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24 Nov, 2014

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to perform at Nobel Peace Prize Concert

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 24 November 2014 (02 Safar 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




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

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


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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




Indonesian President leads by example, to fly economy class on private visit to Singapore

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, November 20 2014 – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and First Lady Iriana are scheduled to fly to Singapore on Friday to attend the high-school graduation ceremony of their youngest son, Kaesang Pangarep.

Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto said that the trip was personal and that the couple would fly Garuda Indonesia economy class, attended only by a few personnel from the Presidential Security Detail (Paspampres).

“They will attend the graduation ceremony. It’s a personal trip so no ministers or officials are in tow,” he said. “This is Pak Jokowi as Joko Widodo, not as the President.”

Jokowi, who is scheduled to leave Jakarta at around 4 p.m., would stay one night in Singapore at a modest hotel, according to Andi.

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LEAD STORY: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to perform at Nobel Peace Prize Concert

ANI, Karachi, November 23, 2014, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is all set to become the second Pakistani to perform at the upcoming Nobel Peace Prize Concert on December 11. Junoon performed at the concert earlier, according to Dawn.com.

The concert, which will be held at the Oslo Spektrum Arena, is set to be hosted by Queen Latifah and will honour India’s Kailash Satyarthi and the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace prize, Malala Yousafzai, for the work they have done to promote children’s rights, particularly education.

Each year the Nobel Peace Prize Concert brings together talented artists from across the globe to pay tribute to the year’s laureates. An amalgamation of sounds from all over the world, it is a veritable melting pot of symphonies.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is the nephew of iconic Pakistani qawwali singer, the late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Other than for qawwali, he is also immensely popular for singing playback in Bollywood.

Other artists who will be performing this year include Steven Tyler, British soul singer Laura Mvula, Norway’s Gabrielle and the inspirational Girls of The World.

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2014 International Drum Art Festival held in Kuala Lumpur

BEIJING, Nov. 19 (Xinhuanet) — The International Drum Art Festival was held in Kuala Lumpur from November 14 to 16. Wonderful performance by bands from Spain, Norway, Holland, Vietnam, Malaysia and other countries let audience have a taste of the charming drum art.

The nine bands including the BI-HOTS from Spain and Holland, the Morning Light from Vietnam, played respectively traditional drums, traditional stringed and woodwind instruments, and performed traditional dance as well as modern percussion.

The host of the art festival, the Hand Group is one of the most successful percussions in Malaysia.

The end show was given by Norwegian’s SISU percussion band, which was one of Europe’s most successful percussion bands. With traditional music using modern musical instrument, its appealing performance pushed the art festival’s first day to an exciting climax.

Local bands also gave performance of various percussion music. The art festival was held at the Performing Art Center in Kuala Lumpur.

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Jakarta, Beijing to boost cooperation

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, November 21 2014 — The cities of Jakarta and Beijing have committed to enhancing cooperation under their sister-city program in several fields, including culture and tourism, sports, waste treatment and transportation.

Newly appointed Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said after receiving Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun at City Hall on Thursday that he and his guest discussed extensive matters to boost cooperation between the two cities.

“We talked about sports, transportation, culture as well as business opportunities,” he said.

Ahok, the first Chinese-Indonesian governor of Jakarta, who was sworn in by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday, said the city planned to send wushu, aerobics and badminton athletes to the Beijing Sports University to improve their skills. The city administration will ask for a discount on their educational fees.

Jakarta will host the 18th Asian Games in 2018. Ahok previously said that he hoped Indonesia would finish in the top 10 in the competition.

Ahok said the mayor also donated an articulated bus from Chinese automaker Beiqi Foton Motor Co. Ltd.

“The bus was donated just to prove that China-made buses are of good quality. The engine is also of good quality,” he said, adding that one of the Transjakarta bus operators planned to procure dozens of buses from Foton.

Ahok has criticized buses from China in the past, as many procured in 2013 were faulty and in poor condition and he indicated he would not procure any more buses from China.

He rectified this statement saying that Chinese products ranged in quality from low to high.

The governor said the two city administrations discussed the possibility of investment in garbage and liquid-waste management. “They also hope that we will invest in them,” he said.

According to Ahok, Jakarta and Beijing have many similarities in cultural and urban issues. “Our food and culture are quite similar. The ondel-ondel [traditional Betawi figures], for example, look like Chinese people,” he said.

The two cities signed an agreement to forge a cooperation as sister cities in 1992. Besides Beijing, Jakarta has similar programs with 21 other cities, including Tokyo, Bangkok and several major US cities.

The head of the sister-city cooperation section at the Gubernatorial and Foreign Affairs Bureau, Yudi Hermawan A., said the Beijing mayor visited Jakarta to renew the agreement on sister-city cooperation.

“The meeting is part of drafting the minutes of the agreement between the two cities, which are renewed every two years,” he said.

Yudi said the meeting also discussed Beijing’s plan to help Jakarta revitalize the Old Town in West Jakarta.

“Beijing will provide experts to assist us in revitalizing the Old Town,” he said.

He added that the detailed cooperation on this issue had not been finalized. “They can send their team to us or we can send ours to Beijing,” he said.

According to Yudi, previous cooperation between the two cities was usually related to youth exchanges and sports tournaments.

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Voluntarism becoming more popular among Saudi youth

RIYADH, ARAB NEWS, Saturday 22 November 2014 – Young people in the Saudi capital are increasingly volunteering to help the needy, Arab News has found.

“This is good, to say the least. It shows not only the civic responsibility of the youth but also their capabilities as leaders of the future,” said Saad Al-Bazei, a Shoura Council member.

He said the Ministry of Social Affairs has been holding a forum every year to promote volunteerism among the country’s youth, with the participation of several groups.

Muhammad Al-Zamzani, a member of one such group, said: “Young as they are, the participants at the forum were confident that they could contribute to society, even if only in small ways.”

A volunteer group in the Saudi capital held a conference on using the media to spread the message. Hani Mogbil Al-Moqbil, the team leader, said the aim was to “teach people to help others by disseminating information through the media.”

He said that the dissemination of information could be done in different ways, including a public forum. About 1,000 young Saudi men and women attended the event.

A group in Ergah district northwest of the Saudi capital is also engaged in community work. Badr Fahad Al-Jeraisy, the group’s social committee spokesman, said: “We want to show what we can achieve through voluntary work.”

Al-Jeraisy, a 28-year-old teacher at an intermediate school, said that his group helps local residents in surrounding neighborhoods.

“Support for our group is an investment in the future of Saudi youth,” he said.

Another group, Rekaaz, aims to instill good values among young Saudis between the ages of 15 and 25. Its theme this year is “forgiveness.” Over the last four years, it has promoted respect for mothers, developing self-esteem, fostering the desire to succeed in life, and instilling a sense of responsibility toward society.

“If all these values are inculcated in young minds, they can become good members of society and Rekaaz’s efforts won’t have been in vain,” said the group’s spokesman.

Another group is Sanabel Club, whose spokesperson Shahinas Hosni, said: “We want to shed light on our work with orphans. We are more privileged than them. That’s why it’s our duty to uplift them and raise awareness about their plight,” Hosni said.

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Kuwait Airways to buy 10 Boeing 777s

AFP, November 21, 2014, Gulf News, Kuwait City: State-owned Kuwait Airways Co said on Thursday it has agreed to buy 10 Boeing 777-300ERs, with delivery to begin in two years.

“KAC has agreed to an offer by Boeing to buy 10 Boeing 777-300ER jets,” chairwoman Rasha al-Rumi said in a statement carried by the official KUNA news agency, which gave no details on the value of the deal.

The offer was accepted after securing all necessary official approvals and the contract will be signed soon, Rumi said.

Delivery of the long-range, widebody planes will begin in November 2016.

In February, loss-making KAC signed contracts with Airbus to buy 25 planes in the first order for new aircraft in more than 20 years.

The airline, which is slated for eventual privatisation, has an ageing fleet of 15 Airbuses and two Boeings.

Under the deal, KAC will buy 15 A320neo aircraft and 10 A350-900s, with an option to buy five more of each. Delivery is to commence in 2019.

Under a second contract, KAC will lease seven A320s and five A330s, with delivery due to start next month.

The value of the deals was not disclosed but local media put the figure at around $4 billion (Dh14.68 billion).

In addition to modernising its fleet, the KAC wants to become profitable before offering a 40 per cent stake to a local or foreign investor.

It has posted losses in all but one of the past 21 years, amounting to a total of more than $2.7 billion (two billion euros), which has been covered by the government.

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Afriqiyah Airways operations normalise amid instability

November 21, 2014, Gulf News, Dubai: Afriqiyah Airways, the state-owned Libyan carrier based in Tripoli, is seeing a “slight” revenue increase as its operations begin to stabilise amid a civil war that is splitting the country.

The North African airline has shifted over to Mitiga International Airport from nearby Tripoli International, which was closed in July when it was damaged in the fighting.

Abdulhakim Fares, Afriqiyah Airways chairman, told Gulf News on Wednesday he is satisfied with current passenger numbers and revenue is improving in the second half. The airline continues to fly to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Sudan, however, with only half its fleet.

Fifty per cent of the airline’s fleet were damaged in the fighting at Tripoli International and temporarily left at the airport. Fares said the airline has finalised insurance claims to repair the aircraft, which he said would start to return to service early 2015, with the entire fleet in operations by the end of that year.

Fares spoke on the sidelines of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation Annual General Meeting held in Dubai this week.

The airline has seen no respite in fuel costs, despite a global collapse in oil prices since June. Fares said prices in Libya remain unchanged.

Faced with a hefty insurance bill, Afriqiyah Airways will not turn a profit in 2014, Fares said, and was non-committal on next year’s performance.

The airline has also not taken delivery of two new Airbus A330’. Fares said the airline will seek a bank loan to make the final payment when it is ready to receive the aircraft. He did not state how much it will need to finance.

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Malaysia Confident Of Attracting 28 Mln Tourists This Year

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia Nov 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is confident of achieving the 28 million tourist target this year, with 16.1 million recorded as at July, which is a 9.7 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, said Tourism Deputy Director-General (Promotions) Azizan Noordin.

He said despite the impact of the recent MH370 and MH17 tragedies on the country’s tourism sector, they managed to turn it around by changing the marketing strategy in July.

“There was a drop in tourists from China after the incident, therefore we focused our promotional efforts on South Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Europe,” he told reporters after the Asean Explore Quest Malaysia 2014 gala dinner here.

He said to increase the number of tourists from China, three specially chartered flights from Wuhan and Chengdu were launched from July to October in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Penang, which had recorded 4,000 passengers so far.

Chinese tourists make up the third highest number in the country, with 997,300 people while Singaporeans make up the highest number with 8,236,079 people, followed by Indonesians (1,583,786 people).

Azizan is confident the numbers would increase through prestigious programmes such as the currently ongoing 1Malaysia Year End Sale in Kuala Lumpur and the International Dragon Boat Festival in Penang next month.

“Recently, some 60,000 people took part in an international marathon at the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge in Penang. This is a good development and we are excited to see the final record (of tourists) by year’s end,” he said.

He said this would help encourage 29.4 million tourists to visit Malaysia next year through Malaysia Year of Festival (MyFEST) in 2015.

Earlier, he said a total of 100 individuals including celebrities, media practitioners and tour agents from 10 Asean countries took part in a week-long tour programme in Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Penang which started on Nov 14.

“Some of them are radio announcers and bloggers who have their own followers and influence to promote our country,” he added.–NNN-BERNAMA

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450 Saudi tourist establishments penalized, two hotels shut

DAMMAM, 24 November 2014, Arab News – More than 450 tourist establishments have been penalized for violations over the past two years, said Abdullatif Albenayyan, general manager of the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA) in the Eastern Province.

Additionally, 10 furnished apartment buildings and two hotels were closed down.

“Regional hotels are liaising with the SCTA and charity associations to ensure that leftover food does not go waste,” he said during the launching of a new hotel. The launching ceremony was attended by Eastern Province Deputy Gov. Jamal Melhem, Essam Al-Mulla, chairman of the Eastern Province municipality, and representatives from the Asharqia Chamber.

Albenayyan said that the development of the tourist accommodation sector in the Eastern Province has led to the growth of the hotels sector, with 114 facilities registered at the end of 2014.

“According to initial estimations, around 148 licensed hotels would go into service over the next three years,” he said.

Albenayyan said: “Occupancy rates increased from 38 percent in 2005 to 67 percent in 2012 and almost 75 percent in 2014. The number of hotels and furnished apartments has doubled over the past seven years thanks to increased demand by visitors and tourism demand within the province.”

Establishments must meet safety criteria set by the Civil Defense and the municipality before acquiring licenses, he said.

“Then comes SCTA classification benchmarks and requirements, which will be dealt with online. The ranking of hotels without garage parking is bound to be affected,” he said.

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Malaysia mulls Visa Fee Waiver For Chinese Tourists

SHANGHAI, China Nov 14 (NNN-Bernama) – Malaysian Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz is expected to propose the waiving of visa charges for Chinese tourists to attract more tourists from China to visit Malaysia next year in conjunction with the Malaysia Year of Festival 2015 (MyFest 2015).

He said the move aimed to help achieve the target of MyFest 2015 to attract 29.4 million tourist arrivals and tourism receipts totalling RM89 billion next year. Nazri said he would propose the idea to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak after returning home.

“Maybe we can try it next year for tour groups from China who visit Malaysia via travel agents,” he told Malaysian journalists here Friday. Nazri said currently, a total of six Asean countries, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines have offered visa fee waiver schemes for Chinese tourists.

“Whereas we are only offering visa-on-arrival (VoA),” he said, citing tourists from India and China in Singapore are eligible to apply for VoA at the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (KSAB), Tanjung Kupang, Johor beginning Nov 1.

Prior to this, only five air entry points offered the VoA facility, namely the Bayan Lepas International Airport, Penang; Senai International Airport, Johor; Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Sabah; Kuching International Airport, Sarawak; and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA and KLIA2).

Nazri is leading a Malaysian delegation comprising representatives from the State Tourism Authorities of Sabah, Sarawak and Johor, as well as industry players including Malaysian travel agents and the Malaysia My Second Home Association here to promote MyFest 2015 in conjunction with the China International Travel Mart (CITM) 2014 in Shanghai, which began Friday and ends on Nov 16.

Earlier, Nazri had paid a courtesy call on chairman of China National Tourism Administration, Li Jinzao. The two leaders discussed the tourism industry of both countries, including the MH370 tragedy in March this year. As both countries have solid bilateral relations, Li expressed his confidence that Malaysia’s tourism industry would gradually recover.

Meanwhile, Nazri said apart from continuing to encourage Malaysians to visit China, Tourism Malaysia will also continue to participate in the CITM, which Malaysian exhibitors have been joining for the 16th consecutive year since 1998.

China is Malaysia’s largest inbound tourist source besides neighbouring countries where Malaysia has attracted some 1.79 million Chinese tourists to Malaysia last year, an increase of 14.9 per cent compared to 2012.

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Global Village Joins Hands With Brand Dubai For 19th Season Extravaganza

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Nov 17 (NNN-WAM) – Brand Dubai, a subsidiary of Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), has launched a new project, in collaboration with Global Village’s 19th season extravaganza, themed “Make Your Senses Come Alive.”

The project is part of Brand Dubai’s efforts to add creative glimpses to the districts of Dubai and introduce the city as a home of art, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported. Brand Dubai and Global Village will implement the project in two parts.

The first part includes covering several buildings in the Global Village with distinguished artwork, while the second part involves beautifying pedestrian bridges crossing the water canal centring the village. A host of artists will carry out work consisting of art movements and styles which will add value to the global event.

“Brand Dubai aspires to add to the artistic features of Dubai, adopting various cultural components and art movements,” said GDMO communications and innovation director, Noora Al Abbar.

Global Village chief operating officer, Ahmad Hussain bin Essa said, “Global Village’s management is keen to present new and exciting things every new season. The 18th season was a huge success and we hope to continue this in the 19th season. “Our cooperation with Brand Dubai allows us to introduce new artistic attractions.”

Global Village Dubailand is claimed to be the world’s largest tourism, leisure and entertainment project. It is the region’s first cultural, entertainment, family and shopping destination and receives six million visitors every year. The Global Village’s 18th season began on Oct 5, 2013, and ended on Apr 12, this year.

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Qatar Airways Adds Two Flights To Edinburgh

DOHA, Qatar, Nov 19 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways will operate two extra flights to Edinburgh, starting May 1, 2015, to provide passengers with a daily direct scheduled service from Doha’s Hamad International Airport to Edinburgh Airport, the carrier said, in a press release.

The announcement comes just six months after the successful launch of the five-weekly service on the route and reinforces the airline’s commitment to add additional frequencies on the route.

The daily service, operated by a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will give passengers even greater access to the 145 worldwide destinations, served by Qatar Airways through its recently opened hub, Hamad International Airport.

“We are pleased to offer even further choice and flexibility to passengers wishing to travel to and from Edinburgh. Offering a daily service to Edinburgh is a clear reflection of the popularity of this route, since its launch in May this year and the new daily service will allow Qatar Airways to further support and promote Scotland’s leisure and business opportunities to different markets on our airline’s global network,” said Qatar Airways Group CEO, Akbar Al Baker.

The most popular destinations for those using the Edinburgh-Doha route are predominantly in Asia, and Australasia, with journey times to Melbourne reduced from approximately 26 hours with two transfers, to just 20 hours with one quick international transfer, at Hamad International Airport.

Edinburgh is Qatar Airways’ third destination in the United Kingdom, preceded by London in 1997 and Manchester in 2003. The airline currently operates six flights a day from London Heathrow non-stop to Doha and ten flights per week from Manchester non-stop to Doha.

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 17 years of operations, to the point where today, it currently is flying a modern fleet of 141 aircraft to 145 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

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Malaysia Confident Of Attracting 28 Mln Tourists This Year

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia Nov 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is confident of achieving the 28 million tourist target this year, with 16.1 million recorded as at July, which is a 9.7 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, said Tourism Deputy Director-General (Promotions) Azizan Noordin.

He said despite the impact of the recent MH370 and MH17 tragedies on the country’s tourism sector, they managed to turn it around by changing the marketing strategy in July.

“There was a drop in tourists from China after the incident, therefore we focused our promotional efforts on South Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Europe,” he told reporters after the Asean Explore Quest Malaysia 2014 gala dinner here.

He said to increase the number of tourists from China, three specially chartered flights from Wuhan and Chengdu were launched from July to October in Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Penang, which had recorded 4,000 passengers so far.

Chinese tourists make up the third highest number in the country, with 997,300 people while Singaporeans make up the highest number with 8,236,079 people, followed by Indonesians (1,583,786 people).

Azizan is confident the numbers would increase through prestigious programmes such as the currently ongoing 1Malaysia Year End Sale in Kuala Lumpur and the International Dragon Boat Festival in Penang next month.

“Recently, some 60,000 people took part in an international marathon at the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge in Penang. This is a good development and we are excited to see the final record (of tourists) by year’s end,” he said.

He said this would help encourage 29.4 million tourists to visit Malaysia next year through Malaysia Year of Festival (MyFEST) in 2015.

Earlier, he said a total of 100 individuals including celebrities, media practitioners and tour agents from 10 Asean countries took part in a week-long tour programme in Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Penang which started on Nov 14. “Some of them are radio announcers and bloggers who have their own followers and influence to promote our country,” he added.

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Bahrain Cultural Days Kicked Off In Cairo

CAIRO, Egypt, Nov 14 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain Cultural Days got underway in Cairo yesterday, and will continue till Nov 23.

The event features a fine arts gallery, bringing together seven artists, three concerts by Mohammed bin Fares band, and the announcement of Bahrain Book Award 2014, which is dedicated to Egyptian authors, on the role of arts in developing societies.

Speaking at a press conference, Egyptian Culture Minister, Dr. Jaber Asfoor, praised the function, which sheds light on the richness of the Bahraini culture. He stressed strong and deep-rooted relations between Bahrain and Egypt, commending the efforts of the Bahrain Culture Ministry, spearheaded by Culture Minister, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, in promoting Arab culture.

Shaikha Mai thanked her Egyptian counterpart for the warm welcome accorded to the Bahraini delegation, emphasising the importance of culture for societies, and expressing happiness about dedicating this year’s Bahrain Book Award to Egyptian Authors.

The press conference was attended by Bahraini Ambassador to Egypt, Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, intellectuals, artists and media persons.

Shaikha Mai inaugurated Bahrain Fine Arts Gallery, in Mohsin Shalan Hall, at the Modern Art Museum, in the presence of her Egyptian counterpart and the Bahraini Ambassador to Egypt.

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Uganda Tops List Of World’s Most Ethnically Diverse Countries

KAMPALA, Nov 18 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda has been named the most ethnically mixed country on the planet, according to a new scientific study which blows apart misconceptions that western nations are the most racially diverse.

Academics at Harvard University’s Institute for Economic Research spent a painstaking 11 years studying 650 different ethnic groups across 190 countries, the British newspaper the Dialy Mail has reported.

Using data from sources including national censuses, Encyclopedia Brittanica, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Minority Rights Group International and a 1998 study entitled “Ethnic Groups Worldwide”, scientists worked out an “ethnicity rating” for each country based on the question: If you picked two people at random in any nation and asked them their ethnicity, what are the chances that they would give a different answer?

Uganda is home to more than 40 different indigenous ethnic groups, including the Baganda, Iteso, Basoga and Banyankore, all of whom have their own languages, cultures and customs.

While the East African nation tops the list, at the bottom came South Korea which was classified as the world’s most homogenous nation. Perhaps what will prove most surprising to some, Europe is revealed as the least ethnically diverse continent in the world, with Britain and France as two of the most diverse.

Meanwhile, the United States came almost exactly in the middle with Canada ranked more diverse than its southern neighbour. The study comes after the global social attitudes study claimed that the most racially intolerant populations are all in the developing world, with Bangladesh, Jordan and India in the top five.

By contrast, the study of 80 countries over three decades found Western countries were most accepting of other cultures with Britain, the US, Canada and Australia more tolerant than anywhere else.

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Cairo International Film Festival Attracting Large Crowds

CAIRO, Egypt, Nov 18 (NNN-MENA) – Despite budgeting challenges, the Cairo International Film Festival has almost reached full capacity, during each movie screening, said the event’s head organiser, Samir Farid, during a press conference at the Supreme Council for Culture.

Up until Thursday, the festival sold 4,200 tickets, with an average of a thousand tickets a day, said Farid, with the occupancy rate reaching from 80 to 90 percent. Sales have reached LE33,000 (USD 4,616), while the festival has employed 106 people, he added.

Farid credited part of the success to the Egyptian press’ “outstanding coverage.” The festival’s primary goal is political, Farid argued, despite being a purely cinema festival. “We have established the festival amid a difficult political circumstances, as we are in a state of war,” he said.

Farid pointed out that the current economic crisis forced the organisers of the festival to adopt austere measures to reduce costs. With only a budget of US$300,000 for guests, he said, the festival could not host Hollywood stars.

The head of the festival said, he considers his efforts as more a volunteer role, as he has only received LE1,200 (USD 167), a wage nine times less than what someone hosting a similar festival would have received.

The closing ceremony, where international and Arab competitions’ prizes are to be announced, will be held in the Sound and Light Theater, at the foot of the pyramid and funded by the Tourism Promotion Authority and directed by Walid Aouny, Farid added.

Farid stressed the need to hold a press conference, to clarify some facts about the festival and to respond to what was published during interviews with the festival management, adding that he did not want to conduct any press interviews while the festival was in progress.

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Dubai Gears Up For A Mind-Blowing Literature Festival

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Nov 19 (NNN-WAM) – The line-up of the fifth Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, goes beyond marquee names. Emerging Emirati writers are strongly represented with novelist, Lulwah Al Mansouri and children’s author, Reem Al Garg, among others.

The stellar cast of more than 40 authors from different parts of the world includes, Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, popular British crime fiction writer, Alexander McCall Smith, and Pakistan’s Mohsin Hamid.

As The National reported yesterday, the four-day festival will be held in Dubai in Mar. It is themed around Alice in Wonderland, more particularly the sense of wonder that comes with opening a book and being transported through space and time to other lands. There will be a special focus on young readers, with puppeteers at Al Mamzar Theatre, acting out scenes from Michael Morpureo’s haunting children’s novel, War Horse and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

Clearly, the festival will appeal to children of all ages. Why miss it?

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Oman First Craft Festival To Kick Off On Sunday

MUSCAT, Oman, Nov 20 (NNN-ONA) – The “First Craft Festival” will kick off here on Sunday, Nov 23. The 5-day festival is organised by the Public Authority for Craft Industries (PACI), in collaboration with Rofan. Sayyid Asa’ad bin Tariq al-Said will sponsor the opening ceremony, at the Oman International Exhibition Centre.

Hana bint Khasib al-Saadiyah, CEO of Rofan Foundation, explained that the festival, which is the first in the region, seeks to introduce visitors to old crafts and stages of development.

She said, in a statement to Oman News Agency (ONA), that, the festival includes a section for Omani Craft exhibition, another section for seminars (My Craft My Institution), with the aim of training a number of artisans and those interested in opening small and medium enterprises, as well as a comprehensive training programme. She noted that, there will be a corner for training on textiles, pottery, silverware and perfumes, in addition to a special corner for child artisan.

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Malaysian DPM Wants Classical Literature Works Spread Using Multimedia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov 22 (NNN-BERNAMA) – Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, has called for Malay classical literature works to be spread wide and far using multimedia and digital technology. The Deputy Prime Minister said, this way, it would make these literature works more attractive and fresh. He said, it would also attract the interest of people of all ages and from all races to read and appreciate them.

“Getting to know and understand these works will help in forming character, that is truly Malaysian,” he said, at the prize-giving ceremony for the “Sastera Perdana Malaysia” (Malaysia Premier Literature) awards, organised by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Language and Literature Bureau) (DBP), here, last night.

Also present were Deputy Education Minister, Mary Yap Kain Ching, Education Ministry secretary-general, Dr Madinah Mohamad and DBP director-general, Awang Sariyan. Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, also said, intellectual works in Bahasa Melayu (Malay Language), should also be accorded the same recognition as “Hadiah Sastera Perdana Malaysia.”

DBP’s effort along this line, for works in science and technology, for which he presented awards last month, was a good start, he said. Apart from this, he said, experts and men of letters in the Malay language should also be accorded due recognition.

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21st European Film Festival Kicks Off In Sofil, Lebanon

SOFIL, Lebanon, Nov 22 (NNN-NNA) – During a press conference yesterday, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, presented the 21st European Film Festival, which will be held from Nov 26 to Dec 8, 2014, at Cinema Metropolis Empire Sofil (Ashrafieh).

The European Film Festival is organised by the Delegation of the European Union, in collaboration with the embassies and cultural institutes of the European Union Member States, under the patronage of the Minister of Culture, Rony Arayji.

The European Film Festival will open on Wednesday, Nov 26, with the Italian film “Il capitale umano” (Human Capital) by Paolo Virz, which was awarded 7 David di Donatello in 2014, (on invitation).

For this 21st edition of the European Film Festival, the programme includes a wide variety of screenings and events:

“41 recent long feature films and 2 short films from the European Union, allowing the audience to view prize-winning films, screened at major international festivals, as well as, the first or second productions of promising directors. Six European science fiction films, dating from 1916 to 1980, most in their restored versions. One feature film from Switzerland and from Serbia, respectively, the Festival’s guest countries this year. 20 short films produced by students of ten Lebanese audiovisual schools.

Among the long feature films, the European Film Festival proposes 3 films for young audience. The European Film Festival also invites children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and refugees to these screenings.

In order to encourage young talents, the Festival will, for the 14th consecutive year, award two prizes for Lebanese short films, made by students from the Lebanese audio-visual schools.

The Festival will offer the winners the opportunity to attend a leading international short film festival in Europe, thanks to Goethe-Institut and l’Institut français du Liban. The jury includes cultural attachés of EU Member States’ embassies and cultural institutes in Lebanon, as well as Lebanese cinema critics. The Head of the Delegation of the European Union, Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, will award the prizes on Monday, Dec 8.

In a continuous effort to promote and showcase European culture to the widest possible audience throughout the country, the European Film Festival is scheduled to take place in Saida ( Dec 3-5), Nabatieh (Dec 4), Tyr (Dec 11), Tripoli ( Dec 5-7), Jounieh (Dec 5-12), Zahle (Dec 8-10), and Deir el Qamar (Dec 11-15). A number of films will be screened in the seven cities, in collaboration with the local Institut français du Liban.

Two special events will be organised by the Festival, in collaboration with Metropolis Association and the Italian Cultural Institute, respectively: (i) the screening of the Egyptian film “Al Momia” (The Mummy) by director Shadi Abdel Salam released in 1969, in its restored version, which is considered one of the most important Arab films of all times. The screening of the film will be accompanied by live music, composed and performed by renowned Lebanese musicians, Raed Yassin and Sharif Sehnaoui; and (ii) the screening of the Italian silent film “Cenere” by Febo Mari released in 1917, also in its restored version. The screening will be accompanied by live music composed and performed by renowned Italian musicians, Giovanni Ceccarelli and Marcello Allulli.

Several guests will introduce and discuss their films in the cinema: Francesco Bruni, scriptwriter of the opening Italian film, Il capitale umano; Lionel Baier, director of the Swiss film, Les grandes ondes, who is also the head of the Cinema Department at l’Ecole cantonnale d’art de Lausanne; China hlander, producer of the Swedish long feature film, Eat Sleep Die and short film On Suffocation; Italian musicians Giovanni Ceccarelli and Marcello Allulli.

The European Film Festival is organised with the contribution of LBC TV.

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Preparations For Omani Products Exhibition (OPEX) 2015 Start

MUSCAT, Oman, Nov 19 (NNN-ONA) – The Organising Committee for Omani Products Exhibition, announced starting preparations for the next version of (OPEX 2015), scheduled to be held in Jeddah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), during May 18 – 21, 2015, in collaboration with the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Organising Committee, which includes the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development ‘ITHRAA,’ the public Establishment for Industrial Estates, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), is organising this exhibition in a bid to promote and activate trade relations with the sisterly KSA and raising awareness of the Saudi society of the Omani industrial capabilities. About 100 local companies are expected to take part in the exhibition.

Naseema bint Yahya al-Balushi, Director General of Export Development in ITHRAA, said that, the statistics on the non-oil exports to KSA point out that there is a great potential for local products. Over the past four years, the value of the Omani non-oil exports increased by 73%, compared to 2011.

It is worth mentioning that the Sultanate exports to KSA, fish and foodstuff products, vegetables, chemicals used in manufacturing industries, marble, steel pipes, cables, aluminum, copper and logistic services. The value of the Omani non-oil exports to KSA in 2013 stood at about RO 306.1 million (USD 796.1 million).

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Malaysia Airlines Announces Charter Flights To Christmas Island

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines Charter Services has announced a charter service between Kuala Lumpur and Christmas Island. The charter service is scheduled to operate beginning Dec 13, 2014 until Jan 31, 2015, using a B737-800 aircraft with a seating capacity of 156.

Flight MH8484 will depart Kuala Lumpur at 10.10 am and arrive Christmas Island at 11.50 am. The return flight MH8485 will depart Christmas Island at 12.40 pm and arrive Kuala Lumpur at 4.20 pm. The contract was inked by Malaysia Airlines’ Vice President of Haj and Charter, Yazid Mohamed and Director of Christmas Island Air, Gee Foo.

“Christmas Island is best known for its amazing tropical rainforest overlooking the scenic coastline that has become the habitat for variety of bird species and millions of red crabs. We are honoured to be collaborating with Christmas Island Air again this year as the available inbound flights will also encourage travellers from Christmas Island to visit Malaysia,” Yazid said.

With this collaboration, Yazid hoped that the company would provide seamless travel solution with the best travelling experience to customers. “During this time, it is the unique annual red crab migration season during which millions of red crabs will move from the forest to the ocean coast to mate as well as spawn,” Gee Foo said.

“With this charter, it will enable tourists from Malaysia to fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Christmas Island instead of flying via Perth to experience this unique migration. The island also boasts rare and unusual birds as well as fantastic fishing and diving experience. We also take this opportunity to promote the islanders to visit Malaysia during this season,” Gee Foo added.

Bookings can be made via email to travelexchange@christmasislands.com.au or phone 61 8 94933066.

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Upbeat On Malaysia’s Long Haul Budget Airasia X For Fy2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 (Bernama) — AirAsia Group Chief Executice Officer Tony Fernandes is confident that loss-making long-haul airline AirAsia X will be profitable in the 2015 financial year. In achieving profitability, Fernandes said the airline would revise revenue strategy, increase ancillary income and undergo capacity management.

“For AirAsia X, most losses came from Australia, so we are rationalising a bit of capacity in that market, and there is a little bit of demand drop from China after the MH370 incident. However, we are seeing demand coming back whereby demand from China has rebounded to normal while the rest of the market has been fairly good,” he told a press conference after announcing AirAsia Asean Pass.

The pass enables travellers to utilise pre-purchased credits to book flights at a fixed rate across selected routes throughout Asean. Fernandes noted that there was an upside to AirAsia X’s ancillary income, given that its parent company AirAsia’s ancillary income had grown by 15 per cent.

“We are seeing yields improving quite quickly for the fourth quarter, 2014 is a tough year and 2015 will be better for AirAsia X,” he said. On moves to save cost, the aviation tycoon announced that the airline would defer the deliveries of aircraft for the next two to three years in Malaysia, as well as merge some of AirAsia and AirAsia X’s departments.

“An external factor that is beneficial for our turnaround plan is the current downtrend in oil prices. On fuel hedging, we do not speculate, we just match our revenue with our cost. We hedge according to the booking curve whereby if we sell 50 per cent of our seats in advance, we will hedge 50 per cent three months ahead,” he said, adding that the airline had a massive upside in fuel as it only hedged 12 per cent for 2015.

Meanwhile AirAsia India will start daily flights from Bengaluru to Pune, Pune-Jaipur and vice versa beginning Dec 17, 2014. AirAsia India is the first airline to operate the Pune – Jaipur route.

“With the surge in business and leisure travel, we believe Pune has tremendous potential,” chief executive officer, Mittu Chandilya said in a statement. He said AirAsia India had done a complete analysis of this sector and was part of its growth strategy to provide convenient, comfortable and enjoyable flying experience via Direct flights to first time and frequent flyers.

Considered as the cultural capital of Maharashtra, Pune is home to several IT and automotive companies. The city has also a lot to offer in the form of vibrant attractions like the Aga Khan Palace, Darshan Museum, Raigarh Fort, with many opportunities for tourists to take in its culture.

To celebrate the new route launch, AirAsia India is offering an all- inclusive promotional fare from as low as Rs. 1499 (RM81.27) one way from Bengaluru to Pune and Rs.2999 (RM162.60) from Pune to Jaipur and vice versa.

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Turkey To Increase Investments In Algeria

ALGIERS, Nov 21 (NNN-KUNA) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is planning to increase its investments in Algeria from USD 4.5 billion to USD ten billion. Erdogan’s remarks came in a statement to Algeria’s radio upon conclusion of the Algerian-Turkish business forum, held with the presence of Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Thursday.

Investment between the two countries has developed, said Erdogan, adding that Turkey’s businesses in Algeria are currently estimated at USD two billion. He added that Algiers could benefit from his country’s expertise in building residencies, noting that Turkey has built about 600,000 units within 12 years.

He also mentioned the agreement signed between the two sides which will allow Algeria to provide Turkey with an increased amount of liquefied gas by 50 percent for the upcoming ten years. Turkish Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci on his part said that both countries can cooperate to execute huge projects in Africa, noting the importance of developing their bilateral relations.

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Morocco To Host Global Entrepreneurship Summit

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO, Nov 18 (NNN-MAP) — At least 3,000 entrepreneurs, high-ranking government officials, heads of state and young entrepreneurs from all over the world will get together in Marrakech from Wednesday to Friday for the 5th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES-2014), a major global platform “to empower entrepreneurs with the skills and resources necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st Century”.

Held under the patronage of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, under the theme “Harnessing the power of technology for innovation and entrepreneurship”, GES-2014 reflects the role that Morocco plays in the overall economic development of the African continent and its leadership in supporting entrepreneurship and integration of youth and women in the economy.

Launched in 2009 by United States President Barack Obama, the GES seeks to lay bridges between entrepreneurs, banks, fund-donors and investors from the USA and Muslim communities worldwide. This year marks the first time it is being held in Africa.

After the first summit held in Washington in 2010, followed by those of Dubai, Istanbul, and Kuala Lumpur, Marrakech was selected to host the 5th GES, under an agreement between the King and President Obama reached in November 2013.

Moroccan Delegate-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation Mbarka Bouaida said the holding of this summit illustrated “the excellence of Morocco-US bonds and is part of the strategic dialogue between the two countries”.

“As an emerging country, Morocco boasts an exceptional model to share and promote, in terms of political stability and pertinence of socio-economic and human choices,” she said, noting that the kingdom enjoyed political and social stability and was conducting deep economic and political reforms to establish the rule of law and improve its economic competitiveness.

As a result of sector-focused strategies, Morocco has emerged as a reference in new sectors such as the automobile and aeronautical industries, renewable energies, electrical and pharmaceutical industries and offshoring, she said.

She also pointed out that strategic development plans existed for conventional sectors such as tourism and agriculture as well as a vision for development over the coming 20 years.

Morocco also stands out as a major stakeholder in the new African momentum. In addition to centuries-old ties with several countries of the continent, Morocco is adopting a clear and constant vision of South-South partnership, as a factor of progress, growth and development for the local populations.

The GES 2014 is a global platform to trade ideas and experiences, an invitation to open up to the world, find out about new opportunities and conclude sound alliances between economic operators of the world.

The summit features several events: the “Women’s Entrepreneurship Day”, bringing together women entrepreneurs, the awarding of the Global Innovation through Science and Technology Prize to stimulate innovation and technological entrepreneurship through social media and the “Student challenge” initiative with the participation of 300 Moroccan and sub-Saharan African countries.

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Seven high-speed trains between Makkah, Jeddah in an hour

Makkah, 27 Muharram 1436/ 20 November 2014 (IINA) – The high-speed Haramain Railway will run seven trains between Makkah and Jeddah in one hour.

The Haramain train will link the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and Rabigh. There will be two trains between Makkah and Madinah and four trains between Makkah and Rabigh in a day, and the railway will transport a total of 19,600 passengers in an hour. This was announced by Mohammed Al-Suwaiket, president of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO). He made the remarks on Wednesday while addressing a meeting on “Haramain Railway: A development project,” organized by the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Rusaifah railway station, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Suwaiket said that the railway will be a pioneering project with regard to Saudization of jobs. “There will be around 3,098 officials and employees at the railway, of which about 75 percent will be Saudis. Some of the Saudi staff, including engineers and drivers, are currently receiving training in Spain,” he said. According to Al-Suwaiket, the railway will be the first high speed electric train designed to suite the environment of the Middle East region. The railway has a plan to transport more than 6.2 billion passengers within 12 years.

There will be 35 trains and a special train for the elderly people. Al-Suwaiket said that 86 percent of the construction work of Makkah railway station in Rusaifah has been completed at a cost of over SR3 billion. Speaking on the occasion, Maher Jamal, president of Makkah chamber, said that the railway will be instrumental in having massive facelift of Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and Rabigh. The 450 km railway, with a speed of 300 km per hour, is estimated to cost SR37.5 billion.

Transport Minister Jabara Al-Seraisry recently said that 80 percent of the project had been completed and that railway lines had been laid in some places. Apart from relieving road congestion for millions of pilgrims and citizens, the rail track is expected to cut down the amount of time taken to travel between Makkah and Madinah to two hours, and between Jeddah and Makkah to half an hour. The project includes high-speed trains fitted with the latest equipment and five ultra-modern passenger stations – one each in Makkah, Madinah and Rabigh and two in Jeddah. The project is over two years late and was originally planned to open in 2012 after starting of construction in March 2009. As of August 2014, the Madinah – Rabigh section is scheduled for services by the end of 2015, suggesting a phased opening.

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New York Times to experiment publishing Arabic edition

Abu Dhabi, 27 Muharram 1436/ 20 November 2014 (IINA) – The New York Times is to experiment with publishing in Arabic as it looks to reach more people in a region “fascinated by news”, according to its chief executive.

The newspaper currently publishes in English and Chinese and plans to test out additional languages next year, says Mark Thompson, chief executive of the New York Times Company. “We will look at other languages and obviously Arabic is on this list. We would not want to do anything that was not very high quality, and it’s got to make economic sense,” Al Arabiya News reported quoting Thompson as saying. The British media executive, an ex-director general of the BBC, says the newspaper is looking to publish in more languages across both web and mobile platforms.

Thompson said the newspaper would be conducting experiments with Arabic publishing next year. “The appeal of the Middle East – whether we do an Arabic edition or not – is that it is a big region which necessarily, because of the extremely complex and unstable politics of the wider region, is fascinated by news,” he added. “We also believe that a lot of people would be interested in other perspectives. For the really international news brands the Middle East is an opportunity you cannot ignore.”

Thompson was speaking at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, which concludes on Thursday. Thompson said that global trends in the media – including the widespread use of smartphones – will have an impact in the Arab world. “In the Middle East as in other parts of the world, very quickly mobile devices – particularly smartphones – will be the main way in which most people catch up with the news,” he said. Despite planning to publish in more languages, The New York Times is in the process of cutting about 100 jobs in its newsroom – about 7.5 percent of its journalist staff. Around 25,000 copies of the International New York Times, formerly known as the International Herald Tribune, are distributed in the UAE.

The newspaper’s revenues from print advertising have been declining, but Thompson said online business is offsetting that. Despite that, he is confident that the printed newspaper will be in existence for many years. “Demand for the physical newspaper will remain strong for many years… a decade, maybe many decades.

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Effat University will host First Conference on Islamic Behavioral Finance

Sunday 16 Nov 2014 – Jeddah (IINA) – Effat University of Jeddah will host the First International Conference on Islamic Behavioral Finance on November 18-19.

The conference, which is to be organized by Effat University in line with the progress made in the recently emerging Islamic financial system, is aimed to contribute to the development of Islamic behavioral finance, and to mark the university’s aspiration to become a regional leader in Islamic finance education and research.

Participants in the conference will be briefed on the behavioral Islamic finance and the key issues marking the current practice of Islamic finance industry. The conference is also a great opportunity for international networking, particularly with the expected international attendance from various Islamic finance institutions.

Over the past few decades, the behavioral finance theory has largely contributed to the understanding of various financial phenomena that are still puzzling under the standards of finance principles. These theoretical principles were further developed and empirically tested resulting in a more sound conventional finance theory. Thus, the behavioral aspect imposed itself as an indispensable component of the finance theory. The same principle applies to the recently emerging Islamic financial system. In this context, though there have been tremendous studies on Islamic finance and Islamic investment, there are very few studies that have addressed specific topics within the behavioral finance framework.

Moreover, it is needless to say that currently, majority of the issues faced by Islamic finance and its future is highly related to the behavior of investors as well as the other market players. Furthermore, the financial theory has long demonstrated that the investment patterns always have long run impacts on the market movements. In this regard, behavioral finance offers a comprehensive set of tools to identify these investment patterns and their possible influence on the overall development of Islamic finance.

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‘City of prophets’ drawing faith tourists

ŞANLIURFA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, known as the city of prophets, has carved out a significant place for itself in international faith tourism, boasting important sites for the Abrahamic religions. The city is home to many famous religious sites such as Balıklıgöl, where the prophet Abraham was born and thrown into the fire; the cave where the prophet Job suffered his tribulations; and Göbeklitepe, the site of the world’s oldest temple remains.

With a significant potential for faith tourism, the city offers visitors a chance to take a journey into the past. Professor Cihat Kürkçüoğlu, a Harran University academic and deputy head of the Göbeklitepe excavations, said Şanlıurfa was one of the most excavated cities in Turkey. According to data provided during excavations at Nevali Çori and Göbeklitepe, the city’s history dates back to 12,000 years ago, said Kürkçüoğlu, adding that the traces of primitive, monotheistic and polytheistic religions could be seen in the city.

He said traces of pagans, who worshipped celestial bodies, were also found in excavations in Harran. “Prophet Abraham, considered as the ancestor of the monotheistic religions, was born in this city. It is believed that the prophet Job was sick and recovered after washing himself with the healing water of this city. It is believed that the prophet Jacob lived in Harran and got married with his uncle’s daughter Rahel here. The prophet Moses is said to have met with the daughter of the prophet Jethro in the city. A cave in the region is visited as the place of the prophet Jethro,” he said.

Kürkçüoğlu said the Hayati Harrani and İmam Bakır tombs in Harran were very important in terms of faith tourism.

Şanlıurfa is known as the “gate where Islam entered Anatolia,” he said. “With the conquest of Şanlıurfa, Islam entered (what is now the) Turkish Republic. Therefore the city is important for Islam; we consider it the fourth faith center after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem,” he added. “The city also has significance for Christianity,” said Kürkçüoğlu. “Abgar, the fifth king of Şanlıurfa, wrote a letter to Jesus and invited him to the city. The prophet said he could not make it but he sent a letter, saying he blessed the city. He also sent Abgar a portrait of himself on a handkerchief.”

Kürkçüoğlu said some Christians believed in this story. “The first place that recognized Christianity in that era is Şanlıurfa. People from all around the world rushed to the city to visit the places of some apostles and some Christian saints. This is why Şanlıurfa has importance for Christianity,” he said.

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Edirne Palace to gain status of ancient site

EDİRNE – Anadolu Agency – Cultural officials are working on a plan to bestow the status of ancient site on Edirne Palace, which was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the northwestern province of Edirne. The head of the Edirne Palace excavations, Professor Mustafa Özer, said works had been ongoing in the area since 2009.

“The restoration of the palace kitchen (Matbah-i Amire) and the bath of Kum Qasr was finished this year. We have progressed on the restoration project works of the Cihannüma Qasr, one of the notable structures of the palace. The building survey of the structure has been approved by the Edirne Cultural Heritage Preservation Board. The restitution and restoration projects are waiting to be approved. When the works are done, the structure will be restored and conserved,” he said.

Özer said the archaeological excavation and building survey of the devastated water delivery system had been completed and that restoration on the area would soon be ready.

The professor said this year’s works focused on the excavations and cleaning of the Namazgahlı Fountain (fountain with a prayer place), a rare example of Ottoman architecture.

“The works here will continue in future years, too. The fountain and the architectural structures unearthed during excavations were covered for protection,” he said.

He said they had also identified many ruined structures this year. “The building survey of the Adalet Qasr in Hasbahçe, where the Kırkpınar oil wrestling festival are organized today, has been done. We are working to make the structure functional. We also determined the places of Has Ahırlar (Imperial Stables), Terazi Qasr, İftar Kiosk and Bostancıbaşı Qasr. In future years, these places will be restored and Edirne Palace will be taken under protection as a whole.”

He said the Hunting Kiosk, which was built by Mehmet IV in an area known as Tavuk Forest, was documented and would be restored as well.

Ören said their purpose was to protect the area of the palace by giving it the status of an ancient site after which the area will be open to visitors.

“We want to make a project to handle the Fatih and Kanuni tombs, Babüssaade, Cihannüma Qasr, Adalet Qasr, Hunting Kiosk, the water delivery system, the Namazgahlı Fountain and the palace kitchen as a whole and enable the palace to gain the status of an ancient site. In this way, the living quality in the region and the number of visitors will increase,” Özer said.

He said they hoped the palace, which had remained idle for many years, would regain its elegance. “We will present a very important cultural heritage, which is made up of some 100 structures, to humanity,” Özer said.

Edirne Palace was home to Mehmet the Conqueror and Süleyman the Magnificent during the glory years of the Ottoman Empire.

When the Ottoman Empire took control of Edirne in 1361, they ordered that a palace be constructed around Selimiye Mosque. When this first palace did not meet the expectations of the sultan, Edirne Palace was subsequently constructed.

The construction of the palace started at the time of Murat II and ended during the reign of Mehmet the Conqueror. Although Istanbul was the capital, the palace was seen as an important symbol of the Ottoman Empire. There is little information available on the first palace, and the only detail historians know is that the first palace was ruined during the construction of Selimiye Mosque’s social complex and included in the land of Selimiye.

Perfume bottles used by the famous Hürrem Sultan were among the latest findings in the palace area this year.

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Papyrus, parchment and paper in old Istanbul

Hurriyet Daily News – The “Sahaflar” (used books) Bazaar, nestled in the shadow of Beyazıt Mosque, has a long and for the most part honorable history that can be traced to Byzantine times. Although some have speculated that today’s location is the same as it was in Byzantine times, others say that it was originally in the Kapalıçarşı. Regardless of which site, it would have been very near New Rome’s Forum Tauri, later the Forum of Theodosius, a center for commercial activities throughout most of the city’s history as New Rome, Constantinople and Istanbul.

The Byzantines used this location to sell paper and books that came in two forms – one would have been the book as a roll and the other would be a bound book known as a codex. The roll form originated in Egypt and spread throughout the Roman world. It was used primarily for secular works until approximately the 10th century, while the subjects of the bound book were usually religious. Of the latter the most important ones contained elaborate decorations, either illustrations of the stories being told in the work or as decorative headings of pages or paragraphs.

Since the texts were all handwritten, the beauty of the calligraphy and the quality of the pages and ink were of particular importance. The pages in later centuries were usually of parchment. Classics scholar Nigel G. Wilson in Byzantine Books and Bookmen points out that there must have been factories in the city for the manufacture of parchment, even if there are few references to them.

Parchment was first made in the city of Pergamon either during the third or early second century BC from animal skins to compensate for a scarcity of papyrus usually supplied from Egypt. Wilson also pointed out that at times there were shortages of parchment for writing, citing instances when there were complaints about having to wait until spring when people began eating meat again or having to bring better quality material from elsewhere. In the case of real scarcity, the parchment might be washed, eliminating the writing, and a new book written over it. Paper was introduced into Constantinople from

China around the eighth century AD., possibly brought into the Middle East by Turks. There were paper mills in Baghdad in 794 and somewhat later in Damascus. Although paper began to be used more frequently in Constantinople, especially from the 10th century AD onwards, it was very fragile in comparison with parchment and easily destroyed.

Wilson also suggests that the price of a volume was likely beyond that of an ordinary citizen. Copies of books were usually commissioned since they had to be hand written and illustrated so the very first edition was most likely that written by the author himself unless he dictated it to someone else. Under these circumstances it is doubtful whether there was much of a secondhand market, or even booksellers for that matter, with the exception of religious tracts.

The Ottoman book tradition is derived principally from that of Iran. The same materials, approach and subjects can be traced from there, taken up as the Turks traveled through the Near East to Anatolia. Learning was of particular importance in the Muslim world and handwritten manuscripts were the only way to preserve knowledge even though oral traditions existed. Rulers encouraged scholars and poets as a sign that they were supporting culture at the same time that at least some of these writers were immortalizing their names. But manuscripts were handwritten and therefore copies, used or otherwise, were few and far between.

The first of the used book markets was set up in Bursa in the reign of Orhan Gazi (1326-1362). When the capital moved from Bursa to Edirne, the book trade went too. Reportedly many places were given to those who made books and those who were involved in selling them in the courtyard of the large mosques.

Sultan Mehmed II (r. 1451-1481), who was known for his erudition, invited artists and craftsmen in the Muslim world to come and settle in the city following his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Book sellers set up shop in three places – inside the Fatih Mosque, at Eyüp Sultan, and in the vicinity of Fatih Mosque. The establishment of madrasas (religious schools) at Fatih Mosque is what led to an explosion in the number of book manufacturers and sellers there. A paper mill was established in the city’s Kağıthane district on the Golden Horn and it was used until the reign of Bayezid II (r. 1481-1512) when it was converted into a powder factory. In 1486 a paper mill was opened in Bursa.

After the Kapalıçarşı was built in 1460-61, the book makers were given one of its most desirable sections on Sahaflar Street, across from the Sark Coffeehouse and along where jewelers and carpet dealers are now. It didn’t move to its current location until a destructive earthquake on July 10, 1894. It took four years to rebuild the Kapalıçarşı and several of the groups like the booksellers were moved elsewhere, in this case to their current location, which had been a market for Byzantine booksellers but had been turned over to turban makers and engravers under the Ottomans right after the conquest.

The 17th century travel writer Evliya Çelebi wrote that there were 50 book shops, about 300 employees and many books available. They were considered members of the learned class or ulema and included calligraphers, bookbinders, paper polishers, gilders, paper manufacturers, reed pen knife makers, ink manufacturers and others associated with the art of book making. The shops were more like wooden stalls in which the items being sold would be in back on shelves while the shopkeeper sat in front with customers, drinking coffee or some other beverage and chatting. The most valuable books would be kept in cabinets. At night when the shop closed, curtains were drawn in front of it. Since the Kapalıçarşı was locked and security guards patrolled the streets, there was no need to worry about theft. In fact, there was only one reported theft right up until modern times.

When the decision was finally taken in the 18th century to allow Ottoman Turkish books, the used book trade was revolutionized. Instead of one man painstakingly copying a manuscript by hand, a book only had to be typeset and printed. This put many people out of work, which is one of the other main reasons why the adoption of printing took so long among the Ottomans.

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Tajik oblast investing in handicrafts

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-11-19 SUGHD OBLAST, Tajikistan – In an effort to boost the local economy, the administration in Sughd Oblast, Tajikistan, is disbursing loans and grants to help train women for income-earning opportunities in the handicrafts industry.

In the first nine months of 2014, more than 3,000 girls and women completed three-month-long courses in artisanal crafts connected to the Tajik textile trade; in conjunction with their certifications, they will be able to train others, local officials said.

“The new teaching system … should lead to the large-scale teaching of handicraft skills to girls,” Rano Bobojonova, the oblast’s deputy chair, told Central Asia Online. “The high-quality arts-and-crafts products can not only bring substantial cash to the budget of each family, but also can solve important social problems.”

As part of its effort to bring more jobs to the oblast, the administration gave two local enterprises loans totalling 200,000 TJS (US $39,300) for the establishment of handicraft teaching centres. These centres are training craftswomen in the arts of carpet weaving and gold embroidery and the production of traditional textiles such as suzanis, satin and adras.

On October 16, the oblast staged the Satin Festival, a competition among pupils of 10 of those classes to showcase their best work. The winners received cash prizes of 10,000 TJS (US $2,000) each. But as a condition, they had to spend the money on recruiting and training new pupils in craftworks.

The UN Development Programme is helping the oblast underwrite the initiative by funding a local micro-credit organisation, Sugdbizneskonsalting, to the tune of 407,000 TJS (US$80,000).

One of the recipients of the loans for starting training centres is Zinnat, a company in Khujand. It is now offering girls and women free classes on how to weave carpets and embroider traditional textiles by hand. Zinnat has trained 700 girls in those arts.

“There are more people wanting to learn the traditional folk crafts than we can cope with,” Zinnat director Maksud Ziyoboev said. “In 2014, we received more than 3,000 applications. We could only accept a quarter of them. We think we shall run three courses rather than two next year, so that we can teach handicrafts to 3,500 people.”

Entrepeneur Nigina Akhmedova is among those who received a grant. “The money I received goes entirely on the purchase of materials and the wages of the teachers. In the future, we intend to require payment for the courses, so that they will cover their own expenses. We are sure we will have plenty of applicants,” she said.

Akhmedova graduated from Khujand State University in 2011 with a degree in philology, but she chose to go into business instead. Last year, she opened a small sewing workshop, recruited workers, and began producing school and military uniforms.

“Hand-made articles cost several times as much as industrially produced ones,” she said. “They are particularly valued abroad. We think it is time we got into exports.”

Government officials, meanwhile, say they are committed to helping the craftswomen in Sughd Oblast and elsewhere succeed in selling their wares and weave their trade into the national economy.

“The main thing is that people should learn to make good-quality articles,” said Mastura Mukhtorova, head of the Directorate for the Development of the Economy and Commerce.

“We intend to open sales booths in the shopping areas of airports, railway terminals, and at big markets, and to arrange a system of sales through internet shops – in fact – (and) to do as much as we can to help entrepreneurs,” she said.

And thanks to an ongoing dialogue between the government and the commercial sector that has created an “atmosphere of trust and co-operation”, the country’s business climate is improving, Umed Davlatzod, deputy minister of economic development and commerce, said.

“We react instantly to the demands of private business and sort out any problems that arise as we go along. As a result, new enterprises are appearing and new jobs are being created,” he said.

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Tk 425-cr rural road network project being implemented in Rajshahi region

RAJSHAHI, Nov 15, 2014 (BSS)- A rural road network project is being implemented with the main thrust of removing physical bottlenecks for improving rural accessibility, upgrading quality and enhancing sustainability of rural transport and market services in the project area. The estimated cost of the six-year project titled “Improvement of Rural Roads, Bridges, Culverts and other Infrastructure of Backward Upazilas” is around Taka 425 crore.

A total of 53 disadvantaged upazilas under Rajshahi, Naogaon, Natore, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Sirajganj and Bogra districts were brought under the project being implemented by Local Government Engineering Department (LGED).

Under the project, more than 105.70-km upazila roads, 323-km union roads and 502.74-km village roads were improved besides construction of 1000-meter bridges and culverts on the improved roads connecting important places of upazila and every union with Union Parishad, and next higher road network. Apart from this, 15.75-kilometer submergible roads and 4-kilometer road protection infrastructures are being constructed.

The rural level improved infrastructures have already started reducing transport cost, improving marketing system, increasing production and marketing facilities of agricultural products which are contributing a lot to socio-economic development of the project area.

Roadside tree plantation activities on the 85-kilometer improved roads are progressing successfully that will ultimately help reduce carbon emission at a substantial level and that is very important to face the adverse impact of climate change in the vast Barind tract. A total of 15 growth centers are being improved to create short and long -term employment opportunity, socioeconomic development and poverty alleviation.

Improvement of the physical facilities of rural markets will ensure fair price of agricultural products and thereby provide incentives to increase agricultural production, assist enhancement of rural economic and commercial activities.

The scheme of rural infrastructure development and creation of short and long-term employment opportunities in the farm and off farm sector will ultimately assist alleviation of rural poverty by involving rural people in economic and social activities.

Participation of beneficiaries including women and local government institutions in planning, implementation and maintenance activities of the project will be intensified.

To this end, community people are being imparted training on campaigning and awareness building on health and nutrition. At least 80 percent work on the scheme have so far been completed, the sources said adding, implementation of these schemes would in fact further strengthen the overall activities of rural markets at the grassroots level.

With infrastructure development of the selected area, rural communication net work has been improved facilitating overall socio-economic advancement. Ali Ahmed, Superintending Engineer of LGED, told BSS here that the ongoing project is expected to be completed in near future. The improved transportation network will facilitate reducing the transportation cost and creating marketing facility of the produce.

On successful competition, the project will contribute enormously to raising standard of living and livelihood condition in the remote villages, he said.

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BIMP-EAGA Tourism Trade Expo Held in Brunei

Thursday, 20 November 2014 BruDirect.com BERAKAS, BRUNEI-MUARA: An opening ceremony for the BIMP-EAGA Tourism Trade Expo was held at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berakas. The opening was officiated by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar.

The BIMP-EAGA Tourism Trade Expo 2014 provides a platform to showcase connectivity in the BIMP-EAGA sub-region, especially for the Tourism Industry and their related services. The expo focused on Tourism, Airlines, Travel Agencies, Hotels, Handicraft and Souvenirs.

Also during the opening ceremony were the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng and the Minister of Communication, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abdullah Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar. The event which carries the theme ‘Experience Diversity’ is open to the public until Saturday.

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Revitalization of Indonesia sea transport in immediate agenda

18 November 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government will soon revitalize sea transport by procuring more ships and modernize ports and fish terminals, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Indroyono Soesilo said. “There is a lot to do. We will build infrastructure including shipyards, seaports, and ships,” he said after a meeting with President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) at the presidential palace here on Tuesday.

Indroyono said the program is an implementation of one of the results the talks between the president and other foreign leaders during his last weeks visit abroad. The president discussed cooperation in the maritime sector with a number of other heads of state and government. “I was given directives by the president on the results of his first foreign trip attending the APEC, ASEAN and G-20 summit meetings on maritime development,” Indroyono said. The Indonesian president wanted to implement the program soon in a number of areas, Indroyono said.

“Among the port projects are in Benoa, Makassar, Sorong, and Bitung. Ships to be procured include passenger ships, container ships and vehicle transport ships,” he said. In addition feeder ships would also be procured that could carry 500 passengers to feed larger ships, he said. He said revitalization of seaports is expected to start by the end of 2014. “Soon, all will move fast, before the end of 2014,” he said, adding, “the budget is already available only a number of licenses are left to be wrapped up.”

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Indonesian government plans to use railway to cut logistic cost

21 November 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The government plans to use railway transport service for the distribution of essential goods to cut logistic cost. Logistic cost has been the main factor behind the prices of essential goods soaring high in the consumers market, Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel said here on Friday.

He said logistic cost in Indonesia is among the highest in ASEAN around 20 to 30 percent of the countrys Gross Domestic Product. Based on Logistics Performance Index 2014 of the World Bank, the Indonesian logistic performance was the 53th in the world as against Singapore the fifth, Malaysia the 25th, Thailand the 35th and Vietnam the 48th, he said.

Gobel said he would discuss the matter with the transport minister how best to utilize the railway transport which would be faster and more cost efficient. He said the plan would certainly need supporting facilities such as warehouses for storage in railway stations. “The plan has to be running in 2015,” he asked. He said currently cost of distribution of essential goods is too high around 17-20 percent of price.

Therefore, the trade ministry would seriously study the possibility of utilizing the railway transport for farm products to the consumers market, he said. “The transport cost is too high around 17 to 20 percent not to mention delay in the transport because of traffic jams that would need extra cost,” he said.

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Gambia Tourism Officials Tour Europe to Allay Ebola Fears

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 18 November 2014 – The Ebola epidemic has resulted in a massive economic downturn of a number of countries in West Africa. The Gambia is one of them, where the number of tourist’s arrival has plummeted because of fears of this deadly disease. As a result, the Gambia’s minister of Tourism and Culture, Benjamin A. Roberts and the chairman of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), Bakary K. Jammeh are wrapping up a three-week tour of Europe to allay fears of Ebola and as well devise a strategy to attract more tourists to the country.

The duo, who also visited Amsterdam, Netherlands as part of the tour are due in Banjul tomorrow, but while in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, Roberts and Jammeh gave a joint interview with Scandinavian publication, Avisen Online. “There is no Ebola in The Gambia. We are just as afraid of being infected by the disease,” Benjamin Roberts said in the interview.

According to official figures, 170,000 tourists came to The Gambia by plane last year, but the numbers have plummeted this year due to fears of the epidemic. “The Gambia is at least as interested as tourists to avoid Ebola (entering) in the country. We want both our residents and our tourists to feel safe in the country,” Roberts added.

He stressed that The Gambia is not bordered with the Ebola affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, but only has a border with Senegal, which surrounds the country. He added: “We screen all those arriving in Gambia by air, sea or land, for elevated temperature or other symptoms.”

For his part, Bakary K. Jammeh, said The Gambia has not recorded a single case, and that the authorities take the risk seriously. He added that, therefore, there have been substantial efforts to inform people about the disease in the form of posters, television, newspaper and radio advertising.

“We have experienced a decline in tourism of 60 percent compared to last year, and it can be felt on the national economy, where tourism accounts for 20 percent of our Gross Domestic Product,” Jammeh said, adding that the strategy is to increase the number of tourists to 500,000 annually by 2020.

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Nigeria: Akwaaba Hosts Foreign Exhibitors

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 20 November 2014 – AKWAABA African Travel Market (AfTM) at its 10th edition has broken the jinx of the Ebola scare as it hosted African countries and big players in the travel, tourism and allied industries to a rousing outing, even when others were bent on cancelling most tourism events due to withdrawal by participants.

Once again, the successful hosting of this year’s edition re-kindled the hopes and aspirations of Africans and world brand exhibitors who look forward to the AfTM yearly. The three-day expo, which was adopted, recently as the official travel show for East Africa has not only brought a rising profile to the event, but also created a formidable platform to practically position the products and services of exhibitors in the minds of international buyers.

Akwaaba, a coinage from the Ghanaian parlance translated as ‘welcome’ and being used by other African countries and Nigeria (Ekaabo) was a deliberate appellation chosen by the organisers to jointly drive a united front for African tourism products and services through the AfTM Expo.

Though not too excited with the low turnout occasioned by the Ebola scare, the organisers were quick to note that the success of the event was tied to the legwork of innovations and last minute trips to some African countries for damage control.

Most of the participants this year had never attended the AKWAABA before with most of the stands receiving enquiries especially from retail buyers keen on getting more information on various destinations.

In all, the organiser of the event, Mr. Ikechi Uko acknowledged the strength of the travel show as pivotal to the African market. According to him, “We know tourism to recover quickly in the midst of crisis and so are travel expos which AKWAABA, in Africa is a platform to reckon with.

The AfTM was declared open by the Minister of Land Housing and Urban Renewal, Mrs Akon Eyakenyi who said that having the event in Lagos at the backdrop of the Ebola crisis and having all the exhibitors including the Kenya Tourism Board, the Rwanda Development Board and the South African Tourism Board participating was a huge statement that Africans were ready to start working and trading with each other.

Eyakenyi commended the organiser for the effort and courage at making the 2014 edition of AKWAABA not only unique, but also attractive.

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Algeria: Need to Involve Youth in Development of Agriculture, Industry and Tourism

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – 15 November 2014 – Algiers — Minister of Youth Abdelkader Khomri emphasized Saturday in Algiers the need to involve youth in the promotion and the development of the sectors of agriculture, industry and tourism in order to free the national economy from dependence on hydrocarbons.

“It’s time for Algerian youth to get involved in the development of the sectors of agriculture, industry and tourism in order to diversify the national economy and free it from dependence on hydrocarbons,” Khomri told El Moudjahid forum. Algeria “has the necessary material and human resources to boost these sectors and meet the needs of citizens,” said the minister.

The development these key sectors will the main focus of the economic and social conference which will be organized by the Ministry of Youth on 24 and 25 November, he said.

Khomri also highlighted the different actions carried out by his department to address the daily concerns of youth. “The Algerian youth is aware more than ever of the need to preserve the achievements of Algeria in the economic and security fields,” he said. The minister also underlined the role of the civil society in the eradication of violence, and announced the setting-up of the working groups to examine the causes of this scourge, which has reached alarming levels in stadiums.

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Azerbaijan, Spain to open direct air service

20 November 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Direct air service between Azerbaijan and Spain is planned to open in 2015. Nazim Samadov, Azerbaijan’s Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism made the remark during the EIBTM international tourist exhibition in Barcelona, Spain. Samadov said currently, the negotiations on opening a direct air service between Madrid and Baku are at the final stage. The route is a big leap forward in facilitating the flow of tourists and boosting business between the two countries. He admitted that the main obstacle towards attracting more Spanish visitors is the fact that Azerbaijan is unknown in Spain and emphasized the need to increase Baku’s commercial activities in this sphere.

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Baku to host Days of Turkish Culture

20 November 2014 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan will host Days of Turkish Culture from November 23 to 27 in the Heydar Aliyev Center. On this occasion, several events including theatrical performances, concerts, folk music, Turkish movies’ screening and photo exhibitions, are expected to be held in various cultural institutions of Azerbaijan.

As part of the program, a delegation of artists headed by Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Omer Celik will arrive in Baku. The visitors will be able to visit exhibition titled “Colors from Turkey” and many others which will be held in Museum Center on November 24-27. On November 25, a program called “Competition between Troubadours” will be held in the State Music Theatre. The next two days, the State Academic Drama Theatre will host the “Where” and “A Story for Curious” to be performed by Ankara State Theatre.

Relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey have a long history. Besides the fact that the two sides have close relations in the field of politics, economics and energy, they also share a common culture. Azerbaijan–Turkey relations have always been strong with the two often being described as “one nation with two states.”

Common roots, language, religion, culture, customs and traditions are among the factors strengthening these connections. In the most difficult periods of their history, these two countries have always supported each other.

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Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railway to open December 3

Presstv.it – Sun Nov 16, 2014 Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railway line is scheduled to become operational in early December, an Iranian official says. “Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railway will be operational on December 3 in the presence of the presidents of the three countries,” Aneh Mohammad Kouseh-Gharavi, a board member of Islamic Republic of Iran Railway, said on Sunday.

Kouseh-Gharavi further said Iran has so far spent USD 52.3 million on its own section of the international railroad and the country needs another USD 112 million to complete the project, which is being jointly funded by the three countries. The length of the railway is 900 kilometers, 82 kilometers of which passes through Iran, 700 kilometers through Turkmenistan and 120 kilometers through Kazakhstan.

The route will cut up to 600 kilometers of the distance between the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and Europe, leading to a considerable reduction of transportation costs.

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Iran plans to offer Alamut Fortress to UNESCO

Presstv.it Sun Nov 16, 2014 Iran plans to offer the historical Alamut Fortress to UNESCO for a possible inscription on the World Heritage list of the UN organization. Located in Alamut region in Iran’s Qazvin Province, the castle is a mountain structure built on a massive rock in an altitude of 2,100 meters above sea level.

The fabled ruin of Alamut Castle owns historical significance dating back to around 1090 AD, when Hassan Sabbah, the leader of Ismailites in Iran, chose the Alamut region as his headquarters.

The origins of the Alamut Fortress can be traced back to the Kings of Daylam, a Justanid ruler, at the end of the 8th century, who selected the area for the construction of a fortress. The fortress was demolished and set ablaze by Hulagu of Mongolia in 1256. Later the site was only used as prison and a place of exile. World Heritage site is a title that is given to locations that have “outstanding universal value” to humanity, according to the UNESCO description.

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

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Cuba Allocates Land for Havana Mosque

OnIslam & Newspapers Friday, 21 November 2014, CAIRO – A land has been allocated to build a mosque in Cuba’s Havana where Christopher Columbus referred to the presence of a Muslim place of worship long centuries ago, according to media reports.

“This idea first came out as our foundation’s project and bilateral visits then took place,” Mustafa Tutkun, vice general manager of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), told Daily Vatan on Thursday, November 20.

A five-acre land in the Old Havana district is ready for building the mosque that was proposed by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip last week. According to Tutkun, Diyanet has been negotiating the possibilities of the mosque construction between Cuban officials and the Turkish government.

Planning the mosque’s construction, Tutkun suggested its design would be inspired by the picturesque Ortaköy Mosque in Istanbul. “We are thinking of building a (mosque) similar to the Ortaköy Mosque,” said Tutkun.

Despite Diyanet’s willingness to fund the mosque construction, “Cuban officials would prefer the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to construct the mosque, rather than one country,” according to Tutkun. “Our foundation is ready to pay the costs of (the mosque),” Tutkun satated.

Plans to construct Cuba’s first mosque were announced last week by Erdogan as a part of his remarks about the discovery of the Americas by Muslims in the 12th century, more than three centuries before Christopher Columbus.

The Turkish president pointed to a diary entry in which Columbus mentioned a mosque on a hill in Cuba. His claim has been mocked by the west and several Turkish media.

Hitting back at critics, Erdogan assured that Muslims discovered America before Columbus, blaming his critics for lacking confidence. The Turkish president has also urged schools to teach history of Muslim scientists.

The idea raised by Erdogan was first suggested by historian Youssef Mroueh in his article in 1996. In this article, he refers to a diary entry from Columbus that mentions a mosque in Cuba. His idea was contested by analysts who said the passage is widely understood to be a metaphorical reference to the shape of the landscape.

Evidence exists from the Arabs, West Africans, and Ottomans of Muslim voyages to the Americas well before Columbus and Christian Europe. For whatever reason, the textbooks continue to extol the voyage of Columbus and the courage of his crew, the “first” to make it across the Atlantic.

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Indonesia Hosts Muslim Miss World

OnIslam & News Agencies Friday, 21 November 2014 JAKARTA – Women donning modest dresses and Islamic veils will compete on Friday, November 21, in an international beauty pageant for Muslim women, challenging western perceptions about beauty contests.

“We want to see that they understand everything about the Islamic way of life — from what they eat, what they wear, how they live their lives,” Jameyah Sheriff, one of the organizers, told Agence France Presse (AFP).

Contesting in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, women are set to parade in glittering dresses against the backdrop of world-renowned ancient temples. The 18 finalists, who include a doctor and a computer scientist, will be donning Islamic headscarf, or hijab. They will be judged not only on their appearance, but also on how well they recite verses from the Qur’an and their views on Islam in the modern world.

The World Muslimah Award first drew global attention in 2013 when organizers presented it as a peaceful protest to Miss World, which was taking place around the same time on the resort island of Bali. On the other hand, British-run Miss World has faced frequent accusations that it is degrading to women.

British contestant Dina Torkia said she hoped this year’s World Muslimah Award would not only provide a contrast to Western beauty pageants, but would also dispel prejudices against Islam.

“I think the most important thing is to show that we are really normal girls, we are not married to terrorists. This scarf on my head isn’t scary,” she told AFP. Organizers hope to present positive role models for Muslim women around the world. The contestants, who are aged between 18 and 27, include a computer scientist from Tunisia and a newly qualified doctor from Bangladesh.

“I came into this competition hoping that I would leave with my faith increased, but so far it’s been a lot about promotion and media and looking nice,” Britain’s Torkia said.

Friday’s finale concluded a lengthy process, which included an online audition followed by two weeks of events in Indonesia. During the days of the tournament, contestants have visited orphanages and nursing homes along with visiting old Buddhist temples.

Hosting the event at a Hindu site was a conscious decision to show that Muslims are accepting of other religions, organizers said. The contest is not the first in Indonesia.

Last year, more than 500 pious contestants participated in the in the online pick up, where they were answers questions about their relationship with Islam, and when first began donning the Hijab.

In 2011, a beauty pageant for hijab-clad Muslim women who can recite the holy Qur’an in Arabic and participate in the welfare of their society was held in West Jakarta to choose Muslims’ ‘Miss Universe’.

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Young Omani inventor shares insights from his journey

Oman Daily Observer – 21 November, 2014 – “If you’re not going to be a risk taker, you won’t achieve much. Of course, you need to calculate the risk. I trusted my gut feelings and said to myself that I could do this,” says young Omani inventor Sultan al Subhi, who recently finished second in the sixth season of Stars of Science. The Qatar based TV show is an initiative of Qatar Foundation and hopes to encourage the Arab world’s future generation of science and technology innovators.

Al Subhi’s winning invention is Wudu One, an automated robot that cleans ablution-performing areas using special sensors and an auto dispensing water mechanism. Wudu or ablution, is a ritual Muslims do before prayers. An app has to be downloaded for the robot where the user can register his local prayer times and Wudu One will then clean up spaces according to the information.

“The idea first came to me when I went on a road trip with my mum in 2013,” he recalls. “When it was prayer time, she wanted to pray and we found a mosque. Unfortunately, it was very dirty and I realized that public wudu areas are really low in hygiene for a sacred place,” says Al Subhi. “That’s when I thought about creating a robot that can automatically clean such places,” he says. With the encouragement of his mother, he developed the idea and the next year, was able to apply and get selected for the competition.

Al Subhi has three major takeaways from the whole journey of the contest. “First you’ve got to believe in your idea even if you are the only person at that time who believes in it. Never give up and failure is part of the journey. Once you embrace that, things will open up,” he says. “And always keep in mind that changing the status quo is the path to success, especially in innovation.”

Secondly, he believes parents should encourage their children. “Parents need to understand that the new generation is completely different from theirs. It’s a high tech generation, the iGeneration. Always encourage them,” says Al Subhi. “Try to see if they have any talents from an early age and invest in them instead of buying children stuff and gadgets.”

And finally, the third takeaway from his experience extends to the local concerned authorities. “They need to motivate youth to innovate. Also, the private sector in general should jump in to encourage Omani youth,” he feels. Companies need to implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives that should be oriented to the local youth in the form of investments with concrete returns.

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$ 2.7t Islamic finance market faces lack of specialists

Khaleej Times – 21 November, 2014 – As global Islamic finance market gears up to reach $ 2.67 trillion in size by 2017, an acute shortage of specialists in the industry is posing a major challenge to the industry’s projected growth, Progress Training and Consultancy, the institute for professional financial training courses, said. “Tension between demand and the structural constraints are limiting the growth of Islamic Finance,” it said.

Coupled with the Dubai leadership’s vision to make the emirate a global capital for Islamic Finance, Progress is offering its Global Islamic Finance Award-winning CDIF course (CIMA Diploma for Islamic Finance).

Nada Saeed, Managing Director of Progress Training and Consultancy, said according to recent estimates, the global Islamic Finance market is set to reach $ 2.67 trillion, by 2017; but currently, the number of specialists is far too low to cope with demand. “In addition, Dubai has clearly stated its intent to be a global centre for Islamic Finance and, therefore, it seems only logical that Progress should make this CIMA-approved course available, here in the UAE,” added Nada.

Offering the professional recognition of a CIMA international qualification and demonstrable expertise in the complex, fast-growing world of Islamic finance, Progress has scheduled three registration dates for CDIF courses, over the next three months. The courses have staggered starting dates so as to offer a choice of convenient dates for finance professionals to choose from, he said.

The CIDF qualifications come in four modules. These include: Islamic Commercial Law; Banking and Takaful; Islamic Capital Markets & Instruments; and Accounting for Islamic Financial Institutions.

The first course is set to start on November 29, 2014; however, registration for the course will end on Sunday November 27. The course length is six months, after which the participants will receive their certified qualifications.

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SCTA to launch SR250m heritage firm next month

Arab News – 21 November, 2014 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) plans to launch a company next month with initial capital of SR250 million to help turn some of the country’s oldest government-owned buildings into hotels.

Details of the financial structure of the Saudi Heritage Hospitality Company would be announced during the fourth National Urban Heritage Forum to be held in Abha from Dec. 1 to 4, said Hamad Al-Semaeel, SCTA vice-president for tourism investment and development, here recently.

Al-Semaeel said the Public Investment Fund (PIF) would be a stakeholder in the venture, with shares offered to the public at a later stage. He said the SCTA has already conducted a feasibility study on the company. He said the SCTA had started setting up the company in August this year, in line with the requirements of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency. Several leading hospitality and heritage companies have indicated their willingness to contribute to the company’s capital, he said.

“The company will undertake investment, rehabilitation, management and operation of several heritage buildings owned by the state, to transform them into tourism accommodation facilities,” said Al-Semaeel.

He praised the PIF for coming in as a founder shareholder, saying that efforts to get more capital would target private sector companies. He said the SCTA in collaboration with a consulting firm has conducted feasibility studies on four sites for development. They are in Al-Dariyah, Al-Hofuf, Al-Ula and the old part of Jeddah.

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Etihad Airways and Alitalia to enhance connections

Gulf Today – 22 November, 2014 – Etihad Airways and Alitalia, Italy’s leading carrier, will offer enhanced connections between Abu Dhabi and three of Italy’s biggest cities next year, with combined double-daily flights to Milan and Rome, and a new daily service to Venice.

The two airlines signed a major codeshare expansion this week, which subject to government approval, will result in Etihad Airways placing its ‘EY’ code on Alitalia’s new daily service between Venice and Abu Dhabi. The flights launch on 29 March 2015 using an Airbus A330-200 aircraft with 20 Business Class seats, 17 Economy Plus Class seats, and 213 Economy Class seats.

In addition, the ‘EY’ code will be placed on Alitalia’s upcoming daily service between Abu Dhabi and the global fashion capital Milan, which also launches on 29 March 2015, and will be operated using a Boeing 777 aircraft with 30 seats in Business Class, 24 seats in Economy Plus Class, and 239 seats in Economy Class. The flights will combine with Etihad Airways’ popular daily service between the two cities to provide travellers with a convenient double-daily frequency.

Both airlines already codeshare on each other’s daily services between Abu Dhabi and Rome, and subject to government approval, Etihad Airways will codeshare on 15 of Alitalia’s domestic routes from Rome Fiumicino Airport next year, offering extensive access to and from the country.

The codeshare agreement was expanded a week after Etihad Airways and Alitalia received merger clearance from the European Commission for a proposed strategic partnership, under which Etihad Airways will acquire a 49 per cent stake in the Italian national carrier.

James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said: “Our codeshare agreement with Alitalia was initiated over four years ago, and the partnership has developed into a resounding commercial success. Importantly, we are also providing business and leisure travellers with enhanced, and soon to be unmatched, depth and breadth into and out of Italy.

“We are delighted to build on this success with the inclusion of Alitalia’s daily flights from Milan to Abu Dhabi, which complements Etihad Airways’ own daily service between the two cities. In addition, by codesharing on Alitalia’s new Venice service, we will offer access to one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations for the first time, with strong demand expected not only from the GCC region, including the UAE, but also Asian markets such as China, Japan and Korea.”

The codeshare flights can be booked from 28 November 2014 on etihad.com, through Etihad Airways’ contact centres, or via travel agents, for travel on 29 March 2015 onwards.

Etihad Airways began operations in 2003, and in 2013 carried 11.5 million passengers. From its Abu Dhabi base Etihad Airways flies to 111 existing or announced passenger and cargo destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. The airline has a fleet of 105 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and more than 200 aircraft on firm order, including 71 Boeing 787s, 25 Boeing 777-X, 62 Airbus A350s and 10 Airbus A380s.

Etihad Airways holds equity investments in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia, Aer Lingus, Air Serbia and Jet Airways, and is in the process of formalising equity investments in Alitalia and Swiss-based Etihad Regional.

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Arab airlines play bigger role in global aviation

Khaleej Times – 20 November, 2014 – Arab airlines play a bigger role in world air traffic than ever before and have increased their impact and visibility on the global stage by investing in new efficient aircraft, new technologies, better onboard products and service, Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group, said on Wednesday.

Addressing the 47th Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) annual general meeting, Shaikh Ahmed said that with most Arab countries recognising the economic importance of aviation and investing in infrastructure, many of the world’s latest and biggest infrastructure projects in aviation are happening in the Arab world.

Shaikh Ahmed, who is also President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and Chairman Dubai Airports, said while in the past, European airports were the default hubs for travellers flying East to West, or North to South, today, more and more travellers are choosing to fly via hubs in the Arab region.

“It is because we can offer better connection times, and a better travel experience. This huge shift in global aviation is a success story for all of us. As individual airlines, and together with our home countries, we have made the world sit up and take notice.” He pointed out that in 1967 the world’s airlines transported less than 300 million passengers annually. “Today, airlines serve an estimated 3.3 billion passengers. What’s more, the 31 airline members of the AACO are playing a bigger role in world air traffic than ever before. According to figures from Airbus, in less than 10 years between 2003 and 2013, the number of passengers carried by airlines in Middle East and North Africa has increased by more than 300 per cent.”

Shaikh Ahmed said aviation is recognised as a key economic driver in many Middle East and North African countries, citing the UAE and Dubai as an example.

“The latest study from Oxford Economics shows that the aviation sector contributed 26.7 per cent to Dubai’s GDP in 2013, and supported over 400,000 jobs. In 2020, aviation’s contribution to Dubai’s GDP is expected to be $ 53 billion. And by 2030, this will rise to $ 88.1 billion. This is a powerful story. It proves that aviation can have a huge positive impact on economies if there is a clear strategy, and collaboration,” he told a gathering of more than 300 Arab and global aviation industry experts at the opening of the conference.

“Dubai has its own model. But we are certainly not the only ones in the Arab world who see aviation as a key economic driver. Many Arab airlines are investing in new efficient aircraft, new technologies, better onboard products, and better service. Many of the world’s latest — and biggest — infrastructure projects in aviation, are happening right here in the Arab world.”

Citing IATA forecasts, Shaikh Ahmed noted that the aviation industry expects to see massive growth over the next 20 years with seven billion passengers expected to take to the skies by 2034. The Middle East region is also expected to have the highest growth rate at 4.9 per cent per annum, the same rate as Asia Pacific, while Africa will see a growth rate of 4.7 per cent per annum.

“Both Airbus and Boeing forecast that airlines in our region will need more than 2,000 new aircraft over the next 20 years. That’s worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Think about what this might mean for the global aviation supply chain in terms of jobs and more. There is no doubt that our impact on the global aviation industry is increasing,” he said.

Shaikh Ahmed observed that airlines would continue to face external challenges such as aeropolitics, global economics, health pandemics, armed conflict, among others. However, prospects for Arab carriers remain bright as the airlines continue to compete commercially, while working together through platforms such as the AACO to tackle issues of common interest collectively.

At the conference, AACO has developed a crisis management partnership through 11 of its member airlines to handle emergency response planning. These airlines include Emirates, Etihad, Air Arabia, EgyptAir, Flydubai, Kuwait Airlines, MEA, Oman Air, Qatar Airways and Saudia. Emirates President Sir Tim Clark urged other airlines in AACO that meet all IATA and ICAO standards to join the programme.

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Qatar, Gambia look to expand economic ties

Gulf Times – 20 November, 2014 – A trade delegation from Qatar Chamber met with a Gambian delegation here yesterday to discuss ways to strengthen economic ties and trade exchange between the two sides. Minister for Presidential Affairs and Secretary-General at the Office of Gambia’s President Kalilou Bayo said that his country has many investment opportunities, especially in the tourism sector, calling Qatari businessmen to explore those opportunities.

He said that this meeting represents a good opportunity to know these investment opportunities and economic possibilities in his country to discuss the possibility of co-operation on them as well as to identify the business community in the Gambia, stressing that his country enjoys security and social peace.

Gambian Minister of Trade Abdou Jobe reviewed investment opportunities in his country, saying that there are many sectors, such as services, tourism and agriculture as well as real estate and lands development, where Qatar could invest.

Meanwhile, Gambian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Kebba Touray stressed his country’s commitment to support the private sector and provide an attractive investment environment for investment, adding that the signing of an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation between Qatar and Gambia is indicative of this commitment. He pointed out that the two countries have in the past signed a number of agreements that will support investment and trade exchange.

Meanwhile, Vice-Chairman of Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) Mohamed bin Ahmed Tawar al-Kuwari, who led the Qatari delegation, said that the private sector in Qatar seeks to take advantage of the nature of the good relations between Qatar and Gambia, where Qatari businessmen wish to explore investment opportunities in Gambia in all fields, noting that such a visit is an appropriate chance to discuss ways of co-operation between the private sectors in both countries.

He also stressed that the Qatar Chamber urges businessmen from both sides to find genuine partnerships and collaboration.

Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Industrial Manufacturing Company (QIMC) Abdulrahman al-Ansari, who was among the members of the Qatari delegation, called on Gambian businessmen to provide economic studies for projects and investment opportunities available with them so that it can be studied on the ground.

He also stressed that the most important concern for businessmen and companies that want to invest abroad is the efficiency of a country’s financial and banking system, which should allow easy transfer of funds.

While Fahad Hamad al-Mohannadi, General Manager of Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC), said that the company is interested in investing in the African continent, noting in this regard to the company’s efforts to win a project for the production of wind energy in Morocco. He added that it also had talks with Senegal and Sudan to discuss the possibility of establishing projects to generate electricity there.

He also noted that QEWC entered into an agreement with French and Moroccan energy companies to produce wind energy in Morocco. The project includes establishing plants with a total capacity of approximately 850 MW.

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Tourism island among new projects unveiled in Yanbu

Arab News – 21 November, 2014 – Twenty-seven major investment projects in the industrial city of Yanbu were unveiled during an investment forum opened by Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Prince Mansour bin Miteb on Wednesday.

Projects include a tourism island, four hotels, an international specialist hospital, a tourist resort east of Yanbu Port, a health resort, an automobile market and a housing city to accommodate 150,000 workers.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, and Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman attended the forum, organized by Yanbu Municipality in cooperation with the city’s chamber of commerce and industry.

Most of the projects unveiled during the event were in tourism and marine sectors. Madinah Mayor Khaled bin Abdul Qader Taher said the new projects were aimed at boosting the development of the region, enhancing the progress and prosperity of citizens and residents.

He said the municipality aims to achieve good returns from potential investment projects in Yanbu and other parts of the region.

Yanbu Municipal chairman Hatim Taha said the new projects were announced after conducting necessary feasibility studies, adding that it would contribute to developing the necessary infrastructure for future growth.

“The investment roadmap for Yanbu covers seven million square meters,” Taha said, adding that it offers investment opportunities in various sectors that would organize the city’s progress and markets.

“There will be an integrated housing city that can accommodate more than 100,000 workers,” Taha said, adding that it would meet the housing requirements of various companies and industries in the city. About one million square meters have been allocated for this project.

Tourist resorts, hotels and furnished apartments will be given two million square meters to accommodate about 30,000 tourists and guests, Taha explained. “There are good prospects to establish a huge fish market on an area of 70,000 square meters,” he pointed out.

A number of small-scale projects including fast-food shops, restaurants and wedding halls can be established to meet the needs of visitors of Yanbu Corniche spread on an area of 30 kilometers, Taha said.

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‘Port city’ on Oman border planned

Arab News – 21 November, 2014 – An official Omani source has revealed plans to launch a “logistic port city” along the Saudi-Omani border later this year. The port will comprise a large service area that will house warehouses, transport companies and custom services companies.

The source said that several government bodies have been working on its development, including the Ministry of Commerce, the General Organization for Industry and the Ministry of Housing.

According to the source, there has been considerable efforts from both the Saudi and Omani sides to revitalize the border region. The port will contribute to saving up to 50 percent of shipping and transport time, reducing the total time of shipping from six days to three days, he said. He said that investment in the project will be open to Gulf citizens.

Saif bin Khamis, director of the Department of Export Promotion, said that the new customs system has cut down up to 90 percent of the customs bottlenecks that previously existed between Gulf states, allowing the process to run more efficiently for all.

The announcement came during a press conference on Tuesday regarding the Omani Products Exhibition, which is to take place from May 18 to 21, and involve the participation of 100 Omani companies and products, including small and medium-sized enterprises.

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Abu Dhabi’s business tourism sector looks to reign in Spain

Gulf Daily News – 19 November, 2014 – Abu Dhabi’s business tourism players are going all out to raise awareness of their products and services at next week’s EIBTM global meetings and events exhibition in Barcelona, Spain.

Twenty-six exhibitors have signed up for this year’s Abu Dhabi EIBTM pavilion, led by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) meaning its 2014 showing will feature more players and products than ever.

“There’s no doubt that the planned launch, next March, of daily air links between Abu Dhabi and Madrid has influenced the sign up rate,” explained Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director, Promotions and Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi.

“The service will bring a whole new market well within our reach and it’s time to ensure we have the right contacts in place to maximise this opportunity.”

Abu Dhabi’s EIBTM line-up includes Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, destination management companies, hotels, Yas Island, major attractions, event producers and niche products, including sea plane air tours.

“The breadth of product this year is highly significant as it is a complete reflection of just how much the destination is evolving in terms of choice for meetings and events planners,” added Al Nuaimi.

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Passenger traffic at Muscat, Salalah airports up by 5pc

Oman Daily Observer – 19 November, 2014 – The total passenger traffic (including transit and transfer passengers) through Muscat International Airport has increased by 5 per cent to 7,303,502 passengers until October 2014 compared to 6,926,578 passengers for the same period of 2013.

Statistics shows an increase in the arrival passengers by 5 per cent to 3,653,932 passengers until October this year comparing to 3,485,305 passengers for the same period of the year 2013.

The number of departing passengers has also increased by 6 per cent to 3,619,774 until October this year comparing to 3,402,146 passengers for the same period of the year 2013.

The increase in arrival and departure traffic into Muscat International Airport is attributed to the increase in the number of flights operated by existing airlines, such as

Iran Aseman, Air India Express, Pakistan International Airlines and Air Arabia.

In terms of air cargo traffic at Muscat International airport, aviation statistics indicate an increase in the total unloaded and loaded freight by 2 per cent, with total shipment (101,390 tonnes) compared to (99,448 tonnes) in the same period in 2013.

Salalah Airport has witnessed an increase by 14 per cent in the total number of arriving and departing passengers to 714,415 passengers until October 2014 compared to 628,677 passengers for the same period of 2013.

As for the movement of Air cargo at Salalah Airport, cargo traffic has decreased by 12 per cent, bringing the loaded and unloaded cargo to (1021 tonnes) until October 2014 compared to 1,164 tonnes in the same period in 2013.

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‘Discover Al-Ahsa’ tours attract Gulf citizens

Arab News – 18 November, 2014 – The General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities branch in Al-Ahsa has launched the ‘Discover Al-Ahsa’ program, which seeks to invite citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to tour Al-Ahsa city using organized flights and programs.

Al-Ahsa Airport has now received the first group of 30 tourists from the United Arab Emirates. The tour was organized in collaboration with two flight agents and the Flydubai airline. Ali bin Tahir Al-Haji, director general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, welcomed the Emirati tourists to their “second home in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and conveyed the happiness of Al-Ahsa residents over their visit.

Al-Haji hopes that the guests will spend a good amount of time in Al-Ahsa and will explore its natural and historical landmarks, stressing his efforts to strengthen the cooperation of the program with airlines and tour organizers in the region to promote Al-Ahsa as a tourist destination. Al-Haji described Al-Ahsa as the Eastern Gate of the Kingdom for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“Gulf countries have identified Al-Ahsa as a shopping destination for decades. We hope that the organized tours will help in uncovering the other sides of the city, too, such as its heritage and recreational sites” Al-Haji said.

He expressed his gratitude to the vice president of the authority, Walid Al-Hamidi, and the vice president of programs and marketing in the authority, Hamad Al-Sheikh, for their support and supervision of the program and their keenness to diversify tourism products in the area.

Abdelmoneim Ali, a tour organizer, explained that the program prepared for the first Emirati tourist group includes a visit to King Abdullah Environmental Park, Al-Qara Mountain, Al-Mushaqqar and Dogha Al-Grash Mountains, Ibrahim Historical Palace, Al-Ahsa Museum, the Country Resort, Een Al-Hara, the “Culture House,” Qaisaria Souq and the Mashaleh Factory.

Al-Ahsa is home to a number of archaeological sites that bear witness to the area’s importance, while the number of springs and freshwater sources in Al-Ahasa ranges from 60 to 70, with sites similar to those in Ummsaba’ah, Al-Harrah and Al-Khadod.

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SR4.5bn worth of road projects to boost tourism in Asir region

Arab News – 19 November, 2014 – The cost of road projects serving tourist sites in the Asir region peaks at more than SR4.5 billion.

Khaled Al-Omari, manager at the general administration of studies and designs at Asir Municipality, said all the projects planned by the authorities will boost tourism in the region.

These projects include the opening of new roads within Al-Souda park, and the expansion of internal roads, he said.

”These projects also include the expansion of Al-Habla park entrance, with the launch of a number of ring roads, including a road to connect the square with the park,” the official said.

According to Al-Omari, a core part of these projects includes asphalting and lighting Bani Mazen tourist road, that connects to Al-Sahab park, the expansion and lighting of the road linking Al-Talea valley and Al-Souda road and the enlargement of the Prince Sultan road, with a width of 60 meters within the city and a length 4,850 meters, to link King Abdullah Road and Taif Road.

The projects will ease traffic jams in the city. Regarding the road projects, Mohammed Al-Umrah, director general of the general authority for tourism and antiquities in Asir, said efforts are being made to complete the infrastructure that serves tourist sites in the region, highlighting the huge economic returns that could be achieved by the tourism industry in the region once the projects are completed.

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