaz.

In terms of foreign tourists visiting the region, he said they mostly hosted visitors from Russia and Germany, but also welcomed many visitors from the U.K., Japan, South Korea, China and other Far Eastern countries.

“Pamukkale has large numbers of visitors from nearly 20 countries. They are here for faith, thermal health and culture tourism. The most important reason why Russians come to the region is Pamukkale and to experience thermal waters,” Korkmaz said.

According to the Culture and Tourism Ministry’s data, when it comes to the museum category, Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia ranks first among the most visited museums in Turkey.

The revenue from both museums and tourist sites across the country totaled 280 million Turkish Liras in the first eight months of the year. Hagia Sophia raked in over 40 million liras, followed by Topkapı Palace Museum, and the ancient sites of Pamukkale’s Hierapolis and İzmir’s Ephesus.

In terms of visitor numbers, Topkapı Palace Museums ranks first with 236,205 visitors, followed by the Hagia Sophia, Mevlana Museum, Pamukkale Hierapolis and Ephesus.

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Church in ancient city of Laodecia to open to tourism

DENİZLİ – Anadolu Agency – One of the “Seven Churches of Asia” mentioned in the Bible, the Laodicean Church in the ancient city of Laodicea will be opened to tourism at the end of this year.

The head of the excavations at the ancient site in the western Turkish province of Denizli, Professor Celal Şimşek, said this year’s excavations continued in the northern part of the holy agora, a special area of the temples.

Şimşek said works had been conducted in a structure called the “C structure.” “We have completely opened the peristillium (courtyard) of the structure. There is both a settlement and a graveyard from the early Bronze Age in the western side. This area dates back 5,000 years and we excavated there. This year we also restore the Septimius Severus fountain.”

He added that the Laodicean Church was also one of the most important restoration areas in Anatolia as it was one of the Seven Churches of Asia mentioned in the Bible. He said they had unearthed the church and were carrying out detailed and unique restoration work.

“This project is set to be finished by the end of the year. The world is really waiting for this church to be opened, because it is one of the seven oldest churches in Anatolia. The church is a very special structure with wall coverings, wall paintings and geometrical mosaics. When works are done, it will be one of the first in Turkey in terms of its restoration and roof,” Şimşek said, adding that they had started covering the 2,000 square meter roof of the church with a project approved by the Aydın Regional Board of Protection.

The excavations head said he expected 80 percent of visitors coming to Laodicea to be pilgrims. “The opening of this church to the world tourism will bring more visitors to the region. Especially 2 million people visiting Pamukkale will also come here to see the church,” he added, touching on the importance of faith tourism to such ancient sites in Turkey.

As part of the project, a church book and brochures about the ancient city in seven languages are set to be completed within two months.

“The opening of this church is very important because it is nearly a 1,700 year-old unique structure. The city completely collapsed in an earthquake in the 7th century A.D. and was abandoned. The church has survived so far because there were no settlements around it,” Şimşek also added.

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Ankara opens new opera ballet season

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – The new art season has opened at the Ankara State Opera and Ballet. Director Mustafa Erdoğan speaks about the new season and the troubles experienced by dancers

Ankara’s top thespians and dancers have returned to the stage for the 2014-2015 season with a new set of productions that look set to sell out.

Audiences will have the opportunity to see operas such as “Carmen,” “Tosca,” “Attila,” “Rigoletto,” “Abduction from the Seraglio” and “Don Giovani;” operettas like “Arşın Mal Alan” and “The Bat;” ballets such as “Count Dracula” and “Seraglio,” as well as musicals like “Lend Me a Tenor,” said Mustafa Erdoğan, director of the Ankara State Opera and Ballet (ADOB), noting that the selection consisted of a mix of local and foreign productions and closely resembled the works from last year.

Erdoğan said they had been continuing to produce new art projects for the new season. “Turkey has many big investments that have made an impression in the world over the last 10 years, but it will make the real impression when it plans to build the world’s largest opera building,” he said.

Erdoğan said works like “Attila” and “Count Dracula” were staged in the second half of the season and that many people did not have the chance to see them. “Count Dracula” especially drew a lot of interest, he said, adding that ticket sales were limited to individual buyers so that more people could see the work.

“This work is one of our prides with its music, décor, costumes and choreography. It will continue drawing interest even if it is staged for long years,” he said.

Still, he said audiences complained about failing to find tickets because of halls with a low capacity, he said.

Erdoğan said that besides those plays, the “Bloody Nigar” operetta, composed by Cem İdiz, would also be on the stage.

“It will be very fun. I predict that it will draw great interest from audiences because this play has not been staged in Ankara for many years. It has been turned into an operetta for the first time. We are curious about it, too,” he said, adding that Shakespeare’s world renowned work “Hamlet” would be staged as a ballet this season.

Erdoğan said ADOB’s Birim Dance Theater (BDT), which is made up of artists above the age of 45, has also created a work inspired by famous minstrel Aşık Veysel’s folk song “Dostlar Beni Hatırlasın” (Friends Remember Me).

Noting that the BDT had filled an important gap, Erdoğan said: “In professional and classical terms, ballet cannot be done until an advanced age. It is the world’s hardest business which wears out the body. I assure you that 80 percent of our dancers are injured. They have serious damage to the legs, muscles, foot bones, arms, vertebra and especially femurs. Naturally, they cannot perform the movements of classical ballet and become idle at the age of 38.”

As such, the company devised a solution so that dancers could continue to work after the age 40, he said.

“This troupe was created with the initiative of (veteran choreographer) İhsan Bengier and, in this way, our friends will bring the gains of ballet to the stage as dance. They have created really good works,” he said, noting that dancers would thus be able to continue dancing until their retirement.

“If this system is applied in all operas and ballets, then we can get rid of the statements ‘ballet dancers are paid without working until the age of 65.’ This is why this should be implemented in other operas and ballets. Then we can have a good team that can perform dance and theater for more 25 years,” the ADOB head said.

Erdoğan also said they would also give symphonic concerts with the DOB orchestra. “We see this season as a trial process and plan to make it a routine starting next year.” He said that in order to increase audience numbers, they would organize regular shows in universities and provinces in Ankara’s vicinity. “We want to perform the works that we have previously staged but then removed from the repertoire. In this way, we want to achieve a 25 percent increase in the number of viewers by the end of the year.”

Erdoğan also called on officials to build the world’s largest opera building in a similar fashion to how they were building the self-declared world’s largest airport in northern Istanbul.

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Classical music season opens in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The Borusan Philharmonic Orchestra (BIPO) opens its 2014-2015 season today. The city will welcome world-famous figures of classical music until the beginning of summer next year.

The new season opens tonight with one of the stellar performers of the opera world: Juan Diego Flórez. He will present a selection of arias that cemented Flórez’s outstanding career to the point of being Pavarotti’s only heir is a promise of another musical wonder.

2014 was the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss, the creator of compositions. Having paid tribute to the great composer last season, the orchestra will present on Nov. 6 another evening comprising of three of the composer’s favorite works. The soloist will be Georgian soprano Iano Tamar.

On Nov. 20, a “Special Concert” will be organized to provide funds for the Borusan Kocabıyık Foundation Music Scholarship. The concert will invite veteran theater actor Ali Poyrazoğlu as the guest conductor. He will take the world-famous story of Little Prince to the stage with Rachel Portman’s music and Nicholas Wright’s libretto.

BIPO’s New Year’s Concert will be a not-to-miss musical feast, even for the not-so-avid fans of classical music in Istanbul. Scheduled on Jan. 8, 2015, the program will start with a Christmas night’s tale and extend to joyful love stories. After Strauss’s merry Zigeunerbaron Overture, the “Flower Waltz” from Tchaikovsky’s evergreen Nutcracker and again Strauss’s Rosenkavalier Suite will be performed under the baton of Sascha Goetzel.

The new year will continue with Piano duo Ufuk and Bahar Dördüncü. In the concert on Feb. 19, 2015, their first meeting with BIPO will shine with Britten’s Scottish Ballad and Takemitsu’s “Quotation of Dream.”

Feb. 26, 2015 will feature a first from BIPO in years. A baroque evening titled “BIPO Goes Baroque” will feature BIPO’s concertmaster Pelin Halkacı Akın as the soloist. Performing in prestigious venues of Europe either as a soloist or an orchestra member, Akın continues her brilliant career with concerts around Turkey and as an instructor. She particularly assumes responsibility in championing works of contemporary and 20th-century Turkish composers in her concerts and master-classes.

An evening of Haydn’s choral masterpiece, “The Seasons” will be performed by BIPO, the amazing Salzburg Bach Choir, Sweden’s latest and precious gift to the opera world soprano Miah Persson, almost a living legend in his own right, the outstanding Ian Bostridge and the rising baritone Mark Stone on March 12, 2015.

Grammy-winning pianist and composer Michel Camilo will revisit Istanbul on March 19, 2015. Camilo combines an original rhythmic texture with harmony with inspiration from his native Dominican Republic. He will perform his “Piano Concerto.”

The month of April will host U.K. pianist Arcadi Volodos who will take the stage on April 9. U.K. baritone Bryn Terfel will be in the city on April 16. The great opera star will share the stage with young harpist Hannah Stone. Also, Julian Rachlin, a performer the Istanbul audience knows very well, will join forces with BIPO on April 20.

BIPO’s 2015 tribute concert for Leyla Gencer will be very special and memorable with American soprano Latonia Moore as the lead. After an unexpected and triumphant debut at The Metropolitan Opera in March 2012, replacing Violeta Urmana as Aida, she has become associated with this role, reprising it in leading opera houses. Mezzo-soprano Stella Grigorian, tenor Carlo Ventre and baritone George Gagnidze will be on the stage for Gencer on May 14.

The Rudolf Buchbinder recital series at the Süreyya Opera House in the 2013–2014 season was a first and was met with great interest. So Borusan Sanat scheduled world-famous pianist Hüseyin Sermet.

All concerts will take place at the Lütfi Kırdar International Congress and Exhibition Center, starting at 8 p.m.

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Malaysian businesspersons express interest in Gayo coffee

16 October 2014 Banda Aceh (ANTARA News) — A number of businesspersons from Pinang Island in Malaysia have expressed interest in Gayo coffee and are looking to import the commodity to the country.

The industrialists wish to establish cooperation with the administration of Aceh and local business players to import the product to Malaysia.

“We hope to establish cooperation with the administration and local businesspersons so we can import Gayo coffee to Malaysia. We are aware of how well-known this coffee is worldwide,” a legislative member of Pinang Island, Muhammad Farid Saad, said here on Thursday.

Moreover, a delegation of Malaysian businesspersons has met with the administration of Aceh to discuss the investment.

Saad noted that several coffee companies in Pinang Islands were interested to directly buy the coffee produced by farmers in Bener Meriah district, Central Aceh, and Gayo Lues.

One of the companies interested in Gayo coffee is Hang Tuah Coffee, the largest coffee producer in Malaysia, Saad said.

“Hang Tuah has a permit from the Pinang Island Kingdom to import 1,000 tons of coffee per year. However, we only export 80 tons of coffee per year,” he stated.

In keeping with this, the administration of Aceh will soon sign an agreement with the coffee company on the export-import deal.

Furthermore, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on seaport was signed between Pinang Island businessman Muhammad Sabre Bin Abdullah from Orbit Shipping Sdn. Bhd., and Indonesian businessman T Zulkiram Hanafiah from Pandu Buana Nusantara.

“We hope the seaports in Aceh will be integrated with the ones in Pinang Island in accordance with the MoU,” Saad remarked.

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Indonesia to soon become trendsetter in Islamic fashion

16 October 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Deputy Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Sapta Nirwandar expressed optimism that Indonesia will soon become a trendsetter in Islamic fashion, as its designers are capable of creating unique and creative works of fashion.

“I am optimistic that Indonesia will be the worlds Muslim fashion trendsetter by 2020,” Sapta claimed here on Thursday.

He affirmed that there is a high likelihood of Indonesia becoming a Muslim fashion trendsetter by 2020 as its designs are in demand among the fashion communities around the world.

He cited the name of one of the Indonesian designers, Dian Pelangi, who was lately successful in holding a fashion show themed, “Washington Haute and Modesty” in DC Fashion Week, Washington DC, the United States.

“Indonesian designs are unique as they are inspired by the traditional cultures,” Sapta pointed out.

According to him, if Indonesia gains recognition as the Muslim fashion trendsetter, it will have a positive impact on the economic growth of the fashion industry and tourism sector as there will be many more foreigners visiting Indonesia to keep abreast of the latest trends in Islamic fashion.

“Fashion is a soft power to introduce Indonesia through the creative industry,” Sapta stated, adding that fashion is one of the 19 leading sub-sectors of the countrys creative industry.

In 2013, the fashion industry contributed Rp181.57 trillion, or about US$1.4 billion. This amount was 28.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of the creative economy, which amounted to Rp641.8 trillion, or about US$5.3 billion.

The fashion industry in Indonesia provides jobs to 3.8 million people or 32.3 percent of the total workforce employed in the creative economy sector, which is 11.8 million.

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Indonesia to nominate seven tourism sites as world heritage

13 October 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Education and Culture Ministry will nominate seven Indonesian tourism sites to be included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCOs) world heritage list, noted Cultural Diplomacy Affairs Director Diah Harianti.

She further stated here on Monday that the seven sites to be nominated for the world heritage status are the old city area in Jakarta province, the old city area in Central Java province, Sangkulirang in East Kalimantan, the Buddhist Temple in Jambi, and three other sites located in West Sumatra, South Sulawesi, and Maluku each.

“We are preparing all the aspects, which can be used to strengthen our argument and get these seven sites acknowledged as world heritage,” emphasized Diah.

In the meantime, UNESCOs Assistant Programme Specialist Kaori Kawakami noted that according to past case studies, there were some factors that should be considered before acknowledging any tourism site as world heritage.

Among the deciding factors are management planning of the sites (70 percent), housing (37 percent), tourism effect and the number of visitors (25.7 percent), legal standing (24 percent), and transportation to the site (23 percent).

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Egypt Tourism Minister Meets China-Arab Exchange Association Team

Egypt State Information Service – 17 October 2014 – Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou has met with a delegation of “China Arab Times” newspaper, which is issued by the China-Arab exchange association within the framework of its issue under the title: “Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi”.

This comes within the framework of a number of media meetings by the minister with major international newspapers and news agencies with the purpose of promoting the Egyptian tourism in preparation for the coming winter season.

During his meeting with the Chinese delegation, the minister stressed that the Egyptian government gives priority to securing the Chinese tourists and all touristic destinations in the country. He referred to the government’s relentless efforts for restoration of stability and security.

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Nigeria: Arik Air Introduces Loyalty Programme

This Day – 12 October 2014 – Arik Air has launched a frequent flyer programme allowing members to earn miles on all its flights. Membership of Arik Affinity Wings is free and automatically comes with 1,000 bonus miles and benefits including extra baggage allowance, lounge access and priority check-in.

Miles can be redeemed to fly to any destination served by the Nigerian carrier, upgrade tickets and make payments for excess baggage. Entry membership level is Affinity Wings Pearl, then Bronze, Silver and Gold as Affinity points are built-up. Each level comes with increased benefits.

Dr Michael Arumemi-Ikhide, Arik Air’s global CEO, said: “We are delighted to be able to rewards the loyalty of our customers by offering a frequent flyer program. Affinity Wings is just one in a long line of upgrades to our customer offering and we plan on announcing a number of additional benefits to the program over the coming months.”

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Uganda: Holiday in Uganda

East African Business Week – 12 October 2014 – Kampala — The ‘Holiday in Uganda’ Expo that was launched in Kampala recently, is an attempt to revitalise tourism for both locals and foreign visitors.

Speaking at the launch, Priscilla Butagura, the Chairperson Holiday in Uganda Expo said there is need to motivate Ugandans to travel around their country and this inspired the idea for the expo.

She said, “The expo was meant to encourage domestic tourism targeting Ugandans and foreigners. We should not only wait for visitors, but also view ourselves as potential and actual consumers of tourism. Domestic tourism is an educational process for the environment since it plays a big role in influencing public view point,” she said.

Some of the initiatives the Expo has come up with include the ‘Home stays’ a feature which will see foreign tourists stay in peoples homes and absorb themselves in different aspects of Uganda’s cultures and ways of doing things.

According to John Ssebowa, the deputy Executive officer at the Uganda Tourism Board said promoting Domestic Tourism can revitalize the sectors potential to generate more resources instead of depending on the international visitors Semppebwa urged Uganda sto develop the spirit of visiting the country’s Tourism sites saying this will enable the sector to generate more revenues but also to create more Jobs to the ordinary people in the rural areas .

He said as the Government Chief marketing Agency for the tourism sector , UTB will is committed to promote the country’s Tourism sector by marketing both the National parks and cultural as Tourism destination for Uganda. We have stated with the Imbalu in Bugishu region as UTB we are going to market that culture to see that it attract more tourists like the National parks in the country”

He challenged all Ugandans to promote Domestic Tourism by coming up with products that can be marketed by the Government ,he noted that Government is willing to work with the private sector in promoting both the local content and the international one in the tourism Sector

“As Government we are working day and night to see that all obstacles that may hinder domestic tourism is eliminated that is why Government is opening all access roads across the country to enable easy movement of both international and local tourist, apart from the Roads the Government has tried to see that all negative forces that have been operating in the country are wiped out that is why our next destination in promoting tourism will be Northern Uganda because the place is safe but with a lot of tourism attractions “He explained about Government commitments.

In way of promoting Domestic Tourism Government has come with various platform through which Ugandans can be brought on board to appreciate Domestic tourism one of the platforms include the Miss Uganda Tourism pageant.

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Egyptian Tourism Is Recovering – Minister

Egypt State Information Service – 15 October 2014 – Minister of Tourism Hisham said on Tuesday that Egyptian tourism is recovering.

At a meeting with a visiting British MPs delegation, the minister said the winter season will see more tourists coming to Egypt given political and security stability the country now enjoys.

He hailed the efforts exerted by his ministry and the Tourist Promotion Authority to revive the tourist movement to Egypt, which has backtracked over the past three years.

Zaazou also highlighted security measures adopted by the concerned authorities in tourist sites in the country.

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Gambia: Tourism a Window of Investment Opportunities

The Point – 15 October 2014 – The architects of the international Tourism Investment Forum slated to be held in The Gambia from tomorrow 16 to 18 October 2014 have knocked a right key to opening the door to investments in the country.

Tourism is one veritable source of investment opportunities in any country and its tentacles are spread to many other sectors of economic gain for a nation, such as energy, agriculture, ICT, fisheries and other productive and real sectors of indispensable services.

The forum, to kick-start tomorrow, will look at what there are in tourism, but as the director for investment promotion and facilitation at the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) said, the objective of the forum is generally to create awareness of investment opportunities in the country.

As international participants from various countries join our local investors and entrepreneurs in The Gambia, it is vital to place our cards on the table for them to see the opportunities awaiting them in the Smiling Coast of Africa.

As a first port of call, the tourism sector in The Gambia possesses great opportunities that can be exploited by both international and local investors.

There are also the sectors such as agriculture, energy, light manufacturing, fisheries, ICT and other services. These and many more, such as Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises are weaved with superb business-friendly incentives by GIEPA that ought not to be missed by any potential investors.

Some of the red carpets of GIEPA are tax holiday, tariff and sales tax incentives,export promotion incentives, zone investor incentives, and SME support.

So there are several windows of opportunities for investors to tap from in The Gambia, hence we encourage stakeholders in the tourism sector such as the Gambia Tourism Board and GIEPA to keep pushing and to place the candle on the lamp stand so that all those who come to The Gambia, and even those watching from outside, would see the light and all the goods of the Smiling Coast of Africa.

“Great investors need to have the right combination of intuition, business sense and investment talent.”

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Egypt Tops List of Polish Tourist Destinations

Egypt State Information Service – 16 October 2014 – Egypt has topped the list of Polish tourist destinations, according to a report by the association of Polish travel agencies.

Ambitious efforts of the Egyptian Tourism Ministry earned the country the lead in terms of promoting the flow of Polish tourists.

Egypt’s Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh and Marsa Allam topped world tourist destinations preferred by the Polish people.

Egypt’s Ambassador to Poland Reda Baibars said security and political stability in Egypt have greatly contributed to the increase of flow of Polish tourists.

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Tourists to get e-visa to Azerbaijan via travel agencies

17 October 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Milli Majlis (Parliament) of Azerbaijan adopted a bill Oct.17, according to which foreign tourists will be able to receive e-visa to Azerbaijan through travel agencies. It is planned to make changes to the law “On tourism”.

Under the bill, foreigners and persons without citizenship will be able to apply directly to the tourist agencies of Azerbaijan, which have been accredited in the relevant executive authorities in order to receive e-visa, or to travel agencies of their country, which are partners of Azerbaijani companies.

Terms of stay in the country with a visa will be 30 days. The tourist visa formalization will require documents specified in Azerbaijan’s Migration Code, as well as a travel voucher or a pass, passenger ticket, and others.

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Azerbaijan continues integration into int’l transport system

16 October 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan, located at the intersection of international transport corridors such as East-West and North-South and with a favorable geographical position is taking further steps in the road of development.

This was noted in a message by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev addressed to the participants of an international conference titled “Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line – new opportunities in the development of the Silk Road”, held in Baku on October 16.

The president’s message was read out by Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Abid Sharifov.

President Aliyev said Azerbaijan is developing transport services, creating modern infrastructure, improving transport management mechanisms and expanding integration into the international transport system.

He also noted the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line will be put into operation in the near future.

“This railway junction is effective from an economic point of view, stable, secure and fully complies with environmental standards,” the message said. “It means the beginning of a new stage in the transport development. This railway line will expand the multi-modal transportation opportunities and ensure the growth of passenger and freight transportation.”

President Aliyev went on adding that a state-of-the-art ferry terminal of the Baku Sea Port has already started working.

“The port will be ready for commissioning in 2015,” the message said. “Its cargo transportation capacity will be gradually increased to 25 million metric tons and one million containers per year. Creating such infrastructure is a contribution to the development of trade and transit transportation between Asia and Europe along the Silk Road route, as well as more efficient use of transport and transit potential of the Caspian region.”

President Aliyev said the conference held with the participation of representatives of various countries and international organizations, creates broad opportunities for discussing the relevant transport issues, as well as expanding business contacts and exchanging experience.

“I hope that the discussions to be held at the conference will encourage the development of the Europe-Caucasus-Asia corridor, promotion and implementation of new initiatives at the international and regional levels,” the message said.

In his remarks Azerbaijan’s Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov said Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project is open for the participation of other countries.

Mammadov said the countries interested in this project can join the trilateral intergovernmental agreement signed between Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia in 2007.

Azerbaijan plans to complete the implementation of the project in 2015 and to launch a test work train by late 2014. The transport minister also added after three years of operation of the railway, the volume of cargo transportation via this railway is expected to hit three million metric tons, while after five and ten years of operation, this figure is expected to exceed five million metric tons and 10 million metric tons, respectively.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is a regional rail link project that connects Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. The total length of the project is 826 kilometers (about 513 miles).

Azerbaijan has allocated a $775 million loan to the construction of the Georgian section of the railway.

Financed by Azerbaijan’s state oil fund SOFAZ, the project has been implemented after Azerbaijan’s President issued a decree on the ‘Implementation of measures within the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project’, on February 21, 2007.

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Anglo-Australians Show New Face of Islam

OnIslam & News Agencies Monday, 13 October 2014 SYDNEY – An Australian TV program has offered a new face for the Muslim community, presenting Sydney blue-eyed reverts as a new side to Islam people may not hear about.

“I’m a proud Aboriginal Australian Muslim. It’s a profound quietness when I pray and when I connect with God. I’ve never had that up until I embraced Islam,” Sarah, an Anglo blue-eyed Australian woman, told SBS program The Feed on Monday, October 13.

“I hear of all the atrocities that are happening overseas and I pick up my Qur’an which is my life guide. There is nothing in there about torturing people, conflict and fighting,” she added.

Sarah, who sees herself as a proud Aboriginal and a Muslim, says she is the same Sarah she was three years ago before choosing Islam. The only change is her headscarf.

Growing up in the bible belt of the New South Wales (NSW) hills district, which has highest Christian church attendance in the country, Sarah took a long time to find Islam.

She revealed how she researched, read books and watched lectures online and has never been happier with the decision she took while studying psychology at university.

“My message to Australians who will watch this story and who are afraid of me is we’re not that different,” she said. “I’m an Australian. I bleed red, I have hair but this is how I choose to live my life. I’m the exact same. I just have a scarf on.”

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.

In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned. The anti-Muslim sentiments further increased following last month’s anti-terror raids, deemed the biggest in Australian history, in which 15 people were arrested from north-western Sydney.

For another Sydney man, Luke, the true Islam is not that propagated in the media. It is what gives him peace in his life. “What goes on around the world or what’s going on within Australia I don’t think that skews my judgment of what Islam really is because I feel I know better,” he said. “I feel I know the true Islam and that’s what gives me peace.”

The Feed reporter Patrick Abboud said his program was driven by a wish to show the life of Australians who choose to revert to Islam.

“I wanted to see the reality for Anglo-Australians who had converted,” he said. “It’s an element of the Islamic community which isn’t talked about.”

For him, Sarah presented Anglo-Australians who choose to revert to Islam for reasons other than marriage. “Sarah is Aboriginal-Australian with blue eyes and white skin. She shops at Bondi. She loves the beach. She’s as Australian as they come” Abboud said.

He added converting has been a very positive experience for Sarah whose indigenous grandfather has accepted whole heatedly, having seen a dramatic difference in her.

The case was not the same for Luke whose family struggled to accept his decision. President of the Australian New Muslims Association tells The Feed it is seeing around 3-4 converts a week, of which Anglo-Australians make up the majority.

“With the current situation we are in now you get the feeling that people are looking at you differently as if you’re one of the enemy now. We asking the wider community to get to know what Islam is all about,” Said Kanawati said.

“Build those bridges. Remove the fear. I don’t want to see my religion dragged through the mud nor do I want to see my fellow Australian scared of me or my wife or my children so I’m doing this for the future.”

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Iran holds coffee, cocoa industries exhibition

Tue Oct 14, 2014 – PressTV – The 3rd exhibition of International Coffee, Cocoa and Related Industries has opened in Tehran’s Milad Tower, Press TV has reported.

A number of Iranian and foreign leading representatives in the industry and remarkable companies from seven different countries have flocked to the exhibition kicked off on October 13.

The participated companies are from countries such as Italy, Poland, Malaysia, Greece and Turkey. The companies displayed their latest technology in the industry as well as their various products.

Different machines and equipment for producing and processing coffee and cocoa have been put on display.

Several instructors in coffee making and experts in coffee and cocoa were invited to the event. Some training sessions paralleled with international standards in the related fields are to be held on the sidelines of the exhibit.

The international festival and exhibition of coffee and cocoa industries is the biggest coffee event in Iran. The 3rd exhibition of International Coffee, Cocoa and Related Industries is scheduled to run until October 17.

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Cultural section of Museum of Egyptian Civilization open until Nov

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 13 Oct 2014 – Al-Ahram – Following a three-year hiatus, the cultural section of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), located at the Al-Fustat area overlooking Ain Al-Sira Lake, is to open at the end of November, announced antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty on Monday. The minister made his announcement during his tour around the museum’s different sections to inspect the work being achieved to complete the long-awaited NMEC.

Khaled El-Enany director general of the NMEC told Ahram Online that the cultural section includes a two-story theatre and lecture and conference halls well equipped with state-of-the-art projectors, media, sound and lighting systems. A collection of 42 shops, cafeterias and restaurants with a serving capacity of 500 people will also be part of the section.

El-Enany explains that this section is to be open not only to announce to the world that the NMEC is on its way to see the light of day but also to create a source of fundraising in an attempt to spruce up the required work needed to complete the third and final phase of the project.

He went on to say that the shops, cafeterias and restaurants would sell souvenirs, handicrafts, and books on topics such as history, arts, and archaeology. A parking lot with a capacity of 450 cars and 55 buses will also be built.

The NMEC’s high-tech laboratories and storehouse are to be also inaugurated. The storehouse, El-Enany said, is the first to be built in Egypt and is similar to the ones at the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London. The labs will be dedicated to the examination and restoration of human remains and organic materials.

The three-phase construction of the 33 feddans at NMEC started in 2002 by laying down its pyramid-shaped foundation stone. The first phase, which was completed in 2004, included the construction of the laboratories and storehouse. The second phase started immediately afterward and constructed the building itself as well as the cultural centre.

According to the museum’s timeline schedule the NMEC was meant to open in 2011 but was postponed as a result of the January revolution as tourism declined.

In 2012 work resumed at the NMEC but at a slower pace, succeeding in completing the cultural section, which is to be inaugurated to public in November.

The NMEC is to put a collection of 150,000 artefacts relating to Egypt’s civilisations along the span of history on display. These artefacts were carefully selected from museums and archaeological sites in Egypt.

It will also house a set of monuments, among them are the Seboua Temple of Ramses II – now on Lake Nasser; a complete façade of a Fatimid sabil, two columns from King Djoser’s temple at Saqqara, the collection of royal mummies, and the mummy of the ancient Egyptian artist Sanejem which is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. The River Nile, handwriting, handicrafts, society and faith are the five main outdoor component themes of the new museum.

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Meidum Pyramid site under restoration in Upper Egypt

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 16 Oct 2014 – Al-Ahram – Antiquities minister Mamdouh El-Damaty embarked on Thursday on an inspection tour around the different archaeological sites and monuments in the upper Egyptian city of Beni Suef escorted by the city’s governor Magdi El-Batiti and Youssef Khalifa, head of the ancient Egyptian section.

The area of Meidum Pyramid was the first site to be visited. During the tour, El-Damaty announced that a comprehensive restoration project is to begin immediately to make the site more tourist friendly.

The development project will include the establishment of a sound and light show on the ancient history of Beni Suef and the construction work of Meidum pyramid.

A new lighting system powered by solar energy is to be installed as well as a visitor’s centre equipped with a cinema, bookstore, gift shops and cafeteria. El-Damaty also gave the go ahead for the ministry’s excavation works at Ehnasia site to conduct further exploration in addition to the restoration project that is already underway. The site is to be developed into an open-air museum.

The Meidum pyramid consists of large mud-break mastabas which were originally built for the last third dynasty king Huni. Construction continued during the reign of his successor King Senefru.

The architect who continued Meidum construction was the successor to well-known ancient Egyptian architect Imotep, who built the Djoser step pyramid. However, the modification made Imotep’s design and attempts to extend the structure led to its partial collapse.

The Arab historian Al-Maqrizi described the Meidum pyramid during his visit to Egypt in the 15th century AD, as “looking like a five-stepped mountain.” However, in 1788 during Napoleon Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt, French explorers observed only three of its mastabas.

“The unusual appearance of Meidum pyramid led to Beni Suef inhabitants calling it Al-Haram Al-Kadam (Pseudo Pyramid),” Khalifa told Ahram Online.

Khalifa added that the Meidum pyramid originally consisted of several mastabas connected to each other to give it the pyramid shape, the ancient Egyptians filled the gaps between every mastaba with limestone casing.

During the 19th century British Egyptologist Flinders Pertrie, succeeded in locating the ruins of the pyramid’s mortuary temple. The temple is 65 metres high, and its entrance is aligned north-south, with the entrance in the north, 20 metres above present ground level. The steep descending 57 metre-passage leads to another horizontal passage, just below the original ground level that then leads to a vertical shaft 10 metres high which finishes at the corbelled burial chamber itself. The chamber is unlikely to have been used for any burials.

Neighbouring the pyramid complex is the mastaba tomb of an unknown noble. It has a spacious burial chamber and hallway, and contains the first example of a red granite sarcophagus.

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Jeddah Municipality to seek vote on market design

Arab News – 16 October, 2014 – Jeddah Municipality has recently taken the initiative to build a central fish market in the historic Balad district in downtown Jeddah which will serve both as a market and a tourist destination for visitors to the area.

Hani Abu Ras, Jeddah Mayor said in a statement: “The Jeddah Municipality is intending to build a state-of-the art complex which will house the fish market and also serve as a leading commercial center in the city.” He added that the central fish market built to world standards will be located near the Municipality and will also be a tourist destination for residents and visitors.

He stated that the new complex will be built over an area of 37,000 sq. meters on the land where the old fish market is located.

In a bid to involve citizens in the building of the new fish market the municipality has launched a unique feature of having the public vote for a design proposed for the central fish market which will not only be a hub for marine products but will also serve as a large commercial center with recreational activities.

“The public can now vote for their favorite design among three selected designs for the Central Fish market in Jeddah,” the mayor announced on Wednesday.

He said that so far the municipality had registered 3000 votes from Jeddah’s residents but wanted more people to participate in finalizing the design.

The images and video clippings can be viewed on Jeddah Municipality’s website http://www.jeddah.gov.sa/Amanah/Projects/FishMarketVote/index.php and visitors can also use the link to vote for their favorite design. Voting is open until Oct. 19 (Sunday).

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Bahrain’s investment potential showcased

Gulf Daily News – 16 October, 2014 – Bahrain’s belief in the importance of investments and its outstanding ability to attract them is affirmed through events like the Invest in Bahrain 2014 Forum, Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa said yesterday.

He was speaking during the opening of the ninth annual edition of the forum at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Shaikh Mohammed said the kingdom was an apt destination for diverse investments given its business-friendly environment, with laws and regulatory systems that protect investors and guarantee their sustainability. He was deputised by Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa to open the forum organised by the Industry and Commerce Ministry.

More than 1,200 business leaders and potential investors attended the event, which featured presentations on 56 investment opportunities in the metal, plastics, glass panelling, aluminium and other small and medium industries worth a total of $ 1 billion.

Earlier, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro, said since 2000, Bahrain’s gross domestic product (GDP) has expanded by 80 per cent. Employment has grown by 130pc and exports have grown significantly, with revenue from non-oil exports growing by 229pc, he added.

According to the minister, real GDP growth for the year is expected to be around 4pc.

‘The manufacturing sector has seen an increase of 4.7pc last year with total investment in the sector reaching around $ 1bn last year,’ Dr Fakhro said.

A total of $ 18bn has been invested in the kingdom’s manufacturing sector over the last decade, which amounts to 55pc of the GDP, the minister said.

The Bahrain International Investment Park in Salman Industrial City has attracted $ 2bn in just a few years, of which about 85pc is direct foreign investment, he said.

Federation of GCC Chambers chairman Shaikh Khalifa bin Jassim Al Thani, who also spoke during the opening session, said the federation was actively working towards the application and activation of decrees and decisions relating to Gulf citizenship, the Gulf Common Market and the Customs Union.

Citing data from the Central Informatics Organisation, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Khalid Almoayed said 45pc of Bahrain’s GDP is attributed to the private sector active in areas such as manufacturing, transport, trade, real estate, services, and finance.

The private sector’s participation in not-for’“profit projects initiated by the public sector amounted to 73pc, he said.

Gulf Organisation for Industrial Consulting secretary-general Abdul Aziz bin Hamad Al Aqeel said Bahrain-based opportunities in ferric chloride, chlorine dioxide (powder), ultrafiltration membrane filter and sodium hypochlorite as well as case studies on fibreglass plastic and the metals sector would be presented by its experts during the forum.

Central Bank of Bahrain executive director of financial institutions supervision Abdul Rahman Al Baker also spoke at the forum.

He said Bahrain’s financial sector has become one of the largest sectors contributing to the national economy, as the percentage of its contribution reached approximately 17pc of GDP in the second quarter this year.

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Omani Dates festival kicks off in Nizwa

Oman Daily Observer – 16 October, 2014 – The second Omani Dates Festival opened yestereday under the auspices of Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs, at Nizwa Market (Souq) Square. The festival is organised by the Public Authority for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (PADSME), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Arabian Gate Expo, with the participation of 60 participants from all governorates of the Sultanate of producers, manufacturers and farmers of Omani dates and sponsors.

The opening ceremony was attended by Shaikh Dr Khalifa bin Hamad al Sa’adi, Governor of Dakhiliyah, Shaikh Hamad bin Salim al Aghbari Wali of Nizwa, officials, institutions and government departments in the governorate. The minister said that the festival enjoys wide participation and great interest from various sectors, especially the owners of factories and producers of dates and date manufacturing institutions.

He added that we have seen a marked improvement by increasing the number and diversity of projects in date products, pointing to the importance of the continuation of the festival and to be the first for some new participants, and they continue in the same eagerness and resolution and wider participation in the coming times in terms of the diversity in products, production and marketing, particularly in light of encouragement and support from PADSME.

The festival targets the producers, manufacturers and farmers of Omani dates and government agencies in showcasing their services for dates sector and the sponsoring companies to publicise the Omani dates, and to provide a permanent market for them, in addition to marketing to the Gulf States.

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Oman Air boosts business class services

Oman Tribune – 16 October, 2014 – Oman Air has announced introduction of business class cabins to four of its most popular east-bound routes.

Customers are now able to enjoy Oman Air’s comfortable, stylish and award-winning business class service on flights from the airline’s home base of Muscat to Kozhikode, Lucknow and Jaipur in India and Chittagong in Bangladesh from October 1. Oman Air operates Boeing B737s on all routes to the sub-continent. In response to phenomenal demand, it earlier offered only economy class cabins to Calicut, Lucknow, Jaipur and Chittagong.

However, the continued growth of India’s dynamic economy has seen demand for business class seats on these routes steadily increase and it is now clear that the introduction of premium seats will be greeted enthusiastically by customers. In addition to business travellers, the routes meet the needs of leisure and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) air travellers. Oman Air’s routes to the sub-continent are some of its longest-established international services, laying the foundations for the airline’s subsequent expansion into the long haul sector.

That expansion has seen Oman Air introduce routes to Europe, South East Asia and East Africa. In parallel with the expansion of its network, Oman Air has raised the bar for premium travel.

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Investments in Saudi travel and tourism to hit SR150bn in 2014

Arab News – 16 October, 2014 – Inbound tourism is a major contributor to Saudi Arabia’s commercial and economic dynamism. Industry observers project investments in Saudi travel and tourism to stand at SR150 billion in 2014 wherein SR50 billion would come from domestic tourism and SR100 billion from inbound tourism.

Saudi domestic tourism has grown significantly of late, whereby spending soared from SR59 billion in 2010 to SR103 billion in 2014 thereby becoming an economic generator that can be included in the list of sustainable investment opportunities.

Investments in the hotel and hotel apartment sectors are also projected to reach more than SR95 billion over the next ten years.

Tourism, especially in connection with Haj and Umrah, is a major source of revenue in Saudi Arabia and an economy mainstay because of the distinctive religious features that makes the Kingdom stand out among all countries worldwide; the two holy mosques and other holy sites to which millions of Muslims flock from different parts of the world to perform Haj and Umrah throughout the year.

Since the Umrah season started this year, the number of Umrah pilgrims stood at over 7 million by the month of Ramadan 1435H. The availability of the required infrastructure has boosted growth opportunities in Haj and Umrah services coupled with other amenities that help develop the industry.

The number of pilgrims, which stood at 2 million in 2013, is expected to increase to 5.2 million by 2025. The increase in the number of pilgrims partly depends on an increase in facilities such as the expansion of the airport in Jeddah, which is expected to accommodate 80 million people by 2035.

The current plans to extend the northwestern and northeastern parts of the holy mosque will help to accommodate over 2.5 million people. The Prophet’s Mosque will also be expanded to accommodate between 600,000 and 1.6 million people once completed by 2040.

Anees Moumina, CEO, SEDCO Holding Group, said: “Investments are undoubtedly projected to increase in the coming period, including the construction of 100 hotel towers worth SR18 billion close to the holy mosque in Makkah, which will add 24,480 hotel rooms in Makkah alone. This approach to development confirms that the Kingdom’s tourism industry has become a major source of revenue — in line with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s vision of enabling around the year Umrah.”

Hotels largely dominate the hospitality industry in Makkah, accounting for 96 percent of all accommodation.

Elaf, a major company in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, especially in Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah, intends to implement expansion plans in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries by 2015.

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Flydubai planning first sukuk by end of 2014

Khaleej Times – 16 October, 2014 – The Dubai carrier on Wednesday confirmed to Khaleej Times that it’s in talks with advisers for a potential bond issuance, but didn’t provide further details about its time frame and size of the bond.

“As part of the diversification of our financial strategy, we are in discussion with our advisers to explore the possibility of issuing a bond and we will continue to explore all financing options available to us,” the carrier said in a statement.

Flydubai has mandated Credit Agricole CIB, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, HSBC, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Noor Bank and Standard Chartered to arrange a potential debut sukuk issue, Reuters reported, quoting two sources. The mandate runs for six months, but leads are hoping to complete the preparations within two months to give the issuer the option of launching the deal this year.

The consortium secured the mandate after the carrier asked banks to group together and bid for the right to arrange the deal, a source with knowledge of the matter revealed.

A separate grouping of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, BNP Paribas, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Gulf International Bank and JP Morgan also bid, added the source, who declined to be named as the information was not public. Earlier this year, flydubai chief financial officer Mukesh Sodani, during a conference, indicated that the airline would look to raise funds through a bond issue and was considering a sukuk option.

The airline is aiming for a benchmark-sized offer in 2015, funds from which would be used for the company’s general operating expenses as well as to fund some of its aircraft deliveries, Sodani had said. Benchmark size is traditionally understood to mean upwards of $ 500 million.

Flydubai’s net profit for 2013 jumped by 47 per cent to Dh222.8 million. The airline generated Dh3.7 billion revenue and carried 6.82 million passengers last year. Flydubai has launched 23 new routes so far in 2014. The carrier has built up a fleet of 40 new aircraft and will take delivery of more than 100 aircraft by the end of 2023.

The airline offers affordable and reliable travel to 86 destinations across 45 countries. With the airline’s strategic base at Dubai International Airport, passengers can also benefit from flydubai’s interline agreements with other carriers, providing opportunities for onward travel to more than 200 destinations.

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Qatar, UAE, Saudi to help Mideast aviation fly high: IATA

Gulf Times – 17 October, 2014 – Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia will be the key drivers of Middle East’s air passenger market, which IATA said will grow strongly by an average 4.9% and see extra 237mn passengers a year on routes to, from and within the region by 2034.

The UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia will all enjoy strong growth of 5.6%, 4.8%, and 4.6% respectively. The total market size will be 383mn passengers.

In its first ever 20-year passenger growth forecast International Air Transport Association (IATA) yesterday projected that passenger numbers were expected to reach 7.3bn by 2034. That represents a 4.1% average annual growth in demand for air connectivity that will result in more than a doubling of the 3.3bn passengers expected to travel this year.

Among the highlights of the report is the expectation that China will overtake the US as the world’s largest passenger market (defined by traffic to, from and within) by 2030. Both markets, however, are expected to remain the largest by a wide margin.

In 2034 flights to, from and within China will account for some 1.3bn passengers, 856mn more than 2014 with an average annual growth rate of 5.5%. Traffic to, from and within the US is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate of 3.2% that will see 1.2bn passengers by 2034 (559mn more than 2014).

The report, the first from the new IATA Passenger Forecasting service, produced in association with Tourism Economics, analyses passenger flows across 4,000 country pairs for the next 20 years, forecasting passenger numbers by way of three key demand drivers: living standards, population and demographics, and price and availability.

By 2034, the five fastest-increasing markets in terms of additional passengers a year will be China (856mn new passengers a year), the US (559mn), India (266mn), Indonesia (183mn) and Brazil (170mn).

Eight of the ten fastest-growing markets in percentage terms will be in Africa with Central African Republic, Madagascar, Tanzania, Burundi and Kuwait making up the five fastest-growing markets.

In terms of country-pairs, Asian and South American destinations will see the fastest growth, reflecting economic and demographic growth in those markets. Intra-Pakistan, Kuwait-Thailand, UAE-Ethiopia, Colombia-Ecuador and intra-Honduras travel will all grow by at least 9.5% on average for the next 20 years, while Indonesia-East Timor will be the fastest growing pair of all, at 14.9%, IATA said.

“It is an exciting prospect to think that in the next 20 years more than twice as many passengers as today will have the chance to fly. Air connectivity on this scale will help transform economic opportunities for millions of people. At present, aviation helps sustain 58mn jobs and $ 2.4tn in economic activity. In 20 years’ time we can expect aviation to be supporting around 105mn jobs and $ 6tn in GDP,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

While improving living standards, population and demographics, and price and availability create the conditions for improved demand, there is potential for policy-induced obstacles to hinder the development of connectivity.

“Meeting the potential demand will require government policies that support the economic benefits that growing connectivity makes possible. Airlines can only fly where there is infrastructure to accommodate them.

“People can only fly as long as ticket taxes don’t price them out of their seats. And air connectivity can only thrive when nations open their skies and their markets. It’s a virtuous circle. Growing connectivity stimulates economies. And healthy economies demand greater connectivity. The message of this forecast is that there is great potential if all aviation stakeholders—including governments—play their role,” said Tyler.

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Unified tourist visa system in GCC likely

The Peninsula – 17 October, 2014 – GCC countries plan to start their much-touted joint tourist visa system by first targeting expatriates as beneficiaries.

This will be done on an experimental basis for security reasons and later, nationals of some 35 countries, many from the Arab bloc, will be able to enjoy the privilege. The idea behind a joint entry visa scheme for the six member states is to boost tourism in a big way.

This was disclosed by a senior official in Kuwait yesterday, Saudi Arabia-based news website Aliqtesadia.com reported.

Sameera Al Ghareeb, Assistant Undersecretary at Kuwait’s Ministry of Commerce, however, said one should not expect that the system would be implemented soon.

“Not even by next year,” she said, adding there are formalities to be completed and the ministries of interior of member states have to look into security aspects before clearing the proposal.

The GCC tourism promotion committee meeting in Kuwait has passed seven recommendations to help boost tourism, she said.

One of them is to introduce a unified tourist visa regime for the member states. “This authority (of issuing tourist or any visas) is with the interior ministry of a member state,” said Al Ghareeb.

The interior ministries will look into security issues and see how they could possibly allow the issuance of such visas. Rules for issuing joint visa would likely be framed by the GCC tourism committee. However, all recommendations are being forwarded to the GCC Secretariat-General for approval. It is likely the secretariat would make slight amendments before ratifying them, which is expected by October 22, Al Ghareeb said.

She said GCC tourism ministers who recently met in Kuwait discussed the prospects of huge revenues flowing in once the joint entry visa scheme is introduced.

They agreed that instead of member countries issuing separate visas, there should be a joint entry visa system for tourism promotion which could be very effective. “However, for security reasons, it was decided that expatriates in the region should be targeted as beneficiaries first and then the scheme should be extended to cover nationals of 35 countries, many of them Arab.”

Expatriates with valid residency permit of a GCC state would be issued a unified visa so they could visit other member states, said Al Ghareeb.

The tourism promotion committee should be encouraged, she said.

“The ball is now in the court of the interior ministries of member countries and the tourism authority in each country will be pursuing the joint entry visa proposal with them,” she added.

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KSA, Germany to widen cultural ties

Arab News – 18 October, 2014 – Representatives from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and the German government held talks here Wednesday to improve cultural ties.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the SCTA, met with newly appointed German Ambassador Boris Ruge at the tourism body’s headquarters, an SCTA official said Thursday.

Germany is keen to strengthen cultural ties with the Kingdom, especially among the younger generation, to promote mutual understanding and solidarity, said the official.

Earlier, the German envoy said he is on a steep learning curve in the Kingdom and hopes to continue the hard work of his predecessor Dieter W. Haller, who is back working at the home office.

Ruge took up his post in Riyadh recently. He joined the German Foreign Service six months before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He earlier served as regional director of the Middle East and North Africa region at the German Foreign Office in Berlin.

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Bahrain Airport revamp plan reviewed

Gulf Daily News – 15 October, 2014 – The latest progress updates on Bahrain International Airport (BIA) modernisation were reviewed at a key high-level meeting yesterday.

Led by Transportation Minister and Economic Development Board acting chief executive Kamal Ahmed, the Airport Modernisation Programme Steering Committee discussed the action plan for the BIA modernisation, with key upgrades underway at the existing terminal and prequalification and tender documents for major preparatory projects for the new terminal being completed.

The meeting was attended by senior representatives from the Civil Aviation Affairs, Works Ministry, Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry, Interior Ministry, Electricity and Water Authority and Bahrain Airport Company. Senior management officials from AŽroport de Paris IngŽrierie, the design and engineering consultant for the programme, and Hill International, the project management consultancy firm, also attended.

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Iran says promote peace through expansion of tourism

Tehran Times – 15 October, 2014 – Iranian First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri has called on regional nations to boost ties through expansion of tourism.

Jahangiri made the remarks on Tuesday while addressing an international symposium on tourism in Tehran, IRNA reported.

Iran, as one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, is also ready to cooperate with regional states to enhance tourism ties, he added.

Regional nations have good potential to increase bilateral cooperation in various fields including tourism, he noted.

Development of tourism among regional states is an effective tool for promotion of peace in the entire region, he said.

“Iran considers interaction among the regional countries as the solution to the problems in all areas and it welcomes any kind of cooperation for real fight against extremism,” he said.

He underlined that the regional countries need vast cooperation in political, economic, cultural and social areas in order to reach an understanding.

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