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18 May, 2015

Africa’s Longest Canopy Walkway Opens in Nigeria

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of stories of interesting events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 18 May 2015 (29 Rajab 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




The fabulous Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015, or MyFEST 2015, 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.





Indian Nat’l Museum Opens Art of Arabic-Persian Calligraphy Exhibition

New Delhi, Ministry of Culture, 15-May-2015 – The Union Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge), Tourism (Independent Charge), and Civil Aviation, Dr. Mahesh Sharma inaugurated a two-month exhibition on ‘Art of Calligraphy and Beyond: Arabic-Persian Inscriptions on Decorative Arts objects’ at National Museum in New Delhi today.

It is an exhibition of Islamic-style writing on objects of daily use. With this, the age-old aesthetics of calligraphy and craftsmanship have been combined in a rare display. Displaying 56 utility artefacts from the past five centuries, ‘Art of Calligraphy and Beyond: Arabic-Persian Inscriptions on Decorative Arts objects’ at National Museum (NM) focuses on tastefully done inscriptions on metal-ware, wood, textiles and semi-precious stones — all of them from its own reserve collections.

After paying a visit to the exhibition, the Minister said that National Museum is doing a wonderful work to preserve our art and culture and he appreciated the efforts of National Museum in organizing this calligraphy exhibition. Our young generations can learn from this exhibition how calligraphy has evolved through the ages, he added.

Its artefacts have been arranged in five main groups: writing implements, religion, faith, tradition and trade. All what is written on the exhibits has been made intelligible to the general visitor. The exhibition, which will be continue till July 12, 2015 is not just about Arabic-Persian inscriptions on a set of artefacts. It also includes several other features like different forms of surface ornamentation and aesthetic values which make it unique. The works are not only confined to paper. The beautiful inscriptions on objects such as metal-ware pen-cases, bowls, plates, alams, wooden boxes, mendicant bowls, amulets, bracelets, textiles and costumes can also be seen.

The name of the patron or calligrapher is also inscribed on the objects. For instance, a brass shallow bowl from circa 1495 CE (the oldest at the show) belongs to Sultan Sikander Lodi who ruled Delhi for 28 years from 1489. Interestingly, it informs the name of the calligrapher—as Mohmood Bin Mahammad Bin Haji Mahmood Farsi. Similarly, a brass globe from the period of Mughal emperor Shajahan (1627-58) informs the maker’s name: Mohammad Ibn Illahdad Humayuni Lahori.

Director General of National Museum, Shri Sanjiv Mittal and senior officials of Ministry of Culture were also present on the occasion.

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Moroccan researcher wins the 2015 Innovation Prize for Africa

Skhirat, Morocco (IINA) Friday 15 May 2015 – Moroccan researcher Adnane Remmal was announced winner of the 2015 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA), which carries a prize money of US$100 000, Morocco World News reported citing the African Press Organization (APO).

In a ceremony hosted by the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) in collaboration with the ministry of industry, trade, investment and digital economy in Skhirat, Remmal was awarded the IPA in recognition of his research that provides solutions to farmers to improve livestock production whilst taking into account consumer health needs.

Remmal impressed the expert panel of judges, competing with 10 innovations spanning the health, environment, technology and agricultural sectors. He developed an anti-microbial formula that will reduce health hazards in livestock, preventing the transmission of multi-resistant germs and carcinogens to human being through consumption of milk, eggs and meat.
On the occasion, Remmal said: “My innovation provides farmers with solutions to improve their production; it is cost effective and can be easily adopted, giving farmers increased benefits without the side effects of anti-biotics.”

The IPA 2015 Awards ceremony was attended by more than 400 people that included high level African dignitaries, ministers, ambassadors, AIF partners, past IPA winners, venture capitalists, innovators, entrepreneurs, local and international media, and young people.

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Greek parliament allows construction of mosque in Athens

Votanikos, Athens, (IINA) Friday 15 May 2015 – Amid series of debates on Muslims’ right to have a mosque in Athens, the Greek Parliament passed an amendment on Tuesday that allows the construction of a mosque in Athens despite the junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL)’s opposition, according to media sources.

The Greek parliament met Tuesday to vote on the legal amendment proposed by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), TRT World news reported on Wednesday. The amendment was passed by the parliament with the support of opposition parties, the New Democracy and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).

The mosque is planned to be constructed in Votanikos area in Athens.

Athens has not had a formal mosque since the Ottomans formally accepted Greek independence in 1832 and the country has been criticized by human rights groups such as Amnesty International for being one of the few European capitals without one.

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M’sia International Dive Expo 2015 To Attract 2,000 Trade Delegates

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 13 (NNN-BERNAMA) – The Malaysia International Dive Expo (MIDE) 2015, to be held here from June 12 to 14, is expected to attract over 2,000 trade delegations for the diving industry business.

The event, to be officiated by Minister of Tourism & Culture, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, will showcase 250 booths and is expecting 15,000 visitors from all over the world.

A statement by the organiser, Asia Events Exsic, said that MIDE, into its 10th year, brought together the best in scuba diving exhibition, having attracted over 80,000 visitors from 150 countries and also 8,554 trade delegates, since 2006.

Among the highlights for this year’s event will be a seminar on product knowledge, business forum, ‘Lens beyond Ocean’ photography competition, dive programme and coral propagation.

The “Business on Diving” forum by the Malaysian Scuba Diving Association, will be a great platform for diving business owners, resort owners, merchandisers, as well as, dive travelling agencies to share insights on the business of the diving industry, the statement added.

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First mosque opened in Venice

Monday 11 May 2015 – Venice (IINA) – Cannaregio neighborhood in the Italian city of Venice saw on Friday the opening of the first mosque in the city, which was built on the ruins of a Catholic church that was abandoned 40 years ago.

The new mosque was opened during the 56th Venice Biennale after several failed attempts by Muslim community to obtain a permit from the authorities to build a mosque in the city, where Venetian Muslims from 29 nationalities are living.

The transformation is the work of a Swiss-Icelandic artist, Christoph Buechel, who has become known for politically barbed provocations. The mosque, which will serve as Iceland’s national pavilion during the Biennale, is a cultural symbol and a kind of ready-made sculpture conceived with the active involvement of leaders of the area’s Islamic population, which has been growing for many years.

Venetian Muslims, as well as Muslim visitors to the city, will now be able to walk to Friday prayers instead of taking an hour-long trip to the nearest mosque, in the industrial heartlands of the Veneto mainland.

President of the Muslim Community in Iceland Ibrahim Agnarsson expressed delight for opening of the mosque, considering it as a success for the Muslim community in Venice. While praising the Ministry of Culture in his country’s support for the project, Agnarsson said the mosque would serve as a center to introduce Islam in the city. He said it was heartbreaking to see Muslims praying in cargo container in the past.

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Investors Keen On Entering Iran Market

LONDON, May 14 (NNN-IRNA) – Ali Naqavi, Managing Director of Iran’s Financial Centre, in an interview with IRNA here, outlined plans and efforts for attraction of foreign investments. He said, lack of familiarity with Iran’s regulations and capacities are still among major bottlenecks on the way of absorbing foreign investment.

He said, despite efforts, which have been made so far, many foreign investors lack the required information and knowledge about Iran’s capacities and potential economic capabilities.

Pointing to the high enthusiasm of foreign investors, particularly the Europeans, to enter into Iran’s market, after the sanctions, noted that although rules and regulations have been set very good for foreign investors, they have not collected the required information about the regulations and even do not know how to receive transaction code in Iran.

He said, in the past three or four months many foreign delegations interested in making investment in the Iranian market have come to Iran and are decisive to collect information in order to launch their activities following cancellation of sanctions.

According to Naqavi, Iran’s capital market has made a satisfactory growth in the past decade and rules and regulations governing over the Iranian capital market with changes, which were made in 1384 (2005-2006), are among modern regulations of financial markets of the world.

He said, in light of the changes, now there is the possibility for foreign investors to come and purchase share of Iranian companies in the stock market or through investment and currency funds.

Meanwhile, he added, measures are underway to provide the required infrastructure for foreign companies to trade their shares in domestic and foreign stock markets.

Pointing to the importance of familiarity of foreign investors with Iran’s economic capacities, Naqavi said, on the basis of the planning that has been made, Iran’s investment opportunities will be presented in the Iranian websites in English and this will be done on the website of Iran’s Financial Centre as well.

He further remarked that in the month of Shahrivar (Aug/Sept) a conference will be held in Tehran with the participation of financial activists of the world, for exchange of views in this field.

Pointing to the organisation of the on-going first training course on the world financial markets in London, for members of board of directors of major Iranian brokerage companies, he said, Britain is one of the main financial centres of the world and it was selected for the training course, in order to take advantage of the experience of professors here.

The aim of the training course is that, if active Iranian companies intend to strengthen their international communication, they would know which mechanism and tool to use and through which instruments they can attract foreign investors.

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Malaysia To Be Hub For Manufacturing Electric Cars

BEIJING, May 15 (NNN-Bernama) — Beijing Auto International Cooperation (BAIC), which is among the world’s leading electric vehicle producers, wants to make Malaysia as the hub for its electric cars for the Southeast Asian market.

Towards this end, BAIC has signed a cooperation agreement with its Malaysian joint venture partner, Amber Dual Sdn Bhd, at BAIC’s plant here Thursday.

The first batch of production will take place in July next year at a manufacturing plant to be built in Gurun, Kedah.

Kedah Chief Minister Mukhriz Tun Dr Mahathir who attended the signing ceremony said this was the first foreign manufacturer of electric vehicles to have invested in Malaysia.

“Kedah has a fast-growing automotive industry and constantly updating its technology. Now with the presence of BAIC, it will further boost the state’s automotive industry.

“We already have completely knocked down (CKD) vehicle assembly using normal engines, existing hybrid vehicles and latest electric vehicles. BAIC is the number one company in China as a full-fledged electric vehicle manufacturer and number two in the world,” he told reporters after visiting BAIC’s factory.

He said with BAIC’s cooperation, Amber Dual could penetrate the Southeast Asian market which has a population of 550 million people.

Mukhriz is now on a Kedah trade and investment mission to China, from Tuesday to Friday.

Last Tuesday, the state government through the Kedah State Development Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding with Qingdao Lu Hai Feng Investment Co. Ltd., a fishing company, to carry out the Kedah Integrated Fisheries Terminal project with an initial investment of RM1 billion.

The project to be implemented in Tebengau, near Kuala Kedah, is aimed at making Kedah as the largest fishing centre, especially for tuna fish, in Southeast Asia.

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Egypt To Rebuild Alexandria Lighthouse, Ancient World Wonder

CAIRO, May 11 (NNN-ALARABIYA) — Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities is assessing plans that have been submitted for the reconstruction of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Alexandria’s governor, Hany el-Messiry, has the job of assessing the plans and giving final approval for the construction.

Once standing at 137 meters tall, the lighthouse was one of the world’s tallest structures until it collapsed due to three earthquakes between 956 and 1323.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos Lighthouse, was built around 280 BC and was one of the longest standing Ancient World Wonders, along with the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Mausoleum and Halicarnassus.

The remains of the lighthouse were discovered on the floor of Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor in 1994 by French archaeologists.

“Columns of all sizes, in their hundreds, column bases and capitals, sphinxes, statues and some immense blocks of granite which, given where they lie, certainly came from the famous lighthouse,” lead archaeologist, Jean-Yves Empereur, said at the time of the discovery of the remains.

Egypt’s antiquities ministry has previously been criticized for poor registers on the preservation and restoration of heritage buildings and antiquity sites, according to The Telegraph, therefore little is known about the proposed replica construction.

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UNESCO Cites Indonesian Kris As World Heritage

DENPASAR, Bali, Indonesia, May 16 (NNN-ANTARA) – The Indonesian kris has been acknowledged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), as a world heritage, Rector of the Hindu Dharma Indonesia Institute (IHDN), Professor Dr I Nengah Duija said.

According to Indonesia’s Antara news agency, the rector said that, this recognition was given, due to its high philosophical value.

“The philosophical values include the embodiment of the strength of the superstructure (the universe), cosmological value and authoritative value,” Duija stated.

The Kris also has aesthetic values of completing clothing, customs, culture and art, as well as high economic value.

The Indonesian kris, including the one from Bali, has been acknowledged as a world heritage, in terms of use in human activities, including as a hobby and in Hindu rituals.

According to Duija, besides showing cultural excellence, kris is also a cultural symbol of human civilisation on Earth, that has been able to survive through the centuries.

He added that, the kris also reflects a value of solidarity, as it can be used across cultures and as a national souvenir.

The recognition of a masterpiece of human civilisation given by UNESCO to the Indonesian kris has made it known to the world. Therefore, it requires conservation and maintenance.

The Bali community upholds the meaning and sacred value of the kris with a ritual known as Tumpek Landep Day, which is celebrated every 210 days.

This is a sacred ritual that involves offerings for all types of sharp objects, including kris and other traditional weapons.

This time, Tumpek Landep for the Hindus in Bali will be celebrated on Saturday.

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Australian Muslim women’s football team set to make history

Wednesday 13 May 2015 – Sydney, (IINA) – Australia’s first all-Muslim women football team is preparing itself to make history when it plays a historic curtain-raiser at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) next month, OnIslam reported.

“To have an opportunity to play at the MCG, is something most people would dream of,” Amna Karra-Hassan, Auburn Giants founder and player, told Herald Sun on Tuesday.

The Auburn Giants was started five years ago in the soccer and rugby league heartland of western Sydney. The Muslim team was offered an opportunity to take to the field before Collingwood’s clash with Greater Western Sydney on June last year.

It will be the first time a Muslim women’s team has played before Australia Football League (AFL) crowd at the MCG.

The AFL is the highest-level professional competition in the sport of Australian rules football.

According to market research, the AFL is the second-most-watched sporting event in Australia, behind cricket.

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

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LEAD STORY: Africa’s Longest Canopy Walkway Opens in Nigeria

Vanguard – 12 May 2015 – In a bid to harness the economic potentials of tourism, thereby enhancing its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, the Lagos State Government, LASG, has partnered with the Nigerian Conservative Foundation, NCF to construct the longest canopy walkway on the continent. It is located in the Lekki Conservation Centre, LCC, Ibeju-Lekki council area of the state.

The state government said the partnership became imperative in its determination to block the loophole in the huge revenue lost to other tourist destinations across the world.

Other features of the beautiful landscape of the giant walkway include: a Family Fun Park, situated at the degraded portion of the NCF Biodiversity Park that has fish pond with exotic fishes, sections for family games, barbecue section, gazebos, jungle gyms and many others. At the park, there is so much to do and every member of the family from the youngest to the oldest would have something to busy with.

The LCC canopy walkway, built with metal pillars, is the main attraction to the destination, which is the latest innovation to the tourism sector of the country. The aerial foot bridge is 401 metres long, 0.6 meters wide and 22.5 metres high.

According to the construction firm, like other canopy walkways, there are safety measures which must be adhered to. “It is not recommended for persons below the age of 14 years. Even for adults, it is very challenging and for those afraid of heights, they should not venture into it while, nursing mother should not back their child to climb.”

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, while addressing tourism stakeholders, who attended the official unveiling of the structure, said “This is the longest skywalk in Africa and the second longest in the world. This is perhaps, the most defining thing to this environment itself. The skywalk is a lovely view. For those who are yet to visit it, they cannot understand what they are missing. I think this is one of the lovely things that I think that we can keep here.”

Fashola, however, warned that the Tour-Guide should, “continue to emphasis the safety element and the rules of engagement on the facility. It was a lovely experience, when I walked on it.”

The reason for the innovation, Fashola explained was aimed “to keep tourism in the country and to reduce what we spend outside the country, looking for destinations to relax and recreates by keeping those within the country. This is our contribution as a government to reduce the level of foreign exchange. If we spend the money we spend elsewhere in the country, it will help boost the country’s economy.”

Speaking further, he said: “Our investment in tourism is not accidental. It was a well thought out vision and it explains our investment in transportation, on a very expansive base. It is the bases for the expansion of the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, for choosing the blue-line of the seven rail project that the state government will commit to.

“This was because over 60 kilometers of coastal waterfront of the Atlantic Ocean is on the Badagry axis. There will be no tourism without transportation. It is about destination and if people cannot get to the location, there will be no tourism. So the expansion of the Lekki-Epe Expressway is all for tourist based initiative,” he added.

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Bahraini Recipes with a pinch of surprise

Gulf Daily News – 15 May, 2015 – A Bahraini culinary enthusiast is preparing to launch her first cookbook by the end of this year.

Noora Hassan Bahlool, 27, claims to have added new twists to internationally known dishes and now wants to share her recipes with the people of Bahrain.

Over the past four years, Ms Bahlool has experimented by combining unusual ingredients with conventional recipes, whether adding jackfruit sauce to a Thai curry or peanut butter to crispy duck.

‘My dishes might look like any other dishes, but the flavour is unique because the ingredients I use for most of my recipes are unusual to people here in Bahrain ‘“ but at the same time very tasty,’ she said. ‘People get surprised after tasting my food because they never expect that the ingredients I use will match. I once made a Thai curry dish with a jackfruit sauce, which was a success because I added sweetness to the dish without having to add sugar or honey.

‘People in Bahrain don’t eat jackfruit that much, but those who tasted the dish really praised it. I also tend to use pomegranate molasses and even dates when cooking meat and chicken. I rarely cook the same dish twice, mainly because if I know the outcome of a dish. It becomes unfulfilling and repetitive, so I instantly move on to the next challenge. The book will elaborate on my journey through the amazing and endless world of food and my passion for it.’

However, Ms Bahlool admits to having moments of frustration in the kitchen and having absolutely no experience when she started out.

‘It was really hard for me to learn the cooking methods of some types of food, especially meat because I had no experience in cooking at all,’ she added. ‘However, whatever frustration I had, I just put in food and all of it just seemed to go away. I never gave up because after discovering my love for cooking, I knew I wouldn’t let go and I’ll keep cooking because I want to feed people around me and make them happy.’

Ms Bahlool is also a painter and aims to incorporate her love of art in her food.

‘I have been painting since I was a child and I love anything to do with art, so now I am putting all my talent into food,’ she said. ‘Everyone can cook, but not everyone can cook food that actually looks good and I believe that the eye eats before the mouth. I started cooking typical recipes for my family, but then changed the recipes while taking care of how it looks. I also wanted to take nice photos of what I cook and decided to become a food photographer and a food stylist.’

Meanwhile, Ms Bahlool says that while she enjoys her current job as assistant events manager at the Gulf Hotel, she also has dreams of one day opening her own restaurant.

‘I want to start planning for my own restaurant for people to taste my recipes,’ she said.

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Iran, Oman open direct shipping line

Islamic Republic News Agency – 15 May, 2015 – A direct shipping line between Iran’s Rajaei Port and Oman’s Sohar Port was opened on Thursday in presence of local officials and representatives of the two countries’ private sectors.

‘The opening of this new shipping line, owned by a private sector Iranian company, marks the beginning of a historical move in the political geography of the region,’ said the Secretary General and of Iran-Oman Joint Chamber of Commerce Ahmad Shirzadegan in a ceremony to launch the line.

The Iran-Oman Joint Chamber has been pursuing the objective perseveringly for a year, he added.

He said that the launching of the new shipping line is a part of a comprehensive agreement reached between Iran and Oman in early spring 2015, which includes making investments, construction work, and banking transactions, as well.

Ganaveh, the first refrigerated cargo ship set out toward Sohar Port after the ceremony.

The deputy head of Iran-Oman Joint Chamber of Commerce, too, said in the ceremony that the volume of Iran-Oman trade in the year 2013 was around 877 million dollars which showed 72% increase compared with the year 2012.

Mohammad-Amin Sabbaqizadeh added that it is predicted that the figure will with a giant leap will reach the $ 4 billion annual level within the next two years, thanks to the effective diplomatic moves made in both countries.

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Dubai Arabian Travel Market Platform For World Tourism: Jordan

AMMAN, May 12 (NNN-Petra) — Jordan Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Nayef Al Fayez said the Arabian Travel Market 2015 in Dubai is one of the most important platforms for tourism in the world and is an important occasion to promote Arab tourism.

He said in a statement that Jordan’s participation in the event aimed at promoting the Kingdom’s position on the world tourism map, expanding Jordanian tourism product channels and showcasing the benefits of Jordanian tourism and its components.

Jordan’s participation saw many important activities and events such as participation in the ministerial forum of the World Tourism Organization where a number of tourism ministers and decision-makers in the tourism sector took part to develop a strategy to enhance two-way tourism and increase the number of intra-region visitors.

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More S. Korean university campuses offering halal food, prayer rooms

Friday 15 May 2015 – Seoul, South Korea, (IINA) – Catering to the needs of Muslim students, a growing number of South Korean universities are offering halal meals in their menus and opening prayer rooms in their campuses.

Now the new semester in Sejong University brought good news to Muslim students who were offered access to a prayer room in the basement of the dormitory, OnIslam reported.

Answering calls by many of them, the 73 square meter carpeted prayer room has a partition separating men and women and an amplifier for reading from the Qur’an.

“In the past, students would walk by while I was doing my prayers,” Aslan, a Pakistani who is working on a combined Master’s and doctoral program in digital content studies at Sejong University, told The Hankyoreh newspaper on Thursday.

“I like the fact that I’m able to say my prayers in peace now.” Sejong University is not the first Korean university to offer Muslims a prayer room inside its campus.

Following the Korean Wave by trying to recruit students from Muslim countries, Korean universities are making efforts to win the hearts of Muslims.

Kyung Hee University is also operating a prayer room for its approximately 60 Muslim students. Hanyang University, which has attracted around 250 students from Islamic countries, has a prayer room as well.

Seoul National University, which has around 1,000 students from 80 countries, also offers a space in the dormitory that can be used as a prayer room.

According to the Korea Muslim Federation (KMF), established in 1967, there are about 120,000 to 130,000 Muslims living in South Korea, both natives and foreigners.

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Uganda Wins Best African Exhibitor Award At Durban Tourism Indaba

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA, May 13 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda has scooped the award for Best African Exhibitor at the just ended African Tourism Indaba 2015 in Durban, South Africa. The Indaba, which was held this year from May 9 to 11, is one of the leading tourism marketing events in Africa and one of the top three “must visit” events of its kind on the global tourism calendar.

The announcement on the award was made at the close of the expo. Uganda Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Stephen Asiimwe received the certificate. Others present for the expo included representatives from Uganda Wildlife Authority, Association of Tour Operators and the private sector.

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Gulf rail, road and maritime projects worth $422 billion

Monday 11 May 2015 – Jeddah (IINA) – The Gulf Cooperation Council’s combined rail, road, and maritime projects are worth an estimated $422 billion over the next five years, according to a report of Fleming Gulf research.

The GCC’s integrated transport strategy will be the focus of NATRANS Arabia 2015, a first-of-its-kind event piecing together the Gulf region’s transportation infrastructure. The conference-led exhibition is being held in partnership with the UAE Federal Transportation Authority – Land and Maritime and held under the patronage of Dr. Abdulla Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Public Works and Chairman of the Federal Transport Authority – Land and Marine, and will highlight the UAE’s position within the region as a leading state in transport infrastructure development.

“The event will discuss and showcase proven, deployed schemes, pioneering research and development solutions that are intended to solve real world problems which are critical regional imperatives,” said Alex Heuff, Exhibition Director, NATRANS Arabia which takes place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) on Oct. 19-21, 2015. “By creating an event which covers the industry as a whole, NATRANS Arabia is set to deliver a unique networking platform for the region’s entire land and maritime transportation sector,” added Heuff.

NATRANS Arabia consists of three distinct conference streams, incorporating the regions established rail conference – the 6th Middle East Rail Opportunities on Oct. 19- 20 plus two dedicated one-day conferences, firstly addressing road issues on Oct. 19 and secondly addressing maritime issues on October 20. During the 6th Middle East Rail Opportunities Summit, designs of nearly $200 billion in network projects will be presented, running from the Gulf coast from Kuwait, through Saudi Arabia, to the UAE and Oman, with branches linking Bahrain and Qatar. These projects will be completed before the end of the first quarter 2016.

“Construction is already in progress and will be fully operational in 2018. Abu Dhabi is spearheading the GCC rail network with its AED40 billion ($10.9 billion), Etihad Rail link project, which stretches for 1,200 kilometers, from Ghweifat on the Saudi border to south of Fujairah on the Omani border,” said Heuff.

The Middle East Road Conference will examine the progress of the region’s mega road project which is set to grow at a rapid pace over the next 5 years, valued at an estimated $32 billion. The conference will also cover the international traffic management, (ITS), parking, road safety & maintenance of and transport infrastructure projects, such as multimodal systems and management have helped decrease accidents and the use of ITS technology in road safety.

The third streamed seminar, Middle East Maritime Conference, will take an in-depth look at the different investments in the maritime industry, which are expected to reach $66 billion in the next three years, with the UAE contributing 30-35% of the Middle East’s projected total investment valued at $190 billion over the next three years.

With the global significance of the Middle East’s ports and facilities is now more important than ever before and delegates will be presented with the latest industry developments. The conference will also feature international case studies about how operational and logistical challenges and complexities can be overcome.

Speakers at NATRANS Arabia include Dr. Abdelgader Elshabani, Department of Transport, Abu Dhabi, Senior Transportation Planning Specialist, UAE; Mohammed Al-Mudharreb, Roads & Transport Authority (RTA), Director of Rail Operation, Rail Agency; and Loay Ghazaleh, Ministry of Works, Advisor to Undersecretary of the Ministry of Works, Bahrain. “In addition, over 50 ministers and including key government decision makers will be attending this year’s conference to discuss the potential partnership opportunities available right across the region,” added Heuff.

Some of the key focus sessions include developing a competitive, sustainable and future-proof rail network for the GCC; effective interoperability among the new railway systems of the Middle East; integrated public transport for sustainable urban development; traffic management and surveillance; the role of automation in efficient port operations; the use of geo-spatial technologies in port security, plus a series of country transport project updates.

Running alongside the conferences is an exhibition accommodating over 100 exhibiting companies that is divided into four themed zones compatible with the conference streams, plus an extra zone showcasing intelligent transport systems. The exhibition is likely to attract in excess of 2,500 trade visitors. The exhibition has already attracted key support from the European Parking Association (EPA) and MAFEX, the Spanish Railway Association plus sponsors Laborex and LGW.

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Royal Air Morocco and Qatar Airways to bridge Africa and Asia

Wednesday 13 May 2015 – Dubai, (IINA0 – The Moroccan national carrier Royal Air Morocco (RAM) and Qatar Airways have signed last week a strategic commercial partnership agreement that will allow an extension of the networks of the two operators to Africa and Asia.

“This will be a joint business partnership between us and them,” Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways, said in Dubai. This is an agreement, which will result in the first launch of a new bond between their respective bases of the two airlines, Medafrica reported on Monday.

From September 9, RAM will offer three weekly flights between the airport of Casablanca-Muhammad V and that of Doha, operated by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner which can accommodate 18 passengers in business class and 256 in economy.

RAM will share its code with Qatar Airways, which offers daily return flights -Doha Casablanca.

The codeshare agreement also will provide to the RAM and Qatar Airways a range of destinations in Asia and Africa, allowing them to pass through the respective hubs of carriers. Customers of both airlines will benefit in this context of a single airline ticket all the way.

“This agreement is a crucial phase in the history of the Royal Air Morocco since it allows setting up a bridge between Asia and Africa”, welcomed the CEO of the Moroccan national airline, Driss Benhima. This partnership strengthens the relationship between Qatar and Morocco, will offer many advantages to customers of Qatar Airways which go to Casablanca and African destinations, said for his part the president of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker.

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Muslim-Friendly website aims to help Muslim travelers

Wednesday 13 May 2015 – Singapore, (IINA) – Travel to unknown destinations isn’t always easy for Muslim holiday makers concerned about where to find Islamic-friendly food and prayer facilities. But Halal travel site Crescent Ratings wants to address that. It has launched a travel aggregator called the Muslim Travel Warehouse aimed at helping tour agents arrange tailored packages for Muslim travelers.

Crescent Rating CEO Fazal Bahardeen says the site will help agents take advantage of a rapidly growing market worth around $145 billion last year, according to a travel survey it conducted in partnership with Master Card, reported The World Street Journal Europe Edition.

The new travel aggregator will develop tour packages to places such as the Maldives and Sri Lanka, choosing hotels and restaurants based on things like their access to halal food and prayer places.

Visits to Islamic sites would also be part of the mix. A trip to Spain, for example, might include several stops in Andalus because of its Islamic history.

Demand for Muslim-friendly holidays is mainly coming from Malaysia, Indonesia and countries in the Middle East, such as Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said Bahardeen.

The top destination last year was Saudi Arabia, driven by trips to the holy city of Makkah. Other Muslim-majority countries also were among the top destinations, but Bahardeen says more and more Muslim travelers are looking to explore new places, particularly in Europe.

And because they’re not sure of the availability of Muslim friendly services in those places, there is more demand for tour packages that provide that information, he said.

Malaysia grabbed the top spot in the Master Card survey, but Indonesia showed it has potential, something the country’s tourism industry and government are hoping to develop to boost the economy. The world’s most populous majority-Muslim country placed No. 6 with a Muslim friendliness ranking of 67.5%. Among the top 30 destinations where Muslim travelers went last year, however, Indonesia ranked 29th.

The Muslim Travel Warehouse currently covers 16 destinations but hopes to include around 50 by the end of the year Bahardeen says it should add Indonesia within the coming months.

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Scotland Muslim woman MP to defend Muslim rights

Wednesday 13 May 2015 – Edinburgh, Scotland (IINA) – Scotland’s first female Muslim MP is hoping to be a voice for Muslims across the United Kingdom. Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh wants to be a focus for Muslims across UK as one of 13 Muslim lawmakers, she told Anadolu Agency (AA) in an interview four days after the election victory.

Tasmina won the Ochil and South Perthshire seat for the Scottish National Party (SNP) in last week’s general election, becoming the first Muslim to represent the party at Westminster.

“Just elected few days ago but I am hoping to engage with people across all Muslim communities in the country,” she told Anadolu Agency. “Hopefully they can see me as a point of contact, somebody who will stand up and always speak for equality, fairness and prosperity. So I am looking forward to engaging with all communities and hope they do contact me.”

Tasmina is the only Muslim MP in Scotland and is part of a wave of SNP candidates who unseated Labour and Liberal Democrat lawmakers to take 56 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies. She is also one of six new Muslim MPs at Westminster, taking the representation of Muslims to its highest level with 13 MPs. There are 2.8 Muslims in the U.K., according to the Muslim Council of Britain.

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With Matisse and Van Gogh, Tehran gets a makeover

TEHRAN – Agence France-Presse – Millions of commuters used to spending hours in Tehran traffic jams have at least had something nicer to look at during journeys this week: famous works of art.

Advertising boards that normally feature the latest smartphones, home appliances or insurance plans have made way until May 16 for masterpieces by famous artists in a giant urban beautification scheme.

Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and “The Blue Window” by Henry Matisse are among the reproductions lining streets and highways, aiming to get citizens more interested in art and encourage gallery visits.

The project, called “A Gallery as Big as a Town,” has taken the city by surprise. Some 1,600 billboards featuring 200 Western and Asian works and 500 Iranian ones now sit near murals of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his predecessor, the Islamic republic’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, and countless martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war.

The art, all of which would have required approval by the culture ministry – nudes are banned in Iran and other works risk being deemed un-Islamic – may be considered a distraction as well as a welcome sight in a city where fatal road accidents and bad driving are common.

For example, “The Son of Man,” the work by Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte which features an apple in the face of a man in a tie and bowler hat, stares out at drivers from an overpass.

But the sprawling scheme represents an evolution, albeit temporary, in the city’s appearance. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, advertising was banned on the grounds that it encouraged materialism and consumerism.

Street and television advertisements, however, started popping up in the 1990s and then proliferated, now accompanied by the occasional public health promotion.

The art also offers a softer side to an architecturally bland cityscape, where concrete housing blocks and revolutionary slogans such as “Death to America” and “We will always resist” are common.

The art has been a long time coming, Hamid Rezaie, a public relations officer for the Organization for Tehran’s Beautification, said, noting that an Iranian sculptor, Said Shalapour, came up with the idea a decade ago.

The exhibition is being funded by advertisers under a clause in their contracts with the municipality that sets aside 10-15 percent of the fees paid for the billboards for cultural promotions or events.

It also makes a refreshing change for at least some of the thousands who earn their living driving across the congested capital, one of the world’s biggest and most polluted cities with a population of more than 12 million.

But the scheme has also bred speculation among Iranians that it has political aims.

Tehran’s conservative mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, is a former Revolutionary Guards Air Force commander who lost out as a presidential candidate in 2005 and 2013.

Critics say Ghalibaf could use a public relations boost, given that the public judged him less palatable than Hassan Rouhani in June 2013.

But the municipality has denied any political motive, insisting the art is just the latest scheme from the mayor – following the opening of vast parks and sports complexes – to improve the lives of Tehranis.

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Cappadox festival set to revive Cappadocia

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – A new international open-air festival called Cappadox has been born in central Anatolia. The event, which will take place between May 16 and 18, was inspired by the cultural heritage and extraordinary landscape of Cappadocia.

Organized by Pozitif Live in collaboration with curator Fulya Erdemci, the Cappadox Festival aims to establish a multi-disciplinary platform to experience and enjoy the special geography of the region through music, contemporary art, gastronomy and outdoor activities.

Inviting collectors from all around the world to the region, Cappadox was conceived as a progressive festival which will transcend the past while seeking its future.


The Cappadox live music program will explore the inter-relation of music and space in the context of Cappadocia, and aims to give the Cappadocian landscape a soundtrack. The program verges on the progressive, bringing together live international and Turkish musicians from the realms of neo-classical, indie, ambient electronic and jazz.

Jozef van Wissem, Mino Cinelu, Hugh Marsh, Nils Petter Molvaer, İlhan Erşahin’s Wonderland, Mercan Dede, Hüsnü Şenlendirici, Ulaş Özdemir, Erkan Tekçi, Colleen, Grouper, Iyeoka Okoawo, Múm, Stephan Micus, Gaye Su Akyol, Erkan Oğur, Derya Türkan, Alp Ersönmez, Julia Holter and TSU! will be among the performers of the festival.

“Cappadocia Struck” is the title of the contemporary art program of the first edition of Cappadox. It refers to the profound experience one has in Cappadocia when encountering its monumental landscape, exceptional rock architecture, immerse history and complex present condition.

With the participation of 10 artists, artist duos and researchers, the program will unfold around the format of an “open studio,” where the conception, production and presentation phases of creating an artwork interlace. Opening up a space for conversations on the artistic engagement and imagination with a particular place, the program aims to process the various aspects of the region. The artists will share their initial impressions in diverse artistic gestures without the compulsory drive to turn them into a conceptual or visual image/work.

Cappadocia is an unparalleled open-air route with its natural valleys and ancient roads. The festival’s open-air activities will help guests experience Cappadocia through different ways.

Acoustic nature concerts and picnics will be waiting for guests attending the trekking routes at Cappadox. The traditional will be found alongside the contemporary, to be transformed with the interpretations of Maksut Aşkar and guest chefs.

During running events, guests will determine their own pace as they go across the pathways. Cyclers will pedal into the valleys. The ancient roads connecting the natural valleys of Cappadocia will become Cappadox exploration routes.

In addition, silent walks, expeditions and collective meditation and yoga sessions at sunrise and sunset will offer opportunities to make the most of Cappadocia’s naturally high magnetic energy.

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Istanbul Modern Cinema to mark Museum Day

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The Istanbul Modern Cinema is offering a selection of films set in museums to mark International Museum Day, which is celebrated every year on May 18.

One of the films in the program is “Russian Ark” directed by Alexander Sokurov, one of the most inventive directors of Russian cinema in recent years. Shot in a single long-take, the film recalls the idea that there is no difference between documentary and fiction.

Another film selected for screening is Jules Dassin’s “Topkapı” (1964). In the film starring Melina Mercouri and Peter Ustinov, an international gang of thieves plan a robbery to steal a precious dagger from the Topkapı Palace Museum in Istanbul.

Directed by Jem Cohen, the documentary titled “Museum Hours” focuses on the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which has been welcoming art-lovers since 1891.

Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen and Nicole Newnham’s “The Rape of Europa,” Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre’s “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present,” Frederick Wiseman’s “National Gallery” and Oeke Hoogendijk’s “The New Rijksmuseum – The Film” are among the other films in the program.

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Ottoman Health Museum opens after renovation

EDİRNE – Doğan News Agency – Trakya University’s European Museum Award-winning Sultan Bayezid II Külliye (social complex) Health Museum, located in the northwestern province of Edirne, has reopened after a one-and-a-half year restoration process. The restoration, sponsored by Turkish drug company Abdi İbrahim, had a cost of 2 million Turkish Liras.

“A sanctuary, medical research center, production factory and doctor training center were all together here. It was a mental and neurological health center. The Ottomans built this place in four years,” said Edirne Governor Dursun Ali Şahin, adding the Ottomans treated mentally-ill people, whereas they were isolated by Europeans in the west.

The 500-year-old Sultan Bayezid II Edirne Hospital has been renovated as a contemporary museum, said Abdi İbrahim President Nezih Barut.

“Twenty-six rooms of the complex have been redesigned, exactly featuring the same methods applied in the Ottoman era. We have revived the treasures of our history of medicine and now keep them for future generations with modern and impressive presentation techniques,” Barut said.

He said visitors would be able to see that men had undergone aesthetic operations in that era, adding, “Between the 15th and 18th centuries, men had aesthetic chest operations. There were also female doctors who performed hernia surgeries on janissaries. They will also see how the Turkish type smallpox vaccine expanded from Edirne to Europe and learn that the original place of rose production and rose water was Edirne. The treatments of diseases, operation techniques and other information about Ottoman health can be seen with animations in the museum.”

The Sultan Bayezid II Külliye was built in 1488 by Ottoman sultan Bayezid II, who reigned between 1481–1512. The complex remained in operation for four hundred years, from 1488 until the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878). The hospital was especially notable for its treatment methods for mental illnesses which included the use of music, water sound and scents.

The historic complex was incorporated into the structure of Trakya University in 1993 and converted into the Health Museum in 1997. It remains Turkey’s only museum in its field and provides varied and valuable information to visitors on the development of medical sciences and of medical services throughout history, especially Ottoman history.

The museum is the second most visited historical site in Edirne after the Selimiye Mosque. The museum was awarded the European Council’s “Museum Award” in 2004.

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Ancient necropolis found during construction

SİNOP – Anadolu Agency – The traces of an ancient necropolis have been unearthed during the construction of a culture center in the northern province of Sinop’s Gelincik neighborhood. The construction has been halted and excavation work has begun with the permission of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums.

Sinop Museum Director Hüseyin Vural said many artifacts dating back to the 4th century B.C. have been found through the eastern border of the necropolis.

“There are tombs and amphora among the artifacts as well as tomb gifts such as various types of Greek pottery, scent bottles and coins. We have also unearthed findings related to the Jewish faith in the west of the necropolis area. Works have been continuing,” he said.

Sinop Governor Yasemin Özata Çetinkaya said such cultural beings were always found during construction works in Sinop and salvage excavations were started. “The city is located on really historic land,” she said.

“It is exciting that these valuables which have remained underground for 6,000 years are now being presented to humanity. When the excavations are done, the findings will be removed and the construction of the culture center will continue here. The findings will be displayed in the museum,” the governor said.

“If it is approved, we can display these findings in an area in the culture center. Then the center will work as a natural museum. There are many examples of it in Turkey and the world. This is the most-preferred method,” she added.

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Excavations reveal history in Gaziantep

GAZİANTEP – Anadolu Agency – Archaeological excavations have been ongoing in four different spots in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, which is one of the oldest settlements in the world.

Italian Nicolo Marchetti is the head of the Karkamış excavations while German Engelbert Winter leads the Dülük excavations. Meanwhile, American David Scholen is leading work in Zincirli Höyük and Turkish Ankara University Professor Kutalmış Görkay is the leader of the ancient city of Zeugma’s excavations.

The highlights of the excavations include the Gypsy Girl mosaic, unearthed in Zeugma, which dates back to 300 B.C. and the biggest stela (a stone or wooden slab erected as a commemorative monument) of the Babylon King Nebuchadnezzar, which was found in Karkamış and dates back to 3,300 B.C.

In the ancient city of Dülük, with settlements dating back to 6,000 B.C., stela and temple remains were unearthed. Ruins of historic buildings and the walls and foundation of a palace were among the findings unearthed in the 5,000-year-old Zincirli mound.

History of the region revealed

The Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Ergun Özuslu said Gaziantep and its vicinity were extremely rich in terms of archaeology.

“Works in environmental arrangement have continued to open these historic places to tourism. The archaeopark work in Karkamış will end this year. Excavations continue non-stop in the temple area of Dülük. These successful excavations reveal the history of the southeastern region,” he said.

Özuslu said they tried to establish new fields to meet the needs of tourists, as all the ancient areas in the city would open to tourism.

He said that they also focused on promotional work, via brochures and websites, where they “promote (Turkey’s) richness in national and international fairs.”

Noting that the number of local and foreign tourists was rising every year, Özuslu said more than 442,000 people visited Gaziantep last year.

“The Gaziantep Mosaic Museum was visited by 206,256 people last year. Thirty thousand more people visited the museum compared to the previous year. We expect this figure to reach 250,000. Our purpose is to promote the richness of the city to more people,” he added.

He said that renovations in the Gaziantep Archaeology Museum would be finished by the end of the year, and the museum would open to tourists again.

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Van awaits restoration, tourists for historic Armenian churches

Deniz Çiyan – VAN – In a city that has been home to various civilizations since the 9th century B.C., the historic Armenian churches in Turkey’s eastern province of Van await visitors and hopefully restoration – in order to stop them from being forgotten.

One of the most well-known Armenian churches in Turkey, the Surp Haç (Holy Cross) Church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, has stood in all its glory for the past 13 centuries and was renovated and opened as a museum in 2007. But other historic churches in the region have not been as lucky.

The Gduts Church on Lake Van’s Çarpanak Island, which dates back to the 9th century, stands as the only structure on the island, as the other parts of the monastery complex were ruined over time.

Having undergone restoration in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Gduts Church was most recently renovated in the 17th century. With the church’s bell tower and ceiling still standing, the scenery of the island with the church, seagulls flying in front, and Mount Süphan in the background is worth seeing.

Çarpanak Island, which is a preserved site both naturally and historically, is home to many seagulls. The tour guides warn visitors to watch out for seagull nests full of eggs to both preserve the natural habitat and also avoid an Alfred Hitchockian scene from his film “The Birds.”

Another historic Armenian church in the region, the Saint Bartholomew Church, is located in the Albayrak village of Van’s Başkale district and offers visitors a great example of how big and glorious the constructions of the 9th century were.

The church was built on the burial place of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, who is believed to have brought Christianity to Armenians in the 1st century.

The two bell towers and ceiling of the church collapsed during a strong earthquake in 1976, a local villager told the Daily News, adding the church had not been destroyed by treasure hunters, a fate which the Gduts Church could unfortunately not escape, as the Saint Bartholomew Church had been inside the Turkish army’s territory for years.

Aiming to make the province a popular attraction for tourism by offering the region’s many hidden treasures to explorers, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Burhan Kayatürk said they have initiated a faith tourism model for Van.

“Van has a high tourism potential and various concepts can be developed to revive this potential. Thus the Faith Tourism to Van model is one of these concepts,” said Kayatürk.

He said they aimed to use the Akdamar Church as a key to attract tourists from all over the world but especially Armenians, who would want to see the churches built by their ancestors.

An interesting story comes up about the Akdamar Church, which entered UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List in 2015, when one realizes the dominance of the color blue on the frescos inside the church.

When the Armenian community living in Van left the region for Armenia following the 1915 incidents, they covered the frescos with a special mixture, as they thought they would return to their homes soon. When they could not do so, the mixture started to meddle into the frescos and thus today they have a bluish appearance.

Hasan, a 25-year-old car tire repairer in Güzelsu village, which is located right under the Hoşab (sweet water) fortress, said he supports the initiatives taken to revive tourism in the region, as there are many hidden beauties which are not known.

“We would want tourism to develop in Van and tourists to come see these places,” said Hasan, citing economic reasons as his primary support for the cause.

Hasan is married with a child and another one on the way and works seven days a week, though he says some days he earns nothing. He says his work has slowed down since last year, and it is especially bad right before the general elections on June 7.

Van not only offers ancient churches but also many other historic and natural beauties. Lake Van itself is a must-see, especially in the spring season when the mountain tops surrounding the lake are still covered with snow and the meadows are as green as ever.

The medieval fortress of Hoşab near the Turkey-Iran border, the Van fortress dating back to the Urartu Kingdom, which had Van as its capital between the 9th and 6th centuries B.C., and Lake Erçek during July and the first week of September, when flamingos migrate to the southern and warmer parts of the world, are some of the other amazing places the city offers its visitors.

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Turkish Airlines to launch direct flights to Miami

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkish Airlines (THY), Turkey’s national flag-carrier, will begin direct flights to Miami on Oct. 25, the company announced on May 13.

The move makes Miami the company’s 12th destination in the Americas, on top of existing services to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Toronto, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Boston, Montreal and San Francisco.

Reciprocal Miami flights will be operated every weekday, THY said.

One of the largest and fastest-growing carriers in the world, THY currently serves more than 260 destinations around the globe from its centrally located Istanbul hub, which offers easy access to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. A member of the Star Alliance, THY’s quick growth has been accompanied by a steady stream of industry-wide recognition for outstanding customer service. Along with being rated a World Top 10 Airline at the Skytrax World Airline Awards each of the past four years, THY has also won consecutive “Best Airline in Europe” honors for the same four-year time period.

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Turkish Airlines adds 7 new destinations from Ankara

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Turkish Airlines will add seven new direct foreign flight destinations from Turkey’s capital Ankara beginning from Oct. 1, 2015, officials said on May 14.

Ankara Chamber of Industry head Nurettin Özdebir told Anadolu Agency that Turkish Airlines had promised to add 27 flights per week from Ankara to seven new foreign destinations.

“Turkish Airlines is currently flying directly from Ankara to Moscow and Dusseldorf,” he said. “Beginning from Oct. 1 the airline will fly directly from Ankara to Frankfurt, Vienna, Baku, Brussels, London, Tehran and Amsterdam.”

Özdebir said he had participated on May 13 in a meeting with, among others, Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Director General of Civil Aviation Bilal Eksi and Ankara Esenboğa Airport Director Nuray Demirer.

He said it was decided at the meeting that Turkish Airlines and its subsidiary, Anadolu Jet, would also add direct flights from Ankara to seven new foreign destinations in 2016 and to another five in 2017.

Özdebir said that, in 2016, Turkish Airlines will begin flying directly from Ankara to Berlin, Hamburg, Koln, Stuttgart, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Paris. In 2017, flights will go from Ankara to Munich, Batumi, Arbil, Bagdad and Jeddah.

About 850,000 people fly from Ankara to foreign destinations every year using Istanbul as a transit point, he said, with the number of travelers rising between 15 and 20 percent annually.

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Turkey hosts UK’s largest independent travel agent partnership

BODRUM – Hurriyet Daily News – Members of the Advantage Travel Partnerships, the UK’s largest independent travel agency partnership, will hold their annual conference in the Aegean province of Bodrum through May 15-18.

“We are very excited that, for the first time, we have the opportunity to totally inhabit our own environment … Taking over your own resort is a good place to start and work has begun on developing a first-class conference program,” Colin O’Neill, business development director at Advantage Travel Partnership, said in a press release on the organization’s website when it announced Bodrum as the 2015 host.

Bodrum is served by a number of UK regional airports with direct flights to the local airport, enabling delegates to travel easily to the conference. The main theme of this year’s Advantage Conference, held at the Hapimag Resort Sea Garden Bodrum, is technology. Keynote speeches will be made by scientist Susan Greenfield, who studies the effects of technological developments on the human brain and workforce, Wired U.K. Editor David Rowan and journalist Jeremy Paxman.

Two leaders of the sector, Paul Tilstone and Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, will also share their experiences with the members of the organization. Representatives from leading tourism companies such as EasyJet, Willis and Hallmark, will also make presentations at the conference.

The Advantage Travel Partnerships’ members come together each year to discuss the latest developments in the sector.

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Turkey to organize health tourism summit in London

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – The Turkish Health Ministry will organize a health tourism summit in London between June 25 and 27, a ministry official said May 11.

“Turkish trade delegations will take an opportunity to cooperate with NHS (National Health Services) officials, insurance company officials, investors and agencies at the summit,” the director-general of health development under the ministry, Ömer Tontuş, told the Anadolu Agency.

The summit’s aim is to provide an opportunity to entrepreneurs and investors in the health tourism sector and pave the way for British people to choose Turkey instead of India for health tourism, said Tontuş.

He said that organ transplantation, test-tube baby procedures, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, cardiology, orthopedics and traumatology, plastic surgery and mouth and dental health will be discussed at the summit.

The Turkish British Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Afyon Kocatepe University will also support the summit. Information will be provided about the physical treatment and rehabilitation services in Turkey throughout the summit.

Domestic and foreign speakers are expected to attend the summit, he added.

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Turkish tourism sector eyes $36 billion income in 2015

KAYSERİ – Anadolu Agency – Turkish tourism representatives expect to reach over $35 billion in this year’s annual income by hosting more than 42 million tourists, despite Europe’s economic problems and conflicts in neighboring countries, said Başaran Ulusoy, president of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB).

“The sector has been growing by 2-3 percent, despite the downfalls all around, including security concerns in Syria, Iraq and Libya as well as economic problems in the eurozone. Turkey will close the year with more than 42 million tourists and over $36 billion in yearly income, I believe,” he said in an interview with Anadolu Agency.

He also said more than 8 million Turkish people go abroad for vacation and visit 78 countries.

Ulusoy also addressed the winter tourism potentials of Turkey, referring to the Erciyes Skiing Center in the province of Kayseri.

“We should evaluate such centers 365 days a year… Our aim is to enable these (newly built) facilities to attract tourists, both local and foreign, in summer as well as in winter,” he said.

The number of tourists who visited Turkey reached an all-time high of around 37 million in 2014, pushing Turkey closer to Italy on the most visited destination chart.

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Bangladesh working to improve facilities for People with Disabilities

DHAKA, May 12, 2015 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said the present government is working relentlessly to create an atmosphere friendly to differently able people and enacted laws in this regard to bring them into the mainstream of society.

“Accelerating national progress is not possible by leaving the disadvantaged population of the country behind. Problems and the solutions for the people suffering from various disabilities are totally different and that is why all of them are not coming under the overall development at the same time,” he said.

“There is no alternative to comprehensive remedies after identifying their individual problems,” Menon added.

The minister came up with the observations while addressing an annual award distribution function at Dhaka Deaf High School in city’s Bijoynagar as the chief guest, an official release said.

Menon said the government has already implemented quite a few programmes to develop the education system for people with speech disabilities and hearing impairment.

“Government is working to ensure higher education for the speech disabled people. We have ensured special quota for them in job sector,” he added.

President of the school, advocate Taimur Alam Khandaker, chief engineer of Education Engineering Department Md Hamzana, Jatiya Badhir Sangstha general secretary and headmaster of the school Aminul Islam addressed the function, among others.

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Mongla-Ghasiakhali channel to open in June

DHAKA, May 12, 2015 (BSS) – Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan said Mongla-Ghasiakhali channel will be fully opened to water transports from June.

The minister said this at a press conference arranged on navigation on the Mongla-Ghasiakhali channel at the ministry’s conference room here today.

Shipping Secretary Shafique Alam Mehedi and chief engineer of the Bangladesh Inter Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Abdul Matin, among others, were present.

Talking about the opening of the navigation route on experimental basis, the Shipping Minister said “a demand was raised for the opening of Mongla-Ghasiakhali river route after widespread destruction of environment and aquatic and living beings after the capsize of an oil-tanker in Shela river at Sundarban on December 9 last year.

The minister said, in 1974, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the initiative of excavating the Ghasiakhali channel in view of its national and international importance.

He said,Taka 113 crore has been spent to excavate the 13-kilometer long channel to make the river navigable.

The opening of the channel will reduce 87 kilometers of additional river ways, he said adding that travelling costs and operational charge of water vessels will also come down.

“All sorts of necessary initiatives including excavation of 32 more canals will be taken to launch the opening of the channel by June next.”

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UAE keen to sign air service agreement with Bangladesh

DHAKA, May 10, 2015 (BSS)-The United Arab Emirate (UAE) has expressed its keen interest to sign an air service agreement with Bangladesh for establishing sound air connectivity between the two countries.

The interest was revealed when UAE Ambassador to Bangladesh Dr Saed Bin Hajar Al Shehi made a call on Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon at his ministry at Bangladesh Secretariat here today.

During the meeting, the minister assured the UAE envoy that Bangladesh government will take necessary steps for signing the air service agreement with the UAE.

Referring to the excellent existing bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the UAE, the minister expressed his hope that the ambassador will play an important role in procuring more unskilled and skilled human resources from this country.

The minister said there are ample potentials in making investment in Bangladesh civil aviation and tourism sectors.

Menon hoped that the UAE will step forward for making more investment in Bangladesh by utilizing the prevailing opportunities, offered by the Bangladesh government’s investment friendly policies.

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West African States Open Direct Flights to Abuja

By Chinedu Eze

This Day – 15 May 2015 – Heads of state of West African countries have agreed to have direct flights from the capital of each country to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, the headquarters of ECOWAS.

By this development, Nigerian airlines are free to operate unhindered from Abuja to any capital city in West Africa; therefore Abuja has become the melting pot of airline operation in the sub-region.

This was disclosed by the Legal Advisor, African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Sam Gaya who spoke to THISDAY on Tuesday at the African Aviation Summit 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa, that what the West African states have done is an extension of Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD).

Gaya said that it was an opportunity for Nigerian airlines to operate freely in these countries without hindrances as Africa strives for full implementation of open skies in 2017.

Gaya, a Nigerian who worked for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) before he moved to AFCAC, which has its headquarters in Dakar, Senegal, said that YD objective was for African airlines to operate freely in Africa without bilateral hindrances and that the planned open skies for Africa is the component of the Yamoussoukro Declaration or Decision.

“The concept of single African skies is what the heads of state agreed in January, 2015 must come into place by 2017. The single African sky is a continuation of the YD. It is the ultimate actualisation of the YD. so you have only one sky in Africa; you don’t need any bilateral air service agreement; you just file your flight plan and fly from Lagos to Abidjan.

“The YD provides for safety and security, which must meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards, so we must look at all those areas. So we have to look at all those areas before 2017. These are the standards of ICAO. Before you allow an airline to come it must meet these standards,” Gaya said.

He noted that since year 2000 Nigeria has been implementing YD, observing that it is a rule in Nigeria to implement YD, adding that the country does not have any problem implementing YD, but unfortunately Nigerian airlines have not taken advantage of this policy by operating to different destinations in the continent.

“It is for the airlines in Nigeria to take advantage of the implementation of YD. Let me go back, Asky airline in Togo flies to about 34 countries in Africa under YD and it is a private airline. So why shouldn’t Nigerian airlines which are also private airlines utilise the opportunity that Nigeria has given them? They are not utilising it; it is not the fault of government.

“Nigeria is the market, 170 to 200 million people, Nigeria is the market. There is even a decision of the heads of state of West Africa that every capital of every country in the sub-region should be connected to Abuja. This is in addition to YD. So there is no Nigerian airline that cannot fly as a rule to any capital city in West Africa. Abuja being the headquarters of ECOWAS must be linked to the capital of every country in the sub-region,” Gaya also said.

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Nigeria: 11 Airports Lighting to Be Ready July

Daily Trust – 13 May 2015 – Lagos — The airfield lighting of 11 airports across the country will be completed in July, the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, has said.

The minister disclosed this when he inaugurated the Common User Passenger Processing System (CUPPS) at the Domestic Terminal II of the Muratala Mohammed Airport owned and operated by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services (BASL).

He said 13 airports are being fitted with airfield lighting for improved productivity and enhanced operations.

“Airlines shouldn’t be under pressure to finish their flights. Because of this, I have pushed for airfield lighting in 13 airports,” he revealed.

Chidoka also said the concept of Measurement, Monitoring and Improvement (MMI) had become inevitable if the country’s aviation industry must move forward.

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Malaysian investors have high confidence in Indonesia

12 May 2015 – Makassar, S Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Datuk Seri Zahrain Mohammad Hashim said that investors from his country continue to have high confidence in Indonesia.

“Malaysia has become the third-largest investing country in Indonesia, after Singapore and Japan,” Hashim stated here on Tuesday.

Malaysian entrepreneurs, he noted, invested not only in trade sectors, but also in the fields of infrastructure, communications and banking. These reflect the high confidence of Malaysia’s investors in Indonesia.

Hashim also pointed out that Malaysia will increase the amount of investment in Indonesia.

“We know Indonesia is developing its infrastructure. We want the Indonesian government to involve Malaysian entrepreneurs in these projects,” he emphasized.

Moreover, Hashim added that Malaysian businessmen have been involved in the development of infrastructure projects in Indonesia, including the construction of the Cikampek-Palimanan Toll Road, which is also funded by Malaysian banks.

“Indonesian and Malaysia can cooperate to develop infrastructure such ports, roads, and railway networks, as well as energy,” he affirmed.

With regard to the implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community, he said that Malaysia has been spreading awareness among its people about the free market region.

“We are building awareness so people understand what the ASEAN Economic Community is,” he remarked.

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Indonesia offers virtual tour at World Expo Milano

14 May 2015 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Visitors at the World Expo Milano (WEM) 2015 in Milan, Italy, can enjoy a virtual tour of Indonesia through an Oculus media show “Virtual Journey of Indonesia” at the Indonesian pavilion, a senior official stated.

Director General for National Export Development of the Ministry of Trade Nus Nuzulia Ishak recently noted that the Oculus media show will provide visitors to the WEM at the Indonesian pavilion a feel of Indonesia through the Virtual Journey of Indonesia program.

They can experience Indonesia’s tourism attractions such as hearing the whisper of sand at Mount Bromo or being present amid the car-free day in Jakarta.

“Visitors at the WEM 2015 can virtually witness and feel Indonesia’s tourism attractions through the Oculus media show as though they were traveling in Indonesia,” Ishak remarked during the Virtual Journey of Indonesia premiere at the Indonesian Pavilion in Milan, on Thursday (May 7).

Oculus is a virtual media platform that replicates a true-to-life experience of having visited a place. The latest technology medium, which was discovered by Palmer Lucky, is equipped with a special four-dimensional spectacle and a supporting screen to produce the desired effects.

The users of the technology can also experience real-life effects such as dew and water, among others.

The Indonesian pavilion, which aims to showcase Indonesia’s present and future, is therefore using the oculus media to let the visitors experience Indonesia.

Visitors will feel as though they were actually visiting Indonesia through a virtual medium. The use of the medium through the Virtual Journey of Indonesia is expected to attract more visitors to the Indonesian pavilion.

Moreover, the show is located near the “Bogor Cafe Desa Restaurant,” so that the visitors can enjoy Indonesian culinary specialties such as “sate ayam” (chicken satay), “nasi goring” (fried rice), and various others Indonesian delicacies.

“So, if visitors want to enjoy unforgettable Indonesian tourism attractions and culinary specialties in a single day, they can just visit the Indonesian pavilion at the WEM, Milan,” added Ishak.

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UNESCO’S campaign #Unite4Heritage launched from Egypt

Nevine El-Aref – Thursday 14 May 2015 – UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria and Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty, attend the opening of a conference on “cultural property under threat.”, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 (Photo: AP)

On Wednesday, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova launched the second phase of the campaign “#Unite4Heritage” from the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Babul Khalq, which was damaged in a car bomb explosion in January 2014 during the anniversary of January 2011 revolution. The campaign aims to renew the alliance between society, youth and heritage.

At the MIA, Bokova embarked on an inspection tour of rehabilitation and restoration work that has been carried out. When the MIA was partly destroyed, Bokova said, UNESCO immediately extended a helping hand, giving an initial aid package of $100,000 and addressing the international community to gain larger support to restore its vital collection of Islamic heritage.

“The MIA is symbolic and the richest (collection of Islamic heritage) in the world because it houses exquisite Islamic objects from different Islamic periods,” Bokova said.

“Protecting and preserving cultural heritage is very important as it plays a role in maintaining tolerance and living together,” Bokova asserted adding: “This is the message that we want to spread today, and the message that Egypt is taking to the whole world.”


Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty described the event as “distinguished and a defining moment for a unique museum.”

Many countries, NGO’s and private sector provided support when the MIA was damaged, including Italian government that offered 800,000 Euros, the United Arab Emirates that took responsbility for rehabiliting the inside of the museum, the American Research Centre in Cairo, which will restore the museum’s façade, as well as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum. Germany and Austria helped with training MIA curators and restorers.

Alesandro Modiano, deputy of Italian ambassador to Egypt, said that when the MIA was damaged Italy was one of the first countries to offer help. “Italy is very proud to be involved in the salvage operation because it is not only helping to preserve cultural heritage, but because the MIA’s architectural design was made by Italian architect Alfonso Maniscalo.”

Bokova also inaugurated the Cultural Property Under Threat conference and visited the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

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Baku airport to operate in enhanced mode during European Games

15 May 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The Heydar Aliyev International Airport during the European Games in Baku will operate in enhanced mode to ensure safety and passenger services at a high level, the head of the press service of Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), Maharram Safarli, told Trend.

He said that in connection with the First European Games, the Heydar Aliyev International Airport has undertaken serious security measures.

“An RSM radar of the most modern type and a French-made air traffic control tower have been recently installed in order to ensure the flight safety,” said Safarli. “Aside from that, to ensure the aviation safety, a DTR-2000 electronic fence system at a length of 10,850 meters has been installed at the airport.”

He added that a number of activities have also been taken to render high level service to the guests coming for the First European Games.

“Some 12 floodlight towers have been installed at the airport’s ramp, as well as the landside, to improve the services rendered to passengers at night,” Safarli said.

“Also, the traffic lane on the roads in the airport’s territory and inside the airport was renewed, and the gardening and landscaping works were carried out along the roads.”

Safarli also said that the ad of the Baku 2015 First European Games has already been installed in the airport’s territory and in the terminals.

He noted that the domestic flights schedule will not undergo any changes due to Baku 2015.

As for international flights, Safarli said that if necessary, AZAL can deploy additional planes.

Baku 2015 is the first-ever European Games, an exciting and innovative multi-sport event for the continent that will take place on June 12-28, 2015.

There will be a total of 20 sports at Baku 2015: 16 Olympic sports and four non-Olympic sports. More than 6,000 athletes from across Europe will be representing their nations over 17 days of competition.

Baku was awarded the games by the European Olympic Committees (EOC) in December 2012.

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Qatar Airways to continue expansion throughout 2015

Gulf Times – 16 May, 2015 – Qatar Airways has stressed that it will continue to expand through 2015, which includes launching services to new destinations, increasing frequency and capacity and expanding its fleet.

In a statement from Qatar Airways providing a route and frequency roundup, it is noted that the airline will launch flights to Zanzibar from July 1, taking the total number of destinations in the airline’s Africa network to 20. The new five-times-a-week service will go via Kilimanjaro. The Doha-Kilimanjaro route will become a non-stop service with the return Kilimanjaro-Doha route served via Zanzibar.

Major expansion in South Africa will see Qatar Airways introduce a new four-times-a-week service to Durban on December 17.

Qatar Airways has also added two new codeshare destinations through its partnership with Cathay Pacific. Customers can now enjoy more convenient connections to Muscat and Sao Paulo with Cathay Pacific via Doha.

Middle Eastern routes benefit from increases to Saudi Arabia and Oman in response to continued passenger demand. From May 16, Qatar Airways will fly daily to Ta’if, while Gassim will see flights increase to 10 flights per week from July 17. Seasonal increases will see 13 flights per week fly to Salalah from July 13 to October 4.

From June 1, Qatar Airways will operate an additional service to Singapore to cater to the increasing demand, the statement adds. The new daily flight will depart from Doha at 8.25pm and arrive in Singapore the next day at 9.15am, before returning to Doha.

Starting on August 1, 32% more seats will be added to Qatar Airways’ Doha-Bengaluru service to meet increasing passenger demand, the statement further points out. The current Boeing 787, which seats 254, will be replaced by a Boeing 777 with a capacity of 335.

In addition to new routes to Durban, major expansion in South Africa sees increases in services to Cape Town and Johannesburg. From October 1, flights to Cape Town will increase to a daily service ahead of the busy winter season. Flights to Johannesburg will increase to a twice-daily service commencing on December 17.

Flight frequency increases to Indonesia will see the capital, Jakarta, served by a thrice-daily service from July 5, operated by a Boeing 777 and Airbus A330. Increases to routes to Denpasar will see twice-daily operations from July 16.

Qatar Airways became the first airline to operate the A350 XWB to Singapore and the Asia Pacific on May 11. Initially, the A350 XWB will operate once a day, with the second daily operation commencing on July 16.

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Oman Seminar discusses sustainable tourism

Oman Daily Observer – 12 May, 2015 – A seminar on application of sustainable tourism indicators began at Muscat Intercontinental Hotel yesterday under the patronage of Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs.

The three-day seminar is organised by the Ministry of Tourism. The chief guest said that the seminar is important as it comes, in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization (WTO). It discusses sustainable development indicators in the tourism sector and gives global indicators about the efficiency in the application of sustainable tourism.

Ahmed bin Nasser al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, said that the seminar comes within the framework to take advantage of the WTO experience to apply the methodology of sustainable tourism indicators on of tourist sites.

He added that the Ministry of Tourism has taken the initiative to cooperate with WTO for organising the seminar within the framework of seeking to apply the tourism strategy whose fundamentals require the application of sustainable tourism indicators.

The seminar aims to get acquainted with the concept of sustainable tourism development and provide participants with practical experience and applicable methodology in the field of the use of environmental indicators and obtain proposals for indicators that will be used to conduct the feasibility study for the planned observatory model to be established in Al Khiran area.

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New ATMs in Dubai allow iPad-like pinch/swipe gestures

Emirates 24/7 – 12 May, 2015 – Two new cash dispensers, or ATM machines, have been launched in Dubai today, offering iPad-like features including multi-touch and pinch/swipe gestures. Additionally, the firm behind the launch claims the new machines are much safer than traditional ATMs besides being able to hold more notes.

Consumer transaction technologies firm NCR Corporation today announced the Middle East Africa launch of SelfServ 23 and SelfServ 27, interior and exterior cash dispensers that boast of an increased capacity of holding 2,500 notes – 17 per cent more than the notes that traditional ATMs can hold in their cassettes.

The firm maintains that security on these ATMs has been ‘designed in’ rather than ‘bolted on’ in reaction to risk. NCR says it has ensured protection of all potential points of compromise from insider attacks, as well as cash trapping, card skimming and dispenser manipulations on the ATM.

To further enhance security, the safe body is exactly the same strength as the door and provides 66 per cent more resistance to full access attacks and 50 per cent more resistance to attacks to remove a cassette, the firm notes in a media statement.

The SelfServ 23 and 27 are fully EMV compliant and consumer interaction is enabled through multi-touch and pinch/swipe gesture capability. These functions enable consumers to undertake new kinds of interactions at the ATM, such as mobile cash withdrawal or contactless card reading.

NCR is exhibiting the SelfServ 23 in Dubai at the ongoing Cards and Payments Middle East 2015 summit.

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Tourists explore beyond Salalah

Oman Daily Observer – 13 May, 2015 – Europeans are now travelling to Salalah to savour the rugged beauty of Dhofar. A destination which was known only for Khareef a few years ago, it has already established itself as a four-season destination.

The tourists are coming from Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and other countries keep coming even after the Khareef from September till the end of May to beat sub zero temperatures in their countries and enjoy sunny yet green winter of Salalah. Tour operators have come out with cross country tourism packages which involve customised tour plans Vish Ranasinghe, Manager Tourism Department of Al Fawaz Tours, says, “Their consistent demand forced us to design packages as per their requirement… The services travel by the words of mouth.

Either you serve your guests or you do not serve. If your customer is happy, you will get more customers and if he is not happy you may have to close your shop.”

Ranasinghe designed a package titled ‘Oman Crossing’ which is a trip from Wahiba Sands to the Rub al Khali desert in the southern Dhofar Region via coastal terrain of Oman.

“In this package we let our guests experience the diversity of landscapes in Oman. We take them to the most remote areas of Oman to let them see the lifestyle of the Omanis living in the villages far away from the cities. Cross the vast deserts of Arabia. Spend nights under the clear sky and watch the sunset at a beach.”

And the tourists love to enjoy a barbeque meal with fresh fish after enjoying breathtaking sceneries of nature. The tourists also have an opportunity to experience with local traditions. It is a lifetime opportunity with true camping experience in the wilderness areas while visiting Oman.

The route for country crossing depends on the choice of the guests. “We prefer Wahiba, Qihayd, Khalouf, Duqm, Ras Madraka, Al Jizr, Wadi Ayninah, Shuweimiya, Wadi Shuweimiya, Shalim, Marmul, Shisr, Hashman, Thumrait and Salalah,: said Ranasinghe.

The cross country tour is covered generally in six days with several activities including experiencing the desert and swimming in the ocean. In between the tourists get to see some interesting things like stunning landscape of Oman and Rock Garden at Duqm.

“Hiking in one of the wadis (water canals), experiencing Red Lagoon and bird colonies, spending time at Ubar, the lost city and watching sunset over the sand dunes in Rub al Khali desert are some highlights of the tour,” said Ranasinghe.

Ranasinghe said it is good also for local tour guides and businesses associated with tourism. This sector, according to him, is bound to grow more in the coming days.

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Bahrain gearing up to host major aviation forum

Gulf Daily News – 13 May, 2015 – Preparations are in full swing as Bahrain Airport Company (BAC), the managing body and operator of Bahrain International Airport (BIA), is gearing up to host the first edition of Routes Middle East and Africa 2015 (Routes MEA 2015) in Bahrain this month.

The inaugural event will be held at the Gulf Convention Centre from May 31 to June 2 and is expected to draw in hundreds of delegates from across the Middle East and African’ aviation industry looking to benefit from valuable information exchange, networking opportunities and prospective partnerships.

Routes MEA will provide an ideal knowledge-sharing platform for aviation professionals via exposure to constructive panel discussions, debates and presentations on upcoming trends, aviation challenges and developments across the Middle East and Africa.

This significant industry gathering will be attended by more than 350 visiting delegates representing the vast aviation spectrum including airlines, airports, tourism authorities and related bodies.

An exclusive list of high-calibre industry experts and thought leaders has been lined up to shed light on vital topics impacting aviation advancement in the region during the one-day Strategy Summit.

This select group of specialists has helped shape the industry in the Middle East and Africa, and will focus their discussions on route development strategies and opportunities, open skies policies and protocols, the pressing need for better information exchange and regulatory reforms, the impact of European legislation on Middle East carriers, airport congestion and building airports for the future, and market liberalisation across Africa to fuel tourism growth.

‘Routes events are considered to be one of the most significant global gatherings for the aviation industry and attract senior representatives seeking to benefit from the interactive sessions and valuable information exchange,’ BAC chief commercial officer Mohamed Khalil said.

‘This is the first year that a Routes event will be held for the Middle East and Africa regions jointly and taking into consideration the tremendous growth potential this region holds for the aviation and tourism industry, we are confident that it will be a great success.

‘The region has become very important from an aviation perspective and represents nearly 11 per cent of global aviation ‘“ about double its share from a decade ago.

‘International industry forums such as these provide an invaluable source of information to help this region stay ahead of the game,’ he added.

‘We are proud to be hosting this prestigious inaugural event in Bahrain; it offers a remarkable opportunity to affirm Bahrain’s role as a leading regional hub and reiterates our deep-rooted aviation heritage.

‘We look forward to welcoming the visiting delegates and showing them the unparalleled warmth and hospitality that defines us, both as host and as a nation,’ he said.

‘We are delighted to be holding the inaugural Routes Middle East and Africa in Bahrain,’ said UBM EMEA director routes Katie Bland.

‘This event will bring the wider aviation community to Bahrain, providing our hosts with the ideal opportunity to showcase their destination, and reaffirm their status as an aviation hub for the region.

‘We’re looking forward to working with the team from BAC, the host for our very first Routes event dedicated to air service development to, from and within the Middle East and Africa.’

Routes MEA will become part of the global Routes portfolio organised by UBM EMEA, which includes World Routes, Routes Asia, Routes Europe, Routes Americas, Routes Silk Road, Routes Africa and Routesonline.

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GCC tourism looks to mega events

The Peninsula – 14 May, 2015 – Tourism officials of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have agreed on the need to act fast to benefit mutually from upcoming mega-events in the region.

Undersecretaries to tourism ministers and chairpersons of tourism authorities in the GCC are in Doha to set action plans to support development within tourism in the Gulf.

On the first day of their meeting yesterday, the tourism officials focused on exploring mechanisms to enhance intra-GCC tourism, while building on the success of the Cruise Arabia Alliance, a regional collaboration that is strengthening the Gulf’s position as a cruise destination.

Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) Chairman Issa bin Mohamed Al Mohannadi opened the meeting by encouraging the officials to speed up joint GCC action to ensure all member states benefit from mega events coming to the region in the coming decade, such as Dubai Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022.

The officials also laid the groundwork for a regular GCC Handicrafts Exhibition, the first edition of which will be hosted by Qatar.

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Kuwait working on developing tourism

Kuwait Times – 15 May, 2015 – Kuwait is hammering out a full-fledged national strategy aimed at developing the tourism sector, a visiting Kuwaiti official announced here yesterday.

The blueprint is being drafted in coordination with the Ministry of Planning and development, the UN Development Program and with supervision by the World Tourism Organization in addition to a Kuwaiti consultancy group, said Samira Al-Gharib, the tourism assistant undersecretary at the Ministry of Information.

Al-Gharib, speaking at a GCC tourism undersecretaries meeting, indicated that upgrading tourism in Kuwait is part of the overall plan to turn the country into a major business hub. Economic reforms have become a State priority, she said; that is in addition to diversifying the economy and luring foreign investments, “amid growing inflow of Kuwaiti youth into the labor market,” thus there is a mounting need for new jobs, medium and small enterprises, said Al-Gharib.

The approach to develop tourism warrants updating the leisure and entertainment facilities, preserving the environment and safeguarding key national landmarks, she said, noting the need for promoting public awareness of the tourism necessity. She also indicated at the role of the countries media and calling for a special educational curriculum. “The approach requires training job seekers, working out promotion campaigns, holding seminars and activities to promote the sector and market Kuwait as a tourism Mecca”, she said.

There are two projects, listed as part of the state budget (2015-2016); the tourism statistical scheme and tourism promotion plan. The GCC undersecretaries of tourism started their meeting here on Wednesday was intended to promote this sector in preparation for a ministerial gathering of GCC ministers of tourism and senior officials to be hosted by Qatar next October.

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Ceramic exhibition opens in Oman

Oman Daily Observer – 15 May, 2015 – Dr Abdulmunim bin Mansour al Hasani, Minister of Information opened, at Nizwa Castle yesterday the art exhibition (Ceramic Angles).

The exhibition is organised by the Directorate-General of Education in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate for teachers of fine arts in the governorate. The exhibition includes 56 artworks inspired from the ceramic crafts.

The chief guest toured the exhibition, which also included a ceramic furnace that helps in producing high quality ceramic artworks used for teaching fine arts.

After opening the exhibition, the Minister of Information said: “Ceramic Angles exhibition is an important addition by teachers of fine arts in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate”.

He praised the efforts made by fine arts teachers.

The exhibition aims to maintain the Omani national heritage and highlight the art skills.

Meanwhile, at another function in Nizwa, the Directorate-General of Education in the Governorate of Al Dhakhiliyah organised a ceremony at the University of Nizwa yesterday under the patronage of Dr Abdulmunim.

The ceremony was organised to mark the auspicious return of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos to the homeland, as well as marking Nizwa, the Capital of Islamic Culture.

At the end of the ceremony, the chief guest honoured the participants and organisers of the ceremony.

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