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30 Mar, 2015

Istanbul, Marrakech Voted World’s Top Tourism Cities

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 30 March 2015 (09 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.



Grand Festivals to Experience Malaysia in April

April is an exciting month to experience the Malaysia Year of Festivals. Let the Bajaus of Sabah share their love for the sea with you during the colourful Regatta Lepa race. Or enjoy the traditional food, culture and past times of the Sarawakian Melanaus during the Kaul Mukah Festival.

There’s also a silat carnival, featuring Malaysia’s martial arts tradition, going on in Kelantan.

For more modern pursuits, Penang’s World Music Festival, Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya and shopping bargains during the Grand Prix sale promises lots of fun.

To give you some ideas of what to do this April, here’s a line-up of well-balanced events for tourists, both local and foreign, to enjoy in Malaysia. Plan your trip well, or engage the services of a licensed tour operator/travel agent.

Penang World Music Festival

Penang World Music Festival features a colourful assortment of performances ranging from traditional to fusion. Experience mind-blowing performances by international musicians from Spain, Germany, South Africa, India and more. Marvel at the fusion of historic and contemporary attractions, right in our UNESCO Heritage City. We invite you to experience food that will exhilarate your taste buds while indulging yourself in this all-in-one music and culture trip.

Date : 11 to 12 April

Venue : Esplanade, Penang

Organiser : Penang State Tourism

Website : www.penangworldmusic.gov.my

Contact :+604-650 5136

Labuan National Water Festival

This water-splashing event invites visitors to come and enjoy, relax, eat, play and compete in numerous water-related activities such as fishing, round-island kayaking, cross-channel swimming, and shore fishing. Take part in a beach tug-of-war competition, test your agility in climbing a slippery pole or take out the competition in a fun pillow fight! Visitors are also welcome to join the Labuan International Sea Challenge which is part of the annual Malaysia Water Festival; it is among the biggest and popular water sports events in the country. If you are a water sports lover, then Labuan is the place for you.

Date: 24 to 26 April 2015

Venue: Federal Territory of Labuan

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia

Website: www.motour-labuan.com / www.lisc.com.my

Contact: +6087-422622

1Malaysia Grand Prix Sale

The 1Malaysia Grand Prix Sale, held in conjunction with the annual Formula 1 Grand Prix, is a highly-anticipated sale in which shoppers can expect to buy fabulous products at a bargain. Tourists coming to enjoy the F1 race can later experience the Truly Malaysian shopping thrill off-circuit which not only offers the best prices with the best varieties of items but also offers an array of dining choices that will ignite your senses. From seductive culinary temptations and fun and recreation to relaxation and entertainment, experience it all at the 1Malaysia Grand Prix Sale.

Date: 14 March to 5 April

Venue: Participating malls throughout Klang Valley

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism and Culture

Website: www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my

Contact: +603-8891 8000

Ironman 70.3

The Ironman event is not for the faint-hearted. If you have the iron will and determination to swim for 1.9 km, cycle for 90 km, and run for 21.1 km, then you might just cross that finish line with bragging rights. But if you don’t, it’s still great to watch the sheer physical and mental strength of man from the sidelines.

Date: 5 April

Venue: Millennium Monument, Precinct 2, Putrajaya

Organiser: World Triathlon Corporation

Website: http://www.ironman.com/

Contact: +603-7491 0591

Wings of Kuala Kubu Bharu- Selangor Bird Race

The fourth Wings of Kuala Kubu Bharu is a great opportunity for birders to come together to enjoy nature and expand their knowledge of the different species of birds and their habitats. Participants will go through 10 different checkpoints starting from the charming town of Kuala Kubu Baru, past the Kalumpung Hot Springs and ending at the Genting Highlands Awana Resort. The area is part of the Important Bird Area and has gems such as the Marbled Wren Babbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Large Niltava, Silver-Breasted Broadbills and three hornbills namely Rhinoceros, Great and Bushy Crested. Experience the green side of Malaysia here at the Wings of KKB Selangor Bird Race event.

Date: 24 to 26 April

Venue: Kuala Kubu Bharu and Awana Resort, Genting Highlands

Organiser: Hulu Selangor District Council

Website: wingsofkkb.blogspot.com

Contact: +603-60641331

Nasi Ambeng Carnival

Nasi ambeng or nasi ambang is a fragrant rice dish consisting of white rice served with chicken curry or chicken cooked in soy sauce, vegetables, fried noodles, some salted fish, fried coconut flesh, and so on. It is cooked during important celebrations and served in a tray to be shared by four to five people. Come and experience the unique, communal dining style and delicious food of the Javanese-Malay people at the Nasi Ambang Carnival.

Date: 17 to 18 April

Venue: Banghuris Homestay, Sg. Pelek,Sepang Selangor

Organiser: National Department for Culture and Arts

Website: www.jkkn.gov

Contact: +603-5510 2664

UNESCO World Heritage Exhibition

The UNESCO World Heritage Exhibition is being held at Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur. This exhibition features the four UNESCO World Heritage sites in Malaysia namely the cities of Melaka and George Town, the Archaeological Heritage of Lembah Lenggong, Gunung Mulu National Park and Kinabalu Park. Though small, the exhibition is packed with many interesting exhibits and information about each UNESCO site, and is a great stop before tourists decide to visit any of the actual destinations. The UNESCO World Heritage Exhibition runs until 31 December 2015. Admission is free.

Date: Until 31 December 2015

Venue: Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Kuala Lumpur

Organiser: Department of National Heritage

Website: www.facebook.com/jabatanwarisannegara

Contact: +603 2260 9000

Regatta Lepa Fiesta

The Regatta Lepa traditional boat race occurs annually in April and it is a vibrant festival that pays homage to the lepa, the traditional single-mast sailing boat of the Bajau people of Semporna, Sabah. Witness a fleet of colourful lepas decorating the coast of Semporna during the annual Regatta Lepa event. Enjoy unique cultural performances, the Lepa Beauty Pageant, the Most Beautiful Lepa competition, fireworks displays and so much more!

Date: 24 to 26 April

Venue: Regatta Lepa Square, Semporna

Organiser: Sri Pelancongan Sabah Sdn Bhd

Website: www.sabahtourism.com

Contact: +6088-232121 / +6013-850 4007

The Nusantara Silat Carnival

The Nusantara Silat Carnival 2015 is organised by the Kelantan Tourism Information Centre. This event brings silat practitioners all the way from Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. Kelantan is proud to be the birthplace of the silat jatuh which is a very unique form of martial arts. Visitors are welcome to learn about the unique martial art culture of silat in the beautiful and culture-rich state of Kelantan.

Date: 5 to 7 April

Venue: Kota Bharu City Hall Council, Kelantan

Organiser: TIC Kelantan

Website: tic.kelantan.gov.my

Contact: +609-748 5534/+609-748 3543

Kaul Mukah Festival

Come and experience the lifestyle of the Melanau community living along the coastal area of Sarawak, and celebrate one of their highly cherished traditional festivals. The Kaul Mukah is celebrated as a religious ceremony to appease spirits of the sea, land, forest and farm, making it the most important festival in the Melanau traditional calendar. The festival site is on the banks of the Mukah river estuary where visitors can relax, soak in the culture and participate in the activities, traditional games (a major highlight is the giant traditional swing called “Tibow”) as well as savour their unique delicacies. The Kaul Mukah festival provides an amazing opportunity for visitors to experience the Truly Malaysia cultural heritage that in its essence is what makes Malaysia a diversified and culturally rich country.

Date: 25 to 26 April

Venue: Mukah Festival Ground

Organiser: Kaul Mukah Festival Committee

Website: www.kaulmukah.com

Contact: +6016-5781945 (Mrs Jennifer)

All information is correct at time of publication. Visitors are advised to contact the event organiser for the latest updates.

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Elevating Intellectual Distinction In Islamic Wealth Management

KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 (Bernama) — ­ Industry experts and academics set out to share their expertise and knowledge at the 2nd Conference on Islamic Wealth Management and Financial Planning 2015 – ‘Enhancing Islamic Wealth Management Education and Financial Planning’ which is held today at Sasana Kijang, Kuala Lumpur. The day’s event, jointly organised by the Malaysian Financial Planning Council (MFPC) and Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan), is in line with the national agenda to make Malaysia a leading international and regional hub for Islamic finance and wealth management.

The conference serves as a platform for networking and the exchange of understandings and outlooks about the inner workings of the Islamic financial industry for close to 230 delegates comprising bankers, financial advisers, insurers, government professionals, administrative and diplomatic officers, practitioners, and scholars.

Datuk Ahmad Maslan, who officiated the inaugural MFPC International Islamic Conference last year and current Deputy Finance Minister, in his speech said it is his hope that the knowledge and the networking opportunities that will be made available through the conference will blaze new trails and reach greater heights in advancing the financial planning profession and further raise the financial literacy of Malaysians.

President of MFPC, Md. Adnan Md. Zain, explained that among the key objectives of the conference was to gain a better understanding on the current situation of Islamic wealth management and financial planning, explore the best practice standards of wealth management and Shariah-compliant financial instruments, also build a networking platform among conventional financial planners and Shariah scholars. “MFPC has initiated a process to explore and provide for the requirements of Malaysians in financial planning. Through our CSR workshops we inculcate the importance of starting young for financial planning. Our programme has been making “A world of Difference” to undergraduates and government agencies,” he added.

Chief Executive Officer of Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan), Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad, said that financial planning and wealth management education must start early. “Those employees in their 20s who will comprise future pensioners need to be financially literate as knowledge in financial planning and wealth management will allow them to understand how each financial decision they make will affect other areas of their finances and the quality of their lives life before and post retirement,” he added.

The conference features an impressive line-up of reputable speakers from the industry who will provide discourses exploring key principles and avenues of Islamic wealth management. Topics include developing Malaysia with Shariah-Compliant capital and opportunities, overview of the Malaysian Islamic Capital Market, Islamic Wealth Management Contributions: Enhancing Knowledge, Skills and Attributes and Financial Planning in Islamic Banking and Takaful.

Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan)(“KWAP”) or the Retirement Fund (Incorporated) was established on 1st March 2007 under the Retirement Fund Act 2007(Act 662) replacing the repealed Pensions Trust Fund Act 1991 (Act 454).

The objective of KWAP is to manage the fund (“the Fund”) established under Section 13 of Retirement Fund Act 2007 (Act 662) towards achieving optimum returns on its investments. The Fund shall be applied towards assisting the Federal Government in financing its pension liability.

The functions of KWAP are in management of contributions from the Federal Government, Statutory Bodies, Local Authorities and other Agencies and administration, management and investment of the Fund in equity, fixed income securities, money market instruments and other forms of investments as permitted under the Retirement Fund Act 2007 (Act 662).

Please visit: www.kwap.gov.my

Malaysian Financial Planning Council is an independent body set up with the noble objective of promoting nationwide development and enhancement of the financial planning profession. MFPC provides an evolving set of Best Practice Standards and Code of Ethics that must be adhered to by Registered Financial Planner (RFP) and Shariah RFP designees. This requirement is aimed at ensuring that the public will be served with the highest quality of financial planning services. MFPC was registered on 10th of March, 2004 under the Societies Act, 1996. The Registered Financial Planner (RFP) programme was launched by the Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, Y.Bhg. Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz in November 2002.

The RFP designation was approved by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) as the prerequisite qualification to apply for the Financial Advisers’ License and Financial Advisers’ Representative License. RFP designation was also approved by Securities Commission Malaysia for the application of the Capital Markets Services License (CMSL) in view of the introduction of the Capital Markets and Services Act 2007.

Please visit: www.mfpc.org.my

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Kuala Lumpur to host ASEAN Regional Forum Workshop On Combating Wildlife Trafficking

PUTRAJAYA, March 29 (Bernama) — In conjunction with Malaysia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2015 and as part of Malaysia’s commitment to the Hanoi Plan of Action to Implement the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Vision Statement, Malaysia and the United States of America are co-hosting the ARF Workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking from 30 March 2015 to 1 April 2015 in Tuaran, Sabah, Malaysia.

The 3-day Workshop focuses on enhancing trans-boundary and regional cooperation in combating wildlife trafficking, a pressing transnational issue demanding global cooperation. It brings together expert speakers from selected ARF Participating Countries as well as regional organisations involved with the issue of wildlife trafficking by featuring case studies, country experiences, lessons learned and sharing of public awareness campaigns.

Participants will also have the opportunity to visit Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Nature Reserve to observe rehabilitation programmes for orangutans.

Senior/director-level officials and subject matter experts representing national agencies of the ARF Participating Countries as well as academicians involved with the issue of wildlife trafficking are among those that will be participating in the Workshop.

The Workshop will be officiated by the Honourable Dato’ Sri Anifah Hj. Aman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia on 30 March 2015 with the presence of the Honourable Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment of Sabah and Her Excellency Catherine A. Novelli, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment of the United States of America. YBhg. Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh, Malaysia’s Ambassador for Orangutan Conservation will be the guest speaker for the Workshop.

Among the main topics of discussion at the Workshop include: understanding the poaching and trafficking threat: ASEAN perspective; major challenges and areas for enhanced cooperation; best practices in prevention and investigation of wildlife poaching and trafficking; strengthening regional cooperation to combat wildlife trafficking; and communication and education awareness initiatives.

The Workshop is part of Malaysia’s deliverables as the Chairman of ASEAN 2015 as well as the Chairman of the ARF.

The outcomes of the Workshop will be reported to the 22nd ARF Ministerial Meeting scheduled to be held in Malaysia in August 2015.

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Malaysia Aims To Be ASEAN Green Technology Hub

PUTRAJAYA, March 29 (Bernama) — Malaysia aims to be the ASEAN green technology hub with the implementation of the National Green Technology Policy, says Energy, Green Technology and Water Deputy Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

He said the government is on the right track in developing green technology, citing Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index in 2014 which ranked Malaysia 51st out of 178 countries globally and third in ASEAN after Singapore and Brunei.

The index, published every two years, quantifies the environmental performance of a country’s policies.

Mahdzir said Malaysia is aggressively moving towards high technology and knowledge-based industries to remain internationally competitive, and his ministry plans to raise the contribution of green technology to the economy, society and environment in the 11th Malaysia Plan.

“The National Green Technology Master Plan and Electric Mobility Action Plan also aim to ensure more effective and systematic implementation of all initiatives, programmes and activities,” he said, adding the country is also collaborating with South Korea and Cambodia in green technology.

However, he said, achieving the target will take time as the National Green Technology Policy was launched only in 2009.

Green technology, encompassing the energy, construction, transport, waste management and water sectors, contributed RM7.9 billion or 0.8 per cent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013, he said.

He said, “Investments in these sectors totalled RM920 million, and they generated revenue of RM33.1 billion in 2013”.

Mahadzir said the ministry projects green technology’s contribution to GDP to rise to RM22.4 billion by 2020 and RM60 billion by 2030.

“Investments are expected to rise to RM28 billion by 2020 and RM86.3 billion by 2030, creating 114,590 jobs in 2020 and 211,500 jobs in 2030,” he said.

He said besides foreign companies, several Malaysian firms, including in Pahang and Selangor, are also producing photovoltaic solar panels for the local and export markets, making Malaysia the world’s third largest producer of solar modules.

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Malaysia Will Continue To Host F1 GP Until 2018 – Najib

SEPANG, March 29 (Bernama) — Malaysia will continue to host the World Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit until 2018 said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Najib said Petronas would continue to be the main sponsor for the prestigious event but urged the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) as the organiser to enhance promotional activities for the race to attract more fans.

“We need to develop Formula One here as an event that can receive better response from not only the international motorsport fans but also Malaysians in general.

“We have a few ideas, meaning the SIC has a few proposals. Just that they (SIC) need the support of the various government departments. To achieve the objective, we must move collectively,” he said after presenting prizes to winners of the Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix, here Sunday.

The race was won by Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany.

Najib said ministries like the Tourism and Culture Ministry and various government departments and agencies must regard the F1 as an important event in their calendar.

While commenting whether an extra allocation would be provided for the race, Najib said the government would try to work it out and it would be more for event organising and promotion.

“We need to promote this event more aggressively,” he said.

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British Museum plans two galleries for Islamic artifacts

29 Mar 2015 London, (IINA) – Art from the Islamic world will be shown in the heart of the British Museum in London, in two new galleries funded by a Malaysian foundation which hopes to offset the image created by extremist militants, Media sources reported.

The museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of art and artefacts, said it plans to open two new galleries in its south wing devoted to its extensive collection of art from the Islamic world.

The two new galleries, which will complement the existing gallery, are being funded for an undisclosed amount by the Albukhary Foundation of Malaysia.

Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, the foundation’s chairman, said there was an urgent need to make people more aware of the value of art and artefacts from the Islamic world, and the threats to this cultural heritage, especially at a time when historic sites in Iraq are under attack by extremist.

“What is happening in the world, demolishing all the Islamic heritage, non-Islamic antiquities, is a bad image,” he told Reuters on Thursday.

The new project of Islamic artifacts is not the first to shed light on the Islamic heritage by the British Museum.

In April 2012, the museum hosted the world’s largest exhibition on the Muslim Hajj, with an eye to enhancing understanding of the Islamic spiritual experience.

The exhibition displayed archaeological material, manuscripts, textiles historic photographs and contemporary art that document journeys to the holy lands through history.

The decision followed what the museum said was the extraordinary success of its 2012 exhibition “Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam” which director Neil MacGregor said had attracted almost 150,000 visitors.

“There was clearly a huge hunger in the public in Britain to know more about the cultures of the Islamic world,” MacGregor told a news conference. “That started us thinking very hard about the importance about thinking about the Islamic world in this way.”

Venetia Porter, the lead curator on the project, said that for the first time the museum would be showing the links between its Islamic collection and its core collection from Europe.

“The really important thing is to actually put this Islamic collection right in the heart of the museum,” she said.

The museum also said it would bolster its support for curators from Iraq to develop techniques of what it called “Emergency Heritage Management” to protect artefacts from being looted or damaged, and to restore those that have been vandalized.

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Jihad Dib elected first Muslim Labor MP in Lakemba, Australia

29 Mar 2015, New South Wales, (IINA) – Australian Jihad Dib becoming the state’s first Muslim MP after being elected to represent Lakemba, in New South Wales.

Dib, who replaces former Lakemba Labor MP Rob Furolo, is now the first Muslim MP to represent the Lakemba seat.

The seat has the highest proportion of Muslim residents in NSW with 34.6 per cent.

The former director of a school was chosen, to be a candidate for the seat of Lakemba by the Australian Labor Party, which is one of the main strongholds party in the Western Sydney.

MP Dib has won a landslide victory over his rivals in that district inhabited by the intensity of the Muslims community, achieving nearly 69 percent of the votes.

Dib has become after this victory the first Muslim to represent Lakemba, which has the highest proportion of Islamic residents at 34.6 per cent.

Dib who’s parent emigrated from Lebanon in the seventies said at the eve of the announcement of the results “serving Australia is a huge advantage, pointing out that he will be at the service of all Australians and that his election represents a historic step in the state.

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Arab Cultural Week held in Mexico

KUWAIT, Mar 24 (NNN-KUNA) – Mexican Foreign Minister, Jose Antonio Meade, opened Tuesday, the Arab Cultural Week in Mexico.

Kuwait’s Embassy in Mexico said, in a statement received by KUNA, that this opening, attended by Kuwaiti Ambassador to Mexico, Samih Johar Hayat, had coincided with the Arab League’s 70th anniversary.

The Mexican Foreign Minister, in his opening speech, said that, the impact of the Arab culture on the whole world was very obvious, adding that an example of such impact was the fact that Arabic was one of the main languages used in education and knowledge, in the seventh century.

He said that, knowledge in the Arab and Muslim world had influenced the renaissance era, impacting the scientific and cultural development in Europe and the world.

Ambassador Hayat, in a speech, on behalf of the Arab ambassadors, expressed deep thanks to the Mexican foreign minister and senior officials of the Mexican government, for their participation to the success of the Arab week.

Hayat pointed out that the history of Arab-Mexican relations, over the past 70 years witnessed significant developments.

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UNESCO To Launch “#Unite4heritage” Campaign In Iraq

PARIS, March 27 (NNN-UNESCOPRESS) — A campaign to mobilise global support for the protection of cultural heritage will be launched by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in Baghdad, Iraq on Saturday, March 28.

#Unite4Heritage will use the power of social networks to create a global movement for protecting and safeguarding heritage under threat, in Iraq and elsewhere, providing a counter-narrative to sectarian propaganda.

The launch will take place at 2:15 pm at the University of Baghdad, with students, faculty members and high level government authorities. A press conference will follow the launch event.

Her one day official visit will also include meetings with the Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salim Al-Jabouri.

During her stay in Baghdad, the Director-General will address the opening of the ‘First Islamic Conference for Secretary Generals for National Commissions at the member states of ISESCO’ organized by ISESCO and hosted by the Ministry of Education of Iraq.

Bokova’s visit to Iraq also includes the launch of the project “Preventive conservation of Iraq’s museum collections and cultural heritage sites at imminent risk,” supported by Japan, at 1 pm, at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, with the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Adel Fahad Shershab and the Ambassador of Japan to Iraq.

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Ajman Tourism Department In U.A.E. Issues First Electronic Manual

AJMAN, United Arab Emirates, Mar 24 (NNN-WAM) – Ajman Tourism Development Department (ATDD), has issued its first electronic procedural manual book, both in Arabic and English languages.

The e-book addresses in detail, all the procedures that should be followed and the documents required, for all types of tourism licenses for establishments, Mohammed Mousa Al Meheiri, Head of ATDD’s Licensing Section, said.

It comes in line with the Ajman Vision 2021 target, of laying down a working mechanism to support the tourism sector, serving the image of Ajman, as a tourism investment destination, Al Meheiri added.

“With this guide and facilitated licensing procedures, we support our stakeholders, in order to upgrade Ajman’s tourism sector and preserve the emirate’s reputation,” the ATDD licensing section chief, said.

“These efforts will result in increasing the number of visitors and investors and support the emirate’s economy,” he said.

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Kuwait Wins Two Prizes For Tourism Media In Jordan

AMMAN, March 26 (NNN-KUNA) — The State of Kuwait won two prizes on tourism media at an announcement ceremony of winners of the 2015 Tourism Media Awards, which was held in the Jordanian capital Wednesday.

The ceremony, organized by the Arab Center for Tourism Media (ACTM), was held under auspices of Jordanian Minister of Tourism Nayef Al-Fayez and Head of ACTM Hussain Al-Mana’ee.

Kuwait won in best Arab touristic radio program “A trip to Failaka”, and best Arab newspaper Al-Watan in focusing on local and Arab tourism subjects and issues.

ACTM’s main aim to grant such awards is to encourage Arab touristic cadres, shed light on Arab touristic cities and destinations, and support the spread of tourism media awareness in the Arab world, Al-Mana’ee said in a press conference.

The winners’ grand honoring ceremony is to be held in the forthcoming period at an Arab country, he said, adding that ACTM’s awards are granted to Arab touristic figures, state-institutions, landscapes, and cities.

Meanwhile, the ceremony announced names of other Arab countries that won prizes, including UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan.

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International Islamic Economic Conference held In Doha

DOHA, Qatar, Mar 24 (NNN-QNA) – The 10th International Conference on Islamic Economics and Finance (ICIEF), themed: “Institutional Aspects of Economic, Monetary and Financial Reforms,” opened at Qatar National Convention Centre on Monday.

In his inaugural speech to the two-day event, Sheikh Abdullah Saud Al-Thani, governor of Qatar Central Bank, highlighted the role of the International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILM), in promoting transparency and good-governance on the capital market.

“Within a short time span since it was established on Oct 25, 2010, the IILM has been issuing short-term Sharia-compliant financial instruments to facilitate effective cross-border Islamic liquidity management, under direct supervision of the governors of the central banks of its member countries,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah expressed optimism about the future of the Sharia-compliant financial institutions and their ability to contribute to economic growth in the Islamic countries.

The number of such institutions doubled over the last few years to nearly 800, with their assets hitting USD 1.8 trillion by the end of 2013, he said, citing figures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The Gulf region accounts for a third of the total value of such assets, he said, adding that, the clientele of the Islamic financial institutions hit 40 million.

On the role of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Sheikh Abdullah said, it uses ‘Sukuk’ (Sharia-abiding bonds) to finance economic development in the Islamic countries. The Sukuk represent nearly 80 percent of the total value of assets of the Islamic financial institutions worldwide, while the Islamic investment funds represent four percent and the Takaful institutions one percent, he added.

The agenda topics include, inter alia; Shariah solutions for liquidity problems in Islamic banks, especially after Basel III; the need for a central Shariah board in each central bank: the pros and the cons; evaluating the role of fiqh academies for the development of the Islamic financial industry, and whether the industry is influenced by their decisions and research; and ‘taqlid’ and ‘ijtihad’ – challenges facing fatwa issuance in Islamic finance.

The conference is organised by the International Association for Islamic Economics, in collaboration with Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies – Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar Foundation and the Islamic Research and Training Institute of the IDB.

The conferees, representing over 50 countries, are scheduled to discuss in 37 sessions, more than 725 research papers.

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Russian MP says Islamic banking can help economy

Monday 23 Mar 2015 – Moscow, (IINA) – In a bid to rescue Russian economy, a Russian parliament member has moved a draft bill to support Islamic finance, amid augmenting sanctions from the West.

“During a period of a practically total economic blockade from Europe and the US, our banks must find new ways to attract investment,” Dmitry Savelyev, who sits on the Duma’s financial markets committee, told Reuters on Saturday, OnIslam reported.

Trying to open new markets, the draft law was sent to parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, this week to propose allowing banks to engage in trade activities, a concept central to many of the structures used in sharia-compliant financial products.

The bill is regarded as a first step to spur development of a sector which has posted double-digit growth in several Gulf and Southeast Asian countries, but which has struggled to get off the ground in Russia.

The draft law must pass three readings in the Duma before it moves to the upper house and then to President Vladimir Putin’s desk to be signed into law.

Hit by sanctions, state development bank Vnesheconombank and VTB Bank have sought to build their Islamic finance know-how in a bid to develop new funding sources.

“This is where recent sanctions became a kind of catalyst, an extra push, to further look at the economic perspective in the relationship between Russia and OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) countries,” said Linar Yakupov, the head of the Association of Regional Investment Agencies of the Russian Federation.

Islamic finance could attract foreign investment and also mobilize funds from Russia’s 20 million Muslims, Yakupov added.

“It is theoretically and technically possible for the government to prepare a law on Islamic banking, but it all depends on political will,” said Murad Aliskerov, chief executive of LaRiba Finance, an Islamic financial company based in Russia’s Dagestan republic. “Islamic banks could have a huge social impact and act as an alternative to traditional banks.”

A feasibility study is now under way between a consortium of Russian and Malaysian investors to create a standalone Islamic bank or an Islamic unit within a Russian lender, Yakupov said.

The study would be ready by September, allowing the sides to draw up concrete details for creating such an entity and assess which laws would have to be changed, he said.

Companies are also keen to explore Islamic bonds (Sukuk) as alternative financing tools, with Russia’s Tatarstan republic hosting an industry summit next month focused primarily on such instruments.

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1st Saudi-Emirati Heritage Forum held

Monday 23 Mar 2015 – Dubai (IINA) – UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan stressed the strong and historic brotherly ties between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which are of great interest at all levels to the leaders of the two nations, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Sheikh Nahyan made these remarks on Saturday while opening the First Saudi-Emirati Heritage Forum, being held at Al Boom Tourist Village in Dubai.

According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Sheikh Nahyan stated that the bonds between Saudi Arabia and the UAE are manifested in all cultural domains that focus on supporting joint cooperation, and promoting the interest of the two brotherly peoples.

The forum was organized by the Saudi Cultural Attaché in the UAE, in cooperation with UAE Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development. The four-day event brings together the components of the Emirati and Saudi heritage under one roof.

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Albania’s agricultural exports achieve largest growth in 2014

Monday 23 Mar 2015 – Tirana, Albania (IINA) – The exports of Albanian agricultural products recorded the largest ever increase last year, doubling the sector’s contribution to the Albanian economy, compared to a year ago, Albanian telegraphic agency reported.

According to official data, during 2014 agricultural exports from Albania amounted to 4.1 billion lek (31.3 US million dollars) from 2.7 billion lek in 2013. Albanian agricultural products were mainly exported to Kosovo and other Balkan countries, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro, Global Times reported.

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LEAD STORY: Istanbul, Marrakech Voted World’s Top Tourism Cities

OnIslam & News Agencies Thursday, 26 March 2015 MARRAKECH – Joining some of the most beautiful mosques in the world, two Muslim cities, Marrakech in Morocco and Istanbul in Turkey, have been named world’s best tourism cities by TripAdvisor, after gaining support of tourists worldwide.

“These world-class destinations chosen by our community are rich in history, culture and beauty and offer endless sights to explore,” Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on March 25.

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Located in Morocco on the north of Africa, Marrakech is a beautiful city with notable touristic attractions, where visitors enjoy bustling markets, gardens, palaces, and mosques.

Known as the “Jewel of the Desert,” the city climbed five places to claim bragging rights to the top spot in the list made by TripAdvisor. The position was decided based on votes from TripAdvisor users through an algorithm that takes into account the quantity and quality of reviews and ratings for hotels, restaurants, and attractions in destinations worldwide over a 12-month period.

This year, TripAdvisor has also compiled travel and shopping guides for top-ranked destinations along with hotel suggestions. The city was followed by Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Istanbul, Turkey.

The Muslim tourism market accounts for about 13% of the global travel market and estimated to worth $140 billion in 2013. It is expected to climb to $200 billion by 2020, according to Bahardeen.

A recent study released by Singapore-based halal travel specialist CrescentRating and DinarStandard has expected influx of Muslim holidaymakers over the next decade.

The study, conducted in 47 countries, found that spending by Muslim tourists is growing faster than the global rate and is forecast to reach $192 billion a year by 2020, up from $126 billion in 2011.

Last year, Singapore-based Muslim travel specialist Crescentrating, the halal friendly holiday’s survey, put Malaysia as the first destination for Muslim visitors. Malaysia was followed by United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Morocco, Jordan, Qatar and Tunisia as the top ten countries that ensure halal friendly holidays.

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Turkey’s Esrefoglu wooden mosque draws tourists’ fascination

Monday 23 Mar 2015 – Ankara (IINA) – Esrefoglu Mosque, built in 1299 in the Turkish province of Konya in central Anatolia, continues to attract both domestic and foreign tourists alike, since it is the only wooden mosque where several decorative techniques of stone, brick, ceramics and painting were used together.

It is still an architectural mystery, which baffled scientists, how the wooden parts of the seven-century-old mosque lasted until today without decay.

Built by Esrefoglu Suleyman Bay in 1297-1299, Esrefoglu Mosque is known as the biggest flat-ceiling mosque placed on wooden pillars, the Anadolu news agency reported.

The historical building is still open to worship and is considered a “Turkish museum made of wood” thanks to its superior handicraft of wood and ceramics.

The mosque, a unique example of Islamic architecture, is also noteworthy for its wooden pillars as well as ornaments and fresco paintings on the ceiling.

Speaking to Anadolu, Yasar Erdemir, Assistant Professor at Selcuk University Art History Department, said the mosque has not decayed in the slightest for 708 years. He added that the most interesting aspects of the mosque mystery were its ornaments, made with various techniques, in addition to its pentagonal shape.

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Germany gears up to open first Islamic bank

23 Mar 2015 – Berlin (IINA) – Turkish lender Kuveyt Turk said on Sunday it would launch Germany’s first full-fledged Islamic bank in July, a first step intended at offering Sharia-compliant retail banking services across the continent.

The wholly-owned subsidiary will be called KT Bank AG and use Frankfurt as its base, aiming to tap Europe’s second-largest Muslim community, many of whose members are of Turkish descent. The subsidiary would seek to serve Germany’s roughly 4 million Muslims but also target a wider client base, expanding its branch network across the country and later into the rest of Europe, Reuters reported quoting a bank statement. Kuveyt Turk, the largest Islamic bank in Turkey and 62 percent owned by Kuwait Finance House, set up a financial services branch in Mannheim in 2010 and applied for a full banking license in 2012.

At the time, the lender said it would invest initial capital of 45 million euros ($48.7 million) in the planned German unit. Islamic finance has been slow to gain a foothold in Europe due to a fragmented market and lack of industry-specific regulations. Britain remains Europe’s main Islamic finance hub, with five full-fledged Islamic banks, with a Luxembourg venture also planning to launch an Islamic lender of its own. In 2004, the German state of Saxony-Anhalt raised 100 million euros via Islamic bonds, with Munich-based FWU Group tapping the market in 2012 and 2013.

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Qatar among world’s top 20 financial centres

23 Mar 2015 – Doha, (IINA) – The latest Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI 17), covering 82 financial centres from around the world, has ranked Qatar in the top 20 leading financial centres from across the globe, media news reported.

The GFCI 17, sponsored by Qatar Financial Centre, was released on Sunday by the London-based Z/Yen Group. Z/Yen is the City of London’s leading commercial think-tank.

Qatar’s rating rose by 7 points, mainly driven by its increasing competitiveness, international relations and perceived significance as a leading financial centre not only within the GCC but on a global level. The index saw the ratings of Doha, Riyadh and Casablanca reflect the biggest gains in this competitive region.

Yousef Al Jaidah, Deputy CEO of the QFC Authority, said: “The QFC is delighted that Qatar has again been recognized as a leading financial centre in the GCC, ranked within the top 20 financial centres from around the world. The GFC Index is a renowned and highly relevant and respected report of the leading financial centres globally, which reflect the views and opinions of executives from all over the financial community.”

Doha continues to make strong progress in attracting the attention of the international financial and business services community, Mark Yeandle, the author of the GFCI, said.

GFCI 17 uses 28,494 financial centre assessments completed by 3,527 financial services professionals. Since 2007, well over 120,000 assessments from over 9,500 respondents have built the index.

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Dubai to offer visa, tax incentives to entice Expo 2020 exhibitors

Monday 23 Mar 2015 – Dubai, (IINA) – Dubai is planning to offer visa, tax and duty incentives to attract exhibitors to the World Expo in 2020,Arabian business news reported quoting to a senior official.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman, Dubai Expo 2020 preparatory higher committee, said Dubai will have a dedicated multinational team that will be able to serve as a single point of contact for participants.

In an interview with Oxford Business Group, Sheikh Ahmed said Dubai “has a strong track record of hosting major international events”, adding that Dubai Expo 2020 aims to attract 25 million visitors, with 17 million of those coming from overseas.

He said the team will ensure diplomatic status for senior participant staff, specialized visas, fast-track immigration lanes, and duty and tax exemptions, as well as streamlined logistics systems that will facilitate processes with greater ease.

As the first World Expo to be hosted in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region, Dubai Expo 2020 will be a momentous landmark for the global Bureau of International Expositions community, he added.

Running October 2020 through April 2021, the Expo will launch the country’s Golden Jubilee celebration and serve as a springboard from which to inaugurate a progressive and sustainable vision for the coming decades.

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Japan’s oldest mosque receives 100 visitors during weekend

24 Mar 2015 – Tokyo, (IINA) – One of the oldest and largest mosques in Japan has been holding free tours into the facility over the past year, offering interested visitors information about Islam and its teachings, media sources reported.

Tokyo Camii mosque is the largest mosque in Japan, which was originally built along with an adjoining school on May 12, 1938 by Tatar immigrants from Russia who had come to Japan after the October Revolution

Currently, the mosque receives nearly 100 visitors during weekend, compared to only 20 before the hostage problem. Visitors to the mosque have been offered free tours since the new program was launched last April.

During the tour, participants receive explanations about Islamic teachings and the religious functions of mosques from Shimoyama, a Muslim. They are also permitted to observe prayers.

The number of people asking for a tour into the mosque has increased noticeably after ISIS group held two Japanese hostage in Syria. “I realized for the first time that I had no knowledge about the Islamic religion when the hostage situation occurred,” said Yuki Obayashi, 22, a senior at a university in Tokyo, participated in a tour held last month.

Shimoyama feels that more and more people are trying to understand Islam since the hostage crisis. It was made under the direction of Abdürreşid İbrahim, the first Imam of the mosque, and Abdülhay Kurban Ali. According to the Tokyo-based Japan Muslim Association, there are between 70 and 80 mosques in Japan.

Islam began in Japan in the 1920s through the immigration of a few hundreds of Turkish Muslims from Russia following the Russian revolution, and in 1930, the number of Muslims in the country reached about 1000 of different origins.

Another wave of migrants who boosted the Muslim population reached its peak in the 1980s, along with migrant workers from Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is noteworthy that Japan today considered home to a thriving Muslim community of about 120,000, among nearly 127 million in the world’s tenth most populated country.

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Turkey to launch anti-Islamophobia initiatives

Tuesday 24 Mar 2015 – Ankara (IINA) – President of Turkish Religious Affairs (Diyanet) Dr Mehmet Gormaz said that Islam is still ranked first among the day today issues in Europe. He also stressed that the upcoming period will see augumented initiatives in confronting Islamophobia.

Speaking at the opening session of the Consultation Meeting of Central Units of Diyanet Presidency in Ankara, Dr Gormaz stressed the need to follow up the developments in Turkey, the Muslim world and the entire globe, affirming that Islam is still a major topic on the agenda of Turkey and the world, consequently the international community should be at a good state of readiness to address the issue of Islamophobia.

Gormaz added that the Presidency of Religious Affairs has recently turned into an international charity movement, confirming its continuation to provide many humanitarian services within and outside Turkey.

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Morocco to open tourism office in Abu Dhabi

24 Mar 2015 – Rabat, (IINA) – The Moroccan National Tourist Office (MNTO) will open a new office in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

In a statement issued Monday, MNTO stated that the new premises will serve as a regional platform to enhance tourist flows between the Kingdom and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Morocco World News reported.

On the sidelines of the office’s inauguration, MNTO and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority will sign an agreement to strengthen experience exchanges and increase tourism flows between the two countries.

It is noteworthy that Morocco won the Best Stand award on Thursday at the International Travel and Tourism Exhibition held in Moscow from March 18 to 21.

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Mosque in Gloucester, England opens door to public

Tuesday 24 Mar 2015 – Gloucester, England (IINA) – In a bid to remove misconceptions about Islam and present its true image, a Gloucester mosque in England opened its doors for the public over the past week, according to media reports.

The event in Masjid-E-Noor mosque offered visitors a first-hand experience of what Islam is all about, as several speakers shared their personal journey to the fast growing faith.

Recital of the Holy Qur’an along with briefing about the history of Muslims in Britain and their contribution were also presented during the interfaith event.

“Whatever your culture, whatever your ethnicity, the message is of peace,” speaker Haroon Kadodia said. “There is so much anti-Islamic propaganda that to separate the wheat from the chaff is very difficult. We have to cross oceans of ignorance” he added.

“Islam is a peaceful religion and Muslims are like any other individuals. We work, we put food on the table and we live normal lives,” Imam Hassan, who organized the event, was quoted by Gloucester Citizen online news on Sunday.

“We wanted people to learn more about Islam and Muslim culture and help people from different backgrounds to get to know each other. We want to make the mosque a hospitable place for all religions.”

Imam Hassan was addressing the attendants at the open day organized by the Masjid-E-Noor mosque in Gloucester on Saturday.

Visitors had the chance to ask questions to speakers Mohammed Martin and Maisa Higgins, who are reverted to Islam.

Last Month, more than 20 mosques took part in “Visit My Mosque Day“, an interfaith event that was organized by the Muslim Council of Britain.

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Women staffers at Prophet’s Mosque speak 17 languages

24 Mar 2015 – Madinah (IINA) – Young Saudi female staffers at the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques are doing a commendable job in crowd control mechanism as well as in rendering selfless service to women worshippers at the Prophet’s Mosque. They are well versed in at least 17 major languages used by most pilgrims who come from all over the world.

These young women staffers guide worshippers and pilgrims and enlighten them by speaking in their own language. “This is the outcome of intensive training and orientation courses that began nearly one decade ago,” according to one of their supervisors. The languages include English, Urdu, French, Turkish, Malawi, Indonesian, Malaysian, Hindi, Persian, Hausa, Pashto, Thai and Malawi, Al-Watan daily reported. One of the women staffers said it is very easy for them to learn some languages like Urdu, which is simple and easier to pronounce. However it is very difficult to acquire and speak some other languages like Russian, Turkish and Kurdish.

The supervisor, who requested anonymity, said that nearly 97 percent of staffers are holders of university degrees, including Master’s degree. “The Presidency had started providing training to the staffers in language acquisition nearly 10 years ago. The Presidency has hired translators and preachers for this purpose,” she said, adding that the staffers are allowed to join field duty only after undergoing sufficient training. The training sessions also focused on enabling them to acquire efficiency in several areas such as performance in work, art of interaction with the public, crowd control, first aid, and work under pressure.

“The staffers are in a comfortable position in their crowd control exercise at the Prophet’s Mosque. They have proved their efficiency in managing women pilgrims from all corners of the globe in a systematic and orderly way, especially during rush hours at Rawdat Al-Sharif,” she said.

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Indonesia to build 10 new cities to boost balanced economic growth

Wednesday 25 Mar 2015 – Jakarta (IINA) – Indonesian has planned to develop 10 new cities, with Tanjung Selor in North Kalimantan province the first new city to be built, to ensure a more balanced economic growth, said National Development Planning Minister Andrinof Chaniago.

Speaking to Antara News Agency here on Tuesday, Chaniago said: “There will be 10 new cities. We will begin their development in the current administration’s term”.

He said the government has already completed a study to change the administrative status of Tanjung Selor from a district to the capital city of North Kalimantan, Indonesia’s youngest province, which borders Malaysia.

Chaniago confirmed that the government has allocated funds for the new cities’ development in the revised 2015 state budget, but he refused to give details on the locations of the nine other cities and budgets allocated for them.

“Several areas are still being examined but cannot be revealed now as they could become the target of brokerage activities,” he noted.

Conceptually, the minister said, the development of new cities would be prioritized outside the island of Java. This was part of the government’s efforts to push for a more balanced distribution of economic growth and to achieve prosperity targets, such as poverty and unemployment reduction.

“One of the primary targets of President Jokowi is to create new economic growth hubs outside Java,” he said, adding: “This is one of our missions for a more balanced economic growth distribution”.

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Maldivian team in India to research roots of language

Sun.mv – March 27, 2015 – A team from the Maldivian Language Academy has decided to visit India to research the Maldivian language and the history.

A press release from the Indian High Commission in Maldives says that a team form the language academy would visit India from March 28 to April 9.

The High Commission said that the visit on the invitation of the Indian government, the team would meet with the universities in India and seek the available knowledge on the Maldivian history and language. And a language research based on the knowledge of Boduthakurufaanu has been planned for the trip.

The team is scheduled to visit New Delhi, Agara, Aligarh, Mysore, Kannur and Trivandrum. The Indian High Commissioner in Maldives, Mr. Rajeev Shahare has met with the team from the Maldivian Language Academy.

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Adheeb: Thilafushi port will be completed in two years

Sun.mv – March 20, 2015 – Minister of Tourism and co-chair of the Economic Council, Ahmed Adheeb said that the Thilafushi port developed by Dubai Ports World (DP World) would be completed in two years from the contract signing.

Talking to the media from Dubai, Adheeb said that a period of one month is estimated to finalize the items of the MOU signed with DP World. After that, a contract would be signed and the port will be completed in two years, says Minister Adheeb. He said that a timeline for the project have been established.

“The first phase would also include a big cargo container terminal. First the port service, then a free trade zone for the imported cargo which will be isolated with a fence. Import and export cargo will be kept there.” Adheeb said.

The minister said that with the development of the port in Thilafushi, economic and other sectors would move forward. He said that the Thilafushi port will be used as a transshipment port aside from export with other valued services like packaging.

Noting that the highest imports for the Maldives comes from ports in Dubain and Singapore, Adheeb said that the cargo from those parts aren’t always produced in that particular country but the quality of the port has advantages in importing cargo.

“Due to the efficiency of the ports in Singapore and Dubai with an established efficient free trade zone, cargo from all over the world is being brought to these ports. It’s collected and then go to their destination. So merchants can get items even if they (Singapore) didn’t produce the cargo and it’s cheaper to bring things in bulk and redistribute.” Adheeb said. For this reason, the establishment of a free trade zone would open opportunities for the Maldivian merchants, says Adheeb.

The Maldives have signed an MOU with DP World, which is famous for port management, to build a port and a free trade zone in Maldives. DP World operates 60 ports all over the globe. Maldives Economic Council estimates a 250 – 300 million US dollar investment in the Maldives for the project.

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MTCC to build musical fountain in Malé

Sun.mv – March 22, 2015 – Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) has announced plans to construct a musical fountain in Malé, as a gift to the public on the occasion of the country’s 50th Independence Day. MTCC said that the new musical fountain will replace the old water fountain located to the west of Republic Square.

CEO of MTCC Ibrahim Abdul Razzaq told Sun Online that in addition to water and music, the fountain will include lights, fog, and mist; and the area will be developed as a place where children can play in the water. The fountain, funded by the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, will be opened on 26 July or Independence Day, said Razzaq.

The area has been closed off for construction.

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Viewer numbers, proceeds on rise at Ankara opera

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – The Ankara State Opera and Ballet (ADOB) has increased its audience numbers and income to a large extent since the opening of the new season in October 2014, according to figures from the organization.

Speaking about the 2014-2015 season, ADOB Art Director Mustafa Erdoğan said they had focused on national productions in the repertoire, adding that they had also worked this season to increase productivity behind the stage.

Erdoğan said ADOB was expected to break a new record in terms of box office revenue and the number of viewers.

“We have staged 100 performances since the opening of the season. We have reached an 85 percent occupancy rate and an income of nearly 500,000 Turkish Liras. The number of viewers has reached some 100,000 people. We have reached the complete figures of last season in the middle of this season, breaking a record,” he said.

He also attributed some of the success to the company’s use of the Leyla Gencer Stage more frequently. “In the past, we had one or two performances on the Leyla Gencer Stage, but now it is three or four. We will take advantage of this stage for children’s works, modern dance, operettas and concerts after the stage is improved. We will widen the orchestra pit and use it for the concerts, too,” he said.

Erdoğan also said popular works by ADOB were continuing this year.

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Istanbul Jazz Festival to be held June 27 – July 15

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The 22nd Istanbul Jazz Festival, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), will be held from June 27 to July 15. The festival will once more host the pre-eminent figures of jazz, as well as the stars of contemporary music in Istanbul.

The festival will radiate the city in jazzy lights with over 35 concerts featuring more than 250 musicians both from Turkey and abroad, including some of the most authentic voices in folk, blues and jazz such as Joan Baez, Jools Holland, Marcus Miller, Melody Gardot and Tigran Hamasyan at more than 15 different venues across the city.

The program of the 22nd Istanbul Jazz Festival was announced at a press conference on March 24.

Istanbul Jazz Festival Director Pelin Opçin gave special mention to the “Jazz at Parks” event and announced this year’s venue was Fenerbahçe Park on the Asian side of the city. She also said events like young discoveries, Northern Lights, “Night Out” in Kadıköy and the club sessions parallel to the festival would help spread the festival among young people and across the city.

The 22nd Istanbul Jazz Festival will open with Emin Fındıkoğlu’s new project, the Emin Fındıkoğlu+12, which will also premiere some of his new compositions, in the garden of the Austrian Cultural Office in Yeniköy on June 27. Doyen jazz musician, pianist and composer Fındıkoğlu will also receive the festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award this year.

Young musical prodigy Tigran Hamasyan will be at the festival with two special concerts. On June 30, Hamasyan will render traditional Armenian music at the Hagia Eirene Museum, where he will be joined by the Yerevan State Chamber Music Choir. He will again meet jazz-lovers at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall.

Legendary folk musician Joan Baez has already left half a century behind in her music career with more than 30 albums, acclaimed as one of the leading female vocals in popular music also known for her activism. Baez will be in Istanbul again after 11 years and singing her unforgettable hits at the Cemil Topuzlu Amphitheater on July 1.

Bass genius Marcus Miller is back at the festival with his latest project Afrodeezia, which will also be released as his 10th album in April. Inspired by the route black music has followed, Marcus Miller will return to the roots of his legacy and together with his new band take his audience on a musical excursion through jazz, Latin music, afro-beat and reggae at the Cemil Topuzlu Amphitheater on July 2.

Charnett Moffett, a true bass legend who has played with many other legends such as Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner and Ornette Coleman and has been featured in 200 recordings will be at the festival with an all-star band. Moffett will make his Istanbul debut at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum on July 3 with his latest project Nettwork, which brings together the virtuosos he has been in close contact with throughout his career.

After her captivating performance that left the audience in awe at the 20th Istanbul Jazz Festival in 2013, Melody Gardot returns to the festival. One of Poland’s best jazz musicians, Wojtek Mazolewski and his quintet will be on stage as the opening act of this concert at the Sepetçiler Pavilion on the night of July 6.

Singer and songwriter Marc Almond will guest star with Jools Holland & His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the Cemil Topuzlu Amphitheatre on July 7.

Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca, who tours the world with the Buena Vista Social Club, will get together with Malian musician and singer Fatoumata Diwara for a warm and rhythmic Afro-Latin music night at the Feriye Restaurant on July 8.

This year’s “Encounters with Masters” that will take place in the garden of the Istanbul High School on July 9 will feature Iranian musician Mahsa Vahdat, Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen and Istanbulite percussionist Fahrettin Yarkın.

An American trumpeter of Iranian origins, Amir El Saffar, will take to the stage right before the “Encounters with Masters” concert.

The leading bass and drums duo in Reggae music, Sly & Robbie, will get together with Norwegian jazz trumpet virtuoso Nils Petter Molvaær at the festival for an exceptional concert. The opening act of the concert that will be held on July 11 at KüçükÇiftlik Park will feature Korhan Futacı and the Kara Orchestra portraying Istanbul’s chaos and telling the musical story of insanity in their own style.

A Quartet of Super-Stars will bring the stars of jazz on stage together; Chris Potter on the saxophone, Dave Holland on the bass, Lionel Loueke on the guitar, and Eric Harland on the drums on July 13 at Cemal Reşit Rey.

Another treat of the final days of this year’s festival will be the Australian band Hiatus Kaiyote, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2013 with the song Nakamarra. The band earned great success with its debut album Tawk Tomahawk in 2012 and its second album Choose Your Weapon is due for May 2015. The date and venue for the Hiatus Kaiyote concert will be announced soon. Tickets for the festival will go on sale April 11.

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Islamic inscription confirms ancient ties with Vikings

BRUSSELS – Anadolu Agency – The discovery of an Islamic inscription on a ring inside a Viking coffin has confirmed ancient tales about contact between Viking-era peoples in Scandinavia and the Islamic world.

The silver ring, recovered from a wooden coffin containing the skeleton of a female buried around 850 A.D., was originally found during the excavation of graves between 1872 and 1895 at the Viking-era trading center of Birka on Björkö Island near Stockholm.

But scientists using a scanning electron microscope only recently discovered the Arabic inscription “Inshallah” was inscribed on the ring, Swedish media has reported.

Sebastian Wärmländer, biophysicist of Stockholm University, told Discovery News, “It’s the only ring with an Arabic inscription found in Scandinavia. We have a few other Arabic-style rings, but without inscriptions.”

Wärmländer wrote in the journal Scanning after their discovery in February, “Our analysis shows that the studied ring consists of a high quality (94.5 percent) non-gilded silver alloy, set with a stone of colored soda-lime glass with an Arabic inscription reading some version of the word ‘Allah.’”

Swedish researchers interpreted the inscription on the ring, which featured a pink-violet colored stone, as “il-la-lah” meaning “For/To Allah.” However, alternative interpretations say the letters could also be read as “INs…LLH” meaning “Inshallah” (God-willing). The discovery provides evidence of direct interaction between Vikings and Islamic countries, according to the researchers.

“The Viking sagas and chronicles tell us of Viking expeditions to the Black and Caspian Seas and beyond, but we don’t know what fact is and what is fiction in these stories,” Wärmländer said. “The mint condition of the ring corroborates ancient tales about direct contact between Viking-age Scandinavia and the Islamic world,” he said.

The ring is part of the Swedish History Museum’s collection.

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‘Fair İzmir’ kicks off with high hopes

İZMİR – Doğan News Agency – Turkey’s biggest fair area, located in the Gaziemir district of the Aegean province of İzmir, officially opened with the start of the MARBLE International Natural Stone and Technologies Fair on March 25.

The area of “Fair İzmir” cost a total of 400 million Turkish Liras to build, spent by the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality.

A total of 40 million liras was spent in the acquisition of the 337,000 square-meter area.

Fair İzmir includes four closed and one open exhibition areas with the space of the exhibition halls totaling 90,000 square meters. In addition, the amount of investment is estimated to be around 600 million Turkish Liras, along with junction and monorail projects.

The opening ceremony of Fair İzmir saw high ranking officials, including main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Deputy Parliament Speaker Güldal Mumcu, İzmir Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Provincial Head Bülent Delican.

Speaking at the opening, CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu stressed that his party concentrates on economy along with democracy and rights.

“We laid the foundations of the fair area two years ago. Now we are putting it into service. They say that the CHP only defends democracy and rights, not the economy. We never forget economics. It is very important for us,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.

In addition, İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu indicated that the history of fair is being rewritten.

“This fair means economy, trade, tourism and employment as well as income, food and abundance. It also stands for investment, competition and cooperation,” said Kocaoğlu, adding that the complex is a key piece in local development goals.

Meanwhile, the absence of Izmir Governor Mustafa Toprak has elicited reactions from participants. Deputy Governor Hasan Hüseyin Can announced that the governor had another programme on agenda.

“Fair İzmir is a significant springboard for İzmir. It will help the city accomplish its goals. The complex will accelerate İzmir in terms of employment and economics,” Can said.

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Young Kazakhs preserve Novruz traditions

Centralasiaonline.com 2015-03-24 ASTANA — Since before Islamic times, Kazakhs have celebrated Novruz — the Spring festival coinciding with the vernal equinox, when the day and night are the same length.

This year was no different, with communities holding festivals and families preparing traditional foods to share with friends and neighbours March 22. Older generations have passed this holiday spirit on to their children.

They include Aijan and Yermek Jangaliyev of Sarykemer village, Zhambyl Province, married for 47 years.

“I remember when I was a little girl in Aksu village, South Kazakhstan,” Aijan-aje (Grandma Aijan) said. “For us, Novruz meirami (“the Novruz holiday” in Kazakh) always was a great event, a celebration with tasty food, tea and a good atmosphere. The house was full of guests, even though we were poor then.”

Every year for Novruz she cooks many traditional dishes. The main dish, novruz-kozje, is traditionally made from various grains, meat and milk. Children have a choice of various sweets like navat (crystallised sugar), as well as dried fruits and nuts.

“On Novruz, our doors are open for all guests,” said Yermek-ata (Grandpa Yermek). “We meet children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours, acquaintances and anybody who shows up.”

Before the festival, he said, you must tidy up your house and your thoughts and wish good fortune to everyone. The Jangaliyevs attribute their recipes and other traditions to their parents and to their grandparents before them. Now they have four children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild to help prepare all the dishes.

Another family representing the younger generation loves the Novruz tradition too. Aliya Musina and Askhat Musin of Taraz have two daughters, Altynai (six) and Galiya (nine). They always help their mother in the kitchen on Novruz eve.

This year, apart from novruz-koje, they want to make dishes of wheat and maize — tary and talkan. They will have various juices and salads too.

“We can’t fail to mark this festival,” Aliya Musina said. “We’ve loved it since we were children. I remember my grandmother telling us how to make novruz-koje and sweets … It would be wrong of me only to prepare modern dishes.”

The Musins all go as a family to the festival in Taraz’s main square, where they take in the colourful yurts, young men and women in folk costumes, and food served from huge cauldrons. The Musins keep their own tradition of exchanging presents for the holiday.

“We aren’t simply keeping up a tradition,” Askhat Musin said. “We love this festival and these dishes. That’s why Kazakhs always will celebrate Novruz.”

The festival, though associated with Islam over the centuries, has won the hearts of other ethnic and religious groups in diverse Kazakhstan. Those who celebrate the holiday include the Tkachenko family, which has lived in Taraz since 1987. The Tkachenkos include ethnic Ukrainians, Jews and Russians.

On Novruz Eve, their daughter Olya, 13, donned a traditional costume and performed a folk dance in a concert at school.

The whole family takes part in preparing the Kazakh dish besparmak from dough, meat and broth. This year they also planned to prepare not only Kazakh dishes but also Olivier salad and braised potatoes and meat.

“We love many Kazakh dishes — besparmak, sorpa, kuyrdak and kumys,” said Viktoriya Tkachenko. Every year, the Tkachenkos receive invitations from Kazakh families living nearby, and they do not refuse such invitations.

“We have many Kazakh friends, and we love Kazakh food,” said Andrei Tkachenko.

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Bangladesh targets 1m tourists in 2016

DHAKA, March 25, 2015 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, MP, today said the government has set a target to increase foreign tourists to 10 lakh from current nearly 5 lakh in the tourism year 2016.

“We would be able to attract one million foreign tourists in 2016, the declared earlier Tourism Year” he said.

The minister sought support from all the stakeholders to achieve the target. Menon, however, admitted that Bangladesh is yet to become an attractive tourism destination as desired despite having immense potential.

The Tourism Minister was addressing a function titled “Thank You Bangladesh” marking the achievements made over the last four years of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) in a city hotel in the evening.

Prime Minister’s Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam, Chairman of Parliament Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry Faruk Khan, Secretary Khurshed Alam Chowdhury, Chief Executive Officer of the BTB Akhtaruzzaman Khan Kabir and visiting CEO of PATA Mario Hardy also spoke at the function.

Speaking as the special guest, HT Imam said the tourism sector is an area which has enormous potential to grow. He expressed satisfaction over the growth of domestic tourists and laid emphasis on attracting more foreign tourists.

HT Imam also said all the barriers would have to be identified and addressed those to make sure that the sector’s potential is fully tapped. He said there are many beautiful places which can attract huge tourists both from home and abroad.

Faruk Khan said some half a million tourists visit Bangladesh annually and the number can easily be increased. He laid emphasis on public and private sector collaborations to help grow the sector further. Later, a cultural event was held that highlighted Bangladesh’s cultural heritage.

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Brunei Darussalam Gets a new Maritime Museum

Tuesday, 24 March 2015 BruDirect.com JALAN KOTA BATU, BRUNEI-MUARA: Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Deputy Sultan yesterday has consented to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum in Jalan Kota Batu.

On arrival at the Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum Building, the prince was greeted by Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awg Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, and his Deputy, Datin Paduka Hajah Adina binti Othman.

The ceremony began with the recitation of surah Al-Fatihah and Doa Selamat led by Yang Berhormat Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awg Yahya bin Haji Ibrahim.

The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awg Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah in his welcoming address said the Brunei Maritime Museum not only serves as an exhibition hall, but also acts as a learning and research institution that will provide the inspiration and motivation for development of the nation’s civilisation especially among the young generation.

Yang Berhormat Pehin added that while Brunei Darussalam remains as the main transit for ships and foreign traders, Bruneians are also able to explore the vast seas to compete with other countries through the country’s capability to build ships with up-to-date maritime technology.

The price then opened the Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum and signed a commemorative plaque before touring Maritime Museum Exhibition.

The ‘Brunei Ship Wreck Gallery’, showcases important and historic findings from the Brunei Shipwreck in 1997. The Brunei Shipwreck is the most important discovery in Brunei Darussalam’s history that demonstrates Brunei’s role in maritime trades with other countries from the end of 15th to early 16th century as recorded by foreign travellers such as Arabs, Chinese and Europeans. Among the artefacts display are ceramics, glass bracelets, beads, ivories and metal objects.

The Brunei Darussalam Maritime Museum was built under the 10th National Development Plan at a cost of $5 million on a 3.53 hectare site. The museum is open to the members of the public every Saturday until Thursday from 9am until 5pm. Meanwhile, on Friday, it will be open from 9am until 11.30am and 2.30pm until 5pm.

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Nigeria: Dana Air Begins Flights Operations to Owerri

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 27 March 2015 – As part of its ongoing domestic route network expansion plans, Dana Air has commenced daily flights to Owerri. The addition of Owerri brings the current route network coverage of the airline to five destinations – Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Owerri.

Speaking on the expansion the Chief Commercial Officer of Dana Air, Mr. Obi Mbanouzuo, said the airline is working with the objective of integrating most major cities in Nigeria into its route network and making air transport accessible by developing new routes and linking same to its existing routes network to better serve the demands of passengers.

According to him, “We are constantly reviewing our operations and our decision to commence operations to Owerri is hinged on our desire to offer passengers in Owerri and its environs access to Dana’s wider route network”.

Meanwhile, the airline has set an introductory online fare of N9,900 to boost leisure and business trips across its route network.

Dana Air currently operates flights from Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt and Uyo; will operate daily flights from Murtala Mohammed Airport Terminal 2 (MMA2), Lagos to the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, as well as onwards flights to Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja.

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Inbound Tourism to Egypt Increases By 5.5% in Jan

Aswat Masriya – 25 March 2015 – Cairo — The number of tourists arriving in Egypt in January stood at 677.5, marking a 5.5 percent increase from those who landed in the country during the same time last year, the state’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) said.

The biggest number of tourists arrived from Eastern Europe, CAPMAS said in a statement released on Wednesday, making up 39.5 percent of the total number of tourists who visited the country in January.

It was closely followed by Western Europe, where 32.9 percent of January’s inbound tourism came from. Tourists arriving from the Middle East represented 16 percent of the sum of tourists who came in January.

The number of Arab tourists visiting the country increased to 26.4 percent in 2015, as opposed to 19 percent during the same month last year, CAPMAS said.

Tourism was a main source of income in Egypt until a popular uprising which toppled former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011 triggered four years of political turmoil, taking its toll on the sector.

Tourism revenues jumped to almost $4 billion from $1.9 billion during the first half of the current fiscal year 2014/2015, the central bank announced last week.

Tourism Minister Khaled Rami had said in the Egypt Economic Development Conference, held from March 13 – 15, that the state is aiming to increase the number of tourists in 2020 to 20 million tourists, consequently increasing tourism revenues to reach $20 billion.

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Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria to Partner On Tourism, Economic Development

Daily Trust – 23 March 2015 – The Cote d’Ivoire Ambassador to Nigeria, Mrs. Toure Kone Maman, has said the country is committed to building partnership with Nigeria as a big brother, especially in the areas of tourism and economic development.

The ambassador sought the collaboration yesterday when she paid a courtesy call on the Nigerian Tourism Development, NTDC, Director General Mrs. Sally Mbanefor in Abuja.

While commending the existing relationship between the two countries, the ambassador said, “The excellent relations between our two countries have been strengthened with the signing of an agreement establishing a Bi-national Commission between both countries, during the state visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to Côte d’Ivoire in March 2013.”

She said the first meeting of this Bi-national Commission held in August 2013, resulted in the signing of 7 agreements in different areas of common interest, including tourism and investment to help the businessmen of the two countries work closer and together.

She commended the strides of the NTDC boss at developing and promoting the Nigeria’s tourism industry, adding “We shall ensure timely implementation of the MoU we would sign with the NTDC.”

Responding, Mbanefo said that Nigeria’s achievement in tourism will double by 2017, saying “the fall in the price of oil in the global market has propelled an encouraging shift of focus from oil to tourism.”

“At present, tourism contributes about four per cent to our GDP, but it would have increased to about eight per cent in the next two years.”

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Garuda Indonesia, BNI organize Travel Fair 2015

23 March 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian flagship airline company Garuda Indonesia and Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) will organize the Garuda Indonesia Travel Fair (GATF) 2015 on April 3-5, 2015, at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan, Jakarta.

“The GATF 2015 will be different as compared to the last years event. The current fair will promote the Fly with Style theme as the concept that reflects a fresh, young, and sophisticated event,” Commercial Director of Garuda Indonesia Handayani noted here on Monday.

The GATF offers the facility to people who want to plan their holiday trip well in advance.

“This facility is being offered to consumers, so that they can avail cheaper prices, decide the appropriate time to venture on their holidays, and benefit from interesting tour packages,” Handayani pointed out.

Handayani said the GATF also offers hotel rooms and other necessities for holidaymakers besides providing flight tickets.

The GATF 2015 will be the first fair to be simultaneously held across 17 cities in Indonesia. Garuda Indonesia and BNI will hold the exhibition in nine cities: Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Solo, Semarang, Makassar, Surabaya, Pontianak, and Balikpapan.

The GATF will also be held simultaneously on April 10-12, 2015, in eight cities such as Medan, Pekanbaru, Batam, Banjarmasin, Denpasar, Manado, Biak, and Jayapura.

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Garuda projects 800,000 passengers from China this year

24 March 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Director of Garuda Indonesia, M. Arif Wibowo said the flag carrier hopes to transport 800,000 passengers from China to Indonesia this year after it opens flight service to 10 Chinese cities.

“With the visa free facility I am confident that there would be an increase in the number of passengers,” Arif said.

The government earlier announced visa free facility given to visitors from more countries including China. Arif said, the tourism ministry also supports the program to promote Indonesian tourism in China.

He said currently Garuda Indonesia is focused on serving direct flights from 10 Chinese cities to Jakarta and Denpasar. “We already served a number of flights from the 10 Chinese cities and the flights are made by phases on contract charter for one to two years to come,” he said.

Garuda also plans to increase flight frequency from Shanghai to Denpasar to increase the number of passengers from China.

“The government set a target to carry 2 million visitors from China , but hopefully with the visa free facility the number could be larger. If we could contribute 1 million passengers it would be encouraging,” he said.

The 10 Chinese cities are Harbin, Xian, Shenyang, Chengzhou, Tiayuan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Ningbo, Wuhan, dan Nanjing.

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Geospatial Information Agency to verify and name 3,000 Indonesian islands

27 March 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Geospatial Information Agency will verify some 3,000 unnamed islands in Indonesia and put their coordinate on the map. “Therefore, the official number of our islands may increase from 13,466 to around 17,000,” Head of Indonesia Geospatial Information Agency Dr. Priyadi Kardono said here Friday, after a coordination meeting with the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry officials.

The archipelago country is said to have some 17,000 islands, but Geospatial Information Agency has done the verification of only 13,466 islands so far. Around 3,000 islands still need to be verified and named.

Kardono remarked that Indonesia has the most number of islands in the world and has the second longest coastline after Canada.

According to the agency, the length of Indonesian coastline has increased from some 91,000 kilometers to 99,093 kilometers after the latest verification process using a 1:250,000 scale.

The length of the coastline may increase further if the agency conducts the mapping using a scale of 1:25,000 for Java and Bali and 1:50,000 for Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua.

“With the mapping of all the coastal areas using more detailed scales, the length of Indonesian coastline may increase to 100 thousand kilometers,” Kardono explained.

During the coordination meeting, the officials of Geospatial Information Agency and the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding for utilizing geospatial information, such as the map of fish, coral, and mangrove distribution, for the management of marine and fisheries natural resources.

“As part of a plan to develop 24 major harbors, the agency will map the Indonesian coastal areas using a very detailed scale of 1:10,000,” Kardono revealed.

The mapping is expected to finish in seven months and will involve the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, and Hydro-Oceanography Office. It is estimated to cost two billion rupiah per location.

On the occasion, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti noted that although Indonesia has the longest coastline, it only ranks fifth in seafood exports in the South Asian region. The Philippines is ranked number one.

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Two sections of Sphinxes Avenue in Luxor to open

Al-Ahram – Sunday 22 Mar 2015 – After five years of restoration the first and fifth Sphinxes Avenues, which once connected both Karnak and Luxor temples in ancient times, are to be opened tomorrow night for the first time.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty is to cut the ribbon to open a new tourist destination in the town. He told Ahram Online that the restoration of the Sphinx Avenue and installing new lightening and security systems in Luxor temple came within the framework of the ministry’s efforts to protect the country’s ancient shrine.

Eldamaty explained that the development of Luxor’s temple lighting and security systems is a part of a Spanish grant of 150 million euros used for the implementation of a scheme to protect every archaeological site in Theban so they can be visited at night and be well-protected.

He went on to say that the new lighting system is made according to the latest technology which guarantees the preservation of the temple walls and engravings.

For his part Major General Mohamed Al-Sheikha, head of the Projects Department at the ministry of antiquities, said that the security system installed in the temple includes of an electronic curtain stretched around the temple, along with monitoring cameras connected to a TV circuit.

He told Ahram Online that the restoration of the first and fifth sections of the Sphinxes Avenue represents 37 per cent of the whole path. It was carried out in collaboration with the National Service Projects with a budget of LE66.5 million.

He went on to say that the restoration work of the first section, which stretches from the Luxor temple to 350 metres long, includes the removal of all encroachment as well as the consolidation of the avenue’s eastern wall and the restoration of the sphinxes themselves. The restoration of the 600-metre-long fifth section extends from the area behind Luxor Library to the town’s airport road.

Al-Sheikha pointed out that restoration is continuing on the other sections of the avenue in order to open more sections soon.

The Sphinxes Avenue was the site of ceremonial processions that once connected both Luxor and Karnak temples. It is dated to around 380 BCE and stretches some 2.7 kilometers. It would have originally had 1,350 sphinxes lining both sides. Around half of those have been uncovered, with many reworked by later civilizations or sitting in museums. Much of the avenue is still covered by modern buildings.

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Kuwait wins two prizes for tourism media in Jordan

Kuwait News Agency – 26 March, 2015 – The State of Kuwait won two prizes on tourism media at an announcement ceremony of winners of the 2015 Tourism Media Awards, which was held in the Jordanian capital Wednesday.

The ceremony, organized by the Arab Center for Tourism Media (ACTM), was held under auspices of Jordanian Minister of Tourism Nayef Al-Fayez and Head of ACTM Hussain Al-Mana’ee.

Kuwait won in best Arab touristic radio program “A trip to Failaka”, and best Arab newspaper Al-Watan in focusing on local and Arab tourism subjects and issues.

ACTM’s main aim to grant such awards is to encourage Arab touristic cadres, shed light on Arab touristic cities and destinations, and support the spread of tourism media awareness in the Arab world, Al-Mana’ee said in a press conference.

The winners’ grand honoring ceremony is to be held in the forthcoming period at an Arab country, he said, adding that ACTM’s awards are granted to Arab touristic figures, state-institutions, landscapes, and cities.

Meanwhile, the ceremony announced names of other Arab countries that won prizes, including UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan.

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Trip to Jeddah tourist sites thrills pilgrims

Arab News – 27 March, 2015 – The Jeddah governorate, under the supervision of Prince Mishaal bin Majed, has ramped up efforts to promote tourism in Jeddah in particular and the Kingdom in general.

Different organizations from the public and private sectors have organized different exhibitions and cultural programs for Umrah pilgrims to promote domestic tourism.

A number of Umrah pilgrims from different countries are enjoying the Jeddah tours everyday, where they go to the Balad district, the famous Jeddah Corniche and other places with their tour operators.

“I came from Turkey with my group, and our tour operator brought us to the Jeddah Corniche, the famous Red Sea beach of Jeddah, and we also visited the famous Al Balad district. It was a beautiful experience. The people of Jeddah are very friendly and hospitable,” said Amir Berkent.

Asleem Mustaneer, a pilgrim from Indonesia, told Arab News that they loved going to Jeddah beach and having a chance to perform Maghrib at Fatima Mosque at the Corniche. They met local people, did some shopping at Al-Balad and had the chance to see the historical Jeddah area, he said.

“We loved the stay in Makkah where we offered our prayers in the Grand Mosque, did Umrah and fulfilled our wish of coming to the Kingdom. Every Muslim in the world wants to come to Makkah. I would like to come again to perform Haj. From here, we will go to Madinah to pray at the Prophet’s Mosque, and we will spend a day or two there,” he said.

Mustaneer praised the efforts of the Saudi government for facilitating pilgrims and giving them the chance to tour Jeddah as well.

The “Umrah Plus” tour program allows pilgrims to visit the Kingdom’s tourist resorts. It was launch by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) with the cooperation of the Foreign and Interior Ministries some months ago.

According to reports, more than 65 countries benefit from the program.

Tourism is a major contributor to the Saudi economy; tourism industry observers said that project investments in Saudi travel and tourism stood at SR150 billion in 2014 wherein SR50 billion came from domestic tourism and SR100 billion from inbound tourism.

Tourism, especially the one connected with Haj and Umrah, is a major source of revenue and an economic mainstay.

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Emirates offers free Wi-Fi on 106 aircraft

Gulf Times – 27 March, 2015 – Emirates now offers first 10MB data free Wi-Fi on 106 of its aircraft, with two to three more aircraft being installed with Wi-Fi connectivity every month.

After updating the service in early February with a simpler sign-on process on top of other software updates, Emirates has seen a further 25% increase in uptake.

Emirates said it continues to invest over $ 20mn annually on installing and operating inflight connectivity systems, which enable onboard Wi-Fi services. On Emirates’ ultra-long-haul flights (14 hours and more), over 30% of passengers typically use Wi-Fi services, and on a recent flight to New York, 66% of passengers used onboard Wi-Fi.

Currently, Wi-Fi service is available on all of Emirates’ 59 Airbus A380 aircraft and 47 of its Boeing 777 aircraft. On more than 60% of the installed fleet, the first 10MB data is free – sufficient for an update on social media accounts or texting via instant messaging apps. Thereafter, and for the rest of the fleet, users can enjoy 500MB of data for a token $ 1 charge. By giving either free access or charging a token amount since last October, Emirates has seen a near fivefold increase in usage.

Besides offering Wi-Fi connectivity on all A380 flights, Emirates is in the process of converting all of its Boeing 777-300ERs and 777-200LRs to become Wi-Fi ready at the rate of two-to-three aircraft per month.

“As a global connector of people and places, Emirates is committed to making our entire fleet Wi-Fi enabled. Customers seek free Wi-Fi on-the-go, especially while travelling, and it is becoming the norm for most people who want to stay connected through online social networks and instant messaging. Emirates is subsidising or waiving the high cost of buying data to serve our passengers on routes across six continents.

We foresee that free Wi-Fi onboard is the future standard for all our customers, something that will require no charge or limitations,” says Patrick Brannelly, divisional vice-president for Customer Experience (Inflight Entertainment & Connectivity).

Due to current industrial technical limitations such as speed and bandwidth availability and the lack of advanced hardware and software support, the small token charge for additional data usage is required to keep the Wi-Fi service operational.

In 2014, about 650,000 customers used Emirates’ Wi-Fi service on board and as of early March this year, more than 350,000 customers have already used the service.

According to the airline’s data, the websites its passengers most frequently access onboard include Facebook and Google, and chat services such as Skype and WhatsApp, reflecting travellers’ strong desire to stay connected on the move and their use of social media channels to do so.

Passengers on board Emirates also have other ways to stay connected with personal mobile phones services offered on more than 75% of the fleet and in-seat email, telephone and SMS services on every aircraft. All of Emirates’ 37 dedicated airport lounges around its global network offer complimentary Wi-Fi connectivity.

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Sharjah participates in Aahar 2015 food fair in India

Saudi Gazette – 26 March, 2015 – Sharjah airport International Free Zone (SAIF Zone) participated in the 30th annual edition of Aahar 2015,the five-day international food and hospitality fair, that recently concluded at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.

While talking about SAIF Zone ‘s participation, Saud Al Mazrouei, director of SAIF Zone and Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA), said the event, the biggest in the food industry and the hospitality sector in India, provided an opportunity to connect with the large companies involved in the food industry and hospitality and get closely acquainted with the needs of investors in this important sector.

Al Mazrouei indicated that this participation would be meaningful in terms of trade promotion and strengthening bilateral trade relations.

A number of prominent figures, including Saed Mohamad Almheiri, Charge d’Affaires at Embassy of the UAE in New Delhi, visited SAIF Zone’s Pavilion and the pavilion attracted investors from Japan, Korea, China, Denmark, France, Afghanistan, Canada and Tunisia

The event, organized by India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO), attracted over 800 participants, including 70 overseas participants from 22 countries.

SAIF Zone delegation, led by its Commercial Director Mohamed Al Mahmoud, interacted with a number of businessmen in India and other countries. “The response was huge, especially from investors in India and businessmen from Korea and Japan,” said Mohamed Al Mahmoud.

SAIF Zone, with an area of 6.1 million square meters of industrial and commercial land, houses more than 6,800 companies from 149 countries.

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Oil price drop to curb growth in MENA hospitality sector: Study

Saudi Gazette – 26 March, 2015 – The Middle East and North African (MENA) region’s hospitality market saw stable growth across key performance indicators in 2014, according to EY’s Middle East Hotel Benchmark Survey Report. Amid the ongoing oil price volatility, the sector may face a possible slowdown in 2015 if price remain low or continue to decrease.

Yousef Wahbah, MENA Head of Transaction Real Estate at EY, said: “If occupancy rates are to remain the same or decrease; the extra supply that is slated to enter the MENA hospitality market in 2015, coupled with unstable oil prices, may have an effect on the industry’s growth rates over the coming year. Conditions may not be as vibrant as they were in 2014. In terms of transactions, the hospitality sector may see a drop in the number of deals given the uncertainty in the market. The next six to nine months will be a critical period for the industry to monitor whether oil prices stabilize and how much effect this will have on the number of hospitality transactions and developments in the region.”

The three major cities – Madinah, Riyadh and Jeddah — saw their RevPAR in 2014 increase by 7.3%, 11.2% and 6.8% respectively compared to 2013. The Saudi cities are expected to have a strong pipeline of new hotels based on the strong performance that has been witnessed across the country’s hotels.

The UAE remained the top performer in the MENA region in terms of occupancy in 2014, maintaining a high average of 79% in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. RevPAR saw a slight dip in the two cities compared to 2013 due to the large room supply that came online in 2014.

In the wider MENA region, Cairo, Manama, Doha saw noticeable increases in both occupancy and RevPAR. Cairo saw its occupancy increase from 26% in 2013 to 35% in 2014, and more notably saw an increase of 53.1% in RevPAR largely due to a 15% increase in average room rate compared to 2013.

2014 was a positive year for Doha; the city saw it’s occupancy rise by 7%, leading to an increase in RevPAR of 13.4%. Doha maintained a high occupancy rate of 70%, one of the highest across the MENA region.

In January 2015, Riyadh’s average occupancy levels increased by 3.0% when compared to the same period last year, however, average daily rate (ADR) witnessed a drop of 4.6%. Occupancy and ADR dropped in Jeddah and Madina in January 2015 compared to January 2014 resulting in a drop in RevPAR of 3.1% and 12.0% respectively.

“Overall the MENA hospitality market continued to see stable rates across the peak tourism season which lasts until March. With the increase of conferences and events held in the region, paired with the mild weather, we can predict this growth to remain stable and continue into the coming months. We expect the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar hospitality markets to maintain high occupancy and RevPAR levels. It may be difficult however for the MENA region to sustain the same level of positive performance if oil price stays low or continues to drop beyond the next six to nine months,” Yousef noted.

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Qatar Rail to host international meet on railway inter-operability

The Peninsula – 25 March, 2015 – Qatar Railways Company (Qatar Rail) will be hosting the 1st UIC RAME “International Conference on Railway Inter-operability, Standardisation, Harmonisation for the Middle East”, organised by UIC and UIC Middle East, and taking place on March 30 and 31 2015.

The high-level conference is being planned in close cooperation with OTIF (Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail) and CIT (International Rail Transport Committee) to provide a unique opportunity to discuss the latest developments in optimising international cross-border rail transport. Over 100 industry leaders will be participating at the event, including VIP guests, UIC experts, and members from the management team at Qatar Rail, as well as decision makers from Siemens.

Qatar Rail is on the list of main speakers. The company will present its vision on cross-border operations discussing its project of Long Distance Rail Network for Passengers and Freight and the Interoperability between the GCC Member States systems. This Qatar Rail project will connect major centres of population and industries in Qatar and will form part in the planned GCC railway network linking the six countries together.

Engineer Abdulla Abdulaziz Al Subaie (pictured), Managing Director of Qatar Rail said: “The long distance rail network is planned over a length of approximately 510km and proposed to be developed in distinct phases to meet commitments made to GCC and domestic passenger and freight demands. We hope this distinguished conference hosted by Qatar Rail in coordination with renowned organisers in the railway sector will successfully discuss cross-border operations and help us establish an effective rail network in our region”.

By joining forces, OTIF, CIT and UIC aim to address all determining interoperability issues in the technical, operational, legal and regulatory fields, including the following: transport law, regulations, agreements, contracts aiming to facilitate cross-border operations and international wagon use, transports of dangerous goods, progress in railway standardization and harmonization in traffic management, safety management systems, asset management, and operations on international corridors.

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Industrial city for women-run businesses planned in Jeddah

Saudi Gazette – 25 March, 2015 – A new industrial city dedicated to businesses and factories run by women is being built by the Saudi Industrial Property Authority in Asfan area, Al-Madinah daily reported.

The authority reported it is the first industrial city for women in Jeddah and the authority’s fourth industrial city. The city is located northeast of Jeddah with an area of 5 million sq. meters. It is located 25 km away from King Abdulaziz Airport.

The city will be dedicated to elite women-run businesses and factories. Qualified female staff will operate the city and the annual rent set by authority is SR3 per meter. The contract signed between the authority and contractors is valued at SR50 million.

The authority has completed the first phase of the project. The authority has built the infrastructure of the city including the roads and sewage system, installed electricity cables and erected few buildings. A source from the authority said the project will have more job opportunities for women.

“An entire city will need employees in various fields such as economic, industrial, medical and technical. The city will include facilities and services needed and used by women,” said the source. He added the rates set by the authority are a great incentive for businesswomen to invest their money on land.

“A factory with an area of 10,000 sq. meters can be leased for SR30,000. The authority also offers government loans reaching up to 50 percent. The application for buying land is available online on the authority’s website,” said the source.

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Jubail festival showcases heritage

Arab News – 26 March, 2015 – The number of visitors to the Jubail Heritage and Crafts Festival, hosted by the Royal Commission for Jubail (RCJ) at Al-Fanateer beach, has exceeded 277,954 since its opening eight days ago.

Abdullah bin Ibrahim Al-Mohammadi, general supervisor of the festival and director of the RCJ’s social services department, stated that this year’s festival has achieved great leaps in terms of the number of visitors and their satisfaction level.

He said that more than 270 productive families and 20 artisans are participating in the festival.

Eastern Province Gov. Prince Saud bin Naif announced during his visit to the festival the RCJ’s initiative to train 250 artisans and productive families.

An official said that there were five competitions for visitors: Productive families’ competition, the best folk costume, beach sand sculptures, open-air cooking and photography. These competitions will continue until the end of the festival, in addition to the daily and weekly draw with a prize of two cars.

Speaking about festival employees, Al-Mohammadi said: “There are 150 volunteers from Jubail, in addition to security men and RCJ members, and they all are dedicated to serving the visitors.”

The festival general supervisor called on families from Jubail and the Eastern Province to take advantage of the second week of the festival which coincides with the school spring holiday.

He suggested visiting Azmeel village in order to increase knowledge of Saudi heritage and culture, to enjoy the Names of Allah Exhibition. There is also a Knowledge Village for children.

Al-Mohammadi said the event also includes a special section, the National Identity Village, which contains information about the country’s history and government. In the section, visitors can meet Saudi inventors.

There are also daily theater shows presented by comedians, singers and poets.

“The festival offers several services to visitors, including wheelchairs, free transportation, queries and guidance service, in addition to a WhatsApp service for lost children,” he said.

The festival lasts until the end of March, and is open daily in two shifts — from 8:30 to 11: 30 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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