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13 Apr, 2015

Jakarta To Host 60th Anniversary Asia-Africa Conference April 19

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 13 April 2015 (23 Jumaada al-Thaani 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




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

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

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


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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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



Lebanon banking on regional demand for tourism sector revival

07 Apr 2015 – Middle Eastern travellers returning to Lebanon with tourism receipts set to rise by 7.9% to reach US$6.4 billion in 2015; Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015 participation a showcase for country’s multi-purpose destination positioning

Lebanon’s tourism industry is showing early signs of improvement in 2015, and with Colliers International forecasting a hotel occupancy figure of up to 49% for Beirut hotels, the country will be promoting its tourism message at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015.

Tourist arrivals increased for the ninth month in a row in February 2015, up year-on-year by 20.5% (175, 859 visitors) in the first two months of the year. Visitors from the Gulf countries registered a strong increase with double-digit growth from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as well as Egypt and Iran.

“Colliers reports an uptick across the board in January and February, from airport arrivals and average rate to hotel room occupancy. Lebanon has long been a favoured long weekend destination for GCC residents, and the added resurgence in Egyptian, and particularly, Iraqi tourists, in recent months, has created new demand,” said Nadege Noblet, Exhibition Manager for Arabian Travel Market, which takes place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre, on 4-7 May 2015.

According to a report from Bank Audi Research Center, this is supported by a rise in passenger traffic at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, which grew by 10.24% year-on-year in the first two months of 2015, recording 419,369 passenger movements, a record high for the period. The Colliers forecast predicts a RevPAR for Beirut’s three, four and five-star hotel market of US$78 this year, up 1% from 2014, and ADR of US$158.

A March 2015 SGBL Eco News Report also quotes figures from the Institute of International Finance (IIF), which is similarly forecasting a healthy – and much-needed increase – in tourism receipts, which are set to rise by 7.9% to reach US$6.4 billion this year, with a further possible increase of up to 12% in 2016, to touch US$7.2 billion.

“Lebanon’s diverse tourism product encompasses the stylish capital of Beirut with its chic cosmopolitan ambience and reputation for luxury retail, through to trendy beach locations, stunning natural beauty and mountain ranges, ancient cities and architectural heritage. This is a solid foundation on which to rebuilt interest and drive inbound arrivals,” said Noblet.

“In April 2014, Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism launched its ‘Live, Love, Lebanon’ campaign, and this was a clear indicator of the government’s commitment to reviving the country’s tourism prospects as a major economic driver,” she added.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Lebanon 2014 report, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was US$3.2 billion (6.9% of total GDP) in 2013. Travel and tourism is also estimated to indirectly contribute US$9 billion (19.2%) of GDP in 2013.

In 2015, these figures are forecast to rise by 2.1% and 2.2%, respectively with the sector also generating 92,500 jobs in 2013; with forecasted growth of 2.7% in 2014.

Also, in July 2014, the non-profit organisation Beyond Beirut, which is funded by USAID, submitted a document detailing a five-year plan for development of a sustainable Lebanese tourism industry, which has been endorsed by various stakeholders including the Ministry of Tourism, ecotourism business and small guesthouse owners.

Lebanese companies exhibiting at this year’s ATM include SAAD Transport SAL, World Net Hotels, Rida International and Warwick MENA Hotel Management Company.

The 2015 event will also build on the success of last year’s edition with the announcement of an additional hall adding an additional 2,000 square metres of floor space as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to add to its record-breaking achievements in 2014. Last year ATM saw total attendance increase by 12% with 33,000 participants from over 131 countries, and business deals signed worth more than US$ 2.1 billion over the four days.

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Indonesian Officials: Kazakhstan can become Trade Hub for Central Asia

JAKARTA, Apr, 10 2015 – (ACN Newswire) – Indonesia believes that Kazakhstan can serve as a potential gateway to expand the export of its commodities to non-traditional markets in Central Asia, a top official of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Speaking at a seminar on “Indonesian Economic Diplomacy in Central Asia” here on Wednesday, Hery Saripudin of the Research and Development Policy Affairs division of the ministry stated that Indonesia needs to increase its trade volume with several Central Asian countries, especially Kazakhstan, due to its strong economy.

“Indonesia can increase trade with Central Asian nations by using Kazakhstan as a hub, given its strategic position that can connect us with some big markets such as China and Russia,” Saripudin affirmed. Moreover, some large countries, including the United States, Russia and China, have begun to expand their investment in Kazakhstan, while bilateral trade between Indonesia and Kazakhstan had witnessed a downward trend in the 2010 to 2014 period, recording a drop of some 3.42 percent.

The World Bank classified Kazakhstan as one of the upper middle-income countries with a GDP of US$231.9 billion in 2013, he pointed out. The 10th largest oil producer in the world, Kazakhstan has oil reserves of 40 billion barrels, which is around 1.8 percent of the world’s total oil reserves.

Director of South and Central Asia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Listyowati revealed that Indonesia was considering establishing car tire and instant noodles factories in Kazakhstan. “A memorandum of understanding has been signed by private sector companies of both countries. However, it will take time to realize the construction of the two factories,” she said.

Listyowati added that so far, Indonesia has only exported car tires to Kazakhstan instead of building a factory there due to certain obstacles. These included high costs of logistics and transportation. However, Indonesia needs to follow the ways of Singapore and Malaysia. The two countries have introduced direct flights and cargo plane services to some nations in Central Asia, she pointed out. –Antara.

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Indonesia’s INACRAFT 2015 Shows Key Strength to ASEAN Economic Community

JAKARTA, Apr, 10 2015 – (ACN Newswire) – The Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair (INACRAFT 2015) is the key event that helps to strengthen Indonesia’s creative industry in relation to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), Director General of National Export Development of the Trade Ministry Nus Nuzulia Ishak stated.

“INACRAFT 2015 provides a valuable opportunity and important strength to the Indonesian handicraft industry’s creative economic players in the face of the AEC,” Ishak noted in a press statement here on Wednesday. Ishak affirmed that the trade ministry continues to improve the country’s competitiveness through the development of products and marketing. Through INACRAFT 2015, the creative industry and handicraft businesses are able to market their products.

Handicraft industry is one of the creative industries that significantly contributes to the nation’s economic growth. Ishak explained that the ASEAN market is quite attractive, and the country’s creative industry could serve as an important economic means to face the AEC. “Indonesia’s handicraft product exports to the ASEAN increased by 14.11 percent over the last five years, with a value of US$27.8 billion recorded until 2014,” Ishak stated.

He remarked that the key to success of the country’s creative industry was innovation and the skill to identify the market while continuing to improve quality. Indonesia’s handicraft exports in 2014 stood at US$694.34 million, with a positive upward trend of 2.63 percent, he pointed out.

The 17th Jakarta INACRAFT 2015 was inaugurated by President Joko Widodo on Wednesday at the Balai Sidang Jakarta Convention Center (JCC). Held from April 8-12, 2015, INACRAFT is Indonesia’s biggest and most comprehensive exhibition of gifts and housewares.

INACRAFT 2015 is organized by the Association of Exporter and Producer of Handicraft of Indonesia (Asephi) in collaboration with Mediatama Binakreasi. The annual event has become an icon of Indonesian handicraft products’ exhibition and is in keeping with the government’s annual agenda to consistently develop the quantity and quality of products.

Asephi Chairman Thamrin Bustami had earlier affirmed that a total of 1.6 thousand companies from all the provinces across the country participated in the INACRAFT 2015, which is expected to be visited by around one thousand foreign buyers and 200 thousand domestic buyers. He noted that craft industries in Indonesia have started to show potential, which is apparent by the increasing number of local craftsmen with new innovations and creativity producing new products.

Promising economic demands and market opportunities have made these industries more interesting and reliable to explore with a glimmer of national economic growth and improvement. With its sub-theme “Improving Quality of Creative Handicraft to Penetrate the Global Market,” this exhibition is expected to showcase the existence and compatibility of Indonesian creative craft industries to the international craft community during the time of stiff competition from similar products manufactured by other countries in the world.

Last year, the INACRAFT 2014 adopted Central Java’s cultural inheritance as its main icon aimed to develop creative economy products in order to improve the export quality of Indonesian craft products to become one of the alternative sources for supporting the national economy in this global free-trade era.

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Shah Rukh Khan declared ‘Global Icon Of The Year’

Indian express, New Delhi, April 11, 2015 – Adding another feather to Shah Rukh Khan‘s already multi-feathered cap is the title of “Global Icon Of The Year” bestowed upon him on April 10 at the ‘NRI awards of the year’ event held in Mumbai.

Reportedly, King Khan was awarded the honour at the event organised by a leading news channel. The superstar was elated at receiving the honour, and thanked his fans and supporters for extending their love all these years.

Last seen in Farah Khan’s heist comedy ‘Happy New Year’, which went on to amass more than Rs 100 cr at the Box Offcie, Shah Rukh Khan will next be seen in Maneesh Sharma’s ‘Fan’ and Rohit Shetty’s ‘Dilwale’.

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Iran Photo Exhibit underway in Madrid

Madrid, April 11, IRNA – Photo Exhibition themed ‘Wonderful Iran, Beauties of Islamic Geometry’ opened in Madrid on Saturday. The event is organized by Iran’s Cultural Office in Madrid in cooperation with Center of Madrid Architects and Spanish Association of Iranian Studies.

Iran’s cultural attaché, Ali Reza Esmaeili addressed the inaugural ceremony held in presence of of Iranians residing in Madrid, Iranologists and the Spanish interested in Iranian culture and art.

Appreciating participants in the event, he added that the exhibition indicates artistry of Jose Maria Simon, Spanish photographer who have portrayed symbols of Islamic Iran architecture during his visit to Iran.

Architectural works are considered each country’s cultural, political and social symbols, he said, noting that architecture is one of the main manifestations of every tribe and nation and expresses its attitude towards issues pertaining to life and the entire world.

Iranian architecture enjoys a special status in the world and boasts of specific values such as suitable designing, accurate calculations, proper form, long columns, observing technical and scientific indices in buildings and various decorations, Esmaeili said.

President of the Spanish Society of Iranology Alfred Kavanagh said that although most of the terms used in architecture are Arabic, related technologies were first utilized by the Iranian experts.

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International book fair planned in Karbala

Tehran, April 11, IRNA – An international book fair will be held on the sidelines of the 11th edition of “Rabi’-ul-Shahadah” (spring of martyrdom) international festival in the holy city of Karbala.

According to the information website of Dar-ol-Quran Al-Karim Center of Husseini holy shrine, the exhibition will be organized by the Astans (custodianships) of the holy shrines of Imam Hossein (AS) and Hazrat Abbas (AS).

Meisar Akram Al-Hakim, member of the organizing committee of the exhibition and in charge of the exhibition affairs, said Hazrat Zeinab (SA) Courtyard will host the book fair for 15 days.

The cultural-religious exhibition is due to open on May 13.

He added that invitations have been sent for some Arab and Islamic countries to participate at the exhibition.

The two Astans will support a special media coverage of the exhibition this year.

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Dubai Company Signs M.O.U. With UAE University

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Apr 11 (NNN-WAM) – Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the UAE University (UAEU), to strengthen partnership and cooperation in scientific research and applied studies, exchange information and develop training and educational programmes to strengthen the capabilities and skills of DEWA’s staff.

The MoU also increases collaboration to facilitate scholarships for DEWA’s Academy students, and for DEWA staff who have scholarships at the UAE University in different technical and professional disciplines such as electrical and mechanical engineering.

The agreement was signed by Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, Managing Director & CEO of DEWA, and Dr. Ali Rashid Al Noaimi, the Vice Chancellor of the United UAEU. The MoU signing was attended by Professor Ghaleb Al Hadrami, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies at UAEU, Waleed Salman, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, Dr. Yousef Al Akraf, Executive Vice President of Business Support and Human Resources, Khawla Al Mehairi, VP Marketing & Corporate Communications, Dr. Abdulla Al Hammadi, Vice President of Strategy & Performance Management, Ahmed Abdullah, Senior Manager of External Communications, and Maryam Althani, Senior Manager of Partnership at DEWA.

“At DEWA, we adopt creativity and innovation as a basis for all our work. This supports the National Innovation Strategy, launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and our vision to become a sustainable innovative world-class utility. Signing MoU reflects our commitment to enhance cooperation with leading national educational institutions for developing employee competencies and skills and enhancing their creativity. This in turn supports DEWA’s leading position as an innovative organisation at the national and global levels,” said Al Tayer.

“Through this agreement, we enhance cooperation between DEWA and the UAE University on scientific research as well benchmarking studies. We will organise regular meetings and joint workshops, and work together to implement social initiatives and projects that serve the strategies and objectives of the two organisations to drive Dubai’s comprehensive development,” added Al Tayer.

“Signing this MoU reflects the keenness and follow-up of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of United Arab Emirates University, towards the University’s commitment for scientific research by preparing distinguished graduates who drive sustainable development in different national strategic areas.

The UAE University plays a leading role in providing higher education and scientific research at the local, regional, and global levels. It provides world-class educational services for students, staff, and organisations,” said Dr. Al Noaimi.– NNN-WAM

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Saudi King opens historic Diriyah project

RIYADH: 11 April 2015, Arab News – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman inaugurated on Thursday the historic Al-Bijairi project in Diriyah district that served as the first Saudi capital and platform of the reformist call in the Arabian Peninsula during the reign of the first Saudi state.

Diriyah houses historical documents and other valuable materials dating back to the period of Imam Muhammad bin Saud and Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul-Wahab in 1157H (1744), when it was chosen as the capital.

The project is being implemented by the High Commission for the Development of Arriyadh (ADA) as part of an ambitious program that aims to convert Diriyah from a historical site into a cultural-cum-tourism center at the national level. Al-Bijairi is now one of cultural suburbs in Diriyah whose significance will be boosted following implementation of the landmark scheme.
The high profile event was attended by top royal family members and officials, including Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

Speaking on the occasion, Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Riyadh governor and ADA head, said: “In this place, the home of civilization, and the source of Arabism since ancient times, Diriyah stands as the first capital of the Saudi state and the seat of governance and leadership.”

Prince Faisal, who is also chairman of the high executive committee for Diriyah’s development, said Saudi Arabia feels proud today of developing one of the best heritage and cultural projects in the region, namely the Diriyah development program, said to be a modern example of an urban oasis in the world.

Prince Sultan bin Salman said Diriyah represents three centuries of Islamic unity, security and peace. The project, which is linked to Saudi Arabia’s state and cultural heritage, is the first national project to be inaugurated by King Salman and was not possible without the grace of God.

During the event, Prince Sultan announced a “Live in Saudi Arabia” initiative to strengthen the sense of belonging and instill in citizens the pride for their heritage. According to him, the initiative aims to enable a million students to visit sites across the country and get to know about it and know that Saudi Arabia did not arise by chance and was not suddenly built.

“Our grandfathers believed in the message of unity and they carried the banner of the greatest religion whose bright light has gone beyond and benefited the world at large,” Prince Sultan added.

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U.A.E., Kuwait Sign Pacts On Air Transport

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Apr 8 (NNN-WAM) – The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority, (GCAA) and Kuwait’s General Directorate of Civil Aviation, have signed agreements on air transport services.

The pacts were signed by GCAA director, Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, and chairman of Kuwait’s General Directorate of Civil Aviation, Fawaz Abdulaziz Al-Farah, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

They were made on the basis of open skies between the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, in order to cope with growing air and passenger traffic, and movement of goods between both countries.

Al Suwaidi said, the open skies agreement would serve the two countries further and keep pace with UAE carriers’ expansion plans. “It is important for UAE to have more air transport deals, to enhance the trade and tourism sectors,” he said.

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Egyptian Antiquities Seized In Australia Returned To Cairo

MELBOURNE, Australia, Apr 8 (NNN-MENA) – The Australian Government has returned a number of culturally significant antiquities to Egyptian authorities, in an official ceremony at the Embassy of Egypt in Canberra today (Wednesday).

This is the result of a shared commitment by the governments of Egypt and Australia to protect and preserve cultural objects, Australia’s Minister for the Arts and Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis said.

“The antiquities date back to significant periods in Egyptian history and were exported from Egypt, in breach of its national cultural laws,” Brandis said in a statement.

“This collection of antiquities includes many funerary objects, such as a wooden hand belonging to an anthropoid coffin, small statuettes known as shabtis, to serve the deceased in the afterlife, as well as a number of amulets, to protect the deceased.

“A Coptic textile fragment and large saucer lamp were also among the relics returned to the Egyptian authorities.”

The items were seized from an auction house and private residence in Australia, by the Ministry for the Arts and Australian Federal Police, at the request of Egyptian authorities.

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U.A.E. In Drive To Lure More Latin American Tourists

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Apr 6 (NNN-WAM) – The United Arab Emirates said, it is sending a delegation to the World Travel Market Latin America in Brazil, to lure more Latin American tourists, the state news agency WAM reported.

The official tourism body, TCA Abu Dhabi, said, the delegation will consist of the emirate’s leading hotels, destination management companies, tour operators, and the UAE’s national carrier, Etihad Airways.

Mubarak Al-Nuaimi, TCA director of promotions and overseas offices said, “Last year more than 10,000 Brazilians visited Abu Dhabi, an increase of 85 percent from the previous year, spending 36,401 nights in the emirate’s hotels and apartments, a 70 percent rise on the previous 12 months.”

It has seen impressive arrival growth from the region, especially since Etihad Airways launched non-stop daily flights from Sao Paolo to Abu Dhabi in June 2013.

“We offer excellent stop-over options for passengers looking to connect flights on their way to Asia and Australia or who may wish to spend a few days exploring Abu Dhabi.

Brazil and its neighbouring countries represent substantial growth potential for us,” added Al-Nuaimi.

According to TCA figures, Brazilian guests stayed on average 3.36 nights in Abu Dhabi’s 160 hotels and hotel apartments in 2014.

Also according to the TCA, Abu Dhabi welcomed over 3.494 million tourists in 2014, exceeding its target of 3.1 million, representing a 25 percent year-on-year increase.

Abu Dhabi’s major attractions are the six-star Emirates Palace hotel, the world’s first and only Ferrari World theme park, desert safari excursions and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the biggest mosques in the world.

The annual Etihad Airways Formula One Grand Prix, held in Nov, has also become a major tourism magnet since its launch in 2009.

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Oman Air Launches Flights To Goa

MUSCAT, Oman, Apr 7 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Air, the national carrier of the Sultanate, celebrated at Muscat International Airport today, at the launching of flights to Goa, thus increasing the number of its destinations to 49.

The inaugural ceremony was held under the auspices of Dr. Mohammed bin Nasser al-Za’abi, CEO of Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA).

Oman Air will launch four weekly flights (Muscat-Goa-Muscat), using Boeing 800-737, to meet the growing demand for this destination; one of the most popular destinations in the world.

Launching Goa destination comes within Oman Air’s ambitious programme, at the current period, during which the company’s fleets will be increased to 50, in the upcoming three years. The expansion will provide passengers with more options and more frequent flights.

Dr. Mohammed bin Nasser al-Za’abi, said that, the Goa route will help in attracting more European tourists to visit this area.

In a statement to reporters, he added that, the route will enhance economic, trade and tourism relations between the Sultanate and India.

In response to a question about facilities provided to passengers to Salalah, Dr. al-Za’abi said that, the operation of Salalah new airport, will take place before the Khareef season, and that the airport will be ready to receive flights operated by other carriers, such as Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, India Airline and Oman Air.

On his part, Paul Gregorowitsch, Oman Air’s CEO, said that, the Goa route is the 11th route operated by Oman Air to India.

He hoped that the route would help in increasing the number of passengers, as it is complementary to the flights coming from UK, France, Germany and Italy.

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LEAD STORY: Jakarta To Host 60th Anniversary Asia-Africa Conference April 19

AACC2015, Bandung – The 60th Asian-African Conference Commemoration is one of the most important moments and the first international event for the Indonesian government under the President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla. The event will be held on April 19-24, 2015 in Jakarta and Bandung under the theme “Strengthening South-South Cooperation to Promote World Peace and Prosperity”.

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

The government public relations coordinating board (Bakohumas) is a forum for coordination of public relations in accommodating aspirations, issues, and cross-sectoral information dissemination. The board was founded in 1971 and under the coordination of Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. It aims to improve the information flow and to overcome the information gap between the government agencies and the public,” said the Director General of Information and Public Communications Freddy H. Tulung as the Chairman of Bakohumas at the Government Public Relations Thematic Forum in Bandung on Thursday (4/9).

Mr. Tulung stated that the government must create reliable and effective governance–in the context of government public relations. Thus the government can establish public information management and services that benefit the society. As the frontline of information, public relation practitioners are expected to respond to changes with concrete actions and to bring positive impact to the institutions and the nation.

To enliven the AACC, Bakohumas will organize a thematic government public relations forum under the theme: “Government Public Relations’ Support and Participation to the 60th Asian-African Conference Commemoration and the 10th Anniversary of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership”. Through this event, the government public relations are expected to conduct information dissemination and the event’s agreements to all stakeholders. One of the efforts to maintain a good governance reputation is by fulfilling public right to know certain information and to encourage public participation in Asian-African Conference Commemoration.

The forum was attended by public relation practitioners who are members of national and local governmental public relations coordinating board. In this event, the participants are also involved in discussion and visit to Asia and Africa Museum.

NNN-Bernama reports: Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said the city is ready to host commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Asia-Africa Conference (AAC) on April 19-24. “Roads have been improved and security and traffic order will be strengthened,” Indonesia’s Antara news agency quotes Purnama as saying Monday.

At least 30 heads of state have confirmed their attendance at the event’s commemoration which will also take place in Bandung. Purnama said security will be stepped up especially around 18 hotels where AAC delegates will be staying.

Cultural and Tourism Affairs deputy governor Sylviana Murni said all preparations and facilities to hold the event have been organised. “The city administration, police and transportation officers will be deployed,” she added. A Senior Officials’ Meeting of Asian and African countries will be held on April 19, a Ministerial-Level Meeting on April 20 and Asia-Africa Business Summit on April 21 and 22.

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Five-Colored Agate From Garut For The First Ladies Of AACC Delegation

AACC2015, Bandung, 2015-04-10 – Mayor of Bandung Ridwan Kamil is preparing Pancawarna (five-colored) agate stone from Garut as the souvenir to be given to the delegates who will attend the Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of Asian-African Conference (AACC) on April 24, 2015 in Bandung.

A team from Garut regency has urged all agate stones craftsmen in Garut to finish the gemstones before AACC commenced. “In the remaining time, the team from Garut is sharing duties,” said Mr. Kamil during the visit of Oni Suwarman, Dicky Chandra—both are members of Regional Representatives Council of West Java, and Gemstone Festival Team at the Bandung Command Center on Thursday (4/9).

Mr. Suwarman visited Bandung Command Centre to facilitate Mr. Chandra from Gemstone Festival Team and Garut team to discuss Pancawarna agate stone as one of the souvenirs for AACC 2015 delegates.

“It was agreed that one of the souvenirs for the head of state is agate stone from Sukabumi king stones and for the First Ladies, is a pendant of Pancawarana agate stone from Garut,” said Mr. Kamil.

Mr. Suwarman said that these stones, from Lasminingrat Pancawarna Cooperative in Garut, will be the pride of West Java citizens. “The people of West Java will also take Pancawarna agate as a pride because the stone will be given to the First Ladies of AACC delegation as a souvenir,” he said.

He also told that Lasminingrat has donated the Pancawarna agate stone to be processed into 109 pieces of pendants in accordance to the number of countries invited to attend the AAC.

In line with Mr. Suwarman, Mr. Chandra said Lasminingrat Cooperative has donated the Pancawarna agate stone, hoping the stone will charm the tourist and lay a positive memory for the AACC participants.

“This is Indonesian form of caring to its fellow developing countries, to lay good memories through the local craftsmanship from Garut, that is Pancawarna agate stones,” said Mr. Chandra.

At the occasion, Mr. Chandra called him as “A Friend of Garut.” “Garut has been given a chance to involve in AACC. I thank you on behalf of the stone craftsmen,” he said.

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Iran, U.A.E. Become AIIB Prospective Founding Members

BEIJING, China, Apr 8 (NNN-WAM) – Iran and United Arab Emirates (UAE), have been approved as founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China’s Ministry of Finance announced.

The decision was made by all existing members, including China, France, Germany, India, Italy and the United Kingdom.

The total number of prospective founders has now increased to 35.

They are Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Luxembourg, the Maldives, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, the UAE, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The final number of founding members will be confirmed on Apr 15.

Founding members have the right to create governance and operating rules for the bank. Countries that apply to join after the Mar 31 deadline will have voting rights only, with less say in the rulemaking process.

The AIIB is expected to be established by the end of this year, with a mission to support infrastructure projects in Asian countries.

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A Uniform Halal Standard Vital To Attract More Market Players

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia April 6 (NNN-Bernama) — A uniform halal standard is vital to cater to the increased number of market participants in the industry not only from Muslim countries but non-Muslim countries as well.

Initially, halal used to be related to only the food consumed by Muslims that is free from pork and alcohol. However, today, the word halal has been given an extensive meaning and standard.

Speaking to Bernama on the sidelines of the recently-ended Malaysia International Halal Showcase 2015 (MIHAS), Shapers Malaysia Sdn Bhd Conference Director, Abdalhamid David Evans said the halal ecosystem under the Islamic economy has moved from just food to finance, travel, cosmetic and personal care.

“We are now moving into the entertainment, digital economy and modest fashion, creating an US$8 trillion market value,” he said.

Realising this, Abdalhamid has called on Muslim leaders to identify solutions in every mechanism with the halal development and certification and to start engaging all those thoughts with people around the world.

He said this was necessary to avoid confusion in the industry as there were different schools of Islamic thoughts.

“We do not want the confusion to give political impact among the multinational corporations, entrepreneurs and start-ups,” he said, adding that the industry should gets more popular among non-Muslim countries since there was a huge market potential to tap in the industry, he said.

It was reported that Dubai is striving to be the capital for halal or Islamic Economy in 2020.

“This is a market place where a good product would sell but honest transaction, correct business behaviour, correct description, as well as, the certification and accreditation are the challenges for the industry, he added.

The four-day MIHAS 2015 was held in Kuala Lumpur, involving international countries namely China, Algeria, Indonesia, Thailand and Qatar. It managed to secure a total sales of RM443.16 million (US$122.17 million) via its incoming buying mission, a one-day programme conducted in conjunction with Mihas.

MIHAS was organised by Shapers Malaysia, an agency under the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation.

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Saudi Arabia’s first ‘Cargo Village’ launched in Dammam

Wednesday 08 Apr 2015 – Dammam (IINA) – King Fahd International Airport (KFIA), one of the region’s fastest growing and leading international airports, on Tuesday officially unveiled its “Cargo Village”.

The launch event was presided over by Prince Saud Bin Naif, governor of the Eastern Province, in the presence of Suleiman Abdullah Al-Hamdan, president of the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), Royal Family members, top executives of several public departments and the top management of King Fahd International Airport. The Cargo Village is spread over half a million square meters. More than 70% of goods bound for the Gulf region is destined for the Kingdom and by facilitating operations the Cargo Village positions KFIA as a multi-modal shipment and clearance destination, directly serving the Eastern Province and the Kingdom. The new facility offers direct access to Saudi Arabia and bypasses the need for cargo to transship through neighboring countries.

Al Hamdan said: “We are delighted by the launch of the first cargo village in the Kingdom, and we believe that it will play a vital role in supporting the Saudi economy. KFIA’s Cargo Village offers ease of shipping and cargo services while serving as a regional hub for global companies. Most importantly the Cargo Village creates new economic and employment opportunities for the Eastern Province.”

For the planning and implementation of the Cargo Village, KFIA has worked in cooperation with Saudi Customs and Changi Airports International (CAI). The Cargo Village has been designed to the latest international standards and has been customized to maximize convenience for airlines and freight companies operating from KFIA. The Cargo Village guarantees express cargo delivery with reduced shipping times and increases cargo capacity, promising operating efficiencies for freight companies.

The DirectorGeneral of KFIA, Engineer Yousef Al-Dhahri, expressed pride in the launch, saying: “King Fahd International Airport is proud to present to Dammam, the Kingdom and the region this dynamic facility revolutionizing the way cargo is handled in the region. With our continued partnership with Changi Airports International and their efforts, we are on track to becoming one of the region’s leading aviation hubs serving both passenger and cargo traffic. We anticipate that we will soon be starting the next phase as the demand for facilities is expected to grow strongly.”

The Chief Executive Officer of CAI, Lim Liang Song, lauded the close working partnership among CAI, KFIA and Saudi Customs. He said: “We are proud to be a part of this partnership in bringing this innovative facility to Dammam. The Cargo Village will provide greater connectivity and cost efficiencies, and enhance KFIA’s position as a key regional cargo hub on the Eastern seaboard of the Kingdom.”

The two-year construction commenced in December 2012 and is now fully operational. The first of its kind for multimodal facilities in the Kingdom, the Cargo Village has attracted leading international and regional freight companies, such as DHL Express, NAQEL, SMSA Express, TNT and UPS to establish express cargo clearance facilities and offices at the King Fahd Cargo Village.

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Bradford Mosque in UK to launch new app about Islam

Thursday 09 Apr 2015 – Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK (IINA) – A Bradford Mosque in West Yorkshire, UK, is set to offer a new mobile app as the “perfect way” to teach Islam to members of the local community, Telegraph & Argus daily newspaper, reported.

The new software, which is described as a hybrid app, which means it, can be used on various mobile platforms, and its developers say it is the first of its kind in the UK, will be officially unveiled at an event at the Al-Jamia Suffa-Tul-Islam, also known as the Bradford Grand Mosque, in Little Horton on Friday.

The software has been designed to pull live content directly from the mosque, allowing people to stay up-to-date with events, religious teachings, and daily prayers.

The app brings together elements including the Holy Qur’an, and poetry in praise of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

Developers said it was built using the latest web and mobile application technologies, putting it at “the forefront of the mobile software revolution.”

Though it is aimed at the local Muslim community, members of the mosque on Horton Park Avenue also hope it will provide a “great platform” for non-Muslims to engage with Islam as a religion and learn about its teachings.

App developer Ataa-ur-Rahman said it was a “fantastic” way to access religious knowledge, which brought a new dimension of digital technology to the Muslim community.

“The app is a great introduction to the new digital platform,” he added.

“Nearly half of the population now embraces modern technology, and as a mosque we always try to work with communities and find effective ways of communicating with them.

“This app is the perfect way to teach people our religion, the design has had a lot of local input and we have been developing and trailing this app for over a year now.”

A team of volunteers from the Grand Mosque, which its members state is the largest in the UK came together last year to start work on the app, and Mohammad Riaz, the Mosque’s chairman, said it would be a “great addition for Bradford.”

“We are launching the app in a small conference on Friday, as we want to introduce people to it, as well as getting them to download the app for use on a daily basis.”

“We are showing people what our religion is about through modern technology,” he said.

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Gabon will host 2017 Africa Cup of Nations

Thursday 09 Apr 2015 – Cairo (IINA) – Gabon was selected on Wednesday as the host of Africa Cup of Nations 2017 after beating rival bids from Algeria and Ghana in a vote by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee at a meeting in Cairo.

Gabon replaces Libya, the original host that withdrew from staging the tournament last year due to the civil war which brought all sporting activities in the country to a halt.

It will be the second time that the Gabon will stage the tournament after co-hosting the 2012 edition with neighbors Equatorial Guinea.

It noteworthy that in September 2014, CAF President Issa Hayatou announced at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that Cameroon would host the tournament in 2019, Ivory Coast in 2021 and Guinea in 2023.

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Yemeni girl determined to become New York’s first female Muslim firefighter

Thursday 09 Apr 2015 – New York, (IINA) – An eighteen-year-old Muslim girl of Yemeni descent living in America is determined to become a New York City firefighter, media sources reported.

Despite the many physical challenges she could face, Ahlam Ahmed, is committed to join the force and determined to become the first New York female Muslim firefighter.

Ahmed was among the dozens of aspiring first responders who attended the inaugural FDNY Women’s History Month Female Outreach Event, held on Randalls Island last Saturday.

Ahmed noted that she was concerned when she learned there were no Muslim female firefighters in the ranks. Greater concern was attributed to the uniform and dress code as Ahmed always likes to be covered, she revealed.

Of the long hours of training and the strenuous exercises that Ahmed would undergo to join the ranks of FDNY, she said she was determined to continue, as she wants to save the lives of people.

It is noteworthy that many New Yorker’s took to Twitter in support of the young teen and her aspirations to become New York’s first Muslim firefighter.

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73 percent of Haram Mosque expansion work complete

Sunday 05 Apr 2015 – Makkah (IINA) – Construction work at the Grand Mosque in Makkah is in full swing and the projects are expected to be completed before the holy month of Ramadan.

The projects administration director, Sultan bin Aati Al-Qurashi, said 73 percent of the work has been completed. The mega projects, ordered by the late King Abdullah, include expansion of the Grand Mosque, which is in the third and final stage. He said the work is being carried out in coordination with Abdulrahman Al-Sudias, chief of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.

Al-Qurashi said the projects were in three stages and have been divided into three years. The first one, launched on Nov. 29, 2012, includes Al-Safa to Al-Fatah Gate, the second from Al-Fatah Gate to Al-Umrah Gate and the third stage from the King Fahd Gate to Al-Safa. Al Qurashi said painting and decoration works already started in the beginning of this year.

The works also include a mezzanine floor designed for push-chairs for those with special needs, he said. A light base was established at the Al-Umrah Gate with columns and domes on the Abbasid porch on the northern side, Al-Qurashi added.

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IMF endorses Islamic finance, urges better enforcement of rules

Wednesday 08 Apr 2015 – Washington (IINA) – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has endorsed the principles of Islamic finance, saying it could prove safer than conventional finance, but the global financial body warned Islamic bankers that they must tighten rules and follow them more consistently, Reuters reported.

A report released by the IMF this week showed the lender’s growing interest in Islamic banking, which is expanding in much of the world. Last October, the IMF launched discussions with an external advisory group of Islamic finance experts and industry bodies.

The IMF’s report noted that Islamic banking forbids pure monetary speculation and stresses that deals should be based on real economic activity, and therefore it could pose less risk than conventional banking to the stability of financial systems.

This claim has long been made by proponents of Islamic finance seeking to drum up business; the IMF’s endorsement is likely to add weight to their arguments. “Islamic finance may…help promote macroeconomic and financial stability. The principles of risk-sharing and asset-based financing can help promote better risk management by both financial institutions and their customers, as well as discourage credit booms,” the IMF said.

Christopher Towe, deputy director at the IMF’s monetary and capital markets department, said in a conference call that there were worrying differences in regulators’ handling of Islamic finance, particularly where the industry was relatively young.

The IMF will continue working in Islamic finance, conducting research and providing technical assistance to member countries, Towe said. The lender’s spring meetings in Washington next week will include a seminar on Islamic finance, and it plans a global conference on the subject in November alongside Kuwaiti authorities.

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130 companies operating in Malaysia’s halal industrial parks

Wednesday 08 Apr 2015 – Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – Some 130 companies are now operating at halal industrial parks in Malaysia with a total investment of RM8.5 billion, BERNAMA reported.

International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said the parks had generated more than 5,000 employment opportunities for the local population in various industries.

He said the industries included food, cosmetics, ingredients, pharmaceuticals and livestock. “There are 21 halal industrial parks in the country, of which 19 are managed by the federal government and state governments, while two are owned by the private sector,” Mustapa said in a written reply to Su Keong Siong of the Democratic Action Party (DAP-Ipoh Timur) at the Malaysian parliament (Dewan Rakyat) Tuesday.

He added that 13 halal industrial parks had received the HALMAS certification from the Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) which entitled them to receive various tax incentives.

The HALMAS status is an acknowledgement for excellence in quality, integrity and safety.

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Passenger traffic at Turkey’s airports up 9.5 pct in March

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – The number of passengers taking domestic flights in Turkey grew 9.5 percent in March year-on-year, the General Directorate of the State Airports Authority said in a statement on April 8.

The number on international flights grew 9.3 percent compared with the same month a year ago.

The total number of domestic passengers for the month was 7.1 million and the number of international passengers reached 4.8 million, the authority said.

The number of domestic flights increased 5.7 percent, to more than 62,234, while the number of international flights grew 8.4 percent, to more than 39,781.

Turkish airports served nearly 130,000 planes, an increase of 9.4 percent compared with 117,526 planes in March 2014, including the number of over-flights.

Among the busiest airports in Turkey, Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport remains in the top spot with 4.7 million passengers.

Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Istanbul’s main air hub on the Asian side of the city, became second with 2 million passengers. Istanbul’s airports were used by 56 percent of all domestic and international flight passengers (12 million) in March.

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Silk Road once a utopia, now a reality: Former Romanian president

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The revival of the Silk Road project might have been a utopia when it was initiated in the 1990s, but the dream is now being realized, according to former Romanian President Emil Constantinescu.

“In that time the Silk Road was a utopia, now it is a reality; pragmatically a reality,” Constantinescu told the Hürriyet Daily News during his visit to the 18th Eurasian Economic Summit organized by the Marmara Group Foundation.

Constantinescu said the idea of the revival of the Silk Road, the historic corridor linking Europe and Asia, especially China, was initiated by the then-president of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, in the mid-1990s.

Stating that Shevardnadze had brought together former presidents of five countries, Süleyman Demiral from Turkey, Haydar Aliyev form Azerbaijan, Nursultan Nazarbayev from Kazakhstan and himself from Romania to revive the Silk Road, Constantinescu said that in order to implement the idea, they had to think globally and act locally.

“Why? If we only build bilateral relations and do not take into consideration regional relations, then it is a failure,” he said, adding that Turkey and Romania were the hub countries not only of the region but also in a global context.

Constantinescu, who delivered a speech titled “Cultural diplomacy and peace in the globalized world” during a special session of the summit, the “Sagacious Men Session” consisting of 13 former presidents from the Eurasian region, said Romania and Turkey were two bridging countries that brought together different parts of the world, making them significant for the wider trans-Eurasian region.

Stating that Romania had a double identity, as the Wallachia region of Romania was a part of the east and Transylvania was a “typical region from central Europe,” the former president said Romania’s location was important in its relations with Turkey.

“Romania is like a bridge between the eastern economy, philosophy, mentality, and Central, Western Europe. This is important in our relation with Turkey,” said Constantinescu, while claiming that Turkey’s bridging role between the European and Asian continents defined its importance for Europe.

Stating that although Romania had fought many wars against the Ottoman Empire, Constantinescu said Romanians had great trust in Turks because the latter had respected their words and agreements. Defining this trust as a “curiosity of history,” the former president said Turkish investors could find a friendly atmosphere in Romania to do serious business.

Constantinescu said he supported the idea of the Eurasian Economic Summit as it was a visionary approach to continue relations between the countries of Central Europe and Central Asia, within which Turkey was located in the middle. “Turkey has a pivotal role,” he said.

The Eurasian Economic Summits are annually organized with the active participation of national and international decision makers and experts in the fields of economy, politics, energy, sociology and security, with an aim to bring the countries’ businessmen, politicians and academics together.

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Basilica in Lake İznik to become underwater museum

BURSA – Doğan News Agency – The remains of a nearly 1,600-year-old basilica that was discovered at the beginning of last year under Lake İznik in the northwestern province of Bursa is now set to become an underwater museum.

The underwater museum project, approved by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, will be carried out by the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality, the sponsor of the project.

Uludağ University Head of Archaeology Department Professor Mustafa Şahin said the basilica had been discovered while photographing the city from the air to make an inventory of historical and cultural artifacts.

Archaeologists, historians and art historians estimate that the structure collapsed during an earthquake that occurred in the region in 740. They determined that it was built in hon-or of St. Neophytos, who was among the saints and devout Christians who were martyred during the time of Roman emperors Diocletian and Galerius, when bans and punishments against Christians were common. According to resources, Neophytos was a saint who was killed by Roman soldiers in A.D. 303, 10 years before the Edict of Milan, a proclamation that permanently established religious toleration for Christianity within the Roman Empire.

Şahin said the church was established with his name in the place where he was killed. The date of the church construction was not precisely determined but it could have been built after 313, according to Şahin.

“There is one more date, which is important for us. Most probably, it could have been built in 325 after the first council meeting in İznik. In any case, we think that the church was built in the 4th century or a further date. It is interesting that we have gravures from the Middle Ages depicting this killing. We see Neophytos being killed on the lake coast,” he said, adding that he was a beloved saint.

According to ancient resources, Christians definitely stopped by İznik in the Middle Ages while making their pilgrimage to visit the church. “Rumor has it that people in İznik were asking for help from the body of Neophytos when they were in difficulty,” he said.

Surface and underwater works have been made for the basilica to serve tourism. A team made up of the Orcan Vessel Rescue and Maritime Construction, along with Geomarine Land and Marine Research company, have started 10-day surface surveys of the basilica underwater.

Orcan Vessel Rescue and Maritime Construction official Tuğrul Orcan said they were currently conducting preliminary works on the area in preparation for converting the area into a maritime museum.

“The project design will be the next stage. We are also working to find out if there are other archaeological remains in the area of the basilica. The seismic values and bathymetry of the area will be measured and building survey will be made,” he said.

The discovery of the basilica was named as one of top 10 discoveries of 2014 by the Archaeological Institute of America.

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Turkey eyes top place on Blue Flag beach list

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey is aiming to be the world leader in the number of Blue Flag beaches as part of its 2023 targets to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.

“Blue Flag” is an exclusive eco-label awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) to beaches and marinas that meet certain criteria, such as water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management and safety.

“We are ranked third in the world after Spain and Greece, regarding best-protected beaches,” Davutoğlu said at a mass inauguration ceremony of environment and infrastructure projects on April 9, worth some 500 million Turkish Liras ($193 million), by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization at Ankara’s ATO Congresium.

According to the 2014 list, Turkey was third, with 383 beaches and 21 marinas awarded the Blue Flag, from a total of 70 countries. Spain topped the list with 573 beaches and Greece came in second with 407.

The prime minister also pointed to other important environmental developments during the 13-year rule of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Davutoğlu said they planted 3.5 billion trees equating to some 4 million hectares of forests.

He said the number of solid waste storage facilities had gone from 15 in 2003 to 79 in 2014.

“We increased the number of waste water treatment facilities six-fold in 13 years,” he added.

Davutoğlu also mentioned the country’s 186 air quality control stations, a number they hoped to increase to 330 by 2023.

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Turkey embarks on restoration efforts of Armenian churches

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Ankara has embarked on a series of restoration projects on Armenian churches in Turkey, amid criticism that the country’s remaining Armenian cultural and historical heritage not destroyed during World War I has been left to ruin.

The restorations are part of the government’s bid to show that it is improving the rights of Turkey’s Armenian community. For some observers, the past year’s intensified restoration efforts of about a dozen churches throughout the country are no doubt related to the upcoming 100th commemoration of the World War I killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

The government’s efforts to reconcile with Turkey’s small Armenian community dates back a few years, with the reopening of the Akdamar (Akhtamar) Church near the southeastern city of Van. The 10th-century Church of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van was reopened in 2007 as a museum.

Ankara spent 2 million Turkish Liras on extensive restorations of the church, and in 2010 a religious ceremony was held there for the first time in 95 years.

In addition, the word “Armenian” could not be found anywhere on the church’s original information signboard, but it was renewed last year in order to emphasize that the church was a part of Armenian heritage in Anatolia.

Similar changes are expected to be made during the renewal of other signboards where “Armenian” has been omitted.

Today, the Armenian community in Turkey, which numbers around 70,000, is almost entirely concentrated in Istanbul.

In a historic first, the Turkish government last year offered condolences for the mass killings of Armenians in 1915, which then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said had “inhumane consequences,” expressing hope that those who had died were now at peace.

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Number of Russian tourists visiting Antalya decreases 41 percent

ANTALYA – Hurriyet Daily News – The number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Antalya decreased by 41 percent in the first two months of the year, much higher than the overall decrease in visitors to the province of 2.9 percent, according to data from the Association of Mediterranean Tourism and Hoteliers of Turkey (AKTOB).

The dramatic decrease in the number of Russian tourists compared to last year is mainly thought to be a result of the economic problems in Russia.

Some 234,000 tourists visited Antalya in January and February this year, a 2.9 percent decrease from the same period of the previous year, the AKTOB said by a written statement on March 4.

The number of Russian tourists visiting the city decreased from 36,000 in the first two months of 2014 to 21,000 in the same period this year, the association said.

However, the number of German tourists in Antalya increased to 121,000 in the first two months of the year from around 104,000 last year.

The number of Dutch tourists visiting Antalya also increased by 7.8 percent, while the number of British tourists decreased by 17 percent, according to the data.

The biggest increase was seen in the number of tourists from Italy, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium and Iran.

The biggest decrease was seen in the number of tourists from France, Denmark, Israel, Ukraine and Austria, in addition to Russia and Britain, stated the report.

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Turkish tourism sector expects ‘last minute’ reservations by Russian tourists

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – Turkish tourism representatives believe it is still possible for Turkey to attract more Russian tourists making “last minute” reservations, amid a dramatic slowdown in Russian tourists coming to the country.

“We believe Russian tourists will decide to visit Turkey at the last minute … We expect the rise of Russian touristic trip cancellations will gradually end and instead we will see a rise in reservations from Russia,” said a hopeful statement issued by the Touristic Hoteliers and Investors Association (TUROB).

The recent economic crisis in Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union has continued to prove detrimental for the Turkish tourism sector.

According to data from the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey declined to 92,000 in the first two months of 2015, marking a 26 percent drop from the same period in 2014. This trend has also continued through March.

Many tour operators representing the Russian market are now asking for larger discounts in hotel room prices in Turkish resorts.

“It is highly possible that we will see a rise in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey in 2015 and 2016 … But a healthy balance between price and quality is of great importance for the tourism sector. There might be irreversible losses in service standards if prices are cut too much,” the TUROB statement added.

The statement also emphasized that the TUROB and the Turkish government should focus on the “quality of the tourism,” rather than just the numbers.

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Antalya eyes bigger share of global golf market

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s Western Mediterranean Development Agency (BAKA) and Turkish Airlines have initiated a project to enable the Turkish province of Antalya to take a bigger share in the world golf market by inviting representatives from France’s golf travel agencies to visit the resort town of Belek’s golf courses.

A team has been established by BAKA to foster sports tourism in Antalya, with team members focused on exploring sports tourism potentials abroad, said BAKA Sport Tourism Coordinator Osman Erol at a press conference on April 10.

“In this vein, we invited the gold travel agency representatives from France in order to introduce our hotels and golf courses,” he said.

France has more than 1 million licensed golfers, and according to Erol, “plays a big role in the world of golf.”

His aim is to introduce Belek, previously selected as the best European golf destination by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO), in addition to other places. He hopes the visits will be the mark of a “great beginning.”

A high level executive of France’s Golfexpedition Voyages Do’c, Maud Morel, said French golfers usually prefer golf courses in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Tunisia, as they are easy places to visit.

“Turkey needs to make big promotional campaigns of its golf courses to lure French golfers and start direct flights from France to Antalya,” Morel said, adding Turkey may be a good alternative to the oft-visited Morocco and Tunisia.

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Ertuğrul exhibition opens in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The Istanbul Naval Museum is hosting a new exhibition, displaying more than 500 of 8,300 items that have been unearthed during excavation works on the Ertuğrul Frigate, an Ottoman military ship that sank off Japan in 1890.

The exhibition, which opened on April 2, displays pieces of the Ertuğrul frigate, ship components, pieces of dinner sets and belongings of officers.

The Ertuğrul was sent by Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II to give gifts to the Japanese emperor but sank on Sept. 16, 1890, after encountering a typhoon off the coast of Wakayama Prefecture in the Pacific Ocean. The accident resulted in the loss of 533 sailors.

Salvage works started six years ago on the frigate. The restoration and conservation of 500 pieces was completed at the Underwater Archaeology Institute in the southwestern province of Muğla’s Bodrum district.

The head of the excavations, Tufan Turanlı, said the Ertuğrul frigate had returned to its homeland, 125 years after its ill-fated voyage.

“The frigate, which went to Japan with a mission of friendship, broke into pieces on the rocks of Oshima Island and sank. The personal belongings of our officers and soldiers that we have removed from the frigate during many years of work are being displayed in the exhibition. It is very important to revive the memories of our officers and for the relations of both countries,” Turanlı said.

“Visitors to the exhibition will feel the self-devotion of those officers in the frigate, which is the keystone of Turkish-Japanese relations,” Tufanlı said.

He said most of the Ertuğrul frigate’s items were still in the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Institute Laboratory and that other items were under restoration and conservation in the Ertuğrul Frigate Institute.

The Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Institute Director Tuba Ekmekçi said they had so far conducted conservation and restoration work on thousands of years of sunken wrecks in the Aegean and Mediterranean.

“But for the first time we have cleaned and restored the belongings of a Turkish frigate and Turkish soldiers for the exhibition. This made us so proud and excited. I am sure the rescued items from the Ertuğrul frigate that have been prepared in Bodrum will receive great attention in the exhibition. Also, the underwater images of the items in the exhibition will be shown in Turkey and Japan in November 2015. Significant pieces in the film on the Ertuğrul frigate will also be displayed in the exhibition,” she said.

The main sponsor of the exhibition is the Mersin Naval Trade Chamber and Turkish Airlines, while the project was made possible by the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum.

The opening of the event drew the commander of the Turkish Naval Forces, Adm. Bülent Bostanoğlu, Japanese Ambassador to Ankara Yutaka Yokoi and Naval Museum Commander Col. İlyas Güntaş and other guests.

The exhibition will continue until the end of the year.

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Modern calligraphy at Istanbul’s New Mosque

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – A “hat” calligraphy art exhibition has been opened at the Hünkar Mansion in Istanbul’s New Mosque, which was built in 1665.

Calligrapher Bilal Akkaya, who hybridized classic and modern forms of “hat,” said the title of the ongoing exhibition, “Lord of Roses,” refers to Prophet Muhammad during the week to celebrate his birthday.

“The rose was a symbol for our Prophet in classic Turkish literature,” Akkaya told the Anadolu Agency on April 9, noting there were 40 original works in the exhibition.

“Gold powder and the ‘zerendud’ technique have been used in these works. We would like to see all art lovers visiting this exhibition to see a different dimension of art,” he said.

The exhibition, which was inaugurated by Istanbul Chamber of Commerce President İbrahim Çağlar, will be open until April 25.

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Biman resumes full-blown domestic operations after three-year gap

DHAKA, April 6, 2015 (BSS)- Biman, Bangladesh Airlines, today resumed its full-blown domestic operation after three years with its newly procured Dash8 Q400s aircraft on Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka route.

The national flag carrier took lease two Dash8 Q400s – “Meghdut” and “Mayurpangkhi”, named by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for five years to resume its domestic operations.

The Prime Minister opened the two aircraft through a colourful function at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport yesterday.

Today (April 6) Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon inaugurated the Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka flight. He was on board the flight that took off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 11.15am.

Dignitaries in Cox’s bazaar district received the inaugural flight in a festive mood where the minister cut the ribbon marking the occasion.

In Cox’s Bazar, Menon said the present government is committed to turn Biman into a profitable entity. The national flag carrier is in the profit for last seven months, he added.

The minister expressed hope that the resumption of Dhaka-Cox’s Bazaar-Dhaka flight will give a boost to business of the country’s most exciting tourist spot.

Menon said the domestic flight operation of Biman will face fresh competition from other operators in the sector and so it should ensure good services to the passengers.

On the demand for reducing the ticket fare of Biman, the Minister assured that his ministry will reduce the airfare phase by phase.

Biman operated four domestic flights – Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka, Dhaka-Chittagong-Dhaka, Dhaka-Sylhet-Dhaka and Dhaka-Jessore-Dhaka- today with its newly procured aircraft.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Adul Muhith, Social Welfare Minister Syed Mohsin Ali and State Minister for Finance Ministry M A Mannan were on board with Menon in the inaugural Dhaka-Sylhet-Dhaka flight.

Biman will resume its Rajshahi, Syedpur and Barisal flights with the two aircraft tomorrow.

The two newly procured aircraft arrived at the Hazrat Shahjalal

International Airport on Friday. The equipment in Biman’s fleet now stands at 12 with the acquisition of these two Dash 8-Q400s.

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

With the two aircraft, Biman will operate six flights to Cox’s Bazar, five to Jessore, three to both Rajshahi and Syedpur and two to Barisal every week.

The operation will add up to 25 additional frequencies per week on Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet routes. The total number of seats will increase by almost 80 percent weekly to a considerable 14,010, the sources 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, they added.

Due to shortage of planes, Biman suspended operations on four of the seven domestic routes in 2007. The last route Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar was shut down in June 2012. After that the airlines carried passengers to and from Sylhet and Chittagong by its international flights.

Currently, four private local airlines — United, Regent, Novoair and US-Bangla -fly mainly on four domestic routes: Dhaka-Chittagong, Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar, Dhaka-Sylhet and Dhaka-Jessore.

The Dhaka-Chittagong route draws the highest volume of traffic followed by Dhaka-Jessore. At present, 50,000-55,000 passengers fly within the country a month, with Dhaka-Chittagong accounting for 70 percent.

In 2014, some 680,420 people travelled within the country by air, up by 5 percent year-on-year basis, according to data from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB).

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Biman launches Rajshahi-Dhaka flight operation

RAJSHAHI, April 7, 2015 (BSS)- In the wake of long-lasting demand, Bangladesh Biman (BB) re-launched the Rajshahi-Dhaka air-flight operation today after a gap of more than eight years.

Due to shortage of planes, Biman had suspended operations on the domestic route on February 20, 2007.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, MP, inaugurated the airline operation at Shah Mukhdum Airport here this afternoon as the chief guest.

State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, and Fazley Hossain Badsha, MP, were present on the occasion as special guests with AK Barua, District Manager of BB, in the chair.

Speaking on the occasion, Menon said the people of Rajshahi had been demanding flight operation on the route for long. He himself also committed to fulfill the demand repeatedly. Finally, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina contributed a lot to materialize the demand, he added.

He said the present government has taken a number of measures including procuring new aircrafts and modernizing the management of the airlines for turning Biman into a profitable one.

The national flag carrier has returned to its profit track earning Taka 271.44 crore in six months till January this year, he added.

Noting that Biman is doing well now, the minister asked the Biman workers for increasing the quality of ground handling to get rid of complaints from passengers in this regard.

From now on, the flight will carry passengers on the route three days— Sunday, Tuesday and Friday— every week and the fair has been fixed at Taka 2,700 per passenger, the airport sources said.

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Boosting Bangladeshi yarn production can revitalize silk sector

RAJSHAHI, April 8, 2015 (BSS) – Boosting production of local yarn can help revitalizing the silk sector to regain its lost legacy alongside meeting up the existing local demands, sericulture and silk related experts and professional here said.

They viewed that the local consumption could be met up through domestic outputs after the best uses of the existing natural resources and there is no doubt in this regard.

Talking to BSS here Alhaz Sadar Ali, pioneer silk industry owner in Rajshahi, stated that the glorious sector has been facing an embarrassing position at present due to abnormal price hike of imported China silk yarn and abnormal declining of its local production.

He highlighted various aspects of the silk sector and its contribution to the national and local economy.

Importance should be given on how to boost up the grassroots yarn production through proper utilizing the existing natural and other infrastructural resources side by side with minimizing the existing obstacles.

Silk industrialist Liakat Ali said the price of China silk was Taka 2,250 per kilogram couple of years ago but the current price has gone up at least three to four times more at present and that is beyond capacity of many of the silk manufacturers.

Not only that, he apprehended that the price will go up further. By itself, China is manufacturing cloth through stopping silk yarn export, he added.

In this adverse situation, Liakat Ali revealed that there is no alternative to enhance local production to protect the dignified sector from degradation.

He recalled that the local production had been devastated after 1991 when the businessmen and non-businessmen had started importing silk taking advantages of the free market policy.

In this regard, he mentioned that over 1,200 tonnes of silk yarns were imported while the local demand was hardly 350 tonnes per year at that time forcing many of the professional cocoon farmers leaving their ancestral profession being deprived of getting price of their produced yarn.

Liakat Ali opined that the sector needs an urgent initiative to retain the skilled labourers especially the realers, weavers and printers in the profession to protect the sector as a whole.

Meanwhile, Golam Mourtoza, Chief Marketing Officer of Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board, said the country produces aound 35-40 metric tons of yarns against the annual demand of around 300 tonnes at present.

He said the demand of local yarn has started rising due to price hike of imported silk and expected that the cocoon rearers would become interested to enhance their production if they get reasonable price of their produce.

“We have no alternative to regain the sector to protect its around six lakh people from degradation,” Mourtoza said.

He added that importance should be given on providing necessary support and inputs like disinfectant eggs, high yielding mulberry plants, technical support and soft loan for construction of rearing house along with ensuring sound marketing facilities to the rearers.

Apart from this, he said sericulture, a labor- intensive agro- based industry, is ideally suited to the socio-economic condition of the country and the sector cover both agriculture and industry.

Referring to various positive aspects of the sector he also said promotion and expansion of sericulture throughout the country could contribute a lot to eradicate the acute poverty of the hardcore people of the rural Bangladesh.

As a cottage industry, all family members can work and earn supplementary income in sericulture and it facilitate four to five crops in a year and ensure more income requiring less investment and training.

Not only this, mulberry, the only food plant of silkworm can be raised in any cultivable and non- cultivable land ensures leaf supply for about 30 to 35 years.

Apart from cocoon production, fuel, manure, poultry feed and fodder can be made available through sericulture activity, he added.

He hoped that all these prospects could be materialized if the private entrepreneurs come forward towards helping the poor and marginal farmers for their betterment.

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New plan for making Biman profitable

DHAKA, April 8, 2015 (BSS) – The national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines has formulated a fresh profit plan by increasing flight frequency to its revenue making routes and suspending operation on loss-making routes as well as expanding its network to regional destinations.

“We have been mandated by the government to turn the airlines into a profit making entity and for that we are formulating a fresh plan,” the newly appointed Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kyle Haywood, a British Citizen, told a press conference in his first appearance to journalists at Balaka Bhaban here.

He said the passenger revenue of Biman has already increased by 38 percent more compared to the preceding years while the 15 percent increased trend of Cargo volume of the airline has continued.

Haywood said flights on different high load factor routes including Dhaka to Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Singapore will be increased by the year.

The number of weekly flights on Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur route has been increased seven to 10 on Dhaka-Kolkata increased seven to 14. “I would like to operate at least one flight everyday to Bangkok and Singapore,” he said.

Noting that two brand new Boeing 737 aircraft will be added to Biman’s fleet by this year, Haywood said after getting those, Biman will launch flights to several new routes to Guangzhou of China, Hong Kong, Colombo, Male and one or two destinations in Far East. “We have planning to be connected with all major cities of the region,” he added.

He said Biman has decided to suspend its Dhaka-Rome-Dhaka route this month as it has been marked as the most loss making route of the airline.

With the goal of making Biman into reliable airlines, he said the average age of Biman’s fleet has been reduced to 10.39 years in 2014 that was 24.7 years in 2010.

“After adding two brand new Boeing 737 this year the average age of the fleet will be 7.9 years which is comparable to any reputed airline across the globe,” he added.

The new MD has ruled out any possibility to resume much-talked Dhaka-New York-Dhaka flight by this year. In one side the regulatory issues to fly over Atlanta is yet to be resolved with Federal Aviation Association (FAA), on other side the Dhaka-New York flight will not be profitable for Biman, he said.

While drawing attention to political commitment of the present government about Dhaka-New York flight, the British Managing Director said there are two factors – strategic and financial – strategically Biman needs to operate the route but financially it should not, he said.

About the recent resumption of domestic operation of Biman, Haywood said the two Dash-Q8 aircraft, manufactured in 2011, has been leased after fulfilling all the compliances.

Terming technical fault to one of the new aircraft, found on the first day of operation, is totally unfortunate but normal in aviation operation, Haywood said “It can happen anytime. Presently, the domestic flights to seven destinations are being operated soundly with due expectations.

In replying to a query about measures taken to check gold smuggling, Haywood said he has already sent a security team to Dubai as it is the most common spot from where gold are being smuggled.

He said Biman has launched a special security check for passengers as well as ground staffs including cleaners and their cleaning gears in Dubai to check smuggling using the Biman’s aircraft.

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Govt to make tourism calendar targeting 2016 : Menon

DHAKA, April 9, 2015 (BSS)- Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today said the government will make year calendar incorporating various tourism activities to attract more foreign and domestic tourists ahead of 2016, that was earlier declared tourism year.

“We are planning massive programmes targeting the tourism year. We are even planning to hold a regional tourism conference here involving World Tourism Organization (WTO) to create enthusiasm among the foreign tourists to visit Bangladesh,” he said when inaugurating an international tourism fair in the capital.

Recently, the government declared the year 2016 as the “Tourism Year” with the aim of increasing numbers of foreign tourists to 10 lakh from the current nearly 5 lakh per year.

The minister said presently contribution of tourism sector to the country’s GDP is only 2 percent. “But, if we can work with proper planning, the contribution of tourism to GDP can exceed that of RMG sector”, he said.

Menon admitted that Bangladesh is yet to become an attractive tourism destination as desired despite having immense potentials. Biman Bangladesh Airlines is yet to declare any such package for those foreign tourists who are interested to visit Bangladesh, he said.

The minister said besides the untapped natural beauty, the country’s glorious history, rich culture and traditional crafts are all can be the ingredients of tourist attractions.

The government is working to develop more tourist spots side by side with the existing ones like Cox’s Bazar, Kuakata and the Sundarbans.

The travel and tourism publications and The Bangladesh Monitor organized the international fair titled “Dhaka Travel Mart- 2015” at the Ball Room of Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel.

Bangladesh Tourism Board, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation and Biman Bangladesh Airlines are supporting the event that is being organized for the 12th time in the capital.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khurshed Alam Chowdhury, Editor of The Bangladesh Monitor Kazi Wahidul Alam, and Managing Director and CEO of Biman Kyle Haywood also spoke on the occasion.

A total of 50 organisations from Bangladesh and abroad are taking part in the mart, which includes National Tourism Organisations (NTOs), airlines, tour operators, hotels, resorts, travel trade bodies, health care service providers and financial and educational Institutions.

The participating organisations are offering special discount airfares, tour packages and others.

Visitors can visit the fair from 10 am to 8 pm on all three days paying an entry fee of Taka 25.

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43 countries to participate in new Asia-Africa Youth Conference

6 April 2015 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Representatives from 43 countries will participate in New Asia-Africa Youth Conference Plus 2015 to be held in Bandung, West Java, on April 23, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Asia-Africa Conference (AAC).

All southeast Asian countries will take part in the conference, Tan Taufik Lubis of the conferences organizing committee, said here recently.

Tan Taufik, who is concurrently president of the Indonesian Youths Islamic Conference Organization, explained the word “Plus” refers to the fact that countries outside Asian and African continents have also been invited to join the conference.

“We also invite youths from Europe, America and Australia, in addition to those from Asia and Africa” he noted.

The conference will discuss the latest global issues and be highlighted with a cultural and art performance by some delegates.

The youths conference will be organized in the campus of Islamic State University of Sunan Gunung Djati, Hotel Savoy Homann and Merdeka Building, in Bandung.

Indonesia will host the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Asia-Africa Conference (AAC) in Jakarta and Bandung, on April 19-24, 2015.

So far, at least 30 heads of state and government have confirmed their attendance.

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France interested in developing Makassar

8 April 2015 Makassar (ANTARA News) – France has expressed interest in developing South Sulawesis capital city Makassar.

Several of its businesspeople met with Makassar Mayor Moh Ramdhan Pomanto to discuss various infrastructure development possibilities.

“Makassar has recorded the highest development in every sector, thus we have expressed our special interest in the Makassar mayors program for sustainable development,” French Ambassador to Indonesia Corrine Breuze said here on Wednesday.

According to Corrine, among other metropolitan cities in Indonesia, Makassars economic growth had been advanced and stable during the last decade.

The Ambassador remarked that among other cities in Southeast Asia, Makassars economic growth has been advancing. The development of the city has been dynamic and in line with the program for the region.

Corrine and several French businesspeople proposed cooperation in a number of fields, including mass transportation, sanitation and spatial management, infrastructure development, and green energy.

“We have proposed cooperation in a lot of sectors. I hope the Mayor will consider our proposals,” Corrine added.

Additionally, Mayor Ramdhan pointed out that the city administration has a plan to develop Makassar as a safe and secure city for all people.

Ramdhan observed that besides the French cooperation proposals, there have been several other infrastructure developments in Makassar.

The mayor revealed the city administration has been coordinating with a Japanese corporation for planning the development of its mass transportation sector.

However, Ramdhan stated, French corporations can also participate in the planning of the citys mass transportation sector.

Ramdhan added the city administration will select a cooperation proposal that can provide cheaper and profitable value.

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Kazakhstan can act as trade hub for Indonesia: Official

8 April 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia believes that Kazakhstan can serve as a potential gateway to expand the export of its commodities to non-traditional markets in Central Asia, a top official of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Speaking at a seminar on “Indonesian Economic Diplomacy in Central Asia” here on Wednesday, Hery Saripudin of the Research and Development Policy Affairs division of the ministry stated that Indonesia needs to increase its trade volume with several Central Asian countries, especially Kazakhstan due to its strong economy.

The World Bank classified Kazakhstan as one of the upper middle-income countries with a GDP of US$231.9 billion in 2013, he pointed out.

“Indonesia can increase trade with Central Asian nations by using Kazakhstan as a hub, given its strategic position that can connect us with some big markets such as China and Russia,” Saripudin affirmed.

The 10th largest oil producer in the world, Kazakhstan has oil reserves of 40 billion barrels, which is around 1.8 percent of the worlds total oil reserves.

Moreover, some large countries, including the United States, Russia and China, have begun to expand their investment in Kazakhstan.

Saripudin further noted that bilateral trade between Indonesia and Kazakhstan had witnessed a downward trend in the 2010 to 2014 period, recording a drop of some 3.42 percent.

In addition, Director of South and Central Asia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Listyowati revealed that Indonesia was considering establishing car tire and instant noodles factories in Kazakhstan.

“A memorandum of understanding has been signed by private sector companies of both countries. However, it will take time to realize the construction of the two factories,” she said.

Listyowati added that so far, Indonesia has only exported car tires to Kazakhstan instead of building a factory there due to certain obstacles. These included high costs of logistics and transportation.

However, Indonesia needs to follow the ways of Singapore and Malaysia. The two countries have introduced direct flights and cargo plane services to some nations in Central Asia, she pointed out.

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Gambia: Dutchwoman Set to Promote Gambian Art, Tourism

By Samba Jawo

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 10 April 2015 – The Rotterdam born -Helena first arrived in the Smiling Coast of Africa in 2012 and since fell in love with the country’s peace and people. Three years on, she has now taken another dimension with the recent disclosed of her commitment to support the country’s tourism and arts industry especially in Europe.

However, the country peace coupled with its friendly people are among others qualities that continues to admire many especially tourists. For Helena the friendly and hospital as well as the peace are just amazing.

With plans to promote the country in that part of the world especially with regards to some of the negative news about the region especially with the prevalence of Ebola in some African countries, Helena believes that through her initiatives she will make an impact in promoting Destination Gambia as a must go area.

“The Ebola virus is scaring a lot of tourists to visit the destination. Music and food resemble and as music promoter, I will take it upon myself to convince a lot of tourists from Europe that The Gambia is Ebola free. I want to use the most powerful devices to do that job which is through music and the media across Europe.”

Helena Deurloo acknowledged that the entertainment industry plays a pivotal role in any country’s development as it can boost economy, depending on how you can reach out to the people in term of promotion especially with the help of the media.”

Among her aim, she added, is to continue supporting the budding artists in The Gambia and this will include facilitating even international trips. “Through this artistes will be invited to Holland to also perform with the Muzada-Muzieh Zang Dans band (Music Singing Dance) which I own.”

Helene who is currently working with Galaxy Entertainment Park is also supporting some budding artistes in the country among them -Daddy G.

She thus called on stakeholders in the industry to come forward so as to support the budding artists in the country. “We have very talented artists here but some face difficulties in terms of support to develop their career.”

She also stressed the need to support cultural groups so as to promote the country’s culture adding that culture is something that should be preserved for the future generation.

“I try to ensure that whatever positive is published here in The Gambian media will be also publish in the Daily Telegraph, one of the biggest newspaper in Holland so as to uplifts the country’s tourism for the industry.”

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Gambia: Community Based Tourism

The Daily Observer (Banjul) – 8 April 2015 – Tourism in a long time has become a general household name in Destination Gambia that even a nursery school pupil at the sight of any white person will shout ‘Toubab,’ to identify the presence in the midst of others.

Municipalities and regions across Destination Gambia are tourist friendly. The people are always ready to offer, share and showcase their hospitality, culture and tradition with the visitors wherever and whenever there is one or group of them, no matter where they come from.

Destination Gambia is a country to different types of tourism, the country nurture tourism that benefits not only the tourists but the country and everyone. Any visitor or tourist to the country always want to come back taking into consideration the country’s hospitality, different tourist’s products in the country; ongoing activities and investment opportunities in the destination among other things.

Some tourists now enjoy the Community Based Tourism in The Gambia, hence it is tourism where visitors stay in local homes, have a glimpse into traditional life, and most importantly, where management and benefits remain with the community. With this it means that the culture of the community is respected and decisions about what the tourists do and see remains with the villagers.

Community Based Tourism has a lot advantages because, it can bring balance of benefits for the village, villagers and visitors that always like to look the ways of local people, their environment and possible ways of helping them. Tourism is very important because it has become a tool for development. With tourism, people in the village can continue to live their lives in a sustainable way as they receive necessary attention from tourism stakeholders’ especially as pertain to development of their tourism products in the villages across the country.

Hence, culture is one of the Gambia’s tourism products that capture attention of visitors and is gathering positive reaction. Culture does not only attract tourists and visitors alone but even the custodians of culture are crazy about their cultures anytime people are around to learn from them. They are always full of excitement and proud of their inherited culture that they are ready to transfer to their next generations and teach who cares to know and learn from it.

Before now, some people might not see it as important but showcasing the Gambia’s culture as promoted by The Gambia Tourism Board to the outside world especially at different trade fairs and travel and tourism expos make people see the importance and strength of the Gambia’s culture differently.

With the aggressive marketing strategy of The Gambia Tourism Board, tourism in Destination Gambia has move beyond what it used to be. It is no more lye on the sun bed under the sun at the beachside like in the olden days, as the offers now is from the heart.

The GTBoard services are also nurturing a fruitful relationship for the tour operators and a fascinating holiday for the tourists with different products in healthy environment and climate.

However, as well known, community based tourism as mentioned is to benefit both the traveller and the destination.

Holiday to any community in The Gambia will provide you more fun, excitement and wonder that you will always want to repeat just like any other type of memorable holiday you ever had. So make your holiday a responsible one if you are among those that like to travel for relaxation, discovery, and adventure. Above all to learn new things this will help you to make a difference by getting closer to nature, local cultures and environments with involvement of local people and this make you a responsible tourist. And The Gambia is widely recognised as an important place for responsible tourism. The country is an avenue for the stakeholders and general visitors to learn from the country’s experiences on how tourism can be used to benefit local communities.

Since tourists always in search of new things in every destination they found themselves, Destination Gambia continue to provide different and more exciting holidays; make their tourists and visitors to enjoy their stay in the country in different ways. Other things to make visitors stay in the country that are remarkable are the accessibility, hospitality, accommodation, opportunity, friendly people, acceptance, nature and climate, peace and tranquility of the country among others.

Destination Gambia known as the Smiling Coast of Africa is a tourist heaven taking into consideration the country’s different types of tourism such as adventure, culture, community, eco-tourism, festival tourism among others.

As always saying to holidaymakers, investors, tourists among others, The Gambia is the best place to be if you want to spend the best holiday of your life in Africa.

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Algeria: New Weekly Flight to Illizi

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – 5 April 2015 – Illizi — National airline Air-Algerie has established a new weekly air service to be added to the flight schedule from and to the province of Illizi (1850-km southeast of Algiers), a source from the provincial Transport Department said Sunday.

The new air link Algiers-Illizi via Tamanrasset (round trip) on Fridays was “very well welcomed” by the local population, especially its Tamanrasset-Illizi section.

The provincial administration is seeking to open other air services, mainly to the country’s east and west, which are much in demand, local sources disclosed.

The new air links are due to contribute to reducing the inconvenience relating to long road trips, in addition to their role in medical evacuation for emergency cases to the country’s north, they noted.

Air transport in the southern region was first boosted in the province of Illizi through new air links by the other national airline Tassili-Airlines, besides those scheduled by Air-Algerie.

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Uganda joins rush to attract Chinese visitors

East African Business Week (Kampala) – 5 April 2015 – Kampala — The tourist promotion agency here has started a vigorous campaign to have a sizeable number of Chinese people visit the country and enjoy its tourism attractions.

Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) last week hosted Li Jinamo the Vice President and Secretary General of the Guangdong Provincial Tourism Association to forge a way forward on how Uganda can entice Chinese holiday makers.

China has over 1.3 billion people. The Guangdong Province, where Jinamo comes from, has a population of 100 million people which is almost three times that of Uganda.

Stephen Asiimwe, the UTB Chief Executive Officer said China has the largest outbound travelers in the world.

“In the fulfillment of the key tourism objective of increasing the number of international visitors from 1.2 million in 2014 by 50% to 1.8 million in 2016, UTB together with the Uganda Consulate in Guangzhou, China participated in the China International Tourism Mart (CITM).

“During the Uganda Night organized by UTB, a raffle was held in which Mr. Li Jinamo won a ticket to Uganda courtesy of Ethiopian Airlines,” Asiimwe said.

He said they organized a familiarization trip for Jinamo to appreciate Uganda’s tourism diverse attractions.

Hopefully this would subsequently help towards attracting over 2,000 Chinese companies that subscribe to their association.

Jinamo said Uganda must work on the issue of connectivity by ensuring that the governments of China and Uganda start direct flights between China’s Guangdong province and Entebbe International Airport. Currently, there are four airlines that connect Uganda to China.

“The tourism roads are still bad, many tourist sites in Uganda are not known to Chinese people and there is a language barrier between Uganda Tourism Board and Chinese people,” said Jinamo speaking through an interpreter.

He said the government should work on the roads and UTB must go and introduce Uganda tourism to the Chinese market.

“If possible, UTB should invite the Guangdong media to write about all the beautiful animals, scenery and friendly people in Uganda to the people of China,” he said.

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U.S. Muslim Journalist Bids To Become First Veiled Muslim TV Anchor

OnIslam & Newspapers Saturday, 11 April 2015 CAIRO – Driven by her childhood dream of becoming a journalist, a Muslim American woman aims to be the first-ever veiled anchor on commercial television in America, defying the stereotyped image of the Muslim women in the mainstream media.

“I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a reporter… and basically have a way to tell stories,” Muslim journalist Noor Tagouri said in a video cited by the Huffington Post on Friday, April 10.

“I never thought I was going to wear this hijab, (but) when I did start wearing it, I decided that I still wanted to be a reporter, obviously, and I didn’t want this to stop me.”

Overcoming struggles for her identity as an American Muslim child, the Libyan-American journalist said she was driven by a fiery passion for telling great stories and asking good questions.

“My name, Noor, means ‘light.’ My middle name is Alhuda, so Noor Alhuda means ‘the guiding light,'” she says.

“My name itself inspires me to be that guiding light.”

The 21-year-old Tagouri was finally able to fulfill her dream after launching her social media campaign #LetNoorShine or, “let light shine”, in 2012, to encourage herself and others to pursue their dreams.

“I started #LetNoorShine when I decided I was going to be very vocal about what I was doing to become a hijabi journalist on television — on American television,” Tagouri said.

Proudly wearing the hijab, Tagouri has about 89,000 followers on her official Facebook page.

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

Recognizing the journalism major student’s outstanding spoken word performance on World AIDS Day several years ago, CBS Radio’s community and public affairs director, Justine Love, offered Tagouri an internship when she was 18.

“I prayed a prayer we call Istikhaarah, which is the guidance prayer,” Tagouri said. “I prayed it the night before my performance, asking God for an internship or a job or something.”

For the junior journalist, CBS Radio internship was a crucial step towards achieving her dream. “Literally, that internship changed my life,” Tagouri says.

“That was the start of when #LetNoorShine was starting and when things just started falling into place. It was opportunity after opportunity, and it was just from that guidance, just from that prayer.”

Despite support and praise she receives, the Muslim journalist faces bias by some.

“There have been so many times where I have been knocked down, where people told me I wasn’t going to be able to do it, where people in the newsroom that I was interning at would go behind my back… saying, ‘Who does she think she is? Does she not know that this isn’t going to happen for her?'” Tagouri says.

“But they don’t realize that this generation, right now, is an upcoming generation. Things are changing. People are going to get used to it. People… want diversity; they want to understand each other.”

Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims. A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.

Another Economist/YouGov poll found that a large majority of Americans believe that US Muslims are victims of discrimination amid recent attacks against the community.

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Istanbul Named 2015 Capital of Muslim Youth

OnIslam & News Agencies Saturday, 11 April 2015 CAIRO – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has named Istanbul as the capital of the Muslim youth for 2015, amid hopes to boost cooperation between the 57 member states of the Muslim body.

“Holding the First edition in Istanbul will set and excellent example for about half a billion young Muslims – example of Islamic solidarity and fraternity but also modernity, inter-cultural dialogue and youth dynamism,” ambassador Elshad Iskandarov, Islamic Conference Youth Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation (ICYF-DC) President, said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.

Titled “Youth Meet In Their Capital”, this year’s program aims to highlight the shared culture and heritage of the Muslim world.

Co-organized by the OIC and the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports, the event will address methods of fighting Islamophobia and conflict resolution.

Nearly 200 guests from 60 countries are expected to attend the event that will include conferences, sports tournaments and a fashion festival.

Held between May 2015 and May 2016, the program will also include a series of exhibitions, workshops on Islamic art and a camp for 100 Muslim youths from other countries and from Turkey on Gökçeada Island in the Aegean Sea.

Welcoming the event, several Turkish officials expressed pleasure to host the event in their country’s capital.

Established in 1969, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is an intergovernmental organization which safeguards the interests of The Muslim world.

Comprising 57 member states across four continents, the OIC has a permanent delegation to the United Nations.

Muslims make up approximately 99 percent of Turkey’s population, but the country is also home to several ancient Christian communities and Jews.

Alevi Muslims, or Alawis, in Turkey follow a mystical branch of Islam which finds its roots in the Shiite sect.

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Emirates launches daily A380 service to Copenhagen

Arab News – 10 April, 2015 – Emirates has announced the launch of a daily A380 service to Copenhagen. As of Dec. 1, the Danish capital will be the first in Scandinavia to boast a scheduled A380 service.

The launch of Emirates’ A380 to Copenhagen, one of the most environmentally advanced aircraft in the sky, comes almost four years after the airline first linked the Danish capital with Dubai.

The route will be served by the world’s first two-class configured A380, with a capacity of 615 passengers. With this new configuration, Emirates will offer a total of 8,610 seats a week between Copenhagen and Dubai. The aircraft also produces the lowest CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer of all commercial aeroplanes.

“After launching the route with an A330, we witnessed growing demand for flights to and from Copenhagen, forcing us to deploy the larger 777 after only six months. Today, based on strong load factors, we are happy to further up-gauge the route to our iconic double-decker, the A380,” commented Sir Tim Clark, president, Emirates Airline.

“Emirates is making history with this aircraft, its fuel efficiency is better than most modern small passenger cars in terms of fuel economy per passenger kilometer, allowing us to reduce emissions without compromising on comfort,” added Clark.

Since its launch in August 2011, nearly eight hundred thousand passengers have traveled with Emirates on the Copenhagen-Dubai route.

“We made significant investments to expand Copenhagen Airport and upgrade its facilities in order to make it A380-compatible. We are very excited about Emirates’ decision to deploy an A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, to our airport. Copenhagen will be the first in Scandinavia to offer a scheduled A380 service,” commented Thomas Woldbye, Copenhagen Airports’ CEO.

“The additional capacity will help stimulate trade and tourism between Denmark and countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa,” added Woldbye.

The two-class configured A380 features 58 flat-bed seats in Business Class, 557 spacious seats in Economy Class, as well as access to Emirates’ famous Onboard Lounge where Business Class passengers can socialize at 40,000 feet.

Passengers in all classes will also enjoy access to over 2000 channels of films, TV shows, music and games through ice, Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment system, as well as free Wi-Fi and gourmet cuisine.

Emirates flight EK151 will leave Dubai at 0820hrs and arrive in Copenhagen at 1220hrs the same day. The return flight EK152 will depart Copenhagen at 1420hrs and arrive in Dubai at 2335hrs the same day.

As with all Emirates flights, passengers will benefit from a generous baggage allowance of 30kg in Economy Class and 40kg in Business Class.

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King Salman opens project to develop Diriyah

Saudi Gazette – 11 April, 2015 – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has approved the restoration of some 34 historical mosques in the old city of Diriyah and laid the foundation stone for the first specialized heritage hotel here, according to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

This was announced by Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) President Prince Sultan Bin Salman during the opening ceremony of Al-Bujairi Development Project, implemented by Riyadh Development Authority (RDA), as part of developing the historical city of old Diriyah.

Prince Sultan, member of the executive committee for developing historical city of Diriyah, stated, “This is the King’s first personal dedication of any project since assuming the throne.”

He announced his department’s initiative ‘Live Saudi Arabia’, a program designed to accommodate some one million students to enjoy touring the country, is in the works while adding that a national legacy center and exhibition would be established in Diriyah soon.

Prince Sultan added that phase one of developing the city, which was announced a historical site on the UNESCO list of world heritage, includes the restoration of the residence, mosque and teaching center of each of late Imam Mohammed Bin Saud and late Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulwahab.

King Salman, following the inauguration, was briefed on the project before having a tour of the site.

On arrival at the venue, he was received by Crown Prince Muqrin, the Deputy Premier; Prince Faisal Bin Bandar, Governor of Riyadh region; who is also chairman of RDA and chairman of the higher executive committee for developing historical city of Diriyah; Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah, Minister of National Guard; Prince Sultan; Prince Ahmed Bin Abdullah, Governor of Al-Diriyah and senior officials.

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Dubai’s Islamic market potential hits $6.7tr

Gulf Today – 11 April, 2015 – The global Islamic economy encompasses a broad range of sectors, including food, pharmaceuticals, fashion, media, and Islamic finance. It is estimated that over the next five years, global demand for halal products will increase by between 15 per cent and 20 per cent.

In the UAE, we are also seeing this trend as according to a study by Thomson Reuters, Dubai’s Islamic market has a potential value of $6.7 trillion, bigger than both the US and China.

Research by Dubai Chamber of Commerce revealed that the global halal food market is currently estimated to be worth $667 billion, and is expected to grow to $ 1.6 trillion by 2018.

Figures indicate that 20 per cent of the current food trading around the world is halal, an increase from 16 per cent in 2012.

A delegation from Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) recently visited Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to attend the World Halal Summit (WHS) 2015.

Hosted by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia (MITI), WHS brings together key Halal players from the industry, as well as certifiers, scholars, and academics.

Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of DIAC said, “We have the potential to develop a significant and substantial Islamic Economy, primarily by mobilising the vast number of student youth that currently reside in Dubai.”

“On the industry side, the various sectors that make up our economy must lead the effort, and help to advise academic institutions on the courses, skills, qualifications required from graduates.”

“Malaysia is home to one of the most developed Islamic economies in the world, and is therefore and ideal location for the World Halal Summit.”

“The event provided an important platform to share industry best practice and insight between leading Islamic centres, helping to drive sector innovation on a global scale.” Dubai International Academic City is committed to creating synergies between its partners in order to identify and discuss the demands of industry.

By providing training and knowledge development that is innovative and relevant for the future growth of both the country and this region – particularly in terms of Islamic economy growth, DIAC is playing an important part in the UAE Leadership’s vision of creating an innovation-led economy that will safeguard sustainable GDP growth.

The World Halal Conference (WHC) organised by Halal Industry Development Corporation (HDC) was be held on April 1 and 2, 2015. This year, WHC will bring together Heads of Governments and prominent leaders to share their views, provide latest updates on halal industry development, deliberate on pertinent issues and gaps faced and network closely to sustain the dynamism and strength of the halal economy.

More importantly, the Conference is envisaged to intensify strategic collaborations in halal related areas and the meeting of minds is expected to inspire synergistic convergence amongst the critical sectors towards a lucrative and sustainable halal economy.

Targeted to attract more than 800 participants including foreign delegates from over 50 countries worldwide, the WHC is definitely an event not to be missed.

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‘Invest in Qatar 2015’ to focus on opportunities

The Peninsula – 07 April, 2015 – The Gulf Organisation for Industrial Consulting (GOIC) and Qatar’s Ministry of Energy and Industry yesterday announced that the ‘Invest in Qatar 2015’ Forum will be held between April 27 and April 28 in Doha.

Addressing a press conference, GOIC Secretary General Abdulaziz bin Hamad Al Ageel explained that the Forum will shed light on the broad investment opportunities in Qatar and on the promising investment opportunities introduced by GOIC in the areas of pharmaceuticals, food, green building materials, recycling, petrochemicals and aluminium.

Qatar has strong, promising and encouraging economic prospects for the next few years. In fact, Qatar is witnessing a remarkable growth at the level of the industrial sector in general, in addition to the construction boom and several key infrastructure projects with big investments, particularly driven by the decision to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha.

Director of Industrial Development Department at the Ministry Saeed Mubarak Al Kuwari said the ministry is committed to implement Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030 aiming at supporting the industrial sector and developing investments in this key sector for the country. The ministry has opted for development strategies aiming at developing a comprehensive set of elements to attract local and foreign investments.

He said the Forum was part of the ministry’s efforts jointly deployed with GOIC to introduce industrial investment opportunities for Qatari, Gulf, Arab and international stakeholders, investors, businessmen and entrepreneurs. It gives them the opportunity to play an active role in the investment activities in the State of Qatar .

Fahad Rashid Al Kaabi, CEO, Manateq, said the support of Qatari government to local and foreign investment activities is most encouraging, especially a t a time when Qatar is opting for diversifying income sources and reducing dependence on oil and gas.

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Emirates boosts its West Asia connectivity with more flights

Khaleej Times – 07 April, 2015 – Emirates’ passengers in Europe, the Middle East, and North America can now enjoy more convenient connections to West Asia as the airline increased frequencies to Dhaka and Kolkata last week.

Effective March 29, Emirates weekly flights to Dhaka and Kolkata increased to 21 and 13 respectively. The airline also added capacity on its Kolkata route, upgrading the aircraft to a Boeing 777-200, and is introducing its renowned First Class cabin to passengers travelling to the Indian hub.

The additional flights offer convenient connections with Emirates’ West Asia and Indian Ocean (WA&IO) network from 37 European, 17 Middle Eastern and 10 American destinations. Emirates has been flying to WA&IO since 1985.

Karachi, Delhi and Mumbai were among the airline’s first destinations when it began operations. Today, Emirates serves 19 cities in WA&IO with 321 flights per week, offering the best connectivity in the region. “As a global connector of people and places, we always seek to offer our customers greater flexibility in their travel plans. Increasing our presence in the West Asian region allows travellers to connect seamlessly from other flights on Emirates’ extensive global network while experiencing our award-winning product and service,” said Ahmed Khoory, Emirates’ senior vice president, of commercial operations-West Asia and Indian Ocean.

The increased flights also bring additional cargo capacity, enhancing trade possibilities between the two cities and the rest of the globe. The Boeing 777-200 servicing Kolkata adds more than 17 tonnes of cargo belly-hold capacity, while the Boeing 777-300ER operating the additional Dhaka flights adds over 15 tonnes.

Emirates is also reinforcing its commitment further in Lebanon by upgrading both of its aircraft serving Beirut to an all Boeing 777 operation. The Airbus 330-200 currently deployed on one of Beirut’s two daily flights, EK 953/954, will be upgraded to a larger Boeing 777-200LR from June 1, giving a 12 per cent boost to seat capacity. Similarly, the A330-200 supporting EK 957/958 will be up-gauged to a Boeing 777-300 as of January 1, 2016, providing a 53 per cent increase in the number of seats available to customers.

Shaikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president, commercial operations – centre, said: “Lebanon is one of our most important markets in the Middle East so we are constantly seeking ways to enhance our services, while responding to healthy passenger demand. Both upgrades to our services will open up more seats to our customers travelling to and from Beirut and will boost Emirates’ contribution to Lebanon’s vital tourism industry, which is the backbone of its economy. The enhanced services and increased capacity will also expand Lebanese businesses’ access to global markets, yielding benefits to the country’s economic output.”

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Jeddah to host biggest food, hotel & hospitality fest

Saudi Gazette – 08 April, 2015 – The biggest food, hotel and hospitality event in Saudi Arabia is set to be held on April 13-16, 2015 at the Jeddah Center for Forums and Events. The 20th edition is held to replicate the significant growth and development that Saudi Arabia’s food and tourism sectors are experiencing.

Food, hotel and hospitality Arabia 2015 will witness participation from importers, distributors, F&B managers, hotel and restaurant purchase managers, food service professionals, chefs, purchasers, trade bodies, hoteliers, restaurateurs, caterers, F&B directors, hospitality interiors and wholesalers.

The exhibition will also provide opportunities to the Saudi business community in these vital industry sectors to further expand businesses which they can source from international companies from Bahrain, China, Cyprus, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and USA alongside will be leading Saudi companies.

“This year’s event aims at being the right channel allowing both vendors/suppliers and hospitality professionals to come together to tap mutually beneficial business opportunities,” said Zahoor Siddique, Vice President of Al Harithy Company for Exhibitions (ACE).

He further said this exhibition is held annually to keep the pace with the demands of the country’s burgeoning hospitality market. He also noted that the focus of food, hotel and hospitality Arabia 2015 is to provide an unmatched sourcing platform for buyers and sellers of hospitality supplies and services.

According to the latest studies, Saudi Arabia will continue to lead the region’s food sector accounting for 59% of the total consumption up until 2017. On the other hand, Food sales in Saudi Arabia are expected to be worth almost $ 70 billion by 2016, with food consumption growing at a CAGR of 2.6 percent from 2012 to 2017.

The Saudi Hospitality sector has registered a 127% growth over the last 10 years. With the rising business tourism and the exponential expansion of the hospitality industry, the market is expected to increase by a further 83% in the coming years.

The exhibition will also host the annual Jeddah Open Cooking Competition, sponsored by Nestle, displaying culinary skills of international and local chefs. Each evening also includes themed cooking demonstrations that will make this a unique gastronomic experience for visitors. Art de Table contest will also be held as a concurrent event.

Apart from this, this year’s show will host the 8th Exhibition of Agribusiness Industries of the OIC Member States as international experts and economists from the OIC, the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture, and major international corporations will present papers on the world food shortage and offer suggested solutions, case studies and success stories.

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Iran to launch 30 public aviation centers

Tehran Times – 08 April, 2015 – The Iranian government plans to launch 30 public aviation centers, an official from the presidential department of science and technology.

Yaghoub Entessary said 15 of the centers are operational while 15 others remain to be completed soon, Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday.

Entessary stated that the projects are carried out by the private sector and backed by the science and technology department in line with policies to improve the national aviation system. The centers are designed to accommodate intercity trips using small airplanes.

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Simplifying travel procedures for Saudis

Saudi Gazette – 09 April, 2015 – During the past weeks, a large number of Saudis traveled to neighboring countries to spend the short spring vacation. This resulted in long queues of passengers at all entry points into the Kingdom, especially airports and border crossings.

The Kingdom shares borders with several countries and there were huge crowds of people at most of the entry points. Saudis crossed through the entry points of Al-Batha to UAE, Salwa to Qatar, King Fahd Causeway to Bahrain, Khafji and Al-Roqai to Kuwait, Jadeeda Arar to Iraq, Hadeetha and Halat Ammar to Jordan, and Al-Tawal, Al-Wadeea and Alab to Yemen. It is expected that the land entry point to Oman will be opened at Rubu Al-Khali region next year.

Saudi families, especially women and children, faced a lot of hardship due to delays in completing their travel procedures. This is mainly because all these entry points do not have sufficient facilities and manpower to cope with the unprecedented rush of travelers during holidays. The electronic system at these centers is very slow and it takes too much time to complete the procedures of checking passports and IDs of passengers.

The centers do not have adequate public utility services, especially toilets. This is also the case with most of the rest houses and mosques along the highways across the Kingdom. There are also an insufficient number of eateries and groceries around these entry points.

This slowness and delay in completing travel procedures has been attributed to some other factors. These include the absence of separate lines for regular travelers and the new ones. There are also no separate lines for passengers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and other countries.

The professional efficiency of officials at the passport control division at the entry points is another handicap. Officials normally complete procedures after manually noting down passengers’ license plate numbers. This can be accelerated if there is an automatic mechanism to register license plate numbers via a camera. The Arabic version of Saudi IDs also creates problems, especially if passport control officials are not native Arabic speakers. Unlike IDs of other Gulf states, Saudi IDs are not electronic and this creates further delays. The lack of IDs for Saudi children also creates delays to complete procedures at entry points.

The Ministry of Finance should allocate necessary funds to improve the infrastructure facilities and utility services at these entry points. The viewpoints and suggestions of both officials and passengers at these entry points should be solicited with regard to improving services. There should be serious attempts to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks as well as to ease and simplify procedures at these centers. There should be qualitative improvement in the services and facilities at a time when Saudi Arabia is leading other Gulf states in the ambitious initiative to realize the goal of a Gulf Union in the near future.

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Focus on new packaging to promote local products in Oman

Times of Oman – 10 April, 2015 – A new initiative to improve the packaging and design of locally manufactured products of small and medium enterpries (SMEs) has been taken by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE). Currently, work is underway on developing products of some companies.

This project is being implemented through the SMEs, which are incubated in the National Business Centre and ITA’s SAS programme in order to hand them the required support to develop the quality of their outputs.

Eng Basim Al Nassri, director general of marketing and media at PEIE, stressed that PEIE is undertaking constant efforts to generate awareness on the significance of the marketing of products through various seminars and workshops. He was addressing a seminar on branding and marketing.

As the world is witnessing an evolution in the marketing and branding arena, the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE), represented by the Directorate General of Marketing and Media, organised a seminar highlighting how branding and marketing help increase sales of products and services.

The event, which was held at Crowne Plaza Hotel Muscat, stressed the importance of marketing and branding of products for corporations, and how they help to generate awareness in the market.

The seminar aimed at changing perceptions to attract customers and emphasised that branding and marketing are not only for large corporations but all businesses have to make use of branding to win the hearts and minds of the customers.

The seminar also aspired at underlining the significance of the experience received by customers that would persuade them to buy and use the services of that particular organisation.

Moderated by Rajive Ahuja, head of corporate communications at Khimji Ramdas Oman, the seminar featured a line-up of speakers comprising Paul Ross, marketing manager at Wattayah Motors LLC; Abdullah Al Jufaili, general manager of Sharakah; Dr Vijaya Kumar, HoD and associate professor at Muscat College; and Werner Bullen, managing partner at London Marketing Office.

“Marketing and branding is as age-old as products are. But increasingly, in today’s world we are delving deeper into the emotional connect brands have with us. Our aim in this seminar is not only to explain the rational constructs of branding like pricing, promotion among others; but to also urge our members to explore the softer issues associated with building their own brands,” Ahuja pointed out.

Al Jufaili emphasised on the value and importance of brands, which will be stuck in the customers’ minds.

“We do not expect the business to have a brand from day one, but development of an effective brand is essential. We have to note that branding is not only about the logo, but also colours, design, the messages you send to customers, the ways and tools you use to offer the services including social media, websites, and advertisements. If you have a good product or service, you have to ensure through your creativity that the clients will come back for more,” Al Jufaili further added.

Al Jufaili added that there are brands that get stuck in people’s minds through smelling and tasting like perfumes and food brands.

“When you start building a brand, you should keep in mind that the brand has to stay on someone’s mind for days, months and years. Corporations have to think about the way their brand will be looked at for a long term and ensure that the message of the brands gets delivered effectively,” he noted.

Smart companies always make special efforts to ensure that their products and services are on the top of the mind for their prospective customer, noted Dr Vijaya Kumar.

“Driven by this, several outstanding companies all over the world are revising their marketing strategies to meet customer expectations. Of late, companies have realised the importance of using the branding tool in understanding the needs and wants of customers with an emphasis on how to connect with their target customers. Branding refers to the process by which a company tries to create a positive image in the minds of its prospective customers,” he said.

“Companies in the Middle East have realised that branding is essential for their survival and growth because it has the potential to add value to their image and distinguish them from their competitors. Oman is no exception to this trend, and this is further evidenced by the marketing strategies adopted by several manufacturing and service oriented companies in Oman,” he explained.

“A strong online image can generate loyal customer base and this is valid for the Oman scenario as well. In a nutshell, branding is a powerful tool to deliver a unique and unforgettable message about your business to the target customers. It is against this backdrop, in future all companies in Oman are likely to focus on how to maximise their marketing efforts through effective branding,” added Dr Kumar.

Paul Ross mentioned that talented thinkers are creating an impressive start-up culture in Oman. As a result, organisations have begun setting up incubators to support this rise in cultural innovation.

“There are many areas of opportunity – including the need to diversify the energy sector, improve access to fresh water, education, healthcare and manufacturing. Young entrepreneurs from across the Sultanate are seizing upon the opportunity to improve civil society by developing start-ups addressing these issues. This boom in creative innovation has led to the establishment of related institutions and NGOs such as NBC, Sharakah and Zubair SEC that target the needs of young businesses. Specifically, they offer greater access to capital and business development training, two challenges young start-ups often face in competing in new markets,” pointed out Ross.

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