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15 Jun, 2015

Muslim Scientist becomes First Female President of Mauritius

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 15 June 2015 (28 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.



Book Launched on History of Islam in Indonesia

12 June 2015 Surabaya (ANTARA News) – The government has launched the book on the History of Islam in Indonesia composed by the Directorate General of Culture of the Education and Cultural Affairs Ministry to show that Indonesian Islam is moderate and protective.

“The Indonesian Islam is better than that in Saudi Arabia because it does not bring about ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), Alqaeda, and other movements who like to accuse their fellow Muslims of being unbelievers. It is ridiculous,” a historian Prof Taufik Abdullah stated here.

In launching the History of Islam in Indonesia (SKII) conducted by the Director General of Culture of the Education and Cultural Affairs Ministry Prof Kacung Maridjan MA and Book Discussion at the Surabaya-based Airlangga University (Unair) last Thursday (June 11), he explained that the Indonesian Islam is not “Islam in Indonesia” but the “Islamic style of Indonesia.”

“I appreciate this SKII book, because the book regarding the Indonesian Islam normally tells about (Islam) in Java, but the current Indonesian Islam really informs about the (picture) of Islam in Indonesia which is compiled in five volumes, starting from the historical roots, intellectual tradition, institutionalization, literary/art, including cultural treasures material,”

One of around 30 writers of the SKII said that there are three processes in the Islamization in Indonesia, namely the arrival of Islam in Indonesia in the 9th century, graves of Islam in the 11th century (in Trowulan tomb, Mojokerto, East Java), and the powers (rulers) of Islam in the 13th century.

“The Portuguese and the Dutch who colonized Indonesia declared the traces of Indonesian Islam were found in the 13th century, both in Pariaman (West Sumatra) and the north coast (Java),” Taufik Abdullah explained.

However, the interesting point which is special for Indonesia is the development of Islam starting from the King of Talo, Prime Minister of Gowa (South Sulawesi) and three ulemas of Makassar/Minangkabau who spread Islam who develop Islam among others in Bone (Sulawesi), Bima (West Nusa Tenggara/NTB), Kutai (Kalimantan), pointed out.

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Iran, FAO Sign Cooperation MoU On Campaign Against Hunger

ROME, June10 (NNN-IRNA) – Iranian Agricultural Jihad Minister Mahmud Hojjati and Director General of United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization José Graziano da Silva on Tuesday signed a cooperation memorandum on campaign against hunger.

According to the memorandum of understanding, Iran and FAO will cooperate in sharing their practical and expert experience to augment agricultural productivity with the developing countries faced with hunger.

‘This MOU is in the framework of South-South cooperation in agricultural field, signed between Iran and the FAO,’ Hojjati said.

The Iranian agriculture minister said that the cooperation is aimed at training and enabling the farmers in the Middle East and in member states of the Economic Cooperation Organization and FAO technicians will also have effective presence in Iran.

‘The preparations for the plan were made as of 18 months ago and Iran established a training center in Karaj, hoping for faster materializing the objectives,’ Hojjati said.

José Graziano da Silva announced his readiness to visit Iran and the Iranian scientific and research centers in the agricultural field.

On Monday, he awarded the FAO honorary diploma to Hojjati in the presence of agriculture ministers of 197 member countries agriculture ministers for decreasing the percentage of malnutrition in Iran to less than 5%.

Iran is among 72 countries that have managed to decrease by half malnutrition, one of the objectives of the UN’s Millennium Goals.

72 of the 129 countries have managed to achieve that goal, while some regions like the African Sahara, with one fourth of its population suffering from malnutrition, are still in red alert status.

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Jordan Food Exhibition 2015 Kicks Off

AMMAN, Jordan, June 10 (NNN-PETRA) – Deputising for King Abdullah II, Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply, Maha Ali, on Tuesday, opened the Jordan Food Exhibition 2015, which is the first and the largest in the Kingdom.

Eighty companies, representing major food importers and exporters, commercial centres and food manufacturing, are participating in the major event.

The exhibition is organised by the General Association for Foodstuffs Merchants, in cooperation with the International Promoters Company, for Marketing and Exhibitions.

The exhibition is held on the anniversary of King Abdullah II’s Accession to the Throne and to mark the coming of the holy month of Ramadan.– NNN-PETRA

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Etihad’s Perfect Flight Programme Saves Fuel, Cuts Emissions

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, June 10 (NNN-WAM) – As part of its ongoing commitment to minimise the environmental impact of its operations, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, recently launched an Abu Dhabi Perfect Flight Programme, by conducting a fuel-optimised ‘Perfect Flight’ between Abu Dhabi and Washington, DC.

The airline worked closely with more than 30 stakeholders, including civil aviation authorities, airports, ground service providers and air navigation providers, along the entire flight corridor of over 11,000 kilometres, which took 13 hours and 32 minutes – one of Etihad Airways’ longest routes.

This flight, the first of a series of perfect flights, was operated by Etihad Airways’ eco-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and used a host of fuel and emission-saving measures both in the air and on the ground. These include optimised ground handling at both ends of the journey and maximising efficiency opportunities in route and altitude selection.

As a result, the airline saved an estimated eight minutes on the route, 4,100 litres of fuel and 10,700 kilogrammes of carbon emissions, compared to the same aircraft flying a normal flight plan.

The UAE-based partners include Abu Dhabi Airport, Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and Global Aerospace Logistics – ANS. International partners were Boeing, Eurocontrol, the US Federation Aviation Authority, Finavia, Irish Aviation Authority, Isavia, Jeppesen, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, NATS and NAV CANADA.

Other environmental best practices deployed include, reducing the use of the onboard auxiliary power unit, minimising on-ground delays, utilising expedient taxi and preferential runways and conducting unimpeded climb and descent paths.

Real-time updates of current weather and wind conditions also allowed the flight crew to optimise their flight path.

Mohamed Hareb Al Yousef, DoT’s Executive Director – Aviation, said, “Reducing aviation emissions is a win-win for everyone. Etihad Airways’ Perfect Flight programme is a prime example of how airlines, governments, manufacturers, technology providers and airports can work together to achieve that common goal.

“Such initiatives are in line with the UAE’s vision for sustainable aviation: reducing the industry’s carbon footprint, capitalising on existing technologies and developing shared performance metrics.”

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are always seeking opportunities to optimise our flights wherever we can, and working in collaboration is the only means to ensure effective, meaningful improvements.”

Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director General of the GCAA, said, “The General Civil Aviation Authority is proud to support the Abu Dhabi Perfect Flight programme. The Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Centre provided necessary technical assistance, to ensure the success of last week’s perfect flight. The significance of the environment to the aviation sector continues to grow, and there is every indication that this will continue. The Abu Dhabi Perfect Flight programme offers a tremendous opportunity for more environmentally-friendly flights in the UAE aviation sector.”

Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi Airports, said, “We are delighted to be a part of this great initiative that plays an important role in reducing the aviation industry’s carbon footprint, through the development of new operational procedures benefiting from the technologically competitive services and facilities we own. We believe it is very important to collaborate and align interests to achieve the goals of the UAE’s green economy ambition.”

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Mozambique to host Islamic Bank Board Meeting

MAPUTO (Mozambique), June 10 (NNN-CARIBBEANNEWS) — Suriname is sending a strong delegation to participate in the 22nd Annual Board of Governors Meeting of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), in Mozambique, which begins on Wednesday in Maputo.

Among the delegation are, Suriname’s governor to the Islamic Bank Gillmore Hoefdraad and alternate governor, Anwar Lall Mohammed.

At the centre of this mission to Mozambique are two projects that Paramaribo submitted and wants to see approved. As well, Paramaribo is submitting new projects that the government is seeking further support from the Islamic Bank in its drive to improve the country’s health and education infrastructure.

Suriname has received over US$105 million in financing of 12 operations since 1997 from the Islamic Bank. In 2013, Suriname and the Islamic Bank agreed on a new interim member country partnership strategy, which translated into Suriname recently receiving additional loans totaling US$75.8 million for two projects in the health and education section.

Suriname is now working to seal a broader partnership with the bank.

The Maputo meeting will consider a number of important items and reports on its agenda such as a report on the Ten-Year Strategic Framework of the IsDB Group, which was approved by the board of governors last year in Jeddah to help the IsDB group respond more effectively to social and economic developments in member states.

The agenda will also include other issues from the 40th Annual Report of the bank and the approval of the IDB annual audited accounts, programmes and specialised funds.

On the sidelines of the meeting, there will be several sessions on a wide range of financial, social and economic issues that are significant to IDB member countries, such as exploring innovative solutions for affordable microfinance in Africa, IDB Group – African Union Commission Joint private sector forum, disaster risk management challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa, critical lessons from the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, education for competitiveness, delivering infrastructure through public private partnerships, fostering development of construction industry in IDB member countries, launching of IDB – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “Lives & Livelihoods” Fund, among other workshops.

According to António Laíce, representative of the ministry of economy and finance of Mozambique, the Islamic Bank distinguishes itself from conventional or commercial banks, insofar as “not applicable interest rates on credit granting, but commission services that are below 1%.”

Mozambique has been one of the recipients of financial assistance from the IDB. Since the country became a member it has already received financial aid worth US$300 million that has been invested in development projects in the areas of agriculture, education, fisheries and infrastructure according to Mozambique minister of economy and finance, Adriano Maleiane

The Islamic Development Bank is an institution that aims to provide economic and social development to its member countries by granting credit to projects and companies, promoting trade and exports.

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26 African Countries Sign Free Trade Pact

SHARM-EL-SHEIKH, EGYPT, June 11 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Representatives of 26 African countries stretching from Egypt to South Africa have signed a Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) agreement to create a common market covering half the continent.

The agreement was reached among members of three sub-regional blocs — the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) in final negotiations in this Egyptian Red Sea resort this week and signed Wednesday.

The deal integrates three existing trade blocs whose countries have a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of more than one trillion US dollars and a combined population of some 625 million people. The TFTA member States represent 58 per cent of Africa’s total GDP.

COMESA Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said the agreement would enable Africa to achieve continental economic integration and build capacity in various sectors. The agreement would also contribute to Africa’s peace and stability, information communication technology (ICT), infrastructure and help attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

In order to bring the agreement into force, the legislatures of signatory countries must ratify it in two years’ time. The agreement will come into force once ratification is attained by two thirds of the 26 States.

The decision to have the TFTA was made after the majority of the Tripartite Member/Partner States made ambitious tariff offers and agreed on Rules of Origin to be applied on the interim while further work continued on product-specific Rules of Origin.

This was reached during the Tripartite Sectoral Committee of Ministers meeting in Bujumbura, Burundi last October.

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AirAsia X Mulls ‘Filling-Up’ MAS Routes

KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia X Bhd will consider ‘filling-up’ the routes terminated by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) only if they are commercially viable, its acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Benyamin Ismail said.

If they (Malaysia Airlines) are reducing it, it has to be due to commercial reason. We will look into it and if it makes sense for us, we will do it,” he said when asked if AirAsia X would be interested in routes axed by MAS.

Identifying new routes was part of the long-haul low-cost airline’s plan to return to profitability, he told reporters on the sidelines of the Global Airport Development 2015 conference here.

“This year is all about returning to profitability. We are introducing three new routes,” he said, adding AirAsia X’s biggest revenue generators were North Asia and Australia destinations.

On the refunds issue in Australia after the airline cancelled all its South Australian routes, Benyamin said all the refunds had been paid.

As for starting flights to Europe, he said the airline does not have the right aircraft for those destinations now but the Airbus A330neo that is coming in the next two years is capable of flying direct to London.

“So, I have told Tony (AirAsia Bhd group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes), wait for two years, then we will fly to London,” he added.

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Jordan, Palestine Sign Agreement To Begin Trade

AMMAN, June 14 (NNN-Petra) — The Jordanian Foodstuff Traders Association and the Hebron Food Trade Association signed an agreement to boost trade exchanges between Jordan and Palestine at the private sector level.

The agreement was signed by Foodstuff Traders Association Director Zuhair Harb and Secretary of the Hebron Food Trade Association Rafiq Al Qudsi on the sidelines of Jordan Food Exhibition 2015, currently being held at the Amman International Motor Show.

The agreement calls for encouraging investments in the industrial, real estate, tourism, trade and banking fields, holding food exhibitions and providing facilities to ensure their success.

It also calls for cooperation to assist in the movement of traders and businessmen, as well as the flow of commodities between the two countries.

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Makkah, Madinah gear up to receive Ramadan

Saturday 13 Jun 2015 – Makkah (IINA) – Imams in mosques across the Kingdom, including the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque Madinah, used Friday’s sermons to welcome the holy month of Ramadan with an immense sense of piety and requested their respective congregations to strictly follow the teachings of the Holy Qur’an during the fasting month.

Ramadan is expected to begin Thursday (June 18), depending on the visibility of the crescent. Last week, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, approved the emergency plan of General Directorate of Civil Defense for Ramadan in Makkah and Madinah, which aims to strengthen preventive measures related to the works of civil defense and maintain the safety of Umrah performers throughout the holy month.

Imams of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah have exhorted Muslims to get ready to avail of the manifold bounties of Almighty Allah during the Holy Month.

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Ramadan expo to highlight Islamic culture in S. Africa

Tuesday 09 Jun 2015 – Cape Town, South Africa (IINA) – Reflecting the diversity of the South African Muslim community, a Ramadan expo will be held this weekend to introduce the Islamic culture in the African country, OnIslam reported.

“The expo’s aim is to inform, educate and uplift the entire Western Cape community, not only Muslims,” organizer Salaama Davids told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.

Davids was talking about Ramadan expo that will be held in the capital, Cape Town, to display food, spices, clothes and art that represents the Islamic culture.

Participants of the event are from India, Somalia, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Spain and Ireland beside other nations. Along with promoting the Islamic culture, the event aims to show the true image of Islam.

“The expo introduces the beauty of being Muslim and of Islam to the larger multicultural community of Cape Town, against ongoing Islamophobia and misrepresentation of Islam,” organizer Davids said.

“It empowers small emerging businesses by offering them a platform to display their goods and services. Lastly, the expo aims to evoke Muslims’ religious-self and to remind them to position themselves in the holy spirit of Ramadan,” he added.

For Imam Abdul Samad Abdul Kader, the event aims at “bringing unity among Muslims – bringing Muslims together under one roof to interact and learn about each other”.

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LEAD STORY: Muslim Scientist becomes First Female President of Mauritius

Tuesday 09 Jun 2015 – Port Louis, Mauritius (IINA) – Prominent Muslim scientist Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim was on Thursday approved by the parliament of Mauritius as the Indian Ocean island nation’s new president, making her the first woman to hold the ceremonial position, according to media reports.

malaysia logo

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

Prime Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth moved the motion for the election of the new president.

In his address, the PM stated that the election of Dr Gurib-Fakim as president of the Republic will certainly go down in history as another landmark in government’s relentless pursuit to place women in their rightful place in the Republic of Mauritius.

The island nation gained independence from Britain in 1968 and replaced Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as its head of state in 1992.

Gurib-Fakim,56, is currently director of the CIDP Research & Innovation (formerly Cephyr, Centre for Phytotherapy Research), which carries out research on the medical and nutritive implications of indigenous plants of Mauritius for use in cosmetics, nutrition and therapy.

According to the PM, the name of Dr Gurib-Fakim had been proposed as future president of the Republic and the proposal was acclaimed by a large majority of the population.

“We have today not only fulfilled a pledge which we made to the nation, but we have also written one of the most glorious pages of our history by electing the first woman to the highest constitutional office”, he said.

Click here to read the text of an interview with her: http://blog.ted.com/surprise-youre-the-president-a-conversation-with-the-first-female-president-of-mauritius/

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OIC seeks to develop microfinance in member states

Wednesday 10 Jun 2015 – Maputo (IINA) – Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that the pan Islamic body is implementing a specific plan to develop microfinance institutions in its member states.

He made the remarks in an address to the 40th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group held in Maputo, Mozambique, on Wednesday. The speech was delivered on behalf of Madani by Assistant Secretary General of OIC for Economic Affairs Ambassador Hameed A. Opeloyeru, according to an OIC statement.

Madani called on the board to approve the implementation of a number of decisions issued at the 42nd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers, including the convening of a Workshop for Microfinance institutions in OIC member states and conferences to introduce Islamic Social Finance, Sadaqa (charity), Zakat and Waqf (endowment).

Madani said the aim of the microfinance workshop is to begin a platform to share and deepen understanding of Islamic microfinance models, best practices, governance and standards developed by OIC member states. The workshop would also facilitate developing an OIC Action Plan on Microfinance Development, drawing on the experiences gained through the implementation of the Islamic Solidarity Bank for Development (ISFD) and the Special Program for the Development of Africa (SPDA).

Madani also drew attention to other issues which require the approval of the Board, and that include the execution of the Dakar-Bamako-Sikasso-Bobo-Dioulasso railway segment of the OIC Dakar-Port Sudan Railway Project in partnership with the African Union and the West African Economic and Monetary Union.

The secretary general also called for the mobilization of additional resources for the ISFD; the Council of Foreign Ministers has requested the convening of a special session during its next session that is to be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 2016, to mobilize additional resources to enable the ISFD to expand its activities to benefit the poor in priority areas. This includes supporting microfinance, food security and vocational training.

He also said that the OIC plans to set up a program to succeed the SPDA as a way of consolidating on the gains realized under the first SPDA which was adopted in November 2012 and in which the Council of Foreign Ministers decided to conduct two semi-regional workshops during the coming year to facilitate the development of a comprehensive development plan for members to focus on.

Madani added that the proposed convening of the OIC Stakeholders Forum on Unified Halal Food Standards and Procedures is crucial in creating a binding OIC Halal Food Standard, including an OIC-wide consensus on harmonized accreditation and certification procedures. A regulatory environment of this nature is needed in the current stage to streamline the activities of certification centers in respect to Halal food and products.

Madani also stressed the close collaboration between the General Secretariat of the OIC and the management of the IDB Group, which has resulted in the successful convening of the First Investment Forum on Central Asia that was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on October 27-28 2014. A number of projects were identified at the forum, including the flagship hydro-energy transmission project.

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Kazan to host 7th Russia-OIC Economic Summit

Thursday 11 Jun 2015 – Kazan, Russia (IINA) – The Russian city of Kazan will host 7th International Economic Summit of Russia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries on June 15-16.

More than 650 delegates from 31 countries will take part in the summit, which will be held under the slogan of “Islamic Finance for Constructive Global Trade and Investment.”

During the meeting, participants will discuss ways to improve and strengthen the economic trade relations between Russia and the OIC member states, in addition to many issues in the field of Islamic banking services.

It is noteworthy that the Kazan summit is the premier international economic summit of the Russian Federation and OIC member states, according to the summit’s official website.

The summit was kicked off for the first time in 2009 and is being held under the patronage of the government of the Republic of Tatarstan since 2010. From 2012, Kazan summit was held with the support of the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

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50 Pennsylvania teachers, administrators learn about Islam, Arab culture

Thursday 11 Jun 2015 – Philadelphia, (IINA) – Around 50 teachers and administrators at a Pennsylvania school district attended a recent training session on Islam and Arabic culture, during an all-day in-service workshop, according to the WorldNetDaily (WND) American website news.

The workshop in the town of Lebanon was led by a former district Arabic translator Muhammad Omar, a worker for the Department of Human Services in Philadelphia who “took time off from his new job as a case to share his knowledge of Islam with the staff,” the Lebanon Daily News reported.

“I think this is the first time ever in the United States that a school district goes to a mosque,” the mosque’s founder Hamid Housni told the Daily News. “Usually a representative of a mosque goes somewhere. We don’t have words to explain to you how we appreciate that. This is very, very special.”

The training session included a comparison-contrast of U.S.-Arab education, as well as a visit to a local mosque to learn more about the Islamic religion – and to join in the congregation’s prayer service, the news outlet said. Teachers were given opportunity to ask questions and afterwards, called the event informative.

“It’s important that we educate ourselves about cultures that are different from our own and that we try to eliminate some misunderstandings,” said Lara Book, one of the teachers who attended, EAGNews.org reported. “And any way that I can communicate with my students that makes it more meaningful or easier, it is a vital tool.”

Book also said: “Basically, although our cultures are different, the fundamentals of them are similar and we all want the same things, happiness for our families, health, and success. Although we might go about finding those things in our lives differently, from a cultural standpoint, we all want the same thing.”

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Kazakhstan set to join World Trade Organization

11 Jun 2015 – Astana (IINA) – Kazakhstan has finished negotiating the terms of a deal to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), capping 20 years of efforts to take part in the world of mainstream commerce, Radio Free Europe reported.

The country’s WTO accession package will go for final approval before WTO members on June 22. “I congratulate WTO members and the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan on the historic step taken today,” WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo said on Wednesday. “I look forward to welcoming Kazakhstan to the WTO.”

Ambassador Vesa Himanen of Finland, who chaired the WTO working party that negotiated the deal with Kazakhstan, said it was “one of the most challenging negotiations in the 20-year history of the organization.”

Noteworthy that Kazakh Economy Minister Zhanar Aitzhanova led the negotiations on behalf of her country. The WTO is an intergovernmental organization, which regulates international trade.

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Visit Maldives Year 2016 campaign to include int’l surf competition

Sun.mv – June 10, 2015 – Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has announced that an international surf competition will be held in the Maldives, as part of the Visit Maldives Year (VMY) 2016 campaign. MMPRC said that the purpose of the competition, which will be attended by top surfers from around the world, is to make Maldives an attractive destination for surfers.

VMY 2016 is a marketing campaign by MMPRC focused on promoting Maldives as a travel destination. In addition to the surf competition, MMPRC has announced several events that will take place throughout the year.

This includes a Tourist Arrival Countdown Show, a promotion offering 365 days of free holidays in Maldives, and a program themed 100k Tourist Celebration, which includes surprises with VIP status for every 100,000th visitor to the Maldives throughout the year.

Maldives will also host South Asia’s first Free Diving Competition as part of the VMY 2016 campaign.

MMPRC said that its aim through this campaign is to market the destination by strengthening the brand and positioning Maldives as an exclusive tourist destination by showcasing the islands’ diversified tourism product.

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

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

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Gili Lankanfushi tops TripAdvisor’s best hotel list

Sun.mv – June 9, 2015 – Gili Lankanfushi has been praised for its beauty and service, and is often described as paradise by visitors. It has 45 water villas which can only be accessed by boat, and operates a ‘no news, no shoes’ policy.

The resort is also known for its environmental consciousness and conservation efforts. In addition to using sustainable materials such as plantation teak and recycled telegraph poles in its buildings, the resort recently announced the installation of the largest floating solar panel in the Maldives.

The platform, with a nominal capacity of 28 KW, will reduce the resort’s carbon footprint by 35 tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent to the emissions of 30 return flights from Europe to Maldives per person.

Two other Maldivian resorts were included in TripAdvisor’s top 25 – Cocoa Island, which came 6th, and Constance Moofushi, which came 15th. The list was based on reviews by tourists for 8,100 properties around the world.

Previously operated as Soneva Gili, Gili Lankanfushi charges about $1,000 per room per night.

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First Chinese resort project to be launched in Maldives

Sun.mv – June 8, 2015 – The first resort development project in the Maldives by a Chinese company has been inaugurated at a ceremony at Hotel Jen this morning. The development of the five-star boutique resort at Vaavu Kunaavashi will begin in September, by China’s CJL Private Limited.

The project will see the construction of 71 rooms in total made up of 38 water villas, 32 beach villas, and 1 presidential villa, as well as the establishment of a dive centre, a water sports centre, and restaurants in the island.

The project is expected to be completed in 14 months. Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb highlighted the government’s efforts to attract Chinese investors to Maldives.

He said that tourist arrivals from China had increased, and 1.4 million tourists visited Maldives in total in 2014. Prior to this project, Kunaavashi was a picnic island for locals.

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Turkey’s Yüksel wins $614 mln Saudi rapid bus contract

RIYADH – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkish construction company Yüksel has won a rapid bus transit system contract worth $614 million, as reported by Arab News.

The Riyadh Rapid Bus Transit System is a part of the King Abdulaziz Transport System plan and will accelerate the shift from private cars to public transportation systems, according to Arab News.

The Turkish company has reportedly received a letter of intent and Riyadh’s local Alinma Bank has provided $232 million in project financing to implement it.

“The project mainly includes road rehabilitation schemes, construction of 21 pairs of rapid bus transit system stations, 2,574 community bus stops and seven pedestrian bridges in Riyadh,” Yüksel CEO Ahmet Halavuk told Arab News.

He added the new line would allow rush-hour buses to travel in bus-only lanes, specifically highway shoulder lanes, with the aim of reducing traffic length and easing commute time.

A similar system exists in Istanbul as well, dubbed the “metrobus system.” The city’s notoriously crowded metrobus network carries an average of 800,000 Istanbul residents and visitors daily, as thousands of people use the buses to escape from traffic jams, especially during rush hours.

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‘All That is Solid’ at Istanbul Modern

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The second temporary installation of the YAP Istanbul Modern: Young Architects Program and the international “YAP 2014-2015 Finalists” exhibition, “All That is Solid,” was inaugurated on June 9. The program is carried out by Istanbul Modern in partnership with The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MoMA PS1.

Initiated in 2012 by Istanbul Modern in collaboration with MoMA and MoMA PS1, the YAP Istanbul Modern: Young Architects Program is held biannually during the summer and offers young, emerging architects the opportunity to design a temporary installation in Istanbul Modern’s courtyard.

“All That is Solid” was designed by PATTU, founded by Cem Kozar and Işıl Ünal in 2009. The selection of the project was undertaken by an international jury presided by Professor Suha Özkan together with architectural experts and representatives from Istanbul Modern and other YAP International partners. From among the proposals of the five finalists, the jury selected “All That is Solid,” a design that borrows geometries from past buildings that once stood in the area where Istanbul Modern is located and crunches them together in a chaotic way.

An international exhibition curated by YAP Istanbul Modern program coordinators Çelenk Bafra and Pelin Derviş will be on view in Istanbul Modern’s pop-up exhibition area until Aug. 2. The exhibition features models, visuals and videos of the projects proposed by the finalists invited to the program by the partner institutions in 2014 and 2015.

According to PATTU, who were inspired by the industrial history of the area, “All That is Solid” is not just a reminder of the past but also a statement about the imminent change the future holds, so that we can be more critical about it.

“Buildings are like anchors to memories because they tend to last longer than our human lifespan. But how solid are buildings? The fact that they are made of stone, cement and marble does not really make them last eternally. They can easily be gone in a day. So we borrowed a part of the famous quote ‘All that is solid melts into air.’

“Our approach was to dissect the space around Istanbul Modern with all its elements and previous constructions and reassemble them, showing the ephemeral side of architecture. The design borrows geometries from past buildings that once stood in the area and crunches them together in a chaotic way. But this chaos starts making sense over the course of a day as the transparent shapes become opaque; Past geometries become visible and invisible,” according to PATTU.

A special events program will be held throughout the summer in the museum’s courtyard, focusing on various disciplines that include music, cinema and performing arts.

On June 21, a unique and special event called “Yoko Ono Morning Peace 2015” will be organized in celebration of the longest day of the year and the artist Yoko Ono. The program will start at sunrise with a yoga session and continue until noon with a tea workshop and art stations for different age groups as well as DJ sets and concerts.

The Istanbul Modern Cinema has programmed three films that will take the spectator on a journey through Istanbul’s past. On July 2, 3, and 4, a different film will be screened each evening at the open-air cinema to be set up in Istanbul Modern’s courtyard, reviving the memory of the area where the museum now stands.

The museum’s education and social projects department has also prepared an educational program related to the project titled “Puzzle Buildings.” The program is for children aged 7-12 and is free of charge. It will be carried out from July through November.

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One Love Festival in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – This year, the One Love Festival is celebrating its 14th edition, with a solid history of hosting nearly 100 bands, more than 1500 artists and over 200,000 participants. Within its new venue, LifePark, the festival will offer much more than only good music, as you may enjoy the sun, nature and various activities through the weekend on June 13 and 14.

A total of 34 performances by 13 foreign and 21 local musicians will take place on three different stages, Love, Union and Into the Woods.

On June 13, the Love stage will host James Blake, Hot Chip, Metronomy, Sattas, Kim Ki O and Palmiyeler. Everything Everything, Fink, Sapan, The Away Days, Biz and Adamlar will be on the Union stage.

Blake’s bedroom recordings were discovered by BBC Radio and it led to a debut album in 2011. Composing minimal electronics with unorthodox synths, Blake calls his genre “melodic bass music.”

Among the highlights, the Metronomy trio emerged with their debut album “Pip Pain” in 2006. Following their album “The English Riviera,” Metronomy elevated their eclectic style, which combines dance and indie rock, to a higher level. Their recent release, “Love Letters,” promises a similar sound only with differing lyrics on love and relationships.

Electronic music will be dominant on the Into the Woods stage, with Darren Roach, Dayko&Jamiryo, Ahmet Şendil, Unus Emre, Sevil Soylu and Deniz Kabu.

British DJ and producer Roach is mostly inspired by garage and house music from the 1970’s and 80’s in his mixes. He was once appointed as the “Lord of Groove” by DJmag.

The Into the Woods stage has been created in a natural environment among the trees.

The second day of the festival will see Tom Odell, Little Dragon, Austra, Ceylan Ertem, 123 and Norrda on the Love stage. Julian Casablancas + The Voidz, José González, The Ringo Jets, Can Güngör and Barış Demirel will be the guests of the Union stage while Slow Hands, Loulou Players, Cem Salman, Ali Murat Karakuş and Batu Çelik will be on the Into the Woods stage.

Odell’s debut album “Long Way Down” entered the British music charts straight at the top. He combines his piano skills with his tender voice and soul touching lyrics on love and relationships.

Making her entrance to the music scene with the band Anima, Turkish artist Ceylan Ertem later focused on her solo work. Her latest album, titled “Amansız Gücenik,” was released last year, consolidating her place in the alternative music community.

This year the One Love Festival mobile app will be available for attendees for the first time on IOS and Android devices. Those who download the app will get chance to win surprise gifts.

One Love Festival shuttles will be working between 1:45 p.m. and 12 a.m., making ring tours from Haciosman to LifePark. Additional services from LifePark to Zincirlikuyu will be also available between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

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Ancient saltpan first in Anatolia

MUĞLA – Hurriyet Daily News – Archaeological work in the ancient city of Kaunos has unearthed a 2,000 year-old saltpan. The ancient city, which dates back to 3,000 years ago, is located in the Dalyan neighborhood in the western province of Muğla’s Ortaca district.

Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University Rector Professor Mansur Harmandar said they have been carrying out scientific work in the region since İztuzu beach was handed over to the university.

He said a team headed by Professor Cengiz Işık was working in the area, which is home to many historical artifacts. The professor said during the course of the work they had discovered an area where salt was produced, and continued:

“Forty-eight saltpans were unearthed in the area of İztuzu beach. A project will be made soon to help the area gain tourism. We are currently working on a project in which ancient-era work will be revived. Our purpose is to boost tourism in the area as well as protect and use it.”

Harmandar said the ancient city of Kaunos was a center of trade and civilization in the past, and excavations and scientific studies showed that the locals earned great income from salt production in the region.

The deputy head of Kaunos excavations, Assistant Professor Ufuk Çörtük, said Kaunos had a very significant position among Anatolian cities and excavations had been ongoing there since 1966.

Çörtük said 48 salt platforms and four channels had been unearthed in the ancient saltpan facility, adding, “The most important outcome of the Kaunos excavations is the saltpans. 2,000 year-old saltpans made us very excited.”

He said the ancient facility was located on a narrow sand dune on İnceburun Hill behind İztuzu beach, adding the production of salt was an irreplaceable part of social and economic life in the city.

“Our studies reveal that the saltpan is the first one in Anatolian archaeology. Its localization, architectural tissue and production system can be explained,” he said.

Çörtük said interest in the saltpan would increase once the region starts serving tourism.

“It is reported in the ‘customs regulations’ inscription, which was found in the ancient site, that Kaunos salt was one of the most important export articles of the city. In order to boost trade with Kaunos, Roman Emperor Hadrian needed to take some incentive measures regarding the customs regulations. These regulations didn’t compromise only two products; salt is one of them,” he said.

Çörtük said salt was the most desired product in Kaunos because salt was considered a health product for the eyes.

According to ancient era writer Plinius, salt was used for insect stings because of its purifying, dissolvent and caustic features, said Çörtük, adding the writer mentioned both the Salt Lake and Kaunos in regards to salt production.

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Istanbul rises to become world’s 5th most visited city

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – With 12.56 million projected visitors in 2015, Istanbul outpaced New York and Singapore, climbing two spots to become the fifth most visited city in the world, according to the annual MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index released on June 3.

Istanbul showed the strongest growth at 11.4 percent, moving to fifth from seventh, by international overnight visitors. Both Bangkok and Dubai grew by 8 percent, the second fastest after Istanbul, according to the report.

Istanbul, which ranked seventh in the 2014 rankings with 11.27 million visitors, climbed to fifth in 2014 with a projected 12.56 million visitors, constituting an increase of 11.4 percent, the highest growth among the top 40 cities on the index.

“Istanbul has a much higher growth rate than Paris. If these two cities continue to grow their international visitors’ numbers at the current rates, in four years, Istanbul will overtake Paris to become second-ranked in Europe after London,” said the report.

Istanbul was the fastest growing destination city in Europe, according to the report. Three cities in Eastern Europe were also among the top ten fastest growing European destination cities; Bucharest (ranked sixth), Budapest (ranked seventh) and Warsaw (ranked eighth).

The MasterCard-sponsored index evaluated travel patterns to rank 132 global cities by visitors. The top four were London with 18.82 million visitors, Bangkok with 18.24 million, Paris with 16.06 million and Dubai with 14.26 million.

In 2015, it is expected that nearly 383 million overnight trips will be made by international visitors between the Index’s 132 cities, representing a massive demand for goods, services and experiences as they spend at total of $360 billion during their visits, said the index.

Istanbul also ranked 10th in spending by overnight visitors at $9.37 billion, a 7.3 percent increase from $8.73 billion in 2014. The city ranked 12 in the previous report.

Among all 132 cities, Istanbul also had the most diverse visitor base. The city attracted half of its international tourists from 33 different countries, according to the report. Diversifying sources of visitors means a higher resilience against long-term economic instability, added the report.

London, the top-ranked in the world, was the second most resilient with 26 feeder cities, followed by Paris, Amsterdam and Dubai.

In terms of visitor cross-border spending, Istanbul ranked as the fourth most profitable city in Europe after Barcelona. It is expected that 383 million overnight trips will be made to the index’s 132 cities in 2015 by visitors who will spend a total of $360 billion during their visits.

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Turkish tourism projects post-Ramadan rush

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – Tourism representatives expect a rush in the sector after the Ramadan period in July, mainly in the domestic market as well as the Middle Eastern markets.

“Many Turkish people have set their holiday season in the post-Ramadan period in July as they will go to the polls in the June elections and wait for the start of summer holiday for schools. We see a dramatic rise in hotel reservations after the Ramadan month,” said Timur Bayındır, head of the Touristic Hoteliers and Investors Association (TUROB).

The elections will be held on June 7 and schools will close down on June 12. The holy month of Ramadan will start on June 18.

“We (have) specifically (seen a) rise in the demand from Middle Eastern countries for hotel reservations in the post-Ramadan period as well as the domestic market… This is the case for both resort hotels and city hotels across Turkey,” Bayındır noted.

He invited potential tourists to make their reservations as soon as possible for the post-Ramadan period. Some tourism representatives do not expect any decrease in the demand in June for local hotels, which work with big tour operators in Europe and Russia.

“There might be some slowing down for small tourism facilities during Ramadan, but we do not expect the same trend in the hotels which have ties with big tour operators, mainly in the Aegean districts of Marmaris and Bodrum. The sector will be receiving many European and Russian tourists in June as well,” said Turkey’s Hoteliers Federation (TÜROFED) coordinator Necip Boz.

The number of foreign people visiting Turkey decreased by 8.1 percent in April from the same months of the previous year, according to data from the Tourism Ministry.

The number of foreign visitors decreased by 0.5 percent in the first four months of the year to 6.96 million, compared to the same period of 2014, according to the data.

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Ancient Roman harbor to reappear in Urla

İZMİR – Hurriyet Daily News – Ankara Univetsity will recreate a 2,000-year-old Roman harbor in one of the oldest coastal towns in the Aegean region, İzmir’s Urla district, in its original place. The harbor will have boats, catapults, depots and the same equipment used in the Roman era, which will be constructed to resemble their original appearance. When the harbor construction is completed, visitors will be able to take the Roman-era style boats on a tour of the area.

According to a statement made by the university, the project, which is the first of its kind, will be realized in collaboration with the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

Speaking about the project, Ankara University Underwater Archaeology Research and Application Center (ANKÜSAM) founder and Liman Tepe excavations head Professor Hayat Erkanal said, “This project is the first in the world. We will start working to prepare boats and weapons first. The detailed construction will start in a year.”

Erkanal said catapults of the Roman era would also be in the harbor, adding, “There were buildings in the harbor for loading and registration, we will build these buildings. We have found out that there was a small church in the harbor in the late period. But we will build a harbor from the early Roman era. It will be established on land allocated by the Urla Municipality. We will build at least two boats from the early Roman era. The area will be open to tourist visits when the work is finished. We will try to keep this area a living place. Visitors will be able to tour in the Aegean sea on Roman boats.”

Ankara University Rector Professor Erkan İbiş said the project was important for Turkish tourism. He said they will revive every aspect of the Roman harbor. “We will build the very same Roman harbor here. Tools, boats, loading vehicles are being created just like their original,” he said.

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Bangladesh floats int’l tender for Tourism Master Plan

DHAKA, June 13, 2015 (BSS) – Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the National Tourism Organization (NTO) has recently floated an international tender to make a “Tourism Master Plan” for giving a boost to the country’s tourism industry, that is carting huge potential.

“We have already invited an international tender for the tourism master plan and carry forward necessary tasks to work on it,” CEO of BTB Akhtaruz Zaman Khan Kabir told BSS today.

He said Bangladesh needs a strong, competitive and international standard top planning ‘tourism master plan’ to help develop the industry in a comprehensive way ensuring a greater contribution to the national economy. “A master plan is very much needed. We must do it. Once it’s done we can develop the tourism sector in a comprehensive way,” he said.

The BTB top official said the tourism master plan will also help ensure proper utilization of the resources. “After having it, we must proceed step by step following the master plan,” he said.

Secretary General of PATA Bangladesh Chapter Toufiq Rahman said master plan and international branding are must to promote Bangladesh tourism in front of the foreign tourists. Lauding the government initiative to make a tourism master plan he said it was a long-lasted recommendation from the Bangladesh tour operators.

The government has declared the tourism as a thrust sector and decided to observe 2016 as a tourism year, said a senior official at the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry. The government is expecting 10 lakh foreign tourists here during the year of 2016, he said.

The government has allocated Taka 200 crore in the proposed budget for the fiscal 2015-16 for conducting various programme centering the tourism year. The BTB and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation have already made separate yearlong planning for celebrating the tourism year.

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Barisal divisional museum opened

BARISAL, June 8, 2015 (BSS)- Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor today inaugurated the divisional museum at Barisal Old Collectorate Bhaban here.

“The door of the Barisal Divisional Museum has been opened to conserve the culture and heritage of the country. Through this, history and heritage of the past of this region will be protected,” he said while inaugurating the museum. Noor said the museum will be further enriched in phases.

He said the government is working earnestly to collect the archaeological evidences and uphold the history of them to the people.

Bangladesh is moving fast to become a self-sufficient country under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the minister added.

Noor said “The country is becoming digital. It is matter of time now to turn into a middle income country. No government could make these types of successes in the past.”

Chaired by Archaeology Department director general Shirin Akhtar, the inaugural function was attended by lawmaker of Barisal-5 constituency Jebunnesa Afroza, divisional commissioner Md Gaus, Barisal Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shaibal Kanti Roy and deputy commissioner Md Shahidul Alam.

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Biman to open Singapore route with new B737-800

DHAKA, June 8, 2015 (BSS) – Biman Bangladesh Airlines will operate its Dhaka-Singapore-Dhaka flights with newly purchased Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The announcement was made by the Chairman of the national flag carrier Air Marshal (retd) Jamal Uddin Ahmed in Singapore on Friday, a Biman press release said here today.

Biman Bangladesh organized the “Agent Award Night 2015” at the grand Ball Room of Hilton Hotel in Singapore where five agents received awards for their outstanding performance.

Bangladesh High Commission to Singapore Mahbub Uz Zaman and Biman’s Country Manager of Singapore Dilip Kumar Chowdhury also spoke on the occasion. Presently Biman operates Singapore flight six days in a week. It is one of the profitable routes of the national flag carrier.

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Responsible tourism urged for Sundarbans

DHAKA, June 11, 2015 (BSS) – Leading tour operators and tourism experts today urged all tourists to practice responsible tourism while visiting the Sundarbans for protecting biodiversity and wildlife of the world’s only mangrove forest.

It was observed that some tourists and picnic parties in the Sundarbans are using loud speakers, littering garbage everywhere and trying to feed junk food to deer that are clear threats to wildlife and ecology of the forest, they observed while talking at a workshop in the capital.

The National Hospitality and Tourism Training Institute (NHTTI) and Tourism Forum of Bangladesh (TFB) jointly organized the workshop on “Nirapad Sundarbans Bhromon (Safe Tour to the Sundarbans)” at the seminar hall of Bangladesh Pajjatan Corporation (BPC) at Mahakhali here.

During the workshop it was revealed that nearly 2.75 lakh tourists are visiting the Sundarbans annually and among them 15 percent are foreign tourists.

Executive Director of Bengla Tours Masud Hossain conducted the workshop and discussed on safe and sustainable tourism, existing problems and new policy for the Sundarbans tour operation.

Masud said now domestic tourists are feeding different junk food even “Halua Rooti” to deer at different spots in the Sundarbans. “As per the wildlife experts, if the practice continues the food habit of the deer will be changed within few decades,” he said.

He identified numbers of drawbacks for the Sundarbans tourism including lack of coordination in carrying out planned tour operation, lack of skilled tour guides and ship crews, lack of quality tourist vessels and development of unplanned tourism establishments.

Masud said the government and all tourism stakeholders must ensure so that no tourism structure will hamper the ecology or wildlife of the Sundarbans.

Acting principal of NHTTI Matiul Karim inaugurated the workshop as the chief guest while General Secretary of PATA Bangladesh Chapter Taufiq Rahman was in the chair.

Former President of Tour Operator Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) Faridul Haque, Editor of Daily Ajkaler Khabar Pranab Saha, TFB Convenor Zahriuddin Babor, joint convenor Md Taslim Amin Shovon, General Secretary of Aviation and Tourism Journalists’ Forum of Bangladesh (ATJFB) Tanzim Anwar and CEO of Radio Bhuban Nusrat also spoke on the occasion.

Around 25 tour operators and 20 (twenty) tour guide attended the workshop that will help them to operate safe and eco-friendly Sundarbans tour in near future.

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Int’l expo begins in Kunming to step up regional cooperation

KUNMING, (China), June 12, 2015 (BSS) – The five-day 3rd China-South Asia Expo (CSA) kicked off in Kunming today (Friday) to step up greater regional cooperation with a coordinated effort by China and South Asian countries, including Bangladesh.

“We will be working together deeply and sincerely to promote the culture and the objectives of “One Belt, One Road (OBOR)” strategy, which will also ensure a win-win situation for the countries on either sides of the Himalayas”, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao told the inaugural ceremony.

Referring to the $40 billion outlay for the OBOR, he said this investment initiative would help bring China and other nations in this region closer for better cooperation. “We believe a good neighbour is better than a distant relative,” the vice president said.

The colourful ceremony was held at the Dianchi International Convention and Exhibition Centre, overlooking the tall reeds in the Wujiatang Wetland Park of the Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province.

The function hall was packed with invited people from different provinces of China and the countries from and beyond South Asia. There were policymakers, entrepreneurs, business leaders and experts in regional connectivity and trade.

Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury attended the inaugural ceremony and also addressed the function. The speaker in her speech highlighted the country’s latest progress in economy and major social sectors, which have created a very favorable environment for trade, business and investment.

Referring to the constant 6.0 percent growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the past few years, the speaker said the persistent growth in the economy helped Bangladesh reduce poverty rapidly in the recent years.

“The poverty in this region would also go down significantly if the countries in this region can achieve steady growth with strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation”, she said. Cited that Bangladesh and China has a long history of bilateral relationship, she said this relationship would also be instrumental to boost the cooperation between China and South Asian nations.

The speaker also visited different pavilions, stalls and booths of the Expo including the Bangladesh pavilion where 28 companies are participating to showcase the country’s heritage, entrepreneurships and trade and investment opportunities.

Vice President Li Yuanchao and President of Yunnan Chen Hao addressed the inaugural function, among other leaders from the host country and South Asia. India is the country of honor of this year’s expo, and Thailand is the guest of honor of the Import and Export Fair.

This year the event aims to enhance the comprehensive China-South Asia cooperation and development, boost the construction of the OBOR, a development strategy and framework of China that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries through the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).

Around 75 countries or regions in the world have confirmed to participate in the 3rd China-South Asia Expo, according to the latest information of the Yunnan International Expo Bureau. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal are participating from South Asia region.

A total of 13 exhibition pavilions have been be set up at Kunming Expo venue, which is a newly-built building mainly designed for holding China-South Asia expo. There are 6,150 booths this year, double than that of last year. Some 500 companies will exhibit their products in the expo.

Some important conferences like Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar Business Council Work Conference, Bangladesh Human Resources Cooperation Meeting, and Female Entrepreneur Roundtable Meeting have been organised during the Expo.

Business delegations from Bangladesh, representing different chambers are participating in the Expo and the side events.

Besides the major events of the Expo, there are some attractive display including a lunar exploration programme, an unmanned aerial vehicle and some small innovation-oriented enterprises referring to technology, agriculture, or ethnic culture to be exhibited.

Introduced in 2013, the CSA Expo is a flagship annual event of the Yunnan province. The first Expo attracted 467 foreign leaders and guests, 35 delegations from various countries, over 600 professional buyers from State-owned enterprises, private corporations and financial institutions, investors and nearly 50,000 visitors in professional fields. There were at least 1,200 foreign exhibitors who made business deals worth $17.466 billion.

The 2nd CSA Expo was held with the theme “expanding trade in services, boosting investment-centered cooperation, accelerating inter-connectivity, and jointly constructing economic corridors”.

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Brunei halal businesses keen to invest in Mindanao

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 12, 2015 – TRADE between Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines is set to receive a strategic boost as the governments of both nations look for ways to diversify their economic relationship by contributing to the Philippine’s development, particularly in Zamboanga in Mindanao.

The Philippines Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Meynardo L Montealegre, in an interview yesterday explained that the Philippines government has invited the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources to invest in Mindanao with specific emphasis on catering to the Halal needs of the Muslim population and promoting the area as a destination for Muslim tourists.

Though it was noted that the Mindanao area is currently the focus of tensions between the Moro-Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippines government, it was assured that both sides are looking into securing peace and stability in the region.

This, explained Meynardo Montealegre, will be done through what is known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that embodies the government’s peace agreement with the MILF which is seeking autonomy from the central government but is open to negotiations under the BBL. The drafted law, it was added, is still being deliberated upon in congress with reports indicating that lawmakers are aiming for a September deadline.

“The Philippines government is looking very intently on completing the BBL as a way to bring about peace in the region and once that is established this will contribute to the development of Mindanao in all aspects, such as in terms of better trade, economic opportunities and the perception that it is a difficult place will be erased from memory,” the ambassador added.

The location, home to a sizeable number of the Philippine’s Muslim population – almost one million – “Is resource rich and has human capital,” that can be tapped into, making Mindanao ideal for Brunei’s investment plans.

“We have received positive feedback and indications from the government and we are looking towards forging a Memorandum of Understanding in order to mobilise cooperation in the Halal industry.”

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Registration open for Brunei Museums Race in August

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 10, 2015 – THE Brunei Museums Department as part of its efforts to reach out to the public for the purpose of encouraging society to rediscover the country’s heritage through a socially fun and challenging activity will be organising a ‘Museums Race Brunei’ on three consecutive Sundays on August 16, 23 and 30.

The race, which is being held in conjunction with the department’s 50th anniversary celebration this year, is aimed at revitalising interest in the country’s rich national heritage such as historical buildings and sites that have become synonymous with the department in modern-day Brunei.

Divided into teams of four people each, participants will spend the three Sundays exploring museum galleries, books, leaflet and historical sites to find clues through riddle-solving, scavenger hunts, facing obstacle-based challenges and more in ‘The Amazing Race’ styled activities.

The race, which will cover 10 historical buildings and sites in the Brunei-Muara and Tutong Districts, is being organised by Armtrix Enterprise and to register, interested teams must log on to www.museumsracebrunei.com.

All registered participating teams will be entitled to T-shirts, bags, medals, car stickers and flags. The closing date for registration is July 2.

The public can also follow the Brunei Museum’s Facebook page at ‘Jabatan Muzium-Muzium Brunei’, the department’s Instagram account at @jabatanmuziummuziumbrunei and twitter at JMMBrunei (@muzium2)

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Brunei’s diverse forest landscape can boost tourism

Borneo Bulletin Online – June 10, 2015 – Ecotourism is one of the increasingly important and emerging industries in Asean with 100 million tourists visiting the region in 2014. Asean nations are implementing sustainable land resource development to preserve natural habitats, which attract many of the visitors to the region.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is striving to protect the world’s natural beauty such as the planet’s physical natural features and has encouraged a stronger international cooperation to ensure an effective conservation of the natural heritage, including the endangered and last remnants of natural forest and aquatic ecosystems.

Singapore City, which is known for its ‘City in the Garden’ concept, has made tremendous efforts and investment in the enhancement of the city’s natural beauty to balance its rapid infrastructural development. Its land area is very limited and yet its landscape development is manoeuvred towards a more greener environment.

Singapore’s 156-year-old botanic garden is now one of the potential UNESCO World Heritage sites. This area offers the highest quality of biodiversity (flora) on display. However, the quality of biodiversity is very much dependent on the extent of natural, semi-natural areas, the protection of forest ecosystem services and wildlife species within the area that form an integral landscape along with infrastructural development.

In comparison, Brunei Darussalam has a total land area that is about eight times bigger than Singapore’s and its forests cover an area about six times the size of Singapore. This means that Brunei’s landscape is still dominated by primeval forests which have distinctive or unique ecosystems – a naturally established forest garden.

In view of this, the capital city itself including the districts’ towns and human settlement areas are still surrounded by the nature associated with the existence of highly diverse forest landscape, which is accessible and can boost further the ecotourism activities.

The communal forests at Brunei Bay and Brunei’s rivers are highly valued by the coastal residents since the early days. Nowadays, the coastal and city’s forests provide suitable habitats for wild flora and fauna, especially the mangrove forest known as the natural gabion and wave breaker.

A few species of wildlife are easily spotted such as common species of birds, making the area a wildlife haven and one of the most popular bird watching sites in Borneo Island.

The endangered species of Proboscis Monkey are common wildlife species that dwell in the coastal areas including within the city itself and nearby settlement areas, turning these areas into important urban wildlife hotspots.

Both biodiversity and habitat conservation are important. For the country’s growing ecotourism industry to continue to flourish, it requires eco-friendly infrastructural development.

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Nigeria Govt Urged to Strengthen Tourism Institutions

Vanguard – 12 June 2015 – The National President of Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP ), Mr. Nkereuwem Onug has urged the new government to focus on strengthening the various tourism institutions in the country so as to derive maximum economic benefits in the sector.

He said as a way of taking off there is the need to seek for those with knowledge of the industry so as to close the knowledge gap being experienced now.

Speaking with Vanguard in Durban, South Africa recently, Nkereuwem said “We need to develop the institutions , we need to get knowledgable people into positions.”

While noting that Nigeria has a lot of work to do to grow its tourism, Nkereuwem said Nigeria needs to be a little more serious as a country . “We need to make tourism to yield or improve our GDP.

“We have actually not developed our potentials, when you come to South Africa and see what is happening then you know we have not started, maybe because of oil, we now know that oil is drying up, so it is time for us as a nation to be a bit serious in tourism.

He said “when you come to a country like south africa and see what is happening, you can imagine the contributions of tourism to the country’s GDP, then we have not started, so there is lot of work to be done back home in nigeria.”

The tour operators boss said the first thing is about knowledge , then the next thing is how do we tap that knowledge and turn it to our benefit. “I think the first thing to do is strengthen the institutions and then get people with knowledge into offices so as to close the knowledge gap.”

Nkereuwem said the government needs to strengthen Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), “it needs to be refocused. The tourism ministry needs to know what they are doing. Who is marketing our country? For the past two years or so, we have not had any marketing Effects.”

While calling for a complete re-orientation , he said Nigeria needs to sell leisure tourism and doing that we need to sell it to Nigerians. “Yes, the domestic tourism is okay, but you also need to bring people to nigeria. Our focus needs to change, what we show to the world also needs to change. So I think there is a lot that needs to be done. We needs to strengthen the institutions.”

He added “There is also the issue of the partnership with the private sector. The partnership has to be with strong institutions before we can be able to stand. “Tourism is collaboration between the tour operators, the hoteliers, and entertainment . It is about consciousness and our people saying this is what we want.”

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Flydubai Launches Four Weekly Direct Flights to Somali City

Dalsan Radio (Mogadishu) – 9 June 2015 – Dubai-based flydubai’s inaugural flight landed on Tuesday at Somali Northern city of Hargeisa marking the launch of a direct four times weekly service to Hargeisa.

Fly Dubai’s delegation was headed by Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer of flydubai and Sudhir Sreedharan, Senior Vice President Commercial (GCC, Subcontinent and Africa) of flydubai.

The delegation was greeted by Abdirahman Abdillahi Ismail, the Vice-President of Somaliland and Mohamud Hashi Abdi, the Minister of Civil Aviation and Air Transport of Somaliland.

Commenting on the launch of the route, Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer of flydubai, said: “We strive to provide underserved markets with direct air links to Dubai. The addition of Hargeisa to our network will provide the Somali diaspora with the opportunity to visit their families and friends in their home country. With the interline agreements we have in place more than 250 destinations can now offer flights to Hargeisa through Dubai’s aviation hub.

Sudhir Sreedharan, Senior Vice President, Commercial (GCC, Subcontinent, Africa) at fly Dubai added: “fly Dubai is committed to creating free flows of trade and tourism between the regions we fly to and we believe that our reliable and convenient passenger and cargo services will help to open up the trade opportunities between Hargeisa and Dubai and onward destinations.”

Fly Dubai is the second international carrier to start flights operations in Somalia after Turkish airlines.

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Titiek Puspa’s “envoy of love” enthralls Londoners

10 June 2015 London (ANTARA News) – Famous Indonesian singer and songwriter Titiek Puspa and her childrens vocal group called “Duta Cinta” (Envoy of Love) entertained Londoners during “Hello Indonesia” cultural event held at Trafalgar Square, here, Sunday (June 7).

“I truly admire the performance of the “Duta Cinta” childrens vocal and dance group,” Colin Munsie, an Australian architect who lives in London, told Antara.

“Hello Indonesia” cultural event was initiated by Usya Soeharjono, the owner of “Nusa Dua” Indonesian restaurant in London.

Deputy Mayor of London Sir Edward Lister officially inaugurated the event aimed at promoting closer bilateral relations between Britain and Indonesia. Puspa sang a few songs such as “Jatuh Cinta”, “Kupu-kupu Malam”, Mari lah ke mari”, “Warung Pojok”, and “Bubui Bulan.”

Dedicated to little Princess Charlotte, she and the “Duta Cinta” singers, accompanied by Dwiki Dharmawans music, sang the Indonesian cradle song “Nina Bobo” (Sleep Nina).

“I dedicate the Nina Bobo song to the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Charlotte,” Puspa, who has 14 grandchildren, remarked.

Established in 2013, “Duta Cintra” comprises 10 youth hailing from different religious and racial backgrounds that reflects Indonesias unity in diversity.

Puspa has composed nine childrens songs for “Duta Cinta,” according to Managing Director of Titiek Puspa Management for Hello Indonesia Petty Tanjung Sari.

Petty is the daughter of Puspa, and her son studies in London.

The “Duta Cinta” vocal group sang “Aku Bangga Jadi Anak Indonesia” (I am proud to be Indonesian children), “Hono Hini”, and “Kau dan Aku Indonesia” (You and I are Indonesia) written by Puspa.

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US-Indonesia deepen cooperation on aviation

11 June 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – U.S. Federally Funded Research and Development Center MITRE signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tuesday with Airnav Indonesia, as well as with Angkasa Pura II, agreeing to cooperate on technical aviation support.

Held at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Robert Blake, the MOU signing came at the conclusion of the U.S. Industry Day, hosted by the Ministry of Transport, according to the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta on its official website.

The day also served as the launch event for the Aviation Working Group (AWG), which consists of U.S. and Indonesian private sector and government entities.

During the Tuesday morning launch event, Ambassador Blake noted: “President Jokowi has made infrastructure development a key pillar of his governments economic growth strategy, and aviation sector development is central to that effort. That is why I am so pleased to help launch the Aviation Working Group, which will provide a platform for U.S. government and private sector engagement with Indonesias aviation stakeholders, to share best practices from around the world, and to propose and provide innovative solutions and services to support Indonesias aviation sector growth. U.S. companies are uniquely qualified to meet the challenges of the growing aviation sector in partnership with the Indonesian government and aviation stakeholders.

The AWG aims to plan mutually beneficial activities and engagements under the working group that aligns the interests and strengths of U.S. industry with Indonesias priorities in key areas including: Air Traffic Management Modernization, Airport Infrastructure, Aviation Safety and Security, Development and Growth of Aviation Support Services, Airspace and Airport Capacity Analysis, Development, and Planning, General Aviation Access and Integration and Cargo Security.

AWG members include 23 U.S. companies who presented their solutions to help meet Indonesias aviation sector needs, representatives from the Directorate General for Civil Aviation, airport operators Angkasa Pura I and II, and navigation agency Airnav Indonesia, as well as the Indonesian Aviation Association and Indonesian airline companies.

U.S. Government representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and the Transportation Security Administration also joined the AWG discussions.

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Indonesia to waive visas for 30 more countries

12 June 2015 Nusa Dua (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government plans to waive visa requirements for 30 more countries from July 1 to attract more tourists.

“The free visa facility may increase the number of tourist arrivals,” Deputy for Overseas Tourism Marketing Development of the Ministry of Tourism I Gede Pitana said after the opening of the Bali and Beyond Travel Fair here.

The addition of 30 new countries to Indonesias free visa list is expected to increase the number of tourist arrivals by around 5 percent to 10 million from last years 9.5 million, he added.

“We will see a rise of at least 500,000 tourists,” Pitana affirmed. One of the 30 countries that will be included in the free visa list is India, he pointed out.

So far, Indonesia has applied its free visa policy for citizens of the nine member states of ASEAN as well as Chile, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Macau, Morocco and Peru.

“If the 30 countries are included in the second phase of the free visa list, the number of countries that will enjoy free visa facilities will be 45,” he noted.

Among other countries in the list, which will come into effect on July 1, are China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In addition, he stated that the government had discussed the inclusion of these 30 countries in its free visa list at length.

The Indonesian government has set itself the target of attracting 20 million tourists by 2019.

Last year, the number of tourists visiting Indonesia rose 7.19 percent to 9.44 million, up from 8.8 million in 2013, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). Also, the number of tourist arrivals in the world-renowned resort island of Bali reached 3.7 million last year.

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Qayt Bey’s loggia to become handicrafts centre

Al-Ahram – Tuesday 9 Jun 2015 – After restoring the Sultan Qayt Bey loggia in Cairo’s Mamluk cemetery, Egypt’s antiquities ministry is to transform it into a centre to sell local handicrafts.

The European Union’s delegation in Egypt is to provide the budget for the loggia’s transformation and the ministry is to supervise the works, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, the Minister of Antiquities’ Deputy for Islamic and Coptic Monuments, describes the project as “important” because it would contribute to conserving the monument through constant use and regular maintenance.

“It will also help to promote the handicrafts produced by local residents and raise awareness of the country’s cultural heritage,” Abdel Aziz said.

The construction of Qayt Bey’s funerary complex started in 1470 and was completed in 1474. It includes the loggia, whose features include stained glass, as well as a mosque, a mausoleum, a waterwheel, and animal drinking troughs.

When it was first built, Qayt Bey’s complex made up an entire royal quarter in the then lightly urbanised desert cemetery area east of Cairo.

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Tourists in Egypt rose by 7.4% in April

Ahram Online , Thursday 11 Jun 2015 – The number of tourists visiting Egypt rose by 7.4 percent in October compared to the same month in 2014, according to the latest official figures.

Egypt welcomed 923,900 foreign tourists in April, compared to 860,000 in the same period of the previous year, state-owned statistics agency CAPMAS reported on Thursday.

Around 40 percent of visitors in April came from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia, while 34 percent were from Western Europe and 12 percent were from the Middle East.

Egypt’s tourism sector, which took a blow following the 2011 uprising, has seen a relative recovery in the last year receiving 9.9 million tourists in 2014, up from 9.5 million in 2013.

But an attack on one of Egypt’s most popular ancient attractions in Luxor on Wednesday has stirred fears that the sector’s recovery might have taken another blow.

Two people, who the interior ministry believe to have been the attackers, were killed “when a bomb one of them was carrying blew up”, while another alleged assailant was injured when he was shot in the head, the ministry has stated.

Tourism used to be one of Egypt’s main sources of foreign currency reserves, which stood at $19.56 billion in May.

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Canada Muslims Dedicate Ramadan to Fight Hunger

OnIslam Correspondent – Friday, 12 June 2015 TORONTO – Canadian Muslims have launched a campaign across the country to feed the hungry during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, due to begin June 18, in North America.

“Brown bag your lunch for the month or tally up 30 days of coffee money,” says Give 30 founder Ziyaad Mia. “Whatever it is, it can make a difference in the lives of those who don’t have enough to eat.”

Give 30 is designed to motivate people fasting in Ramadan to donate the money they save by skipping meals over the month.

People who aren’t fasting can also take part, says Give 30 founder Ziyaad Mia, noting that donations have come from people of all faiths and backgrounds.

Founded in 2012, Give 30 has become a national campaign with eleven partner food banks in six provinces.

The initiative has raised almost $250,000 to fight hunger over the past three campaigns. “This is a grassroots movement that’s catching on across Canada,” says Mia.

The Toronto lawyer and social activist attributes the success of the campaign to the simplicity of the idea and the power of social media.

“Despite prosperity in our city, hunger continues to be a challenge for some of our neighbours,” says Toronto’s Daily bread Food bank in a news release. “Last year, Daily Bread received over 700,000 client visits and a third of those visits were children.”

“Together we can build a better city and a better society where everyone is afforded dignity, respect and compassion,” says Daily bread Food Bank. “However, that requires each of us to lead by example.”

“The campaign’s timing couldn’t be better,” says North York Harvest Food Bank. “Give 30 runs at a crucial point for food banks like North York Harvest, as food and fund donations generally hit yearly lows during the summertime. Even a small donation of $20 would be enough to feed 4 children at a youth shelter for an entire month.”

Ramadan is about giving, building community, and understanding the challenges of hunger, says Mia. “Everyone can participate in the spirit of Ramadan,” Mia emphasizes. “Hunger knows no race, religion, ethnicity or creed and that’s why it’s important for everyone to join Give 30.”

Give 30 runs in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Quebec, Mississauga, Ottawa, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Regina and Kingston.

Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.

Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011. Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population.

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Indonesia Plans World Islamic Center

OnIslam & News Agencies – Tuesday, 09 June 2015 JAKARTA – Leading the way as the world’s most populous Muslim state, Indonesia has announced plans to construct an international Islamic study center, in a bid to spread true Islam across the world.

“We will arrange 200 hectares to build the world center for Islamic studies,” Vice President Jusuf Kalla stated in Tegal, Central Java, on Monday as quoted by Antara news agency.

The vice president added that Indonesia, as a country with the largest Muslim-majority population in the world, should play a greater role in spreading Islam.

“We are grateful for it. Indonesia should have a major role in the development of Islam in the world,” Kalla remarked.

The move followed calls by different governments for Indonesia to take a greater role in solving issues in the Muslim world, during a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the Asian-African Conference 2015 in Bandung recently.

The studies center would offer people an addition to Egypt’s Al-Azhar. “If people want to know about Islam more deeply, they can just come to Indonesia,” the Vice President observed.

He added that the international Islamic center would be built regardless of the costs required. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim state with Muslims making up around 85 percent of its 237-million population.

Christians, both Protestants and Catholics, make up nearly 12 percent of the country’s population.

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New Fasting Rules Where Sun Never Sets

OnIslam & News Agencies – Thursday, 11 June 2015 STOCKHOLM –Making fasting easier for Nordic Muslims, where fasting lasts for more than 20 hours in summer, a Swedish Islamic organization has presented new guidelines to cope with that situation ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“We’ve got two difficult questions, not just when you can break the fast in the north but also when you should start fasting,” Mohammed Kharraki, a spokesman for Sweden’s Islamic Association, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Thursday, June 11.

“You’re supposed to start fasting before the sun rises, at dawn. But there is no real dawn in the summer months in Stockholm.” Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, starts on Thursday, June 18.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset. The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.

In some parts in northern Sweden, such as Kiruna, the sun never sets for much of June and July.

The never-ending days have prompted confusion amongst Muslims living in Sweden, as they hope to strictly observe the custom of fasting without any unberable hurdles.

In previous years, Muslims in sub-Arctic towns like Kiruna were advised to break their fast at the same time as people in the south but a meeting of Swedish and European imams in northern Sweden this week recommended a new approach.

“Now you should go by the last time the sun clearly set and rose,” said Kharraki, adding that detailed guidelines were still being worked out and could also involve breaking the fast in the early evening to be more in line with the rest of the world.

Drawn by the European Council for Fatwa and Research, the new rules are expected to apply across the continent and will include advice on situations when Muslims can break fasting to avoid any detriment to health for lack of food and water.

“People can try to fast for 19 hours but not handle it. That’s not the idea… If you don’t manage to do your work or stay on your feet, then it’s time to break the fast,” said Kharraki.

Last year, the council issued fresh guidelines, allowing Muslims to follow the sun in Stockholm or in Malmö.

Muslims make up some 200,000 of Sweden’s nine million people, according to semi-official estimates.

But according to the Islamic Center in Malmö, there are around 350,000 Muslims living in Sweden.

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.

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Iran, Algeria call for enhanced cultural relations

Algiers, June 13, IRNA – Iranian ambassador to Algeria Reza Ameri and Algerian Minister of Culture Azzedine Mihoubi on Saturday called for enhanced cultural relations between the two countries.

They made the remarks in a meeting in Algiers.

Ameri congratulated the Algerian minister on appointment to the post.

Referring to cultural and social common grounds between the two nations, Ameri said that the Islamic Republic of Iran is willing to develop cultural cooperation with Algeria.

He called for scientific and artistic cooperation between Tehran and Algiers and participating in exhibitions and specialized meetings.

Ameri said that Iran is ready to hold Iran’s Cultural Week in Algeria in October.

Meanwhile, Mihoubi, who was appointed as Algeria’s minister of culture last month, said that his country attaches special significance to relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Mihoubi called for further cooperation between the two countries on cinema, repairing and keeping artistic works and manuscripts in Algeria, some of which have been written in Persian language.

He welcomed holding Iran’s Cultural Week in Algeria as a crucial step to introduce Iranian culture to the Muslim nations, particularly, the Algerian people.

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Italy plans more tourism cooperation with Iran

Yasuj, June 13, IRNA – Italian ambassador to Tehran Mauro Conciatori said on Saturday that tourism is a common ground to develop economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

According to Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department in Buyer-Ahmad, Italy ambassador was on a visit to the tourist sites of Kohgiluyeh and Buyer Ahmad province.

‘I will introduce tourist sites of Iran and Kohgiluyeh and Buyer-Ahmad province to Italian investors,’ he said.

‘I enjoyed very much visiting cultural attraction in the province,’ he said. He also lauded the hospitality of people in the province and said the province has unique handicrafts.

Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department of Buyer-Ahmad Mohammad Hosseinzadeh said there are some 2,600 historical monuments and 250 beautiful sightseeing in the province attracting foreign tourists.

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SCTA, Aramco tie up to promote tourism

Arab News – 14 June, 2015 – Saudi Aramco will participate in the “Live Saudi Arabia” program by organizing trips to King Abdul Aziz World Cultural Center, after it opens next year. At least 5,000 students from various regions of the Kingdom are expected to take the trips each year.

A partnership agreement in this regard has been signed between Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), and Health Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Saudi Aramco Khalid Al-Falih at the company’s headquarters in Dhahran.

Prince Sultan was received by Al-Falih and company President Amin bin Hassan Al-Nasser. The prince toured the company’s sites, including King Abdul Aziz World Cultural Center.

During his speech, Prince Sultan said that the agreement stems from the confidence and special partnership between SCTA and Aramco in the fields of tourism, antiquities and national heritage.

He said that the partnership has yielded successful results such as the cooperation in antiquities exploration in the Eastern Province, cooperation in preserving antiquities, exchange of expertise in field research, administrative development and tourism investments, as well as recovering national treasures that left the Kingdom in illegal ways.

The prince said that the Saudi Excellence in Tourism Award will be given to Aramco for its exceptional role in supporting the development of tourism, particularly by sponsoring tourism initiatives.

He highlighted the importance of Live Saudi Arabia, which gives young people the chance to tour important sites in the Kingdom. This gives them the opportunity to be introduced to the history and landmarks of the country and recognize its cultural and tourist potentials, he said. “This will encourage them to actually interact with these sites, have memories of them and not just live there or know about them from history books.”

Al-Falih said that Live Saudi Arabia has three strategic advantages — cultural renewal of the Kingdom and the Arabian Peninsula, cultural, religious and recreational tourism and job opportunities.

Travel and tourism contribute more than $ 7 trillion a year to the global economy and support about 270 million jobs. Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.

Live Saudi Arabia is a national initiative which aims to restore the Kingdom in the hearts of Saudis by encouraging them to visit historic locations. The program relies on tourism trips as a major means to strengthen citizens’ relations with the country.

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Oman Summer Offers exhibition opens

Oman Daily Observer – 12 June, 2015 – “Oman Summer Offers” exhibition opened yesterday under the auspices of Ahmed bin Nasser bin Hamad al Mehrzi, Minister of Tourism, in the presence of Maitha bint Saif al Mahrouqiyah, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism.

The three-day exhibition is being organised in cooperation with the tourist institutions in the Sultanate to encourage the interior tourism in summer season by providing special offers for citizens and residents.

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Qatar tourists prefer Turkey and Malaysia

The Peninsula – 13 June, 2015 – Turkey and Malaysia have emerged as favourite tourist destinations for an increasing number of Qataris and expatriates, with traditional Arab destinations like Beirut, Cairo and Damascus losing charm due to political and sectarian conflicts in the region, say travel industry sources.

Despite a sharp hike in air fares to almost all destinations with the onset of summer, the industry has reported a high demand for tickets from tourists and vacationers.

Although tourist flow to Middle East destinations has dropped drastically, the number of Arabs on vacation is on the rise with the relative stability witnessed by some countries like Egypt.

“There had been predictions about a lull in business this year, but we have seen an increase in bookings to all major destinations, despite high fares.

“Europe remains a favourite destination for Qataris going for long holidays while Turkey and Malaysia have been preferred by a large number of Qataris and expatriates,” a travel executive told this daily yesterday.

“With problems in the Middle East, Turkey has emerged as the most favourite for Qataris and tourists from other Arab nationalities,” he added.

The peak holiday season in Qatar normally starts with the beginning of July, but this time it would be delayed a bit because Ramadan comes in between.

Most tourists will travel after Eid, but bookings are in full swing. Holidays may be scattered this year, which means there would be demand for tickets throughout the season, said a travel agent.

“For long holidays, Qataris prefer Europe and the US and London traditionally tops the list. France, Italy, Spain, among other European destinations, are also attracting a large number of Qataris,” he said.

He said shopping is a main hobby for most Qataris travelling with families. There are some highly affluent Qataris who charter flights to visit their favourite summer destinations.

While most Middle East destinations have been hit hard, Dubai remains the single destination in the region that attracts tourists from Qatar throughout the year.

“Dubai is the most favoured destination for Qataris and expatriates on short visits. We see high demand for tickets almost every weekend throughout the year,” said the agent.

Malaysia, especially capital Kuala Lumpur, tops the list in Far East, followed by Singapore and Thailand.

While many Asian expatriates prefer Malaysia due to its natural beauty and relatively low expenses, the country’s Islamic culture and modern infrastructure are an additional attraction to many Qataris and other Arab tourists. Fares to most destinations, especially South Asian countries that send the largest number of foreign workers to Qatar, have increased by 10 to 15 percent this year compared to last summer, said a source. “Prices are controlled by demand and supply. Airlines fix them based on demand. That is how prices fluctuate every day, every minute.”

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Qatar Airways to launch Abha flights from September

Arab News – 13 June, 2015 – Qatar Airways will begin flights to Abha from Sept. 2. The nonstop service from Doha will operate four times a week.

The city of Abha is the capital of Asir, a southwestern province in the Kingdom and is gaining popularity in the region as a tourist destination due to attractions such as its mild seasonal weather and fertile mountains.

Qatar Airways currently operates 82 weekly flights to seven key cities in Saudi Arabia. The airline recently announced an increase in frequency of flights to Qassim with 10 flights a week from 8, beginning July 17. The addition of Abha will increase the number of Qatar Airways’ weekly flights to Saudi Arabia from 84 to 88 nonstop flights.

Qatar Airways has been continuously expanding its services to Saudi Arabia since it began in 1997 with nonstop flights to Jeddah. Since then, the airline has added Madinah, Riyadh, Taif, Dammam, and Qassim and Hofuf to its portfolio of destinations.

“We have been steadily growing our presence and services to Saudi Arabia,” said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker.

“As our eighth destination, Abha will bring additional flexibility for passengers connecting from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. From Abha, passengers will be able to travel seamlessly through our Doha hub to popular cities such as London, Paris, Bangkok, Singapore, New York and Washington, and at the same time this will provide passengers travelling to Saudi Arabia the convenience of another gateway within the same country,” he added.

The Doha-Abha route will be operated by an Airbus A320 with an average travel duration time of just over two hours. The aircraft will feature 144 seats in a two-class configuration of 12 seats in Business Class and 132 seats in Economy. Selected aircraft will feature seatback TV screens, providing passengers with the next generation interactive on board entertainment system, featuring a choice of more than 900 audio and video on-demand options, together with an SMS text messaging service from each seat.

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Etihad to fly daily Abu Dhabi – Edinburgh

Khaleej Times – 13 June, 2015 – Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, will connect the Middle East to the Scottish capital with the launch this week of daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is Etihad Airways’ first Scottish destination, and its third point in the UK, alongside a triple-daily operation to London Heathrow and double-daily flights to Manchester.

The new service is operated with a two-class Airbus A330-200 aircraft, offering a total of 22 seats in business class and 240 seats in economy class.

Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer at Etihad Airways, said: “Scotland is the natural next step on our growth trajectory in the UK, with strong tourism and business traffic in both directions. We have been impressed by the welcome we have received from Edinburgh Airport and from the Scottish tourism industry. Many local stakeholders have played a part in attracting us to the city and welcoming us here, and we’re confident this service will be a great success.”

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