Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

23 Mar, 2015

Indonesia to waive visas for 25 countries

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 23 March 2015 (02 Jumaada al-Thaani 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

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

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

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


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

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




Malaysia To Host ASEAN Entrepreneurship Summit

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 (NNN-Bernama) — 1ASEAN Entrepreneurship Summit (1AES) will be held for the first time in November in conjunction with Malaysia taking over the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2015. It will take place for three days from Nov 20, 2015 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

In the run up to the 1AES in November, Sundaran said a series of programmes will kick off during AFMM including a Mini 1AES. He said the Mini 1AES will be held in conjunction with AFMM for two days from March 20, 2015 at the same place.

The programme will focus on entrepreneurship development especially among the young people, said Director of National Strategy Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Dr Sundaran Annamalai, to reporters ahead of the 19th ASEAN Finance Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings (AFMM). AFMM will be held for three days from March 19.

Sundaran said 1AES with the theme ‘Futurising ASEAN Entrepreneurs’, would reinforce the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in a tangible way. 1AES would help increase and strengthen the network among ASEAN entrepreneurs with a view to explore innovative business ventures for mutual benefit, not only for profit but also to bring about positive changes in society, he said.

ASEAN is a 10-country association and has a population of 600 million people with a young demographic profile. It provides a growing market and business opportunities for entrepreneurs and business, and has a combined gross domestic product of US$2.3 trillion and total trade of US$2.4 trillion.

Back to top

ASEAN Aviation Summit Held In Malaysia

LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA, March 18 (NNN-Bernama) — The two-day inaugural Asean Aviation Summit opening today will serve as a platform to explore new opportunities, said Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi. He said the summit would benefit the industry, thus making it more sustainable.

“As you know, we experienced the incidents of the MH370 and MH17, and we need good cooperation and inputs from the industry on the way forward for the aviation industry.

“Furthermore, with the open skies policy we have to regulate the aviation industry to make it more sustainable,” he told Bernama after a bilateral meeting with Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Transport Lee Dinh Tho at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2015 (LIMA’15) here.

Abdul Aziz said the summit would involve all the captains of the industry, including stakeholder groups from government, industry regulators, airlines and airports, aircraft manufacturers, maintenance, repair and operations service providers and suppliers. The summit, themed ‘The Future Landscape of Asean Aviation’ is held in conjunction with LIMA ’15. It is co-organised by the Ministry of Transport Malaysia, the Department of Civil Aviation and LIMA ’15.

Back to top

Sydney Muslims set up TV channel to counter anti-Islam campaign

Tuesday 17 Mar 2015 – Sydney, (IINA) – Members of the Muslim community in Sydney, Australia, have established a $1 million television studio in order to improve the image of Islam, which is being damaged by the negative approach of mainstream media, Media sources reported.

The One Path network films and edits YouTube videos and conducts interviews of imams and sheikhs and reports current affair news. The studio also aims to spread the message of Islam among Muslims and non-Muslims. It was reportedly funded by community donations, and is staffed by a team of over 20 volunteers.

Organizers say it was set up to provide “authentic Islamic knowledge using a professional contemporary approach”. “This is a time where there is a lot of pressure on the Muslim community,” Malaz Majjani, who is the head of the network, told ABC News.

The aim of the network is to correct the wrong depiction of Islam by the mainstream media, which is causing a rift between Muslims and the rest of the Australian community. “Our approach was to make sure that it’s clear that this act is not an Islamic act,” said Majjani, while discussing the Sydney Siege.

The station’s website reads: “The media is an essential part of everyday life and a very powerful tool influencing values and ideas. The world is constantly changing and we are connected more than ever. There are great opportunities in using media to showcase the religion of Islam.”

“As we embark on this large scale project, we understand that it will be a long and complex journey, but a necessary one. In order to make this project effective and successful we will be utilizing specialized skill sets from within the community and abroad.”

Ranges of Muslim leaders have approved and endorsed the project, including the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed and has seen support from both moderate and conservative Muslim leaders.

Back to top

Australia hosts Muslim fashion exhibition

Thursday 19 Mar 2015 – West Australia, (IINA) – Reflecting the diversity within the Australian Muslim community, a new fashion exhibition has been launched in the West Australian town of Katanning to defy misconceptions about Islam in the town, OnIslam reported.

Themed “Faith, Fashion, Fusion”, Katanning’s fashion exhibition displays the work of a new generation of fashion designers who mingled contemporary fashion with modesty.

Using photography, treasured objects and interviews with prominent Australian Muslim women, including Sydney public figure Arwa El-Masri, the exhibitions aims to create a space for the Muslim community to speak about their experiences and faith.

“For a Muslim lady, you’re expected to dress modestly and be as covered as possible,” Ainnatul Aesonand, a Public Library Officer, of Katanning told ABC Local Radio. “What’s showcased here right now, is how to dress modestly but fashionably at the same time to present yourself beautifully out to the world.”

For the library officer, Aesonand, contemporary fashion and Islam teachings are completely “compatible”. She hopes that the event could send this message. She also aims that the exhibition would highlight the diversity of the Australian Muslim community.

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 per cent of its 20-million population and the religion of Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity.

Back to top

Kazakhstan to host World Religious Leaders Congress in June

18 March 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Kazakhstan has invited Indonesia to the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to be held in Kazakh capital Astana on June 10-11, 2015, Kazakh Ambassador to Indonesia Ashkat Orazbay said.

“We have invited Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulamas executive board Said Aqil Siradj to represent Indonesia in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions,” Orazbay stated here on Wednesday. According to Orazbay, Said Aqil has expressed his readiness to attend the congress and share his views on Islam from Indonesias standpoint.

“Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country whose views are important for leaders of Islam and other religions. Hence, we are grateful to Indonesia for its readiness to attend the congress,” he noted.

He remarked that the congress will bring together politicians and religious leaders from all over the world. They will include Muslims (Sunnis and Shiites), Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. “This dialog is aimed at encouraging inter-religious and cultural dialogs, strengthening mutual understanding and respect, and fostering fight against extremism that has become widespread,” he pointed out.

The event has also been designed to ease “Islamophobia” that has spread after armed militants in the Middle East starting involving in violent acts. “This dialog is a chance for global religious leaders to reject any form of anti-Islam actions and thoughts that harm world Muslims, particularly in the United States and Europe,” he added.

Back to top

Bahrain EDB Organises Training Workshops

MANAMA, Bahrain, Mar 16 (NNN-BNA) – Around 100 students and teachers participated in a number of creative workshops, as part of the community programme on the side lines of the 2015 Spring of Culture festival. The workshops were organised and hosted by the Economic Development Board (EDB) in cooperation with the Ministry of Education.

The three workshops covered various types of arts and included production of documentaries, woodcarving and copper hammering. They were delivered by artists and experts who trained the participants in their respective fields – according to the Economic Development Board (EDB).

The community programme aims to enhance culture and arts knowledge among youth in the Kingdom and develops talents in different fields. Through the various workshops, the programme looks to reach out to all aspects of society and attract young Bahraini men and women to improve their talents.

The workshop on producing documentaries was delivered by Egyptian director, Amir Ramses, a graduate of the Higher Institute of Cinema in Egypt. He earlier worked as an assistant director to renowned late director Youssef Chahine and directed various features, short films and documentaries.

Mr. Ramses filled the role of jury member in national and international film festivals and had himself received a number of awards for his work. This includes Best Film award in the Fifej Festival in Tunisia, as well as in the Egyptian National Film Festival in 2001 for his short film “Down Town.”

The workshop included learning the mechanism of documentary production and introducing basic concepts of filming and writing scenarios. The session also included applied practice of filming at the Bab Al Bahrain in Manama and editing a film produced by one of the students.

A wood carving workshop was also conducted by Bahraini artist, Fuad Albinfalah, as part of the programme. The Bahrain Arts Society member introduced participants to the skills and basics of carving on natural wood. Around 30 art pieces were produced by participants following the workshop.

Meanwhile, participants learned basics of copper hammering with Egyptian artist, Mohamed Nashaat, Art teacher at the Muharraq Secondary Boys School and member of Bahrain Arts Society. Nashaat has participated in many exhibitions and received numerous awards including the Arts Exhibition in the Bright Years Exhibition by Ministry of Education in 2009.

The Spring of Culture is one of the largest events in Bahrain, featuring performances by renowned international artists. The 10th Spring of Culture will be held between Mar and Apr 2015, and will host a number of international artists, as well as young Bahraini talents. The festival is expected to attract audiences from across the region and will contribute to the tourism sector in the Kingdom.

The Spring of Culture Festival is organised by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, in collaboration with the Economic Development Board (EDB), Shaikh Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, Al Bareh Art Gallery, Al Riwaq Art Space, and La Fontaine Centre.

Back to top

Etihad Airways Welcomes First Boeing 787-9 Flight Into Washington

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Mar 16 (NNN-WAM) – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has introduced its second Boeing 787 Dreamliner into commercial service, providing capital-to-capital service between Washington, DC and Abu Dhabi.

The Boeing 787-9 departed Abu Dhabi at 11:30 a.m. yesterday, as flight EY131 to Washington, DC. The flight arrived at approximately 6:45 p.m.. The return service from Washington to Abu Dhabi departs as EY 130 at 10:50 p.m. with a scheduled arrival time of 7:45 p.m. the following evening.

A welcome ceremony was held at the arrival gate at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, IAD, to mark the occasion, attended by Christopher Browne, Vice President and Airport Manager – Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Suzanne Alipourian, Area Manager for Americas – Etihad Airways, Abdalla AlRaeesi, Airport Station Manager at IAD – Etihad Airways, Rashed Saif Al Shabi, Vice President of Mid Atlantic – Etihad Airways and cabin crew members from Etihad Airways.

Etihad Airways revolutionary new B787 interiors feature 8 First Suites, 28 Business Studios and 199 Economy Smart Seats, offering superior levels of comfort, entertainment and in-flight connectivity. On-board decor and lighting has been inspired by contemporary modern Arabian design, complementing the new ‘Facets of Abu Dhabi’ design identity recently introduced by the airline.

Etihad Airways’ order for two variants of the B787 (-9 and -10), is one of the largest for the type, totaling 71 aircraft. The airline’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner went commercial on Feb 1, 2015, flying between Abu Dhabi and Dusseldorf, Germany. The airline will place additional 787 aircraft on other key medium and long-haul routes including Mumbai, Moscow and Brisbane, with more destinations being added, as the airline takes delivery of more of the type. The airline will also begin taking delivery of B787s in a two-class configuration from 2016.

The wide-body Boeing 787-9 is a stretched version of the advanced medium to long-range twin engine B787-8, with a range of up to 8,300 nautical miles and a cruising speed of Mach 0.85. It is 206 feet in length and has a wingspan of 197 feet.

The lightweight composite materials used in the aircraft mean that the B787 uses up to 30% less fuel than other aircraft in its category and as a result produces a comparable reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The B787 also uses a number of new technologies to ensure that the aircraft’s noise footprint is more that 60% smaller than other aircraft of its size.

Etihad Airways introduced daily non-stop flights between Abu Dhabi and Washington, DC in Mar 2013, creating the first direct air link between the two capitals.

Back to top

Jordan King Urges Boosting Tourism As Key Economic Sector

AMMAN, Jordan, Mar 18 (NNN-PETRA) – Jordan’s King Abdullah has said that tourism is a vital sector that contributes to achieving high and sustainable growth rates and generating more job opportunities for the country.

In a meeting at the Al Husseiniyeh Palace with representatives of the tourism sector and investors, held in the presence of Queen Rania, King Abdullah stressed the need to maximise Jordan’s status as an oasis of security and stability and tap into available resources “to bolster the Kingdom’s tourism position in the region and the world.”

“Jordan’s priority today is the economy and means to develop local tourism, which had primarily been hit by regional crises,” said the King, calling for developing Jordanian tourism, notably medical tourism, according to best practices.

He said, “the tourism industry should be developed in a way to elevate and boost its competitiveness in the region and attract more tourists,” and added that emphasis should be placed on rehabilitating Jordanian manpower to meet the sector’s needs and grant the youth wider opportunities to enter the local and regional markets. He also said women’s contributions to the sector should be increased.

Another focus of the King’s directive was for the private sector to direct its tourism investment to the governorates, “in a way that ensures the utilisation of the rich diversity of the Jordanian tourism product.” The meeting, which was also attended by Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, tackled various challenges facing local tourism with emphasis on intensifying coordination and collective cooperation among various private and public entities to overcome those challenges.

In her remarks to the meeting, Queen Rania called for benefiting from global success stories in the sector, particularly as the Kingdom enjoys a diverse tourism product, and also called for holding more cultural events in the Kingdom during summer, carry out promotion campaigns and come up with initiatives to attract tourists.

She stressed the need to run specialised colleges for training tourism and hotel workers and qualify youth to join the sector.

Participants at the meeting also pointed to the negative impact of regional turmoil on tourism, which, they said, required further governmental efforts to curb this fallout and prop up the tourism sector in order to withstand these challenges.

Back to top

LEAD STORY: Indonesia to waive visas for 25 countries

Tuesday 17 Mar 2015 – Jakarta (IINA) – Indonesia plans to waive visa requirements for citizens from 25 countries in order to promote tourism, Indonesian News Agency ANTARA reported.

malaysia logo

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

Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya said the government will grant visa-free access to four more countries, namely China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan. He made the remarks after attending a meeting of the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs on Monday. “Besides the four countries, we will announce the names of 21 more countries. Most of them are European while some are American countries,” Arief stated.

The visa-free policy is expected to help the government achieve its target of receiving 10 million tourists in 2015 and to boost the state’s revenue from the tourism sector. Indonesia currently provides visas on arrival for tourists from 15 countries/regions from across the globe. The government has set a target to receive 20 million tourists by 2019.

Indonesia recorded 9,435,411 tourist arrivals in 2014, up 7.2 percent from 8,802,129 recorded in 2013.

Back to top

1,400 Saudis trained in culture of dialogue

RIYADH, 22 March 2015, Arab News – The Riyadh-based Dialogue Academy for Training and Public Opinion Polls (DATPOP) said on Saturday that it has trained 1,400 Saudis in the past eight months through 45 programs conducted across the Kingdom.

The program was part of the initiative by King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue (KACND) that seeks to promote the culture of dialogue through community-based training. It brings together all sects and groups for dealing with various issues and to consolidate the value of dialogue through the community.

The trainees represented governmental, civil and private sector organizations. Programs included training of trainers and ways of promoting a culture of dialogue, both in Arabic and English. They were also trained in developing communications and dialogue in the work environment.

The training packages, prepared and developed by a number of specialists and certified trainers at the academy, consist of training modules, skills and values, including tests to evaluate skills, brainstorming sessions, workshops, role-playing and comprehensive stories.

Training is an essential aspect of KACND to promote community participation and to disseminate the culture of dialogue in the community through training programs in partnership with the major institutions of society — family, mosque and school.

Launched in 2004, KACND held its first training program following the fourth national conference on intellectual dialogue titled, “Youth Issues: Status and Future Prospects,” where the center organized several workshops focused on youngsters as the nucleus of Saudi society, as they represent a major segment of the population of the Kingdom’s population.

Training programs are conducted in collaboration with governmental and private institutions, and other entities to promote moderation, tolerance and acceptance of others’ opinions.

Back to top

Islamabad airport undergoes major renovation, expansion

APP, ISLAMABAD: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has spent Rs399 million on the renovation and expansion of the Benazir International Airport (BBIA) Islamabad.

The departure area has been upgraded. Latest security equipment has been installed and additional check-in counters have been built.

Airport Manager Muhammad Ayaz Jadoon told this agency that the work was completed over five months to facilitate international and domestic passengers.

He said more than 18 international and domestic airlines have been operating from this airport which serves over four million passengers, each year.

“The expansion and renovation of the facilities has been done, keeping the increasing number of passengers in mind,” he said.

The airport manager said a separate parking lot has been created for the airport staff to reduce the congestion in the main parking area.

“Following renovation, the parking lot can now accommodate an additional 200 cars,” he said.

A car park has been constructed near the Nur Khan Base road which will accommodate 300 cars and 300 motorcycles of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and airline staff, he said.

Mr Jadoon further said that the construction of a taxi-way at the airport has helped reduce fuel consumption of airplanes. He said flight staggering technique has been used to accommodate more aircraft.

The airport has launched a new website to provide better facilities and information to passengers, he added.

“The website provides flight information, weather reports and news about access roads to the airport,” he said.

Mr Jadoon said that users are encouraged to send feedback and comments which would help improve the website.

Back to top

Copenhagen Muslims will soon have new designed mosque

Wednesday 18 Mar 2015 – Copenhagen, Denmark (IINA) – Muslim community in Copenhagen can look forward to getting a new place of worship as Copenhagen Municipality has approved a planning application for a new, modern-looking mosque this week by the Muslim faith group Islamisk Trossamfund, media sources reported.

The new mosque, which will be designed by the renowned architect firm Henning Larsen Architects, will replace a mosque located on the corner of Dortheavej and Tomsgårdsvej in the Nordvest district of the city.

”With the proposal being designed by Henning Larsen Architects, the mosque will become more accessible to the city, while one of Copenhagen’s slightly forgotten districts receives a new architectonic pearl,” Morten Kabell, the city’s deputy mayor for technical and environmental issues, told the Copenhagen Post on Tuesday.

A local planning proposal is expected to be ready in August, after which it will be sent to a hearing before being sent to the citizenry representation, which is expected to take place in February 2016.

”It shows the younger generation that they are welcome here, while still respecting the older generation,” Imran Shah, a spokesperson for Islamisk Trossamfund, told TV2.

Islam is Denmark’s second largest religion after the Lutheran Protestant Church, which is actively followed by four-fifths of the country’s population. Noteworthy that Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country’s 5.4 million population.

Back to top

U.S. to return more than 60 smuggled artifacts to Iraq

Saturday 14 Mar 2015 – Baghdad (IINA) – More than 60 cultural artifacts will be returned to Iraq this week after they were illegally smuggled into the United States, a statement by the U.S. State Department said Friday.

The State Department said the repatriation is part of an increasing cooperation with Iraq in matters of cultural heritage. A ceremony will be held on Monday at the Iraqi consulate to repatriate the archeological items, the statement added. The step comes at a time when Iraq has suffered the destruction of many of its priceless artifacts on the hands of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, according to the press release. “At a time when ISIL is destroying the ancient monuments and artifacts of Iraq’s rich history, the United States continues to work towards preserving its historical legacy for the Iraqi people and for the world,” the statement added.

A video released by ISIS last month showed militants destroying statues and artefacts in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The archeological items – which dated back to thousands of years – were being smashed into pieces, drawing ire from the international community, although later reports suggested that most were plaster replicas.

Back to top

Maldivian to start flights to Bangkok

Sun.mv – March 17, 2015 – National airline Maldivian has decided to commence scheduled flights to Bangkok, Thailand. Head of Administration of Maldivian Ali Nashath told Sun Online that Maldivian’s first flight from Malé to Bangkok has been scheduled for Friday.

The price of Malé-Bangkok return ticket during the first month has been set at $333. Nashath said that the target market for this sector is Maldivians, especially businessmen. Malé-Bangkok flights have been scheduled for Wednesday and Friday, and Bangkok-Malé for Friday and Sunday. Maldivian will use its two Airbus aircraft, which have capacities of 200 and 152 people, for this sector.

Back to top

Dubai hosts SME World Summit 2015

Sunday 15 Mar 2015 – Dubai, (IINA) – The second edition of the Small and Medium Enterprises Summit (SME World Summit 2015) will kick off in Dubai on March 18. The Dubai Economic Council (DEC) is organizing the two-day event in collaboration with SPI Group (Strategic Positioning Influence), Khaleej times reported.

The event will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, experts, government officials, business leaders and international economists to discuss the strategic role of SMEs in the future of Dubai in line with Dubai Plan 2021. Hani Al Hamli, DEC secretary general, said that the Dubai government is keen to improve SMEs operating in the country and enhance their contribution to economic growth.

He added that SMEs are a vital part of Dubai’s economy. They constitute about 95 percent of all businesses in the emirate and contribute to 40 percent of Dubai’s nominal GDP.

Back to top

UAE Road Show To Promote Tourism To India

DUBAI, March 20 (NNN-PTI) – The UAE has launched a road show in India to promote tourism and provide tourists visiting the Gulf country with special offers tailored to meet the Indian market needs. The show comprises tourism representatives from national airline companies, travel and tourism groups and hotels.

“The Indian market is one of the major markets contributing to the tourism industry in the world and the UAE in particular, due to the geographical proximity and the ancient cultural ties between India and the Gulf,” said Mohammed Khamis bin Hareb Al Muhairi, Director-General of the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities.

He said that the convoy is visiting New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. It will also meet a large number of specialists, decision makers, and other significant figures representing various sectors in the Indian tourism industry.

The road show has been organised to promote tourism to India and to provide them with special offers tailored to meet the Indian market needs, a statement released by the UAE’s official news agency WAM said.

The meetings intend to introduce them to UAE’s tourism landmarks and to finalise deals between companies in the two countries regarding touristic packages for the future.

He said that the road show, organised under the hashtag #VisitUAE, was launched by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth Community Development, and Chairman of the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities, to promote UAE tourism through information and pictures.

Muhairi said the road show is the second tourism promotion convoy to India. The first was in 2012, and it achieved very good results, and that prompted many companies and organisations to advocate for the second convoy.

He added that the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities invited over 200 companies in each of the Indian cities the convoy plans to visit to attend meetings.

Back to top

Egypt, UAE Sign “New Capital” Agreement

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt March 15 (NNN-KUNA) — Egypt and the UAE on Saturday signed an agreement for building a new administrative capital, east of Cairo. Egyptian President Abdlfatah Al-Sisi and Vice President, Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum attended the signing ceremony.

The agreement was signed between Egypt’s Minister of Housing Moustafa Madbouli and chairman of UAE’s Emaar Mohamed Alabbar on the sidelines of Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) held in Sharm El-Sheikh.

The first phase of the new capital, to be built between Cairo and the governorate of Suez, will include the downtown area, office buildings, hotels, commercial areas and a stadium, Madbouli said.

The new metropolis, planned to be built over 700 sq km and expected to host up to 5 million people, will include government buildings, the parliament, ministries, and foreign ministries.

Madbouly said a day earlier that the project would cost USD 45 billion and take five to seven years to be completed, with the aim of easing congestion and overpopulation in Cairo. It was reported that the project of the new capital will create more than a million jobs.

Back to top

Gulf States Investing In Projects To Power Africa Growth

CAPE TOWN. March 16 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Chinese investment into Africa gets much of the press, but the Arabian Gulf states are quietly making inroads in strategic sectors.

In September one of Abu Dhabi’s largest companies, Trojan General Contracting, signed a US$16 billion package of infrastructure projects in West Africa. Trojan is part of the Royal Group owned by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and will build roads, bridges and other much-needed infrastructure in the region.

The pledge was made at the inaugural West Africa Investment Forum, during which a total of $21.5bn was set aside for African projects by three UAE and Omani parties.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development and Dubai Aluminium (Dubal) are developing a US$5bn investment that will include a bauxite mine, alumina refinery and port in Guinea, also in West Africa.

Guinea is the world’s top supplier of bauxite, the raw material used in aluminium production and alumina is partially refined bauxite. Aluminium is also one of the UAE’s “state champions” – key production sectors that enjoy state support and are intended to lessen dependence on oil revenues. Under the agreement, bauxite will be ready for export by 2017 and the refinery will be operational by 2022.

Another Abu Dhabi company that is making a showing is the energy and water provider Taqa, which operates a 220-megawatt simple-cycle gas power plant in Ghana.

The Takoradi plant, 220 kilometres west of Accra, required $330 million in project finance for the expansion. Ghana is desperately short on generation capacity and the plant is vital to keeping power outages to a minimum.

Energy in particular is a fast-growing area of investment, given how little Africa generates at the moment. As countries industrialise, so their need for power grows. The biggest industrial country on the continent, South Africa, is currently enduring regular blackouts as power generation falls below demand.

Consequently the country has invited investment in renewables and other forms of generation. Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power is one of several dozen winning renewable bids, and is to build a 100MW solar power plant.

Renewable energy would be a good fit for Arabian Gulf companies such as Abu Dhabi’s Masdar, which is among firms that are specialising in alternative forms of energy.

Africa has some of the best sites on the planet for renewables. Alternative energy can also be developed on a small scale, allowing investors and countries to find a good fit while keeping capital investment to a minimum.

“Africa is ripe for investment, a fact that is being acted upon by Abu Dhabi companies with increasing regularity,” say Hurley Doddy and Vincent Le Guennou, the co-chief executives of Emerging Capital Partners, a private equity firm with seven offices in Africa.

Back to top

Malaysia’s Aerospace Sector To Generate Rm32.5 Bln By 2030

LANGKAWI, March 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia’s aerospace industry is projected to contribute revenue of RM32.5 billion by 2030. This is in line with the launch of the Malaysian Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2015-2030 in conjunction with the ongoing Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA’15) here.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia had come a long way since the launch of first aerospace industry blueprint during the LIMA 1997. He said last year, the aerospace industry generated RM19 billion in revenue and RM4.2 billion in investments, with 19,500 jobs created.

“To underline our commitment to this vision, the Cabinet recently approved the establishment of a special body, the National Aerospace Coordinating Agency, under the purview of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

“This agency is tasked with implementing the blueprint and be the new secretariat for the Malaysian aerospace council,” he said in his opening speech at the LIMA’15 here today.

Najib said according to the IHS Jane’s forecast, defence spending in Southeast Asia will reach US$ 44.5 billion in 2018 compared to US$38.5 billion this year.

“This is in line with the trend of defence spending for the rest of the world. Indeed, this region is a key growth market for aerospace and maritime spending, not just in defence but also the commercial sector,” he added.

On the maritime sector, Najib who is also the Finance Minister said, Malaysia has a long history as a maritime nation and it continues to be a key focus under Malaysia Third Industrial Masterplan.

He added that this year at LIMA, Malaysia will also launch the Malaysia Ship Building and Repair Industry Strategic Plan 2020.

“In 2013 alone, this industry recorded a turnover of RM8.36 billion. I am confident it will receive further and stronger growth in all aspects of the maritime sector in future,” Najib said.

He also said being situated in the heart of one of the most energetic maritime and aerospace market, with strong connections to the region and open, business friendly economy, Malaysia’s future prospects for growth in it remains strong.

Back to top

WIEF Helps Boost Trade Within Islamic Countries

KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia’s participation in the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) has increased its trade with Islamic countries to US$45.8 billion in 2014 from US$18.5 billion in 2005.

Minister of International Trade and Industry, Mustapa Mohamed said joint-venture projects sealed by Malaysian companies during the conference from 2008 to 2014 amounted to RM39.2 bilion.

“WIEF provides an effective platform for Malaysia to play its role as a leader in Islamic countries in the international stage for various issues, including education and the role of women,” he said in his written reply to a question by lawmaker, Noraini Ahmad.

Noraini wanted to know the effectiveness of Malaysia’s participation in WIFE in encouraging trade cooperation with Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries and non-Islamic countries. Mustapa said WIEF has been successful to connect global business community including from non Muslim countries and intensified trade promotion in certain sectors such as the halal industry.

Back to top

Governor, ministers chart new roadmap for Makkah

Saturday 21 Mar 2015 – Makkah (IINA) – Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and nine ministers outlined a new road map at a meeting Thursday to speed up essential projects across Makkah, Jeddah and Taif, including the holy sites, underdeveloped districts, transport systems, and flood prevention measures.

“The meeting adopted important resolutions to accelerate Makkah region’s comprehensive development,” said an official statement. Prince Khaled chaired five ministerial meetings that focused on these projects. “The first meeting discussed a proposal to develop Makkah and the holy sites, the national park project in Makkah, and other development projects for the holy city,” the statement said. The second meeting reviewed ongoing efforts to develop the underdeveloped districts in the region in the presence of seven ministers including Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf and Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaani. “The meeting decided to complete the project within five years and set up three subsidiary panels to follow up efforts to develop underdeveloped districts in Makkah, Jeddah and Taif,” the statement said.

A high-powered panel under Prince Khaled’s leadership has been formed to work out a mechanism to prevent the emergence of underdeveloped areas, set out a model plan for their development and open new roads and service centers in newly developed districts. “Another ministerial panel chaired by the governor focused on the new public transport system in Jeddah, its various components and the timeframe to complete the project,” the statement said.

The Jeddah public transport system includes a four-line metro, Corniche trams, boat transport linking Sharm Obhur with Northern Corniche, rapid bus transit system, district buses, the suspension bridge at the Corniche and an edutainment center.

The Taif development projects discussed by participants at the meeting includes the development of Hada, markets, gardens and various recreational projects over an area of 390 sq. km, in addition to comprehensive development of the summer resort, and the establishment of an economic tourism city at Souk Okaz. Several projects have been carried out to prevent flooding in Jeddah, including the construction of five new dams and a floodwater canal.

Back to top

Malaysia, Vietnam To Sign Air Agreement In May

LANGKAWI, March 18 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia and Vietnam will further enhance bilateral ties and create a more vibrant aviation industry with the signing of an air services agreement (ASA) in May, says Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi.

As the ASEAN Economic Community takes shape and with the adoption of open skies policy, it was timely for both countries to take a big leap to enhance their air services which had been long overdue, he told Bernama here.

Abdul Aziz said this after a meeting with Vietnam Vice-Minister Lee Dinh Tho on the sidelines of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2015 (LIMA’15) here.

He said the Vietnamese Government wanted to include a clause on air traffic control and safety measures.

“We intend to complete it before May, and the agreement will be signed by both prime ministers of Malaysia and Vietnam,” said Aziz, adding that the Vietnam prime minister was scheduled to make an official visit to Malaysia in May.

Back to top

Islamabad to host OIC Science-Technology Summit

Thursday 19 Mar 2015 – Jeddah (IINA) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) plans to hold its first Science and Technology Summit, in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, in last quarter of 2015, to discuss the possibility of conquest of space in the near future as part of a joint program of the OIC member states.

During its preparatory meeting in Jeddah, the OIC Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) submitted a working paper, a copy of which was seen by the International Islamic News Agency (IINA), recommending the formation of a team of scientists and engineers who have the experience and vision to carry out the mission.”

The working paper revealed that there is a tendency to establish large joint programs to promote and take advantage of a multi-disciplinary research in physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, climate change, satellites, oceanography, earth sciences and technological innovation.

The working paper urged the OIC countries to design and launch mini satellites for remote sensing applications like crop estimates, disaster management, rescue at sea and weather forecast. It also urged them to use the remote sensing applications in experiments on space plasma, ionized particles, magnetic poles shift, verification of communication data, biological experiments and testing materials under space conditions, in addition to mapping of resources and the oceans and seas around the coasts of the OIC countries, and sending joint teams to Antarctica.

COMSTECH believes that the participation of many countries in designing, implementing and operating these programs collectively will contribute to the reduction of the financial burden on the participating states, and will lead to better cooperation and collective capability building that represents the vision of all the OIC member countries.

Back to top

Dearborn’s Arab American Museum to celebrate 10th anniversary

Thursday 19 Mar 2015 – Dearborn, Michigan (IINA) – The Arab American National Museum (AANM), the only Smithsonian Affiliate in Southeast Michigan, will celebrate its tenth year anniversary in May, Metromode news reported Thursday. As part of the milestone, the museum will roll out a year-long series of events and renovations.

The Arab American National Museum, which opened in 2005, is the first museum in the world devoted to Arab American history and culture. Devon Akmon, director of the AANM, says that the community-based museum wouldn’t exist without the support Arab Americans everywhere.

The AANM’s founding director, Dr. Anan Ameri, travelled the nation, visiting different Arab American communities and asking how they would like a museum to represent them. He also asked for contributions, and he got them.

Personal photographs, belongings, and stories are found throughout the AANM’s permanent exhibits, which are centered on themes of migration, settling, and contributing to the American way of life. One section of the museum highlights Arab American home life with its distinctive cuisine and emphasis on hospitality. Another focuses on entrepreneurship, which is an essential part of the Arab American story.

On a guided tour of the museum, one of the first questions a docent will ask visitors is, “Who are Arabs?” Identity as Arab is part-genealogical, part-linguistic, and part-cultural. Also the religion of Islam the predominant religion of Arabs. Arabs represent the majority population in 22 countries and are religiously diverse.

“We want to accurately tell the Arab American story and thereby dispel stereotypes.” Akmon says that this was one of the driving forces in opening the museum.

The need to dispel stereotypes became especially acute following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The AANM reflects that day’s significance for the country and its effect on the Arab American community.

To combat these unfair caricatures of Arabs in the American media, visitors can watch a video illustrating the variety of life in Arab American families and communities, and also hear candid comments about being treated with suspicion after 9/11.

Museum Docent Zainab Chaaban, originally from Palestine, considers visitor education to be her primary task. “I want to make our society more open-minded towards the Arab world,” she says. “Hopefully by the end of the tour, visitors won’t see themselves as very different from us.”

Back to top

Las Vegas to get its first Muslim cemetery

Friday 20 Mar 2015 – Las Vegas, Nevada (IINA) – Clark County authorities Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States have given their permission to establish its first Islamic cemetery, despite opposition from some local residents, news agencies reported Friday.

Earlier, the plan for the cemetery on a patch of land next to an Islamic academy near Warm Springs and Bermuda roads was approved by the Clark County commissioners but some nearby residents opposed a cemetery in the neighborhood.

Dr Osama Haikal, a longtime local physician, won unanimous approval on Wednesday for a private, nonprofit cemetery on two acres, a few miles south of McCarran International Airport, despite the objections of several local residents.

He said local Muslims need a burial place of their own to practice traditional funeral rites, which call for the dead to be washed, wrapped in plain cloth and buried as quickly as possible facing Makkah in a grave with no casket and only modest markings.

“I’ve been working on this project for 12 years,” said Haikal, a 30-year valley resident who helped establish the Omar Haikal Islamic Academy and Mosque just north of the cemetery site.

According to Dr. Aslam Abdullah, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, the opposition by the residents was a result of a theological problem, “We don’t have a place. We need a place. But we don’t want a place at the expense of our neighbors,” Abdullah said.

There are around 18,000 Muslims in the region and no dedicated cemetery for the community.

Back to top

Saudi –UNESCO tie up to develop education in Arab world

Sunday 15 Mar 2015 – Riyadh (IINA) – The recently-established UNESCO Regional Center for Quality and Excellence in Education (RCQE) aims to be a service provider, a standard-setter and a research center to help spreading awareness and promoting best practices and practical ideas in education quality and excellence, according to media reports.

The setting up of the center was envisaged in 2012 when the Saudi leadership realized the need for the qualitative growth of education in the Arab world. But it was only in October 2014 following the signing of the agreement between the UNESCO and then Minister of Education Prince Khaled Al-Faisal that the first steps were taken to institutionalize the commitment.

The Saudi leadership ratified this agreement by a royal decree the same year. Dr. Husam Abdulwahab Zaman, director general of the center, initiated its functioning in December with the help of staff holding diverse specializations ranging from educational research to business development and project management and a wide network of regional and international experts. A lot has been accomplished in a short period of activity.

By focusing on embedding quality in every aspect of the educational system — the curriculum, teacher and governance, the center hopes to develop the quality of the teaching and learning experience in the educational systems of all Arab countries. The goal of the quality aspect is to build a generation of learners who have the skills to learn independently, are ready for university education or the workplace and who are creative enough to help sustainable social development in the 21st century. More importantly, quality in education fosters cultural awareness in learners that helps promote peace and tolerance in the minds of men and women.

The center is finalizing its medium-term strategy in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group that will enable it to get ready to offer a number of services to policymakers and educational institutions in a few weeks. The center hopes to provide services in developing high quality research programs; promoting and developing capacity building initiatives; and providing technical consultation for member states. It also hopes to provide oversight and management of aid-related programs while facilitating and coordinating between related educational institutions and organizations.

The center also proposes to hold knowledge dissemination activities such as workshops, conferences and seminars that promote the culture of quality education. As part of the development strategy that is in the final stage now, the team at the center conducted a workshop in February that focused on the vision, mission and values of the center. The strategy workshop also defined four key focus areas of services offered at the center.

These areas are quality curriculum, technology to achieve educational quality, educators’ quality and professional development, and educational system and governance to promote quality. With the help of a number of education experts and business consultants, the center has developed a vision to become a reference for quality and excellence in teaching and learning in Arab educational systems. The mission bolstered the vision by focusing on the key services offered at the center to ensure delivery of the desired quality in education.

Two weeks later, another workshop was conducted to develop the strategy of the center with the help of educational experts from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, in addition to officials from the Saudi delegation to UNESCO. Progress is still being made at the center in efforts to fast-track education development. The chairman of the governing board of the center and Minister of Education Dr. Azzam Al-Dakhil sent letters to his counterparts in a number of Arab countries to introduce the center and invite them to be members of its governing board. The center is also simultaneously working on a number of key research projects in partnership with different organizations on a number of contemporary issues in education in both Saudi Arabia and the world at large.

Back to top

Japan interested in Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project

Monday 16 Mar 2015 – Sendai (IINA) – Japan has reiterated its keenness to be involved in the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed train project, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. This was stated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on the sidelines of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.

Muhyiddin said the high-speed train project was decided by the governments of Malaysia and Singapore to be implemented by the private sector and the offer for it would be made via an open tender.

Speaking to Malaysia News Agency BERNAMA, he said, “Generally, we are attracted by the Shinkansen system (Japan’s high speed train system). The system is efficient, uses sophisticated technology and safety-wise, yet to record an accident or death. All these will be taken into account in our assessment in selecting the party to be involved when the tender is opened.”

Yassin arrived here on Friday for a four-day working visit to Japan.

Back to top

Islam Awareness Week held at University of Toronto

Tuesday 17 Mar 2015 – Toronto, Canada (IINA) – The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) at the University of Toronto (UoT) hosted last week the Annual Islam Awareness Week at the campus, The Varsity (University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper) reported. The event included lectures, coffee houses, and a night of the Islamic arts.

Islam Awareness Week is being held annually at the university since a decade. Several other university campuses across North America are also holding the week.

The theme for this year’s week was #WithMuslims and #AgainstHate, and it was designed to reflect the week’s goal of promoting awareness of Islamic knowledge and principles.

According to Dalia Hashim, MSA vice-president, external, Islam Awareness Week encourages the UoT community to engage with Muslim students and learn about the religion through Muslims rather than through the media.

Bushra Nassab, a third-year student, said Islam Awareness Week is now more important than ever. “During Question Period in Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper indirectly criticized Islam as an ‘anti-women culture.’ This small comment speaks about the unfortunate rise of Islamophobia that we are witnessing in Canada, and it is crucial that we have weeks like Islam Awareness Week to show non-Muslims what Islam is all about,” says Nassab.

“We need to show people that the religion is in fact a peaceful religion, and we should not define our perceptions on Islam based on what groups like ISIS do who most certainly do not represent Islam,” she added.

Noteworthy that the new things to Islam Awareness Week this year was Soul Food, a weekly event hosted by the Muslim Chaplaincy at UoT that offered attendees the chance to visit Muslim prayer spaces on campus.

When asked about what is unique to this year’s Islam Awareness Week, Hashim said that the present climate on campus indicates a need for larger discussions on Islam.

Pointing to recent Islamophobic incidents on university campuses, including the defacing of posters of a Muslim candidate running in the recent Ryerson Students’ Union elections, Hashim says that Islam Awareness Week may be especially needed this year.

Back to top

Morocco seeks to host 2026 FIFA World Cup

Tuesday 17 Mar 2015 – Rabat, (IINA) – Morocco will officially submit its candidature to host the 2026 World Cup as announced by the Moroccan Federation of Football, media sources reported.

According to media reports, the President of the Moroccan Royal Football Federation (FRMF) Faouzi Lakjaa discussed the matter with FIFA President Joseph Blatter in Zurich, Switzerland.

Morocco had previously tried to host the World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010 but they did not succeed to get this honor. But its seems this time, Morocco‘s candidature will have a huge support by FIFA president who recently met with the president of the Moroccan federation to discuss the matter.

In addition, Morocco’s chances to obtain the hosting rights of the prestigious sporting event will get better mainly because of the available infrastructure and the country’s expertise in organizing international competitions such as the FIFA Club World Cup in 2013 and 2014.

Back to top

First US Muslim College to stand against Islamophobia

Wednesday 18 Mar 2015 – Berkeley, California (IINA) – Zaytuna College who became the first officially recognized Islamic College in the United States after receiving formal academic initial accreditation last week aims to educate future leaders to challenge the structured Islamophobia faced by Muslims, Anadolu agency reported Wednesday.

Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, which is founded by Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir and Hatem Bazian, has no intention of becoming an educational institution where Islam or Muslims are classified as good or bad, but it wants to have a deeper critique of societal structures to understand Muslims and Islam.

“We will graduate future leaders who are able to embody Islam in their own life and with their actions while they have all the needed skills to counter the structured Islamophobia deployed against Muslims in America and around the globe,” said the school’s co-founder Bazian, who also teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

Zaytuna College adapts the meaning of adab from contemporary Muslim philosopher Naquib al-Attas, who said, “The fundamental element inherent in the concept of education in Islam is the inculcation of adab.”

Instructors begin their classes with a du’a, or prayer, and try to foster an environment where adab is present before, during and after the lesson, said Bazian.

“We have a major responsibility to transform the world into something better and in it we have to be ready to critique ourselves first and foremost and the world that is around us, but doing so in a constructive manner so it leads to building rather than further destruction,” he added.

The college intends to teach Islam with sophistication and the highest moral and ethical values. It offers courses in Islamic law and theology but also provides studies in economics, the U.S. Constitution, science, comparative religion, history and astronomy.

“We believe that Islam calls us to knowledge, learning and understanding which are the opposite of ignorance and narrow mindedness that produces violence and terrorism,” said the Berkeley academic.

Back to top

Dubai launches rooftop solar scheme in its bid to become smartest

Wednesday 18 Mar 2015 – Dubai, (IINA) – The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has launched this week a solar rooftop and net metering program as part of a new initiative called “Shams Dubai,” news agencies reported.

This project will allow generation of solar energy in buildings and their connection to the grid. Shams Dubai encourages tenants and building owners to install photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity while DEWA will connect the system to its network. The electricity will be used onsite and the surplus is exported to DEWA’s grid.

This will enable the city’s facilities and services to be managed using smart and connected systems that enhance living standards for all of Dubai’s residents and visitors,” Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, MD and CEO of DEWA.

“Last week, we announced the first project under the first smart initiative, in collaboration with Dubai Airports, to supply Dubai world central al Maktoum International airport in Jebel Ali with solar energy.

“Our aim is to transform Dubai into the smartest city in the world and make society happier by providing smart, instant, and seamless services around the clock. Dubai has all the capabilities to reach pole position internationally, through creative and technological innovation, which is one of the fundamental enablers to ensure a stimulating, creative, and sustainable environment,” said Al Tayer.

Back to top

Makkah private museum showcases historical artifacts

Wednesday 18 Mar 2015 – Makkah (IINA) – From outside it looks like any other house. But once you enter this four-story structure located in Makkah’s Al-Khalidia District, you realize that it’s not the usual family home.

Every room has a story to tell. From a 200-year-old intricately carved wooden door from the Grand Mosque in Makkah to the door of the first school opened by an Indian lady in the holy city to a Mughal-era bed to a 600-year-old Chinese carpet, the house is a repository of historical artifacts, according to a report in Saudi Gazette. This private museum is the fruit of the endeavor and passion of Talal Khawandanah, a Saudi who has traversed the globe to collect these antiques. “This has been my passion since I was 10 years old,” he told Saudi Gazette. ?He has kept these priceless antiques, which need proper care and space, crammed into small rooms in his home. “Yes, I am looking for a spacious place to shift the museum and open it to the public,” Talal said.

At present, not many people are aware of this unique private museum. “If people learned about this museum, there would be a beeline of visitors to his house,” his close friend Adnan Zagzoog said. Talal, however, has received visitors from the royal family and dignitaries from abroad. Since the museum is located in Makkah, it houses many rare artifacts associated with the Grand Mosque.

In the corner of one room is a 180-year-old lamp from the Grand Mosque. Then there is a large old glass container used to draw Zamzam water. Old pieces from the Kiswa (the black cloth that is draped around the Holy Kaaba) as well as pieces of green and red cloth with Qur’anic inscriptions from inside the House of Allah adorn the walls of a room. Also hanging from the wall is a glass frame displaying the oldest license for Ramadan cannon.

You step into another room and the first thing that catches your attention are car number plates of various colors. “These are car number plates belonging to various ministries from the time when the Kingdom was first founded,” Talal explains. Then there are rocks dating back as far as 800 years with Qur’anic inscriptions. Another room has its walls covered with carpets. A Chinese carpet depicting the Mongol history is 600 years old, Talal says, adding that a similar piece was sold in China for $1 million.

Another carpet made of wool traces the victory path of Nadir Shah, the great ruler of Iran. The Talal museum is not only restricted to the history of Makkah and Muslim kings, it also has antique pieces from the West. There are, for example, what Talal claims to be some of the oldest sewing machines from the United States and Britain. There are also two kerosene fans perched on a shelf, and in the corner a Turkish-era postbox. The museum also boasts of housing one of the oldest gramophones with music recorded on cylinders instead of discs.

A lift takes you to the fourth floor where you find rare paintings by French paiter. In another room you find two regal armchairs. “These belonged to the late King Faisal,” Talal explains. The wall of the room has two huge frames which depict the family trees of the Sauds and Muhammad Abd Al-Wahhab.

Back to top

Maldivian island starts construction of new airport

Sun.mv – March 16, 2015 – As part of the government project to develop airports in all parts of the country, N. Maafaru has started clearing the area for their new airport.

Ahmed Badheeu, who is in charge of the Maafaru Island Council, told Sun Media today that they started the work on the fifth of the month and is expecting to finish clearing the area in the next three months. “According to the concept, the clearing would be completed in three months and the work would start with the temporary area.” Badheeu said.

The government has entrusted Millennium Capital Management to develop the airport in Maafaru under the government project to develop the transportation and tourism in the country.

Maafaru Council said that the airport would be completed by the end of the year according to Millennium Capital.

Director General of Regional Airports, Sami Ageel confirmed to Sun Media that the airport development in Maafaru has been entrusted to a company and materials are being imported for the project.

The airport development project in Maafaru has been delayed multiple times in the past. After the contract to develop the airport with Noonu Hotels was cancelled in 2008, the new project began after the island citizens protested and pressured the government claiming that the basic services are not available.

Back to top

Maldives attends biggest tourism fair in Russia

Sun.mv – March 18, 2015 – The biggest tourism fair in the Russia, the Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition has started today.

The Deputy Director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), Ibrahim Asim said that 41 exhibitors from 23 companies of Maldives is taking part in the event. Speaking to Sun Media from Moscow, Ibrahim Asim said that information about the Maldives would be shared with the media in Russia especially about the new resorts being opened in Maldives.

2056 exhibitors from 203 countries around the world are taking part in this year’s event. Russia is the fourth biggest market for the Maldivian tourism industry. In 2014, 66, 308 tourists from Russia visited the Maldives. This is a 13.3 percent increase from the year 2013.

Back to top

Baksı Museum turns 10 with various events

BAYBURT – Anadolu Agency – The Baksı Museum in the eastern Black Sea province of Bayburt’s Bayraktar (Baksı) village will celebrate its decennial with various events this year. The founder of the museum, Professor Hüsamettin Koçan, said the most important feature of Baksı Museum was that it did not have limits.

He said they were planning to make a cinema project this year but they had to postpone the plan since it was costly.

“Instead of the cinema project, we will organize an exhibition called ‘Gray Ground.’ We bring together all artifacts in the depot to open the exhibition,” Koçan said.

He noted the museum would host a very important international event this year. “We have designed a project for the International Council of Museums (ICOM). It will organize a workshop here. The European and Asian museums also want to join this workshop. This workshop will be great for Bayburt and the region’s tourism. If we succeed in impressing these people here, we can get positive results in the international field,” he said.

Koçan said Communicating the Museum (CTM), which provides communication between the world’s most important museums, will organize a conference at the Baksı Museum through the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

“CTM proposed Baksı Museum to collaborate on this conference. The world’s leading museums will come to Baksı between Sept. 9 and 12,” he said.

The Baksı Museum, which is 45 kilometers from the city center, was awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2014 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media.

Back to top

Turkish district set to be moved for ancient city

TOKAT – Anadolu Agency – The northern province of Tokat’s Sulusaray district, a settlement of 3,500 people located on top of the ancient city of Sebastapolis, is set to be moved to another location so that the site can come to light.

Sulusaray Mayor Halil Demirkol said the ancient city, which has been home to three civilizations, was located in the center of the district.

“After 22 years, excavations started in the ancient city in 2013. This year, 10 houses will be expropriated. Excavation works will continue this year, too. We are waiting for additional funds from the Culture and Tourism Ministry. The Special Provincial District is also supporting the works, too,” Demirkol said.

“The district is located on the site of the ancient city. We want to move it to an area of 500,000 square meters at the entrance of the district. The area has been allocated to Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKİ). People will move to the houses to be built by TOKİ. Their current houses should be immediately expropriated to unearth the historic city beneath. But since the expropriation is a slow and expensive process, we plan to move the settlement to another place,” the mayor said.

Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Abdurrahman Akyüz said the ancient city was very important to Tokat.

“Excavation work was carried out here in the 1990s but it stopped for some reasons. After a 22-year hiatus, excavations started again three years ago and are continuing with the collaboration of Gaziosmanpaşa University, the museum directorate, the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Special Provincial Directorate. This is a long-term work. It may take 30-40 years to unearth the ancient city,” Akyüz said.

“Our governor, Cevdet Can, attaches great importance to Sebastapolis. The Prince of Wales, (Charles), visited here in the 1990s. Can sent an invitation letter to him to come to Tokat. This place could become an Ephesus or larger than it,” Akyüz said, referring to the site in İzmir that draws large numbers of tourists every year to its massive theater and library.

“It is believed that it was a rich city because hot springs were located near the places of rich people in the past. There is a hot spring around here. The district should be completely moved from here, and the area should be turned into an excavation site,” he said.

The ancient city of Sebastapolis was established in the 1st century B.C. The city was included in the Cappadocia region after being separated from the Pontus Galatius and Polemoniacus states at the time of the Roman Emperor Trajan between 98 and 117 A.D. It was known as one of the five largest cities in the Black Sea region 2,000 years ago because it was located on passageways and because of its thermal sources, which are still being used today.

As an indicator of its wealth at the time of the Roman Empire, Sebastapolis had the authority to print money. Scholars believe that the city lost its importance and was forgotten over time, largely due to big wars, destruction, disasters and changes to passageways.

Back to top

Traces of ancient civilization to be excavated in Adıyaman

ADIYAMAN – Anadolu Agency – Excavation activities at the archaeological site in the ancient city of Perge, which was one of the centers of the Kommagene civilization, will soon commence with the aim of opening up the site for tourism. Excavations will begin soon in the ancient city, located in the southeastern province of Adıyaman, five kilometers away from the city center. It is home to some 200 stone tombs as well as a still-functional fountain.

The ancient city, located between the capital of the Kommagene Kingdom, Samosata (today Samsat), and Melitene (today Malatya), is mentioned in Roman resources for its beautiful water.

The city served as a resting place for travelers, caravans and armies. The archaeological site directly beside the ancient city is waiting to be discovered.

The Adıyaman Governor’s Office has initiated a project to open the nearly 15,000-hectare site to tourism. Following the expropriation works, excavation activities will begin in the region.

Governor Mahmut Demirtaş said the ancient city of Perge held significance for the country’s tourism. He said the Provincial Special Administration carried out excavations in the region 13 years ago, and the outcome was the discovery of 363 historical and cultural artifacts as well as the stone tombs. Demirtaş said the excavation work had to be suspended because of natural hazards.

However, he said they have now designed a project to bring the Kommagene civilization to light.

“Environmental arrangement work will end within a month and then excavations will start. This place has much to offer Turkey. It has an area of 15,000 hectares and the real history lies here. Therefore, we will search for traces of the Kommagene civilization during the excavation work. Currently, our priority is expropriation because there are 134 houses close to the archaeological site. Then infrastructure and excavation work will begin,” he said.

The governor said an area of 60,000 hectares was taken under control within the scope of the environmental arrangements. He also noted the management of the ancient city of Perge was handed over to the Turkish Travel Agencies Union (TÜRSAB) by the Culture and Tourism Ministry and entrances and exits would be more organized in this way.

“TÜRSAB is working professionally,” he said, adding, “The city of Adıyaman will be revived if this place is included as a tourism destination.”

Back to top

Turkish, Azerbaijani carriers sign codesharing agreement

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Azerbaijan Airlines and Turkish Airlines have signed a codeshare agreement on routes between Azerbaijan and Turkey effective from March 29.

“Both companies have decided to enter a codeshare agreement by expanding the range of cooperation between the two carriers. The codeshare agreement allows passengers to benefit from a higher number of combined frequencies for better connectivity and increased travel flexibility between the two countries,” the airlines said by a written statement on March 16.

Under the codeshare agreement, Turkish Airlines will place its marketing code on Baku – Istanbul Atatürk / Sabiha Gökcen / Ankara flights of Azerbaijan Airlines and Azerbaijan Airlines will place its marketing code on Istanbul – Baku / Nakhchivan / Ganja and Sabiha Gökçen – Baku flights of Turkish Airlines. Additionally, with an expanded Special Prorate Agreement on sectors beyond Istanbul and Baku, both airlines will be offering an extended network to their passengers.

“We are extremely pleased to sign this codeshare deal with Azerbaijan Airlines and aim to improve our partnership to maximize the travel opportunities offered to passengers of two brother countries through the networks of both airlines. The codeshare agreement will improve our commercial cooperation thus creating new opportunities for our customers. Azerbaijan Airlines continues expanding successfully with a young fleet and we believe that this partnership with Azerbaijan Airlines will bring enormous benefit to both airlines from a commercial perspective in rapidly growing Azerbaijan,” said Dr. Ahmet Bolat, Chief Investment & Technology Officer of Turkish Airlines.

“The new codeshare cooperation with Turkish Airlines is an important milestone in growing our relationship with a brotherhood country and providing our customers access to the destinations they value most,” said Arif Mammadov, Vice-President of Azerbaijan Airlines.

Back to top

Kyrgyzstan’s north-south highway to boost economy

Centralasiaonline.com 2015-03-16 BISHKEK — A coming highway is meant to transform the Kyrgyz economy, historically hampered by a forbidding mountain range dividing north from south.

Construction began at the end of March 2014 on the 433km highway, designed to connect Balykchi, Issyk-Kul Province, to Jalal-Abad city.

The government expects the project to cost US $850m (52.3 billion KGS), and for construction to be completed at the end of 2018.

Kyrgyzstan is carrying out the first of three phases and negotiating with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to obtain funding for the project’s second phase.

Having a second north-south route will help stimulate mining in Naryn and Jalal-Abad provinces, which are home to large mineral deposits, Kyrgyz economist Erkin Abdyrazakov told Central Asia Online.

“The new road will allow us to significantly decrease the cost of mining coal in Kara-Kech, gold in Makmal and uranium in Min-Kush and to cut costs associated with the Kambar-Ata and Toruz-Torouz hydropower plants,” he said. “It’ll improve those regions’ economy.”

The new highway will shorten the trip from Balykchi to Jalal-Abad by 330km, Abdyrazakov said, adding that it would also take traffic off the overburdened Bishkek-Osh highway.

“The tunnel at Too-Ashuu is rated to handle 446 automobiles in a 24-hour period,” Abdyrazakov told Central Asia Online. “In practise, several times that figure — 3,500 vehicles — are allowed daily, which violates regulations, damages the road and makes (it) dangerous.”

Officials are eyeing considerable economic benefits once the new highway opens. It will enable mining corporations to reach gold, coal, uranium and other resources in hard-to-reach mountainous areas, Transport and Communications Minister Kalykbek Sultanov said last June.

It will also open up more land in Naryn and Jalal-Abad provinces to farming, he said. Prime Minister Joomart Otorbayev considers the coming highway a powerful economic tool.

“It’ll increase our economic activity and investment potential for our less developed areas,” he said last June on a trip to Naryn Province. “Without high-quality roads, accomplishing that is impossible.”

The country has signed a contract with Polish investors to build an auto assembly plant in Naryn Province, a good start for a predominantly rural province, he said. The Polish project will serve as an example for other countries interested in investing their own money, he said.

The highway’s planned connections to Kazakhstan and to Tajikistan will boost the tourism industry into “one of the most profitable” for Kyrgyzstan, Otorbayev said.

Back to top

Massive campaign to enhance Bangladesh forest coverage

DHAKA, Mar 21, 2015 (BSS) – Forest and Environment Minister Anwar Hossain Manju today said the government has launched massive campaign to enhance forest coverage for protecting biodiversity aiming to fight climate change impact.

“We are implementing a number of projects to protect and expand forest resources across the country to maintain environmental balance as well as to avoid negative impact of global climate change,” he told a seminar at Ban Bhaban in the city’s Agargaon area on the occasion of International Forest Day.

Chairman of Palli Sanchay Bank Dr Mihir Kanti Mujumder, Chief Conservator of Department of Forest Yunus Ali and senior officials, among others, addressed the seminar with Forest and Environment Secretary Dr Kamal Uddin Ahmed in the chair.

Chairman of Department of Development Studies of Dhaka University Dr Niaz Ahmed Khan presented the keynote paper at the seminar. Manju said the government has initiated social forestry programmes to give livelihood supports to rural people as well as to maintain ecological balance.

He urged officials of forest department to motivate people to supplement the government’s efforts for expansion of social forestry.

Forestry has huge economic and environmental benefit, other speakers said adding the total forest area in the country is estimated at 2.18 million hectare, which makes up 17 percent surface land. The country needs to enhance forest coverage up to 25 percent for ensuring its sustainable development, he added.

Back to top

Somalia: Qatar Airways to Resume Flights to Somalia

Dalsan Radio (Mogadishu) – 18 March 2015 – Qatar airways set to start direct flights to Somalia in coming weeks to rejuvenate already growing international carrier market in Somalia. Somali PM Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke who has reached Qatari capital Doha on Tuesday will attend the ceremony to welcome Arab world airline giant to Somalia. International airlines have resumed their flights to Somalia in recent years since armed group Al Shabaab was pushed out of the capital Mogadishu. Turkish airline is the only international airline for now with daily direct flights from Mogadishu to Istanbul.

Back to top

Nigeria: Enugu Plans to Boost Tourism Potential

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 13 March 2015 – Enugu State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Mr Joe Mmamel, says the state is conscious of interest of tourists and plans to boost tourism in the state. Mmamel made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday.

He said that this informed the state to maintain high ethical standards in the tourism industry. The commissioner said the state aimed at developing the tourism industry by constantly improving the standard of service and professionalism to cater for the needs of tourists.

“We educate and equip the state’s tourist centres to meet the challenges of tomorrow through conventions and seminars. We also develop better understanding among the different segments of the industry,” he said.

Back to top

Tourism adds $7.6bn to Qatar’s economy

The Peninsula – 19 March, 2015 – Arabian Travel Market’s 2015 roadshow series arrived in Qatar yesterday to meet with key industry players and highlight the country’s healthy growth in the hotel and tourism sector, which saw over $ 2.5bn in contracts awarded in 2014.

Qatar will be represented at ATM 2015 by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), Qatar Airways, Al Rayyan Hospitality, and Katara Hospitality, occupying over 815 square metres of floor space at the dedicated Qatar stand this year.

Projects totaling $8.48bn are currently underway that will set Qatar up as a major tourist and venue attraction, including Doha Festival City, Doha Convention Centre, Rayyan Mall (Mall of Qatar), Doha Zoo, Lusail Museum, Katara Towers (Lusail Marina), and not forgetting the FIFA World Cup football stadiums, home to the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

“Qatar has witnessed astounding economic growth over the past decade, and this has translated into a healthy tourism sector focused on culture, shopping, sporting events, meetings and exhibitions,” explains Nadege Noblet, Exhibition Manager, Arabian Travel Market.

“The recent completion of important infrastructure projects, such as the iconic Hamad International Airport in 2014 and Qatar Airways’ plans to significantly expand its capacity across Europe this year, has confirmed Qatar’s position as an important travel and tourism hub for the region, which ATM 2015 is keen to highlight.”

The total number of projects planned or underway include 5 museums and libraries; 57 hotels and resorts; 22 shopping venues; 21 sports facilities; 11 theme parks, 6 convention centres; and a state-of-the-art theatre (MEED).

Qatar saw 2.8 million visitors enter the country in 2014, an 8.2pc increase in numbers over the previous year, generating 61,000 jobs in the tourism sector and an economic injection of $ 7.6bn, equal to 8.3pc of Qatar’s non-extraction GDP, according to IFP Info.

Back to top

Islamic finance assets to hit $2.5 trillion

Oman Daily Observer – 19 March, 2015 – Islamic banking and finance (IBF) is projected to exceed $ 2.5 trillion of assets in 2015 globally as the industry extends its reach into new international markets. The industry realised $ 2.1 trillion of assets in 2014.

There are more than 1,500 organisations working for Islamic banking, finance, takaful, sukuk, Islamic funds and micro-finance in more than 90 countries, some 40 per cent of which are non-Muslim nations. Only Iran and Sudan, boast 100 per cent Islamic banking landscape with not a single interest-based bank.

These and many other issues were discussed here on Wednesday in ‘Islamic Finance Knowledge Series’, launched by Bank Nizwa to continue raising the people’s awareness on Islamic banking across Oman. The Series was launched by Dr Jamil El Jaroudi, CEO, Bank Nizwa together with Dr Anwar Soubra, the bank’s head of Shari’a Compliance. Dr El Jaroudi said IBF deals with the real economy in that there is a clear and unbreakable link between finance and tangible assets.

While providing an overview of the key differentiators between IBF and conventional banking, Anwar said a loan taken from a conventional bank can be used to finance any activity, while IBF deals with real economy and finances on healthy practices and products, Certain components of IBF such as risk-sharing, stability and innovation are proven stimulants of economic growth. Unlike conventional banks, which charge a flat rate of interest disregarding the reducing balance, IBF is fair and charges profit only on the remaining reduced balance.

Why IBF is a boon for the world? It prohibits making money on money, but it allows legitimate profit by allowing money to be used to trade tangible assets. The only means to benefit from the money is to convert its monetary function to economic function through either trading or investment.

IBF operate an interest-free system, in which depositors share the risk of investment and either partake of the resulting profits or bear part of the losses. IBF prohibits speculation and gharar (i.e. exposure to excessive, unnecessary risk or uncertainty in a business transaction) which result in stability and higher return over investment. IBF does not deal in debt trading, therefore, Islamic banks remained safe from the effects of the global financial crisis.

That explains why IBF is also popular among non-Muslims. They offer higher rate of return; lower risk exposure and better risk management compared to conventional banking. The equity-based IBF, as opposed to conventional system based on interest-bearing debt, appeals to most people because hat debt finance leads to greater instability than equity finance.

Interest and derivative transactions, such as forwards, futures and options, in short selling, and in speculation, which produce instability, are not part of the IBF, which is a real boon to the world.

Anwar said the 2008 financial crisis of the capitalist system, which is based on usury and securities rather than commodities in markets, shows that it is undergoing a crisis and that the integrated IBF, if properly applied, can replace capitalism.

By end of 2015, over 800 students are expected to have benefited from the sessions, developing an in-depth understanding of Islamic finance and the added value it offers.

Back to top

Omani website helps artisans find wider market

Oman Daily Observer – 19 March, 2015 – The website launched by the Public Authority for Craft Industries (PACI) is proving handy for the artisans to market their products and showcase them to prospective buyers. “Not fully e-commerce, but some sort of e-commerce is involved in this process to make the artisan professionally efficient and competitive as per market demands,” said a PACI official.

Amer Tabook of PACI Dhofar gave an insight into the idea of web promotion of the craft products and said awareness was building up among the artisans to showcase their product on www.dcm.om.

“There are more than 5,000 registered artisans in Dhofar. Most of them are women and come out with excellent products for decoration, souvenir and easy to gift items. Since they are done locally and mostly by hand, the products carry local appeal. Tourists love to buy those products and the craft items are quite popular among local residents as well,” said Amer.

The web portal, according Amer, is to bridge the gap between production and marketing and to establish direct link between the buyers and sellers at the same time. It is to encourage the artisans to do direct marketing, besides the PACI, which encourages them to come out with innovative products and sell directly to them.

Moreover, the artisans are getting support also by setting up house museums of Omani crafts. Many such museums have come up in different governorates of the Sultanate to promote and market craft industries. There are 18 such houses located in different parts of Dhofar Governorate.

These house museums serve twin purpose of training and a source of earning for those who work there.

Jamila Mubarak Kora is one such example. She does her job very seriously at her house museum-cum-training centre called Dhofar Craft Centre and she does not have any doubts about the success of her mission which she runs from her house in New Salalah.

She has converted the ground floor of her house into a museum and trying to preserve whatever comes in her way as a testimony to the strong culture of the Omani society. She runs a training centre at the same place where women and girls come to learn the skills of handicrafts, cosmetics and bakhour (incense made of locally available frankincense etc) making.

When asked what she is getting out of it. “Not much, but a huge lot of satisfaction of preserving my own culture and I am trying to transfer my skills to the generations to come. Because the visitors here are not only people of my age, but many of them are young girls and women along with their small kids.”

She appreciated the idea of web portal for marketing craft products, as she comes out with a large number of textile products, Omani dresses, palm leave products and cosmetics and bakhour.

Amer reiterated the PACI resolve to support the artisans, “as the web outlet seeks to achieve the good return from craft sales through presentation and marketing and promotion of handicrafts from various governorates and wilayats.”

Back to top

Abu Dhabi opens Mushrif Central Park

Khaleej Times – 20 March, 2015 – Shaikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor and Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, has opened the Mushrif Central Park, one of the largest and oldest parks in Abu Dhabi.

The event was held under the patronage of Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and the follow up of Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region.

Shaikh Hazza commended the park’s new and innovative facilities, stressing the importance of such tourism, aesthetics and entertainment projects in the establishment of the “Abu Dhabi Vision 2030”, which aims at protecting the environment and provision of distinguished services to all inhabitants of the emirate.

He said that the continuous development of entertainment and tourism projects would contribute to stretching of green belt, preservation of environment in line with the vision of the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who had instilled the principles of preserving the heritage, environment protection and love of nature.

Shaikh Hazza officially cut the ribbon of the park for all residents of Abu Dhabi, which will be open to visitors from tomorrow in the presence of Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, a number of members of the emirate’s Executive Council and others.

Back to top

Iran’s first automatic railway control system launched

Islamic Republic News Agency – 20 March, 2015 – Iran’s first-ever automatic railway control system was inaugurated on Thursday monitoring the Tehran-Mashhad railway. The inauguration ceremony was attended by First Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri and Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi.

The highly advanced system is one of the safety systems for railway networks that was developed by domestic experts based on the latest standards being used in the world. The new system controls the speed of trains and allows a train to move at a specified pace based on its type and features of the railway, and therefore upgrades the safety of commution along the railway.

Back to top

Oman tourism up, thanks to more flights, lower oil prices

Times of Oman – 20 March, 2015 – The number of international tourists coming to the Sultanate increased by 18 per cent in January this year to 512,324 compared to a month earlier, thanks to better flight connections and lower oil prices.

Statistics available with the Oman Airports Management Company (OAMC), the company that manages Muscat and Salalah Airports, show that the two airports handled about 933,000 passengers in January 2015 compared to 848,400 passengers in December last year.

“More than half of these passengers are tourists. It is a record for one month, in terms of tourism. We are proud that we have reached this milestone due to better flight connectivity since we opened Phase One of the new Muscat Airport in November,” an official from state-run OAMC told the Times of Oman.

Muscat Airport serves 28 scheduled airlines operating 545 flights a week travelling to 27 destinations from Muscat. The Sultanate is aiming to become a major transit route in the Gulf countries, competing with Dubai, when the new Terminal Building in Muscat Airport is completed. Currently, the airport is handling about 7 million passengers a year but with the completion of the new terminal building, 12 million passengers will pass through it annually.

Lower international oil prices have also helped to bring in more tourists, according to aviation experts.

“Jet fuel is cheap now and airlines have reduced prices. The result is that air travel from major airlines at the moment can afford to be competitive in terms of fares,” said Sabri Al Faraj, an expert of International Air Transportation Association (IATA) based at Muscat Airport.

Most of the tourists to Oman are from Germany, Switzerland, Japan and the Gulf countries. However, Chinese tourists have been visiting Oman more frequently in the last two years. However, Oman needs to lower hotel tariffs to be more competitive to further boost the number of tourists in the country, he said.

“Oman has very expensive hotel tariffs compared to most countries. Tourists like to come to Oman because of the natural beauty and history. However, the country will benefit more if hotels reduce room tariffs a bit. At the moment, an average tourist does not stay for more than three days because it is too expensive to stay longer,” explained Al Faraj.

Oman’s 2,100-kilometre long coast line is the longest beach in the Gulf country which attracts many tourists to come for scuba diving, snorkelling, dolphin watching or turtle nestling.

Back to top

Muscat to host airports conference

Oman Daily Observer – 22 March, 2015 – The Sultanate will host an international conference on operational preparedness and shifting to new airports on March 25.

The conference will bring together companies involved in the management and operation of some of the best regional and international airports to review their experiences and benefit from the success factors that ensured smooth shift to new airports. The conference will also review the challenges, difficulties and gaps that led to failure in shifting to actual operation of some airports.

The idea of the conference emanated from Oman Airports Management Company’s (OAMC) desire to review similar international experiences. OAMC seeks to achieve the maximum benefit from this conference by reviewing these experiences, enhancing the strength areas and eliminating the weakness areas by developing preset plans that ensure smooth shift to actual operation stage, full readiness and sustainable success of the different aspects of operations. The conference provides an ideal opportunity to exchange expertise among participants who represent new and under way airports.

It will also display its readiness to start actual operations of the airport, its experiences and the developments it has made in terms of rehabilitating its human resources and using of the best technologies in the world in the airport management field. It will also review the programmes it has implemented and its experiences in general to get feedback from participants. The conference combines the international and local experiences together. The aviation and airport world has become an important industry interested in opening new airport operations. OAMC will be involved in the management of five new airports in the Sultanate, some have been completed and some are under way.

A number of executives from elite international airports and airport management companies will take part in the conference alongside with a number of international civil aviation consultants, public officials and air carriers operating in the Sultanate. There is a confirmation for participation from a group of officials and companies operating several global airports, such as officials from Heathrow Airport in London, Munich Airport and Berlin Airport in Germany, Zurich Airport in Switzerland and Dublin Airport in Ireland, as well as speakers representing regional airports from Dubai Airport, Abu Dhabi Airport and Doha Airport, in addition to speakers from Delhi Airport in India.

Back to top

Saudi tourism, hospitality firms post SR1.4bn profits

Saudi Gazette – 22 March, 2015 – Profits of the listed tourism and hospitality firms rose by 7.4 percent to hit SR1.40 billion in 2014 compared to SR1.32 billion in 2013, according to a financial report. However, profits of the tourism sector in Q4 of the year dropped by 15 percent to SR261.3 million compared to SR307 million in the same period last year, the report, compiled by Al-Hayat daily, said.

The number of listed tourism and hospitality firms stands at four with their market capitalization at SR29 billion, or 1.5 percent of the Saudi market value. Capitals of the sector reached SR3.65 billion, the report said.

Al-Tayyar Travel Holding Group has the biggest capital at SR2 billion, or 55 percent of the sector’s total, followed by Dur Hospitality Company at SR1 billion (27 percent), Abdulmohsen Alhokair Group for Tourism and Development Company at SR550 million (15 percent), and Tourism Enterprise Company (Shams) at SR101.5 million (3 percent), the report said.

Al-Tayyar Group captured the biggest portion of the sector’s profits in 2014 at SR1.11 billion, or 78.6 percent of the total profits, compared to SR977 million in 2013, or an increase of 15 percent. Similarly, sales of the group grew by 23 percent to SR7.71 billion compared to SR6.26 billion in the previous year.

Abdulmohsen Alhokair Group was the second top profit maker at SR196.5 million in 2014 compared to SR195.7 million in 2013 (+ 0.41 percent), or 14 percent of the sector’s total profits. Profits of Q4 stood at SR50.2 million compared to SR60.9 million in Q4 of 2013, or a decrease of 17.5 percent, the report said.

On the other hand, profits of Dur Hospitality Company dropped by 27.45 percent to SR103.8 million in 2014 compared to SR143 million in 2013.

Meanwhile, sales (revenues) of the company grew by 9.4 percent to SR486.5 million compared to SR445 million in 2013, the report said. Net profits of Tourism Enterprise Company fell by 50.61 percent to SR4.83 million in 2014 compared to SR9.78 million in 2013, the report said.

Back to top

Jeddah Metro to have unique architectural designs

Arab News – 22 March, 2015 – Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal is set to approve designs for the new public transportation project which have been completed by the transportation committee in Jeddah, as announced by Jeddah Mayor Hani Aburas.

The designs feature artistic touches which contribute to magnifying the architectural beauty of the region. The project includes preliminary designs for all stations, buildings and car parks, in addition to preparing distinctive urban features for all elements of the project.

The public transportation project in Jeddah comprises four stages: The initial stage invited 50 architectural consultants to submit plans for the rehabilitation stage. The second stage concerned technical offers, for which the authority invited 11 consultants to present technical offers on the matter. Four companies were chosen to participate in the competition. The third stage included presentation of designs for all parts of the project to evaluate them in the fourth and final stage, which culminates with the awarding of the contract according to defined parameters and financial offers.

The international company for evaluating the architectural designs of the project includes Howayda Al-Harithy from Saudi Arabia, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard University and works as president of the architectural design department at the American University of Beirut. In addition to others, the group also includes well-known architects Rafael Moneo and Richard Brend.

The Jeddah Metro Company will manage the implementation of the project including all planning, design, establishment and testing stages. The company has signed the second basic contract of the project which includes engineering consulting services with the French Systra company. The drafting of the initial designs include car parks, civil work, as well as an electronic control system, an overnight center and complete control of the public transport network.

The public transport project was launched in Jeddah through three basic contracts, one of which is to offer consultative services for the preparatory program for the public transportation project in Jeddah signed with AECOM. The period of the contract is 18 months.

The company will support Jeddah Metro with specialists and will participate in all stages of the project, prepare strategies to tender the public transportation project for alliances, establish management system programs, manage and supervise projects with supervising preliminary engineering designs and architectural consultants, review engineering and architectural designs, support Jeddah Metro Company to draft competition documents and train contractors, and prepare service scope for all offices.

Back to top