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16 Feb, 2015

Thousands of jobs to be created by road-rail projects in Oman

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 16 February 2015 (27 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

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

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

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


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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




Yogyakarta Launches Batik Encyclopedia

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, February 14 2015 – The Yogyakarta Industry and Trade Agency launched an encyclopedia of Yogyakartan batik on Saturday in order to better inform people about the richness of the area’s batik culture.

“This encyclopedia contains information you need to know about Yogyakartan batik. The information and data are based on research carried out by academics at Gadjah Mada University,” the agency’s head of small and medium enterprises Tri Karyadi Riyanto said on Saturday as quoted by Antara news agency.

He revealed that the academics had spent around two years researching batik before compiling the book.

In addition, the encyclopedia contains the philosophy behind every motif of Yogyakartan batik as well as information on how craftspeople use ingredients from nature to color their batik.

“The recognition of Yogyakarta as a batik city is behind the launch of this book,” he continued.

The city was named batik city by the World Craft Council (WWC) last year, as it is the center of batik-crafting in the country.

Copies of the encyclopedia have been distributed to every junior high school, senior high school and vocational school in Yogyakarta.

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Iran’s Domestically Made Helicopter Flies Successfully

TEHRAN, Feb 16,(NNN- IRNA) – Managing Director of Iran’s Helicopter Renovation and Logistics Company (PANHA) said a domestically made helicopter dubbed ‘Homa’ has successfully carried out its maiden flight.

Brigadier General Mohammad Ahmadabadi said the manufacturing of the chopper has finished and more tests are being done on it.

The twin-engine helicopter can seat 14 people and fly in different weathers.

The chopper has been manufactured considering Iran’s conditions and can fly in mountainous areas and on the sea.

Homa is a multi-purpose aircraft and can be equipped with various weapons, said the general.

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Saudi move to teach medical sciences in Arabic hailed

RIYADH, Arab News, 15 February 2015, Saudi organizations and academics welcomed the decision of the Arabization Center for Medical Sciences (ACMLS) to use Arabic at the country’s medical teaching facilities.

The move is part of the Arab world’s interest to use Arabic instead of a foreign language as the medium of instruction in their colleges.

King Abdullah International Center for the Arabic Language (KAICAL) said this decision will play a great role in empowering the language in Arab-speaking countries.

According to Yaqoub Al-Sharrah, ACMLS assistant secretary-general, his organization issued 245 medical books in Arabic, including basic textbooks in medicine, health atlases and dictionaries.

Even though the number of Arabic books published by the organization is very modest as of now, the center seeks to translate and release a greater number of medical manuals and textbooks. It has already translated 320 books related to various branches of medical sciences as well as 70 books on health education, while 20 other books related to the same issues are currently under way.

Al-Sharrah said that as many as 64,500 medical terms have been translated into Arabic as part of the Medical Dictionary project. ACMLS is also coordinating with various medical schools in the Arab world.

“This will help medical students and professors in the Arab world. The World Health Organization agreed on 150,000 medical terms within the standardizing terminology move,” he noted.

“A majority of Arabic colleges of medicine use foreign languages as the medium of instruction and only a few medical schools in Sudan, Syria and Algeria teach in Arabic,” said Al-Sharrah.

“According to statistics compiled in 2000, there are 78 medical universities in the Arab world teaching medicine in English, and six colleges in French,” he added.

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Doha Film Institute Announces Projects For Film Festival

DOHA, Qatar, Feb 10 (NNN-QNA) – The Doha Film Institute announced the 31 projects selected for the inaugural edition of “Qumra” film festival on Mar 6-11, reports Qatar News Agency (QNA).

A total of 23 narrative feature films, four feature documentaries and four short films will participate in a focused programme of industry sessions, designed to propel their work to the next stage of development.

Meanwhile, 22 projects were selected from the Institute’s funding programmes and nine by independent filmmakers from Qatar, who were identified through the Institute’s ongoing engagement with local industry.

The emphasis is on supporting first and second time filmmakers with projects in development and post-production stages.

The projects represent 29 countries of production, with a total of 11 projects from Qatar-based filmmakers, 15 from the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, and five from the rest of the world. 19 of the 31 projects are in development and the remainder are in post-production or final stages.

Directors and producers attached to each project will attend the sessions in Doha, where they will be linked with seasoned industry experts, through a series of meetings tailored to their projects’ needs.

The sessions will comprise one-on-one meetings, script consultations, pitching sessions, working breakfasts, rough-cut screenings and feedback sessions, as well as an exclusive presentation of final cut screenings, where 20-minute excerpts of recently finalised projects will be presented to leading festival programmers, sales agents and distributors.

Doha Film Institute Chief Executive Officer, Fatma Al Remaihi, said, Qumra was created as a direct response to the needs of emerging filmmakers.

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Russian Tourists Praise Iranians As “Most Hospitable”

MOSCOW, Feb 10,(NNN- IRNA) – A group of Russian tourists who recently visited Iran praised Iranians as a “most hospitable” nation.

In a meeting with Iran’s Ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Sanaei on Monday, they focused on Iran’s natural attractions as possessing very particular features which enchanted visitors.

The Russian tourists also described the ancient country of Iran as a vast museum stretched under the open sky and said one very interesting thing for them while touring capital Tehran was hundreds of bookstores lining up in a long street opposite one of Iran’s major universities which indicate the love of people for culture and science.

They regretted that the Russians were not really familiar with Iran’s natural attractions and history because of insufficient publicity work.

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UNWTO Lauds Iran’s Determination To Boost Tourism

MASHHAD, Feb 13, (NNN-IRNA) – Secretary General of UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai said here Friday both Iran and UNWTO are determined to boost the Iranian tourism industry and have a joint special plan for the purpose.

The UN tourism official made the comment during a visit of the internationally renowned Iranian poet Firdausi’s tomb in Tous District of the northeastern holy Mashhad City in a press conference, adding that Mashhad is quite an attractive city rich with lots of cultural monuments.

‘I believe Mashhad is the beating heart of Iran,’ he added. Rifai also said he believed that the Iranian culture and literature have taken shape in Mashhad.

‘I wish representatives from all world nations were accompanying me in this visit to enjoy the historical attractions of Iran, and particularly the tourism attractions of Mashhad,’ he added.

Rifai said that the UNWTO is ready to use all its capacities to introduce Iran to the world nations.

He said that in addition to using the electronic means, such as the UNWTO website, for boosting the Iranian tourism attractions there are the live addresses and the international conferences that can be employed for the purpose.

‘Unfortunately the world nations are not properly informed about the tourism attractions of Iran and we must use various means to make up for that deficiency,’ he said.

The UNWTO chief also praised the appropriate development of the Iranian tourism infrastructures during the past three decades and said that the tourism industry is a good means for promoting peace and friendship cultural around the globe.

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LEAD STORY: Thousands of jobs to be created by road-rail projects in Oman

Times of Oman – 09 February, 2015 – Thousands of jobs are to be created in the railways in Oman, while thousands of kilometres of new roadways are to be laid to transform the Sultanate transport infrastructure.

malaysia logo

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

A top-level official at the Ministry of Transport and Communications yesterday said that as many as 84 projects for building 1,646 kilometres of roads across the country with a combined capital expenditure of OMR2.7 billion are under implementation.

Similarly, thousands of jobs in 260 categories will be created in the 2,135-km long national railway project, a senior official of the Oman Rail said while speaking to Times of Oman.

Salim bin Mohammed Al Nuaimi, undersecretary at the Ministry of Transport and Communications for Transport, said major projects under implementation include Batinah Expressway and Bid Bid-Sur dualisation projects. At a press meet Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Salim Al Futaisi, Minister of Transport and Communications, said two segments of Adam-Thumrait dualisation project, each 120 km-long, are reaching implementation stage.

“Work on building Adam-Thumrait dualisation will start this year,” he said,

“If we include projects that are awarded recently, it will take the total cost to almost OMR3 billion,” added the minister, while outlining the ministry’s plan for 2015.

Another 25 road projects have reached the tendering stage, which include Khasab road and link road connecting Sultan Qaboos Highway with Batinah Expressway, which will have a length of 220 kms, the minister said.

“It (new roads) requires tendering, finishing all processes, and therefore, the exact number of projects and value depend on how fast we can finish the awarding process,” noted Dr Al Futaisi.

Among the jobs available with Oman Rail are those of Public Relations Officer, Vendor Management Specialist, General Manager Strategy, Planning Construction Manager, Rail Security Manager, Quality Assurance Manager, Health & Safety & Environment Manager, Project Manager, Land Acquisition Specialist, Project Administrator, Legal Counsel, Reward & Benefit specialist, Recruitment Officer, Learning and Development Manager, Information Technology Help Desk & Support, Financial Controller, Assistant Accountant, Tendering Support Officer, Quantity Surveyor & Claim Manager, Country Value Specialist, Contract Service Manager, Performance Management Analyst, Business Planning Analyst, Key Account Manager Heavy Industries, Key Account Manager Bulk and General Manager Business Development.

A number of major projects, including implementation of the first segment of Oman Railway (Sohar- Buraimi) and completion of route design for all other (eight) segments of Oman National Railway network, will be completed this year.

Oman Railway Centre of Excellence, which was approved by the company’s board to train and conduct applied research in this field, will be also initiated. During the year, the operation and maintenance strategy will be approved after awarding its tender in the first half of this year.

The strategy focuses on the possible options for operations and maintenance and selecting the best of them.

“Good roads and connectivity between cities are considered as a vital thing needed for a progressing country. So, implementation of 84 road projects is a good sign to see that Oman is progressing. More roads and better connectivity means more business and growth of economy,” Anvwar Al Balushi, chairman of Anvwar Asian Investment Group, said.

Ahmed Al Hooti, a member of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), opines that the government should consider an integrated plan for transport sector.

“The road projects are very important to complete (transport) infrastructure in the Sultanate,” said Al Hooti. “Such projects should be implemented after detailed studies,” said Al Hooti.

Tawfiq Al Lawati, a Majlis Al Shura member, agreed with Al Hooti saying that the government should consider an integrated plan for the transport sector. “I feel that the government always stand alone and does not help other projects,” said Tawfiq. He added that the government should learn from the past and think for many years in future. “The government should consider the statistics (number) of vehicles,” noted Tawfiq.

“The ministry should study the traffic flow before deciding the route of the buses,” said Tawfiq.

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Pakistan’s Kinnow Mandarin In The Market For Chinese New Year

PETALING JAYA, Feb 8 (NNN-Bernama) — Fans of mandarin oranges will have more choice to savour the sweet and juicy fruit with the availability of Pakistan’s renowned Kinnow mandarin.

The fruit’s big splash into the Malaysian market followed the launch of the Pakistani Kinnow Mandarin Festival yesterday by the Pakistan High Commissioner to Malaysia, Syed Hassan Raza.

The promotion of Kinnow mandarin is in conjunction with the Chinese New Year on Feb 19, he told Bernama after the launch at a shopping mall here, adding the fruit is expected to enter the Indonesian and Hong Kong markets next year.

Syed Hassan said that Pakistan produced around two million tonnes of Kinnow mandarin every year, which contributed to 85 per cent of global production.

Over the years, the quality of fruits produced by Pakistan, especially Kinnow mandarin and mangoes, have improved via collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Oranisation (UNIDO).

“We also meet international standards by having certification of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). The fruits are exported to European countries, China, Russia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East,” he said.

International GAPs expert Kit Chan said that UNIDO, via the Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA II) Programme, provided technical support to Pakistan since 2010 to ensure better quality of fruits were produced.

“For the first two years, I worked with UNIDO experts from other countries and also collaborate with Pakistani farmers to develop a productive ability and capacity in order to raise the quality of the fruit.

“Kinnow mandarin is harvested using modern methods that reach international standards of food safety and hygiene and the same quality controls are applied at the post-harvesting and export packaging stages.”

He added the festival also provide good opportunities for Malaysian businesses to explore more strong linkages to advance their markets.

The sweet and juicy Kinnow mandarin grown in Pakistan is only available from November until March every year.

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Indonesia, Malaysia To Develop Border Infrastructure

JAKARTA, Feb 12 (NNN-ANTARA) — The Indonesian and Malaysian governments have agreed to develop roads and other infrastructures in areas along either side of their borders, particularly in Entikong and Tebedu.

“We discussed the development of roads and problems that existed in border areas, particularly on the throughways in Entikong, Indonesia, and Tebedu in Sarawak State, Malaysia,” Deputy Chairman of the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) Oesman Sapta Odang said here.

Infrastructure and Communication Minister for Sarawak State in Malaysia Michael Maryin Anak Jawong and his delegation visited Indonesia and met with Oesman in the MPR building.

According to Oesman, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has visited areas in Entikong to Tebedu to understand the problems there.

“The President has promised to solve all the issues affecting infrastructure development on the Indonesia-Malaysia border in the next two years,” Oesman noted.

The Deputy Chairman added both governments have agreed to build better roads in the next two years.

Oesman remarked that citizens who disobey the agreement to utilize roads in border regions will have to face sanctions in their respective countries.

“Indonesia will build a toll road and other infrastructure facilities in Entikong to support border development,” Oesman pointed out.

Michael Maryin revealed that in 2011, the Malaysian government built a dry port in Tebedu.

The inland port will manage goods distribution, including logistics, which will accommodate thousands of containers per year.

“The dry port has been operational since 2011. Although the facility has distributed more than 2,000 containers, there have been some disruptions on the throughway there,” the Sarawak state Minister stated.

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Malaysia’s KLIA Welcomes Turkmenistan Airlines

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 (NNN-Bernama) — Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Thursday welcomed the maiden flight of Turkmenistan Airlines (TA).

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) Managing Director Badlisham Ghazali said TA’s presence would further promote KLIA’s status as the preferred hub in the region.

“TA is the 64th international carrier to serve at KLIA and it would operate one flight weekly from Ashgabat to Kuala Lumpur and vice-versa route every Thursday.

“Travellers have the option to use KLIA via Turkmenistan Airlines as a connector to Europe and Asia,” he said in his welcoming speech here.

Badlisham said the arrival of TA was another achievement for the local aviation industry as it was in line with the Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015.

“KLIA recorded 48.9 million passengers in 2014, or three per cent higher compared with in 2013 and we are expected to perform better this year with other new airlines coming in,” he said.

Turkmenistan Airlines operates in 15 cities in Europe and Asia serving between capital and regional centres.

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Muslim community in Moscow funds for several mosques on wheels

Thursday 12 Feb 2015 – Moscow (IINA) – Due to lack of mosques in Moscow, Muslim community is looking to raise funds to build several mosques on wheels, in a bid to offer the city’s crowded places of worship some relief and makes it easier for Muslims to pray, news agencies reported.

More than 1 million roubles around ($15,100) is needed to pay for two mobile mosques and six small stationary ones, the Russian News Agency TASS reported Tuesday, citing the project’s organizers.

Muslims can summon the mobile mosques to any part of the city by making a request online, and their services will be provided free of charge, TASS reported.

“The rhythm of the modern city and the small number of places of worship don’t always allow Muslims to pray on time,” the organizers were quoted as saying.

The organizers who also run a website called HalalGuide, informing users where they can buy halal products in Moscow added that they were planning to expand the project if it proved a success.

It is noteworthy that Moscow only has six mosques to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in the capital.

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Islamic centre in Chattanooga, Tennessee hosts ‘Meet Your Muslim Neighbor’ event

Sunday 08 Feb 2015 – Chattanooga, Tennessee USA (IINA) – The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga in Tennessee (I.S.G.C) held “Meet Your Muslim Neighbor,” an open house for members of all faiths to learn about the religion over coffee and snacks, at the I.S.G.C. Center on Gunbarrel Road on Saturday, Times Free Press reported.

Dozens of people were spaced throughout the center’s large gymnasium, talking and mingling, while members of the community handed out translated copies of the Qur’an, a slim book on the 50 most-asked questions about Islam, and cards with illustrations explaining Islamic prayer rituals.

Several “Discover Islam” placards lined the walls, offering answers to such questions as “What is Islam and who are Muslims?” and “How does Islam guarantee human rights”.

The center’s Imam, Abdul Baasit explained some of the basic beliefs of Islam, including Muslims who twist the religion to their own ends a thinly veiled allusion to extremists around the world.

“Many Muslims misunderstand Islam itself,” Baasit said. “It’s almost more important for Muslims to understand Islam than non-Muslims. If you misunderstand your religion, then you won’t get what you need from God. God said, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.'”

The many visitors who attended came from varying backgrounds but for similar reasons. Tricia Dillon Thomas, director of spirituality and hospitality at Presbyterian Campus Ministries at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was there because a Muslim student asked her to attend. She said she hoped to meet the imam and work on building interfaith connections.

Saturday’s open house was the second such event since the center opened in August 2011, and Abdul-Hafiz Eletr, an I.S.G.C. board member, said that the “Meet Your Muslim Neighbor” idea is a theme that’s being adopted by many Muslim centers around the country.

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Halal tourism becoming popular

Sunday 08 Feb 2015 – Jeddah, (IINA) – Officials of travel and tourism companies that promote halal tourism say they have launched a special online application, which enables Muslim tourists to locate tourist shops and places that provide halal services in countries they visit, Arab news reported.

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

The website focuses on international tourist centers, airports, supermarkets, tourism offers on the Internet and restaurants offering halal, in addition to how to reach mosques close to the location where the tourist wants to go. One of the major international tourism companies, for instance lately launched a website for halal tourism in English.

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

He said Islamic tourism accounted for 10 percent of the international tourism market and is poised for fast growth. The tourism industry in the Middle East is also expected to achieve a fast growth of 20 percent a year, according to one recent report.

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SCTA plan afoot to license buildings for the stay of Umrah pilgrims

Monday 09 Feb 2015 – Jeddah, (IINA) – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is working on a plan to license buildings, which will accommodate Umrah pilgrims and visitors with the aim to improve services for the guests of Allah, Arab news reported.

Hamad Al-Semaeel, acting vice president at the SCTA, said the commission is working in collaboration with investors and government partners to provide better services to pilgrims who stay in these buildings.

The commission will announce the minimum specifications for hospitality, in addition to safety, security and public health to investors in the administration of these buildings.

The commission intends to hold a workshop for operators to explain licensing requirements for operating these buildings and to take note of any issues.

Al-Semaeel appreciated the cooperation of the Ministry of Haj and government and private partners in reaching this decision.

The Council of Ministers approved last Monday the SCTA’s obtaining of licenses for buildings, which can be used to accommodate pilgrims on condition that they meet the requirements of the municipality and civil defense.

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Tunisia, Algeria to establish joint committees to devise border areas’ development strategy

Monday 09 Feb 2015 – Kef Governorate, Tunisia (IINA) – Tunisia and Algeria have decided to establish a joint local and regional committees to devise a strategy in order to develop border areas, Agence Tunis Afrique Presse (ATAP) reported.

Both countries’ interior ministers announced on Sunday the joint committees at a ceremony marking the 57th anniversary of the Sakiet Sidi Youssef events.

These committees, which have been mentioned before, will also be responsible for identifying projects that can be carried out in these areas in order to improve living conditions on the border with Algeria and enhance security over there.

Tunisian Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli placed emphasis on the joint action to effectively combat terrorism, which is one of the priorities in the next stage.

Gharsalli stressed the importance of the Sakiet events as a symbol of the common struggle for freedom and dignity, highlighting the will to promote bilateral relations and raise economic co-operation to the highest levels.

From his part, Algerian Minister of State, Minister of the Interior and Local Communities Tayeb Belaiz said the epic of the two peoples should encourage us today to strengthen co-operation and intensify efforts to boost development, particularly in border areas.

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Canadian Muslim chosen best mayor in world for 2014

Tuesday 10 Feb 2015 – Ottawa (IINA) – Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary in Canada, was voted the best mayor of the world in 2014 by the international firm City Mayor Foundation. Nenshi, a Canadian Muslim, is well known for his integrity, honesty and generosity. The prize was awarded on February 2 after he was picked from among a list of 933 mayors, surveyed by the public.

Nenshi is the first Muslim to become mayor of a Canadian city of over a million inhabitants. Born to Tanzania immigrant parents of Indian origin, he was elected as mayor in October 2010.

The Foundation’s officials described him as a most popular man by all Canadians, who spends all his time at work and does not hesitate to perform any task. An IT savyy, Nenshi is addicted using social networking sites.

“Mayor Nenshi is a great communicator and is endowed with listening donations, he is sincere when he discusses everyday problems with citizens and captivates the audience when he speaks of the future of Calgary”, Tann vom Hove, Senior Fellow of the City Mayors Foundation, said in a statement.

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Coins dating back to reign of Umar ibn al-Khattab found in Turkey

Tuesday 10 Feb 2015 – Ankara (IINA) – A Turkish citizen, named Jorlar Youghal, from Selim, a town of Kars Province in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey, has found 7 pieces of ancient silver coins with Arabic inscriptions, dating back to the reign of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab.

Turkey’s Ikhlas News Agency reported that Youghal, 53, who works as a shepherd, said he discovered the coins, which date back to the reign of Umar ibn Al-Khattab while he was collecting stones to build a cattle ranch. Youghal traveled from the city of Kars to Istanbul to hand over the coins to the Archaeological Museum, located near Gulhane Park.

“I have found the coins hidden between stones while grazing cattle on the area,” Youghal said. He believed that they date back to the Caliphate of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, and that they were the first currency in the Islamic State.

Youghal pointed out that these rare coins are very valuable, adding: “Although it was reported that each piece is worth up to £ 900,000, I have favored to deliver them to the museum because they represent an important historical value to the Muslim world”.

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Malaysia launches world’s first Shariah index

Wednesday 11 Feb 2015 – Kuala Lumpur, (IINA) – Malaysia has introduced on Tuesday the first ever Shariah index in the world which will serve as a benchmark to determine if the country is fulfilling the objectives of Islamic principles, according to media reports.

The Malaysian Syariah Index, launched yesterday by Prime Minister Najib Razak, will gauge objectively and scientifically, Malaysia’s commitment in achieving the five aspects of the objectives of Islamic Shariah. In Malaysian language, Syariah is the world for Shariah.

Najib said that besides showing the level of commitment in fulfilling the objective of Islamic principles, the index would also identify areas for improvement for a government to focus on, The Jakarta Post newspaper reported.

The Prime Minister said that non-Muslims would also benefit from the introduction of the syariah index as it would identify areas for improvement and they were not strangers to Shariah products.

“We are grateful because Malaysia is a blessed nation. With the peace and harmony enjoyed all this while, a comprehensive initiative such as the Malaysian Syariah Index model could be properly built and developed,” he said.

In this regard, Najib called on everyone to accept the transparent efforts to improve government administration that fulfilled the Islamic requirement through Maqasid Syariah.

The benchmarking will cover eight main areas judicial, economy, education, infrastructure and environment, health, culture, politics and social.

The inaugural index which is expected to be released next year will be on policies, initiatives and programme achievements throughout this year.

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Islamic University in Uganda marks opening of Habib Medical School

Thursday 12 Feb 2015 – Kampala (IINA) – The Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU), an affiliated institution of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has scored a major milestone with the inauguration of the Habib Medical School on Tuesday.

The Habib Medical School was inaugurated by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Asuman Kiyingi on behalf of President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni and OIC Assistant Secretary General Muhammad Naeem Khan on behalf of Secretary General Iyad Madani.

Reading out the address of President of Uganda, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs thanked the OIC, University of Lahore (UoL), Pakistan, and the Habib family from Jeddah, which have collaborated with the IUIU in the establishment of the Habib Medical School.

The Medical School is a part of the newly established Faculty of Health Services at the IUIU. The Kibuli Muslim Hospital in Kampala is associated with the Medical School as its teaching hospital.

The opening of the Habib Medical School is a milestone in the advancement of IUIU towards the objective of becoming a center of excellence in learning that caters to the modern educational needs of students in the region.

The OIC, along with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Islamic Solidarity Fund (ISF), is committed to supporting the University’s efforts for improvements in its academic programs, faculty and infrastructure.

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Tourists arrive on Maldivian’s first flight from Xian

Sun.mv – February 8, 2015 – 199 tourists have arrived in the Maldives on national airline Maldivian’s first direct flight between Xian and Malé.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) spokesperson told Sun Online that the tourists were greeted at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport by a boduberu performance.

Tourist arrivals from China has reached 363,626 so far this year, and is expected to increase significantly with Maldivian’s decision to operate flights to new destinations in China.

In addition to Xian, Maldivian has recently commenced flights to Nanjing and Changsha.

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Turkish tourism sector plans to lure Japanese tourists

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkish tourism players have their eyes set on Japanese tourists, as they look to diversify incoming tourist sources over looming retreats in Russia and European markets, a top representative of the sector has said.

Başaran Ulusoy, the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB), said the local tourism sector, which hosted 35 million tourists last year, has begun to seek ways to attract tourists from Japan, which sends around 22 million tourists abroad every year.

Ulusoy said his institution has already contacted the Japan Association of Travel Agents to discuss ways to boost the number of Japanese tourists visiting Turkey.

He said the sector initially aims to increase the number of tourists coming from Japan to 400,000 from its current level of 170,000.

“We are trying to plant confidence in the Japanese market,” he said.

The TÜRSAB head also noted they hope to raise the number of destinations preferred by Japanese tourists by promoting other touristic spots around the country, particularly in southeastern Turkey.

“Japanese tourists favor Istanbul, Cappadocia and Denizli. We want to add new destinations. Mardin, Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep will be target markets. We believe these places will attract the attention of Japanese people with their culture and history,” he said. “We will lure Japanese tourists with Gaziantep cuisine.”

Ulusoy said Turkish tourism players are looking to persuade Japanese tourists to visit Turkey multiple times, as well as to win other Far Eastern tourists later on.

“Japanese tourists come to Istanbul once and they don’t come again. We want to ensure they will come again. We want sustainable customers,” he said.

“After a demand increase from Japan, Turkey will enter into the radar of Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. There is a huge market here,” he said.

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Turkey aims to turn eastern Black Sea into water tourism hub

TRABZON – Anadolu Agency – A development agency is aiming to establish a “Blue Route” in the eastern Black Sea of Turkey with the aim of introducing new tourism alternatives to the region, which has recently witnessed a boost in the number of local and foreign tourists.

The Eastern Black Sea Development Agency (DOKA) is considering turning the region into an attraction hub for cruise tourism and water sports with a comprehensive project that foresees a minimum 200 million-Turkish Lira investment.

DOKA General Secretary Oktay Kaldırım said the number of foreign and local tourists visiting the eastern Black Sea had jumped by a quarter over a year to 5 million in 2014, adding that the agency aimed to elevate this boost further through new planned investments.

The “Blue Route” project includes plans to build a cruise port in Trabzon, a water sports center in Artvin and a yacht marina between Trabzon and Ordu, rafting areas on creeks and projects to support sailing, Kaldırım said.

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Trade chamber to turn Ankara into hub for international conventions

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – The Turkish capital is soon to become one of the leading centers for international conferences and conventions, the head of the Ankara Trade Chamber has said, outlining their objectives to let Ankara receive its piece of the share of the $400 billion-worth market.

“Ankara is a very suitable city for organizing congresses and fairs. We believe it will make its name through the international conventions that will be held in 2015,” Salih Bezci, head of the Ankara Trade Chamber (ATO) told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “Ankara will host 41 fairs out of the 456 that will be held in all of Turkey. This is very important,” he said, underlining that the city will host nearly 10 percent of all such events.

Ankara is the capital of Turkey with a population of nearly 4 million and is home to the top governmental institutions; the presidency, parliament and all ministries, as well as the military headquarters.

The ATO established in early 2014 a special unit under the title of “Ankara Conventions and Visitor Bureau” to coordinate works for making the capital a “city of congress,” Bezci said, adding that the bureau joined the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) in late 2014. “Our membership to this association is very important because all such bureaus communicate with each other and the cities can expose their existence through this association,” he said.

The Bureau is being run by Seçim Aydın who is currently holding meetings with stakeholders for this objective. Bezci stressed that the ATO has become the first trade chamber establishing such an office among all other chambers under the roof of the Turkey’s Union of Chambers and Stock Exchanges (TOBB).

“We are of the opinion that Ankara will prove its adequacy in holding conventions and fair tourism,” he said.

The first international event organized by the bureau was the congress of the International Management Development Association in June 2014, which also included tours to cultural sites in and around Ankara.

Film festival, UFO summit

Among the upcoming international conventions are IFAT Eurasia 2015, Trade Fair for Environmental Technologies, between April 16 and 18, which will host 13,500 participants at Congresium Ankara, the ATO International Convention & Exhibition Center and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification between Oct. 12 and 24 with the participation of 10,000 people including senior government officials from 195 countries.

Ankara Film Festival, organized by the World Mass Communication Foundation between April 24 and May 5 to host 3,500 people, Allgau Orient Rally 2015 with the participation of 700 people with 29 cars between May 13 and 23, the 8th International Energy Fair under the title of “Energy is the Future” between Nov. 4 and 6 and the World UFO Summit to be organized by Sirius UFO Space Research Center in November are among the events to be organized by the Ankara Conventions and Visitor Bureau in 2015.

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Pakistan, Afghanistan seek to expand trade

Centralasiaonline.com 2015-02-09 KARACHI – Government officials and traders from Pakistan and Afghanistan are working to expand trade and investment in each other’s country.

Officials in January held several meetings to discuss areas of opportunity.

Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan Janan Mosazai visited Karachi to confer with leaders of various associations of commerce and industry January 21 – 24. He is optimistic about the prospect of boosting trade and investment in both countries.

“The new unity government of Afghanistan … has shown great interest in increasing bilateral trade with Pakistan,” Mosazai told Central Asia Online during his Karachi visit.

The Pakistani business community’s response was very satisfactory and it has shown great interest in investing in Afghanistan, he added.

Officials in Kabul are doing the best they can to persuade Pakistani business leaders to invest.

“Already, there is co-operation between both governments on trade and transit−trade,” Mosazai said. “But now we have mainly focused on investment.”

Mosazai offered Pakistani investors the ability to establish their industrial units in Afghanistan’s special economic zones, especially in northern Afghanistan, which would help them penetrate Afghan as well as Central Asian markets.

“We are ready to offer land, low taxes, full security, cheap electricity, water and other utilities to Pakistan’s business community in special economic zones,” Mosazai said, adding that Afghanistan’s doors were open to Pakistani traders seeking to invest and enhance trade with their counterparts in Afghanistan.

Mosazai visited the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) to meet their leaders. Pakistani traders are interested, Majyd Aziz, a former KCCI president, told Central Asia Online.

“The business communities of the two countries can undertake joint ventures in agriculture, textile, construction, cash crops after their processing and other important sectors of the economy,” he said, adding that the mining sector commands the greatest interest. Pakistani rice exporters could benefit by selling to Afghanistan as well as to Central Asia, he said.

Education is another sector where the business community can take advantage. A number of Afghan students have been studying at various Pakistani academic institutions.

“Afghan students are coming to Pakistan to obtain a professional education, especially in information technology, medicine, nursing, business and engineering, on the Pakistani prime minister’s scholarship programme,” Mosazai said.

Pakistani businessmen did not take long to follow up on the invitation to visit Afghanistan. A five-member PAJCCI delegation January 31 met President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul to further discuss the matter. The conference with Ghani was fruitful and several issues, including the smuggling of goods, came up for discussion, KCCI President Iftikhar Ahmed Vohra, who led the delegation, said.

“Ghani assured us that the Afghan government would take the smuggling of goods seriously,” he said, adding that Afghanistan was determined to facilitate domestic and international investment.

“We want terrorism, poverty and anarchy eliminated so that the two countries could live in peace,” Vohra said, adding that the PAJCCI was prepared to extend its contributions in this regard.

Increased economic ties are already in the works. Both countries have vowed to expand annual bilateral trade from US $2.5 billion (Rs. 252.9 billion) to US $5 billion (Rs. 505.8 billion) in two to three years, Zahoor Ali Khan, a commerce analyst based in Islamabad, said.

“Highways, railway networks and air linkage between the two countries also were discussed in recent meetings between officials of both countries,” Khan told Central Asia Online.

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Islamic Literature a Platform to Disseminate Positive Spiritual Values

Thursday, 12 February 2015 BruDirect.com – BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: In the Islamic aspect, literature is a means of propagating Islamic teachings and to deliver welfare deeds such as welcoming the good and revoking evil. The contents of Islamic Literature offer constructive values in terms of akidah (belief), syariah and noble behaviour. The Minister of Religious Affairs, Yang Berhormat Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Dr. Haji Mohammad bin Pengiran Haji Abdul Rahman made the remarks at the Islamic Literature Platform Ceremony (Wadah Sastera Islam) held at the Goldstone Ballroom, Centrepoint Hotel in Gadong yesterday.

According to the Minister, a literature writer who wishes to progress and succeed needs to always make an effort to improve his writing, besides accepting constructive feedbacks from experienced individuals.

He further said that poems as a means to propagate Islamic teachings have influenced the life of the community in the country, highlighting and gracing functions. ‘Dikir Syarafil Anam’ often fills the air of our country in the run-up to the month of Rabiul Awal every Hijrah year in commemorating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This has become an excellent tradition of our Islamic Art that is rarely found elsewhere.

At this ceremony, the Minister of Religious Affairs launched nine books produced by the Islamic Dakwah Centre. Prize presentation was held at the end of the ceremony.

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Indonesian Ministry launches online flight approval system

9 February 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Transportation has launched an online flight approval system to improve services, openness, and transparency through technology utilization.

The integrated online system is expected to provide excellent services to all stakeholders in the aviation sector in particular and the people in general, Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan said here on Monday.

“Its a good start in order to take advantage of information technology and integrate it with the banking system,” he noted.

Jonan pointed out that online flight approval has been initiated to modernize the online licensing system in the aviation industry as it requires the best safety standards. “The airline industry is a no-fail industry,” he added.

The online flight approval system has been introduced in Ministerial Regulation No. 12/2015 on Online Air Transport Licensing and Ministerial Regulation No. 13/2015 on the Implementation of Slot Time Allocation in Airports.

According to him, the online approval system was tested last week and has since been in use. However, it officially replaced the old system on February 9. The online approval system has been named Indonesia Airspace Management System (IAMS) with features such as tracking of workflow, application status notifications, and online payment supported with 24-hour help desk facilities.

IAMS is expected to integrate all the existing systems in aviation including the ministrys Directorate General of Civil Aviation and stakeholders.

Jonan remarked that the operation of the online approval system will also be supported by various licenses, namely route license, flight permits, activities permit, general sales agent, and so on.

Moreover, the online licensing system will also be applied in other transport sectors such as land, sea, and rail transportation. “Technology has also been utilized in financial administration and the implementation of e-offices,” he added.

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Prehistoric caves found in Papua

1 February 2015 Jayapura (ANTARA News) – The Archaeology Office of Jayapura has in its research found prehistoric caves used to be inhabited by prehistoric people in the Karst hilly areas of Lake Sentani, Jayapura, Papua, a researcher said.

“The caves discovered are the Rukhabulu Awabu, Ifeli-feli and Ceruk Reugable caves,” researcher Hari Suroto of the Jayapura Archaeology Office, said here on Sunday.

He said that their physical conditions and surroundings near a water source, where artifacts such as pottery, lake mollusc shells, marine mollusc shells and animal bones, indicated that the caves were used as human dwellings during the Neolithic age.

“The findings of the marine mollusc shells in the Reugable site and Cave Rukhabulu Awabhu, illustrate that in the past the inhabitants of the two sites have been consuming marine mollusks,” he said.

This is very interesting because there is proof that the inhabitants of the caves had communications with the community members living in the coastal areas of the youtefa Bay.

“This indicates that the prehistoric men have already had communications with each other as proven by the findings of the sea mollusc shells in the caves,” he said.

After all, the type of soil in the three caves are not suitable for producing potteries. Thus, it is concluded that the potteries found in the caves came from other places outside the cave areas.

“The black color found outside the potteries indicated that they were also used to cook,” he said.

Lake Sentani is located in an area between the Jayapura city and the District of Jayapura with a width of 9,300 hectares. It is part of the Cyclops Nature Preserve.

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Nigierian Airports Seek Top-Rank Status in 2015

The Guardian – 13 February 2015 – THE Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said it is working hard to reposition the country’s airports in terms of service delivery to enable them compete with others in Africa.

The agency said parts of the plans is to improve the standard of service delivery to passengers that uses airports in Nigeria, affirming that inadequate passengers service delivery was responsible for the low rating of three of the country’s international airports in 2014.

A study conducted by ‘The Guide To Sleeping in Airport’, named three Nigerian airports as the worst in Africa last year. They include Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos in 10th position, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja ranked 7th while the Port Harcourt International Airport emerged 6th worst airport.

But FAAN General Manager, Customer Service Mrs. Ebele Okoye said the agency has made a commitment to raise the bar in customer service across the country’s airports under FAAN control.

“The low rating of Nigerian airports last year was basically born out of inadequate customer service delivery and not infrastructure. We have the fastest development plan for airports growth among African countries”

Mrs. Okoye spoke at a Customer Appreciation Day/Cancer Awareness Initiative to commemorate World Cancer Day where she explained that with the current level of service delivery, Nigerian airports will rank among the best in 2015.

She said “we have a Minister who is focused and has launched the Aviation Commits as a way of providing better service delivery. The FAAN MD is also leaving no stone unturned to ensure that in the next rating coming up in April, we emerge among the best”.

In his address, FAAN MD, represented by the Director of Administration, Ikechi Uko, a lawyer, said the agency is poised to offer its customers world-class services and urged staff to carry out the transformation agenda of the authority.

Various speakers at the event spoke on the need for workers to constantly maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to combat the menace of cancer.

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Gambia Showcases Tourism Potential At Fitur

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 9 February 2015 – The chairman, board of directors of The Gambia Tourism Board, Bakary K Jammeh has reaffirmed Gambia’s tourism potential and Destination Gambia’s safety and openness for any vital and legal businesses. Jammeh was speaking at the 35th edition of the International Tourism Fair, FITUR in the Spanish capital, Madrid.

Jammeh said that tourism is an instrument that not only contributes to the development of the country, but also a means to combat the specter of poverty. He noted that tourism is the largest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after agriculture. “Tourist activity promotes indirect jobs. There are many Gambians making a living thanks to the many activities taking place as a result of tourism,” he added.

Jammeh says Gambia has “the friendliest people in the world, always welcoming and with a smile,” adding that its beaches “are considered the most beautiful in the world.” With safety being a top concern of tourists, Baks, as he is fondly called, was keen to point out the country’s track record on that aspect, noting that in Gambia “men and women can move at ease at any time of day.”

FITUR this year features 12 percent more exhibitors than in 2014, of which about 2 percent is due to increased participation from Africa, a market that seeks to recover the tourist dollars it has lost in recent months.

The International Tourism Trade Fair is a global meeting point for tourism professionals and it is the leading trade fair for inbound and outbound Ibero American markets. At this year’s edition, different conferences were held for tourism ministers and businessmen and among the discussed issues included great importance in the tourism sector.

On each edition participated countries have the opportunity to meet and mingle with potential clients to inform them about their destination, products; canvas client opinions; carry out market studies and test out new products, services and marketing campaigns. It as well gives the opportunity to create and strengthen brand awareness; establish contact with investors and develop new markets.

Jammeh added that Gambia is a beautiful country in Africa with the best climate condition and it is the second most popular ecotourism destination; second to Brazil. He discussed the potential location of the country which is built around The River Gambia and it is navigable throughout The Gambia.

“In destination Gambia there are many tourism products and activities available for tourists and investors among the list are water sport; bird watching; fishing; series of international and community festivals. Above all, The Gambia is a very peaceful, stable and safe country that you can walk around without any interference and is opened for any legal business.”

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Algeria, Italy to Ink Tourism Cooperation Agreement

Algerie Presse Service – 10 February 2015 – Algiers — The Algerian National Office of Tourism (ONAT) will sign soon a cooperation agreement in the field of tourism with Italy, said Tuesday its Director General Mohamed Cherif Selatnia.

In a statement to APS, Selatnia said that this agreement will be signed on the occasion of the International Tourism Exchange (Milan, 12-14 February 2015).

In this regard, he said that this agreement aims at “strengthening the Algerian tourist presence in Italy and to attract Italian tourists to Algeria, which is enjoying a stable security situation.”

The Director General of ONAT underlined that Milan International tourism Exchange is an opportunity to promote the Algerian tourism product and attract foreign tourists.

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Nigerian Politician Pledges to Make Lagos a Preferred Tourism Destination

Daily Independent – 11 February 2015 – Lagos — Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has assured Lagosians that he will make the state preferred tourism destination in Africa if voted into office in the April 11 governorship polls.

Ambode gave the assurance at APC campaign rally held at Iyana Ejigbo in Oshodi- Isolo area of the state.

He promised to give priority to tourism development in the state when voted into power.

He said, “I want to promise all of you, we are on this Ejigbo play ground, we are going to turn it into a stadium. You know I have always told you, I am ready to improve on anything that the present governor does not finish, wherever he stops, I am going to continue with it.

“I have said it, I am going to integrate tourism, hospitality, entertainment and sports together to create more jobs for all our youths. We have said it, we are looking for more jobs for all our young ones, we would also create an employment trust fund, which would allow you to have access to free capital so that you can do all the things that you have always learnt to do.

” In addition to that, we would create a small credit guarantee scheme for all our small businesses and all our entrepreneurs. What does that do for all of us, it would allow our mothers, our fathers and our young ones to do whatever it is they decide to do on their own.”

Ambode added that when they make more profit, they would employ more people, saying the initiative would take more people off the street.

He said, “If we take more people off the street, it would improve on the provision of the infrastructure. It is more about roads in this neighborhood. We are going to do more roads, like I have said we have over 6000 roads that belong to the local governments and about 3000 that belongs to the state government.

“We would do an operation called Operation 20:20:57. For every year, each local government will commit 20 roads and 20 street lights, when we are able to do that, we would provide you with 1140 roads. When we do that for four years, that’s almost 5000 new roads.

“We are going to light up our streets, we would light up Lagos to ensure comfort for everyone. We would provide additional buses, even before the end of this administration, we are going to get more buses for all our roads. The roads where BRT does not ply now, we would make sure that buses ply them.”

The former Accountant General of the state said plans are in the offing to re-engineer traffic management in the state.

He said, “There would be easier traffic in all our neighborhood. Beyond that, what is the great promise? The great promise is the prosperity of Lagos and nobody will be left behind in this prosperity. We need our individual families to be prosperous and in doing that.

“We need to take over the centre. Whether they like it or not, we are taking over this federal government. They can shift the date of the election, but they can’t shift our destiny. They can’t shift our minds, our minds are already made up.”

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Nigerian Governor to Raise Ado-Awaye Suspended Lake to Int’l Tourist Centre

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 12 February 2015 – Ibadan — Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State has said that his administration had concluded arrangement with some foreign investors to partner with the state in transforming the Ado-Awaye suspended lake in Iseyin Local Government area to an international tourist centre.

He stated this while addressing the people of the agrarian community during his campaign tour to the Oke-Ogun zone of the state, where he said the suspended lake could be a source of huge revenue for the state.

The Governor added that priority attention would be accorded the lake to ensure it attained the status of global tourist centre.

He said the partnership with foreign investors would see the lake becoming a centre of attraction like the old Agodi Gardens in Ibadan which has just been rehabilitated and transformed into a resort and conference centre of international standard.

At the campaign tour which witnessed the defection of hundreds of members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Accord and Labour Party (LP) in Iganna and Iwere-Ile into the All Progressives Congress (APC), he charged members of his party in the state to conduct themselves peacefully before, during and after the forthcoming elections, as he received the defectors into the party.

Addressing the people of Iwere-Ile in Iwajowa Local Government area of the state, Ajimobi assured them that the main road linking the four communities of Ilaji-Ile, Idiko-Ile, Ijio and Itsa currently under construction would be completed soon.

The Governor also visited Iganna, Ijio, Ilero and Okeho where he assured the people that the power distribution to Iwere-Ile would be extended to other neighbouring communities.

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Nigeria: BASL Explains MMA2 Rating As Best Airport Terminal

This Day – 13 February 2015 – Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) has said the domestic terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, known as MMA2 is rated the best terminal in Nigeria because it meets all indices of world standard terminal.

BASL, which built and is managing the facility on Build-Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement said it strives to improve the terminal to be in tandem with the most standard airports in the world, from available car park to modern facilities inside the terminal and avio-bridges for easy and secure boarding of passengers, which only few airports have such in the country.

About two months ago, the Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka disclosed that he set up evaluation team whereby travellers were asked to rate the airport terminals in the country in terms of facilities and convenience of facilitation and they rated MMA2 as the best.

Speaking at a dinner to appreciate its customers and stakeholders, in Lagos recently, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), BASL, Mr. Christophe Penninck, said MMA2 would soon commission facilities that would enable self-check-in by passenger, expressing the hope that other airports in Nigeria would install a similar system in their terminals to enhance passenger convenience and easy faciliataion.

Penninck also disclosed that MMA2, which is Nigeria’s first and only privately-run terminal, “is in the process of completing the implementation of the latest version of the Common User Passenger Processing System (CUPPS)”.

He said the International Air Transport Association (IATA)-compliant system, “makes it easier and more efficient to process passengers and increases the dwelling time in the terminal”.

The CEO disclosed that BASL has also installed new automatic gates, which, when operational, will ensure that only passengers with valid boarding pass can enter the secure zones.

On what it takes to be a leader in the Aviation Industry, Penninck told the audience that in the last few months, the company had made massive investment in the development of infrastructure in the terminal, including software and hardware upgrades of its passenger.

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Gambia: Training On Destination Marketing Under Way

The Point (Banjul) – 12 February 2015 – As part of promoting destination marketing in tourism, officials of the Gambia Tourism Board and Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation are currently attending a week-long training session on destination marketing at the Florist Hotel in Kololi.

Delivering his welcome statement, Ousainou Senghore, acting Director General of the Gambia Tourism Board, thanked the participants, particularly those from Nigeria for coming all the way from Nigeria to attend.

He also thanked the senior consultant from The Netherlands, who has demonstrated love for The Gambia in varied ways, adding that the occasion was another manifestation of their unflinching commitment and support for Gambian tourism.

He said the strategic partnership between GTBoard and NTBOARD was cemented by the MoU, which has withstood the test of time.

The collaboration and partnership between the two organizations has been mutually beneficial, and covers a broad spectrum of areas such as capacity building and exchange of best practices, he added.

According to Mr Senghore, the GTBoard, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and all tourism stakeholders, would invariably continue to create the conducive operational environment for partnerships of this nature to flourish and blossom, for the sustainable development of tourism in our sub-region.

Best practice in modern tourism management advocates that strategic partnerships and alliances are forged between various regional tourism organizations and stakeholders, with the objective of ensuring that destination competitiveness is attained in multifaceted ways, he continued.

“As we are all aware, the key to successful management of tourism will invariably lie in the capacity of destination stakeholders to continuously and systematically adapt to constant dynamics and new trends impacting on the sector,” he said.

In such an environment, the competitive advantage of tourism destinations and hospitality outfits would depend on their capacity to innovate, and crafting of products that have a regional dimension given the fact that multi destinations are becoming the in-thing in global tourism, he further stated.

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Nigeria Domestic Tourism Takes Centre Stage

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 13 February 2015 – The first edition of the World Congress of the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), a group which comprises Yoruba people in Diaspora from 54 countries must have come and gone, but the congress will forever linger on in the minds of participants who attended the one-day event.

At the event, tagged Eko 2015, the importance of tourism as an alternative source of revenue for the nation took centre stage as members proffer different methodologies to make it happen.

The theme of the congress, “Team Leadership and Role of Leadership in effective service delivery,” was indeed an intellectual discussion forum which ensured the presence of two distinguished professors from two renowned universities, Professor Raheem Kolawole, from the University of Winneba, Ghana and Professor Folashade Familoni, Lead City University, Ibadan.

Members of the OPU in Diaspora at the congress were; Akogun Banji Ojo, Europe Coordinator; Victor Mobolaji Adewale, Sweden; Sumonu Adio, UK; Said Ibrahim, Ireland; Sikiru Erinfolami, Sweden; Bob Agbede, Ayo Awodire, France; and Ayodele Baba Fola, Brazil-Uruguay. Others were; Toyin Willimason, Holland; Ogundele Oluyemi, Austria; Ode Taiwo, USA; Raphael Ajibare, Libya; Adeyemi Babatunde, Italy; James Aliu, Ghana; and Tunde Joseph, Togo.

Eminent Nigerians and distinguished personalities who graced the event included; the Chief Tourism Officer for the nation, Mrs Sally Mbanefo; Dr Wanle Akinboboye, Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Tourism and Culture; Professor Sophie Oluwole; Mr Segun Dosunmu, Personal Assistant to the Director-General, Centre for Black Arts and African Civilization, CEBAAC. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade sent a powerful delegation of Oba Bolu Fatunmise, Oba of Iyanfoworogi, High Chief Farotimi Faloba, Obadio of Ife, Eredunmi of Ife, Oba of Orile Agege, Oba Muniru Olatunji Yusuf, The Oba of Onigbongbo Lagos, 14 Traditional Obas from the Republic of Benin led by Oba Akanni Mulero, Oba Ade Ilikimu and Oba Onisale of Sale, Nollywood actors Saheed Balogun, Yinka Quadri, Taiwo Hassan and popular Yoruba Fuji crooner Wasiu Ayinde Pasuma.

Otunba Gani Adams, the convener of the congress revealed to the guests and audience the origin of OPU: “I am delighted today for two reasons.

The first is the growth of OPU, the organisation that I founded along with some Yoruba indigenes living abroad. The second reason why I feel delighted is the honour of the presence of our brothers and sisters at this leadership training.”

He revealed what led to the formation of the union. “The journey to the foundation of Oodua Progressive Union began sometime one night in 2013 while I was resting at the frontage of my house, and thinking about the possible ways to bring together all Yorubas irrespective of places the circumstances might have dispersed them. I thought of ways of mobilising them for the elevation of our cultural values despite various socio-cultural, economic and political groups, thoughts and opinions they belong in the Diaspora.

“From this brain wave, I started discussing with my aides. I told them how the burning idea was on my mind, that I would like to set up an organisation that would unite our people across the world, and involve them in the projection of our identity as Yoruba people. We thought of a name for the organisation and I suggested the name Oodua Progressive Union (OPU).

“This was agreeable to everyone. Then began the organisation and we started working towards its development. I am glad that the organisation which began and grew from our shared thoughts has continued to blossom. Today, OPU has been established and registered in 54 countries across the world.”

Adams disclosed that he was pushed to inaugurate the association in many countries. “In the Diaspora, people of Yoruba descent, who as a result of emigration, represent one of the largest pools of African professionals outside the continent. Sadly, this has not translated to rapid development of Yoruba land. Despite monetary remittances, the Yoruba in Diaspora need to show greater commitment to the development of Yoruba land. Their meaningful presence is still required for us to achieve the millennium development goals.

“We need to draw inspirations from the impactful contributions of other Diaspora to their homelands and countries. For example, India made largely of Hindus and other ethnic and religious groups continue to impact positively on growing international perception of India globally.

Its Diaspora has contributed to India’s achievement of world-class status by its achievements in a variety of fields of science, arts and culture. They have been transferring the skills they have acquired outside their country to the people at home.

“Like the Indians, the Jewish Diaspora continue to dictate the direction of world politics and economy. They always protect the interest of the Jews worldwide. Same I am sure is possible of the Yoruba Diaspora if they can take useful examples from the Indians, the Jews and other Diaspora that affect the lives of their people positively. The huge impact our Diaspora can make in our quest to develop our homelands necessitates not only the formation of Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) but the call for this meeting and institution of this leadership training programme. It is hoped that this training programme will impart to us new ways of providing effective leadership to our people.”

Director-General, Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, commended Adams for hosting members of OPU in Nigeria. “I must commend the vision of Otunba Gani Adams for initiating and inaugurating this productive union in 54 countries.

Also, I congratulate him for hosting the first congress of this most distinguished union in Lagos not in London or Spain. This will enable members of OPU to be conscious of the reality of being a Nigerian and keep their vision of being a Nigerian in the right perspective.”

Mbanefo who described OPU leader as a lubricator and promoter of domestic tourism added: “I must also acknowledge Adams’ inestimable contribution to the development, promotion and enhancement of domestic tourism through the various programmes celebrated under the umbrella of Olokun Festival Foundation. He has been consistent and bold at showcasing the Yoruba culture as one of the best in the world.”

She pointed out that government officials in charge of culture and tourism should work closely with the traditional rulers who are the custodians and best interpreters of our culture and tradition.

Dr. Akinboboye called on Nigerian government to invest in the tourism sector. ” I must commend Otunba Adams for striving hard at letting our people see the import of tourism as a change agent and instrument of development.”

Professor Sophie Oluwole spoke brilliantly on the beauty of Yoruba culture as an advanced culture which the colonialists knew and tried fruitlessly to relegate to the background but “eminent Nigerians, cultural revivalists like Otunba Adams are up to the task stoking consistently the fire of revival and resuscitation with zeal of patriotism.”

Professors (Mrs) Familoni and Kolawole outlined the qualities of a good leader and the need for for OPU coordinators to imbibe, express, exhibit and display these characteristics for the growth of the association.

The congress was enlivened by cultural display, dances, Oriki chanting to the delight of guests and participants.

The first ever OPU congress came to a close with a 12-point communiqué signed by Otunba Gani Adams, convener; Akogun Ojo, Taiwo Ode (North America, Mr. Mathew Ogunseye (Africa), Fola Oludare (South America) with a clarion call on the Federal Government to enhance and harness the tourism potentialities of Nigeria in making the country great.

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Seaside Boulevard renovated for Baku 2015

11 February 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The whole Baku is now preparing to welcome guests during the historic Baku 2015 European Games in June. To this end, energetic efforts are underway at the Baku Seaside Boulevard.

Both tourist who will come to Azerbaijani capital for the first time and those who have already visited Baku, will find many innovations at the seaside park.

Currently, repairing work is underway on the territory of the park, flowerbeds are created and seasonal flower planting is underway, said Nazim Majidov, Deputy Manager of the Department of National Seaside Park.

“If the weather is warm, plastic covering of the trees that protects them from the wind and cold, will be removed before Novruz holiday. Two park amusements were recently put into operation, and commissioning of two more is planned before the summer,” he said.

Majidov said the number of payment terminals increased in cafes, restaurants and shopping facilities, operating on the territory of the boulevard.

There are more payment terminals installed in the shopping sites, than it was previously, however, there are still sites without them, he noted.

Moreover, the park increased the number of security officers and other employees speaking English.

In addition, guests of the park will be able to use Wi-Fi service throughout the boulevard in June.

Majidov said the Wi-Fi network has already been established in many places of the Seaside National Park.

Tourists can promenade at the park and use trains to travel faster. In February and March, the park will also enjoy more walking train.

“After the expansion of the Seaside National Park, the routes of trains will also change. Now they run the three routes – from Baku International Sea Station to the Parachute Tower, from the Parachute Tower to the National Flag Square, and from the Palace of Hand Games to Baku Crystal Hall,” Majidov explains.

Expansion of the promenade territory is accelerated, and another part of the park is expected to be commissioned in May.

The current length of the Seaside National Park is more than six kilometers, and after expansion it will increase to 15 kilometers.

Sea-voyage lovers will also have a chance to enjoy new route of the pleasure boats.

“Now, the route passes the waters of the bay, near the State Flag Square and the Baku Crystal Hall,” Majidov added. “However, after the expansion of the boulevard, the route will be extended, and pleasure boats will run the entire coastline of the Seaside National Park. At present, boats operate on Saturdays and Sundays, when the weather conditions permit.”

As the biggest sporting event in Azerbaijan’s history, the Baku 2015 European Games will attract more than 6,000 athletes to represent 49 countries in 20 sports on June 12-28.

The Baku 2015 Games will take place in 21 stadia and facilities in Baku and Mingachevir city. The official opening ceremony of the games will take place in the 68,000-seat Baku Olympic Stadium. The Athletes Village will accommodate up to 7,300 people.

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Russia to increase flights to Azerbaijan

13 February 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Two Russian air carriers have received the permission to launch flights to Azerbaijan. Russian Federal Air Transport Agency “Rosaviaciya” reported on February 13.

“Angara” air company has just got the permission to launch regular flights from Novosibirsk to Azerbaijani regions such as Ganja and Lankaran. It will also have flights to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku two times per week with “An-148-100E”. Currently, air flights from Novosibirsk to Baku are carried out by S7 air company’s aircrafts.

Moreover, “Taymir” air company will conduct flights on St. Petersburg-Lankaran and Surgut-Lankaran routes. The flights will be carried out via Boeing 737 two times per week.

The commission refused “Aeroflot”’s request on increasing flights from 14 to 22 times per week on Moscow-Baku route.

In addition, the “UTair” air company will not able to implement any flights en route Surgut-Lankaran.

“Kogalimavia” company also lost the right to implement flights on St. Petersburg-Lankaran direction because it didn’t conducted flights on the rout for more than two seasons.

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Tourism strategy outlines comprehensive vision

Oman Daily Observer – 10 February, 2015 – The National Tourism Strategy (2015-2040) currently begin prepared by the Ministry of Tourism is in line with the Sultanate’s strategic planning and which was declared by Supreme Council for Planning’s comprehensive futuristic vision (Oman 2014) and the ministry of tourism is keen on placing its tourism strategy as a main tributary of this vision.

Among the major objectives targeted by the National Tourism Strategy (2015-2040) is boosting the contribution of the tourism sector to the gross domestic product (GDP).

236083Furthermore, Omani Tourism Strategy will update land development agreements, the system of ownership of properties by non-Omanis in integrated tourism complexes (ITC) and the alternatives available to the ministry to deal with investors involved in suspended or delayed projects or ITC projects whose owners are likely to withdraw.

The workshops discussed the main objectives, goals and priorities of the national tourism strategy and the challenges facing the tourism sector in the Sultanate. For that reason, in the internal workshops they tackled the key issues by strategy formulation and analysis.

The ministry’s touristic vision is based on exploiting the Sultanate’s competitive advantages in the field of tourism such as the cultural heritage and the other historic and civilisational factors besides a unique national beauty.

The ministry had laid down the main objectives and pillars for a comprehensive tourism strategy and specified the challenges that face Omani tourism sector putting into account achieving two goals, creating jobs opportunities for nationals and boosting tourism contribution to GDP.

The ministry of tourism attaches a special attention to intensive dialogue and consultation with tourist specialists and experts through workshops and seminars that saw enhanced discussion of a number of topics which included Tourism 1but not confined to the diversification of tourist attractions, studying and evaluating the tourism experiences, boosting tourism competitiveness and the provision of quality tourism services.

Seminars and workshops are being held in all the governorates of the Sultanate with a view to enhancing participation and to include all the parties concerned with devising the tourism strategy as well as giving the chance to the private sector to contribute and participate in the process of tourism development.

Among the key topics included in the working paper which will be presented in the current round of workshops is the creation of job opportunities for local communities, boosting tourism competitiveness, identifying the available investment opportunities in tourism, ways of attracting tourism investment to attain the tourist targets, achieving sustainable competitive edge in the tourism sector, engaging small and medium enterprises in tourism.

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‘Qatar 2022, Dubai Expo help drive GCC projects’

Gulf Times – 11 February, 2015 – Preparations for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and the 2020 Expo in Dubai are generating healthy project activity across the GCC region, Samba Financial Group has said.

“Projects planned or underway in the GCC totalled $ 2.7tn,” Samba said in its latest ‘GCC chart book’.

Project activity in the Gulf Co-operation Council region remained “robust”, although it is now likely to be subjected to review and prioritisation, Samba said.

Available Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) data points to continued healthy expansion in private sector non-oil activity in Saudi Arabia and the UAE through December, Samba said.

Passenger traffic through GCC airports continued to increase, as did hotel occupancy rates, it said.

According to Samba, the regional banks remained “sound and profitable”.

“There is no evidence of stress in the interbank markets, and domestic credit growth is holding at between 5 and 10%.”

GCC economies have a challenging year in 2015 as oil prices continue to slide, Samba noted.

The governments in the region are looking to factor in oil price assumptions in the $ 50-$ 70 a barrel range for their budgets, and deficits in most states are expected for 2015, with the exception of Kuwait.

These deficits could be quite large (10%-16% of GDP) as some governments initially maintain spending levels, having built up large savings for such a scenario.

“However, the longer oil prices stay low, the greater the likelihood of cuts in capital spending,” Samba said.

That said, large official savings, together with low government debt levels, and sound banking systems, will help GCC states weather the oil price collapse.

Fiscal deficits will be financed by drawing down savings and perhaps debt issuance, and efforts to maintain state spending will help support non-oil sector growth.

However, cuts in spending will be more pressing in Oman and Bahrain where oil resources and savings are less abundant, and budgets are already in deficit.

This, Samba said may tip both economies into recession.

While the slump in oil prices has dented confidence, available data suggest that this has been relatively contained.

Previously booming stock markets fell back sharply in the last quarter 2014, but have recently stabilised, and CDS spreads on most GCC sovereigns are up only slightly.

Moves in forward exchange rates have been muted and, given still healthy external balances, there seems little threat to GCC dollar exchange rate pegs.

“At around 3%, inflation rates in Saudi, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, are relatively high in the context of the current global disinflationary environment, although they appear to be cooling,” Samba said.

“Much of the inflationary pressure stems from the recent sharp rebound in property prices, but these have now started to ease. Year-on-year prices have now turned negative in Dubai, and have slowed markedly in Abu Dhabi, although they continue to rise strongly in Qatar,” Samba said.

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Oman Tourism Minister meets SME owners

Oman Daily Observer – 12 February, 2015 – Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism on Wednesday met with a number of tourism SMEs owners to discuss the challenges facing them. During the meeting, which was attended by a number of officials at the ministry, the participants stressed the importance of supporting the growth of these enterprises.

The meeting came out with a number of proposals and initiatives that help tourism SMEs to grow and develop.

These proposals and initiatives, which will be implemented in coordination with respective agencies, include considering the formation of a committee of the respective agencies involved in tourism sector to address the challenges facing them.

The meeting follows a meeting between the minister of tourism and tourism SMEs owners at Saih Al Shamikhat Decision Implementation Assessment Symposium, which was held recently at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). The Ministry coordinated with the Public Authority for SMEs Development and other organisations to support and rehabilitate tourism entrepreneurs in the Sultanate.

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Dubai’s theme park project on track

Khaleej Times – 13 February, 2015 – The development of the Middle East’s largest multi-themed leisure and entertainment destination is on track, with significant financing initiatives successfully executed to fund the project.

Abdulla Al Habbai, chairman of Dubai Parks and Resorts, said: “Dubai Parks and Resorts will capture the significant growth opportunity represented by creating the Middle East’s first premiere year-round leisure and entertainment destination. Strong demographic growth and favourable economic conditions within the UAE and the wider region will drive strong local demand for Dubai Parks and Resorts. In addition, Dubai’s location and world class tourist infrastructure will support the project’s growth strategy. We are pleased with the progress achieved by the leadership team since announcing the project in September 2014 and look forward to the year ahead.”

Several partnerships have been agreed on with leading global leisure and entertainment brands. An MoU has been signed with Etisalat to implement Smart Parks Technology.

A collaboration agreement has also been signed with Emirates Airline to exchange knowledge and expertise around marketing co-ordination and destination management. Parques Reunidos Servicios Centrales has been appointed park operator for motiongate Dubai and Bollywood Park Dubai.

“We have made considerable progress since officially announcing our plans to create Dubai Parks and Resorts. We have secured the financing to fund the construction of what will become the Middle East’s largest multi-themed leisure and entertainment destination through an Dh4.2 billion finance facility and Dh2.5 billion of equity raised in our December 2014 DFM listing,” said Raed Al Nuami, CEO of Dubai Parks and Resorts.

“Projected revenue in the first full year of operation is estimated at Dh2.4 billion with over 5000 jobs generated across the sector.Our 2014 financial results are in line with our plans. During the year our total assets grew to Dh6.9 billion and of which the cost of project under construction and land acquired amounted to Dh2.6 billion, an increase from Dh340 million. There were no operating revenues during the year and the accumulated loss was Dh38 million as at the end of 2014. The first revenues are expected towards the end of 2016 following the opening of the parks to the public.”

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Yemen to partake in Berlin, Moscow tourism fairs

Yemen News Agency – 13 February, 2015 – Yemen is to take part in the international tourism and travel fairs in Germany and Russia to be held in the coming March, the Tourism Promotion Council (TPC) said Thursday.

The participation will keep Yemen on the European and international tourist map in the light of declining tourism movement from European countries to Yemen, the TPC Executive Director Fatima al-Huraibi told the Defense Ministry website.

She said that joint meetings participants will be held as part of the fairs’ activities aiming at reviewing the obstacles and challenges facing tourist sector at the global level, including Yemen.

Yemeni tourist products will be exhibited in a special wing with the participation of a number of travel agencies in Yemen, she added.

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RTA Sharjah boosts network with new King Long buses

Khaleej Times – 14 February, 2015 – Western Auto has delivered the first fleet of 10 King Long luxury coaches to Roads and Transport Authority Sharjah, recently.

This is in line with the authority’s grand vision of better connected transport network through world class luxury coaches offering customers a comfortable and safe journey. The buses are part of Roads and Transport Authority Sharjah’s intercity fleet.

Western Auto’s association with Roads and Transport Authority Sharjah started in 2009 with the delivery of six King Long buses. These buses have proven their reliability and longevity by clocking over two million km and still serving the fleet. The exceptional performance of King Long buses has enabled Western Auto to be the obvious choice for Roads and Transport Authority Sharjah in the time of their grand expansion plans for their fleet.

Established in 1988, Xiamen King Long United Automotive industry is the leading manufacturer of commercial vehicles in China. King Long vehicles are known for their reliability, durability, low maintenance cost and fuel efficiency. King Long vehicles are widely applied for passenger transport, school transport, tourism, groups/organisations, public transit and special vehicle purposes worldwide.

Established in 2000, Western Auto is one of the leading automobile companies in the UAE. With its range of King Long luxury coaches, Western Auto offers world-class transport solutions at an affordable price.

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Prince Charles has a date with Saudi history

Arab News – 14 February, 2015 – During a recent visit to the Kingdom, the heir to the British throne, Charles, Prince of Wales and his entourage, were deeply impressed by their trip to the archaeological sites at Al-Ula and Madain Saleh. The British Crown Prince emphasized the beauty of the sites, coining them as outstanding tourist attractions, and a milestone on the world tourism map.

The Prince of Wales was escorted by Saudi royalty, with President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan bin Salman, and Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman at his side. The party also visited the archaeological sites of Khuraymah and the historical oasis of Dadan as well and Mount Akmah. Prince Charles was also briefed on various features of these spots, so rich in heritage and tradition, while guests toured around the facades of Nabatean buildings.

Tourism experts expressed their satisfaction that Prince Charles’ visit to Al-Ula and Madain Saleh underscored the uniqueness and historical significance of the tourist site.

“The uniqueness of the sites lies in the fact that they date back to the sixth millennium BC. Al-Ula, lying on the ancient caravan route of spice traders, also served as a meeting point of several ancient civilizations which left indelible marks on the site,” Madinah historian and researcher Tnaidib Al-Fayedi, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Another history researcher, Muhammad Al-Harbi, also highlighted the area’s rich tradition and archaeology. “The diversity of the monuments at Madain Saleh and Al-Ula makes them a remarkable tourist attraction. The repository of heritage and archaeological uniqueness of rock facades of Madain Saleh, historical monuments at the Khuraybah and architectural heritage of the old town in Al-Ula, are all features of this diversity,” Al-Harbi pointed out.

Former chief at SCTA’s Al-Ula branch, Motleq Al-Motleq, believed one of the main factors contributing to make these archaeological sites stand out, is their international recognition. “The efforts made by the SCTA to preserve the historical sites of Al-Ula and Madain Saleh, including their introduction and registration on the list of World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization, has contributed a lot to making them major tourist attractions,” Al-Motleq said.

The Madain Saleh (Hijr) area is a sweet spot on the eternal passage of time, that will take away the visitor’s breath. Any passer-by would be enticed by the rich history filled with features of antiquity and the elegance of the ancient past.

In Madain Saleh the lineament of time is concealed by lofty mountains painted with brilliant colors. It is on the sides of those mountains that visitors can read what the men of the ancient Arabian peninsula noted down.

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Kuwaiti business participate in Expo Pakistan 2015

Kuwait Times – 14 February, 2015 – Karachi is hosting the annual Expo Pakistan 2015 from February 26 March 1, 2015. This year a delegation of about 70 businessmen from Kuwait will be visiting this expo. On this occasion, the Pakistani embassy held a press conference at its premises on Thursday to shed light on the Expo and provide more information on this event. A documentary about Pakistan was played along a presentation about the expo during the conference.

The 9th edition of the largest trade fair in Pakistan is being organized by the Government of Pakistan, in collaboration with the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), at the Expo Center Karachi, it was announced in the press conference adding the situation is safe in Pakistan.

“Visitors should not have any worries regarding their safety in Pakistan, as the government is keen to assure high level of security. Many people are coming to Karachi to visit the Expo, which is a big event so we want them to feel safe and to ensure their security,” said Ambassador of Pakistan to Kuwait Muhammad Aslam Khan during the press conference.

The ambassador also spoke about the attack on a Kuwaiti diplomat’s vehicle in Pakistan. “The incident was not a serious accident and nobody was injured. Only a material damage took place on the window of the vehicle. The case is still under investigation, the ambassador said.

The Expo trade fair, conceptualized in 2004 and held annually since 2005, showcases the largest collection of Pakistan’s export merchandise and services under one roof. Foreign exhibitors, including from the neighboring countries, also use this platform to launch their products. Over the past eight years, Expo Pakistan has become a popular hub for a large number of businesses worldwide, giving them a head start in buying and ordering for the coming seasons.

Every year, business deals worth US Dollar one billion are struck at this mega event. Over 90 memorandums of understanding were signed between business partners and chambers during the last Expo. About 1,000 businessmen, from about 70 countries are attending the Expo every year to explore business opportunities. A large variety of products would be on display this year in 523 stalls spread over 6 big exhibition halls across the sprawling state of the art premises of Karachi Expo Center.

The bilateral relations between Kuwait and Pakistan are very high. “The two countries have much in common. Our friendship is strong and has cooperation in many fields. We also have strong economic partnership, and Pakistan is the largest buyer of diesel from Kuwait. Yet, unfortunately the value of trade is not compatible with the volume of political level, as there may be lack of knowledge from both sides about the opportunities available in both the countries. We need to fill this gap and the Expo is one of the great opportunities for this,” stressed the Ambassador.

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Jeddah to Al-Ula Saudia flights to boost tourist traffic

Arab News – 15 February, 2015 – Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) said it would operate two flights weekly between Jeddah and Al-Ula from Feb. 26 as part of a strategic plan to expand its operations between the Kingdom’s cities.

Abdullah Al-Ajhar, executive vice president for public relations, said the new flights would be operated on Thursdays and Saturdays, adding that it would help a large number of tourists visit Madain Saleh archeological sites.

On Thursday, the flight would leave King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah at 15:30 to reach Prince Abdul Majeed Airport in Al-Ula at 16:45 while on Saturday the flight will leave at 20:00 to reach Al-Ula at 21:15. Saudia flights will leave Al-Ula at 21:45 to reach Jeddah at 23:05 in both days.

The national carrier currently operates flights to 27 domestic airports to meet the requirements of growing passengers traveling between the Kingdom’s cities.

“We have allocated 70 percent of our flights for the domestic sector,” Al-Ajhar said. Last year, Saudia carried 15.7 million passengers on 120,248 domestic flights, registering an increase of 987,636 passengers and 4,384 flights, compared to 2013.

Madain Saleh, 22 km north of Al-Ula is the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia. Formerly known as Hegra it is the largest conserved site of the civilization of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan. It features well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. The site also features some 50 inscriptions of the pre-Nabataean period and some cave drawings.

Meanwhile, the board of directors of Saudia would meet at its headquarters in Jeddah on Sunday.

Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation and chairman of Saudia, will preside over the meeting, which will discuss the airline’s strategic plans for the next five years and its projects for 2015.

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Kuwait to host 2015 Middle East Investment Conf

Kuwait News Agency – 08 February, 2015 – Kuwait will host on Tuesday the 2015 Middle East Investment Conference sponsored by the Citibank and to be attended by Minister of Finance Anas Al-Saleh.

The conference will be held in Kuwait for the first time and is organized by CFA Society Kuwait and CFA Institute, said a statement by the bank here on Sunday.

A number of experts in the sectors of investment and financing will take part in the event, the statement added.

Nouriel Roubini, co-founder and chairman of Roubini Global Economics, will also participate in the event, it said, noting the conference will discuss several main topics on the global economy and challenges that are facing investors in the Middle East region.

The congress will focus on investment strategies, geopolitical conditions and developments related to the energy field and its impacts, as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises in the region, it added.

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Spanish firm THR to develop tourism strategy for Oman

Oman Daily Observer – 09 February, 2015 – The Spanish THR Innovative Tourism Advisors has been awarded a contract to prepare a tourism strategy in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism after securing the highest points in terms of technical specifications.

The Ministry of Tourism is making a significant effort to develop its tourism sector. The National Tourism Strategy (2015-2040) sets out a plan for economic tourism success by organizing a series of consultative workshops with different stakeholders and local experts in the areas of environment, culture and heritage, transport, education, manpower, startups and SME, and the private sector investors in tourism industry. The national tourism strategy incorporates an elaborate programme outlining short, medium and long term strategies, together with an implementation action plan based on major pillars including tourism competitiveness, marketing and product development, governance, education and the socio-economic development.

The Ministry in cooperation with the THR Innovative Tourism Advisors conducted internal workshops during February 8-12 February 2015 to provide different proposals and models to develop the tourism in the Sultanate. One of the key objectives of the Omani Tourism Strategy seeks to increase the contribution of tourism sector in GDP which is considered to be as a major source of income; also, it is closely linked to the process of sustainable development.

Additionally, the future development prospects will help generate career opportunities and it includes among its main dimensions capacity building in the tourism sector. Furthermore, it will update land development agreements, the system of ownership of properties by non-Omanis in integrated tourism complexes (ITC) and the alternatives available to the ministry to deal with investors involved in suspended or delayed projects or ITC projects whose owners are likely to withdraw. The workshops discussed the main objectives, goals and priorities of the national tourism strategy and the challenges facing the tourism sector in the Sultanate. For that reason, the internal workshops tackled the key issues by strategy formulation and analysis.

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Asir heritage show from Feb. 18

Arab News – 10 February, 2015 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and Dar Al-Hekma College are launching an architectural and heritage project in Abha on Feb. 18 to highlight the rich history of the region.

The event is entitled “Asir: Robe of Urbanization” and will be held in Akkas village over four days. Asir Gov. Prince Faisal bin Khaled and President of the SCTA Prince Sultan bin Salman are patrons of the event.

The project is the brainchild of Anna Klingmann, head of the architecture faculty at Dar Al-Hekma, and faculty member Lubna Yassin. Participants include local and international artists, architects, designers and scientists.

Discussions will take place on the urban heritage of Asir and developing methods to construct buildings that will blend local and modern styles.

Muhammad Al-Umrah, director general of the SCTA in the region, said the event would include a light and picture show on the facades and walls of traditional buildings.

He said Akkas village was chosen to host the event because it is at high altitude, has beautiful scenery and is close to Abha city. There would be similar events held in other cities.

Documentary films, books and articles would be generated from the event, he said.

The organizers also plan to have an exhibition by French photographer Terry Moje at the French Consulate in Jeddah and discussions on the urban future of Asir. A documentary film on the activities of Asir villages will also be launched at the German Consulate.

Saad Thaqfan, director of studies and planning at the SCTA in Asir, said local participants include Ahmed Abu Dahman, Ahmed Mater and Abdullah Thabit. The events include a display of local designs and handicrafts, he said.

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