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10 Nov, 2014

Singer Yusuf Islam Launches Autobiography on his Spiritual Journey

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 10 November 2014 (17 Muharram 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.




LEAD STORY: Singer Yusuf Islam Launches Autobiography on his Spiritual Journey

OnIslam & Newspapers Monday, 03 November 2014 CAIRO – Delving into his spiritual journey to Islam, Yusuf Islam, the English artist previously known as Cat Stevens, has published his memoir in a new book, “Why I Still Carry a Guitar”, that shares his inspiring experience with readers.

“My abrupt departure from the spotlight confused many of my friends and fans,” he writes in the opening chapter, The National reported on Sunday, November 2. “Sadly, a few decided to believe strange rumors about my decision based on inaccurate information and myths.”

In this book, Islam details the gripping story of his journey from a teenager experiencing the dizzying heights of music superstardom, selling more than 60 million albums, to a man defined by his faith, who gave up music for more than a quarter of a century but is back delivering his message of peace through music and art.

In 1977, Cat Stevens discovered a new path for his life when he reverted to Islam, taking the name of Yusuf Islam.

Years after leaving the stage, Yusuf came back to the musical world mastering Islamic songs/Nasheeds; he renewed some of his old tracks and produced new ones which all speak about peace, reconciliation, and spirituality. “Peace Train”, “Little Ones Still Smiling”, “Be What You Must”, and “Roadsinger” are just examples of Yusuf’s inspirational songs.

His latest songs came last week when he released the new blues album under the title ”Tell ‘Em I’m Gone”.

Islam has never stopped making records over the last three decades, releasing three albums of Islam-related songs, The Life of the Last Prophet (1995), Prayers of the Last Prophet (1999) and a record for children, A Is for Allah (2000), most of them have been for humanitarian causes.

His UN-registered charity, Small Kindness, provides humanitarian relief, through direct aid as well as social and educational programs, to orphans and families in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and other regions of the world.

He is also head of the Islamia Schools trust and has met Prince Charles in his new role. In 2003, Islam was awarded the “World Social Award” for his humanitarian relief work. More recently, in November 2004, he was honored with the “Man for Peace” award by a committee of Nobel peace laureates.

In his 100-page biography, Islam highlights vital role art plays in tackling the negative image of the religion, helping in extending cultural bridges. The legendary singer has also cited various holy Qur’an verses and Hadith that states “music is not banned”.

“There was not enough undisputed evidence in Islam’s original scriptural sources of divine knowledge to support the complete banning of music from human life and its objectives,” Islam said.

Throughout the 15 chapters, Islam unfolds his most crucial decisions in his career and how he was able to maintain success over the past years by adhering to Islamic principles. Outside of the world of music, Islam continues his busy schedule as a philanthropist and speaker.

He is involved in the humanitarian relief organizations as well as a number of educational projects. In 1980s, Yusuf founded “Islamia Primary School”, the first full-time Muslim school of its kind in England and the first to get recognition from the government after a long and difficult struggle.

In 1999, he founded “Small Kindness”; a UK registered charity that works on helping orphans, widows, the elderly, needy families and the disabled in countries all over the world. In 2010, he founded the “Yusuf Islam Foundation”; a registered charity which serves as an umbrella body that works in education, the alleviation of poverty and community development.

Published last September, the book inspires Muslim artists to make a compromise between their faiths and arts. “I am not seeking or asking any­one to follow me, or my various conclusions,” he states. “But only to look within themselves.”

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Calligraphy Exhibition on Prophet Muhammad in Washington DC

OnIslam & Newspapers Sunday, 02 November 2014 WASHINGTON – Celebrating the 1443rd birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), an Islamic calligraphy exhibition was opened in Washington a few days ago to reflect the true-values of Islam.

“This exhibition is quite meaningful and launched timely in terms of telling what Islam represents via the Qur’anic verses and deeds of our prophet, while Islam and its values is abused and misinterpreted in the world, particularly the Middle East,” Turkish ambassador to Washington, Serdar Kilic, told Anadolu Agency on Saturday, November 1.

Titled “Love for the Prophet”, the exhibition showcases several paints by famous calligraphers, including Turkish.

Verses from the holy Qur’an, deeds of Prophet Muhammad and tablets on which the Prophet is identified are also presented by the exhibition hosted by the Turkish embassy. The exhibition will close on November 21.

Sponsored by the Islamic Culture and Art Platform, in cooperation with Yildiz Holding, a Turkish multinational, and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the exhibition was opened in Washington on Friday, October 31.

A similar exhibition was held last month in New York and was also co-organized by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). The Prophet’s birth falls on the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal (the third month in the Islamic calendar).

Many Muslims see the Prophet’s birthday as an important time to learn about and reflect on Muhammad’s life. Lectures and speeches are often recorded and published as podcasts.

Around the world, celebrations of the prophet’s birthday include stalls selling Islamic books, leaflets, clothing, prayer mats and other materials.

Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.

According to a 2011 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, about 20 percent of US Muslims are converts to the faith. Of those converts, about 54 percent were men and 46 percent were women. An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.

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Algerian Fragrant Flowers, Medicinal Plants Seeking Investors

ALGIERS, Nov 3 (NNN-APS) — Algeria’s National Agency for Nature Conservation (ANPN) has begun setting up an inventory of the national heritage of medicinal and fragrant plants for their development while their import amounted at $25 million annually.

For the development of the agricultural potential, the ANPN currently works with various agencies in charge of youth training to encourage them to invest in this industry, Director General of the agency, Ayad Hanifi told APS.

Only in the first eight months of 2014, Algeria imported worth $23.4 million 10.4 million kg of flowers and further plants, against $14.2 million (7 million kg) during the same period of 2013, according to the statistics of the National Centre of Data Processing and Statistics of Customs (CNIS).

The development of this industry is a “positive investment” with many opportunities notably the pharmaceutical and cosmetic laboratory, said Hanifi.

“If we can materialize this project, we can greatly reduce or even stop the import of flowers from the Netherlands, and other categories of plants supplied by Syria, Saudi Arabia and China,” he added.

In collaboration of the Training and Vocational Education Ministry, this agency plans to provide training in the techniques of plant cultivation and conservation for youth wishing to invest in this field.

For bigger campaign of information for youth, a first show of investment in the medicinal end pharmaceutical herbs will be organized in partnership with several universities by the end of 2014 in the province of El Oued.

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Guyana Indigenous Song Festival To Preserve Amerindian Languages

GEORGETOWN, Nov 5 (NNN-GINA) — Guyana’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport will host the indigenous song festival with the aim of preserving indigenous languages and raising awareness.

Minister of Culture Youth and Sport, Dr. Frank Anthony at a press conference, stressed that it is important to preserve indigenous languages.

“The language speakers are dwindling, and some of these languages are unique to the world and if we lose them, the world will be short on languages.”

He added that the Ministry has been looking at bringing forth an event such as the language festival because it noticed that the indigenous languages are being overlooked.

In keeping with the aim of preserving the indigenous languages, the ministry has also published seven dictionaries and is currently working on similar publications for the other two languages. In addition, Grammar books for the indigenous languages are also being worked on.

The minister said the initiative is a start, but in order for the festival to blossom, partnerships are needed.

Festival Coordinator, Ovid Williams, a Patamona, who gave a taste of an indigenous song said for Region One performances, will come from the Arawaks and Warraus. From Region 7 the Arecunas will provide religious gospel, as well as a rapper to show their awareness of popular culture. From Region 9, performances can be expected from the Macushis and Wapishanas and from Region 6, the Warraus from Orealla and Siparuta.

The North Pakaraimas festival, to be held on Nov 22-23 by Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, will be used to judge the Patamonas’ performances so they can take part in the festival. The Lokono tribe from St. Cuthbert’s Mission will also perform.

Andrew Tyndal, Administrator, National School of Music said indigenous language is being threatened by extinction. He added that music being a universal language is thought to be the most effective way to showcase the varying indigenous languages.

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Malaysia Records Higher Tourist Arrivals

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Nov 3 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia registered 16.1 million tourist arrivals between January and July this year, an increase of 9.7 per cent over the corresponding period last year, the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House) was told today.

Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said there was a decrease in the number of tourist arrivals from China and Taiwan which he attributed to the tragedy of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Many of the 227 passengers on Flight MH370, which went missing while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, were Chinese nationals.

“The number of tourist arrivals from China (between January and July) was 997,370, a drop of 11.8 per cent, and the number from Taiwan was 116,962, a drop of 2.9 per cent,” Mohamed Nazri said when replying to Dr Mansor Abd Rahman (BN-Sik) during question time.

Mansor had wanted to know the number of tourist arrivals following the MH370 and MH17 incidents. Flight MH17 crashed, after it was apparently shot, in eastern Ukraine on July 17 as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

Mohamed Nazri said that besides China and Taiwan, tourists came to Malaysia from the 12 major markets, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“The total revenue from tourism between January and June this year was RM35.3 billion, an increase of 13.2 per cent,” he said.

Mohammed Nazri said Malaysia was on track to achieve the targeted 28 million tourist arrivals in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

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Oman Seeks Investments From Malaysia

PETALING JAYA, Malaysia Nov 6 (NNN-Bernama) — Oman has sought investments from Malaysia in its potential markets, particularly halal food, healthcare, construction, tourism and oil and gas sectors.

Nader Abbas, general manager of Omanexpo LLC, an event management company in Oman, said Malaysian businesses should take advantage of Oman’s business-friendly environment and incentives to explore the markets and forge business ties.

He said the business incentives, included zero personal income tax, free repatriation of capital and profits, and 100 per cent business ownership.

“We have concluded many bilateral agreements, so we need to activate them by welcoming investors to set up businesses, joint ventures or franchise networks, or become business agents,” he told reporters at a briefing on ‘Capturing Business Opportunities in Oman’ organised by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers Malaysia in Petaling Jaya, Thursday.

Oman’s gross domestic product in 2013 was worth US$79.7 billion (RM266.2 billion) and is expected to remain stable despite global economic uncertainties.

It imports mainly electronics and palm oil products from Malaysia while its major trading partners are the United Arab Emirates, Japan, the UK and the US.

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ADB To Help Spur SME Growth In Kazakhstan

4 November 2014 ASTANA, KAZAKHSTAN – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a $122 million loan to develop small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through participating banks and the state-owned JSC Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund (Damu) in Kazakhstan.

“Improved access to finance will help generate more investment, employment, and ultimately income for small and medium business owners,” said ADB’s Kazakhstan Acting Country Director Asel Chyngysheva. ”The project will focus on lending to businesses located outside of big cities and women entrepreneurs.”

The project loan agreement was signed in Astana today by Ms. Chyngysheva and the Chairperson of Damu’s Management Board, Lyazzat Ibragimova.

Under the terms of the loan, which is guaranteed by the Republic of Kazakhstan, ADB will provide the loan to Damu at a fixed-interest rate for 5 years. In turn, Damu will make the funds available to Bank CenterCredit and TsesnaBank, allowing them to offer loans denominated in Tenge, Kazakhstan’s currency, at an affordable rate to their SME clients.

The loan is part of a $500 million Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Program multitranche financing facility approved by ADB’s Board of Directors in September 2012.

Kazakhstan’s government and Damu view SMEs as key to boost the country’s economic growth and diversify the economy.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.0 billion, including co-financing of $6.6 billion.

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Egyptian artists mark their presence at London’s Nour Festival for Arts

London, Ahram Online, Tuesday 4 Nov 2014 – In its fifth edition, Nour Festival sheds light on contemporary Middle Eastern and North African arts and culture. Egypt’s presence is marked with films screenings, dance performances, discussions and exhibitions. In its large display of arts from North Africa and the Middle East, the six-week long Nour Festival in London brings together artists and performers from across the region.

Egyptian performer and choreographer, Salah El-Brogy participates with the world première of The Moment, a solo dance performance. El-Brogy is not a stranger to the festival as he has already participated in its past edition with another solo titled Hurriyah, in which he collaborated with British calligrapher Soraya Syed and musician Nitin Sawhney.

The festival’s film section will include a screening of Excuse My French (La Moakhza), Amr Salama’s third feature. The movie tells the story of a Coptic Christian child who, fearing discrimination from his classmates after transferring to a public school, pretends to be a Muslim. The movie stirred considerable controversy during its release in 2013. The film was rejected by censors more than three times before it was finally released at the beginning of this year.

Bryony Dunne, a multidisciplinary artist living between Dublin and Cairo, will screen her short movie The Orchard Keepers. Released in 2014, the film looks into the Bedouin community in Egypt’s Sinai, setting the events at the backdrop of political upheavals. By following two characters from the local community who struggle to keep their orchards alive, Dunne looks deep into the rich traditions of the region

Filmmaking in the Middle East – Women Behind the Camera – is one of the festival’s sections in which four women filmmakers will share details about their practice. Egypt will be represented by young assistant director Nadine Khan, joined in the discussion by creative producer Elhum Shakerifar; Iranian filmmaker and screenwriter, Tina Gharavi and an Oscar nominated Yemeni-Scottish film maker, Sara Ishaq.

Paralleling the performances and film screenings, an exhibition titled Across Time and Space will follow the contemporary and regional garments from the Silk Road. The exhibition will showcase contemporary attire: Iranian, Kurdish, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, Egyptian and other North African cultures.

London’s Nour Festival for Arts continues until the end of November revealing many more riches from the North Africa and Middle Eastern region. Over the past five years, the festival has grown from a pioneering arts education programme based at Leighton House Museum to the all-encompassing, 32-partner and 20-venue strong cultural event, the organisers reveal on the festival’s website.

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Visa for Music: A get together for Arab, African artists in Morocco

Rabat, Ahram Online, Wednesday 5 Nov 2014 – Visa for Music, the first edition of an event that aims to gather musicians and culture professionals from the Arab world and Africa, is set to take place between 12 and 15 November in Rabat, Morocco. The event aims to play out as more than a festival with a series of musical line ups, as it will also explore films related to music, culture management trainings, networking events and a conference.

The musical line-up includes several acts from Egypt such as: electronic musician Maurice Louca, traditional experimental trio Alif Ensemble who are made up of Louca, Iraqi Khayam Allami and Palestinian Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, indie-rock band Massar Egbari and French-Folkloric fusion duo The Egyptian Project.

Others participating in the music line-up include Lebanese sensations Mashrou’ Leila, Mauritanian artist Noura Mint Seymali and Moroccan favorites Ribab Fusion.

Besides the musical line-up, Visa for Music will also feature a series of films following young artists engaging with street music. Among this selection is Omar El-Shamy’s Mahragan, a film delving into the world of Cairo’s shabby street music scene. The events will take place in Theater Mohamed V, Salle Renaissance and Club Renaissance.

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Tripartite Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railway to start operation

Gorgan, Golestan Prov., Oct 31, IRNA –Vice-President for Executive Affairs Mohammad Shariatmadari and his accompanying delegation arrived in this province on Thursday to examine latest developments in Incheh Boroun railroad which connects Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan together.

The length of Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railway is about 910 km and international transportation experts believe that with the operation of the railway over 600 km of the transportation route will be reduced between CIS countries to the Persian Gulf and Europe. More than 82 km of the railroad is located in Iran, 700 km in Turkmenistan and 120 km in Kazakhstan.

With the operation of the mentioned railway which is also known as ‘North-South’ passageway, the transportation and transit of goods by the railway will take two days and nights and transportation costs will reduce remarkably.

The railroad is expected to be inaugurated in the presence of presidents of Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The railway project is expected to become operational this year.

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Palestinian Tamer Institute Wins Young Adult Award for Arabic Children’s Literature

SHARJAH, November 6, 2014 – (WAFA) – Palestinian Tamer Institute for Community Education won Wednesday the Young Adult Award for Arabic Children’s Literature.

Tamer Institute for Community Education was announced as the winner for Young People’s Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature, the most prestigious children’s literature award in the Arab region, during the 33rdannual edition of Sharjah International Book Fair held Wednesday.

Sonia Nimr’s Strange Travels in Amazing Lands was chosen as the young adult book of the year. The book, whose drawing are painted by Lubna Taha, is published by Tamer Institute for Community Education.

According to the publisher’s press release, the book was released in mid-2013 and was widely and fast circulated among young and adult readers as well as critics. The book was distributed to more than 200 community and school libraries in Palestine and was discussed in over 100 sessions.

Sonia Nimer is a Palestinian children’s literature author and story teller. She started publishing in the nineties. Sonia released many books in young adult and children literature with several Arabic and foreign publishing companies.

The novel tells the story of a girl who travels in adventure crossing deserts and seas fighting stereotypical roles.

To be noted, Tamer Institute for Community Education is an educational non-governmental non for profit organization established in 1989 as a natural and necessary response to the urgent needs of the Palestinian community. Its program aims to contribute to enhancing reading, writing and all forms of Expression among children and young adults. It also aims at contributing to a Palestinian environment that is supportive to learning processes, and at supporting the literary and scholar production on child culture in Palestine.

According to the publisher, the novel travels into fascinating adventures, beyond reality of a woman bravest than men of her years, whose life is revealed to a university professor invited to attend a conference in Morocco, where she is handed an old manuscript of the whole life of Qamar, who, despite concerns of family and friends defies fear and danger in a restless adventurer. Qamar travels dangerous waters, she faces slavery, danger and hardships, she meets so many people, tutors and friends, she lives, loves and travels once more, will her journeys ever end, especially when her reality becomes too much to bear? The fates throw us into high tides while we glide in life; we spend a long journey with Qamar. The book is engaging and attractive, it throws the reader in the midst of seas beautifully weaved with the skillful narration of a storyteller.

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Indonesia: Jakarta To Revamp 33 Parks This Year

JAKARTA, Indonesia Nov 6 (NNN-Bernama) — The Jakarta administration is planning to revamp 33 large parks this year to beautify the capital city, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported. The parks include those located along the Imam Bonjol Road, Pramuka Park and Amir Hamzah.

“The parks developed by the provincial government are meant to serve as educational parks where the people can exercise and children can play,” said Jakarta Park chairman Nandar Sunandar recently.

Nandar said facilities and infrastructure in the parks will be improved and hoped renovation work will be completed according to schedule.

Jakarta has a total of 2,523 green open spaces spanning 2,734 hectares. In November 2012, former governor and new president Joko Widodo pledged to provide the city’s residents with green open spaces covering 30 percent of Jakarta’s total land area by the end of his five-year term.

The new administration has set a target of creating 198.7 square kilometres of green open spaces in the city by 2018.

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Saudi artworks dazzle at Hafez

Wednesday 5 November 2014, Arab News – Since the early 1960s, the Kingdom has been quietly amassing an eclectic collection of fine art by Saudi artists that has caught the attention of local and international crowds. Hafez Gallery was recently inaugurated with an exhibition showcasing the successful journey of prominent Saudi and Arab artists.

The gallery brought together the country’s best first generation artists to exhibit their early work and it highlighted this generation’s unique and special circumstances, their notable existence and the sacrifices and contributions made, which proved to be vital in the establishment of the first instance of organized Saudi art.

Qaswra Hafez, founder of Hafez Gallery, has been involved in Saudi arts for over 20 years. He said the aim of opening this gallery was to create a diverse permanent collection of the earliest fine arts and as a general resource for the art lover. “Moreover, the gallery celebrates the Saudi fine arts existence, which will complete its 50 years by 2015,” he said.

The work of a fine group of successful artists: Abdulhalim Radwi, Mohammad Al-Saleem, Abduljabbar Al-Yahya, Abdullah Al-Shaikh, Taha Al-Sabban, Mohammad Al-Resayes, Abdullah Hammas, and Abdulrahman Al-Soliman caught the attention of art lovers.

The gallery features abstract art, collages, feature prints and acrylic paintings. Qaswra said: “The gallery is delighted to be able to share the painting collections of Abdul Halim Radawi, a distinguished member of the Saudi fine art scene, whose work dignifies an impressive range of subject and theme.”

The opening ceremony comprised of a talk hosted by Abdulaziz Ashour, an artist and curator of “Al-Taliaa” exhibition, with the leading figures of art, Taha Al-Sabban and Abdullah Hamas, where each of them discussed their particular areas of research and expertise, in addition to contemporary art’s relationship with historic works.

Ashour said: “The successive development of the art scene in Saudi Arabia has been tremendous and is considered as high caliber art, thanks to the individual efforts of artists aiming to preserve local tradition and culture within a society that did not necessarily support art education and instruction.”

Discussions held by the artists helped people to learn more about the person behind the creativity. Both the artists spoke about their challenges, life obstacles encountered during their journey and perspective of the community toward an artist, he said.

The gallery not only exhibits innovation, art and beauty but also invites visitors, citizens and residents to explore the many facets of the Kingdom’s rich diversity and pioneering spirit, Ashour added.

Taha Al-Sabban, whose work varies from realistic renderings of everyday scenes to more abstract wanderings over the canvas and a plethora of work in oils, acrylics and pastels, said: ” I am interested in depicting the changing social landscapes of Saudi Arabia and to serve as a lasting inspiration with my paintings. It is a great opportunity to share my personal favorite, a 23-year-old abstract painting and first expressions of my artwork.”

“This is my first time to collaborate with eight different artists and create art expressions. Hafez Gallery will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about the artists and their artwork,” he added.

Artist Hamas, a pioneer in producing abstract designs, many of which sprang from his love for local traditions and the environment of his native Asir, said that Hafez Gallery is reminiscing the good old art pieces of the Saudi artists as well as displaying new works by modern masters of Saudi fine arts.

Hamas appreciated the idea of the Hafez Gallery to exhibit the past work of artists and to display quite distinct styles that address various subjects under one roof.

Qaswra announced the publication of a book in coordination with Ashour in 2015 to celebrate 50 years of arts in Saudi Arabia. The book will discuss the story of fine arts in the Kingdom, the challenges that played a major role in establishing it and the various view points of Saudi artists.

Qaswra said: “The idea of the book came to me when Ashour surprised me with a range of rare and historical works and documents on Saudi art. I had not anticipated finding something as valuable as those. I hope that the gallery and the book prove to be an important step in giving Saudi Arabian art its recognition and due on the Arab and international art stage.”

“The gallery showcases permanent collections of artists that continue to grow in size and stature, and includes influential artists in the Arab world. We’re delighted to be able to share this collection with the public, and to continue the Kingdom’s tradition of making art accessible to everyone,” he added.

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Oman Takes Part In World Travel Market In London

LONDON, England, Nov 4 (NNN-ONA) – Oman, represented by the Ministry of Tourism, takes part today, in the largest tourism expo, World Travel Market (WTM) London 2014.

The leading global event for the travel industry is a vibrant business event, presenting a diverse range of destinations and industry sectors, to the UK and International travel professionals.

The Sultanate’s delegation was headed this year by, Maitha bint Saif al-Mahrouqiyah, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Oman.

At the beginning of the exhibition, al-Mahrouqiyah welcomed the participants from the private sector to the Omani pavilion and commended the important role they take, to stimulate tourism in the Sultanate, wishing them success in their participation in the exhibition.

She stressed the importance of participating in international exhibitions, since it will allow the Sultanate to enhance its strength as a tourist destination and diversify its tourist attractions, by introducing new destinations and products the country has to offer.

She added that, it is a great opportunity for investors to meet the representatives of the ministry, to promote tourism in the Sultanate, within the international tourism market.

“Tourism development may raise the awareness of the natural and cultural heritage and contribute to more resources being allocated to the protection and conservation of that heritage.

“These efforts include, among other things, providing finance at preferential terms and easing the conditions and terms, obtaining services and permits for startups, provision of technical support to them and assistance to entrepreneurs, to market and promote their products and services,” she said.

The contribution of the Sultanate in the exhibition, promotes the fundamentals of tourism and highlights the tourist services provided by the institutions and facilities in the tourism sector in the Sultanate.

Additionally, it sheds light on the latest developments in the tourism subdivision, by providing opportunities for companies and institutions to promote their programmes and contributions.

Oman’s participation in the exhibition will help promote prominent tourism projects and future projects in the Sultanate. It is a unique opportunity for the whole global travel trade to meet, network, negotiate and conduct business under one roof; and to build business relationship with these companies and to introduce them to investment opportunities available in the Sultanate.

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Development Of Tourism, Government’s Target In Sistan-Baluchestan

ZAHEDAN, Sistan-Baluchestan Prov., Nov 4,(NNN- IRNA) – Governor General of Sistan-Baluchestan says attraction of tourists to the coastal areas of the province is one of the major targets of the government in the development of tourism for boosting regional economy which can be realized through marking national festivities.

Speaking at a meeting with the elite and youth of Konarak, a southern provincial town, Ali Owsat Hashemi further remarked that indifference towards one’s city and lack of responsibility will cause backwardness calling on the elite and the youth to be part of the system and the country and share in decision-makings.

Referring to capabilities of the town in different areas, the governor general said Konarak should be given a central role and should become an axis for coastal and marine projects.

He pointed to the construction of a complex in Konarak called “Maahi Khoran” (eating fish) and noted that establishment of a recreational and tourism complex is one of the main objectives of the elite and the youth in Konarak.

During the meeting which was also attended by a number of women of the town, Hashemi delivered a report on the performance of the government in Sistan-Baluchestan and said establishment of a 50-thousand-ton tire factory and a 10-million-ton steel plant will play an outstanding role in the development of the province.

In addition, he added, completion of Chabahar petrochemical project and connection of Chabahar railway to the nationwide network are among other goals of the government for putting the province on the course of development.

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Middle East Carriers Continue Rising Trend In Passenger Numbers

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Nov 5 (NNN-XINHUA) – Middle East carriers once again recorded the highest increase in passenger numbers of international air travel, with a year-on-year rise of 15.8 percent in Sept.

International Air Transport Association (IATA), said Tuesday, airlines in the region continued benefiting from the strength of regional economies and expansion in export orders that support international business activity and travel, Xinhua news agency reported.

Global passenger traffic results, show a year-on-year demand growth of 5.3 percent in Sept, in line with expectations. “The strength of the United States and Asian economies was offset by the weakness in Europe and Latin America,” said IATA’s director general and chief executive officer, Tony Tyler.

On Monday, IATA revealed, the Middle East witnessed a year-on-year rise of 17 percent in airfreight in Sept, which was higher than any other regions around the world.

Earlier this week, Kuwait announced to invest US$4.8 billion, to expand the Kuwait International Airport, while Dubai-based state-owned carrier, Emirates Airlines, launched new direct flights from Dubai to Budapest.

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Emirates Kicks Off Ajman Tourism Investment Map Project

LONDON, England, Nov 5 (NNN-WAM) – Ajman Tourism Development Department, ATDD, yesterday kicked off its project on the Ajman Tourism Investment Map, the first of its kind in the emirates.

On the sidelines of the World Travel Market (WTM) London, ATDD General Manager, Faisal Al Nuaimi, said, the project targets the development of a roadmap for tourism development in the Emirate of Ajman, in accordance with Ajman Vision 2021.

“The project will present the current tourism scene in Ajman, focus on analysing the current and future infrastructure needs and evaluate the expected effect of tourism on the local economy,” he said.

“The four-phased project will result in a realistic map of the potentials and opportunities of tourism investment in Ajman in the coming five years.”

ATDD’s government strategic partners in the project are, Ajman Land and Property Department, Ajman Municipality and Planning Department, Ajman Real-Estate Regulatory Agency (ARRA), Ajman Port and Customs, Ajman Free Zone Authority, AFZA, Ajman Chamber and Ajman Department of Economic Development.

The project will include a survey on sectors of hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, and transport in Ajman, Al Nuaimi added.

“ATDD cooperates with all concerned government and non-government authorities, with the aim of coming up with realistic results that support current efforts for tourism development in the emirate,” he concluded.

ATDD is currently leading the emirates’ official delegation to WTM London.

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“Little India” Project Under The Spotlight In Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain, Nov 3 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain Ministry of Culture organised an open discussion meeting, with a number of Indian expat businessmen, to discuss the latest developments with regard to the “Little India” project.

Shaikha Mai bint Mohammad Al-Khalifa chaired the meeting, in the presence of Dr Mohan Kumar, Indian ambassador in Bahrain.

India and Bahrain have always enjoyed warm and friendly relations, which are based on historical and civilisational ties. The presence of a large Indian community in Bahrain represents a living link, which nurtures this long-standing relationship.

Shaikha Mai, said that this meeting comes as part of the celebrations of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and Manama as Asian Tourism City 2014, noting that the Memory of a Place, as embodied in the Suq Manama area, also embraces the Indian community’s contributions.

The Minister of Culture stated that the Bahraini society has known the Indian community for decades and it has become part of the culture of Bahrain in many ways. The “Little India” project will honour this strong bond between both societies.

Shaikha Mai lauded the historic visit to India by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, which has impacted positively on bilateral, cultural, and commercial relations between the two countries.

Visiting “Little India,” which will be located in Bab Bahrain Old Suq, is a bustling and colorful Indian enclave, and is an excellent venue to get a taste for the Indian culture in Bahrain. Indian music and dances, bright colours, spices and the joyful atmosphere will fill the place and make it a challenging adventure.

A walk through the area will bring you across traders selling flowers, traditional Indian sweets, spices, prayer items, Indian clothes, Indian music and movies, restaurants with scrumptious Indian food, Indian beauty salons and so much more. The unique architecture with colourful walkways will surely have you snapping photo after photo, Frances Staffard, Exhibitions’ Specialist, at the Ministry of Culture, said.

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Iran Government Economic Achievements Outlined

TEHRAN, Nov 2, (NNN-IRNA) — The current government has increased economic growth, reduced inflation and employment, stabilized foreign exchange rate and restored stability to the domestic market.

Saeed Leylaz, an economic expert, added that the government has managed to achieve these economic goals in the past 14 months.

This is while some critics claim the success of the government’s initiatives depends on the results of nuclear talks which are underway between Iran and the six world powers. They say if the negotiations fail, so will its economic strategies.

The government is not planning to monopolize the economy, noting that the establishment of monetary and financial discipline in the country is the most obvious accomplishment of the government, Leylaz noted.

“The simultaneous implementation of the Second Phase of Subsidy Reform Plan, Health Overhaul Plan and reduction of inflation rate are among the government’s achievements,” he said.

Leylaz said the country’s economic condition was not predictable in the past government, but the current government has managed to stabilize the economy.

He said the rate of investment was minus 22 percent in the year to March 2003, while the figure presently stands at plus six percent.

The expert noted that the government has also reduced political tensions and refrained from impulsive acts in the field of economy. “This helped make people reluctant to buy dollars for the purpose of saving,” he said.

He put Iran’s oil export in the past government at 700,000 barrels per day, adding that the figure stands at 1.2 mbpd to 1.3 mbpd at present.

Leylaz added that the positive effect of nuclear talks on domestic economy is apparent, stressing that all parts of Iran’s administration are engaged in nuclear talks.

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Etihad Airways Enhances European Corporate Presence

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Nov 3 (NNN-WAM) – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, is enhancing its capabilities in Europe, with the appointment of Eszter Ungar as its Head of Corporate Affairs for the region.

Ms. Ungar joins the airline from The Boeing Company, where she held the position of Communications Director for EU/NATO, Northern Europe and Africa, based in Brussels. In addition, she has held posts at GE and Hill and Knowlton, where she managed several Fortune 500 clients.

Ms. Ungar will be based at Etihad Airways’ European headquarters in Berlin and be responsible for building and managing the airline’s brand and reputation in Europe, as well as supporting its engagement with European Union institutions.

Michael Venus, Etihad Airways’ Vice President, Corporate Affairs, said, “Etihad Airways is building a world class Corporate Affairs Department, with a core team in Abu Dhabi, complemented by seasoned strategists located in key cities around the world, including Sydney, Beijing, New York and now Berlin.

“Eszter’s European experience and expertise, developed in multinational corporations and highly competitive consultancies, means, she’s ideally placed to effectively engage with stakeholders in Berlin, Brussels, and across the region.”

Etihad Airways has expanded significantly in Europe in recent years, operating 214 existing or announced passenger flights a week, between Abu Dhabi and 21 destinations in 16 European countries.

The airline continues to expand its codeshare partnerships with European airlines, as well as, investing in airberlin, Aer Lingus, Air Serbia, with regulatory approval pending for Darwin Airline, which will operate as Etihad Regional, and Alitalia.

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Kuwait’s Economic Development Fund Launches Agricultural Centre In Lebanon

BEIRUT, Nov 7 (NNN-KUNA) — Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) has launched an agricultural development centre in Akkar, north of Lebanon.

After the opening ceremony, Secretary-General of the Future Movement Ahmad Hariri told (KUNA) on Thursday that the centre would make huge difference in the city in terms of agricultural production and marketing as well as giving support to farmers.

He expressed his appreciation to Kuwaiti leadership and people for standing by the Lebanese people through many hardships throughout the years.

On his part, KFAED representative in Lebanon Nawaf Al-Dabous said that the centre will give help through giving farmers in Akkar storage, packaging and storage units for their produce.

The centre will also create job opportunities and provide services to farmers and merchants in Akkar and the nearby towns. Al-Dabous added the KFAED has always supported economic, social, cultural and health developmental projects in order to promote Lebanon’s economy.

The launching ceremony was attended by a number of Lebanese MPs, mayors of nearby towns, and representative of (EMKAN) that is responsible of running the center.

KFAED has offered to Lebanon 20 loans of USD 612 million so far. It has also given out grants worth of USD 420 million to support many vital projects in health, education, agriculture and transportation.

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Morocco to get $29 million grant from Qatar for water project

06 Nov 2014 – Rabat (IINA) – Moroccan Interior Ministry and Qatar’s embassy signed on Wednesday an agreement for a grant worth 23.5 million dirhams (US $29.5 million). The grant, given by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, will be allocated for an Electricity and Drinking Water Office (ONEE) project to supply Morocco’s Guelmim province with drinking water.

The agreement was signed by ONEE Head Ali Fassi Fihri, Director General of Local Authorities at Interior Ministry Abdellatif Benchrifa and Qatari ambassador to Morocco, Abdullah bin Falah Adussari.

The grant will enable the ONEE to supply 11 villages of the Plage Blanche commune with drinking water. The project sees the building of a pumping station, installation of 25 km of water pipelines and construction of a 100 cubic meter semi-underground tank, among others.

It is expected to contribute to improving residents’ living conditions and promote socio-economic development of a number of villages.

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Venezuela offers 1,000 college scholarships to Palestinian students

Sunday 02 Nov 2014 – Caracas (IINA) – Venezuela announced its intention to receive 1,000 Palestinian students for study under college scholarships granted by President Nicolas Maduro.

Palestinian Foreign Ministry said, in a statement on Friday, that this presidential initiative comes within the Venezuela solidarity campaign for the Palestinian people. It also noted that Venezuela is among the Latin American countries that are in the forefront of supporting the Palestinian cause in all international forums. Also, it comes in the context of promoting and strengthening the bilateral relations between the two nations, and in memory of President Yasser Arafat.

Palestine Ambassador to Venezuela Linda Sobh stressed the embassy’s readiness to work early next year, in cooperation with the Palestinian Foreign and Higher Education Ministries, in order to select the students and facilitate their access to the Venezuelan universities.

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‘Halal’ whiskey to hit UK supermarkets

London, Tuesday, 11 Muharram 1436/ 04 November 2014 (IINA) – A halal version of an iconic alcoholic drink made by a U.S.-based company is expected to hit supermarket shelves in the UK this December, the Independent reported.

An alcohol-free whiskey, produced by Florida-based ArKay will sell for a little less than $16 a bottle, much to the dismay of the Scotch Whisky Association, which labeled the product in a 2011 Daily Mail article as an effort to capitalize on the drink’s reputation.

However, the company welcomed the criticism, claiming that the association had tried to stop them but failed. “The mistake they made is that ArKay is a soft drink and the Scotch whisky association does not have any jurisdiction over soft drinks, they can only oversee the liquor makers , and not the soft drink makers,” Sylvie Grattagliano, president of the company, told Al Arabiya News. The company has produced at least 13 non-alcohol renditions of famous liquors such as limoncello, tequila, rum and gin.

However, the whiskey has gained special attention due to the drink’s iconic status in the British Isles. “We are not pretending to make real Whisky or real Scotch,” Grattagliano said in an emailed statement. “ArkAy’s philosophy is to help millions of peoples with a drinking problem to get away from liquors,” he explained.

Talha J. Ahmad, a member of the central working committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said people may welcome the product, “especially Muslims who drink who might see it a way of maintaining a drinking habit without having to drink alcoholic drinks.”

However, he maintained that he does not think “it makes a difference…those who don’t drink whisky would not suddenly want to drink whiskey, whether its halal or not.” The drink is being marketed not only as halal alternative, but the company also aims to reach those who simply (cannot or do not want to) drink for any reason.

Grattagliano emphasized that his company aims to reach those who do not want to drive. He explained that bars offering non-alcoholic drinks that taste like the classics would decrease the risk of an accident as the designated driver for a night out would still be able to enjoy a few drinks.

The company expects to reach $100 million in U.S. sales by the end of the year and plans to hit the one billion mark by 2017. “ArKay is not at war against the liquor manufactures,” he reiterated, adding that the company’s products are “a good solution for liquor makers as well.”

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Maldives: Five islands to be developed as resorts

November 5, 2014 – Sun.mv – President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom announced five islands to be developed as resorts in Haa Dhaalu atoll.

Addressing the people in Kulhudhuffushi, the capital island of Haa Dhaalu atoll, where there is no resort at the moment, president Yameen announced the names of five islands to be developed as resorts. Those five islands were Dhipparufushi, Vaikarumuraadhoo, Kanamana, Kudafaru and Keylakunu.

President Yameen said that first islands to be developed as resorts in his government have been chosen and announced from Haa Dhaalu atoll.

People of Haa Dhaalu have launched and conducted campaigns via social networks and at atoll level, demanding for resorts in their atoll before.

While president Yameen has announced government’s decision regarding leasing five islands for resorts from Haa Dhaalu, the projected 2015 state budget sent to the parliament included leasing ten islands to develop into resorts in order to increase government revenue.

Highlighting the promise made during his presidential campaign, president Yameen said that his promise was to establish an airport at Kulhudhuffushi. President Yameen gave assurance to the people of Kulhudhuffushi regarding establishment of airport.

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Istanbul’s new cruise port to be an ‘exemplary project’

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The controversial planned Istanbul Salıpazarı Port Area project, commonly known as Galataport, will be an “exemplary project” without multi-story eyesores, according to project partner Serdar Bilgili.

“The Galataport area is of crucial importance for cruise tourism in Istanbul, being the sole entrance for cruise ships in the city … As all partners of the project, we have prepared a green project in which there is no room for huge building stacks. The area will be open to the public and families will enjoy the beauty of this great area in the heart of Istanbul,” Bilgili said.

Construction of the Galataport project is slated to start in 2015. Doğuş Holding and its partner Bilgili Holding placed the highest offer for the privatization of the Galataport with a $702 million bid in May 2013, winning the rights to operate the port area in Istanbul’s Karaköy neighborhood for 30 years.

The Istanbul Salıpazarı Port Area has up to 1,200 meters of coastline and covers an area of approximately 100,000 square meters.

“We will start to work in the site by the beginning of 2015 and to complete the project within two-and-a-half years. We will restore many old buildings and sites in the area. There will be restaurants, hotels, an urban park and other green areas in the Galataport area to make it a central attraction again,” Bilgili said.

He also claimed that the number of cruise tourists could increase to 2 million per year, from the current level of around 650,000, after the project is completed.

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Turkey’s Atlasjet in $3 bln provisional Airbus jet order

ISTANBUL – Reuters – Turkey’s Atlasjet has reached a preliminary deal with European planemaker Airbus to buy around 30 aircraft worth $3 billion at list prices as it expands in eastern Europe and central Asia, two people familiar with the matter said.

The tentative agreement covers current-generation A321ceo jets, but the number of units and other details have not been finalized, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are confidential.

Atlasjet declined comment.

A spokesman for Airbus, the planemaking unit of Airbus Group, said: “We do not comment on confidential discussions that we may or may not be having with potential customers”.

Chief executive Orhan Coşkun told Reuters last month the airline was in the final stage of talks to buy up to 50 airplanes and would make an announcement soon.

However, talks continue and industry sources said the number of planes being considered appeared to be closer to 30 and could end up lower depending on the terms of any final deal.

Atlasjet operates a fleet of 19 Airbus planes and flies to about 20 destinations in Turkey, Europe and the Middle East. Its routes include Arbil in northern Iraq, where it has a partnership called Zagrosjet.

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Ancient water system discovered in Burdur

BURDUR – Anadolu Agency – Archaeological excavations in the southern province of Burdur’s Kibyra ancient city of have revealed a three-staged pool system and a fountain structure. An official from the excavations, İsmail Baytak said they had unearthed the structures in the agora of the ancient city.

He said water had been delivered to the stores and buildings in the agora from the pool, adding there was also a system to stop the water flow, as well as a waste water system.

Baytak said the foundation was built 200 years after the city took its shape, adding, “The pool and the foundation were built in front of the entrance of the eastern gate of the ancient city. The city was too rich at that time.”

Baytak said around the pool and the fountain they had found coins and ceramics, providing information about the era of the structures. “They are from the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd centuries. The Heracles bust was also found here and that is why we will call this fountain Heracles.”

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Mosaics in Hadrianopolis open to tourists

KARABÜK – Anadolu Agency – Unique floor mosaics that have been unearthed in a church in the ancient city of Hadrianopolis in the Black Sea province of Karabük’s Eskipazar district have been opened to visitors.

“The church is home to mosaics which are as good as the ones in the ancient city of Zeugma in Gaziantep Within the scope of the restoration works, the mosaics in Church B were covered and opened to tourism. They can be visited now,” Karabük Culture and Tourism Director İbrahim Şahin said, referring to the ancient place of worship, which is merely known as Church B.

The ancient city was established in the first century A.D. and served as a settlement until the eighth century A.D.

Şahin said the excavations had been headed by Samsun Ondokuz Mayıs University Archaeology Department Professor Vedat Keleş.

“There are the earliest church examples of Anatolia in the area. We will hosts tourists there after taking some protective measures there,” he said.

Officials in Gaziantep recently stunned the cultural world with the revelation of three massive mosaics in Zeugma.

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Museum marks 100 years of Turkish cinema

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – TÜRVAK Cinema-Theater Museum is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Turkish Cinema with an exhibition titled “The 100-Year Journey of Makeup and Accessories in Turkish Cinema.”

Prepared by TÜRVAK – Türker İnanoğlu Foundation, with the support of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Department of Cultural and Social Affairs, the exhibition, for the first time in the history of Turkish cinema, presents the century-long history of makeup in Turkish cinema through photographs, documents and accessories compiled from private archives and collections.

Curated by Turkish cinema historian, researcher and author Burçak Evren and supervised by Assistant Professor Sevtap Aytuğ, makeup artist Yavuz Birsel, known as Corci, art directors Türkan Kafadar and Mustafa Ziya Ülkenciler, “The 100-Year Journey of Makeup and Accessories in Turkish Cinema” exhibition is witnessing the meeting of the first makeup masters of Turkish cinema and the young professionals on the 100-year-old stage of history.

While focusing on makeup, which is the first step in creating a character on the silver screen, and tracing its history in cinema in Turkey, the exhibition enables viewers to understand the aesthetic approach, artistic, social and cultural environments, economic conditions and technological developments in every term from the era of theater actors to Yeşilçam, from Yeşilçam to the present day.

The exhibition displays cosmetics and accessories from the 19th century; “Pertev” cosmetics advertisements with the comments by Muhsin Ertuğrul and Neyyire Neyir; accessories of the movies “Drakula Istanbul’da” (Dracula in Istanbul) and “Şarlo İstabul’da” (Şarlo in Istanbul); photographs of Talat Artemel in his magician makeup for the film “Kahveci Güzeli” (The Beautiful Coffee Seller); first examples of the effect makeup on Türkan Şoray’s face by Cemal Gonca; aging makeup applied to Yılmaz Güney in his film “Büyük Cellat” (Big Hangman) and to Hale Soygazi in the film “Mahkum” (Prisoner); documents and photographs showing Tarık Akan with his golden tooth in “Kan” (Blood) and with his white beard in “Abdülhamit Düşerken” (The Fall of Abdulhamit); photographs disclosing the makeup processes of Metin Akpınar and Talat Bulut for the film “Abuzer Kadayıf”; “Gulyabani” (Ogre) masks as the examples of the current developments in makeup technologies; “Atatürk” makeup applied to Rutkay Aziz in the film “Cumhuriyet” (The Republic); accessories of Cemal Hünal and Yetkin Dikinciler in “Ulak” (The Messenger).

From melodramas to comedies and horror films, from historical films to fantastic films, visualizing the history of makeup in Turkish cinema, the exhibition, which opened on Nov. 5, will remain open through Feb. 8, 2015.

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Kyrgyzstan revitalises garment industry

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-11-03 OSH – The Kyrgyz clothing industry continues to prosper, providing jobs and economic growth.

In October, the garment industry in the south marked a few milestones. They included Day of Light Industry (October 25), which celebrates the sector’s contributions to the economy. Also, more than 30 clothes-, fabric- and carpet-manufacturing businesses participated in an October 23-27 garment industry trade fair that attracted possible customers and investors.

“The primary goal of the Light Industry Osh-2014 trade fair was to increase the (south’s) manufacturing capacity, exchange experiences and showcase the accomplishments of Kyrgyzstan’s textile and garment industries,” Roza Sultanova, chairwoman of the southern regional council of the textile and light industry labour union, said. “(Those achievements) are the country’s pride and calling card.”

The clothing industry traditionally has been a major player in Kyrgyzstan, with almost 7% of the country’s working-age population works in the sector.

Officials recognise the industry’s contribution to the economy. “Thanks to this sector (light industry), thousands of jobs are created yearly, our export potential grows, products labeled ‘made in Kyrgyzstan’ are winning over new markets with their quality and affordability, and demand for them is growing annually,” President Almazbek Atambayev said October 25, 2013.

Light industry dropped off in the first years after independence. “Light industry always was on the forefront in Kyrgyzstan starting from Soviet times, when this sector comprised 33% of the (then-Kyrgyz SSR)’s GDP,” Saparbek Asanov, president of the Legprom (Light Industry) Association, said. “Now it comprises only 4.6%.”

But it has been recovering of late. “In 2004, when we founded our association, we had 25 member-businesses,” he said. “Now we have 750. In the south, we have 84 companies, 34 of which export their goods, favourably affecting Kyrgyz economic growth and potential,” Asanov said.

Legprom helps southern firms make better clothing by offering various forms of training, Asanov said. As a result, the investment climate in the south is improving, he added.

The trade association’s work helps promote business and find foreign investors and new customers, said Mavlyuda Jumabayeva, manager of the Akbarov Haji Couture clothing-manufacturing firm. “Our designers always are on the hunt for new ways to please our … customers,” she said.

The 25-employee company is working to realise its ambitions. In January it won a prestigious fashion design contest, called Fashion Industry, in Bishkek. It began receiving orders, including some from abroad, to make fashionable clothes.

A recent decision to make school uniforms mandatory also will provide a major boost for the four small businesses that won the contract. Authorities in the south are doing their part to help, offering tax breaks and other incentives.

“It’s important to increase the number of companies in light industry,” Osh Vice-Mayor Ilyich Ergeshev said. “They create new jobs and expand the tax base.”

More than 40 garment firms employing more than 600 people are situated in Osh. “During the first nine months (of 2014), local businesses manufactured products worth 39m KGS (about US $700,000) which they delivered not only to the domestic market but also to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan,” Ergeshev said.

The figure represents substantial growth compared to the same period last year, when 32 garment firms produced 30m KGS (about US $550,000) worth of goods, he said.

International organisations are also eager to help.

“Our organisation has supported Kyrgyzstan’s clothing makers for five years now,” Indira Kadyrkanova, national programme co-ordinator of the International Trade Centre Trade Promotion Programme in Central Asia/Kyrgyzstan, said. “We provide technical support in matters ranging from manufacturing to finding fabrics and accessories. We also give advice on design and marketing.”

Exhibits and fairs, like the one in Osh, are essential for manufacturers, she said, adding they need to participate so they can find customers and build contacts with foreign partners and investors.

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Turkey, Afghanistan determined to deepen relations

Centralasiaonline.com 2014-11-05 ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a one-day visit to Afghanistan recently to meet with Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani.

As the first Turkish president to visit Afghanistan in 60 years, Erdogan also met with Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum and with Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

During their meeting in Kabul, the leaders underlined the importance of deepening their countries’ bilateral relations on the basis of their historical, cultural and religious affinities.

Since 2007, Turkey has been leading annual consultation sessions between Pakistan and Afghanistan to encourage the two countries to root out extremism and terrorism, as well as to improve the political dialogue and security co-operation.

The last decade has been exemplary for Turkish-Afghan relations, Emre Hatipoglu, a scholar from Sabanci University, said.

“In 2001, the first Turkish Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Jawzjan was established,” Hatipoglu told SES Türkiye. “This PRT and the Wardak PRTs were solely civilian and focused exclusively on peace-building.”

The key duties of the Turkish units were to help meet immediate needs in education and infrastructure, where governmental organisations and NGOs were unable to do so, Hatipoglu added.

“I think such civilian capacity-building orientation should constitute the basis for the Turkish contribution to Operation Resolute Support (the coalition’s post-2014 mission in Afghanistan),” he said. “With the absence of a strong indigenous economy and a healthy interdependent nature among various Afghan tribes, institutional consolidation will be an almost impossible task.”

Cultural interactions between the two societies have kept bilateral state relations close since Ottoman times, Haldun Yalcinkaya, a former liaison officer in Afghanistan and now an associate professor at TOBB University in Ankara, said.

“Since 2001, Turkey’s role in Afghanistan of sending troops to ensure security … has never been questioned by the Turkish public, which gives a significant hint about how Turkey’s future efforts in this country’s stabilisation will be received by the greater society,” Yalcinkaya told SES Türkiye.

Turkey provides broad assistance to the fragile country through governmental agencies like the Turkish Co-operation and Development Agency (TIKA), Yalcinkaya said.

“Over the last decade, we have always used soft power, and it is unlikely that Turkey will opt for a hard power approach in the new term of the mission,” Yalcinkaya said. “We will definitely sustain our humanitarian aid, provide military training and launch new projects through TIKA’s project co-ordination offices in the Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif regions.

“And all these efforts aim directly and indirectly to fight against extremism,” he said.

The common understanding between the Turkish and Afghan societies as well as their historical, cultural and religious ties has provided the main basis for ensuring stability in Afghanistan, Cemal Demir, deputy head of the South Asia Strategic Research Centre, said.

“In line with international strategic values, Turkey should continue investing in Afghanistan in the socio-cultural, economic and security fields, and with the trust it gets from Afghan society, it should persuade international institutions to invest further in Afghanistan,” Demir told SES Türkiye.

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Muslim Scientists Significant Catalyst to Islamic Development

Tuesday, 04 November 2014, BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: A physically and spiritually balanced exemplary Muslim scientist is important to catalyst national development and wellbeing that will spur Brunei Darussalam’s aspiration to become a Zikir Nation. This was among the matters raised at the Premier Forum of the Knowledge Convention 2014 that discussed Exemplary or Model Muslim Scientist.

Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office consented to grace the forum, held in conjunction with His Majesty’s 68th Birthday. The event took place at the International Convention Centre in Berakas.

Upon arrival at the ICC, the Prince was welcomed by the Minister of Home Affairs, Yang Berhormat Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awg Badaruddin bin Pengarah Dato Paduka Haji Othman; and the Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, Dato Paduka Awg Haji Abdul Wahab bin Juned, as the Joint Chairmen of the Knowledge Convention 2014 Steering Committee, and the Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, Dato Paduka Haji Ali bin Haji Apong who is the Chairman of the Knowledge Convention Premier Forum 2014 Working Committee.

The recitation of Al-Fatihah was led by Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Imam Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awg Abdul Hamid bin Bakal.

In his welcoming address, the Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, Dato Paduka Haji Ali bin Haji Apong as the Chairman of the forum’s working committee, among other things, touched on the meaning of the Model Muslim Scientist, including the spiritual and productivity aspects that should be instilled early in the education of the scientist.

Three experienced experts in Science and Technology discussed and explained the meaning of Model Muslim Scientist. The forum was chaired by the Acting Director of Drainage and Sewerage, Dr. Nor Imtihan binti Haji Abdul Razak.

The Director of the Sultan Omar Ali’ Saifuddien Research Centre, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) Professor Datuk Dr. Osman bin Bakar said Muslims were obliged to ensure that the application of science and technology was based on guidance from Al-Quran and As-Sunnah.

He added that Muslims scholars in the era of Prophet Muhammad Sallahu Alaihi Wassalam were the best examples of personalities who were respected in the East and West because of their knowledge.

The Deputy Rector of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) Dr. Hj Mohammed Hussain Pehin Penyurat Haji Ahmad said that producing a Model Muslim Scientist in this era requires a solid educational system to ensure the country’s people acquire the knowledge and skills from lifelong learning in worldly and hereafter affairs.

This would lead to enhancing the science and technology capacity, well organised and sustainable infrastructure provider system as well as preserving the environment.

Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, Manchester University of the United Kingdom, Professor Dr. Salim Al-Hassani outlined that the source of knowledge in Al-Quran includes science and technology. Conducting studies and research are vital for experts to understand and practise it. The science and technology accepted by Islam is knowledge guided by Allah the Almighty because in this way it will not be oppressive and unjust.

The Doa selamat was read by Yang Berhormat, Pehin Datu Imam Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awg Abdul Hamid bin Bakal.

The Premier Forum aimed to instill understanding and awareness on the relation between science and technology and development that is based on Islamic teachings and eminence.

The exhibition showcases knowledge and information on the role of Science and Technology as the catalyst in providing infrastructure and enhancing the quality of the people’s life.

The exhibition also showcases the achievement of Muslim scientists in the glorious era of Islamic civilisation. It is not simply to stir nostalgia for the Golden Age of Islam but its two main objectives are to understand that Islam moves in tandem with scientific and technological development even today and as a method to assist Muslims outline their mission and vision to create an Islamic image and identity in science.

The Almarhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Memorial Gallery displays an exhibition with the theme, “The Monarch’s Leadership In National Development Encompasses Science and Technology”.

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Belgian firm signs contract to purchase Indonesian-made aircraft

Kamis, 6 November 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Belgian airline company AD Trade has signed a contract to purchase a unit of CN-235 aircraft manufactured by PT Dirgantara Indonesia.

“The contract is worth 22 to 23 million U.S. dollars. This is the fourth such purchase made by the company. They bought three planes earlier,” the President Director of PT Dirgantara Indonesia, Budi Santoso, said here on Thursday.

The CN-235 airplane bought by the Belgian firm is a multi-function aircraft with military capabilities. It can be used for medical evacuations, maritime patrolling and delivery of goods, Santoso stated.

A superior function of the aircraft that has attracted many buyers from Asia and Africa is its capability to land on poor runways, he added. “The interested buyers include Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Pakistan, South Korea, and two African nations,” Santoso affirmed.

The president director further noted that PT Dirgantara products were slowly, but surely, attracting more buyers from around the world and that he hoped for this to continue in the future.

“Belgium plans to order two more units,” he revealed. Besides making aircrafts, PT Dirgantara also produces components and provides aircraft and helicopter maintenance services.

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Garuda to open China-Indonesia chartered flights

Rabu, 5 November 2014 Beijing (ANTARA News) – Garuda Indonesia will open chartered flights from 10 Chinese cities to Manado and Bali in Indonesia starting the 2015 Chinese New Year and Summer holidays.

“We have signed a cooperation agreement with Chinese airline to support this service,” Garuda Indonesia General Manager for Beijing Asa Perkasa said here on Wednesday.

Garuda will use a Boeing 747-400 to serve chartered flights from Chengdu, Chongqin, Ningbo and Kunming in China to Bali during the Chinese New Year vacation, he said.

“The services will last from February 14 to March 6,” he said. To serve chartered flights during the Summer holiday from July 15 to August 15, Garuda Indonesia will operate an A-330 plane to fly from Jinan, Harbin, Xian, Shenyang and Chengzhou to Bali, he said.

The chartered flight services will not disrupt Garuda Indonesias regular flights from Beijing to Bali via Jakarta, from Shanghai to Jakarta, and from Guangzhou to Jakarta vice versa.

“If we have four regular flights a week and three chartered flights a week there will be Garuda flights from China to Indonesia everyday,” he said.

With the chartered flights, Garuda Indonesia will hopefully see its load factor increase two-folds, he said. China is a potential market, with almost 100 million of its population traveling abroad every year, he said.

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Japan to open animation school in Indonesia

Sabtu, 1 November 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Japan will open Kadokawa Contents Academy, a school to teach animation, in Indonesia next year, according to its CEO Tetsuya Koga.

“This year we opened schools in Taiwan and Singapore, and we will open a school in Indonesia next year,” Koga announced at the University of Indonesia’s Center for Japanese Study in Depok, West Java, on Friday night.

Koga said the Indonesian academy will not only offer courses on animation, but also on comic artistry, character design, 3DCG, illustration, card games, writing novels, and learning to become a voice actor with teachers from Japan.

According to Tetsuya, the courses will be taught in Japanese and translated into Indonesian. “We will also support those students who would like to continue their studies in Japan,” Koga explained.

He noted that Japanese culture has developed in many countries, including Indonesia, thanks to Internet technology.

Therefore, Koga said he was hopeful that students studying at the academy would be able to become content makers for animation and comics.

“Our goal is to provide education to the people of Indonesia so they can work and be creative with the elements of native culture and the history of Indonesia,” he said.

Koga said the reason Japan chose Indonesia as one of the places to open the Kadokawa Contents Academy was because of the potential for Japan to develop its business.

He remarked that the increasing population growth in Indonesia, especially in its larger cities, is one reason why the country is a destination for Japan to do business.

Koga noted that in 2011, Indonesia was the fifth most desired country for Japanese business people to work with. “But according to Nikkei Shimbun, this year Indonesia occupied the first position, pushing aside the People’s Republic of China to the fourth position,” he said.

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N. Sulawesi exports high-quality coconut oil to Malaysia, U.S.

Senin, 3 November 2014 Manado (ANTARA News) – North Sulawesi exported crude coconut oil (CCO) to Malaysia and the United States last month, the regional Industry and Trade office said.

Head of the trade and industry office Jenny Karouw said exports in mid October to the two countries totaled 13,563 tons valued at US$15.05 million.

Exports to the United States totaled 7,496 tons valued at US$8.27 million and to Malaysia totaled 6,040 tons valued at US$6.78 million.

CCO was processed from farmers’ copra, Jenny said. The province has also exported CCO to other countries such as the Netherlands, China and a number of other European countries, she said.

“North Sulawesi dominates CCO market in the world. North Sulawesis CCO is high in demand in international market as it is known to be superior in quality,” she said.

CCO is only one of coconut products exported from North Sulawesi, she added without naming other products. She said the regional administration would facilitate expansion of coconut plantations by farmers and exports of coconut products from the province.

Coconut oil products, however, could not face palm oil products such as cooking oil in competition in the country. Indonesia is the largest palm oil producer and exporters in the world.

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Do not delay infrastructure development projects: president

Selasa, 4 November 2014 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President of Indonesia Joko Widodo stated that adjourning infrastructure development projects, especially in the field of transportation, leads to big losses as costs tend to increase with time.

“We need fresh funding for the development of infrastructure, ports, electricity, and railways outside Java because our state budget does not suffice. When we delay (the projects), they require even more funding,” Jokowi said here on Tuesday.

He added that investors needed to be encouraged to play a bigger role in the development of infrastructure, especially that of the transportation sector. “We want to improve investments in that field,” the president noted.

Investors who are members of the Investment Association visited Jokowi at the presidential palace on Tuesday afternoon. “I do not want to make grandiose statements. They (the investors) were happy to meet me and the Coordinating Minister. We know that they have the power and ability (to be better involved in the projects),” the president remarked.

The group has investment potential of up to US$8 trillion. “They are private investors. The strength of their funds amounts to some US$8 trillion,” Jokowi affirmed.

He also pointed out that the investors, who are from 20 companies from several countries, did not make any special request. “They did not make any special request. We (the Indonesian government) made the request,” he said.

This meeting with the investors will be followed by one with domestic private, foreign private and state-owned enterprises. “It could result in the creation of more jobs,” he noted.

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Egypt: PM to Inaugurate Upgraded Tourist Sites

Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – 7 November 2014 – Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab will inaugurate a number of tourist sites on Sunday after they were renovated over the past three years. The sites include the Sphinx, Amenhotep II Museum and Menkaure Pyramid.

Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty and Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazous will attend the inauguration ceremony.

“This move comes as part of the Antiquities Ministry’s ongoing endeavors to protect Egypt’s artifacts,” Damaty said.

In addition, Al-Ahram reported the following:

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh El-Damaty will present at the ceremony at the Giza plateau.

The antiquities ministry restored the two sites as part of their project to preserve Egypt’s heritage and promote tourism to the country.

Restorers consolidated the northern side of the statue which includes a large part of the Sphinx’s left shoulder and neck.

“The sphinx is now safe and sound and will greet visitors to the Giza plateau after being hidden under scaffoldings for almost three years,” El-Damaty told Ahram Online. He added that the restoration took place using new blocks, inserted to consolidate those added during last century’s restoration.

Erosion factors were the main reason that led to the deterioration of the blocks, said El-Damaty adding that cracks have been spread over it.

He told Ahram Online that the courtyard in front of the Sphinx is to be open for the first time ever.

The courtyard, El-Damaty pointed out, was closed many years ago and was never open to the public.

“A separate ticket than the one for the plateau is required for those who want to be face-to-face with the great sphinx,” El-Damaty told Ahram Online.

The sphinx has been restored several times in its history, most recently for a ten-year span starting in the 1990s.

Khafre’s pyramid will be open to visitors after a new lighting system to light its corridors was installed.

El-Damaty said that the lack of budget was behind the delay in the completion of Khafre’s pyramid restoration which took three years instead of one year.

According to the ministry’s rotation plan, one pyramid of the three pyramids of Giza will be closed every year for restoration.

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Algeria: Seaside Tourism – Development Plans for 16 Beaches in Oran

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – 2 November 2014 – Oran (algeria) — Development plans for 16 beaches in Oran (432-km west of Algiers) has been launched recently in a bid to develop seaside tourism, the provincial Tourism and Craft Industry department said Sunday.

The plans concern the beaches of the western cliff road “Cap Falcon,” “Bouiseville,” “El Mordjane” and “Bomo plage, according to the interim head of Tourism Department, Belabbes Kayem Benamar.

The development plans also include the eastern side like “Cap Carbon,” in the coastal commune of Arzew, “Marina” of Mers El Hadjadj and “El Mectaa.

A financial budget of DZD16 million is devoted to the operation. The plans have been worked out ahead of the next summer season, as the beach sections to be granted in 2015 will be clearly determined, the Tourism official told APS.

Eighteen out of 34 authorized beaches have already benefitted from development plans, Belabbes said. Nine concessions only have been granted for a period of five years during the summer season 2014, the rest for a one-year period.

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Uganda: Uwa Launches Tourism Song

The Observer (Kampala) – 2 November 2014 – Last Friday was a special one for tourism players – as Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) unveiled a new conservation song, Follow Me To Uganda, at the Sheraton Kampala hotel.

The hotel’s Rwenzori ballroom had been deservingly decorated for the evening – with benefitting dinner roundtables. The MCs of the night, comedians Tindi and Richard Tuwangye took to the floor at 8:30pm, pulling off their usual jokes.

But the audience, which comprised of tour operators, conservationists, Makerere University students of tourism, and the chairman of Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, Elly Karuhanga, among others, was not an easy one to crack. Yet even the first performer, Howard, a Makerere University student of tourism using hip-hop to communicate to young people about tourism, wasn’t up to the task.

It was fast-rising vocalist Jemima and Joshua, who were backed up by a group of friends on the musical instruments, that put guests in the appropriate mood by taking us to South Africa with songs such as Jabulani and Ndihamba Nawe. This set the mood for the launch of Follow Me To Uganda.

The song, which opens the tube-fiddle (ndingindi), was done by pop singer Patrick Musasizi aka Chosen Blood. Chosen first hit chats in 2012 when he did Pressure Ya Love with Walden. The pressure of separating with Walden could have taken a stall on him, but certainly Follow Me To Uganda is a good comeback for him.

The song relays Uganda’s beauty, right from your arrival point at Entebbe airport to the countryside such as the source of the Nile, the Equator on Masaka road and the national parks. The unveiling of the song started with its video, which was played on the project, before Chosen joined Jemima and her band to perform the song.

But before that, guests, who were either invited or paid Shs 1 million for a table, were treated to a sumptuous dinner, with all kinds of drinks flowing the entire night. UWA also used the occasion to award media houses, among which was The Observer newspaper, for their continued coverage of the tourism sector.

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Nigerians Urged to Utilise Rural Tourism Potential

Leadership (Abuja) – 6 November 2014 – Tourism experts on Thursday urged Nigerians to take advantage of the nation’s wide tourist attractions to develop rural tourism in Nigeria. The stakeholders spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

Mr Manfred Nzekwe, General Manager Enugu State Tourism Board, said Nigeria was endowed with various natural tourist potentials. He said the potentials were not man-made and therefore “we should be grateful to God for this”.

Ezeugwu, therefore, asked for increased patronage by locals, to develop the sector, saying that all over the world, tourism was now receiving a massive boost. “Just as there are hundreds of tribes in Nigeria, so are there cultural and traditional diversities which in themselves are tourist factors. “Each of these peculiarities can be packaged to attract tourists with the attendant boost to the local economies.”

He observed that even the people in the localities, where the tourist sites were found, do not even visit those sites.

“You will be surprised that many indigenes of those rural tourism sites have never visited the sites under their nose, so how can they tell outsiders what potentials they have in their area.

“Some parents even warn their children to steer clear the sites, saying it is dangerous to visit them and even the elites among them still prefer international tourism. “The elite travels abroad just to show off but I am telling them now to bring that money back to our communities so we can have what is obtainable abroad,” he said.

Another tourism consultant, Alhaji Usman Abdullahi, in his response to the issue, said that it was only when Nigerians patronised tourist sites in the communities that the industry can be boosted.

“If we patronise our rural tourist sites and also talk about them, we are unwittingly advertising them to the outside world. We boost the industry and also show the world that we have places worth visiting.” he said.

He said that one other issue that Nigerians should be conscious of was how well to promote and advertise their local tourist sites. “We should embark on intensive and extensive promotion of our tourism selling points as a means of encouraging, not only the international community, but our own people, to take advantage of them.

Dr Adebayo Adegboyega, also a consultant, criticised the amount of support given to the development of rural tourism by different tiers of government in Nigeria.

“Government, especially the local governments, should invest in tourism in order to attract visitors as well as create jobs in the industry.

“In Great Britain alone, the British tourism authority receives a substantial amount of money annually to boost tourism while the rest of the funding is from the private sector. So it is necessary for the private sectors to be involved in the growth and development of rural tourism in the country.”

Adegboyega said the local governments should get involved by doing what they could do at their own levels, to develop the potentialities that existed within their own domain.

He stressed that it was important because it would generally boost business activities and employment opportunities within the area.

“This can be particularly far reaching for those involved in the production of arts and crafts, foods and wines, recreation, music and dance, just as the hospitality sector will be the better for it.”

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Baku Metro in focus of international companies

28 October 2014 – TODAY.AZ – The subway network is developing rapidly in the Azerbaijani capital Baku. With a length of thirty-five kilometers, two lines and 23 stations, Baku Metro is in focus of some leading international companies.

Last week at a meeting with Chairman of Baku Metro CJSC Zaur Huseynov, South Korean Deputy Minister for Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kyung-Sik Kim expressed interest of his country’s companies in participating in the construction project of metro stations in Baku.

This is not the first achievement of Baku Metro for this month. In mid-October, Baku Metro CJSC and the French company Bouygues Travaux Publics, LLS signed an agreement on construction of a new tunnel at “28 May” station.

The project will be launched in a near future and will be accomplished in 2016. The Baku subway’s red (“Hazi Aslanov” – “Icherisheher”) and green lines (“Darnagul” – “Khatai”) intersect at the “28 May” station, which is of great importance given the safety of train traffic. Separation of the two lines will also allow reducing the interval of train traffic.

After the construction of the tunnel, the traffic along two lines will become independent from each other: The trains moving from the “Hazi Aslanov” station to the “Icherisheher” station will move directly through the “28 May” station, while the trains moving from the “Darnagul” station will move in a separate tunnel and their terminus station will be “Khatai”.

The network of Baku subway is expected to get enlarged to 119 km with five lines and up to 76 stations by 2030. Right now, eight stations and two train depots are under construction.

Some subways are also expected to be opened in the most populated and developed cities of the country, including Sumgayit, Nakhchivan and Ganja.

The new stations of Baku Metro will be built based on the most modern technologies. They would be equipped with modern platforms, lobbies, escalators as well as new signaling and control systems.

Also, Baku Metro will change its appearance in the coming years and will make new stations based on the most modern technologies.

New stations are designed for trains consisting of 7 cars. The new stations’ platforms would be 144m making the platforms 42 cm longer than pervious ones.

The new stations would be equipped with modern platforms, lobbies, escalators as well as new signaling and control systems.

As is known, the need for the medical centers in the underground usually increases in the warm seasons, especially in hot summer months. In this regard, Baku Metro plans to have a life-saving novelty in the near future.

Currently, the issue of creation of health centers at the stations of the Baku Metro is under discussion.

Also, Passengers of the Baku Metro often encounter problems when loading money on travel cards through payment machines, in this case, passengers may refer to the controller.

So, Baku Metro plans to complete upgrading its payment devices as well.

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UNESCO plans to put Shush on World Heritage List

PressTV – Sat Nov 8, 2014 The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is planning to inscribe the ancient Iranian city of Shush on the 2015 World Heritage List.

A delegation of UNESCO experts visited Shush in southern Khuzestan Province a few days ago to register the historical city onn the World Heritage List.

Director and Representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office in Tehran Esther Laroche and the evaluator at the International Council on Monuments and Sites Gen Tang were among the visitors.

Deputy Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Mohammad Hassan Talebian and the General-Director of Khuzestan Cultural Heritage Afshin Heidari accompanied the delegation during the three-day visit.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee had earlier nominated the city in 2012; however, the site could not enter the final list.

The historical city of Shush, called “Susa” in Old Persian, is one of the oldest-known settlements of the region and the world which covers 400 acres of land.

The city was the capital of the Elamites and subsequently the winter capital of Achaemenians for some 2800 years.

Since about 150 years ago, first a French archeological mission and then Iranian archaeological teams have carried out excavations in the city which led to retrieving artifacts, buildings and objects from various periods, shedding more light on the Elamite history and culture.

In December 330 BCE, the Alexander of Macedonia captured Susa and plundered the city, seizing some 40,000 talents of gold and silver from the treasury.

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

World Heritage Site is a title given to locations which have “outstanding universal value” to all of humanity, according to UNESCO’s description.

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Dubai Tram to open for public November 12

Khaleej Times – 06 November, 2014 – The latest addition to RTA’s fleet of public transport services, Dubai Tram, will be made available for public use on November 12. However, according to senior officials at the authority, only an official inauguration ceremony will take place on November 11, details of which will be announced soon. Also read: Dubai Tramway second phase work to start soon

“We are very excited about the opening of Dubai Tram. However, our priority is to provide safe and smooth public transport for everyone who uses any modes of public transport,” said Moaza Saeed Al Marri, Director of RTA Marketing and Corporate Communication. Speaking at an interactive session with several members of the media, senior RTA officials repeatedly stressed that they want the public to be well aware of the safety measures, payment methods, and transfer to different modes of transportation that people need to be mindful of while travelling on, or near the Dubai Tram. The operational hours of Dubai Tram will be released shortly. In another event with the media, officials announced that the tram would not be a 24-hour service.

Abdulla Al Madani CEO of the Corporate Technical Support Services Sector of RTA said irrespective of the distance travelled, the cost of using the tram is Dh3. Passengers using the tram must tap-in and tap-out their Nol cards at designated validation booths in the tram stations.

The fare is calculated based on Dubai’s existing zonal fare structure and passengers need to have a minimum balance of Dh7.5 in their Nol card before embarking on a journey on the tram. Fare collection on the tramway is connected to Dubai’s automatic fare collection, unified fare card (Nol card). “It is mandatory that passengers tap-in at tram stations. Not doing so will result in fines,” said Al Madani.

The number of validation stands in each station depends on the size of the station, added Al Madani. On stations 1 to 3 (JBR1, JBR2, and JLT) there are four ticket validation machines (TVMs) on the platform as there is only one platform on each station. However, on Dubai Tram stations 4 to 11 (all stationa from Dubai Marina to Al Sufouh Depot) there are two platforms with four machines on each platform, hence eight machines in total for every station.

“There is a separate etiquette and different manner for usage of the Nol card on the Dubai Tram. It is slightly similar to the ticket validation at buses, however, the validation booths are in the station and not the tram itself, unlike how it is in the bus,” said Al Marri.

The tram cabins are divided into three classes, gold class, silver class, and a separate compartment for women and children. “Tickets to the gold class are priced at Dh6 on the tram, which is twice the normal ticket price,” said Al Madani. Two of the tram stations (JLT and Dubai Marina) are connected to their respective metro stations. Transfer from tram to metro will be free of cost, if the passenger uses the next mode of transport within half an hour. However, connectivity to the Nakheel Palm Jumeirah Monorail does not fall under the jurisdiction of RTA and passengers will have to pay the applicable cost (Dh25) to use the monorail. “As of now, we have no plans on integrating payment for use of the monorail,” said Al Madani.

If the commuter travels over 3km on the tram and metro, he will be charged for the journey based on the zones. For example, if the passenger has travelled one zone, using a Red ticket, he will be charged Dh4; if he has travelled two zones, he will be charged Dh6; and three zones and above the journey is priced at Dh8.50. Prices vary with subscription packages, silver, gold, and blue cards (refer to table for full pricing details).

Keeping in with their plans of integration of all forms of mass public transport, the RTA had rolled out a seasonal pass offering a cut of up to 47 per cent. New packages for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual subscription to the Nol card were introduced, enabling passengers to travel on the Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, and buses.

People using the tram with their existing Nol silver cards will have to pay a uniform rate of Dh3 per trip, while people who use the red tickets to travel will have to pay Dh4. Since payment for the tram fare is done via Nol cards, people can purchase their cards from retail outlets that have partnered with RTA or from manned payment booths in tram, metro, and bus stations. Madani said there are three channels of payment to Nol cards. Top-up of the cards can also be done online on nol.ae, or on RTA’s public transport app. “In the case of the tram, there are manned payment booths in each station,” said Al Madani.

Students, beneficiaries of social security (social aid recipients) and seniors above 60 years, be it citizens or residents, can now avail a 50 per cent discount on public transport services in Dubai. The service has been opened to residents, instead of the previous system where such a discount was restricted to citizens. The new packages will be activated on November 11 in concurrence with the operation of the Dubai Tram. Users can also personalise their Nol cards at RTA service centers, online, and payment booths in metro stations.

RTA explained that public transport fares, across all modes of transport, are calculated based on Dubai’s existing zonal fare structure. Dubai is divided into seven zones, and fares are charged based on commuters travelling through different zones.

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Abu Dhabi to launch Food Festival in Feb 2015

Khaleej Times – 06 November, 2014 – The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA) will serve a three-course celebration of food this February with the inaugural Abu Dhabi Food Festival. Running emirate-wide from February 5 to 21, the festival will incorporate the annual Gourmet Abu Dhabi event, the new ‘Emirati Kitchen’ and the Gulf region’s first ‘StreetFeast’.

Spread over two weeks and three weekends, the festival will reach out to residents and visitors and will be supported by a full range of activities and promotions in the emirate’s hotels, restaurants and malls.

“Over the past six years, we have seen a considerable transformation in cuisine quality and service levels within the emirate’s food and beverage scene in which Gourmet Abu Dhabi played a role,” explained Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director, Tourism, TCA. “We now want to expand the reach of our food celebrations to take in a wider audience.”

Gourmet Abu Dhabi was launched in 2009 with the dual aim of raising F&B standards within the emirate and promoting Emirati hospitality traditions.

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Sharjah Tourism welcomes Book Fair delegates

Gulf Today – 06 November, 2014 – Mohammed Ali Al Noman, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, has said that the Authority has once again joined hands with the hotel industry in the emirate to provide world-class services and facilities to guests and delegates participating in the Sharjah International Book Fair.

The authority conducted extensive inspections of hotel facilities and held intensive meetings with their management and representatives to ensure compliance across the emirate.

More than 1200 Arab publishing houses and hundreds of foreign publishers, government agencies and local, Arab and international authors take part in the much-awaited Sharjah exhibition.

Speaking on the occasion, Al Noman reaffirmed the emirate’s keenness to improve and upgrade the tourism and hospitality sector infrastructure and services provided to its visitors. He said that a number of new hotels have recently opened up in the emirate and work is going apace on a number of luxury hotel projects and facilities by international hospitality chains in line with the growing number of international tourists and the demand for services.

Al Noman underscored the need to take advantage of major international events such as the Sharjah International Book Fair to highlight the outstanding cultural heritage and tourism product that Sharjah has to offer to international visitors.

For his part, Khamis Kazzaz, General Manager, Radisson Blu Sharjah, said that the resort was all set to welcome the guests for the 33rd Sharjah International Book Fair.

All arrangements and preparations have been made to provide the best services to the visiting delegates, publishers and authors and meet all their requirements. He said that Radisson Blue Sharjah, which reported 95 per cent occupancy rate last year, expects to achieve even better results this year.

Kazzaz noted that over the past few years, Sharjah has registered remarkable success with its own distinct features, particularly in hosting major events every year such as the Sharjah International Book Fair that have made Sharjah the destination of choice for visitors from around the world.

He lauded the role of Sharjah Tourism, which has made great efforts in improving the tourism sector in the emirate and in organising and supporting the events such as the Sharjah International Book Fair, Sharjah Light Festival, Sharjah Water Festival, the UIM H20 Powerboat Championship, Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival and various other festivals and activities.

In addition to its celebrated culture, endless leisure and shopping opportunities, Sharjah boasts some of the best beaches, tourist attractions and getaways making it a global tourist and leading cultural destination, he said.

Haytham Khairy, general manager, Aryana Hotel, praised the impressive growth of the Sharjah International Book Fair over the years in terms of exhibitor and visitor participation, space and services provided and positive impact on the tourism and hospitality sector.

He expressed his confidence that the Sharjah Book Fair would once again reflect positively on the hotel occupancy rates in the Emirate in general and on Aryana Hotel in particular, which happens to be very close to the Sharjah Expo Centre.

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Muscat Festival 2015 from January 15

Oman Daily Observer – 06 November, 2014 – The main organising committee of Muscat Festival 2015 held its first meeting yesterday under the chairmanship of Mohsin bin Mohammed al Shaikh, Chairman of Muscat Municipality and head of the committee. The 2015 edition of Muscat Festival will begin on January 15 and run until February 14 coinciding with the vacation of educational institutions.

The activities of Muscat Festival will be held in Al Amerat Park, Al Naseem Park and other venues, it was decided. The Festival will see a number of activities including the Heritage Village, international festival for traditional crafts and arts, circus shows, pyrotechnics and Laser shows, family and children’s activities, trade exhibitions, SMEs pavilions, cultural and intellectual evenings, the 6th edition of the tour of Oman, among other things. The committee reviewed the tenders that have been floated some of which have been awarded and others are under study and will be floated shortly.

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Qatar Museums to launch two exhibitions

The Peninsula – 06 November, 2014 – Qatar Museums is set to launch two major exhibitions at separate locations this month. Iranian artist Shirin Neshat will open her first solo exhibition in the Middle East on Sunday at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.

Running until February 15, the expo entitled ‘Afterwards’ introduces a group of new and existing works as well as the photographic series, The Book of Kings (2011); Our House is on Fire (2013) as well as the video installation, Turbulent (1998) that comment on historical, cultural and political realities on which the artist has focused on for the past 30 years.

At 3.30pm on the opening day, Shirin will be joining Abdellah Karroum, Director of Mathaf for a public discussion about her exhibition at CIMAM 2014 Annual conference at Mathaf.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, a special, one-off Henna night will be held on Friday from 5pm to 9pm at the Souq Waqif Arts Centre. Visitors and passersby will be treated for free to a number of henna designs to choose from, drawn by professional Henna artists and inspired by Shirin’s art.

On Tuesday, ‘Yousef Ahmad: Story of ingenuity’ opens at Qatar Museums Gallery in Katara.

As a pioneer of Qatar’s modern art movement, Yousef Ahmad’s artistic journey has spanned over three decades, and his work has been influenced by his surroundings and emotional ties with Qatar’s culture and traditions.

The exhibition highlights the Qatari artists’ body of work through a precise selection of his most striking artworks from his early works in 1970s until today. It showcases three phases in Ahmad’s artistic career, from the early oil paintings that include the historic depiction of Al Zubarah Fort, to his mixed media calligraphic pieces to his new conceptual artworks. The Yousef Ahmad exhibition runs until February 14 at the QM Gallery, Katara Building 10.

In addition to these exhibitions, Mathaf has opened its new permanent collection ‘Mathaf Collection, Summary, Part 1’ on the whole of the first floor of the museum.

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Iran seeks to boost economy with tourism revival

Saudi Gazette – 07 November, 2014 – At the foot of Persepolis, busloads of foreign tourists gaze in awe at the ancient mud-brick ceremonial capital that Iran hopes will be part of a rebirth of its tourism industry. Although decades of sanctions mean the hotels and infrastructure are not five star, a tentative political thaw with the West is drawing visitors to Iranian attractions steeped in myth and rumor.

Persepolis, a jewel of the first Persian empire whose palace and terraces took more than 100 years to build, starting under Darius the Great in 518 BC, is one of the highlights. “Before coming to Iran I knew the vision of this country from the outside was very dark,” says Piotr Chwalba, from Poland, finally looking at Persepolis after thinking for years of visiting.

“A place like Iran has two sides — the one created by the media and the other version, the truth, where everyone helps you when you travel and everyone smiles at you. It’s great.”

Sincere as such testimony is, a rise in visitors has more to do with politics than praise. The prospects for tour operators were bleak until recently. The election last year of President Hassan Rouhani and his decision to restart negotiations with the United States and other leading nations about Iran’s nuclear program has been a catalyst.

While seeking to play host to international visitors it also helps that his speeches do not tend to excoriate the West in the same manner that his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s did.

“Mr Rouhani’s demeanor, his smile, his positive interaction with the world has created a new sense of ease,” says Ibrahim Pourfaraj, president of Iran’s tour operators association. Thomas, an engineer from Stuttgart, says the nuclear issue is the only thing he hears about Iran in the news back home. “What we see is totally different than what we hear from the outside,” the 29-year-old German says. “The Iranians are very hospitable and very curious.”

Shiite pilgrims from Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Pakistan currently make up 60 percent of Iran’s visitors. But the government’s main push is to recapture the spending power of Europe, Asia and America. For Iran — whose currency, the rial, has been severely depressed by rampant inflation — tourism offers a foreign exchange windfall.

The cities of Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd, all steeped in culture, are considered Iran’s top attractions, but sites such as Kish Island with its beaches on the Gulf have sought to create a more relaxed holiday. People are coming back. Official figures show that at the end of March, tourist numbers were up 35 percent year-on-year to 4.5 million, bringing in $ 6 billion. Iran, with 17 UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites, wants 20 million visitors within a decade.

However, a nuclear deal remains a hope rather than a given and tour operators know optimism can vanish quickly. For the moment, local guides are filling their pockets. “This is a new wave. We have between 300 percent and 400 percent more visitors,” says Mohsen Hajisaeid, who was looking after a group from Hong Kong. “For some languages we don’t even have a guide to help them,” he explains.

Iran’s shortfalls are not confined to translators. Although many hotels have been built in the sprawling conurbations of Mashhad, Esfahan and Shiraz, the closest city to Persepolis, they are primarily for the domestic market. In the tourism sector there is a specific need for customer-focused training and more development.

“Our capabilities are limited compared to the influx of tourists,” Massoud Soltani-Far, one of Iran’s vice presidents whose brief includes tourism, recently said at an industry conference.

More than 900 projects are being undertaken at a cost of $ 200 million, but there are still significant gaps in the market. “Transport and four-star or five-star hotels are not there to meet the demand,” Soltani-Far explained, perhaps alluding to well-publicized problems with the fitting-out of Iranian planes, due to sanctions.

But there are bright spots at the top of the market. The “Jewels of Persia,” a luxury train, arrived in Tehran on Oct. 27 on an all-inclusive 15-day trip, with tickets costing $ 9,000 to $ 14,000. Such trips may start to breed unease, however. Some conservative MPs are demanding tourists be given guidance on how to behave as soon as they arrive in the Islamic republic.

It is a sensitive issue visitors must embrace; the dress code for women is loose clothing, known as hijab, that covers the head and neck. Men should avoid shorts. A recent spate of acid attacks on Iranian women in Isfahan, reportedly because they were not properly veiled — though authorities have denied such a link — has highlighted the requirements.

To those traveling to Iran though, the warm welcome is outweighing concerns about dress, security or the need for high-class hotels and slick service. “The country is safe — maybe more so than some European countries,” says Thomas from Germany.

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Conference to focus on Islamic capital market’s sustainable growth

Khaleej Times – 07 November, 2014 – Key factors behind the recent prosperity of Islamic capital markets and prospects for sustainable growth will be analysed by some of the world’s foremost economic experts at the ICA Conference opening in Dubai today.

The two-day event is organised by the UAE Financial Markets Association in collaboration with the International Cambist Association (ICA) and strategic partner Dubai International Financial Centre.

“Islamic capital markets have been among the most important growth areas of Sharia-compliant finance in recent years, and a number of regional economies now have large and mature stock exchanges,” said Mohammed Al Hashem, Chairman of the UAE Financial Markets Association.

“The momentum in the area of sukuk has been even more impressive, with new structures and a great deal of standardisation, as well rapid growth in issuance.

“The conference presents a perfect opportunity to look closely at what accounts for the greater maturing of Islamic capital markets, and to evaluate how much of the progress we have seen is real and sustainable.”

Added Al Hashemi: “We will be identifying the most important development priorities for Islamic capital markets, and assessing when we can expect to see Islamic capital markets match the role of their conventional counterparts in countries with large Shariah-compliant industries.”

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Oman tourism sector set for growth, needs more flights

Khaleej Times – 07 November, 2014 – Oman is poised for a huge growth in its regional tourism, but needs more flights and cheaper hotel rooms, if it wants to attract a greater number of visitors, tourism experts have noted.

Oman Air’s chief operating officer Abdulrahman Al Busaidy, said that the airline aims to increase its fleet, from 40 aircraft now to 70 aircraft, in its present 10-year plan and that it will accept 13 new aircraft in 2015 alone. He said that the number of passengers using Oman Air is forecast to rise to about 4.8 million in 2014 from 4.7 million in 2013, but that less than 20 per cent are flying directly to Oman. Al Busaidy said this was partly due to the lack of affordable hotel rooms.

“I hear some five star hotels have occupancy of 15 per cent and yet charge 90 riyals per night,” Al Busaidy said. “There is an opportunity here for the winter and summer to promote tourism. If we had decent rates we could attract people from the GCC who would come for a couple of days and go to Salalah.”

Oman Air has launched a hotel stopover programme that provides Oman Air passengers with affordable room rates, where Al Busaidy called on more Omani hotels to join the programme. “If hotels could invest in five rooms per night in our stopover hotels scheme, it would make a big difference,” he said.

Government figures show Oman has 282 hotels of all types, with 22,404 bedrooms. The majority were small and family-owned hotels and residences. STR Global area director for the Middle East and Africa Philip Wooller said that occupancy for four and five star hotels was more than 70 per cent. ADR rose by 7.6 per cent in the year ending September to $ 200. Wooller said STR’s September hotel census showed that there are plans to build 6,000 new hotel rooms in the sultanate.

CEO of the Dhofar Tourism Company, Edward Chaaya, said that Salalah’s tourism potential is unlimited and that government action has increased the attractions of investing in projects in and around the port city.

“There has been great improvement in infrastructure including industrial and touristic projects with upgraded facilities, such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, shopping malls and recreational facilities,” Chaaya said. “Three mega projects were partnered by the Ministry of Tourism and more are in pipeline, all helping in creating multiple employment opportunities for local talent and new graduates.”

Chaaya also called on international hospital brands and resorts to allocate marketing funds to promote the destination. A Dhofar destination committee should be founded, he added.

Ramzy Fenianos, development director at Starwoods Hotels & Tourism, said: “We are confident that Oman’s tourism sector backed by the ongoing major projects will bring many hotel developments opportunities for Starwood both on the midscale and luxury segments in addition to potential opportunities for conversions considering the large number of unbranded hotels in Muscat.”

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“Historic shift” in Abu Dhabi oil exploration concessions

Saudi Gazette – 08 November, 2014 – Gulf emirate Abu Dhabi seems likely to choose Asian firms when it renews a decades-old major oil concession, sources and analysts told AFP, in a historic shift for the global energy market.

Powerful Western companies have dominated the Middle East oil industry for nearly a century but are facing increasing competition from energy-hungry Asia.

Now Asia appears set to win its first major concession in the Middle East after the expiry of a World War II-era contract to exploit Abu Dhabi’s main onshore oil fields.

“The Far East is ‘the’ market for Gulf oil and energy-based products like chemicals,” Jean-Francois Seznec, a Georgetown University professor and oil expert, told AFP.

Experts believe it is inevitable that, after seeing huge boosts in oil exports to Asia, Middle East producers like the United Arab Emirates will seek to attract Asian companies as production partners as well.

This will “help the UAE secure a market share in the Far East at this time of ample supplies and relatively weak demand,” Seznec said.

Industry sources tell AFP that global giant China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is the top contender for the Abu Dhabi bid, along with firms from South Korea and Japan.

The 75-year-old concession ran out in January and state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is reviewing bids from nine international majors to award new long-term production-sharing agreements.

The ultimate decision will be taken by the Abu Dhabi Supreme Petroleum Council, the emirate’s highest decision-making body on energy issues.

An industry source said a decision is expected by the end of the year or early 2015, barring any last-minute hurdles.

The previous concession, granted in January 1939, was operated by Western companies ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total, with 9.5 percent each, in addition to Partex Oil and Gas with two percent.

The Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO), which currently operates production, had the remaining 60 percent.

The new concession will be for 40 years, local media reported and the goal is to raise output from the current 1.5 million barrels per day to 1.8 million by 2017.

As well as China’s CNPC, the Korean National Oil Corporation (KNOC) and Japan’s Inpex Corporation are among the nine companies bidding for the concession.

The former partners — US giant ExxonMobil, Anglo-Dutch Shell, Britain’s BP and Total of France — are also bidding, along with newcomers Statoil of Norway and Russia’s Rosneft.

“There is certainly a natural fit for Asian oil companies interested in these concessions,” Victor Shum, vice president at IHS Energy Insight, told AFP.

The Middle East is the primary supplier of crude oil to Asian nations and Asia’s importance in the energy market has risen in recent years amid fundamental changes in production, exports and prices, he said.

Last year China replaced the United States as the world’s top crude oil importer, after US producers increased domestic output of oil and natural gas from conventional and shale sources.

China imports more than six million barrels per day, mostly from the Gulf, as opposed to about five million by the United States.

Chinese and Korean companies have already struck smaller concession deals in undeveloped areas of Abu Dhabi. China also signed a strategic deal to import 200,000 barrels per day from the UAE until 2020.

“With the growing supply from the United States, we expect that Middle Eastern countries would likely have to focus more on the Asian region,” said Daniel Ang, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

“We already saw Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran cut prices and believe that this is already a step towards maintaining their market share in the Asian market,” Ang told AFP.

While demand from the United States and Europe is declining or stagnant at best, thirst for oil is increasing rapidly in Asia and emerging markets.

IHS forecasts that the Asia-Pacific share of world consumption will rise from 26.4 percent in 2014 to 34.4 percent by 2024.

The UAE, OPEC’s fourth-largest supplier, is one of the last nations still giving major concession rights to international oil majors.

Industry sources said ExxonMobil bid reluctantly to stay in the concession, after securing rights alone at the 550,000 barrel per day Upper Zakum offshore field under improved conditions.

Given their track record on the concession, some of the Western firms are likely to win parts of the rights.

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