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26 Jan, 2015

Turkish writer pens book on Islamic Culinary Culture

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 26 January 2015 (06 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines to go to the story.



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Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.


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.




Students Of HELP University Malaysia Hit US$12,000 ASEAN Stock Challenge Jackpot

BANGKOK, Jan 20 (Bernama) — Calling themselves “StocksElite”, three students from HELP University Malaysia convinced the panel of judges of the CIMB ASEAN Stock Challenge 2014 Grand Finale that the trading strategies they used at the virtual stock competition were the best. They went home with the Grand Prize of US$12,000, defeating university peers from four other ASEAN countries at the event held at The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) yesterday.

It was also a nice surprise for Cambodia who clinched the first runner up despite being on the Challenge for the first time. The team, Dark Rangers of Zaman University Cambodia took home the cash prize of US$8,000. FATA of Nanyang Technological University Singapore won the third place with a cash prize of US$5,000, while fourth and fifth places went to Aragaki Yui of Prasetya Mulya Business School Indonesia and Seng of Thammasat University Thailand who went home with US$3,000 and US$1,500 respectively.

Previously, the CIMB ASEAN Stock Challenge champion title was won by Indonesia for two consecutive years, in 2013 and 2014.

The CIMB ASEAN Stock Challenge is the only cross-border simulation stock trading platform that provides hands-on learning opportunity for university students in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia. The 2014 Challenge was conducted over three rounds. First, each registered team received US$80,000 in virtual start-up capital to invest real-time in securities listed on Bursa Malaysia, the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX), Singapore Exchange (SGX) and the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) from 6 to 24 October. Next, the top three most profitable teams in terms of Net Realised Percentage in each country were invited to submit their trading strategies. The team with the best strategy would represent their country at the Grand Finale. Yesterday, the five National Champions presented their strategies at the SET. SET president Mrs Kesara Manchusree was the guest of honour at the event.

The panel of experts who evaluated the teams’ investment strategies looked at investment knowledge, analytical skills, and judgement. They comprised Alan Inn, Managing Director of Regional Retail Broking, CIMB Investment Bank Bhd Malaysia; Harry Supoyo, President Director of CIMB Securities Indonesia; Song Seng Wun, Director of CIMB Research Singapore, Siripong Sutharoj, Deputy CEO of CIMB Securities Thailand; and Chakkaphan Tirasirichai, Vice President, Marketing Support Department of The Stock Exchange of Thailand.

CIMB Group Chief People Officer and Head of Group Corporate Resources Hamidah Naziadin who gave away the prizes said: “It is no mean feat to become a National Champion, much less a Regional Champion. The soundness of trading strategies is important because our goal is to uncover the brightest investment minds among university students. We want to grow people who can make financial profits through proper research, sound risk-taking strategy, thoughtful and informed decision-making, and timely execution, and not luck or gambling! With 1,395 teams competing this year, being the Champion is indeed a feat.”

“The CIMB ASEAN Stock Challenge is all about innovation in learning and growing talent for the ASEAN capital markets. The development of entrepreneurship and technical expertise in the field of capital markets is critical for every country. I would say that every participant of the CIMB ASEAN Stock Challenge is a winner for having taken up the learning opportunity. With Malaysia taking on the chair for ASEAN in 2015, and with the Asean Economic Community (AEC) becoming a reality soon, I sincerely believe that the ASEAN Stock Challenge is in sync with the AEC, which is basically about having a common market for greater competitiveness,” added Hamidah.

More information about the CIMB ASEAN Stock Challenge can be found at https://stockchallenge.itradecimb.com/.

Example: If the team starts with a total virtual capital of US$80,000 and ends the competition with US$200,000, the Net Realised Percentage will be 150% (based on the calculation of (200,000 – 80,000) / 80,000).

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Pelindo I To Expand and Modernize Five Indonesia Ports in 2015

Pekanbaru, Riau (Antara News), 25 January 2015 – PT Pelabuhan Indonesia (Pelindo) I will expand and modernize five of its ports this year.

The five ports included Malahayati port in the regency of Aceh Besar, Belawan port of Medan in North Sumatra, Kuala Tanjung in the regency of Batubara, North Sumatra, Dumai port in Dumai in Riau.

They are part of 24 ports to be built and expanded all over the country until 2019 under the Sea Toll Road development program, the state port operator for western part of the country said.

“The five port project is included in our strategic program this year,” Pelindo I chief spokesman Eriansyah said here on Sunday.

PT Pelindo I also have a number of other ports including Bagansiapiapi in the regency of Rokan Hilir, Riau and Gunung Sitoli on the island of Nias in the Indian ocean , North Sumatra.

“The two ports, however, are not included in the expansion and modernization program this year,” Eriansyah said.

By the end of 2014, the transport ministry handed over expansion of 15 commercial ports this year to state port operators including Pelindo I, Pelindo II, Pelindo III and Pelindo IV.

The transport ministry is focused more to expansion of non commercial ports in isolated area to facilitate transport.

“The policy is to improve accessibility and to accelerate infrastructure development to end isolation of outer islands and backward ares,” Hadi M Djuraid, a special staff at the transport ministry said.

Further development of the small ports would be handed over to the four state port operators, Hadi said

He said the transport ministry has set aside Rp492.571 billion in the 2015 state budget for the development and modernization of the 15 ports this year to be carried out by the four state port operators.

Currently the country has 1,241 seaports and 112 of them are under the four state port operators and the rest are under the transport ministry through its Technical Executive Units (UPT).

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Indonesia to host disability access conference

Gorontalo (ANTARA News) 22 January 2015 – Indonesia will host the third General Election for Disability Access (AGENDA) South Asia Conference to discuss the political roles and rights of the disabled, revealed a committee members press statement, Thursday.

The conference will be held on January 28 to 29, 2015, and aims to seek a solution to the challenges dealt by the disabled to access the general election system, Yustitia Arief affirmed.

Delegations from all South Asian countries will participate in the AGENDA regional dialogue.

“Most of the 11 million people with disabilities in Indonesia cannot participate in the general elections due to the social stigmatization and discrimination,” Yustitia said, adding that the national regulations and facilities do not support the political rights of the disabled.

The participation rate of the disabled in Indonesia is very low, whereas this community has political rights at par with other citizens according to Law Number 19/ 2011.

The law also states that every citizen has an obligation to facilitate the rights of the disabled, including obtaining protection and service during the general elections.

The regional dialogue is held by the AGENDA committee in collaboration with the Indonesian General Elections Commission (KPU) and the Association of World Election Bodies (AWEB).

AGENDA was established in 2011 by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Voting Education Network for People (JPPR), and the Indonesian People with Disabilities Association (PPDI).

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Firefly’s RM88 All-in One-way Promotional fare Kicks Off

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 (Bernama) — Firefly Airlines is offering a promotion of a limited RM88 all-in one-way fare for all its domestic destinations for the Chinese New Year holidays kicking off today until Feb 8. The travel period will be from now until Oct 24 this year, Firefly Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidary of Malaysia Airlines, said in a statement here today.

It said tickets for Firefly’s international destinations such as Medan, Batam and Pekanbaru in Indonesia, Singapore, Koh Samui and Krabi in Thailand are being offered with fares starting from RM88 to RM288, all-in one-way fare.

Its Chief Executive Officer Ignatius Ong said the Year of the Goat’s RM88 promotion was one of the many ways the company was rewarding its customers for their patronage. “We hope the affordable fares will enable many more to come aboard and experience flying the Firefly way,” he added.

He also said the company this year will be receiving four new aircraft to add to the company’s fleet, which would allow it to add frequency to existing routes and introduce new destinations.

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Horse-Drawn Buggies For Cruise Tourists In Oman Soon

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 22 (NNN-ONA) – Cruise tourists arriving at Oman’s Port Sultan Qaboos (PSQ), will get an opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of Muttrah Corniche, punctuated by the clip clop of hooves. The Ministry of Tourism (MoT), along with the Royal Oman Police (ROP), travel firms and local horse owners, are bringing the traditional mode of transport to foreign tourists.

On Wednesday, a stallion pulled a buggy carrying tourists, an MoT representative and members of the media, on a 20-minute trial ride of the corniche. This was to test the horse’s tolerance to traffic, among several other factors. Once up and running, the ride will take cruise tourists from PSQ to the Riyam Park roundabout and back for a fare that hasn’t been decided yet.

Besides MoT and ROP, Travel Point and Travel City are partners in this initiative.

Salim Sultan al Abri, an expert on tourism initiatives in MoT said, “We are still in the trial phase. Several elements need to be considered, like the horses adjusting to the traffic, rains, slippery roads, speed etc. Till now, we have met all our estimates, and the horse too performed well in the traffic today.”

The carriage ride will give tourists a panoramic view of the sea, the promenade and the historic Muttrah Souq. “The horses are well trained. Initially, we plan to have five horses and an equal number of trainers.”

Suleiman al Abri, a stud farm owner associated with the project said, “Our horses are sturdy and powerful.”

Suleiman, who also owns the Bait al Safa Museum in Al Hamra, Dakhliyah, said, the carriage drivers are properly trained to deal with the animals. “Having grown up with horses, they well understand their behaviour, health and moods.”

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Maritime Heritage Exhibition Opens At Kuwait National Museum

KUWAIT, Jan 18 (NNN-KUNA) – As part of the 21st Qurain Cultural Festival, a maritime heritage exhibition opened at Kuwait National Museum, Saturday evening.

The exhibition showcases a collection of relics, relating to marine life and professions, owned by Nawaf Al-Asfour, Assistant Secretary General of the National Council for Culture, Art and Letters (NCCAL), Shehab Al-Shehab, told reporters.

NCCAL, the organiser of Al-Qurain Festival, seeks to encourage owners of relics, to show their personal collections at the National Museum, he said.

“The Museum, being visited by nearly 7,000 students a year, will host similar personal exhibitions, including a documentary one by Fahad Al-Azmi,” Al-Shehab revealed.

“It is a state strategy to highlight the role of individuals, in the conservation of archaeological objects, under the recommendations of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO),” he noted.

Al-Shehab added that, Kuwait is a state party to the International Convention on Protection of Non-Material Cultural Heritage, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2003.

On his part, Al-Asfour said, the three-day exhibition shows old artifacts, mainly handed down to him from his father and ancestors, who were seamen.

“It exhibits maritime relicts I have bought in the recent years; these include tools of fishing, shipbuilding, diving and pearl diving, as well as, seabed maps and documents on diving and pearl trading” he pointed out.

“The exhibits also include maquettes of old ships of various types and sizes, which were used in pearling, travel and water shipping,” Al-Asfour said, noting that, he took part in similar overseas exhibitions, such as in Qatar in 2011, Saudi Arabia in 2012, and in China last year.

The festival, being held between Jan 5 and 25, under the auspices of the Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, has a 50-item agenda of literary, cultural and artistic events.

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Kuwait Holds Camel Racing Contests

KUWAIT, Jan 19 (NNN-KUNA) – As part of the Fifth National Heritage Festival, sponsored by Kuwaiti Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the camel racing competitions will start on Tuesday, with a large participation from Kuwait and other Arab Gulf countries. The event, which will be held at Sabah Al-Ahmad Heritage Village in Al-Salmi, comprises a range of 40 diverse contests, of six camel categories.

In a statement to KUNA, Sheikh Sabah Fahad Al-Naser Al-Sabah, the deputy chief of the National Heritage Festival’s competitions committee, said that, the contests include all categories of camels for the first time. The event will begin with the white-camel contest, which runs over five days, followed by the rest of the contests, he said.

He noted that, the camel racing competitions have attracted the largest number of participants. “These competitions are considered a significant part of our heritage,” he said.

Sheikh Sabah Fahad underlined the preparedness of all committees for the contests, which will be watched by camel lovers across the GCC countries. He unveiled that some of the camel contests are allocated for Kuwaitis only.

On other competitions, he said, sheep and goat racing contests, which included 19, concluded, while bird racing competitions are still running, expressing his gratitude to all participants.

In a related context, bird of Faisal Al-Noun won the first place in the bird race competition, followed by Mohammad Saadoun Al-Azmi and Yusuf Al-Rashidi.

Badr Mohareb, head of the arbitration committee, said that, the bird racing contests were unexpectedly attractive to a huge number of fans, noting that about seven contests were organised: Four for Kuwaitis and three for GCC contestants. He hailed the patronage of the Amir for the festival, which has become a milestone among all heritage forums in the region, thanking the organising committee for its support.

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Prince Saud Al-Faisal Hails Successful Saudis Colours Forum

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 18 (NNN-SPA) – Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, has praised Saudi Colors Forum in its 3rd session, which has been recently organised by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), here on Dec 14-20, 2014.

He also praised the Forum’s success and well-organisation and stressed the importance of this event in getting citizens acquainted with tourist and historic elements of their home country, especially since it is the largest of its kind, concerning photography and its investment in the marketing of domestic tourism.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal also emphasised that, he felt, during his visit to the forum, the youths’ strong bonds with their homeland and keenness to highlight it at the most beautiful picture. On this occasion, Prince Saud Al-Faisal sent a cable of thanks to the SCTA President, for the exerted great efforts and well organisation.

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Qatar Tourism Authority To Launch Second Desert Caravan Challenge

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 22 (NNN-QNA) – As part of efforts to diversify Qatar’s tourism industry, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), invited adventure lovers to participate in a challenge aimed at reviving the age-old Arab tradition of camel riding.

Qatar News Agency (QNA), reported that, QTA will arrange two camel caravans, for a 12-km endurance ride in Zekreet, west of Qatar on Feb 6 and 7.

Organised in partnership with Qatar Museum Authority, for the second consecutive year, the Desert Caravan Challenge provides participants with an authentic experience, through the revival of one of the age-old sports in Qatar and the Gulf region.

QTA is working to develop this tourism product by adding new creative elements every year.

The caravan will be held in a different region each year. Last year’s challenge was organised in Al Zubarah Fort, while this year’s challenge will be organised in the historical Zekreet region.

The diversification of the tourism products, helps advance the National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030, which is aimed at developing a mature and sustainable tourism sector.

“Our tourism strategy seeks to build a modern and sustainable tourism sector, capable of attracting tourists from all over the world,” Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer, said, in a press release issued by QTA.

“This event undoubtedly contributes to the realisation of this vision, as it diversifies tourism offerings and sheds light on Qatar as a world tourism destination with deep cultural roots.

“The activity promotes prehistoric landmarks and showcases the beauty of the Qatari desert and nature,” he added.

Al Ibrahim said, he expected extensive response from the public to the challenge, noting that QTA built on the success of last year’s challenge, which attracted hundreds of participants.

Open to Qatari citizens and residents over the age of 18, the caravan will set out on Feb 6 and 7, for a 12-km endurance camel ride that will set off from outside the antiquated mosque in Zekreet (House of the Imam) and wind its way through the scenic desert sand to Zekreet Fort, along the western region of Qatar.

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Regions First Street Feast To Launch Abu Dhabi Food Festival

ABU DHABI, Jan.20 (NNN-WAM) — The inaugural Abu Dhabi Food Festival, running from February 5th-21st, will launch with the region’s first Street Feast as a caravan of international and local food trucks serve up excellent cuisine from around the world across the emirate.

The new concept makes up one of three courses of the Abu Dhabi Food Festival, which will also incorporate the annual Gourmet Abu Dhabi event, running from February 11th-20th and the new Emirati Kitchen, being held from February 5th-7th.

This year’s expanded festival has evolved from the highly successful Gourmet Abu Dhabi which was launched in 2009 with the dual aims of raising F&B standards within the emirate and promoting Emirati hospitality and traditions.

Street Feast will run over three successive weekends and take place in Madinat Zayed, the largest town in the Western Region, from February 5th – 7th, before shifting to Al Mubazzarah Park in the emirate’s second city and heritage heartland of Al Ain from February 12th-14th and finally along the Corniche inthe UAE capital from February 19th-21st.

Ten international traders will be coming all the way from the UK especially for the event and will be joined by numerous Emirati street food vendors who will be representing the best of this exciting new food movement, serving a diverse range of dishes reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the emirate.

“Street Feast is a new concept to us here in Abu Dhabi and in fact across the region and is just one direction we are taking to ensure that we stay on top of the latest culinary trends and set new standards of excellence. Partnering with Real Food Festivals, with its wealth of expertise in delivering successful events ensures we have all the right ingredients for an amazing event,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism, Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which is behind the Abu Dhabi Food Festival.

As well as the food, visitors will also be entertained by teams of international chefs sharing their culinary skills and a live music stage featuring contemporary and traditional Emirati artists.

Street Feast on Abu Dhabi Corniche will also attempt to set a new world record by creating the world’s longest shawarma. The current record is set at 42.6 metres, but Fatafeat chef Andrew Mitchell plans to smash that by creating a shawarma 100-metres-long with the help of 300 volunteers.

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Investors Pledge To Continue Investing In Malaysia

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 23 (NNN-Bernama) — The business luncheon hosted by Malaysia on the sidelines of the 45th World Economic Forum here on Thursday garnered overwhelming response with several foreign companies pledging their commitment upfront to continue investing in Malaysia in the longer run.

Government proactiveness, as well as, a conducive business environment were among the key factors that were keeping the investors “happy” in Malaysia.

Royal Vopak Chairman Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer Eelco Hoekstra said the group had always taken a long-term view of their investments. Malaysia, for example has a lot of attributes that sync with their strategy for investment.

“We take a long-term view of our investments in Malaysia and they are based on good governance in Malaysia, as well as, good partners,” he told Malaysian journalists at the luncheon jointly hosted by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Malaysian Investment Development Authority and InvestKL.

The Dutch investor is currently in joint venture with Petronas and Dialog Group to develop an industrial terminal in Pengerang, Johor, which in turn is an integral section of the Petronas Pengerang Integrated Complex.

They are also involved in the RM5 billion Pengerang Deepwater Petroleum Terminal.

Meanwhile, Lafarge Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bruno Lafont said the company also viewed its commitment in Malaysia as long-term investments. “We are in more than 60 countries and Malaysia is one of the largest and has a promising position in the company,” he added.

A world leader in building materials, Lafarge employs 64,000 people in 62 countries.

More than 100 high-level decision making corporates leaders attended the luncheon comprising 55 foreign companies and 39 corporate captains from Malaysia. Among the renowned companies which were present at the business luncheon included General Electric, Barclays, Bata, Huawei, Lippo Group, Hyatt Hotel and Ernst & Young.

The event, which was also graced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, was part of the government’s programme at the WEF to raise Malaysia’s profile as a preferred investment destination in Asean.

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LEAD STORY: Turkish writer pens book on Islamic Culinary Culture

BURSA – Anadolu Agency – Turkish researcher and writer Muhammed Ömür Akkor, whose book “Seljuk Cuisine” was recently selected as one of the best food books in the Gourmand Cookbook Awards, considered the “Nobel Prize of cookbooks,” has completed his research titled “Islamic Cuisine Culture and Foods in the 7th Century and After.”

Akkor said he had worked on the history of food for many years, beginning with Anatolian food cultures and continuing to the Ottoman and Seljuk eras. So far, his book has been translated into three languages.

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Click on the image to get a full list of all the great festivals and events right across Malaysia this year.

He said that while working on the Seljuk period, he came across resources on the cuisine of the Abbasid caliphate era and became increasingly interested in the gastronomic culture of the Islamic world from the 7th-12th centuries.

The book, which Akkor wrote over the course of five years, is set to be published in 50 different countries in May. It will be appearing in seven languages – Turkish, English, German, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic – and perhaps Indonesian at a later date.

Akkor said the book was not a collection of food recipes – but rather a sociological/anthropological study of food’s role in Turkish and Arabic cultures of the time – especially for special events such as weddings, funerals, and religious holidays.

Nevertheless, the book also includes a number of recipes from the eras studied. “The book offers 40 recipes identified from various hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) as well as 40 other foods that have been revised. The book has 80 recipes in total,” Akkor said.

The book also contains information about the rules of hygiene and the importance of diet for Muslims in the eras.

“This is a very important detail. Both Muslims and Turks used to eat twice a day. We see that eating two times a day is very healthy, as well as fasting in the month of Ramadan. It is both a diet and a way to care for the body at the same time,” he said.

Akkor said the book also explores the difference between raw foods and industrial foods. “We can see clearly in the book the health difference of both foods. We need to choose what we eat. We have eaten the same things for the 10,000 years, but it has changed over the last 50 years. This research shows us the healthy foods we have been eating for 10,000 years,” he said.

The author also noted that plates were a very important aspect of cuisine culture at the time, and he prepared a collection of 70 plates from the region between the 7th and 12th centuries – photos of which are included in the book.

Tile masters İbrahim Kuşlu and Aysel Tuna worked with Akkor on the book and the plate collection will be on display at the book’s promotional locations.

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ADB Increases Country Allocation To Tajikistan By $20m In 2015

DUSHANBE, Jan 19 (NNN-ADB) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to boost its assistance to Tajikistan by around $20 million in 2015, raising its full year planned assistance program to $79 million.

“Based on the recent country performance assessment, ADB will increase its annual allocation to Tajikistan by around $20 million,” said C.C. Yu, ADB’s Country Director for Tajikistan. “The final amount may still change subject to further discussions with the government and funding availability.”

The 2015 assistance will be used to support development of the private sector, railways and water resources, and to help strengthen the investment climate.

Out of the planned $79 million, $20 million will be used to boost the quality and efficiency of the country’s technical and vocational education system.

Аnother $20 million is earmarked for the government’s budgetary support program, which will implement a series of reforms aimed at improving the country’s investment climate to promote private investment and create more jobs. This assistance is especially important given an expected decrease in remittances by Tajik migrant workers, as a result of the sharp depreciation of the Russian ruble.

ADB is also preparing a $30 million project to improve water resource management and to strengthen the climate resilience in the Chubek irrigation area, which will help lift farm incomes. Another $9 million is being set aside to prepare a railway project.

Tajikistan joined ADB in 1998 and, to date, ADB has approved total assistance of around $1.3 billion in concessional loans, grants, and technical assistance to the country. The ADB-Tajikistan partnership has promoted social development, upgraded and built new infrastructure, expanded agricultural production, and encouraged regional cooperation and trade under the CAREC Program.

ADB, based in Manila, dedicates itself to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the Asia-Pacific region.

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Egypt starts preparation of largest encyclopedia of noble morals

Tuesday 20 Jan 2015 – Cairo (IINA) – The Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowments said it has initiated the preparation of the first and largest modern encyclopedia of Noble Morals (Makarimul Akhlaq), starting with excerpts from Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in terms of the best morals and ethics.

The ministry said Tuesday, in a statement, that Minister of Endowments Dr. Mohamed Mokhtar Jomaa has assigned the Dawa General Administration, in collaboration with the Central Administration of Al-Siera/Curriculum and Al-Sunnah at the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, to commence the preparation of the encyclopedia.

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EU to ease visa requirements for Moroccans

Wednesday 21 Jan 2015 – Rabat (IINA) – The European Union and Morocco announced on Monday in Brussels the start of discussions to frame two agreements for facilitating the issuance of visas for Moroccans wishing to enter the EU countries, and for future readmission to those countries, Morocco World News reported.

Morocco and the EU have had a ‘Partnership of Mobility’ in place since June 2013, aimed at promoting collaboration between the two sides in managing migration in a comprehensive, balanced, pragmatic and operational way, according to a news release issued by the delegation of EU to Morocco.

The two agreements, one to facilitate mobility and the other to regulate future readmission, come in the context of several cooperation and partnership projects previously signed by Morocco and the EU bloc for achieving mutual benefits for both partners.

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Enormous opportunities for Islamic banking in France

Wednesday 21 Jan 2015 – Dubai (IINA) – Chief Executive Officer of the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance (FAAIF) Camille Silla Paldi said that there are enormous opportunities for Islamic banking in France.

In an article about Islamic finance in France, Ms. Paldi explained that the enormous opportunities for Islamic banking in France are made available thanks to the magnitude of the French financial market, which is the world’s fourth largest economy and the leading financial market in the Eurozone, along with the desire to attract funds from the Gulf and Asia capital, as well as the large number of Muslims in the country”

She noted that her deep knowledge of France makes her certain that Islamic banking will have a widespread acceptance if people are acquainted with the values it bears and shares with other faiths, especially Christianity and Judaism, as well as its ability to strengthen economic growth and the distribution of wealth to all segments of society.

She said that France’s former Finance Minister and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde had earlier called for the dissemination of Islamic finance in France, especially its finance mode based on profit and loss sharing not interest-based mode, which would certainly enhance the real economy.

According to an article by Paldi, published by The EIN Presswire and broadcast by CNN, the first Islamic Sukuk of not more than $ 6 million, which was in the fast food sector, had been issued in 2011. Since then, issuance of Sukuk has remained more modest compared to the wide-ranging opportunities despite the fact that two Sukuk issues followed the first one at a later date.

France has previously adopted legal amendments aimed at facilitating Islamic financial operations and the inclusion of Sukuk in the French stock market. Also, it has developed a special system of taxation to facilitate the work of the Islamic financial institutions. Furthermore, it has enabled the Islamic banks do a lot of operations, including all transactions with the exception of rent-to-own transaction.

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Azerbaijan museum listed in Guinness Book of Records

Sunday 25 Jan 2015 – Baku (IINA) – The world’s first private museum of miniature books, located on the Azerbaijani territory of historical and architectural reserve “Old City”, has found a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest collection of miniature books.

Artist Zarif Salakhova, founder and creator of the museum and chairman of the Azerbaijan Book Society, told Azerbaijan News Agency (APA) that the formation of the collection has been going on for over 30 years and it is still being updated with new specimens.

More than 5,600 miniature books published in 66 countries are placed on 38 glazed cases. The rarest in the exposure of micro-publishers are 4 “Toppan”, Tokyo, Japan: 1 – format 0,75×0,75 mm and 3 – 2×2 mm format, as well as German micro-book: 1 – 2,0×2,9 mm format (Leipzig) and 3 – 3,5×3,5 mm format (Munich). The miniature books depicting activities of national leader Heydar Aliyev are exhibited in the museum. Azerbaijani classics of literature, science and art are also exhibited, in addition to religious books, Russian, Soviet and foreign classics. The oldest and most precious miniature book in the collection is a copy of the Holy Qur’an, dating back to the 18th century.

Some 2,913 of the available copies fully meet all the requirements and standards of miniature books, particularly with regard to the book format, which is not larger than 100×100 mm, conforming to the size format standard of miniature books in the former Soviet Union.

On 21 January 2015, the management team of the Guinness World Records reported that the museum’s application is accepted and that it is recognized as the largest collection of miniature books. Founder of the museum Zarif Salakhova will soon be awarded a Guinness World Records’ certificate.

Previously, the largest collection of miniature book was the collection of Ninkundju R. Vagadiya, who managed to collect 258 different miniature books.

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Bahrain will host forum on green economy

Sunday 18 Jan 2015 – Manama (IINA) – An International Forum on Economy and Green Technologies will be kicked off here on Monday.

The three-day event, which is to be organized by the Bahraini Supreme Council for Environment in collaboration with the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), will shed light on the latest global trends in green economy and technologies and showcase the successful regional and international case studies in this expanding sector.

The forum will bring together key international experts, who are specialized in green economy and technologies, along with decision-makers, government officials and leaders of the public sector and investors from Bahrain.

The opening session will be attended by UNIDO Director-General Li Yong, who will make his first ever visit to an Arab country since his appointment. Other VIP guests, invitees and media figures will also be among the attendees.

Bahrain and Kuwait will sign, on the sidelines of the forum, a two-year (2015-2016) environmental executive program in the field of environmental protection.

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Maldives to cut Hajj Pilgrimage fee

Sun.mv – January 20, 2015 – Islamic Minister has said that the fee of Hajj Pilgrimage will be reduced to a level of people’s satisfaction in future. Addressing a ceremony held to inaugurate Hajj Corporation officially at Hotel Jen on Monday evening, Islamic Minister Shaheem said that MVR 110 million have been deposited in Maldives Hajj Corporation till today and investment of this money will be started very soon. Maldives Hajj Corporation has taken 500 people to Hajj Pilgrimage in 2014 and slots for Hajj Pilgrimage through Maldives Hajj Corporation have been occupied fully until 2017.

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India-Maldives Film Festival under way

Sun.mv – January 21, 2015 – The India-Maldives Film Festival has kicked off in Malé, as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between India and Maldives. The festival was inaugurated at a ceremony at Olympus last night, by Minister of Youth and Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal and High Commissioner of India to the Maldives Rajeev Shahare.

Last night’s ceremony included cultural performances by teachers and students of the Indian Cultural Centre in Malé, and the presentation of a $1,000 donation by the Indian High Commission to the Maldives Film Association (FAM).

Three Indian (Bollywood) movies and two Maldivian movies will be shown at Olympus as part of the Film Festival. The festival, which will take place from 20 to 22 January with free entrance, was kicked off with the Hindi film Three Idiots.

The remaining Indian films are Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, starred by Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and Amitabh Bachchan’s superhit Sholay. The local films to be shown at the festival are Ingili, which received Best Picture award last year at FAM Film Awards, and bronze award at the SAARC Film Festival; and Hulhudhaan, produced by Dark Rain Entertainment.

The Indian High Commission has said that in addition to the Film Festival, the Ticket to Bollywood Festival will begin at Alimas Carnival on Saturday night, as part of the golden jubilee celebrations.

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Gili Lankanfushi ranked as the World’s Best Resort

Sun.mv – January 22, 2015 – TripAdvisor has ranked Gili Lankanfushi as the World’s Best Resort. Two other resorts and Gili Lankanfushi are included in the list of 25 World’s Best Resorts identified by TripAdvisor; a popular travel website that provides reviews of travelers. While Gili Lankanfushi is in the first position of the list, Cocoa Island Resort and Constance Moofushi were in the sixth and fifteenth position respectively of the list of World’s Best Resorts.

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Maldives President: Tourism taught us how to live in peace

Sun.mv – January 24, 2015 – President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom said that tourism has made Maldivians to live peacefully with people who arrive in Maldives from everywhere in the world.

Speaking in the event held on Friday evening to inaugurate Club Med Finolhu Villas Resort, President Yameen said that tourism industry had to face a number of challenges due to economic issues in the country, with the development of the industry and that government has given special emphasis on improving economy of the country.

President has highlighted on the efforts being made to improve the economy of the country in the event held on Friday evening. In that regard, President has said that economy largely depends on tourism sector.

President Yameen also noted that while the government focuses on development projects, maintaining peace in the society is given equal importance and that Islam, which is the religion that appreciates coexistence, and preaches tolerance and peace, is practiced in Maldives.

Speaking about the rumors regarding Maldives, President has urged the investors to convey the message of sustained peace and stability in Maldives to the whole world. He added that maintaining peace and being cooperative is one of the principles in Islam.

Club Med Finolhu Villas Resort inaugurated on Friday evening is the first resort that runs 100 percent on solar energy in Maldives. has won MATATO Most Romantic Resort award in 2013 and was selected as the number one resort of Asia Region and of Maldives. With Gili Lankanfushi, seven resorts of Maldives were included in the list of Best Hotels in Asia.

A resort of Costa Rica, Nayara Hotel, Spa & Gardens has won second place and a resort of Cambodia, Shinta Mani Club has won third place from 13th TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice of World’s Bets Resorts in which more than 8,000 resorts competed from eight regions.

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Turkey hits record-high tourist numbers in 2014

ANKARA/LONDON-Anadolu Agency – The number of people visiting Turkey as tourists reached an all-time high of around 37 million in 2014, pushing Turkey closer to Italy in the most visited destination chart, Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said on Jan. 22.

Çelik said Turkey had managed to attract 5.5 percent more tourists in 2014 compared to the previous year, despite the political and geopolitical crises in the region.

“In 2014 the number of foreigners visiting our country rose from 34.9 million to 36.8 million, a 5.5 percent increase compared to the previous year,” he said, adding that the official tourist numbers and tourism incomes would soon be announced for 2014.

Pointing out that there were Turkish citizens who are residents in Europe but visit Turkey each year, Çelik said that this year their numbers were roughly expected to reach 5 million.

“If we add this, the number of Turkey’s visitors will come close to 42 million. This is a significant record. We are progressing toward becoming the fifth most visited country from sixth spot,” he said.

According to a World Tourism Organization 2014 report, Italy attracted the fifth most visitors with 47 million, one spot ahead of Turkey.

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3rd Istanbul airport to have world’s largest duty-free complex

ANKARA/ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – German company Heinemann and Turkey’s Unifree have signed a deal to initiate the world’s largest duty-free complex at Istanbul’s under construction third airport.

The agreement for the investment, worth around 120 million euros, was inked by both Heinemann and Unifree, as well as the members of the consortium that will build the airport.

A joint venture consortium of Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon won the tender for the airport in May 2013 for a 25-year lease, with an offer of 22 billion euros.

The head of the consortium and the chair of Limak Holding, Nihat Özdemir, said the duty-free complex will be the largest in the world.

Heinemann CEO Claus Heinemann said his company had operated in Turkey for the last 30 years, including 15 years at the Atatürk Airport.

“We know Turkey and Turks very well, and Germany and Turkey have very good relations. We bring our international know-how to Istanbul, a regional hub, and we believe in Turkey’s growth potential,” Heinemann added.

“At 53,000 square meters this is a retail space of totally new dimensions. It will enable us to implement unique concepts,” he said.

The company plans to create more than 7,000 jobs at the airport, and investments amounting to more than 120 million euros are projected as part of the duty-free complex.

Istanbul’s third airport will have an initial passenger capacity of 90 million annually. Two expansions are set to follow, raising the annual passenger capacity to 150 million.

The design of the duty-free complex was inspired by the Bosphorus, the consortium members have stated.

Meanwhile, consortium head Nihat Özdemir said they would pour the first concrete for the new airport in March and they had secured a bridging loan worth 750 million euros for the project.

He also added that Limak Holding will secure a 5.5 billion euro loan in a deal with seven banks in May. He said the first cement will be poured in March after the completion of around 3,000 drillings.

Istanbul’s enormous third airport is expected to provide jobs for a total of 100,000 people, and will include a total of six runways, 16 taxiways, 88 passenger bridges, and 165 aircraft passenger bridges across all terminals. It will also include a 6.5 million-square-meter apron with a capacity for 500 aircraft, among other facilities.

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Paris hosts conference on Göbeklitepe archaeological site

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Leading cultural, historical and business figures came together on Jan. 21 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris for a conference on Göbeklitepe, during which participants reiterated their commitment to improving the Neolithic site.

Demet Sabancı Çetindoğan, the founder and president of the Turkey-One Association, which organized the conference; Culture and Tourism Ministry Undersecretary Haluk Dursun; Permanent Delegate of Turkey to UNESCO Hüseyin Avni Botsalı and Turkish historian Professor İlber Ortaylı, as well as the permanent representatives and diplomats of other UNESCO member countries, all attended the conference, titled “The Birth of Religion and Rise of Civilization: Göbeklitepe Neolithic Site.”

During the conference’s opening, UNESCO General Director Irina Bokova noted that her recent visit to Turkey highlighted Turkey’s active and leading role in the organization.

Çetindoğan said the Turkish private sector would also invest in the preservation and promotion of the country’s cultural heritage and contribute to Turkey’s reputation abroad. She said the Göbeklitepe Neolithic site would be the first one as part of new expansions in the field of culture.

Dursun said excavations would continue in Göbeklitepe and that the findings there were important enough to change some understandings of archaeology.

Ortaylı said Anatolia was the world’s largest open-air museum and had played a significant role in all eras, starting from the ancient ages to the Roman Empire, Hellenistic civilizations, the Seljuks and the Ottoman Empire.

The conference also commemorated German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, who dedicated 25 years of his life to the Göbeklitepe excavations in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa before dying last year. His wife, Çiğdem Schmidt, was presented an award on his behalf.

After the screening of documentary films on Göbeklitepe, a reception was also held. German Culture Minister Maria Böhmer, who will head the World Heritage Committee this year between June 28 and July 8 in Bonn, met with Çetindoğan on conducting cooperation for cultural heritage.

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Istanbul Modern welcomes videos less ordinary

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Istanbul Modern is presenting the Artists’ Film International, a program dedicated to moving images through videos, animations and films of visual artists from around the world.

The program, which opened on Jan. 20, will continue until March 12 with a pop-up exhibition curated by Çelenk Bafra, the curator of Istanbul Modern. The exhibition features two video installations from Turkey, Burak Delier’s “Crisis and Control” and Vahap Avşar’s “Road to Arguvan,” along with recent works by artists from 15 countries in thematic selections.

The video selections displayed in projections or screens are programmed under various titles such as “conflicts,” “performative interpretation of the urban,” “physical boundaries” and “narration/s of events” and more.

In addition, the exhibition’s video room, the “Blackbox,” will host a different video work as an installation every week throughout the exhibition. Talks and presentations about video art and artists’ films will also be held within the scope of the exhibition.

Initiated by the Whitechapel Gallery in 2008, the Artists’ Film International is organized in partnership with 17 art institutions from different parts of the world. Every year, partners select a new work by a prominent artist in their country and share it with the other partners. Following the curatorial work by each program partner, selected videos are displayed in thematic screenings or exhibitions.

Istanbul Modern participated in the program with works by Ali Kazma, İnci Eviner, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Sefer Memişoğlu and Bengü Karaduman in the past. Having worked with Delier in 2014, it invited Avşar for 2015, and Avşar’s video will feature in the exhibitions and screenings organized by program partners throughout the year.

Employing various techniques such as photography, painting, installation, performance and moving image, Avşar’s works are marked by the influence of conceptual art history. In the video, he focuses on a gigantic crack that was formed in the 1980s on the only road connecting Arguvan, the artist’s native town for generations, to the city of Malatya. The depth of the cracks in the asphalt has rendered the road useless, yet the government neither repairs it nor builds a new one. Cut off from the world, gradually deprived of fundamental facilities – above all the hospital – the town was abandoned to its fate.

The main image and metaphor of “Road to Arguvan” is this deep crack. Shot with a hand-held camera, this short, shaky and intensive video full of mystery and associations can be read as a testament of the past and recent sociopolitical conflicts in Turkey.

In addition to Avşar and Delier, other artists in the program include Yuri Ancarani, Lee Kai Chung, Dalila Ennadre, the Provmyza Group, Mattias Harenstam, Oded Hirsch, Rebecca Ann Hobbs, Tran Luong, Jorge Macchi, Nicole Miller, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, Uudam Tran Nguyen, Masooda Noora, Pallavi Paul, Elisabeth Price, Tejal Shah, Anatoly Shuravlev, Angela Su, Milica Tomic, Diego Tonus, Amir Yatziv, Tanya Busse and Emilija Skarnulyte.

The first exhibition event will be a conversation on video art in Serbia between artist Tomic and curator Zorana Dakovic on Jan. 28. The conversation will center on Tomic’s artistic practice such as her world-renowned films, videos and performances, as well as video art in Serbia.

The author of numerous international art projects and workshops, and a lecturer and guest artist at international institutions of contemporary art, Tomic is exploring different fields, genres, and methods of artistic practice. Her work centers on researching, unearthing and bringing to public debate issues related to political violence, trauma and social amnesia with a particular attention to the relation, short circuit between intimacy and politics.

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Jakarta invites private sector to construct light rail transit

22 January 2015 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Jakarta Provincial Government has invited private developers to participate in the construction of light rail transit (LRT) in the capital. The offer was directly made by Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama after a meeting with a number of private companies to discuss the construction of the LRT.

“We have already met with several private companies to discuss the LRTs construction. Their responses have been positive,” Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said here on Thursday.

According to him, the private sectors involvement is needed, considering the lack of funds in the 2015 local budget. “We do not intend to allocate budget for the construction of the LRT this year because we want to involve the private sector,” he stated.

Basuki expects the construction of the mass transportation to start as soon as possible.

“We want to begin the construction of the LRT soon so it will be ready for the Asian Games. We are building this mass transportation system to support the Asian Games in Jakarta later. We hope the construction can be finished in over three years,” Basuki remarked.

To speed up the development process, he noted, the Jakarta government has asked private developers interested in the project to immediately submit the technical documents of LRT by January 30, 2015.

According to him, the private companies that attended the meeting included Sedayu Group, Agung Podomoro, JIExpo, Summarecon, Panin Group, Lippo Group, and Intiland.

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West Sumatra offers world-class diving site

19 January 2015 Padang, W Sumatra (ANTARA News) – West Sumatras South Pesisir district offers a world-class diving site formed as a result of a ship wreck of MV Boelongan Nederland, which was bombed by Japan in 1942. “The ship wreck is lying at a depth of 20-25 meters in Mandeh Bay,” Nasrul Abit, the head of South Pesisir district, stated here on Monday.

According to him, the Ministry of Marine and Fishery along with the Marine and Fishery office of South Pesisir have explored the ship wreck. “We believe that this is one of the best diving sites in Indonesia and even in the world,” Nasrul stated.

He remarked that the Boelongan ship wreck is located in Mandeh tourism site, which was included in the national tourism development master plan. The tourism site spans an area of 8.6 thousand hectares.

Based on the study conducted the ministry, MV Boelongan Nederland measures 74 meters in length and 8 meters in height. The middle part is 11 meters wide, while the stern measures 13 meters, and the bow is 10 meters.

The height of the ship has not been precisely measured as part of its body is buried. However, the identified sizes are identical to several references.

MV Boelongan was designed in 1915 as a diesel-powered transport ship measuring 72.6 meters in length. In addition to being used as a transport ship, Boelongan was frequently used by the Dutch colonial officials while visiting the Bulungan Sultanate in East Kalimantan.

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Raja Ampat chosen as world’s best adventure destination

20 January 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Raja Ampat district was honored with The Best Destination for Adventure category 2015 award by the Finnish Mondo Travel Magazine during the Matka Nordic Travel Fair (Matka 2015) in Helsinki, on January 15-18, 2015.

The award was presented by Mondo magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Kati Kelola, to the representative of the Indonesian Embassy in Helsinki, according to embassy spokesman Made P Sentanajaya.

Sentanajaya informed ANTARA here on Tuesday that Matka 2015 was the largest travel industry event in Northern Europe that presented a vivid paradise of travel options to the general public.

Indonesia was among more than a thousand exhibitors from 80 different countries that participated in the event to showcase the popularity of its domestic tourism attractions.

He noted that the selection of Raja Ampat as The Best Destination for Adventure 2015 by Mondo Magazine was an award bestowed by the tour players in Finland as a mark of appreciation for the beauty of the underwater scenery and natural islands in Raja Ampat district, which is located in the eastern Indonesian province of Papua.

Sentanajaya said that according to the magazine, Raja Ampat is the world’s best tourist destination.

The Indonesian Embassy in Helsinki represented the country for the seventh consecutive time at the Matka 2015, which took place in the Helsinki Exhibition and Conference Center.

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Indonesia seeks China’s help for infrastructure projects

21 January 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Sofyan Djalil has invited Chinese investors to join Indonesias development programs such as boosting electricity generation capacity and the constructions of toll roads, seaports, integrated industrial zones, and railway lines.

“China is the worlds second-largest country with rapid economic growth. Besides this, China is also technologically advanced. Therefore, we want China to help Indonesia build infrastructure,” the chief minister stated during a seminar on “Indonesia, China and the Pacific Rim Relationship” here on Tuesday.

Although the government has saved Rp230 trillion by converting unproductive subsidy to productive ones, the funds would not be sufficient for the construction of much-needed infrastructure to help boost Indonesias economic growth at seven percent, he stated.

Indonesia needs investors to help realize the target of increasing its power generation capacity to reach 35 thousand megawatts as set by President Joko Widodo.

The country also plans to build railway lines in Sumatra Province, double-track railway lines on Java Island, toll roads, and carry out the expansion of airports.

The government is also preparing an integrated one-door service to help investors applying for licenses.

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W. Sulawesi to welcome AEC program

22 January 2015 Mamuju (ANTARA News) – The West Sulawesi government is making every effort to strengthen the industrial sectors that utilize local natural resources to welcome the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015, according to Deputy Governor Aladin S. Mengga. “The West Sulawesi provincial government, with its numerous programs, has been prepared to welcome the AEC 2015,” Mengga stated during a seminar on “Challenge and Opportunity to Face AEC” here on Thursday.

He noted that the local government is developing industrialization programs by utilizing numerous mainstay commodities from various sectors such as plantation, agriculture, fisheries, and mining. “Endowed with natural and mineral resources in abundance, West Sulawesi is ready to greet the AEC by intensively developing its economy in various sectors,” the deputy governor remarked.

By optimally developing its industrial sectors through the use of natural resources as raw materials, he emphasized that West Sulawesi will become a developed province to face the AEC program. “Our readiness and existence with optimistic attitude will bring us economic competence in the AEC, but certainly, it needs to be supported by security and political stability,” he affirmed.

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E Kalimantan a major producer of seaweed

22 January 2015 Samarinda (ANTARA News) – The North Penajam Paser District, East Kalimantan Province, annually produces thousand tons of seaweed harvested from 150 hectares of plantation land, Head of Districts Marine and Fishery Office Ahmad Usman stated here on Thursday.

He pointed out that the produce is still relatively low as compared to the potential of the coastal area in the district. “The potential area that can be used for seaweed plantation in North Penajam Paser reaches one thousand hectares, while we are only utilizing 150 hectares,” Ahmad said.

According to him, the seaweed business is promising as the price is about Rp10 to Rp12 thousand, or about US$1 per kilogram. The office is setting up the management system to develop the districts seaweed potential.

“We are now completing the facilities to cultivate and process the seaweed as well as to provide a cooperative to accommodate the harvest,” Ahmad remarked.

He explained that some constraints that hinder the optimal production of seaweed include the large amount of fresh water mixing with the salt water during the rainy season, which affects the growth of seaweed, among others.

The sea waves also pose another challenge for the seaweed farmers as they cause more sediment to adhere to the seaweed, which affects their quality. The potential areas for seaweed cultivation are in Nipah-nipah, Sungai Paret, Sesulu, Tunan, and Api-api villages,” Ahmad stated.

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Nigeria: Kano Tourist Attractions Make National Monument List

Vanguard – 23 January 2015 – The National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) recently requested the permission of the Kano State Emirate to establish an Islamic art museum at the defunct British Council’s premises in Kano.

The building housing the British Council Building located near Gidan Makama is said to be about 400 years old and was once used by a former emir of Kano, Muhammadu Rumfa.

NCMM said they have also selected five more sites in the state for inclusion in the list of additional national monuments. Here are some of selected tourist sites in Kano.

GIDAN Makama House: Gidan Makama House, once served as the palace of the emir of Kano but now houses a museum with wide spectrum and array of art, craft and artifact representing the history, political and religious heritage of the people.

The museum walks you through Kano history from the 9th to 21st century. The museum takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get through. The jihad period and the British invasion of the city in 1901 are really interesting. Another overlooked building is Gidan Dan Hausa, which is the Kano State museum.

Gidan Dan Hausa house has a collection of artifacts from stone age to present day.

Gidan Rumfa: This is what the present palace of the emir is known by and it is an enchanting edifice on expansive landscape. Historically, the palace was built during the reign of Emir Muhammadu Rumfa in the 13th Century. It is a vast complex and rich in splendour with a touch of aristocracy. It houses different sections and facilities as well as a mosque.

Kano City Wall/Gates: The city walls and gates are landmarks that open a window to the past existence of the people. Although the original outlook of most of the city walls have been destroyed what now stand are replicas of the preserved walls.

This ancient city wall with a 14km radius earth structure was completed in 14th Century to provide security to the growing population of the old Kano city in the wake of any external aggression.

Numbering about 15, the city walls once served as defensive facilities with gate and also demarcated the abode of the indigenes from those of the strangers.

The surviving city walls include those located at the Bayero University old campus road; where you come across Sabuwar Kofar, Dan Agundi, Kabuga, Dukawuya and Gadon Kaya. Other sites are Goron hill and Kofar Ruwa while that of Kofar Nasarawa road presents a picture of the renovated wall.

Dala hills: It is one where the first inhabitants of the city settled. Traces of this historical fact are evident as you meander through the area where many of the buildings still retain their rural appeal. Standing atop Dala hill affords one a bird eye’s view of the sprawling city.

It is a good location for picnic; relaxation and photo shoot with the condition greatly improved over the years to make it conducive place for tourists. At the bottom of the hill is a complex for shopping and other activities.

The last time I was there, the complex was yet to be completed but it is hoped that it would have been made over by now so as to give visitors something to cherish at the centre. Besides Dala Hill, there are other historical sites that give better perspective to the city’s landscape as well. Some of these include Goron Dutse, which is about two kilometers walk from Dala Hill. Others are Magwan in Nasarawa area, Panisau around the Kano airport and the famous Bompai. Accessing them is very easy as there are inbuilt stairways from the base to the top.

Kano Dying Pit: Is one of the renowned spots in the city to watch local artisans at work as they turn out clothe materials of different designs from the dying pit, which is believed to be as one as the city itself.

Various designs are folded into the material before dyeing and the fabric is often beaten to achieve the shiny, indecent appearance.

The techniques employed to obtain the look are unmatched around the world. And, although the methods they use are ancient, these lush works of art on fabric always remain extremely popular and continue to be in great demand.

Kurmi Market : Located within the city centre, it remains one of the commercial nerve centres of the city, which over the years was famed for Trans – Sahara trade.

Famed as one of Africa’s oldest market, Kurmi market is an expansive market that a visitor would find intriguing exploring.

The market is a maze of narrow alleys where tourists can find pretty much anything, shop for everything from carvings, calabashes, to jewelery, brass works, leather goods and pottery.

Kano Central Mosque: Located in the emir’s palace vicinity is Kano Central Mosque, which is another captivating landmark of the city. Built around the 15th Century, it has over the years undergone different phases of re-engineering. It has a masterpiece architectural design and facade with a blend of Arabic flavour.

Tiga Dam/Rock Castle: Tiga dam is one of the biggest creations in Kano state. Located outside of the city, it is one of the tourist sites with an attractive ambiance. Boat cruise and spot fishing are some of the water related activities that anyone visiting can enjoy. At the base of the dam is Rock Castle Hotel, which was built in the heydays of the state to house Queen Elizabeth and her entourage during her visit to Nigeria years back.

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Egypt exempts Russian tourists from visa fees

Ahram Online , Thursday 15 Jan 2015 – Egypt will exempt tourists from Russia from the $25 visa fee as part of its efforts to offset the effects of the depreciation of the ruble which made Egypt a more expensive destination for Russian vacationers.

The exemption will last from 15 January to 30 April, traditionally the high season for beach tourism in Egypt, Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said in an emailed statement.

Zaazou also said he had presented a proposal to the cabinet’s economic team to allow Russian tourists to pay for their vacations in Ruble; and Egypt in turn to use these rubles to buy certain Russian products. The “barter” system will be implemented if the central banks of Egypt and Russia approve it, he said.

The ruble has lost more than 50 percent of its value since August 2014 on the back of declining oil prices and economic sanctions from the West. Egyptian tour operators and hotel owners, especially in Red Sea resorts, have felt the sting of declining visitors from Russia.

Russians are the largest single tourist group in Egypt, making up about a fifth of foreign vacationers in the country in the past four years, as well as 60 percent of tourists to the Red Sea, according to official data. In 2014, about three million Russians visited Egypt, according to the ministry’s statement.

Egypt’s LE49 billion ($7 billion) tourism industry began recovering in 2014 after plummeting in the second half of 2013 due to the bloody violence that followed the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

Russia is Egypt’s third largest wheat supplier, providing 26.3 percent (765,000 tonnes) of the country’s imports in the second half of 2014, Mamdouh Abdel Fattah, vice chairman of Egypt’s grain buyer GASC, said in December.

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Get ready for Baku Fashion Week in May

23 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Good news for fashion lovers. A large-scale event Baku Fashion Week bringing together famous designers throughout the world will be held in Azerbaijan’s capital. The fashion show will be held on May 1-3.

This would put Baku’s name for the second time in a row with the biggest fashion capitals such as Paris, Milan, Moscow, and others.

Hafiz Agaev’s Production Center reported that designers from Azerbaijan, U.S., Europe, Asia and CIS countries will take part at the event.

“We do not want to put our all cards on the table. But, we tell it as a secret that Georgian designer Avtondil Tskvitinidze, famous and loved by everyone in our country will also attend the event. In addition, we are going to hold presentations and lectures by Darya Yadernaya with the support of “Natavan” gallery,” the organizers said.

The event will be held at the Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel, where project director Nina Drako will offer the guests great and unforgettable surprises.

The first Baku Fashion Week was held in Azerbaijan in November 2014. The founder of the event was Hafiz Aghayev. In 2010, Hafiz presented Azerbaijan at the “Mister World” contest.

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Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan to connect East and West

23 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Given the increasing flow of Chinese products to different parts of the world, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan would form transport-logistics centers in their territories for transportation of goods from Europe to Far East.

The two countries can achieve the goal by investing in the development of appropriate infrastructure, Azerbaijani expert Rovshan Ibrahimov said at a round table on ‘Time for Global Test: New Challenges’ in Astana.

“Azerbaijan has a state program called ‘Vision into the future-2020’ with the emphasis on the development of infrastructure projects, as well as non-oil sector of economy. A similar program exists in Kazakhstan as well, which is called ‘Nurly Jol’. These state programs are our response to the crisis. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan can play the role of transport corridors between East and West by creating infrastructure,” he noted.

Touching upon the statement of Saudi Arabia about the possibility of oil price decline to $25 per barrel, Ibrahimov said such a statement is of a political nature.

“It is important for economies of our countries to recognize the challenges to adopt preventive measures,” the expert added.

Azerbaijanis and Kazakhs are both Turkic-speaking nations and share close historical, religious, and cultural ties. Both countries are among the littoral states of the Caspian Sea and possess a common maritime border.

About 130,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis live in Kazakhstan.

The trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $371 million in 2013. Some 52 Kazakh companies operate in Azerbaijan, while 723 companies with the Azerbaijani investment are registered in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan invested $5.2 million in Azerbaijan in fixed assets in 2002-2013, while only in the last two years Azerbaijan invested $132.8 million of direct investment in Kazakh economy.

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AZAL to launch direct flights to Berlin

22 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan Airlines, Azerbaijan’s biggest airline and national flag carrier will carry out direct flights en route Baku-Berlin-Baku. Maharram Safarli, Spokesperson of AZAL said that the flights will start from May 2. “The flights on this route will be performed two times in a week via Airbus 319,” he said.

As a regional and CIS leader in terms of the number of new aircrafts, AZAL offers its passenger flights to European countries, the CIS, Middle East, Asia and the United States.

Currently, AZAL’s fleet consists of Boeing 757-200, Boeing 767-300, Airbus 319, Airbus A320, Airbus A340-500, Embraer ERJ 170-100LR and Embraer ERJ 190-100. The company cooperates with about 60 airlines to provide its passengers with an opportunity to travel leisurely around the world.

In 2015-2016 Azerbaijani cargo airline Silk Way Cargo – a subsidiary of Silk Way Airlines plans to buy 3 airliners Boeing 747-8.

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Azerbaijan to attend “Mary-2015 cultural capital of Turkish world”

22 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Head of Department at the Azerbaijani ministry of culture and tourism Fikrat Babayev, a group of musicians will attend the opening ceremony of “Mary-2015 cultural capital of Turkish world”. The ceremony will be held at Mary, Turkmenistan on January 27. Mary city of Turkmenistan has been declared “The Cultural Capital of Turkish World” in 2015 at the 32nd meeting of International Turkish Culture Organization (TURKSOY) held in Kazan city of Russia. The ceremony will feature photo exhibition and folk concerts.

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Azerbaijan, Chuvashia to establish intl. cultural center

22 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Head of the Chuvashia Republic and the leadership of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress discussed expansion of cooperation between the two sides, Trend Life reports quoting Russian media as saying. Mikhail Ignatyev, Chuvashia’ Head and Ilgar Hajiyev, Executive Director of the Congress as well as Aziz Badirov, Chairman of the regional branch met on January 21.

The sides called construction of the International “Azerbaijan-Chuvashia” cultural and exhibition center as one of the spectra of mutually beneficial cooperation.

They also praised establishment of the Chuvashia producers permanent trade office in Azerbaijan, implementation of joint projects on cultivation of poultry-based Agrofirms “Turunovskaya” as well as construction of agricultural logistics center in Cheboksary as positive opportunities in creation mutual relations.

Ignatyev underlined that Chuvashia is ready to cooperate in the field of culture and economy with Azerbaijan. He added that creation of an enabling environment for the development of joint business projects will benefit peoples of both republics.

Chuvashia’s head invited Azerbaijani Diaspora to take part in the Russian festival of folk art “Springs of Russia”. It is a bright and spectacular song and dance festive, dedicated to Republic Day celebrations.

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Iran unveils smuggled artifacts returned from Belgium

Sat Jan 17, 2015 – PressTV – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has opened an exhibition showcasing hundreds of ancient Iranian artifacts returned to the country from Belgium after decades of legal battles. The artifacts were displayed at the National Museum of Iran on Saturday in the presence of Rouhani and other senior Iranian officials.

This came after an appeals court in Belgium’s eastern city of Liège ruled in December 2014 that the country’s authorities restitute 349 smuggled artifacts to Iran. Praising the efforts made by the Iranian legal team in returning the valuble antiques, Rouhani said the move showed the resolve of the government in “safeguarding the rights of the Iranian nation.”

He noted that such cultural exhibitions can help “defuse Iranophobia” in the world. Massoud Soltanifar, who serves as the vice-president and head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), also said, “returning these properties is a big political and legal victory for Iran.”

The ancient artifacts were looted over the past years from a 3000-year-old ancient site near the village of Khorvin, situated 80 kilometers (49 miles) northeast of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

With the help of a Belgian diplomat, Yolande Wolfcarius-Maleki, a French national, who acquired Iranian nationality by marriage in 1965, transferred the artifacts to Belgium 35 years ago.

Following Iran’s demand in 1981, a Brussels court ordered the seizure of the pieces and their preservation at the Museum of Brussels University, pending a final verdict. The legal processing for returning the artifacts has lasted 33 years. Iranian officials have filed several other lawsuits in courts in Britain, France, Turkey, and Pakistan for the return of smuggled artifacts over the past years.

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Jeddah’s historical district chosen as first green zone

Arab News – 21 January, 2015 – A Saudi enviornmentalist wants to make Jeddah’s historical district the Kingdom’s first low-cost green zone. Majeda Abu Ras, a biotechnology teacher at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, is working on the initiative with the cooperation of Jeddah municipality and the Saudi Environmental Society.

Asides from being a staunch environmentalist, Abu Ras is also the deputy chairman of the Saudi Environmental Society and member of the board of directors and regional researchers with NASA to implement scientific and research programs in the Gulf countries and the region.

As part of Jeddah’s efforts to maintain an eco-friendly environment, the municipality recently distributed 42 waste recycling bins and over 126 garbage containers in three different colors to recycle plastics, metals and glass in various parts of the historic district.

The initiative will target more than one million visitors and tourists expected to throng to the 10-day Jeddah Festival, organized to raise awareness on heritage preservation.

Abu Ras, who is involved in the project, claimed the time has come to strengthen environmental concepts inside the city in general, and in the historical district in particular.

Calling on all citizens and residents to play an active role to serve the environment, she revealed plans to establish a comprehensive environmental city in Jeddah. According to her, the historic district had been chosen for its environment and its historical character represented in its buildings, which can be converted to green structures without compromising their historical identity.

“The aim behind establishing a green city is to improve the quality of life, curb pollution and raise environmental awareness among governmental and nongovernmental bodies,” she said.

Green buildings will implement thermal insulation to limit electricity consumption and save energy, which contributes to lowering electricity bills by 50 percent and saves more than SR75 billion.

Green cities adopt a scientific approach to buildings, that maintains energy and protects the environment from thermal emissions, especially since Saudi Arabia is the largest regional producer of electricity and desalinated water, which means it uses large quantities of gas and petrol.

But the main challenge for development, Abu Ras stressed, is the volume of investments and building in cities. Moving toward the use of clean technologies to limit environmental effects while obtaining economic benefits, has become a major purpose in the field of study that links industry and environment.

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SCTA, TVTC to train youth in architectural heritage

Arab News – 21 January, 2015 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) has collaborated with the colleges of excellence at the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) to train 10,000 Saudi youth in architectural heritage that will help professionalize the sector.

It will also streamline the labor market with trained professionals and technicians that will fulfill the requirements of the growing domestic tourism market in the Kingdom. “SCTA and TVTC have mutually agreed to impart training to more than 10,000 Saudi technicians to specialize in architectural heritage,” a top SCTA official said here recently.

“We are at the beginning of an ambitious program for training 10,000 Saudi youth during the next five years to prepare them to join the engineering and contracting offices and firms in the Kingdom,” said Meshari Al-Naeem, supervisor general of the National Urban Heritage Center (NUHC), an affiliate of SCTA.

Moreover, SCTA will organize a restoration expo next year, with the participation of international companies in an attempt to build national expertise in this field and sign partnerships to train Saudi youth in the fields of mud and stone architecture, repainting on wood, glass, iron doors and panels as decorative works prevalent in different regions of the Kingdom, he disclosed.

He further informed that the SCTA has entered into a number of agreements and partnerships with several Saudi and international universities and global institutions of technical and vocational training to implement training programs ending in the employment of a large number of Saudi youth in different sectors and which will help reduce dependence on foreign workers.

According to him the idea is to groom creative professionals in the areas of restoration and the preservation of urban heritage in the Kingdom to boost domestic tourism.

“Additionally, this program will address the Saudi market’s lack of trained technicians in the field of urban heritage restoration, as the available workers are mostly old craftsmen, while the Saudi labor market needs trained professionals and technicians in these areas,” he underscored.

He also stressed the need to develop the expertise of artisans with the knowledge of local historical experiences. Al-Naeem informed that the number of engineers in the Kingdom is about 160,000 out which 30,000 are Saudi, but very few of them are specialized in the restoration and preservation of urban heritage.

Significantly, heritage tourism has emerged in recent times as the main attraction for tourists in the Kingdom with Madain Saleh in Madinah province, Al-Diriya in Riyadh and Historic Jeddah listed among the UNESCO world heritage sites.

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Oman-Brunei forum explores investment opportunities

Times of Oman – 21 January, 2015 – The Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development ‘Ithraa’ in collaboration with the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) on Tuesday organised Omani-Brunei Businessmen Forum.

It comes on the sidelines of a visit by a trade delegation led by Dato Paduka Haji Ali Bin Apong, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Chairman of the Brunei Economic Development Board to Knowledge Oasis Muscat.

The forum aims to enhance trade and investment cooperation between the two countries in different sectors, especially oil, gas, foodstuff and beverages while highlighting the available investment opportunities for local companies to expand their commercial base.

HH Sayyid Faisal Bin Turki Al Said, Director General of Marketing and Media at Ithraa, said that the visit comes in a bid to foster bilateral trade and investment relations following the visit paid by an Omani trade delegation to Brunei last year. It also aims at increasing trade exchange between the two countries. He called on Brunei investors to invest in the Sultanate.

Hilal Bin Hamad Al Hasani, CEO of the PEIE, said that the forum plays an important role in raising awareness of investment potential for interested Brunei investors in the production and service sectors in the Sultanate.

Dato Paduka Bin Apong said that the visit is very important due to the participation of representatives from ten of the major oil, gas and food companies in Brunie. The forum included working papers and presentations on investment opportunities in the Sultanate.

Eng Basim Bin Ali Al Nassiri, Director General of Marketing and Media at the PEIE made a presentation on the Sultanate’s strategic location and its various industrial sectors.

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Top Bahrain consumer expo set to open

Gulf Daily News – 21 January, 2015 – Bahrain’s largest consumer exhibition, the Autumn Fair, is set to open today. More than 750 exhibitors from 20 countries are taking part in the 26th edition of the fair, which will be held under the patronage of Industry and Commerce Minister Zayed Al Zayani at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Approximately 200,000 people are expected to attend the exhibition, which will run until January 29, with a significant number of visitors coming from Saudi Arabia.

Organisers said the show has grown by four per cent this year and was filled to capacity.

“Over a nine-day period, visitors to the Autumn Fair will be able to purchase a wide variety of products from around the world,” said Arabian Exhibition Management project manager Mohammed Ebrahim.

“These include toys, textiles, cosmetics, interior dŽcor and accessories, electrical goods, specialty foods, novelties and much more whilst enjoying the festive atmosphere and international flavour of this exciting exhibition.

“Over 750 exhibitors from 20 countries will display their products at the Autumn Fair 2015 spanning an event area of 15,400 square metres.”

The expo will also feature an outdoor children’s play area, a live band and costume characters among other live entertainment.

The largest international exhibitor groups assemble to form national pavilions from nine countries including China, Egypt, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria, UAE, Pakistan, Yemen and Thailand.

There are also participants from Bangladesh, India, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tunisia and Turkey.

The fair will open to the public from noon to 10pm today, and from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 10pm tomorrow.

On Friday, it will be open from noon to 10pm, and from January 24 to 27 it will be open from 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 10pm.

On January 28 and 29, the fair will be open from 10am to 10pm. Special mornings only for women will be held on January 25 and 26. Tickets will be available at kiosks outside the centre, and are priced at 700 fils, while entry is free for children aged under five.

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Tourists to Saudi Arabia cry out for more

Saudi Gazette – 21 January, 2015 – There is a noticeable drive in Saudi Arabia to get more tourists in. Tourists who could and would spend time and money exploring the different regions of the country, some for historical reasons, while others in pursuit of a religious nature. There is also the realization that tourism can bring in a significant addition to the national budget as has been the case with neighboring Dubai.

Jeddah is fortunate in having its’ fair share of tourists during summer months and school breaks. During the shorter breaks families in towns and villages make a beeline for the larger cosmopolitan cities and those that stride a coastline are usually the ones in greater demand. But such trips also pose a host of questions on the minds of those coming in.

Families who make such trips have expressed their concerns on many forums. Decent and affordable accommodation is high on their list. If a family of four to six persons is to be encouraged to stay here longer, then there must be an end to the price gouging of furnished flats and apartments that think nothing of charging some of these travelers upwards of SR 6,000-SR 10,000 per week for acceptable accommodation during this period.

It would be cheaper for such a family to fly out to the beaches of Alexandria or the cool mountain rest houses in Oman for less. And stay at 5-star hotels with breakfast included!

Another common gripe is the lack of access to the beachfront on this coastal city that sits besides the Red Sea. As most of the internal tourists are coming here from land locked towns and villages, access to the open sea is high on their agenda. But sadly, there is little public access. Everything else is gated or expensive. Prices of SR5,000-SR 8,000 per day and upwards is not uncommon for a beach cabin, denying most of our visitors a chance for a quick view and dip in the refreshing coastal waters of the Red Sea.

It while our municipality has shown evidence of improvement in stretches of the Corniche, there still remain an ugly collection of half built concrete buildings and fast food restaurants that have all but blocked most visitors from getting to the shores and getting their feet wet. The whole length of the Corniche could allow our visitors the serenity of softly crashing waves, but alas that is yet to be.

Lack of public toilets is a major nuisance. While a few have been added, more are needed and especially in public parks. And that is something the municipality must consider if it is serious about encouraging tourism. Nothing could be more annoying than when having to go, but not finding a nearby place to do it in.

There are a few amusement parks, but nothing worth a mention. Shrewd businessmen take note. In a country with a burgeoning population and doting parents, I cannot think of too many other investments that would provide immediate profitable returns than properly planned and modern amusement parks.

As for food and shopping, most visitors are very satisfied with the diversity of both. Jeddah is multi-cultural, and the variety of ethnicities of its people shows up in their foods. And prices are very reasonable. Shopping here nets goods from all over the world, and while Westerners flock over to the gold souks, the domestic tourists invade department stores and shopping malls. But malls have to be more imaginative to capture the tourist buck, and try to capture the interest of the entire family. It will need more than just the standard sales.

While traffic remains a nightmare and there seems to be no solution in sight, visitors will have to contend with such irritations until our road system is straightened out.

Meanwhile, with a few minor changes to the way we do things, and with little extra investment in the right place, Jeddah can indeed become a more fun place to visit, and the extra money flowing in could help as well.

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Saudi women have ‘opportunity to become active in family businesses’

Arab News – 22 January, 2015 – As family businesses in the GCC, especially in Saudi Arabia, seek to address new challenges and transition to future generations, women have the opportunity to take on more active roles than before, according to a new study.

The joint study undertaken by Al-Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khawilid Center of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Strategy &, formerly Booz & Company, investigates the role of women in family businesses across the GCC.

The comprehensive study is based on insights from extensive client work, publicly available information and interviews conducted with stakeholders in 30 leading family businesses based in Saudi Arabia and the rest of GCC in the past 12 months.

The study emphasizes that an environment empowering the increase of women’s participation in national development is steadily emerging in Saudi Arabia, which will lead to them playing a bigger role in family businesses.

Positive measures such as improved educational opportunities, provision of foreign scholarships in various fields, and state policies which strongly call for women’s participation in national economic development, are already under way. These factors make it conducive for women to take on more leadership roles within their family businesses.

According to the study, in the next five to 10 years, a large number of Saudi and GCC family businesses are expected to face a transition to the third generation. Succession planning is one of the most critical challenges that family businesses face but it can also be a great opportunity to draw from the entire talent pool, not only the male members of the family. As female family members become shareholders via inheritance, they tend to request a role in the governance and oversight of the business.

Basmah M. Omair, CEO of Al-Sayedah Khadijah Bint Khawilid Center, said: “This is a propitious time for family businesses as all of the GCC countries have made female economic inclusion a top priority. The value of diverse perspectives from all members of the family is gaining more widespread recognition as most family businesses in the GCC are facing transition from the second to the third generation of ownership. As a result, there is a supportive environment for family businesses to take advantage of the contribution that their women can make. GCC family businesses are also looking at global best practices and finding that female family members are increasingly becoming a vital force within their foreign counterparts.”

Omair added: “A number of other trends have contributed to women’s growing leadership over the past two decades, which include changing social conditions, such as smaller family sizes and higher average age of marriage; increasing efforts from women to acquire the skills that would make them eligible for a wider spectrum of roles in business; and growing social acceptance that encourages women to be more involved in the family business.”

The study reveals the major obstacles to women’s participation in family businesses, which include the cultural perceptions of a patriarchal society, misalignment between the requirements of the business and the extent of women’s education or training, women’s lack of interest or motivation to be active in the family business and fierce competition within large families for a limited number of senior roles, in which women are at a disadvantage as they must develop comparable skills to their male counterparts.

Ramy Sfeir, partner with Strategy& leading the family business platform in the Middle East, said: “In order for these companies to access their female talent pool, there is an urgent need for male family members to understand women’s aspirations and for female family members to calibrate the expectations of male members of the family. GCC women’s roles in family businesses tend to exist in two spheres: Core business activities, such as management and corporate governance, and enabling business activities, such as promoting family values and preparing the next generation to join the business. Within each of these spheres, women are already playing clearly defined roles.”

The study outlines three important trends that can support an increase in women’s participation in GCC family businesses – the high level of female education, the gradual growth in women’s labor participation and entrepreneurship, and family firms revisiting their governance and planning for succession.

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Sharjah Chamber opens centre to boost exports

Khaleej Times – 22 January, 2015 – The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry has launched a dedicated centre to support companies in the emirate to increase the exports of products made in Sharjah.

Sharjah has long been a manufacturing hub for the region, with exports playing an important role in the emirate’s economy. Manufacturing accounts for 17.1 per cent of Sharjah’s gross domestic product.

The Sharjah Exports Development Centre will support domestic manufacturers to further increase the competitiveness of their goods and find new markets for them abroad as well as strengthen existing international trade connections.

The launch ceremony for Sharjah Exports Development Centre was held at the Sharjah Chamber under the patronage of Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.

Hussain Al Mahmoudi, director general of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce, said: “Sharjah has been an internationally focused economy for generations. The Sharjah Exports Development Centre will be an important resource for companies in Sharjah that want to find new markets for their goods abroad.

“Major international companies such as Gulftainer, Petrofac and Tiffany Foods have grown from Sharjah. Our aim is to help the next generation of Sharjah international champions to develop in line with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.”

The Sharjah Exports Development Centre will provide a range of services to exporters and those that wish to begin exporting for the first time.

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Oman seals projects to boost food security

Oman Daily Observer – 22 January, 2015 – Shaikh Saif bin Mohammed al Shabibi, Minister of Housing, yesterday signed usufruct agreements for the lands dedicated for fish farming by two private sector companies. He also handed over the final licenses for a third company to set up fish farming projects worth RO 66 million.

The first usufruct agreement was signed with Arabia Marine Development Company to set up shrimp farming project at Qaroon village in the Wilayat of Ja’alan Bani Bu Hasan in the Governorate of South Al Sharqiyah over 500 hectares at a cost of about RO 29 million.

The second agreement was signed with Al Jazeera Investment Company to set up abalone and grouper fish farming project using the closed system in the Niyabat of Sharbathat in the Wilayat of Shaleem and Al Halaniyat Islands in the Governorate of Dhofar. The project, which stretches over 30 hectares of land, will cost around RO 34.5 million.

On the other hand, Knowledge Modern Technologies Company received technical operation license which allows the company to start production of grouper fish using the closed cycling system in Sur Industrial area at a cost of RO 2.5 million.

In a statement to Oman News Agency (ONA) and the Public Authority for Radio and TV, the minister said the signing of the agreements comes within the government interest to provide food security, diversify sources of income and benefit from the available natural resources in the country.

He also said the Ministry of Housing, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, has identified locations for these projects.

218242Al Shabibi also pointed out that the ministry is currently identifying other locations to set up more fish farming projects. He added that certain locations were specified for tourism use and have been handed over to the Ministry of Tourism to sign usufruct agreements for them.

“More locations were also allocated for investment, therefore respective public organisations should select the investors for these projects.”

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Fuad bin Jaafar al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, said that the three fish farming projects will provide the local market with around 7,330 tonnes of seafood, such as shrimps, grouper fish and abalone. The projects will also provide more than 800 jobs for citizens.

He said that the agreements come within the efforts of the ministry to develop fish farming sector in collaboration with the other government organisations, such as the Ministry of Housing. The minister added that the projects will contribute to the development of the local communities nearby the project sites.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has 19 fish farming projects which have met the requirements and are ready to pump their investments,” he added.

“With regard to food security, he also said that the Omani government is doing its best to set up projects and public companies, such as Oman Investment Holding to venture into poultry production and sale, export of gums which cost more than RO 200 million.

The production will cover a large chunk of the Sultanate’s needs. Moreover, there will be more fish farming public companies that will be unveiled in the coming period when the construction works start,” he added.

Adnan bin Salah al Ghassani, Business Development Manager at Al Jazeera Investment Company, said that the project implemented by the company in Sharbathath in the Governorate of Dhofar at a cost of around RO 43 million, will focus on abalone, grouper fish farming.

He added that the project which will be set up on about 30 hectares will produce about 1,500 tonnes per year for of grouper, 1,000 tonnes of abalone per year.

The project will provide 70 employment opportunities, in addition to a number of training courses for locals interested to work for the company, he added.

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Kuwaiti company signed up to build Diwaniya airport in Iraq

Kuwait News Agency – 22 January, 2015 – The Iraqi National Investment Commission (NIC) and Al-Diwaniya governorate, on one hand, and Kuwait’s Al-Nasriyah Co., on the other, signed on Wednesday an agreement on the establishment of the Diwaniya cargo airport.

The airport, costing up to USD 1.35 billion, will be operated by the company under the 45-year term of the contract, Governor of Al-Diwaniya Ammar Al-Madani told reporters here following the signing ceremony.

The ceremony gathered Kuwait Ambassador to Iraq Ghassan Al-Zawawi, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Bahaa Al-Araji, and NIC’s Chairman Dr. Sami Al Araji, Al-Nasriya representatives, as well as a number of Iraqi MPs and municipal leaders.

“The airport will cover an area of seven dunams (roughly 17,500 sq. m.) in addition to a similar area allocated for future expansions,” Al-Madani said, highlighting the importance of the project to Iraq’s quest for sustainable economic development.

The project will create some 8,000 jobs for the residents of the governorate and 10 percent of its revenues will go to the provincial government, he added.

Other speakers at the ceremony lauded the steady growth of the bilateral relations and Kuwait’s role in Iraq’s development.

On August 30, the Iraqi government approved the project which will be crucial to the socio-economic development in the central parts of the country.

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Three rail stations planned in Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 22 January, 2015 – At least three train stations will be built in Bahrain that will be connected to the GCC railway network. Bahrain will be connected to the grid through a station in Dammam, via the King Fahad Causeway, that will also be connected to Kuwait, Qatar and north west of Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) transportation committee chairman Abdulhakim Al Shemmeri said the plan was to connect the railway between the King Fahad Causeway and a proposed causeway linking Bahrain and Qatar through three local stops. The stations are planned for construction at the Khalifa bin Salman Port, Bahrain International Airport and Amwaj Islands.

‘The rail that will run down the new extension of the causeway will be going to and from the station in Dammam to Bahrain,’ Mr Al Shemmeri told the GDN.

‘In Bahrain, the train will link with the Khalifa bin Salman Port and the port in Amwaj and the new airport extension. It would also move parallel to the planned Bahrain-Qatar Causeway.’

The deadline to start construction for all GCC countries has been set at the beginning of 2018.

However, Mr Al Shemmeri criticised the government for delays in planning the project. ‘We were at a conference in Muscat last week and the BCCI observed what was being done by other GCC countries,’ he explained.

‘Qatar has already started and will begin construction soon. Saudi has already begun building the line connecting the north to the south. In Oman the planning is almost done, but in Bahrain very little is being done. In regards to this the BCCI is calling on the government to increase the speed at which it is developing the railway.’

The GDN earlier reported that Canadian engineering consultancy SNC Lavalin has been tasked with conducting a study on the Bahrain-Saudi rail link, which is expected to be completed by the end of March.

Two routes have been proposed for an 87km-long rail link that will connect two stations on either side of the water, and Bahrain’s station would be built on reclaimed land.

The alignment of the line had already been finalised and a landing point for the network had been agreed, while most of the technical and operational guidelines were also in place, Transportation Ministry Land Transport and Postal Affairs Under-Secretary Mariam Ahmed Jumaan earlier said.

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Emirates airline tops global customer review annual study

Khaleej Times – 23 January, 2015- Customers worldwide have spoken and Emirates airline has been ranked as the Best Airline in 2014, according to an annual study by eDreams, one of the largest e-commerce travel companies in Europe.

The annual study of best airlines consisted of over 90,000 customer reviews from all over the world. Travellers that booked on the site weighed in through their own reviews on best airlines, best entertainment options, baggage handling and modernity of aircraft, among other categories.

Emirates swept most of the categories with an overall rating of 4.24 out of the top score of 5. Emirates also ranked highest in overall cleanliness and modernity of aircraft and also received the highest ratings for best in-flight entertainment, best flight attendant service, best VIP lounges and best baggage handling.

Thierry Antinori, executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, Emirates airline, said: “Being acknowledged by our customers for the hard work and investments that go into our product and positive service attitude both in the air and on the ground, is the most important recognition we can receive. We served 47 million customers in 2014 and are always looking for ways to enhance the travel experience, from the destination options and global connections that we offer, to our onboard services and worldwide network of dedicated lounges on the ground. We are committed to continuing to provide our customers with an unparalleled level of service across all categories.”

The top rankings further validate Emirates’ leadership in product and service innovations. The airlne has invested billions in the customer experience to enhance the technology on-board for its customers, including the introduction of free WI-FI on its fleet of 57 A380 aircraft and a number of Boeing 777 aircraft, with the aim of eventually offering free Wi-Fi across its fleet.

Emirates has also implemented continuous upgrades to its industry leading ice entertainment system, which now offers an outstanding choice of up to 2,000 channels of entertainment across all classes, including over 400 movies from around the world.

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Oman Rail gets an identity

Oman Daily Observer – 23 January, 2015 – Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications and Chairman of Oman Railway Company (ORC), yesterday launched the commercial brand identity for Oman Railway Company (Oman Railway).

During the ceremony, Al Futaisi affirmed that the railway project in the Sultanate and the Gulf region is one of the strategic projects that will enable the Sultanate to develop its transport system and become a logistic hub.

Abdul Rahman bin Salim al Hatmi, CEO of Oman Railway Company, stressed on the importance of the project in diversifying source of national economy and developing the transport system and connecting the Sultanate’s ports. The project will attract more businesses to the Omani ports which now handles about 4 million tonnes of containers.

The design of the identity comes in the shape of a train to give a real feel of a natural scenery inside the Omani savanna and beautiful scenery giving a feeling that the train crosses mountainous areas to take the passengers to their different destinations. The design also gives a feeling of connectivity, vision and confidence reflecting the Sultanate’s culture through its different traditional arts.

The design of the logo mirrors the vision of Oman Railway towards the world; as an ambassador to the foreign world for the Omani traditions, history, social, economic, tourism and commercial integration in a quick, safe and efficient manner.

This makes the train a strong and effective factor in cementing social, economic and cultural ties among Omanis on one hand and among Gulf peoples on the other.

The design of the brand identity has passed many stages before it appears in the current shape. A number of surveys have been made to get the views of the public about the railway project and its role in enhancing the transport modes in the region in general and its positive effects on all fronts. The feedback received from the public point out that they are looking forward to see the project come to reality and operations in the coming few years.

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