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19 Jan, 2015

Scientific Center of Kuwait to Host 1001 Inventions in February

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 19 January 2015 (28 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.




Lufthansa To Introduce Daily Flights To KL March 29

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 16 (NNN-Bernama) — German airline Lufthansa will introduce daily flights from Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur from March 29. For the new summer schedule, Lufthansa will increase the capacity on the Frankfurt-Kuala Lumpur route from five weekly connections to a daily service, the airline said in a statement.

The route will continue to be operated with an Airbus 340-300.

In addition, the new Premium Economy Class will be introduced from June 3 onwards on all the airline’s routes to Malaysia.

Lufthansa Malaysia General Manager Paurus Nekoo said the decision to increase capacity was in response to strong customer demand and a show of confidence in the Malaysian market.

Malaysia Airports Managing Director Badlisham Ghazali welcomed Lufthansa’s daily operations into KL from March 29, saying the daily service and premium economy product reflects the airline’s confidence and the market buoyancy on the Europe-Malaysia route.

Premium Economy passengers get check-in baggage allowance of two bags of up 23 kg each.

The Premium Economy seats also have about 50 per cent more space than Economy Class seats.

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Saudi Tourist Commission cancels 28 penalty rulings on appeal

JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS, 16 January 2015 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has overturned 28 penalties issued last year against travel and tourism agencies.

It had received 128 appeals to cancel penalties imposed on tourism agencies after independent investigations. Faisal bin Mansour Al-Fadil, director of the SCTA’s legal management authority, said this represents 2.5 percent of 1,122 penalties issued by the SCTA last year.

Al-Fadil said investors in the tourism sector have a right to appeal the SCTA’s decisions. The appeals were checked and reviewed and their content verified independently, according to a report in a local publication.

“Regulatory mechanisms adopted by the SCTA helps it correct errors made by officials,” he said.
The SCTA’s annual report shows that it issued 1,593 penalties in 2012, canceling 42 after reviewing 275 appeals. In 2013, the SCTA had issued 1,660 penalties and canceled 57 after reviewing 291. Al-Fadil said the SCTA gives investors time to appeal rulings against them, with a special legal committee of the organization responsible for investigation.

The committee reports to the president of the SCTA. Investors are allowed to submit an appeal or a petition to the president of the SCTA within 15 days of the date of the ruling. The appeal is then transferred to the legal department for study and re-evaluation.

Al-Fadil called on investors to study the regulations and laws that govern accommodation facilities and tourism activities on the website of the SCTA. He said they should read all the bylaws, rules and application forms so that they are aware of their rights and obligations.

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Five Iranian provinces to host 30th Int’l Music Fajr Festival

Tehran, Jan 14, IRNA – The 30th International Music Festival will be held simultaneously in Tehran with five other provinces on February 13-20. Various music bands will perform in the Golestan, Fars, Lorestan, Kohgilouyeh-Buyerahamd, Khuzestan and Hamedan provinces, in addition to the programs slated for Tehran.

The upcoming edition of the cultural event will be organized in five other provinces with aim of decentralization.

The 30th International Music Festival will be held in international, women, peripheral, competitive sections.

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Int’l Quran Foundation to be set up

Tehran, Jan 14, IRNA – International Quran Foundation will be set up soon, said deputy head of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization for cultural affairs.

Mohammad Hossein Hashemi said on the sidelines of ceremony for signing a memorandum of understanding between the organization and Dar al-Quran al-Karim Organization that research, educational, international and cultural departments of ICRO are conducting different Quranic activities such as holding weeks of Holy Quran festivals and exhibitions in various countries by cultural department.

He said that the research and educational departments are pursing their relevant issues, international department also dispatches reciters and preachers to foreign countries.

Hashemi said that activities are not well-organized and to create coordination in Qur’anic activities, International Qur’an Foundation will soon be established under cultural department of the ICRO. Hashemi added that ICRO plans to promote Qur’anic activities abroad.

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6th International Halal Expo & Conference to be held in Penang

Hosted and organized by Penang State Government of Malaysia under its halal facilitation agency, Halal Penang, Penang International Halal Expo and Conference (PIHEC) 2015 is an ideal platform and converging point for exhibitors and trade clients across regions of Southeast Asia, West Asia & Europe to promote and market wide array of halal consumable and non-consumable products.

Inaugurated in 2010 with the sole aim of facilitating the sourcing and selling of quality local and international halal consumables, products and services, this annual trade fair serves as a convenient and effective one-stop centre for Halal exporters and importers sourcing out domestic and international products from Northern Malaysia and the IMTT-GT region.

A one-day international Halal conference will be held in conjunction with the exhibition; will see internationally renowned speakers discussing issues and solutions, latest research findings, emerging technologies and trends in tandem with the advancements in the halal industry.

Date 30th January – 1st February 2015
Venue Setia sPICE (formerly known as PISA)
Operating Hours 10.00 am – 08.00 pm daily
Hosted and Organized by PIHH Development Sdn. Bhd. (also known as Halal Penang)
Supported by Penang Development Corporation, invest-in-Penang Berhad, Penang, Global Tourism, Halal Development Corporation (HDC), Chefs Association Malaysia, Penang Chapter, Eastin Hotel
Tel +604-262 5444
Fax +604-263 5444
Email pihec@halalpenang.com, secretariatpihec@halalpenang.com
Website www.pihec.com.my, www.halalpenang.com


Prof. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Hj Mohd Ismail Merican, Pro Chancellor & Chairman, MAHSA University
Mr. Rushdi Siddiqui, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Zilzar Tech Sdn. Bhd.
Datuk Seri Ibrahim Hj Ahmad, Executive Chairman, Brahim’s Holdings Berhad
Dato’ Redza Rafiq, Chief Executive of Northern Corridor Implementation Authority
Datuk Mohamed Azahari Kamil, Chief Executive Officer Asian Finance Bank Berhad

Today, Halal market is emerging as one of the most lucrative and influential market arenas in the world. It has turned into a serious economic sector creating a new wave of economic opportunities and investments. It is fast becoming a magnet for international investment, as major players move to acquire a share of a growing global market.

A study conducted reveals that the global Halal market is expected to jump nine-fold to USD10 trillion from the current level of USD1 trillion by 2030 with the increase in the global Muslim population, the economic development of Muslim countries and more demand from new markets in Europe, Japan, India and China as the key driving factors.

As the halal industry encompasses several sectors such as food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, logistics and tourism industry, the investment potential in this sector is huge. This conference serves as a platform for a dialogue of doers on issues, challenges and opportunities that are universal towards investing in a lifestyle based on values – a future where Halal is a principle shared by everyone, regardless of faith.

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400,000 new job opportunities to be created by year-end

Ilam prov, Jan 14, IRNA – Some 400,000 new employment opportunities are expected to be created for Iranian unemployed workforce by the end of the current Iranian year (started March 21, 2014), an official said on Wednesday.
[400,000 new job opportunities to be created by year-end]

Deputy Minister of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare Hassan Tayee told IRNA that the addition of new jobs is expected due to a growth in production and investment.

Tayee put the current number of employed Iranians at 21.5million and said that the number is expected to rise to 35 million by 2015, as envisioned in the country’s 20-year Strategy Plan.

He said the country needs between 800,000 to 900,000 new jobs to be created every year, adding that creating new employment opportunities and preserving the existing ones is of special significance.

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Mohammad Bin Rashid honours winners of the Islamic Economy Award

Dubai, January 14, 2015, Gulf News: Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, honoured on Wednesday the winners of the 2nd Islamic Economy Award.

Initiated by the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) and organised by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Thomson Reuters, the award closing ceremony was attended by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

The awards were presented to a cross-section of global and local business establishments for their innovative world-class business initiatives and ideas that are Sharia-compliant and contribute to the social and economic welfare of the Muslim population.

Shaikh Mohammad presented Dr. Ziti Akhtar Aziz, Governor, Malaysian Central Bank, with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Money and Finance category award was received by the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) from Saudi Arabia; award in the Food and Health category went to Salma an entity of Awqaf & Minor Affairs from the UAE; and Media category to The 99, an initiative of Teshkeel Media Group from Kuwait.

Awards in other categories including Hospitality and Tourism were presented to Halal Minds from Indonesia; Waqf and Endowments category went to National Awqaf Foundation of South Africa; SME Development category to LaunchGood from USA; Islamic Economy Knowledge Infrastructure category to KFH Research from Kuwait; Islamic Arts category to Yusuf Islam, Singer, Songwriter & Author’ from the UK.

Hajj Saeed Bin Ahmad Al Lootah, founder of the world’s first Islamic Bank, received a special recognition from Shaikh Mohammad for his contribution to the Islamic Economy.

Mohammad Abdulla Al Gergawi, Chairmain of DIEDC said: “We, in the UAE, are keen to support innovation and creativity in various sectors. Through the Islamic economy award, we aim to inspire the business community to provide innovative Islamic services and solutions. In addition, we offer a platform to showcase and recognise the distinguished efforts of companies engaging in the Islamic economy, in line with the vision of Shaikh Mohammad in making Dubai the global capital of Islamic economy.”

During his welcome address, Hussain Qemzi, Member of the DIEDC Board and Chairman of Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, said: “The Islamic economy award in its second edition comes after one successful year that gave the UAE in general and Dubai in particular credibility in driving the growth of the Islamic economy in banking and finance, knowledge and researches, family — friendly tourism and halal industry.” In one year only, the award attracted 248 submissions compared to 148 in 2013 and from 48 countries compared to 31 in 2013.

“The importance of the Islamic Economy Award has its roots in the integrated Islamic Economy system which cuts across many economic sectors including infrastructure, tourism, health, food, art and banking services,” said Majid Al Shamsi, 1st Vice-Chairman, Dubai Chamber. “Interestingly, this comprehensive model is being adopted by many countries of the world in light of the global Islamic Economy’s potential GDP value of more than $8 trillion which clearly shows a growing trend in global consumer habits towards Islamic services and products.”

The independent jury panel, which was headed by Qemzi, included Khalid Al Aboudi, Andreas Schotter, Dr Mohammad Azmi Omar, Tayeb Abdulrahman Al Rais, Fatih Mehmet Gul, Shelina Janmohamed, Tariqullah Khan, and Fareed Lutfi.

Nadim Najjar, general manager of Thomson Reuters for the Mena region, said: “We congratulate the winners and wish them all success in their initiatives and activities that drive the growth of the Islamic economy sector — both regionally and internationally. The development of the Islamic economy landscape relies largely on the ethical practices that define the framework of businesses. This makes it imperative to recognise successful initiatives and encourage companies and individuals to endorse best practices across the various Islamic economy sectors.”

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Jakarta hotels required to provide traditional music

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta January 14 2015 – Newly installed Jakarta Culture and Tourism Agency head Purba Hutapea will call on all hotels in Jakarta to play traditional music for guests in order to showcase Indonesian culture.

Purba, formerly the head of the Jakarta Population Civil Registration Agency, said he was preparing a circular that would direct hotel managements in Jakarta to dedicate space and time to the playing of traditional music.

He emphasized, however, that the agency was not attempting to limit the amount of foreign music played at hotels.

“We don’t aim to ban foreign music per se. We only want to encourage hotel managements to include traditional music in their performances,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He said hotels could, for example, provide space for traditional musicians to perform in the hotel lobby to welcome guests.

Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) Jakarta chapter chairman Krishnadi said association members were ready to implement the policy, adding that others like it had been introduced before.

“A similar policy was introduced years ago and we are basically fine with it. However, hotel managements should customize it in accordance with their capacities,” he said.

Hotels with adequate space could hire traditional musicians to play live music in the lobby, while others with less space could play recordings, Krishnadi said.

The association chairman stressed, however, that such policies would not have a significant impact, as Jakarta’s hotels catered predominantly to businesspeople.

“It won’t have a significant impact, because most Jakarta hotel guests are businessmen who don’t have time for stuff like tourist attractions or entertainment. They usually arrive at the lobby and rush to the room to go to the next meeting; they don’t have time to relax. There are, however, tourists who come to Jakarta to enjoy tourist attractions,” he said.

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama said that the new policy was an attempt to introduce local traditions to tourists.

“Good hotels can participate [in preserving culture] by introducing traditional music to tourists. We don’t want to be chauvinistic by forcing them to play certain traditional music. But I think a lot of tourists will enjoy our traditional songs, like “Bengawan Solo” or “Kompor Meleduk” Ahok said at City Hall.

“Bengawan Solo”, named after the Bengawan Solo River in Central Java, is a song composed by the late Gesang Martodihardjo, a well-known composer, while “Kompor Meleduk” (Exploding Stove) is a song made popular by the late Benyamin Sueb, a Betawi artist.

Ahok reiterated that he would continue efforts to preserve local culture initiated by former governor and current President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Jokowi is well-known for his appreciation of culture and the arts, having introduced a number of supporting policies, including one requiring Jakarta civil servants to wear traditional Betawi attire on Fridays. In 2013, Jokowi also initiated a grandiose dance musical, Ariah, named after a legendary Betawi female figure, to mark Jakarta’s 486th anniversary.

“We have also called on local buildings to use traditional ornaments so they will be recognized by the public,” Ahok said.

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LEAD STORY: Scientific Center of Kuwait to Host 1001 Inventions in February

Kuwait — The Scientific Center of Kuwait and 1001 Inventions announced their partnership to bring to Kuwait a world renowned award-winning 1001 Inventions Exhibition as part of a national educational campaign, facilitated in Kuwait by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, to celebrate and raise awareness of the extraordinary and often-forgotten scientific and cultural achievements from the Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation.

The ground-breaking scientific, technological and cultural achievements of this era from the 7th century onwards that stretched from Spain to China, will be introduced to residents and visitors to Kuwait during a 4-week residency of a 1001 Inventions Exhibition and other accompanying family focused activities and schools outreach campaign, starting at the Scientific Center in the first week of February 2015.

Exhibitions produced by 1001 Inventions have already received more than six million visitors at blockbuster residencies in cities around the world breaking visitor number records, aiming to inspire young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and medicine and build their capacity towards building a better future for their country.

Mijbil Almutawa, Chairman and Managing Director, The Scientific Center, said: “We are very pleased to be introducing to people in Kuwait this award-winning exhibition that showcases the crucial role people from this region played in the development of science and technology 1,000 years ago. Students and families in Kuwait will be introduced to scientists and scholars who lived during the Golden Age of Muslim Civilisation and understand their contributions to our modern world in a fun and interactive way – people like Ibn Al Haytham, Ibn Sina, Al-Razi, Fatima AL-Fihri and many more.

Ahmed Salim, Producer and Director, 1001 Inventions, said: “1001 Inventions is immensely proud to be working with The Scientific Center of Kuwait to bring to life, through exhibitions, live shows, films and educational events, the stories of astounding and extraordinary individuals who have made outstanding achievements 1,000 years ago that still influence our lives today, and as a result inspire young people to pursue careers in science and technology and helping create a skilled generation of young people ready to face 21st century challenges.”

1001 Inventions productions highlight the role of men and women of different faiths and cultures that worked together in Muslim Civilisation, building upon the knowledge of ancients civilisations, and helping to make breakthroughs that have left their mark our lives today.

The Kuwait exhibition will feature a diverse range of exhibits, hi-tech games, short feature film, hands-on workshops, books and classroom learning materials and electronic games which highlight breakthroughs and discoveries in various disciplines, most notably engineering, agriculture, medicine, geography, marine science, astronomy and education.

The exhibition will also include live science theatre that bring to life historic role models from Muslim Civilisation aiming to serve as inspirations for young people in Kuwait to pursue careers in science and technology. Featured role models include master engineer Al Jazari, inventor of the magnificent time-telling device the ‘elephant clock’; Fatima Al Fihri, the young woman who in the 9th century founded and designed the world’s first modern university; Ibn Al Haytham who in the 11th century laid the foundations for the invention of the camera by discovering how our eyes work.

School teachers and parents from across Kuwait will be invited to introduce the nation’s young people to the inspirational role models featured within the exhibition. The activities within the exhibition are specially designed to help pupils develop the skills and talents, and teachers are encouraged to bring their primary and secondary school children to the exhibition; and to use the teaching products and illustrative materials accompanying the exhibition to enhance the learning process.

1001 Inventions is the world’s leading brand highlighting the history of science and technology in Muslim Civilisation, and has partnered with numerous international organisations including UNESCO, National Geographic and science museums in both hemispheres. 1001 Inventions is a British non-profit organisation that has received praise and support from governments and heads of state throughout the world.

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Malaysia To Lead Conversations On ASEAN Economic Integration At WEF 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 16 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia’s participation at this year World Economic Forum (WEF) reflects its commitment to shape the global trade agenda, and lead conversations on Asean economic integration, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said.

“This is an important year for Malaysia and as Chair of Asean, we must be in the forefront in ensuring the realisation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC).

“We must take the opportunity to engage the international business community and civil society and lead by example,” he said in a statement Friday.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will be attending the two-day forum from Jan 23 in Davos, Switzerland.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, will be accompanied by Mustapa and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Wahid Omar.

The delegation also includes several prominent Malaysian business leaders as well as heads of investment-related agencies.

One of the objectives of Malaysia’s participation at the forum is to promote Malaysia as the premier investment location and tourist destination in Asia.

It also aimed at promoting Kuala Lumpur as the premier location for multinational companies regional headquarters; to showcase Malaysia’s economic transformation success, and to highlight Malaysia’s role as Chair of Asean, specifically the emphasis on a people-centered Asean.

The Prime Minister will be participating in the following WEF sessions, namely the Asean Regional Business Council; the Informal Gathering of World Economic Leaders (IGWEL): ‘Defining the Imperatives for 2015’; and the ASEAN Leader session-Channel NewsAsia-TV Debate: “Creating the Asean Economic Community”.

Najib will be meeting several heads of state and chief executive officers of prominent global corporations with keen investment interests in Malaysia.

Apart from the meetings and speaking engagements, the Prime Minister and the ministers will also host roundtables with business leaders and a special event to promote Malaysia.

The WEF is an independent global forum for engagement and dialogue involving stakeholders from business and political fraternities, academia and other societal leaders to shape opinions on the global, regional and sectoral agenda.

The forum, under the theme “The New Global Context”, will discuss and address, among others, industry and business related issues in the context of current global economic scenario.

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Kuwait’s Fifth Heritage Festival Opens

KUWAIT, Jan 10 (NNN-KUNA) – Deputy Minister of Amiri Diwan, Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah, opened Friday, Kuwait’s Fifth Heritage Festival, held under the auspices of the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

Speaking to reporters after the inauguration, Sheikh Ali said, the patronage of the Amir, reflected his keenness to see the Kuwaiti and Gulf people, revive their heritage.

He said, the Heritage Festival has a different taste this year, because it was held in Sabah Al-Ahmad Traditional Village, next to the Salmi Highway.

Amiri Diwan Advisor, Mohammad Dhaifallah Sharar said, in a statement to KUNA, the support of the Amir to the Traditional Village, would make it a gathering for traditional lovers, Kuwaitis and Gulf families.

“It will be a great chance to get acquainted with traditions of other Gulf countries,” he said.

The Heritage Festival features participation of 5,600 people, competing in the beauty and production of camels, sheep and falcons, as well as camel and falcon races.

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Oman Hosts Int’l Exhibition Of Horses, Camels

MUSCAT,Oman, Jan 13 (NNN-ONA) – The 4th International Exhibition of Horses, Camels and Heritage, “Omani Assayel” opens today (Tuesday), at Oman International Exhibition Centre, under the auspices of Sayyid Taimour bin Asa’ad bin Tariq al-Said.

The three-day exhibition is organized by Vision Expo and Assayel Company for Press and Publication, in the presence of a large number of senior officials and those interested in equestrian and camel sports and heritage.

The first-day of the exhibition will include the opening ceremony, welcoming shows to the chief guest of the opening ceremony and the attendees by the Royal Cavalry, Royal Camel Corps, Household Cavalry and the Royal Guard of Oman Cavalry.

The Government units and private sector institutions participating in the exhibition have furnished their stands with all their exhibits that reflect various images of the equestrian, camel and heritage.

The exhibition comes under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Tourism, which contributed directly to support and care for this exhibition, stemming from its interest in tourism, promotion of tourism in the Sultanate, expanding it across the Sultanate and at all diverse sectors.

A number of governmental and private institutions in Oman participate in the exhibition.

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Riyadh Declaration Stresses Arabic As Bastion Of Arab Identity

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 14 (NNN-KUNA) – The Riyadh Declaration, issued on Tuesday, at the end of the 19th conference of the Arab ministers in charge of cultural affairs, has called for further attention to the Arabic language, as the bastion of Arab identity.

Arabic must enjoy a special status in the Arab cultural policies, as the pillar of the identity, so that it can be shifted from national plans, to the level of an Arab strategy, the Declaration demanded.

It also urged openness of Arabic, to act as basis for human cultural integration, through consolidating its presence in the world digital content, and bolstering translation from and into the language.

In addition, it recommended the use of modern methods and techniques for teaching it, supporting creativity in Arabic, in a bid to realise integration with other human cultures.

The Declaration bears a call to develop the UN Arabic Language Day, into an occasion to disseminate knowledge about Arab creativity and culture, both at home and overseas, broadening communication and dialogue with the world, to open up fresh prospects for a positive and constructive interaction.

It stressed the leading role by Saudi Arabia for spreading toleration and dialogue among various cultures, and condemned, in the meantime, all forms of violence, extremism and terrorism, that tarnish the noble message of human cultures.

According to the Declaration, the Arab League’s Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (ALECSO) should build partnership with the Vienna-based King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).

It also applauded ALESCO efforts to promote Arabic and bolster Intercultural dialogue.

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Qasr Al Hosn Festival To Reveal Rich Heritage Of U.A.E.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 15 (NNN-WAM) – Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, has revealed programme details of the annual Qasr Al Hosn Festival, to be held from Feb 11 to 21, 2015, in Abu Dhabi city.

Held under the patronage of General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the festival will celebrate the UAE’s tangible and intangible heritage through a rich, diverse programme, featuring guided tours of the Fort, inspiring activities and live performances in the Cultural Foundation building, in addition to public programmes held on the festival grounds, reflecting various elements of UAE culture.

For this year’s edition of the Festival, the cultural programme is inspired by two themes: Abu Dhabi’s traditional heritage as epitomised by the iconic Qasr Al Hosn Fort and its surrounding areas, and the importance of modern heritage, showcased in the Cultural Foundation building through a variety of activities.

By attending the Festival, people will have the opportunity to access the iconic Fort and Cultural Foundation, participate in architectural, historical and cultural journeys, and be part of one of the capital’s cultural development initiatives.

“The 2015 programme was created to offer visitors with a holistic cultural experience, and narrated stories in a compelling, educational, yet engaging manner. The Festival area has been redesigned to include new elements and activities that seamlessly fuse the traditional with the modern. This year, we are looking forward to reopening the doors of the Cultural Foundation by activating larger areas within, through a rich programme of experiential activities, workshops and performances designed to revive its memory and to introduce the conservation approach for such an important modern heritage building,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

“With Qasr Al Hosn Festival, we are not just celebrating monuments, we are celebrating the people that have carried the story of a nation from generation to generation. We are looking to illustrate the importance of conserving the Fort as a symbol of great significance in Emirati history, protecting our national identity and heritage through passing down our most valued traditions. We’re looking forward to celebrate our recent history through a compelling narrative using modern-day tools to recreate historic experiences,” added Sheikh Sultan.

The 2015 Qasr Al Hosn Festival will present the history of Qasr Al Hosn to visitors, through a series of curated programmes. A larger area of the Cultural Foundation building will be opened this year. The building will host a series of interactive activities celebrating its collective memory and invite the public to participate in activities designed to bring the building back to life, such as: ‘Lest We Forget: Structures of Memory in the United Arab Emirates’. Commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, this exhibition seeks to archive the history of architectural and urban development in the UAE over the past century.

1 # Saudi Press Agency Presents Exhibition Of Jeddah Historical Sites

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 15 (NNN-SPA) – The President of Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Abdullah bin Fahd Al-Hussein, has announced, on behalf of the Minister of Culture and Information and Chairman of the Agency’s Board of Directors, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Khudhairi, the Agency’s presentation of its Exhibition entitled, “This is SPA, Photo and News” held in Baishen historical house, including 82 photos of the Kings of Saudi Arabia and Governors of Makkah, to be as a permanent Exhibition for Jeddah historical area.

Al-Hussein said that, the Saudi Press Agency, within the framework of its media mission, contributes to a part of the concerns of Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, President of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities and Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Jeddah, President of Tourist Development Council in Jeddah and Chairman of Supreme Committee for Festival of Historical Jeddah, with the historical area that has been registered at UNESCO to be among the global cities.

Prince Mishaal bin Majed has expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Saudi Press Agency, for its important role in transmitting and coverage of events and conferences, indicating that the Governorate appreciates this contribution that serves this region, stressing the importance of the media in achieving the desired objectives.

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New York Times Ranks Oman Top Of Arab Countries In Tourism

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 12 (NNN-ONA) – New York Times recommends tourists to visit the Sultanate of Oman in the year 2015, and ranks the Sultanate on top of the Arab level, in tourism, due to its potentials in tourism and historical treasures, security and safety. The American newspaper also ranked the Sultanate in the 20th position globally, among 52 countries in the world.

This classification came, due to the efforts being exerted by the Government of the Sultanate, represented by the Ministry of Tourism, through the development of tourist facilities, in various governorates, and the restoration of ancient castles and historic forts, that are considered major cultural inheritance, as well as, establishment of many tourist resorts and complexes.

The classification attributed this to the continuous visits and participations of the Ministry of Tourism, in the Arab world and international meetings, to promote the Sultanate as a tourist destination worldwide, in addition to the invitations by the ministry, to senior figures and officials in the World Tourism Organisation, to take advantage of the Sultanate’s membership in that organisation.

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Malaysian Passport Application Fee Drops

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 (NNN-Bernama) — The application fee for the Malaysian international passport is reduced from today, according to the Immigration Department.

Applicants aged 13 to 59 will only have to pay RM200 instead of RM300 for a five-year period of validity, said the department corporate communications division in a statement.

Applicants aged 60 and above and 12 and below as well as Haj pilgrims will only have to pay RM100 while it remains free for people with disabilities, it added.

The statement said that the department was abolishing the applications for passports of two-year validity, obtained at a cost of RM100, with immediate effect.

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U.A.E. Ministry Of Economy Wants To Build Knowledge-Based Economy

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 12 (NNN-WAM) – The ministry of economy, in line with the federal government’s ambitious United Arab Emirates (UAE) Vision 2021, and the seven-year National Agenda, is keen in building an economy that is based on knowledge, innovation and creativity, in order to contribute 5.0 per cent to the UAE’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021.

Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, said this in a speech, at an annual meeting of the ministry’s employees and officials.

Al Mansouri noted that, in accordance with the directives of the President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Cabinet had in Nov 2014, approved 2015 as the Year of Innovation, in a plan to make the UAE a world innovative leader.

The Cabinet directed all federal government bodies to boost cooperation and to revise their policies, to develop a nurturing environment for innovation.

Al Mansouri reminded the ministry’s employees and officials, of the words of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Sheikh Mohammaed had once said that: “A job in the government is not just a way of making a living. Rather it is a means of contributing to your country. Government offices are for production, not for routine, reliance and indolence; they are places for creativity.”

At the meeting, Al Mansouri announced the launch of the Minister of Economy’s Award, for Government Excellence, which is aimed at improving ministry employees’ performance, advancing its practices and services through promoting positive competition, innovation and creativity.

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Qajar era copy of Holy Qur’an to be showcased in Tehran

Sunday 11 Jan 2015 – Tehran (IINA) – Ancient scrolls of the Holy Qur’an that date back to Qajar Dynasty era will be unveiled in Niavaran Cultural and Historical Complex, Iran’s Mehr News Agency (MNA) reported. The verses of Qur’an had been written on a paper with 5.5 meter length and in a particular calligraphy called ‘Qobar’ (Persian for dust) whose very name indicates its delicate and tiny structure.

The manuscript copy has been undergone diverse preservation and repair process through microscopic and laboratory studies to examine its structure and the material to preserve it. Documentation, paper acidity, organic adhesives, color test, biologic pollution, reconstruction, cleaning and dust removing are some of the operations done to preserve and repair the book.

The book will go on public display on February 6-19 in Niavaran Palace.

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Global halal market to jump nine-fold to $10 trillion by 2030: Study

Tuesday 13 Jan 2015 – Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – The global halal market is expected to jump by nine-fold to reach $10 trillion in 2030 from its current level of $ 1 trillion, according to a recent study, which showed that the halal industry posted strong annual growth, amounted to $ 500 billion.

The study noted that the volume of global consumer market of halal products and services, including sectors such as food products, banking, medicines, manufacturing, cosmetics, logistics and tourism, will jump from their current level of $ 2 trillion to reach $ 6 trillion in 2020 and up to $ 10 trillion in 2030.

The study found that the main dynamics that drive the global halal food market is the increase in the world’s Muslim population, the economic development in the Islamic countries, and the growing demand for halal food products in new European, Japanese, Indian and Chinese markets.

According to the study, the Asian countries consume approximately 63.3 percent of the world’s halal trade, African countries consume nearly 24 percent, while European countries consume about 10.2 percent, compared to 2.5 percent for American countries.

Halal food industry is estimated to be growing by an annual rate of 17 percent, and it is projected to top $ 2 trillion in 2018, after being valued at $ 1.1 trillion in 2013.

Observers believe that this significant growth in halal trade has prompted many Islamic countries and institutions to adopt plans and form special committees to uncover the sources of such products. They also adopted official seals to be affixed to all certificates confirming the safety and health of these products, as well as their compatibility with Sharia law, especially as the global markets have known a lot of cases of fraud and manipulation, relating to meat products and other foods with the aim of achieving special interests.

In order to transform the halal industry into a global economic power and to promote efforts to provide globally recognized halal certifications, Penang state, in Malaysia, will host on January 31, the Sixth International Halal Expo and Conference, which is expected to generate significant investment opportunities.

The conference will bring together, from across the globe, an elite group of experts, academics, investors, as well as all actors in the halal industry.

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Congressman Carson first Muslim to serve on Intelligence Committee

Thursday 15 Jan 2015 – Washington (IINA) – U.S Congressman André Carson became on Tuesday the first Muslim to serve on the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, news agencies reported.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reportedly announced the appointment of the representative from Indiana during a weekly caucus meeting. The committee will likely focus on the threat of ISIS and the ongoing instability in Ukraine during the 114th Congress.

The House Intelligence Committee has shared oversight of numerous U.S. intelligence agencies, which have been tarred most recently by the Senate’s scathing report on torture carried out against Muslim detainees by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Carson previously worked for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security in the anti-terrorism unit, after serving nine years as an officer for the Indiana State Police, according to a biography on his official website.

He converted to Islam about 10 years before his election to Congress and has gone on to win re-election four more times in Indiana’s 7th Congressional District, which includes metropolitan Indianapolis.

Carson became the second Muslim to serve in Congress after winning a special election to replace his grandmother, Rep. Julia Carson, in 2008.

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Maldives to make some roads vehicle-free

Sun.mv – January 16, 2015 – President Abdulla Yameen has announced plans to ban vehicles on some roads in Malé. This was announced in his speech at a ceremony at Raalhugandu on Thursday evening, to inaugurate the second phase of the Hulhumalé Development Project.

He said that plans would be announced in about one week’s time to ease congestion and make Malé a calmer and more relaxing place, and the pilot project would focus on two areas, one of them being school areas in Malé.

President Yameen said that once the policies are in place, vehicles would not be allowed to enter narrow roads unless absolutely necessary, and the lanes would instead become playgrounds for children. Maldivians are used to parking their vehicles on the road directly outside their houses, he said, but efforts must be made to give up this habit.

Earlier, in an interview to Sun Online, Chairman of Transport Authority Abdul Rasheed Nafiz told Sun Online that work was ongoing to re-plan Malé.

He said that this includes establishing parking zones for the 49,605 vehicles presently in use in Malé, and the authority’s aim was to change parking space from 1.5 metres per vehicle, as it is now, to 2.5 per vehicle. To facilitate this, Transport Authority would soon restrict the number of vehicles allowed in Malé, said Nafiz.

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Istanbul’s official website opens

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – A new website, Istanbul’s first official digital promotional platform, has come online. The website, called “howtoistanbul.com,” has been created as a result of the Istanbul Governor’s Office’s “Digital Platform Project.”

According to the website’s management, the Istanbul Convention and Visitors Bureau, the website is designed to bring together all services available in the city under one roof. The website aims to increase the number of foreign visitors to the city and promote the city on international platforms.

Removing the inconvenient information pollution surrounding Istanbul, the website can be reached through only three clicks at the most. It provides information on a wide variety of fields, from historical structures to a live event calendar and from ticket purchases to address descriptions.

The website welcomes its guests with a panoramic view of Istanbul and offers categories such as “Istanbul Guide,” “Things to Do,” “Istanbul Essentials,” “Book Istanbul,” “Social Istanbul” and “Taste Istanbul.”

The sub-sections offer more specific information about the modern and historical city. For example, visitors are able to buy flight tickets on the website and learn details about the Museum Card and the Istanbulkart, which makes city life easier.

The website is presented in both Turkish and English and can also be reached through social websites Facebook (facebook.com/howtoistanbul.com) and Twitter (twitter.com/howtoistanbul).

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Sky no longer the limit for ‘New Turkey’: Istanbul to launch air rail system

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – After completing the underground railway Marmaray connecting Istanbul’s European and Asian sides – a public transportation project dubbed the “project of the century” by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – and with the third bridge and airport construction ongoing, the sky is now the limit for Istanbul.

But wait… Even the sky may no longer be the limit, as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has announced a new tender for eight separate air rail projects (Havaray), planned to link together a number of neighborhoods.

The project will initially include eight lines – four on each continent – both in central and suburban areas of Turkey’s largest metropolis. The first line is planned between the remote suburbs of Kartal and Tuzla along the Asian coast of the Marmara Sea.

Other lines will connect the vibrant districts Beyoğlu and Şişli, as well as Beşiktaş and Sarıyer, on the European side. The business center of 4th Levent will be linked to the nearby neighborhoods of Gültepe and Çeliktepe, which have only been connected by bus up to now. Another major line will be built between the populous residential Asian districts of Ataşehir and Ümraniye.

Plans for the new transportation system were revealed back in 2011 by Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş, who suggested that disseminated short air rails could be a cheap and practical solution to reduce the need to extend the metro system in certain areas.

The tender for the Tuzla-Kartal line is set to be held on Feb. 2. The municipality will require the bidder to complete the project within 240 days. The mayor of Tuzla, where a marina combined with a shopping center is also planned to be built, has expressed huge enthusiasm for the air rail project, describing as a “milestone” for the city.

Reports in the Turkish media have speculated that land prices in the district would double after the project formally kicks off.

With the air rail project on its way, the municipality is now set to focus on turning the cableway projects over the Bosphorus into reality. Two separate lines are planned: The first between the upmarket European neighborhood of Etiler and the hill of Çamlıca on the Anatolian side, where a huge mosque is currently under construction following Erdoğan’s proposal. A second line is being considered to link the northern Bosphorus districts of Sariyer and Beykoz.

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Turkish president vows to preserve historical artifacts

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pledged his support to the preservation of historical artifacts on Jan. 12, vowing to closely follow their restoration and revival both at home and abroad.

The president’s remarks came during an opening ceremony for the newly-restored sections of the Topkapı Palace Museum in Istanbul.

“We are the representatives of a nation that has been broken off from its own history,” said Erdoğan, adding that he believed historical sites like Topkapı Palace served an important function for the country’s new generation.

Thanking those who contributed to the restoration of the palace, Erdoğan said it was a responsibility to preserve the museum, as it had a spiritual sense beyond being a historical piece.

“We have to carry this place to the future generations in its material and spiritual senses,” he added.

The Topkapı Palace Museum – one of Istanbul’s top tourist destinations and once home to the Ottoman sultans – hold a number of special historical items and an archive of 300,000 documents. The six-hundred-year-old palace was converted into a museum in 1924, the year after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey.

Erdoğan said historical and cultural structures had not been meticulously preserved in the past, and recalled his sensitivity over the protection and revival of historical pieces during his period as Turkey’s prime minister.

He said many historical pieces housed in Western countries’ museums have been collected from the region. “We will closely monitor all efforts to restore and retrieve historical artifacts,” he added.

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Bangladesh plans to protect archaeological sites

DHAKA, Jan 11, 2015 (BSS) – Minister for cultural affairs Asaduzzaman noor today said the government has been implementing various measures to protect and preserve the archaeological resources of the country and so far enlisted 44 archaeological sites for protection.

“Historically, Bangladesh is a pasture ground of different civilizations and it is necessary to unearth, protect and preserve the archeological resources”, said the cultural minister while inaugurating a six-day training workshop at the head office of the Archeological Department at Sher-E-Bangla Nagar here.

Chaired by Shirin Akhter, Director General of the Archeological Department, the inaugural session was attended, among others, by Matsunaga Takesi, minister of Japan Embassy in Bangladesh as the special guest.

“Bangladesh has archaeological resources underneath its soil, but due to financial constraints and lack of expertise we could not protect the resources properly. The present government has taken various initiatives to protect the archaeological sites despite limitations”, the minister said .

Cultural Affairs Ministry, Department of Archaeology, Cultural Heritage Protection Cooperation Office, Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO and NARA, Japan jointly organized the workshop which will continue till January 16.

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Bangladesh National Poetry Festival on Feb 1, 2

DHAKA, Jan 11, 2015(BSS)- The 29th National Poetry Festival would be held on the grounds of the Dhaka University Central Library on February 1 and 2. This year’s theme would be “Rise to potential, rise in poetry.” A number of poets from different countries including Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Nepal, India and Malaysia would participate in this year’s Festival. This was disclosed by the organizers at a press conference held at the Dhaka University Teachers’-Students’ Center (TSC).

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Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive to be completed by next year

COX’S BAZAR, Jan 15, 2015 (BSS)- Minister for Road Transport and Bridges Obaidul Quader today said the construction work of Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive Road would be completed by the next fiscal year.

“Construction work of 58 kilometers roadway has already been completed and the work of the rest 26 kilometers roadway is going on full-swing,” he said this while inaugurating the Monkhali Bridge on Cox’s Bazar Marine Drive Road at Ukhiya point here this afternoon. Engineer corps of Bangladesh Army built the bridge at a cost of Taka 22 crore.

Besides, Quader said works are going on for making a planned tourism area by using hilly area of Cox’s Bazar. He said that the government has a plan for building a connecting road and the work is expected to start in the current fiscal.

“The opening of the marine drive would usher in a new era of tourism in Bangladesh,” the minister said. “The 88-km marine drive roadway would completely be a rare facility in the world that Bangladesh would offer to tourists” he said.

Saimum Sarwar Kamal, MP, Abdur Rahman Bodi, MP, Army Engineer Core Chief Brigadier General Abdul Wahab and Deputy Commissioner of the district M Ruhul Amin were present.

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Bangladesh Cotton crafts value chain makes 25,000 people self-reliant

RANGPUR, Jan 10, 2015 (BSS) – The cotton crafts value chain programme of the ‘Samridhhi’ project has created sustainable employments for 25,000 extremely poor people, mostly distressed women,making them self-reliant in the northern region.

The project beneficiaries have been earning well through mini garment cotton crafts, handloom and embroidery works to lead solvent life side by side contributing to the rural uplift and economy.

Three Regional Offices of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation under the ‘Samridhhi’ project have been assisting the beneficiaries since 2010 in the northern region with financial assistance of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Under the project assistance and cooperation between private sectors and local entrepreneurs, various value chain systems, including cotton crafts, have developed opportunities for sustainable jobs and income generation activities locally.

The project has strengthened the local service providing systems enhancing capacity of local service providers and their associations and collaboration among the government agencies, private entrepreneurs, companies and organisations.

Under cotton crafts value chain programme, 25,000 people of 5,555 extremely poor households of all sixteen northern districts in the region have achieved self- reliance through local employments in their own areas.

Private sector entrepreneur Abu Bakar Siddik has set up mini factory ‘Students Care Garments’ at Dimla town in Nilphamari to promote cotton craft value chain programme through skill development of rural women and establishing rural production centres.

More than 450 trained men and women have been working there and its other eight garments production centres set up at different areas of Dimla and Domar upazilas by women entrepreneurs after getting training from ‘Students Care Garments.’

The trained men and women have been producing quality school dresses like tie, batch, bags, pants, shirts for male and female students at ‘Students Care Garments’ and also at the other eight production centres.

Proprietor of ‘Students Care Garments’ Abu Bakar Siddik told BSS that the products are being supplied to the ‘Students Care Garments’ from where those are being marketed for students of 1,500 schools in 27 upazilas of 13 districts throughout the country.

Besides, the trained men and women have been producing other garment products at these centres for marketing through local traders and entrepreneurs with the assistance of the cotton craft value chain programme of the project.

Like other garments producer women, Basiron, 46, Rasheda, 36, Lipa, 22, Rafia, 39, Ambia, 36, Samina, 33, and Minaki, 30, said that they are earning Taka 5,500 to 6,500 every month now to lead solvent life with their family members and children.

Similarly, Proprietors Hazrat Ali of ‘Bhai Bhai Handloom’ of Baliandangi upazila in Thakurgaon, Yahhiya Iqbal of ‘Azmal Sajghor and Iqbal Zorry House’ of Syedpur in Nilphamari and Saiful Alam of ‘Soft Tech Handicrafts’ of Debiganj upazila in Panchagarh narrated their successes.

Entrepreneurs Chandona Ghosh, Rokeya Begum and Shilpi Begum of Thakurgaon, Shahanaz Begum of Badarganj upazila in Rangpur and Abdus Sahed of Kurigram and ‘Karchupi’ artisan Arzina Begum of Syedpur also narrated their successes.

Value Chain Specialist of the ‘Samridhhi’ project Tahmidur Rahman Ratan at Rangpur Regional Office said the beneficiaries are earning better through income generation activities under the cotton crafts value chain development programme.

Regional Coordinator of ‘Samridhhi’ project Mamunur Rashid said the project has been strengthening mutual trust and coordination among all stakeholders to further flourish the sector and influencing the market systems ensuring sustainable jobs for the poor.

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Brunei’s Freme Travel Launches Adventure Course at Rainforest Lodge

Friday, 16 January 2015 BruDirect.com TEMBURONG: In an initiative to boost job opportunities and the local tourism sector, Freme Travel has officially opened an “Adventure Course” at Freme’s refurbished Rainforest Lodge located in Batang Duri in Temburong District.

Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, officiated the launch.

The Rainforest Lodge had seen a surge in tourist numbers from China, Hong Kong and Japan with 95 per cent of them giving positive feedback, according to Chairman of Freme Travel, Pg Dato Sharifuddin bin Pg Metali.

Many tourists also expressed interest to extend their stay in Brunei to enjoy the rich culture and various nature-based activities in the district, he added.

The refurbished Rainforest Lodge, which comes with a new terrace dining area and kitchen, can accommodate 40 people in wooden bunkers and another 15 in large tents.

Pg Dato Sharifuddin pointed out that there was still room for expansion to meet any increase in demand when the proposed Temburong bridge is completed in about three years’ time.

“By then, visitors will have easier road access to the lodge apart from the current water access by boat that visitors may prefer for a more complete Temburong experience,” he added. According to him, these initiatives had boosted job opportunities for locals.

The lodge now employs more than 10 full-time workers (local Temburong residents) including guides, boatmen and a local caterer famous for cooking Temburong’s signature dish, local lobsters.

The new Adventure Course, which was built after more than a year of planning and construction, is catered for tourists as well as special corporate team building and professional development events.

The course has a number of features including a 15-metre flying fox across the Batang Dun River, a high rope bridge course, a hanging bridge, a three-tier canopy platform ideal for bird watching, a mini climbing wall, walking trails for both night and day, as well as a tower giving a great view of the rainforest.

Shortly after the ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the Adventure Course and refurbished lodged, the minister toured the vicinity and viewed a flying fox demonstration before climbing up the canopy platform.

Also present were YB Haji Sulaiman bin Haji Ahad, a Legislative Council member; Haji Abd Hamid bin Dato Paduka Haji Abdullah, Temburong District Officer; and Michael Lee, Managing Director of Freme Travel Services.

Pg Dato Sharifuddin, meanwhile, reassured the public that safety and environmental issues would always be high on the agenda.

“We will ensure that the environment and the welfare of our visitors are not compromised. As such, we will ensure that our operations do not have any adverse impact on the environment,” he said, adding that there is a crisis management programme in place to handle any unforeseen emergency and contingency incidents.

A donation of $20,000 to orphans in Temburong District was also handed over to the Temburong District Officer by Pg Dato Shariffuddin.

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Garuda Indonesia to promote tourism potential islands

Senin, 12 Januari 2015 Balikpapan, East Kalimantan (ANTARA News) – National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia will promote tourism potential in east Indonesian regions such as Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi, Maluku, and Papua, Vice President of Garuda Indonesia for Eastern Areas Rosyinah said here on Monday.

“These efforts are part of the Explore the Beauty of Indonesia (EBI) program, based on which we will help to promote tourism potential in Sulawesi, Maluku, Papua, and Kalimantan islands,” Rosyinah stated after signing a memorandum of understanding with the heads of the provinces in Kalimantan Island on the tourism promotional activities.

According to her, Garuda Indonesia will promote 44 tourist destinations in 11 provinces in the four big islands of Sulawesi, Maluku, Papua, and Kalimantan.

Moreover, Manager of the EBI program I Wayan Supatrayasa noted that the national flag carrier is committed to promote tourism potential in the regions, while the local governments promise to improve and develop the tourist destinations under their respective jurisdictions.

“We will create 4- to 5-minute-long video clips for each island and will play them onboard flights, or during promotional activities,” Supatrayasa affirmed.

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Archaeology office unearths prehistoric bracelets in Jayapura, Papua

Senin, 12 Januari 2015 Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA News) – The Archaeology Office of Jayapura, Papua, has discovered prehistoric bracelet artifacts made from coral sea shells in Puay Village, East Sentani Sub-District, Jayapura, Papua.

“Most of the coral sea bracelets found in the hill slopes have been eroded by the water flowing in Lake Sentani,” Hari Suroto, an archaeologist, stated here on Monday.

Some of the bracelets were found in good shape, while others were discovered in fragments. The bracelets are made from coral sea shells belonging to the Conidae family.

“This kind of coral can be found in the coasts of the Pacific Ocean. The bracelets are white, and their shapes are good and smooth,” Hari revealed.

He stated that geographically, Puay Village is located at the intersection of Lake Sentanis estuary and Jaifuri Rivers upstream. According to information obtained from the locals, the coral sea bracelets were used as jewelry and dowry during the prehistoric era.

“It is interesting that the coral sea bracelets were found in the fresh water area of Lake Sentani,” Hari stated, adding that the current facts indicate that the people living near Lake Sentani had been in contact with those residing in the eastern coasts of the Pacific Ocean via the Jaifuri River that empties into the Pacific Ocean.

“The bracelets prove the Sentani tribes legends that their ancestors migrated from Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, in the eastern part to Lake Sentani some 2,590 years ago,” Hari added.

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Algeria: 800 Tourist Projects Planned Under Five-Year Scheme

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – 16 January 2015 – Algiers — More than 800 tourist projects are to be carried out under the five-year plan 2014-2019, creating over 25,000 jobs in the industry, Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry Nouria Yamina Zerhouni said Thursday.

A total of “813 investment projects in the tourist industry have been approved, 394 of them are underway, which will lead to the creation of 25,265 jobs during the current five-year plan and strengthen the accommodation capacity by more than 45,000 new beds,” Zerhouni said in a question and answer session at the Council of the Nation (upper house of Parliament).

The government will carry on providing facilities to investors for the promotion of tourist industry, the minister said. “Banks will continue to finance such projects,” he added.

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Nigeria: Heritage Parade of Colours, Celebration of Culture in Port Harcourt

Vanguard – 14 January 2015 – Year 2014 would no doubt go down in history as a year of many major highlights in the entertainment industry. The year started off on a high note with events in different parts of the country: from reality TV shows and cultural displays to company sponsored gala shows and breath-taking performances by notable stars in the music, fashion, movies, sports and other creative industries.

For lovers of the arts, culture and general entertainment 2014 will be remembered as the year in which the country raised and sustained the entertainment tempo from the beginning to the end of the year with numerous events that crisscrossed the length and breadth of the country. For festival lovers, the list is endless – from the Eyo Festival in Lagos, the Osun Oshogbo in Osun State, the Igue (Ewere) festival in Edo state to the revered Argungu fishing festival in Kebbi State to mention but a few.

For Music lovers, there was the Channel O Awards, Headies and the MTV Awards to celebrate the bests of the industry while the Abuja International Film and Video festival and the Eko International Film festivals were held to satisfy the thirst of Nollywood aficionados to celebrate and reward the best players in the industry.

2014 is also a year in which carnival lovers had a field day with the increase in the number of carnivals held in Nigeria. Some carnivals readily come to mind: The Imo Carnival, Abia Carnival, Abuja Carnival, the Calabar Carnival and of course, Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival, which is touted as the oldest and largest carnival brand on the African continent.

Every year, the people of Rivers State and indeed visitors from far and near converge in Port Harcourt for an annual ritual to usher in the new and 2014 was no exception. Although the people of Rivers State are not new to fun and play, the passion and excitement with which they prepared for Carniriv 2014 will make a captive audience out of a first time visitor as the carnival got off to a dazzling start with the maiden edition of Miss Carniriv Beauty Pageant held at the Presidential Hotel. After several parades and elimination stages by the bevy of beautiful girls drawn from the 23 local government areas in the state, Miss Port Harcourt, Stephaine Chinda, was crowned as the Queen.

The new Queen went home with a brand new Hyundai Grand car and a foreign scholarship as part of the Rivers State Government’s foreign study scholarship scheme among other prizes. The first and second runners up also went home with consolation prizes with other category winners. An outstanding performance from WAJE, backed by a first class presentation from event compeer, Uti Nwachukwu made the evening a memorable one for both the contestants and audience.

The next two nights were filled with performances by up-and-coming local stars from Rivers State who delighted their audience with undiluted music in line with the vision of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency (RSTDA) to empower local musicians.

Apart from the Miss Carniriv Beauty pageant, another major event was the Praise Jam which was combined with the Dance of Fire Flies for the opening ceremony held at the Carnival Village, Elekahia Stadium.

The opening ceremony was a spectacle to behold with fireworks lighting up the Port Harcourt skies and enveloping the city in incandescent rainbow like glows that lasted for minutes, making the entire spectacle a true Dance of Fireflies!

Lovers of culture witnessed a showpiece arts in the Carnival Village in what was tagged the Cultural Art Exhibition, where people from different walks of life made an instant connection with the exhibition. The event later eased into another cultural display aptly called, Ekere – Rhythm of the Tribes. For first time visitors, Ekere is the ultimate centre stage to experience diverse cultural displays of rhythm and dance

The traditionalists were not left out as they showed class at the International Aquatic Fiesta, an event that is indigenous to Rivers State. The booming cannons from the war boats and aquatic acrobatics by the different Boat Regattas as the canoeists chanted popular war songs delighted the audience. The next day, the ‘Champions of the Sand Arena’ took the centre stage for the popular Egelege traditional wrestling contest.

The evening was set aglow with one excellent performance after another when BAMFEST, the Black African Music Festival, kicked into full gear. The event lasted into the wee hours of the next morning even when the crowd shouted for more. While another round of the Cultural Art Exhibition plus the finals of Egelege and Ekere took place.

However, the night belonged to the two veterans – Ras Kimono and Majek Fashek who headlined the performance of the evening at the Reggae 360 show. The senior duo was preceded by performances from other notable Reggae stars and young talents.

The much anticipated International Heritage Parade which brought out the best in Port Harcourt with colourful floats brightening the 14 kilometre route of the parade followed. It was a day the entire city stood still for hours. Director General of the Rivers State Tourism Development Agency, RSTDA, Dr. Sam Dede captured the philosophy behind the heritage parade in a few words: “The people of Rivers State are creatures of culture.

Our culture and indeed that of every Nigerian, African or Caribbean etc is one that has endured decades and centuries of existence. We therefore go all out to celebrate our cultures by bringing Port Harcourt to a standstill every time we observe the International Heritage Parade and I am happy the 2014 is no exception,” he said.

As with everything that has a beginning, the 2014 edition of Carniriv: The Port Harcourt Carnival reached a befitting climax on December 20th when the Governor of Rivers State, Honourable Rotimi Amaechi, led all participants on the 14 kilometre Garden City Freestyle Parade through select routes in the city.

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Baku preparing to host Tour d’Azerbaijan

15 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The Azerbaijan Cycling Federation is already busy with plans to hold the 2015 Tour d’Azerbaidjan on May 6-10. Changes in the race route for this year are expected and new teams are set to attend the tour. The Federation will use its experience to arrange the cycling events at the first-ever European Games to be held in Baku in June.

“The Tour d’Azerbaidjan has already been a significant part of Azerbaijan’s sports, and every year thousands of spectators impatiently await this event,” said Farhad Aliyev, General Secretary of the Federation. “The Cycling Federation of Azerbaijan has taken a massive responsibility by strengthening and paying attention to the organizational side of the event.”

In addition, some big stars are expected to attend the race. “Last year we invited 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre and the 9-time Tour de France stage winner Jamoleddin Abduljaparov. Our spectators enjoyed seeing them in Baku, and this year as well we have decided to make this event a lot more interesting for our spectators,” he said.

There is increased interest amongst teams to take part in the Tour d’Azerbaidjan, and “The reason is simple. It is because all visiting guests enjoy their visits in Baku,” Aliyev said. “A number of teams have requested to take part in the Tour. Among them are both continental and pro-continental teams, such as RusVelo of Russia, Androni Giocattoli of Italy and Drapac of Australia, as Pro-Conti teams. In addition, this year we have confirmed the participation of Slovenia’s Adria Mobil and Luxembourg’s Leopard Development continental teams. Discussions are still open and we still welcome strong teams to blend our tour’s stages in 2015.”

The Federation is involved in more than just organizing this race. “2014 was very productive year for our Cycling Federation. We organized a lot of interesting bike competitions in Baku and in different regions of Azerbaijan for children from schools and universities,” Aliyev noted.

These competitions are merely an expression of the increased popularity of cycling in Azerbaijan. In the past during Soviet era the situation was not satisfactory. “However, after the fundamental changes in the administration of the Federation in 2011, the cycling sport got back into good shape. We are more than grateful to the government of Azerbaijan for supporting the Azerbaijan’s sport in all terms,” the general secretary said.

The Federation is also busy with arrangements for the first European Games, to be held in June. Three cycling disciplines will be included, road, mountain biking and BMX. The MTB track was first used last October and is ready now. “The last stage of the Tour d’Azerbaidjan 2015 is expected to be cycling operations readiness for Baku 2015 European Games as the tour’s last stage covers the same route in the Baku city centre.”

With only four months left, it looks as if the federation has everything under its control till the first stage of the Tour d’Azerbaidjan sets off from the shores of the Caspian Sea in the capital city of Baku.

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Azerbaijan National Art Museum, double hit of art and beauty

16 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Art of a country says a lot of its history and traditions. Those who are in agreement with this fact should come and visit another must-see museum in Azerbaijan’s capital: National Art Museum.

Located in the city center, across to the State Philharmonic Hall, this museum will be a nice stop on your way to the Baku Seaside Boulevard, full of art and delicate works.

National Art Museum is one of the largest and oldest art museums in the country. This museum was established in 1936, and today is located in two classical buildings dating back to the 19th century.

From Tuesday to Sunday (10 a.m.-6p.m.) you can find here not only Azerbaijani art, but also works of art from Western Europe, Russia, and the East.

In 60 rooms of the Museum complex, more than 3,000 items are on display. In the first building of the museum there are foreign art pieces and the second building features the works of Azerbaijani artists.

Totally, about 17,000 items are kept in storage, and expositions are changed from time to time, so that more of the works can be displayed.

Here, you can also enjoy architecture of two buildings; first one was built as a private residence for De Bour, the Business Manager for Rothschild’s company. The second building, located next to it, served as the School of St. Mary’s for girls.

In European bulk, there are works by various European artists from the 16-19 centuries, Russian avant-garde artists, 18-18 centuries Russian painters that attract attention.

In the second building, there are permanent and temporary exhibitions of Azerbaijani artists. Permanent exhibitions are organized chronologically. It is the perfect place to learn about Azerbaijani fine art.

There is also a section for ancient Azerbaijani art with ceramics and metalwork, utensils, miniatures, needlework, national clothing and jewelry, as well as carpets, belts and daggers traditionally decorated with precious and semi-precious stones.

The museum also provides excursions, so you will not get lost here, in the midst of beauty and antique.

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Ancient Al-Amir Wall unearthed in Ismailiya

Ahram Online , Tuesday 13 Jan 2015 – During development work at an archaeological site near the New Suez Canal archaeologists have uncovered the Middle Kingdom Al-Amir Wall, which was previously only known from ancient documents.

Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the development project of archaeological sites at the Suez Canal, said that the wall consists of a number of forts constructed of mud bricks with defensive trenches and barricades to prevent any attacks on Egypt from it eastern gate.

Four of the newly discovered forts, he went on, are dated to the 18th and 19th dynasties of the New Kingdom, while the others are from the Hyksos reign but all have wave breakers to prevent water of the Pelusium Nile branch to leak inside during the flood and the water of the Mediterranean Sea, located at its northern side, in winter.

A harbour connecting the Pelusium Nile branch with the Mediterranean Sea was unearthed near the wall. “This harbour was not only a port for trade but a customs point as well,” said Abdel-Maqsoud.

Abdel-Maqsoud pointed out that Al-Amir Wall was known from a papyrus relating the escape story of Vizier Senouhi out of Egypt during the reign of King Amenemhat III. The papyrus mentioned that the Al-Amir Wall was a great obstacle during Senouhi’s flight out of Egypt because it was a huge and strong fortified structure.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Defense, said Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, a panorama project like the one of Panorama October War on Al-Orouba street in Heliopolis, is to be established in an attempt to show Egypt’s military history in ancient times.

It will also display the different architectural styles of military structures and the system used to protect Egypt’s eastern gate.

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Iran ready to annul visa requirements with neighbors

Fri Jan 9, 2015 – PressTV – Iran says it stands ready to revoke visa requirements for visitors from neighboring countries if the other side does the same for Iranian nationals.

“The Islamic republic of Iran is prepared to waive visa (requirements) or facilitate the process of issuing visas for all countries, especially the neighbors, if they take similar action,” said Hassan Qashqavi, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary and Iranian Expatriates’ Affairs.

Qashqavi cited Kuwait as an example, saying that Iran is planning to annul visa requirements for Kuwaiti nationals as the Arab country no longer requires Iranian visitors to obtain visas.

The high-ranking Iranian diplomat, who was addressing a national conference on health tourism, said that Iran has nearly halved tariffs for issuing health visas compared to the fees charged for ordinary visas. “…This shows Iran’s cooperation … to ease traveling to Iran for foreign nationals,” he said.

He noted that Iran is a safe destination for foreign tourists as there has been no report of any incident for foreigners visiting the country over the past few years.

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Berber culture in spotlight

Gulf Daily News – 16 January, 2015 – Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and Supreme Council for Women president, yesterday patronised the opening of the Berber Women of Morocco Expo at Bahrain National Museum.

Touring the exhibition, Princess Sabeeka underlined its importance in highlighting the high value of Berber heritage.

She emphasised the role of cultural activities in promoting tourism and providing entertainment for people in Bahrain while informing them about global cultures.

The Culture directorate is organising the expo in co-operation with Pierre Berger (Yves Saint Laurent), Jardin Majorelle’s MusŽe Berbre in Marrakech and MusŽe du Quai Branly in Paris.

The expo will spotlight the role of Berber women in maintaining their cultural heritage and take visitors on a journey into the heart of Morocco and Berber culture. It will run for a month and showcase jewellery, wickerwork, pottery, tattoos and henna painting, among other things.

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World’s newest airliner begins first flight from Qatar

Arab News – 16 January, 2015 – The world’s newest jetliner, the Airbus A350, took to the skies Thursday carrying its first paying passengers from the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar.

The Qatar Airways flight departed the Qatari capital Doha bound for Frankfurt, Germany. It marks the debut of the relatively lightweight, twin-aisle, long-range plane, which promises to connect smaller cities with major aviation hubs nonstop at a cheaper cost for airlines.

For passengers, the new plane offers wider panoramic windows and larger overhead storage space plus the ability to limit connections.

The A350 is the third — and final — major new aircraft in a decade. First there was the double-decker Airbus A380, which debuted in October 2007. It’s the world’s largest passenger jet, designed to carry up to 525 passengers between some of the largest cities on the planet.

Then came the lightweight Boeing 787, which carried its first passengers in October 2011. Thanks to its lower operating costs, the jet, marketed by Boeing as the Dreamliner, has led to new nonstop flights between cities that previously didn’t have enough passengers to merit such service.

As with the Dreamliner, the A350’s lightweight design allows it to burn significantly less fuel than other jets of similar size. A little more than half of the structure is made of composite materials such as plastic reinforced by carbon fibers. Add in titanium and advanced aluminum alloys and more than 70 percent of the plane is made up of lightweight materials.

Airbus says the A350 will help open up nonstop routes like Shanghai to Boston, Massachusetts or Paris to Santiago, Chile. The A350 can fly 276 to 369 passengers, depending on the variant and the airline’s choice of seating configuration.

Qatar’s version is fitted out with 36 business class seats that turn into fully flat beds and boast 17-inch TV screens, and an economy class section with 247 seats, with smaller TVs.

The state-backed airline has put considerable faith in the new model, with orders for 79 more planes. It received its first double-decker A380 from the European plane maker in September.

“The delivery of this new aircraft category into the Qatar Airways’ fleet … is a moment of absolute national pride for Qatar Airways and the state of Qatar,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker said at an inauguration ceremony last week.

Unlike the Dreamliner, which was grounded in early 2013 for three and a half months because of problems with its lithium-ion batteries, Airbus — at this point — has decided to forego lithium-ion technology on the A350 in favor of traditional, but heavier, batteries.

So far, Boeing has secured more orders for its 787, but the program had a head start on Airbus, which was focusing on its colossal A380.

Boeing has 1,071 orders for its 787, with 228 of the jets now in service around the world. Airbus has 778 orders for the A350 from 41 different airlines and jet leasing companies including, British Airways, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines. The plane that flew to Frankfurt Thursday is the first of 80 such jets quickly-growing Qatar has ordered.

A larger version of the jet, which is scheduled to start flying in 2017, aims to compete with Boeing’s long-range 777-300.

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Historic Jeddah Festival opens

Arab News – 16 January, 2015 – Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed, chairman of the Tourism Development Council, opened the second Historic Jeddah Festival here Wednesday, which will feature 89 heritage, recreational, cultural and marketing events.

Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), was also present. After the opening ceremony, Prince Mishaal and Prince Sultan toured the festival venue. “The festival is aimed at making people aware of their invaluable heritage and to help preserve it,” Prince Mishaal said.

The prince said the festival would contribute to the promotion of historical Jeddah projects because the old city has been listed as a World Heritage Site by the United bNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He said the festival is being held under the slogan, Your Sun Shines.

He pointed out that the historic district has many distinctive features, especially its development projects. He hoped that it would be a memorable and successful event and praised the organizers for helping to set it up.

The events this year include art programs and forums. There would also be shopping from the Nada Souk, passing along Al-Kabeer Souk and ending at Qabil Street. Visitors can benefit from discount sales, draws and gifts offered, he said. Visitors can also view 20 handicraft products and 20 folk dishes that were popular in ancient times.

The opening event featured an operetta called Your Sun Shines performed by 100 folk artists. The operetta portrayed the social life of Jeddah residents of the past based on mutual support and cooperation, how later generations drifted away from the ways of their forefathers, and then how the sun started shining again over Jeddah with its heritage achievements under UNESCO.

The organizing committee expects over 1 million visitors. Those who spoke at the opening function included Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Saleh Kamel, Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras and SCTA Director General in Makkah Muhammad Al-Omri.

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Muscat Fest thrills visitors on 1st day

Oman Daily Observer – 16 January, 2015 – The 15th version of Muscat Festival was launched yesterday under the theme “Oman Thrills” and continues up to November 14th, 2015. This year’s version is characterised by wide international participation and mixing authenticity and modernity.

Mohsen bin Mohammed al Shaikh, Chairman of Muscat Municipality, Head of the Organising Committee said that many new events and programmes were introduced this year, such as the specialised exhibitions, ice village, interactive village, the dinosaurs village, the marine craft festival, in addition to permanent events, such as the cultural village, the consumer products exhibition and the international art and culture exhibition.

This year’s festival takes place at a number of locations namely Al Amerat Park, Al Naseem Park, Al Seeb Beach, Al Medina Theatre, Oman Automobiles Club, Tours of Oman paths, Omani Society for Writers and Literati, Oman Photography Association, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Cultural Club.

Al Amerat Park will be open for the public and visitors from 4 pm to 11 pm all the days of the week except for the weekends (from 4 pm to 12 midnight). Entry tickets may be obtained from the kiosks at the gates against 200 baisa for adult and 100 baisa for children.

Al Naseem Public Park will host the Consumer Exhibition, which includes nearly 420 shops to sell miscellaneous products and goods.

It will also host the Dinosaurs Village, which has 15 fixed and mobile miniatures of dinosaurs of different sizes. They will be associated with audio and visual effects.

Al Amerat Park will have a number of events including the Science and Innovation City, organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Ice Village, which has ice mountains, in addition to corners for ice skating and walkways that includes 30 ice sculptures and cartoon characters.

The sports events, which will be held during morning and evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays at Al Hail Beach and Oman Automobiles Club, include water sports, in collaboration with the Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) and Oman Sail, the laser boat race, the aerobics, camel race, horse race, tent pegging, Ardha (Omani traditional equestrian sport) and Muscat Marathon.

Many cultural events and nights will be held as well as marking Nizwa as Capital of the Islamic Culture. The events include Arab sculpture forum, photography competition and many lectures as well.

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e-learning Holy Quran site launched

Oman Daily Observer – 15 January, 2015 – The Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs launched here yesterday a very helpful e-learning of the Holy Quran as part of its website (http://www.mara.gov.om/).

All one needs to do is to have a personal computer/laptop, a broadband Internet connection DSL/Cable, and a computer headset to start learning the Holy Quran via Internet courses including: reading Quran course with proper recitation, by following the Tajweed rules, and Tafseer.

There are many tools to make the user a knowledgeable person. Online Quran teaching has become the most feasible way for Arab and non-Arab lovers of the Holy Quran.

E Learning Holy Quran provides an opportunity to learn the rules of Tajweed. Now students of any age in any country can learn to recite the Holy Quran at their own schedule and time table. Parents can now watch their children learning the Holy Quran in front of their eyes.

Considering the importance of recitation of the Holy Quran in daily life, the ministry through this initiative encourages all Muslims to make it a regular habit!For this, the ministry has endowed the users with great teaching facilities for the recitation and memorisation of the entire Quran.

Equally important is the fact that true recitation comes not only with proper pronunciation and etiquette but also in understanding its real meaning. This online Quran learning application equips users with the skill to read the Quran correctly and enhance their ability to memorise Quran.

One can do this by just sitting in front of the computer without leaving one’s home. Recorded recitation by the famous reciters of Quran is available on the website.

It is important to mention here that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) states: “The best among you are those who learn the Quran and teach it”. As a result more than nine millions people have memorised the whole Quran as of now and this number is growing each year.

The recent wave of Islamic awakening around the world has added a new momentum to learning and teaching the Holy Quran through various means including online learning which is on the rise rapidly.

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Multiple festivals to boost Saudi tourism

Arab News – 14 January, 2015 – Coinciding with the annual school vacation throughout the Kingdom, the tourism development councils and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) announced the launch of different tourism festivals and events in various provinces.

SCTA and other agencies have completed their preparations for these tourism fairs, that include social events, heritage, sports, amusement and cultural activities to suit all segments of society, sources said.

“The SCTA’s partnership with provincial organizations resulted in this unique quantity of festivals and events, amounting to a total of 29, that will be held across the country. Each year, we improve and advance these tourism festivals, and with each year that passes, they become more successful,” sources close to the commission.

According to plans, the Makkah Province will have three festivals — Jeddah Historic Festival, Souk Okaz Festival and Spring Festival in Taif in addition to a desert camp in Makkah.

The Madinah Province will not fall short of events either, with a flower festival, a desert festival in Yanbu and a third festival in Al-Ula, while Riyadh, the Eastern Province and the Qassim Province will also have their own fairs during the current vacation. Vacation festivals in the Northern Border Province will include a falcon jamboree in Turaif, a winter festival in Rafha and a winter tourism fair in Arar.

In partnership with its provincial subsidiaries, the SCTA will help promote tourism in these regions, and will offer marketing, technical and financial support to organize them. As part of the government’s efforts to boost the tourism sector in the country, the SCTA will arrange different media programs to visit local tourism sites across the Kingdom.

Experts in the sector estimated a turnout of more than 5 million visitors to these festivals, thanks to a significant drop in temperatures at some of the public’s favorite tourism destinations.

According to tourism expert Ibrahim Rashid, Jeddah will greatly benefit this year from better weather conditions during winter.

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Sharjah tourism aims at greater success

Gulf Today – 14 January, 2015 – Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) said the Sharjah Water Festival in its eighth year had been a resounding success.

“Over the past eight years the Festival has reaffirmed the pride of place Sharjah has come to enjoy as a leading tourist destination known for its popular international festivals that attract tourists and families from across the region and the world,” he said.

“The SCTDA is sparing no effort to promote Sharjah’s tourism product by offering world-class services, events and activities throughout the emirate, making Sharjah an unforgettable stay and experience for all our guests,” Al Midfa added. The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority on Tuesday hosted a special ceremony in Sharjah to honour the partners and sponsors of Sharjah Water Festival 2014, which was held from Dec.17 to 20.

The ceremony was organised in the presence of HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, SCTDA, and a number of dignitaries, Sharjah government officials and local and regional media.

Thanking the emirate’s leadership, Al Midfa said: “We couldn’t have achieved this success without the vision and wise leadership of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the constant support of Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.” Al Midfa said the Authority is committed to take its success further by constantly exploring new ways to excel and develop the various festivals and events it hosts every year.

The authority has been taking part in top international tourism exhibitions and industry events to showcase Sharjah as a leading global tourism destination and target new tourism markets around the world, he added.

The Director General said the Authority is delighted to honour all the hard work and efforts that went into making the Sharjah Water Festival a success, and added that the Festival was successful in attracting thousands of families to Al Majaz Waterfront and the Khalid Lagoon. The event featured numerous family fun activities and world-class performances such as the extreme water sports, as well as fireworks over four nights.

As always, the Grand Finale of the UIM F1 H20 World Powerboat Championship, the Sharjah Grand Prix, was the highlight of the Festival, Al Midfa added. On behalf of the SCTDA, Al Midfa thanked all Sharjah government departments, private sector organisations, event sponsors, and members of media for their continuous support and cooperation in presenting a bright image of Sharjah before the world. He also commended the SCTDA staff and volunteers for their efforts that contributed to the success of Sharjah Water Festival 2014.

The Sharjah Water Festival was distinctly different this year with several new features, entertainment and family fun activities, especially Extreme Water Sports.

Sixteen highly skilled performers combined their amazing skills and prowess with machine to use jet skis, kiteboards, fly boards and speedboats, creating a breathtaking spectacle in the waters of Khalid Lagoon. The Sand Sculptures section was another major attraction at Al Majaz Waterfront especially for children.

The Sharjah Water Festival turned into a huge carnival every night with Roaming Musicians Shows that added to the celebrations. Mouj, the SWF mascot, was particularly popular with the children.

The Heritage Village at Al Majaz Waterfront celebrating the best of Emirati traditions and heritage was another big draw. Divided into three sections, the Heritage Village helped visitors discover the rich heritage of the UAE and explore and experience the popular culture, customs and traditions of the ancestors.

The high point of the Sharjah Water Festival was the grand finale of the UIM H20 F1 World Powerboat Championship, which took place on 18 and 19 December at the Khalid Lagoon.

The Sharjah Grand Prix once again attracted sports enthusiasts from all over the country and the region. Veteran driver Philippe Chiappe representing team China took the first place in the Sharjah Grand Prix and was crowned the 2014 World Champion.

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Oman Air promotes authentic Omani cuisine

Saudi Gazette – 15 January, 2015 – OMAN Air’s Catering Business Unit, under the leadership of General Manager – Oman Air Catering Jassim Al Balushi, recently hosted a high profile event at which three of Oman’s leading chefs presented a range of delicious new dishes. Each dish combined traditional Omani cooking with the latest global culinary trends, and was created with the expert support of Oman Air’s in-house chefs.

The chefs created a range of soups, salads, appetizers, main courses and desserts which were not just pleasing to the palate but also had an overwhelming visual appeal.

The guest of honor at this special event was Mohsin Khamis Al Balushi, Advisor to Ministry of Commerce & Industry Board Member of Oman Air. He was joined by senior managers from Oman Air and officials from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, which is overseeing the Sultanate of Oman’s presence at the forthcoming Expo Milano 2015. Expo Milano 2015 will provide a global platform for increasing awareness of Omani culture and heritage, including its distinctive cuisine.

Al Balushi said: “Authentic Omani cuisine deserves global recognition and this event has been an important step towards achieving that goal. I have been amazed by the outstanding skill and creativity shown by each of the guest chefs, as well as the expertise of Oman Air’s own catering specialists. My thanks go to all who took part and whose hard work made this event such a success. The efforts of Jassim Al Balushi and his team in unconditionally supporting the global promotion of Omani cuisine are particularly appreciated.”

Andrew Walsh, Chief Officer Service Delivery, added: “Oman Air has, for many years now, both inflight and within our airport lounges, been proud to showcase Omani cuisine to millions of air travelers from around the world. We are therefore delighted to have played a further part in raising the global profile of Omani culinary achievement and it has been a pleasure to offer the support of Oman Air Catering to these most enterprising of Omani chefs.”

Al Balushi added: “We look forward to seeing Omani food gain even greater recognition at Expo Milano 2015, and to taking Omani cuisine to many more destinations as Oman Air’s network continues to grow.”

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New Omani e-passport to make travel easy

Oman Daily Observer – 15 January, 2015 – The Royal Oman Police (ROP) will today launch the new Omani e-passport under the auspices of Sayyid Hamoud bin Faisal al Busaidy, Minister of Interior.

Brig Abdalla bin Mohammed al Jabri, Director-General of Human Resources, who is also the head of the Omani e-Passport Project Directive Committee, said the passport has an electronic chip which contains readable data as well as fingerprints, digital photo and signature of the passport’s holder thus making it easier for Omanis to travel across the world.

With a high-resolution digital photo the e-passport meets the specifications of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and it will be linked to the electronic gate system, Brig Al Jabri said, adding that the registration for the new passport will be conducted through mobile units or by filling forms which can be obtained from the ROP website.

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QA to launch direct Doha-Sofia flights in March

The Peninsula – 15 January, 2015 – Qatar Airways (QA) will launch direct flights from Doha to Sofia in March. The destination is currently served by the airline via Bucharest. The launch will add an additional choice and more options for passengers when travelling to any of the 146 destinations around the globe served by QA from Hamad International Airport.

Frequencies are also increasing from Doha to Ankara, which will be served by a six weekly flight connections instead of five from March 1, while capacity to Zagreb will increase with an additional direct flight per week, increasing the frequency from four to five direct flights.

“QA is expanding rapidly, not only in terms of new destinations and our network offering, but also with the service we offer. Complementing our five-star service are our transfer facilities at Hamad International Airport, coupled with the experience of flying on board one of the youngest fleets in the industry,” said Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, QA.

The further expansion by the airline into Eastern Europe follows news that QA is increasing the frequency on its Doha to Istanbul Sabiha Gِkçen Airport to a double-daily service from March 29.

QA currently operates to Istanbul Sabiha Gِkçen Airport, Istanbul Ataturk Airport and Ankara.

With the launch of additional frequencies, passengers from the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa can take advantage of additional connections to all these European cities via Doha.

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Oman woos India travellers for weddings, MICE tourism

Oman Daily Observer – 15 January, 2015 – In order to promote Oman as a MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) and Wedding destination in the Indian market, the Ministry of Tourism recently organised a networking evening in Mumbai. Over 70 representatives from the FMCG, insurance, banking and healthcare sectors attended the event where Oman’s diverse landscape, rich heritage and culture, state-of-the-art infrastructure, museums and shopping options were showcased.

The evening also saw a panel discussion being held on the ‘USP of an emerging destination for organizing MICE Events and Destination Weddings’. The panelists consisted of Lubaina Sheerazi, India Representative, Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman, Sushil Wadhwa, Founder & CMD, Platinum World Group, Hriday Daswaney, Director, Viwaha Dreamz and Bhupesh Kumar, Senior Vice-President, Aon Global Insurance Brokers Pvt. Ltd while the moderator of the session was Sheldon Santwan, Editor, TravelBiz Monitor.

“Oman is a short-haul destination being just three hours away from India and is an unexplored, quaint and beautiful destination in the Middle East. It is a destination for the discerning and evolved travelers who want to experience something uniquely different. Oman has a beautiful communion of modernism and old-world charm that gives the country its unique character,” said Sheerazi.

Talking about why Oman will appeal to the corporates in India, Wadhwa said, “Many corporates who have done several international trips are looking for new destinations and Oman meets this criterion and also offers some new experiences. Good venues to host events and great connectivity with India make Oman an ideal destination for corporates.”

Daswaney who spoke about destination weddings said, “Every family that is planning a wedding is looking to do something different. This is the main factor why families are moving towards destination weddings. They are trying to find new destinations where people have never been to as guests lose interest in coming for a wedding if it’s a destination they have already travelled. For guests it becomes an all-in-one holiday where they may even extend a couple of days before or after the wedding and enjoy the destination. From that perspective Oman is brilliant for weddings as it gives the entire “new feel” to destination weddings.”

As a country filled with beautiful mountains, valleys, caves, deserts and beaches, Oman is a great destination for adventure lovers. Different regions in Oman are popular for varied activities. Muscat can be explored for dolphin watching, sailing, golfing, shopping; Nizwa boasts of forts and traditional souks; Daymaniyat Islands are famous for snorkeling and scuba diving; Masirah Island is an excellent place for kite surfing; Jabal Shams (also known as Grand Canyon of Middle East) is famous for hiking and trekking trips; Salalah has some good places for bird watching while sand dune bashing, quad biking can be experienced in Sharqiyah Sands.

Oman has several world-renowned hotel brands that are located along the length and breadth of the country. The destination is well connected with India as many airlines like Oman Air, Air India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, IndiGo and Air India Express offer direct flights. These airlines connect Muscat with 11 Indian cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Oman visa too can be easily obtained within four to five working days.

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Saudi Tourist Commission restoring 40 historical buildings

Arab News – 11 January, 2015 – Nearly 40 buildings are currently being restored in old Jeddah as part of plans to transform the area into a tourist destination, said Mohammed Al-Omari of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

He said significant developments are under way in the area, noting that the number of restoration licenses issued by the Jeddah municipality this year exceeds those of previous years. According to Al-Omari, the recognition of old Jeddah as a UNESCO world heritage site and the increased support of the municipality and governorate has motivated homeowners to participate in the development. He said plans include transforming old historic buildings into restaurants, hotels, shops, and other attractive tourist sites.

“Two historic buildings in the area will be rehabilitated as part of the plan in the coming days,” he said, adding that the SCTA has also transformed one of the old buildings in the district into its permanent office.

Talal Abdullah Samarkandi, head of committee of engineering offices at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a comprehensive strategic plan has been developed to address fires and other risks faced by buildings in old Jeddah.

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Gulf ‘can become MICE hub’

Gulf Daily News – 11 January, 2015 – GCC countries are in an excellent position to become a global meetings hub because of their growing trade activity, central geographical location, and increasing status as prospecting spots for business travellers, according to a study by management consultancy Strategy&, formerly known as Booz & Company.

The Strategy& study identifies the meetings sector as one of the most lucrative niches within the tourism industry since business people who travel to a country to attend a trade show or conference tend to spend far more than other travellers.

A country that positions itself as a good place for large-scale meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) can attract a high volume of foreign business visitors.

The study reveals that currently, only about five per cent of travellers in any given year fall into the MICE category, also known as meetings tourism market.

Travellers in the MICE category are seen spending more than other tourists, staying at luxury hotels where meetings often take place and dining at expensive restaurants, making them more desirable customers.

MICE tourists account for about $ 11 of every $ 100 that tourists spend ‘“ a disproportionately high figure compared to the 5pc of tourist arrivals they represent.

The study highlights the steady progress that GCC has made as a destination for business travel.

Total business-tourist arrivals reached around 10 million in 2012, representing a 5pc annual growth from 2009.

The proportion of business tourists as a whole is higher, probably closer to one-third of all tourist arrivals.

This validates the fact that business travellers in the GCC represent an unusually high percentage of total tourist arrivals compared to the rest of the world.

‘Despite the potential of the meetings market, most emerging economies have not developed a good understanding of this part of the tourism industry, nor do they have a well-considered strategy for getting a larger share of the pie,’ Strategy& senior partner Richard Shediac said.

‘These gaps have contributed to a situation in which emerging markets like GCC lag far behind the West in terms of MICE market share.

‘Only about 2pc of all the exhibitions in the world take place in the Middle East, and only about 4pc takes place in South America. By contrast, Europe and North America, combined, are home to more than 80pc of the world’s exhibitions, according to the most recent data. However, this imbalance presents an opportunity for emerging markets including the GCC to attract a large share of MICE business, if they improve their tactics in the meetings market,’ added Mr Shediac.

According to the study, for GCC countries to tap into opportunities in the meetings market, it is important for government and policy makers to have a clear understanding of the MICE tourism ecosystem, which comprises of four parts.

The first is the basic set of MICE products and a clear economic strength that is likely to attract MICE tourists to a country. MICE tourism tends to be often correlated with the level of trade in a country and built around a country’s trade and economic activities.

Regions looking to increase their MICE-related tourism need meeting-worthy facilities such as convention or exhibition centres, hotel meeting spaces, or unconventional venues like museums, historic buildings or universities.

The second consists of MICE services, both core and ancillary. Core services consist mainly of intermediaries such as professional congress organisers (PCOs) — firms that arrange meetings for international associations and destination management companies (DMCs) that bid for meetings, plan events and handle on-site logistics.

The third part is composed of the MICE sector-enablers, which refer to a variety of different factors involving planning, marketing, sales and research. Planning represents a particularly important factor as countries usually tie their MICE plans to their long-term national tourism strategy.

The ecosystem’s fourth element is system enablers which refer to a nation’s handling of security, health and safety, environmental sustainability, and infrastructure. These enablers are important to a country’s overall ability to compete for international business.

The study outlines a few challenges that are hindering the GCC’s ability to emerge as a meetings destination.

These include: (i) a higher concentration of MICE tourists from other GCC countries which limit the possibility of longer stays; (ii) a limited market for congresses (the exchanges of ideas organised by international associations) due to inadequate local participation in such associations; (iii) lack of unconventional venues; (iv) lack of internationally active intermediaries like the PCOs and DMCs; (v) poor public transportation systems which impact accessibility to the venues; (vi) most GCC countries do not provide ancillary leisure products.

In addition to these problems, there are more systemic issues linked to sector-system enablers, such as the difficulty of obtaining visas in the GCC.

Of the 140 countries analysed by the World Economic Forum study on Travel & Tourism Competitiveness, all GCC countries except the UAE were in the bottom-quartile in terms of the restrictiveness of its visa policies.

‘Despite the start that some GCC countries have made with their MICE initiatives, they can do more to deepen their involvement in this lucrative tourism subsector. Many of the challenges are amenable to policy changes and may disappear in the face of better practices.

It is therefore, important to use a structured approach that will allow the GCC to develop the great potential of its meetings tourism business and win a greater share of the meetings market,’ added Mr Shediac.

The study suggests the use of a three-step approach which include: (i) assessing the MICE tourism ecosystem; (ii) forging a strategy to win more MICE business; and (iii) developing a governance model for MICE tourism efforts.

‘If GCC countries are able to follow this approach and do things faster and skillfully, the region’s meetings business will see a sharp increase in the next few years,’ Mr Shediac said.

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Gulf Air starts new services to Saudi

The Peninsula – 11 January, 2015 – The Kingdom of Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, launched the airline’s direct operations to Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Regional Airport (ELQ, Gassim) and Ta’if Regional Airport (TIF, Taif) from yesterday with four flights per week to each destination.

At a press conference held in Riyadh in collaboration with the airline’s Saudi Arabia general sales agent Al Tayyar Travel and Tourism Group, the airline celebrated the upcoming strengthening and expansion of its network which will see its existing Saudi operations to Dammam, Riyadh, Medina and Jeddah supplemented by the addition of services to Gassim and Taif, taking the total number of Saudi Arabian destinations serviced by the airline to 6.

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New tourism law approved in Saudi Arabia

Arab News – 11 January, 2015 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has recently got the Cabinet’s approval for the new tourism regulations which aim to streamline the facilities and services related to tourism in general and to guide their activities besides protecting tourist interests. The new regulations also enhance the SCTA’s role in the tourism sector giving it more authority to conduct its activities.

The new system stipulates that general tourism locations such as beaches are protected sites owned by the government where the state can make direct investments for tourism development or by leasing to the private sector through auctions.

The SCTA is authorized to make suggestions for the development of any government-owned land by the private sector following the approval of the relevant authorities. The rules also authorize the SCTA to lay down criteria to regulate tourism events, and develop, support and promote them for marine, agricultural, health, medical, business or wildlife tourism and others.

The new system also accords the SCTA the authority to determine the criteria for the publication of any printed or electronic material including articles, books, maps, guide books, pictures or posters to promote tourism. It also stipulates that anyone who plans to undertake tourism services such as providing accommodation facilities, organize tours, set up tour and travel agencies, open offices for reservation and marketing of tourist accommodation or supplying tourist guide service must obtain a license from the SCTA after meeting the conditions and providing the necessary guarantees specified in the new regulations.

The regulations also permit SCTA to encourage the establishment of societies in the field of tourist shelters, trades and other tourism related activities including grading, supervising and conducting inspections besides taking penal measures against violators of the new regulations.

Additionally, businessmen dealing in tourism and tour operators will have to register all details about their employees with the SCTA and update the data every three months. It also requires all private education and training institutes that conduct tourism related programs to adhere to the standards laid down by the SCTA.

The SCTA will also have to set up a tourism data center in collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and other related departments to compile all information related to the Kingdom’s tourism sector.

All businessmen and operators in the tourism service sector will have to reorganize their services in line with the new system within a year of implementing the new system which replaces the Royal Decree on Hotels Regulations dated April 23, 1975.

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Oman launches new travel packages to boost tourism

Khaleej Times – 10 January, 2015 – Moving forward to attract more tourists during the upcoming tourism season, Oman Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with Oman Air, the national carrier airline of Oman, recently held a promotional event at the Conrad Hotel Dubai.

The event aimed to reinforce the joint venture between both parties to promote Oman as the leading tourist destination for short breaks. The session included informative and interactive presentations on Oman’s tourism infrastructure and facilities along with the announcement of attractive and cost-effective holiday packages designed for GCC visitors, including luxury hotel stays and return tickets from Oman Air.

Oman has emerged as one of the top destinations among GCC travellers for short breaks, registering a 17 per cent increase in GCC citizens’ numbers at the end of the third quarter. According to the latest statistics by the National Centre for Statistics and Information, over 701,311 inbound tourists from the GCC visited the Sultanate until September 2014. The proactive measures undertaken by the Omani government to sustain the seamless expansion in the country’s tourism sectors have complemented this growth. The country has witnessed a spurt in developing activities in its infrastructural facilities, including airports, roads and rail networks, and maritime sectors.

Salem Adi Al Mamari, director-general of Tourism Promotion, Oman Ministry of Tourism, said: “Compared with other countries, Oman offers a wide range of variety in its geographical features, making it an attractive destination for all-year-round tourism. From ancient forts to most modern hotels, beaches to mountains, cuisines to spas, and recreation to relaxation, we have something to satisfy the needs of even the most discerning travellers. Besides, the Sultanate boasts of the world-class airports, wide network of highways, superior ports to make the travel inside and outside the country more smoothly. We have partnered with Oman Air to offer economical and interesting travel packages to attract potential travellers to see our country as well as remind the existing travellers to visit again.”

Oman Air, the national airlines of Oman, were present as the official airline for the Sultanate of Oman. Underlining the airline’s commitment to service excellence, Oman Air’s Business Class seat on board its A330 fleet has been voted by Skytrax as the Best Business Class Seat in the world for two years in a row, in 2011 and 2012. Oman Air passengers can now experience a whole new level of on-ground service with Oman Air’s premium front-end check-in facility exclusively for first class and business class guests, besides Oman Air’s Premium Lounges located at Muscat International Airport.

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