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9 Feb, 2015

Google launches Street View for Bangladesh

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 09 February 2015 (20 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

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

The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, as will witness an endless celebration of festivals, events and happenings. MyFEST 2015 is set to make Malaysia the top-of-the-mind tourist destination, encouraging tourists to stay longer in order to enjoy the festival offerings nationwide. Themed “Endless Celebrations”, the year-long calender is packed with festivities of every genre; for instance cultural festivals, shopping extravanganzas, international acclaimed events, eco-tourism events, arts, music showcases, food promotion and other themed events. The Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign leverages on smart partnerships in line with the National Blue Ocean Strategy that nurtures stakeholders engagement, support and participation. The symbiosis enables Malaysia’s tourism efforts to be competitive and to remain one of the prime contributors to the socio-economic development of the nation. As Malaysia is blessed with various cultures, the new campaign seeks to showcase and celebrate Malaysia’s bountiful, diverse cultures and various festivities. The design for Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 logo depicts a traditional musical instrument known as the Rebana Ubi. The drum is a musical instrument which can be associated with Malaysia’s multicultural society, in line with the spirit of 1Malaysia. Therefore, the logo design reflects an important part of the country’s heritage, traditions and culture.

For a full listing of all the great festivals, activities and events this year, pls click on this link


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.




Fine arts, calligraphy at Milan Islam exhibition

Oman Daily Observer – 06 February, 2015 – Activities of the Message of Islam exhibition continue at the Royal Palace in Milan in the Italian Republic.

The exhibition includes 48 tableaus and 20 photos about past and present features of general life, as well as tableaus representing the Omani fine arts, Arabic calligraphy and some Omani antiques.

On the sidelines of the exhibition’s activities, e-exhibition was launched through advanced screens that enable the visitor to access and view all contents of the exhibition in 20 languages, in addition to short movies.

The exhibition also includes scientific messages through a global media campaign that aims at disseminating the culture of coexistence, peace and tolerance in a form of cards that depict such values in social networking and websites in various languages.

The activities of the exhibition kicked off on Wednesday.

Ada Lucia De Cesaris, Deputy Mayor of Milan gave a speech stressing the importance of organising this exhibition to familiarise the Italian people with Oman, its civilisation and nature.

The exhibition conveys a message of great significance represented in that all people have the mission to live in harmony, rather than in a war as common values vary among religions.

In his speech, Mohammed bin Said al Maamari, Supervisor General of the exhibition reviewed the Sultanate’s efforts in spreading the culture of coexistence and peace in the world.

He affirmed aspects of civilised partnership between the Sultanate, Italy and the two friendly peoples in fields of arts, sciences and advanced industries.

The exhibition aims at disseminating the umbrella of values of tolerance among peoples around the world and focusing on the common values, as well as eliminating all forms of extremism, violence, hatred and calling for respect of sanctity and prophets.

The opening ceremony of the exhibition was attended by a number of officials at Milan Municipality, heads of religious and cultural centres and a number of members of the Diplomatic Corps from the Arab and foreign countries.

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Egypt’s tourism revenues up 27 percent in 2014

Reuters, Ahram Online, Sunday 1 Feb 2015 – Egypt’s tourism revenues in 2014 rose to $7.5 billion from $5.9 billion the previous year, the tourism minister said on Sunday, marking a 27 percent increase in revenues from one of the country’s major sectors.

This puts the number of tourists who visited Egypt in the last quarter of 2014 at 2.6 million, compared to 1.9 million tourists in the same quarter of the previous year, according to Ahram Online’s calculations using official data.

The country received 9.9 million tourists in 2014, up from 9.5 million in 2013, Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou told a news conference.

The country’s tourism sector, an important source of foreign currency, suffered a series of blows since the January 2011 revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Tourist numbers picked up dramatically last summer after several European countries lifted travel warnings against Egypt’s popular Red Sea resorts in the Sinai peninsula.

Revenues in Q4 2014 jumped 158 percent to $2.5 billion compared to $969 million in Q4 2013, according to Ahram Online’s calculations.

The industry was badly hit in the final quarter of 2013 following the violent dispersal by security forces of a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in August, which left hundreds dead.

Egypt welcome some 14.7 million tourists in 2010, generating $12.5 billion in revenues, before the revolution.

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Etihad Airways appoints first Emirati woman as airport manager

Abu Dhabi, January 31, 2015, Gulf News : Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has appointed the first Emirati woman as airport manager in Japan.
Based in Nagoya, Japan, Fatima Al Kharousi will be responsible for overseeing the airline’s operations at Chubu Centrair International Airport and the smooth operation of its daily service between Abu Dhabi and Nagoya. 
Fatima joined Etihad Airways in 2009 as part of the Graduate Management Programme.

Female employees make up 42 per cent of Etihad Airways’ workforce and this includes more than 130 Emirati women in the airline’s various management development programmes, 34 pilots, 32 technical engineers and 49 females deployed in overseas positions across the airline’s global network.

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DSF serves up refreshing vignettes of Emirati heritage

Dubai: January 30, 2015, Gulf News: Tourists in town for the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) can explore Emirati culture at the UAE pavilion and Hamdan Bin Mohammad Heritage Centre (HBMHC) at Global Village.

Many first-time visitors spend a whole month in the emirate during DSF but often miss out on experiencing the culture and traditional lifestyle of Emiratis. That heritage is still alive — be it in remote villages or within the walls of villas in the cities.

At the HBMHC’s area in Global Village, an entire scene from Bedouin and village life has been recreated. The simplicity and ingenuity of their form and function has left many visitors intrigued.

There is the Saffa house, built from stone with hollow sections. The architecture is designed to allow natural air circulation and there are deliberate gaps in the stone walls to maximise this process at strategic points.

Such houses were usually built near mountainous areas as it was easy to use the stones from the mountains for the construction. Since stones don’t absorb heat like other materials, these homes were ideal for the summer, which is very harsh in the UAE.

The desert climate has shaped almost all aspects of traditional life in the emirates. Even the winds have played a role.

A neighbourhood council of sorts, the Al Hathira, is like a semi circle covered from branches of the indegenious Markh tree, with the entrance facing north-west because winds generally blow towards the southeast here.

Other wonders of nature that are integral to desert life are the camel and the date palm tree. Camel milk, once staple everyday refreshment, is making a comeback in the UAE, even with non-Emiratis. At HBMHC, there is a central area with some camels that are sometimes milked on the spot, providing a rare insight into the traditional way of life.

“Many tourists don’t even know the camel has milk and that milk can be drunk,” said Mohammad Sawad, a young Indian who brings tourists to Global Village. “It’s a bit salty but good.”

Camel meat is also still on the menu at traditional restaurants, at some Emirati weddings and even some modern cafes sell camel burgers.

Dates are another local food, but the relationship between the palm tree and the people here is even closer. Date palm leaves, fibre and bark is used to make everything from bread baskets, food covers and mats, ropes, roofs, fences and bags. It is also used to make stand a or pyramid-shaped stool on which the clothes are placed, making a tent-like shape so the traditional incense burner can be placed in the middle to perfume the clothes.

Even brooms and brushes are made from the material. Nothing was allowed to go to waste in the yesteryears and everything was utilised to its full potential.

At the Emirates Gallery stall at the UAE pavilion, visitors can see Emiratis weave and work with their hands in making traditional wares. There is also a mini-museum of sorts directly behind the stall that showcases the heritage items — animal-skin water bags, fishing nets, old rifles, and coffee jugs, among many others.

Visitors can even ask for some of the items to be made for them so they can take them away as souvenirs, although it can take hours or days for some of the replicas to be made.

“Things like this (HBMHC) exhibition should be placed right inside the malls. Everyone will be interested. So people will realise (Emirati culture) is real, it’s here. This is how they actually lived. I haven’t seen anything like this,” said Nimita, an Indian expat.

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World Cup: How India discovered Mohammed Shami via Kolkata

Hindustan Times, Feb 02, 2015 — On the National Highway 24 which connects Delhi and Lucknow, lies the dusty Sahaspur Alinagar. The village of 5,000 people is just a 30-minute drive from Moradabad. Most of the villagers make a living out of the sugarcane plantations and mustard cultivation. A nearby brick kiln is gnawing away at the soil on the local cricket field, leaving only one side of the uneven pitch intact. The bowlers have to strictly maintain an off-stump line. This is where Mohammed Shami took his first steps to become a fast bowler.

The dire ground conditions didn’t deter Tousif Ahmed from dreaming big for his son. A third generation landlord, he prepared a cement pitch nearby which Shami used daily to hone his skills, albeit off a short run-up.

Tousif was determined not to let another talent wither away. In his 20s, he had earned the sobriquet ‘tez gendbaz’ (fast bowler) in local tournaments, but his dream to play for Uttar Pradesh didn’t go beyond the uneven grounds of Amroha and Moradabad.

His elder son Haseeb followed in his footsteps, but he was diagnosed with kidney stones a day before trials for the UP under-19 team in Kanpur, dashing his cricket dreams. Till then, Haseeb had been in demand at local tournaments, and Shami used to tag along. Everything he learnt about swing bowling from watching Wasim Akram and Michael Holding on TV, he passed it on to Shami.

But it was clearly not enough, at least for the selectors at UP’s under-19 team trials. For three years in a row, Shami crossed three processing rounds but never got selected. “You can’t judge a bowler in six balls. Shami was very fast and his bowling was accurate. We had to wait for days for his turn to demonstrate his bowling, but the selectors didn’t give him enough time,” Tousif recalls.

The rejection only strengthened Shami’s resolve as he continued to train under coach Badruddin in Moradabad, 22 km from his village. And then the lucky break arrived.

“From the beginning, I knew what Shami was capable of,” says Badruddin. “In 2006, I got a call from the Dalhousie Club in Kolkata. One of their pace bowlers was injured. The club was gearing up to play the local league quarter-final. I was asked if I had any pacer, and I said, ‘the best’.”

Two days later, Badruddin handed a ticket to Shami and put him on the Punjab Mail. “He was just a kid. Before boarding the train, he kept looking at me. I said ‘ja beta, tere liye acha hi hoga.’ (go on son, everything will work out well for you).”

It was the start of Shami’s journey towards wearing an India jersey, but not before he went through the grind on the Kolkata maidans. At Rs. 500 per match, Shami played for Dalhousie till Debabrata Das, a senior office-bearer of Town Club, spotted him. “We needed a pace bowler. I gave him a contract of Rs. 70,000 for the season and Rs. 100 as daily food allowance and brought him home,” says Das.

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Etihad Airways Records Surge In Fleet-Wide Inflight Connectivity Usage

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Feb 5 (NNN-WAM) – Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, which next month becomes one of the few airlines in the world to offer fleet-wide in-flight connectivity services, has witnessed a dramatic surge in Internet and mobile phone usage in 2014.

Reflecting the broader trend for people to use their personal devices for work and entertainment when travelling, the growth was largely driven by people logging onto Etihad Airways’ Wi-Fi network, with usage rising by 80 per cent last year.

Increased demand for onboard mobile services also contributed to the surge in usage, with 2.6 million devices connecting to the airline’s onboard mobile network in 2014. In-flight texts and mobile phone calls increased by 62 per cent and 61 per cent respectively, compared to the same period in 2013.

iOS was the most popular operating system onboard, with 55 per cent of the airline’s guests connecting to the Internet with their iPads and iPhones, while 30 per cent used devices running on Android’s operating system.

Etihad Airways’ Live TV service is attracting strong interest and receiving great feedback from travellers, with an average of 50,000 hours of live news and major sporting events being viewed each month.

Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, said, “We continue to redefine our guests’ air travel experience with innovative products and services, the latest communication technology and entertainment systems that best fit their needs.

“When people travel, they want to stay connected with their work, their friends and their family. They also want to be kept up-to-date with 24-hour world news services. This is now possible for the entire journey on an Etihad Airways flight.” The services, comprising Wi-Fi, mobile connectivity and live television, combine the “Etihad Wi-Fly” solution, powered by the Panasonic Avionics Global Communications Suite, and OnAir’s in flight connectivity solution.

The high-speed broadband services enable guests to access the Internet from laptops, tablets and smartphones over Wi-Fi, allowing them to send emails, log onto their favourite social media sites, upgrade seats, change travel plans and much more, all from the comfort of their seats at 35,000 feet.

The mobile connectivity service allows guests to use their mobile phones and smart phones to make and receive phone calls, send and read SMS text messages or email, use mobile data services to browse the web, and much more.

Now available on 43 wide-body aircraft, the Live TV service brings quality content from seven television channels including BBC World News, Sport 24 and CNN, the top three most viewed channels, and CNBC, euronews, Japan’s NHK World Premium, and Sky News Arabia.

The airline’s connected fleet comprises 92 passenger aircraft, including 29 Airbus A319/320/321s, 26 A330s, 11 A340s, one A380, 24 Boeing 777 family aircraft and the first B787 Dreamliner, which serve routes across six continents.

All future aircraft, scheduled for delivery through 2015 will also be equipped with inflight connectivity.

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Muslim Named Young Queenslander of 2015

OnIslam & Newspapers Friday, 06 February 2015 QUEENSLAND – Offering a role model to young Muslims worldwide, an Australian Muslim woman has been named the 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the year, in recognition of her work in leading a successful youth project for years.

“The idea of Youth Without Borders is that young people work together on projects that positively impact their community,” Yassmin Abdel-Magied, the 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, told 4BC on Friday, February 6.

“A lot of what we do is around creating equal opportunities for young people. No matter how old you are, where you are born, you have the capacity to change the world around you.”

The Muslim girl, Abdel-Magied, won the Queensland award for her efforts and work with the “Youth Without Borders”, an organization she established when she was just 16.

Abdel-Magid, who is also an oil and gas engineer, said that she is honored to receive the award that will help her to expand her organization’s outreach. “Awards like this give me the opportunity to speak to more people”, she said.

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 per cent of its 20-million population.

In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned. “Anyone who grown up Muslim in Australia or in the West broadly has a preimpose 9/11 life”, she said.

Being at the age of 10 at that time, Abdel-Magied “went from someone who was brown and wore slightly different clothes to someone who represented something that I didn’t even understand.

“I represented an evil that people saw,” she added. “That is something that we have to slowly come back from and that is the reality of the situation.”

Muslims and non-Muslims alike “need to focus on a collective humanity and community and work on issues that support us all together as Australian,” the Muslim winner stated.

Abdel- Magid is not the first Muslim woman to receive a prestigious award in Australia. Last August, a Muslim woman who has devoted more than 25 years to helping women and multicultural communities has received the 2014 New South Wales Human Rights Award.

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Mideast Airlines Achieve Record Passenger Growth In 2014

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb 6 (NNN-WAM) – Airlines in the Middle East recorded the highest passenger growth worldwide in 2014, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

According to IATA, Middle East airlines achieved a record-high 13 per cent of passenger growth in 2014, as the regional economies continued to show robust growth in non-oil sectors, “and are therefore well-placed to withstand the plunge in oil revenues.”

Earlier in the week, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman of the biggest Middle Eastern carrier, Emirates Airlines in Dubai, said that, the oil price slump has translated into lower jet fuel costs, “but currency exchange risks have stood in place.”

The airline capacity in the Middle East rose by 4.6 per cent in 2014, while load factor, an indicator to assess the airlines’ efficiency in filling seats and generating fare revenue, dropped by 1.1 per cent to reach 81.7 per cent, the highest among all regions.

In comparison, the IATA figures showed that, global traffic increased by 6.1 per cent year-on-year in 2014, while the capacity rose by 6.4 per cent and load factor slipped 0.1 per cent to 79.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, Dubai is set to bring its airport capacities to the next level, to become the global air hub. In Jan, Dubai International Airport announced that it served 70 million passengers in 2014, an uptick of 6.1 per cent over 2013, that made it one of the busiest airports in the world.

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Kuwait Donates US$ One Million For Islamic Centre In Utah

WASHINGTON, Feb 5 (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait has been seen as the definition of a moderate Islamic society that promotes peace and has always sought to raise profile of Muslims in various parts of the world.

Kuwait has recently donated one million US dollars, for the establishment of an Islamic centre in the state of Utah, located in the American West. The area is known for its conservative society, which makes it a distinct destination for Muslim families around the world.

More than 40,000 Muslims currently live in the state, which has six Islamic centres directed towards various Muslim communities. But these centres are concentrated in the capital, Salt Lake City, located in southern Utah, where great services are offered to the Islamic community, including places for congregational prayers, lessons in Arabic language and Islamic religion.

Funeral services also became available after these centres purchased land in the public cemetery.

In this sense, Consul General of Kuwait in Los Angeles, Abdulatif Yahya, said in a statement to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that, “Kuwait and its government are interested in promoting tolerance and the exchange of cultures all over the world, especially the United States.”

Kuwait believes that the project will benefit thousands of Muslims in Utah, especially Kuwaiti and the Gulf students there, he said, hinting that, such an approach is encouraged by the Kuwaiti leadership, namely the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, recently designated by the UN as a “humanitarian leader,” in gratitude for abundant philanthropic aid to nations and communities outside Kuwait.

KUNA met with the Director for the North Utah Islamic Centre, Mohammed Alnajar, who explained that, establishment of the centre came directly after the events of Sept, 2001, in order to convey the Islamic religion as one which rejects violence, promotes peaceful coexistence between civilisations and respect for other religions, Alnajar said.

He added that, the number of Muslims in the north of the state, namely in Ogden, has been growing — including 4,000 from various Arab states and hundreds of students from Gulf countries.

Alnajar indicated in this respect that, the centre’s space could no longer accommodate the rising number of Muslims in need for its services, such as attending Koranic classes and performing prayers.

In recognition of Kuwait’s continuous support for Muslim communities around the world, he announced the non-profit organisation will now be officially known as the Kuwait Islamic Centre in Utah.

He explained that the centre, 18.4 hectares (about 75,000 square metres) of space, includes a church, nuns’ houses and other affiliate facilities and chambers. The land and buildings, licensed by the US Administration, is appropriate to host religious rituals.

The complex was originally a monastery, before being turned into an Islamic centre. The monastery was built in 1999 as a green building or environmentally friendly, in terms of energy consumption in general with the latest modern technology.

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Japanese Lady Promotes Traditional Malay Arts

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Aki Nina-Uehara is among the handful of non-Malaysians advocating the preservation of the traditional Malay arts.

The petite 35-year-old Japanese lady has developed such an affinity to the art that she is now even promoting it to her people back home.

This writer first met Aki in late 2013, when attending a workshop on the Kelantanese traditional arts in Pasir Mas, Kelantan.

She came on the invitation of the Kelantanese traditional music group, Geng Wak Long.

Aki is so familiar with the people of Kelantan that she could easily sit down with them to enjoy a meal of rice and budu (fermented fish sauce), and converse in fluent Malay.

A year after her meeting with the writer, she returned to Kelantan. This time, she came armed with plans to further promote traditional Malay arts groups in her country.

Aki started bringing traditional Malay arts to Japan three years ago when she brought in musician Mohd Kamrulbahri Hussin to perform solo at several locations in Tokyo.

His performances were well-received by the Japanese public. This prompted Aki to organise traditional Malay music workshops at several locations in Tokyo, last October that featured Mohd Kamrulbahri and his group Geng Wak Long.

“The Japanese people have been exposed to arts from a young age. So anyone wishing to bring in a performer or a group from outside to perform in Japan must ensure that those performers are of quality.

“Kamrul is an exceptional performer and those who saw his performances in Tokyo can attest to it,” she told Bernama when met in Kuala Lumpur late last year.

This year, Aki is planning to bring traditional Malay dances and shadow play performances to Japan.

“There has to be more effort to showcase the traditional arts to the world. The approach should also be different in order to attract a good audience, particularly from among the young,” said Aki, who owns an event management company and provides translation and interpreter services.

The love for the arts runs in the family. Aki’s father Tsuneko Uehara was a music professor and composer at the University of Osaka while her mother Kazuo Uehara was a piano teacher.

Her first exposure to the Malay traditional arts was at age 16, when she first set foot in Malaysia.

At the time, she had participated in a student exchange programme and lived a year with a foster family in Pahang where she learned about the many forms of traditional Malay arts.

“I lived with a Malay foster family in Felda Bukit Saga, Pahang and even went to school there. It was a wonderful time. When I returned to Japan, I missed Malaysia very much and was determined to return and learn more particularly of the country’s arts and culture,” she said.

Aki married Masahiro Nina, a musician from traditional performance art group Taikuh Jikang.

After completing her studies in sociology at a University in Tokyo, she returned to Malaysia in 2002 to study the Malay language at Universiti Sains Malaysia. She then pursued her Masters degree in Malay literature and ethnomusicology, graduating in 2007.

“I joined the university’s arts and culture club as a violinist. It was there that I learned more about traditional songs and the “joget”, among others,” said Aki, whose Masters thesis was on the Kedah “Wayang Kulit Gedek”.

Her effort to introduce Malaysia to Japan was not only done through music and the arts but also by the regular publication of newspaper bulletins.

The project that was launched last year was a joint effort with her friend Rie Takatsuka, a producer and film director.

“I had befriended Rie earlier in the year. She also had the experience of working in Malaysia. So we thought of a way to introduce Malaysia to the Japanese, particularly to those living in Tokyo. We decided to publish news bulletins about Malaysia and distribute it for free,” said Aki who funded the project from her own pocket.

Between 2,000 and 5,000 copies of the Japanese language bulletin was printed and distributed at Malaysian restaurants in Tokyo, the Malaysian embassy and offices.

Its content was on the popular places and food in Malaysia, its film and arts industry and important events. “It is a quarterly publication and we have had two editions out so far. We hope it will help the Japanese people become more acquainted with Malaysia,” she said.

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Jackie Chan Can Help Boost Malaysia’s Tourism Industry – Minister

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 (NNN-THE STAR) — Malaysia will benefit from awarding the datukship to Jackie Chan as the Hong Kong action star and filmmaker can draw positive publicity to the country and boost the tourism industry.

Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz said the award presentation itself was good publicity for Malaysia, with the occasion covered extensively by the international media.

“I fully support giving the award to him,” he said. “He is a major figure in the Chinese film industry who has a close affinity to Malaysia, so I am very sure he will help to promote our country and tourism industry.”

On Sunday, Chan was conferred the Panglima Mahkota Wilayah award by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Malaysian King) Tuanku Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah in conjunction with Federal Territory Day.

The actor-director shot parts of Police Story 3 in Kuala Lumpur in 1992 and attended the opening of the E-Village project in Cyberjaya in 2000.

Chan is the second foreign film star to be awarded the datukship after Indian movie icon Shah Rukh Khan who received a Darjah Mulia Seri Melaka award from Governor Mohd Khalil Yaakob in 2008.

Two of Khan’s films – 2001’s One 2 Ka 4 and 2011’s Don 2 – were partly shot in Malaysia.

Another foreign artiste to be given a datukship is Indonesian singer Rossa, who received the Darjah Indera Mahkota Pahang award last year.

Tourism Malaysia chairman Dr Ng Yen Yen said Chan’s datukship would help Malaysia as the star had a global fan base. “Indirectly, he can help put Malaysia in a positive light, and one word of publicity from him would be worth more than 10 from us,” she said.

Member of Parliament for Kuala Lumpur’s Batu constituency, Tian Chua, said the authorities who proposed Chan for the award were not just thinking of how he could help boost tourism.

“Chan is a legend to the people of his generation all over Asia and such an award was also an acknowledgement of his many accomplishments,” said Tian.

Despite the plaudits, some Malaysians took to the Internet to express their doubts over whether Chan deserved the award.

They included local film director and actor Afdlin Shauki, who wrote on his Facebook page that datukships should be conferred to Malaysians whose accomplishments were a source of pride to the country.

Afdlin said that while he “loved” Chan, a datukship would not be worth much to an international star. In a later Facebook posting, Afdlin invited Chan to come to Malaysia and help build the country’s film industry.

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New Zealand Seeks To Expand Links With Arab Nations

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Feb 5 (NNN-XINHUA) – New Zealand will be looking to strengthen official links and trade, when Associate Trade Minister, Todd McClay, tours three Arab states next week, Xinhua news agency reported.

“This visit is very much about reinforcing New Zealand’s commitment to partnering with Gulf states, in a range of areas, including food security, infrastructure and services,” McClay said, Thursday.

McClay said that the three states — United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, covering a growing region, offering significant opportunities for New Zealand.

“It will also be an opportunity to share New Zealand’s expertise in asset management and government services, and to build on the already strong relationships we have with these three countries,” he said.

In Dubai, McClay will discuss the World Expo to be held there in 2020 and meet with New Zealand companies active in the region.

In Saudi Arabia, he will meet with ministerial counterparts on a bilateral trading relationship, and discuss further cooperation in environment and education in Qatar.

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Omani Products On Display At Lulu Hypermarkets

MUSCAT, Oman, Feb 4 (NNN-ONA) – All branches of Lulu Hypermarkets in the Sultanate, are currently showcasing Omani products, as part of a series of exhibitions of Omani Products’ Campaign 2015, entitled, “Omani” and to coincide with the coming Sultanate’s Industry Day on Feb 9.

The focal exhibition kicked-off in Lulu Hypermarket, Baushar branch today, under the auspices of Dr. Hamad bin Said al-Oufi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Organised by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE), the series of “Omani” exhibitions endeavour to promote locally manufactured products and underscore the competent capabilities of the products, to compete locally and internationally.

These exhibitions aim at promoting and generating awareness, on locally manufactured products, to mark their presence in all governorates of the Sultanate.

The next two weeks will witness similar exhibitions in the various commercial centres, as part of the national campaign for promoting Omani products.”

On the other hand, Eng. Basim bin Ali al-Nassri, Director General of Marketing and Media at PEIE, noted that, this exhibition comes in line with a series of events that PEIE will be organising during the next two weeks.

“PEIE will hold an open day in Al Rusayl, Sumail, Nizwa, Sur, Raysut, Sohar, Al Buraimi, Knowledge Oasis Muscat and Al Mazyonnah Free Zone.”

In addition to the Omani Products Exhibitions at Lulu Hypermarkets, PEIE is also organising other exhibitions, at Muscat Grand Mall, Al Meera Hypermarket and City Centre’s Carrefour.

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Indonesia will support Malaysia’s success as ASEAN chairman

Monday 02 Feb 2015 – Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – Indonesia confirmed its commitment to ensure Malaysia’s success in leading the ASEAN regional group this year.

This commitment was expressed by Herman Prayitno, Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia, who said that it included efforts to accelerating the integration of the ASEAN 10-member countries with nearly 625 million people.

“We will help to ensure Malaysia’s success in leading ASEAN in 2015. We will participate actively and support the agenda drawn up by Malaysia,” Herman said in a special interview with BERNAMA at the Indonesian Embassy here recently.

He said for now, the connectivity aspect must be given more attention so that the desire to build an ASEAN Economic Community would materialize and benefit the people.

Malaysia took over from Myanmar as ASEAN Chairman at a crucial time when the establishment of the ASEAN Community is expected to become a reality by the end of 2015.

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First Halal slaughterhouse to open in Philippines

Tuesday 03 Feb 2015 – Manila (IINA) – Local authorities of the Philippine Cotabato City said the first modern halal slaughterhouse in the country will be operational this month.

Dr. Robert Malcontento, Cotabato City veterinary chief, said that he received a message from the contractor stating that the construction work of this huge project was fully completed.

The slaughterhouse was slated to be operational by the end of 2014, but the continued rains hampered the construction schedule.

Malcontento assured that this slaughterhouse meets all the legal requirements and standards of halal meat, in terms of slaughter method, tools used, freezing and shipping.

Speaking to the Philippines News Agency (PNA), Malcontento said: “The new slaughterhouse will be opened once we get the certificate from the Muslim Halal Certification Board (MMHCB) in Mindanao after we have fulfilled all the prescribed conditions and standards”.

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Women encouraged to see the beauty of Hijab

Thursday 05 Feb 2015 – New York, (IINA) – For the first time in its three-year run, Sunday’s World Hijab Day became a trending topic on social media as women supported the effort in events worldwide and shared images of Hijab and beauty, tagged #WorldHijabDay.

World Hijab Day is an annual event that fell this year on February 1.

“Covering up should be a free choice! I may not be Muslim or religious but I support the beauty a hijab can bring to a woman,” said one woman who shared an image through the World Hijab Day website, CNN reported.

Nazma Khan, a Muslim woman who moved from Bangladesh to New York at age 11, the headscarf for her is a symbol of her religious belief in beauty through modesty.

“Modesty is part of our Islamic faith,” Khan wrote in an email. “No one should be discriminated (against) for following their faith.”

“Our goal is to foster global religious tolerance and understanding through hijab awareness. Many women get discriminated (against) simply because they choose to wear the hijab,” Khan said. “Hopefully, this event will make people realize that women who wear the hijab are just like anyone else. They’re not oppressed or are forced to wear it. They just simply want to follow their faith by being modest.

“We’re from Sweden. My friend always uses Hijab so I really wanted to see what it was like. We went shopping and it didn’t feel strange at all, I liked it. Great initiative on WHD’s part. “Ulrika from Sweden said.

This year, “ambassadors” in 33 countries organized World Hijab Day events. Organizers in Canada, for example, invited the public to try on hijabs at a mall in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Kiran Malik-Khan, the organizer of that event, made the choice to start covering her head four years ago after a pilgrimage to Makkah.

“I did it because I wanted to do it. It’s progress for me as a Muslim woman, the next step in my faith,” said Khan (no relation to Nazma Khan).

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Wearing Hijab, Indonesian women stress faith on Islamic culture

Saturday 07 Feb 2015 – Riyadh (IINA) – Hundreds of Muslim women from the Indonesian community gathered at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter to participate in the ‘Creative Hijab,’ a Muslim style makeover session organized by the wives of the Indonesian diplomats recently.

“Wearing an Islamic headscarf, or a ‘hijab,’ is a personal choice for millions of Indonesian Muslim women. For many it is a representation of faith and a way to practice modesty,” said Ivo Meriyanti Sunarko, wife of deputy chief of the Indonesian mission. Sunarko said, “Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation with over 88 per cent practicing Muslims and where the Islamic culture has a strong and widespread influence.

Significantly, Indonesia has a huge market in hijab exports to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Indonesian Muslims have influenced the modest evolution of the hijab, and Indonesian women’s awareness of wearing the hijab has increased, especially among the younger generations.”

With the growing popularity of hijab styles nowadays, Muslims do not hesitate to wear hijabs and still look stylish. “Our hijab culture has prompted Indonesian designers to produce creative designs for the hijab which has become a fashion statement,” she said.

A ‘live’ hijab tutorial was organized by the Indonesian Women’s Association (IWA) at the embassy’s cultural hall. The event featured three innovative hijab styles including a ‘Casual’ style for practical daily wear, a ‘Party’ style and hijab for ‘Seniors and the elderly.’ Hijab stylist Yoke Adi demonstrated the ‘Casual’ national style with Eka Farid who volunteered to model for the presentation while the elaborate ‘Party Style’ hijab was presented by Ciecie Dafris with model, Jihan Rahmad. The ‘Mature Style’ was tutored by Endah Dewanto who worked with volunteer model, Yoke Adi. Stylist Endah personally preferred to uphold the ‘Turban’ hijab, a current favourite among new hijabis globally.

Increasingly, hijab is becoming a symbol of individual expression and in many cases a fashion statement with greater adaptation of modern designs as showcased by online communities of Muslims across the globe. Speaking about innovation in draping the modest covering, Endah Dewanto said, “Tutorials instructing women on how to wrap and wear an Indonesian hijab are featured on various websites and blogs. Within these, different styles are usually featured and precise colours and fabrics may be chosen according to the wearer’s preference.”

Coincidently, the hijab event stood parallel with the International World Hijab Day, celebrated on Feb, 1 since 2013, by members from over 116 countries with a message to encourage Muslim and non-Muslim sisters to experience a day in ‘Hijab’ for better awareness, education and greater understanding about the concept of hijab.

Tyas emphasized, “Hijab is our culture and a part of every Muslim’s faith which protects the modesty of women and empowers them.

Muslim women should take the hijab because it is an obligation upon every Muslim woman as stated in the Qur’an.” Ike Chairil said it was a beautiful sight to see the entire auditorium packed with hijab-covered participants for a good cause. “With today’s lesson, we can now confidently wear trendy hijab styles ourselves without having to go to stylists,” she said.

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Muslims in France start campaign to fight backlash

Saturday 07 Feb 2015 – Paris (IINA) – In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris on January 7, a group of French Muslim activists started a social media campaign called #JeSuisNous to showcase positive Muslim contributions to French culture.

A month after the campaign’s launch, the Facebook page is a popular posting site where both Muslims and non-Muslims post daily stories on topics ranging from rap music, art, sport to academia, Al Arabiya reported. With a strong desire to support a peaceful and cohesive society in France, the group of French Muslims that kick-started the campaign consists of professionals that range from different backgrounds specializing in the fields of law, human rights, finance, communications and academia. Speaking to Al Arabiya News, the team behind #JeSuisNous explain how the events of last month, considered as one of “France’s worst terrorist attack in a generation,” inspired the vision of #JesuisNous.

Laila Fathi, who is currently a Phd student in Law at SOAS university in London, described the urge to do something in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack as “cathartic” amidst growing fears of anti-Muslim backlash amongst the French Muslim community. “I felt that our very existence (as Muslims in France) will be put into question.” The objectives of the campaign for #JesuisNous’s project manager, Suhail Najmi, who’s also a journalist for the niche Muslim channel Oumma TV, is clear: “Valorize actions of Muslims citizens…(by talking) about our individual stories…and promoting French Muslims contributions to (French) community, culture, art…”

Currently a Facebook page and an accompanying monthly YouTube channel have kickstarted the campaign, which aims to develop a digital platform “working toward enriching the influence of the Muslim community…but it is also about the community without the ‘communautarism” exclaims Laila. “So basically, creating events by which Muslims will feel more confident in their French identity…bridging between the different actors of French civil society.”

Since the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, there’s been unprecedented spikes in anti-Muslim hatred attacks. According to The Daily Beast: “The National Observatory Against Islamophobia says there were 128 anti-Muslim incidents reported in France between the Charlie Hebdo killings and Jan. 20, compared to 133 last year.”

Samia Hathroubi, a French history teacher, and #JesuisNous team activist, describes the current struggle to gain positive public perception of French Muslims hampered by negative narratives emerging on a “daily basis” from some quarters of French media and politicians, as well as anti-terror laws “singling out Muslims, Islam as a very worrying issue.”

In order to explain the challenges faced by French Muslims, fellow team member behind #JeSuisNous and Economics Professor Rabah Ghezali points out that “whilst Muslims in France may be the largest Muslim population in a European country (approximately six million), our community is composed of diasporas that have experienced different patterns of migration, often the result of decolonization, than say Muslims in the US Furthermore, Muslim institutions in France are not as representative as we would desire.” The team behind #JeSuisNous are optimistic that as a digital platform, the campaign is a good starting point to showcase French Muslim diversity.

Adding to this, Hosni Maati a human rights lawyer states: “We promote our action on the Internet but also in the real life…. We hope that our campaign will contribute to change the ambient speech on the Muslims of our country and first of all that of the political and economic decision-makers.” Je Suis Nous which translates as I am we, has already garnered over 2,000 likes since it launched and is growing rapidly.

With excitement, Laila explains that the campaign has “lots of support.” The choice of the campaign name, #JesuisNous, is “sophisticated.” “It is a shout, that means to overcome the divide #JeSuisCharlie created. It brings together those who were appalled by the attack against the magazine.” But moreover, “it is an assertion of a French identity that does not tick one box…it is a plurality all conjoined by the belief in values of liberty equality and fraternity. Values that have lost their meaning in the past ten years.”

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Shanghai Airlines begins direct flights to Maldives

Sun.mv – February 4, 2015 – Shanghai Airlines has commenced direct flights between Shanghai and Malé. The first Shanghai Airlines flight – a B767 aircraft with a capacity of 200 passengers – arrived at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 3 February 2015. Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) has said that the airline will operate three chartered flights per week until the end of the winter in China.

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Maldivian begins flights to Nanjing, China

Sun.mv – February 4, 2015 – National Airline, Maldivian, has commenced operations between Malé and Nanjing, China. The first flight from Nanjing – an A321 aircraft recently acquired by Maldivian – arrived at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) with 200 passengers today.

Maldivian already flies to two other destinations in China. Chinese Ambassador to Maldives Wang Fukang has said that 109 million Chinese tourists travelled to destinations around the world last year, out of which 360,000 visited Maldives.

He said that this 360,000 is a small number, and also highlighted that China has been Maldives’ biggest tourism market for the past five years.

Island Aviation Service, the company that operates Maldivian, said that the new flights would facilitate the arrival of 200 tourists from China daily – resulting in the possible arrival of 1,000 tourists per week and 4,000 tourists per month.

Island Aviation has also announced that Maldivian would participate in travel fairs and hold roadshows in three cities at the end of 2015.

The most important of all, serious work is needed in marketing and image building in the sector, he said.

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First Dreamliner arrives at Istanbul airport

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The first commercial Dreamliner to operate at Sabiha Gökçen Airport arrives in Istanbul with a water cannon salute.

The first commercial Dreamliner to operate at Sabiha Gökçen Airport arrives in Istanbul with a water cannon salute.

Azerbaijan Airlines’ inaugural flight, the first commercial Dreamliner to operate at Sabiha Gökçen Airport, was welcomed with a water cannon salute on its arrival on Feb. 4, the company said through a press release Feb. 5.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, an all-new super-efficient airplane, was launched by Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2004. The Dreamliner features a suite of new technologies and its revolutionary design, with composite materials making up 50 per cent of the primary structure of the 787, including the fuselage and wing.

It provides airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance, using 20 per cent less fuel than today’s similarly sized airplanes. Passengers can also enjoy significant on-board improvements from an interior environment with higher humidity to more comfort and convenience, said the company.

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Startup companies flourish in Turkey

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – The number of Turkish startup companies jumped sharply in 2014, fueled by relative confidence in Turkish business conditions despite relatively slow economic growth.

“Turkish entrepreneurs aren’t daunted by difficult conditions,” said Fırat İleri, a principal at the Dutch private equity fund Hummingbird, which has made a number of investments in Turkish startups. “They tend to be experienced in their fields, and they have a clear vision of how they expect to succeed,” he said.

Confidence is clearly a critical factor for Turkish startups, agreed Seltem İyigün, an economist with the credit insurance firm Coface in Istanbul.

“Business confidence indexes were relatively high for Turkey in 2014,” İyigun said. “And there was still sufficient growth to bolster optimism among entrepreneurs.”

The number of new startups in Turkey was about 60,000 as of September 2014, up from about 45,000 in September 2013, according to statistics in the Coface Panorama Turkey report, published in January. One recent startup, Nanokomp, a maker of high-technology materials such as engineered composite materials, has made deals with several important international manufacturers. Another firm, armut.com, now has more than 40,000 associates listed, along with funding from Hummingbird.

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Turkey lures half-million sports tourists: Report

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Over 550,000 tourists visited Turkey in 2014 for sporting reasons, spending more than $900 million, said the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) in a written statement on Jan. 31.

The share of sports tourism is around 1.5 per cent in the tourism industry, with the biggest contributors being golf and football. Tourism authorities, however, have said they aim to increase the figure.

A sports tourist spends almost two-fold of what an ordinary tourist does. While a foreign tourist spends around $800 in Turkey, a sports tourist spends $1,648 in average, according to TÜRSAB.

The volume of global sports tourism in 2014 was around $180 billion out of the total tourism sector, which is worth $1.2 trillion.

“The share of sports tourism reaches up to 25 per cent in some countries. Turkey needs to increase the share of this sort of tourism,” said TÜRSAB head Başaran Ulusoy.

With the new investments in sports facilities and new sports events and tournaments, Turkey could succeed in reaching this target, he said.

Turkey ranks 18th in the world in terms of the number of sports events it hosts. A total of 14 events were staged in Turkey in the last eight years, according to the report.

Some 1,200 football teams come for camps in Turkey every year in average, creating an annual economic volume of around $100 million. Around 90 per cent of the football teams which organize camps in Antalya are foreign, while more than 160,000 golf tourists visit Turkey every year, according to the report.

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Turkey to pay for jet fuel to keep Russian tourists coming

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – The government is planning new incentives for tour operators and airlines, as part of measures to boost tourism income amid problems in neighbouring countries, particularly the economic crisis in Russia and the depreciation of the rouble.

The related ministries held a special meeting on the issue last week, due to concerns about the drop in early bookings, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Feb. 3, unveiling a raft of new measures.

“Tourism is one of the leading industries in Turkey, but it has been said that we might face serious problems in tourism this year,” Davutoğlu said.

As part of the new measures, Turkey will grant $6,000 to all passenger planes from Russia and Iran for the next two months as a contribution into their fuel spending.

“This will prevent the cancellation of flights,” Davutoğlu said, adding that this would also ease the burden for tour operators. He added that the operators would also enjoy a generous credit window.

Başaran Ulusoy, the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), said the support would help meet the sector’s expectations in a rocky period.

“Supporting planes means supporting tour operators. This will have a direct effect on consumer prices. We have also told officials that passport-free crossing from these two countries (Russia and Iran) is needed, but of course this is a mutual issue for all the countries,” Ulusoy said.

However, many sector leaders have suggested that such passport-free travel is impossible due to security concerns.

On Jan. 10, Hürriyet quoted Mehmet Ersoy, the chairman of tour operator Etstur, as suggesting that Turkey should compensate the costs of fuel for planes arriving from Russia in order not to lose out on this large market. Turkey receives around 4.4 million Russian tourists every year, especially in its sun-soaked southern destinations in the south.

Ersoy said the government’s latest decision was “important,” adding that $6,000 amounts to around half of the fuel costs of a mid-sized plane for two months.

“But the fuel issue does not solve everything. The planes and the tour operators should also take responsibility. It is mainly Turkish operators who bring Russian tourists to Turkey. But the financial support will make them totally concentrate on Turkey,” he said.

The crisis in Europe may create opportunities for the Turkish tourism businesses if airlines reflect the fall in oil prices on their ticket fees, Ulusoy had earlier said at a sector event organized by daily Hürriyet on Dec. 22.

Turkey’s tourism income increased by 6.2 per cent to $34.3 billion in 2014, the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) announced on Jan. 30.

However, income from tourism fell to $7.67 billion in the last quarter of last year, down 1.3 per cent from the same period in 2013.

The total number of visitors increased 5.6 per cent from the previous year, to 41 million in 2014, according to the data. Around 86.6 per cent of the people visiting the country were foreigners, while 13.4 per cent were Turkish citizens who reside abroad.

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Restoration to start at ancient Anavarza

ADANA – Anadolu Agency – Archaeological excavations are continuing in the ancient city of Anavarza. The Roman-era ancient city, located close to the Dilekkaya village in the southern province of Adana, is currently hosting a team of 50 people under the scientific consultancy of Çukurova University academic Fatih Gülşen.

Gülşen said the excavations had been ongoing for two months so far.

“Works in the 250 meter part of the columned street is about to finish. The street is 2,700 meters long and 35 meters wide. We will start the restitution of 500 pieces that have fallen from the monumental entrance gate over time, and three broken columns have been unearthed with their pedestals so far. This work will start next month,” he said.

Gülşen added that Anavarza was one of the largest ancient cities in the world at its time.

“It covers an area of 1,143 square meters. It has a castle, victory gate, an amphitheater, a temple, bath and king graves as well as aqueducts and a stadium. It is therefore one of the largest ancient cities in the world in terms of its footprint and characteristics. When all the artefacts underground are unearthed, Anavarza will become a significant culture and art centre,” he said.

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Istanbul Modern to host Tate director

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Launched in 2012 by Istanbul Modern, the “Museums Talk” program continues with the United Kingdom. Aiming to establish a new conversation platform between leading international museum professionals and audiences in Turkey, the program will host Tate Modern Director Chris Dercon on Feb. 13. He will make a speech titled “The Future of Museums.”

Dercon is an art historian, documentary filmmaker and cultural producer. Since he was appointed Director of Tate Modern in London in 2011, he has been leading the museum’s groundbreaking programs and its unmatchable expansion project. In his talk, he will question the future of museums of art, which have always been places in a constant state of disruption and transformation.

Presenting a unique platform for human encounters, Dercon will consider the museums’ potential to become a new type of public space, one for social play and innovation, facilitating new forms of art, creativity and thinking, where people will look and interact with art, as well as with each other.

All events are free of charge and will be held in English with simultaneous translation into Turkish.

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Antalya State Opera Ballet full in February

ANTALYA – Hurriyet Daily News – Celebrating its 15th year this season, the Antalya State Opera and Ballet (ANTDOB) will offer a full program throughout the month of February. In 28 days, the ballet will perform 14 shows including five operas, two ballets, one musical, three concerts and three children’s plays.

Renowned Italian composer Puccini’s immortal work “La Boheme,” which was premiered last December, will be on stage on Feb. 5, with a surprise this time. One of Turkey’s internationally acclaimed sopranos, Leyla Gencer’s latest students, soprano Simge Büyükedes, who is the winner of the “Best Opera Singer of the Year Award” of Andante Magazine 2014 Donizetti Classical Music Awards, will take the stage with ANTDOB artists.

The orchestra in the performance will be conducted by Artem Makarov.

ANTDOB will take the stage once again for those who want to see the musical “Tangopera,” which previously performed to a full house and was highly appreciated. The musical will be performed on Feb. 11 with music by Serdar Yalçın and libretto by Murat Göksu. The musical was choreographed by Uğur Seyrek.

The premiere of Italian composer Rossini’s “The Turk in Italy” will be performed on Feb. 17 by ANTDOB. The two-act comic work is an example of the Turkish effect in the European art.

Along with the artists of ANTDOB, guest artists from Ankara, Istanbul and İzmir State Opera and Ballets will be on the stage for the work on Feb. 19 and 21.

ANTDOB will crown its February program with the ballet “Murad V,” which was selected as the Best Ballet-Dance Production and the Best Choreography at the 2013 Donizetti Classical Music Awards. The libretto of the show was written by musicologist Murat Arıcı and the choreography was conceived by Armağan Davran and Volkan Ersoy.

Sultan Murad V was the 33rd sultan of the Ottoman Empire and reigned from May 30, 1876, to Aug. 31, 1876, when he was replaced by his brother Abdülhamid II. He became the sultan when his uncle Abdülaziz was deposed, but he reigned for only 93 days before being deposed on the grounds that he had mental problems. The sultan was known to be highly influenced by French culture. The show will be on stage on Feb. 26 and 28.

ANTDOB will stage a children’s play named “Şekeronya” (Candyland) after the break from school ends and classes resume on Feb. 9 and once again on Feb. 23. The menace of Şekeronya, Fırıldak has fled from his homeland only to find himself stuck on a net in the garden of an old house where he meets with two friends.

There will also be concerts in the February program. The first of the concerts will be “A Night in Paris” on Feb. 7. It will be followed by a chamber music concert for foreign guests visiting Antalya.

On Feb. 24, ANTDOB will be on the stage with the Spanish Composers Concert. All events will be performed at the Haşim İşcan Culture Center.

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Turkey launches new music festival named “Saygun”

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – İzmir has launched a bid to boost its cultural life with a new music festival organized under the name of a famous pianist, the late Ahmet Adnan Saygun. Organized by the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, the Saygun Music Festival, which kicked off Feb. 2, will continue until Feb. 9 at the Ahmet Adnan Saygun Arts Center.

At the opening concert of the festival, the Aegean Arts Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor İbrahim Yazıcı, was accompanied pianists Emre Şen, Gülsin Onay, Mauricio Vallina and Jean Bernard Pommier. The concert consisted entirely of piano concertos. On the second day of the festival, world-famous pianist Fazıl Say will meet İzmir’s art lovers.

The festival will also host a competition during with young pianists will show their talent. The jury members of the competition include Onay, Pommier, Şen, Vallina and Yazıcı.

Awards will be given to the top three in the 11-17 and 18-24 age categories, in addition to a special award and honourable mention awards. The last concert of the festival will be held on Feb. 7, with the participation of the finalists of the competition.

The Saygun Music Festival also provides opportunity for piano students and piano department graduates to work with Şen and Edna Golandsky at master class events until Feb. 9.

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‘Turkey: Home’ campaign in tourism

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – A press conferences was held Jan. 23 to provide information about the progress of the “Turkey: Home” campaign, which was launched by the Culture and Tourism Ministry for Turkey’s promotion abroad.

The campaign includes a detailed digital and social media campaign as well as newspaper, magazine and open air advertisements all around the world.

At the conference, Culture and Tourism Ministry Undersecretary Haluk Dursun said the project, which was initiated last year, should be supported by all of the country’s organizations and sector representatives.

He said 2015 was the “Turkish Year” in Belgium and they were working to form a promotion, culture and arts channels with the project.

He said the world’s most comprehensive peace conference would be held in Istanbul and also provided information about the projects in Topkapı Palace.

Dursun said they would organize a special Turkish coffee exhibition at the palace in the coming months and Turkish coffee culture would be displayed there.

Culture and Tourism Ministry Director General for Promotion İrfan Önal said projects have been continuing for one and a half years focusing on developing new culture and tourism strategies.

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‘Gateway to Cappadocia’ on rise in tourism

AKSARAY – Anadolu Agency – Eight archaeological sites in the Central Anatolian province of Aksaray, which dates back to 10,000 years ago, were visited by more than 1 million tourists last year, a 17 per cent increase in comparison to the previous year.

Aksaray, which is adjacent to Turkey’s famous Cappadocia region, became a province in 1989 after 56 years, and since then, the province has been revived with successful promotional works by the municipality and cultural directorate.

The most important archaeological site in the province, Ihlara Valley, has doubled the number of visitors with new walking routes, trekking fields, environmental rearrangements and the restoration of churches. With the opening of caravanserais, underground cities and museums, the number of visitors has increased even more.

Thanks to the new arrangements, last year 438,903 people visited Ihlara Valley, 438,903 people visited the world’s largest caravanserai, Sultanhanı, and 276,178 people visited the Saratlı Underground City.

Öresin Han, also known as Delikhan Tepesi; Monastery Valley; the newly opened Gaziemir underground city and the Aksaray Museum were among the most visited places in the province.

Culture and Tourism Director Mustafa Doğan stressed the importance of Cappadocia for Turkish tourism, adding that it had progressed in terms of the number of visitors especially after Antalya and Istanbul.

“Ihlara Valley has a very special place for tourism in Cappadocia. Tourists visiting the region prefer to see the valley. At the same time, the most beautiful caravanserais on the route of Antalya-Kayseri are located within the borders of Aksaray. Thanks to these magnificent caravanserais, Aksaray is one of the most visited cities in the region,” he said.

Doğan said Aksaray also had the distinction of being the “gateway to Cappadocia” and that many tourists to Cappadocia visited the archaeological sites in Aksaray.

“The number of visitors to Aksaray has exceeded 1 million. Aşıklıhöyük is the oldest village settlement in Central Anatolia. Work is almost done to open the area to tourism this year. Tourists will have one more archaeological site to visit when it is opened. This place is very important for Anatolia because it is an older settlement than Çatalhöyük in Konya,” Doğan said.

He also said investments had been made for accommodation in recent years in Aksaray. “Thanks to these investments, many tourists will spend time in Aksaray. The city will become one of the leaders in Turkish tourism.”

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LEAD STORY: Google launches Street View for Bangladesh

DHAKA, Feb 5, 2015 (BSS) – The search engine giant Google today (Thursday) formally launched its one of the most popular services Google Street View for Bangladesh. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader launched the Google Street View at a function in a city hotel. Representatives from Google and officials from different government offices were present on the occasion.

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The Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministries provided Google with necessary support.

Street View is a popular feature of Google Maps, already available in more than 64 countries besides Bangladesh, which allows people virtually explore and navigate a neighbourhood through 360-degree panoramic street-level images.

“With the vision for the Digital Bangladesh in 2021, the government is striving to bring positive change to all areas along with delivering government services through increased deployment of ICT technologies,” Obaidul Qader said at the lunching ceremony.

He said the Street View also shows how ICT technologies can have benefits across a wide range of sectors in Bangladesh from business to tourism.

Google Asia Pacific director for public policy Ann Lavin said this Street View imagery would help promote Bangladesh to the world from a new perspective, showcasing bustling roads in Dhaka and some of the country’s most well-known tourist attractions, which will eventually make visitors aware of the emerging tourists’ destination.

He also expects that Bangladeshi businesses would get benefit from the Street View technology by embedding Google Maps directly into their site. Hotels in Dhaka, for example, can easily show their prospective guests what the building looks like on the street and also provide them with an idea of the surrounding neighbourhood.

The Street View for Bangladesh will initially includes Dhaka, Chittagong and 42 other major attractions and sites across the country, with the target of covering the entire country in phases.

With the launching of the online service, one now can enjoy digital tour around the places of his choice in Dhaka, Chittagong and dozens of other places. Besides, the most important features of the service will allow people get road direction, check out new views of familiar and unfamiliar landscapes, choose meeting points and explore their own cities more closely.

In areas where Street View is available, the imagery can be accessed by dragging the orange “Pegman” icon on the bottom right-hand side of the map over and into a blue highlighted road.

In the Google Maps for mobile app on Android and iOS, people can also search for local destinations and where available, access Street View imagery directly from the search result.

Google today also introduced the Street View Trekker, a wearable backpack camera system, to Bangladesh. Designed to capture 360-degree photographs of places only accessible by foot, the Street View Trekker will allow Google to help capture more of Bangladesh’s off-road sites and make these landscapes easily accessible for everyone to experience online.

Google goes to great lengths to safeguard privacy in Google Maps with Street View while enabling all users to benefit from this feature. Google has developed highly sophisticated technology that effectively blurs human faces and license plates of vehicles to make them unidentifiable. In addition, Google is extremely responsive to any requests received from users to further blur any images that feature them.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khorshed Alam Chowdhury, USAID Mission Director in Bangladesh Janina Jaruzelski, Director General (Admin) of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Project Director of a2i Programme Kabir Bin Anwar, Policy Advisor of a2i Programme Anir Chowdhury, and other government and a2i officials were also present in the ceremony, where Google announced the latest initiative to bring more Street View to Bangladesh.

For more information about Street View and how it can be used for recreational purposes and by businesses, one can visit: www.google.com/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/.

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Nigeria: Arik Air Begins Flight Operations to Abidjan

The Guardian – 6 February 2015 – ARIK Air, West and Central Africa’s largest airline will from February 16,,, 2015 commence scheduled flight operations from Lagos, Nigeria to the Ivoirian city, Abidjan via Cotonou, Benin Republic. The new service will operate four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

On Mondays, the outbound flight will depart the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 2:45 pm (local time) and arrive at Cotonou International Airport at 3:15 pm (local time). The flight then leaves Cotonou at 4:00 pm (local time) and arrives at Felix Houphouet Boigny International Airport, Abidjan at 4:20 pm (local time). The inbound flight departs Abidjan at 5:05 pm (local time) and arrives in Cotonou at 7:25 pm (local time). The flight thereafter leaves Cotonou at 8:10 pm (local time) and arrives in Lagos at 8:40 pm (local time).

On other days (Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays), the outbound flight departs Lagos at 11:15 am (local time) and arrives in Cotonou at 11:45 am (local time). It will then leave Cotonou at 12:30 pm (local time) to arrive in Abidjan at 12:50 pm (local time). Inbound flight departs Abidjan at 1:35 pm (local time) and arrives in Cotonou at 3:55 pm (local time). The flight departs Cotonou at 4:40 pm (local time) to arrive in Lagos at 5:10 pm (local time).

The new Lagos-Abidjan service will be operated using Arik Air’s state-of-the-art Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft configured to carry 10 Business Class and 64 Economy class passengers.

Arik Air’s Managing Director/Executive Vice President, elaborated on the new service: “Abidjan is a preferred destination for Nigerian businessmen and women. Arik Air’s foray into this commercial city will make life a lot easier for our guests who have been yearning for flight connection between Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. This service will further underline Arik Air’s position as West Africa’s premier airline.”

The Lagos-Abidjan service is Arik Air’s first new route in 2015. Abidjan thus becomes Arik Air’s 7th destination in West Africa.

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Algeria Participants in Int’l Cultural Tourism Conference in Cambodia

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – 2 February 2015 – Algiers — Minister of Tourism and Craft Industry Nouria Yamina Zerhouni is to represent Algeria at the World Conference on Tourism and Culture (WCTC) in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from 4 to 6 February, a ministry’s statement said Sunday.

Held under the theme “Building a New Partnership,” the meeting “will bring together, for the first time ever, ministers of Tourism and Culture from different countries, experts and professionals.”

The meeting is an opportunity for the participants “to identify the challenges and lasting development opportunities for cultural tourism,” according to the statement. They will also “step up cooperation between the two sectors at the local, national and international levels.”

The meeting is due to discuss “the means to develop new, more important partnerships between the sectors of tourism and culture and to exploit the huge potentialities of cultural tourism in order to promote economic growth, social development and preserve heritage”.

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Sudan: Red Sea State, Eastern Sudan, Imposes ‘Tourism Support Fees’

Radio Dabanga (Hilversum) – 3 February 2015 – Port Sudan — Sudan’s Red Sea state has passed a new law defining the fees to be paid for state government services. The fees range from SDG1 ($0.17) to SDG150 ($25). The proceeds will be used to encourage tourism in the state.

Non-payment of the fees may lead to a fine, and/or a prison sentence with a maximum of two years. The new fees include a compulsory “tourism support stamp” of SGD1, for all financial transactions that require the extraction of Form 15, and for 23 other services, such as issuing passports and commercial licenses, bus and air line tickets, and permits for private and public festivities.

Hamed Idris Suleiman, member of the Red Sea state parliament, described the law as “illegal”. He told Dabanga that he opposes the “doubling of the fees, and the many places of collection. Moreover, the people have other concerns than encouraging tourism in the state.”

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Gambia: Food and Beverage Festival Is Back

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 4 February 2015 – It is happening again in the Smiling Coast of Africa. The Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) is celebrating the 3rd edition of the popular Food and Beverage Festival. This annual Food and Drink Festival scheduled for February 20th and 21st is taking place at its usual venue, Green Mamba Gardens/Jakarlo Bar and Restaurant and it is one of its kinds not only in Destination Gambia but in the sub-region.

Since it kicked-started three years ago, it has quickly roused to stardom and become a much-attended festival that attracts thousands of people from within the region and outside the continent. This Gambia Tourism Board’s annual Festival is mainly sponsored by Africell and Banjul Breweries and it is a new rising tourism product in The Gambia. It showcases the different homemade dishes and drinks available across the country.

Being it local and international dishes and drinks they are all valued in the tourism industry as they are mouth-watering. It is a product here to stay, the responses from the previous editions has made record for itself. The festival is now included in the country’s annual calendar of events just like any other international, local and community festival of the country.

The GTBoard has a lot of events in their annual activities’ calendar but the Food and Beverage Festival is unique because it is exclusively Gambian gastronomy that promotes Gambia as a better tourist destination. Thus, it provides people the opportunity to taste some of the dishes served at the hotels. On a countdown to the festival, Adama Njie, Director of Marketing, Gambia Tourism Board assured of everything being in place for the celebration.

“It is a two-day event that will exclusively showcase the food and drink in Destination Gambia. And people will eat and drink to their satisfaction hence with D100.00 you are in and the token amount of D50.00 will provide a palatable dish on your table while D25.00 will cater for your drink. It is come one, come all as individual, family, friend would come with their love ones to enjoy this two-day festival.”

Soon the GTBoard’s organised Food and Beverage Festival will match-up and go beyond other international food festivals as the Board aims for future massive Food and Beverage Festival in the destination. The third edition of this festival becomes more promising, the organisers has engaged their local and international PRs and Marketing Firms representing them in different countries to market the festival aggressively.

It is not only eat and drink event but there are other side attractions the festival will offer hence it is meant to promote Gambia’s traditional and cultural identity. For the two days, there will be musical jamboree featuring great artistes like, Jaliba Kuyateh, Badibunka, Bai Babu, and Cess Ngum and among others. In addition to this there will be series of cultural and contemporary entertainment classical music, wrestling and eating competitions with lots more and all these will make it value for money show.

In terms of variety, numerous local food and beverages will be on sale. Among the cuisine for the festival are benachin; nyambeh nyebbeh; chickenyassa/meat domoda with findi; mbahal/chakry; fufu and okra sauce/fish-balls and oyster stew; ebeh; afra; grilled pork/pork mbahal; international Indian cuisine; wonjo, baobab juice; fresh fruit sorbet; international Moroccan cuisine; pizza, baked lasagne, chocolate gateau, apple pie and among others. With just three years of the festival, it has gained recognition of the stakeholders and with full support from the local people, both at private and public levels it will definitely reach greater height.

However, another the things that will make this third edition of the festival different from the previous is that, the board is more prepared for the celebration. The organisers have already evaluated the previous editions to check the pros and cons of the festival to carry on the positive part. That means the event is growing up from where it was in the last two years. This year’s celebration as already described by Adama Njie will be a ‘mega festival’ as it coincided with the celebration of The Gambia’s 50 years of Independence.

The Golden Jubilee celebration will add more flavour to the festival as everyone will again have the opportunity to converge together and in unison to sing the Gambia’s National Anthem which was first sang in the early hours of Thursday, February 18th 1965 in the centre of McCarthy Square, (now July 22nd Square) in the City of Bathurst now Banjul, capital city of The Gambia. It is two days celebration that is full of fun and enjoyment and you need not to be told.

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Indonesian Creative industry can boost rural economy: minister

8 February 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Creative industry will be able to boost the countrys rural economy, Minister of Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Marwan Jafar said.

“We are optimistic because a lot of commodities from the creative industry are produced by home industries in villages,” said Jafar here on Sunday.

Currently, the creative industry products that are accepted in both domestic and abroad markets, are batik, carving, embroidery, jewelry, calligraphy, leather products, and snacks. These products are made by home industries existing in various parts of the country.

“The creativity of the craftsmen are accepted by both domestic and global consumers. This is a great potential that should not be wasted, and should be continued in order to develop the rural economy,” said the minister.

There are villages with creative economic activities in almost all regions in the country, such as embroidery industry in Tasikmalaya (West Java), songket (woven in Bukittinggi (West Sumatra) and weaving in Wajo (South Sulawesi).

These villages have the potential to be developed into more productive and competitive ones. “The support can be combined with the activities of village-owned enterprises (BUMDes), or can also be funded by the central governments village grant and regional aid,” Jafar said.

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Indonesia to ease entry permit procedures for foreign yachts

7 February 2015 Batam, Riau Islands (ANTARA News) – Indonesia plans to ease the processes involved in the issuance of entry permits for foreign-owned yachts, to boost the yachting tourism sector. Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said here on Saturday, “It is hoped that it will, soon, take only two hours to issue a permit.”

He made the statement here while visiting Nongsa Point and Marina in Batam, Riau Islands province, in Sumatra.

The government will adopt an online system of issuing permits known as the Clearance Approval for Indonesian Territory (CAIT Online), he stated, adding that it also plans to extend the stay permit for yachters from three months to six months.

Furthermore, the yachting tourism sector in Indonesia is quite competitive as compared to that of neighboring countries, Yahya pointed out.

While in Singapore, the parking fee for a yacht amounts to Sing$1,000 to Sing$1,500 per month, it is only some Sing$500 in Indonesia, he observed.

So far, thousands of yachters have parked their vessels in Singapore because the regulations and bureaucracy in Indonesia are not as competitive, he explained.

The minister further noted that the potential to attract yachters to stay in Indonesia was, in fact, high, considering Singapores limited waters, and also as yachters sail around the waters of the Riau Islands and its vicinity.

“In view of that, we must improve our services so we can compete,” he emphasized.

In addition, bureaucratic reforms set to be incorporated into yachting tourism are soon expected to boost national sailing sports, Yahya affirmed.

Moreover, the Ministry of Tourism has received support from the Ministry of Transportation with regard to advancing the yachting tourism sector through the development yacht docking locations and improvement of piers capacities.

“The Ministry of Tourism has proposed to the Ministry of Transportation to develop the capacity of piers in 38 locations where yachts dock,” he said.

The Ministry of Tourism, along with stakeholders in the sector, have developed 18 yacht routes from Papua in the east to Sabang in the west.

The development of these routes has been carried out through rallies, races and sailing events, such as Sail Raja Ampat, Sail Tomini, Darwin-Ambon International Yacht Rally, and Sabang International Regatta. These events have, so far, been attended by international yachters sailing from Phuket in Thailand, who then stay in Langkawi in Malaysia and stop by Sabang, Indonesia.

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Work underway to upgrade Azerbaijan customs

30 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The development of an appropriate legislation is among the main priorities of Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee, Aydin Aliyev, SCC Chairman, Lieutenant General of Customs Service said. He said the SCC made a lot of work to improve the normative legal framework in the customs field in 2014.

“In particular, ‘The rules of placing processing products under special customs procedure’, ‘The rules governing the activities of customs representative offices’ and ‘The rules of placing transit goods under the special customs procedure’ were developed and approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, while a number of regulations were included to the state registry,” Aliyev told Trendon January 29.

He noted that the SCC and its local structures took measures to improve the customs controls in the export and import operations, strengthening the fight against smuggling and customs rules violations.

“In this sense, the mobile customs offices, which simplify the control, are of great importance,” he said. “Last year, the activity of such offices unveiled over 352 cases of deviation of vehicles from the route or attempts for such deviation. Operative measures were taken in regards to such trucks.”

The SCC chairman also said that in order to speed up the operations on customs control and increase their efficiency, work is underway to provide the customs authorities with modern technical control means.

He also noted that measures adopted for the current year include an action plan for the development of SCC in 2012-2016.

“Relevant work will be made for executing the tasks set in the development concept ‘Azerbaijan 2020: A Look into the Future’, to further improve the ‘single window’ principle at the customs checkpoints in the country,” said Aliyev.

The “single window” principle has been in use at customs in Azerbaijan since January 1, 2009.

Aliyev noted that in 2015, the government is expected to fully automate the customs procedures and to adopt measures for ensuring the timely consideration of citizens’ appeals. It will also make customs control in line with modern requirements, simplify customs procedures, strengthen financial discipline and combat customs offences, use widely modern information systems, expand the number of e-services, use the e-signature and VAIS system, and ensure the SCC’s integration in the state program “Electronic Azerbaijan”.

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Iran planning to boost non-oil revenues

05 February 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Iranian government wants to boost its non-oil revenues with finding new alternative ways. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has highlighted the country’s need for alternative ways of boosting its non-oil revenues, saying Iran should invest more in new technologies and related areas, IRNA reported.

Iran exported $15.097 billion worth of non-oil goods in the first half of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21 – September 22).

He said his administration was set to develop Iran’s foreign policy in the next Persian calendar year (starting March 21) so that the country will witness better conditions.

His comments came at a gathering of business entrepreneurs in the central province of Isfahan, where he called for more investment in the local tourism industry.

Rouhani further noted that his cabinet has managed to curb the country’s inflation rate and lower it from a 40 per cent peak almost two years ago to around 26 per cent. Official figures confirm that the country’s economy has made a positive growth for the first time in two years.

Recent figures by the Central Bank of Iran show the economy expanded 4.6 per cent in the first quarter of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2014).

Valiollah Afkhami-Rad, Head of the Trade Promotion Organization earlier said Iran’s non-oil exports rose by 24.1 per cent during March 21, 2014-January 20, 2015, year-on-year. He said last year’s figure amounted to $34.32b.

Iran has made non-oil export a priority by expanding its broad industrial base, educated and motivated workforce and favorable location, which gives it proximity to an estimated market of some 300 million people in Caspian, Persian Gulf and some ECO countries further east.

Pistachios, liquefied propane, methanol (methyl alcohol), hand-woven carpets and automobiles are the major non-oil exports.

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Azerbaijani cookbook wins American award

05 February 2015 – TODAY.AZ – A book on Azerbaijani cuisine became a winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

“Pomegranates and Saffron: A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan” by Feride Buyuran, Azerbaijani author and food blogger, won the Eastern European cuisine category among the books published in the U.S.

The Pomegranates and Saffron is the first comprehensive cookbook on Azerbaijani cuisine published in the U.S. on October 2014. This publication shows Americans the delicious side of Azerbaijan.

The book contains some 200 recipes of traditional and modern Azerbaijani dishes in 15 categories, including appetizers and salads, soups and stews, vegetarian dishes, pasta dishes, and desserts, all adapted for preparation in a Western kitchen by the author.

The award gives the book a chance to participate in the competition with the other winners of the same category from other countries in the contest Gourmand Best in the World Awards, which will be held in Yantai, China, in June.

The unique book has a 90 per cent new content and a 10 per cent of best recipes from her blog, mixed with felicitous Azerbaijani proverbs, words of wisdom, and anecdotes.

All the recipes have been collected from different regions of homeland including ancient and forgotten ones.

At present, Buyuran is expecting some good news from James Beard Award and Independent Publishers Book Award to which she has submitted her cookbook. Pomegranates and Saffron are also in the spotlight of the U.S. press.

Currently, the book is available in bookstore Ali&Nino in Baku, at for online-order at:http://www.azcookbook.com/pomegranatesandsaffron.

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Iran ready to expand trade ties with Egypt

Sat Feb 7, 2015 – PressTV – Iran said on Saturday that it is determined to expand economic ties with Cairo in all areas.

Mohammad Khazaei, the president of the Organization for Investment, Economic and Technical Assistance of Iran, said Tehran is specifically ready to export technical and engineering services to Egypt.

Khazaei said Iran has serious plans to facilitate technicalities for trade with Egypt.

He further expressed hope that relations between Tehran and Cairo would reach to a degree that the two countries would form joint economic committees, IRNA reported.

Khazaei, who is also a top deputy economy minister, further emphasized that Iran-Egypt ties are rooted in history, adding that there are great potentials for both countries to expand their relations.

He made the remarks at a forum in the Iranian capital on the outlooks for the expansion of Iran-Egypt relations.

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Tea, Biscuits Welcome UK Mosques Visitors

OnIslam & Newspapers Monday, 02 February 2015 CAIRO – Inviting neighbors to share biscuits and tea, British Muslims opened the doors of their mosques on Sunday, February 1, presenting a part of Muslims that is rarely shown in media.

“I was curious,” Horatio Waller, 23, a barrister from central London, told The Independent. “I wondered if Muslims had different values or an alien culture. But, I didn’t want to just walk in to a mosque.”

For Tricia Montague, 56, from north London, she wanted to “stop a scary part of myself believing the propaganda. “I work in the NHS and I’ve worked with Muslim colleagues for years. I’ve never had any doubts. But after France I could feel these niggling doubts rising,” she said.

“I shocked myself because that’s not me. I was being drawn in, and I’ve come to remind myself of the reality.”

They were speaking as they visited the mosque in Whitechapel, east London, one of 20 across the UK opening its doors to the public as part of “Visit My Mosque Day”.

The open mosque day was organized by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to promote better understanding of Islam following the recent attacks in Paris.

The event was attended by various religious leaders to show solidarity and unity amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment across Europe. Arriving at the mosque, visitors were asked to take off their shoes to take a tour in the mosque starting with men’s prayer space and women prayer space.

Later on, they visited the women’s center, and the visitor’s center, with a brief history of the mosque opening in 1986. The mosque has been targeted in the past by far-right groups.

“Muslims were scared to come to the mosque at one point, because of the attacks,” said Mohammed Uddin-Anwar, a regular member of the congregation.

“Last month was difficult, but we know how to handle it better now. We started open days a few years ago, and I would overhear comments like ‘It looks normal.’ That’s because it is normal in here. The minds of crazy terrorists in Paris are what isn’t normal.”

Finsbury Park mosque, which has long sought to shake off a reputation as a center of extremism, is among those mosques that opened doors to media and public

“You can check every place,” he told the 20 or so visitors in the men’s prayer room of Finsbury Park mosque, north London, during an inaugural national open day for Islamic places of worship, The Guardian reported.

“We haven’t got any bombs. Yes, there is a bad history here, but we have changed that. Those people were not representative of Islam,” he added, referring to radical imam Abu Hamza and his supporters.

The mosque, which has become a focal point in the community for interfaith and peaceful worship over the past 10 years, was often overshadowed by its old links with extremist preacher Abu Hamza, who was sentenced to life in US prison.

The mosque is now the only one in the country to have received the charity commission-endorsed Visible Quality Award for its work in the community.

Yet, the mosque has been the target of hate mails, death threats and offensive cartoons that found their way to its mail box since Paris attack last January 7.

“One of the reasons we are taking part is the increase in Islamophobic attacks against Muslims,” Khalid Oumar, a trustee of Finsbury Park mosque, which attracts 2,000 people to Friday prayers, said.

“Also, specifically, this mosque has a history. We drew a line under that 10 years ago, and there’s a new history of stability and community cohesion.”

Jo Hill, 58, a Roman Catholic, said she had heard about the event on the radio and had come to show solidarity with fellow people of faith who were being stigmatized. “I do feel very, very sad. When you see these tragedies happening, it’s not the Muslims. It’s fanatics,” she said.

In her first visit to a mosque, she thinks similar events would help in increasing people’s awareness about Islam.

“I don’t think people have any imagination of what the faith is like. I couldn’t even recognize this as a mosque – I went to the building across the road,” she said.

Tony Pickles, 66, also a Catholic, shared a similar opinion. “It’s terrifically important,” he said. “There should be more of this so we can break down barriers and blind prejudice. Some people are ignorant and make judgments and that’s wrong.”

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Calgary Muslim Mayor Wins World Mayor Prize

OnIslam & News Agencies Thursday, 05 February 2015 CALGARY – Muslim mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi has been named the winner of the prestigious World Mayor prize in recognition of his efforts to engage with citizens towards the improvement of people’s lives.

“He (Nenshi) is an urban visionary who doesn’t neglect the nitty-gritty of local government,” the City Mayors Foundation, a London-based international think tank, said in a release cited by CanIndia on Thursday, February 5.

“For many in North America and indeed Europe, Mayor Nenshi is a role model for decisive management, inclusivity and forward thinking.”

Nenshi, the first Canadian mayor to win the award, was followed by Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent, Belgium, and Mayor Tri Rismaharini of Surabaya, Indonesia.

The award, announced every two years, included a list of 10 mayors from across the globe who stand out in terms of public support. “This is a wonderful, unexpected honor from The World Mayor Project. Thank you to the many Calgarians and people from around the world who took the time to nominate me for this award,” Nenshi said.

“It speaks to their own engagement, as citizens, in making our city a great place of opportunity for all. Of course, the most important indicator of success for any politician is the improvement of the lives the people they represent. I continue to work hard to make Calgary an even better city, and that work is far from over,” he added.

Nenshi became the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city in 2010. Despite of smear campaigns against him, Calgarians supported him against racists.

He is currently serving his second term and is Calgary’s 36th mayor.

Nenshi was born in Toronto and raised in Calgary to parents of Tanzanian origin. He attended Harvard University, and at the age of 22 was hired by one of the world’s top consulting firms. He has retired from the company after eight years to get back to his hometown Calgary and be with his ailing father.

He has since worked for the United Nations, started his own business, and became a professor at the city’s Mount Royal University.

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Halal tourism gathering steam

Arab News – 08 February, 2015 – A number of tourist companies offer programs and websites to familiarize tourist locations where halal products are available. They are meant to help Muslim families, who are averse to pork and alcohol while traveling in different parts of the world, without compromising their religious beliefs and requirements.

Officials of travel and tourism companies that promote halal tourism say they have launched a special online application, which enables Muslim tourists to locate tourist shops and places that provide halal services in countries they visit.

Tourism expert Hassan Saqr, chairman of the board of directors of a tourism resort company, said the drive for Islamic tourism marketing is not limited to the travel and tourism agencies in the Kingdom or Muslim countries, but they have gained acceptance by the international tourist companies targeting Muslim tourists.

One of the major international tourism companies, for instance, lately launched a website for halal tourism in English.

The website focuses on international tourist centers, airports, supermarkets, tourism offers on the Internet and restaurants offering halal, in addition to how to reach mosques close to the location where the tourist wants to go.

Saudi tourism expert Ibrahim Al-Rashed expects the halal tourism to witness significant growth in the Kingdom and the Gulf region.

Al-Rashed pointed out that this kind of tourism recorded $ 60 billion business last year around the world in the current year.

He hoped that the halal sector would register 30 per cent growth thanks to the Saudi and Gulf tourists turning to international tourist markets instead of the traditional Arab markets in the region, which are still in the grip of political turmoil.

He said the halal tourism packages devoid of Islamically unlawful activities or drinks have been a hit with Saudi families.

Abdullah Al-Safi, director of one of the travel agencies providing halal tourism packages, said halal tourism, one of the latest innovative products of the tourism industry, which serves practicing Muslim families, abides by the Shariah regulations, books hotels where alcohol is not supplied, and swimming pools and spas are separate for men and women.

The tour operators also take care that flight bookings are in planes that do not serve alcoholic beverages or pork on board, and announce prayer times, and provide copies of the Holy Qur’an at seat pockets and allows separation of male and female travelers.

He said Islamic tourism accounted for 10 per cent of the international tourism market and is poised for fast growth.

The tourism industry in the Middle East is also expected to achieve a fast growth of 20 per cent a year, according to one recent report.

While Saudi Arabia is the top exporter of tourists with a total annual spending of $ 6.7 billion followed by the UAE with $ 4.9 billion, the Saudi average spending is $ 1,700 for a single trip abroad, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Turkey, Malaysia, Dubai, Jordan, Tunisia and several other countries are striving to attract Muslim tourists the world over as a direct reaction to growing Islamophobia in the West, he said.

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Bahrain planning Islamic finance sector watchdog

Gulf Daily News – 05 February, 2015 – Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) is drafting legal documentation to set up a Sharia board of scholars that would oversee the kingdom’s Islamic finance sector, in a step that could help the market compete with regional rivals.

The bank already has a Sharia board but its scope is limited to vetting its own products. A country-level approach – which is so far rare in the Gulf – could help to limit differences between products, speed the design of new products and boost investor confidence.

A “legal instrument” is now being prepared that would set out details of the Sharia board, Khalid Hamad, the central bank’s executive director of banking supervision, said.

Oman’s central bank set up a Sharia supervisory board last October but unlike Oman, Bahrain has positioned itself as a regional financial centre, with historical links to Saudi and Kuwaiti financial institutions, a status that in recent years has seen growing competition from Dubai and Doha.

“This will give us an edge to other markets, allowing more products to be attractive,” SICO Bahrain chief executive Najla Al Shirawi.

Islamic banks in the Gulf have traditionally practised self-regulation on the issue of religious permissibility, using their own individual Sharia boards to ensure the Sharia-compliance of their products.

This approach proved popular for Islamic banks developing their own bespoke products, but as the industry matures, attention is shifting to facilitating volume transactions which are cost- and time-effective.

“More innovation is needed in this space, in particular tools such as Sharia-compliant repurchase agreements and profit rate swaps. These are doable but need to be more widely accepted across the region,” said Shirawi.

As it stands now, if tools such as Islamic repurchase agreements are to be used, clients face a cumbersome process of clearing transactions with every financial institution involved, she added.

The CBB also plans to introduce rules to expand its internal Sharia review and audit functions, while making it mandatory for banks to undergo an independent external Sharia audit.

The UAE is the only other regulator in the Gulf to have announced a plan to adopt a centralised Sharia approach. This would be backed by specific legislation, but a firm timetable has not been given for the plan.

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Sharjah light festival 2015 illuminates the city

Khaleej Times – 06 February, 2015 – The fifth edition of the Sharjah Light Festival 2015 began on February 5 and it will run till February 13 for nine nights. Organised by Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) at Al Qasba, it will take place across 14 locations in Sharjah.

Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, SCTDA, said last month the festival offers a unique combination of light and music to create innovative three-dimensional designs using state-of-the-art techniques that consume minimal power.

“The year 2015 is truly special for Sharjah and will be celebrated at many levels and in all its festivals and activities this year. We invite the world to visit Sharjah and discover its glorious heritage and charm. There is no better time to visit the emirate as it ushers in the Sharjah Light Festival once again,” Al Midfa said.

“For nine magical nights the spotlight will be on the emirate as it glows in all its resplendent glory, creating a beautiful and harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. The Sharjah Light Festival this year comes to you from 14 locations across the emirate,” Al Midfa added.

SCTDA announced details of the Sharjah Light Festival 2015 last month naming new locations that include Masjid Al Taqwa at Al Majaz Waterfront; Al Majaz Amphitheatre overlooking the Khalid Lagoon; the Cultural Square in Sharjah city; Masjid Al Muhajerin in Dibba Al Hisn; University of Sharjah campus in Khor Fakkan; and Masjid Ammar bin Yasser in Dhaid.

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Jeddah Travel and tourism expo ‘to boost economy’

Arab News – 06 February, 2015 – Organizers of the three-day Jeddah International Travel and Tourism Exhibition that kicked off Wednesday say the event would help boost the city’s economy.

The exhibition was launched under the auspices of Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed and inaugurated by Hani Abu Ras, the city’s mayor. It is being held in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Tourism and Culture for the first time.

The organizers include the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Jeddah municipality and 4M event organizers. About 150 national and international companies from 10 countries and 30,000 visitors are expected this year.

Abu Ras thanked Prince Mishaal for helping to organize the event, which he said would boost the country’s economy and create jobs. He also welcomed Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, who recently returned to the post of Makkah governor.

Abu Ras said the event is being held for a fifth time, an indication of the importance of Jeddah to the tourism industry. He said the city welcomes 3 million tourists and 20 million Haj and Umrah pilgrims annually.

Abu Ras said the new company set up to develop the city’s tourism industry would ensure further investments in various projects including the successful annual Jeddah festival. The city would become a model for the rest of the country, particularly since the old city was recognized as a world heritage site, he said.

Maya bint Hassan Halfawi, head of the organizing committee, said the exhibition would help boost the tourism industry. Spending on tourism would likely exceed SR100 billion by 2020, she said.

She said the participation of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Tourism and Culture would assist in developing the fast-growing Saudi market.

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Gulf Air flights to Baghdad will resume

Gulf Daily News – 06 February, 2015 – Gulf Air will resume flights to and from Baghdad tomorrow. Flights were suspended on January 26 due to safety and security concerns after a Flydubai aircraft was shot at while coming in to land at Baghdad International Airport.

The airline said in a statement yesterday that it had conducted “comprehensive safety and security assessments over the past week as well as conducted an in-depth consultation with airport and security officials in the Iraqi capital”. A number of other international carriers have also resumed their flights to Baghdad, alongside Gulf Air.

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Saudi government steps up efforts to boost tourism

Arab News – 07 February, 2015 – Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) President Prince Sultan bin Salman recently headed a KSA delegation to the first UN conference on tourism and culture in Cambodia, where he sought to build partnerships to boost the Kingdom’s tourism sector.

Saudi Arabia was also represented by the Ministry of Culture and Information in a key conference jointly organized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the city of Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Prince Sultan reviewed the Kingdom’s efforts to step up cultural tourism and national heritage projects during the event’s opening session and highlighted Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman’s commitment to protect the country’s cultural heritage. The SCTA president also presented a working paper on national urban programs and handicraft in addition to urban heritage projects in the Kingdom. The conference concluded Friday with the attendance of 45 ministers of tourism and culture of various countries, as well as officials and experts from 99 nations.

Prince Sultan also participated in the conference’s ministerial session, which addressed the necessary framework to foster collaboration between the tourism and the culture sector. During the conference, speakers addressed the need to boost a culturally aware, inclusive and sustainable tourism economy that contributes to the socioeconomic development of host communities and promotes cross-cultural exchanges.

Separately, Prince Sultan conveyed King Salman’s greetings to the King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni, who expressed his admiration for the Kingdom’s economic and cultural reforms.

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Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahsa coast to be developed

Arab News – 07 February, 2015 – The government is currently developing tourist facilities on the coastline of cities here including Salwa and Ras Abu Qamis.

“The Ministry of Finance is currently implementing some projects on the Salwa coast in coordination with Al-Ahsa mayoralty, including setting up umbrellas and lampposts along the beaches, creating walkways and paving several sites,” said Al-Ahsa Mayor Adel Al-Mulhim.

Speaking on Ras Abu Qamis beach recently, Al-Mulhim said that a strategic development study has been carried out by the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs in coordination with the Al-Ahsa Mayoralty.

Ras Abu Qamis beach is 160 km east of Hofuf, under the administration of Salwa city. Its beaches are famous for fishing.

“Al-Uqair is an Arab and international investment destination. It will see investments of over SR40 billion and provide about 90,000 jobs. The project area covers 100 million square meters, with 15 km of beaches stretching along the Arabian Gulf coast.”

It would be a model for the development of other tourist destinations in the Kingdom. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) had recommended starting detailed studies for the second phase, said Al-Mulhim.

He said the SCTA is still completing the second phase of the Al-Uqair development project, including the establishment of the Al-Uqair Development Company. It is expected to put up nearly 30 per cent of the company’s capital.

Al-Mulhim said the idea is to develop major projects on the Al-Ahsa coast over the next 20 years, including infrastructure such as paving streets and basic services.

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Etihad Guest membership card adds new features

Khaleej Times – 07 February, 2015 – Etihad Airways’ award-winning loyalty programme Etihad Guest is making travel more convenient by introducing a new payment feature onto its membership card.

Walletplus, powered by Visa, allows members to load travel money onto their Etihad Guest card and convert it to 11 different foreign currencies to spend whenever they are travelling abroad.

The membership card can be loaded in advance, enabling card holders to better manage their travel budgets by locking in competitive exchange rates in real time before they travel.

Pre-loading the card also means that members are immediately able to spend in the local currency upon arrival in another country, without having to first exchange or transfer funds at a bank or foreign exchange.

A maximum of 11 currencies can be held on the card at any one time, one of which must be UAE dirham.

Yasser Al Yousuf, managing director of Etihad Guest, said: “The Etihad Guest loyalty programme focusses on providing features and benefits that enhance value to its members. The new Etihad Guest Card with walletplus is innovative in that it combines the functionality of a reloadable payment card with the benefits of Etihad Guest membership in a single piece of plastic, a first in loyalty and travel payments in the Middle East.”

Additionally, Etihad Guest members can donload the walletplus™ mobile application, available for iOS and Android users, to access a range of functions that include checking their account balance and transaction history, transfer money to other Etihad Guest members with an activated walletplus™ account (dirham only), and report a card lost/stolen.

Philip King, UAE Head of Retail, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), said: “This is a highly innovative product and the first of its kind in the region. ADIB is proud to assist Etihad Airways in developing a multi-functional card which vividly demonstrates ADIB’s ground-breaking product development capabilities.

Etihad Guest also partnered with Rêv Worldwide, a global leader in multi-currency prepaid processing, to develop the product, utilising Rêv’s proprietary prepaid multi-currency processing platform and global experience in pioneering similar successful products.

Etihad Guest members can earn one Etihad Guest Mile per US$ 2 spent in the UAE, and one Etihad Guest Mile per US$ 1 spent abroad when paying with walletplus.

Introduced in partnership with Visa, the Etihad Guest card with walletplus can be used to pay at tens of millions of global merchants, and card holders can withdraw cash at more than 2.1 million ATMs across the world.

Marcello Baricordi, General Manager UAE and Global Accounts Lead at Visa, Mena, said: “Visa is delighted to partner with one of the world’s leading premium airline brands — Etihad Airways — to launch here in the Middle East a first of its kind travel card that promises Etihad Guest members the most extensive global reach.

Etihad Guest Tier members in the UAE will begin receiving their new Etihad Guest card with walletplus™ in early March, with roll-out of cards to Etihad Guest members in other countries taking place in the future.

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Qatar attends Gulf Heritage Village Festival

The Peninsula – 07 February, 2015 – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), along with the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Qatar Museum Authority and Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy 2022 are representing Qatar in the fifth Gulf Heritage Village Festival in Kuwait.

The annual festival in Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Cultural and Heritage Village aims to preserve Gulf heritage through competitions, exhibitions and other activities.

The village over an area of thousands of kilometres, has its own cultural and historical characteristics. It includes museums, competitions, awards, entertainment, traditional bazaars, children’s games, restaurants, cafes, camel riding and old car shows, among others.

Heritage competitions involving camels, falcons, horses and goats and archery are held daily on the outskirts of the village.

The village has a pavilion for every GCC member state, including Qatar, to showcase their local arts, heritage, antiquities, handicrafts and folk art.

“QTA is participating as part of its efforts to promote Qatar as a world tourism destination with deep cultural roots. QTA believes that heritage plays a key role in preserving national identity by helping improve individuals and the community,” said Rashed Al Qurese, Chief Marketing and Promotions Officer, QTA.

“Through its participation, QTA also seeks to stress the importance of a unified GCC tourism strategy and initiatives to deepen tourism cooperation.”

QTA is promoting Qatar’s tourism sector by opening representative offices in key tourism markets. It recently opened two offices in Jeddah and Riyadh to expand its promotion in the GCC.

QTA statistics show that Qatar’s tourism industry continued to grow last year, benefitting from investments and promotions. More than 2.8 million people of whom 40 per cent from the GCC visited Qatar last year.

Since 2009, the number of international visitors to Qatar has increased by 91 per cent, with annual average rise of 13.9 per cent.

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