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16 Mar, 2015

Melbourne Exhibition to showcase Muslims who rescued Jews in World War II

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 16 March 2015 (25 Jumaada al-Awwal 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines 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.




Grooming Indonesian film makers for the global market

The Jakarta post, Jakarta, March 14 2015 – Four teams of young and talented Indonesian filmmakers went into an incubation program, called the Microschool, seeking a way into the global market.

The Microschool, conducted from Feb. 23 to 27 in Jakarta, was a program that offered training, support and mentoring to emerging filmmakers.

The course gave guidance to Indonesian writers, directors and producers in honing their scripts, developing their ideas and thinking about how to market, develop and sell their movies.

“It has become part of the culture in our film industry that producers personally seek money to produce their films, or production houses make their own movies. It doesn’t work that way in Hollywood and the UK,” British Council art program director Felencia Hutabarat told a press conference in Jakarta.

In class: Indonesian filmmakers meeting with an expert from the Film London Microschool program.

With the Microschool, the British Council wants to groom Indonesian filmmakers so they can find funds on their own to produce films.

“We’d like to give it a try. We have a list of great ideas and film concepts, and we want them to be presented to investors, both locally and internationally,” she added.

Out of 15 applicants, a jury — consisting of John Badalu, Shanty Harmayn, Riri Riza, Orlow Seunke, Alex Sihar, and Fauzan Zidni — chose four teams.

The members of Team Bus Malam, or Night Bus, for example, told a socio-political and humanitarian story in a fictionalized conflict area, which is inspired by a situation in Aceh. The team comprised actor and TV host Darius Sinathrya as producer, director Emil Heradi and scriptwriter Rahabi Mandra.

The Escape takes migrant worker issues as the background for its story. The team includes proudcer Shirley Tamara, director Nicholas Yudifar as director and scriptwriter Baskoro Adi.

Angkot, short for angkutan kota or public minivan, portrays interesting scenes inside an angkot. The film will be produced and directed by Rukiki Mariana with Ninda Daianti as scriptwriter.

The last team takes Bebas (Birdwatchers) as its title. Bebas follows Wira, a man who seems happy and successful. He is married with two kids and owns a family business. Wira feels like he can get away from his superficial everyday cosmopolitan life when he meets his ex-girlfriend, Ana. This team consists of producer Wilza Lubis and director and scriptwriter Edward Gunawan.

Prominent filmmaker Riri Riza said that the Microschool program was a valuable opportunity for emerging Indonesian filmmakers in an industry that isn’t really friendly to young talents.

“A new producer will often go a very long way before producing a debut in Indonesia. The film industry doesn’t take young and unsettled film makers seriously because their creative and fresh ideas are considered unfavorable for the (domestic) market,” he said.

During the selection process, the jury looked for teams that were ready to explore social issues.

After reading various stories during the selection process, Film London’s talent development manager Kevin Dolan said that Indonesian films certainly have a future in global market.

“I know some Indonesian films have experienced great success abroad. One of the ambitions (of this project) is to make sure those film makers will have much better understanding and knowledge of how international market works,” added Dolan, who along with UK-based filmmakers Ken Marshall, Andy Brunskill, Paul Fraser and Tom Grievson mentored the participants in the Jakarta Microschool program.

The five-day intensive course was developed as part of Film London’s Microwave, a training-through-production fund. The Microwave scheme has funded films such as Lilting, which won the cinematography award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

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Iqbal Museum to be set up in Germany

APP, ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany Syed Hasan Javed said on Saturday that all out efforts would be made to set up an Iqbal Museum at the house in Heidelberg, Germany where Allama Mohammad Iqbal stayed for his PhD studies.

This project would be accomplished with the support and cooperation of the expatriate Pakistanis living in Germany.

He was addressing the participants of a literary conference on ‘Iqbal’s Message and Contemporary Issues’ organised by the Human Welfare Association, Frankfurt at Iqbal Memorial Park on the Bank of River Neckar in Heidelberg.

Javed directed the Consul General of Pakistan in Frankfurt to form a committee comprising prominent Pakistanis living in Frankfurt and its adjoining cities including Heidelberg to take up the matter with the city government for the acquisition of the property, a press release said.

He said that there was a need to understand the message of the great thinker and philosopher in its true spirit for forging unity among various factions of the Muslim societies and reactivate the institute of Ijtehad, to deal with the challenges of modern day societies as envisaged by Iqbal.

Dr Sayed Taqi Abedi, Vice President of Banul-Aqwami Urdu Conference, Canada, in his talk, said that there existed a deep relationship between Iqbal’s poetry and Heidelberg. He added that Allama Iqbal wrote ‘Javed Nama’ at the bank of this river and his literary work had a great influence on the people living in south, south-west and east Asian countries.

He eulogised Iqbal’s literary work and explained the meanings and the message concealed in his poetic work.

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LEAD STORY: Melbourne Exhibition to showcase Muslims who rescued Jews in World War II

Sunday 15 Mar 2015, Melbourne, Australia (IINA) – An exhibition, to be launched soon at Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre, will paint the picture of how Muslims saved the lives of many Jewish people in Albania during World War II, The Australian New Daily agency reported.

malaysia logo

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

The exhibition is in part an attempt to combat the rising Islamophobia in the Western world, as well as to counter recent incidents of anti-Semitism such as the attack on a Jewish kosher supermarket in Paris just days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The exhibition showcases photographs from American photographer Norman Gershman. “The exhibition aims to show the common humanity we all share,” Gershman said.

While other occupied European countries folded under the Nazi Party’s power and had their Jewish population systematically sent to concentration camps, Albania resisted Adolf Hitler’s orders and refused to hand over their Jewish citizens.

This move helped to found a sort of ethical code in Albania, called Besa, which still survives until today.

Besa, meaning ‘to keep the promise’ comes from the notion that you can trust someone to protect your life and keep a secret. It spurred the mainly Muslim population of Albania to protect their persecuted countrymen and women as well as Jewish refugees that arrived in Albania.

Ali Sheqer, whose father is a devout Muslim and rescued Jews, says that the Albanians risked their own lives to save and shelter Jews from Hitler’s regime.

“Why did my father save a stranger at the risk of his life and the entire village? My father was a devout Muslim. He believed to save one life is to enter paradise,” Sheqer says.

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Prize brings art inspired by Islamic tradition to Sharjah

Thursday 12 Mar 2015 – Sharjah (IINA) – The artists and designers shortlisted for the prestigious Jameel Prize will have their work displayed in an exhibition starting next week at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization.

The international prize for art inspired by Islamic heritage is awarded by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in partnership with Art Jameel, one of the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI). The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is the only venue in the Middle East to display the diverse works of the 10 artists, who were shortlisted by a panel of expert judges chaired by V&A Director Martin Roth from a field of more than 270 nominations from around the world.

The exhibition, which runs from March 16 until June 6, will feature more than 20 works ranging from Arabic typography and calligraphy to fashion inspired by the mosques and palaces of Istanbul, video installations and intricate meditative drawings.

Jameel Prize 3 offers visitors the opportunity to see some of the best international contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. The exhibition was previously displayed at the V&A before embarking on a tour of international venues. A series of specially commissioned short films on each of the artists and designers can be viewed online at www.vam.ac.uk/channel/search/jameel/.

Speaking ahead of the opening of the exhibition, Manal Ataya, Director General of the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD), said: “The Jameel Prize has without doubt been instrumental in rejuvenating Islamic art for young people, so it is a great honour for us to be once again hosting this exhibition. “Part of our vision at the Sharjah Museums Department is to support creative talent in the younger generation, particularly when their work reflects the strong influence of Islamic art through the ages.

“I think sometimes when people hear the term Islamic art they automatically think of calligraphy and nothing more. The diversity of the artworks on display at this exhibition will underline the true richness and breadth of Islamic art forms and their importance today.”

The exhibition is curated by Tim Stanley, senior curator for the V&A’s Middle Eastern collection, and Salma Tuqan, the V&A’s curator of Middle Eastern Contemporary Art and Design. The Jameel Prize, whose patron is award-winning architect Dame Zaha Hadid, was originally conceived after the renovation of the V&A’s Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art by Art Jameel, which opened in July 2006 to showcase the rich artistic heritage of the Islamic world.

The £25,000 prize recognises contemporary artists and designers inspired by Islamic traditions of art, architecture, craft and design and aims to create a broader understanding of Islamic culture and its place in the world by demonstrating its influence on contemporary art. The Jameel Prize 3 was won by Parisian fashion brand Dice Kayek for Istanbul Contrast, a collection of garments created in 2010 that evoke Istanbul’s architectural and artistic heritage. In the exhibition, the work of Dice Kayek’s founders, Ece and Ay’e Ege, is joined by that of nine shortlisted artists and designers – Faig Ahmed, Nasser Al Salem, Nada Debs, Mounir Fatmi, Rahul Jain, Waqas Khan, Laurent Mareschal, Florie Salnot and Pascal Zoghbi.

“Over the centuries Islamic culture has been known for its strong influence,” said Fady Jameel, President of ALJCI International. “Our aim with the Jameel Prize is to encourage artists across the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) and Turkey to continue exploring the roots of Islam and the role of its traditions in the world today expressed through art, whether it is in the form of traditional or contemporary artwork, craft or design.”

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Kyrgyzstan launches first-ever Islamic magazine

Centralasiaonline.com 2015-03-13 BISHKEK — Kyrgyz Muslims now have a magazine dedicated to their community.

Named “Ummah”, the Arabic word for “community”, the colourful quarterly with an initial circulation of 3,000 was launched February 26 in Bishkek.

“It’s the first Russian-language magazine for (Kyrgyz) Muslims,” editor-in-chief Eliana Satarova told Central Asia Online. “We did our best to make it look as modern as possible. All the articles were contributed by young Kyrgyz intellectuals.”

“We want to show Islam as a religion of peace, enlightenment and progress and instil respect for other religions,” she said. “The magazine’s main purpose is to raise the intellectual level of believers, particularly of youth.”

The magazine meets all modern standards for quality and covers a number of topics from an Islamic perspective.

“Muslims need to unite, not to split up,” Satarova said. “We plan to release the next edition before Ramadan and will distribute it through bookstores and newsstands.”

The first issue was financed by the magazine’s editorial board personally and by the Kyrgyz company Al-Ummah Ltd., she said. “Also, we received free help from designers and authors.”

Yet to continue, the project will require considerable financial input.

“We are looking for potential sponsors,” Satarova said. “We plan to publish the next issue in two languages — Russian and Kyrgyz, to increase circulation … to a regional level, and to deliver it throughout Kyrgyzstan. We want to reach all those goals this year.”

“We differ from other publications because we have an innovative format. There’s nothing like it (nationwide).”

The magazine primarily aims to destroy stereotypes about Islam and Muslims, Roman Veitzel, a Bishkek religious scholar, said after reading the first issue.

“Ummah” provides a wonderful opportunity to persuade readers that Islam is not an aggressive religion looking for conflicts, he said.

“Stories and episodes from the life of the Prophet Muhammad cause ‘Ummah’ readers — from the very first pages — to start abandoning their stereotypes,” Veitzel told Central Asia Online.

“If Muhammad himself treated Christians and members of other ethnic groups well, why should we separate and feel hostile towards one another?” he said.

“‘Ummah’ emphasises family matters,” Veitzel said. “The first issue covers important issues such as the myths and stereotypes regarding the ‘nikah’ marriage ritual, some family problems and their solutions, comments on the ‘kalym’ (bride price) and ‘mahr’ (payment from the groom to the bride) traditions, and so on.”

“I think if this magazine were distributed now to … Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, it would suit them well too, because it brings up for discussion issues that matter to all of us,” he said.

Zakir Chotayev, deputy director of the State Commission on Religious Affairs, welcomed the debut of the Islamic magazine.

“Such periodicals are badly needed now; the more of them are released, highlighting positive aspects and trends, the better,” he said. “They will help to push our citizens away from the radical, extremist movements that seek to attract new followers through internet propaganda and recruiters. Thanks to these journals, it will be possible to educate yourself and find your place in society in Kyrgyzstan without feeling the need to go abroad.”

“The magazine educates by focusing on the moderate foundations of Islam that are traditional to our society and to (the whole of) Central Asia,” he added.

An Islamic magazine of such a high professional level is urgently needed, Kyrgyz Deputy Supreme Mufti Zamir Rakiyev said.

“We (Kyrgyz Muslims) need to take a look at our economic and political developments from an Islamic point of view,” he told Central Asia Online. “We have been waiting a long time for such a magazine and are very glad to see it.”

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Indonesia awards art and cultural scholarships

9 March 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government has awarded the Art and Cultural Scholarship to 70 participants from 40 countries to enhance the people-to-people contact between Indonesians and the international community.

Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said in her remarks at the opening event of the program here on Monday that through the scholarship, all participants will be able to learn about Indonesia and will then be expected to improve their understanding and respect for different cultures.

“Learning a foreign language and respecting the culture of a country are not just about seeking new experiences; it also means you are building a bridge of understanding, peace, and prosperity for the world,” she remarked.

According to Director of Public Diplomacy Al Busyra Basnur, besides learning the language and studying Indonesias art and culture, the scholarship recipients will also visit six cities in Indonesia: Bandung, Yogyakarta, Solo, Surabaya, Makassar, and Bali.

“In Yogyakarta, they will join an academic class on Indonesian politics, economy, society, and culture. In the other five cities, they will learn traditional dances, musical instruments, and local wisdom,” he said.

The 2015 Art and Cultural Scholarship was awarded to participants from 40 countries, including Austria, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Russia, the Solomon Islands, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Thailand, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the United States, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.

The three-month program will come to a close with a major performance, titled “Indonesia Channel,” with participation from all the scholarship recipients.

“The performance will be held to showcase what the participants learned in Indonesia. This year, the Indonesia Channel will be performed in Bandung on June 15, 2015,” he remarked.

Basnur noted that the scholarship program had also contributed to promoting Indonesian art, culture, and tourism to the international community.

“After the participants return home, they are usually very active in promoting Indonesia,” he said.

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Jordan Campaign to promote domestic tourism under way

Mar 14, 2015, Amman, Jordan Times — Sector stakeholders recently launched a campaign to promote domestic tourism in an attempt to increase the number of visitors to tourist attractions and boost hotel occupancy rates, but hoteliers are not optimistic the initiative will rescue the industry.

Tohama Nabulsi, the director of media and communication at the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB), said the campaign, launched by the Tourism Ministry in cooperation with the private sector, will stimulate travel within the Kingdom.

Since the start of the campaign some two weeks ago, around 5,900 hotel reservations or inquiries have been recorded, she said.

“It is a big figure,” Nabulsi told The Jordan Times over the phone, noting that the promotion package targets the Dead Sea and Petra among other historical sites.

Citing the successful initiative launched by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority earlier this year to promote the port city as an “inexpensive” tourist destination, she said the JTB supports the campaign in an attempt to offer Jordanians affordable hotel stays and cheap transportation.

The campaign, which will last till the summer, includes packages with discounted hotel rates and transport fares.

However, Yassar Al Majali, general manager of the Jordan Hotel Association (JHA), had doubts that such campaigns would revive the tourism industry.

He said the key to stimulate domestic and international tourism is to reduce taxes on hotels and lower electricity prices, which represent “around 40 per cent” of hotels’ operational costs.

“Even if hotels lower prices, it is still beyond the income of the majority of households,” Majali told The Jordan Times.

The tourism sector has been facing “huge” challenges over the past few years due to regional turmoil and government policies, the director of JHA said, adding that several hotels in Petra, which is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, have closed down due to low occupancy rates.

The drop in the number of tourists registered by hotels in 2014 exceeds 40 per cent when compared with the previous year, according to Majali, who said if policy makers do not work on lowering taxes on hotel stay and airline tickets, the Kingdom will not be able to compete with regional tourist destinations, such as Dubai.

He said hotel occupancy stood at around 20 per cent since the start of the year, while it is 15 per cent in Petra.

In order for hotels to survive the occupancy rate should at least be around 60 per cent, Majali indicated.

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Leaning minaret on Fatma Al-Shaqraa mosque in Cairo to be restored

Cairo, Sunday 15 Mar 2015, AlAhram Online — After two years of conservation work at the Fatma Al-Shaqraa mosque, its leaning minaret is to be straightened.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that an archaeological team had finally completed all investigations into the minarets condition and restoration work will begin in collaboration with the Ministry of Endowments. The restoration will be undertaken within the framework of the Historic Cairo rehabilitation project which is in its third phase, he added.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz of the ministry’s Islamic monuments department, explained that the mosque had been restored except for the minaret, which is leaning some 12cm.

The mosque, which is located in the Babul-Khalq area of Cairo, was built in 1477 CE by Rashideddin Al-Bahaai for Fatma Al-Shaqraa, the wife of the Sultan Qaytbey.

During the Ottoman period, the mosque was renovated and renamed the Maraa Mosque, the Women’s Mosque, instead. The mosque has two tombs, one dedicated to Al-Shaqraa and the other dedicated to an unknown person.

Time has taken its toll on the mosque since its last restoration, and before its present rehabilitation cracks had spread in its walls, its masonry had been broken, and water had leaked over its floors.

When in 1992, the mosque’s minaret started to lean some 12cm, the Ministry of Antiquities stepped in to consolidate it with wooden and iron scaffolding.

This restoration work then stopped until 2004 when work resumed on the mosque, without, however, treating the problem of the leaning minaret. But the masonry was repaired, the walls consolidated and the cracks restored.

The mosque’s minaret remains in a dangerous condition, and earlier in 2013 the ministry assigned an archaeological committee to inspect its condition in order to undertake the required procedures for restoration.

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Malaysia To Seek World Cultural Heritage Status For Chingay Parade

JOHOR BAHARU, March 12 (NNN-Bernama) — The Tourism and Culture Ministry is to get UNESCO to recognise the Chingay annual street parade of the ‘Tiong Hua’ (Chinese) community here as a world cultural heritage, said Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

He said he would instruct the National Heritage Department under the ministry to work closely with UNESCO in the matter.

“I promise to instruct the National Heritage Department to fully cooperate with UNESCO to make the recognition a reality one day,” he said at the launch of the Chingay celebration here Wednesday night.

Also present were Johor Tourism, Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Tee Siew Kiong and Johor Baharu Tiong Hua Federation president Tey Kim Chai.

The Chingay festival, celebrated on the 21st day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar every year, attracted about 300,000 spectators from within and outside the country this year.

Mohamed Nazri also said that he would ensure that Chingay was included in the annual national tourism calendar beginning this year.

“Chingay is a festival that allows the Chinese community to showcase freedom of religion and its culture.

“However, it could also foster unity as well as invite other people to jointly celebrate and sustain the 1Malaysia concept,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tey said it was hoped that Chingay would be given world cultural heritage status by UNESCO in accordance with its uniqueness.

“This is indeed the dream of the people of Johor and also all Malaysians as Chingay is a Chinese religious activity and cultural event that has been celebrated in Johor Baharu since 1870,” he said.

This year’s celebration saw a total of 11 vehicles in the float parade, along with lion dance performances, cultural dance performances, fireworks and martial arts performances.

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‘Beautiful Bangladesh’ Wins Diamond Award In Berlin

DHAKA, March 9 (NNN-BSS) — The television commercial titled “Beautiful Bangladesh – Land of Stories” has won diamond award under best film making category during one of the world’s largest tourism fair styled ITB-Berlin 2015. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry chairman M Faruk Khan received the award on behalf of Bangladesh in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, a press release said here Sunday.

Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) the National Tourism Organization (NTO) of the country made the international standard television commercial to conduct promotional marketing of Bangladesh tourism across the globe. The “Beautiful Bangladesh – Land of Stories” has already won numbers of international awards before, the release said.

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Dubai Airports Projects 126 Million Passengers By 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Mar 13 (NNN-WAM) – Growth is pushing the Dubai Airports – operator of Dubai International and Al Maktoum International in Dubai World Central (DWC) – to expand.

Speaking at the Future of Border International Conference in Dubai yesterday, Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Airports, said, “Our revised projections for 2020 now exceed 126 million passengers. By 2030, we expect to have around 200 million passenger traffic.”

The conference has been organised by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai, under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group.

In his presentation, titled, “Building the Future,” he enlightened the conference participants, “And this (the growth projections) is without the availability of further infrastructure development or space to build at Dubai International. We will have to come up with other solutions to satisfy Dubai’s continued thirst for growth. In Dubai, we are building, not talking about building. An unwavering vision to build not just an airport but an engine of economic growth and vital to the growth of the city.”

Dubai International is currently the world’s number one airport for international passengers and the sixth busiest. Al Maktoum International Airport in DWC, which presently has five to seven million passengers capacity, saw 845,046 passengers passing through its gates in its first full year of operations in 2014.

DWC will have a passenger capacity of 220 million, on completion of its second phase. The first phase of US$32 billion dollar expansion of DWC , approved by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, late last year, will enable the facility to accommodate 120 million passengers on completion, over the next six to eight years.

Situated on a 140 sq. km site to the south of Dubai, Al Maktoum International will be 10 times larger than the site of Dubai International, making it the world’s largest airport and the world’s largest intercontinental hub.

The US$7.8 billion investment will lead to ultimate capacity of 100 million passengers, at the Dubai International. Last year, it recorded 70.4 million passengers, an increase of 6.1 per cent and this year its expected to handle 79 million passengers.

He said, the design challenges are focused on four key areas – Passenger Experience, Airline Product, Airport Processes and Facilities.

In 2013, aviation contributed US$26.7 billion to the economy of Dubai or 27 per cent of the emirate’s GDP. About 416,500 people rely on aviation activities for their livelihood, which works out to 27 per cent of the total workforce in Dubai.

“The vision for aviation remains single minded and utterly focused on building that contribution at a faster rate than any other activity in Dubai,” he said.

By 2030, the aviation’s contribution to the Dubai economy will have increased to US$88 billion, more than three times the 2013 figure.

He remarked, “By then more than one in three of the workforce will be in an aviation-related job. And those jobs will be oriented around facilitating passenger journeys, using the latest technology and customer-enabling processes,” he told the audience, which included senior management of airports, airlines, border control authorities and technology companies, from various parts of the world.

Giving details of Dubai airport operations, Griffiths said, “As many as 192,000 people come through the airport every day on 980 flights. Ten years ago, no one would have believed that Dubai, then the 44th largest international airport in the world, would progress up the ranks so fast that in 2014 it would claim the number one spot. Concourse A was delivered in 2013 and boosted the airport’s capacity to 75 million, but the passenger traffic is again approaching the capacity limit.”

He added, “Again we are delivering more infrastructure. The final piece of hitherto undeveloped infrastructure space within the airport is nearing completion. This year, we will open Concourse D, home to the airport’s overseas airline partners. The facility, with 17 additional gates will be able to handle 15 million passengers and will be linked to Terminal 1 via Automated People Mover (APM).

He stated, “Of course we need to keep pushing the upper limits of Dubai International capacity. Parallel developments of additional remote stands and airspace efficiency will help push out as far as possible, the point at which it becomes ex-growth. Our US$7.8 billion investment will lead to an ultimate capacity of 100 million. That takes into account the increased passenger/flight ratio driven by Emirates’ expanding fleet of A380s. But that, I’m afraid, is that entire airfield will handle. So again, growth is pushing us to expand.”

Griffiths observed, “There is a clear and determined vision, unchanged for over 50 years, to create an aviation enterprise with the world’s greatest airports, hosting the world’s greatest airlines, in the world’s greatest city.”

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Indonesian Tourists To Malaysia On The Rise

JAKARTA, Indonesia March 13 (NNN-Bernama) — The number of Indonesian tourists visiting Malaysia has been increasing yearly, making the republic now the second largest contributor to Malaysia’s tourism industry, said Tourism Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

She said statistics showed that 2.32 million Indonesians visited Malaysia between January and October last year, an increase of 11.9 per cent compared to the 2.07 million during the corresponding period in 2013.

She said the increase was boosted by 11 airlines which operated 608 flights a week from major cities in Indonesia to Malaysia.

“We are targeting 2.9 million tourist arrivals from Indonesia in conjunction with the Malaysia Year of Festivals (MyFest) 2015 which is under way,” she said at an appreciation dinner and launch of MyFest 2015 tour packages here Thursday night.

Dr Ng said Singapore still registered the highest number of tourists to Malaysia while China was in third place. Malaysia’s Ambassador to Indonesia Zahrain Mohamed Hashim, Tourism Malaysia Jakarta director Ahmad Esa as well as Indonesian tourism industry operators also attended the event.

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USAID To Support Uganda’s Coffee Sector

KAMPALA, March 9 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Efforts to implement Uganda’s national coffee policy have received a shot in the arm with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announcing that it is earmarking about 1.3 billion shillings (about 438,000 US dollars) to promote development of the coffee sector.

The move, which is expected to rejuvenate Uganda’s coffee sector, will see the funding being channelled through the National Union of Coffee Agri-businesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE), a Ugandan body which is taking on the task of popularising the effort among coffee farmers, buyers, processors, packers and exporters.

NUCAFE Executive Director Joseph Nkandu has hailed the move as a landmark partnership aimed at helping farmers to understand the government’s intentions for the coffee sector.

“USAID was instrumental in launching the coffee policy. Supporting its implementation is a big step forward in creating awareness about it for farmers to own the process,’’ he says.

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ASEAN Business Forum held In Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysian companies keen to leverage on the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) are urged to take part in the ASEAN Business Forum 2015 (ABF 2015) on March 12, 2015 at Menara MATRADE here.

ABF 2015 is an initiative by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) and Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). The forum offers high-powered talks and consultation sessions that will be divided into two sessions, MATRADE said in a statement.

The morning session will feature panellists from ASEAN business councils and associations where participants can expect discussions on market entry and its challenges, sector growth as well as trade prospects in the region.

The afternoon session will focus on a smaller group of exporters where participants get to learn about various topics such as MATRADE’s 2015 programmes and new services, as well as updates on the AEC.

There will also be a talk by ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) Secretary General Syed Nabil Aljefri on business opportunities in ASEAN and market briefings by MATRADE’s Trade Commissioners based in ASEAN countries.

In 2014, Malaysia’s trade with ASEAN accounted for 26.8 per cent of the country’s total trade, valued at RM389.03 billion, an increase of 3.9 per cent from 2013, indicating the region’s importance as a key market for Malaysia’s products and services.

For details on the event, visit www.matrade.gov.my.

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Saudi King Decrees Equal Rights And Diversifying Econony

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Mar 11 (NNN-SPA) – Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, decreed the elimination of discrimination between segments of society, and diversifying income resource, to be less dependent on oil revenues, according to Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

He highlighted the decree in a speech, addressing the nation, in the presence of top government officials and citizens. He said, he instructed the interior minister to call princes of districts to meet with citizens, to eliminate reasons for discrimination. He stressed that all citizens are equal in their rights and duties.

The high oil prices in previous years, contributed to the booming economy and implementation of substantial projects, therefore, work will continue, as a strong economy that is based on diverse income resources, he said, stressing that the effects of low oil prices on development will be addressed.

He clarified that, modernisation will continue, in accordance with the religious and social values and the safeguarding of security.

He added that, there are many plots against the nation, particularly its youth, hence citizens and residents must be cognisant of the fact that security is everyone’s responsibility. King Salman became ruler of Saudi Arabia in Jan, following the death of his brother, King Abdullah.

He promised to maintain a similar approach as his brother’s and other Al Saud rulers before him.

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Islamic Bank Approves Projects Worth US$718 Mln

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Mar 11 (NNN-SPA) – The board of directors of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), approved the financing of new development projects, in member and non-member countries, totalling USD 718 million.

The funds will cover important sectors in some member countries, such as roads, power and water supply and sanitation, agriculture and development of rural areas, said the bank, in a statement, after meetings of the board of directors, headed by IDB Group President, Ahmad Mohammad Ali.

The funding will be channelled to development projects in Turkey, Oman, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Yemen, and technical assistance to Bahrain.

Turkey would receive USD 300 million, to projects including banks, while Oman get USD 225 million, to fund the construction of a second track of a major road.

IDP also approved a funding of USD 70.7 million to a project, to provide electricity to rural areas in the Republic of Uganda, and provide USD 57.5 million to a project to improve sanitation services in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The bank also agreed to provide funding worth USD 21 million, to a project to produce improved agricultural seeds to Cote d’Ivoire, in addition, the bank will contribute USD 20 million, to a development project in rural areas of the Republic of Benin.

The board of directors decided also to adopt a provision of grants and aid from IDB Endowment Fund, to help education and training for Muslim communities in non-member countries: Kenya, New Zealand, and South Africa.

IDB also approved a memorandum on cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to provide technical assistance to countries interested in developing Islamic financial services.

Established in 1973, IDB is a catalyst for human development, created by a group of countries that provides project finance and professional advice to developing countries.

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Omani Products Exhibition To Open

SOHAR, Oman, Mar 8 (NNN-ONA) – As part of a series of exhibitions of the Omani Products Campaign “Omani 2015,” the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE), in cooperation with Silver Star Corporation, will organise the Omani Products Exhibition, at Oman International Exhibition Centre, Sohar Branch this Tuesday.

The opening ceremony will be patronised over by Sheikh Muhanna bin Saif al-Lamki, Governor of North Al Batinah. The Omani Products Exhibition in Sohar, aims at offering a perfect gateway to reach highly potential markets in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.

The event also aims at showcasing quality machinery, products, services and technology of international standard at competitive prices. PEIE aspires through this exhibition to disseminate awareness on distinguished and high quality national products and their ability to compete locally and abroad simultaneously.

The “Omani” campaign encourages consumers, whether individuals or institutions, to purchase local products and services, and eventually support the national economy and generate loyalty to locally manufactured products and services.

The campaign of promoting locally manufactured products is a national initiative, designed to encourage consumers and organisations to buy Oman made goods and services wherever possible, promote national pride in the manufacturing industry and highlight the economic importance of buying Omani made products.

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Islamic Finance Workshop On Banking Standards In Egypt

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Mar 8 (NNN-MENA) – The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) will be organising a Facilitating the Implementation of the IFSB Standards (FIS) Workshop in Cairo, Egypt, on Mar 26-27.

The workshop, hosted by the Egyptian Banking Institute, will focus on IFSB-1: Guiding Principles of Risk Management for Institutions offering Islamic Financial Services (IIFS) and IFSB-15: Revised Capital Adequacy Standard for IIFS, said the IFSB Secretariat in a statement here today.

IFSB-1 provides best practice guidelines for establishing and implementing effective risk management in IIFS. It sets out 15 principles for managing the risks, inherent in Shariah-compliant financial activities.

It also provides specific guidance for six categories of risk — credit, equity investment, market, liquidity, rate of return and operational.

IFSB-15, for its part, seeks to assist in the implementation of a capital adequacy framework that facilitates effective coverage of risk exposures of the IIFS, in addition to an appropriate allocation of capital, based on a standardised approach, to cover these risks.

More specifically, this IFSB-15 provides guidance on the features and criteria for high-quality regulatory capital components, including Additional Tier 1 and Tier 2 Capital, in a manner that complies with Shariah rules and principles.

The workshop aims to enhance participants’ understanding of the respective IFSB Standards and Guiding Principles, thereby facilitating the implementation of these standards in their respective jurisdictions, IFSB added.

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World Halal Summit 2015 in Malaysia to open March 30

Saturday 14 Mar 2015 – Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – Malaysia’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry will host a trade fair and six halal industry conferences under one roof at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on March 30 to April 4, BERNAMA reported.

The six-day event, known as the World Halal Summit (WHS), will offer the largest ever and well-integrated expositions to unite the global halal marketplace.

The summit will be held as a joint effort between Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) and Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) will come on board as WHS strategic partners.

Upon announcing the summit, Minister of International Trade and Industry Dr. Mustapa Mohamed said the confluence of the expositions and forums will be held with a single aim, that is to harness the full potential of ‘halal’ within a globalized environment.

“WHS’s vision is to be a unified global halal marketplace,” Mustapa said at a media briefing on the new summit.

The minister said the coalescence of a halal trade show and related halal forums under one entity, aimed to integrate all coordinated efforts in the development and promotion of the global halal industry. “We intend to establish the halal industry as how we established the Islamic banking industry,” he added.

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Muslim theme garden planned at Chelsea Flower Show to highlight beauty of Islam

Monday 09 Mar 2015 – London, (IINA) – Bringing peaceful and respectful qualities of Islam to people of London, a Muslim themed garden has been revealed as part of Chelsea Flower Show 2015 to clear misconceptions surrounding the faith, Media sources reported. The show, the world’s most prestigious flower show, will be held at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea on May19-23.

Making her Chelsea debut, Kamelia Bin Zaal will be the first Emirati landscape designer to appear at Chelsea and she is bringing her heritage to the forefront.

“I hope that my garden will be something that resonates with the public and will have a positive effect on people’s perception of Islam,” Bin Zaal, the designer of Islam Garden told The Daily Telegraph. “It is the chance to show that Islam and Arabic culture really is as many other religions and cultures, a way of life and that we share the same values and morals as other religions and cultures.”

“In my family I have grown up seeing Islam as a religion of tolerance, peace, and love, with respect for humanity, and the world around us,” Bin Zaal said.

“I am continuously inspired by our heritage and wanted to creatively translate my interpretation of our peaceful religion and culture into a beautiful garden design.”

Besides changing the negative perceptions of Islam, the garden aims to reflect the diversity of the Islamic culture. “I wanted to show how as a culture we have touched so many other societies and vice versa, from Europe to China and even Madagascar,” Bin Zaal said.

It is noteworthy that the show garden, titled ‘The Beauty of Islam’, aims to meld modern and classic materials with planting from countries influenced by Arabic and Islamic culture. It is an ambitious attempt to bridge Middle Eastern and Western cultures. It will be the first Emirati project to take part in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015.

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Sarah Hameed first female Muslim pilot in India

Monday 09 Mar 2015 – Bengaluru Karnataka, India (IINA) – Sarah Hameed Ahmed, 25, became the first female Muslim pilot in India, breaking the misunderstood stereotype of Muslim women in India, AMT news agency reported.

Hameed has been flying a commercial aircraft for more than 18 months and she is currently the only Muslim woman to be chosen in the aviation sector out of 600 women already employed.

Sarah grew up in Bengaluru, Karnataka, where most women are staying at home as housewives or mothers.

In 2007, she enrolled in flight school in the US, and considered herself lucky to have been given a visa.

Sarah’s mother, Naseema Ahmed, says she never had any doubts about sending her to the US. Her proudest moment, she says, was when a group of Muslim girls surrounded Saarah at a wedding and started asking her for tips to become a pilot.

Two Muslim women from Hyderabad and Kashmir are also undergoing training to get commercial pilot’s license.

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Zaytuna College to be first Muslim college in America

Tuesday 10 Mar 2015 – Berkeley, California (IINA) – In a historic first step for the United States, Zaytuna College, an American Muslim college, has now joined the nation’s community of accredited institutions of higher education, according to media reports.

Zaytuna College (formerly known as Zaytuna Institute) is a non-profit educational institution located in Berkeley, California. On Wednesday, March 4, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) granted accreditation for Zaytuna College.

ASC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and accredits institutions in several Western states, including Zaytuna’s neighbors such as Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Accreditation from WASC is a mark of credibility, and after extensive collaboration, they passed on the decision to grant Zaytuna College accreditation. This effectively affirms Zaytuna’s strong educational mission and organization as well as its commitment to institutional quality, financial stability and accountability. It helps ensure that Zaytuna successfully fulfills the objectives outlined in its curriculum, which grounds its students in both the Islamic and Western scholarly traditions.

Zaytuna College was founded in 2007 in Berkeley by Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Hatem Bazian, senior lecturer, with the expressed mission “to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders who are grounded in the Islamic tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society”.

Students will find the Zaytuna curriculum to be holistic, with its emphasis on universal principles and themes, rather than fragmented into isolated subjects and disciplines.

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UAE forms board of Dubai Women Establishment

Tuesday 10 Mar 2015 – Dubai (IINA) – UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has issued a decree forming the board of Dubai Women Establishment (DWE), Emirates news agency WAM reported on Monday.

Sheikh Mohammed proclaimed Mona Al-Marri as Chairperson and Managing Director of the new board and Hala Youssef Badri as Vice Chairperson. Sheikha Manal Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the wife of Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, expressed her gratitude for Sheikh Mohammed’s support and effort to empower women. Sheikha Manal also said that Sheikh Mohammed’s move motivates Emirati woman to excel both on local and international levels.

Other members of the new board include Huda Issa Buhumaid, Khawla Rashid Al Mehairi, Hana Abdul Wahed Al Rostamani, Huda Saeed Naeem Al Hashimi, Lamis Mohamed Hamdan Al Shamsi, Muna Busamra, Lubna Qassim Bastaki. Each woman is a member for three years and the post’s duration is renewable.

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Qatar committed to promoting, protecting rights of disabled

Wednesday 11 Mar 2015 – Geneva (IINA) – Qatar underlined that the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, in accordance with the rights-based approach, is among the priorities of the country’s policy and where the promotion and protection of human rights is a strategic choice, as was emphasized in the Qatar National Vision “2030” and the National Development Strategy (2011-2016). Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

This came in Qatar’s speech delivered here on Tuesday by the Researcher in the Human Rights Department of the Foreign Ministry Noemi Al-Hajri at the 28th session of the Human Rights Council Regulation “interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities”.

Al-Hajiri noted that Qatar has taken a number of actions and measures in order to continue its efforts in the promotion and protection of the rights of the disabled, including the preparation of a draft law amending some provisions of 2004 law related to the special needs in order to comply with the State adoption of the International Convention on the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, as well as the preparation of draft decisions of the Council of Ministers in the fields of education, health care, employment, housing, public and private utilities, culture and sports for the benefit of the disabled.

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Morocco set for its first Islamic Bank

Wednesday 11 Mar 2015 – Rabat, (IINA) – Morocco is poised to have its first full-fledged Islamic bank as early as September as the only North African country rated investment grade seeks to tap the $1.8-trillion industry, Albawaba business news agency reported.

Dar Assafaa, an affiliate of the country’s largest lender AttijariWafa Bank, will probably become the nation’s first wholly Shariah-compliant financial institution when the central bank approves its switch, according to the Moroccan Association of Participative Financiers.

The country introduced a law in January to regulate Islamic financial products and allow local and foreign banks to set up units that comply with the religion’s ban on interest.

“By September or October the first Shariah-compliant bank will start,” said, Said Amaghdir, the chairman of the association. “Morocco’s financing, adding needs are huge, especially in project finance, and the stability we enjoy here will act in favor of Morocco.”

The Moroccan Association of Participative Financiers estimates total investment in Shariah-compliant products in the country will reach $7 billion by 2018.

According to the American financial service company Standard & Poor’s, there is about $1.8 billion in assets are held by Islamic financial institutions worldwide.

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Tunisia joins OECD Development Centre

Wednesday 11 Mar 2015 – Tunis, (IINA) – Tunisia has become a member of the Development Centre of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). A letter of official acceptance for the centre was handed on Tuesday by Secretary-General of the Organization Angel Gurria to the Secretary of State to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Ezzine Chlaifa.

Quoted in a foreign ministry press release, Gurria stressed the importance of this membership, which, he noted, will help strengthen the relations of partnership and co-operation between Tunisia and the OECD.

He welcomed at his meeting with the Secretary of State the success of Tunisia’s democratic transition, reiterating OECD’s commitment to supporting development efforts in the country, in line with the national priorities. He also emphasized the concern to support the Tunisian experience and create all conditions for its success at the economic and development levels.

Ezzine Chlaifa underlined Tunisia’s commitment to strengthening its relations of co-operation with the OECD. He expressed hope to see this visit give fresh impetus to these relations likely to help meet the development challenges faced by Tunisia in this stage, particularly the least developed regions.

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Iran, Turkmenistan agree to expand trade volume to $60 billion

Thursday 12 Mar 2015 – Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (IINA) – Iran and Turkmenistan have agreed on Wednesday to expand their trade volume from the current $3.7 billion to $60 billion in the next 10 years.

The decision was taken during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s meeting with his counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow in Ashgabat, Worldbulletin reported quoting the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Rouhani underscored that Iran was ready to provide technical assistance and materials to Turkmenistan’s various industrial sectors.

The Iranian president noted that both countries agreed on the need to activate the North-South Transportation Corridor that linked Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan through shipping lines, railways and roads.

During the meeting, both countries signed several agreements to boost their ties in various sectors, including oil-and-gas, electricity, railways, roads, environment, tourism, science and technology.

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Maldives Number 2 on list of most popular diving destinations

Sun.mv – March 12, 2015 – Maldives has achieved second place DIVER Magazine’s most popular diving destination of the year award. The first place was won by Egypt.

The awards were given at London’s DIVER Magazine’s 17th annual awards ceremony on February 14. The event is famous as the Oscars of the diving world. DIVER Magazine is one of the most popular magazines in Britain. The awards are based on viewer polls on their website.

The press release by the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation says. “A large number of British tourists visit Maldives for diving inspired by the underwater beauty of Maldives.” In 2014, 88,704 tourist arrivals were recorded from the UK.

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Maldives Plans coastal protection projects worth MVR 350 million

Sun.mv – March 10, 2015 – Minister of Environment and Energy Thorig Ibrahim has said that MVR 350 million will be spent by the government on coastal protection projects in 2015.

The minister made this remark at a ceremony at Environment Ministry today, held for the signing of contracts for the construction of coastal protection structures in Thaa Kandoodhoo and Veymandoo.

He said that coastal protection projects will commence in nine islands including Kandoodhoo and Veymandoo this year, and this will see the construction of a total of about 7.8-km coastal protection structures.

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Maldives budgets $10 million for tourism promotion in 2016

Sun.mv – March 12, 2015 – Deputy Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) Mohamed Adam has said that a budget of $10 million has been allocated for tourism promotion in 2016.

Mohamed Adam told Sun Online that the budget for tourism promotion in 2015 was $4.5 million.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Managing Director of MMPRC Abdulla Ziyath said that promotional activities will be stepped up next year, since Maldives has become an ITB Berlin partner, and because 2016 will be marked as Visit Maldives year. Special promotional activities will begin in June 2015, he said.

Ziyath also said that the Maldives stand at the ITB Berlin received positive response from the industry. The stand won third place in the Asia/Australia/Oceania category. A total of 194 representatives from 75 Maldivian companies participated in the event.

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Antalya steaming ahead as a centre of yacht building

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – A total of 27 luxury sailing yachts were put to sea in Turkey’s touristic hub of Antalya in 2014. Zeki Gürses, the general manager of Antalya Free Trade Zone Operator (ASBAŞ), said firms working inside the free trade zone had finished and handed over 27 luxury sailing yachts to their owners in 2014.

Gürses said the effects of the 2008 crisis have gradually decreased and the middle class have started to spend money again, with the yachts built last year having an average length of 17 meters.

“In 2008, when the U.S. went through a financial crisis, we faced a serious decline in short-length yacht orders; however, since last year, we have started to receive short-length yacht orders again,” Gürses said.

Gürses said two long yachts, measuring 60 meters and 63 meters-long respectively, will be put to sea this year. They are currently working on the safe launches of these large luxury yachts into the sea.

“We are trying to solve the infrastructure problems facing the smooth launch (of the two long yachts),” said Gürses, adding further that the building of each yacht took about three years.

Gürses said Turkey is currently in the third place in yacht construction, just behind the U.S. and the Netherlands. He said that yacht companies had orders for 90 yachts, 20 to 30 of which would be built by the end of the year.

Due to the lack of capacity in the Antalya Free Trade Zone, Gürses said that the zone is facing difficulties finding new companies. The Antalya Free Trade Zone hosts 110 companies, 57 of which are in the yacht sector.

Gürses said the free zone had 4,600 employees and hoped to increase this number to over 5,000 by the end 2015. Noting that the Antalya Free Zone Operator did $833 million worth of business in 2014, Gürsel set a trade goal of $1 billion for this year.

“Despite the world’s alarming economic changes, we believe that we can achieve this number. Long yachts will be delivered in 2015 and because of their high sales figures, we estimate that they will contribute to our trade volume,” said Gürses.

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Cleaning work begins in massive underground city archaeological site in central Anatolia

NEVŞEHİR – Hurriyet Daily News – A massive underground city, which was discovered last year in the central Anatolian province of Nevşehir and was the year’s biggest archaeological discovery, is being cleaned with a geo-radar machine.

Work has begun around the Nevşehir Fortress, carried out by the Nevşehir Municipality in collaboration with Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKİ), the Governor’s Office and the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

The geo-radar machine is able to determine all gaps and structures up to 10 meters below the surface, accurately mapping out the underground city.

The data collected by the machine, which is operated by a technical team of three people, is then delivered to the excavation team. Thanks to data from this machine, the excavation process is able to be carried out in a way which limits the amount of damage to the structures of the city.

Nevşehir Mayor Hasan Ünver said the cleaning process had started a few days ago and has continued non-stop. He said the world’s largest underground city was 113 meters in height and 460,000 square-meters in area and was very important for the future of tourism in Cappadocia, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation.

“The existence of this underground city, which consists of 11 neighborhoods around the Nevşehir Fortress, makes us very excited. We are using the latest technology in its cleaning. When the work is done, we plan to build places like boutique hotels, art galleries, handicraft centers, walking routes, a museum and meeting rooms in the underground city,” the mayor said.

HDN The underground city was discovered by a TOKİ urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings located in and around the Nevşehir fortress were recently demolished and the city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings started.

The city covers 45 hectares of the total 75 hectare plot within the urban transformation project, which began in 2012. The first galleries were spotted in 2013 and the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board officially registered the area. So far forty-four historical objects have been taken under preservation.

The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir Fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city.

The tunnels in the city are believed to have been used to carry agricultural products. It is also estimated that one of the tunnels passes under Nevşehir and reaches a faraway water source.

According to Ünver, other underground cities in Nevşehir’s various districts do not even amount to the “kitchen” of this new underground city.

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Contemporary art fair comes to Ankara

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – The 1st Art Ankara Contemporary Art Fair kicks off today in the capital. The fair will host national and international artists and exhibitions until March 15. One of the most important figures of Iranian contemporary art, Bijan Sayfouri, will be a guest of the event.

The fair will present some 2,000 works by nearly 300 artists. Among the works is Turkish painter Yakup Cem’s painting titled “Holy Relics,” which will be brought to Ankara for the fair under tight security measures.

Seventy galleries including Bali Sanat, RC Sanat, Soyut Sanat, Fırça Sanat, Nurol Sanat and Yurt Dünya Sanat and museums including Mustafa Ayaz, İMOGA and UKKSA will join the event.

The fair is organized by ATİS Fair Management in collaboration with the All Art Galleries Association (TÜSGAD) and the United Painters and Sculptors Association (BRHD) at the ATO Congresium Congress and Exhibition Hall.

ATİS Fair Management President Bilgin Aygül said despite Ankara being the capital of politics, it had lost its importance in the arts, since such a fair has not been held for many years.

“Our goal is to make the city the center of contemporary art once again. The city is home to many organizations dealing with contemporary art. This is why we organized this fair to support them. We expect more than 40,000 visitors to the fair,” he said.

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Exploring Byzantine era medical methods

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum presents the exhibition “Life Is Short, Art Long: The Art of Healing in Byzantium,” which takes its name from the famous aphorism by Hippocrates and examines the art and practice of healing in Byzantium from Greco-Roman times to the late Byzantine period.

Curated by Dr. Brigitte Pitarakis, the exhibition examines faith, magic and rational medicine as methods of healing. It traces the “art of healing” from the foundations laid by Apollo and Asklepios, healers of antiquity, and Hippocrates and Dioscorides, the founders of rational medicine, and also examines the roles of the physician saints. Among the other topics covered and objects on display are icons, reliquaries and amulets, marble carvings, medical equipment, plants and herbs, medical and botanical manuscripts and the centers of healing and miracles in Istanbul.

Health has always been a central concern of humankind. Examining a civilization from the perspective of its approach to the body, in sickness and in health, leads one into the depths of its identity. This process can also open the door to our own self-knowledge.

HDN The exhibition offers a glimpse of Byzantine civilization and society through the three traditional methods of healing practiced side-by-side: faith, magic and medicine. It illustrates the influence of Byzantium’s ancient cultural heritage on religious and rational thought as well as contemporary scientific developments and innovations from around the Mediterranean. The Byzantines’ central role in the transmission of the art of healing to future generations is also highlighted.

The exhibition reveals the belief illnesses were primarily caused by demons co-existed alongside a rational understanding of health and medicine based on the teachings of Hippocrates. The “art of healing” was practiced by physicians, saints and magicians and involved practices ranging from surgery to daily cleansing of the body, and the spirit to exorcism and the veneration of saints.

The works offering insight into Istanbul’s Byzantine past have been loaned from the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the Istanbul Greek Patriarch, the library of the Holy Trinity Monastery of Halki (Heybeliada), the Foundation of the Yeniköy Greek Orthodox Church of Panayia and School, the Rezan Has Museum, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, Oxford University, Herbarium and the Benaki Museum in Athens, the Kastoria Byzantine Museum and private collections.

On March 14 at 9:30 a.m. a symposium will also be held at Pera Museum in the context of the exhibition, which will continue through April 26. Experts from the U.S., Italy, France, Greece, England and Turkey will attend the two-round symposium. Admission is free.

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Morocco Continues to Grow Tourism Profile in U.S.

Moroccan American Center for Policy (Washington, DC) – 10 March 2015 – Tourism, which is the second largest contributor to Morocco’s GDP, is thriving in a very challenging neighborhood. Long known in Europe for its beaches, cuisine, and music and cultural festivals, Morocco has its sights set on continuing to grow its tourism sector and creating more jobs for Moroccans. It doesn’t hurt that part of its positive reputation reflects the stability and progressive identity of the country.

In just the last three weeks, Morocco has been in the headlines in Ireland, the UK, and the US in stories that showcase what it has to offer beyond echoes of the film classic Casablanca. (Interestingly, while that movie was filmed entirely in Los Angeles, the latest figures released by Morocco’s cinema authority note that the production in Morocco of feature films and television series from more than a dozen countries generated more than $210 million in revenue in 2014.)

Perhaps one of the biggest coups took place last week in Marrakech, when Morocco hosted the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Destination Expo. Two agreements were incorporated into a memorandum of understanding to “broaden promotional efforts to woo more U.S. visitors to the destination.”

Last year, more than 220,000 Americans visited Morocco, a 175 percent increase in the past decade. Two additional Morocco National Tourist Offices will be added in the US to complement its code-sharing agreement with JetBlue that will provide feeder connections from select US cities. In January, Royal Air Maroc launched its first 787-8 Dreamliner for the NY-Casablanca flight, one of its most lucrative markets.

Reviewers from Voice of America (VOA) to the Boston Globe have been singing the praises of the sights, sounds, tastes, and visual delights that make up Morocco. The VOA ran a special report on the Festival Taragalte, which celebrates the unique and rich music of southern Morocco, held at the door of the Sahara, southeast of Ouarzazate. It blends together tribal music from across the area with artisans, foods, dance, and folklore, which is drawing more international fans every year.

The Irish Independent carried a feature about something increasingly common about Morocco – experiences outside the genre of cruise ships and camels – in this case, a health and wellness package that features yoga and surfing, for beginners and accomplished devotees alike. The reporter was captivated by the quality of the program and the ease with which they accommodated her introduction to surfing, as well as the visual tapestry of the location and the impressive food.

In a more traditional vein, top British designer Matthew Williamson enthused in The Telegraph about his latest trip to Marrakech and offered travelers his insights into what to do and where to go, all while enjoying the mysteries and delicacies of the city and its surroundings. A CNN feature provided another perspective — on the impact of tourism on the Atlas Mountains, which praised how the people were maintaining the local way of life (the snow vistas are spectacular) while recognizing the downside of encouraging increased tourism, which threatens the ecology and environment of the region.

And no review of Morocco and its pleasures would be complete without a food section, courtesy of the Boston Globe, in which the author reminisces about tagines while shoveling through the cold weather and snow that has inundated the area. Gordon Hamersley, a local celebrity chef, talks about constructing his favorite tagines and their versatility and down-to-earth celebration of Moroccan spices and food textures.

For those on the East Coast looking to immerse themselves in all things Moroccan – from fossilized rocks and jewelry to leather goods and a full range of furniture – there is no better place to start than Morocco Premier Events, the handiwork of Hassan Samrhouni, long-time community leader and businessman, whose travel agency specializes in customized tours of his home country.

Over the past year, Hassan has assembled a veritable “souk” or bazaar of Moroccan handicrafts, jewelry, leather goods, glassware, pottery, and furniture made to order.

In addition, the 1500 square foot showroom near Dulles International Airport hosts a very helpful library on Morocco; and there is an adjacent area for meetings, conferences, shows, and other events. Hassan has been producing cultural events for years across the US, and he felt that it was time to have a central area to exhibit and coordinate activities that highlight Moroccan culture and society. His goal is to become the premier event producer of events that reflect his heritage to audiences across the US.

Morocco is a country that is driving its future in some ways by celebrating its past. By making hundreds of years of history, culture, music, and cuisine readily accessible to travellers and fans from around the world, Morocco is investing in projects and events that showcase its assets while providing much needed resources to develop even further.

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Institute to Compile Data of Nigerian Hotels for Classification, Grading

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 12 March 2015 – The National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism has completed arrangement for the compilation of data of Nigerian hotels for the purposes of classification and grading.

Director-General of the institute, Mrs Chika Balogun, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the classification was designed to reposition the country’s hospitality industry.

“Some of the hotels in the country do not have the facilities to be rated as five, four or three stars. Most of the hotels classified as five, four or three stars do not have the required facilities. Therefore, there is the need to compile the list of Nigerian hotels for thorough classification and grading,” Balogun said.

She, however, added that the grading and classification would be in collaboration with Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the National Orientation Agency.

Others, she said, are Hotel Licence Authority, hospitality experts and other relevance government agencies.

“These are necessary, because we want to ensure that Nigeria hotels are well graded and classified according to international standards. Foreigners and some hospitality experts are complaining that some of the Nigerian hotels classified as five stars do not have the facilities required to be classified as such. We will involve hospitality experts for the classification and grading of the Nigerian hotels,” she said.

The DG said after the classification and grading, the institute would send the list of the graded and classified hotels to appropriate authority for preparation of catalogue. Balogun expressed optimism that such grading and classification would boost the image of the country’s hospitality industry.

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Somalia: Puntland President Launches New Road in Garowe

Dalsan Radio (Mogadishu) – 10 March 2015 – Somalia’s Puntland president Abdiwali Mohamed Ali Gaas on Monday launched a new public road in the heart of heavily fortified capital, Garowe. The administration has spent roughly $230,000 for its foundation.

Top officials from the cabinet and few UN representatives were present at a colorful tribute held for the road. Addressing reporters, the president said that Puntland capital is progressively growing and urged people to join in ongoing developmental efforts.

“The road will connect Waaberi, Wadajir and Horseed villages in Gorowe as part of region public upgrading process “President Gaas said. The President laid the road’s cornerstone in July last year seven months after he got elected as Puntland’s fifth president on January. Puntland state had enjoyed relative peace since 1998.

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South Sudan: Jovago.com Expands to South Sudan

CIO East Africa (Nairobi) – 10 March 2015 – Jovago.com, an Online Hotel Booking Platform has announced expansion in South Sudan.

This comes at a time when the young country is looking into improving its telecommunication infrastructure through acquiring international fiber connection by the end of 2015. Almost alienated by years of war, this move aims at giving the country maximum exposure and online accessibility to the global tourism industry.

Speaking of the occasion, Estelle Verdier, the Managing Director – Jovago East and South Africa said, “We are very proud to support the development and exploration of South Sudan, making it easier for people to travel to South Sudan for business, visit family or discover touristic attractions” South Sudan is home to a large fraction of the Nile River and the enormous Sudd swamp region – popular for a luxuriant birdlife.

The country also spots Africa’s largest national reserve – Boma National Park, and one of world’s greatest migration, which hold great potential given global visibility, strategic marketing and good infrastructure. Recent reports from World Tourism Organization indicate that wildlife watching represents 80% of total annual sales of trips in Africa, therefore exploiting such attractions in South Sudan will be a great boost to the country’s economy.

At about 20% internet penetration, South Sudan’s e-Tourism still has many years of strong growth ahead, and with such interest in online booking platforms, hotels in the various tourist attractions can now count on online marketing to improve their accessibility. It’s also worthy of note that unlike the rest of the region, South Sudan has very few officially recognized agencies, which majorly curtails the efforts in industry development.

In conclusion, Verdier notes that the development and exposure of South Sudan’s tourism potential will not only be beneficial to the country, but the region as well, “with adventure tourism on the rise, tourists are more likely to cross borders in search of that adrenaline jungle than ever before” she quipped, citing The Nile as a great attraction to water sport enthusiasts. A 2012 study by Adventure Trade Travel Association (ATTA) revealed a 65% growth in Adventure Tourism while placing it’s global worth at $263 billion.

South Sudan is Africa’s youngest nation, having seceded from Sudan in a referendum held in January 2011. The country is home to the second largest mammal migration, Africa’s largest reserve, one of the world’s largest wetlands in the Al-Sudd region and straddles both White and Blue Nile, therefore making it a versatile destination for bird watching, safaris and water adventure. Conservationists have quoted South Sudan’s potential in presenting biggest migration of large mammals on earth.

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Gajah Mada University to establish school of nationality

10 March 2015 – Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) – The Gajah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta will soon establish the School of Nationality to foster a spirit of nationalism and state defense, UGM spokesman Sutarman noted here on Tuesday.

He stated that the School of Nationality will be established, so that Indonesian people are no longer colonized by ways of politics, law, economy, and religion.

“We will design the school in such a way that the public realizes and understands the characteristics and values of nationality,” Sutarman remarked.

He revealed that the teaching curriculum to be developed at the School of Nationality in terms of the economic aspect will be related to creative economy, with the goal of achieving economic self-reliance.

However, he added that the curriculum is still being developed by a team of the school and is planned to be implemented in July or before August 17, 2015.

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60th Asian-African Conference in Jakarta to support Palestine

10 March 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The 60th commemoration of the Asian-African Conference (KAA) scheduled for April 2015 in Jakarta and Bandung aims to yield three documents, one of which is to support Palestine, noted Foreign Affairs Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi.

During a breakfast meeting with senior newsmen from several electronic and print media here on Tuesday morning, the minister pointed out that the two other documents will be the Bandung Message and the Asian-African New Strategic Partnership.

She remarked that the representatives of the KAA participating countries have begun discussions in New York related to the 60th commemoration of KAA and the 10-year New Strategic Partnership.

“We want to strengthen the South-South Cooperation in order to be able to contribute to peace and prosperity of the world,” stated the first woman foreign affairs minister in the history of Indonesia.

According to Marsudi, a series of high-level official, ministerial, and leadership meetings, among other things, will be held on the sidelines of the 60th commemoration of KAA on April 19-24, 2015, in Jakarta and Bandung.

On April 24, all heads of states/governments and delegations will participate in the anniversary and will attend the Asian-African Business Forum in Jakarta on April 21-22.

Indonesias founding father Soekarno initiated the first Asian-African Conference in 1955, or a decade after the country gained its independence in 1945.

The first conference in 1955 resulted in Dasa Sila Bandung, or 10 points of the Bandung Declaration in which most of the United Nations principles were incorporated in promoting world peace and international cooperation.

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2nd Int’l Women’s Film Festival held in Bangladesh

DHAKA, March 13, 2015 (BSS) – “The Fair and Lovely Foundation 2nd International Women’s Film Festival” begins in the capital tomorrow. Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu, MP, is scheduled to inaugurate the four-day festival at the Shawkat Osman Auditorium of the Central Public Library at Shahbagh at 4 pm.

Bangladesh’s legendary film actress Sarah Begum Kabori will be present at the inaugural function as the special guest.

The Women’s Film Society, Bangladesh is organizing the festival with a view to introducing the Bangladeshi film-lovers, especially the women, to the tradition and culture of different countries through screening various diversified and creative local and foreign movies.

The organizers hope that the festival would encourage the Bangladeshi women in making films.

The slogan of the festival is “Film in Women’s Eyes”. This year’s festival has been dedicated to the pioneer of Bangladesh’s women renaissance Begum Rokeya Shakhawat.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Director of the festival Mehedi Hasan said as many as 70 films of 29 countries made by women filmmakers would be shown at the festival. These include full-length movies, short films, documentaries and animation films.

Mehedi said “Audience Award” would be given to five movies to be screened at the festival through the audience votes. Apart from screening the movies, workshop and seminar on making movies would be held in the festival. The two-day workshop would be arranged for the women on March 15 and 16, while the seminar would be organized on March 17.

Media Coordinator of the festival Moshiour Rahman said except the opening ceremony, the movies of the festival would be screened at 11am, 2pm and 5pm every day from March 15 to March 17.

“The women could watch all movies of the festival without tickets,” he said.

Moshiour also said the movie “Akash Kato Dure”, made by the country’s eminent filmmaker Samia Jaman, would be shown as the inaugural film of the festival. He said a beautiful souvenir as well as posters and stickers have been published on the occasion of the festival.

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Airport to be set up in Bagerhat

KHULNA, March 14, 2015(BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon here last night said the government will set up a full-fledged airport in Foyla area under Fakirhat Upazila in Bagerhat very soon. The minister was addressing a meeting with the local 14 party alliance leaders at Khulna Circuite House Conference room with lawmaker Mizanur Rahman Mizan in the chair.

Urging the private civil aviation organisations to be taken initiative for landing sea plane until setting up stall plane, the minister said stall plane service will be set up primarily.

“The present government’s policy is to increase revenue by enhancing tourism sector and to create a favourable atmosphere with a view to attract tourists for visiting country’s tourist spots including world heritage mangrove forest Sunderbans” Rashed Khan Menon mentioned.

A tourism office and a motel will be set up in Khulna on 5 acres land in Boyra Muzgunni area, the minister said. At least 71 archeological research regions under the Khulna Archeology Directorate would be modernized for blooming Country’s south-west tourism sector, he added.

He underscored that mental development is essential for building tourism sector. The Minister also said Tourism Department will be developed in the south-west zone centering the Sunderbans. The Minister directed Forest officials for keeping environment and preserving biodiversity of Sunderbans.

Workers Party Khulna unit president Hafizur Rahman Bhuiyan, 14-party alliance leaders Sayedur Rahman, Deponker Saha Dipu, Rafiqul Haque Khokon, Fazlur Rahman, F M Iqbal, Tapon Kumar Roy, advocate Mina Mizanur Rahman Mizan, Mahbub Alam Sohag, Ali Akbor Tipu, Z A Mahmud Don and Mizanur Rahman Raza addressed among others.

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Azerbaijan expects 5 million tourists

12 March 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan, the country of contrasts, which combines Eastern charm and European culture, is planning to attract more tourists in the near future. The country is expected to increase its tourist flow up to 5 million a year, Abulfaz Garayev, the culture and tourism minister said at the Caspian Energy Forum 2015 on March 11.

The share of tourism in Azerbaijan’s GDP stands at 2.4 percent or 1.3 billion manat, he noted. “This is a very good indicator. Recently, the influx of tourists into the country increased, which is associated with Azerbaijan’s stable position in the region.”

Over 2.5 million tourists arrived in Azerbaijan in 2014. Overall, tourism in the Land of Fire has doubled since 2006. The tourists’ expenditures in the country increased from 91 million manats in 2006 to 1.2 milliard manats in 2014.

The minister noted that the influx of tourists from more distant countries has also increased.

“We have seen an increase in the influx of tourists from Europe, the U.S., the Far East and Arab countries in recent years. At the same time a sharp decrease in regional tourism occurred. Visitors from Russia and Georgia have diminished when previously they held a major share in our tourism industry,” Garayev said.

Azerbaijan now is working on setting up a new visa regime with a number of European countries in view of opening its tourism’s floodgate. Experts have put down the decline in tourists due to the worldwide financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is developing its services. For example the number of hotels has now reached 530, with 23 five start hotels in the country, 41 four star hotels, 12 three star and 3 two star hotels.

“However, Azerbaijan is losing to other countries in the region, such as Turkey, where there are more sunny days per year,” the minister noted. “That’s why it was decided to develop and build a variety of tourism clusters in the country. Seven areas have already been identified where they will be built.”

Azerbaijan will continue to work towards attracting more tourists to the country, Garayev explained, since it is a very profitable sector.

“Every tourist arriving in Azerbaijan spends a minimum of $700 here. Of course, this is a big plus for the state and its budget from an economic standpoint. We intend to improve on our tourism industry and increase our number of tourists coming to Azerbaijan to 4.5-5 million people per year,” the minister stressed.

This year, Azerbaijan expects tourists from around the world will attend the inaugural European Games in Baku in June. In the next coming years, the country will also hold Islamic Solidarity Games, Formula 1 race and quarterfinals and three group games of the Euro 2020.

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Uzbekistan intends to buy high-speed trains from Spain

13 March 2015 – TODAY.AZ – State Joint-Stock Railway Company (SSRC) Uzbekistan Railways plans to acquire two electric trains produced by the Spanish company Patentes Talgo, S.L., the leadership of the carrier told Trend March 10. In late February, chairman of the SSRC Achilboy Ramatov held talks with President of Patentes Talgo Carlos Palacio Oriol, during which the parties discussed the acquisition of trains, according to the source.

Following the talks, a memorandum of cooperation between the companies was signed.

Purchase of trains is provided within the framework of the project for the organization of high-speed rail link between Tashkent and Bukhara with a total value of $400 million in 2016.

Currently, the company began to implement this project, which provides the electrification of the railway section Samarkand-Bukhara, which will make it possible to organize a high-speed rail link between Tashkent and Bukhara.

After completion of the project, two high-speed trains will run in the direction Tashkent-Bukhara. At the same time, the duration of the way will be reduced in half – to 3.5 hours from 7 – 8 hours and an additional comfort for travelers who plan to visit Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara will be created.

The Spanish Patentes Talgo S. A. and Uzbekistan Railways signed a contract on the purchase of two high-speed trains AVE 250 worth 38 million euros in November 2009.

Trains will be used on the Tashkent-Samarkand route, whose length is 356 kilometers. The maximum speed is 250 km per hour. The contract includes service of trains, as well as driver training in Spain.

The project was financed from its own funds (SSRC) “Uzbekistan Railways” in the amount of 19 million euros and the Fund for Reconstruction and Development of Uzbekistan (FRDU) by the same amount. Credit FRDU was isolated “Uzbekistan Railways” for 10 years with a two-year grace period under the lending rate of two percent.

Infrastructure of the railway line was upgraded on Tashkent – Samarkand railway section. Some 600 kilometers of tracks have been reconstructed, some 68 kilometers of new railway track have been laid, 142-meter tunnel and four modern bridges with a total length of 400 meters have been built, contact network was upgraded, communication system and alarm system have been upgraded.

The cost of the project for the organization of high-speed operation of passenger trains on the Tashkent-Samarkand railway section amounted to more than $105 million.

The total length of railways is 4,100 kilometers in Uzbekistan. The railway accounts for 66 percent of cargo turnover within the country and nearly 80 percent of the total volume of export and import cargo shipment.

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Dubai Customs’ capacity up by 50% at Terminal 2

Khaleej Times – 13 March, 2015 – Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of DP World and chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, visited Dubai Customs’ passenger operations department at Dubai International Airport Terminal 2 to get acquainted with strategies for facilitating formalities for passengers.

Bin Sulayem was briefed on Dubai Customs’ capacity increase of 50 per cent at Terminal 2 after recent expansions were completed.

During his visit, bin Sulayem was briefed on Dubai Customs’ improvement and development procedures at the terminal, including passengers’ handbag inspection devices, which have increased from two to five, and two gadgets for screening suspected luggage, to accommodate the growing number of passengers at Terminal 2.

The number of internal device operators has tripled from four to 12. The increase in the numbers of devices and operators has enhanced the Terminal’s capacity to handle seven million passengers.

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Major resort planned in Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 10 March, 2015 – A major new project promising waterfront housing, hotels, schools, suqs and public parkland is being planned for the southern tip of Bahrain. The 1.5 million sqm Ras Al Barr Resort will be built to the south of Durrat Al Bahrain, according to architecture and engineering firm SSH.

It will include 110,000 sqm of reclaimed land, a yacht club, a mosque and a beach, in addition to other amenities.

In a statement, SSH said it had been awarded the contract to provide master planning, architecture and engineering consultancy services for the project from PK Development Company, a joint venture between Kuwait Finance House and a set of private investors.

“Aligned with Bahrain’s 2030 Economic Vision, the Ras Al Barr Project aims to create a unique sustainable mixed-use waterfront development offering a range of waterfront housing options, themed hotels, retail and suks, public waterfront and sandy beaches, as well as community facilities, schools, parklands, and sport facilities,” said the statement.

“The project is set to be greatly advantageous to those seeking affordable waterfront residences while enjoying the ‘Durrat Al Bahrain’ waterfront lifestyle.”

No estimates of costs or completion dates were given, but the project is intended be built over two phases, according to the statement.

A gated development consisting of three islands will be built first, including the suq, yacht club, four hotels, schools, shops, a mosque and a beach – followed by a second phase of 14 islands featuring a mix of medium to large waterfront residences.

“We are delighted and proud to be working on one of Bahrain’s most anticipated developments located on the prestigious Ras Al Barr peninsula,” said SSH Bahrain general manager Andrew Barwick. “SSH remains fully committed to delivering quality projects for our esteemed clients and Bahrain.”

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Bahrain plans big airport revamp

Gulf Daily News – 10 March, 2015 – Bahrain International Airport is to undergo major modernisation to accommodate millions of travellers. The plans were yesterday unveiled as Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa chaired the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“The new-look airport would have the capacity to welcome 14 million passengers per year,” said Cabinet Secretary-General Dr Yasser bin Essa Al Nasser. Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed submitted a memo updating the session on the ambitious expansion plan.

It included a presentation detailing the multi-phased project and preparations to invite bids and award the project.

Another key topic covered was Bahrain’s overall workforce, which grew by 3.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with the same period in 2013. Bahraini workforce soared by 2.5pc to top 156,000 employees by late last year.

Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan submitted a periodic report, updating the Cabinet on the latest local market trends. A total of 1,565 Bahrainis entered the labour market from October to December, up by 38.5pc compared with the same period in 2013.

Bahrainis’ average wages rose by 2.3pc in the public sector and 1.9pc in the private sector compared with the 2013 fourth quarterly results. “The labour market indicators reflect the ability of the national economy to generate work opportunities for Bahraini jobseekers,” said Dr Al Nasser.

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flydubai flies to Sylhet, its 3rd point in Bangladesh

Saudi Gazette – 11 March, 2015 – Dubai-based flydubai announced the addition of a third destination in Bangladesh. The airline will commence direct flights between Dubai and Sylhet on April 1, 2015. The service will begin with five flights a week and will increase to daily starting May 4, 2015.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer at flydubai, said: “We are happy to welcome Sylhet, another previously underserved point, to our growing network of more than 90 destinations. This announcement sees our weekly service to Bangladesh grow to 34 flights, and we look forward to welcoming the people of Sylhet onboard flydubai.”

The Subcontinent remains an important market for flydubai. Last year, the airline launched four routes in India, more than doubling its network in the country. Chennai will also welcome flydubai’s first flight at the end of this month.

flydubai serves a wide network of destinations in the Subcontinent. This network covers eight points in India, three points in Bangladesh and Pakistan, two points in Afghanistan, as well as the capital cities of the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Male, Kathmandu and Colombo respectively.

The Sylhet operation is in joint partnership with Regent Airways, Bangladesh.

Flights can be booked from flydubai’s website (flydubai.com), its Contact Centre (+971) 600 54 44 45, flydubai Travel Shops or through travel partners. Further information and details of the carrier’s car rental and travel insurance services can also be found on flydubai.com.

Flights between Sylhet and Dubai start on 01 April 2015 with five flights a week. flydubai’s FZ 595/596 operates between Dubai International Terminal 2 and Sylhet’s Osmani International Airport on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Starting May 4, 2015, flydubai will operate daily between the two cities.

Economy Class return fares from Dubai to Sylhet will start at AED1,350 including 7kg hand baggage, while Business Class return fares will start at AED2,700 and are inclusive of all taxes and 40kg checked baggage.

Economy Class return fares from Sylhet to Dubai will start at $ 440 including 7kg hand baggage, while Business Class return fares will start at $ 1,300 and are inclusive of all taxes and 40kg checked baggage.

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Flydubai increases frequency on African routes

Khaleej Times – 11 March, 2015 – Flydubai announced on Tuesday that it is increasing the frequency of flights on some of its routes in Africa for the summer schedule. With the additional flights, flydubai will operate a total of 78 flights a week to 12 points in East and North Africa. From 29 March, flydubai will increase its service from five flights a week to daily to the capital of South Sudan, Juba and three flights a week instead of two to Bujumbura, Burundi.

Zanzibar will be served with four flights a week instead of two. While Alexandria will also see flydubai increase its flights from two to three a day from June 2015.

“We are delighted to offer more flights to Africa,” commented Ghaith Al Ghaith, chief executive officer of flydubai. “We were the first UAE carrier to serve Bujumbura, Juba and Zanzibar. We have seen strong demand for travel across our network in Africa, and we look forward to welcoming more passengers on board our flights.”

In line with growing trade and tourism ties between the UAE and East and North Africa, flydubai launched six routes to the region in 2014, doubling its network, and becoming the third biggest carrier of its category there and the first to offer a Business Class option to Dubai from destinations like Juba.

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Saudi $45.3b tourism market building on potential

Saudi Gazette – 11 March, 2015 – Saudi Arabia’s $ 11.6 billion worth of tourism projects currently underway in the country will underscore the strength of the industry as the country looks to build on domestic and religious tourism totaling an estimated $ 45.3 billion at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015.

Saudi Arabia’s presence at this year’s show will be spread across more than 1,400 square metres of exhibition floorspace with 15 participating companies already confirmed including Unique Choice, Al Khozama Management, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, E Travel Gate, Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities, Flynas, Al Hokair Group and Yrbooking.com.

“If we look just at the Kingdom’s list of top 10 tourism and hospitality projects, almost $ 11.6 billion is being invested into supporting the country’s economic diversification plans, and our partners on the ground are eager to discuss how this year’s ATM can showcase sector growth to more than 33,000 expected participants,” said Nadege Noblet, exhibition manager of Arabian Travel Market, WTM Portfolio, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

According to new MEED intelligence data, Saudi Arabia is capitalizing on both new business and leisure tourism opportunities with 55 planned or under-development projects including four museums/libraries, 39 hotels and resorts, one mall, seven sports stadia/leisure complexes, two theme parks and two convention centres.

The country’s top 10 projects currently under development are valued at just under $ 11.6 billion, cover a wide range of tourism-related activities from $ 4400 million investment by Saudi Aramco into 11 stadiums to the next three phases of the Jabal Omar mega development in Makkah, which, upon completion in 2017, will have 40 hotel towers. Other high profile projects include the $ 533 million MKEC Visitor complex, the $ 450 million Hilton Riyadh Hotel & Resort and $ 500 million Millennium Jeddah.

Following the announcement late last year by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of approval of provisions to issue tourism visas and introduce new regulations to the system, this greatly enhances prospects for future sector development if the proposal achieves final approval.

Industry experts put the estimated value of the Saudi tourism and travel market at$ 45.3 billion (SR170 billion) in 2014, of which $ 18.7 billion (SR70 billion) was generated from domestic tourism and almost $ 27 billion (SAR100 billion) from religious and other tourism.

“The country has a number of important historical sites and places of natural beauty that could be a magnet for tourists from around the world, such as the ruins of Madain Saleh, a Unesco World Heritage site, the stunning Farasan Islands, the mountain city of Taif and Jeddah’s restored old quarter,” said Noblet.

New research released by YouGov in Travel Oracle – KSA Highlights report, highlights the preferences of travellers from the Kingdom, who list good weather (39%), reasonable cost (38%) and family destination attraction (34%) as the top three criteria when selecting a vacation destination.

Popular travel destinations currently include the UAE, visited by one in five Saudi Arabian residents (19%) during their last leisure trip, as well as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.

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National Transport Model for Oman on the anvil

Oman Daily Observer – 11 March, 2015 – Oman’s Supreme Council for Planning plans to commission a nationwide survey that will help in the development of a National Transport Model for the Sultanate. The survey is an integral part of a broader initiative launched by the government to create the foundations of a long-range planning system that will help guide the future direction of the nation’s development strategy.

The landmark initiative, dubbed the Oman National Spatial Strategy (ONSS), is currently being formulated with the assistance of an international consulting firm, Consatt Ltd, as the project’s Main Consulting Engineer.

Given the ambitious scope of the study, which also requires the preparation of Regional Strategies covering all 11 governorates of the Sultanate, a tender has been floated for the selection of consultancy firms that will serve as subcontractors to Consatt Ltd. The tender will lead to the appointment of four firms, each receiving a brief to prepare regional spatial strategies for 3 – 4 governorates, as well as to contribute data to the National Transport Survey.

Importantly, the development of the Oman National Spatial Strategy requires the creation of a national transport model, and this in turn requires a whole-traffic-demand dataset as an origin/destination matrix, based on traffic counts, on-road interviews, interviews in public transport, household travel behaviour surveys, and non-household travel behaviour surveys.

A framework created for the National Transport Survey envisions, among other things, traffic counts covering public, passenger and freight transport in each governorate, a broad review of the transportation network (covering roads, public transport and seaports), household surveys, and face to face interviews with individuals in companies, hotels and assorted enterprises.

The framework prescribes a transport behaviour survey of a representative sample of 350-400 households in each governorate. Questionnaire will seek to elicit information on the profile of the household (including the number of household members, age, profession, literacy levels, Omani/Non-Omani, average working time per day, driving licence and car ownership); Internal Migration: length of residence at this place, previous place of residence, reasons for moving, intentions to move; Seasonal Mobility: moves between residences or districts; and the mobility pattern for persons older than 6 years: trip data, including the start and end points, departure and arrival times, kinds of activity at the destination, transport mode, trip length, costs.

There will also be questions related to the transport system, such as comments on the transport situation, points of criticism, and suggested improvements. Comments relating to the environmental quality of the place of residence, such as noise pollution, air pollution, distance to local services (public transport, shops, childcare and schools) will also be elicited.

A similar format will be applied in surveys targeting employees of hotels, firms and organisations aimed at assessing feedback on business-related transport demand, leisure, mobility and freight transport. The results will be used to establish the origin/destination matrix for business and leisure related transport and freight transport. The transport behaviour surveys in households and organisations will also be designed to provide a baseline for surveys conducted (with smaller samples) at regular intervals of five to ten years, to monitor transport behaviour and to evaluate the effectiveness of transport measures and initiatives.

Additionally, the survey calls for a comprehensive inventory of the road network in each governorate aimed at assessing current characteristics and functions of each stretch of road. Surveyors will classify all roads based on their respective functions (National, Arterial or Secondary), posted speed (80/100/120 km/h), lane width (3.5 m / 3.65 m / 3.75 m, etc), number of lanes (1/2/3/4) each direction, width of right of way (ROW) (50 m/60 m/100 m/120m, etc.), junction type (grade-separated/roundabout/traffic signal, etc), carriageway (single/dual), surface type (paved/unpaved), median width (2.5/5/12m), and shoulder width (o.6/ 1.0/2.5/3.0 m) inner and outer.

At seaports, the surveyors will gather data with regard to freight traffic flows separated into flows of bulk goods, general cargo, and number of containers per year (origin/destination of traffic flows, import, export, transship). Availability of public transport facilities, including bus-lines, air transport and ferries, will be documented as well.

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More Iran villages to get internet service

Tehran Times – 11 March, 2015 – ICT Minister Mahmoud Vaezi says that all villages across Iran will be provided with internet access by the end of the current administration. Speaking in a meeting on ICT policies for the sixth development plan in Tehran, Vaezi stated that the ministry intends to carry out the plan in villages with over 10 households.

This year 8,000 villages received internet access and in the next year, 30,000 more will receive it, he said, according to Young Journalists’ Club. The minister added that by the end of the current year, all villages with over 20 households will be provided with telephone services. He further said that in the next year, all villages with at least 10 households will receive telephone lines.

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“Islam Message from Oman” exhibition opens in Skopje

Oman Daily Observer – 11 March, 2015 – “Islam Message from Oman” exhibition opened in the Macedonian capital Skopje, under the auspices of Dr Zoran Ilievski, political advisor to the President of the Republic of Macedonia. The exhibition is on till March 19.

The opening ceremony was held in the Macedonian National Museum. The exhibition aims to spread the umbrella of the values of understanding, co-existence, dialogue among peoples of the world, focus on common humanity, renounce all forms of extremism, violence and hatred and calling for respect for sanctity and prophets.

Shaikh Benyamin Idris, head of the Islamic civilisation centre in the Republic of Macedonia, expressed his thanks to the Sultanate for conducting this exhibition in collaboration with the Islamic civilisation centre in Macedonia, stressing the role of these activities in reminding the humanity of the importance of co-existence, understanding and tolerance.

Among the main activities of the exhibition, Professor Fred Mouhic presented a paper on the Philosophical Vision on the East and West.

The exhibition includes 48 paintings that will be on display in Macedonian and Albanian and 20 pictures by Omani photographers about life in Oman and paintings from the Omani Fine Art and Calligraphy, in addition to showcasing some of the Omani artifacts and features of life in the Sultanate in the past and present.

The exhibition included global messages, a global media campaign designed to spread the culture of co-existence, peace, tolerance and harmony through the spread of cards that reflect these values in social media and websites in various languages.

‘Do Something for Tolerance’ campaign was launched in the opening ceremony in addition to a global competition to collect the largest possible number of posts in order to spread the culture of coexistence.

The Omani Book Corner was held on the sidelines of the exhibition. The books focus on civilisational communication, deepening of common understanding of human values, including al Tafahum (Understanding) magazine issued by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs in the Sultanate.

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Iran to exhibit for the first time at Russian travel show

March 13, 2015 – Russia’s largest travel exhibition, MITT, will welcome Iran onto the exhibition floor for the first time this year. In its 22nd edition, the Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition will take place on March 18-21, 2015 in Moscow, Russia. Iran will debut as the Iranian tour company, Nadia Parvaz, unveils their plans to enter the Russian market.

Lily Sadri, General Director, Nadia Parvaz, comments: “We want to introduce Iran as a new destination for Russians. Last year, the number of Russian tourists to Iran (based on UNWTO statistical data) equaled 19,159 people – this shows a reasonable increase over the years,”

During a recent meeting in Moscow, the Iranian Ambassador to Russia, Mahdi Sanaei, and the President of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, Maya Lomidze, underlined the need to establish ways of promoting tourism cooperation between the two countries.

Ms. Sadri comments: “Issuing a visa for Russian tourists is a very simple and short process. On arrival they can be issued with a visa for two weeks at various airports (IKA, Tabriz, Shiraz and Mashhad). Furthermore, due to the Iran Embassy’s attempts, it is probable that in the near future Russians won’t have any obligations to obtain a visa”.

Iran has been working on developing several diverse tourism packages. Speaking about Iran’s onsite activity, Ms. Sadri says: “We will present Iranian live music, carpet fabricate (the process of making a rug) and serve traditional tea at our stand. In addition, our travel specialists will also provide visitors with useful information about Iran – in both Russian and English.”

In 2015, Nadia Parvaz will run a Fam Trip for Russian tour operators to introduce Iran as a new market.

Attendees at MITT 2015 will be able to visit the Nadia Parvaz stand in the forum pavilion. Members of the travel trade can register for a complimentary visitor e-ticket. For more information, please visit www.mitt.ru

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