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2 Feb, 2015

Islamic museum founder honoured with Australian Award

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 02 February 2015 (12 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 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.




Malaysia Year Of Festivals 2015 Launched At ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015

NAY PYI TAW, MYANMAR, 28 January 2015 – Malaysia is taking part in the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, this year. The week-long ATF offers Malaysia a strong marketing platform to market and create awareness for the Malaysia Year of Festivals or MyFest 2015 to its ASEAN counterparts.

The Malaysia delegation is headed by the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Datuk Dr. Ong Hong Peng, the Deputy Chairman of Tourism Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Maznah Mazlan, and the Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab.

MyFest 2015 is a continuation of the Visit Malaysia Year campaign from last year, and aims to promote Malaysia’s cultural aspect as a tourist attraction. Themed “Endless Celebrations”, a total of 50 cultural events and festivities have been identified as key cultural attractions in Malaysia. The campaign is expected to significantly boost arrivals of tourists to Malaysia, with targets of 29.4 million tourist arrivals and RM89 billion in tourist receipts in 2015.

As in previous years, the ATF 2015 sees the participation of an elite Malaysian delegation, comprising of 55 hoteliers, travel agents, theme park operators, and state tourism boards (Penang State Tourism, Sabah Tourism Board, and Tourism Selangor Sdn. Bhd), who will make their sales pitch at the three-day ATF TRAVEX (Travel Exchange) to over 400 international buyers.

On 28 January, Tourism Malaysia will give a presentation to the media on the MyFest 2015 campaign and the 50 events which are happening this year. Later in the evening, the MyFest 2015 campaign will be launched at the ‘Malaysia Gala Night Dinner’ at MAX Hotel. The attendees consisting of buyers, media, Malaysian sellers, and invited guests will have the chance to watch the award-winning video titled ‘Malaysia Truly Asia – The Essence of Asia’ recorded by internationally renowned Malaysian singer, Yuna.

Malaysia was awarded the Best ASEAN Marketing and Promotional Campaign at the 34th ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF). It was presented during the opening ceremony of the ATF held at the Myanmar International Convention Center, here, on 26 January 2015.

The Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia, YBhg. Datuk Dr. Ong Hong Peng received the award from the Minister of Hotels and Tourism, Republic of the Union of Myanmar, His Excellency U Htay Aung.

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Etihad Airways Reports Strong Performance In 2014

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, carried a record number of passengers and cargo in 2014, marking its strongest operational performance to date.

Almost 14.8 million passengers flew with Etihad Airways last year, a significant increase of 23 per cent over 2013 levels. The growth in passenger demand continued to outstrip the airline’s capacity increase, highlighting the strength of its long-term growth strategy.

In total, Etihad Airways carried more than 74 per cent of the 19.9 million passengers who travelled through Abu Dhabi International Airport in 2014. With the addition of the airline’s equity partners that operate flights into the UAE capital, the combined total rises to a significant 82 per cent of passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said: “Our business model, which focuses on organic network growth, codeshare partnerships and minority equity investments in other airlines, continued to yield positive results in 2014 and surpassed our double-digit targets for passenger and cargo growth.”

Etihad Airways introduced 10 additional destinations to its global route network in 2014, with new services launched to Medina, Jaipur, Los Angeles and Zurich in the first half of the year, and Perth, Rome, Yerevan, Phuket, San Francisco and Dallas in the second half of the year. In addition, frequencies were increased on 23 existing routes across the world in 2014.

Building on its organic growth, the airline also expanded its codeshare and equity partnerships last year. These partnerships delivered over 3.5 million passengers onto Etihad Airways flights, an increase of 40 per cent over the 2.5 million passengers in 2013.

New codeshare agreements were launched with Air Europa, jetBlue, Philippine Airlines, GOL, SAS, Hong Kong Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas, while Etihad Airways’ existing codeshares with South African Airways, Alitalia and Jet Airways were significantly expanded.

In August 2014, the airline announced a €560 million investment in New Alitalia to acquire a 49 per cent shareholding in the carrier, a 75 per cent interest in Alitalia Loyalty, which operates the MilleMiglia frequent flier program, and five pairs of slots at London’s Heathrow Airport, which will be leased back to Alitalia. The transaction received European Commission merger clearance in November 2014 and became effective on 31 December 2014.

Alitalia is the latest addition to Etihad Airways’ equity partners network, which also includes airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Aer Lingus, Jet Airways and Virgin Australia. An investment is being formalised in Swiss-based Etihad Regional, operated by Darwin Airline.

In addition, Etihad Airways Partners was unveiled last year to offer passengers more choice through improved networks and schedules, plus enhanced frequent flyer benefits. The partnership also builds greater synergies for participating airlines, which currently include airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Etihad Airways, Etihad Regional, Jet Airways and NIKI.

Etihad Airways also reported strong cargo growth for 2014, with 568,648 tonnes of freight and mail flown in total, a 17 per cent increase year-on-year. The airline accounted for 89.6 per cent of cargo imports, exports and transfers at Abu Dhabi airport last year.

Over the course of last year, Etihad Cargo enhanced its global reach by offering bellyhold capacity on Etihad Airways’ 10 new passenger destinations and expanding its freighter services to new markets such as Dar es Salaam, Entebbe, Hanoi and Moscow. A freighter service was also launched from Milan to Bogotá and from Bogotá to Amsterdam, following an agreement with Avianca Cargo, the cargo division of Latin American carrier Avianca.

Etihad Airways’ fleet consisted of 110 aircraft at the end of 2014 (+24 per cent year-on-year), with an average age of 5.5 years. The airline took delivery of its first Airbus A380 and Boeing 787-9 in December, with both state-of-the-art aircraft offering new standards in cabin interiors, together with considerable fuel efficiency and environmental improvements.

An additional nine Airbus aircraft (two A330-200s, three A321s, three A320s and one A330-200F) and six Boeing aircraft (one 777-300ER, five 777-200LRs) were received in 2014, while further leased capacity was also added to enhance the airline’s rapid growth.

Mr Hogan added: “We enter 2015 as a stronger, more dynamic airline that will continue to enhance the growth of Abu Dhabi as one of the world’s emerging aviation hubs.”

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U.A.E. National Pavilion To Feature Works By 14 U.A.E. Artists

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 28 (NNN-WAM) – Drawing upon extensive historical research, Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi, curator of the UAE National Pavilion, at la Biennale di Venezia, and President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation, will present a diverse assemblage of work by key figures in the country’s art history, at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia.

Titled: “1980 – Today: Exhibitions in the United Arab Emirates,” the exhibition features the work of 14 artists: Ahmed Al Ansari, Moosa Al Halyan, Mohammed Al Qassab, Abdul Qader Al Rais, Abdullah Al Saadi, Mohammed Abdullah Bulhiah, Salem Jawhar, Mohammed Kazem, Dr. Najat Meky, Abdulraheem Salim, Hassan Sharif, Obaid Suroor, Dr. Mohamed Yousif, and Abdulrahman Zainal.

The exhibition will present a selection of works from different decades, highlighting the emergence of art practices in the UAE. The Emirates Fine Arts Society, a non-profit association that was formed in 1980 in Sharjah, has served as a main point of focus and inspiration for research.

“The opportunity to curate the National Pavilion of the UAE has allowed me to reflect on and honour a significant period of the UAE’s art history,” said Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi. “Looking back at exhibitions from the 1980’s, I have come across a number of interesting art works, mainly sculptures and paintings by now-established artists, as well as works by lesser known ones. It is important to state here that the focus is on the art works not the artist. My aim is to show the diversity of art practices, and the history of the art scene in the UAE at this period in time.”

The exhibition is built upon extensive research, involving archives of newspaper articles, artists’ writings, and catalogues, as well as interviews with artists and cultural practitioners. Reflecting personal and geopolitical trajectories, the research focused on under-exposed historical records and evolving practices of some of the UAE’s most important modernist and contemporary artists.

“Over the last decade, the UAE art scene has experienced a surge in international recognition and appreciation, however many are still not aware of the depth and diversity of our artists, who have been working decades longer than the current art boom,” noted Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, Founder of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

“This exhibition represents an opportunity to document, share, and expand upon a key period for the country’s art history.” A publication including previous writings and articles on the art scene in the UAE since the 1980’s, as well as some personal memoirs from a number of artists, will be presented alongside the exhibition.

The National Pavilion UAE la Biennale di Venezia is commissioned by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development.

The 56th Venice Biennale runs from May 9–Nov 22, with a preview from May 5-8. Further details about the pavilion and the artists involved will be announced soon.

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Malaysia Makes Strong Pitch As Travel Destination In U.S

NEW YORK, Jan 27 (NNN-Bernama) — After hitting international headlines in 2014 because of three airplane tragedies in 2014, Malaysia entered the New Year with renewed vigour and made a strong pitch as a destination at the three-day New York Times Travel Show which ended Sunday.

The show is rated as the most important consumer event for the travel and tourism industry on the east coast.

Tourism Malaysia’s New York office, which set up a pavilion at the show, reinforced Malaysia’s attractiveness as a tourist destination, distributing literature and other materials to visitors to the pavilion, providing glimpses of Malaysia’s cultural diversity through dances and other activities, and also highlighting many of the country’s tourism attributes.

The Malaysia pavilion, with its strategic location in the Asia section of the hall, saw a steady stream of curious visitors who sought information about specific areas of interest.

With Malaysia Airlines (MAS) no longer flying to the United States and direct air connectivity between the United States and Malaysia non-existent, tourism traffic from United States relies on third country airlines to fly to Malaysia such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, etc. with which Tourism Malaysia has close cooperation in its tourism-promotion endeavours.

MAS has recently appointed Aviaworld as its general sales agent in the United States. Aviaworld has its headquarters in Los Angeles but has an office in New York.

Daisy Diaz, Aviaworld’s sales executive, told Bernama that her company was appointed general sales agent effective Sept 15, 2014.

Diaz spoke of MAS’ “good image” because the carrier offered good quality services and has advantages by virtue of its membership in the One World alliance.

MAS has code-sharing with a number of One World members: it offers, for instance, flights from New York to London Heathrow by American Airlines and thence with MAS to Kuala Lumpur, while on the coast it offers flights from Los Angeles via Tokyo with Japan Airlines.

According to Diaz, many Asian travellers use the MAS service to visit Southeast Asia.

CHM Hotels, a Malaysian group of hotels, was also receiving enquiries from visitors to the Malaysian pavilion; CHM Hotels was represented by Las Vegas-based Eric Tan who looks after the hotel group’s North American sales.

Tan said business was good as occupancy had been strong.

“Business traffic from the United States to Malaysia has been good. We have different categories of hotels ranging from five star to three star properties,” Tan told Bernama.

Tan, who is of Malaysian origin, was upbeat about Malaysia as a destination. Travel by business people and professionals to Malaysia, in particular, had not been affected, Tan maintained.

“People are generally impressed by hospitality, food, the warmth of the people, etc. Many of our guests love the beaches and are impressed with Malaysia’s scuba-diving facilities which are considered to be the best in the world,” he added.

Business travellers, generally, use Malaysia as one of their stops when they tour Southeast Asia, according to Tan.

Mary Scully, the marketing manager at Tourism Malaysia’s New York office, said that the show had been good for Malaysia.

“We are working with some organisations … we do not have figures, as yet, of traffic from the United States to Malaysia for the whole of 2014 but the numbers from January to October 2014 show a distinctly positive trend.

“Despite the challenges faced by us last year, our tourism figures were not affected to the extent we had feared,” Scully said in an interview with Bernama at the show.

Scully pointed out that Tourism Malaysia had a new marketing campaign. The organisation was promoting new festivals such as the Rain Forest Music Festival, the Chinese New Year, Thaipusam, Colours of Malaysia, etc.

“I am very happy with the response at the show. We have established many new contacts and talked to a number of organisations,” she said.

According to Tourism Malaysia, the January-October 2014 period, for which the figures have been compiled, showed that 219,900 visitors from the United States were clocked in Malaysia, up from 201,887 in the year-earlier period, reflecting a 8.9 per cent surge.

Some 20,867 visitors from the United States were clocked in Malaysia in the month of October 2014, up from 19,795 in the year-earlier month, reflecting a 5.4 per cent increase on a month-to-month comparison.

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Malaysia Highlights Medical Tourism At New York Travel Show

NEW YORK, Jan 27 (NNN-Bernama) — A number of countries showcasing their tourism attractions at the three-day New York Times Travel Show, which ended Sunday, highlighted their medical facilities, including hospitals, the expertise of their doctors and experts, and the biggest advantage in the form of cost savings.

Malaysia has, traditionally, ranked among the world’s top five medical tourism destinations that presented the most attractive opportunities for medical tourists based on the quality and affordability of care by Nuwire, an online source for news related to real estate investment and other investment opportunities, in 2008.

Supported by a favourable exchange rate, lower cost of living in Malaysia and single-tier pricing for locals and foreigners, visitors to Malaysia enjoy quality healthcare at less than half the cost of comparable procedures in the United States.

Malaysia’s government-led healthcare system has, no doubt, been attracting medical tourists from around the world, inspired by the prospect of effecting savings of up to 65 to 80 per cent, compared with healthcare costs in the United States.

Malaysian experts point out that medical centres in Malaysia provide shorter waiting times and attractive benefit packages.

“One plus point in Malaysia’s favour is that English is widely spoken in the country, making the foreign tourists feel at home,” a New York-based tour operator told Bernama.

According to “Patients Beyond Borders” – Everybody’s Guide to Affordable, World-class Healthcare by Josef Woodman (August 2011) – there is a glaring difference in costs of medical treatment in the United States and Malaysia.

A hip replacement, for example, would cost USD33,000 (RM118,870) in the United States and USD12,000 (RM43,220) in Malaysia; a gastric bypass would cost USD25,000 (RM90,130) in the United States and USD6,200 (RM22,330) in Malaysia. The difference is also glaringly visible in other medical surgical treatment.

But, like Malaysia, other Asian countries such as India, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have also been aggressively promoting their medical facilities at international tourism shows, recognising the revenue-generating potential inherent in this sector whose importance has been boosted by exploding medical costs in a number of developed countries, particularly the United States.

The four countries have already made a dent in the global medical tourism market.

While Malaysia has been profiling its medical sector as an effective vehicle to attract tourists from around the world, it also faces competition in the arena of medical tourism.

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The Pearl-Qatar To Open Biggest Indoor Entertainment Centre In March

DOHA, Qatar, Jan 27 (NNN-QNA) – A family entertainment centre, “Megapolis” described as the biggest indoor entertainment centre in the region, is set to open in Medina Centrale, at The Pearl-Qatar in March, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

The centre will combine a multitude of entertainment venues that range from arcades and indoor attractions, like golf, bowling, snooker, billiard and darts, to high tech 3D and 5D games, karaoke and an active sports zone.

The entertainment centre will be further marked by an enhanced food and beverage service and will feature five eateries – Saladworks, Earl of Sandwich, Cool de Sac, Camille’s Ice Cream and Mister Pizza.

Supporting its commitment to strong business partnerships, United Development Company (UDC), a leading Qatari Shareholding Company and master developer of The Pearl-Qatar, had signed a lease agreement in March, 2014, with Palma Hospitality Group, covering a total area of 7,000 square metres, to launch a series of genuine food and beverage (F&B) concepts, in addition to Megapolis.

These concepts, brought by Palma Hospitality Group, are strategic to the building of an interesting and diversified retail mix, which suits the budding spirit of Medina Centrale, dubbed as the The Pearl-Qatar’s town centre.

The Pearl-Qatar’s retail and hospitality expansion plans continue to unfold in Porto Arabia and Qanat Quartier, the Islands other two main retail areas, aside from Medina Centrale, with another big indoor sporting facility, “Gymito” spanning an area of 2,000 square metres being in the pipeline, among many other genuine concepts, which will be announced in due time.

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Malaysia: Thaipusam Festival To Boost Tourism Agenda This Year

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 (NNN-Bernama) — The Thaipusam festival is seen as a catalyst for the country’s tourism agenda in 2015, targeting 29.4 million foreign tourists.

Two public holidays over the weekend in conjunction with the Federal Territory Day and Thaipusam commencing on Jan 31 to Feb 3 will attract domestic and foreign tourists alike to Batu Caves which will be thronged with Hindus. This will be a boost for the country’s tourism industry.

Batu Caves Sri Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam temple chairman R. Nadarajah said he was confident that more than 1.6 million Hindu devotees and tourists will flood Batu Caves for Thaipusam.

“Besides Hindus, every year we (Batu Caves) receive foreign tourists as well as visitors of various races and ethnicities to witness this festival,” he told Bernama when met at Batu Caves here.

Thaipusam is celebrated all over the world by Hindus in the month of ‘Thai’, which is the 10th month in the Tamil calendar and during ‘pusam’ meaning ‘when the moon is at its brightest’ and is dedicated to Lord Muruga.

Devotees prepare themselves for Thaipusam spiritually by fasting and praying before performing acts of penance or thanksgiving like carrying ‘Kavadis’ and ‘Paal Kudam’ (pots filled with milk) up the stairs leading to the temple in the cave to fullfill their vows in exchange for an answered prayer.

Nadarajah said that like previous years, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is expected to participate and witness the unique celebrations at Batu Caves at 10 am on Thaipusam day.

He added, that the ‘Silver Chariot’ to be taken in procession with the deities this year has also been given a facelift by widening its size, adding wheels and replacing the silver after 30 years.

The highlight of Thaipusam will be the procession of the silver chariot with with the idols of Lord Murugan and his two consorts Valli and Theivanai placed in it. The procession will move from Sri Mahamariaman Temple in Jalan Tun HS Lee at 10 pm on Feb 1 for Batu Caves and return to Sri Maha Mariamman Temple on Feb 4.

Meanwhile, a survey at Batu Caves found many devotees had begun fulfilling their vows with shaved heads and walking carrying pots of milk.

N.Silvanedran, 28, a devotee said he was fulfilling his vow today to avoid the crowd on Thaipusam day.

Ferillo Chargen, 47, a tourist from the Czech Republic chose to visit Malaysia end of this month just to witness the rituals and rites performed during Thaipusam.

“My agent told me that the Thaipusam celebration will be on Feb 3, so I decided to come a week earlier to Malaysia, so I will have a wonderful time here,” he told Bernama.

The temple committee has also provided various facilities so that visitors can witness the celebrations without disturbing the smooth flow of devotees carrying out rituals.

In Malaysia, Thaipusam is also celebrated on a grand scale at the Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple located on a hill in Penang and Arul Migu Subramaniar Temple located at the Gunung Cheruh limestone hill, Perak.

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Kuwait Takes Part In International Tourism Trade Fair In Spain

MADRID, Spain, Jan 27 (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait is taking part in an international tourism trade fair (Fitur 2015), to be held in Madrid, Spain, tomorrow (Wednesday), with the participation of 165 countries, besides 9,107 international bodies and institutions.

Kuwait is represented by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, for the sixth consecutive year in this event, which is considered as one of the most important fairs in the tourism field.

The King of Spain, Felipe VI and his wife, Queen Letizia, will inaugurate the fair, which is expected to be attended by more than 200 visitors from various parts of the world, including 120 tourism experts and specialists.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO), in cooperation with Casa Arabe (CA), will organise a seminar on Arab tourism, titled: “Policies and Strategies of Tourism Development in the Middle East and North Africa” with the participation of a number of Arab tourism ministers.

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Dubai Airports Takes Over Top Spot For International Passenger Traffic

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 28 (NNN-WAM) – Dubai Airports has released its year-end traffic report, which confirmed that Dubai International Airport (DXB), has secured its position as the number one airport for international passenger numbers, with full year passenger numbers totalling 70,475,636, up 6.1 per cent from 66,431,533 recorded in 2013, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

This followed robust passenger traffic growth of 7.5 per cent in Dec, with 6,498,573 passengers, passing through the facility, compared to 6,047,126, recorded in the corresponding month the previous year.

“This historic milestone is the culmination of over five decades of double-digit average growth that were inspired by the vision of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

“It is a vision that has been carried forward strongly by our leader, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Emirates Group, and Chairman of Dubai Airports.

He added, the shared goal was to make Dubai a global centre of aviation, and “we are nearing that goal, thanks to an open skies policy, a friendly business environment, Dubai’s growing attractiveness as a centre for trade, commerce and tourism, growing network connectivity, due to the rapid expansion of Emirates and flydubai and timely investment in aviation infrastructure.”

Aircraft movements in Dec rose 4.0 percent to 34,136, up marginally from the 32,832, recorded during Dec 2013. Full year aircraft movements totalled 357,339, compared to 369,953 in 2013, a contraction of 3.4 per cent, primarily due to the temporary reduction of flights experienced during the 80-day runway refurbishment project during the summer, and the shift of freighter operators and general aviation to Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC), earlier this year.

Spurred by an ongoing increase in the number of wide bodied aircraft servicing the airport, the numbers of passengers per flight increased 5.1 per cent to 208.3 passengers for the full year.

For the full year 2014, the top market for growth in passenger volumes was Western Europe ( 1,192,831 passengers), closely followed by the Indian Subcontinent ( 936,449), Asia ( 716,180) and North America ( 432,597).

In terms of percentage growth in 2014, Eastern Europe ( 21.0 percent) was the strongest market, followed by North America (18.6 percent), Asia (12.6 per cent), Australasia (9.2 percent) and Western Europe (8.8 percent).

Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said that, like 2014, 2015 promised to be another eventful year, featuring more record passenger numbers and facility upgrades, including the opening of Concourse D, which will boost Dubai International’s capacity to 90 million.

“Today, we are also releasing our projections for 2015 traffic at Dubai International, which forecast 79 million passengers. We will have more flights connecting more people to more destinations. And we will be fully focused on rolling out technology, new F&B concepts and service initiatives that further enhance the passenger experience.”

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Queen Mary II Makes Port Call At Muscat, Oman

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 28 (NNN-ONA) – Queen Mary 2, the world’s biggest, tallest, widest, largest and longest ocean liner, docked at Port Sultan Qaboos (PSQ), on Tuesday morning, bringing with her over 2,400 passengers and a crew of over 1,200.

This is the second time that this behemoth of a ship has made a port call at Muscat. The visit was a shot in the arm to Oman’s tourism.

“PSQ has been welcoming cruise ships for a long time. Calling of Queen Mary 2, one of the biggest cruise ships in the industry, is really a pride for PSQ.

The calling of Queen Mary 2 will boost the tourism sector in the sultanate, as the government is planning to make PSQ a tourism port in the country and the region,” said Capt Talib Khamis al Wahaibi, general manager, Harbour Marine Service, PSQ.

The ship had earlier docked in Oman in 2010.

Capt Wahaibi said, “The second visit is giving a major boost to the tourism sector in the country.”

On Tuesday morning, two berths were dedicated for Queen Mary 2, as she arrived from Italy. Her next stop will be UAE. Tour operators in Muttrah, said that, arrival of the 345m long cruise liner is testimony to the fact that Oman has found a place on the global tourism map.

“Many were sceptical when it was decided to turn PSQ into a dedicated tourism port. The arrival of ships like Queen Mary 2 have put all doubts to rest.

This shows that the port has all the facilities to berth even the biggest of ocean liners, and in the process, attract more tourists,” said Ahmed al Hinai, a tour operator and guide in Muttrah.

The ship has 1,224 crew members and 2,454 passengers on board, for this current voyage.

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Malaysia: Ringgit’s Depreciation Will Boost Export Competitiveness, Tourist Arrivals

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 28 (NNN-Bernama) — The ringgit’s depreciation will help boost export competitiveness and tourist arrivals in the country, says the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER).

Executive Director Dr Zakariah Abdul Rashid also said the decline would encourage wider import substitution activities into the country.

The ringgit has hit an all-time low in five years as emerging Asian currencies lose ground, among others, due to retreating crude oil prices.

As oil is a key Malaysian exports, making up to 30 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, the decline in crude oil prices by 50 per cent from June last year, has had a significant impact on the ringgit.

The exchange rate between the ringgit and the US dollar went up by between RM3.28 to RM3.50 in 2013 and 2014.

“However, with good governance, the fall can improve trade balance and further accelerate foreign direct investments, in taking advantage of the lower cost of doing business in the country,” Zakariah said.

He told reporters this at a media conference on the MIER 4th Quarter 2014 Update and Malaysian Economic Outlook, here today.

He said MIER anticipates 2015 to be tough, with the GDP growth expected to moderate at five per cent, and was bullish on Malaysia’s tourism market following the ringgit’s decline as travelers choose the country as their holiday destination.

“We are also confident that the Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign would help boost tourism receipts,” Zakariah added.

MIER estimates the 2014 growth at 5.9 per cent, well above the socially efficient level of output (5.5 per cent per annum), and the output gap remaining moderately positive, pointing to a continued robust domestic demand.

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Malaysia Confident Of Achieving 29.4 Million Tourist Arrivals In 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism Malaysia is confident of achieving the target of getting 29.4 million tourist arrivals this year in view of the Malaysia Year of Festival 2015 despite the volatile economic condition.

Its Deputy Director-General (Promotion), Azizan Noordin said Tourism Malaysia is positive of the tourism outlook and on track to achieving the target, driven by various initiatives taken, including promotional and advertising blitz throughout the world.

“Last year, we targeted 28 million tourist arrivals and until October 2014, we managed to get 22.12 million tourist arrivals,” he told reporters at the launch of the International Islamic Trade, Business and Tourism Fair 2015 (i-Tradebiz 2015) here Friday.

Azizan said there was a recovery of tourist arrivals from China after a lull following two air tragedies involving the Malaysia Airlines.

MAS flight MH370 bound for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur disappeared on March 8 while flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17.

Azizan said tourist arrivals from China dropped by 11.1 per cent between January and September 2014, but it rose in October 2014 by 5.2 per cent after the two air tragedies.

He said that the depreciation of ringgit is an advantage to foreign tourists as it add value to their money.

“With higher foreign currencies like euro, pound and yen, foreign tourists would find that prices of goods are cheaper than before in Kuala Lumpur, which was rated the world’s fourth best shopping haven.

“Since July last year, many airlines have been operating chartered flights weekly from China to Malaysia and this will encourage more tourist arrivals,” he said, adding that Malaysia Tourism is targeting more Chinese tourists during the Chinese New Year festival following the visa fee waiver announcement recently.

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Solutions Found To Help More Than 60% Of Stalled Tourism Projects In Syria

LATTAKIA, Syria, Jan 31 (NNN-SANA) – Syrian Tourism Minister, Bishr Yazigi, said that, the prospects for developing the tourism sector in Lattakia are very good, and that the Ministry has a comprehensive vision for this, that focuses on both large and small projects.

Touring a number of tourism sites in the province on Friday, Yazigi said, the goal of his trip is to study the cases of stalled projects, noting that some of these projects are nearly 80% complete, in addition to inspecting restaurants and hotels.

He said that, the Ministry is annulling the contracts of investment that are suspended without justification, noting that the current focus is on budget tourism, by providing avenues for cheap tourism activities for families, including preparing new beach areas.

During this tour, the Minister met Lattakia Governor and local officials, affirming during that meeting, that solutions have been found for more than 60% of stalled tourism projects in the province.

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U.A.E.’s Etihad Airways Appoints First Female Emirati Airport Manager

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan 31 (NNN-WAM) – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has appointed the first Emirati female airport manager in Japan.

Based in Nagoya, 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, a structured 18 month training initiative that develops talented Emiratis, who are carefully selected and trained in all aspects of airline operations.

After successfully completing the programme, Fatima spent two years building up her experience of airport operations and was posted as Airport Duty Manager to a number of outstations across the airline’s fast growing global network, including London, Manchester, and Singapore.

Fatima was then appointed as Assistant Airport Manager in Australia, where she has been responsible for overseeing the smooth operations at Sydney’s International Airport.

Chris Youlten, Etihad Airways’ Senior Vice President, Airport Operations, said, “Fatima has demonstrated a strong understanding of airport operations and has a track record of performing consistently and to the highest standards. We are confident that she is the ideal candidate to lead our operations in one of Japan’s busiest airports.”

As part of developing the UAE national workforce and offering them the opportunity to gain international working experience, Etihad Airways had recently deployed more than 190 UAE nationals to various positions, at the airline’s offices and airport destinations across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

Commenting on her appointment, Fatima said, “I am excited to take on this new and challenging role, to act as the focal point for all Etihad Airways’ operations in Nagoya.

“I am thankful to Etihad Airways, for the excellent training opportunities, as well as, the support and encouragement that they have continuously provided me with, and which has helped me while I was stationed abroad, experiencing new cultures and being away from my family and friends.

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.

Ray Gammell, Chief People and Performance Officer, said, “As the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, we are committed to growing and developing a highly qualified cadre of UAE Nationals – both female and male.

“We especially value the contributions that Emirati women make to our business and the important role they play in the day to day operations of the airline. We are particularly proud of Fatima, whose hard work and dedication has led her to be entrusted with the critical role of airport manager in one of Japan’s busiest airports.”

Fatima added, “I am proud of what I have accomplished so far and I am delighted to be the first Emirati woman to be trusted with the management of such an important airport. I look forward to taking on this new challenge and I am sure it will offer me the opportunity to grow and further develop myself professionally. I also hope that my accomplishment encourages many of my Emirati sisters to push the boundaries and reach their goals.”

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AirAsia To Abolish Fuel Surcharge

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia Bhd will be abolishing the fuel surcharge across all of its airlines in the group from today and in line with declining global oil prices.

The low-cost carrier will also abolish the fuel surcharge for its low-cost long haul affiliates, AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia X and Indonesia AirAsia X, the company said in a statement.

Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes said this would be a plus point for consumers and the economy, as the tourism industry is a great job creator.

“This decision was made in November 2014,But, we are only able to implement it now and believe removing the fuel surcharge and reducing travel costs, will be a huge boost to the tourism industry,” he added.

The abolishment of the fuel surcharge is expected to further reduce travel costs and stimulate more demand for travel and tourism.

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Worth Putting Your Money In Malaysia, Says Fortune Magazine

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Jan 29 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is one of the ‘seven emerging markets worth putting your money in’, reported a popular business publication, Fortune Magazine.

“In Malaysia, the incumbent (Barisan Nasional) government is trying to stay ahead of increased demand for change,” penned Ian Bremmer.

Bremmer wrote Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak scrapped fuel subsidies and will enact a six per cent Goods and Services Tax in April to improve his government’s fiscal position.

He believed that Najib will likely accelerate his Economic Transformation Programme by introducing further tax incentives for foreign investors.

“Further liberalisation of the manufacturing and financial services sectors is likely as well.

“It is a fair bet that as growth tapers in China (and the impact of that slowdown is felt in Malaysia), Najib’s government will feel pressured to boost public spending on infrastructure, education and health care.

“That is a good thing, particularly if authorities, as expected, continue to advance a broad fiscal reform agenda, with support from the middle class, to balance the nation’s budget by 2020,” he wrote.

The other emerging markets that Fortune Magazine described as the ‘lucky seven’ are India, Indonesia, Mexico, Columbia, Poland and Kenya.

The full story is published in the February 2015 issue of Fortune.

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Albania: Islamic Center, Mosque opened in Roguchina

Tuesday 27 Jan 2015 – Roguchina (IINA) – An Islamic Center and a mosque “Dar Al-Noor” were inaugurated on Thursday in the Albanian city of Roguchina.

The dignitaries attended the opening ceremony included Vice President of the Albanian Islamic Chiefdom, Mufti of the region, representative of Turkish Embassy, and the Director of the Albanian Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization, which implemented the project.

The ceremony started with the recitation of some verses from the Holy Qur’an, followed by a speech given by the Mufti, who expressed his delight at building the mosque and thanked the donors and the agency that implemented the project.

For his part, the Vice-President of the Albanian Islamic Chiefdom praised the role of mosques in building healthy Muslim community for the good of humanity as a whole.

After welcoming the distinguished guests, Dr. Ramez Zaccai, director of the institute, said that Albania went through a period of nearly half a century during which the ruling communist regime used to demolish mosques and banned worship. He noted that after bringing down the oppressive regime, the Islamic Dawa has been revived and dozens of mosques have been built.

Given the fact that the ancient mosque in the region was half-collapsed, he said that there had been urgent need for for Muslims to have a place of worship to perform their daily prayers before building Al-Noor Mosque.

A band composed of Kids from the Islamic Culture Courses sang some Islamic songs during the inaugural ceremony under the supervision of the Albanian Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization

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Islamic museum founder honoured with Australian Award

Tuesday 27 Jan 2015 – Thornbury, Australia (IINA) – Founder of Australia’s first Islamic Museum Moustafa Fahour has been awarded the Medals (OAM) of the Order of Australia along with others during the Award Ceremony on Australia Day, Australian Muslim Times news (AMT) reported.

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

Moustafa, who is of Lebanese descent, opened the museum as a non profit entity, and has received immense support from volunteers and financial backers. He claims that almost a year since its opening more than 8,000 people have visited the museum with 50% of them Muslims while the rest were non-Muslims.

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia, which is celebrated annually on January 26 each year to mark the anniversary of the arrival of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales.

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OIC’s Fiqh Academy to hold seminars on halal food: IINA Report

Tuesday 27 Jan 2015 – Jeddah (IINA) – The International Islamic Fiqh Academy, an offshoot of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), announced that it will hold two scientific seminars on the Islamic ruling related to permissible foods and dietary on February 9-12 in Jeddah. A host of scholars and specialists in medicine and chemistry will speak on the topics of “conversion and consumption” and “halal.”

Speaking to International Islamic News Agency (IINA), Dr. Ahmed Abualio, director of the Department of Research and Studies at the Academy, said: “The first seminar will be held in collaboration with the Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences in Kuwait, in order to clarify the Islamic ruling on conversion and consumption and the latest trends of food and drugs, as well as the ruling on the use of some pork products, reuse of treated wastewater, blood, etc.

Abualio added that the second seminar will be held in response to the inquires made by the OIC’s Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries (SMIIC) about the Islamic ruling on eating whale meat, sharks, frogs, crocodiles and turtles, in addition to other animals that fall within the list of amphibians and their products of eggs, skins, etc. The Seminar participants will also respond to inquiries into the correct methods of animal slaughtering, poultry stunning prior to slaughtering, and whether women are allowed to slaughter or not.

He said that the participants will also explain the ruling on the use of ethyl alcohol in cleaning, treatment and primary food processing, as well as its natural existence in foods. Further, they will clarify the ruling on the use of wine in cooking and the vinegar made from alcohol, besides the difference between wine and alcohol and the ruling on adding alcohol to the cosmetics and materials used for oral and dental care.

Furthermore, the seminar participants will explain the ruling on the use of products and secretions derived from human body or animals in foods, cosmetics, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, as well as brushes used in the preparation of food. The Islamic ruling on adding of precious stones and metals such as gold and silver to the food ingredients will be made clear throughout the seminar.

The participants will also explain the ruling on eating the cheese manufactured with rennet (enzymes extracted from animal stomach), as well as the products of animals not slaughtered according to the Islamic law. The double-line factories that manufacture non-halal food, and the products that might be used in cosmetics extracted from parts of halal animals, but not slaughtered according to the Islamic law, or they were dead, will also be among the issues to be clarified.

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Bahrain society’s tolerance highlighted in campaign in Belgium

Wednesday 28 Jan 2015 – Brussels, (IINA) – Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations (BFEA) organized on Tuesday a function in Belgium as part of a campaign titled “This is Bahrain” to highlight the Bahrain society’s tolerance and moderate stance.

During the campaign, a message of peace has been sent to the Belgian people by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and people of Bahrain. BFEA has emphasized peace, tolerance, co-existence and religious freedom as characteristic features of the Bahraini society, Bahrain news agency reported.

Speaking at a press conference held at the Press Club in the Belgian capital Brussels on the sidelines of the campaign, BFEA Secretary General Betsy Mathieson underlined Bahrain’s unwavering stance which rejects all forms of terrorism. She emphasized care, co-existence and religious freedom enjoyed by the expatriate communities in Bahrain.

On his part, head of the parliamentary delegation Isa Abdul Jabbar Al Kooheji highlighted Bahrain’s parliamentary experience and the King’s keenness to promote democracy and freedom of expression. He affirmed the difference between peaceful freedom of expression and violence, blocking roads, jeopardizing people’s safety and disrupting their interests.

Participants in the conference re-emphasized the message of peace sent by Bahrain to all people in the world.

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World’s tallest mega-mosque being built in Algeria

Thursday 29 Jan 2015 – Algiers (IINA) – A vast mosque designed to rival the world’s greatest Muslim places of worship is being built on Algeria’s northern coast, BBC reported.

Halfway along the gentle curve of the Bay of Algiers, a sprawling complex of buildings is slowly rising from the ground.

At one end will be the domed prayer room of the Great Mosque of Algiers. At the other, the world’s tallest minaret will tower 265m (870ft) into the sky. There will be a Qurʾānic school, library, a museum, terraces and gardens scattered with fruit trees.

Visitors will arrive by car, tram, and even by boat. The complex, with space for 120,000 people, will be connected to a marina on the Mediterranean by two panoramic walkways.

The mosque will be the world’s third biggest by area, according to the architects, and the largest in Africa.

“It’s one of the projects of the century,” said Ouarda Youcef Khodja, a senior official at the ministry of housing and urban planning, during a visit to the construction site.

She said that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika wanted the mosque as a “monument to Islam and to the martyrs of the Algerian revolution”. But it is also meant to be a signal for the future.

“This monument will be a point of reference for the current revolution – the revolution of the development of Algeria, she added.”

The mosque’s scale, its location, and its price tag estimated at $1-1.5bn showed that it is a priority for the government.

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UK mosques invite fellow Britons to ease tensions

Thursday 29 Jan 2015 – London (IINA) – British mosques are to throw their doors open to the general public, it was announced Wednesday, in a bid to reach out to fellow citizens following “tensions around terrorism,” AFP reported.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella group of UK Muslims, said it would be organizing #VisitMyMosque day on Sunday, where Islamic places of worship will share tea and cakes, answer questions about the faith and give an insight into the daily goings-on at a mosque. “Mosques will also be inviting inter-faith leaders as well, and all will be invited to come together to demonstrate unity and solidarity during what has been a tense time for faith communities,” the MCB said.

“#VisitMyMosque day is part of a national initiative by Muslims to reach out to fellow Britons following tensions around terrorism.”

Some 15 mosques in England were among the first to confirm their participation in the idea. The initiative comes three weeks after the attacks in Paris, perpetrated by Islamist extremists, which left 17 people dead. Following the attacks, the British government wrote to mosques saying imams must do more to prevent radicalization in their own communities. “You have a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility: in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity,” said the letter from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. “There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country,” it added.

The MCB accused him of insensitivity and stoking Islamophobia by appearing to make a distinction between religious and national identities. In the 2011 census, some 2.8 million people said they were Muslim, or 4.4 percent of the population, making Islam the second-biggest religion in Britain after Christianity.

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Over one million pilgrims perform Umrah

Thursday 29 Jan 2015 – Jeddah (IINA) – More than a million pilgrims have either arrived or departed through King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) since the Umrah season started on December 7, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported quoting the airport officials. A total of 523,672 pilgrims are still in the Kingdom performing Umrah in Makkah or visiting Madinah while 484,613 have departed for their respective homes.

The report said that since the beginning of the season, a total of 4,901 flights have either landed or taken off from the airport. Abdul Hameed Aba Al-Ary, director general of the airport, said all concerned departments are prepared to deal with the busy period at the airport during the Umrah season. He said the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Makkah Governorate and the Haj Ministry have formulated a comprehensive plan to properly handle the hectic operational activities at KAIA during the Umrah season, which will continue up to July 7.

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Gaza plans to open seaport for international travel

Monday 26 Jan 2015 – Gaza (IINA) – A ministerial committee in Israeli-blockaded Gaza announced plans on Sunday to ready the enclave’s sole seaport to allow Palestinians to travel abroad, AFP reported.

The enclave, home to 1.8 million people, has been under Israeli land and sea blockade since 2006. Its sole gateway to the world not controlled by Israel is the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which has been largely closed since late October.

Alaa al-Batta, spokesman for the committee formed to lift the blockade, said preparations are under way to launch within two months a boat service for the sick and students studying overseas.

The port in Gaza City is currently restricted to fishermen, whom Israel only allows to fish up to a maximum of six nautical miles from the shore. Israeli forces routinely fire on any vessel close to the outer limit.

Opening a port was one of the main Palestinian demand to be tabled during negotiations with Israel to firm up a truce agreement which ended a 50-day war in July and August last year. However, the negotiations failed to get off the ground and the demand was never tabled.

“We are taking the necessary measures to allow maritime transport and to prepare for the construction of a port which will link Gaza with the outside world,” Batta said.

There was no immediate reaction from Israel to the Gaza port opening plan.

Several ships manned by pro-Palestinian activists have tried to run the blockade and reach the shores of Gaza, but they have all been repelled by the Israeli navy.

In 2010, Israeli commandos staged a botched raid on a six-ship flotilla in international waters, killing 10 Turkish nationals and sparking a diplomatic crisis with Ankara that has yet to be resolved.

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Turkish Tourism income rises to $34.3 bln: Agency

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – Tourists who visited Turkey in 2014 spent an average of $828 per capita in 2014; $775 by foreigners per capita and $1,130 by Turkish citizens who live abroad. DHA Photo

Tourists who visited Turkey in 2014 spent an average of $828 per capita in 2014; $775 by foreigners per capita and $1,130 by Turkish citizens who live abroad. DHA Photo

Turkey’s tourism income increased by 6.2 percent 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 2014, down 1.3 percent from the same period of 2013.

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

Of the total income, around 81.5 percent was earned from foreign visitors’ spending in the country and the remaining 18.5 percent was from the other groups’ spending.

Tourists visiting Turkey spent an average of $828 per capita in 2014; $775 by foreigners per capita and $1,130 by Turkish citizens who live abroad.

Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said on Jan. 23 there are around 5 million Turkish citizens who are residents of Europe, but visit Turkey each year.

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Monastery restoration nears end

TRABZON – Anadolu Agency – The restoration of the Kızlar Monastery, one of the most important tourist spots in the Eastern Black Sea region, will soon come to an end and local officials are confident the site will boost local tourism.

In a written statement, Trabzon Metropolitan Mayor Orhan Fevzi Gümrükçüoğlu noted Trabzon was a city of civilization and culture, and they were trying to revive the historical venues in the city to bring in more tourists.

For this purpose, the restoration of the Kızlar Monastery, located in the Boztepe neighborhood overlooking the city, began in March 2014. “The restoration project of the monastery had been made in the past with the financial resources of the municipality. Then we handed over this historical site to the Culture and Tourism Ministry for five years to begin the restoration. On our insistence, the ministry initiated a tender for the restoration and the contactor company who won the tender is carrying out the restoration,” the mayor said in the statement.

Speaking on the importance of the monastery in terms of tourism in the region, Gümrükçüoğlu said, “When the work is done, the Kızlar Monastery will serve tourism and revive the cultural, artistic and touristic life of Trabzon. We believe the city will become a rising star in tourism.”

He also noted artisans in the city were very pleased with the restoration, adding, “The monastery will be a frequently visited spot for local and foreign tourists. This makes the locals and artisans of the neighborhood very happy. The monastery will contribute to Eastern Black Sea tourism when it is opened. It will be a center of attraction for tourists visiting Trabzon. The historical rock church in the monastery and the rare frescoes will come to the surface when the restoration is done. The cost of the restoration project is 1.57 million Turkish Liras.”

The monastery complex built on two terraces and is surrounded by a high protective wall. The monastery was founded in the reign of Alexios III (1349–1390). The monastery initially comprised the rock church on the south side the chapel in its entrance and a few cells. Inside the rock church there are inscriptions and portraits of Alexios III, his wife Theodora and his mother Irene.

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Turkish reaping yields of card system in tourist areas

İSTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The revenues from museums and ancient sites, together with commercial operations, increased 39 percent last year to reach 435 million Turkish Liras, the Culture and Tourism Ministry has reported. The ministry has begun to reap the results of its innovative policies that were initiated in 2013 and continued in 2014, it said in a statement. HÜRRİYET Photo

The revenues from museums and ancient sites, together with commercial operations, increased 39 percent last year to reach 435 million Turkish Liras, the Culture and Tourism Ministry has reported. The ministry has begun to reap the results of its innovative policies that were initiated in 2013 and continued in 2014, it said in a statement. HÜRRİYET Photo

The Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry’s move to revamp some of its card systems for Turkey’s most famous sites begins to pay dividends.

The revenues from museums and ancient sites increased by 39 percent in 2014 and the sales of the Museum Card + increased by 100 percent.

The revenues from museums and ancient sites, together with commercial operations, increased 39 percent last year to reach 435 million Turkish Liras, the Culture and Tourism Ministry has reported.

The ministry has begun to reap the results of its innovative policies that were initiated in 2013 and continued in 2014, it said in a statement.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik said the results of the assessment reports of the term between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2014, had showed positive results.

Çelik said the revenues from museums and ancient sites increased by 39 percent in 2014 and that the sales of the Museum Card + increased by 100 percent.

“Those revenues were 26 million liras in 2002 and reached 272 million liras within 10 years. It was 313 million liras in 2013 and thanks to reformist and rationalist practices, it showed a great rise last year at 435 million liras,” Çelik said in the statement.

“The venues which drew the greatest interest from tourists in 2013 were the same last year, too. The Hagia Sophia Museum of Istanbul ranked first with 3.57 million people, and it was followed by the Topkapı Palace Museum with 3.55 million people, the Konya Mevlana Museum at 2.04 million people, Denizli Pamukkale Hierapolis Site at 1.88 million people and İzmir’s Ephesus at 1.87 million people. Also, Topkapı Palace’s Seraglio ranked seventh at 1.07 million people. I believe that the new sections of the seraglio, which were recently opened, will also double the number of visitors this year,” he said.

The ministry also hailed the 100 percent increase in the sale of the Museum Card + in comparison to last year. “Museum Card, Museum Card +, Museum Pass Istanbul and Museum Pass Cappadocia (for foreigners) were the projects that the ministry initiated to turn our museums into a social event alternative,” he said. “They were very successful in 2014. Besides the 100 percent increase in the sales of Museum Card +, the Museum Pass sales also increased by 39 percent. The Museum Pass Cappadocia has (only) been on sale for a year but it has drawn great interest. We estimate that it will be sold more than the other museum cards.” The minister said the Museum Pass Istanbul and Museum Pass Cappadocia were the first Turkish examples of city cards that are used in all important tourism destinations in the world. “When we saw the success of the card in Istanbul, we started the same application for Cappadocia.

Other cities will have the same card

We will continue doing the same application for other cities such as Antalya, Muğla and İzmir. Discount tours, transfer services, events at Turkish baths, cooking courses and the entrance to some private museums are among the advantages of this card. Our main goal is to turn all these cards into contemporary city cards this year,” he said.

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G-20 agenda to focus on energy, tourism, Turkish deputy PM tells ambassadors

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – The G-20 agenda in 2015 under the Turkish presidency will include engagement groups on energy and tourism, as well as side projects for businessmen, labor unions, youth groups, think tanks and women, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has said.

Babacan was addressing ambassadors from G-20 countries in Ankara on Jan. 27.

Turkey assumed the G-20 presidency on Dec. 1, 2014. The first G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Deputy Governors’ level meeting will be held in Istanbul between Feb. 8-9, 2015.

Babacan added that the World Tourism Organization wanted to organize a meeting under Turkey’s presidency later this year.

As the official agenda of the G-20 is already heavy, Turkey plans to open the floor for unofficial groups like the B-20 – a working group for the business world. Other bodies will be the L-20 for labor unions, the T-20 for think tanks, the Y-20 for youth organizations, the C-20 for nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups, and the W-20 for boosting the participation of women in business and entrepreneurship.

Discussing the content of Turkey’s G-20 agenda, Babacan said they divided its topics into three under the title “Three I’s”: Inclusiveness, implementation and investments.

He said the first “I” – inclusiveness – included the two main pillars of “intra-national inclusiveness” and “international inclusiveness.”

Emphasizing that they would give special importance to small- and medium-sized enterprises, Babacan said most employment was created by SMEs in G-20 countries, so the needs of SMEs would be taken into account during every agenda item of the G-20.

Babacan said they had spoken to the International Chamber of Commerce to establish an international, permanent platform for SMEs to raise their voices globally.

He added that under the international dimension of the “inclusiveness” pillar of Turkey’s G-20 agenda, they will discuss the situation of “low-income developing countries.”

“Under every G-20 agenda, we should ask ourselves whether their needs are adequately covered and addressed,” said Babacan, adding that inequality and healthcare issues will be particularly discussed during the meetings.

Naming “implementation” as the second “I,” Babacan pointed out that many countries are already aware of the importance of structural reforms and have prepared their agendas for the coming period.

“They (the OECD and the IMF) expect that if the G-20 countries implement what they have already committed to, global growth will be 2 percent higher than the usual scenario in about five years’ time,” he said.

The G-20 leaders’ summit will be held in Antalya on Nov. 15-16, 2015.

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Brunei Consumer Fair Returns with More Products

Thursday, 29 January 2015 BruDirect.com BERAKAS, BRUNEI-MUARA: This year’s consumer fair returns with numerous products being offered such as traditional handicrafts, food as well as banking and financial services. The encouraging response from the public and also participants from the previous event has proven that the organisers has achieved its goal to spread awareness among the consumers towards the development of new products and services offered in the country and elsewhere.

The matter was said in the welcoming speech from the Executive Director of D’Sunlit Sdn Bhd, Dato Paduka Haji Danial bin Haji Hanafiah, during the event’s launching ceremony yesterday.

The event was officiated by the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awg Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar.

The ceremony also held a donation presentation to the BRUNEI SMARTER Association.

About 400 stalls were set up. This year’s event is highlighted with a park themed ‘Dinosaur Journey’ and there are also several types of Bunga Anggerek put up for sale. The event will be held for five days until this Sunday.

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Bangladesh Int’l trade fair gets 10-day extension

DHAKA, Jan 25, 2015 (BSS) – The Dhaka International Trade Fair 2015 (DITF 2015) has given an extension for 10 more days to end February 10 instead of January 31.

Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), the organiser of the country’s annual flagship event for promoting export, at a board meeting on Sunday decided to extend the time for the fair against the backdrop of the BNP-Jamaat’s non-stop blockade and repeated hartals that hindered businesses and caused huge losses to the economy. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed attended the meeting.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 20th DITF on January 1 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC), which is close to the usual venue for DITF at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the capital city.

Besides a large number of companies and organisations of home country Bangladesh, 48 organisations from 14 countries are participating in the fair to showcase their products and services at 516 stalls.

The fair is open to public from 9am to 10 pm everyday at an entry fee of Taka 30 for an adult and Taka 20 for minor.

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Pelindo I To Expand and Modernize Five Ports in 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Indonesia groundbreaking of North Sumatra`s development projects

27 January 2015 Batubara, N Sumatra (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) inaugurated the groundbreaking of numerous development projects in North Sumatra here on Tuesday.

The projects include the development of Kuala Tanjung Port, Sei Mangkei Special Economic Zone, Kuala Tanjung industrial zone, aluminum diversification project, and Medan-Binjai toll road, among several others.

During the groundbreaking ceremony that took place at Kuala Tanjung, President Jokowi expressed optimism that the projects will help to revitalize the economy in the western part of Indonesia.

“I am optimistic that if we work hard, the development in Indonesia will be truly materialized,” the president affirmed.

In the meantime, North Sumatra Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho emphasized that the development projects will play a strategic role in improving the economy in the province and the western part of Indonesia.

He remarked that the Medan-Binjai toll road is one of the four segments of the 2,628-kilometer Trans-Sumatra Highway that will span from Bakauheni in Lampung to Aceh province.

The governor noted that the projects will, in future, change the face of North Sumatras economy, which is based on raw material production for the downstream industry and will certainly offer greater added value.

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Spain will make more investments in Indonesia

30 January 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Spain has assured to improve its investments in Indonesia following a meeting between Spanish Ambassador to Indonesia Francisco Jose Viqueira and Industry Minister Saleh Husin in Jakarta.

“They talked about economic development and the value of trade between the two countries, which is still very small. Well, now we can improve it,” the Ministry of Industrys director general for international trade cooperation Agus Tjahajana said here on Friday.

During the meeting, the Industry Minister gave a lowdown on industrial estates in Indonesia, especially in Seimangke Industrial Area in North Sumatra, Agus revealed.

Spain has expressed interest in Multi Recognition Agreements (MRA) to increase the value of trade between the two countries, he added.

“They wanted to study the Indonesian standardization system and implement it to see how they can bring their products here. It is called MRA. But we need agreements and proper legal frameworks between the two countries,” Agus noted.

Talking about Indonesias trade balance, Agus observed that Spain is currently in a surplus position. Of the total value of US$2 billion, Indonesias trade surplus is of US$1.2 billion.

According to him, Indonesia and Spain never had a cordial trade relation in the field of aircraft, although PT Dirgantara Indonesia was still running.

“The two countries can now establish trade relations in other areas,” Agus added.

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Sierra Leone: President Koroma Hosts National Tourist Board

Government of Sierra Leone (Freetown) – 26 January 2015 – President Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday 22 January met with members of the National Tourist Board at State House, Freetown.

The Acting Minister of Tourism and Culture Kadie Sesay in her introduction of members of the board said the team will be charged with responsibility of implementing programmes immediately after Ebola.

President Koroma thanked the board for the updates providing an insight of plans moving forward, especially at a time when the country is registering marked improvement in new confirmed cases of Ebola.

He stated the country now has the capacity to chase the virus and that government was determined to sustain those efforts as “we move forward in building the social and economic life of the citizens.”

As a government and in diversification of the economy, the president underlined the important role of the tourism sector in the future development of the country, noting its significance to providing employment and revenue generation.

“In terms of potential, tourism should be the key player; that is why you have a great responsibility to ensuring that we realize that potential,” he said. The potential of the sector is God-given but it’s for us to develop them, President Koroma noted. He further assured of government’s support in helping them execute their functions.

The Director of Tourism Foday Jalloh said as part of the post-Ebola strategy they have embarked on three main aspects ranging from strengthening the legislative framework, launched the new national cultural policy of Sierra Leone and on the verge of upgrading the monument and relics Act of 1967.

He said they will continue with their school and community outreach programmes through the museums to teach kids about the usefulness of the country’s museums and the culture as a whole, and provide technical expertise to showcase the importance of the country’s artefacts.

Giving an updates on the tourism sector, Mr Mohamed Jalloh said they had put together strategies to revamp and revitalize the sector in the aftermath of Ebola and putting together a tourism recovery plan to put Sierra Leone on the international map.

He also called for the protection of beaches, mountains, islands and all natural, cultural and historical resources as well as promoting a well-coordinated campaign for domestic tourism that will kick start international tourism to promote and rebrand the image of Sierra Leone.

The Commissioner of EXPO Milan 2015 Mr. Philip Conteh informed the president about plans for this year’s event.

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Algeria At 35th International Tourism Fair

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – 26 January 2015 — The National Office of Tourism (ONT) will take part in the 35th International Tourism Fair “FITUR” which will be organized in Madrid (Spain) from January 28 to February 1, said Monday ONT in a communiqué.

A stand of 120 square meters, designed according to the Ottoman architecture to highlight Algeria’s historical and architectural vestiges, will be devoted to the Algerian participation during this event, to be held in the exhibition centre Juan Carlos.

The fair will be an opportunity to tourism operators and Algerian craftsmen to present their products in anticipation of their marketing.

The fair will also allow the Algerian operators to establish contacts with the officials of foreign tour operators to promote destination Algeria, said the communiqué.

FITUR is one of the greatest tourist events as it annually brings together tourism decision-makers and experts.

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Islamic Financing, alternative investment source to Azerbaijani economy

30 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The International Bank of Azerbaijan, the largest lender and the only state-owned bank in the country remains confident to promote Azerbaijan as an Islamic Banking hub in the region.

Behnam Gurbanzade, Director of the Islamic Banking Department of the IBA, spoke quite positive about the prospects of Azerbaijan’s eventful role in the Islamic finance markets.

“Developing Islamic Financing in Azerbaijan gives us an advantage to set up a center for the development of Islamic Financing in the CIS based in Baku,” Gurbanzade wrote in an e-mail to AzerNews.

“Thus, in 2015 we are planning to increase the amount of Islamic financing in Azerbaijan. To this end, an alternative banking division was set up within Bank IBA-Moscow where the Islamic Banking is also part of new duties,” he said.

The IBA concluded last year with $526 million sharia compliant assets compared to the Islamic Banking assets at the level of $220 million at the beginning of 2014.

Islamic finance has not developed well in Azerbaijan, which has a predominantly Muslim population. The IBA assists the government to draft the relevant regulation. It also plans to convert its Islamic unit into major Shariah-compliant lender after the country OKs the Islamic legislation licenses.

The Baku-based bank actively works in this direction, which is encouraging the development of Islamic Finance here. The bank currently offers Shariah-compliant products through an Islamic window introduced in September 2012, a practice which allows conventional lenders to provide Islamic financial services as long as client money is segregated from the rest of the bank.

Gurbanzada said the IBA Islamic Banking department is working on draft legislation together with consultants. “The initial documents including Islamic Financial Policies and Procedures, Operational procedures and Products and Services are under consideration,” he said.

Laws allowing Azerbaijan to OK Islamic bond offerings is expected to be passed in 2015, and the government may issue securities that adhere to Islam’s ban on interest the next year.

Speaking about the role that the Islamic bank could play in driving the banking sector of the country, Gurbanzada said Islamic Financing is considered as alternative investment sources to the economy of Azerbaijan.

“Azerbaijan and CIS markets are growing and there is a huge demand for direct investments. The IBA realizes that sources of funding should be diversified in order to secure economic safety. All this comes against the backdrop of the world financial crisis in which the liquid capital stands as the primary issue,” he noted.

Gurbanzada said the current Islamic Banking portfolio of the IBA is 386 million manats ($493 million) which is approximately 6.2 percent of the total credit portfolio.

The loan portfolio of the Bank hit 5.868 billion manats as of early January with an increase of 16.6 percent since early 2014.

IBA Islamic presented a new Murabaha card which was set up on MasterCard Gold basis. The card is for retail financing in Azerbaijan and outside of the country. “Furthermore we are also strutting Musharakah refinancing products and unrestricted and restricted Mudarabah financing. Most of products and services will be implemented after legislation development,” he concluded.

The bank, 50.2-percent owned by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Finance, holds over 40 percent of banking assets in the country and enjoys huge importance for Azerbaijan’s economy. The IBA‘s reported consolidated total assets of 8.8 billion manats, aggregate capital of 1.008 billion manats and net profit of 64.5 million under audited IFRS as at year-end 2014.

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Azerbaijani modern art on display in London

28 January 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan’s contemporary artists Faig Ahmed and Aida Mahmudova are displaying their talent at the exhibition Exploring Inward underway at Louise Blouin Foundation in London from January 28.

Neither Europe nor Asia, Azerbaijan is a country of diversity, rich culture and contrasts. The historic mix of ancient empires and the emerging contemporary nation are producing a fascinating cultural scene.

Baku, the cosmopolitan capital’s contemporary art scene is booming with numerous galleries opening across the city, Museum of Modern Art, the Yay Gallery and the Yarat contemporary Art Space.

The exhibition was organized by Buta Arts Center as part of the 2nd Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Arts.

The opening night was attended by Leyla Aliyeva, Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Arzu Aliyeva.

Farah Piriyeva, curator of the event, highlighted the activities of talented artists whose works attracted great attentions in the world.

The works of young Azerbaijani artists Aida Mahmudova and Faig Ahmed radiate the same spirit and the same mood of exploration. Mahmudova is showing a monumental landscape with a 17-metre-long canvas and Ahmed’s installations deal with traditional Azerbaijani carpets.

Piriyeva said that both artists explore from within, both share the explorer’s curiosity with a constant journey to discover what is inside.

Nasib Piriyev, Director General of Buta Arts Center briefed the participants on the events to be held as part of the 2nd Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Arts.

The festival, which runs until February 6, will present the Azerbaijani art, reflecting the unity of the ancient historical roots and modernity.

BUTA Arts Festival is displaying everything from the ancient skills of Azerbaijani carpet making to the creative works of the country’s contemporary photographers, the unmistakable sounds of its jazz musicians, rarely heard orchestral works and the excitement of live performances in the medium of modern immersive theatre from October 2014 to November 2015.

In addition to the exciting musical schedule, the festival also involves cutting edge contemporary art exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery and Louise Blouin Foundation and artists from the Yarat Contemporary Art Space will display their work in public locations across London.

The Buta Festival 2015 will provide a window to the Azerbaijani Arts in London offering unique insights into a country that is arousing our curiosity.

Faig Ahmed, who was shortlisted for the Jameel Prize in 2013, a biannual award supported by London’s V&A Museum, exhibits his experimental work with Azerbaijani carpets. For the Baku-based contemporary artist, tradition is merely a starting point, his works subvert the genre. It’s impossible to stroll through the lanes of lcheri Sheher, Baku’s medieval quarter, without encountering people selling traditional carpets.

Their intricately woven patterns have been at the root of Azerbaijan’s visual arts for centuries, with each region creating its own distinctive styles.

Faig Ahmed was one of 10 artists from the Islamic world nominated for the Jameel Prize and his works were included in an international touring exhibition. He was also among 12 artists chosen to represent Azerbaijan when the country made its first appearance at the Venice Biennial in 2007.

A graduate of Central St. Martin’s College in London, Aida Mahmudova, is one of the driving forces behind Baku’s burgeoning contemporary art scene. She runs the contemporary art space Yarat, a non-profit contemporary art collective in her hometown, staging intriguing exhibitions since 2011 and is increasingly active in bringing the best of Azerbaijan’s young artists to an international audience.

Mahmudova’s own art is also worthy of attention. Like many people, she has been struck by Baku’s position at the crossroads of East and West, while much of her work has drawn her to explore the contrasts between the city’s fast-modernizing landscape and its semi-derelict hinterland. That world, half-forgotten and caught between eras, evokes the sense of longing that informs much of her work.

Mahmudova’s artwork has been shown in important exhibitions in Europe, including the MAXXI Museum in Rome, in the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow and at Philips de Pury & Company in London.

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“Muslim Face” Social Media Platform Set for Spring Launch

OnIslam & News Agencies – Monday, 26 January 2015 – DUBAI – Catering to the growing influence of social media among Muslims, a new Islamic social media platform, Muslim Face, will be launched this spring to connect Muslims in a socially responsible network.

“This social platform is an international project. It is designed from a Muslim point of view, but also opens up new opportunities with the rest of the world,” Shoaib Fadie, Muslim Face co-founder, told Zawya on Sunday, January 25.

Adopting the slogan “by Muslims, through Muslims, to the world”, the unique social network aims to bring Muslims closer together through its smart features, fresh trends and spiritual inspiration.

It also aims to offer Muslim online users a more advanced and more Muslim-oriented alternative to existing social network sites.

Muslim Face, which is under beta testing by more than 1,000 global users, is socially responsible, safe for families and respects religious values, according to its founders.

It will also be available in different languages English, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, the Malaysian language Bahasa, Turkish, and Indonesian. Other languages are also expected to be added.

“In the modern age, you can’t avoid using the internet,” Fadie noted.

“A huge number of Muslims now use different social media platforms and it has become imperative for Muslims to establish a social platform that connects internet users, including their families, around value-based content, products and services that also respect Islamic principles,” he added.

The concept of Halal internet and websites was first introduced by Iran in a new Halal search engine titled ImHalal.

Launched on September 2009, it was founded by Reza Sardeha; a 20-year-old Iranian-Kuwaiti student living in the Netherlands.

The Islamic search engine filters internet content and presents users with what its creators call “clean web pages” that do not contain bawdy material.

It gives Muslims around the world the chance to search the internet safely without coming across offending or pornographic content.

Once a user comes into contact with offending content, the engine returns a negative search advice.

The world’s first Islamic search engine is available in 15 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Farsi and Turkish, as well as English.


The socially-responsible content of the Islamic social network makes it teen-friendly due to its filters which ease parental concerns.

“Our platform is designed to be a universal Islamic alternative to popular social networks but it is also open for non-Muslims who want to subscribe to platforms that are socially responsible and safe for children,” said Fadie.

Muslim Face aims to offer business opportunities for investors, entrepreneurs, customers and partners, besides becoming a hub for the Islamic market that worth US $6.7 trillion.

As 62% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims aged under 30, the new social media platform will connect the new generations with the spiritual leaders online.

It will also offer an online “majlis” or council for the online Muslim communities.

“Many Muslim users voiced concern over anti-Islamic content and blasphemy posts in some other social media platforms but they didn’t quit because all their friends are members there,” Co-founder Rohail Amin M. Shoaib explained.

“Muslim Face is now their alternative and once they become members, their friends will be encouraged to become members as well.

“Before joining other social media platforms, Muslim users never knew they would be exposed to non-sharia compliant content like sexually explicit images, blasphemy, anti-Muslim stereotypes and alcohol-related material.

“As a family-friendly platform, Muslim Face guarantees exciting content that does not conflict with Islamic values. It combines modern technology with the values of our religion.”

The Muslim Face is not the first social media network for Musims.

In 2011, a group of Muslim businessmen unveiled plans in Turkey for a Facebook-style social networking site that respects Islamic values and offers a healthy atmosphere for young, Islamic audience.

The project, SalamWorld.com, was introduced by businessmen from Turkey, Egypt, Germany and other countries.

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Nigeria, Philippines Mark World Hijab Day

OnIslam & News Agencies – Saturday, 31 January 2015 – LAGOS – As the clock ticks towards the launch of the World Hijab Day event, several Muslim organizations across the world announced plans to mark the event with several activities to raise awareness about the Islamic headscarf.

“At this worldwide event, we will encourage Muslim and Non-Muslim women to wear hijab, and experience life of a Hijabi woman for a day,” Disu Kamor, Executive Chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) Nigeria, told Cajnews Africa on Friday, January 30.

On February 1, millions Muslim and non-Muslim women wearing a traditional Islamic head scarf will march on the streets of 116 countries to mark the third anniversary of World Hijab Day, according to the global event organizers.

In Nigeria the MPAC, along with more than 10 Islamic organizations, will mark the event to highlight the significance of hijab in Islam and promote religious harmony in the West African country.

“Many Nigerian Muslim women will mark the occasion of the World Hijab Day to reflect on the situation that exists for them: the unwarranted hostility and discrimination they and their daughters have to suffer for making the free choice to put a piece of cloth on their heads,” Kamor said.

“The organizers have succeeded in placing the hijab into its rightful place in both the public discourse and public consciousness.”

Several Nigerian women organizations, like the Coalition of Muslim Women in Nigeria, will host similar event as well.

According to Coordinator of the coalition and National Ameera of Women in Dawah, Hajia Maryam Idris Othman, the event aims to encourage Muslim women to defy fears of discrimination and wear hijab.

Muslims make about 40% of the Nigeria’s 140 million population.

Philippines Too

From to Africa to Asia and Europe, millions of Muslims are expected to mark the hijab day.

In Philippines Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), more than 1,000 veiled women will take part in rally that will tour the streets of Marawi city on February 1.

Sittie Jehanne Mutin, RCBW regional chairperson, said they expect women from all sectors to join the celebration and help “draw attention to the need for women to participate in the political and economic development of Bangsamoro,” Manila Bulletin reported.

Organized by The ARMM’s Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women (RCBW), this year’s event would carry the theme Hijab WALK (Women’s Access to Livelihood ay Karapatan).

With participants form different regions, backgrounds and ethnics, Manila’s event aims to empower Muslim women and underscore their vital role in the society.

The World Hijab Day, held for the third consecutive year, is the brain child of a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding.

Suggesting the event, Khan wanted to encourage non-Muslim women to don the hijab and experience it before judging Muslim women.

She also saw the event as a best chance to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab.

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

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Abu Dhabi plans to boost Indian tourists

Khaleej Times – 30 January, 2015 – Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector is heading to India’s most prominent B2B travel industry expo this week as it looks to leverage growing outbound traffic to Abu Dhabi following news that India has regained its position as the emirate’s largest overseas source market for hotel guests.

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, or TCA Abu Dhabi together with 14 industry partners, will carry the message that Abu Dhabi offers further travel trade growth potential to the Abu Dhabi Pavilion at the fifth showing at SATTE in New Delhi, India’s largest travel trade fair.

The message will be pushed further during a series of one-to-one meetings during a three-city ‘Destination Abu Dhabi’ travel trade workshop across key Indian cities in a move aimed at targeting India’s upwardly-mobile, aspirational traveller.

“Abu Dhabi’s hotels have experienced double-digit growth from the Indian market over two consecutive years establishing its position as the emirate’s largest overseas source market,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, director, Promotions & Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi.

He added: “As the market matures, we are now placing greater emphasis on its growth potential, tailoring products to meet the needs and demands of the Indian traveller. Our activities in New Delhi, Chandigarh, Lucknow and Kolkata will present a diverse mix of Abu Dhabi destination products and allow our partners to expand their profiles in Indian trade operator portfolios, to stimulate further increase in Indian visitors to the emirate in 2015.”

Abu Dhabi welcomed 231,702 Indian hotel guests in 2014 at a growth rate of 32 per cent over the previous year. These guests delivered 850,443 guest nights, which is up 23 per cent year-on-year, with an average length of stay of 3.67 nights.

Joining the authority at SATTE are the UAE’s award-winning national carrier Etihad Airways which flies from 11 Indian destinations, Abu Dhabi-headquartered Rotana Hotels & Resorts, the five-star, beachfront Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, Centro Capital Centre and City Seasons Hotel which will fly the flag for the four-star leisure and business hotels sector and Al Ain’s Hili Fun City, will boost awareness of the family-friendly attractions on offer in emirate’s second city.

“At SATTE, our target is to continue to increase our network of travel agents and tour operators within India and introduce Yas Island to the travel trade in the smaller cities,” said Clive Dwyer, the Island’s Director of Destination Management.

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New hotel will enhance tourism and economic activities in Duqm

Oman Daily Observer – 30 January, 2015 – A celebration was held at the Wilayat of Al Duqm in the Governorate of Al Wusat yesterday to mark the opening of Park Inn Hotel and Resort.

Sayyid Taimour bin Asaad bin Tareq al Said, who presided the opening ceremony said that the new hotel and resort will enhance the tourism and economic activities in the Al Duqm and will attract more tourists and investors to this area at which a number of key projects are underway at the different sectors.

In a statement to reporters after opening the hotel and resort, he said that the tourism sector is one of the promising sectors at the Sultanate’s plan for economic diversification.

He affirmed the role played by the private sector in the development process witnessed by the Sultanate under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.

Park Inn by Radisson and Mustier, the real estate development arm of Mohammed al Barwani Group announced yesterday that Park Inn Hotel in Al Duqm is the 3rd one to be opened in the Sultanate and the first outside the Governorate of Muscat.

Safana al Barwani, Director of Mustier, said ‘the Sultanate’s government has selected the Wilayat of Al Duqm to be a centre for a number of key projects worth of more than $ 10 billion. We are proud to be part of the development strategy of the Al Duqm by providing high quality hospitality services.’

Park Inn Hotel and Resort, which started receiving guests since November 16th 2014 is the third in the Al Duqm after Al Madina Hotel (3 stars) and Crowne Plaza Hotel (4 starts). The hotel installations in the Special Economic Zone in Duqm (SEZD) are trying to meet the needs of tourists, investors and companies operating in the Zone.

The resort consists of 73 chalets and wards that meet the needs of families and businessmen, especially it has wards with three bed rooms, a hall and a kitchen with the necessary equipment.

Some chalets are provided with one and 2 bedrooms in addition to a hall, a kitchen and two bathrooms. The chalets, which are provided with interior garden and car park ensures the privacy preferred by Omani and Gulf families.

Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, Dr Fuad bin Jaafar al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Yahya bin Said bin Abdullah al Jabri, Chairman of SEZAD, a number of sheikhs and officials attended the opening ceremony.

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Abu Dhabi ranked safest city in Middle East and Africa

Emirates 24/7 – 31 January, 2015 – UAE capital Abu Dhabi has been ranked as the region’s safest city, the only city from the Middle East and Africa region to make it to the first half of Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index 2015.

The index that ranks 50 global cities pegs Abu Dhabi at No. 25, ahead of some other global and regional cities such as Milan (No. 26), Rome (No. 27), Doha (No. 29) and Kuwait City (No. 36).

EIU says its Safe Cities Index measures the relative level of safety of a diverse mix of the world’s leading cities using four main categories of safety: digital security, health security, infrastructure safety and personal safety.

Abu Dhabi is ranked among the Top 10 Cities on the Digital Security (No. 9) as well as the Infrastructure Security (No. 10) parameters. The city, however, lags on the Health Security parameter (No. 45) even as it performs average on the Personal Security scale (No. 32).

Indian capital Delhi features at No. 42 out of the 50 cities ranked while the country’s commercial capital Mumbai is ranked even lower at No. 44.

Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh (No. 46), South Africa’s Johannesburg (No. 47), Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City (No. 48), Iran’s Tehran (No. 49) and Indonesia’s Jakarta (No. 50) are ranked among the least safe cities.

It adds that the Index focuses on 50 cities selected by EIU based on factors such as regional representation and availability of data. Therefore, it should not be considered a comprehensive list of the world’s safest cities (i.e., a city coming number 50 in the list does not make it the most perilous place to live in the world).

Every city in the Index is scored across these four categories. Each category comprises between three and eight sub-indicators, which are divided between security inputs, such as policy measures and level of spending, and outputs, such as the frequency of vehicular accidents.

Tokyo, the world’s most populous city, tops the overall ranking. The Japanese capital performs most strongly in the digital security category, three points ahead of Singapore in second place.

The EIU report states that safety is closely linked to wealth and economic development. Unsurprisingly, a division emerges in the Index between cities in developed markets, which tend to fall into the top half of the overall list, and cities in developing markets, which appear in the bottom half.

Significant gaps in safety exist along these lines within regions, it notes. Rich Asian cities (Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka) occupy the top three positions in the Index, while poorer neighbours (Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta) fill two of the bottom three positions.

Nevertheless, it warns that wealth and ample resources are no guarantee of urban safety. Giving the example of the region’s cities, EIU says that four of the five Middle Eastern cities in the Index are considered high-income, but only one makes it into the top half of the Index: at 25 Abu Dhabi is 21 places above Riyadh at number 46.

Similar divides between cities of comparable economic status exist elsewhere. Seoul is 23 positions below Tokyo in the overall ranking (and 46 places separate the two on digital security).

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Promote Bahrain

Saudi Gazette – 27 January, 2015 – The Premier yesterday urged more conferences and exhibitions to promote entrepreneurship and economic diversification and improve Bahrain’s investment environment.

Chairing yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa underscored the importance of the International Entrepreneurs Investment Forum, recently held in Bahrain successfully under his patronage.

He had assigned Deputy Premier Shaikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa to open the symposium which was organised by the UN Industrial Development Organisation.

The Premier thanked the parliament budget review committee and the government work team for their efforts to achieve consensus on the Government Action Plan.

In another development, the Premier assigned the Housing Ministry to co-ordinate with relevant authorities to survey the most affected and dilapidated houses in Arad and submit a detailed report.

The needs of Bahrain’s local market in livestock and chilled meat were also on the agenda of the weekly meeting.

The session reviewed the needs of consumers following the ban on imports of chilled meat.

The Cabinet assigned Deputy Premier Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa to co-ordinate with Bahrain Livestock Company and the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry to meet the needs of the local market for freshly slaughtered and chilled meat.

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Bahrain set to host key businesswomen’s forum

Gulf Daily News – 27 January, 2015 – The Bahrain Business and Professional Women’s International Federation (BPW) announced it is gearing up to host the 63rd annual conference of Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises Mondiales (FCEM) – an association uniting women business owners from the world over.

It includes five million members from more than 120 countries across five continents.

Being held under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and Supreme Council for Women president, the event is lined up for March 23 to 26 at the Gulf Hotel.

Joining BPW in the organisation of the conference themed “Our Bridges to the World”, is the Council of Arab Business Women, with support also being extended by the Economic Development Board and Tamkeen as strategic partners.

Organisers have said the conference is expected to attract more than 500 participants.

They were speaking during a Press conference at the BPW headquarters in Jasra, addressed by FCEM honorary president Laila Al Khayat, BPW secretary Khaireya Dashti, international relations and events committee president Zahraa Taher and board members Amina Janahi, Nabeela Al Khair and Nadia Al Mulla.

“Bahrain is the first country in the Gulf and the second Arab country after Morocco to be hosting this prestigious conference,” Ms Dashti said.

She added that Bahrain beat competition from Monaco and Milan to win the right to host the event.

The conference aims to enhance bilateral trade between Arab business women and their international counterparts and highlights the growing and important role Arab women are playing in the global economy.

The event will also seek to showcase significant economic opportunities and growth sectors in Bahrain and the GCC overall.

This includes local industries such as gold, pearls, oil and gas, finance, telecommunications and information technology.

Also in focus will be the local culture and heritage, human capital and strategies in place for further business and social development in Bahrain and the region overall.

The conference will hold a session titled “Our Economy on the Global Map,” which will have as speakers including Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed, UAE Minister of Development and International Co-operation Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi and Kuwait-based Global Investment House chairman Maha Al Ghunaim.

Moderating the session will be Kuwait University professor of economics and politics Dr Massouma Al Mubarak, who is also a former member of the Kuwaiti National Assembly.

Ms Taher said such gatherings help to generate ideas for new business projects despite current challenging economic conditions.

“This will help to open up new markets for Bahraini and Gulf businesses and help the kingdom in highlighting its strategic location in the Gulf region and the Middle East including its position as a hub for human capital, positive legislation and a tax-free environment, making a competitive destination for investment.”

The Bahrain Business & Professional Women Club was established in December 2012, and it consists of 12 businesswomen.

The club is the first of its kind in the Gulf.

In 2013, the club headed by Shaikha Hind bint Salman Al Khalifa, legally joined the Business and Professional Women International Federation, to allow Bahraini women to engage in global activities.

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Made in Qatar exhibition to be held from May 19 to 22

Gulf Times – 28 January, 2015 – The “Made in Qatar” exhibition will be held from May 19 to 22 at the Doha Exhibition Centre, with free stalls of space up to12 sqm for local producers and manufactures, Qatar Chamber (QC) said here yesterday.

The 4th edition of the exhibition is being organised by the Qatar Chamber under the patronage of HH the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and in co-operation with the Ministry of Energy and Industry.

QC will provide local industrial companies free stalls of up to12 sqm, which, however, can be extended when needed to display their locally made products.

“The exhibition is aimed at attracting more investments in the manufacturing sectors and boost the locally produced products to ease dependency on imported items. It would be also a good opportunity to encourage local companies to do their best to improve and develop their products, which would in turn make Qatari products able to be more competitive globally,” QC said.

“Throughout the previous three years, the ‘Made in Qatar’ exhibition has gained a special importance and it’s a good model of collaboration with other entities in the country that we hope to be emulated by other,” said Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani, QC chairman. He also thanked Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Development Bank for their great support to make the previous three editions of the exhibition a great success. He stressed that with the falling oil prices, the need for more and diversified economic alternatives has become more pressing. Small- and medium-sized projects could be an ideal option in this respect, he pointed out.

On the sidelines of the exhibition, a market for the sale of Qatari products will be held, where local companies only would be allowed sell their products to the visitors.

Sheikh Khalifa further affirmed that QC would assume its responsibility in boosting local production and trade and encourage Qatari business community to invest more in this vital and important sector.

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Qatar Airways chosen ‘Business Airline of the Year’

Gulf Times – 28 January, 2015 – Qatar Airways has been awarded ‘Business Airline of the Year’ for the second consecutive year at the UK Business Travel Awards 2015 held in London last week.

The 20th annual Business Travel Awards, hosted by Buying Business Travel, celebrated the achievements of travel industry leaders. Over 70 companies, teams and individuals were shortlisted across 21 categories.

In May 2014, Qatar Airways became the first carrier to fly an all-Business Class service from London Heathrow. The daily Airbus A319 service to Doha is configured with a single aisle, 2-2 seating configuration offering 40 seats.

The service departs from Terminal 4 at 21:55, arriving into Doha at 6.40am the following day. The A319 Business Class seat has one of the highest specifications for business class travel of any airline with wide seats that recline into fully flat beds.

Also in May, Qatar Airways moved to its new home and hub, Hamad International Airport, the aviation industry’s latest greenfield airport showcasing marked features, including the acclaimed 10,000sqm Al Mourjan Business Class lounge.

Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar al-Baker, said: “It has been an incredible year for Qatar Airways, with not only a number of new routes but the expansion of our fleet to include the A350 and A380, both of which represent the latest in aviation engineering and technology. This award reiterates the quality of our renowned 5-star service and it is an honour to have been recognised in this category again.”

The airline celebrated a dramatic increase to its fleet in 2014, taking delivery of three new aircraft types: the A319 all-Business Class; the Airbus A380, and was the Global Launch Customer of the A350.

In addition to the 80 A350s it has on order, the airline has a current Airbus fleet comprising of the A320, A330 Freighter, A319LR, A321, A330, A340 and A380 families.

With a modern fleet of 146 aircraft, Qatar Airways connects businesses and travellers to more than 146 destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and The Americas.

In the past 12 months Qatar Airways has welcomed its first A380 to its fleet, followed by its first A350 as the global launch customer and begun services between Heathrow and Doha on an all-Business Class A319 aircraft.

In 2014, Qatar Airways also launched services to Sharjah International Airport, Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai World Central, UAE; Philadelphia, US; Larnaca, Cyprus; Sabiha Gokcen, Istanbul; Edinburgh, UK; Miami International Airport and Dallas Fort Worth, US.

From May this year, Qatar Airways will operate 63 direct services a week from the UK to Doha, with 42 from Heathrow, seven from Edinburgh and a further 14 departing from Manchester.

Qatar Airways country manager UK & Ireland Richard Oliver receiving the ‘Business Airline of the Year’ award on behalf of the airline.

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Saudi Fund to help enterprising women

Arab News – 28 January, 2015 – Deen Al-Manahil, a Riyadh-based organization, will launch in March the Princess Madawi bint Musaad Fund for Women’s Development to help aspiring Saudi female entrepreneurs.

“We will provide them with either training or seed money so that they can start their own business ventures,” said Hanan Asmari, Deen Al-Manahil’s manager.

A non-profit organization, Deen Al-Manahil’s main goal is to help Saudi women, regardless of age, start small- to medium-business ventures.

She said that not all Saudi women seeking Deen Al-Manahil’s help need seed money to start their own business ventures. “They are merely interested in the training which we provide in collaboration with local universities like King Saud University, Princess Noura University and Imam University,” she said.

She said that at present, Deen Al-Manahil is training 100 Saudi women who intend to start their own business ventures.

“We help them with all the tools and information necessary to start a business project. At present, Al-Manahil is assisting 20 business projects, some of which were implemented three years ago,” she said.

Asmari added that if they need funding, Al-Manahil gives a maximum of SR3000,000 without interest.

“However, they will have to pay back the money. They start paying only on the second year after receiving the amount. The total amount should be fully paid in five years,” she said.

Asked how they ask for help in training or funding, Asmari said that they could visit Deen Al-Manahil’s website.

She expressed the hope that those being assisted by Al Manahil will also help other Saudi women intending to start their own business in the future.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has been coordinating with Al-Manahil regarding its activities in helping Saudi women aspiring to become entrepreneurs.

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Gulf Air invests $20m to upgrade A330 fleet

Gulf Daily News – 28 January, 2015 – Gulf Air has invested $ 20 million to upgrade four of its Airbus A330s wide-body aircraft in line with global best practices, it has emerged.

The national carrier’s acting chief executive Maher Salman Al Musallam yesterday told a Press briefing that the retrofit is part of a comprehensive product enhancement strategy.

“Fitting this upgraded equipment to our A330 fleet enhances the onboard experience while reflecting our ongoing commitment to our long-haul operations,” he added.

Mr Al Musallam said the airline was targeting load factors of 75 per cent this year and has seen improvements in all performance parameters year-on-year.

The retrofit was launched in the first quarter last year, with three key partners ‘“ Avianor, Zodiac Aerospace and BEAerospace.

Designed specifically for Gulf Air and integrating various elements of passengers’ feedback, it has resulted in fully-flat bed seats in the Falcon Gold Class, revamped seats in Economy Class and a state-of-the-art in-flight-entertainment system throughout.

The first retrofitted plane was received in August last year and the last one in December.

Gulf Air’s acting chief technical officer Jamal Hashim said the airline took the initiative to turn an obsolete product of 15-year old design and specifications into a modern, contemporary offering and ensuring consistency in the product standard across the fleet.

‘Newly configured for a total of 214 seats in a two-class configuration of 30 Falcon Gold Class seats and 184 Economy seats, the retrofit delivers significant enhancements across both cabins,’ he said.

The new 22-inch wide Falcon Gold Class seats convert into fully-flat beds measuring 1.90 metres in length and come equipped with an in-seat massage facility, privacy dividers, fully adjustable armrests and significant storage space.

The new Economy Class seats offer a greater recline to compliment an 18-inch seat-width and an adjustable head and foot rest to expand leg space.

For optimum onboard entertainment, all seats in Gulf Air’s upgraded A330 aircraft include an integrated Audio-Video on Demand feature, an individual touch screen (15-inch in Falcon Gold class and nine-inch in Economy) in every seat and high quality, noise-cancelling headphones.

A suite of movies, video and audio titles in several languages are on offer, in addition to games.

The newly retrofitted aircraft will mainly service Gulf Air’s London Heathrow T4 and Bangkok routes.

Gulf Air flies to London nonstop twice daily and operates six weekly flights to Bangkok.

The airline currently operates an all-Airbus fleet with 28 modern aircraft that hold a combined average age of six years.

The airline said its fleet of wide and narrow body aircraft enable it to meet demand for its extensive regional network and strategic long-haul routes.

The Press briefing was held on board one of the newly retrofitted Airbus A330 aircraft.

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Dusseldorf and Madrid set for Emirates A380 flights

Arab News – 29 January, 2015 – Emirates, a global connector of people, places and economies, has announced the launch of A380 services to two European destinations: Dusseldorf and Madrid.

For both cities, Emirates will be the first airline to operate a scheduled A380 service, offering an unmatched travel experience to business and leisure travelers alike.

The addition of Dusseldorf and Madrid to the list brings the total number of European gateways served by Emirates’ A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, to 13.

Emirates currently has 57 A380s in its fleet, flying to 36 destinations globally and wowing customers everywhere it flies with its industry-leading onboard features.

“As the world’s largest operator of the A380, Emirates is proud to further expand the number of destinations served by this incredible aircraft. It offers passengers in all three classes a superior travel experience thanks to unique features like: the world’s only Shower Spas in First Class, the Onboard Lounge where First Class and Business Class passengers can socialize at 40,000 feet, our award-winning in-flight entertainment system with more than 2,000 ‘on demand’ channels, and free Wi-Fi,” said Hubert Frach, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president commercial operations — west.

“By introducing new A380 services out of Dusseldorf and Madrid, our customers can enjoy seamless connectivity on the most talked about aircraft, to popular destinations in Asia, Africa, Indian Ocean, Australia and the Middle East, via our Dubai hub.”

As of July 1 EK055 will be operated by an A380, leaving Dubai at 0830hrs and landing in Dusseldorf at 1325hrs the same day, while EK056 will depart Dusseldorf at 1525hrs and arrive at Dubai International Airport at 2355hrs the same day.

As of August 1, EK142 will be operated by an A380, leaving Madrid at 1530hrs and landing in Dubai at 0045hrs the following day. The return flight EK141 departs Dubai at 0740hrs and arrives in Madrid at 1340hrs the same day.

The Emirates A380 offers a total of 519 seats in a three-class configuration, with 429 spacious seats in Economy Class on the main deck, 76 fully flat-bed mini-pods in Business Class and 14 First Class Private Suites on the upper deck.

In all classes, Emirates passengers enjoy spacious seating and the excellent service delivered through our multilingual cabin crew. Business Class and First Class passengers also benefit from a complimentary chauffeur-drive service as well as access to Emirates’ global network of airport lounges.

As with all Emirates flights, passengers will enjoy the extra generous Emirates baggage allowance of 30kg in Economy Class, 40kg in Business Class and 50kg in First Class.

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Kuwait’s landmarks feature in Spain tourism fair

Kuwait News Agency – 29 January, 2015 – Kuwait is participating in the 35th International Tourism Trade Fair (FITUR 2015) in Spain as part of the country’s efforts to shed light on its historical, archaeological and architectural landmarks, a tourism official said Wednesday.

This is the sixth time for Kuwait to take part in the annual fair consecutively through a number of local tourist and travel agencies, most notably the Touristic Enterprises Company (TEC), Faisal Al-Duraia, superintendent of tourism and international relations at the tourism department of Kuwait’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, stated to KUNA.

Some important Kuwaiti cultural landmarks have been highlighted at the fair through two stalls at the Kuwaiti pavilion, showcasing some traditional handcrafts, which represent a significant aspect of Kuwait’s heritage, Al-Duraia added.

He also pointed out that His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has established the basic foundation of bolstering the tourism sector in Kuwait when he made the country a financial and commercial center, which contributed in boosting and flourishing commercial and businessmen tourism in recent years.

Kuwait is currently participating at FITUR 2015 along with 164 other countries, including a number of Arab states such as UAR, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.

FITUR is a key event for the international tourism sector. It is a major international event, showcasing a multitude of products from different countries, autonomous regions of Spain, tour operators, airlines, service companies, travel agencies, and hotels.

FITUR is also an ideal place to find out about most important developments and trends in the tourism sector, as well as for forging new commercial relationships and increasing contacts within the industry.

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Tourist arrivals in Jeddah increase by 70%

Arab News – 26 January, 2015 – The influx of tourists to Jeddah has increased by 70 percent with the festivals and activities drawing huge crowds to the historical city. Hotels and furnished apartments have also recorded an increase of 75 percent as tourists take advantage of online bookings to rent accommodations in advance.

Tourist spending has also risen by 50 percent with restaurants and fast food capturing the most sales and high quality restaurants registering a 45 percent increase.

Hamad Al-Bishri, member of the tourist committee in the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “The ongoing events and attractions in Jeddah have registered a 70 percent increase in the number of tourists.” He added that travel agencies should increase their offers to meet the demand by tourists, noting that the volume of tourist spending during holidays increases by 50 percent.

Jeddah is the most preferred tourist destination due to its fine weather, said Mishal Al-Nafe’, executive director for Al-Nafe consultations. He attributed the high occupancy rates in hotels to the affordable packages and the reasonable prices, stressing that the price regulations were under the supervision of the Saudi Commission for Travel and Antiquities.

“Some hotels deal directly with their clients through their websites which saves 15 percent of the commission and creates more customer loyalty,” he said. This year, the total volume of spending on hotel accommodation is expected to reach SR15 million.

Director General of the SCTA in Makkah, Mohammad Al-Omari, said that the availability of tourist services in Jeddah including shopping and entertainment in addition to the Jeddah historical festival has led to the increase in tourist movement to the city by 20 percent.

He stated that the number of licensed hotels under the SCTA was 113 with 12,000 rooms; furnished units stood at 434 with more than 10,000 apartments; the number of travel agent offices reached 387 with 100 tour operating office and there were more than 49 tourist guides.

Al-Omari said that internal tourism is a comprehensive project between various bodies and sectors. “The commission is trying to find suitable and attractive environments for these projects with multiple services to guarantee their growth and continuity.

With the increased potential for the tourist sector in the Kingdom, the commission has decided to establish a tourist investment and service sector to communicate with investors. To achieve this end, the commission is providing information about tourist investment, offering investment incentives and removing obstacles that might stand in its way.

The commission has also signed agreements and cooperation memos with the Credit Bank, the Centennial Fund, the Human Resource Development Fund, the Saudi Council of Chamber and a number of local banks.

Al-Omari said that it was important to focus on factors which contribute to tourism growth such as prices, infrastructure, high seasons, tourism projects, transport and power.

Referring to the regulated tourism market this holiday season, he noted that the commission had organized a number of inspection campaigns on tourist establishments last year. “The total number of violations in Jeddah’s tourist facilities reached 309, some 94 facilities were issued warnings and there were 156 notices related to lack of municipal or civil defense licenses,” he said.

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