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22 Jun, 2015

Christians Observe Ramadan For Lent

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 22 June 2015 (05 Ramadan 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




malaysia logo

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

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

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


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

Click here to see the fabulous new website

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

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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


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




Mustafiz stars in Bangladesh’s historic cricket win over India

DHAKA, June 21, 2015 (BSS)- Pacer Mustafizur Rahman scalped a six-wicket haul to see Bangladesh qualify for the ICC Champions’ Trophy finals in a grand style as they dumped India by six wickets to clinch the first ever bilateral One Day International (ODI) series at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium today.

Even the scattered rain could not dampen the spirit of the Tigers who needed a victory today to seal their first ever ODI series win over twice World Champions, India. Today’s win assured Bangladesh will be in the Champions’ Trophy scheduled to be held in England in 2017.

Through this win the Tigers also trotted to their straight 10th ODI win although all the games were at home.

Chasing a target of 200 runs, Bangladesh reached the goal in 38 overs for the loss of four wickets, after heavy rain forced the game to be curtailed to a 47 over- a-side, match.

Shakib Al Hasan led Bangladesh’s chase as he contributed an unbeaten 51-run off 62-ball with the help of five boundaries after Soumya Sarkar (36), Liton Das (34) and Mushfiqur Rahim (31) added useful contributions to build up a magnificent victory for Bangladesh.

Tamim Iqbal was the first Bangladesh batsman to return to the pavilion. He scored 13 runs before being dismissed by India’s Dhawal Kulkarni.

Soumya Sarkar steadied the innings with Litton Das.

After a useful 50-run partnership with Litton Das, Soumya Sarkar was beaten by an Ashwin delivery which was quicker and flatter.

Ashwin, Kulkarni and Patel took one wicket each for India giving away 32, 42 and 48 runs, respectively.

Mustafizur Rahman was named the player-of-the-match for his impressive bowling performance.

Left hand opener Shikhar Dhawan (53) looked comfortable with the bat but he was beaten in flight by Nasir Hossain as he sent a slender edge to Wicketkeeper Liton Kumar Das, who redeemed himself, after dropping a tough one earlier in the over. Dhawan hammered seven boundaries during his 60-ball stay on the crease.

In the next over, Ambati Rayudu was gone for a duck, when he cut low for a catch to Nasir at point of Rubel Hossain. After Skipper Mashrafe brought Mustafiz back to the attack he dismissed Suresh Raina (34) with a cutter, again.

Mustafiz had struck early by sending back Opener Rohit Sharma for a duck in the second ball of the first over.

Apart from Mustafiz’s six wicket haul, Pacer Rubel Hossain supported him with two wickets and conceded 26 runs. Besides, All-rounder Nasir Hossain finished his spell with 2 for 33 in his quota of 10 overs including the wickets of Star Batsmen Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan.

The third and last ODI between the two sides will be held on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at the same venue.

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Iran routs US in Volleyball World League

Tehran, June 21, IRNA – Iranian national volleyball team defeated USA in straight sets 3-0 (25-20, 25-21, 25-19) in Pool B of the 2015 FIVB World League on Sunday.

The straight-sets win was Iranians’ second World League victory over the defending champions, repeating the same result gained on Friday.

With 6 scores of the two matches versus US, and having bagged 13 scores, Iran stands third in its group above Russia and after US and Poland.

Iranian and Polish national teams will face off next week.

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Iranian, US universities set for fresh interactions

Tehran, June 20, IRNA – Week-long visit of a high ranking US delegation to Iran, headed by Dr. Alan Goodman, the president of the Institute of International Education, indicated American universities resolve to develop academic ties with Iran.

The US academic delegation during their seven-day tour if Iran held talks with Chancellor of Tehran University Mahmoud Nili-Ahmadabadi, and conferred with representatives of 13 Iranian universities and academic centers on ways to upgrade academic ties and cooperation.

The head of the University of Tehran briefed them on Tehran university’s regional and international status.

He emphasized the importance of international cooperation among major world universities.

Dr. Nili-Ahmadabadi said that the University of Tehran used to have scientific cooperation with many American universities and is ready for resuming such ties once again.

Members of the US delegation said that academic diplomacy in addition to academic cooperation is preferred to the political diplomacy.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) issued a statement on June 18 by Alan Goodman in which expansion of academic ties between the two countries is considered of a supreme value compared with diplomatic dialogue.

The statement is also signed by the heads of a number of US universities who included the delegation.

Dr. Allan E. Goodman is the sixth President of the Institute of International Education, the leading non-profit organization in the field of educational exchange and development training.

IIE conducts research on international academic mobility and administers the Fulbright program sponsored by the United States Department of State, as well as over 200 other corporate, government and privately-sponsored programs.

Since its founding in 1919, the Institute has also rescued scholars threatened by war, terrorism, and repression. Rescued scholars and other alumni of Institute-administered programs have won 68 Nobel Prizes.

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Facebook alternative Muslimface officially launches

Cairo, AlAhram Online , Thursday 18 Jun 2015 – Devout Muslims around the world now have an alternative to Facebook, a “legitimate” Muslim social networking website called Muslimface. Launched on Thursday after three years in the making, the new Islamic social media platform offers a myriad of Muslim-oriented features, including a prayer alert, and an app to find the nearest mosque, halal food joint, or even match maker.

Co-founded by two Muslim entrepreneurs, the social platform aims to “provide an appropriate environment for Muslims who do not want to be subject to content contrary to their values,” a statement from the founders reads.

Muslimface “strikes a perfect balance between utilising social media optimally, while also respecting Islamic values,” co-founder Ruhul Amin said. To join the website, which is available in 10 languages, users are to submit a request to be evaluated and accepted according to certain member criteria.

While the UK-registered website is open to people of other faiths, it abides by Sharia law, and is “structured and vitalised” based on the Hadith and Quran. Users can only add friends from the opposite gender if they belong to their mahram, or unmarried kin.

Users on the lookout for a spouse have to select a person from their mahram list to help them communicate with any prospective bride or groom. “It’s a safe alternative for Muslims, where they do not feel anxious about anti-Islamic material or others incompatible with Islamic ethics,” CEO Shoaib Fadie said.

The experience, however, does not seem to be entirely religious. On Muslimface, users can also follow political figures and play games, as well as look for hotels, coffee shops and shopping malls.

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LEAD STORY: Christians Observe Ramadan For Lent

OnIslam & Newspapers Thursday, 18 June 2015 CAIRO – Inspired by #Muslims4Lent movement among Muslims earlier this year, Christians from across the world have been participating in a new campaign, #Christian4Ramadan, to share the spirits of the holy month with Muslims worldwide.

malaysia logo

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

“Earlier this year I found out about a movement among some Muslims called #Muslims4Lent; essentially out of solidarity and interfaith appreciation there were those who partook in Lent despite it not being part of their faith tradition,” Nathanael Vitkus wrote on his blog.

“When I found out about this I was deeply moved and resolved to partake in Ramadan when it came.”

The idea of sharing Ramadan fasting was inspired by Muslims who decided last February to take part in Christians’ lent by abstaining from personal “bad habits” such as watching television or eating too much sugar. Using #Muslims4Lent, Muslim youth tweeted photos of themselves in which they declare what they will be giving up.

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started on Thursday, June 18. In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset. The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

Writing in his blog, Vitkus admitted that he has never fasted for more than a week.

“I admit, I haven’t fasted before for more than a week, and so I am not sure how my body will handle it given that I won’t be eating (with the exception of at night fall and before dawn.) for a month,” he wrote. “As a result I am going to be diligent in participating to the fullest extent, but if health issues occur during my time of fasting I am going to postpone it and pick it up when I can provided I can (which is acceptable when it comes to fasting during the month of Ramadan).”

Jeff Cook is another Christian who was inspired to fast during this Ramadan.

“I saw pictures of young Muslim males with signs in hand, not highlighting our distinctions or past injuries, but outlining where they would sacrifice for Lent in order to journey with me during the season I held as most holy,” he wrote on Patheos.

“In seeing men my own age with signs that not only said they wished me well but proclaimed my value and the value of my faith, all my natural distrust fell to the side. I realized in fresh ways that I’m tired of voices telling me that in order to love my country I need to be suspicious of Arabs.”

Not only prayers. Vitkus said he will dedicate more time for prayer. “I am also partaking to allot more time to prayer and other practices within my own faith tradition,” he said.

Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds. It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur’an. Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.

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Mobily launches Islamic Apps for Ramadan

Saudi Gazette – 17 June, 2015 – Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) has launched a distinguished range of Islamic applications and services for the holy month of Ramadan.

The offer includes 10 days free access when you subscribe in the Islamic content services and applications such as “Islamic Dorar Application” or “Islamic App Store” which contains an exclusive and diverse content inclusive videos, prayers and lectures benefiting the community and lessons about fasting in Ramadan, in addition to services which have high quality Islamic videos that offer a variety of topics on a daily basis and exclusively by a distinguished group of callers to Islam and social counselors such as Sheikh Saleh Al Maghamsi, Sheikh Abdalatif Al Ghamdi and Dr. Tariq Al Habib.

Mobily said it has earlier released Islamic albums in “Ranan” service allowing its subscribers to set the album to offer 10 different Ramadan type ringtones changing at each call. This allows the subscriber to set his mobile ringtones in an innovative way and in the voices of Sheikhs Mashary Al Affasi and Samir Al Bashiri.

Mobily is keen to launch a number of services every now and then to meet the needs of its subscribers and to contribute in enriching their lives, especially in respect of distinctive content services that reflect the leadership of Mobily in the telecom market in the Kingdom.

The detailed information about the way of subscribing and prices of services can be traced through the following table.

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Jordan, China Discuss Tourism Cooperation

AMMAN, Jordan, June 19 (NNN-PETRA) – Jordan Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Nayef Al-Fayez, and Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), Li Jinzao, discussed tourism cooperation between Jordan and China, in accordance with the mutual tourism cooperation agreement, signed recently in Beijing.

The minister said, the agreement aims to promote the travel of Chinese tourist groups to Jordan and includes designating representatives from the CNTA, to follow up on visa-related issues at the Jordanian Embassy and exchange information, in addition to appointing guides to escort groups travelling to Jordan and resolve obstacles, if any.

Earlier, Al Fayez participated in the 7th meeting of ‘Beautiful China, 2015 – Year of the Silk Road Tourism’ held in China, Thursday. The meeting was organised by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), in cooperation with the CNTA, to mark the 20th anniversary of Silk Road Tourism, in the presence of about 40 ministers of tourism from around the world.

The Chinese official voiced his admiration at Jordan’s advantages, tourist and archaeological sites, beauty of nature and its security and stability, praising the distinguished relations between Jordan and China and noting that he had visited Jordan and wandered around in some of the cities and tourist sites.

He expressed the hope that the Chinese language would officially be certified as the communicating language at the UNWTO.

The number of Chinese tourists to Jordan this year totaled 9,381, marking an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 9,236 in 2014.

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Chinese Tourists Drive Higher Guest Arrivals In Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, June 17 (NNN-WAM) – Chinese tourist number outperformed with a 75 percent surge, during the first four months of 2015, which drove higher guest arrivals in the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), state news agency, WAM, reported.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Gulf state of UAE, attracted, from Jan to Apr, more than one million guests, who stood at least one night at the 161 hotels in the emirate.

Chinese guests increased by 75 percent to reach 79,713 people. This increase marked the highest surge of all nationals visiting Abu Dhabi, which is well-known for its beaches and water sports possibilities along the Gulf coast.

“China has now become our largest overseas source market for the very first time, overtaking the UK, India and Germany,” Mubarak Al Nuaimi, the director of promotions and overseas offices at TCA Abu Dhabi, told the Abu Dhabi daily, The National.

Abu Dhabi has recently put 23 hotels, attractions and experiences into the “Welcome Chinese” programme, in partnership with the China Tourism Academy.

China has now become the third largest overseas market for the emirates, supported by strong regional GCC tourism growth, and robust performances from the UK, Ireland, India, the U.S. and leading European markets, said the Abu Dhabi tourism and culture authority, TCA.

Earlier, in May this year, a TCA delegation flew to a five-day tour of China, to promote the emirates to tour operators and potential visitors.

Abu Dhabi’s national carrier, Etihad Airways, was the first UAE carrier flying directly from the Gulf country to China, when it launched direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Beijing, in the spring of 2008.

The positive development in the first four months prompted the authority to adjust the 2015 guest arrivals target, from 3.5 million to 3.9 million projected total visitors for 2015.

Occupancy for the Jan-Apr period increased marginally to 79 percent, in comparison to last year, while revenue from hotel establishments recorded a 12 percent increase.

In addition, room revenue increased by 16 percent, while food and beverage revenue increased by 3 percent.

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Disaster “Should Not Hinder Malaysia’s Tourism”

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (NNN-BERNAMA) — A disaster or any other crisis should not hinder the country’s tourism industry growth, said Malaysian Tourism Council (MTC) president Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin.

He said South Korea for instance, which is facing the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, had remained a choice destination for foreign tourists.

“This is because South Korea continues to actively promote its tourism attractions even in the face of disaster such as the ferry tragedy and now the MERS.

“In the event of a disaster in the country, it is our responsibility to step up efforts to alter potential foreign visitors’ negative perception and woo them to Malaysia,” he told Bernama here.

On the earthquake that devastated Mt Kinabalu, a popular tourist destination in Sabah, Mohd Sharkar believed it had not adversely affected foreign visitor arrival to the state which has an abundance of other attractions.

He said in this regard, MTC was actively drawing and carrying out promotion programmes to increase visitor flow particularly foreign tourists.

“We will also monitor the country’s tourism services, from the entry point to transportation and accommodation (hotel) to ensure that they match tourists’ requirements, which vary from time to time,” he said.

He said MTC was also working with local universities such as International Islamic University Malaysia to produce more ideas for annual tourism programmes in the country.

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U.A.E., South Sudan Sign Open Space Agreement

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, June 18 (NNN-WAM) – The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in the UAE, signed the initial Air Transport Services Agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Republic of South Sudan, with the aim to strengthen bilateral aviation relations between the two countries.

The agreement was signed by Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director-General of the GCAA and Eng. Wendy Adi Kenny, Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Republic of South Sudan.

Commenting on the deal, Al Suwaidi said the UAE is the first country in the Middle East to sign the open space agreement with the Republic of South Sudan, to cope with increasing growth in air traffic in terms of movement of passengers and goods between the two countries, pointing out that “such agreements contribute to the development of cooperation and promotion of economic relations between the UAE and other countries worldwide.”

“It is the UAE’s strategy to contribute to explore investment opportunities and promote trade exchange.”

Al Suwaidi reiterated that the GCAA aims to conclude more open skies agreements to expand trade and tourism ties to support the national carriers such as Etihad Airways, Emirates Airline, Air Arabia and flydubai, as well as entrepreneurs, firms and tourists, adding that the open space agreements enhance air transport services and encourage free competition.

On her part, Laila Ali bin Hareb Al Muhairi, Assistant Director-General for Strategy Sector and International Affairs at the GCAA, said the UAE ranked second internationally in terms of numbers of open skies agreements, noting that the UAE is constantly striving to promote open skies policy with various world countries.

The air transport agreements are governed by the laws and freedom set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to regulate air transport among states. The UAE urges countries to sign the open skies agreements to remove restrictions on international air traffic.

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Bahrain’s Capital Governor: Ramadan Revives Bahraini Traditions

MANAMA, Bahrain, June 20 (NNN-BNA) – Capital Governor, Shaikh Hesham bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, has extended sincere congratulations to the leadership, citizens and residents in the kingdom, as well as the Islamic and Arab nations, marking the advent of the holy month of Ramadan, wishing them many happy returns.

He said that, Ramadan is a month in which worshippers seek forgiveness, blessings and rewards, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

It is also an opportunity to revive the deep-rooted Bahraini traditions of solidarity, love and interaction between members of the one-family Bahraini society, noting that the Ramadan Majlises reflect cohesion among all segments of the Bahraini people.

He pointed out that the Capital Governorate’s weekly Majlis will be held every Thursday evening, in line with the governorate’s keen interest to provide a platform for all segments to meet and consolidate genuine Bahraini traditions.

On the governorate’s preparations for the holy month of Ramadan, he said that a number of programmes and events will be held, including the fourth edition of the “Notion of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)”, to be launched on June 26, at the Isa Cultural Centre, with the participation of a number of key religious figures.

Events also include the celebration of Gargaon, to be held at the Seef Mall on July 2, he said.

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Japanese Firms Keen On Partnerships With Malaysia’s Halal Industry

KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 (NNN-Bernama) — Japanese companies are keen to venture into and have partnerships with Malaysia’s, particularly in the halal industry, said Japanese Chamber of Trade and Industry Malaysia (JACTIM).

Its president, Toshiro Okamoto, said the growing demand for halal products worldwide, coupled with Malaysia’s reputation as a Muslim country in issuing halal certificates, had influenced them to seek potential partners here.

JACTIM, he said, had to date received over 100 inquiries.

“A company that manages to secure a halal certificate from Malaysia can easily be approved in other Muslim countries because the level of halal industry in the country is high,” he told reporters after announcing the JATCIM and Japan External Trade Organisation’s (Jetro) 2015 Joint Survey here.

Okamoto said the next world’s prestigious game, Olympics 2020, which would see Tokyo as the host, would also provide tremendous opportunities for the halal industry, due to the massive inbound tourists to the country, including the Muslims.

He said dialogues with the Malaysian ministries, such as the International Trade and Industry as well as Finance, had been held to address this agenda.

On the survey, Jetro Kuala Lumpur managing director, Akira Kajita, said 65.9 per cent of the 172 respondent Japanese companies in Malaysia, said the most attractive aspect of investment in the country was it being “Pro-Japanese”.

“They are positive with business environment here and Malaysia’s political stability gains most appreciation from the companies,” he said.

The survey, conducted from Jan 22 to March 5 this year, also showed that 56.4 per cent respondents saw the necessity of improvement in the public transportation system.

Almost 50 per cent of the companies were considering expansion in Malaysia, while 73.4 per cent believed the wages should be increased along with the economic growth.

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Saudi Arabia To Strengthen Trade Ties With ASEAN

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (Bernama) — Saudi Arabia will continue to strengthen its ties with the 10-member ASEAN group and other other countries in Asia to raise the level of trade and investment opportunities, Khalid S.Halawani, Commercial Counsellor, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia said.

Describing Malaysia as a strategic country in ASEAN, Khalid said the Malaysian government with its business-friendly policies has been able to help spur the business and investment expansion of foreign companies in the country.

Saudi Arabia, which rose to 22nd spot in the ease of doing business index in 2013 from 67th in 2004, expects to continue to simplify and provide incentives to further attract investments into its industrial cities.

Khalid, who took up his post in Malaysia recently after serving in China, said he hoped to help further strengthen business and trade links between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

While oil is the backbone of the Saudi economy, which is ranked among the largest 20 economies in the world and has the world’s largest oil reserves, the kingdom has been taking tremendous steps in the diversification of its economy to include industrial and trade services.

Among the many government agencies and entities set up to coordinate its trade and investment services is the Saudi Industrial Property Authority, which provides various opportunities for investors in the kingdom’s industrial cities.

These include incentives in the industrial, commercial, residential, technical and industrial logistics sectors.

Some of Saudi Arabia’s food products already enjoying a good market in Malaysia include premium coffee, tea, quality dates, fruit juices and confectionery.

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Garuda Indonesia Cabin Crew Once Again Voted World’s Best Cabin Crew 2015

LE BOURGET (FRANCE), June 18 (NNN-ANTARA) — In line with Garuda Indonesia’s continuous service enhancement program, Garuda Indonesia’s cabin crew again was voted “The World’s Best Cabin Crew 2015″ by Skytrax – a London-based, independent airline ranking agency.

The award is the second consecutive year it has been won by Garuda Indonesia after previously in 2014, it won the same title, beating other leading world airlines.

“The World’s Best Cabin Crew 2015″ award was presented on June 16 during the “The World Airline Awards 2015″ and took place during the “Paris Airshow 2015″ in Paris, France.

The award was presented by the CEO of Skytrax, Edward Plaisted to Garuda Indonesia’s President and CEO, M. Arif Wibowo.

“The World’s Best Cabin Crew 2015″ award was given to Garuda Indonesia based on a global customer satisfaction survey” conducted by Skytrax of more than 18 million passengers. The survey, which covers 245 international airlines, is held every year and measures standards across 41 key performance indicators of airline products and services.

Commenting on this honor, Garuda Indonesia President and CEO, M. Arif Wibowo expressed his delight with Garuda Indonesia’s most recent achievement, “The World’s Best Cabin Crew 2015″ award.

Garuda Indonesia’s success in winning the “The World’s Best Cabin Crew” title once more in 2015 reflects the tireless hard work and deep commitment from everyone at Garuda Indonesia, in particular our cabin crew, to deliver service of the highest standard to our passengers. We would also like to thank our loyal passengers for continuing to support Garuda Indonesia hence enabling us to win the trust and “The World’s Best Cabin Crew” award for the second consecutive year,” said Arif.

By offering our unique “Garuda Indonesia Experience” service concept that emphasizes warm Indonesian hospitality and the best aspects of our cultural heritage, we are confident that Garuda Indonesia will continue to be ranked among the world’s best in the years to come,” added Arif.

Spurred on by a strong commitment from the management and employees of Garuda Indonesia to deliver the best service, Garuda Indonesia’s performance continues to earn global recognition.

During the “Farnborough Airshow 2012″ in London, Garuda was voted “The World’s Best Regional Airline”. During the “Paris Air Show 2013″ held in June 2013, Garuda Indonesia was named “The World’s Best Economy Class” by Skytrax, and in 2014 Garuda Indonesia also won the title of “5-Star Airline” from Skytrax. Currently, Garuda Indonesia ranks seventh in the list of “The World’s Best Airlines”.

Through a continuous business transformation program, which focuses especially on fleet development, Garuda Indonesia will operate as many as 185 aircraft by the end of 2015 (including its subsidiary, Citilink).

Since becoming a member of the global airline alliance SkyTeam in March 2014, Garuda Indonesia, together with 19 other SkyTeam members, provides access to an extensive global network with over 16,323 daily flights to 1,052 destinations in 177 countries. In addition, Garuda Indonesia passengers can also enjoy 629 lounges of other SkyTeam member airlines, worldwide.

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Lebanon vies to become regional tech hub

Tuesday 16 Jun 2015 – Beirut, (IINA) – Despite the years-long Syrian conflict spilling over its border and in an attempt to create new jobs and lure young expatriates home, Lebanon is vying to become a Middle East technology and innovation hub, according to Wall Street Journal.

At the heart of its effort to support its nascent start-up and digital culture is an initiative from the country’s central bank, dubbed Circular 331. Launched in August 2013, the project aims to provide support to select Lebanese start-ups, including $400 million in funding.

At a conference in Beirut last week, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh explained that the initiative includes measures to encourage banks to take equity investment in technology companies. “The central bank guarantees 75 percent of the investment,” he added.

The country is also building infrastructure to incubate homegrown start-ups, largely through tech boot camps and the opening of shared workspaces.

But, unlike their counterparts in Berlin, Dubai and other fledgling digital start-up hubs, the key players in Beirut’s scene admit they face an uphill battle against a daunting array of obstacles.

Fadi Bizri, ‎managing director at Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program, said the challenges facing Lebanon should not discourage entrepreneurs. “Part of being an entrepreneur is finding a way either around the challenge or piercing through it,” he said.

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Yardim mosque in Kazan to launch “free Ramadan taxi” for elderly, disabled

Wednesday 17 Jun 2015 – Baku (IINA) – Yardim mosque in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, which is a Muslim-majority region of the Russian Federation, will kick off the charity campaign called “Ramadan Taxi” on Thursday, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

Participants in the free taxi service will transport the elderly and disabled people after Iftar as well as after Isha and Taraweeh prayers from mosques to their homes in a first-of-its-kind initiative in the capital Kazan.

Yardim mosque also organizes mass iftar meals throughout the holy month of Ramadan, according to Islam News website.

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Google embraces Islam by releasing a tool for Ramadan: Report

Thursday 18 Jun 2015 – California, (IINA) – Today Google is specifically embracing Islam by releasing a tool for Ramadan. The unimaginatively named ‘My Ramadan Companion’, which will help Muslims to observe this very holy month, according to betanews.

“To help you get the most out of Ramadan, we’ve launched My Ramadan Companion (g.co/Ramadan), which gives you customized and locally relevant information, tips, and other content highlighting the richness of what the web can offer during Ramadan around you. You can find out the sunset time in your location, plan your day accordingly, check out the traffic in your area, navigate to the closest charity Iftar, find and share recipes, enjoy Ramadan content on YouTube ranging from drama series and comedy sketches, health tips to stay fit during the 30 days of fasting”, says Zain Kamal Masri, associate product marketing manager, Middle East and North Africa, Google.

Masri further explains, depending on your location Google now will show you a range of relevant cards with popular YouTube videos, latest Ramadan news and information, and recommendations for apps that alert you to wake up for Suhur, enable you to design greeting cards for Ramadan to share with the family, find Halal restaurants around you, and countdown to Iftar time”.

Google already makes a big deal about Christmas with its Santa Tracker apps and websites, so it is nice to see the search-giant focusing on Muslims too. Even if you are not Muslim, this tool may be a great way to learn more about the religion and its traditions.

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Islamic countries told to emulate Malaysia in management of pilgrims

Thursday 18 Jun 2015 – Madinah (IINA) – Hatem bin Jaafar Bali, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s National Adilla Establishment, hoped that other Islamic countries would emulate Malaysian Pilgrims Fund Board in the management of their Haj pilgrims, BERNAMA reported.

Hatem bin Jaafar Bali said Malaysian pilgrims managed by the Pilgrims Fund Board are the best in terms of discipline, compliance with regulations and understanding of the Haj rituals. It was because of that Malaysian pilgrims were found to be more focus in performing the pilgrimage.

“The preparations made by Malaysian Haj pilgrims is more systematic and proper and this helps make it easy for all quarters to manage them here,” Bali told a press conference held here Thursday.

According to Bali, Malaysia tops the list of five countries with the best management for Haj pilgrims, followed by Brunei, Indonesia, Turkey and Iran.

As such, he hoped other Muslim countries would follow Malaysia’s lead in the management of their pilgrims.

On preparations for this year’s Haj season, Bali said the National Adilla Establishment has opened 24 offices to ensure smooth service.

The responsibilities of Adilla Establishment, among others, are to provide transportation and accommodation for pilgrims, he added.

He went on to say that several measures will be taken by the Saudi government to improve facilities in the holy places to meet the arrival of Haj pilgrims for the coming season. They included temporary halt of demolition works in the vicinity of the Prophet’s Mosque and opening of a new bigger airport in Madinah.

Bali expected about 1.2 million Muslims worldwide to gather on the holy land during the coming Haj season to perform the pilgrimage.

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Qatar Airways named world’s best airline for 2015

Thursday 18 Jun 2015 – Paris (IINA) – Qatar Airways has been named the world’s best airline, taking out “Airline of the Year” at the annual World Airline Awards, Traveler website reported.

Announced at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday, the World Airline Awards, run by research firm Skytrax, are among the most high-profile awards in the aviation industry.

Qatar climbed back into the No.1 slot in the airline rankings after losing first place to Cathay Pacific last year. It is the third time Qatar has taken out the top spot. It also took out the award for the best business class seat.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker thanked his staff for their work in helping achieve the award.

“Our passengers are at the heart of everything we do at Qatar Airways, and we are very proud to be recognized by them,” he said. Qatar Airways flies 160 aircraft to 147 destinations around the world.

The Skytrax awards are based on a survey of 18.85 million airline passengers from around the world. Passengers from more than 160 countries participated in the latest survey, which covered 245 airlines worldwide.

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Jeddah’s oldest mosque reopens after renovation

Thursday 18 Jun 2015 – Jeddah (IINA) – Al-Shafi’i Mosque, the oldest mosque in Jeddah, reopened on Tuesday following the completion of restoration work.

Chairman of the King Abdullah International Foundation for Charity and Humanitarian Deeds Prince Khaled bin Abdullah, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) Prince Sultan bin Salman and Jeddah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Majed attended the ceremony of reopening the mosque, which was built in the 13th century. Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulaziz Al-Asheikh, Mayor of Jeddah Hani Abu Ras and a large number of Jeddah figures and businessmen also attended the ceremony.

Speaking at the reopening, Prince Sultan Bin Salman said: “I believe that our cooperation in rebuilding this historic mosque is a part of the ‘National Program for Caring for Ancient Mosques’ launched by the Heritage Foundation under the supervision of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call and Guidance. “Our agreement with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs is to renovate historical mosques. We have already restored so many but still more needs to be renovated.” He briefly described the process of project implementation and thanked the late King Abdullah for his support to restore Al Shafi’i and Al-Memar mosques. “The late King Abdullah ordered the renovation of the two oldest mosques in Jeddah — Al-Shafi’i and Al-Memar mosques — and a budget of SR7 million was approved for this purpose,” he said.

He announced the approval of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to renovate on his expense the historical Al-Hanafi Mosque where the country’s founder King Abdul Aziz used to pray, meet and listen to the citizens. The prince also announced that he would personally renovate Uthman Bin Affan Mosque for his mother Princess Sultanah Al-Sudairy. Prince Sultan disclosed plans to develop 40 mosques in Jeddah’s historical area.

He noted the first stage of the program saw the restoration of more than 60 mosques of historical value in different parts of the Kingdom.

In his speech, Prince Miteb said: “Our late father King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz always stressed the importance of preserving the old mosques all over the Kingdom and today we are very happy to witness the completion of the Al-Shafi’i restoration which he ordered.” Al-Shafi’i Mosque, which is located in Al-Mazloum District, is believed to have been built in 1250 during the era of King Sulaiman Bin Saaduddeen Shahenshah II and was renovated in 1533 by an Indian merchant known as Al-Khawajah Mohammad Ali.

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World Travel Awards 2016 Grand Final to be held in Maldives

Sun.mv – June 15, 2015 – Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has announced that the Grand Final Gala Ceremony of the World Travel Awards 2016, will be held in the Maldives.

The final ceremony of the most prestigious event in the travel and tourism industry, renowned as the “Oscars” of the industry, will be held in December 2016.

The ceremony is expected to be attended by notable figures in the travel and tourism industry from around the world, MMPRC said.

This is the first time the Maldives hosts the Grand Final Gala Ceremony of the World Travel Awards, although the Indian Ocean category ceremony was held here in 2013.

This is part of MMPRC’s Visit Maldives Year 2016 campaign, a marketing campaign focused on promoting Maldives as a travel destination.

The campaign will encourage economic growth and increase job opportunities for locals from across the country in the tourism sector, and promote the ripple effect of tourism to local communities and make the success of the campaign the responsibility of all Maldivians, MMPRC said.

$10 million has been allocated for tourism promotion in 2016.

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Maldives is heaven-like, says Pitbull

Sun.mv – June 17, 2015 – After a brief stay in the Maldives, American rapper Armando Christian Pérez, better known by his stage name Pitbull, has described the island nation as “heaven-like” and “unforgettable”.

Pitbull arrived in Maldives on 9 June, reportedly for a private party in a resort.

The party was in Velaa Private Island, but Pitbull and other stars who attended stayed at five-star resort Cheval Blanc Randheli in Noonu Atoll.

Other celebrities reported to have attended the party include Shakira and South Korea’s ‘Gangnam Style’ artist Psy.

Maldives is gaining popularity among celebrities as a holiday destination. Several notable Hollywood and Bollywood stars were here on holiday in the peak season last year.

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More Turkish beaches awarded Blue Flag status

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – Turkey now boasts the second-largest number of beaches with “Blue Flag” certificates following a large rise this year, according to the Turkey Foundation for Environmental Education (TÜRÇEV).

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

Some 436 beaches acquired the right to display a Blue Flag certificate this year, said Dr. Cenk Halil Bayaz, a TÜRÇEV board member, during a meeting in the Mediterranean district of Manavgat.

“Spain tops the list with 578 beaches with a Blue Flag certificate, followed by Turkey with 436 beaches and Greece with 395 beaches. Turkey had 397 beaches with this certificate, and we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of such beaches this year, which is great for us,” he said.

Antalya tops list

Bayaz said the Mediterranean province of Antalya possessed the highest number of beaches with a Blue Flag certificate in the world.

Antalya is home to 200 of the 436 beaches with the Blue Flag certificate in total, Bayaz said.

“Antalya now has the highest number of beaches with the Blue Flag certificate both in Turkey and in the world. Some 85 beaches gained the Blue Flag certificate this year in the Antalya district of Manavgat,” he added.

The Blue Flag concept was born in France in 1985 where the first Blue Flags were awarded to coastal municipalities on the basis of criteria ranging from wastewater treatment to bathing water quality. In 1987, with support from the European Commission, the Blue Flag was brought to a European level, functioning as an instrument for the application of the EU Bathing Water Directive and including other areas of environmental management, such as waste management, coastal planning, protection and marinas.

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Turkish Diving points center of attraction

ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency – Diving points in and around the southern province of Antalya have become popular attractions for adventurers.

Besides natural diving spots, the wrecks of war planes and ships draw great interest, while the Side Underwater Museum has also become very popular among diving enthusiasts.

Naval Trade Chamber Antalya Branch Chairman İnanç Kendiroğlu said daily tours are organized to diving points and tourists have been fascinated by some of the scenes they encounter under the water.

“The Side Underwater Museum, which was established with the collaboration of our chamber and the Western Antalya Development Agency (BAKA), offers a unique environment to diving enthusiasts. War planes and ships that witnessed World War II make a great contribution to Antalya’s diving tourism,” he said.

Kendiroğlu said diving companies in and around Antalya were also operated in affiliation with the chamber, adding, “Diving companies organize daily tours to diving points. Last year more than 100,000 tourists dove in different points and new ones were added to these places this year. So we expect to host 250,000-300,000 tourists in this season. The Side Underwater Museum will be a kind of center of touristic diving activities.”

Interest in war wrecks

The reefs created by war ships and war planes that went down in the region during World War II have been popular among tourists, according to Kendiroğlu.

“Among war plane wrecks, the French San Didier wreck is close to the entrance of the Yacht Harbor and it increases interest in this point. Other diving points in the center are cliffs and Sıçan Island. There is a small inlet in the east of the island and it draws interest from tourists. The cliffs between the Lara and Konyaaltı beaches draw tourists for their interesting structure,” he said.

Two of the other war wrecks in Antalya are in the Kaş and Manavgat districts. A B-24 U.S. war plane was hit over the Aegean Sea in 1944 while returning to its base in Cyprus after bombing targets in Romania. It went down off the coasts of Antalya and its wreckage can be found in Manavgat.

The wreckage in Kaş is an Italian plane; the reason why it went down is not known. The entire plane lies intact except its engines. Such complete wrecks offer many riches to explore.

The region off the coast of Tekirova known as Üç Adalar (Three Islands) is a diving area made up of small islands. It is one of the most popular diving spots since it has various depths, clear visibility and is close to many diving centers in the city. A cave in Finike, called Gök Cave, is a freshwater source which draws the attention of cave divers.

The ancient Gelidonya wreck in the north of Antalya Gulf has become famous because it dates back to the Early Bronze Age.

The Paris wreckage that lies in 25 meters of water, some 1.5 kilometers off Kemer Harbor, is another one of the popular diving points.

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Underwater archaeology research center opens in İzmir

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – A new step has been taken in İzmir’s Urla district to boost Turkey’s position in underwater archaeology and to conduct studies on underwater cultural richness, with the opening of the Ankara University Mustafa Vehbi Koç Marine Archaeology Research Center on June 17.

The center has been established with the support of the Vehbi Koç Foundation and the Turkish Underwater Archaeology Foundation (TINA).

Koç Holding CEO Mustafa Koç said Turkey was one of the most important countries in the world of archaeology and every step in this field was closely followed by the world. He said underwater archaeology had progressed a long way in Turkey despite limited means.

Koç said the new research center was of a “global standard,” including a restoration lab, storage, library, a conference hall for national and international studies a 30-person dormitory, and 4-decare area to display maritime technologies from the ancient to the present era.

“We have lots of expectations from this center, which is considered a first of its kind in Turkey in many senses,” he added.

Koç noted that excavations in Urla had so far revealed very important findings starting from the Neolithic era, and said the projects of the Vehbi Koç Foundation and his personal close interest in archaeology and the underwater world helped this project to be realized.

Ankara University Archaeological Research and Application Center Director Hayat Erkanal said they had difficulty reaching education and material when they had started underwater excavations in Limantepe.

“We have collaborated with the University of Haifa for some time. Then we established a center with the university support and got many artifacts in the excavations, including five ancient harbors. The new center has opened new horizons and we will progress further in underwater archaeology,” Erkanal said.

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‘100 Years of Travelers’ Exhibition in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The Istanbul Research Institute is currently exhibiting, “Journey to the Center of the East, 1850-1950: 100 Years of Travelers in Istanbul from the Pierre de Gigord Collection,” until Oct. 17. The exhibition tells the tale of Istanbul-centered travels of curious Westerners, who ventured out to the East from the 18th century onwards in order to quench their thirst for knowledge and discovery in their respective areas of interest.

Based on the changing profile of travelers in the East with time, it is possible to build a broad spectrum of people extending from missionaries, scientists, and merchants to politicians, adventurers, and artists. A huge variety of professionals, including geographers, archaeologists, linguists, architects, botanist, and men of the cloth, traveled across the East’s geography from late 18th century until the mid-19th century.

After the Crimean War, the expedition-oriented research language, which maintained until the 1850s, was replaced by a travelogue language that devoured Eastern culture. By then, those who undertook travel were no longer the information-gathering and interpreting travelers that scientific institutions sent to the East, but a type of tourist that rapidly pillaged this mysterious geography over images their predecessors created.

Based on materials selected from the vast collection of Pierre de Gigord, one of the leading collectors of Ottoman-era photographs and ephemera in the world, “Journey to the Center of the East” sheds light upon early years of mass tourism that replaced individual journeys of discovery and the transformation of travel culture.

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Bangladesh, China to be connected by high-speed train

DHAKA, June 19, 2015(BSS)-As part of its “Southern Silk Route” China plans to establish a high speed railway link between Kunming and Kolkata through Dhaka and Chittagong, according to reports reaching Dhaka from Kunming, the capital city of China’s southern Yunnan province.

The proposal, which found a mention at recently held Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) meeting in Kunming, plans to boost the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) multi-modal transport system.

“The high speed corridor would give a fillip to the economies of all the countries of the region,” said Li Ji Ming, vice- secretary of Yunnan provincial government. The project looks forward to the newly established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and other funders for financing it.

Ming was talking to journalists following a successful expo fair in Kunming, which was attended by a large number of South Asian firms.

The 2800 kilometer rail route could be a critical component for the BCIM that seeks cross border movement of goods and people in the four countries.

China has pledged US $40 billion for the Silk Route and $50 billion for the AIIB. The BCIM area has a trade potential of $132 billion.

Yunnan enjoys geographical proximity with GMS and BCIM regions and is only 1000 kilometers away from Chittagong compared to 1700 kilometers to the nearest Chinese port.

It is the epicenter of the China-South, South-East Asia economic corridors.

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Bangladesh plans to tap tourist potential of business visitors

DHAKA, June 18, 2015 (BSS)- Speakers at a roundtable have recommended for taking initiatives to turn foreign business visitors into tourists offering short tour packages matching with their busy schedules in Bangladesh.

“Every fourth foreign visitor here was a business visitor (25 percent) in last five years and it was 30 percent in 2013,” said Shoaib Akhtar, Research Associate of Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTD) while presenting a paper at the roundtable discussion.

He said good numbers of foreign nationals are working in Bangladesh, 20,000 are only in RMG sector, who usually don’t visit Bangladesh tourist- spots during their holidays.

BFTD and Tourism and Hospitality Management Department of Daffodil

University jointly organized the round table on “Trade in Services: Tourists’ attitude towards Bangladesh Tourism” at the BFTD auditorium at Karwan bazar on Wednesday in the city.

Akhtar said the BFTD and Daffodil University will conduct a survey jointly among 370 business visitors in Bangladesh to get an idea what kind of tour packages will attract them.

“We will give a special emphasis on decision making criteria for choosing a destination, preference of destination, types of trip, time and duration, reason, companions and financial aspects,” he said.

The researcher said the study will cover some additional areas such as tourist’s attitude towards visiting neighboring countries and flow from those countries.

“The result of study will give us a guideline to motivate foreign business visitors and job holders towards local tourism,” he said.

Chairman of Tourism and Hospitality Management Department of Dhaka University Professor Dr Mujibudin Ahmed said there is no nightlife for foreign tourists in Bangladesh.

“I am not telling that we have to set up disco, casino or nightclub, but traditional cultural show can be arranged by the government or hotel authorities every evening in Cox’s bazar and other tourists spots to keep the foreign tourists busy,” he said.

Mentioning high business potentiality of Bangladesh tourism industry, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BFTD Ali Ahmed urged for conducting proper promotion at home and abroad for attracting more tourists.

Daffodil University’s Allied Health Science Dean Professor Dr Ahmed Ismail Mostofa and Chairman of Tourism and Hospitality Management Department Mahbub Parvez and Chairman of Tourism and Hospitality Department of IBAIS University Professor M Ahsanullah took part at the discussion, among others.

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Bangladesh to make Panam city as attractive tourist spot

DHAKA, June 18, 2015 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon today said the government has taken a mega project to turn Panam city of Sonargaon, the capital of ancient Bengal, into an attractive tourist spot.

“Considering ancient value, the Panam city is an important tourist product of Bangladesh. But only for marketing failure and lack of tourism friendly infrastructure, we failed to utilize potentiality of Panam city,” he said.

The minister made the remarks when exchanging views with the officials of local administration after visiting the Panam city at Sonargaon.

The minister said the government has taken the plan to turn the Panam city as important tourist spot targeting the “Tourism Year” to be observed in 2016.

He urged local people’s representatives and local administration to cooperate in implementing the government’s plan centering the Panam city.

Menon also described various programmes, taken by the present government to build the country’s tourism industry as thrust sector.

Presently there are 600-year-old 52 storied buildings are standing face to face in the Panam city attracting more than eight lakh foreign and domestic tourists every year. Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khorshed Alam Chowdhury, director general of Sonargaon Lok and Karu Shilpa Foundation Poet Rabindragope and Naraynganj Deputy District Commissioner Anisur Rahman were present during the meeting.

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Brunei building up a sustainable future for global biodiversity

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 18, 2015 – AS OLD as 130 million years, the Bornean tropical rainforest holds the most complex ecosystems in this planet and is regarded as the world’s richest repository for both terrestrial and aquatic biological resources.

Yet, concern on the loss of global biodiversity is attracting the attention of all. Its relevance to the never-ending global agenda of climate change and man-made disastrous calamities is so imminent. There have been a tremendous amount of money invested for research and development (R&D) and conservation efforts but still, the rate of biodiversity loss is very alarming.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has been providing the negotiating platform for both political and technical levels for the members to formulate decisive approaches and strategies to achieve the 2010 biodiversity target and Aichi target.

Now, the target has been extended to 2050 which gives some leeway for all members to lay out their respective adaptive efforts to align with the political demand for higher economic growth.

Evidently, there are different views and attitudes towards biodiversity conservation and hence, different approach to the use of biological resources based on the perspective of every stakeholder and level of society.

A general approach by majority of the politicians is more on how the biodiversity could generate wealth and jobs than rationalising on the overall important aspect of the existence of biodiversity for general human well-being as a whole.

The International Conference on ‘Rainforest Ecology, Diversity and Conservation in Borneo: The Knowns and the Known Unknowns’ was held from June 9 to 10 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and attended mostly by academicians and professional experts from the Asean region including Brunei Darussalam and temperate countries.

Despite decades of conservation attention and protection efforts, the fragile tropical rainforest ecosystems and biological resources still remain highly vulnerable and therefore, the conference explored the applicable and effectual conservation through R&D. Participants from some developed and European countries expressed their enthusiasm to protect the left-over Bornean tropical rainforest and its ecology.

The main contributors to the success of this conference were Yayasan Sabah (the largest forest concession holder in Sabah) and Petronas who have a few ongoing collaborative biodiversity conservation projects showing an exemplary business community’s commitment in creating a more sustainable future for the global citizen.

The theme ‘The Knowns and the Known Unknowns’ was meant to facilitate information sharing on the new discoveries and findings as a result of R&D activities and to understand better the tropical rainforest biodiversity and ecosystems.

The existence of highly diverse biological resources is dependent on the healthy ecosystem services and therefore, based on very strong scientific backup show that the extinction of certain biological species is closely related to the degraded ecosystems within their habitats.

Among the ‘Known Unknowns’ as mentioned by Tan Sri Professor Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the unprecedented rate of biodiversity threatened for extinction is such as one of every eight birds, one of every four mammals, one of every three amphibians and six of every seven marine turtles, one-third of reef building corals, 75 per cent of genetic diversity of agricultural crops and three-quarters of world fisheries.

The ‘Knowns’ are really known to us that is biodiversity protection is in crisis even though so far there have been enormous efforts to check this through improved legislations, intensive R&D, by having more protected areas, improved technologies, more conferences, meetings, seminars, training courses and so on.

What is very crystal clear to us is that there are on-going fragmentation and ecological degradation of biodiversity habitats, genetic erosion mainly due to frequent arson fires, increased and unstoppable illicit use of biological resources such as illegal logging and illegal wildlife trade or wildlife crime, unsustainable use of natural resources for the sake of high economic growth and so on.

The crime against biological resources is increasingly becoming a highly organised international activity and the need to change the natural ecosystems is a compelling rationale for big-scale economic activities.

However, legal instruments, management tools, strategies and best practices are still available to counter this, and for this we need to just change our attitude and perception towards viewing and using biological resources.

This is where the relevance of the Heart of Borneo Corridor Initiative which is led by Brunei Darussalam under the purview of the Heart of Borneo Initiative comes.

The initiative is not only providing the continuous strip core area of rich Bornean biodiversity but addressing and solving the problems of transboundary protection and conservation as well as promoting the ecological-based socio-economic activities within the Borneo Island.

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Foreign tourists in Brunei get a taste of Ramadhan

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 19, 2015 – RAMADHAN bazaars are proving to be a hit among foreign tourists.

Visitors were seen dropping by the bazaars around the country yesterday to get a taste of the Bruneian cuisine.

A local tour guide said the occasion was a big draw for foreigners. “We brought some 20 tourists from China to Ramadhan stalls at the Gadong market. They thoroughly enjoyed the experience. So much so that some of them even thanked me for bringing them here,” he said yesterday.

“The Ramadhan stall is our last stop before returning to the hotel. We also brought them around town and to places of interest. Your culture is the highlight of the country. People here are very friendly. I’m impressed by how people of various backgrounds, young and old, mix so well together. And most importantly, the food is absolutely divine,” said Liu Jian Yu, a tourist from China.

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Korean reality show to feature Brunei’s pristine forests

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 18, 2015 – BRUNEI Darussalam is set to gain worldwide recognition for its pristine rainforest and tourism hotspot as it will be featured in the “Laws of the Jungle”, a South Korean reality show.

The survival programme puts a cast of celebrities in natural places where they would experience life with local ethnic communities. The cast that will be in Brunei includes popular South Korean comedian Jung Jun Ha and Shim Hyung-tak, who starred in the Korean drama “Good for You”, “Let’s Eat” and “Miss Mamma Mi”.

Among the other celebrities are Do Sang Woo, who acted in “Ex-Girlfriends Club”, “The Legendary Witch” and “It’s Ok, This is Love”, as well as South Korean singer, actor and member of boy band 2AM, Jeong Jin-woon.

Other cast members are Sam Hammington, an Australian comedian based in South Korea, and singers Nam Gyu-ri and Hyosung. Other celebrities will be revealed soon, it was reported. The show will be filmed in Brunei for the first time this month. It is expected to be aired in July.

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School showcases uniqueness of Brunei-Malay culture

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 16, 2015 – THE Pengiran Anak Puteri Hajah Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Secondary School in Lumut is one of the schools selected from the Belait District to showcase the uniqueness of Brunei-Malay culture in customs, dance, song, traditional games and festivals of the various ethnic groups in the country.

This is a continuation of the cultural promotion project held every year in the four districts. This project uses the format of the presentation, exhibition and workshop by targeting youths, students, schools, institutes, and government agencies and associations.

The project aims to disseminate information and knowledge about the culture and arts to the community through the Brunei Edutainment Concept of entertainment and learning.

It is also to share knowledge, particularly in the field of art, with the goal of ‘upholding and empowering culture’ by bringing it closer to the community.

To maintain and preserve the authenticity of heritage, the Division of Culture and Arts is doing everything possible for the present generation to appreciate their own culture towards attaining the country’s Vision 2035.

Among the objectives of this programme is to provide exposure and knowledge of the arts through cultural presentations as a whole with a view of making the youth aware of culture and spirit of love and to provide awareness about preserving our cultural heritage to the public. This was said by chief coordinator for Haji Mohd Abdoh bin Haji Damit, the Acting Assistant Director for Culture and Arts at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Among the cultural shows demonstrated were traditional music, local songs and showcase of the seven ethnic groups.

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Amadeus powers Royal Brunei’s online and mobile facelift

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 16, 2015 – AMADEUS and Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) yesterday announced major enhancements to the airline’s online booking experience powered by Amadeus’ enhanced e-Retail platform, the world’s most widely-used airline Internet booking engine.

In a press release, the airline said that RB is the first airline in Asia-Pacific to implement the new version of Amadeus e-Retail, which features an improved online experience that is fully compliant with the United States’ Department of Transportation’s (DOT) accessibility mandate.

The new content rich website www.flyroyalbrunei.com will feature new ancillary services and also include a new Manage My Booking feature that will allow passengers to view and update their booking details at any time.

With mobile bookings growing faster than desktop (20 per cent versus two per cent over the first six months of 20141), RB also unveiled a new mobile website powered by Amadeus Mobile Solutions that allows customers to make and access flight bookings on their mobile devices, anytime and anywhere.

Karam Chand, Chief Commercial and Planning Officer, Royal Brunei Airlines, said, “We recently celebrated our 40th year of flight, a significant and humbling milestone that inspires us to serve our customers even better.

“Our partnership with Amadeus is critical in helping us deliver a better and more accessible experience to our travellers, at the same time boost revenues through online and mobile sales channels.

“We have enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership with Amadeus for many years and have full confidence in their state-of-the-art technology to help us meet the expectations of our increasingly digital-savvy customers.”

The fully reworked Amadeus e-Retail has been designed to significantly improve the user experience for customers with a more modern look and feel, enhanced usability, shortened flows, greater clarity and additional customisation capabilities. In addition, the new user interface has been designed in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to support airlines in their efforts to comply with the US DOT accessibility mandate.

Hazem Hussein, Executive Vice President, Airline Commercial, Amadeus Asia Pacific, said, “Amadeus shares a common vision with Royal Brunei Airlines to deliver a more personalised, connected and seamless experience to all travellers, and are proud that they continue to choose Amadeus as their preferred technology partner.

“We fully support the DOT mandate to bring greater accessibility to travellers with disabilities, and are excited to soon deliver the new Amadeus e-Retail to all e-Retail airline customers, in compliance with this mandate. This is part of our ongoing commitment to continually upgrade and improve our solutions so that our customers receive the most advanced technology available.”

Royal Brunei Airlines first adopted Amadeus e-Retail in 2012, along with the full Amadeus Altéa Suite and Amadeus Flex Pricer solution.

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Nigeria: Maiduguri Airport Reopens

Daily Trust – 14 June 2015 – During the week, the deputy governor of Borno state Alhaji Zannah Mustapha said that the Federal Government had approved the re-opening of the Maiduguri International Airport for commercial activities.

The airport was closed over 18 months ago following persistent attacks on the state by Boko Haram fighters.

According to a national daily, while speaking to journalists on Tuesday the deputy governor said the Federal Government resolved to re-open the airport following the seemingly security improvement recorded in recent times.

“It is interesting to announce that the Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu, has confirmed to me that the Federal Government had issued a directive for the re-opening of the Maiduguri International Airport for commercial activities.

Ahmad: A very welcome development. Jonathan’s closure of the airport was politically motivated to arm twist the North East but not for security reasons.

Adeniran Olumuyiwa: That will be good for the economy of the state. I’m aware NAMA is already working out the modalities alongside FAAN and NCAA. Insecurity will soon become a thing of the past in the state and indeed Nigeria.

Benbella: Re-open where? Please clear all the area from the insurgents before thinking of that please, it is still dangerous. I trust the President would not approve yet.

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Ihamba From Uganda Wins Quality Award

East African Business Week (Kampala) – 14 June 2015 – Kampala — Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge, an eco-friendly accommodation facility in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, won gold at the 29th International Quality Summit Convention in New York recently.

During a colourful ceremony last month, Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge of Uganda was presented with the IQS International Quality Summit Award in the Gold Category.

This was to acknowledge the facility’s strong commitment to quality and excellence.

Jolly Twebaze Ngabirano, Managing Director, Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge, who received the prize on behalf of Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge at the New York Marriott Marquis Convention Hall from Jose E. Prieto, the President of BID Group.

She said the award will encourage them to improve even more on the quality of their services.

The 2015 International Quality Summit Award Ceremony is part of the annual program of BID Conventions.

The objective of the ceremony is to recognize the prestige of outstanding companies, organizations and entrepreneurs.

“Even though we are committed to high standards at Ihamba, this award was still a surprise considering the global competition we faced,” she said.

The award is one of several others they have won including the Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor.

Vincent Mugaba, the Public Relations Officer, Uganda Tourism Board said, “The year 2015 has turned out to be a year of international awards for Uganda. We encourage more companies to participate in these internationally competitions because these opportunities expose their businesses to very many people but also but Uganda on the global map.

“We congraturate Ihamba lakeside Safari Lodge for their success,” he said.

Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge sits on the shores of Lake George in the picturesque Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda.

Born out of love for nature and animal preservation, the lodge is a perfect location for those who want to experience the tranquility of unspoiled Africa untouched by mass tourism.

Previous winners have included Walmart, Tata Group, Grant Thornton, Alcoa and ING.

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Nigeria: Mimiko – Ondo to Become Number One Medical Tourism Destination Soon

This Day – 18 June 2015 – Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, has projected that the state will in no time, become the number one medical tourism destination in the country.

Mimiko made the projection on the strength of the state’s newly established medical university, adding that the idea of the medical institution was conceived to offer services in the area of research and medical services to the people. The governor said this yesterday during a chat with journalists.

He said with the establishment of the school, government intends to have a world class institution that will not only deliver world class medical instructions, but will also offer world class services, adding that in few years time, the state will be the number one medical tourism destination.

“What we have in mind is a world class institution that will not only deliver world class medical institution but will also offer world class services. We believe that few years down the line, this state will be the number one medical tourism destination.” He stressed further that even before the medical university takes off, the trauma centre and the medical village which would be the core facility for the institution have been operational, adding that the school already has postgraduate accreditation for surgery and orthopaedic.

Declaring that government intends to have a university that would become a global reference point in medical endeavour, Mimiko said in the next few years, the state will produce a lot of first class doctors that can practice in the world. The governor further enumerated other economic effects of the institution, part of which he mentioned would be derived from diagnostics services and treatment at very reasonable fee compared to what is obtainable abroad.

He added that with the provision of the institution, Nigerians will no longer have the need to go abroad for medical attention any longer as this he offered, will also reduce capital flight. While signing into law, the bill establishing the Ondo State University of Medical Science before now, the governor had said the university would not just be another university but a global reference point in the area of health. “We are not just building a university but a specialised one that will beat all national benchmark. The university will be a global reference point in medical care.”

He said facilities at the Trauma Centre, Mother and Child Hospital, Kidney Centre, Gani Fawawehinmi Diagnostic Centre and others would not only serve the university but the entire Ondo State. Recall that the state government had announced its plan to establish a Medical Science University to enable it institutionalize the successes it has been able to achieve in the health sector.

The state Commissioner for Information, Hon. Kayode Akinmade who spoke on the plan also informed that the proposed university seeks to halt the brain drain being experienced in the health sector through the production of top quality health professionals to effectively man the various hospitals in the state.

Informing that Ondo State is the only state in the South-western region without a teaching hospital, the establishment of a medical science university, Akinmade mentioned that it became imperative especially as it is expected to make for the provision of an institutional base for acquisition of academic, professional and technological knowledge needed for manpower development in technology, basic applied sciences.

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Kazakhstan to create int’l economic center in Kostanai

19 June 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Kazakhstan will create an international economic center in Kostanai, a city located in the northern part of the country.

This statement was made by Alexander Dederer, the Chairman of Association of Germans of Kazakhstan ‘Revival’ on June 18.

“This center will provide foreign investors and large companies with information about the business opportunities existing in Kazakhstan,” he said.

Dederer also noted active works towards attracting German entrepreneurs to cooperate with Kazakh partners are underway. The Kazakh government carries out significant works to provide information support to business development programs as well.

“On March 20 this year, we held a conference in Frankfurt, which brought together more than 200 representatives of German business. Now, these platforms will be set up here in Kazakhstan,” Dederer said.

These platforms will include the meetings of representatives of small and medium business of Germany in Petropavlovsk and organization of dialogue with the local business community.

Germany recognized the independence of Kazakhstan in December, 1991, and the diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in February 1992.

Germany is a major partner of Kazakhstan among the EU member states.

A special bridge between the two countries is forged by approximately 800,000 Germans who have migrated to Germany from Kazakhstan (ethnic Germans) and approximately 180,000 members of the German minority still living in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is by far Germany’s most important trading partner in Central Asia. According to Federal Statistical Office figures, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to 6.2 billion euros in 2014.

Kazakhstan’s main exports to Germany are oil, iron and steel goods and chemical products. Kazakhstan is Germany’s fifth-largest supplier of oil. German exports comprise machinery, electrical equipment, chemical products, motor vehicles and vehicle parts and pharmaceutical products to Kazakhstan.

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New air-con subway train runs in Cairo

Al-Ahram – Thursday 18 Jun 2015 – The first air-conditioned subway train has come into operation on Cairo’s oldest metro line, part of a plan to bring some 20 such trains into action in the capital.

In a city where summer often gets swelteringly hot, conditions can become really harsh for some 3.5 million daily passengers in the often crowded cars.

The new train – which ran early Thursday in the first of Cairo’s three lines – was launched to make transportation easier for Egyptians during the fasting Islamic month of Ramadan which began today, the spokesman of the metro operation company, Ahmed Abdel-Hady, told Ahram Online.

It travelled on the Helwan-Marg line.

The second air-conditioned train is also due to come into service during the holy month.

Cairo’s newest metro line already has air-conditioned carriages.

The new addition comes as part of a LE2.2 billion ($301.4 million) deal with a Korean firm to bring 20 air-conditioned trains into service, in a plan that is expected to take years.

Officials say a train arrives in Egypt from Korea every 45 days and testing of each takes about two months before it becomes operational.

Another Spanish firm hired by the Egyptian Co. for Metro Management and Operation (ECMMO) is currently conducting studies to air condition 53 trains already in operation in the first, partly above-ground line.

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Iran’s Eynali Mountain, a favourite tourism site

Tehran, June 20, IRNA – Eynali is a small mountain range to the north of Tabriz, in the northwestern province of East Azarbaijan. The range has a couple of peaks including Eynali, Halileh, Pakeh-Chin, Bahlul with Dand being the highest.

It has red soil and can be seen from everywhere in Tabriz. There is a tomb at the top of the mountain believed to house the graves of two clerics after whom the mountain is named, Tehran-based English newspaper, Iran Daily, reported.

Nowadays, many residents of Tabriz hike on the mountain to the shrine as a daily sport activity. In the early 2000s, like many other mountains in the vicinity of big cities, a memorial site was established for eight unknown martyrs on top of Eynali Mountain. The mountain is also used by telecommunication companies and TV stations as relay site.

Tabriz City Council also intends to establish an artificial forest at the slopes of Eynali as the northern green belt of this metropolis.

According to the Cambridge History of Iran, Tabriz was founded during the early Sassanid rule in the third or fourth century CE.

Current excavations at the Blue Mosque site may lead to new theories about the early history of Tabriz.

Between 1585 and 1603 CE, Tabriz was occupied by the Ottomans, but was returned to the Safavid rulers, following which it grew to become a major commercial center, conducting trade with the Ottoman Empire, Russia, Central Asia and India. In 1724, the city was again occupied by the Ottomans and retaken by the Iranian Army. The city was held by the Russians in 1826 after a series of battles but the Iranian Army retook Tabriz in 1828.

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Iran, Italy to build date processing unit in Algeria

Algiers, June 20, IRNA – Iran and Italy are to cooperate in building a date processing unit in Algeria. Iran eyes an active presence in world markets through contribution in the project.

A document was signed by the Iranian Ambassador to Algeria Reza Ameri and the Algerian Commerce Minister Amara Benyounes. Based on the agreement, Iran is to contribute technical and technological assistance to the project.

During the ceremony to sign the document, the Algerian minister called for exploring new areas of cooperation between the two countries.

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Cooler, waterproof high-tech Hijab developed

OnIslam & News Agencies Sunday, 14 June 2015 OHIO – Following footsteps of inventors of fight fire gears and sweating gym suits, a Muslim entrepreneur has fulfilled a dream of many Muslim women by developing self-cooling, water proof and wrinkle free hijab.

“No matter how hot it is outside, they wear it — and they wear it with pride,” 22-year-old entrepreneur Ahmad Ghanem said on his Kickstarter video, Buzz Feed reported. “It’s up to us to make their lives a little more comfortable.”

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

Donned by Muslim women all year long, hot summer days were tortuous for some. That’s why Ghanem decided to step-in and invent this veil, the first-ever line of climate-adaptive hijabs.

The new Veil, or hijab, was inspired by performance-wear companies like Nike and Under Armour. The Veil “Cool Dry” hijab is made of a special fabric that keeps wearers 7 to 10 degrees cooler than the standard hijab.

Trying hundreds of different options over the course of two years, Ghanem found a nylon material which blocks 80% of heat, offers UV protection, and is completely waterproof.

The new material has already seen its fair share of changes over the years. “I want to continue to innovate, revolutionize, and change the way people see the hijab,” Ghanem said. “These women are the strongest and (steadfast), and they deserve everything. The hate and verbal abuse many of them receive is wrong and unfair. I hope my brand can inspire them to go out and become what they want to be.”

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Handicrafts ‘an integral part of Saudi identity’

Arab News – 20 June, 2015 – The handicrafts sector is not only a promising economic project but also an integral part of our national identity and a treasure that should be protected by every Saudi household, said Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).

Prince Sultan, who is also the head of the supervising committee of the National Handicraft Program (Bari), underscored the point while chairing the 6th meeting of the committee here at the National Museum recently.

At the outset of the meeting, the SCTA chief appreciated Bari’s efforts such as organizing a number of activities and events as well as achieving many goals.

He stressed on the importance of bringing about the aspirations of the state with regard to the development of the handicraft sector as it is a promising economic project and a part and parcel of the national identity.

“Handicrafts sector is a developmental project on which we greatly rely to create job opportunities and local development with the preservation of handicraft cultural elements as important components of the national identity,” he said.

“The major objective of the program is to make ‘Saudi Craft’ logo available in each and every Saudi household,” he added.

Addressing the meeting, Prince Sultan stressed on the importance of development of handicraft in line with the state’s directives in order to be a new economic sector to create various job opportunities for the Saudi youth not confined to artisans only, rather to be available for salesman and allied services.

He outlined that in the current phase of the program, “we aim to focus on quality, brand protection and marketing with the best and latest international experiences. We have already begun utilizing Turkish, Korean and Moroccan experiences in this field by entering into agreements with the handicraft organizations in those countries.”

The prince said: “The program, in coordination with the ministry of commerce and industry, as well as a number of investors and small and medium-sized enterprises under SCTA’s supervision, is on the verge of manufacturing phase through the establishment of incubator complexes for artisans to enable them to produce high-quality products in large quantities capable of marketing widely.”

Moreover, Prince Sultan instructed Bari to prepare a cooperation project between Bari and Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) and with other partners in the field of training to develop a training route that ends in employment or ends with small or medium project to be funded by Bari partners.

A presentation was made on the “comprehensive program of tourism and national heritage development” which is carried out by the SCTA in addition to reviewing a report on the partnerships of the program with a number of authorities and discussed the national record of the artisans.

A presentation was also made on the training program on pottery that was held in South Korea.

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Cultural passport launched for visitors to Bahrain

Gulf Daily News – 15 June, 2015 – A unique ‘cultural passport’ has been launched for visitors to Bahrain.

His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa yesterday received Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities president Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, who presented a model of the ‘passport’, which aims at promoting Bahrain’s millennia-old heritage and civilisation.

The Premier praised the initiative and stressed the importance of documenting Bahrain’s cultural heritage for the coming generations.

The initiative is part of festivities marking “Our Year of Heritage 2015″, which showcases the best of Bahrain’s heritage to the world. The guide-like passport introduces visitors and tourists to 21 iconic monuments and sites, including Bahrain National Museum, forts, Bahrain National Theatre and cultural centres.

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Inter-tourism discussed at Manama meeting

Oman Daily Observer – 15 June, 2015 – Deliberations of the GCC Tourism Under-Secretaries’ meeting began in the Bahraini capital, Manama, yesterday. The Sultanate’s delegation to the meeting is represented by Maithaa bint Saif al Mahrouqiyah, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism. The two-day meeting discusses the work programme of developing and activating aspects related to the GCC inter-tourism and the Tourism Cooperation Committee’s study, as well as giving a presentation on the potentials and indicators of the GCC inter-tourism. The meeting also includes a brainstorming session to set up a plan to develop the inter-tourism by the tourism under-secretaries, besides approving the initiatives to develop the GCC inter-tourism.

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Dubai hotel occupancy rises as room rates become affordable

Emirates 24/7 – 16 June, 2015 – Demand for hotel rooms in Dubai outpaced supply after months of lagging behind, thanks to a number of Mice events taking place in the emirate last month.

According to STR Global’s data for the month of May, hotel room demand increased 8 per cent while supply expanded 5.6 per cent in Dubai.

The global hotel data provider said Dubai’s 80-per cent occupancy level for May was helped by increased business travel from the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference and the International Design Exhibition.

According to STR Global analysts, slight uncertainty exists amongst investors in Dubai due to low global oil prices. However, Dubai has established a successful flow of tourism on which to rely during such times. New prospects on the horizon, such as the Dubai Design District, also should bring a new mix of visitors to the city.

Occupancy rates registered a 2.3 per cent increase, reaching 80 per cent during the month while the average daily rate and revenue per available room registered decline.

Average daily room rate in Dubai hotel decreased 8.5-per cent to Dh709.10 while revenue per available room dropped 6.4 per cent to Dh567.50.

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Dubai gives boost to creative industries

Khaleej Times – 16 June, 2015 – Dubai announced on Monday the setting up of an entity with a mandate focusing on fostering growth of creative industries to boost innovation across the emirate.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued ‘Law No. 15 of 2014’ renaming Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority as Dubai Creative Clusters with the new mandate.

Shaikh Mohammed also issued two decrees appointing Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, as Chairman of Dubai Creative Clusters Authority, and Ahmad bin Byat as Director General of the Authority.

The authority said it would drive the growth of Dubai’s creative industries by developing evidence-based policies and programmes to attract, retain and grow creative businesses in Dubai. “To meet its objectives, the authority will actively develop the size and skills of the creative talent pool, promote entrepreneurship and innovation, provide financial support, create joint forums between the creative industries and government, and provide a platform for research, intelligence and advocacy,” it said in a statement.

Dubai Creative Clusters Authority will continue to be responsible for licensing, visa and zoning regulations for the diverse free zone encompassing Dubai Internet City, Dubai Outsource Zone, Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, International Media Production Zone, Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai International Academic City, Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, Energy and Environment Park (EnPark) and Dubai Design District (d3). These clusters are owned and operated by Tecom Investments, Dubai’s pioneering master developer of industry-focused clusters.

Bin Byat said for 15 years, the authority has played a vital role in the development of Tecom Investments’ clusters by developing business-friendly licensing and zoning regulations that ensure ease of starting and operating businesses, world-class infrastructure and a high quality of life for the community. “With the launch of the Dubai Strategy for Innovation it is important to evolve the role of the authority to continue to support these clusters and to further develop the creative industries across Dubai.”

He said creative industries are fast-evolving and made up of a diverse range of activities which use intellectual capital as their primary input. Ranging from film to design and gaming to architecture these industries generate high-value, highly-skilled and sustainable employment and play a central role in driving innovation and growth, with critical spillover effects for the wider economy. “The authority’s role is to enable creative businesses across Dubai, especially SMEs, to compete on regional and international stages.”

Ali BuRuhaima, Deputy Director General, Dubai Creative Clusters Authority, said the entity would work with other Government entities and our business community to promote an enabling environment for innovation and ultimately make Dubai the most innovative city in the world. “We will strive to enhance ease of doing business and remove impediments to growth to position Dubai as the regional and international destination for start-ups, established industry leaders, and creative talent across the globe.”

BuRuhaima said these changes would deliver valuable benefits to the thousands of companies operating under our jurisdiction and, in the meantime, we would like to assure our business community that there will be no disruption to our existing services.

The authority has established industry Councils and Committees to champion key creative industries, investing Dh40 million annually towards Dubai International Film Festival, Dubai Film and TV Commission, and Dubai Design and Fashion Council. It will continue to establish industry bodies in line with the new mandate and partner with local, federal and international entities to bring the latest thinking on innovation and creative industries to Dubai.

Currently, the authority regulates 10 industry clusters hosting more than 4,200 businesses across the media, ICT, education, sciences and design industries. The clusters have a collective workforce of over 64,000. The clusters have attracted many of the industry leaders in respective sectors – the list includes Microsoft, Google, IBM, Dell, HP, LinkedIn, SAP, GE, Pfizer, Exxon Mobil, CNN, MBC, OSN, Pfizer, Heriot Watt University, University of Wollongong, and Manipal University, among others.

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Abu Dhabi tourists up 20 per cent at over 1 million

Khaleej Times – 17 June, 2015 – The number of guest arrivals into Abu Dhabi during the first four months of the year increased by 20 per cent compared to the previous year with more than one million people staying in the emirate’s 161 hotels and hotel apartments, new figures released by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, or TCA Abu Dhabi, show.

The 1,370,241 guest arrivals delivered 3,899,135 guest nights, an increase of 11 per cent on the same period in 2014, prompting the authority to increase the 2015 guest arrivals target from 3.5 million to 3.9 million.

Domestic tourism from within the UAE remained the primary source of hotel guests and guest nights, accounting for a 44 per cent share of all arrivals, with 441,154 guest arrivals generating 1,004,525 guest nights, a rise of 20 per cent on 2014.

The January-to-April performance has also been spurred on by emphatic growth in guest arrivals from China, the first four months of this year saw 79,713 Chinese guest arrivals into Abu Dhabi — an increase of 75 per cent during the corresponding period last year — just a handful less than second-placed India, which recorded 16 per cent growth to achieve 79,793 guests for the same period.

Abu Dhabi recently welcomed 23 hotels, attractions and experiences into the Welcome Chinese programme in partnership with the China Tourism Academy, which encourages greater dispersal from more Chinese guest arrivals, extending reasons for them to stay longer.

China has now become the third-largest overseas market for the emirate, supported by strong regional GCC tourism growth, and robust performances from the UK and Ireland, India, the US and leading European markets.

Occupancy for the January-April period increased marginally to 79 per cent in comparison to last year while revenue from hotel establishments recorded a 12 per cent increase to Dh2,431 billion. Room revenue increased by 16 per cent while food and beverage revenue increased by three per cent.

Major market strides were made during the same period with arrivals from Saudi Arabia posting an increase of 46 per cent to become the sixth-largest international market, behind the UK, India, China, Germany and the United States.

The UK remained the leading European market with arrivals jumping 17 per cent to 80,673 delivering 328,410 guest nights, a 10 per cent increase.

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Bahrain’s summer tourism push

Gulf Daily News – 18 June, 2015 – A major tourism drive is being launched to support the sector during summer.

The four-pronged strategy, dubbed ‘four paths to happiness’, includes a local market, Eid concerts, a Summer Festival and a new initiative designed to encourage more visitors to Bahrain’s historic sites.

It was unveiled yesterday by Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA) president Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa during a Press conference at Bahrain National Museum.

Activities commence with the Bab-Market Ramadhaniyath, which will take place over two weekends, on June 26 and 27 and July 3 and 4 at the Art Centre and Cultural Hall, in Manama.

Vendors selling Bahraini products and homemade food will be accompanied by interactive installations, performances, arts and crafts from 8pm to 1am each day.

This will be followed by a series of Eid concerts beginning with a performance by the Mohamed bin Fares Folk Band and the annual Ta’a Al Shabab youth culture festival on July 18 at the Cultural Hall, from 8pm.

On July 19 music with a Moroccan flavour will be performed at the same venue from 8pm, while Saudi musician Majid Al Mohandis will perform at the Bahrain National Theatre on July 21 from 8pm.

After Eid a range of activities have been lined up as part of the Summer Festival from July 30 to August 31, under the theme ‘our year of heritage’.

Included are a variety of free cultural, educational and entertainment activities for families at the Nakhool Tent, next to Sitra Mall, with mascot Nakhool, a character symbolising Bahrain’s tradition, culture and its Dilmun history.

In addition as part of a six-month campaign to promote tourism and attract visitors to Bahrain’s cultural sites, the Culture Tourism Passport initiative is being introduced.

Every time someone visits one of 21 sites they can get their passports stamped ‘“ and those who visit all 21 are entered into a draw to win a trip outside Bahrain.

The scheme is open to both Bahrainis and foreigners and the 21 sites are the Bahrain National Museum, Bu Maher Fort and Visitor Centre, Bahrain National Theatre, Bahrain Fort, Bahrain Fort Site Museum, Riffa Fort, the Tree of Life and Visitor Centre, Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Centre for Culture and Research, Bab Al Bahrain and Visitor Centre, Al Hedaya Al Khalifia School, Oil Museum, Bait Al Quran, Mohammed bin Fares Hall, Al Qaysariya Suq, Ibrahim Al Arrayed House of Poetry, Khalaf House, Al Fateh Mosque, Khamis Mosque, Barbar Temple, Shaikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa House and Bin Matar House.

‘This summer season, starting with Eid until later this year, we have four major attractions which we call the ‘four paths to happiness’,’ Shaikha Mai told the GDN.

‘They are the Culture Tourism Passport, Ramadhaniyath (Bab-Market), Eid concerts and the Summer Festival.

‘As part of the new concept, the Culture Tourism Passport, we will be introducing the best places in Bahrain to not only foreigners but also to locals and those in the region, who are yet to see many of these places.

‘A Dilmun stamp on the passports of those who visit these sites will be proof of pride for Bahrain.’

Shaikha Mai said Bahrain needed to put more emphasis on heritage and culture tourism as an alternative to shopping in modern malls.

‘If only we are allowed to work as much as we want in terms of promoting the country and its culture, as there is a lot of potential in the tourism of Bahrain,’ she said.

‘Unfortunately, nobody supports the right thing here ‘“ as in promoting what is there in Bahrain and this is the main problem. The whole focus is on trying to copy Dubai and go for malls, which should not be the way.

‘We need to go for culture as Bahrain is a cultural destination and a beautiful destination that has class and quality.

‘We need to promote it that way, instead of going only on a commercial angle.

‘We can afford to be different and must do something different to attract the crowd from the GCC and the world, by offering them something novel and which is unique to Bahrain.’

The Culture Tourism Passport initiative will run from Eid until mid-December.

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Qatar Airways begins all first class flights to Jeddah

The Peninsula – 18 June, 2015 – Qatar Airways (QA) has launched of a new daily all-first class service from Doha to Jeddah to coincide with the start of Ramadan. With the additional daily flight from today, services to Jeddah will rise from double-daily flights to triple-daily flights. Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive, QA Group, said: “The demand for premium group travel continues to grow especially during Ramadan and we have introduced this all-premium A319 to Jeddah.”

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People with special needs display entrepreneurial skills in industry

Gulf Today – 14 June, 2015 – A group of differently-abled people under the Desert Group have proved to be highly skilled and motivated entrepreneurs by selling hundreds of their developed products in the last two months.

“As part of the Desert Group’s ‘Enable’ initiative, the group of 6 people with different special needs, but highly motivated, have been making a wide range of home decoration and garden products. In the last two months, over 500 such products have been made by these people, thereby drawing a huge admiration as well as having an exclusive portion of the proceeds go into their pockets as reward,” said Reem Al Ghaith, CSR Manager, Desert Group in an exclusive interview with The Gulf Today.

The Dubai-based Desert Group has been dealing in a diverse range of products related to garden, nursery, landscaping, pools and waterscapes, turfcare and indoor plant solutions for the last 27 years.

The group has been engaged in different corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to develop a sustainable society. One of the major CSR initiatives through which the Desert Group has drawn huge attention in the society is its programme to support differently-abled people.

Since 2006, the group has been working on a multi-tier programme in which they have created a vocational training-style in-house facility with the induction of a number of people with special needs. A total of 32 such people are part of the programme, 28 of whom have been working in nurseries to take care of plants and garden products.

“Our training programme for disabled people has achieved many milestones in the past couple of years and some of our team members with hearing impairments now work with mainstream workers,” she said.

With the aim of creating a self-sustaining agricultural model Desert Groups has launched its Enable Progamme for its special needs team members. As part of the programme, a group of six individuals have been trained to develop different products with their creative design. Every product is unique using a variety of durable plants that require minimum care. Each product is environmental friendly: made of re-used elements and organic soil. “The aim of this project is to create entrepreneurial skills for people with special abilities and deliver a 360 degree retail model starting from product concept, manufacturing, merchandising and selling. Through this programme, these individuals with special abilities will be able to start their own retail units and therefore achieve financial sustainability,” Al Ghaith said.

These products have been put on sale in different places across Dubai such as at events in various schools, malls, weekly bazaars like Ripe Market and Garden Centre, where visitors showed great interest and bought with keen enthusiasm upon learning the background the products. There has been overwhelming support from the public and the special section in the Dubai Garden Center has been of great interest.

“Displaying the products made by these individuals at public places has also raised awareness on our Enable initiative. We have been working with different government departments and private organisations to spread this module as a role model for people with disabilities,” she said.

“Desert Group a pioneer in landscaping and horticulture in the region has been at the forefront of social initiatives that aim at creating an equal environment for young people with special needs so that they can become productive members of society,” stated Michael Mascarenhas Group CEO at Desert Group. “We believe that Enable is another initiative that will endorse the idea that a CSR program can be self-sustaining.”

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