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1 Jun, 2015

Muslim Invents First Hi-Tech Prayer Mat

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 01 June 2015 (14 Sha’baan 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




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

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




Iran to host 1st specialized gathering of Asian crafts

Tehran, May 24, IRNA – The cultural richness and historical antiquity of Iranian handicraft is well known across the world.

Iran, with 250 diverse handicraft fields, has proved that it can replace oil with handicraft exports.

Given the Western sanctions imposed on Iran in recent years, the handicraft exports faced obstacles.

Also, rivals in other countries duplicated Iranian carpet designs, produced machine-made carpets, and sold them at cheaper prices. This has greatly harmed Iranian carpet industry.

Moreover, our country could not attend annual gatherings of World Crafts Council in the past years.

Today, new horizons have opened up on reaching a nuclear deal which have driven Iranian merchants to increase handicraft exports.

Iran Daily interviewed Abdolmajid Sharifzadeh, the head of handicrafts development and promotion affairs at Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO). Excerpts follow:

IRAN DAILY: June 10 has been designated as World Handicraft Day. A number of programs are held each year to mark this day. What are ICHHTO’s programs?

SHARIFZADEH: A seminar will be held at Tehran’s IRIB International Conference Center, which will be attended by state officials and artisans. Also, Iran will hold the first specialized gathering of World Crafts Council for West Asia Sub-Region with the participation of 12 nations.

In addition, International Handicrafts Expo attended by ICHHTO officials will also be held.

Q: Annually, we see that other nations don’t have strong presence in International Handicrafts Expo in Tehran. How is participation of foreign representatives in this year’s fair?

A: Five nations have declared their readiness to take part in the event. Given our programs to expand ties with Western and Asian nations, we hope we can encourage foreign artisans to take part in the Iranian expo.

Q: During Fifth Annual Gathering of World Crafts Council-Asia-Pacific Region in Chennai, India, in 2015, Iran was chosen as the host for 2016 event. How can Iran’s cooperation with the council affect promotion of domestic handicrafts?

A: World Crafts Council-Asia-Pacific Region is a non-governmental organization. Its annual sessions are held in different nations. Iran has been elected as host nation in 2016 by a majority of the votes.

During the Fifth Annual Gathering of World Crafts Council-Asia-Pacific Region in Chennai, India, in 2015, Iran urged the promotion of regional cooperation in production of handicrafts, launching joint markets and preparing the grounds for cooperation between Iranian and foreign producers. Iran will host the first specialized gathering of World Crafts Council for West Asia Sub-Region with the participation of countries such as Afghanistan, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Jordan.

Iran will take part in the 2016 event for the third time.

I hope that we could take good measures in this respect given the positive approach of the current government.

Q: Handicraft imports inflicted huge losses on Iranian handicrafts in recent years. The majority of foreign handicrafts were machine-made goods. Even countries such as China and India duplicated Iranian carpet designs, produced them with machine, and sold them at low prices in Iranian market. What has government done to eliminate such measures and confront the violators?

A: Iranian artisans were not supported in competitive markets. Domestic handicrafts were not applicable items and could not meet the taste of customers.

The government is implementing several programs to boost the handicraft industry.

ICHHTO, with help of banks, granted low-interest loans to domestic producers to launch workshops.

Also, top artisans received national authenticity seal for handicraft . This seal is granted to senior artisans biannually.

National authenticity seal is one of the conditions of World Crafts Council to grant UNESCO authenticity seal to artisans.

Therefore, domestic artisans try to improve their products to obtain UNESCO seal and enter foreign markets.

It is also necessary to promote the culture of using domestic handicrafts among Iranians.

Following negotiations held between ICHHTO and police forces, those who smuggle handicrafts or import inferior products will face legal action.

In addition, the government has increased tariffs on foreign handicrafts.

Q: In some cases, imported handicrafts have been made of substandard and inferior products which are harmful for people’s health. Do you approve of this?

A: Yes. They had been smuggled into Iran. Some items had toxic enamels.

The majority of these smuggled handicrafts are produced in substandard environments.

Q: Is there any certain supervisory system for looking into the offenses of Handicraft shops?

Since the Center of Guilds and Merchants — affiliated to the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Commerce — is in charge of supervising the handicraft shops, ICHHTO cannot interfere in it. ICHHTO can only supervise on its own shops.

Q: Poor packages and absence of brand names are the other weak points of Iranian handicrafts. What do you do to overcome this problem?

Iranian handicraft packing scheme has been put forward in recent years. The government supports those who launch specialized packing factories. Fortunately, several handicraft packing factories are active.

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Malaysia Airlines To Focus On Medium Range Routes

TOKYO, May 25 (NNN-Bernama) — The new Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is expected to become a very important transit hub airline for the region, cutting on long-haul flights to the west and focusing more on regional medium routes.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said MAS would have strong advantage as passengers flying to Kuala Lumpur could use it as a transit point to fly to Australia, China, India and South East Asia countries like Indonesia and Thailand.

“MAS can be anchor for transit passengers, flying them into the regional market, especially for full service carriers,” he said after meeting Japan’s Minister for Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Akihiro Ohta in Tokyo, Monday.

Liow said under MAS’ restructuring plan, more focus would be given to medium range routes, adding that the airline could use its membership in One World Alliance to do more transit and code sharing.

“If MAS decides to cut routes in Europe for instance, we will offer them to AirAsia X or Malindo. But the new MAS management will have the final say on which routes to be cut or to be added,” he said.

He said this was one of the reasons Malaysia was seeking landing rights at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport for MAS, which currently flies 10 times a week from Kuala Lumpur to Narita International Airport, Tokyo, three times from Kota Kinabalu and one to Kanzai Airport in Osaka.

According to him, AirAsia X flies seven times a week to Haneda while MAS had asked the ministry to negotiate landing rights for the past two years but the Japanese side could not accommodate them due to tight slot.

“I brought up the matter during my meeting with my counterpart today. MAS wants to fly Haneda as well as the load coming in is high due to its proximity to the capital,” he said.

Liow confirmed that All Nippon Airways would commence seven flights a week to Kuala Lumpur in September, while Japan Airlines currently also had similar number of flights.

On reports that more than 8,000 staff of current MAS would be axed once MAS Bhd takes over under the restructuring exercise, Liow said he was informed only 6,000 would be terminated as reported before.

“I can’t say much, a lot of details will be decided at the Khazanah board level. They will look at the commercial interest and I think they have thrash it out all with MAS unions,” he added.

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Indonesia’s Mariculture Products Have Huge Global Market Potential

JAKARTA, Indonesia May 26 (NNN-Bernama) – The Indonesian government through the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry (KKP) aims to increase production of cultured fishery products due to their huge potential in the global market, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reports.

“Mariculture products have high economic value thanks to their good export prospects,” director general of KKP’s Cultured Fisheries Affairs Slamet Soebijakto said in a statement Monday.

Slamet proposed that the government create fishery zoning in the regions to facilitate development of mariculture.

To promote seaweed development, cultivation areas will be located up to four miles along the coastlines while in areas located four miles and beyond, seaweed will be developed using floating net cage equipment.

Fish commodities to be developed in zoning systems are to be adjusted according to local conditions. Fish species will include snapper, grouper, pomfret, sea stars, abalone and tuna.

“Mariculture development is in line with the vision and mission of the working Cabinet (President Joko Widodo’s administration) — to develop the economic potential of the country’s maritime sector,” Slamet said.

Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) head Suryamin said the fishery sector had shown relative growth in the second quarter of 2015 due to increased output and rising number of entrepreneurs in cultured fishery.

Economic growth in the fishery sector in the first quarter of this year was recorded at 8.64 percent compared to 2.94 percent in agricultural sector and 1.24 percent in forestry sector.

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China Hand In Hand With Arab World To Push Silk Road Initiative

BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 28 (NNN-XINHUA) – The Sixth Session of the Arab-Chinese Businessmen Conference concluded here Wednesday, stressing the commitment to the Silk Road initiative and pledging to expand the areas of cooperation.

The statement, issued at the conclusion of the activities of the conference and the investment symposium, under the title “Building economic belt of the Silk Road,” noted that the participants reached a common vision and agreed on the establishment of multiple levels of exchange and cooperation between the companies.

It added that the two sides highly appreciated the continuous growth in the trade between China and Arab countries in 2014, despite the global and regional challenges.

It stressed “the importance of joint efforts, in order to promote Sino-Arab trade and economic partnership, in order to build economic belt of the new Silk Road.”

It pointed out that the initiative “will enhance trade and economic cooperation, and opens up new dimensions and horizons between China and the Arab world.”

The statement also called for “the promotion of investments in the projects contained in the belt, including the vast network of rail, land, highways, sea routes and lines of oil and gas pipelines, electrical networks, the Internet and networks, and other infrastructure projects across the central, western and southern Asia.”

The statement stressed “commitment to the path of the new Silk Road, which is expected to evolve with the strategic relations between China and the Arab world, to new historical levels that would be reflected on everyone’s unprecedented increase in growth rates, and create endless possibilities of new jobs.”

It also agreed on the need for the two sides to increase cooperation in the following areas: the logistics of road transport and rail, sea and air, trade, industry, agriculture and food security, banking, tourism, energy and renewable energy and infrastructure.

The statement stressed “the need to speed up negotiations on establishing a free trade area between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council, to sign a free trade agreement as a prelude to the establishment of free trade between Arab countries and China.

The Arab and Chinese sides agreed in the statement that “the Seventh Session of the Conference and the Fifth Session of the Seminar Investment Forum will be held in China in 2017.

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Iran’s Cultural Heritage, An Asset For Future

ZAHEDAN, Sistan-Baluchestan, May 25,(NNN- IRNA) – Governor General of Sistan and Baluchestan Province said cultural heritage prepares the ground for communication of people from different parts of the country with each other and as a result guarantees security and sustainable development and serves as an asset for the future of the society and the generations to come.

Speaking at a local gathering, Ali Owsat Hashemi said, “Sistan and Baluchestan is a broad, rich and diversified reality in terms of cultural and historical heritage which has been forgotten and hidden under dust and in fact is in need of refurbishing from the heritage of flag bearers of the civilization and our history-making pioneers.”

He said concentration of outlooks should be on provinces which have been ignored and remained in deprivation and the belief should be developed that each of the existing works in each provinces is an indication of valuable attitude and behavior of specific people and ethnic groups.

He said Sistan anad Baluchestan enjoys high capacity in the field of tourism and a specific outlook to this province can prepare the ground for its presentation at national and international level.

Meanwhile, Director General of Museums of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said today the international community is exposed to the risk of forgetfulness and museums and cultural heritage are considered as parts of the history and universal memory.

Mohammad Reza Kargar further remarked that communication technology has created the rapid wave of forgetfulness and monotony and only countries with cultural education can resist against such an assault.

He said Iran’s culture and civilization is a tree whose roots are spread throughout the country and if cultural heritage does not support people no transparent and developed future can be anticipated.

Sistan and Baluchestan as the most expanded province is situated in southeast of the country and is rich in exquisite historical and cultural works parts of which is the result of peaceful coexistence of the Shiite and Sunni Muslims in the province.

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Sheikha Moza Of Qatar Opens Oxford University’s Middle East Centre

OXFORD, England, May 27 (NNN-QNA) – Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), delivered a keynote speech, at the opening of the Middle East Centre, at St Antony’s College, Oxford, touching on the current relationship between the Middle East and Europe.

She spoke about the growing “fear of real, living Muslims” in Europe and contrasted this with Europe’s curiosity and “respect for the vast and rich architectural, philosophical and historical traditions” of Islam.

She added that, “Islamophobia” had devalued the lives of Muslims in Europe and America and highlighted a double standard in applying principles of free speech, human rights and dignity.

“Why do Muslim lives matter less than the lives of others? If they matter at all,” she asked.

In addition, she raised the issue of the use of language in analysing the rise of militancy.

“The word ‘medieval’ is appearing more and more to describe the actions of radicals. But why do we insinuate that, somehow, those who are perpetuating certain acts of violence do not belong to our age? That, somehow, they are not ‘modern?’ It is a naive refusal to accept our collective responsibility. IS is as modern as Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. They are all products of our age.”

Her diagnosis was not only directed toward the growth of Islamophobia in Europe, but also toward Muslim countries themselves, who practice a type of “Islamophobia from within” by creating fear and suspicion of all things “Islamic” in order “to solidify the existing grip on power.”

She connected this “Islamophobia from within” to the vestiges of colonisation and the suppression of the Arab spring. “It is evident that colonisation leaves behind deep material, political, cultural and psychological scars, and gaping wounds. Debate is needed. Violent repression is not. Could this be a reason why we, as Muslims, have lost confidence in our ability to apply the universal and eternal Islamic values to our living traditions?”

She presented a challenge to academics to reach out beyond academia and communicate their research more widely, in order to counteract the sensationalist narratives of mainstream media. Arguing that “academia should serve society, not only observe it and comment upon it.”

She added that, Muslims have the responsibility to demonstrate that “Islam is a rich, living moral tradition, that can offer solutions to universal challenges.”

She gave the example of the work being conducted at the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, in the application of Islamic values and ethics to global problems. She advised young Muslims that, “we should not only look back to history for the glory that was Islam, but to the future and to the glory that is Islam. We should be inspired not only by historical values, but by eternal ones.”

Upon her arrival at the new building, she toured the centre, accompanied by architect, Zaha Hadid, to have a first-hand look at study rooms and facilities.

Qatar Foundation, via the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies at Education City in Doha, and Oxford University, have a long history of collaboration and partnership that stretches back almost a decade.

This collaboration has seen the annual exchange of professors and joint research and workshops. It also allows Qatari students, studying for their Masters in Middle Eastern Studies, to spend up to a semester at Oxford University.

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Oman And Russia Sign MoU On Museum Affairs

MOSCOW, Russia, May 29 (NNN-ONA) – Oman and the Russian Federation, signed in the City of St. Petersburg today, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the National Museum in the Sultanate and the Russian Hermitage Museum, on the museum work, training services and vocational rehabilitation.

The signing came after a visit by Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, Omani Minister of Heritage and Culture and his accompanying delegation, to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, within the framework of the current official visit of Sayyid Haitham to the Russian Federation.

The Minister met, during his visit to the museum with, Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director General of the Hermitage Museum, and his assistant for Research and Studies, where they discussed the frameworks of the rules and principles of cooperation, between the two sides, in connection with the development activities in the field of museums, of common interest and strengthen the relationship through joint cooperation by the exchange of experiences and the development of museums, in the long run.

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Ukrainian Flight Lands In Syria After Years Of Suspension

LATAKIA, Syria, May 25 (NNN-SANA) – A Ukrainian airplane arrived at the airport of Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, the first foreign flight to land in the war-torn country since 2012.

With only ten passengers onboard a boeing 737, the Ukrainian Autolux Airways, launched its first trip to Syria, despite the European Union sanctions and the security situation in Syria.

The move is considered as a first step toward re-establishing foreign flights into the embattled country, where travelling has become a troublesome experience for the majority of Syrians, who have to drive to Beirut, Lebanon, to travel to their destinations in any part of the world.

Sunday’s flight will be followed by one flight each week from Kiev to Latakia and vice versa, and the company also provided the Syrians inside the country, with transit service in Kiev and continuous flights to other parts of the world, mainly to Russia and the United States.

Even though the Syrians, who want to have a transit in Kiev, must have valid transit visa to Ukraine, the Ukrainian embassy in Syria promised to make facilitations for the Syrians, to encourage them to travel on this airlines.

“The trip was perfect, as a first flight launched between Ukraine and Syria. I always wanted to come to Syria and that’s why I picked this flight to visit home,” Youssef Saleh, a Syrian expat in Ukraine, said, at the Bassel al-Assad international airport in Latakia.

The Syrian National Airways now offers flights to a small number of countries, such as to some of the Gulf States, Egypt, and Russia.

The Syrian government has recently encouraged other local airways to start trips to nearby countries, a move aims to facilitate the travelling process for the Syrians.

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Bahrain-Turkey Tourism Cooperation Steadily Increasing

MANAMA, Bahrain, May 26 (NNN-BNA) – Turkey’s Ambassador to Bahrain, Hatun Demirer, said that, tourism cooperation with Bahrain has been steadily increasing and that the number of Bahraini tourists to her country has surged spectacularly.

“We are pleased to witness the rapidly increasing touristic relations between Turkey and Bahrain, which are two friendly countries with similar cultures and historical ties, in the recent years,” Ambassador Demirer said.

“The number of Bahraini visitors to Turkey reached 24,305 in 2014, from 3,155 in 2004. It is also a source of pride for Turkey, to attract an increasing number of Bahraini nationals to buy properties in Turkey, either as holiday homes or for investment purposes. This is a clear indication of the confidence of Bahrainis in Turkey’s economy and a strong sign that they feel at home in Turkey,” the ambassador told Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

The diplomatic envoy added that Turkish Airlines has daily flights between Istanbul and Bahrain and that Turkey’s low-cost carrier company, Pegasus, launched its Bahrain flights on June 12 last year, with three flights a week.

“Gulf Air is also operating in the same route and it has recently increased its frequency to seven flights a week. These flights are gradually pushing mutual visitors’ numbers upwards and they are clear manifestations of the keenness of both countries to enhance their tourism relations,” she said.

“We are also familiar with the preferences and requirements of tourists coming to Turkey from different parts of the world. Thus, the tourism field presents mutually beneficial partnership opportunities to Turkish and Bahraini private sectors.”

Bahrain’s focus on tourism and its drive to enhance and develop its tourism and hospitality sector, as part of its economic diversification efforts, means, there is a great potential for cooperation with Turkey in this field, she added.

“Cooperation can be achieved mainly in terms of capacity-building, education, training and management. Tourism education and training is a well-established sector in Turkey,” she said.

Ambassador Demirer said that, Turkey’s tourism industry is one of the most advanced sectors in the country.

“With around 41 million tourists visiting the country in 2014, Turkey is the world’s sixth most popular tourism destination. Naturally, tourism is one of the leading sources of revenue for the Turkish economy. Our goal for the year 2023, when we will celebrate the centenary of the founding of our Republic, is to host 50 million tourists and to increase our revenue from tourism to $50 billion,” she said.

The ambassador added that tourism was among the most effective means to build robust bonds of mutual understanding, respect and friendship among nations.

“Tourism gives people the opportunity to have a first hand and direct observation of the countries they are visiting. It also has a positive impact on international trade, as it increases public awareness of the economic strengths and potentials of other countries,” she said.

“In addition to being a magnet for traditional tourism, Turkey is an increasingly attractive destination for meetings, conferences, exhibitions, as well as, for the other aspects of modern tourism such as education, health and culture tourism. The improving numbers of summer camps and student exchange programmes between Turkish and foreign schools is impressively boosting youth tourism.”

There is a massive increase in the number of people from European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries, who travelled to Turkey for medical treatment and care, she added. “They want to avail of the opportunities to benefit from Turkey’s top-class but affordable health facilities and spas,” she said.

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LEAD STORY: Muslim Invents First Hi-Tech Prayer Mat

OnIslam & News Agencies – Sunday, 31 May 2015 DUBAI – Offering relief to Muslim patients, a space tech Muslim entrepreneur has invented the world’s first physiological prayer mat whose components are derived from space technology and designed with precision.

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

“It successfully helped people with knee and joint pain, fatigue, body stiffness, low energy, and supporting muscular skeletal structure of the body,” Nader Sabry told Al-Arabiya on Sunday, May 31.

Sabry, a Canadian Muslim of Arab origin is a passionate advocate for inspiring youth to embrace entrepreneurship through the Get2space.com initiative, in partnership with the US Space Foundation.

Producing his prayer mat, Sabry was deemed the sole innovation leader in a 2 trillion dollar lifestyle market within the Islamic economy for his invention of the TIMEZ5 prayer mat.

“The TIMEZ5 prayer mat was developed after years of R&D and an in-depth research into the Muslim market. I was inspired after seeing an old man trying to pray in physical pain,” he said.

“The man had a difficult time fulfilling his religious obligations due to the full-body motions involved in prayer. After conducting years of research, we discovered that many Muslims suffer knee pains and joint problems which prevent them from performing their prayers.

“After five 5 years of R&D, I finally was able to create a product to help the Muslim elderly in their worship; however it also supports many other groups from desk based employees to athletes in their post injury rehabilitation.”

Currently, Sabry’s TIMEZ5 Company is one of the few innovating companies operating in the Muslim wellness and lifestyle sector. “We are helping shape and lead a new generation of Muslim innovators,” he noted.

The young Muslim added that as a Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid awardee, “I was also invited to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship on an exclusive panel of game-changers across the whole global Islamic economy.”

Moreover, Sabry’s company has become the 43rd company in NASA history to become a certified space technology company. “That also made us the first, Muslim innovation company to ever been recognized and work with NASA,” Sabry added.

Achieving success in his first project using space technology, Sabry dreams for more inventions.

Asked about his next plan after this success as an innovator, he replied, “We have been very successful so far and several new innovations are in development at the moment to help enhance Muslim lifestyle challenges.”

“This coming year we will be implementing our Muslim physiology workshop due to popular demand in more countries, which is run by our medical team in helping educate Muslims about physiological issues unique to them and how to overcome them to improve prayer. “

“We are certified by NASA and have been working with NASA’s technology transfer program for many years in using space technology and today NASA is testing our technologies as well for future space applications beyond what we have accomplished today.”

Operating from Canada, expansion dream is still inspiring Sabry.

“Today we sell in 35 countries globally and have thousands of customers. We cover major markets were we have had great success like the US, Canada, France, UK and of course the GCC,” he said.

“Our manufacturing facilities are in Canada at this stage but no plans for a Middle East production facility as of yet.”

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Make Malaysia The Talk Of Tourists – PM Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia May 27 (NNN-Bernama) — Tourism industry players are urged to play a more dynamic role to provide tourists with the best experience so that Malaysia will always be on their lips.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said an extensive and effective marketing strategy is needed, right from the entry point into the country to the hotels, to create an attractive and unforgettable experience for tourists.

“To boost the country’s tourism industry to a higher level, Malaysia has to have a product which is different, be it in physical term, the ecosystem, courtesy and the best service for tourists.

“Never look at tourists as a chance for making excessive profits, including to cheat by marking up prices, like taxi drivers who do not use the meter,” he added.

He said the choice of providing an attractive or bad experience for tourists is in the hands of players in the industry.

The prime minister was speaking at a dinner hosted by the National Tourism Council of Malaysia (NTCM) here last night.

Also present was NTCM president Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin.

In a related development, Najib said the growth of the tourism industry gave Malaysia the confidence to achieve the target of 36 million tourist arrivals in 2020 with revenue of RM168 billion, as stated in the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA).

“For this year alone, we are targetting 29.4 million tourist arrivals with spending at RM89 billion. We believe, with the Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign, as a continuation of the Visit Malaysia Year, the target can be achieved on the condition that all parties involved play their respective roles,” he added.

Najib said Malaysia is not only rich in natural environment as a tourist attraction, but also various world-class infrastructure which continue to draw attention and made it the choice destination for tourists.

“In fact, in terms of shopping satisfaction, Malaysia is the choice because of the price and quality factors,” he said.

He also announced the rebranding of NTCM to Malaysian Tourism Council (MyTC), which he believed would give it a new breath of life and motivation for all parties involved to continue to ensure the success of the country’s tourism industry.

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Oman Air To Launch Non-Stop Services To Kuala Lumpur

MUSCAT, Oman, May 28 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Air will step up its operation from Muscat to Kuala Lumpur, by offering daily non-stop flights, to the Malaysian capital from June 21, 2015.

According to a press release, issued by Oman Air today, the new service will meet the growing demand for fast and convenient flights between the two cities, and will build on the success of the stopping service that Oman Air launched in 2010.

Oman Air currently offers flights between Muscat and Kuala Lumpur, both as a sole operator and under code-share partnerships with Malaysian Airlines and Sri Lanka Airlines.

Customers have the convenience of choosing from up to six flights per day, each of which makes either one or two stops, before arriving at its final destination.

From 21st June, however, customers will have the opportunity to fly non-stop and direct, reducing flight times and ensuring that Oman Air’s award-winning products and services can be enjoyed to the full.

Announcing the new service, Oman Air’s Chief Operating Officer, Abdulrahman al-Busaidi said, “Oman Air is delighted to be once again increasing the convenience and range of choices that we offer. Our new non-stop service between Muscat and Kuala Lumpur will be warmly welcomed by customers in both Oman and Malaysia, as well as those from further afield.

“Ever since its launch, this route has been a particularly important one for Oman Air. It is both commercially successful and a vital symbol of the close relationship between the Sultanate of Oman and Malaysia. We look forward to building on these strengths for many years to come.”

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Malaysia Eyes 5% Annual Growth In Muslim Visitor Arrivals

PENANG, May 28 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia expects Muslim visitor arrivals to grow at an average of five per cent annually amid growing demand for Islamic tourism products.

Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) Director General Zulkifly Md Said said the country received 5.5 million Muslim travellers last year, with the number likely to reach six million this year.

“Industry players should step up efforts to promote Islamic tourism as the potential of the huge segment cannot be ignored,” he told reporters at a tourism-related halal industry seminar here.

Zulkifly urged Malaysian travel agents to capture the opportunities in the segment, saying countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are eagerly promoting Islamic tour packages.

He said in 2013, spending by Saudi tourists in Malaysia hit US$17.8 billion, followed by tourists from Iran (US$14.3 billion), the United Arab Emirates (US$11.2 billion), Qatar (US$7.8 billion) and Kuwait (US$7.7 billion).

Zulkifly quoted a report saying the global Muslim traveller market in terms of spending was valued at US$138 billion in 2013 and is expected to increase to US$238 billion by 2020.

He noted Malaysia has been acknowledged by the global Muslim community as the friendliest destination for Muslim travellers due to its complete infrastructure, from proper prayer facilities to halal food and beverages as well as rich Islamic history and cultural heritage.

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Bahrain Registered 253,430 Tourist Arrivals In The Week From May 21-27

MANAMA, Bahrain, May 28 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain’s Assistant Undersecretary for Ports, Search and Follow-up, at the General Directorate of Nationality, Passports & Residence, said on Thursday, that, 253,430 people entered Bahrain between May 21 and May 27.

The overwhelming majority (207,364) arrived from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, via the King Fahad Causeway, while 45,483 landed at Bahrain International Airport and 583 came into the kingdom through seaports.

The 25-kilometre long King Fahad Causeway was officially opened on Nov 26, 1986. The GCC is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It was established in 1981.

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Royal Jordanian To Boost Medical Tourism

AMMAN, May 31 (NNN-Petra) — Royal Jordanian and the Jordan Hospitals’ Association (JHA) signed a memorandum of understanding at RJ’s headquarters to have a strategic partnership and coordinate with authorities involved in medical and therapeutic tourism.

RJ President and CEO, Haitham Misto, and president of the JHA, Zuhair Abu Faris, signed the agreement that is bound to make use of the potential in this vital sector, reflecting positively on the national economy and boosting Jordan’s reputation in this field regionally and internationally.

Misto expressed the airline’s satisfaction at working closely with JHA and all parties involved in developing tourism, particularly medical tourism, for which Jordan is well known, saying that there are national efforts to develop this sector and to attract more visitors from all over the world.

He said that RJ and JHA will cooperate directly with the Ministry of Tourism and the Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) to achieve the joint goal of boosting Jordan’s position as a country that attracts tourists seeking medical assistance, and highlighted RJ’s role in promoting Jordanian medical capabilities in various ways at its 50 stations worldwide.

Under the framework of the MoU, Misto said, the airline will offer all possible travel facilities to the patients and their companions to meet their travel needs, in collaboration with JHA and JTB. He added that national institutions should exert more efforts to invest in the sites providing medical care, which are spread around the Kingdom, and promote them in the world since Jordan has advanced medical and therapeutic capabilities and distinguished expertise in the field.

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Denmark to standardize halal rules

Sunday 31 May 2015 – Copenhagen (IINA) – In a bid to boost its halal meat exports, Denmark aims to develop common industry standards through collaboration between producers, brokers and marketers of meat in the Nordic country, OnIslam website reported.

“There is a shift towards more stringent halal rules in a number of countries,” Stig Larsen, a senior consultant to Danish Agriculture & Food Council trade and market department, told Global Meat News on Friday.

“Malaysia is the country with the strictest rules, but also countries such as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Singapore have strict requirements, while African countries can also have stringent regulations,” he said.

Larsen was speaking about the two-day seminar, scheduled to take place in Copenhagen in June, to tackle the aspects of halal meat industry in Denmark, including slaughtering, production, and export.

The seminar will also highlight halal rules in Malaysia, as part of Danish efforts to accelerate the standardization of halal rules. The seminar, which was announced during a meeting between the Danish Agriculture & Food Council and producers, brokers and marketers of halal meat, aimed to discuss developing halal standards that consider the differences of halal slaughtering conventions between countries.

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Moroccan entrepreneur to launch new app for American mosques

Friday 29 May 2015 – Rabat, (IINA) – Moroccan entrepreneur and co-founder of Mercytech Yassine el Karyani is set to launch a new app for American mosques, Morocco World News reported.

Mercytech unveiled Islamically.com, a new web app that will boost the online presence of American mosques. Islamically.com features profiles for mosques and their imams, an event promotion platform, and a video translation service to subtitle Muslim sermons from Arabic to English.

In addition, the app includes a fatwa engine to facilitate religious opinion requests coming from Muslims or non-Muslims living in America and route them strictly to imams that live in America.

“We no longer need to import Islamic knowledge from imams who are unfamiliar with the American lifestyle. American imams are better equipped to be the main source of Islamic knowledge for American Muslims, and this app facilitates this,” Yassine Elkaryani, Mercytech’s co-founder and managing partner, told Morocco World News.

“As the data we will be handling is sensitive, and because we may be targets of hacking, we vaccinated ourselves with the most advanced solutions out there to ensure continuity of our services without fear of intrusions or lengthy interruptions. The cost is higher but worth the investment,” explained Elkaryani.

Mercytech will host a service overview seminar on June 13th at 10:30 a.m. at Holiday Inn in Fort Lee, New Jersey to showcase Islamically.com to potential clients, advertisers, Muslim community activists, and press.

It is noteworthy that the new app services will be available to the public in August 2015.

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Qatar to establish more projects in Gaza, says Ambassador

Sunday 31 May 2015 – Gaza (IINA) – Ambassador Mohammed Al-Emadi, president of the Qatari National Committee for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, announced Saturday a number of new projects in the Gaza Strip, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Speaking to the press during his tour of Qatari projects in Gaza, Al-Emadi said that the reconstruction process was going well. He added that building materials were entering the enclave on a daily basis.

Al-Emadi highlighted that the continued entry of building materials had prompted the committee to launch new projects. He added that the committee has already signed a number of contracts this week.

The Ambassador said that the third and fourth stage of the Salah el Din Street were being completed, as were the projects in the city of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. Furthermore, 200 to 300 families will receive building materials to rebuild their homes after they were destroyed during the Israeli war on Gaza.

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First veiled Muslim chef to appear on U.S. primetime cooking show

Sunday 24 May 2015 – Seattle, Washington (IINA) – An American Muslim woman became the first ever veiled female chef to appear on an American primetime cooking show after joining this season’s MasterChef contest on Fox, breaking down negative stereotypes on veiled women, according to media reports.

Competing against 39 contestants, Saab received an apron to advance to the next round of the competition along with 21 others.

On the next levels, contestants will compete with their own signature dishes and face challenges that will be judged by chefs Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot and Christina Tosi.

Masterchef winner will get a $250,000 check, trophy and having his or her cookbook published. “It was our anniversary gift to each other,” Amada Saab told The Arab American News on Thursday.

Saab recounted how she was encouraged by her husband to join Fox’s cooking competition after watching an ad that asked for chefs to participate in the new season of the program.

In an interview with The Arab American News, Saab discussed the journey that led her to landing a spot on “MasterChef.”

Shortly after getting married, Saab and her husband moved to Seattle after he was offered a new job. There, she began a career as a social worker while developing a hobby centered around cooking. She would blog about her unique recipes and they received a positive reception.

She and her husband were big fans of the cooking competition show and one day decided to respond to an ad that asked for chefs to audition for the program.

Saab said she’s excited to be sharing some of her recipes on national television.

“The type of food that I like to make is Mediterranean modern cuisine,” Saab said. “I take the traditional flavors I grew up with in my family and incorporate modern techniques. A fusion and blend of Arabic food and American food is definitely something I love to demonstrate.”

Beside her blog, the Muslim social worker has her own website which includes various offerings like appetizers, dinners, and desserts.

Since joining the competition, Saab has been overwhelmed by support from her community, family and friends.

The positive feedback extended to social media where Saab’s bid was praised. “I think people are really excited about the things I’m creating,” Saab added. “It’s innovative, new and tells a story of who I am on a plate.”

Wearing the Islamic hijab, Saab hopes that her appearance on television would help in breaking stereotypes of veiled Muslim women. “I was kind of nervous because there could be backlash and I experienced it in my everyday life being a Muslim in America,” Saab said.

“But so far everything has been positive. I have an amazing amount of support that I’ve been receiving from the Arab and Muslim community and from social workers.

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Jordanian flag sets new world record

Tuesday 26 May 2015 – Amman, (IINA) – Marking the Independence Day, a Jordanian flag made by King Hussein Sports City and Origami Academy set a new world record as the biggest flag in the world, Petra reported.

The flag, made by Origami papers measured 43 meter long and 24 meters wide. About 250 youths took part in the making of the flag, which entered the Guinness Book of World Records.

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Electronic bracelets soon for Haj pilgrims

Tuesday 26 May 2015 – Makkah (IINA) -The Ministry of Haj will soon ask all pilgrims to wear electronic bracelets that will boost their safety and securty, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported.

A source from the government department said ministries of Haj and interior have completed an initial feasibility study into introducing the scheme. He said: “The project is now with the Ministry of Finance for a budgeting proposal. Once the Ministry of Finance and the higher authorities approve the project, the Ministry of Haj will immediately implement it.” He added the e-bracelet is water resistant and is to be worn by each pilgrim. “The e-bracelet has a barcode where all of the pilgrim’s information is stored.

The information stored includes address of residence in the Kingdom and full medical records. By scanning the barcodes, the ministry will be able to obtain all the information it needs.” He added the project has six phases starting with the initial study of the project, followed by planning the project, getting the approval on it, forming committees, manufacturing and implementation, distribution and supervision.

The source said: “The e-bracelet will have services for pilgrims as well as a GPS system. The e-bracelet will also have a prayer times alert, a compass pointing the pilgrims to where they should face when they pray, Haj and Umrah steps and supplications for both pilgrimages.”

He also said there would be an information desk contact available in a number of languages to help pilgrims maneuver the streets of Makkah.“The ministry aims to serve pilgrims and visitors of Makkah within in its utmost capacity.

“The e-bracelet will be a technological revolution that will expedite many processes such as collecting statistics of pilgrims.” He added a private association of Arab pilgrims has already developed a prototype e-bracelet. “The e-bracelet the association used had the GPS system as its main feature. “Their plan was to quickly and easily locate the pilgrims in case of emergencies. “The experiment paved the way for our new e-bracelet.”

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Toronto to host North America’s halal food festival

Wednesday 27 May 2015 – Toronto, (IINA) – Reflecting the growth of the demand for halal food in the West, the largest halal food festival in North America will be held at the International Centre in the Greater Toronto Area next Saturday and Sunday, news agencies reported.

The event set to bring dozens of food exhibitors, in-house chefs, and guest chefs, including Master Chef Canada runner-up Marida Muhammad, together for two days of sampling and programming focused on halal food. Exhibitors include The Holy Grill, a halal food truck launched by Toronto chef Aleem Syed, Halal Food Fest Toronto website reported.

“We’re extremely excited to be bringing Halal Food Fest back for a third year,” Salima Jivraj, founder of Halal Food Fest, told OnIslam.net.

“Almost a fifth of last year’s visitors were tourists from all across North America, which reflects the increase in demand for halal products, and shows that the event has really become a destination for people looking to sample and learn about halal food options.”

Over 27,000 visitors attended the Halal Food Fest in 2014 and organizers are expecting a larger turnout this year from across the US and Canada.

Canada’s halal food market is currently estimated to be a $1 billion industry, and the demand for halal options has increased along with Canada’s Muslim population, which grew 82 percent over the last decade, and is expected to triple by 2031.

An outdoor area will feature a halal Rib Fest and a Grill Master competition, which pits amateur barbecue home chefs against each other.

Held in Toronto for the third consecutive year, the halal food festival reflects the diversity of the Canadian Muslim community.

“Halal Food Fest is a celebration of Toronto’s diverse and delicious food trends, and we are thrilled to be sharing in this experience with the community,” Shilo Balgobin, marketing manager, Mina foods, told OnIslam.net.

“Mina is proud to support the growing needs of Muslim Canadians by ensuring that authentic Zabeeha by hand halal products are conveniently and readily available at our local grocery stores nationally.”

The Greater Toronto Area has the largest concentration of Muslims in Canada.

A report from the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life said that Muslims are expected to make up 6.6% of Canada’s total population in 2030.

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Siyam: Maldives should seek new tourism markets

Sun.mv – May 28, 2015 – The biggest challenge faced by the local tourism industry is lack of marketing, says Chairman and Managing Director of Sun Hotels and Resorts, Ahmed Siyam Mohamed.

Speaking to Sun Online after the Hospitality Investment Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Siyam said that Maldives is among the world’s top tourist destinations, and in order to sustain this status, it should advertise more and increase participation in international tourism conferences.

“Lack of proper marketing would make it difficult for us to achieve our goals. There are challenges for markets such as Europe, so we have to focus on regions such as the Middle East as well,” he said.

While speaking at the conference, Siyam highlighted that public spending on tourism promotion had gone down, and called on authorities to prioritise advertising the local tourism industry.

The conference, held at Galle Face Hotel from 25 to 26 May 2015, was also addressed by Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb.

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Saudi Arabian company eyes Maldives for resort development

Sun.mv – May 26, 2015 – Saudi Arabia’s Al Khozama Management Company is planning to expand to Maldives and Dubai, according to an article published on hoteliermiddleeast.com on 19 May.

The group’s Hospitality Division Vice President Hussein Ali Hatata told Hotelier Middle East about the Maldives, “It is an Islamic country and fits our philosophy. Also, it’s a preferred destination for Arab and GCC markets, so it makes sense.”

Al Khozama currently has five properties under development in Saudi Arabia. The group has also signed a new Al Khozama property in the King Abdullah Economic City in Jeddah.

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Ifuru Airport inaugurated in The Maldives

Sun.mv – May 28, 2015 – The airport in Raa Ifuru has been inaugurated by President Abdulla Yameen, at a ceremony in the island today.

Speaking at the ceremony, Managing Director of Maldivian Abdul Haris said that the new airport will create many job opportunities for Maldivians. Maldivian conducted a test landing at the airport on Tuesday.

The price of a one-way ticket from Male’ to Ifuru is MVR 777, and return ticket MVR 1,554. The airport construction project was carried out by Coastline Group, following a contract signed in April 2015 between Ifuru Airports Investment Private Limited and Island Aviation.

The project to develop an airport in Ifuru was awarded to Ifuru Investment in May 2011.

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Renowned chef innovates Turkish cuisine with tradition

Handan Kazancı – Anadolu Agency – “I believe the time has come to rethink the Anatolian kitchen,” the chef had written in his manifesto.

But, these days, Mehmet Gürs, perhaps Turkey’s most renowned chef, has been neither donning his apron nor slicing and dicing onions and tomatoes.

Instead, he has been busy traveling across Anatolia in search of the perfect ingredients to revive the region’s traditional food culture and culinary techniques.

The 45-year-old celebrity chef began exploring Turkey six years ago gathering information on various indigents and cooking methods that he would later experiment in what he calls his laboratory, for the elaboration of his “New Anatolian Kitchen.”

In his five-story Scandinavian-style office in Istanbul’s main business district of Maslak, in which Gürs manages his “more than 15 restaurants”, he explains his vision for his cuisine with enthusiasm.

“I don’t care about ethnicity, I don’t care about nationality, I don’t care about religion,” he says.

As he details in his manifesto, which can be found on his website, Gürs aims to dig in the region’s past to unearth forgotten tastes, with an utter disregard for boundaries of any kind — whether they be physical or psychological.

“The New Anatolian Kitchen has no boundaries; it is a way of perceiving food, it is a philosophy that can and should be interpreted in many ways,” he writes.

A self-proclaimed “analytical engineer” when it comes to cooking, the head of one of the 100 best restaurants in the world, according to the Diners’ Club 50 best restaurants Academy, has for instance devised an ice cream using ancient einkorn wheat.

“We wanted to do something radical,” he says. “We marinated the wheat with dried apricots, a little bit cinnamon and spices. It is an iconic dish.”

In order to come up with this innovative dish, his taste buds have experimented, if not endured, a plethora of flavors.

“We tried 950 different cheeses. Probably had 7,000 to 10,000 different cups of tea,” he remembers. “We slept in a couple of hundred homes and visited almost 400 villages. We have driven about 110,000 kilometers at least on country roads.”

Gürs describes his work on food — bringing tradition into the contemporary — as “political but non-partisan”.

“If there is no villager or if there is no farmer, there will be no food. And if there is no food, there is no future,” he adds.

Gürs was born in Finland where he lived with his Turkish father, an architect, and his Finnish mother, a designer. Most of his childhood and young adulthood would be spent in Scandinavia with the occasional summer holiday in Turkey.

The constant? “I always cooked.”

First bread and cookies at home. And at only 13 years old, he began working in a restaurant in Sweden. Only two weeks but that was “enough”, he says. Young Mehmet is hooked. “It was a shitty lunch restaurant — in Stockholm — but for me it was very interesting,” he says.

“I used to do two things the whole time I was there,” he recalls laughing: “I used to help clean up the buffet and carry plates. But also I was doing the chocolate mousse with mint in it and a really bad tomato salad,” he recalls.

In 1985, at the age of 15, his family moves to Istanbul. There, Gürs studies at a francophone school welcoming both Turkish and foreign students.

Gürs, who is fluent in Swedish, Turkish, French and English, has never taken a Turkish course apart from a class once a week offered by the Swedish government.

It was during these classes that he learned about Turkey’s isolation from the food industry. “They used to say that Turkey does not need to import any food because we produce everything. (It) was a one big lie that all kids were taught,” he recalls.

In the 1980s, Turkey is reeling from a brutal military coup, which kept the country relatively isolated despite an economic openness towards the close of the decade.

Gürs was at first reticent to contact with Turkish culture. He lived in what he calls his own “ghettos”: school, home and the sailing club he would go to for around four years.

Coming from a “super liberal society” like Scandinavia to a society that is relatively “closed” proved a difficult transition.

“I didn’t like it at all,” Gürs says. “I thought it was too much pressure on individuals.”

First job near Istanbul’s Blue Mosque

After a first job in the front office of Kalyon Hotel, minutes away from Istanbul’s historical neighborhood where the Blue Mosque is located, he moved to the U.S. in 1990, to study food and beverage management at Johnson and Wales University.

After graduation, Gürs worked as a chef for around two years in New York and one year in Boston where he lived with his wife-to-be Asena.

In 1996, as both of their families were living in Turkey, they decided to move back Istanbul.

With the help of his father and his uncle, Gürs opened his very first restaurant Down Town — a heavily American and Scandinavian inspired 40-seater — in Istanbul’s upmarket district of Nişantaşı.

“I felt more Swedish or Finnish than I did Turkish,” he says explaining why his first restaurant had very little Turkish culture in it.

In 2001, he gets his first taste of stardom, hosting his own TV show on the private TV channel NTV. He also publishes a cooking book, Downtown.

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International İzmir Festival opens

İZMİR – Hurriyet Daily News – The 29th International İzmir Festival started on May 26 with a concert by the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra, founded by Italian maestro Riccardo Muti, who has been decorated with the greatest honorary medals of many countries.

The festival, organized by the İzmir Foundation for Culture, Arts and Education, presents a wide spectrum of classical, traditional and contemporary works in music, ballet, theater and opera, including both international and national performances. It attracts great attendance from both locals and foreigners visiting Turkey.

World-famous Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman will take the stage on May 30, accompanied by pianist Rohan De Silva.

The ambassadors of Cuban music, the Buena Vista Social Club, which has so far performed countless concerts around the world, will take the stage in the poplar holiday town of Çeşme on June 29 as part of their “Adios Tour.” Omara Portuondo, Eliades Ochoa, Guajiro Mirabal, Barbarito Torres and Jesus “Aguaje” Ramos will perform in the concert.

On June 16, Polish pianist Janusz Olejniczak will present a program of works by Chopin and Debussy.

Olejniczak has recorded best-selling soundtracks for two famous movies: Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” and Andrzej Zulawski’s “La note bleue;” he appeared in the latter as an actor, playing the role of Frederick Chopin. This year, he will again sit on the jury of the Frederick Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw.

An American organist known for his virtuosity, showmanship, technique and arrangements, Cameron Carpenter, will meet the audience on June 18 with his special instrument, called the “International Touring Organ-ITO.” He will take the İzmir stage for the first time, performing a repertoire from Bach, Dupre, Chopin, Bernstein, Scriabin and others.

The Hungarian Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra and the Arkas Trio will perform together on June 20.

The Hungarian Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1963 by former students of the Franz Liszt Music Academy in Budapest. It consists of 16 strings, occasionally accompanied by a harpsichord soloist, winds or other instruments.

The Arkas Trio is made up of violinist Tuncay Yılmaz and pianist Emre Elivar, who have won prizes and awards in international competitions, and Gustav Rivinius, a German cellist who gained recognition after winning the gold medal at the International Tchaikovsky Competition.

On June 22, within the scope of the project titled Contemporary Voices – Ensemble Sagittarius Vocal Soloists and Turkish Soloists, soprano and musicologist Çimen Seymen and young Turkish soloists, under the baton of French maestro Michel Laplenie, will perform a harmony of works of Ahmed Adnan Saygun and Ulvi Cemal Erkin, as well as French composers Maurice Ravel and Francis Poulenc.

Soprano Peola Santucci, tenor Vincenzo Mario Sarinelli and pianist Mairizio Aben will take the stage accompanied by the Italian Chamber Orchestra during the Echoes of Italy concert on June 25.

The Soul Rebels Brass band will be another performer of the festival on July 1. The festival will be closed with the Geneva Grand Theater Ballet on July 2.

The Ahmet Adnan Saygun Culture Center, Aegean University, the Atatürk Culture Center, the Celsius Library, the Ephesus Odeon, the Çeşme and Kültürpark Open Air Theater and the İzmir Economy University Open Air Show Center are the venues of the festival.

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Bangladesh minister to focus on building South Asian tourism

DHAKA, May 31, 2015 (BSS) – Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon has laid emphasis on attracting more South Asian tourists here utilizing regional road connectivity for giving a boost to regional tourism.

“The connectivity question between Bangladesh and India has been solved. Recently, bus service has been started between Dhaka and Agartala, Shillong and Guwahati. Moreover, a motor vehicle agreement will be signed among Bangladesh, India, Bhutan and Nepal in Thimpu next month,” he said.

The minister was addressing the concluding ceremony of Familiarization Tour-2015 at a city hotel on Saturday night.

Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) organized the tour here inviting nine Indian and two Bhutanese prominent tour operators to visit Bangladesh for promoting Bangladesh tourist attractions to the people of South Asia and other parts of the globe.

During the 10-day tour, the foreign tour operators visited different top most tourists attractions of Bangladesh including, Paharpur, Mahasthangarh Sundarbans, Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar.

The minister hoped that the Bangladesh experience of Indian and Bhutanese tour operators will encourage them to send more regional and international tourists to Bangladesh.

He said the Bangladesh government has declared the tourism as a thrust sector and decided to observe 2016 as a tourism year. “I am expecting 10 lakh foreign tourists here during the year of 2016,” he added.

He said the government is going to hold an international conference in Dhaka on November to encourage Buddhist tourism in Bangladesh.

The minister urged the private entrepreneurs to initiate tourist taxis in major cities of Bangladesh.

Avijit Chowdhury, a tour operator from Kolkata, said Bangladesh has the potential to improve riverine and textile tourism.

“If we can promote tour packages with flavor of – epar Bangla and opar Bangla- both tourism of Bangladesh and West Bengal will be benefited,” he said.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khorshed ALam Chowdhury, CEO of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) Akhtaruzzaman Khan Kabir and president of FBCCI Abdul Matlub Ahmed also spoke on the occasion.

Before the concluding ceremony, the foreign tour operators held a B2B (business to business) meeting with the local tour operators.

During the B2B, the Indian and Bhutanese tour operators expressed their keen interest to work with Bangladesh tour operators under joint ventures.

They assured the local inbound tour operators of promoting Bangladesh tourism to the foreign tourists who visit India and Bhutan.

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National Art Exhibition begins in Dhaka

DHAKA, May 24, 2015 (BSS)- The 21st National Art Exhibition kicked off today at the National Art Gallery of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) in the city.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith inaugurated the 21-day long exhibition as chief guest. Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Nur and renowned artist Rafiqul Nabi were present as special guest with BSA Director General Liaquat Ali Lucky in the chair.

AMA Muhith in his speech said the rich tradition of art was brought in the country from Kolkata and Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin and Patua Quamrul Hassan played the key role.

Organised by BSA, this year’s exhibition features 273 artworks by 261 artists. During the exhibition 158 paintings, 32 prints, 49 sculptures, three performance arts and 31 installations and video installations will be on display.

The exhibition, opening from 11am to 8pm except Fridays (3pm to 8pm) will continue till June 13.

A total of 10 awards, including “Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Award” (one best award), “Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Honourable Mention Awards” (three awards); “Bengal Foundation Award”, “Society for Promotion of Bangladesh Art Award”, “AB Bank Award”, “Bhasha Sainik Gaziul Haque Award”, “Dipa Hoq Award” and “Begum Azizunnesa Award” were conferred on artists this year.

Ruhul Karim Rumi received “Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Award”. Mithun Kumar Saha, Ruhul Amin Tareque and Shimul Hasa got “Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Honourable Mention Awards”, Abdul Momen Milton got “Bengal Foundation Award”, Russell Kanto Das received Society for Promotion of Bangladesh Art Award, Arif Al Karim got AB Bank Award”, Ifat Rezwani Ria received “Bhasha Sainik Gaziul Haque Award”, Sanaullah got “Dipa Khandker Award” and Habiba Akter Papiya received “Begum Azizunnesa Award”.

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Ugandan National Park Cuts Gorilla-Watching Ticket Fees

The Observer (Kampala) – 29 May 2015 – Mgahinga national park, which is known for the rare mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, has slashed some charges at the park as a way of attracting domestic tourists.

The park’s management has cut fees for a permit to view mountain gorillas to Shs 150,000 from Shs 250,000 for the domestic tourist class, which includes Ugandans and other citizens from the East African Community member states.

The permit fees for foreign tourists have also been reduced to $350 (Shs 1,051,750) from $600 or Shs 1,803,000 during this promotional period scheduled to run until the end of June.

For the last two years, Mgahinga has hosted the eight-member ‘Nyakagezi’ mountain gorilla family, which consists of five males (silverbacks), two females and a two-year-old baby named Mutagamba after Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba.

Moses Turinawe, the warden in charge of tourism at Mgahinga national park, says the current promotion could boost the number of visitors to the park. On average, 130 tourists have been visiting the park every month but officials expect the numbers to increase to at least 200 at the end of the promotion. The months of April to June are thought to have fewer tourists visiting the park.

Apart from gorilla tracking, Mgahinga’s other tourist activities include viewing of the rare golden monkeys at $90 (or Shs 270,450) for foreigners and Shs 30,000 (about $10) for East Africans.

The famous Batwa trail, which offers historical and social behaviours of the indigenous Batwa people, who lived in Mgahinga’s tropical forests, costs $80 (Shs 240,000) for foreigners and Shs 50,000 (about $16) for East Africans. There’s also mountain climbing, which features hiking the treacherous Mt Muhabura, which peaks at 4,137m.

Speaking to a group of 16 journalists from various media houses during a trip organised by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at Mgahinga last week, Turinawe explained that the park’s management wants to cash in on the tourism boom by publicising its activities.

Noting that 90 per cent of the visitors to the park are foreigners, Turinawe said the current promotion largely targets potential domestic tourists, who probably did not know the country had such nature spots.

To address complaints of expensive accommodation and meals that are usually associated with staying in and around national parks, Turinawe said the management would construct five bandas (small cottages) and create space for a camping site at Rwerere community enterprise centre. Once completed, such facilities are expected to cater for low-budget domestic tourists.

Mgahinga’s interventions are timely as Uganda’s tourism industry has overtaken other sectors as the lead foreign exchange earner, beating workers’ remittances and traditional heavyweights such as coffee, according to recent statistics.

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Algeria Offers Incentives to Encourage Tourism Investments

Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – 28 May 2015 – Algiers — Minister of Urban Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry Amar Ghoul underlined Wednesday in Algiers that his department will give “significant” incentives to encourage the investments in tourism in the country’s south.

Ghoul, who received the members of the national community abroad, said that his department will give “important” facilities likely to encourage the investments in tourism in southern regions of the country, particularly through the granting of bank credits to investors among the members of the national community abroad.

These incentives also concern, according to the minister, the granting of tourist real estate at symbolic prices and exemptions for these investors.

Ghoul underlined that his sector plans to build tourist cities in the south of the country, endowed with the necessary facilities and services to “relaunch the sector of tourism and reduce the dependency of economy on hydrocarbons.”

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Uganda Cabinet Approves New Tourism Policy

The Observer (Kampala) – 29 May 2015 – A national tourism policy that aims to enhance competitiveness of Uganda’s tourism sector through effective marketing, promotion, research and infrastructure development has been approved by cabinet.

Announcing the development yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, the minister for information and national guidance said the existing policy formulated in 2003 had run its course.

“It was envisaged during the formulation of the 2003 policy that (it) would guide the sector for 10 years. It is over 10 years since this policy was formulated and this lapse of time necessitates refocusing and positioning of the sector to meet changing global tourism dynamics,” Muhwezi said.

The new policy is aligned with Uganda’s Vision 2040, the second National Development Plan, all of which prioritise tourism as a primary growth driver of Uganda’s economy. Currently, Uganda’s tourism earning is estimated at US$ 1.4bn annually, and the figure is estimated to rise to US$ 12bn in 2040, according to Uganda’s Vision 2040.

Muhwezi said the new policy will focus the tourism sector to effectively contribute to national socio-economic transformation.

He added that the 2015 policy aims to “provide for effective regulation of the industry in order to guarantee quality and acceptable standards necessary for development of the tourism sector.”

Meanwhile, cabinet has approved a bill for the implementation of the principles of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

“Cabinet realised the importance we attach to the COMESA as a larger market and the benefits thereof, and deemed it necessary to give the Comesa treaty the force of law in Uganda,” Muhwezi said.

The effect of the bill will lead to the domestication of the provisions of the Comesa treaty and facilitate implementation of Comesa regulations in Uganda. Uganda ratified the Comesa treaty in 1994 and a bill was drafted in 1997 to domestic the treaty. However, it stalled at cabinet level because of Uganda’s desire to consolidate its participation in the East African Community.

Muhwezi also revealed that the cabinet has constituted a committee to examine the problems associated with gambling and all related vices in the country. This step is seen as a response to the public outcry about sports betting.

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Nigeria: Obiano Partners Monarchs On Cultural Sites for Tourism

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 27 May 2015 – Anambra State Government is to partner traditional rulers in identifying cultural potentials in the various communities across the state with a view to developing them for improved tourist gains.

State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, disclosed this during a meeting with traditional rulers in the state at the Government House, Awka.

The Governor, who said the present administration was taking proactive steps to reposition the state culture and tourism to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the people, described the traditional rulers as key stakeholders in the initiative.

While commending the monarchs for their role in ensuring smooth conduct of the just-concluded general elections, the Governor noted that the state had in the past one year witnessed peace and tranquility, attributing the achievement to the invaluable contributions of the royal fathers.

He described the traditional institution as a highly-revered one and urged the traditional heads to always conduct themselves in a manner that depicts integrity and dignity, assuring them that his administration is committed to their welfare.

Obiano further charged them to work in unity and concord with the town union Presidents-General in achieving peace and coordination in the onerous task of grassroots development.

Earlier, Chairman of the State Traditional Rulers Council and Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, had explained that the meeting has become routine to keep the royal fathers abreast of government programmes and activities as well as areas where they can key in.

Achebe said as the custodian of the people’s culture and traditions, traditional rulers in the state will give government every necessary support in its renewed efforts to promote the people’s culture and called on state government to adequately carry them along in the effort.

In their separate remarks, the traditional ruler of Nibo, Igwe Michael Ngene, and his Nri counterpart, Ezenri Obidiegwu Onyesoh, commended the Governor for his visible developmental projects across the state which have impacted the lives of the people positively, and pledged their support to his administration.

In a vote of thanks, the traditional ruler of Oko in Orumba North Council area, Igwe Laz Ekwueme, extolled the Governor’s consultative system of administration which has ensured participatory citizenship and urged him to remain focused in his developmental agenda.

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Nigeria: Hotels.ng Secures US$1.2 Million Investment

This Day – 27 May 2015 – Nigeria’s largest hotel booking website, Hotels.ng has secured a $1.2 million (N240 million) investments from international investors. The investment, according to the organisation, came from international investors including seed-stage technology fund, EchoVC Pan-African Fund and Omidyar Network, the investment vehicle of eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar.

In a statement on Tuesday, Hotels.ng said with the development, it has become the only e-commerce company in Nigeria with the most indigenous investment of up to 90 per cent, having received seed investment of $225,000 (N36 million) in 2013 from a Lagos-based venture capital firm, Spark.ng.

The company said with the closure on the latest investment, it is now strategically positioned to invest further in its technology capacity and further expansion across Africa.

Speaking on the investment, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hotels.ng, Mark Essien, explained: “We are forging ahead into relatively uncharted territory. E-Commerce in Africa is a massive market to conquer, but there are no hard and fast prototypes from which to follow. We cannot simply replicate western models here.

“We have to build our own blueprints from scratch, which takes significant investment, both in terms of time and money. This additional capital will allow us to realize the next stage in our ambitious growth plans, which will see us consolidate our position as Nigeria’s market leader in online hotel bookings, with a view to expanding our service into other African markets.”

In the same vein, the Managing Partner of Spark.ng, Jason Njoku lauded the feat, saying: “Mark and his team are the future of Africa’s digital economy. They are hungry for success, innovative in their approach to building their market and rigorous in their business execution.”

For the Investment Director at Omidyar Network, Ory Okolloh, “Omidyar Network knows first-hand the power of e-commerce to drive social and economic development. Hotels.ng hits all the marks of an investment with positive impact by leveraging online technology to connect buyers and sellers, supporting local small and medium businesses, and boosting consumers’ confidence in digital channels.”

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22 Nigerian Airports set to get Wi-Fi Facilities

The Guardian – 27 May 2015 – NIGERIA’s National Telecommunications Carrier, Globacom, has launched the country’s first ever-comprehensive airport Wi-Fi facility in collaboration with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

With this development, passengers and other users of the airports will now be able to connect wirelessly to the Internet through their smart phones, tablets, laptops and other smart devices.

Senior government officials, led by the Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka, formally commissioned the facility, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on Monday.

Globacom’s Coordinator, Business Solutions, Ike Oraekwuotu, said the telecommunications firm was “delighted to bring Nigeria up to speed with one of the best trends in the aviation industry worldwide by introducing ultra high speed Wi-Fi data experience for travellers and other users of our airports, beginning with Nigeria’s flagship airport, the MMIA.”‎

According to Oraekwuotu, the facility, which will be available at both the domestic and the international wings of key airports across the country, has been made possible due to the great vision and passion demonstrated by the ministry of Aviation and the FAAN working diligently with Globacom.

In a presentation, Globacom’s Regional Chief Marketing Officer, Ashok Israni, who disclosed that the service would be available in 22 airports nationwide soon, said all passengers using the airport irrespective of the network they are on would be able to connect to the facility. They will subsequently be directed to a subscription page where they will be able to buy a Wi-Fi data plan through three options.

The options, according to him, include using an existing data plan the subscriber has with Globacom, or by recharging their line through a Glo recharge card available at the Glo kiosks at the airport, or by paying for the WIFI plan through a credit card.

“Whichever option a subscriber goes for, they are ushered into a world of reliable, ultra-fast internet so that they can keep in touch with their relatives, friends, colleagues and associates regardless of whether they are connected to a mobile network or not,” he said.

According to him, users can access the Internet at the speed of as much as 100 megabits per second anywhere around the MMIA, including the departure, arrival, and executive lounges, ticketing and waiting areas as well as passengers welcoming lobby.

While formally commissioning the facility, Chidoka described the launch of the facility as a major milestone in Nigeria’s march towards greatness, stressing that it constitutes one of the critical steps necessary for unleashing the latent energy of the nation towards unlocking the potential of the giant of Africa.

He commended Globacom for the hard work put into the project, acknowledging that several major obstacles were encountered along the way.

“I am happy that on the eve of my departure, this facility is up and running. We selected Globacom for this project based on nationalistic instinct and I’m proud we did because they have made the nation proud by delivering the project on time,” he said.

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Indonesian VP opens Jakarta Fair ground 2015

30 May 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Vice President, M Jusuf Kalla, officially kicked off the opening of Jakarta Fair 2015 at the Jakarta International Expo (JIExpo) Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, on Friday evening.

“The Jakarta Fair is unique because it promotes trade, business, and industrial products, and at the same it is combined with a night market,” Kalla said during his opening remarks.

General Commissioner of PT JIExpo Murdaya Po expected at least five million people to visit the 38-day fair, which runs until July 5, 2015.

The number of fair visitors increased from 4.5 million in 2012 to 4.8 million in 2013.

“The Jakarta Fair is also expected to book business transactions worth over Rp5 trillion this year,” Murdaya Po stated.

The price of an entry ticket to Jakarta Fair 2015 is Rp20 thousand on Monday, Rp25 thousand on Tuesday through Thursday, and Rp30 thousand from Friday to Sunday.

Because the Fair is coinciding with the Ramadhan fasting month, which is estimated to begin on June 18 and end on July 16, the organizing committee will provide free fast-breaking meals (iftar) and organize night prayers during Ramadhan.

During the opening ceremony, Kalla was accompanied by his wife, Mufidah, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya.

Also National Development Planning Minister/Chairman of the National Development Planning Andrinof Chaniago, Trade Minister Rahmat Gobel and Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

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Inter-island sea connectivity crucial for development: President Jokowi

22 May 2015 Makassar (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has emphasized on the importance of developing sea connectivity among the islands of the country to develop the economy and all other sectors.

“We must focus on the sea because two-thirds of Indonesian territory is the sea. In view of that, connectivity among islands is important,” he said while inaugurating the development of the Makassar New Port here on Friday.

He added, “The cheapest (transport) service is by ship, and with regard to sea connectivity, the development of a sea toll road will play a crucial role in ensuring good competition and cheaper costs.”

The president stated that with good connectivity, the cost of distribution of goods will also drop.

“This is what we will continue to stress on so costs will be equal, after which transportation costs will be cheaper and logistics costs will also reduce,” he remarked.

Moreover, the government has decided to give funding to port operating company PT Pelindo in the eastern region, the head of state revealed.

“Projects in the eastern region must be given capital injection because they will not proceed unless they receive funding. Therefore, Pelindo IV will be given capital injection. I am confident that in three to four years time, all prices in the country will decline and competitiveness of our industrial products will increase,” he affirmed.

In addition, Director of PT Pelindo IV Mulyono said that the development of the Makassar New Port is part of efforts to develop the quality of sea transportation in the eastern Indonesian region.

He added that they have also developed and revitalized the Angin Mamiri passenger terminal to provide better services to commuters.

PT Pelindo IV will develop a 1,000-meter-long pier with a capacity of 1.5 million TEUs in the first stage.

In the second stage, another 1,000-meter-long pier will be built with a capacity of 1.2 million TEUs.

The existing capacity of the Makassar Port is only 550,000 to 700,000 TEUs a year.

According to the plan, the Makassar Port covering an area of 250 hectares will be integrated with a cargo railway system project in Southeast Sulawesi to further ease the distribution of goods.

Furthermore, the development of the Makassar New Port was financed by state-owned Bank Mandiri.

The Rp3 trillion investment loan for the project from the bank for six to seven months will also be used to finance maintenance, the development of port facilities and modernization of loading and uploading systems in various working areas of PT Pelindo IV.

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Youth show ability at street theater and art festival in Baku

29 May 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The street theater and art festival devoted to the inaugural European Games, which is scheduled for June 12-28, has been held in Baku.

The event, held in Metro Park shopping center was jointly organized by the “Center of education, development and training of young people” Public Association and the Youth Foundation under the Azerbaijani president.

Aiming to support talented young people, the festival is going to propagandize street theater and art, as well as familiarize the city’s residents with new art genre and conducting useful and enjoyable leisure-time activities.

The festival was remembered with performances of many talented young people. More than 100 young people and some 15 groups showed their ability in acting, dancing, musical and visual arts.

The best participants were awarded diplomas and prizes.

The European Games to be held in Baku for 17 days will be the most significant sporting event in the country and Europe.

Some 6,000 athletes from 50 countries are expected to compete in 20 sports, including 16 Olympic sports.

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

Tickets for Baku 2015 can be purchased directly from 11 conveniently located ticket outlets around Baku, including Park Bulvar, 28 Mall, and Metro Park Baku, and online atbaku2015.com/tickets.

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UK Exhibition Showcases Muslim Lifestyle

OnIslam & Newspapers – Friday, 22 May 2015 CAIRO – Showcasing the rich Islamic culture, the UK is hosting the first-ever international exhibition on Muslim lifestyle, amid hopes to attract interested people from across the British island.

“The Expo is a great opportunity to showcase the growth of all the Muslim lifestyle sectors to an international audience,” Tahir Mirza, founder of the Expo, told Khaleej Times.

“The exhibition is aimed at being a family-friendly and culturally diverse event and to promote the positive and vibrant aspects of British Muslims.

“Our aim is to showcase the value of the Muslim lifestyle in a fun and enjoyable way and is an inclusive event for all and welcomes people from all faiths and backgrounds The Expo is a perfect platform to connect businesses to consumers who are seeking growth in this lucrative sector from across the world especially as the UK is a key market.”

The Muslim Lifestyle Expo will be held at the Ricoh Arena on from August 1 to August 2.

The two-day event will showcase over 70 exhibitors from different sectors such as fashion, food and drink, travel, finance, creative arts and health and beauty from across the world.

It aims at attracting consumers from UK and international companies looking to tap into the growth potential of the Muslim lifestyle sector.

Other sections of the exhibition will feature a live fashion show called MLE Live, an innovation hub for aspiring technology entrepreneurs, seminars, workshops and a kids zone.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.8 million.

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UK Ramadan Campaign Helps Muslim with Diabetes

OnIslam & Newspapers – Monday, 25 May 2015 CAIRO – As Muslims worldwide brace for the fasting month of Ramadan, a Scottish charity has launched a new campaign to offer medical care for Muslims who suffer diabetes during the holy month.

“This year Ramadan falls in summer, meaning the length of fast could be 17 hours or more,” Saqib Abbasi of the Diabetes UK’s Scottish arm told The Herald Scotland on Monday, May 25.

“For Muslims with diabetes this could lead to a much higher risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and dehydration, as well as an increased chance of high glucose levels at suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and iftar (evening meal when the fast is ended).”

Abbasi urged UK Muslims with diabetes to seek healthcare support during Ramadan offered by the British charity.

“If you are considering fasting and have diabetes, then you should make sure to speak to both your Imam and your GP in advance before making your final decision,” he said.

The Diabetes UK’s Ramadan 2015 campaign includes distributing factsheets about the disease in various languages to mosques and Islamic centers.

Campaign members will also deliver presentations on managing diabetes during Ramadan, as a part of this year’s program.

Seeking a wider reach, the campaign urges people to share the charity’s messages on social media.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

In Ramadan, fasting is meant to teach Muslims patience, self-control and spirituality, and time during the holy month is dedicated for getting closer to Allah though prayers, reading the Noble Qur’an and good deeds.

Muslims also dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.

The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month. The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

Muslim scholars confirm that if a Muslim diabetic need to insulin injection, then he belongs to the category of people who are exempt from fasting.

It is not at all considered an act of piety to fast while one is suffering from the type of diabetes that requires insulin injection during the day.

“Since then I have implemented small changes in my lifestyle to help me manage my condition,” Tariq Iqbal, 47, from Glasgow, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years ago, said.

“I walk regularly and have reduced my intake of sugary and fried foods such as Indian sweets, pakoras and chocolate.”

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Qatar ‘keen on more ICT projects for disabled’

The Peninsula – 28 May, 2015 – Qatar has been carrying out programmes and projects to enable its people to use information and communication technology (ICT) through capacity-building programmes and raising digital awareness, particularly among those who lack information technology skills and tools such as people with disabilities and the elderly.

Ambassador Faisal bin Abdullah Al Henzab, Qatar’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, made the remarks as he addressed World Summit on Information Society Forum 2015 which ends tomorrow.

He said Qatar has worked hard in the past decade to implement WSIS working plans under directives and supervision Minister of Information and Communications Technology H E Dr Hessa Sultan Al Jaber. He said Qatar has enhanced ICT infrastructure by extending the optic fiber network, which is expected to reach 95 percent penetration by next year to provide Qatari households with broadband Internet at affordable prices. He said Qatar is working to ensure citizens’ security and privacy by establishing legal and regulative frameworks and educating them on how to reduce the risk of using ICT.

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QTA begins first domestic tourism survey today

The Peninsula – 28 May, 2015 – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) is launching today its first domestic tourism survey to provide insights into domestic tourism activity and spending among residents.

Qatar University’s Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) will reach out to residents to survey spending patterns and insights into the domestic tourism industry.

The survey will be conducted on telephone targeting a statistically drawn sample of the resident population from SESRI’s calling centre.

It will be the first of four as part of a partnership between QTA and SESRI to understand and analyse sector-specific spending activities among residents. Data collection takes place from today until June 17.

Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer, QTA, said results will be fed into Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), a system approved by UN Statistical Commission to establish the economic impact of tourism on a country’s economy.

TSA development in Qatar is overseen by a cross-institutional committee, chaired by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, and includes representatives from QTA, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Finance.

“Insights we receive from respondents will help define the impact of domestic tourism on the tourism economy. Such studies are a powerful tool to better monitor, plan, regulate, and develop a sustainable tourism sector in Qatar. We appreciate residents’ collaboration and call on them to respond freely and candidly,” he said.

The survey will support QTA’s partners in the private sector in efforts to understand resident activity patterns and levels of customer satisfaction and develop products and services accordingly.

A draft TSA estimated domestic tourism spending in 2013 at QR9.3bn, fed directly into Qatar’s non-hydrocarbon economy. Spending came from tourism-related activity in Qatar and travel outside Qatar on Qatar Airways. The survey will help refine estimates and provide details by industry sub-sector and fill in data gaps, such as the proportion of hotel revenue that can be attributed to domestic spending.

Information from the study will be confidential and results from the analysis of data will be presented as summary statistics so that no individual answers can be identified.

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Traveling show reflects Jeddah’s march toward smart city

Arab News – 29 May, 2015 – A glimpse of Jeddah’s future status as a smart city can be had at a traveling show of the ongoing and future development projects across the city and the province.

The show — 4th annual traveling exhibition of Jeddah’s development projects worth SR250 billion — was opened by Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majed at the Red Sea Mall here.

Nineteen major government sectors are participating in the 21-day expo. Once completed, the projects will make Jeddah a diverse city in terms of organization and services, and herald its march toward becoming a smart city.

Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras, General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) Vice President Faisal Sugair, Mohammad bin Hamza, head of the local council for the development of the Jeddah Province, and a number of government officials and citizens were present at the opening.

Prince Mishaal said the Jeddah development traveling exhibition reflects Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman’s keen interest in conceiving and implementing projects aimed at making Jeddah a smart city.

He added that massive tourism projects have been implemented, with many others currently under way on the Corniche, which will contribute toward enhancing the importance of Jeddah as a major tourist destination in the Middle East.

The exhibition aims to raise awareness among the residents about the projects implemented by the government for their welfare in various parts of the city and the province. Most projects exhibited at the show have been either completed or nearing completion.

The prince called on the citizens and the expatriate community to visit the exhibition, which features models of various educational, health and infrastructure projects, and know the government’s development plans for Jeddah.

The governor toured the exhibition, especially the pavilions of five major projects related to the first phase of the new King Abdulaziz International Airport costing about SR27 billion that is scheduled for opening in 2016, with its annual handling capacity increasing to 30 million passengers.

He said the new airport is designed in a modern way with the best available technologies and designs to ensure the smooth flow of passenger traffic.

It will offer a huge number of investment opportunities for the private sector, as well as thousands of job opportunities for the citizens and excellent facilities to the travelers.

Prince Mishaal also visited the Health Ministry’s SR3 billion projects across the province that include hospitals, a new tower covering an area of 5,000 sq m and providing 270 additional beds for patients at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, in addition to Prince Abdul Majed Neurology Center worth SR2 billion.

The mayor gave an overview of the SR46 billion public transport project of Jeddah which, on completion, will offer the most modern means of transport across the city.

The project is expected to be completed toward the end of 2020 and the transport system will be open to the public by 2022, after conducting thorough safety and other tests.

It is designed to handle 30 percent of Jeddah’s traffic.

He also dealt with the 100 km Corniche waterfront project costing SR1.276 billion and said the plan includes tunnels, bridges, roads, and rainwater and storm water drainage treatment. He added that SR 7 billion has been allocated for providing the sewerage network covering all districts of Jeddah and expanding the industrial city as well as the Jeddah Islamic Port (JIP).

JIP Director General Saher ibn Musa Tahlawi said work is under way on the port’s development projects at a cost of SR800 million.

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UAE ranked ‘1st in the world’ by IMD in quality of air transport infrastructure

Emirates 24/7 – 29 May, 2015 – The UAE has ranked first globally in Quality of Air Transport Infrastructure, according to a major annual report by the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development (IMD)

The World Competitiveness Yearbook 2015, released on Wednesday, ranks the UAE first in Quality of Air Transport Infrastructure, outweighing Singapore, the US, the UK, France and Germany.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, Chairman of Dubai Airports and President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, said, “Even as number one, we have a duty to do better tomorrow. Aviation is one of the main engines driving Dubai’s emergence as a global centre for trade, commerce and tourism.”

He said that a business and regulatory environment, spearheaded by Civil Aviation bodies, is supporting Dubai’s growth by encouraging competition through Open Skies policies, world-class infrastructure and efficient operations, adding, “The ripple effects of this are being felt. With every $ 100 of activity in the aviation sector, a further $ 72 is added in other sectors of the local economy from supply chain connections and expenditures.”

“For every 100 jobs created in aviation, an additional 116 jobs are created elsewhere in Dubai. Everything points in the direction that these figures will grow significantly in the next five years, leading to Dubai hosting Expo 2020. Today, Emirates Airline connects over 140 cities, facilitating traffic flow across six continents. By 2020, Emirates expects to carry 70 million passengers per year on over 300 aircraft, and we will continue to strengthen our global footprint, supported by a solid base that will further develop our operations and infrastructure,” he added.

Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy and Chairman of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, said, “The UAE has a clear and solid vision, not only to enhance its competitive capabilities, but also to set an example for the international community.

“Ranking first in Quality of Air Transport Infrastructure in a relatively short period of time reflects the amount of effort deployed by the local aviation industry and the determination to achieve this success,” he added.

Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director-General of the GCAA, said, “It is an honour to obtain such an assessment result by an internationally renowned institution and to accomplish the best result worldwide. It could not have been done without the clear vision supported by a strong will to excel and progress.”

He added, “For the UAE to score the highest in the world is testimony to our clear commitment to continue to strive in supporting and enhancing aviation infrastructure. The local aviation industry has worked tirelessly to profoundly implement a culture of competitiveness.”

The IMD report is based on more than 330 sub-indices based on statistical indicators and questionnaire data. In the questionnaire data, business executives attributed the UAE’s attractiveness to economic dynamism, a business-friendly environment, competent government, reliable infrastructure and a competitive tax regime.

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Riyadh lines up tourist attractions for summer

Arab News – 30 May, 2015 – A tourism campaign will be launched on June 8 to encourage Riyadh residents to spend their summer vacations in the city, rather than abroad.

“The campaign will be held under the auspices of the Council of Saudi Chambers, Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquity (SCTA) and the office of the Riyadh governor,” said Mohsin Shaikh Al-Hassan, the organising team’s spokesman.

He added that the campaign, which is being held annually under the supervision of the Council of Saudi Chambers, will also showcase Riyadh as a recreational and marketing center.

“The campaign as well as the idea behind it benefits Riyadh as the capital and premier city of the Kingdom,” said Al-Hassan, who is also a TV host and Islamic scholar.

He said that exhibitions will be held in eight malls in the Saudi capital, which will be inaugurated by Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar.

“Good bargains, from 50 percent up, will be offered to visitors in the various shops of the malls included in the campaign,” he said. “Ten hotels will also give 10 percent discounts to visitors, while recreational facilities will also give discounts,” Al-Hassan added.

To make sure that agreements on discounted rates will be implemented by the malls, government inspectors will conduct checks across the city.

Participants in the campaign include the malls at Al-Akaria in Olaya district, Al-Faisalia, Kingdom Tower, Riyadh Gallery, and Hayat Mall, among others.

“The idea behind the campaign is for the residents of the Saudi capital to be encouraged to spend their vacation money in the Kingdom in support of the economy,” Al-Hassan added.

He added that the tourism campaign will continue until the end of Ramadan.

“The campaign is also operating in accordance with the SCTA’s efforts under Prince Sultan bin Salman to promote local tourism,” Al-Hassan added.

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Private Pakistani airline to transport Haj pilgrims

Arab News – 30 May, 2015 – Shaheen Air, a private Pakistani airline, announced Wednesday that the Pakistani government has allowed it to transport Haj pilgrims this year.

Tahir Majeed, the airline’s country manager, speaking at the opening of the company’s new office in Jeddah, said that 25,000 to 30,000 pilgrims would be transported this year. The airline carried 18,000 pilgrims last year, he said.

Sheikh Abdul Mohsin, director of operations; Khalid Al-Harbi, Haj manager; and Arif Hani, Shaheen Air sponsor; were present at the opening of the new office.

Majeed said the company operates 18 flights from Jeddah, five from Riyadh, four from Dammam and two from Madinah, to almost all the major cities in Pakistan.

He said there are plans to increase the flights to 32 a week from Jeddah, using newly acquired planes. The company has branches in Riyadh, Dammam and Madinah.

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SCTA to develop geo-tourism

Arab News – 30 May, 2015 – In a major initiative to promote geo-tourism, a niche market with considerable growth prospects at the global level, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) organized a trip for trainees from the sector in order to help diversify domestic tourism.

Geo-tourism has a distinctive feature that links the act of viewing the beauty of the geological and geomorphic features with the appreciation

of these features through the gaining of knowledge that combines the enjoyment of a site’s beauty with an intrinsic value of the site.

An SCTA spokesman said Thursday that the department of programs and products organized the tourist trips in an effort to introduce the “mountain tourism route” in Asir, Baha and Taif and shortlist tour operators and service providers.

He said that 31 trainees took part in the trip, which lasted for three days and involved tour operators, tourist guides and event operators, aiming to introduce them to the potentials of the mountain tourism route on the ground, and to exchange experiences between the participants in the trip and tour operators, tourist guides and tourism service providers.

“Mountain tourism route” is a mountain belt located in the western part of the Kingdom and extends from Yemen to the Gulf of Aqaba, spread over 1,550 km in terms of length. It is considered a distinguished tourism destination during the summer season due to its mild temperature and the beauty of its relief, along with the diversity of its heritage towns along the route.

The official noted that on its first day that was spent in the Asir Province, the group visited Al-Jabal Al-Akhdar Park, Moftaha heritage village and a number of landmarks in Abha, Tanoma municipality, Al-Namas, Al-Namas Museum, Al Elyan heritage village, Sabt Al-Alaya and Sabt Al-Alaya Museum.

On the second day in the Baha Province, the group visited Aqabat Al-Baha, Shada Al-Aala, Sahda Al-Asfal and a number of mountainous caves in the region, in addition to Dhi Ain historic village and Ragdan forest.

On the third day, the group went to the resort city of Taif, where, they first visited Abdullah bin Abbas Mosque and its neighboring cemetery, a popular restaurant in the center of Taif and one of the oldest rose factories before attending the summer events launch ceremony.

The trip was arranged under the framework of development and improvement of tourism programs within the Kingdom, and to allow the opportunity for tour operators to explore new tourism routes, as well as to inform the participants about the attractive tourism sites that can be visited in the mountain tourist route.

Notably, the SCTA works with its partners in the public and private sectors to develop a number of tourism routes in the Kingdom in an effort to promote the quality of tourism products and diversity of tourism options in the interest of visitors.

Earlier, the SCTA joined hands with the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS) to develop geo-tourism by reviewing the list of geological sites under consideration and to work out a comprehensive formula to enable new trends in tourism in the Kingdom.

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Meet Dubai’s new gentleman cabbies

Khaleej Times – 30 May, 2015 – New taxi drivers in Dubai will now have to undergo tests and English language training by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Announcing new rules to recruit cab drivers, the authority said it hopes to improve the quality of taxi services by rolling out the new initiative. A senior RTA official said the new rules have been created to standardise services.

“The RTA is seeking to bring happiness to all customers especially users of taxis — a vital sector with impli-cations on the tourist profile of the Emirate. The ultimate objec-tive of this move is to standardise and overhaul procedures and conditions for recruiting cab-drivers at franchise companies,” said Dr Yousef Mohammed Al Ali, CEO of the Public Transport Agency. Selection of new taxi drivers will be based on certain parameters which include English language testing, psychometric tests, resilience, problem-solving, communication skills and self-management.

“These aspects will be part of the basic procedures of selecting taxi drivers. Afterwards, behavioural interviews will be made comprising five questions de-rived from the above-mentioned standards of service,” explained Al Ali.

A specialist company in the field of English language education and personalised behavioural tests will be selected to deliver the service to the taxi sector. The RTA is hoping to improve the occupational efficiency of drivers and minimise complaints to raise satisfaction of taxi users.

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Tourism represents 4pc of Qatar non-oil economy

The Peninsula – 31 May, 2015 – The tourism sector’s contribution to Qatari GDP touched QR28bn in 2014. Total number of tourists visited Qatar during the year reached 2.82million; Al Sharq reported citing data released by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA).

Tourists from the GCC region accounted for the maximum number, with an estimated 40 percent of the total visitors. A total of 1.12 million tourists or 28 percent of the total visitors arrived from different Asian countries. With a share of 421,000 tourists, European countries accounted for 15 percent of total visitors. A total of 319,000 tourists from other Arab nations visited Qatar during the period, while America’s share stood at 143,000 and African countries accounted for 34,000.

The QTA report noted that tourism sector plays a key role in Qatar’s economic diversification agenda. But the sector has to go a long way in achieving its target. Currently, the sector directly contributes QR13.6bn to the GDP i.e. 4 percent of the country’s non-oil economy. The combined contribution of the tourism sector to the GDP accounts for QR28bn. The report noted that the country’s tourism sector is directly providing 61,000 jobs in the country”.

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Omran projects to help meet tourism market demands

Oman Tribune – 31 May, 2015 – The Sultanate’s travel and tourism sector has had year-on-year growth and all indicators point to better performance, both in terms of visitor numbers and positive contributions to GDP and employment, according to Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran).

To accommodate the growing demand, tourism infrastructure was being developed at a steady pace, it said after its review of 2014.

Group CEO Eng Wael Al Lawati said that building capacity and capability within the sector was a matter of national priority. “Visitor numbers are expected to rise steadily over the coming years. The government is currently developing the right mix of infrastructure and quality services to accommodate growing numbers of visitors. At Omran we are working hard to build capability and capacity.”

During 2014 there were significant internal changes within the tourism development company. Omran conducted a comprehensive operational review and a strategic restructuring plan was then submitted to the board for establishing three new companies.

The creation of these subsidiaries was to have specialisation in a number of key functions and allow it to expand its strategic mandate as a master developer and incubator of mega real-estate and tourism projects.

The three new companies are to cover key areas like hospitality management, heritage and culture and project management.

Omran was officially appointed as master developer for Hay Al Irfan Urban Development last year. The masterplan, which is poised to be the largest mixed use development ever seen in the Sultanate, is underway and is expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2016.

Construction works at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC) continued as per schedule with 147 million rials worth of major tenders awarded recently.

The year also saw the soft openings of the Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort and Atana Musandam which have bagged a number of national, regional and international awards and accolades. In 2015 both hotels also got the LEED green building certification.

Steady progress has also been made on Omran’s highly anticipated joint venture projects including Ras Al Hadd development, Saraya Bandar Jissah and Al Baleed resorts.

“Omran’s commitment to social responsibility goes hand in hand with our position as a corporate leader in the communities in which we operate.

We work in harmony with our local communities on a number of projects and initiatives to support and promote local talent. Nurturing local talent within Omran is also a key priority for the company with our current Omanisation levels standing at 72 per cent.”

Omran’s sustainability initiatives had been recognised nationally, regionally and internationally through a growing number of awards and accolades including best environment friendly project award for the marine life campaign and best women’s empowerment project for the sewing incubator project at the Asia CSR Awards 2014.

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