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29 Dec, 2014

World Islamic Travel Summit To Debut In Abu Dhabi, October 2015

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 29 December 2014 (07 Rabee’ al-Awwal 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.




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

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


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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




China to help Egypt develop infrastructure

(China Daily) December 24, 2014 — As Egypt tries hard to put its turmoil-hit economy back on track, China is lending its support through an upgraded relationship and five agreements sealed on Tuesday during Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s first state visit to China.

After extended talks, President Xi Jinping and Sisi officiated at the signing of agreements in areas including economic cooperation, trade, aerospace and energy.

China would like to link its Silk Road Economic Belt and its 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives to Egypt’s major development plans, and to strengthen cooperation in infrastructure, nuclear power, new energy and aerospace, Xi said.

Calling the initiatives an important opportunity to revitalize Egypt, Sisi said his country hopes to work with China in the Suez Canal Corridor projects, and to attract more Chinese investment, students and tourists.

In August, Sisi gave the go-ahead for digging a 72-km expansion of the Suez Canal, ordering it to be open for navigation in early August 2015.

Egypt also wants to develop projects around the corridor to provide ships with fuel and food.

The projects are part of the administration’s efforts to revitalize the Egyptian economy, which has been hammered in the past four years by two uprisings that led to the ouster of two heads of state and chilled prospects for investors.

Sisi, accompanied by eight ministers, started his first visit to China on Monday after he swept presidential elections in May. During his four-day trip, he is scheduled to meet representatives from Chinese companies, universities and the tourism industry.

Before returning home, Sisi is also expected to visit Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, to tour factories specializing in technology and manufacturing.

Zhu Weilie, director of the Center for China-Arab States Cooperation Forum Studies and a professor at Shanghai International Studies University, said Egypt needs China’s technology and participation in its industrial parks, and its once-booming tourism industry also places high expectations on China, the world’s largest tourism market.

Trade volume between the countries exceeded $10 billion for the first time in 2013. Egypt’s economy also picked up recently, with Fitch Ratings last week upgrading its credit rating one rank to “B” with a “stable” outlook.

Huda Metkees, a political science professor at Cairo University, said, “Egypt undoubtedly realizes the importance of the‘Look East’policy in which China commands a pivotal position.”

Unlike the West, which has a colonial past, China is well perceived in the Arab world, including Egypt, Gulf News quoted Metkees as saying.

Egypt has established a Cabinet unit for China led by Egypt’s premier, with ministers as members, to study fields of cooperation.

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Fajr Filmfest to screen Roman Princess animation

Press TV, Sat Dec 20, 2014 – The Iranian three-dimensional animation titled The Princess of Rome is set to premier at the 33rd Fajr International Film Festival.

Directed by Hadi Mohammadian, the animation tells the story of the granddaughter of the great Caesar of Rome, Malika, who was brought to Samarra where she married the 11th Shia imam, Imam Hassan al-Askari (PBUH) and was named Nargis Khatoon.

Nearly a hundred experts in various fields have contributed to the production of the film, Mohammadian said.

While the animation will have its premiere in Tehran at the 2015 Fajr International Film Festival, it will be also released in Arabic dubbing in Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries.

Supervised by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the 2015 Fajr International Film Festival will host competitions in two main sections of ‘Iranian Cinema’ and ‘International Section’.

The annual cinematic event is also comprised of competitive and non-competitive sections with various categories including short, medium-length, and full-length cinematic productions and documentaries.

Established in 1982, the festival will also host the 18th International Iranian Film Market with a large number of reputed Iranian and international film distributors and buyers slated to flock to the event.

Iran holds the international Fajr film, theater, music, visual arts and poetry festivals every year to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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Iran, Turkey calligraphers meet in Istanbul

Press TV, Dec 21, 2014 – Iran’s Consulate in Istanbul has hosted a meeting of Iranian and Turkish calligraphy maestros in line with expansion of cultural cooperation between the two countries.

A number of Iranian and Turkish calligraphy maestros took part in the cultural gala that was held on December 19.

To promote interactions among the Iranian and Turkish calligraphers as well as Islamic calligraphy art, the participants proposed to launch the Islamic World Calligraphers Association.

A workshop of Nastaliq calligraphy style was recently held in the Persian-language education center in Istanbul. The event received a warm welcome by the center’s Turkish students.

Considered one of the highest Islamic art forms, calligraphy became an indispensable part of Persian society in the beginning of the Islamic era. It was not only practiced by professional artists but also by the royalty and nobility.

Six basic popular calligraphy styles are referred to as Naskh, Thuluth, Muhaqqaq, Rihani, Tauqi, and Riqa.

Nastaliq and Cursive Nastaliq are known as the most attractive Persian calligraphy styles, broadly used in copying Arabic words, romantic and epic Persian poetry and literary manuscripts.

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Iran, UAE to facilitate visa issuance for nationals

Tehran, Dec 24, IRNA – Iran and the United Arab Emirates agreed to facilitate visa issuance for nationals during their 9th joint consular commission in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

During the meeting, deputy foreign ministers of Iran and the UAE signed an MoU, an article of which was about facilitation of visa for nationals of one another.

Continuation of judicial cooperation to efficiently counter drug-trafficking, as well as enhancement of cooperation between the coast guards of Iran and the UAE were among other issues of agreement upon in the memorandum of understanding.

The one-day meeting was co-chaired by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister on Consular, Parliamentary and Expatriates Affairs Hassan Qashqavi and UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Jarman.

Representatives from the Judiciary, Interpol, the borderguards and the Iranian Red Crescent Society are accompanying Qashqavi to the United Arab Emirates.

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Malaysia Welcomes Inaugural Jin Air Flight To Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu International Airport, 22 December 2014: The Deputy Director General of Tourism Malaysia Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin, as well as representatives from Sabah Tourism Board personally welcomed passengers aboard the Jin Air inaugural flight arriving at Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Sabah, from Incheon, Korea, today.

Beginning today, the Boeing 737-800 aircraft operates the Incheon – Kota Kinabalu route with a capacity of 183 passengers on each flight. It runs 7 times per week during peak period, and 4 times per week during non-peak period.

In conjunction with the new flight, Tourism Malaysia has partnered with Jin Air to promote Malaysia over a 3-month campaign. The promotion campaign is expected to make a total of 86 flights, bring in an estimated 15,738 passengers between 22 December 2014 and 29 March 2015. This effort is in line with the Tourism National Key Economic Area (NKEA) initiative to enhance connectivity to priority medium-haul markets.

Kota Kinabalu has recently emerged as a favourite destination among Koreans. During the first nine months of 2014, a total of 90,225 Korean tourists travelled to Sabah, an increase of 17 percent compared to the same period last year. In 2013, a total of 106,203 Koreans visited Sabah, an increase of 32.1% compared to the previous year. Malaysia recorded a total of 274,622 Korean tourist arrivals in 2013.

Jin Air Co. Ltd is a low cost airline established in 2008 in South Korea. It is a fully owned subsidiary of Korean Air. Jin Air currently operates flights to 16 international routes from Seoul/Incheon to Okinawa, Nagasaki, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Vientiane, Clark, Cebu, Kota Kinabalu, Macau, Hong Kong, Guam and 3 international routes from Jeju to Shanghai, Xi’an, Quanzhou and 1 domestic route from Gimpo to Jeju.

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CC1M Bike Ride @Putrajaya 2014 Sets The Pace For Cycling Tourism

PUTRAJAYA, 20 December 2014 – The Deputy Director General (Promotion) of Tourism Malaysia Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin launched the “Discover Malaysia by Bicycle Guidebook” today in conjunction with the launch of the 4th Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Bike Ride@Putrajaya programme at Dataran Putrajaya, Precinct 3.

In his speech, Dato’ Haji Azizan said that Tourism Malaysia has developed 74 cycling tourism packages for the guidebook in collaboration with 32 local tour agencies.

“Through these packages, domestic and international tourists will be able to explore more destinations within Malaysia through cycling. Some of the most interesting packages include the 3D/2N Classic Kuching City Ride, the 4D/3N Taman Negara cycling package and 3D2N Kota Bharu Cycling Tour” he adds.

Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin believes that the publication of the “Discover Malaysia by Bicycle Guidebook” will complete the Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Bike Ride@Putrajaya programme, which has been an established brand among cycling enthusiasts in the country.

This annual event is organised by Tourism Malaysia with the assistance of Putrajaya Corporation. It has attracted more than 2,500 cycling enthusiasts from all over the country.

The event is currently divided into three categories, which is the ‘Family Fun Ride’ – 12km, ‘Fun Ride Challenge’ – 35km, and ‘BMX Tourism Sprint’ – 300 metres.

Other activities at the event, such as exhibitions and lucky draws.

The Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Bike Ride@Putrajaya 2014 is sponsored by Felda Wellness Corporation, Roda Pantas, Cycling Malaysia, Harian Metro, Drive M7, Rapid Dino (M) Sdn Bhd, Jiwa Basikal, UFL & Deuter, Ciclista, JVC, Instyle Eyewears, Sen Aik Trading, Nestle, Grand Lexis Group, Sutera Harbour Hotel.

202 cycling tour packages have been developed from 2011 to 2014, with the assistance from 95 local travel tour agencies.

A total of 3,547 cycling tourism packages worth RM657,452.07 have been sold from January to August this year, while a total of 5,290 cycling tour packages worth RM844,720 were sold in 2013.

For more information, please contact Mohd Badrul Amin Bisharuddin, Assistant Director, Domestic Marketing Division, Tourism Malaysia, at 03-8891 8453, or email mohdbadrulamin@tourism.gov.my

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Malaysia Assist In Boosting Education At University In Indonesia’s Aceh

BANDA ACEH, Aceh Province, Indonesia Dec 26 (NNN-Bernama) — The Faculty of Nursing, Universitas Syiah Kuala, the only university in Aceh which is recognised for running a Masters degree programme in nursing, was initially an old single-storey building with 40 students annually in its early stages after it was established in 1999.

Now, the faculty has six blocks of double-storey buildings equipped with laboratories, 16 lecture rooms and tutorial classes and could increase the number of its students to 120 up to 140 students after it was rebuilt with funds contributed by Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) with the collaboration of Mercy Malaysia after it was destroyed by the tsunami 10 years ago.

The university is now among the top choice of Indonesians in continuing their studies, its dean, Hajjul Kamil told Malaysian reporters who are on a visit here, Tuesday.

Hajjul said that in the initial stage of the implementation of the nursing programme in 1999, the number of applicants was only about 40 students a year, but now, with the new building, the programme received between 4,000 and 5,000 applications.

However, only between 120 and 140 students could be accepted, he said.

Since the new building called ‘Gedung Petronas’ began operations in 2006, the faculty could produce about 700 graduands at the diploma and bachelors’ degree level.

Meanwhile, a lecturer at the faculty, T Shamsul Alam said that the assistance from Malaysians in constructing the new building had been among the main contributions in the rise of the faculty until today.

He said that besides raising the intake of students, the faculty had also gained recognition from the ‘Badan Akreditasi Nasional Pengurusan Tinggi Republik Indonesia’ (The National Accredition Body for National Management of the Republic of Indonesia) as having the best faculty for the nursing programme.

“Through the existing facilities and accredited lecturers, the faculty is now qualified to provide education at the masters’ level,” he said.

T Shamsul said the tsunami had killed 38 students and four staff members.

Meanwhile, a third semester student at the faculty, Endang Sakinah Mohd Nasir, 20, said the nursing programme at the university was a popular choice among the people.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Indonesia Remembers 10Th Anniversary Of Devastating Tsunami

BANDA ACEH, Aceh, Indonesia, Dec. 26 (NNN-Xinhua) — A ceremony marking the devastating tsunami that hit Indonesia the worst ten years ago was held here on Friday, featuring appreciation to donor countries participating in rebuilding and rehabilitating Aceh to what it is today.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla conveyed the government’s appreciation to ambassadors of donor countries including the United States, Turkey, Germany, Oman, Singapore, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.

An earthquake measuring around 9.0 on the Richter scale on Dec. 26, 2004 triggered a wave as high as 17.4 meters which swept ashore in more than a dozen countries by the Indian Ocean, leaving more than 230,000 people dead.

In Indonesia’s Aceh province alone, some 168,000 people were killed, according the Indonesian officials.

Other Asian countries including India, Thailand and Sri Lanka also marked the devastating tsunami with prayers and memorial services.

“Thank you for all parties that had extended their aids to help rebuild and rehabilitate Aceh from total wreck after the tsunami,” Jusuf told the ceremony held in a landmark lawn that was used to gather the bodies the tsunami victims.

Jusuf served as the nation’s vice president when the tsunami took place and since led a national coordinating committee to restore Aceh.

Recalling his days to coordinate efforts to help survivors of one of the world’s largest disaster in modern history, Jusuf said that international aid came very fast to respond to the suffering of the people in Aceh.

“Unity comes best when we are in dire situation. I saw people from across the country gathering aids and donations for the Aceh people soon after the tsunami occurred. I was also astonished at the international community that quickly delivered their aids to Aceh,” Jusuf said.

He added that foreign armed forces also conducted rapid moves to help search victims and distribute logistics.

“It was perhaps the first and the best non-combat cooperation that had ever been held by militaries from across the world,” Jusuf said.

He also recalled the United Nations summit held in Jakarta ten months after the tsunami which resulted in raising fund amounting to 5 billion U.S. dollars that was eventually used to finance the rehabilitation and reconstruction process in Aceh.

Aceh was rebuilt, he said, adding that new roads, hospitals, houses and mosques were built with the support of international donors. — NNN-XINHUA

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Employment generating programme begins in Jamalpur

JAMALPUR, Dec 27, 2014 (BSS) – Employment generating programme for hard-core poor, seasonal unemployed and destitute people, began in the district this month.

Official sources said the aim of the programme is to assist the day and farm laborers overcoming their poverty and job crisis during the lean period.

The government has allotted Taka 21 crore 37 lakh 42 thousand to implement the programme.

District Relief and Rehabilitation Office sources said Taka 19 crore 23 lakh 68 thousand were allotted as wages for the labourers and Taka 2 crore 13 lakh 74 thousand as non-wages cost.

The government under the project has sanctioned the money for 23,893 workers to implement different infrastructural development schemes in the district.

Each of the workers would get Taka 200 per day as wage from the programme, the sources said.

The project includes construction and reconstruction of earthen roads, bridges, culverts, educational and religious institutions.

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Azerbaijan President reviews work at the Baku Olympic Stadium

Baku, December 26, AzerTAc — President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and chairperson of the Baku 2015 First European Games Organizing Committee Mehriban Aliyeva have reviewed ongoing work at the Baku Olympic Stadium.

President of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic Rovnag Abdullayev informed President Ilham Aliyev about the work carried out here.

The foundation stone for the stadium was laid in June, 2011. Work is continuing rapidly and with high quality in the Olympic Stadium. A main part of the construction work on the project has been over.

President Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijan`s first lady were informed about the interior of the Baku Olympic Stadium. All conditions have been created here.

President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva regularly review the progress of construction at the Baku Olympic Stadium, and give their instructions and recommendations. It was noted that the 68,000-seat Baku Olympic Stadium would be built in a modern architectural style and occupy a special place among similar facilities. The stadium, to be built to international standards, will have stands with different functions, running tracks and other infrastructure. The six-storey stadium occupies an area of 50 hectares. The facility will consist of the main and auxiliary stadiums, an auxiliary building, as well as sections for VIP, CIP, media and disabled spectators. The pitch will have four entrance gates, while the stands will have 26 gates. Taking into account that in accordance with Olympic norms people come to the stadium on foot or by public transport a 3,103-capacity car park is being built on the territory.

A 82,000 square meter green area is being laid out around the stadium.


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New Heydar Mosque Opens in Baku

Baku, December 26, AzerTAc — An opening ceremony of Heydar Mosque has been held. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, his wife Mehriban Aliyeva and family members attended the ceremony. The building, which covers a total area of 12,000 square meters, was constructed under the instructions of the head of state. It has four 95m-height minarets.

President Ilham Aliyev repeatedly visited the construction site to review progress of activities and give relevant instructions. The mosque covers a total area of 4,200 square meters. It has 55m-height main and 35m-height second domes.

The ceremony started with recitation of an ayah from the Quran. President Ilham Aliyev addressed the ceremony, and delivered his greetings on the opening of Heydar Mosque, which he described as a remarkable and historic day in the country’s life.

Then chairman of the Coordinating Council of Muslims of the North Caucasus, Mufti of Karachay-Cherkessia of the Russian Federation Ismayil Berdiyev, head of the Russian Orthodox Church`s Baku and Azerbaijan Eparchy Alexander, head of Baku Mountain Jews Religious Community Milikh Yevdayev, Plenipotentiary Representative of the Caucasian Muslims Office in the Russian Federation Shafik Pshikhachev and chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Office Sheikhulislam Allahshukur Pashazade made speeches.

In conclusion prayers were said for national leader Heydar Aliyev and his wife Zarifa Aliyeva, and shahids who died for the motherland.


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Indonesia upgrades Islamic-based education

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, December 20 2014 – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo rolled out on Friday plans to improve the quality of 12 Islamic-based public higher education institutions in the country, including by awarding 5,000 doctorate scholarships for lecturers from the institutions.

Under the scheme, nine Islamic-based colleges have been upgraded into academies and three existing academies have been transformed into universities.

The nine new State Academy of Islamic Studies (IAIN) include ones in Samarinda, East Kalimantan; Palangkaraya in Central Kalimantan; Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi; Manado in North Sulawesi; Palopo in South Sulawesi; Langsa in Aceh; Jember in East Java; and two others in Salatiga and Purwokerto, both in Central Java.

The three universities reformed under the plan are Walisongo State Islamic University (UIN) in Semarang, Central Java; Raden Fatah UIN in Palembang, South Sumatra; and Sumatra Utara UIN in Medan, North Sumatra.

Under the new scholarship scheme, which was initiated by the Religious Affairs Ministry, 1,000 lecturers from the institutions are expected to enroll in doctoral programs in universities across the country or abroad each year in the next five years.

In a speech to inaugurate the program, Jokowi said that Islamic education had a major role in developing the country.

He said that a number of existing Islamic higher education institutions had managed to provide good-quality education, including the medical school of the Jakarta-based Syarif Hidayatullah UIN.

“Alhamdulillah, I believe that Islamic education can play a role in meeting the needs of the government and the people,” Jokowi said.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who has won praise for his progressive stances on many issues, particularly the rights of religious minorities, said that Islamic education had a far-reaching impact on the country’s future.

Islamic universities, Lukman said, could play a unifying role for the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia. “Through their Islamic studies, Islamic universities become effective bonds that bring together diverse religious views, becoming a melting pot of various existing religious foundations,” Lukman said during the event.

Islamic-based universities, Lukman said, have also educated those who would later become spokespeople for Indonesia’s inclusive, moderate, tolerant, civilized and peaceful form of Islam in the international forum.

First established in 1945, the number of Islamic higher education institutions has now grown to a total of 55 public Islamic universities and 638 privately run Islamic universities. “The number shows a major contribution of Muslims toward higher education in the country,” Lukman said.

M. Mukri, head of the Islamic-based higher education rectors’ forum, said the plan to improve the quality of Islamic-based higher education could in fact be consistent with Jokowi’s call for a “mental revolution”.

“With this plan, we promise to be an agent of change,” said Mukri, who is also the rector of Lampung IAIN.

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First Congress of Azerbaijani scientists held

Baku, December 19, AzerTAc – The First Congress of Azerbaijani scientists has kicked off today. The congress is co-organized by Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), Ministry of Communications and High Technologies (MCHT) and Ministry of Education

The Congress aims to discuss functions and tasks of science in the light of “Azerbaijan 2020: A Look into the Future” development concept and mobilize scientific potential of Azerbaijan, as well as support the state policy on socio-economic and cultural development of the country. In this regard, it’s very important to develop relations between researchers from academic, educational, business and social sectors, including Azerbaijani scientists living abroad.

Influential Azerbaijani scientists working abroad, as well as representatives from government, business and civil society are attending the Congress. The event is being broadcast live over the Internet.

The event is attended by chief of the humanitarian policy department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan Fatma Abdullahzade, Deputy Prime Minister Elchin Efendiyev, State Adviser on Multinational, Multicultural and Religious Affairs, academician Kamal Abdulla, ANAS president, academician Akif Alizade, Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov and Minister of Education Mikayil Jabbarov.

Chief of the humanitarian policy department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan Fatma Abdullahzade read out the message of congratulation addressed the congress participants by President Ilham Aliyev.

ANAS President, academician Akif Alizade delivered a lecture on “Challenges of the modern world and priorities of Azerbaijani science”. He said that there are several factors on the close combination of the national unity around the idea of Azerbaijan: “All aspects of humanities should gain momentum to preserve the history of our people, its ancient traditions, rich cultural heritage and we must be able to deliver them to the future generations as a gift”.

Minister of Education Mikayil Jabbarov and Minister of Communications and High Technologies Ali Abbasov will also address the congress.

Declaration of the First Congress of Azerbaijani Scientists will be adopted at the end of the congress, and an appeal will be made to President Ilham Aliyev on behalf of congress participants.

Note that decision on holding the First Congress of Azerbaijani scientists was adopted at ANAS General Meeting on April 18, 2014.


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Baku 2015 European Games branding receives international recognition

Baku, December 19, AzerTAc – Baku 2015 European Games has been recognized for its exceptional new branding by a major international design website.

Design Week has named the new look of the inaugural European Games which was launched in August as one of the biggest rebrands of 2014 alongside several other high-profile companies.

The brand was developed by Baku 2015 European Games Operations Committees’ design team alongside renowned agency SomeOne, who are based in London.

Mr Simon Clegg, Baku 2015 Chief Operating Officer, said: “I would like to congratulate everyone who worked on the rebrand, which is already immediately identifiable with the inaugural European Games and has also brightened up the city streets here in Baku.

“The recognition by Design Week is a great achievement and helps to raise awareness of the European Games around the world.”

Inspired by the natural beauty of Baku, the striking rebrand will feature on venues, tickets, uniforms and all official merchandising of the inaugural European Games.

Central to the new brand is the pomegranate tree, which symbolises unity in Azerbaijani folklore. Interwoven with the branches of the tree are historical symbols of the country’s heritage and culture, along with eye-catching pictograms of the different sports and disciplines.

Mr Charlie Wijeratna, Commercial Director of Baku 2015, said: “The colourful brand is central to the marketing activity that will help to promote the European Games globally.

“We are very proud of our work that is already recognised instantly as being innovative and representative of Baku 2015.”


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LEAD STORY: World Islamic Travel Summit To Debut In Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, UAE. December 22, 2014 – The World Islamic Travel Summit (WITS15), the largest showcase of Halal travel & tourism solutions, is to debut in Abu Dhabi city, the capital of the United Arab Emirates next October.

The pioneering conference and exhibition will run over two halls at the state-of-the-art Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), from October 19-21, 2015.

The multi-faceted event will include an exhibition with over 200 participants plus a 1,000-delegate conference, comprising keynote sessions, panel discussions, a Ministerial debate and 150 presentations from 70 international speakers.

Organised under the theme ‘Driving The Halal Tourism Revolution,’ the event will bring together an unprecedented array of international specialists, projects, suppliers and policy-makers.

“The Halal tourism market is booming with analysts saying it now represents 13% of the global market,” said WITS15 Events Manager Hosam Moustafa. “A recent Muslim travel report, released by the consultancy DinarStandard and rating agency Crescent Rating, projects that until at least 2020, Muslim international tourism will increase faster than conventional tourism – 4.79% versus 3.8%. At that point, overall annual spending for international Muslim tourism is expected to reach US $192 billion and these figures don’t even include estimated Hajj and Umrah expenditures.

“The time is right for an event of this size and scope to address the needs of this vast international sector and Abu Dhabi, with its award-winning ADNEC and event facilities in the heart of this market, is an ideal venue and host.”

WITS15 is being brought to the UAE capital by organiser Cacti Events with the support of Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau – the dedicated business events promotion arm of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).

“Many Muslim majority markets are now fast emerging economies, with higher than average population growth rates supported by a young demographic,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism, TCA Abu Dhabi. “Against this background, expenditure by Halal tourists is expected to rise more than 6% per annum for the foreseeable future, which is almost double global industry growth.

“With Abu Dhabi now specifically targeting the Halal tourism sector with segment-specific accommodation and product, the staging of this event in the UAE capital will put the spotlight on our offering and ambitions.”

WITS15 is expected to draw high profile international attendance from government delegations, tourism associations, market-leading private sector operators and leading financiers funding Islamic tourism projects.

“WITS15 is a major opportunity for tourism bodies, private tourism companies and professionals interested in developing business models in the Halal Travel space – perhaps the single most important meeting of the decade for this sector,” added Moustafa.

“More than 60 countries will be represented at WITS15, with many exhibiting and others contributing presentations and speakers to the conference sessions.”

WITS15 will focus strongly on the intra tourism between the 57 members states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – the second largest inter-governmental organisation after the United Nations with a membership spread over four continents.

Keynote conference sessions will focus on practical applications to increase intra OIC tourism productivity – innovative technologies, capacity building and entrepreneurship, the role of the private sector and the way that local bodies can quickly adopt and adapt the best international thinking.

TCA Abu Dhabi has adopted a Halal Travel strategy which has seen it engage with some of the world’s largest segment operators including Serendipity of the UK and four Abu Dhabi hotels, namely the One-To-One The Village; the Ayla Hotel Al Ain, the Hala Arjaan by Rotana and Al Rawda Arjaan Hotel by Rotana in Abu Dhabi city are all now listed on www.halalbooking com. The authority believes Abu Dhabi’s traditions and product base will have great appeal with the Muslim traveller.

“We can meet specific Muslim demands on a number of fronts – halal f&b is one, another is specific segmented family product and specific product segmented for use by the different genders. We also have a number of high and medium quality alcohol-free hotels and segmented sessions for females at mainline attractions,” explained Al Dhaheri.

“Some of our operators are also realising the potential of the market – one example is Captain Tony’s dhow boat cruises, which offer ladies-only tours of the Corniche. Ladies only sessions are also available at our award-winning Yas Waterworld aqua park and on Wednesday nights at Yas Marina Circuit there is a whole evening of sports and activities training for ladies.

“Of course, a visit to our Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque would be an essential on any Halal tourism agenda. In addition, Abu Dhabi as a wealth of world-class restaurants and eateries where guests can enjoy international cuisine all prepared to halal standards.”

Al Dhaheri says Halal Travel will become more prominent in its destination promotion in terms of exposure and quality of product offering.

“We envisage receiving increasing numbers from this segment particularly given that Abu Dhabi serves as a hub for traffic transiting from East to West and vice versa. We can link the highly populous Muslim countries of the East to the West and those in the opposite direction via Abu Dhabi International Airport and we hope that many will choose to break their journey in the emirate and eventually become convinced to stay longer.

“We are now airing this topic with all our stakeholders and encouraging the creation of Halal packaging where appropriate. We will also be looking to encourage tour operators to offer segmented product.”

Further info: http://witsexpo.com/

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Palestinian President plants olive tree in Algiers

ALGIERS-President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas planted Tuesday in the courtyard of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Algiers), an olive tree symbolizing the fraternal and friendship relations between the two countries and brotherly peoples.

President Abbas was accompanied by Speaker of the Council of the Nation (Upper House), Foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra and several members and executives of the state.

The Palestinian President began Sunday a three-day state visit to Algeria, leading a large delegation, at the invitation of the President of the Republic Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

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Algeria developing facilities to promote Saharan tourism

ALGIERS 26 Dec 2014 (Algeria Press Service)- Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry Nouria Yamina Zerhouni stressed Friday in Tamanrasset (1970 km south of Algiers) on the importance of developing tourism in this province to promote tourism in Sahara.

It is important to develop the network of tourist facilities to promote tourism in Sahara, particularly in Tamanrasset which has a major role in the promotion of Saharan tourism,” said Zerhouni on the sidelines of her visit to Tamanrasset, accompanied by Youth Minister Abdelkader Khomri and Deputy Minister to the Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry, in charge of Craft Industry Aicha Tagabou.

She underlined that the facilities existing at present in the region are “insufficient” hence the necessity to build others, underlining that province of Tamanrasset benefited from seven new tourist facilities.

“I am today in Tamanrasset to enquire about the reality of tourism and craft industry sector along with Youth minister as this sector is intended to young people and requires, consequently, more efforts to develop tourism in our country,” said the minister.

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Wind energy, second avenue of renewables development in Algeria

ALGIERS, 26 December 2014 (Algeria Press Service) – The wind energy represents the second priority avenue of the development of renewable energies in Algeria, following the solar energy, declared Friday the Centre of Renewable Energies Development (CDER).

“By 2030, Algeria plans to secure nearly 40% of national power production from the renewable energy sources. Even is the choice of the solar energy is predominant, the wind energy is the second avenue of production of this programme,” said the CDER, which just released a new map of the National wind deposit and a web application of the calculating of solar radiation in Algeria.

“Before studying the possibility of establishing a wind energy farm in any region, it is essential to make studies on the wind energy deposit for an accurate knowledge of wind meteorology,” CDER underlined.

Several researchers from this centre focussed since a few years their works on the elaboration of wind energy maps in Algeria. In addition, the new application for the calculation of solar radiation in Algeria aims to “model the entire solar radiation for optimizing systems using solar energy,” said CDER.

“The knowledge of the solar resource is required in the design and the proper functioning of any system powered by solar energy,” he explained.

According to the same source, the solar radiation data are used in the design, development, implementation, and in assessing the performance of solar energy systems, but also for the construction of buildings in the perspective of a better thermal insulation adapted to the geographical location.

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Chief minister of Punjab reviews progress on solar projects

December 27, 2014 – RECORDER REPORT – Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif presided over a high-level meeting which reviewed the progress on solar projects in Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, Bahawalpur. The meeting agreed to speed up 900 megawatt solar projects. Federal Minister for Water & Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, officials of Chinese Company Zonergy, Chairman NEPRA, Additional Secretary Water & Power Department, Managing Director NTDC, MD PBIB, Chief Executive Officer AEDB, Special Assistant Azm-ul-Haq, Additional Chief Secretary Energy and concerned officials attended the meeting.

Addressing the meeting, Shahbaz Sharif said energy crisis had badly affected industry, agriculture, education, health and all sectors of life.

He said every necessary step was being taken for overcoming energy shortage at the earliest, adding 100 megawatt solar power project in Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park Bahawalpur was at final stages of completion.

He said Punjab government had set up 100 megawatt solar power project from its own resources, adding that Chinese company was investing for 900 megawatt solar project in Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park Bahawalpur.

He said solar power project was of great importance which would be completed speedily, adding that energy projects would have to be completed with hard work, determination and honesty without wasting time.

Speaking on the occasion, Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif said solar power project was an approved project on fast track and all possible co-operation would be extended for its early completion.

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Balochistan’s development will gain with Pak-China Economic Corridor: Mamnoon

26 December 2014, QUETTA: President Mamnoon Hussain has said that Pak-China Economic Corridor was a monument of this century, which would open doors of progress and prosperity, especially for Balochistan. He was speaking to stakeholders including parliamentarians, political and tribal elders, professors, doctors, lawyers and civil society representatives at Governor House here Thursday night.

He said that Pak-China Economic Corridor would start from Kashghar, China and reach Gwadar and Karachi. “A railway track will also be laid along the 4,000 kilometers long road of the project,” he said. Lahore-Karachi Motorway, Hazara Motorway, Gwadar Deep Sea Port and Gwadar International Port would be parts of Pak-China Economic Corridor, he added.

Mamnoon said the people of Balochistan would be the biggest beneficiary of the corridor.

President said that the incumbent government has launched several power generation projects including three atomic power production plants. He said that 2,000 MW electricity would be injected in national grid system in 2015 and 3,700 MW in 2016, adding that the national grid system would also receive 7,000 MW electricity in 2017 and 4,000 MW in 2018. He said that the country would rid of power load shedding by 2018.

Balochistan, he said, was rich in natural resources and federal government was ready to extend its full cooperation to the provincial government to get benefit from these resources. He, however, emphasized the need to take adequate measures to restore peace in Balochistan, saying, several foreign companies wanted to invest in our region but they had concerns over law and order situation.

Mamnoon said that the government and the military have jointly resolved to eliminate terrorism on permanent basis. He said that the government has invited angry youth of the province to sit on table for peace talks and their issues would be resolved on priority. He said the elements involved in terrorism were misguided people who have nothing to do with Islam.

He said the formation of special courts was need of hour to deal with cases pertaining to terrorism. “I believe that judges of the special courts would perform their duties sincerely and honestly,” he said.

He said after law and order the second biggest menace, being faced by the country was corruption. “About 700 to 1,000 billion rupees were misappropriated in our country during last seven to eight years.

He, however, said that no financial scam was reported during last one and half year tenure of the incumbent government. “Prime Minister Nawaz’s government has overcome menace of corruption at satisfied level as it has been enjoying an honest, capable and skilled team including Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar and others,” he added.

He said that Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey have also extended their full cooperation to Pakistan to achieve goals of development.

The parliamentarians and other stakeholders who called on President Mamnoon Hussain include Provincial Minister and Pashtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) leader, Nawab Ayaz Khan Jogezai, former caretaker chief minister, Nawab Ghaus Bakhsh Barozai, Home Minister, Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Provincial Minister and PkMAP leader, Abdul Raheem Ziaratwal, Paksitan Muslim League-N leader, Mir Asim Kurd, PML-Q leader, Anwar-ul-Haque Kakar, Vice Chancellor Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Eng. Farooq Bazai, Principal Bolan Medical College (BMC) Quetta, Dr. Saadat Khan, PkMAP leader, Usman Kakar, senior lawyer, Kamran Murtaza, civil society representative Surayya Allah Din, PkMAP leader Obaidullah Khan Babat and others.

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Indonesian government to continue market revitalization program in 2015

Jumat, 26 Desember 2014, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The government, which has been revitalizing traditional markets over the past decade, will continue the program next year to boost their competitiveness in the face of expansion of modern retailer markets in Indonesia.

Last April, the Indonesian government claimed to have renovated a total of 2,758 traditional markets in the period between 2005 and 2013 at a total cost of Rp4.01 trillion.

Between 2011 and 2013, the Ministry of Trade revitalized 461 traditional markets, 53 of these being pilot projects.

“The funds for the renovation of the traditional markets were taken from the Trade Ministrys Task Assistance Funds and amounted to Rp1.9 trillion,” former trade minister Gita Wirjawan remarked while inaugurating the Leuwipanjang Market in Purwakarta District last January.

In 2014, funds worth Rp556 billion were allocated from the state budget to revitalize traditional markets across the country.

In 2015, the government, through the Trade Ministry, will revitalize 469 traditional markets across Indonesia with a funding of about Rp997.5 billion, noted a senior official on Tuesday (Dec. 23, 2014).

“For 2015, we have a total budget (of Rp997.5 billion) to revitalize 469 traditional markets,” Director General of Internal Trade of the Trade Ministry Srie Agustina remarked during a 2014 year-end reflection discussion held on Tuesday.

Based on the results of a survey conducted by AC Nielsen in 2013, the number of traditional markets in Indonesia continued to decline. In 2007, traditional markets numbered 13,550, which dropped to 13,450 in 2009, and declined further to 9,950 in 2011.

She pointed out that the traditional markets in Indonesia declined by 8.1 percent while that of modern markets grew by about 31.4 percent.

Agustina revealed that during the past four years, her ministry has revitalized 560 traditional markets across the country.

The number of revitalized markets was relatively small as compared to the total number of traditional markets in the country, which stood at about ten thousand.

Of the 469 markets to be revitalized this year, 37 will be financed with the funds provided by the Trade Ministry while the remaining 335, which are located in various districts and cities, will utilize the capital drawn from special allocation funds.

Agustina stated that as part of the revitalization program, the traditional markets located in the eastern Indonesian regions, border areas, or the outlying islands will be given priority.

She revealed that of the about 9.9 thousand traditional markets, some 3.7 thousand markets have existed for over 25 years.

Agustina explained that her ministry will not merely carry out physical revitalization of the traditional markets but will also strive to improve their functioning wherein the revitalization process will help in the formation of traditional markets, which will function as hubs for all upstream distribution networks.

As per available data for the year 2011, about 30 million people or 12.5 percent of the Indonesian population earned a livelihood as traders at traditional markets.

In a bid to help traditional markets compete with modern retailers, the Trade Ministry has restricted the establishment of modern mini markets over the last year.

According to former trade minister Gita Wiarjawan, the number of mini markets in a district or city should not exceed 150. If a mini market is to be opened in a district that already has 150 such establishments, then it would need to partner with local entrepreneurs.

The traditional market revitalization program is aimed at boosting and accelerating economic growth in the region. This will reinforce the trade sector and increase competitiveness in the domestic market.

As increasingly more number of traditional markets undergo revitalization, more transactions will take place between sellers and buyers and will thus help to automatically stabilize the prices.

Traditional markets also play an important role in the development of the society, and so, they should not be displaced due to the expansion of modern markets, said former Regional Representatives Council (DPD) chairman Irman Gusman.

“While developing modern markets, we should also help to develop traditional markets with modern facilities,” Irman remarked as he launched a national campaign to promote shopping in traditional markets earlier this year.

The evidence indicates that the presence of foreign modern markets in Indonesia has sidelined traditional markets. In 2007, there were about 13 thousand traditional markets across the country, which currently has dropped to just nine thousand.

Therefore, the renovation program is also intended to improve the image of traditional markets, which are often perceived as unclean and disorganized. As they are revitalized, traditional markets in the country are expected to become cleaner, neater, and more in keeping with the ambience of modern markets.

General Chairman of the Indonesian Traders Association (Ikappi) Abdullah Mansuri stated that modern markets, with their clean, cool, and convenient facilities, are attractive to the shoppers. On the other hand, the general outlook that traditional markets are unclean and muddy tends to deter shoppers.

“We should change this negative perception regarding traditional markets by developing clean ones with modern facilities,” Abdullah emphasized.

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Indonesia to streamline foreign businesses on outer isles in 2015

Jumat, 26 Desember 2014, Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia, which has so far encountered problems with its frontier areas both on land and the outer islands, will provide certifications to outlying islands to guarantee their status at home and in international affairs.

Besides this, it will also put in order foreign investors who run businesses on the outlying islands. “We will summon foreign investors and will inquire about their business activities on the outlying islands. If necessary, we will move them to other islands if their businesses do not accord with the conditions of the concerned isles,” Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Ferry Mursyidan Baldan stated on Tuesday.

The minister made the remarks while elaborating on his plan regarding the presence of foreign investors who operate business ventures on several Indonesian outlying islands.

Ferry said he will review the presence of the investors. In line with the plan, the minister said all outer islands will be certified.

“It is all clear. Irrespective of whether or not the islands are inhabited, they will be given certificates on behalf of the state. If there are business ventures on them, we will summon the operators to inquire what they are doing there,” Ferry remarked.

He pointed out that if the matter concerns the borders of outlying islands, then one cannot operate a business venture on them at will. All countries in the world adopt this approach, he added.

“We can just move them to the other islands if the investors run a tourism business on it but if it concerns environment or culture tourism, the business can continue there as long as it provides benefits to the local people and does not merely carry out exploitation,” the minister stated.

However, he stressed that the land of the outlying islands will continue to belong to the state.

He affirmed that the prosperity of the local people residing in border areas was one of the key points in making an island in the border areas that are the frontline of the state.

Therefore, the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry has set itself a target to complete the certification of 92 outlying islands in the country in 2015.

“I have to complete the certification target of all the outlying islands in 2015. We have checked it and found that we have the same data as that with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries on the number of outlying islands, which reaches 92,” the minister noted.

Ferry said his ministry and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries had already reached an agreement on the definition of the outlying islands where the land had been measured and did not get submerged when the tidal water was on the rise.

“We will give certificates, which constitute a state document to them, so that they will have a firm standing at home and the international court. If there is a dispute, we will have the data,” the minister asserted.

The Indonesian archipelago comprises 17,504 islands and 92 of them are located in the frontier areas in ten provinces that share their maritime borders with ten foreign countries. According to official records, 26 districts share their borders with neighboring countries.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu was earlier scheduled to visit some outlying islands such as the southernmost Indonesian island of Ndana Rote, which borders Australia.

“The defense minister flew out to the southernmost Indonesian island on board an Indonesian Army helicopter,” stated Commander of the Wirasakti Military District Command 161 Brigadier General Ahmad Yuliarto.

Ndana, which is one of Indonesias outlying islands in the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province, was formerly managed by an Australian tourism business agent. However, the Australian citizen abandoned the business after the Indonesian Military (TNI) deployed its personnel there to prevent foreign parties from annexing the island.

The other Indonesian islands that border Australia and Timor-Leste are Mengudu Island in East Sumba district and Batek Island in Kupang district.

Yuliarto remarked that after visiting the Ndana Rote Island, Ryacudu inspected the border regions between Indonesia and Timor-Leste in Mota Ain, Belu district, to hold a dialog with former East Timor residents who chose to become Indonesian citizens following the UN-sponsored referendum of 1999.

Apart from the outlying islands, the government will also manage its border areas on land. The new government promised to take concrete steps to develop the border areas. Among the first steps towards the implementation of the program is budgeting.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) affirmed that so far, 27 ministries under the previous government had allocated the budget for the program to develop backward areas.

“Together, the budget swelled, but implementation was not effective. The infrastructure and services remained in doldrums,” Jokowi said while visiting the border city of Atambua, NTT.

The president emphasized that the government will improve the conditions in border areas by adopting the “one-stop service integrated system.”

“Services must be fast. We must not lag behind other countries,” he stressed.

Management of the border areas, including the small isles, has not been well-organized and integrated. The 27 ministries with the budget allocated for frontier area development tend to each go their own way.

Backwardness and social imbalance between the two sides of the borders such as between Kalimantan and Sarawak of Malaysia are potential factors that encourage illegal logging and smuggling across the borders.

Reports have even surfaced about Indonesians disowning their citizenship and claiming to be Malaysians, so that they can live a better life.

Relations between the two communities across the borders have been good. They belong to the same race and use the same language. They are different only in terms of their prosperity.

According to a member of the East Kalimantan Regional Legislative Assembly (DPRD) Abdul Djalil Fatah, people in the frontier areas said they would give up their Indonesian citizenship and become Malaysians if the government failed to address their problems.

The provinces in Kalimantan sharing borders with Sarawak have submitted budget proposals to build roads in the border areas. The roads will be needed to facilitate economic development.

Roads would also be needed for security purposes and to curb cross-border smuggling. However, all plans are still in the pipeline.

There were even talks of a bigger plan to open palm oil plantations along the border areas to improve the economic conditions of the local people.

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President Jokowi reminds farmers of target for rice self sufficiency

Jumat, 26 Desember 2014, Subang, West Java (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) reminded Indonesian farmers on Friday of the target in three years to achieve rice self sufficiency.

The government has made available tractors, fertilizers and seeds hoping that in three years rice self sufficiency could be achieved, Jokowi told farmers in this West Java town on Friday.

“I will keep record and in three years I will hope for the result that is self sufficiency,” he said. There is consequence of receiving facilities from the government, he added, in front of a number of recipients of Adhikarya Pangan Nusantara, a token of appreciation for good contribution to food security.

The president said he had received reports of 52 percent of irrigation channels being damaged in the country. “Repairs have to be made soon,” he said, adding 49 dams would be built during his five year term in office until 2019.

He also said there is lack of agricultural extension saying agriculturalists should be active providing agricultural mass guidance for the farmers. “Otherwise we would remain as we are now, unable to compete against other countries,” he said.

He repeated what he said earlier that he was sad to hear offer for rice supply from Vietnam. “It is regrettable that Indonesia which has ample fertile farm lands has to rely on import for staple food including rice,” he said.

The government provided 1,099 units of tractor and symbolically the president handed over 225 units in Subang. The president who is chairman of Food Security Council, presented the tokens of appreciation to eight governors succeeding in creating and maintaining food security.

The annual event, usually held at the state palace, took place at the rice field embankment in Subang. The eight provincial governors are West Javas Ahmad Heryawan, West Nusa Tenggaras M. Zainul Majdi, West Sumatras Irwan Prayitno, North Sulawesis Sinyo Harry Sarundajang, West Sulawesis Anwar Adnan Saleh, West KalimantansCornelis MH, East Javas Soekarwo and Jambis Hasan Basri Agus.

Similar tokens of appreciation were also given to 10 regent/city mayors and 10 village chiefs from all over Indonesia.

Acting chief of the Food Security Agency Winny Dian Wibawa said the tokens of appreciation are expected to give greater motivation for state officials and the people to create and maintain food security.

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Citadel Stones Dance show depicts Syrian mosaic and diversity

26/12/2014, Syrian Arab News Agency, Lattakia — Syria’s rich social mosaic and cultural heritage came under spotlight in the artistic dancing performances by “Jullanar Theatrical Band” on the stage of Dar al-Assad for Culture and Arts in Lattakia. “Citadel Stones”, is the title of the band’s show, was presented in Lattakia for the first time on Christmas.

Head of the Band and the dance coach, Ali Sharif Hamdan, told SANA that the main objective of “Citadel Stones” is to give insights into the culture, civilization and geographical diversity of Syria through dance shows depicting Syria’s heritage and traditions.

He noted the show is meant to convoy a message that homeland is large enough for all Syrians who are essential components to its steadfastness, adding that it is a message of peace and amity from Syria to the whole world.

“25 young dancers participated in the 45-minute-show which featured the diverse Syrian mosaic and it was evident in our choices of music, songs and customs from different Syrian areas,” Hamdan added.

“We want to tell the world, through this initiative, that we are still able to give despite all circumstances, and that Syria is strong and rich thanks to all talents and brilliant minds,” he concluded.

Jullanar Band was founded in 1997, and it embraces more than forty academic dancers. The band has participated in several Syrian and Arab festivals, in addition to performing in a number of European countries.

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Christmas prayers offered in Damascus

25/12/2014, Damascus, SANA, Christmas celebrations in Syria have been limited to prayers and masses only due to the events taking place in the country and in respect of the souls of the martyrs who scarified their lives to defend the dignity of Syria.

At St George Syriac Orthodox Church in Bab Touma neighborhood in Damascus, a holy mass was held led by Archbishop Jean Qwaq.

During the sermon, Qwaq talked about the sublime meaning of the birth of Christ, as he also called upon all the Syrians to be united.

The Archbishop appealed to all those who have good intentions to help halting violence, pointing out that dialogue is the only solution to the crisis.

The National Angelic Church in Damascus also held a religious mass chaired by Priest Peter Zaour.

Priest Zaour talked about the symbols of Nativity, as Jesus Christ was born to celebrate humanity and regain dignity to women and defend children’s rights.

Zaour called upon the Syrian people to be resilient in facing the conspiracy, stressing that no matter how much the enemies tried to pump terrorism to Syria they will not reach their objectives.

The Priest prayed for God that peace would prevail Syria, hoping victory to the Syrian Arab Army in its war against terrorism.

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Turkish Discount grocer to open premium store in 2015

Anadolu News Agency, Friday, December 26, 2014, ANKARA – Turkish discount grocer BIM is set to open its premium supermarket, FILE, in Istanbul in the first quarter of next year, a senior company official said Wednesday.

The company aims to open 10 stores at different locations in the Istanbul province by 2016.

“People and their families in Turkey are experiencing significant changes in consumption habits because of steady economic growth in recent years,” Haluk Dortluoglu, executive committee member of BIM, said.

“Our customers want to access low price and high quality products besides basic foodstuffs. We aim to respond to this challenge with FILE,” Dortluoglu said.

He said the average store size of the new format would be approximately 1,000 square meters and would offer around 3,500 different products.

“The store will also offer its customers fresh fruit and vegetable products, bakery and fresh meat in a special area of the store,” he added.

BIM, which is trading under BIMAS on the Istanbul Stock Exchange, increased its sales by 12.4 percent in the first nine months of 2014 to 8.8 billion ($4.3 billion) from 7.9 billion in the same period of 2014.

The company introduced its discount format in 1995 with success. BIM currently has more than 4,681 stores, including 208 stores in Morocco and 67 in Egypt.

“We expect that the new project will contribute to BIM’s revenue in medium and long term,” Yesim Coban, a research experts at Atig investment said.

Migros, another premium retailer, ranked second to BIM with 1,129 stores in Turkey, Kazakhstan and Macedonia, and is targeting more than 8 billion Turkish liras of sales this year.

According to experts, the reason for BIM’s leading position in grocery retailing is that it operates the largest number of outlets, and it continues to benefit from increasing consumer demand for discounters in general. BIM also has its own private label products which deliver a higher margin than products from external producers, analysts said.

“I think BIM has entered a segment which is very competitive in Turkey because fresh fruit and vegetable products, bakery and fresh meat ” are very different to manage. It’s not like textile or consumer goods,” said Murat Ergene, general manager and founder of the HGA Group-Turkey. “This is not what BIM has done until today.”

“So I am sure they will benefit from their huge buying power,” Ergene explained. “However, they will face a tough, complex environment as well. Storage of fresh food is not easy, and Turkey is not like Germany or any other European country. Turkey has a warm climate which makes things more difficult,” he said.

“However if they succeed, this will be very good for consumers,” Ergene added.

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Istanbul welcomes spirit of Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2014, ISTANBUL – Istanbul during Christmas resembles any Western city in the midst of holiday cheer. While Christmas is a workday like any other in a country where 99 percent of the population is Muslim, Istanbulites have incorporated the holiday’s symbols, the Christmas tree for instance, in their New Year celebrations.

As the winter festival lights in Istanbul’s Taksim Square glitter in the winter nights, many Turks enjoy buying gifts and presents for one another, but for the city’s small Christian community, Dec. 25 has a deeper meaning.

Friar Anton Bulai from the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, known as the St. Esprit Cathedral in Istanbul, told The Anadolu Agency that preparations had started four weeks ago, namely to decorate the church. “Every decoration has a specific meaning, by which we want to give the message that Jesus is due to come. We have green trees symbolizing life and vitality,” he said.

Anton said they were getting ready for a big service for Christmas Eve, Wednesday night.

Western Christians, who use the Gregorian calendar, celebrate the birth of Christ on Dec. 25.

Eastern orthodox churches, including Armenian and Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, celebrate Christmas on January 7 as they follow the Julian calendar, which runs 13 days behind the Gregorian one.

Consul General of France Muriel Domenach will attend the church service in the compound of the historic French Palace in the Beyoglu district. She said she was happy to spend Christmas in Turkey as she considers it her second home.

It is not bittersweet to be away from home, she said, pointing out that friends were visiting, thus adding to her excitement to discover the city during the Christmas holiday.

A French-Turkish restaurant owner, Alex Varlik, said he had prepared a special homemade French menu for Christmas Eve. There are many reservations for Thursday night, he boasted.

While celebrating Christmas is an exception in Turkey, such traditions as roasting turkeys, decorating trees and giving presents, have been adopted by many as festive New Year’s practices.

The Greek community in Istanbul will have a celebration rally on the famous Istiklal Street in Beyoglu where gifts will be handed out.

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Website launched offering free Kazakh language lessons

20.12.2013 – Free Kazakh language courses are now available for all Kazakhstan`s citizens. www.soyle.kz. website was launched offering free Kazakh language lessons. Many linguists, teachers and methodologists worked on this project which was initiated by the State Language Development Fund. Currently the web-site has lessons for the beginners. Educational material includes ‘speaking’, ‘reading’, ‘listening’, ‘writing’ and ‘useful tips’ sections. Also the web-site offers standard phrases, different situational dialogues, audio and video materials, grammar materials, dictionaries and tests. The authors of the project promised to develop a mobile version for cell phones.

Azat Shauyeyev, Head Of State Language Development Fund said: About three thousand users registered on our web-site. We hope that our sponsors will support us next year and we will develop 20 lessons for intermediate level students.

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Oman Working on Digitization of Rare Manuscripts

Muscat, Dec. 27 (ONA) – Documents and manuscripts represent a vivid picture of the product of human thought in various fields of science and knowledge. There are many important and rare documents and manuscripts in the Sultanate.

Due to the importance of preserving these manuscripts as intellectual, knowledge heritage, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture has embarked on a project (digitization of manuscripts), which relies on manuscript imaging technology in their form and color to keep them in as e-copies available to researchers, students and interested persons.

On the project to digitize manuscripts, Said bin Nassir al-Na’ebi, Director of the Technical Department at the Directorate General of Documents and Manuscripts at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture says: “So far, We have been filming and digitizing 3950 manuscripts, out of 4836 manuscripts exist at the Manuscripts Centre of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. We have also filmed and digitized 320 manuscripts belonging to some civil and private libraries and some individuals”.

In an interview with Oman News Agency (ONA), al-Na’ebi added that in completion of the system to preserve and protect the manuscripts from technical aspects, which we have started with the application of the microfilms system, the ministry continued the system by the application of the filming and digitization project since 2010.

There are manuscripts difficult to be photographed due to their bad conditions and the way of preserving and protecting them, as the existence of acidity that leads to weakness and crushing of the papers due to poor former binding and blurred of some or all the letters and words of the manuscript with the imaging process. Before the start of imaging, a staff from the department of restoration and binding manuscripts is asked to interfere and retrieve for imaging after treatment, even if takes months. Imaging is continuous for the manuscripts that are in good conditions.

He pointed out that in the future, the Ministry of Heritage and Culture aims to post the manuscripts on the World Wide Web (Internet) in accordance with the approved regulations to ensure the security of manuscripts and property rights to the ministry. Posting the manuscripts on the internet would enrich the e-Arabic content on the internet and would further knowledge about the treasure of Omani manuscripts and ancient intellectual output.

Among short term future plans, the ministry seeks to make a copy of these manuscripts and save somewhere else away from the ministry in anticipation of the vulnerability of existing copies of the ministry to any unexpected natural emergency that could result in losing the digital copies.

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Kurumba Staff, Volunteers Rescue Corals & Create Largest Coral Frame In Maldives

2014-12-25, Kurumba – A team of volunteers joined forces with Kurumba staff on Wednesday (December 17) to rescue corals from a land reclamation project and help create the largest coral frames in the Maldives. Thanks to the efforts of the team two massive 20ft coral frames packed with transplanted coral have been created on the house reef at Kurumba. The two adjacent frames are the largest of their kind in the Maldives and together form a new 40ft-long coral garden.

The group of Kurumba staff, Maldivians, expats and local NGO Save the Beach Maldives, spent the day searching underwater for live coral colonies in a section of water designated for land reclamation. The lagoon, which was abundant in marine life and various varieties of coral including staghorn and table coral, is due to be filled in in order to create more land for housing between the inhabited island of Hulhumale and the former resort Club Faru.

Equipped with sturdy gloves the snorkelers and divers removed entire coral colonies by hand and placed them one-by-one in crates attached to buoys. They targeted resilient staghorn coral but other species including some rare black coral were also saved from the site. When the boat returned to Kurumba the corals were unloaded by the volunteers and placed on the two 20ft underwater frames.

It is the first time such a project has been attempted in the Maldives on such a large scale. The 40ft section of transplanted coral will be kept under close observation by marine biologists. The volunteers used a tried-and-trusted coral transplantation technique which has already proved successful on a smaller scale at Kurumba.

It is hoped that the recently-transplanted coral will adapt well to its new environment and eventually completely engulf the metal frames stretching 40ft across the sea bed a few metres off the shore at Kurumba Maldives.

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Qatar Chamber Concludes Workshop on SME Financing Wednesday December 24, 2014

Doha, December 24 (QNA) – Qatar Chamber for Commerce and Industry (QCCI) has concluded a three-day workshop on the financing of small- and medium-sized enterprises and monetary reading of financial lists for non-finance experts.

Organized in collaboration with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the workshop was held in the presence of businessmen, executive directors, financial directors, accountants and financial experts, in addition to associates of ICC for the Middle East and North Africa region, associates of QCCI, and senior financial officials at ministries and government institutions.

Participants said the workshop helped them understand the general concepts of financial accountancy and learning the legal forms of companies and means of merging economic entities. (QNA)

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Final Report Issued of ‘Atlas of Islamic World Science and Innovation’ Project

18 December 2014, Rabat, Morocco – The Final Report of the “Atlas of Islamic World Science and Innovation (AIWSI)” Project has been launched at the sidelines to the Seventh Islamic Conference of Ministers of Higher Education and Scientific Research (ICMHESR) held on 18-19 December 2014 in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco. The launch event was attended by Ministers and High-level Officials of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the OIC Member Countries.

The AIWSI project was lauded by the Fourth Session of ICMHESR in Azerbaijan in October 2008. The General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Qatar Foundation (QF), OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH), Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), British Council, Nature, International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) were among the international partners of the Atlas Project while SESRIC and the Royal Society have been the co-managers.

At the second working session of Seventh ICMHESR, the AIWSI Final Report was co-presented by Dr. Julie Maxton, Executive Director, Royal Society, and Mr. Hüseyin Hakan Eryetli, Director, Statistics and Information Department of SESRIC.

In her presentation, Dr. Maxton expressed her pleasure for the completion of the AIWSI Final Report. She briefed the participants with the historical background of the AIWSI Project, the overview of the Final Report, and the general observations of science, technology and innovation (STI) in the Islamic-world. Besides, she informed the participants about the five country case studies that have been published under AIWSI Project, namely the case studies of (Malaysia), (Egypt), (Kazakhstan), (Jordan) and (Indonesia).

Mr. Eryetli continued the presentation with some facts and figures on STI in OIC member countries. He emphasized that the major indicators on research and scientific development display a large disparity within the OIC Member Countries. He also indicated that OIC members, individually or as a group, lag far behind the rest of the world, particularly the developed countries, with a few exceptions. Future plans were identified to re-establish the Islamic World as a centre of scientific and technological excellence, facilitate intra-OIC networking opportunities through specific mapping projects, improve the living standards for scientist to reduce brain drain from member countries to other countries, increase women participation in higher education, promote academic research through research grants and develop an OIC level patent system to encourage patenting and technology licensing.

At the end of the Launch Event, Ministers and High-level Officials of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the OIC Member Countries expressed their thanks and appreciation to SESRIC, the Royal Society and the partner institutions for their great effort in providing an insightful overview of science and science-based innovation across the Islamic-world.

Click here to download the report in English http://www.sesric.org/files/article/492.pdf

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Tanzania: AfDB approves US$500m for Development Bank of Nigeria to support MSMEs

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group on Monday unanimously approved a financial package of US$500 million to support the establishment of the Development Bank of Nigeria PLC (DBN), the AfDB announced. It said the financial package consisted of loans of US$450 million and an equity investment in the DBN of US$50 million.

The funds from the AfDB Group will be used to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) operating in various sectors of the Nigerian economy.

The DBN is being established by the Federal Government of Nigeria in close partnership with international development financial institutions such as the AfDB Group, the World Bank, KfW of Germany and the French development agency, Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

“Recognizing the limitations of the existing development finance institutions (DFIs) in Nigeria, the Federal Government has decided to establish a DFI, which will be better regulated and more clearly aligned with development priorities,” said Project Team Leader Sofiane Sekioua.

“Furthermore, to ensure sustainable impact and scale, the mandate, governance and operations of the DBN will be grounded in internationally recognized good practice principles. In fact, the structure and operational design of the DBN have been informed by global experience and the designs of successful DFIs from across the world and have taken into account all the factors that led to the under-performance of the existing DFIs in Nigeria,” the official added.

In presenting the project to the Board, Stefan Nalletamby, Director of the Financial Sector Development Department at the AfDB Group, said: “The MSME sector is critical to the development of the Nigerian economy as it possesses great potential for employment generation and output diversification.

“MSMEs in Nigeria cover the entire range of economic activity; nevertheless, there has been gross under-performance of these enterprises and this has undermined their contribution to economic growth. Among the issues affecting their performance, the shortage of finance, particularly investment finance, occupies a very central position. Therefore, through the DBN, the AfDB Group will contribute to mobilizing significant long-term financing to an important yet under-served sector with high development potential.”

The Director also emphasized the critical role that the AfDB Group had played in the design of the DBN and the important role that it would play in its corporate governance as one of its founding shareholders.

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Young Afghan Builds Solar-Powered Motorbike

Wednesday December 24, 2014, Kabul (BNA) A young and talented Afghan man has built a solar-powered motorbike in yet another initiative by the young generation of the country who are keen to join the global technological revolution.

The solar-powered motorbike moves with the help of electricity energy obtained from the solar panels planted on the roof of the bike.

The design of the motorbike has also been made by the young man Mustafa. The bike can run at a speed of 40 kilometers per hour. The designer has also planted pedals in the bike which could be used during the emergency conditions, specifically when the energy of bike has been totally consumed.

This comes as a young graduate of polytechnic institute in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan is busy to build homemade helicopter.

Ghulam Sediq has been graduated from the polytechnic institute of Jawzjan province and is currently working on the project to build a helicopter. According to Sediq the work on the technical aspect of the helicopter has been completed and he is ready to build the helicopter. On the other hand, an Afghan engineer has taken an initiative to build unmanned aerial vehicle-drone and aircraft flown by pilots. Engineer Zmarai Helali has made drones and aircraft which are operated with fuel and electricity energy, and have been made by ordinary elements such as wood, clothes and electrical devices. A teenager Afghan boy has also developed a small robotic excavator in a similar innovation which was demonstrated in Arg presidential palace in the presence of former President Hamid Karzai. The teenager boy, Zainullah Niazi, is 6th grade student in Surkhabad high school in central Logar province of Afghanistan.

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Aghan Sculptor Grants 12 Relics To National Archive

Saturday, December 27, 2014, Kabul (BNA) A sculptor and lecturer at Kabul University Prof. Amanullah Haidarzada granted the other day his 12 relics to National Archive.

The relics are medals in which statues of former kings and famous cultural and academic are engraved. An official of National Archive, Masouma Nazari told BNA the relics were a significant part of the country’s history and considered them as valuable for those university students and researchers researching about Afghanistan’s history.

In a ceremony held on this occasion, Masouma Nazari while appreciating Haidarzada considered granting the relics as significant and valuable for richness of the archive.

In the ceremony, Prof. Amanullah Haidarzada criticized current condition of sculpturing art in the country, saying that the art has not developed in recent years due to prejudices. He asked the relevant officials for serious consideration to development of the art. It is worth mentioning that Prof. Amanullah Haidarzada, receiving his master degree in fine arts from New York University. He is among the country’s famous sculptors and founder of the Fine Arts Faculty of Kabul University.

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Secret tunnel in Dracula’s castle to open to tourism

TOKAT – Doğan News Agency, December/26/2014 – A secret tunnel that has been discovered during restoration work under Tokat Castle, Turkey’s second-largest castle in the northern province of Tokat, will be opened to tourism. The tunnel, known as Ceylanyolu, is claimed to have been used by a Roman king’s daughters in order to go to the Pervane bath in the Çanakçı stream area.

Restoration work in the castle was started in 2009 by Tokat Governor’s Office Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate in order to open the castle to tourism and completed in 2010. Last September, work began again to reinforce the bastions in the castle, which were used for defense in the Seljuk and Ottoman eras.

Over the course of the restoration carried out by three archaeologists, cubes, a military shelter, two dungeons and a secret tunnel to the Pervane Bath in the city center were discovered. It has been claimed that Wallachian Prince Vlad III “The Impaler,” who was also known as Dracula and lived between 1431 and 1476, was held captive in one of the these dungeons during the early 15th century.

However, most historians say he was kept in captivity in Romania. The exact length of his captivity is open to debate, though indications are that it was from 1462 to 1474.

Work has recently begun to open the castle’s secret tunnel to tourism. A railway system has been set up for the removal of stones and earth in the entrance of the tunnel. The Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Abdurrahman Akyüz, highlighting the importance of the castle, said, “The castle served as a prison in the Ottoman era, and many famous figures was kept there.”

He said Dracula had also been kept captive in the castle, adding, “The castle has great potential for tourism. Such a steep castle is very rare in any city center in Turkey.”

Akyüz said they did not know the exact length of the tunnel, and continued: “We have set up a railway system, since it is impossible to remove earth and stones here manually. We estimate that the tunnel is about 300-350 meters long and goes to the Pervane Bath. The first mission here is to clean the tunnel way through the city center.”

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Music Festival Blending Algerian, Spanish, Chinese Flavours Opens In Algiers

ALGIERS, Dec 22 (NNN-APS) — The 9th International Andalusian and Ancient Music Festival, “Festivalgerie”, has opened here with a blend of Algerian-Spanish-Chinese cultures combining Algerian tunes to Spanish flamenco and Chinese traditional music.

Three groups of various musical styles performed on the Riad Al Feth’s Ibn Zeidoun stage here Saturday, generating a varied inaugural evening of the festival, with Nadia Labidi, Algeria’s Minister of Culture, the Chinese Ambassador to Algeria as well as representatives of the China and Spanish diplomatic corps in attendance.

In front of a large audience, Algerian singer Bahdja Rahal, accompanied by the regional gGroup directed by Mokdad Zerrouk, was the first to perform on stage, singing Noubet Lemdjenba.

In addition to Algeria, which is represented by eight regional associations and the National Andalusian Music Group (ENAMA), 13 countries from Africa, Europe, and Asia will participate in the 9th International Andalusian and Ancient Music Festival. — NNN-APS

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MYFEST 2015 Roadshow Ends In Kuantan, Nature Adventure To Be Pahang’s Niche

KUANTAN, 23 Dec (Bernama) — The Malaysia Year of Festivals or MyFest 2015 roadshow came to a close with the last session with industry players at Hotel Zenith in Kuantan, Pahang today. It marks the end of a series of 14 industry briefings nationwide which began in October, held to promote MyFEST among tourism industry players.

The Kuantan program was attended by the state’s tourism and culture industry players from around Pahang. The session consisted of briefings by the Deputy Secretary General (Management) Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, Dr. Junaida Lee Abdullah and the Director of Domestic Marketing Division Tourism Malaysia, Datuk Musa Hj. Yusof. Also present was Pahang Tourism and Culture Exco, YB Dato’ Haji Mohd Sharkar bin Haji Shamsudin.

The briefing was part of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia’s (MOTAC) efforts to build up the promotion for next year’s biggest tourism celebration. It was an effective platform to disseminate the vision, targets and branding guidelines of Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 to the industry players and stakeholders for effective implementation; while providing the opportunity to meet up to share ideas and garner feedback.

The implementation of MyFest 2015 has been announced by the Prime Minister of Malaysia in his recent 2015 Budget speech. The campaign will continue to boost the tourism sector and maintain Malaysia as the top of the mind tourist destination with a target of receiving 29.4 million tourist arrivals and RM89 billion tourist receipts.

The campaign will complement the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan (MTTP:2020:36:168) where the country has set a target of 36 million tourist arrivals with RM168 billion tourist receipts in the year 2020.

Themed “Endless Celebrations”, the year-long calendar is packed with more than 200 events and festivities of every ethnic including cultural festivals, international acclaimed events, eco-tourism events, arts, music showcases, food promotions and other themed events.

Among major events that will be held in Pahang throughout 2015 are :

(+) Tioman International Classic Surfing (January 2015)

(+) Kuantan Century Ride (June 2015)

(+) Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race (June 2015)

(+) Acara selam skuba Start in Tioman (August 2015)

(+) Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge (September 2015)

(+) Taman Negara International Bird Race Challenge (October 2015)

(+) Teluk Chempedak Downhill Challenge (November 2015)

(+) Cherating International Surfing Competition (December 2015)

The MyFest 2015 Grand Launching will be held on 10 January 2015 at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur and officiated by Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak. Some 1000 participants from arts and culture sectors will participate in the biggest tourism event for next year, which will celebrate Malaysia’s richness in tradition and heritage.

As Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 is a national mission, it is envisaged that government agencies, the private sector, non-government agencies and industry players will come together and make the national campaign a success.

SOURCE: Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia

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Air Algerie Takes Delivery Of First Of Three ATR 72-600 Aircraft

ALGIERS, Dec 23 (NNN-APS) — Algeria’s national airline, Air Algerie, has taken delivery and commissioned into service the first of three ATR 72-600 aircraft it ordered from the French-Italian aircraft manufacturing consortium, ATR.

The 66-seat twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner was delivered to Air Algerie at the Houari-Boumediene International Airporthere Monday. The ATR 72-600 planes were ordered by the national flag carrier as part of its 16 aircraft fleet renewal programme.

Each of the ATR 72-600 cost 21.2 million US dollars, said Minister of Transport Amar Ghoul at a ceremony to receive the aircraft. The two other aircarft are expected to be delivered in June 2015 and in June 2016 and will join an existing fleet of 12 ATR 72-500 turboprops already in service with Air Algérie.

The airline also plans to buy eight new-generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with capacity of 148 seats each. The delivery of the jetliners will take place in July and December 2015, then in April, June, August, October, November and December 2016.

Two Boeing 737-700c aircrafts, with 112 seats each will be delivered in May and September 2016.

The cost of each of the ten Boeings is of 65 million USD.

Furthermore, three Airbus A330-200 planes of 251 seats each have also been ordered at a cost of 120 million USD each will be delivered in March, May and June 2015.

The overall amount of the purchases for the Air Algérie fleet renewable programme so far stands at 1.073 billion USD.

The purchases form part of the implementation of the Air Algerie medium-term development plan (2013-2017), which aims at improving its profitability and competitiveness in an Algerian market served by 20 airlines, including two foreign ones. — NNN-APS

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Iran plans nat’l confab of nanotechnology in agriculture

Tehran, Dec 27, IRNA – The 3rd National Conference of Nanotechnology in Agriculture is slated to be held in Iran late April 2015. The national event, planned for April 28 and 29, aims to present the latest scientific achievements of nanotechnology application in different agriculture fields and natural resources. The confab will also be a venue for scholars and researchers to confer and exchange views.

The conference will present the outcome of researches and findings to the Iranian Ministry of Agriculture and the private sectors while the necessity of using modern nanotechnology in agriculture will attract the scholars and policymakers.

It will focus on nanotechnology and herbal productions, nanotechnology and herbal medicines, nanotechnology and animal productions, nanotechnology in water and soil, nanotechnology in natural resources, nanotechnology in environment, nanotechnology in fishery, the social and economic aspects of nanotechnology in agriculture and natural resources and etc.

Several educational workshops will be held during the confab as well. Interested individuals can submit the abstract of their works to the event’s secretariat Jan. 20, 2015.

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First woman head at Saudi Holy Mosques Presidency

Makkah, 01 Rabi Al-Awwal 1436/ 23 December 2014 (IINA) – Fatimah Al-Rashoud has become the first woman to occupy a leading position at the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, Makkah daily reported.

Due to the growing need for women leaders in the Kingdom’s organizations and the active role women play in the development of the Two Holy Mosques, the organization’s president Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais appointed Al-Rashoud as head of the Women Guidance Committee and supervisor of the women’s section of the Grand Mosque library. Last year, Al-Sudais appointed Al-Rashoud as vice head of the committee. He believed that women are more qualified to give advice and religious guidance to each other than men.

He said: “They are aware of their own needs and circumstances. The presidency has also appointed several qualified female teachers of religion who give lectures and discussion circles in the mosque.” Al-Rashoud said this opportunity has motivated her to be more dedicated to her job and confident about her work. I’m glad to be serving all the women visiting the Holy Mosques as best as I can,” she said.

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ISESCO to hold training on techniques of conducting web-based surveys

Rabat 24/12/2014 – ISESCO to hold training session at its headquarters on techniques of conducting web-based surveys

The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) will hold a training session on using ICTs to conduct web-based surveys for the staff of English-speaking Member States’ National Commissions, at its headquarters, in Rabat, on 25-27 December 2014.

The session will seek to help Member States’ national commissions qualify their staff and develop their professional capacities in ICTs; train them in the latest methods and procedures of using open source software and benefiting from web technologies to successfully conduct web-based surveys; and share expertise among national commissions in this field.

The programme of this session features presentations on survey software and their capabilities as well as hands-on training in the tasks of creating surveys, multilingual surveys and surveys with conditional questions, the tasks of administering and publishing surveys, and the tasks of working with responses and results of the surveys created and using them in reports, presentations and studies.

Will take part in this session a number of staff members in the national commissions of Uganda, Pakistan, the Gambia, Kazakhstan and Nigeria in addition to some staff members working at ISESCO directorates and divisions.

The session will be supervised by Mr Amine Arrahmane Achargui, in charge of ICTs Division at ISESCO’s Planning, Information and Documentation Centre.

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AfDB pledges USD 1.7 mln to trans-Maghreb railway

TUNIS, Dec 26 (KUNA) — The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) agreed to offer Tunisia a grant amounting to 3.17 million Tunisian dinars (some USD 1.7 million), Secretary-General of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) Habib Bin Yahiya announced on Friday. “The agreement will be signed soon by the AMU Secretariat and the AfDB,” Bin Yahiya told the 15th session of the council of the AMU ministers of transport being held here.

“The funds will be used in financing the feasibility study of the Tunisian section of the planned trans-Maghreb railway,” TAP news agency quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Algerian Minister of Transport Amar Al-Ghoul said his country has met its financial commitments to the ambitious project. “The 1,200 km long rail road, linking Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, will have great impact on the movement of individuals and goods among our countries,” Al-Ghoul affirmed.

In its final statement, the transport ministers council urged enhancing the commercial and maritime cooperation and promoting air transport among the AMU countries. (end) nm.gb

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Turkey unveils USD multi-bln plan to back hi-tech industry

ANKARA, Dec 26 (KUNA) — Turkish Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci on Friday announced an ambitious program to support the country’s domestic hi-tech industry. Turkey will take the initiative to support these industries and reduce the imports of smart phones, tablets, computers, fiber-optics and household electronic devices which could be manufactured locally, Zeybekci told reporters here.

He added that the Ministry of Economy would soon announce incentives for the hi-tech exports with a budget of USD 3.5 billion, he added. These funds will be funnelled to takeovers of foreign hi-tech companies in the coming five years, the minister affirmed.

He added the measures have been taken to levy high taxes on imported products and counter dumping by foreign state-owned hi-tech companies within two months.

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‘Hala February 2015’ Festival to honour Sheikha Suad Al-Sabah

KUWAIT, Dec 27 (KUNA) — The Higher Organizing Committee of the ‘Hala February 2015’ Festival announced here on Saturday that it would honor the Kuwaiti poet Dr. Suad Al-Sabah within the upcoming festival’s activities in recognition of her role and efforts in support of culture in the Arab world, community service and in the encouragement of science and scientists.

Waleed Al-Saqoubi, member of the Supreme Committee and head of the media committee of the festival, said in a press statement that honoring Dr. Suad Al-Sabah during the festival, which kicks off next January 8, also comes as a result of her leading role in encouraging the Arab youth on the literary, scientific and artistic creativity.

He recalled Dr. Suad’s launching of many initiatives and incentive awards in the scientific, literary and artistic fields, especially the Fine Arts and her role in linking the Arab culture with the western one through an annual award in London for the best English literature on the Middle East.

He added that Dr. Suad is a valuable literary and cultural personality locally and regionally and has published several books and works in poetry, literature and economics fields, in addition to her practice of fine art, in which she excelled since her early literary presence so far, thus, enabling her to find for herself and for the Kuwaiti women a prominent place among the giants of Arab literature of poets and artists. (end).


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Iranian musician wins Rome top prize

Tehran, Dec 25, IRNA – Iranian young musician, Rasam Lordakani, won the first prize at the International Rome Film Festival (Vision) for the best film score composed for the flick titled ‘I Wish I Was Born in the 40s’. According to reports, only Italian short films and documentaries were permitted to contend in the fest.

The 27-year-old artist who lives in Iran was selected as the best classical guitarist in two editions of Tehran’s soloist festival in 2006 and 2008. The screenplay of the movie ‘I Wish I Was Born in the 40s’ was also selected as the best screenplay at Vision festival.

The Iranian cinematographer of the movie, Mohammad Hassanzadeh, was among the nominees for the best cinematography award at the event.

The movie is about the current economic problems of the Italians. Born in Tehran in 1987, Lordakani began to learn playing the guitar when he was 16.

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