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6 Apr, 2015

Islamic Yoga boosts Energy, Happiness and Health

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 06 April 2015 (17 Jumaada al-Thaani 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

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

The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, as will witness an endless celebration of festivals, events and happenings. MyFEST 2015 is set to make Malaysia the top-of-the-mind tourist destination, encouraging tourists to stay longer in order to enjoy the festival offerings nationwide. Themed “Endless Celebrations”, the year-long calender is packed with festivities of every genre; for instance cultural festivals, shopping extravaganzas, 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.




World Halal Summit Held in Kuala Lumpur

Thursday 02 Apr 2015 – Kuala Lumpur, (IINA) – Welcoming delegates from various Muslim countries, Malaysia opened the 12th edition of its halal summit here on Wednesday, with the aim of setting global halal standards for more investments in the thriving $1 trillion industry, news agencies reported.

The World Halal Summit at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre is a six-day-long conference on Islamic practices for the halal industry.

Among the attendees were Malaysia Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak, Turkey’s Minister of Customs and Trade Nurettin Cankili, the UAE’s Minister of Environment and Water Dr Rashid Ahmed Mohammad Fahad and Thailand’s Deputy Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn.

“We are in need for closer international collaboration and also to improve the perception of halal certification,” Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohammad was quoted by The Rakyat Post on Wednesday

“We need to sit down and find a way on how we can coordinate to get the standards be accepted throughout the world. I believe that there is sufficient infrastructure to form a supreme council to coordinate this issue,” Turkey’s Minister of Custom and Trade Cankili said.

“I believe regulation and coordination can be conducted under the auspices of an Islamic organization, we can established it at a regional level first and then transform it into a global body.”

In his speech, Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak pointed out that the world halal economy estimated to be worth US$2.3 trillion and pushed for investors to take up stakes in the industry.

He added that growth is assured as the global Muslim population is expected to rise from its present 23 percent of the world’s total population to 26 percent by 2030.

“The commercial revenue, employment opportunities and global connectivity of the Ummah through participation in the halal industry contribute significantly to the economies of many Muslim nations,” Najib said.

Calling for setting global halal standards, delegates from several Muslims countries warned that different halal standards would be counterproductive for the booming halal industry.

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Cambodia’s largest mosque opens in Phnom Penh

Sunday 29 Mar 2015 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia (IINA) – Cambodia’s largest and only Ottoman-style mosque was officially opened by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a ceremony attended by more than 1,000 people in the capital on Friday, Worldbulletin reported.

Al-Serkal Grand Mosque in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighbourhood was funded by Eisa Bin Nasser Bin Abdellatif Alserkal, an Emirati businessman, and replaces a mosque that once sat on the same site before it was torn down in 2012.

“For the whole country, when they travel to Phnom Penh and from overseas, they come to this mosque to pray, and for tourists who come to Cambodia, they would like to come and pray,” he said.

The gleaming $2 million structure was a big draw Friday as hundreds of people milled around outside. The separate men’s and women’s prayer halls were packed.

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Red Mosque in Russia’s Tomsk region opens after 90 years

Friday 03 Apr 2015 – Tomsk, Russia (IINA) -The Red Juma Mosque, located in the Tomsk region of Russia, has opened for worship after a gap of 90 years, Worldbulletin reported.

The mosque was first opened in 1901 but was seized and closed down in the 1920’s by the Communist regime. In 2002, restoration works began before opening on Friday in an official ceremony.

Tomsk Governor Sergey Jvachkin, Mayor Ivan Kleyin, Chechen Republic Parliament Speaker Dukuvah Adurakhmanov, and Chechen Republic Mufti Salah Haci Meciev were among the dignitaries who attended the ceremony. Representatives of the Islamic community as well as hundreds of Muslims were also present.

The guests were greeted at the entrance to the mosque by Russia’s Asia Representative Mufti Seyh Nafigullah Asirov and Tomsk Regional Mufti and Red Juma Mosque Imam Nizomutdin Jumaev.

Tomsk Regional Imam Ozotmutdin Umayev opened the ceremony with recitation of few verses from Qur’an and Sheikh Nafigullah Ahsyrov delivered a speech, thanking the attendees.

After the ceremony, Sheikh Asirov led the Friday congregational prayer.

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OIC Tourism Marketing Training Seminar held in Gambia

By Yunus S Saliu

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 27 March 2015 – The minister of Tourism and Culture, Benjamin A Roberts Wednesday presided over the opening of a two-day training programme on Tourism Marketing supported by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) through its Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre (SESRIC) and Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) for the tourism stakeholders.

The Tourism Capacity Building Programme (Tr-CaB) that was held at The Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute (GTHI) is meant to support The Gambia in capacity building programme for the interest of developing the country’s tourism.

Minister Roberts welcomed the three expert trainers to the ‘Smiling Coast of Africa’, while expressing his Ministry’s appreciation over the two-day Tr-CaB programme.

Highlighting and showcasing the relevance of the interdependence and intricacies within the various tourism outfits in the country, he said everyone has a role to play in marketing. According to him, marketing is everybody’s business, noting that it is not just the responsibility of The Gambia Tourism Board alone hence it cut across the boundaries.

The minister acknowledged the supports of OIC through SESRIC and ITC for their response and commitment to support the Ministry within a very short time.

Giving a wide range detail of the programme, the Minister quickly implored the trainers not to limit themselves to only the two-day training but rather find time to explore, discover and enjoy the destination, The Smiling Coast of Africa.

The Minister extended the president, His Excellency Sheikh Profeesor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh’s appreciation to the trainers for the support they rendered to the country.

For his part, Abdoullahi Hydara, the director general of Gambia Tourism Board, earlier welcomed the trainers to the country and also extended their delight in having them in the country to share their experiences with trainees.

He said tourism, as an industry requires continuous capacity building just as other related disciplines for the continued development of the different products that exist in the industry.

Hydara noted further that capacity building is very critical and it is central to the development of the industry as a whole.

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Malaysia Will Pioneer Into US$80 Bln Global Halal Vaccine Market

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia will pioneer efforts to explore the global halal vaccine market, which is potentially worth US$80 billion.

The Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) said this would be possible with the establishment of a Saudi Arabian-owned halal vaccine plant, AJ Pharma Holding, which is set to start operations in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan state in 2017.

Chief Executive Jamil Bidin said the company has started investments towards developing the plant under its third phase at a cost of RM300 million.

He told reporters this after his welcoming remarks at the World Halal Conference here Wednesday.

Jamil said the vaccine products are a very strategic commodity towards meeting the market demand of the 1.8 billion Muslims, apart from further strengthening the halal industry.

He also said that at present, there were no vaccine producers in the world with a halal certification and it has been suggested that products that are plant-based, be certified as such.

Themed, “Halal Economy: A Profitable Convergence”, the two-day conference began today. It is being held in conjunction with the World Halal Summit that started on March 30. (US$1.00=RM3.68).

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Turkey sees rise in medical tourism

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Out of the roughly 40 million tourists who visited Turkey last year, around half a million came for surgical procedures ranging from hair transplants and liposuction to cancer and orthopedic treatment, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK).

The number of medical tourists who visited Turkey totaled 414,658, including 86,011 Turkish citizens who live in foreign countries, bringing nearly $1 billion into the economy, an increase of 75 percent in foreign medical visitors to the country compared with 188,295 in 2013.

While Turkish government spending has been focusing on developing public healthcare infrastructure and treatment, private healthcare spending has been driving much of the growth.

A total of 34 city hospitals are slated to be built for about 30 billion Liras ($11.6 billion).

Private equity investors favor Turkey’s fast-growing service industries, including healthcare, retail and education because of a near tripling of the nominal per capita gross domestic product over the past decade and a young population of 77 million.

Turkey provides affordable, high-quality healthcare thanks to its well-educated workforce and its location in the world, according to sector representatives.

The Health Ministry said that only about 30 percent of patients received their treatment in public hospitals in the country, with the remainder receiving treatment in private hospitals.

Compared with many other countries, the transplant cost of about 5,000 liras ($1,929) is a relatively low price. A sector representative said most customers come from Europe and the Middle East.

“Turkey’s location, only a 2-3 hour flight from major cities in Europe and the Middle East – and also its evolved holiday industry – are advantages that are bringing in more patients,” said Feyman Duygu Oktar, the founder of the Ankara Hair Center.

“Another advantage is that Turkey does not require a visa to more than 70 countries, and people from more than 110 countries can reach the country on a non-stop ticket,” she added.

People from countries with heavily congested health systems welcome the opportunity to choose the time of their surgeries together with making savings of between 60 and 70 percent, which makes treatment more affordable than in European countries, according to sector representatives.

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Malaysia holds Photo Exhibition On Muslims In Venezuela

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 (NNN-Agencies) — The Venezuelan Embassy in Malaysia and the Islamic Arts Museum will hold a photo exhibition on Muslim Communities in Venezuela on April 14.

The exhibition “HONOR KALBHI -Muslim Communities in Venezuela” is by laureate Venezuelan photographer Laila Chemekh Saab.

It will be opened by Malaysian Minister of Tourism and Culture, Mohamed Nazri bin Abdul Aziz at 3:00 p.m, Open Space Gallery, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Jalan Lembah Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.

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Oman Air Launches Flights to Singapore

MUSCAT, Oman, Mar 30 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Air, the Sultanate’s national carrier, celebrated at Muscat International Airport today Muscat-Singapore direct route, via Airbus A330, under the patronage of Sayyid Taimour bin Asa’ad al-Said.

Oman Air will operate one flight on a daily basis. Launching the 47th destination of the Sultanate’s national carrier, comes within the framework of the ambitious growth programme, pursued by Oman Air during the current period.

The fleet of Oman air will reach 50 aircraft during the upcoming three years, which will contribute in providing more options and increasing the number of flights.

Airbus A330, flight WY821 of Oman Air, landed this evening at Changi International Airport, marking the official launching of the company’s flights to Singapore, which is the 47th station of the national carrier of the Sultanate.

Sayyid Taimour bin Asa’ad al-Said, patronised over the inauguration ceremony and said that, this station will have a significant role in contributing to the development of economic relations and the strengthening of trade exchange between the Sultanate and the Republic of Singapore, pointing out that the new station will facilitate the movement of businessmen and tourists, in addition to attracting investment opportunities between the two countries.

He said that, Singapore is considered a trade partner to the Sultanate, not only in goods but in services as well. Paul Gregorowitsch, CEO of Oman Air, said that, Oman Air is proud to launch its first prestigious air services, one flight daily between Muscat and Singapore, pointing out that the high demand for seats that followed the announcement of the service has been very satisfying.

It shows that Singapore is one of the most popular destinations in the world for both business and leisure travellers. It also shows that, there is a strong desire amongst travellers from Singapore and South East Asia for discovering the unique charms offered by Oman.”

He pointed out that, the national carrier of the Sultanate will, in the coming days, inaugurate two new stations to “Goa and Dhaka” within the steady growth of Oman Air network, in order to provide more options to customers, adding that, Oman Air continues to open economically feasible new markets.

As a celebration of our new service, Oman Air is offering,€“ for a limited time only,€“ special promotional rates for flights between Muscat and Singapore. Economy Class returns are currently priced from RO 234.8 (USD 610.66) per person, with Business Class returns starting from RO 814.8 (USD 2,119.12).

All fares quoted include taxes and charges, and are subject to availability of seats. It is noteworthy that the Sultanate is the sixth largest trading partner to Singapore, in the Middle East.

Business relationship on a regular basis has grown over the last seven years, an increase of four times to reach RO 800 million (USD 2.080 billion) in 2013.

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Malaysia Confident Of 29.4 Mil Tourist Arrivals in 2015

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia March 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is confident of attracting 29.4 million tourist arrivals this year, in conjunction with the Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 (MyFEST 2015), says Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

In view of this, he said the target could be achieved with a revenue of RM89 billion if the tourism and culture industry players continued to promote Malaysia’s great diversity of food in a holistic and relevant approach.

“The private sector and government must work hand-in-hand to ensure the success of this campaign by the ministry, in order to successfully generate more revenue for the country,” he said at the launch of D’Tandoor International Group of Restaurants new menu here today.

His speech was read out by the ministry’s deputy secretary-general, Rashidi Hasbullah.

Being a prime contributor to the nation’s socio-economic development, Mohamed Nazri said the tourism receipts had increased significantly to RM72 billion last year as compared to RM65.4 billion in 2013.

Through D’Tandoor’s global network, he said strategic partnership would provide limitless opportunities to reach out to an unprecedented audience.

“It is for this reason the ministry has embarked on strategic partnership with D’Tandoor, an initiative under the National Blue Ocean Strategy for the restaurant to showcase the best of what we have to offer during the MyFest 2015.”

He noted that D’Tandoor, a 100 per cent Bumiputra-owned company would play a role as an intermediary for the tourism industry through their restaurants to promote ‘Food Tourism’ in the labeling and marketing of Malaysia through its food.

Overlooking the Putrajaya lake, patrons can not only enjoy delicious North Indian food but also Malaysian and Arab cuisine while taking in the beautiful view of the majestic Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque across the lake.

D’Tandoor Food Industries Sdn Bhd managing director Abdul Malik Abdullah said the Putrajaya outlet was the 17th restaurant opened by the company.

“The restaurant has at least 20 types of naan bread and their speciality dish is the 24-hour roasted whole leg of lamb called Raan Srikandi, which can serve six to eight persons,” he said.

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Morocco, Korea Sign MoU on Bilateral Air Services

RABAT, March 31 (NNN-MAP) — Morocco and the Republic of Korea have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a bilateral agreement on air services and civil aviation security.

The agreements will give new momentum to trade partnership between the two countries as they include clauses on commercial co-operation which will enable Moroccan companies, namely Moroccan flag carrier RAM, to explore new markets, promote Morocco’s connectivity with the Asian market and turn the Casablanca hub into a regional air services centre in northern and western Africa, said a statement from the Ministry of Equipment, Transportation and Logistics here Monday.

The agreements, which were signed recently, offered the possibility to link several African countries to airports of Asian countries via the Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport and the Incheon International Airport hub near Seoul in South Korea.

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Manama Cultural Plans Outlined In Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain, Apr 2 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) President, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, urged all parties to join hands to bolster the status of Manama as a cultural and tourism destination.

“We are celebrating the Year of Heritage, which epitomises Bahrain’s authenticity, beauty and long-standing identity,” she said, as she received a delegation representing the Capital Governorate and Manama Trustees.

The delegation included Capital Governor, Shaikh Hesham bin Abdulrahman Al-Khalifa, Manama Trustees Chairman, Dr. Mohammed Ali Al-Khuzai and Manama Municipality director-general, Shaikh Mohammed bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa.

Shaikha Mai unveiled BACA lined-up projects, to boost Manama cultural infrastructure, citing the Post Museum, the Bahrain Hotel development scheme and the planned Modern Art Museum.

The delegation toured the 41st Bahrain Fine Arts Expo, being held at the National Theatre, before heading to Bumaher Fort visitors’ centre by boat, in a sea trip to discover the Pearl Route, which reaches the heart of Muharraq City.

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Air Algerie Receives First Of 16 New Aircraft From Airbus

ALGIERS, April 3 (NNN-APS) — National flag carrier Air Algerie has received an A330-200 Airbus aircraft, the first of 16 planes it is acquiring as part of its fleet renewal programme running up the end of 2016.

The 251-seat aircraft was received at a ceremony at Algiers International Airport Thursday by Minister of Transport Amar Ghoul and Minister of Vocational Training and Education Noureddine Bedoui as well as Air Algerie chief executive officer Mohamed Salah Boultif.

This aircraft is configured to seat 18 passengers in business class, 14 in premium class and 219 in economy class and allows the use of mobile phones during the flight as well as access to the Internet (Wi-Fi) and an individual entertainment system with a menu of film, music and games.

The Airbus A330-200 will be put into service upon receipt of two more similar aircraft, scheduled in May and June 2015, to serve long haul flights to Montreal, Beijing and Dubai as well as other routes, notably Paris, Ghoul told journalists.

Ghoul added that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was being prepared with the United States aviation authorities to open a new service between Algiers and New York.

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China, Malaysia To Establish Projects Along Maritime Silk Road

BEIJING, April 3 (NNN-Bernama) — China says following the introduction of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative, Malaysia and China will establish a series of cooperative projects in the future including railway, industrial parks as well as ports.

Liu Jinsong, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said before the introduction of the MSR, China and ASEAN had been carrying out a series of cooperative projects together, including the twin parks namely Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park and China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park.

“Following the initiative, there will be cooperative projects such as railway, industrial parks and plenty of ports to be established between Malaysia and China,” he told a media briefing on the “Belt and Road” Initiative here, Friday.

Liu said China viewed ASEAN as an important region to jointly build the MSR, and he expressed confidence that Malaysia, which has assumed the ASEAN Chairmanship this year, would be capable of further improving the relationships between ASEAN and China.

“We believe the ten-member bloc will be the first to benefit from the initiative,” he said, adding there would be plenty of opportunities for ASEAN and China to work together to jointly build the MSR.

On the intention behind the MSR’s funds worth US$40 billion, Liu said it was to finance major infrastructure projects along the centuries-old trading routes.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had earlier raised questions on China’s intentions behind the MSR fund.

China’s Belt and Road initiative including the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the MSR were mooted by its president, Xi Jinping, with the SREB concept aiming to boost cooperation with countries across Asia, Europe and Africa, while the latter aims at promoting maritime cooperation with its neighbouring ASEAN countries.

China has also expressed interest in building the high-speed rail link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Beijing-based Caixin magazine earlier reported that state-owned China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) would likely to win the bid for the railway project as it offered the lowest price and the shortest project construction time.

Other companies that have shown interest to bid for the project included East Japan Railway Company, Alstom of France and Siemens AG of Germany, the financial news publisher said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak earlier said the government expected the open bidding system to be very transparent as companies from all over the world are free to participate.

Apart from the railway project, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said recently that Malaysia had identified a few ports to be included in the MSR initiative which is expected to help boost Malaysia’s economic development.

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First Global Halal Certificate Introduced

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and DagangHalal Bhd (DHB), a global halal e-commerce company, will introduce the Halal Certification Management System (HCMS), the first in the world, for Halal certification bodies worldwide.

The HCMS, which is an addition to the present Halal Verification Engine, has tight security elements that would help speed up the process of halal certification while improving efficiency when tracking thousands of certificates.

Minister in the Prime Minister Department Jamil Khir Baharom launched the HCMS at the International Halal Certification Bodies Convention at Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

DHB Group Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Hazli Mohamed Hussain said one of the special features of the HCMS was a quick response code on the halal certificate that helps halal certification bodies verify the authenticity of the certificate.

He said the HSMS was an interactive system that was equipped with high level security features, allowing more than 70 global halal certification bodies to manage their own halal certification process.

“Global certification bodies handle a large number of certificates that sometimes can reach thousands of certificates at any one time from a single certification body.

“In this case, the HCMS system is capable of handling large-scale data transaction smoothly thereby improving efficiency and reducing productivity costs,” Mohamed Hazli told a press conference here.

The latest system will meet the demand of the global halal trade, which is increasing with its value reaching US$2.5 trillion by 2018 compared with US$1.7 trillion in 2012.

Meanwhile, Jakim Halal Hub Division Director Hakimah Mohd Yusof said so far six Halal certification bodies have registered for HCMS and Jakim expected more to register in the near future.

The registered bodies are Halal Accreditation Council Sri Lanka; Central Islamic Committee of Thailand; Halal Certification Agency Vietnam; Japan Halal Association; ARA Halal Development Services Centre and Shandong Islamic Association, both from China.

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Conference Held On Oman Contemporary Schools Of Fine Arts

MUSCAT, Oman, Mar 31 (NNN-ONA) – Department of Art Education, at the College of Education of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), today organised a 2-day conference on contemporary schools of fine arts: “Omani Contemporary Practices” in cooperation with the Cooperation and Cultural Action Management, at the French Embassy in the Sultanate and the Omani French Centre, within the frameworks of supporting cultural, artistic and scientific links between the various academic, official and cultural agencies and art groups in the Sultanate, which includes 25 working papers, divided into six main themes.

Dr. Abdel Munim bin Mansour al-Hassani, Minister of Information, sponsored the opening ceremony, where he gave a speech, in which he said that, the importance of the conference lies in how to read and evaluate Fine Arts, as the working papers open scopes on life through our reading of the experiences of Fine Artists.

The conference began with the first major lecture entitled: “Omani Contemporary Fine Arts” delivered by Professor Muhammad Yusuf of Sharjah University, the United Arab Emirates.

The conference addresses a number of topics that were presented through working papers.

Professor Sulaiman al-Shuaili, Head of the Department of Islamic Education, College of Education, Sultan Qaboos University, chaired the session.

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Lebanon, China Issue Joint Credit Cards To Enhance “Silk Road”

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Apr 2 (NNN-NNA) – Lebanon’s leading Fransabank, said Wednesday, that, it cooperated with China’s UnionPay, to issue credit cards, a move aimed at enhancing the “Silk Road” which once linked the Far East to the Middle East.

The move also provides flexibility and safety in the commercial transactions, the bank said.

The newly launched credit cards are aimed at helping individuals who visit China or have business transactions with it, Nadine Hajjar of the Fransabank said.

“We see that Beirut has an important role in the idea of reviving the Silk Road,” Hajjar said.

She added, “The two parties were looking forward to having these cards, which are issued by UnionPay in China and by Fransabank in Lebanon.”

Hajjar pointed out that, “200 cards have been issued since the implementation of the idea on Feb 12, and around 5,000 cards are expected to be issued by the end of 2015.”

Ali Mahmoud Abdallah, a Lebanese Businessman, said that, the card “is a safe method of payment and this is what we were missing previously.”

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LEAD STORY: Islamic Yoga boosts Energy, Happiness and Health

Wednesday 01 Apr 2015 – Jeddah, (IINA) – The guidelines given in the Qur’an concerned with the promotion of physical health of humans have been duly proved by years of modern medical scientific research all over the world.

malaysia logo

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

Interestingly, for the millions of people enrolled in yoga classes, the Islamic form of prayer has provided Muslims for fourteen centuries with some of yoga’s similar and even superior benefits. This simple form of “yoga” offers physical, mental, and spiritual benefits five times a day as Muslims assume certain positions while reciting Qur’an and athkar (remembrances).

The Muslim prayer has five positions, and they all have a corresponding relationship with our spiritual and mental well-being, according to modern scientific research. The benefits of performing specific movements and recitations each day come from the correct rendition of the position or action itself, the length of time the position is held, and from careful and correct recitation techniques.

Each of the five prayer positions has a corresponding yoga position, and the positions together “activate” all seven energy fields in the body.

The Takbir and Al Qiyyam together are also very similar to the Mountain Pose in yoga, which has been found to improve posture, balance, and self-awareness. This position also normalizes blood pressure and breathing, thus providing many benefits to asthma and heart patients.

Prayers have many benefits when they are exercised, the blessed Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) told us “Prayers are certainly health promoting.” Although the real purpose of prayers is to worship Allah, yet there is a large number of additional benefits also.

Also as we eat three times daily we need exercises to lessen the cholesterol in the body which increases in the blood after meals, thickens it and leads to the deposition of silt in the arteries.

In addition, of saving from the sins and elevating us to the heights of spirituality, prayers are great help in maintaining our physical health. They keep our body active, help digestion and save us from muscle and joint diseases through regular balanced exercise. They help the circulation of blood and mitigate the bad effect of cholesterol. Prayers play a vital role in acting as a preventive measure against heart attack, paralyses, premature senility, dementia, loss of control on sphincters, diabetes mellitus etc.

Collateral circulation plays a major role in decreasing the danger of heart attack in patients. Patients above 55 years of age in which this type of circulation is developed have less severe attacks. It is possible to speed up the development of collateral circulation by regular and balanced exercises which is present in the prayers are not only potent, preventive measure against coronary heart diseases but also help in the development of collateral circulation in those people who have already suffered from a heart attack or are prone to it.

The arrangement of prayers is such that those at the time of empty stomach are brief but those after meals are longer and give more exercise to the body.

During the month of Fast (Ramadan) the additional twenty Rakaat (Tarawih) are added to the late evening prayers because more than normal food is usually consumed after breaking fast.

The performance of prayers put almost all muscles of the body in action. Different groups of muscles are activated while performing prayers. During Sajda, blood supply to the brain is improved. One of the useful methods to strengthen the muscles of the knee joints to mitigate the strain on knees in osteoarthritis is the regular exercise of these muscles during prayers.

The Ablution, a prerequisite of prayers yet one of the most hygienic procedure as it usually keeps the exposed parts of our body clean and also the parts of entry like mouth and nose thus avoiding infection.

Prevention of Infection:

Infection may be transmitted through dirty hands or dirty food. It is essential to wash our hands before and after meals. Our blessed Prophet told us: “It is a blessing to wash your hands before and after meals.” (Abu Daud & Tirmizi).

He has also advised us not to clean our hands with a towel before meals as they may convey infection from one person to the other particularly viral diseases like infective hepatitis or bacterial infection like Typhoid dysenteries and cholera.

Regarding the Heart, this vital organ of the body has to be always healthy and efficient as it is responsible for the circulation of blood. Diseased heart results in deterioration of the healthy body. This knowledge we obtained after centuries of scientific research yet it was simply told to us fourteen hundred years ago by our great Prophet (PBUH).

Olive, which, has been repeatedly mentioned in Qur’an, statistics shows that heart attacks occur more in Northern Italy where they use butter and margarine for cooking than in Southern Italy where olive oil is generally used.

Patients suffering from narrowing of the coronary artery usually develop the heart attack after a heavy meal.

Islam is the religion of all times and places. It is a perfect system of temporal values. By practicing, Muslims all over the world not only attain spirituality but the pinnacle of all other glories and gain the wealth of health.

Noteworthy that, there was a great inter-relationship between modern medicine and some of Islamic teachings. Also Muslim researchers have shown that when Muslims recite the Qur’an, old thoughts, feelings, fears and guilt are released or healed, and blood pressure and stress levels are reduced.

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Islamic Economies Undervalued, Promising

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Apr 2 (NNN-WAM) – The Islamic economies have the most promising growth potential among global emerging markets, an investment expert said.

Delivering a keynote speech at the Islamic Finance (IFN) Investor Forum, Mark Mobius, executive chairman at Templeton emerging markets group at Franklin Templeton Investments, said, the Islamic economies are expected to grow by five percent in 2015, compared to a two percent growth of the developed countries.

“Among the emerging markets, the Islamic economies, such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar or Turkey, offer a good potential growth, as shares listed at their markets are relatively cheap,” said Mobius.

Dividend yields in the Islamic emerging markets are also higher than those in other emerging countries and the developed markets, added Mobius.

“As of Feb 2014, the average dividend yields in Islamic emerging markets was 2.9 percent, compared to 2.8 percent in the global emerging markets and 2.3 percent in the developed markets. Some stock markets in the Islamic countries, currently underperforming, due to the oil prices slump, were no obstacle,” the investor said.

Data show the Dubai financial market lost 4.52 percent in the first three months of this year, while the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) gained 1.87 percent, in the same period.

Mobius said that, due to the fast growing populations in the Islamic emerging world, the demands for infrastructure investments, education, healthcare and consumer goods, are expected to rise and outperform global average in the next five years.

With a growing number of 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide, the Islamic economies are poised to lead the next leap in the emerging markets, said Mobius.

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Sierra Leone Gets $102m In Extra IMF Financing

WASHINGTON, March 27 (NNN-IMF) — The IMF has approved a loan and grant package for Sierra Leone that includes $102 million in extra financing to help the West African country counter a slump in economic activity engendered by the Ebola outbreak.

The package comprises the release of part of the country’s existing IMF financing arrangement, a top-up of the loan total, and debt relief funded by an IMF grant.

The IMF Executive Board approved a $12 million loan pay out to Sierra Leone under the three-year Extended Credit Facility arrangement approved by the IMF Board in 2013. The Board also boosted financing under the loan arrangement by an extra $73 million, in a move aimed at generating the fiscal room to manoeuvre in tackling the Ebola epidemic and at meeting Sierra Leone’s balance of payment needs.

In addition, Sierra Leone became the second country—after Liberia—to benefit from grants from a newly established trust set up to help low-income countries recover from natural disasters.

The Board approved a grant of $29 million from the catastrophe containment window of the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to provide debt relief to Sierra Leone, amounting to 20 percent of the country’s quota, or subscription, in the IMF.

The package of IMF financing for Sierra Leone draws on $100 million in debt relief funded by IMF grants, announced last month. The debt relief follows $130 million in emergency assistance the IMF disbursed in September 2014 to the African countries worst hit by the Ebola outbreak—Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Financing for Guinea, Liberia

On Feb 11 the IMF Board approved release of $25.9 million to Guinea under the West African country’s existing IMF-backed program, and boosted financing under the program by an extra $37.7 million, also to help combat Ebola.

On Feb 23 the Board approved $36.5 million in a debt relief grant to Liberia and a $45.6 loan pay out to Liberia under the Rapid Credit Facility.

The new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust is a permanent feature in the IMF tool kit. It makes available grants to provide debt relief to eligible low-income countries recovering from a catastrophic natural disaster or seeking to contain the potentially catastrophic spread of a life-threatening epidemic within and across international borders.

The debt relief initiative and additional lending to the Ebola-hit countries were outlined by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in November 2014 in Brisbane, Australia to heads of state of the G-20 group of advanced and emerging economies.

Sierra Leone becomes the second country, after Liberia, to receive IMF grants to help contain an evolving natural disaster with international spill over effects.

Twin shocks

IMF staff said in a report that the Ebola outbreak and a sharp drop in iron ore prices have dealt a severe blow to Sierra Leone’s economy. These twin shocks have prompted a deep slump in economic activity, with output set to shrink by about 13 percent in 2015 after estimated growth of 6 percent in 2014.

The Ebola epidemic has disrupted production and distribution channels for basic consumer goods, leading to lost incomes and heightened inflationary pressures. The population of orphans, the food insecure, and the vulnerable has increased significantly, stretching thin the current social protection system.

As world iron ore prices halved in 2014, the main mining company stopped operating and activity slumped in the second half of the year in an industry that accounts for one quarter of Sierra Leone’s economy and half of its exports.

Ebola disruption

The non-mineral economy contracted in 2014 as the Ebola outbreak reduced activity in agriculture, construction, tourism, and services; and investment projects were scaled back.

Activity has also been disrupted in labour-intensive sectors such as hospitality, due to travel bans and a substantial reduction in government- and donor-funded projects.

Sierra Leone’s government is currently working with development partners to craft a post-Ebola recovery strategy that would identify measures to revive economic activity, focusing on health, education, and agriculture.

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International Cultural Expo to be held in Malaysia

Tuesday 31 Mar 2015 – Kuala-Lumpur (IINA) – Azerbaijan, Turkey and many other countries including Mexico, India, Japan and Indonesia were represented at the International Cultural Expo here in Malaysia, Azerbaijan news agencies reported Tuesday.

The aim of the exhibition, organized by Malaysian MARA University of Technology, was presentation of history, geography, economy, culture, tourism opportunities, cuisine and national traditions of these participating countries.

In the corner of Azerbaijan, the attendees could see state attributes, photos depicting ancient and modern view of Baku city, Azerbaijan-produced goods, national costumes, souvenirs and information about the rich tradition of the country.

During the workshop, which was organized on the side lines of the exhibition, second secretary of Azerbaijan`s embassy to the country Eldaniz Musayev spoke of the Azerbaijan-Malaysia relations and the level of education in Azerbaijan, AzerTac state news agency reported.

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Algeria to take part in French Tourism show

Wednesday 01 Apr 2015 – Avignon, France (IINA) – Algeria represented by the National Office of Tourism (ONT), will participate for the first time at the 11th edition of the International Show of Tourism DITEX, which will start on Thursday in Avignon (France), Algeria Press Service reported.

Algeria’s participation in the two-day event is “part of the promotion of the destination Algeria, on the international and traditional markets for the Algerian tourism, in line with the recommendations of the leading plan of tourist development (SDAT-2030) on the strategy of tourism promotion and development in Algeria,” ONT said in a press release.

“The DITEX is held in a special period of the year, before the summer season,” said the same source.

The event will enable the Algerian delegation to publicize for the 16th International Show of Tourism and Travels (SITEV-2015), which will be held from 14 to 17 May in the Exhibition Centre of Algiers.

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British Museum to get Islamic Art Gallery in 2018

Thursday 02 Apr 2015 – London, (IINA) – An Islamic Art Gallery, called “The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World” will open to the public at British Museum by the end of October 2018 and will reveal the Museum’s outstanding collections in engaging new ways, underscoring the global connections of this vast region of the world, West online newspaper reported.

This new gallery represents a shared vision between the British Museum and the Malaysia-based Albukhary Foundation and will give visitors an understanding of the diverse and wide-ranging cultures of the Islamic world.

Unique amongst major museums, the British Museum’s collections are able to represent the diversity of cultures of the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South and South-East Asia from the advent of Islam to the present day.

The collections encompass the art and material culture of the Islamic world from Africa to China, including archaeology, decorative arts, the arts of the book and modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art.

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Famous French college launches first Qur’an chair

Friday 03 Apr 2015 – Paris, (IINA) – A reputable French college announced the launch of the country’s first chair for studying the Holy Qur’an, leading the way towards offering specialized studies on Islam, the Parisian institution of higher education announced Tuesday, media sources reported.

“For the first time, the College de France will simultaneously bring its program on the Bible (Chair “Biblical Milieu” by Thomas Römer, founded in 2009) and the Quran,” enthuses François Déroche in a presentation note of his teaching.

This chair, entitled “History of the Qur’an text and transmission”, belongs to a specialist of Arabic manuscripts, the paleographer François Déroche.

“I intend to revisit the Qur’an by taking advantage of the situation arising from recent research on the manuscript tradition of the early centuries of Islam and discoveries,” he wrote.

The institution of the Quartier Latin founded in the sixteenth century intends “to continue a long tradition of Arab Studies at the College de France and open a new chapter in our understanding of Islamic civilization,” according to a statement.

According to the principle of free access to knowledge at the College of France, courses are accessible to all, without prior registration, according to availability of places.

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European Imams go digital to promote true face of Islam

Sunday 29 Mar 2015 – London, (IINA) – Scores of imams from across Europe converged here to condemn the atrocities falsely committed in the name of Islam, urging Muslims worldwide to retake the “digital space from those who wish to tarnish their faith”, media sources reported.

Over 120 Imams attended an anti-extremism summit in the British capital and released a digital magazine to promote the true face of Islam. The summit was held as a direct response by British Muslims to counter the threat of radicalisation within Britain and Europe.

“We are reclaiming the online space, but we need absolutely everyone to get involved in this effort. So this is a call to log on, get informed, and share the magazine with all your friends and family online,” said Qari Asim, senior editor of Imamsonline.com and contributor to the magazine.

Imams Online is an online resource that offers advice and education about the Islamic faith. Bringing together more than 700 Imams and Mosques from across Britain, Imams Online has become the first port of call for anyone wishing to find out more about the religion.

The digital magazine, developed with contribution from Imams and scholars, aims to deliver a clear and positive message for readers with information that they can share easily across their social media network.

Aiming to deliver a clear and positive message for readers, the new magazine is developed with contribution from Imams and scholars, offering young Muslims information that can be easily shared across social media.

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UK Muslims to have first national radio station

Monday 30 Mar 2015 – London, (IINA) – The British media regulator has awarded a license for new radio stations, including the first national radio directed to Muslims in the country, which will be launched next year as media sources reported.

The news was announced on Friday when Ofcom, the UK media regulator, said it has awarded new licenses to Digital Audio Broadcasting, (DAB).

The decision doubles the number of commercial radio stations that are available on a nationwide basis to listeners on DAB radios.

The Sound Digital consortium has lined up 14 stations to go live in early 2016.

The British Muslim Radio is planned to broadcast Asian music and speech, with elements of Islamic content.

In July 2013, the British channel 4 broadcasted the Muslim call to prayer on a daily basis during the holy month of Ramadan.

A year later in June 2014, British Muslim launched a special TV channel which joined a growing number of specialized broadcasting channels targeting the growing Muslim minority.

Channels for Muslim communities in the UK are not new and have been broadcasting in the UK since 2004.

Islam Channel is one of this country’s most prominent and popular free-to-air, English language Muslim satellite channels.

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Jihad Dib, first Muslim Labor MP in Lakemba, Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MATATO attends Kazakhstan Tourism fair for first time

Sun.mv – March 29, 2015 – The Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO), Ibrahim Munaz says that they are taking part, for the first time, in one of the biggest tourism fairs in the central Asia, the Kazakhstan International Tourism Fair.

In an interview to Sun Media, Secretary General Munaz said that MATATO decided to take part in the fair because it is the leading tourism fair in the region.

“We are taking part in this fair to provide opportunities for the Travel Agents. It would be costly to take a spot individually. But we are taking a big spot and giving it to Travel Agencies at a low price.” Munaz said.

Munaz said the active tourism sector wants to take part in this fair with MATATO.

The Kazakhstan International Tourism Fair will be held from 22 – 24 April in the business central of Kazakhstan, Almaty. The Kazakhstani tourism industry believes that the number of Kazakhstani tourists would increase from 2011 – 2016 by 17 percent.

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Syria launches cigar business despite raging war

LATAKIA – Agence France-Presse – Syrian employee Um Ali smokes displays cigars at a factory which produces Syria’s first locally made cigars in the northeastern province of Latakia on March 17, 2015. AFP photo

Syrian employee Um Ali smokes displays cigars at a factory which produces Syria’s first locally made cigars in the northeastern province of Latakia on March 17, 2015. AFP photo

In Syria’s northeastern province of Latakia, workers roll the country’s first locally made cigars, a new product being launched despite the devastating civil conflict now in its fifth year.

The workers are employed by Syria’s state-run General Tobacco Company, which has decided to branch out into cigars in a bid to create desperately needed jobs and boost revenue.

At the end of February, the company’s director general said the initiative would create some 1,000 new jobs in the country, which has seen its economy ravaged by the conflict.

“The company will start selling the products on the local market very soon and then begin trying to export to friendly countries,” says Salman al-Abbas, the company’s deputy director-general.

Syria’s conflict, which began with anti-government protests in March 2011 before spiralling into a brutal civil war, has taken a massive toll on the economy and killed more than 215,000 people.

Before the war, the General Tobacco Company was among the country’s most prosperous state-run enterprises, generating millions of dollars.

But, like many state companies, it has been under European Union sanctions since 2012, its assets frozen after accusations that it helped finance the government’s bloody crackdown against unrest.

The company has decided to press ahead anyway with production of the first locally made cigars.

“We decided to develop a new product without foreign expertise with the hope of supporting the economy,” says Shadi Mualla, the plant manager, criticising what he termed “the economic war waged against Syria” by the West.

The project has been three years in the making, with workers learning to hand-roll cigars “in accordance with international standards” at the factory in coastal Latakia.

The province is a stronghold of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose father was born in the region, and is a heartland for the Alawite minority sect to which the president belongs.

It has been largely insulated from the conflict and is where the tobacco for the cigars is grown.

Among those working at the factory is Um Ali, a woman in her fifties who wears a white headscarf.

She began in 2011, in the early days of the conflict, and says it has taken three years to master the subtle art of rolling cigars.

“At first, I didn’t even know what a cigar was,” she tells AFP.

“One day, Hussam, an engineer here, said to us ‘Ladies, you’re used to making (local delicacy) stuffed vine leaves, so try to roll cigars the same way’,” she adds.

But Um Ali says she went online to get additional tips, watching videos about cigar production in Cuba to pick up the best way to produce the luxury item.

Boasting that the cigars will be “100 percent Syrian”, Um Ali says “2015 is the best year of my life because it’s the year that we announced the start of production”.

At the moment, the factory employs some 130 workers, just six of whom are men, and produces 400 to 500 cigars a day.

They are still in the testing phase, with part of production distributed to individuals who carry out taste tests and verify the quality.

Um Ali and her colleagues work in a large hall under photos of Assad and his father Hafez, sorting brown tobacco leaves to be rolled.

She can produce around 15 cigars on a good day, up from the five to 10 she was able to roll when she started.

“They have the flavour of Syrian tobacco, and they are made by Syrian workers,” she says, taking a puff on one.

Hussam Mahmud, an engineer at the factory, says the new cigar line is intended “to defy the embargo by creating a new and profitable product”.

The company has yet to set a price for its cigars, which Abbas eventually hopes to export, as well as sell to wealthy local aficionados.

He plans to target countries that retain ties with Syria, including Iran, Russia and China, as well as some African nations.

Mahmud says the factory’s cigars will be able to compete with the world’s most prestigious brands, including from Cuba.

“Syrian cigars have a pleasant mildness — they’re smooth,” he says.

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Şanlıurfa’s museum complex ready to open

ŞANLIURFA – Anadolu Agency – The Haleplibahçe Museum Complex, which will open in two months in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, is set to take visitors for a trip back in time.

The complex, built on an area of 200,000 square meters, includes an archaeopark and mosaic museums. It is the first and only museum in Turkey in terms of the number of objects in a closed area. When it is opened to visitors, history aficionados will have the chance to see hundreds of carved rocks with human and animal figures, tombs and inscriptions.

At the entrance to the museum, one can see findings and mock-ups symbolizing the lifestyles of ancient hunters. The nearly 10,000 objects that will have been installed at the museum have been laid out in chronological order, accompanied by visual animations.

The section where historical eras will be displayed visually is one of the most striking parts of the museum, with visuals depicting the settling, hunting and daily life of the people of the era in question in an underground shelter next to prehistoric era artefacts.

A mock-up of Göbeklitepe, which is considered the “zero point of history,” together with artefacts found at the excavations at the nearby prehistoric site, are other striking objects at the museum complex.

Valuable mosaics

The museum is home to mosaics covering an area of 1,500 square meters, featuring hunting and war scenes from Amazon queens. Experts have said the mosaics of the Amazon warriors have great value in terms of their technique and art, as well as because their stones originally from the Euphrates River.

The Haleplibahçe Museum Complex will also display the mosaic of Orpheus, which has been returned by the Dallas Museum in the United States after being smuggled abroad. The mosaic depicts Orpheus, known as the “father of poets,” taming animals with its music.

The complex is expected to be a locomotive of Turkish tourism, especially in the region.

Şanlıurfa Gov. İzzet Küçük said Şanlıurfa had received one of the largest investments in the field of tourism in recent years, adding that with a boost from the Kurdish peace process, they expected an increase in the number of local and foreign tourists in the province this year.

The governor said the animations in the museum would enchant visitors, adding that the museum was not merely a place displaying artefacts in a classical order.

“While looking at the objects, visitors will be able to see all the elements of an era thanks to animations. Especially in the final part of the museum, the Prophet Abraham’s being thrown into fire is being displayed with a 3-D performance. We assure you that visitors of the museum will go back to the age of the artefacts. I believe that they will spend at least half a day in the museum.”

The governor said the museum would open with an extravagant ceremony in two months.

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Music festival hits the road in Turkish capital

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – The 32rd International Ankara Music Festival, organized by the Sevda-Cenap And Music Foundation, will open on April 4. The festival will present more than 500 artists from 16 countries in 19 concerts through April 30.

The Eskişehir Metropolitan Municipality Symphony Orchestra – Turkey’s first municipality orchestra – conducted by Ender Sakpınar, will be in Ankara for the opening concert of the festival. So far the orchestra has received various national and international invitations, and will be appearing in Ankara with violinist Nicolas Koeckert as soloist.

The Chinese Hennan Museum Ancient Music Arts Orchestra is one of the most interesting ensembles of the festival, and will appear with its ancient instruments on April 7. The members of the orchestra are regarded as being among the most important musicians from China.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the War of Dardanelles, the acrobatic dance group Circa from Australia, which blends modern dance and classical music, will take the stage on April 29. Circa has performed in 30 countries since 2002. It will be their first appearance in Turkey. The Debussy Quartet from France will accompany the Australian dance ensemble.

Electronic gadgets are so essential in our lives that they can even act as performers in music, in the domain of abstract art. On April 8, groundbreaking robot pianist Robot Teo-tronica will perform Mozart’s KV 488 Piano Concerto. This “perfect” robot claims that he can play the piano scores 100 percent flawlessly, and there is thus no need for human beings. Organized for the first time in Turkey, this concert will bring together both classical music and technology fans.

Cellist Daniel Müller-Schott will take the stage at the festival on April 15. He is a favourite at leading festivals across the world including Salzburg, Lucerne, Schleswig-Holstein and Vancouver. He will be accompanied by the German pianist Laurna Skride who has received numerous international awards.

London Brass, an elite woodwind quintet formed by the leading instrumentalists of the most significant orchestras of U.K., will perform on April 22.

Besides performing classical music, London Brass also has collaborated with popular music artists such as Tina Turner, Sting, Paul McCartney, Robbie Williams and Tom Jones. It is giving its first Turkish concert at the festival.

The Eric Alexander Jazz Quartet, the Borusan Quartet, and the princess of Fado music Christina Branco will be other highlights of the festival. Also, the world’s most famous child choir, the Vienna Boys Choir, will be in Ankara once again after 20 years.

The closing concert of the festival will be given by the Ankara Youth Symphony Orchestra, founded by the young conductor Orhun Orhon and his students in 2011. It consists of young professional musicians made up of the music students of Bilkent and Hacettepe Universities and members of Presidential Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Academic Başkent and Hacettepe Academic Symphony Orchestra. Ankara born, young genius violin player Elvin Hoxha Ganiyev will be the soloist of the concert.

Ayhan Baran Memorial

As one of the most important opera artists from Turkey, Ayhan Baran was one of the rare artists who found a place in the Turkish opera scene with his unique voice and superb technical quality. As the Honorary Award Gold Medal receiver of the foundation in 2004, Baran is known as an opera artist but he was also a painter, sculptor, photographer, architectural designer and a senior pianist.

Bass and bass-baritone artists Burak Bilgili, Zafer Erdaş, Güneş Gürle, Tuncay Kurtoğlu and Gökhan Ürben will give a concert during the Ayhan Baran Memorial Night.

Ticket prices for the festival range from between 20 and 50 Turkish Liras.

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Knidos’ church and theatre under restoration

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – Seasonal excavations have started to revive two magnificent structures of a theatre and a church in the 2,600-year-old ancient city of Knidos (Cnidus) in the western province of Muğla.

Knidos, believed to be the hometown of Eudoxus, a Greek astronomer, mathematician and student of Plato; Greek physician Euryphon; Greek vase painter Polygnotos and Greek architect and engineer Sostratos, is located at the crossroads of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

Research reveals that a physician and his students had established the second largest medical school of its time in Knidos. One of the most important discoveries of its time, the gnomon, first developed by Eudoxus, can still be found in the ancient city.

The head of the Knidos excavations, Selçuk University academic Professor Ertekin Doksanaltı, said the city’s excavations restarted in 2013 after many years of waiting.

He also said the Southern Aegean Development Agency (GEKA) provided 705,000 Turkish Liras of financial support for the Knidos’ restoration and environmental project in 2013, adding that the total budget of the project was 941,000 liras.

He said the team had accelerated its work over the past two years in order to more quickly revive the ancient city, which is very important for the future of Datça district. The excavations of the church (known as “Church D”) and theatre will be completed and their structures restored this year, he said.

Air and underwater photographs taken

Doksanaltı said detailed aerial photos of the ancient city were taken from 90 and 120 degree angles.

The ancient city of Knidos was a coastal town, he said, adding that they had searched underwater for the existence of other cultural artefacts around the city.

“Church D, unearthed during the excavations, will be partly restored this season. The building survey, restitution and restoration projects of the structure have already been done,” he said.

Doksanaltı also said the same projects for the small theatre would be finished this year. The theatre, located on the southern side of the city, was first excavated in the 1970s.

Doksanaltı said Knidos was still magnificent. “Its famous ports that have survived with their round and square towers are still functional. The city, located on two hills that face each other, rises via terraces built on rocky land. The connection between the terraces is provided via stair streets,” he said.

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Biman set to resume full-blown domestic operations, new aircrafts arrive

DHAKA, April 3, 2015 (BSS) – Biman Bangladesh Airlines is all set to resume its full-blown domestic operations from April 6 as newly procured two Dash8 Q400s aircraft, for operating the domestic flights, arrived here today.

“The two new procured aircrafts arrived at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 2.20 pm and 2.30 pm today respectively,” a Biman’s spokesperson told BSS.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will formally release the two aircrafts for commercial operations on April 5 at VVIP terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital.

Earlier, Biman Bangladesh Airlines signed an agreement with Smart Aviation of Egypt for taking two Dash8 Q400s on lease for a period of 5 years. Manufactured by Bombardier of Canada, Dash8 Q400 has 74-seat in a single class.

From April 6, the national flag carrier will operate six flights to Cox’s Bazar, five to Jessore, three to both Rajshahi and Syedpur and two to Barisal per week.

The operation will add up to 25 additional frequencies per week on Chittagong and Sylhet. The total number of seats will grow almost 80 percent weekly to a considerable 14,010, Biman’s official source said.

Under the programme, Biman will operate more than 120 flights per week within the country which will oversee a huge growth in domestic operations by the flag-carrier after a long recession, it added.

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US Bangla Airlines to add 3rd aircraft for increasing frequency

DHAKA, March 28, 2015 (BSS) – US Bangla Airlines, the newest private airlines in the country’s aviation sector, will add third aircraft to its fleet by May aiming at launching flights on new domestic routes as well as increasing flight frequencies on the existing routes.

“We are expecting to receive our third aircraft as like previous two 76-seater DASH-8-Q400 turboprop by first week of May,” the airlines Head of Airport Service Major (retd) Arif Khan told BSS today.

In this affect an agreement was signed between US-Bangla Airlines and Nordic Aviation of Denmark in Singapore on March 24 last, he said.

Arif said the airlines is planning to increase its flight numbers on its existing domestic routes from Dhaka to Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Jessore, Sylhet and Syedpur.

“We are also planning to launch domestic flights on Dhaka-Rajshahi and Dhaka Barisal routes after getting clearance certificate of the new aircraft from Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAA,B),” he said.

He also said the private airlines is also thinking of introducing direct Jessore-Cox’s Bazar flight for the first time in the country.

The US Bangla Airlines is also taking preparations to start its flight on different international routes including Kathmandu, Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Adu Dhabi, Doha and Jeddah.

“We are planning to add Boeing 777 to our fleet to start the international operations,” he said.

In the last week, an agreement was signed between national flag carrier Biman, Bangladesh Airlines and US Bangla Airlines in the capital. Under the agreement, the US-Bangla airlines will provide 15 staff including captain, first officer and cabin crews to Biman from April 1.

US-Bangla was the fourth private airlines to tap growing air traffic on local routes in July last year, aiming to benefit from expanded business activities and tourism.

It is nearly one and a half years after Novoair took to the skies. Two other private carriers, United Airways and Regent Airways, operate on both international and domestic routes.

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Turning Nigerian Airports Into a Regional Hub

By Chris Agabi

Daily Trust (Abuja) – 29 March 2015 – Lagos — No doubt, Nigerian aviation is underperforming relative to its capability. For instance, relative to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) of N80.3 trillion ($509.9 billion), Nigerian aviation contributes a meagre $0.7 billion or 0.4 per cent to the GDP, though it has the potential to contribute in excess of 5 per cent to the GDP and can support in excess of one million jobs.

Aviation experts say for Nigeria to really tap significantly its potentials in aviation business, it must attain its position as a regional hub, connecting more destinations across the globe. This will attract huge traffic and investments into its fledging aviation industry.

Experts agree Nigeria has the capacity to be a regional hub because of its strategic location. Indeed, Nigeria is strategically located and can naturally connect to Europe, the Americas and Asia in relatively short time – in an average of eight hours. In some of the countries, Nigeria connects them in just six hours. This relative short travel time should attract a lot of travellers into Nigeria for business, leisure or connect flights to other destination.

For instance, Nigeria connects the United Kingdom in 5.5 hours, Brazil in about nine hours and the United States in 13 hours, while the UAE is seven hours away. Within Africa, Nigeria is at the heart and can connect to almost all parts of Africa in less than two hours.

But experts maintain that being a regional hub in the aviation business is not a tea party. Nigeria, they argue, needs to develop the capacity to make it to the club of globally respected hubs like Dubai, Singapore, JFK, and Johannesburg.

Nigeria has untapped regional opportunities to become the hub in West Africa. But there are some fundamental constraints. In a presentation recently, the Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka listed the impediments to include under-financed domestic airlines, under-utilized BASA agreements, weak corporate governance in the industry and poor incentives for private sector participation.

According to him, these challenges have resulted in weak institutions, lack of economic opportunity, inability of the sector to significantly contribute to the GDP and low capacity to take advantage of the growing market potential.

To fast tract developments in the sector, the federal government said the private sector must invest at least $5 billion (N990 billion) in Nigeria’s aviation industry between now and 2018 in a short-term financing programme when traffic in Nigeria is projected to hit 12 million annually.

The midterm financing projection indicates that by 2018, about $7 billion investment would be needed as about 25 million passengers would be processed at the time.

Farouk Gumel of PriceWaterHouseCoppers, recently in a presentation tilted “Putting the Nigerian Aviation Market in Context” at an aviation business forum held in Lagos, noted that using its geographical advantage and financial resources, the Persian Gulf has transformed itself into the main hub for international air travel.

Gumel noted that for Nigeria to break into that exclusive club of aviation hubs, huge private sector involvement in airport infrastructure is critical. “The privatisation of airport infrastructure globally is on the rise as evidenced by an increase in refinancing activities and the diversification of revenue base. In recent times, airports are focusing on customer experience by being more creative with airport services and generation of non-aeronautic revenue,” he said.

He noted that majority of airport infrastructure in Nigeria are government-owned with most being significantly under-utilized. According to him, 75 per cent of passenger traffic are from three airports – Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja – in the past five years.

He noted that in 2011, over 90 per cent of the revenue earned was from two airports – Lagos and Abuja. This indicates that majority of the airports in Nigeria are significantly under-utilized, an unhealthy situation if Nigeria must be an aviation hub. Gumel seemed, however, glad in his disclosure that an Aviation masterplan has been developed to provide a strategic focus for the industry. He also noted that the government of countries that have succeeded in making aviation viable decided to make it a priority sector and made substantial investments to develop the sector.

Taking the discussion further, Mr Adekunle Abdulrazaq Oyinloye, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Infrastructure Bank Plc believed the aviation sector is on a growth trajectory, as evident in economic indices that showed the sub-sector grew at a compound average rate of 14.3 per cent between 2010 and 2013 following reforms in the industry.

Mr Oyinloye, who spoke on “Financing Airport Assets and Infrastructure on a Sustainable Basis” said it is clear beyond doubt that there is immense headroom for growth in Nigeria’s aviation industry. Indeed, he stated, the federal government has conceptualized an aggressive growth and development plan for the industry.

“It is essential that development of the aviation sector is driven by a comprehensive programme that balances airport capacity requirements, with other key factors such as incorporation of operator/user-friendly and safe design features; interconnectivity with other modes of transportation; and provision of expansion/scalability of infrastructure and facilities within urban cities (which typically imposes development constraints), to mention a few, culminating in the development of an Aviation masterplan, which provides certainty of the development targets and the roadmap for the sector,” he noted.

According to him, a financial plan is required to ensure successful implementation of the masterplan. He expatiated: “Given government funding constraints, it is evident that a realistic financing plan for the aviation sector would incorporate a mix of funding from both government and private sector sources. While government funding sources include traditional on-budget funds, as well as internally generated revenues, private sources are relatively less conventional and could be in various forms, which would include private equity, infrastructure funds, capital markets and public private partnership arrangements such as private finance initiatives, concessions and other variants. The financing plan is particularly important because it highlights the portion of funds to be allocated to the private sector, which serves as the impetus for attracting private sector investment into the sector.”

According to him, a commercially-driven model is the desired structure for the aviation sector, whereby private investors take on financing, development and operating risks, while the government maintains regulatory oversight of the sector.

This trajectory appears to be the focus of the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engineer Sale Dunoma, who recently said that the Aviation masterplan is the paradigm shift in the formulation of aviation policies.

Eng Dunoma stated that “never before have aviation policies in the country made such immediate impact on the airport landscape and the economy than we are witnessing today”. He advised that part of the efforts must be channelled towards immediate certification of some of its international airport terminals, which experts agree must occur before Nigeria can be reckoned with in its quest to achieve a regional hub status.

Dunoma is hopeful Nigeria would meet the 2015 deadline as set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to get, at least, two of the international airports certified. He reminded that the agency had in 2006 signed an undertaking with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to certify the country’s international airports, especially the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

He explained that based on the agreement, the country was able to scale through the ICAO Universal Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP), stressing that recently, FAAN set up a certification team to appraise the requirements for certification.

He said, “Certification of aerodrome is a means of demonstrating that an organisation has implemented its quality management system appropriately; this includes a third-party audit. Quality management at airports ensures safety, security, efficiency and service, thereby stimulating air traffic and increase in financial profit.”

He explained further that the certification of airports brings about achievement and maintenance of a higher standard level of safety, promotes standardisation and consistency of procedures and operations.

Another requirement is airport facilitation, which requires the minimum time for passengers to complete all airport formalities for transit travels in line with global practices, a target which, he was sure, can be achieved.

According to aviation experts, before an airport could get an ICAO certification, it must have full fire cover with adequate fire fighting trucks and other equipment to handle emergencies. Such an airport is also expected to have a comprehensive airport security manual and programme tailored to fit into the standards and recommended practices of ICAO.

To ensure that there is tight security at the airports, the FAAN MD said the federal government has deployed advanced technology security systems in airports across the country, adding that it has also put in place a joint military security operation to further secure facilities at the various airports. Also deployed is a 24-hour surveillance patrol at the five international airports, viz, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos; Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja; Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA); Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano and Enugu International Airport (EIA).

The FAAN boss said: “Thus, to enhance airport security, various biometric devices and smart cards are options currently being considered or implemented across the world. We are working hard to tackle these challenges.”

Nigeria deserves a regional hub status, and whatever it takes, the authorities concerned must deliver on the mandate.

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Uganda Plans to Tap Into Ssese’s Tourism Potential

By Samson Baranga

The Observer (Kampala) – 1 April 2015 – The Ssese islands are set to generate more revenue from tourist activities after the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) said it would intervene and attract tourists to the area.

During a recent fact-finding trip to Kalangala, the deputy CEO of UTB, John Ssempebwa, said the islands had great potential for tourism but a lot needed to be done. The body has already joined hands with Ssese Islands Nature Conservation and Tourism Association (Sencata) to promote tourism and conservation on the islands.

There is untapped potential for activities like sport fishing, quad biking, boat cruising, camping, among others. Tourists can also visit caves, take nature walks and visit cultural sites such as Mukasa and Wanema’s shrines plus the numerous sites for religious tourism in Bugoma and Bumangi.

UTB has organised a meeting for all stakeholders scheduled for late April, where the Ssese tourism cluster will be launched. Everyone with a role to play in the sector from the boda boda riders, hotel owners, to district leaders are expected to attend the event.

In addition, a team from UTB will be dispatched to inspect all the accommodation facilities and highlight areas that need improvement. This will help standardise the accommodation facilities. He also noted that the island did not have tour guides. There is need to mobilise youths that speak basic English to be trained in order to guide tourists.

“The rejuvenation of tourism at the islands will also help reduce the number of the unemployed, especially the women,” he said. There is an opportunity for starting up craft shops that are currently non-existent, which will in turn provide employment. “We are going to train them on what souvenirs to make and how to produce them cheaply,” he said.

As of now, visitors to the island leave without a single souvenir. Ssempebwa also noted that there was a lot of work that needed to be done on the pier at Lutoboka. With the ferry in Entebbe (Nakiwogo) now in operation, it is expected there will be more tourists going into Ssese through Lutoboka pier than through Masaka. So, there is a need to engage investors in making the pier visibly satisfying.

“This place has the capacity to receive 2,000 visitors per week, which can translate into 100,000-plus per year,” he noted.

According to Maurice Bafiirawala Kiggundu, a native of Kalangala and also the senior environment officer, the biggest setbacks have been the lack of interconnectivity between the islands; there is no telephone network coverage on some islands.

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Egypt Defers Decision to Cancel On-Arrival Visas

Aswat Masriya (Cairo) – 2 April 2015 – Cairo — Egypt’s government has decided to postpone its cancellation of on-arrival visas until it activates a system for electronically obtaining visas, the ministry of tourism announced on Thursday.

Egypt’s general consulate in New York had announced last month that the country would only allow tourists to acquire visas from embassies, cancelling the possibility of getting entry visas upon arrival at the airport. The decision was scheduled to be implemented starting May 15.

Tourism Minister Khaled Rami said in a statement on Thursday that the decision aims to “organise the entry of foreigners into Egypt in the framework of respecting national sovereignty and considering the state’s national security, yet in a manner that would not affect the flow of tourism.”

Security sources had told Reuters that the decision stemmed from the need to strengthen control on “Western human rights activists'” visits to Egypt.

The decision was met with wide criticism from travel agencies, which warned that it could negatively affect the flow of tourism into the country.

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

Tourism revenues jumped to almost $4 billion from $1.9 billion during the first half of the current fiscal year 2014/2015, the central bank announced on March 19.

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

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Nigeria: NTDC and the Quest for Tourism Information

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 2 April 2015 – In its effort to disseminate tourism information to deserving publics, NTDC has opened new tourism information desks in partnership with Viko Nig. Ltd, a private sector tour operator. However, the first was commissioned in Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja a week ago and MM2 and the third at the domestic airport wing of the old airport departure at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

In a recent event at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos, the Director General, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Dr. (Mrs.) Sally Mbanefo, supported by Mr. Lucky Chidi Kanu, Group Managing Director, Viko Nig. Ltd., Mr. Christophe Penninck, Chief Executive Officer of Bi Courtney Nig. Ltd. (Operators of MMA2 Terminal) and Mr. Dennis Okogwu, Head of Operations, FAAN, commissioned two tourism information desks at the MMA2 Terminal and General Aviation Terminal of the Lagos Airport.

“The information desk which features a travel information portal for tourists which also features the Aviation Minister’s recently launched portal as well as a real time flight information which can be personalized and an alarm sent to customers phone as reminder of their flight for when it is scheduled”, she said.

Mbanefo also explained that passengers can browse for free and in same portal, they can access and view the tourism sites, tourism activities, tourism products, hotels, car hire services, events and festivals, they can make enquiries and book excursion trips to schools and sightseeing in Nigeria.

During the launching in Abuja arrival hall, many travelers were shocked that Nigeria had so many tourism sites and some revealed their planned conferences planned for April which they agreed to partner with NTDC to arrange trips within Abuja, during and after the conference, others showed interest to partner with NTDC on school visits.

The NTDC boss expressed her profound gratitude to Viko Nig. Ltd., and described it as an exemplary and ideal private sector trait; she also made a compassionate appeal to Nigerians to please reach out to NTDC to lend a helping hand.

She also appealed to “Telcos, oil & gas sectors and banks to please reach out to us and collaborate with us to create awareness that will lead to poverty alleviation and job creation when people begin to travel within Nigeria to see these tourism sites. As long as we have patriotic Nigerians who will support NTDC’s initiatives, the sky is the limit”.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mbanefo reminded people the essence of the tourism TV game show that was designed and approved by the NTDC board last year, seeking for partnership to be able to launch the programme which will educate Nigerians on tourism sites and festivals, assuring that there will be rewards for answering questions correctly.

“The portal has real time updates. Personalized updates are also available on the portal which is equally interactive. Whereas the updates on the portal are absolutely at no cost to the public, personalized updates effected through sms sent to passengers are at a very minimal cost. The advantage this portal has is the ability to give real time and not estimated updates on flight”, Group Managing Director, Viko Nig. Ltd., Mr. Lucky Chidi Kanu, said.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Kanu, Group Managing Director, Viko Nig. Ltd confirmed the partnership from his end. “is about giving to the Tourism Sector in the Private/Public Sector effort at promoting tourism in Nigeria and investing in the tourism industry, this effort is not money-oriented, rather, borne out of our strong passion for the growth of the industry and this is the moving force behind this partnership”, he said.

The Director General of the NTDC, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo also revealed that Viko Nig. Ltd., is a company that specializes in providing taxis to tourists and arranging pickups from the airport with a toll free caller line with excellent service to offer tourists both domestic and foreign.

The NTDC DG who reiterated her commitment to domestic tourism campaign said that the launching of the Information Desk is part of the Corporation’s efforts towards promoting domestic tourism and assisting in gathering and collating data of tourist entering Nigeria.

“The reason why we are unveiling this portal is to give Nigerians information about our numerous tourism sites that are not known to tourists. Also, we are promoting domestic tourism in order to increase revenue generation in the country and create openings for job opportunities for our teaming unemployed population as part of my strategic imperative.”

Plans are underway in the existing partnership between NTDC and Viko Ltd to open similar desks in all the airports in Nigeria. Highlight of the event was an Award of Excellence to Dr. (Mrs.) Sally Mbanefo by City People Magazine in recognition of her leadership roles at tourism development in Nigeria.

Mbanefo however commended the efforts of Mr. President, President Ebele Goodluck Jonathan in creating an enabling environment for tourism to thrive via remodeled airports which are a tourists first point of contact, “the roads rebuilt has access to tourism sites and this will positively impact on tourism by reducing the cost of operations for hotel owners and indirectly reduce cost of hotels to tourists which is a big deal because Nigeria is reputed to have the most expensive hotels in Africa due to cost of diesel and power generation issues”.

She went further to thank Mr. President for empowering so many women in Nigeria. “Indeed Mr. President is a man who respects womanhood by breaking the record of any president in the world by empowering over 35% women to participate in governance, this is totally avent guarde, the agricultural sector success story is indeed an asset to tourism the work, the work Sure-P has done on education and health is amazing again, a boost to medical and education tourism for us to sell as tourism as tourism assets for Nigeria”, she said.

Mbanefo who expresses joy at the achievements of NTDC said, “I am truly excited and happy to be part of these interesting times in Nigeria and a part of the history that is being rewritten”.

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Garuda Indonesia to launch Manado-Guangzhou flight

Sabtu, 28 Maret 2015 Manado (ANTARA News) – Garuda Indonesia is planning to introduce a direct flight between Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, and Guangzhou, China, in July, deputy governor of the Indonesian province Djouhari Kansil said here on Saturday.

“In addition, the national flag carrier plans to open a direct flight between Bali and Manado next month,” spokesman for the provincial administration, Jahja Rondonuwu, affirmed, quoting the deputy governor.

He added that Kansil had revealed the plans while opening a North Sulawesi tourism road show, organized by the provinces tourism services in cooperation with tourism businesses in Kuta Beach, Bali, on Friday.

Moreover, Kansil noted at the occasion that he hoped the event would help to promote the tourism potential of North Sulawesi and attract more domestic and foreign tourists.

He also hoped the activity would create connectivity among tourism businesses and businesspersons.

Head of a North Sulawesi tourism service Happy T. R. Korah stated that the road show was aimed at promoting North Sulawesis tourism potential, in cooperation with tourism stakeholders, to domestic as well as foreign tourists in Bali.

Various local dance performances were staged at the event, which was attended by tourism officials from Bali.

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France eases travel warnings to Egypt

Ahram Online , Thursday 2 Apr 2015 – The crisis management center at the French foreign ministry eased travel warnings on Thursday to tourists wishing to visit Egypt, a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry stated.

The move comes in light of efforts to recover the tourism industry in Egypt after three years of political turmoil and ongoing militant attacks which have dealt the sector a series of blows.

The French ministry has allowed tourists to visit Luxor city in Upper Egypt and Taba city, a resort on the red sea in South Sinai.

“The aim of the changes are to reaffirm that appropriate security conditions in Egyptian cities exist,” the Egyptian foreign ministry statement read.

Several European countries including Germany, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and Spain lifted their travel bans to Egypt during the end of 2014.

Egypt received over 14.7 million tourists in 2010. Though since the 2011 uprising, the number of visitors dropped to 9.8 million. In 2012, the number of tourists rose to 11.5 million but fell again in 2013 to 9.5 million with revenues of $5.9 billion.

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Egyptian artist bids to raise awareness of Omani classical music

Ahram Online , Thursday 2 Apr 2015 – Promoted by Arabesque International, the Muscat Chamber Music Series aims at bringing the experienced, high-quality chamber music ensembles to Omani audiences for a time period that will range between one and three weeks. The series will be ongoing on a regular basis to assure the projects sustainability.

“Our goal is to engage with the community, and to offer educational opportunities that foster cultural exchange and inspire individual excellence,” read the Arabesque statement. Arabesque International is founded and managed by Ahmed Abouzahra, an Egyptian pianist and arts manager.

Though already well-known to Egyptian and Omani audiences, as well as in the regional music scene, the Music Series is Abouzahra’s first large-scale and long-term initiative to make live classical music accessible to the younger generations in Muscat, a city that holds a state-of-art Royal Opera House.

One of the samples of the Arabesque music engagement targeting the young audience in Oman was through “Music by and for Children” conducted in 2014, when an eight-year­-old violinist Amira Abouzahra toured schools in Muscat.

Moreover, a number of pre-launch workshops and concerts — which took place in Muscat since October 2014 — have already given the variety of audiences an idea of what is behind the vision carried by Abouzahra’s project. They included a recital with Nicolas Altstaedt on cello and Marcus Becker on piano, a workshop with the Omani Oud Association, and an evening with Om Kolthoum songs, among other events.

However, the grand launch of the Muscat Chamber Music Series will kick off on 9 April with a concert by the members of the Grammy Award winning Kremerata Baltica, a chamber ensemble founded by the renowned Latvian violinist Gidon Kremerin which incorporates musicians from Baltic countries.

According to Abouzahra, apart from the concerts, the Muscat Chamber Series will also include an educational outreach with master classes tailored for the young musicians and team-building workshops.

In it’s first series, the project will reach out to a number of schools across Muscat — Watiya public as well as the American-British Academy and the American International School Muscat — with workshops targeting young teenagers. On the other hand, Arabesque will also extend its educational activities to the Oud Association in Muscat.

“Arabesque International has been active in the region for the past two years, and has observed that rarely do the local (Omani) population take an active interest in artistic performances. Common feedback in this regard attributes it to the fact of a lack of a familiarisation. Knowing the concrete benefits that music and the arts bring, today it is our goal to reach out and to familiarise the broader public with it. In the pursuit of an effective approach to do so, we identified the concept of chamber music a format that would suit our purpose,” Arabesque clarifies in the project’s statement.

It also pointed out that by taking advantage of the world’s cultural heritage, the chamber series hopes to cultivate a prosperous future, in full respect of the Omani Renaissance vision.

The Egyptian pianist and art manager, Abouzahra, is known in Egypt and the regional scene for many of his endeavors aimed at bringing the finest orchestras and musicians to perform in the Arab countries. Among his many projects, he often places children on his list of priorities, believing that bringing to them and engaging them in the classical music activities is one of the crucial elements of their personal and creative development, and represents factors that bring big benefits to their futures.

In previous years, Abouzahra has launched a number of activities in Egypt which addressed children. They included bringing the Colonne Orchestra to perform a special concert back in 2010. Most recently, in late 2014, the Horus Piano Duo, in which Abouzahra plays together with his wife Nóra Emődy, was accompanied by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Chamber Orchestra, in the performance of Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals. The event was narrated by the renowned Egyptian actor Abdelrahman Abouzahra with the text in Arabic written by Nader Salah El-Din.

This time in Oman, with the Muscat Chamber Music Series, once again Abouzahra underscores the importance of musical education in the lives of children and teenagers, as well as raising awareness of the values that classical music carries.

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Qatar to survey residents’ tourism activities

The Peninsula – 02 April, 2015 – A Domestic Tourism Survey will begin soon to understand and analyse tourism activities of Qatar’s residents within the country and their travels abroad.

Qatar University’s Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (QU-SESRI) and Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct the survey.

The survey is being developed collaboratively by SESRI and QTA experts and will be conducted each quarter starting this June.

It will feed into Qatar’s Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), a system for establishing the economic impact of tourism on a country’s economy.

The 2013 draft TSA estimated domestic tourism spending at QR9.3bn that directly benefits Qatar’s economy, and the survey will help refine estimates and fill data gaps such as proportion of hotel revenue that can be attributed to domestic/resident spending.

SESRI will conduct the survey through mobile telephone sampling and targeted respondents will include Qataris and professional expatriates living in Qatar for at least six months.

SESRI Director and QU Associate Vice-President for Research, Dr Darwish Al Emadi, will oversee the project from QU’s side while QTA Chief Tourism Development Officer, Hassan Al Ibrahim, will oversee the QTA side.

Dr Al Emadi said: “Drawing inspiration from Qatar National Vision 2030, Qatar is moving into a new direction of promoting the tourism sector as a key driver of socio-economic growth in the country.

“We are grateful to contribute to QTA’s efforts in finding opportunities and identifying concerns and obstacles that will help policymakers in setting the path forward for the nation’s upcoming era of advancement,” he added.

“Within the context of our efforts to boost cooperation with stakeholders from the public and private sectors, we signed the MoU which will allow us to gather information that will help define the impact of domestic tourism on the overall tourism economy and help determine residents’ preferences,” Al Ibrahim said.

“Such surveys and studies are a very powerful tool, allowing us to better plan, regulate and develop a sustainable tourism sector in Qatar.”

He said Qatar’s tourism sector will benefit considerably from the survey as it will help QTA understand domestic tourism behaviour, assess experience and level of satisfaction with the offered products and services and find the best means to vitalise and develop domestic tourism activities.

“The survey’s outcomes will be a real support to the continued development of TSA, which is the only satellite account system approved by the United Nations Statistical Commission,” he added.

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Saudi Tourism will provide 400,000 jobs in five years

Arab News – 03 April, 2015 – The tourism sector will throw up employment opportunities to more than 400,000 people in the next five years and all-out efforts are being made to train Saudis for these jobs, an official of the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) has said.

The organization is conducting studies and assessment to determine the needs in the sector, and is working in coordination with the Ministry of Labor and the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities to boost Saudization levels in the tourism field, Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Nujaidi, the fund’s deputy executive director, said.

He was speaking at the titled “National Tourism Resources: Challenges and Prospects” in Riyadh Wednesday.

Al-Nujaidi said the Fund will work together with the Ministry of Labor and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) for 56 schemes to increase Saudization percentages in the sector.

Most of these projects have been launched and will continue as they are consistent with the Fund’s strategic focus and promote participation of the private sector, he said.

“The demand in the next five years for jobs in the sector will reach 460,000. The main objective of the implementation strategy in the coming period is to provide employment to workers with the right skills and qualifications,” Al-Nujaidi added.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Majed, Chief Operating Officer at the Technical and Vocational Training Corp. (TVTC), said the tourism and hospitality sector suffers from a severe lack of qualified nationals. “Efforts are on to develop and deliver training programs that meet the demand of the labor market and are in line with international standards,” he said.

To achieve this, a promising plan to reach 250,000 trainees in tourism and hospitality by 2018 is underway, he said. “The technical College of Tourism and Hospitality was launched to support the sector, with another three tourism colleges in Najran, Khamis Mushait, and Al-Ahsa, scheduled to be completed in four years.”

“We are working on encouraging young nationals to join the hospitality and tourism sector in the Kingdom, as well as supporting professional development for all professions and career paths,” said Fawaz Moumjnah, head of human resources of Hilton in the Kingdom.

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Saudi Arabia to tender Jeddah Metro contracts in mid-2016

Arab News – 03 April, 2015 – Saudi Arabia intends to tender several contracts for the Jeddah metro project in mid-2016 after the design completion, a local newspaper reported.

“The Jeddah metro project is still in the design planning stage. Once this stage is completed, we will tender several contracts in mid-2016,” Osama bin Ibrahim Abdouh, CEO of Jeddah Metro Company, was quoted as saying by Aleqtisadiah.

Each main construction contract would include five to six consultancy contracts, he said, adding that Jeddah metro budget allocations might be revised upward.

The Jeddah metro project involves the construction of a 149-km network, including around 18 km underground rail in the town center, Abdouh said.

He expected all construction work to be completed by 2020.

“I think there will be more budget allocations… a budget of $ 12 billion (SR45 billion) was approved in March 2013 but the project status has now changed as the general plan is being updated,” he said.

In July 2014, France’s Systra was awarded a $ 74 million consultancy contract for the engineering design.

On March 31, local media reported that officials of Jeddah Metro Company signed an $ 80 million contract with British architectural design firm Foster + Partners for the metro design vision.

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New Bahrain bus routes to cover more areas

Gulf Daily News – 03 April, 2015 – More than three-quarters of Bahrain will be covered under the new bus system, it was revealed yesterday.

The old bus lines covered 35 per cent of the country, but under the new Bahrain Public Transport Company (BPTC) it will cover 77pc.

Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed said the new system will be fully implemented by August, when a total of 32 lines will be operational.

“We have to admit that we started from a network that the public did not have confidence in,” he said in Press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay yesterday.

“It only covered a small area of the country and the number of buses weren’t sufficient and the average waiting time was about 70 minutes.

“The new system, which started on April 1, will cover 77pc of Bahrain.

“The full implementation will be completed on August 1, when we will go from 12 lines to 32 lines.

“The red buses that started halfway through February were covering the gap between the two contracts, so they weren’t operating on the new bus lines or in the same number.

“We used to have 35 buses and now we have 77, with a 141 bus fleet working by August.

“At the beginning, we expect to come across problems, but that’s how we will learn and move forward.”

He said last week saw a peak of 21,500 passengers, which far surpassed the previous record of 16,000.

“We can already see results, even though the full system wasn’t in place at the time,” he said.

“I imagine by the end of the year, when people are familiar with the system, we will see even more.

“On August 1, we’ll also have a smart card ticketing system, where people will be able to buy a card and top it up instead of buying one daily on the bus.”

Mr Ahmed also announced a BD3 million contract to replace all existing bus shelters.

“In mid-April, we are also going to start replacing, demolishing and building new bus shelters across Bahrain that better reflect the modern infrastructure of the country,” he said.

“We’re contracting with a different British company (Trueform) in this regard.

“There will be between 400 to 450 stations created over two and a half years.

“The contract is between BD3m and BD3.4m, depending on the number of stations.

“We’ll also have adverts in the stations to bring in revenue for the government.”

Bus drivers will also be directed by a control room, located in Isa Town, in the event of road blocks or traffic diversions.

“We looked at where we need more lines and adjusted the schedule accordingly,” said Land Transport and Post Affairs Under-Secretary Mariam Juman.

“For the buses, we now have 14 minis, 88 midis and 39 large ones.

“We have taken into account special needs requirements, women and children areas.

“The buses will also have WiFi and CCTV for safety.

“We also have a control room in Isa Town that will be constantly in touch with the buses. They know where every bus is, the number of people that have used them and the number of tickets.

“They can also speak to the drivers and let them know if, for example, a road is closed so that he can be diverted.”

Meanwhile, BPTC director Mark Kipling said the company was “relentlessly focusing” on safety.

“This means drivers trained to the highest standards, with regular monitoring, and drivers supported through their career development, improving their skills month on month through additional training and only accepting the highest standards of performance,” he said.

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Qatar Rail network to boost cross-border trade

The Peninsula – 03 April, 2015 – The upcoming high-tech rail network being developed in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region will not only bring the member states more closer but will also facilitate cross-border, regional and international business and trade in a big way, said a statement issued by Qatar Rail yesterday.

Qatar Rail, the host of the 1st International Conference on Railway Interoperability, Standardisation and Harmonisation in the Middle East, concluded the two-day event successfully. The aim of the event was to assist in developing a coherent, integrated, and competitive rail transport system to serve the region’s economy and society.

Organised by UIC, the International Union of Railways; UIC Middle East; OTIF, the Intergovernmental Organisation for International Carriage by Rail; CIT, the International Rail Transport Committee; and hosted by Qatar Rail, the conference provided a unique opportunity to discuss the latest developments in optimising international cross-border rail transport.

Commenting on the event’s success, Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Subaie, Managing Director of Qatar Rail, said that as expected, UIC RAME event gave all participating companies from the Middle East region the chance to bring together their views and plans on the objective of the event.

“At Qatar Rail, we envisage the development of a Long Distance Rail that will form part of the planned GCC cross-border railway network that will enable a higher level of cooperation between the member states. We were happy to exchange expertise and thoughts with stakeholders and push further towards Qatar’s national transportation objectives,” said Al Subaie.

The varied participation of industry leaders from the railway and transportation sector was indicative of the two-day event’s importance. The conference (held from March 30 to 31) focused on three major topics that discussed “legal interoperability framework”, “railway harmonisation and standardisation”, “railway safety”, “harmonization of cross-border transport” and “railway suppliers’ perspectives on interoperability”.

Participating companies mainly included OTIF, UIC, CIT, SRO – Saudi Arabia, Etihad Rail – UAE, Oman Rail, Moroccan State Railways, UIC – Africa, TCDD – Turkey, RAI – Iran, Sina Rail Pars Transport – Iran, AFRA – Afghanistan, Huawei Technologies – China, Alstom Transport – France, and Qatar Rail.

More than 100 industry leaders attended the two-day event, with a common aim to tackle all interoperability issues that are shaping the technical, operational, legal and regulatory fields in the railway sector in our region.

Abdulrahman Ali Al Malik, Long Distance Project Director at Qatar Rail, added: “Constructing a high-tech rail network that connects the GCC region enables a closer degree of cooperation between the member states, in line with the GCC region’s vision. This will also facilitate cross-border trade for local, regional and international businesses in the near future. In this light, the Qatar Rail Development Program (QRDP) is currently developing a long distance passenger and freight rail network to connect major cities and industries in Qatar, and to play its role in linking the six GCC countries.”

The last day of the event began with a discussion by Ramiz Al Assar, Resident Adviser at World Bank and Secretariat General of the GCC, Saudi Arabia, on the harmonisation and interoperability of the GCC Railway, and the progress made in this regard.

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Saudi Passport Department plans full e-services

Arab News – 03 April, 2015 – The Passport Department has plans to switch completely to electronic work from the traditional paperwork.

Speaking to the local media at the opening of new lounges for issuing and renewing Saudi passports at the new building in Riyadh, Maj. Gen. Suleiman Al-Yahya, director general of the Passport Department, said: “All departments will switch to electronic processing. This means that employees will no longer handle transactions. Employees will only direct the customers concerning the procedures and ensure that they are carried out correctly.”

He urged all citizens and residents to take advantage of the new technology and to cooperate with the Passport Department employees by providing correct and complete information.

Al-Yahya made it plain that he wants to achieve the best possible service, noting that the department’s ambitions are ongoing and that what has been achieved represents only a small part of the needs of citizens and expatriates.

“The number of customers and clients personally coming to the Passport Department has dropped significantly due to electronic procedures,” he said, and noted that there were still some individuals who preferred not to conduct their business electronically.

“I hope the time will come when people will not come in person to passport offices. I hope to see them using the service of the Saudi Post which is called Wasel,” he said.

Al-Yahya emphasized the directions issued by Deputy Crown Prince and Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif which are to serve people at their locations, mainly those with special needs and older people who can call the department and then the passport teams can go and provide them with the services they require. He noted Prince Mohammed’s directions to switch fully to electronic dealings.

He said the electronic service was available for all persons who have a national identification document. “For children, there are other procedures covered by the civil registry. In addition, their personal photos should be filed at the Interior Ministry. The ministry intends to have files for the photos of all children so that they can be served electronically,” he said.

Al-Yahya said the media had a key role in raising awareness among people on the advantages of electronic services and that they should register in order to benefit. He noted the other services offered by 992, obtainable by either calling the number or sending a text message.

“The public at large, including visually impaired persons, can be directed on how to proceed with the service and its requirements. The department has so many capabilities with the support it gets from the leadership and rulers of the country,” he explained.

Riyadh Passport Department Director Brig. Gen. Suleiman bin Abdur Rahman Al-Suhaibani said the opening of the new lounges, which will issue and renew Saudi

passports, is part of the plan to offer better services to citizens in and around Riyadh.

Al-Suhaibani said one of the lounges will receive the application for issuing and renewing passports. The other will receive passports completed either through the traditional way or through the electronic service, called Abshir.

“The widening of service is to keep pace with the increasing demand for Saudi passports, and speed in using electronics to issue and renew them,” said Al-Suhaibani.

The new lounges contain 20 counters. At each counter, a device has been installed to assess the performance of the employee.

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Surge in Qatari tourists to Istanbul

The Peninsula – 03 April, 2015 – Istanbul has emerged as one of the most preferred tourist destinations of Qataris. The number of Qatari tourists travelling to Turkey’s largest city in 2014 reached over 30,000, according to a senior official of Turkish Airlines.

“Istanbul has become one of the most favourite tourist destinations of Qatari nationals. We witnessed a remarkable 30 percent growth in the number of Qatari citizens who visited the historical city of Turkey in 2014 compared to 2013,” Mehmed Kursad Caymaz, General Manager of Turkish Airlines-Qatar was quoted as saying by Al Sharq.

Speaking at the airlines’ annual reception ceremony here recently, Caymaz said that Istanbul, the country’s economic, cultural and historical heart, was so popular among Qataris that many of them even spent their weekend holidays there.

He said: “Although there is stiff competition among the airlines, most citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council member countries, including Qatar, prefer to travel with Turkish Airlines due to several attractive factors, such as competitive pricing, promotional offers, luxurious hospitality and other value-added services.”

He noted that the timings of Turkish Airlines’ services from Doha to Istanbul and back were also important factors, as they allowed travellers to spend more time in the Turkish city.

Caymaz said that keeping in view the growing number of passengers the airline had started four additional services to Turkey from Doha.

The carrier witnessed 11.8 percent growth in 2014 over 2013. However, the airline’s overall passenger growth in the GCC region was 6.44 percent in 2014 over 2013.

During the annual event held here recently, the airline honoured its local partners and travel agencies, including Dnata Travel, Regency Travel and Tours, United Tours and Travel and others.

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‘A Step Ahead’ career fair held for Saudi women

Saudi Gazette – 02 April, 2015 – UNDER the patronage of Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Prince of the Riyadh region, the kingdom’s largest women’s career fair “A Step Ahead” was inaugurated Wednesday.

Organized by Glowork, the Kingdom’s leading organization linking female job seekers with potential employers, the 3rd Annual A Step Ahead Career Fair witnesses a full day seminar with topics of discussion focusing on the women employment opportunities, training and development and unleashing potential. Over 300 companies took part in the event opening avenues of new job opportunities across all levels from entry to top management. The career fair is open daily at Al Faisaliah Hotel.

With over 12,000 participants registered before the launch of “A Step Ahead” annual fair and forum have become two of the foremost employment and training events in the Kingdom. Supported by the Human Resources Development Fund, enriching the program and its offering adding more credibility to its name, as well as helping to bring together female job seekers and employers.

The career fair in Riyadh will be until April 3 at Al Faisaliah Hotel, then will be hosted in Dammam on April 12-13 at the Sheraton Hotel and in Jeddah on April 28-29 at the Hilton Hotel.

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QTA seeks to prevent tourism law violations

Gulf Times – 02 April, 2015 – In order to ensure that star hotels, tourist facilities and organisers of exhibitions fully abide by the terms of relevant laws and regulations, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) has authorised a number of its employees to act as judicial commissioners, based on a decision from the Public Prosecution.

The initiative is in line with the Public Prosecution’s Decision Number 21 of 2015, endorsed by the Ministry of Economy and Commerce.

Designated QTA employees will have the authority to pursue offenders violating Law Number 6 of 2012 on Tourism Regulations or Law Number 7 of 2013 on Organising Exhibitions.

The QTA employees concerned will have the full authority to report violations that might be committed by hotels, tourist facilities, or exhibitions in the State of Qatar, according to an announcement made yesterday.

“There is no doubt that the decision is a milestone in QTA’s history,” chief tourism development officer Hassan al-Ibrahim said.

The decision supports QTA in its efforts aimed to maintaining a sustainable tourism sector in the State of Qatar, as well as achieving the objectives of Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030.

The decision will also ensure tourism sector’s institutions; adherence to the best international tourism standards and practices. QTA is working in co-operation with partners in the public and private sector as well as stakeholders in the industry to upgrade tourism in Qatar to international standards.

“The jurisdiction of these officers includes spotting violations, pinpointing perpetrators, and gathering the evidence needed for investigation and trial,” explained the QTA official.

“The decision will be a real push for the efforts aimed at promoting the tourism sector especially since its objective is to ensure the adherence of hotels and tourist facilities to relevant laws and regulations, drafted with the aim of developing and upgrading the tourism sector in accordance with international standards,” al-Ibrahim added.

The decision is part of QTA’s efforts to develop the tourism sector’s human resources and economic aspects, which will help to increase the industry’s contributions to the GDP of the State of Qatar.

QTA also reiterated that it adheres to the stipulations of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, which aims to improve and develop tourism sector’s performance, thus turning it into an effective contributor to the national economy.

Last year, number of hotels and tourist facilities signed and ratified the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism in an official ceremony sponsored by QTA.

The code stresses the importance for tourist establishments across the world to observe international standards aimed at establishing a sustainable tourism industry.

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Qatar Airways to boost Jakarta, Bali flights

The Peninsula – 01 April, 2015 – Qatar Airways (QA) will be boosting its flight frequencies to Jakarta and Denpasar (Bali) from July 5 and 16, respectively, to meet the ever-increasing demand on these popular routes.

The total number of weekly flights to the Indonesian capital city will rise to 21 making it a thrice-daily service, while for Denpasar, QA will commence a full twice-daily operation from July 16 meaning a total of 14 flights a week to this perennial tourist favourite.

The increased frequency between Jakarta and Doha will offer greater connectivity to popular routes in Europe and the Americas for both business and leisure passengers, while travellers who enjoy the casual ambience of Bali will be happy to know they have double the flight options to choose from when arriving and departing into Denpasar.

Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, QA, said: “We remain committed to growing the Indonesian market and are delighted to announce the increase in flight frequencies to both Jakarta and Denpasar. With our enhanced flight schedules, superior in-flight product and the state-of-the-art Hamad International Airport, we continue to offer our passengers an exceptional five-star service throughout their entire travel experience.”

As one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, Qatar Airways has experienced rapid growth in just 18 years of operation. Today it flies a modern fleet of 150 aircraft to 146 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

Additional daily flights Doha-Jakarta schedule from July 5

Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays: Departure from Doha QR958 at 13:15, arriving in Jakarta at 02:30 (next day)

Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Departure from Jakarta QR959 at 04:30, arriving in Doha at 08:55

Double-daily Doha-Denpasar schedules from July 16

Departure from Doha QR962 at 02:25, arriving in Denpasar at 17:10

Departure from Denpasar QR963 19:05, arriving in Doha at 23:15

Departure from Doha QR960 at 08:00, arriving in Denpasar at 22:45

Departure from Denpasar QR961 00:20, arriving in Doha at 04:30.

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