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13 Jul, 2015

New York to host first Muslim comedy festival

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 13 July 2015 (26 Ramadan 1436). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.





malaysia logo

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

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




ADB $150 million Loan to Improve Urban Services, Connectivity in Xinjiang

BEIJING, 30 June 2015, ADB media release — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $150 million loan for infrastructure and service upgrades that will help lift living standards, improve the environment, and boost trade opportunities for urban centers in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China.

“Tacheng City and the county cities of Emin, Tuoli, and Yumin are in a prefecture bordering Kazakhstan rich in agricultural and mineral resources, but with major gaps in infrastructure,” said Antonio Ressano-Garcia, an ADB Senior Urban Development Specialist. “This assistance will help deliver high-quality urban services to all citizens, and open up the cities’ potential to become cross-border trading hubs.”

The urban road network in the project cities is inadequate for the projected population growth, while access to basic utilities is also low – about 16% of households are not connected to clean piped water and 19% lack connections to the sewerage system. Further, only 65% of the population in Tacheng is connected to the district heating system, with much of the rest relying on inefficient coal-fired boilers and family heating stoves, which contribute to air pollution.

The project will involve a mix of physical and service improvements including rehabilitating and building roads; expanding green and public spaces; boosting municipal solid waste collection and sorting systems, water supply, water heating and sewage facilities; and upgrading equipment at the Baktu border land port. It also includes an integrated river rehabilitation and flood protection strategy in flood-prone Tacheng, including physical works like riverbank stabilization, combined with nonstructural measures such as flood forecasting and early warning systems. The strategy taps lessons and best practices from other ADB projects in the country.

The targeted improvements will dovetail with other measures being taken by the central and local governments to build road, rail and land port facilities, which will help the region take greater advantage of rising trade opportunities between Central Asia and the PRC. By supporting greater connectivity with Kazakhstan, the project is fully in line with the PRC’s New Silk Road Economic Belt initiative, the creation of economic corridors, and the enhancement of regional cooperation and integration.

The project is expected to directly benefit more than 250,000 urban residents—including ethnic minorities—with almost half the beneficiaries’ women and girls. It will also directly create almost 1,300 jobs during the implementation phase.

Accompanying ADB’s loan, the municipal government of Tacheng and the county governments of Emin, Tuoli, and Yumin will provide counterpart support of nearly $153 million. The project is due to run for about 5 years, with an expected completion date of end 2020.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.

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ADB $220 Million Aid to Help Pakistan Build Hazard-Resilient Infrastructure

MANILA, 30 June 2015, ADB media release – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved assistance of over $220 million to help Pakistan rebuild and upgrade roads, bridges and other high-priority infrastructure damaged by the devastating 2014 floods.

“Pakistan is highly dependent on agriculture and prone to floods and other extreme weather related-events like the current severe heat wave, and these will worsen as a result of climate change,” said Donneth Walton, Principal Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist in ADB’s Central and West Asia Department. “This assistance will support a build-back-better approach, with multi-hazard-resistant features incorporated into the restored infrastructure.”

The floods in September 2014 displaced over 2.5 million people across 44 districts, and damaged more than 445,000 hectares of agricultural land, causing severe hardship to about a quarter of a million farmers. A flood assessment report in 2014 estimated recovery needs at around $440 million, including $56 million for building resilience of the affected population and their productive assets.

The ADB loan will be used to rebuild important infrastructure in the worst-hit areas of Punjab Province and the districts of Haveli, Kotli and Poonch. The restored infrastructure will be built to withstand future extreme weather events. A $2 million technical assistance grant will be extended to increase the capacity of disaster oversight agencies to plan for and handle future disasters.

ADB’s assistance will complement relief efforts by other development partners. It will also allow the Government of Pakistan to redirect its finances to housing and livelihood cash grants for vulnerable groups, which will help restore economic activity in affected areas.

The project will be carried out over 3 years with an expected completion date of June 2018.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.

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Iran offers to help development of sport in Indonesia

Tehran, July 6, IRNA – Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Mahmoud Goudarzi said in a meeting with Indonesian ambassador to Tehran that Iran is willing to help development of sport in Indonesia.

Goudarzi said that policy of government of President Hassan Rouhani is to establish good relations with most world countries and sport is one of the means to strengthen ties between different nations.

He said that relations with Indonesia is important for Iran and that there are a lot of commonalties between the two nations either religious or cultural and political.

The minister underlined strengthening relations between Iran and Indonesia and said that Indonesia has good potentials in sport, which can be developed by good interaction with countries with cultural and religious commonalties.

“We can implement formerly signed MoUs,” he stressed.

Iran is a country with high level universities, Goudarzi said, reputable sport colleges there exist in Iran which would serve as an appropriate ground for exchanging professors, students, athletes and champions.

Indonesian Ambassador to Tehran Dian Wirengjurit said that the two countries have very friendly relations and good cooperation in all fields, especially in international organizations.

He said that Indonesia is fully aware about Iran’s sport abilities and capacities at global level, but, unfortunately Indonesia lost the opportunity, because those responsible for sport in Indonesia were looking to interact with the west.

We dispatched many athletes to the US, China, Japan and even Dubai which cost a lot for Indonesia, but since last October the new president helped change the outlook.

Wirengjurit said that he reported to Indonesian Sport Minister about progress Iran has made in sports and asked him to visit Iran to witness the progress closely.

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Tourism set for growth in Ras Al Khaimah

Travel & Tourism | Global Arab Network – Ras Al Khaimah saw its tourism industry hit a high note in 2014, with revenues surpassing Dh1bn ($242.9m), bolstered by the addition of new rooms and a rise in the number of hotel nights spent by visitors in the emirate.

As the government intensifies efforts to develop and promote the tourism sector, in line with Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi’s long-term vision for economic diversification, the sector is hoping to attract an increasingly wide range of regional and global visitors.

At the same time, budget carrier Air Arabia launched intra-GCC services to RAK International Airport (RIA) from May 2014, while the emirate’s flagship Al Marjan Island development witnessed a surge in new hotel rooms opening throughout the year.

Although the strengthening dirham and an anticipated decline in Russian visitors may pose a challenge to industry expansion in 2015, rising levels of British and regional visitors should help to counter the impact, keeping the emirate’s long-term tourism targets on track in 2015 and beyond.

The RAK Tourism Development Authority (RAK TDA) said in February that tourism revenues rose 44% in 2014, while the total number of nights spent by guests in the emirate grew by 72% from 2013 to reach 2.14m. The robust growth continued in the first quarter of 2015 with revenue up 26% year-on-year (y-o-y).

Growth was supported by dozens of hotel facilities opening last year, including the 655-room Rixos Bab Al Bahr Resort, the 315-room Marjan Island Resort and Spa, and Double Tree Hilton’s 484-room resort and spa, also on Marjan Island. The addition of these hotels saw the emirate’s total supply of hotel beds rise by two-thirds between September 2013 and September 2014 to reach 5000. The up-and-coming Marjan Island, a cluster of four man-made islands extending 4.5km into the Gulf, is also expected to raise the emirate’s international tourism profile.

In addition, RAK signed a deal with Marriott International in May, which will see the construction of a new 5-star luxury beach-front hotel that is expected to open in 2019.

Top visitor markets include the UAE, Germany, Russia, the UK, India, Ukraine and Italy in the first six months of 2014, although total visitor numbers dropped substantially in the period, falling from 577,900 in the first half of 2013 to 330,048 in the same period the following year. This was largely attributed to the effect of a weak rouble, resulting in fewer Russian tourists to the emirate. Despite this, tourist spending rose by 40% to reach $118.7m during the same period, according to media reports.

Without the significant hydrocarbons of many of its neighbours in the region, the RAK government has turned to industry, tourism, health and education in order to develop diversified economic growth.

The emirate has seen its tourism sector soar since the RAK TDA was established in 2011, with the authority most recently setting a target of an additional 1000 hotel rooms by 2017, the new CEO of the RAK TDA, Haitham Mattar, said in a statement in May.

One factor which has helped tourism arrivals in recent years is the emirate’s affordable luxury, which has given it a considerable advantage in an increasingly competitive market. Dubai’s Tri Hospitality Consulting reported that hotel rates in RAK averaged $175 per night in March 2014, compared to over $350 in Dubai.

Given a slowdown in Russian arrivals – with the Russian rouble falling by about 40% against the US dollar in 2014 – operators are looking to new visitor markets. Tourism operators have highlighted the relatively untapped European markets of the Czech Republic, Serbia and Romania, as well as Central Asian markets such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The UK is also a key target market, with visitor numbers rising by 239% in 2014 y-o-y to 131,054, making it RAK’s fourth-largest visitor market, according to RAK TDA.

Meanwhile with regional visitors representing the emirate’s largest tourism base, service expansion at RIA airport will help the emirate support long-term visitor growth. Air Arabia launched its RAK hub in May last year, its second hub in the UAE, with the airline now offering 10 destinations including Jeddah, Cairo, Muscat, Doha and Islamabad. It noted in February, at the launch of its 10th new destination to Kathmandu, that new routes are planned.

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700,000 attend Friday prayers at Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah

MADINAH, ARAB NEWS, 12 July 2015 : More than 700,000 people offered prayer at the Prophet’s Mosque on Friday, which could be the last Friday of the current holy month of Ramadan if the Shawal crescent is sighted Thursday.

Abdul Wahid bin Ali Al-Hattab, director of public relations at the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, was quoted by a website as saying that there were elaborate arrangements for the worshipers during Ramadan.

He said that 250 umbrellas and 436 spray fans were working in the open space to make the environment pleasant. “There is round-the-clock arrangement for cleaning and maintenance by a team of 1,350 workers. A total of 10,418 wudu (ablution) points are available and 15 electric escalators are operational at the mosque.”

Over 1,000 policemen have been controlling the movement of vehicular traffic and pilgrims in Madinah, he said.

Meanwhile, over 4 million vehicles entered Makkah in 23 days of Ramadan, the General Administration of Haj and Umrah in Makkah disclosed.

Sultan Al-Dossari, spokesman for the Makkah administration, said transportation was accorded top priority for Umrah.

Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also adviser to the king, followed up on the implementation of the plan. The plan was drawn up in coordination with various agencies to streamline vehicular traffic, Al-Dossari told local media.

He said that according to the Haj and Umrah administration, the plan included providing transportation facilities to worshipers and those who wished to perform Umrah, minimizing the traffic rush in Makkah, parking of vehicles and ferrying of pilgrims who had to park their vehicles far away from the Grand Mosque.

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Foreign commercial delegations streaming into Iran

Tehran, July 12, IRNA – Deputy Head of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI) for Marketing Affairs, Mir-Abutaleb Badri, said on Sunday that foreign delegations visiting Iran rose up in the first three months of the current Iranian year of 1394 (started on March 20).

Badri said that in addition to the delegations visiting Iran, number of countries whose delegations visited Iran also grew up by 50 percent as number of members of the delegations increased by 30 percent compared to the figures in the first season of last year.

He added that in the three-month period, 159 merchants toured Iran within framework of six delegations from eight countries – in the same period last year 207 traders within framework of 14 delegations from 12 countries visited Iran.

The official cited the nationality of the visiting traders in the first season of this year as Switzerland, Germany, Austria, South Africa, China, Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Lebanon and Iraq.

While in Iran, the delegations held talks with Iranian counterparts on Iran commercial capacity and expansion of economic cooperation.

The major occasions the delegations visited Iran were the Oil, Gas, Refining and Petrochemical Exhibition (Oil Show), International Exhibition Of Medical Equipment, the Third International Rail Transportation Exhibition And Related Industry (RAILEXPO), International Exhibition of Agricultural Industries (Iran agro food 2014) and International Gifts, Handicrafts, Watches & Houseware Fair 2014.

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Azerbaijan Celebrates National Day at Expo Milano 2015 With an Orchestra Concert

Thursday, July 9, at Expo Milano 2015 will be the National Day of Azerbaijan. For its first participation in the Unversal Exposition, the country chose an appreciation of its culture and a defense of biodiversity through a rich program of events.

In the presence of the First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mme. Mehriban Aliyeva, there will be performances, traditional music and dance, and samples of representative organic products and national recipes. At 11:00, the official ceremony will begin with the raising of the flag. After that, the delegations will be welcomed for a visit to the Italian Pavilion.

The official speech by Mme. Mehriban Aliyeva, will be given at 18:30 at the Expo Milano 2015 Auditorium, followed by a concert by the chamber orchestra of Azerbaijan dedicated to composer Qara Qarayev. The festivities will continue at 19:40 on the Decumano in front of the Azerbaijan Pavilion, where all visitors to Expo Milano 2015 can enjoy a program of traditional performances. After the performances, a reception will be held with samples of the country’s typical specialties, along with the grand opening of the restaurant on the terrace of the Pavilion, boasting a panoramic view of the Expo site.

The Pavilion project began with the idea of a biosphere as a metaphor for the country: a system open to external influences that values and protects the diversity inside it. Created to be disassembled at the end of Expo Milano 2015 and then newly reassembled in the capital city of Azerbaijan, Baku, the Pavilion was conceived, planned and built by Simmetrico network in collaboration with architecture studio Arassociati.

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Indonesians to get free motorcycle rides back home for Eid-ul-Fitri

2 July 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Transportation Ministry has allocated Rp36 billion in the state budget for 2015 to provide motorcyclists and pillion riders free homebound rides ahead of the Idul Fitri Islamic holidays.

To reduce the number of homebound travelers using motorcycles, the ministry will provide trucks, trains and ships to transport motorcyclists and their co-passengers to their destinations for free, Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan said here on Thursday.

While the ministry had opened online registration from June 1 to June 30, those interested in the free rides could register offline from June 15 to July 1.

More than 20,000 motorcycles were registered, of which 3,100 motorcycles will be transported by trucks, 9,000 by trains, and 10,000 by ships.

The Transportation Ministry had announced its plan to offer the free travel program for homebound motorcyclists through print and electronic media a month ago, the minister pointed out.

Motorcyclists are the focus of the ministry’s program because the number of traffic accidents involving them has always been the highest, Jonan explained.

This year, the government has estimated that at least 2 million homebound travelers will be using motorcycles.

In addition, the minister hopes that the number of traffic accidents involving motorcycles drops this year.

For the homeward bound, the ministry is ready to transport 6,440 passengers by bus and 2,880 motorcycles by trucks.

For inbound travelers, the ministry will follow the contraflow system after Idul Fitri to transport 400 motorcycles by trucks and 920 passengers by bus for free.

The destinations include Purwokerto, Kebumen, Wonosobo, Magelang, Solo, Wonogiri, and Tegal in Central Java and Yogyakarta.

Furthermore, the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) will deploy two Landing Platform Dock warships, KRI Surabaya-591 and KRI Banda Aceh-593, to offer free rides to motorcyclists heading to Semarang and Surabaya for Idul Fitri celebrations.

Jakartas homebound travelers using motorcycles can travel to Semarang or Surabaya by the navys warships for free, a spokesman for the TNI AL, First Admiral Manahan Simorangkir, said here on Friday.

“Homebound motorcyclists traveling with their wives, children and luggage face greater risks of traffic accidents,” he pointed out.

Therefore, he urged motorcyclists to opt for the free rides being offered by the navy. The TNI AL will provide them food and souvenirs aboard the ships during their journey home, he affirmed.

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Ramadan Event Connects Christians-Muslims in Malaysia

OnIslam & Newspapers Sunday, 05 July 2015 – Promoting understanding in the Malaysian northeastern state of Sarawak, a Miri mosque and church held a joint iftar event last Friday to show the religious coexistence between the two faiths in the Asian country. “Being able to enjoy such sincere religious and racial acceptance is priceless,” Datuk Lee, the state assemblyman for Senadin, told The Strait Times on Saturday, July 4.

Lee was referring to the interfaith event that was held by a mosque and church built next to each other near Miri City to celebrate Ramadan. Muslims and Christians from the Anglican, Catholic, Sidang Injil Borneo and Methodist churches attended the event which reflected the unique bonds between Miri faiths.

Located 100m from each other in the Lutong bazaar, An-Naim Mosque and Good Shepherd Church share their car parks on Fridays and Sundays to accommodate worshippers.

“It has become a way of life for us to share car parks and meet for gatherings. To us, Muslims and Christians are one big family,” said Imam Mohd Zulkifli Mohd Adnan.

During Friday’s interfaith event, religious leaders and attendants exchanged cakes and fruits before moving to the mosque compound to break the day-long fasting.

“This spirit of mutual acceptance comes naturally here,” said Pastor Donald Jute.

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started this year in the US and most European countries on Thursday, June 18, and is expected to end on July 16th.

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.

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.

Muslim Malays form about 60 percent of Malaysia’s population of 26-million, while Christians make up around 9.1 percent.

Buddhists constitute 19.2 percent, Hindu 6.3 percent, with the balance comprised of various other traditional Chinese religions.

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Sudanese Youth Launch Ramadan Iftar Campaign

KHARTOUM – OnIslam & News Agencies Monday, 06 July 2015 – Displaying some of the teachings of the month of Ramadan, a group of Sudanese youths have joined together to give the best they have to their society and modernize the manner of sharing food during Ramadan according to Al Jazeerah News.

“This is not new. Maybe the form of conducting it is, but the concept is as old as Sudanese society itself,” stated Mohammed Akood, a member Wosool, a youth organization for charity and education.

“Giving is cleansing for one’s soul. Besides, even if it’s just a handful of dates or a bottle of water, it still counts. The joy we see in people’s faces is enough,” he added.

In accordance with Ramadan traditions the youth intend to invest their energy to benefit society by creating a free Iftar zone aimed at reaching bus stations, hospitals, and other public places, delivering food baskets and water bottles.

Passersby will also be recipients of the charitable youth campaign, receiving a free iftar and a smile.

A member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Rabie Abd Alaatie, believes that these efforts are simply the modern form of Ramadan’s long tradition of charity and aid work.

“This is a continuation of the ordinances put in place by our ancestors. These initiatives serve in combination with official efforts and plug the gaps,” Alaatie stated.

Political analyst, Osman Mudawi, said this kind of work can counterbalance other efforts that, despite being more formal, stumble over the roadblocks of inefficiency or even corruption.

“The (youths’) work … is an indication of a tendency to take initiatives outside ulterior motives, which can sometimes taint the same type of work done by politically affiliated organisations,” Mudawi added.

Ramadan is often characterised by the smell of hilomur, a traditional Sudanese drink that fills the air with its scent, as people prepare its dry form before the month begins.

These kinds of traditions, coupled with large family and community gatherings, can make the month of Ramadan a time of rising costs for families.

“Some families feel resigned to the fact that it’s not going to be easy to prepare for the month. That is when we come in,” said Mohammed Khair Alseed, another volunteer.

The charity work evolved when a group of friends discussing how to help society came up with an idea that grew into a relief effort for families.

“A month before Ramadan, we started collecting donations from colleagues and friends and family to buy flour, food oil, dates, and sugar to give to families,” Mohammed Khair added.

Another volunteer revealed the secret of the programme.

“We launched an appeal on Whatsapp groups and opened a bank account where donations can be deposited,” said Sami Alshinawi.

By aiding vulnerable groups, such as jailed mothers to pay off their debts, the group has managed to help 60 people return home for Ramadan.

“It is incomprehensible for us that a woman would be jailed for an amount as little as $10, while her children are without help,” Alshinawi stated.

According to her, the initiative is on its way to achieving a second target of 100 people.

Another member of the group was proud of the fact that Jana has helped maximise the benefits of WhatsApp for charity.

“We chat all the time. But now we are able to make sure that the time we spend on social media will mean somebody ends up happy among their family.”

Ahmed Haroun is one of the volunteers using new forms of funding to further his work. Before the advent of Ramadan, he launched a plea on WhatsApp for small sums of money through mobile credit transfer.

“Pooled together, these transfers allowed me to serve about 10 people a day, give or take,” he said.

Haroun uses the funds to help Sudanese with relatives in the hospital, who often don’t have the means or time to feed themselves when taking care of others.

“We make sure that we help them so that they can help their loved ones,” he added.

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Jeddah creates Guinness world record with longest Iftar table

Wednesday 08 Jul 2015 – Jeddah (IINA) – The ongoing Ramadan festival called “Ramdanana Kida”(Our Ramadan was like this) at the historic Balad district of Jeddah has set a new Guinness world record for the longest connected iftar table.

Iftar is the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast after sunset during Ramadan. Jeddah’s longest iftar table measured 1.508 meters in length comprising 640 tables. The table arranged near Al-Jaffali Mosque brought together thousands of people from all over Jeddah to break their fast with the attendance of Saudi officials and representatives from the Guinness Book of Records. The event was organized by Afia in coordination with the governorate of Jeddah, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the organizing committee of “Ramdanana Kida” festival.

The official adjudicators announced the new record which beats the previous one in Finland last year where 1.286-meter-long table was arranged by Ölvin, Bistro Cantor and C&D Fastfood in Loviisa. The “Ramdanana Kida” festival includes commercial, social, cultural, religious, sporting, environmental and heritage activities. To represent the identity of the Hijazis, who love hard work and helping out people, the festival opened the way for more than 150 young Hijazis to get involved.

They welcome the visitors and guide them in Hijazi style, and also contribute to the maintenance of security and regulating traffic. On Tuesday, Prince Mishal Bin Majed, governor of Jeddah and the chairman of the high committee of “Ramadanana Kida,” toured the facilities and events of the festival. He was briefed on the overall activities of the festival, which aims to revive the Hijazi heritage. He advised the organizers to highlight this important traditional event with the aim of promoting the Kingdom as a hub of culture, literature and Arab and Islamic history that preserves its heritage and artistic treasures.

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Qatar Tourism Announces Eid Al-Fitr Festival Events

DOHA, Qatar, July 8 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), announced events for Eid Al-Fitr 2015 Festival, that will be held at different venues in the city over five days, starting on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, reports Qatar News Agency (QNA).

The Festival this year will offer daily family entertainment, including mime shows, The Rene Magritte Show, The Bubble Jo Show and the Magic Paper Artist, as well as, traditional Qatari Ardah performances at malls throughout the country, from 4pm to 10pm.

The shows will rotate between Hyatt Plaza, City Centre Doha, Ezdan Mall, Lagoona Mall, Al Khor Mall and Dar Al Salam Mall.

The Authority has planned exclusive shows at each of the malls, including Peter Pan (City Centre Doha), Circus Canada (Al Khor Mall), Jungle Book (Lagoona Mall), Pinocchio (Hyatt Plaza), The Little Prince (Dar Al Salam Mall) and Meet the Nicktoons (Ezdan Mall).

Festival highlights include family-friendly musical ‘Elmo Makes Music’ produced by the makers of the popular Sesame Street programme. The show will be held from July 18 to 22 at the Qatar National Convention Centre.

Older audiences will be able to enjoy the stage production “Bishowish Take it Easy,” a touring play that will be held at Katara Theatre from July 18 to 27, before moving to other Arab countries. The play stars a mix of 16 Qatari and Arab actors.

Daily fireworks will light up the sky at Katara Cultural Village, while Souq Waqif will host daily music concerts in collaboration with Sout Al Rayyan Radio Station. Celebrations will be taking place throughout The Pearl-Qatar, Al Dosari Zoo, Aqua Park, Sheikh Faisal Al Thani Museum, Al Samrya Horse Riding and Air Sport Committee.

To enhance tourists’ experiences throughout the Festival and share the Eid Al-Fitr spirit, QTA will work with its partners to welcome visitors at Hamad International Airport and Abu Samra Crossing with information pamphlets and ‘Eidiya’ – gifts traditionally given at Eid.

QTA Chief Marketing and Promotions Officer, Rashed Al-Qurese said QTA organised a number of festivals with its partners to expand tourism offerings and reinforce the country’s position as a preferred family-holiday destination.

Qatar has seen a surge in the number of visitors from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, notably a 31 per cent increase from Saudi Arabia during the first five months of the year, he added. The annual Eid Festival aims to increase the number of inbound tourists in the long-term.

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British Pastor Observes Ramadan in Solidarity with Muslims

OnIslam & Newspapers Tuesday, 07 July 2015 CAIRO – Inspired by spiritual fervor of the holy fasting month, a Birmingham pastor is fasting during Ramadan to show solidarity with UK Muslims and raise money for minorities.

It was an “excellent opportunity” to increase understanding between the two faiths and to “share perspectives on fasting and abstinence in each of our traditions,” Anthony Murley, a curate from All Saints Church on Herbert Road, Small Heath, told Birmingham Mail on Monday, June 6.

“We are aware of the difference between our faiths, as well as our common desire to serve our community with love. It is great to be able to maximize encounter with one another, to engage in shared learning and true friendship.”

The British curate was inspired by members of a nearby Mosque who took part in the Lenten season to promote understanding.

Besides fasting, the Birmingham pastor is raising funds for the Human Relief Foundation which helps persecuted Muslims and Christians in Iraq.

Murley is not the only Christian who is fasting Ramadan to display solidarity.

Earlier this month, Christians from across the world have been participating in a new campaign, #Christian4Ramadan, to share the spirits of the holy month with Muslims worldwide.

The idea of sharing Ramadan fasting was inspired by Muslims who decided last February to take part in Christians’ lent by abstaining from personal “bad habits” such as watching television or eating too much sugar.

Using #Muslims4Lent, Muslim youth tweeted photos of themselves in which they declare what they will be giving up. Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started on Thursday, June 18.

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

The goodwill gesture by the pastor has won the praise of neighboring Muslims who took part in Lent.

“I felt it was the perfect gesture to show solidarity with my local All Saints Church, who were observing lent,” Nasrin Shah, an interfaith link at the Hussainia Mosque, said.

Interfaith ties between the Hussainia mosque and All Saints Church began with the Mosque gifting the church a box of chocolates at Christmas one year. Later, the church gifted the mosque gifts at `Eid.

The relations were strengthened through several events organized by the two place of the worship like charity car washes, meeting for neighborhood projects and houses of worship tours for the local community.

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LEAD STORY: New York to host first Muslim comedy festival

Saturday 11 Jul 2015 – New York, (IINA) – Fighting stereotypes and racism with humor, a galaxy of American Muslim comedians will organize the first-ever Muslim stand-up comedy festival later this month in New York to give insights into the thriving Muslim comedy, according to OnIslam.

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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.

Titled “Muslim Funny Fest”, the first Muslim comedy festival is set to be held between July 21 and 23 in New York and will feature 10 Muslim comedians who will be performing over the three nights.

The groundbreaking festival was inspired by the New York Arab American Comedy Festival that has been held for the past 11 years and is also organized by Dean Obeidallah and Maysoon Zayed, the two comedians co-producing the Muslim event.

“We felt really strongly the need to show people that Muslims can be funny, that we have a sense of humor, and most importantly, that we can laugh at ourselves,” Dean Obeidallah, said.

Jokes about ISIL, Islamophobia and other issues related to Muslims will be made during the festival that aims to attract non-Muslim audience as well.

“Even though all the comedians are Muslims, we all have very different experiences, whether it is the culture we grew up in or the extent to which we practice our faith,” Zayed said.

“The common link that, sadly, brings us together is the bigotry and hatred we are currently experiencing as American Muslims, and I am hoping that the Muslim Funny Fest will do something to dilute that hate.”

“The United States is scared of two things: black people and Muslims,” comedian Preacher Moss says in a trailer for the fest. “I’ve got the best of both worlds.”

Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities. A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.

A recent survey showed that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.

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Qatar Airways Adds Six Weekly Flights To Manila

MANILA, Philippines, July 6 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways will add six extra flights per week between Doha and Manila, starting Oct 26 this year, the Qatari State carrier announced Sunday.

This increase in frequency of flights follows an expanded Air Service Agreement, signed by Qatar with the Philippines, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said that, the increase in flight frequencies on the Doha-Manila route was to further strengthen commercial and trade links between the two countries.

“We are delighted to provide Philippines-based passengers greater connectivity options when they choose to fly with Qatar Airways.”

Al Baker also said that, passengers travelling with Qatar Airways beyond Doha, can also look forward to flying on some of the world’s most advanced aircraft, including the A350 XWB.

The Doha-based carrier, most recently crowned Airline of the Year, at the 2015 annual Skytrax World Airline Awards, is currently flying eight flights per week to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

With the increase in weekly flights, Qatar Airways will operate a full twice-daily service to Manila, in addition to its daily flights between Clark and Doha.

The carrier operates Boeing 777 aircraft on the Doha-Manila route. It has 24 Business Class seats and 356 seats in Economy Class.

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Astounding Lebanese-Australian Day At ‘Hayda Lebanon’ Model Village

BEIRUT, Lebanon, July 7 (NNN-NNA) – A startling Lebanese-Australian day was marked at the typical Lebanese village “Hayda Lebanon” in the region of Zaarour, in the presence of Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Glenn Miles and the Maronite Bishop of Australia, Antoine Charbel Tarabay.

The remarkable day also took place in the presence of Tourism Ministry Director General, Nada Sardouq, National News Agency (NNA), Director, Laure Sleiman Saab, and scores of Lebanese expatriate community in Australia.

The ceremony included the unveiling of plates carrying the names of Lebanese villages, with the expatriate George Ghosein representing his hometown, Hadath Jebbe, expatriate Fadi Alzouki representing Rashaya Fukkhar, expatriate Farid Rahi representing Minieh, expatriate Sarkis Nassif representing Harf Erdeh, and expatriate Nazih Nicola Qunat.

In his delivered sermon, Bishop Tarabay expressed appreciation of all the assistance that Australia has offered to Lebanon and to the Lebanese living in Australia, indicating that the Lebanese people have truly loved the hospitable nation of Australia and many of them have succeeded in building safer and better future for them and their families.

“I would like to acknowledge the presence and the role of the Maronite Foundation in the World. Through their tremendous efforts, they have succeeded in helping many Lebanese immigrants and their families regain their Lebanese citizenships and, with that, rebuild connections and strengthen their ties with their homeland,” Bishop Tarabay said.

Ambassador Miles, for his part, said, “It is a privilege to have been invited to raise the Australian Flag this wonderful morning at Hayda Lebanon. And in such scenic surroundings – the mountains serve as an amazing back drop while the view across to the Mediterranean is nothing short of spectacular.”

Miles added, “This view is important, because it reminds us of what Lebanon has to offer-culture, tradition and history, all wrapped up in a unique and beautiful landscape that is amongst the most picturesque in the world. And that is why projects like Hayda Lebanon are so important, because they seek to preserve Lebanon’s heritage and to provide a snapshot of the living past. By doing so, they remind us of the challenges that have been faced, and the obstacles overcome.”

The Australian envoy went on to say, “This is a story that needs to be both repeated and reaffirmed to all Lebanese and visitors today, especially the young, because it’s only by understanding the past that our children can build a better future. And nowhere this is more important than in Lebanon.”

“Today, Lebanon faces new challenges – from the Syrian conflict, to its hosting of 1.5 million refugees, to the stand-off over the appointment of the president. And again, this is why projects such as Hayda Lebanon assist, because they demonstrate confidence in the future,” Miles said.

“As I mentioned previously, Lebanon has much to offer, particularly when it comes to tourism – both domestic and international. And the tourism sector is important for Lebanon – as it is for Australia. Tourism contributes to national income, creates jobs and accounts for a significant portion of the labour market. In 2014, the tourism sector was estimated to contribute to over 3 billion dollars to the economy, or almost 7% of the GDP. This is despite the regional turmoil which has decreased tourists’ number to the region and to Lebanon,” Miles added.

The Ambassador concluded, “So, today the tourism industry relies on the large number of Lebanese living abroad, who return regularly to the country during the summer season. And that’s why I feel privileged to be able to raise the Australian flag here at Hayda Lebanon – because despite the physical distance between our two countries, our ties are strong.”

It is to note that the Austrian flag was raised at the model village last week in the presence of the Austrian Ambassador and the Austrian community in Lebanon.

A Lebanese-Cypriot day will also be taking place at the Hayda Lebanon exemplary village next Saturday, July 11, 2015, in the presence of the Maronite Bishop in Cyprus, Joseph Sweif and Cypriot Ambassador to Lebanon.

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Malaysia Plans to Become Int’l Islamic Financial Centre

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia July 6 (NNN-Bernama) — The government uses effective approach and adopts efficient and integrated structure to develop Malaysia as an international Islamic financial centre, said Deputy Finance Minister, Chua Tee Yong.

He said the approach was due to the strong cooperation among various ministries, agencies, private sector and other stakeholders via the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Committee (MIFC) committee chaired by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor. (BNM is Malaysia’s central bank)

“The MIFC executive council (exco) acts as a coordinating body and is responsible on the direction of the industry. It will also ensure that the effectiveness and efficiency in the implementation of collective initiatives,” he said.

Chua said the exco would also study the existing policies to ensure they were in line with the government’s and industry’s roles and responsibilities in the development of the Islamic financial centre initiative.

He said this in reply to a question by Senator Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki at Dewan Negara (Upper House) here Monday.

Asyraf Wajdi wanted to know whether the Finance Ministry has plans to develop the Islamic financial system in Malaysia by establishing ‘local centres’ as in Qatar, Bahrain, UK and Singapore.

Chua said the plan and strategic issues would be discussed by MIFC exco to facilitate the administration and smooth implementation of the MIFC initiative.

“The exco will also be strengthened with the establishment of MIFC Promotion Unit. Also, the Home Ministry and Immigration Department will help in the issuance of visas and work permits for Islamic banking experts,” he said.

The finance ministry and Inland Revenue Board would also play their roles by providing tax incentives to open international Islamic bank, sukuk publications by multinational companies, Islamic banking experts and non-resident investors, he said.

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UAE Businessman Pledges $1.14 Bln For Arab Education

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 8 (NNN-WAM) – The United Arab Emirates business tycoon, Abdullah Al-Ghurair, said that, he would pledge 1.14 billion U.S. dollars of his wealth, to offer scholarships to young Arabs in the UAE and the Arab world.

Briefing the media at the head office of Dubai-based lender Mashreq Bank, which is owned by the Al-Ghurair’s family, the billionaire’s son, Abdulaziz Al-Ghurair said, the new Abdullah Al-Ghurair Foundation targets 15,000 outstanding students from underprivileged backgrounds, who will be granted scholarships for primary and secondary schools or university.

“This scholarship project for young Emiratis and Arabs from all Arab countries will be one of the largest privately funded philanthropic education initiatives in the Arab world,” said Al-Ghurair.

The family’s conglomerates consist of Mashreq bank and hospital, food, construction, real estate and educational institutions in the UAE and in the Middle East.

“The fund is devoted to equipping Arab youth with the knowledge and skills they need to fulfill their promise as the future leaders of the region. The selection process which picks students will be fully transparent and communicated to the public,” he said.

The project will kick off in the first quarter of 2016 and will run for over 10 years.

It will be divided into three phases. The first phase focuses on Emirati nationals in the UAE, while the second one will include foreign Arab nationals living in the UAE. The third phase will reach out to young Arab students across the Arab world, from Algeria to Iraq.

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Malaysia, Islamic Countries Trade To Rise 10 Pct

KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 (NNN-Bernama) — Bilateral trade between Malaysia and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries is likely to increase by between five to 10 per cent in 2015 from US$45.81 billion in 2014, says the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE).

Chief Executive Officer Dzulkifli Mahmud said both parties have a lot of room to improve in terms of products and services to enable them to diversify into new markets.

“We would like to encourage more Malaysian companies to go to OIC countries, in particular the GCC and African countries, as we need to diversify our exports in the current economic environment,” he said.

Between January and May this year, Malaysia’s total trade with OIC countries was valued at US$15.55 billion, down 19.7 per cent from US$19.37 billion for the same period in 2014.

Total exports to OIC countries for the first five months of 2015 amounted to US$8.20 billion, lower by 20.5 per cent as compared to US$10.33 billion in 2014.

Meanwhile, total imports from OIC countries between January and May 2015 were valued at US$7.35 billion, down 18.8 per cent from 2014.

Among Malaysia’s major trading partners within OIC countries between January and May were Indonesia (US$6.54 billion), United Arab Emirates (US$2.53 billion) and Saudi Arabia (US$1.17 billion).

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Planemakers Seeking Iran’s Post-Sanctions Market

TEHRAN, July 12, (NNN-IRNA) — Western planemakers look set to reap billions of dollars in deals with Iran, if a deal is done on its nuclear program to allow one of the world’s most promising aviation markets to come out of quarantine, the Reuters news agency said in a report.

“Iran and six world powers were struggling on Friday to remove the last obstacles to an historic deal in Vienna that could resolve a more than 12-year dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, extending talks through the weekend.

For Tehran, the prospect of sweeping economic sanctions and a long-standing U.S. trade embargo being lifted represents a chance to renew a fleet whose average age of 23 years is almost twice the international average, and to do so at affordable prices, after years of paying over the odds on the black market.

For Airbus, Boeing and other manufacturers, that could mean up to $20 billion in deals, shaped in part by the negotiating positions of various camps during the lengthy nuclear talks. And for Iran Air’s 38-year-old Boeing 747SP, the last of its kind, it should mean well-deserved retirement.

‘There are a lot of aircraft that are really at the end of their lives,’ said Maximo Gainza, senior consultant at UK-based fleet watcher Ascend Flightglobal. ‘Iran is going to be a very hot market as and when sanctions are lifted.’

The chairman of Iran Air, Farhad Parvaresh, told Reuters last year that, as soon as sanctions were eased, Iran would seek to obtain at least 100 wide-body and short-haul jets, but that it would turn to Russia and China if nuclear talks collapsed.

Iranian and Western industry officials estimate that Iran, a country of 80 million people, will need a total of 400 aircraft in the next decade, suggesting there will be business for both major Western suppliers due to the long waiting times.”

The report also said that “Iran Air’s Parvaresh also told Reuters last year that Iran would give preference to suppliers who had cooperated during a window for sanctions relief that opened up in 2014.

Boeing said in October it had sold aircraft manuals, drawings, charts and data to Iran Air in its first acknowledged dealings since the 1979 hostage crisis that wrecked U.S.-Iranian relations and triggered a U.S. boycott.”

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Egyptians Joyful With Robust Ramadan Evenings

CAIRO, Egypt, July 6 (NNN-XINHUA) – Once the call for the Sunset Prayer is heard and people finish their fast-breaking meal (iftar), after a long fasting day during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Egypt looks completely different.

The most populous Arab country turns into a beehive, with people going out to spend good times with family and friends.

The streets of Egypt, especially those of the capital Cairo, look more joyful, colorful and busy during Ramadan evenings, as coffee shops reopen their doors to visitors who would like to enjoy nice gatherings and spend some time for entertainment, until they have their pre-fasting meal (sahur), before dawn time.

Hundreds of Egyptians were moving around outside Hussein Mosque near Khan el-Khalili in downtown Cairo, amid fireworks, hanging colored lanterns and crowds sitting opposite to famous coffee shops that offer special services during the special month.

“Ramadan is a beautiful month and I love to go out to Hussein area with my small family in the evening and have our sahur in this happy environment,” said Mu’tassim, a 40-year-old employee, who was accompanied by his wife, mother and a little child wearing a funny red fez at one of the overcrowded coffee shops in the Hussein area.

Mu’tassim’s 65-year-old mother told Xinhua that, they spent the daytime in fasting, praying, worshipping and preparing the iftar, so they would love to go out in the evening to have some entertainment. “It’s a balance between worship and fun,” she said.

Since the month is so special for the Muslim country, coffee shops offer special services during Ramadan besides beverages and hookahs (shisha), while street singers with their two-man bands entertain the guests.

Reda, a street singer in his 30s, was performing at Hussein Nights coffee shop opposite the tall-minaret mosque near Khan el-Khalili, with his two-man band consisting of a lute player and a drummer.

“Actually I feel very happy while entertaining these people during such happy Ramadan evenings,” said Reda, after performing a popular song to customers who were cheering and singing with him at the outdoor part of the coffee shop.

At ever-crowded Faisal Street in Giza province near Cairo, Harafeesh Cafe looked different than downtown ones, with its oriental shape, dome-like ceilings, paintings of late Egyptian writers and artists on its walls and Ramadan hand-made lanterns hanging on each corner of the unique cafe.

“The basic role for a coffee shop is entertainment, but Harafeesh tries to play a cultural role as well. We offer a cultural meal, especially in Ramadan, including general information competitions, artistic contests and a professional oriental band that offers unique and original Egyptian music,” Harafeesh Cafe owner, Fakhry Youssef told Xinhua, at one of the corners of the cafe, named after the late author and Nobel Prize laureate, Naguib Mahfouz.

The man continued that, most of his guests are middle-aged men and women who appreciate classic art, noting that Mahfouz himself used to come to Harafeesh on a weekly basis and some other contemporary writers and painters come to the original place to compose their works.

The musical band was playing Ramadan-related traditional music, like the most famous “Ramadan Gana” old song, which means “Ramadan has come,” before performing romantic music by late renowned singers like Omm Kolthoum, Abdel-Halim Hafez and others, based on the request of the audience.

“There are customers who come from other Arab countries and head from the airport directly to Harafeesh to listen to unique and classical Arabian music that are not provided in other entertainment places,” Harafeesh Cafe, main singer, Mahmoud al-Feki told Xinhua, before going back to the band to continue performing for the eager customers.

Men and women at the coffee shop looked happy while playing backgammon and chess, smoking shisha, listening to music and chatting together, and it seemed that most frequent guests know each other although they sat in different groups at different tables.

“I have been coming to this cafe for 13 years now. Here we smell the scent of our classical old heritage and we all have become like family members who love each other to the point that some celebrate their birthdays here and we all join the party,” said Ahlam, a lady in her late 40s who works as a dress embroiderer.

Ahlam added that she made friends with lawyers, university professors and retired police officers through the 23-year-old Harafeesh Cafe.

Elsewhere in Cairo, particularly in classy Street 9 in Maadi district, modern coffee shops are also jammed with customers during Ramadan evenings, but they are westernised compared to those unique ones in downtown Cairo and Giza like Fishawi, Hussein Nights and Harafeesh.

With a large and tall Ramadan lantern (fanoos) decorating its main gate and indoor Ramadanic ornaments, Greco cafe looked different, as it is one of the oldest coffee shops in Maadi that is often frequented by those who seek a nice gathering with family members and friends in a place preserving their Egyptian identity.

“This cafe in particular is a very old place; it’s been here ever since Maadi was built. We come here for socialisation with family and friends especially after 10:00 pm during Ramadan, which is a completely different and unique month,” Abeer, a 50-year-old media professor, told Xinhua, while sharing a table with her teen children and other family members.

Mina, a Christian young man, said that although Ramadan is a Muslim holy month, he likes gathering with his Muslim friends, spending quality time and enjoying a joyful and colorful Ramadan evening.

Although coffee shops are the main destination for Egyptians after having iftar during Ramadan, many Egyptians, especially teens, also like to have a walk with their peers by the Nile River banks in the fresh air, buying ice cream and grilled corn amid fireworks rising in the sky every now and then.

The amazing four bronze lions of Qasr el-Nil Bridge leading to iconic Tahrir Square were surrounded by light lines and colored paper decorations hanging on the two sides, with crowds of young men and women walking back and forth by the Nile River during a warm, vivid Ramadan evening.

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Over 100,000 Kuwaitis tour Iran annually

Kuwait, July 9, IRNA – Iran’s Cultural Attaché in Kuwait Abbas Khamehyar said on Thursday that over 100,000 Kuwaiti tourist choose the Islamic Republic of Iran as their travel destination each year.

Highlighting Iran’s capabilities in tourist sectors, he said the Kuwaiti tourists are willing to visit Iran’s historical monuments and benefit the climate diversity in the country.

Iran is among prominent countries in terms of tourist attractions in the region and Kuwaiti tourists visit the country’s religious, cultural, historical and natural sites, he said.

Given the country’s advanced technological achievements in medical sciences, training skilled doctors and well-equipped hospitals, many people from Kuwait enter the country for medical treatment and surgery, he added.

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Abu Dhabi Supports London’s Arab Culture Celebration

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, July 7 (NNN-WAM) – Abu Dhabi Festival, ADF, organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, ADMAF, will be supporting a series of music and arts initiatives during Shubbak festival, London’s largest biennial festival of contemporary Arab culture from July 11 to 26.

Held at multiple locations across London, Shubbak has become a highpoint in the arts calendar of the UK and the Arab world, engaging London audiences with an ambitious programme of visual arts, film, music, theatre, dance, literature and debate.

As part of its mission to support Arab creativity and nurture cross-cultural dialogue and understanding, ADF will support two music concerts on July 11, in cooperation with the Foundation for Arab Music Archiving & Research, AMAR, along with a 10-day visual art installation by Khalid Shafar in partnership with Dubai Design District between July 16-26.

Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the ADMAF and Artistic Director of the ADF, said, “Over the years, Abu Dhabi Festival has been collaborating with numerous UK cultural organisations. By enabling dialogue and exchange between the UAE and UK, we have been able to share the wealth of artistic expression that each country has to offer. We are delighted to highlight the region’s creativity this summer, and jointly celebrate Arab culture through our participation in Shubbak.”

Omar Al Qattan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Shubbak, commented, “This is a wonderful opportunity for collaboration between the two festivals, both of which have exciting international ambitions and can only lead to greater exposure and opportunity for the artists involved.”

The first concert on July 11, entitled “Homage to Sami Al Shawa,” commemorates the 50th anniversary of the famous Arab violinist, Sami Al Shawa’s death, and the second concert on July 11, entitled “Burda: Asil Ensemble & Karima Skalli,” will see the Moroccan singer Karima Skalli, and The Asil Ensemble perform a series of classical Burdas – famous song-cycles, which combine poetry and music.

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Iconic Madinah airport launched

Sunday 05 Jul 2015 – Madinah (IINA) – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman opened the new Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport at a grand ceremony here Thursday night.

Heralding a new era of public–private partnership in the Kingdom’s aviation history, the iconic project, spread over an area of 4 million sq. meter, is the Kingdom’s first airport constructed and operated entirely by the private sector. Upon arrival at the venue of the launching ceremony at the airport, King Salman was received by Prince Faisal Bin Salman, emir of Madinah, Suleiman Al-Hamdan, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), and other dignitaries. The King then toured the facilities of the airport, and was briefed by GACA chief about the facilities including the passport control and check in counters, duty free zone, food court, and departure gates.

The King pressed the button to mark the opening of the airport saying: “In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful… I am honored to be with you this night in the City of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the second holy city of Madinah. Praise be to Allah, what we are seeing here is delightful and reminds us of the founder of this nation.” While drawing attention to the occasion of naming the airport after Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz, the King recalled the immense contributions rendered by the prince after he was appointed as the emir of Madinah by King Abdulaziz, a position which he assumed for a long period of time.

The King also watched a video presentation about the airport project, which has the capacity to handle eight million passengers a year in the first phase, and this figure will be increased to 18 million in the second phase, and then 40 million after the third and final phase. GACA Chief Al-Hamdan said that the new airport is the first facility in the Kingdom that was built with the partnership of the private sector. “This is the fruit of partnership of GACA with a consortium led by Tibah Airports Development Co. and consisting of Al-Rajhi Holding Group, Saudi Oger and TAV Airports Holding.

Ever since the upgrading of the airport into an international one 10 years ago, the airport has witnessed steady growth in the passenger traffic with operation of 36 aviation companies and this number would rise to 45 during the Haj season,” he said. The Tibah-led consortium won the bid for the construction of the airport in 2011 on the basis of build, transfer and operate (BTO) with the GACA.

The total investment in the first phase is SR4.5 billion and the project was funded by the National Commercial Bank, Saudi British Bank and Arab National Bank under the supervision of the International Finance Authority, a member of the World Bank Group. Al-Hamdan said the airport represents a milestone, which reflects the cultural heritage of Madinah. The main passenger terminal covers an area of 155,000 sq. meters and has 72 check-in counters, of which eight are for large size baggage, 24 counters for self-check-in, 26 passports counter for departures and the same number for arrivals.

The waiting lounge has a capacity for 4,000 people. Technology-based services include 36 elevators, 28 escalators and 23 conveyor belts, all in place to facilitate and speed up the movement of passengers and luggage inside the passenger terminal complex. Six external terminals have been built over a total area of 10,000 sq. meters. These terminals are strategically located close to the Haj terminal to facilitate and speed up procedures for arrivals and departures.

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Rock art in Saudi Hail joins UNESCO World Heritage List

Monday 06 Jul 2015 – Dammam (IINA) – The World Heritage Committee of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added the rock art in Hail, Saudi Arabia to the World Heritage List.

The addition was made during the committee’s 39th session in Bonn, Germany, and became the fourth site in the Kingdom to be included in the list.

Other local sites include Madain Saleh, Dirriyah and Jeddah’s Al-Balad historic district. Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH), said: “Global recognition for the huge historic value of this global heritage site will reflect positively on the whole Hail region.”

He said that the SCTNH had worked for two years with specialized international teams and partners in the Kingdom to prepare this site to meet all UNESCO’s requirements. “The commission has established centers to serve tourists and increased the number of employees there.” Prince Sultan said: “There are a number of ideas and programs that will lead to highlighting this site as a living witness of the Kingdom’s heritage as well as its ancient civilization.”

Rock art in the Hail region includes two components situated in a desert landscape — Jabel Umm Sinman at Jubbah and the Jabal Al-Manjor and Raat at Shuwaymis.

A lake once situated at the foot of the Umm Sinman hill range has now disappeared but was formerly a source of fresh water for people and animals in the southern part of the Great Nafoud Desert.

Jubbah includes numerous petro glyphs and inscriptions on rock faces. Shuwaymis shows numerous representations of human and animal figures from the prehistoric period. The ancestors of today’s Arab population have left traces of their presence in numerous petroglyphs and inscriptions on rock faces. Jabal Al-Manjor and Raat form the rocky escarpment of a wadi now covered in sand.

They show numerous representations of human and animal figures covering 10,000 years of history. UNESCO’s 22 member state representatives lauded the Kingdom’s care for its heritage and early civilization, praising the richness and density of rock art in the Hail region.

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British Muslim woman hopes to end abuse faced by veil wearers

Monday 06 Jul 2015 – London, (IINA) – A British Muslim woman is campaigning to raise awareness about the abuse she and other women face while wearing a niqab, according to The Express Tribune newspaper.

The 22-year-old Joni Clarke, resident of southeast London, has decided to raise awareness about the abuse and discrimination that Muslim women face by making a short film. The film, My Freedom, My Right, features Clarke reciting a poem that recalls comments made to her because of her niqab.

Speaking about the film she said, “I made the video to prove a point – I wanted to highlight that people who go through struggles and discrimination every day, but are rarely talked about by the media.”

Clarke wants everyone to be treated as ‘individuals’ and urges people to stop ‘judging a book by its cover’. She reverted to Islam when she was only 17 and chose to wear a niqab after studying the history of Islam.

“I was reading about the women of early Islamic communities,” she said. “Many of the Sahabah (companions of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) are revered women in Islamic history, so I tried to follow what they did, including wearing the niqab.”

“Some people look up to people like Rihanna or other celebrities, but for myself, I look up to those women and chose to do things like they did.”

Since she started wearing a niqab, she has been insulted, threatened, and even attacked in public, she said and added, I’ve been told several times to go ‘back to my country’”.

Clarke maintains there are many Muslim women who receive worse treatment because they choose to wear the veil. My Freedom, My Right is not only a step towards creating awareness among the people about the sufferings of the Muslim women but also aims to alleviate their sufferings.

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Why your next vacation could be in Iran

09 July 2015 – TODAY.AZ – When you fly to Iran these days the planes are a little more full than before. Business travelers are making their way to Tehran scoping out opportunities, hoping that sanctions might be lifted soon.

More tourists also appear to be on the planes coming from Frankfurt, Rome, Istanbul and the few other places that have direct flights to Iran. The Iranian government says it expects a 6.6% rise in the number of tourists for 2015.

President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has made tourism development one of its major policy goals in a drive to revive an economy buckling under sanctions.

“We divide our tourists into four groups,” Iran’s Vice President for Tourism and National Heritage Masoud Soltanifar told me in an interview.

“We have a lot of religious tourists who come to visit our many shrines. Then we have a lot of medical tourism. But we also have a lot of cultural and nature tourism.”

Soltanifar acknowledges that the tourism sector in Iran still has a long way to go. He blames international sanctions for some, but not all of the woes.

“In 10 years time we want to have 20 million tourists here in Iran and are expecting a revenue of about 30 billion dollars. This is our goal and we have a program to achieve that goal. Of course the lifting of sanctions would certainly help us.”

He says Iran must do more to invest in its infrastructure. “We need more four and five star hotels to accommodate more visitors here and a lot of investment will be necessary in the coming years.”

We embarked on a road trip from Tehran to Iran’s second largest town of Shiraz.

In many ways Shiraz embodies the wealth of tourist attractions in Iran. There are several unique religious sites, like the Vakil and the Nasir al Mulk mosques. Nasir al Mulk, also known as the pink mosque, was built in the 19th century.

It’s unique because of it use of pink and red tiles and colorful windows that create an ambient light effect on the walls and the floor of the main prayer room, especially in the dawn hours.

Shiraz also has sites that date back centuries. There’s the castle of Karim Khan, who used to be the governor of this area in the 18th century.

And there’s Eram garden, an historic and elaborately planned horticultural attraction now run as a botanical garden by the University of Shiraz.

The tomb of Hafez, probably the most influential in Persian history, is also popular with visitors. The tomb is embedded into a garden that also has a cultural learning center where students learn to interpret Hafez’s poetry.

At the tomb, we met some of the few Westerners we saw here during our trip. They told us they’d been traveling through Iran for several weeks and were enjoying their stay.

“People are very inviting, welcoming,” they told us. “There is a great infrastructure. It’s really easy to travel by bus.”

But many Westerners still have concerns coming to the country. Some worry about security and others about the political situation.

One problem for foreign visitors is that Western credit cards are not accepted as Iran is cut off from international money transfers by international sanctions. One reason why the government hopes these will soon be lifted.

As we departed Shiraz we made sure to visit one of the most famous places in all of Iran – Persepolis, the ancient imperial ceremonial capital of Persia.

Here too, we found tourists, but most of them were Iranian. The archaeological site itself is remarkable, with its many temples and former palaces, that lay in ruins since they were destroyed by the army of Alexander the great around 330 BC.

The columns and frescoes are made mostly of black and gray marble that was mined in quarries around the site. Iran is a country with much to offer tourists in terms of nature, culture and religion.

International negotiators currently working in Vienna to strike a deal over Iran’s nuclear plans will have a lot of influence on whether more tourists from around the world will be able to experience them.

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Morocco among world’s largest olive oil producers

Wednesday 08 Jul 2015 – Rabat, (IINA) – Morocco has become one of the world’s major producers and exporters of olive oil, with an annual net production that exceeds 140,000 tons, according to media reports.

Exporting over 45,000 tons of olive oil per year, Morocco has landed fifth in the list of world’s largest oil exporter after Spain, Tunisia, Italy and Greece, said the weekly Maroc Hebdo. Morocco also ranks fifth in the list of the global olive oil producers.

Morocco has doubled the net production in six years to 1.5+ million metric tons. It increased from 120,000 tons to 140,000 tons.

The quality of the Moroccan olive oil attracted the attention of the European Union and the United States of America, which became Morocco’s key customers.

It is noteworthy that olive oil production in Tunisia has also increased fourfold, making it one of the largest producer after Spain.

Though Tunisia is a major olive oil producer, only a small percentage of it is consumed at home where olive oil is being replaced by other vegetable oils in the traditional Tunisian diet.

Tunisia’s olive oil exports represent 40 percent of its agricultural exports and 10 percent of total exports.

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Islam most popular religion in China among youngsters: Survey

Wednesday 08 Jul 2015 – Beijing, (IINA) – Most followers of religion in China are youngsters, and Islam has its most followers under the age of 30, International Business Times reported quoting a survey carried out by the National Survey Research Center at Beijing’s Renmin University.

Religion has a robust following among China’s younger generation despite the country’s rule by the officially atheist Communist Party.

China recognizes only five religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam. Islam has the largest proportion of young followers, with 22.4 percent of those queried for the annual China Religion Survey.

“Islam tends to have a younger demographic,” Wei Dedong, a professor of Buddhist studies at the School of Philosophy at Renmin who had a hand in the research, told the state-run Global Times.

Wei said the research also found an increased interest from the government to maintain relations with local leaders and religious communities. The Administration for Religious Affairs visited places of worship 3.8 times a year, which Wei said is a sign the government is taking the initiative when it comes to the growth of religion in China. However, these steps toward freedom to practice religion are hampered by recent restrictions imposed by the government.

Local government bodies in far western Xinjiang province, home to a predominantly Muslim population, announced limits on Ramadan, restricting children, government employees and teachers from fasting during the holy month, in addition to other associated traditions.

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Dubai plan to build world’s first 3D printed office

Friday 10 Jul 2015 – Dubai, (IINA) – Dubai is planning to build the world’s first fully functional 3D printed building, an ambitious move that will establish the UAE’s position as the global centre of technology in architecture construction and design, UAE National Innovation Committee revealed.

The office will be approximately 2,000 square feet in size and will be printed layer-by-layer using a 20-foot tall 3D printer, Gulf News reported. It will then be assembled on site in Dubai in just a few weeks. All interior furniture, detailing, and structural components will also be built using 3D printing technology, combining a mixture of Special Reinforced Concrete (SRC), Glass Fiber Reinforced Gypsum (GRG) and Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP). This combination will make it the most advanced 3D printed structure ever built at this scale and the first to be put into actual use.

The UAE aims to deploy the latest technologies to improve people’s lives and to develop its economy in line with the country’s national innovation strategy and the vision of Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice-president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, said Muhammad al Gergawi, the chairman UAE national innovation committee

The building is the result of a partnership between Dubai and WinSun global along with leading global architecture and engineering firms Gensler, Thornton Thomasetti, and Syska Hennessy.

The project is the first major initiative of the ‘Museum of the Future’, launched earlier this year by Sheikh Muhammad.

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Jetstar Asia Celebrates 2.5m Pax on KL-Singapore route

SINGAPORE, July 9 (NNN-Bernama) — Jetstar Asia is celebratings its two and a half millionth passenger on the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur route, one of the busiest on the airline’s network.

In a statement, the low-cost carrier said the milestone coincides with Jetstar Asia’s move of its operations to the klia2 terminal in Kuala Lumpur on July 8.

Chan Kim Wah, a Malaysian national who works in Singapore, has won himself a RM1,000 flight voucher for being the 2.5 millionth passenger to travel between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

After launching with one daily service in 2008, Jetstar Asia now operates up to 30 weekly services and continues to enhance the travel experience for thousands of passengers who fly between Singapore and the Malaysian capital each year.

Marking the celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Jetstar Asia Chief Eexecutive Officer Bara Pasupathi said that demand for the route has continued to grow due to the strong business and cultural ties between the two countries.

“Singapore travellers love visiting Kuala Lumpur, and our commitment to low fares has made more frequent trips for business meetings as well as great food and shopping more affordable.

“The recent opening of Southeast Asia’s largest factory outlet malls less than two kilometres from the klia2 terminals will serve as new attractions for shopping-savvy Singaporean travellers to visit Kuala Lumpur more often,” he said.

The malls are part of the KLIA Aeropolis, also known as Malaysia Airports’ airport city master plan.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airports Senior General Manager of Operations Services, Datuk Azmi Murad, said: “Airports are no longer just transit points but a destination in their own right.

“klia2 is a shopping destination with a total of 225 retail and FB outlets throughout the terminal and nearly 200 retail and F&B outlets at gateway@klia2, a shopping annexe to the terminal which aims to cater not only to travellers but to the surrounding community as well.

“We are delighted to welcome Jetstar Asia to the klia2 terminal today. They are joining an increasing number of airlines that recognise klia2 as an exciting, vibrant and convenient terminal especially in terms of its seamless connectivity and world-class facilities.”

There are no changes to Jetstar Asia’s schedule and check-in facilities and timings as a result of the move to klia2, and customers can continue to use the enhanced web check-in service straight-to-gate in Kuala Lumpur.

“The move to klia2, a purpose-built LCC terminal, is an exciting development for Jetstar Asia as our investment in self-service options like straight-to-gate will follow our customers to the new terminal,” Pasupathi noted.

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Tourists to Maldives in May up 4.5%

Sun.mv – July 7, 2015 – Compared to the month of May last year, the number of tourists visited the country this May has increased by 4.5 percent. The number of tourists who visited the country in April was reduced by 2.9 percent.

Statistics publicized by the Tourism Ministry yesterday shows that 95,389 tourists visited the country in May 2015. The number of tourists visited the country in May last year was 91,296 tourists, which is a 4.5 percent increase.

Although the number of tourists from European countries was fewer in April, 35,403 tourists visited from Europe in May which is a 2.5 increase.

The highest number of tourists came to the Maldives from Asia in the month of May with 52,816 tourists. Hence, compared to May of last year, the number of tourists visited in May has gone up by 4.9 percent.

The number of Chinese tourists was the highest in May as well with 30,864 tourists. Making it a four percent increase compared to the May of last year.

By the end of May, a total of 527,599 tourists have visited the country so far making it a 1.8 percent increase compared to the year 2014.

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14th Istanbul Biennial to celebrate the miracle of saltwater

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet – The 14th Istanbul Biennial “Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms,” drafted by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, will open to the public from Sept. 5 to Nov. 1. Works by over 80 participants from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and North America will be displayed in over 30 venues on the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus.

It will take place in museums as well as temporary spaces of habitation on land and on sea such as boats, hotels, former banks, garages, gardens, schools, shops and private homes.

Stating that salt water is one of the most ubiquitous materials in the world, Christov-Bakargiev said, “Sodium in our bodies makes our neurological system, and thus our vital systems, work; it literally keeps us alive. At the same time, salt water is the most corrosive material threat to the digital age: if you drop your smart phone in fresh water, you can dry it and it will probably work again. If it falls into salt water, chemical molecular changes in the materials of your phone will break it. When you visit the 14th Istanbul Biennial, you will spend quite a bit of time on salt water. There is a slowing down of the experience of art due to the travel between venues, especially on ferries. That is very healthy; salt water helps to heal respiration problems and many other illnesses, as well as calming the nerves.”

The event will span from Rumelifeneri on the Black Sea, where Jason and the Argonauts passed searching for the Golden Fleece, through the winding and narrow Bosphorus, a seismic fault line which opened as a water channel some 8500 years ago, and down to the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara towards the Mediterranean, where ancient Byzantine emperors exiled their enemies and where Leon Trotsky lived for four years from 1929 to 1933.

It will present over 1500 artworks by artists as well as other visible and invisible manifestations such as materials from the history of oceanography, environmental studies, marine archaeology, Art Nouveau, neuroscience, physics, mathematics and theosophy.

Works range historically from an 1870 painting of waves by Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who received a Nobel prize in 1906 for discovering the neuron, to the ground-breaking abstract “Thought Forms” of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater (1901-1905), up to a new installation by Aslı Çavuşoğlu, which reflects on an ancient and lost Armenian technique for extracting red dye from an insect and a new multichannel installation by William Kentridge inspired by Trostky’s passage through Turkey.

Novelist Orhan Pamuk will be the Honorary Chairman of the International Council of Friends and Patrons of the 14th Istanbul Biennial.

The media conference and preview of the 14th Istanbul Biennial will be held on Sept. 2 at the Italian High School in Beyoğlu, and the professional preview Sept. 3 and 4.

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Roman streets of ancient Soli gradually unearthed

MERSİN – Anadolu Agency – This year’s excavations will start next week in the ancient city of Soli Pompeipolis, located in the southern province of Mersin’s Mezitli district.

The work will focus on uncovering the rest of a Roman-era street lined with columns.

Dokuz Eylül University Head of Museum Department Professor Remzi Yağcı said the first excavations in Soli Pompeipolis were initiated by Mersin University Archaeology Department in 1999, with much significant data obtained since then.

During last year’s 37-day excavations, the ancient city was found to be a very active harbor in the 1st B.C. and 1st A.D., said Yağcı, adding the work in 2013 unearthed the columned street and Roman stores in an architectural order.

He said that with a team of 80 people, including archaeologists, architects and students, they would start two-month excavations next week.

Yağcı said the team will work on the restoration of the columned street area and the Roman shops, with most of the team working to uncover the columned street.

“Our goal is to reach the continuation of the street. We will see if restoration can be done in the newly excavated areas and if we can do further projects in this area,” he added.

Yağcı said they also wanted to find early Roman-era artifacts and continue work at Soli Mound with a team.

“Last year, we started a project there related to the 6th and 7th century colonization periods. We want to maintain this project and reveal history,” he said.

Mezitli Mayor Neşet Tarhan said the district was home to rich archaeological findings, as Soli Pompeiopolis was an important ancient harbor city.

“All of the Pompeiopolis columns have not been unearthed yet. This place was damaged during a large earthquake but almost 40 percent of the columns still survive,” he said, adding that the city would continue to support archaeological works.

“Soli Pompeiopolis is Mezitli’s gate to the world. We organize festivals here. The richness underground should be uncovered as soon as possible. They are a world heritage that everyone has right to see,” the mayor said, adding the artifacts unearthed would help promote Mezitli abroad.

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Extravaganza Raya Expo launched in Brunei

July 05, 2015 – Borneo Bulletin Online – Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Datin Paduka Hajah Adina binti Othman officially launched the Extravaganza Raya Expo 2015 at the Indoor Stadium in Berakas yesterday.

The expo participants comprise local entrepreneurs, who include youths under the Youth and Sports Department and Youth Entrepreneurship Club of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Carrying the theme ‘Let’s Do Raya Shopping,’ the expo aims to allow participants, particularly the younger ones, the opportunity to step into the world of entrepreneurship in the run up to the festivities. The event is set to run from July 4 to July 16 (depending on the result of the moon sighting).

According to the event organisers, Starz Dmedia Management and Star Bugs Event Management, this expo is a little different as it invites orphans under the Department of Community Development (JAPEM) to enjoy daily free sungkai (breaking of fast) until the very last day.

There will also be bouncers for children, quizzes and the Dip & Win Trolley Guessing Price, where visitors need to guess the correct prize to win a trolley full of Raya goodies. Additionally, there will be a radio quiz of the event with Pelangi FM.

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US-Bangla Airlines launches Dhaka-Rajshahi flights

RAJSHAHI, July 11, 2015 (BSS) – US-Bangla Airlines Ltd, a new private airlines company, launched domestic flights operations on Rajshahi-Dhaka-Rajshahi domestic routes today (Saturday) formally. The first flight took off from Shahmukhdum Airport in Rajshahi at around 4.30 pm.

Starting from Dhaka, the airline will initially operate three weekly flights — Saturday, Monday and Wednesday — on the routes. Earlier, national flag-carrier Bangladesh Biman re-launched three weekly flights — Friday, Sunday and Tuesday — on the routes on April 7 after a lapse of long eight years.

The new airlines launched business to tap growing air traffic on local routes as the number of passengers is growing steadily over the past years and tourism is increasingly becoming popular among middle income people.

Badal Kumar Roy, Station-in-Charge of US-Bangla Airline, here told BSS that the airlines arranged special transports equipped with Wi-Fi for passengers to and from Rajshahi. The large, fast, quiet and fuel-efficient turboprops would provide an ideal balance of passenger comfort with a reduced environmental footprint, he further said.

The fares for a one-way trip from Rajshahi to Dhaka will be Tk 3,200 including taxes. But, a promotional package from Taka 2,500 is going on at present, he added.

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HK Fashion Week kicks off with 28 Indonesian brands

7 July 2015 Hong Kong (ANTARA News) – As many as 28 Indonesian fashion brands are showcasing their creations at the 22nd Hong Kong Fashion Week being held on July 6 to 9, 2015.

“I have been participating in several fashion exhibitions in Hong Kong. It is interesting. There are always new things, and we have got to showcase better work,” Bali designer Ali Charisma, who is displaying his best collection that includes night dresses, wedding dresses, cocktail dresses, and evening dresses, stated here on Tuesday.

Besides Charisma, Bandung Lazuli Saraes brand owned by Ivan Kurniawan is also showcasing its new collection with a traveling theme based on the Batik Denim concept. Ivan is expecting a positive response during his first exhibition.

The same views were also echoed by Andhika Lukas who is displaying his ready-to-wear collection.

“It is my first experience, and it is a positive thing for me to keep my creations innovative and continue to promote them abroad,” the winner of Indonesia Fashion Design 2015 stated.

“Pla” is another local brand participating in the event, with accessories such as shoes or reticules that partially have snake skin motifs in an array of colors.

“I have been participating in Hong Kong Fashion Weeks. The enthusiasts response is quite good, and we hope it would be better this year,” Pla brands owner, Melisa Soesanto, affirmed.

Moreover, other local brands such as Rhea Cempaka, Anyar Kebaya, Angela Chung from Semarang, Bateeq, Ali Abubakar Pae, and Yoon are exhibiting their collection of contemporary ethnic wear.

The Hong Kong Fashion Week is showcasing spring-summer clothing and is being participated by designers and entrepreneurs from Thailand, China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Australia, and Japan.

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Australian students learn Saman dance at Univ of Surabaya

7 July 2015 Surabaya (ANTARA News) – Eight Australian students from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are learning the traditional Acehnese Saman dance under a summer program held on July 2-10, at the University of Surabaya (Ubaya) in Surabaya, East Java.

Interviewed at the Law Faculty of Ubaya on Tuesday, Eleni Alexandra Grady, one of the participants of the summer program, stated that she and her group found Saman dance quite entertaining, and its music has a calming effect.

“We faced difficulty in concentrating due to the hot weather, but overall, it is fun,” she noted.

Grady has joined the summer program in Ubaya along with seven other QUT students: Susan Connor, Lucy Victoria Irvine, Katie Trinh, Brittanny Margaret White, Scott David Usher, Kelvin Kumar Poptan, and Kenneth Lee.

Grady also plans to continue practicing Saman dance, as she wants to perform it in Australia.

According to Ubayas International Cooperation Manager, Adi Teja Kusuma, the main objective behind holding the QUT summer program in Ubaya is to gain a deeper insight about Indonesia.

However, Ubaya also offers them some cultural activities, including imparting training in dance, language, and culinary skills.

During the course of the program, the participants visited Surabayas heritage buildings, such as the House of Sampoerna Museum and Hotel Oranye.

Saman dance was chosen on the request of QUT, which urged them to introduce the Indonesian culture to the summer programs participants through group activities.

The Saman dance, which literally means the dance of thousand hands, is part of the cultural heritage of the Gayo people of Aceh province in Sumatra. Boys and young men perform Saman dance while sitting on their heels or kneeling in tight rows. Each wears a black costume embroidered with colorful Gayo motifs symbolizing nature and noble values.

The Saman dance was inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in 2011.

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Indonesia bids to boost export of halal products

7 July 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is encouraging Indonesian lawful (halal) products to enter the markets in Asia, Pacific and Africa (Aspasaf), as the regions hold promising prospects.

“The Muslim population of 1.6 billion is a very promising market for Indonesian halal products,” Director General of Aspasaf Yuri O. Thamrin noted in a press statement received here on Tuesday.

According to the Global State of Islamic Economic report, Thamrin stated that the demand for halal products will grow 9.5 percent in the next six years from US$2 trillion in 2013 to US$3.7 trillion in 2019.

Regarding the potential, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Directorate General for Aspasaf, held a discussion titled “Identification and Mapping of Halal Products Market” at the International Convention Center, Bogor, on Monday (July 6).

A total of 200 companies were invited to take part in the discussion.

The discussion was attended by speakers from several ministries/agencies such as Acting Head of the Agency for the Assessment and Policy Development of Foreign Affairs Ministry, Director of Market Development and Export Information of Trade Ministry.

Also the Indonesian Ulema Councils Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics (LPPOM MUI), the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) Indonesia Middle East Committee, and a representative of the embassy in Muscat, among others.

Thamrin remarked that the discussion will help the businesses in Indonesia to gain an understanding about the halal market in the Aspasaf.

“An increase in the demand for halal products is an opportunity and a challenge for businesses in the country,” he said.

In addition, Thamrin noted that Indonesia will also face the ASEAN economic market by the end of 2015, so exports should be increased in order to generate foreign exchange for the country.

The businessmen attending the discussion received a book titled “Information and importers of Halal Products in Asia-Pacific and Africa.” The book contains information on halal products in the Aspasaf countries along with the potential and market opportunities for halal products in about 40 countries.

In addition, the book also contains the contact information of about 550 importers of halal products in the Aspasaf region.

“It is expected that the Indonesian entrepreneurs dealing in halal products can immediately follow up with some requests,” Thamrin remarked.

The discussion is expected to strengthen the synergy between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesias representatives, and entrepreneurs in the country.

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Indonesian President sees potential for border regions

7 July 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has called to optimally develop areas of potential in the border regions by improving their infrastructure facilities and developing economic centers to boost exports and imports.

“As I have earlier said, we are keen to improve the conditions in our border regions such as in Papua and Kalimantan,” he remarked while opening a meeting on the issue at his office here on Tuesday.

Apart from infrastructure development, which is not yet maximal, the president affirmed that economic opportunities such as exports and imports also need to be utilized optimally.

“When I visited the border post in Entikong in January, I clearly saw export-import opportunities, but they have not been utilized well,” he remarked.

Citing the importance of border development, he referred to Malaysia that has identified a location in Sarawak as an international airport to boost its exports and imports.

“All ministries must cooperate because this year we will develop all border areas, and I hope they will coordinate, so that the border regions could be maximally utilized by the people for export-import activities while illegal activities could be eradicated by the police,” he emphasized.

As an initial step, the president noted that the government had allocated Rp1 trillion for improving the border post facility in Entikong, West Kalimantan.

The meeting was attended by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, National Police Chief General Badrodin Haiti, Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan, and Minister of Public Works and Public Housing Basuki Hadimuljono.

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Uganda Targets U.S.$12 Billion From Tourism

East African Business Week (Kampala) – 5 July 2015 — Tourism is projected to contribute $12 billion to the country’s GDP according to Uganda’s Vision 2040 as the sector strives to become the number one foreign exchange earner.

Addressing journalist in a media conference recently, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Maria Mutagamba, said, “As you may know, tourism was Uganda’s number one foreign exchange earner as of 2013, though it drifted to second place last year. Our plan is to take it back to the top now going forward.”

She said that modalities and strategies toward this end have been put in place. “This is not impossible, last year, tourism made a very significant contribution to our GDP and was recognized as Uganda’s top money-making sector, something we should keep in mind always and be proud o,” Mutagamba said.

She said the country received 1,266,034 tourists last year, who spent $1.1183 billion. She said tourism as who represented 9.9% of GDP.

Mutagamba said the total employment for the tourism sector was 592,500 employees representing 8.6% of total employment in Uganda.

However she said the tourism sector in Uganda is dynamic, because it is public sector led but private sector driven. This has brought a number of opportunities and also some challenges.

“One challenge we have in the sector is in adequate visibility both nationally and internationally. Domestic tourism is low, which means even within the country, there is a lot of promotion that needs to be done. I know it is in our culture not to visit, but we need to come up with targeted messages to pull out Ugandans to start visiting these places,” Mutagamba said.

She said although tourism numbers are small compared to the diverse attractions in the country, it is also true that the numbers increase annually. “If we marketed and promoted Uganda to full potential, the number of visitors would increase substantially,” she said.

She asked the technical people in the Ministry to establish a research desk and form a formidable marketing team. She said it is time for the tourism sector to go scientific and develop scientific references for every aspect if it has to match global trends.

On the other hand, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, said that tourism is business for all and the role of marketing Uganda should be taken as the primary responsibility of all Ugandans.

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Uganda Moves Giraffes to Attract Tourists

East African Business Week (Kampala) – 5 July 2015 – Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has transferred 15 giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park in Northern Uganda to Lake Mburo National Park in Western Uganda to boost tourism in Uganda’s smallest National Park.

“There are three main reasons for this trans-location. First is for biological control of the acacia ocai tree in Lake Mburo. Second, is to increase the species biodiversity in the park and thirdly to boost tourism in that corridor,” Dr. Andrew Sseguya the UWA Executive Director said last week while flagging off the trans-location process.

Officials said the transfer will also ensure biological control of the acacia ocai tree that is swallowing up Lake Mburo National Park.

Shifting the animals took four days and saw relocation of 11 female giraffes and four male giraffes. The giraffes were caught from the wild, put into a detention facility called Bomah for 22 days before enduring a 700 kilometre trip from Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s largest park to Lake Mburo, which is the smallest measuring 260sq kms.

Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) provided assistance and expertise in the trans-location process. According to UWA, Murchison Falls National Park has over 900 giraffes species.

“This is not the first time trans-locations are being done. The first one was done in the early 1990’s when giraffes were transferred from Nakuru to Kidepo National Park.

The second one was done in 2007, when we picked giraffes from here and took them to Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC). This is the third time of transferring,” Sseguya said.

The Rothschild Giraffes species also known as the Baringo Giraffes only found in Uganda and Kenya were the ones transferred to Lake Mburo.

Lake Mburo National Park is located in Kiruhura District in Western Uganda. The park is situated about 30 kms, by road, east of Mbarara, the largest city in the sub-region. This location is approximately 240 kms, by road, west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city.

The park has a variety of animals such as zebras, impala, buffaloes, and over three hundred (300) bird species. At 260 square kilometres (100 sq mi), the park is the smallest of Uganda’s Savannah national parks.

Dr. Patrick Atimnedi the Uganda Wildlife Authority Veterinary Coordinator who oversaw the process on behalf of UWA the process wasn’t very difficult since a number of experts and expertise was used.

“Darting chemicals were used together with ropings. Their generic samples were taken to ascertain after a certain period of time in Mburo, what will be the dominant species,” Atimnedi said.

Sseguya said they have plans to trans-locate zebras, which are numerous in Lake Mburo to other national parks in Uganda.

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Uganda Tourism Gets Media Team

East African Business Week (Kampala) – 5 July 2015 — Due to tourism being a highly media and perception industry, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has unveiled the Tourism Communication Working Group (TCWG). This will be its new communication frontier to consolidate information distribution in all its agencies.

“I am happy that the TCWG has been constituted. This is a step in the right direction to ensure information flow and equal promotion of all activities in our sector. Now all aspects of tourism can grow together, without say, some tourism products being more prominent at the expense of others,” Maria Mutagamba, , the tourism minister said last week.

The TCWG team has seven officers in charge of information, communication and public relations in the six Ministry agencies, Led by the Ministry’s Public Relations unit and they include among others Emma Nahayo Mugizi Chairperson, Vincent Mugaba secretary, Brian Mulego member; Belindah Atim member; Jossy Muhangi member; Ms Angella Atukunda member; Patricia, Nuwagaba member and Everlyn Nalumu member.

Mutagamba told the TCWG team their job is not a simple one. She said that there are many voices in the sector and that the team must speak as one. She said that voice has to be distinguished and respected above all other voices. She advised them to arm themselves with the facts needed to quell rumours and restore tourist confidence.

“We as top management are here to guide and support you in all areas of your operations. We are confident in your abilities and we hope to see a change in the way tourism communication is done in Uganda now that you are in place,” she said.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, said that there has been a challenge in information dissemination among different agencies which resulted to the distribution of different information within the sector. Ambassador Mugoya encouraged TCWG team to work together and speak as one voice.

The TCWG team Chairperson, Mrs. Emma Nahayo Mugizi, who doubles as the Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities She said, “It has been easy for the media in Uganda to focus on the negative aspects of tourism that make news. We will focus on promoting the positive aspect. We aim to put the good side of Uganda out there so much that it cannot be ignored anymore. We are tired of seeing disease and terrorism take the lead as Uganda’s number one attributes. Tourism is Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner and our message should reflect it.”

Mugizi said TCWG aims at streamlining the voice of tourism and ensure that one aspect of tourism does not suffer in favour of others. “All aspects of tourism need to be equally promoted and made visible as much as possible. Where the sector overlaps with others, TCWG aims at using its networks and links to address such challenges. This is our biggest task as TCWG and we are tackling it head-on,” Mugizi said.

She said tourism is fragile and can be affected by information positively or negatively, therefore the need to control perception and protect stakeholders from misleading information is vital.

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Restored Qayetbay basin to be inaugurated

Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 8 Jul 2015 – Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty and the head of the EU delegation in Egypt, James Moran, are to officially inaugurate the restored Qayetbay basin at the Mameluke cemetery on Wednesday.

Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the restoration project was carried out under the supervision of the ministry of antiquities and the budget was provided by the EU delegation in Egypt in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy in Cairo.

‘The basin is one of the most important Islamic monuments in the Mameluke cemetery. It includes of a number of unique historical structures with great historical value,” Eldamaty pointed out.

Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, deputy of the Minister of Antiquities for Islamic and Coptic Monuments, told Ahram Online that the basin is a part of a funerary and religious complex built by Sultan Qayet Bay. It was built for thirsty animals.

He asserted that the restoration work was carried out according to the latest technology. Every part of the basin was documented before the restoration started in order to preserve its original features.

Abdel-Aziz explained that the restoration included the removal of soil. The blocks were cleaned manually and all salt removed as well as the cement surfaces found on it.

All the blocks, the walls and the foundation of the basin were consolidated while deteriorated and missing blocks were replaced with new ones of same material, shape and colour. He continued that the wooden decorated ceiling of the basin was also cleaned and restored.

After restoration the area is to be converted into a centre for handicrafts to preserve such crafts from extinction. A selling booth is to be provided there as well as a temporary exhibition for handicrafts made by local craftsmen.

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Turkish envoy: Tehran is very attractive for Turk tourists

Tehran, July 11, IRNA – Turkish ambassador to Iran said on Sunday that although Tehran is not the oldest Iranian city, Turkish tourists begin their visit of Iran in Tehran as the capital city is very attractive for them. Ambassador Raza Hakan Tekin made the comment in a meeting with the governor general of Tehran.

He expressed delight that his diplomatic tenure is in Iran and referred to the problems with which the Islamic world is entangled today and said Iran and Turkey can hand in hand work to resolve the problems.

‘Such terrorist groups as Daesh and Al Qaeda have ruined the facade of Islam and it is necessary that the Islamic countries should unite in order to encounter their menace,’ said Ambassador Hakan Tekin.

The Turkish ambassador also said that sectarianism should not be permitted to encompass the region.

‘The Turkish president, too, in his visit of Tehran emphasized that Islam is the ultimate objective and that the Shia-Sunni division does not matter to us,’ he added.

He also highlighted the significance of Iran-Turkey relations as two neighboring counties as of remote past.

The governor of Tehran in the meeting invited the Turkish investors to make investments in various fields such as tourism, hi-tech and food industries and other economic fields in Tehran.

Seyyed Hossein Hashemi added that the Iran-Turkey trade ties need to expand more than ever before.

He also informed the Turkish ambassador that in accordance with a survey launched in Germany after a nuclear agreement, Iran will be able to absorb up to 100 billion dollars for foreign investments.

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Markazi province home to 3,000 historical sites

Tehran, July 12, IRNA – With a total of 850 registered historical monuments and 2,200 unregistered monuments, Markazi province is among the historical regions of Iran which hosts a large number of Iranian and foreign tourists annually.

According to Tehran-based English newspaper, Iran Daily, almost 1,125 Iranian luminaries were born and grew up in this province. According to statistics, the province is home to 25 percent of prominent Iranian figures.

Despite the available historical and natural attractions, new historical sites are added each year following archeological excavations.

Iran Daily conducted an interview with Mohammad Hosseini, the head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department in Markazi province to know about the historical relics, the number of tourists, and identify the tourism projects at hand.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Pointing to the number of historical and natural monuments exist in the province, Hosseini underscored that at present, 850 historical monuments have been registered on the National Heritage List. The province has 10 target tourism villages including Ahu, Sarabadan, Varcheh, Anjedan, Shahabiyeh, Varan, Vafs and Aveh.

‘The province also has 11 museums which attract numerous visitors annually,’ he added.

‘Moreover, it enjoys more than 8,000 artisans who are involved in the handicraft sector. The province has over 120 fields of handicrafts. At present, 10 shopping centers and eight marketplaces and exhibitions are active in handicraft industry with the approval of Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization,’ Hosseini noted.

‘Wood carving, engraving, carpet-weaving, copper smithing, painting, calligraphy and plasterwork are among major handicrafts of the province,’ he said.

According to him, Markazi province also enjoys 17 natural sites such as Meighan Wetland, Gerdoo Valley, skiing slope, Mahallat Hot Spring, Nakhjir Cave and Emarat Spring.

‘Almost 1,200 ancient sites have been discovered and excavated in Markazi province in recent years. In addition, Atashkooh Fire Temple, Jam Hill and Qiz Qaleh near the city of Saveh have been registered on the National Heritage List,’ the official added.

Hosseini further noted that excavation activities on ancient sites including Aveh in Saveh, Meshkin Tappeh in Zarandiyeh, Zolfabad in Farahan, rock-cut reliefs in Tahigh Village in Khomein and Khorheh in Mahallat were completed in recent years.

He reiterated that dossiers of Nakhjir Cave, Arak Bazaar, Saveh Jame’ Mosque and Teimareh epigraphs have potentials for registration on the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, the shortcomings of the dossiers must be dealt with before presenting them to the organization.

Touching upon the ancient relics that are on the verge of destruction, he said there are historical relics in each province which need additional protection. Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization intends to acquire the required funds, identify the historical sites, demarcate the precincts and register them on the National Heritage List.

‘There are many sites in the province which call for demarcation. These sites are prioritized for restoration. Preservation and restoration of all historical monuments depend on the amount of funds allocated by the government to ICHHTO. In addition, people should also make contributions,’ he noted.

Pointing to the number of historical relics that have not been registered on National Heritage List, the official stressed that almost 2,200 historical monuments have not been nationally registered. Tafresh has the highest number of historical relics. The oldest monument of the province is Atashkooh Fire Temple which dates back to the Sassanid era. It is located near Nimvar in Mahallat.

‘Museums in the province hosted almost 32,000 visitors during the year to March 2015. Chahar Fasl (Four Seasons) Museum in Arak had the highest number of visitors. Over 50,000 people visited the province’s historical sites free of charge,’ he said.

‘Foreign tourists made up of nearly 10 percent of last year’s visitors. Most of them came to the province as part of tour packages or were embassies’ officials, businessmen and traders who came to the province to visit the economic projects,’ the official added.

He further noted that in addition, Markazi province annually hosts professional tourists who arrive to visit its unique natural landscapes. For instance, Meighan Wetland in Farahan plains, is home to lots of migratory birds in the autumn and early winter.

‘A large number of tourists visit the region for bird watching and taking photographs. Pakal Ski Slope in south of Shazand also hosts those interested in winter sports,’ he added.

‘According to the Fifth Five-Year Economic Development Plan, the province should witness an annual five-percent growth in attracting foreign tourists. Based on statistics, the number of tourists registered a 3.2-percent growth and revenues earned from foreign tourists also increased by 5.2 percent,’ the official said.

Hosseini further underscored that in 2008, 59 tourism projects went on stream, of which 20 have been inaugurated, and 39 others are under construction. In addition, seven tourism projects have recorded physical progress of 50 percent.

‘Based on the Sixth Plan, the government intends to prioritize three goals: Constructing tourist camps and resorts with a credit worth $803,030, promoting tourism infrastructures in exemplary tourism sites by $1.5 million and completing access roads to tourist sites at a cost of $757,757,’ the official added.

He continued as saying that tourism projects help create direct and indirect jobs. Ecotourism resorts play an important role in earning revenues for local people.

‘Meanwhile, tourism projects created direct jobs for 75 people since March 21, 2015. In addition, we have anticipated that almost 500 jobs will be created during the Sixth Plan,’ he said.

Given the huge number of handicraft fields in the province, Hossini reiterated that seven handicraft marketplaces are under construction across the province, adding geometric wooden works, wood carving, engraving and enameled works are exported in hand luggage.

Pointing to the government’s long-term plans for boosting Markazi’s handicrafts, the official concluded as saing that the government seeks to establish at least one handicraft marketplace in every city. Moreover, it intends to hold national handicraft exhibition which includes various pavilions from handicrafts of other provinces. It also plans to equip handicraft workshops and revive the neglected fields.

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New initiative to equip Bahraini women for banking jobs

Gulf Daily News – 09 July, 2015 – A mentorship programme to help Bahraini women take up senior positions in the banking sector is underway.

The programme, in co-operation with the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), the Bahrain Institute for Banking and Finance (BIBF) and the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), will target 100 university students seeking careers in the banking and finance sector.

It was announced by CBB Corporate Services executive director Dr Huda Al Maskati during the launch of the initiative yesterday at the CBB headquarters in Diplomatic Area.

Students nominated from five universities (Bahrain University, Bahrain Polytechnic, Bangor BIBF, Ahliya and Royal University for Women), will undergo the three-month free-of-charge programme conducted by the BIBF. The year-long campaign, which features a series of activities including panel discussions and town hall sessions leading up to the Women in the Financial and Banking Conference on November 30, under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, wife of His Majesty King Hamad and SCW president, will commence in September.

“According to statistics women account for only 32 per cent of the workforce in Bahrain’s banking sector,” Dr Al Maskati told the GDN.

“We would like to see this percentage increase, and such initiatives will help us on this.

“As of now, we see women holding starting and middle management positions, but what we see is a lack of women moving into higher positions of authority.

“We need to tackle this and the challenges that we face in this aspect are both internal and external.

“We need to target the internal obstacles, which women themselves create – mainly the lack of self-confidence.

“They don’t push themselves to take up higher positions in the institutions where they work, unlike men, who grab opportunities while women hold themselves back. Adding to this are the external factors, especially the social expectations and definitions of a woman’s role – we need to work on all these.”

Dr Al Maskati said that the programme has been designed for both genders, under the national equal opportunity vision. “But the turnout was more of women students and we will be happy to encourage them in the sector,” she said. “The programme is not limited to subject-oriented sessions, but into aspects like how to present yourself in work and what is needed to climb up the ladder.”

SCW representative Dr Duniya Ahmed said that the first-of-its-kind council’s initiative aims to place a sustainable mechanism for women to reach up.

“All that is important for us is for women to reach up, and this coincides with this year’s Bahraini Women’s Day theme – Women in the financial and banking sector – to highlight their presence in this pivotal sector for about 50 years. We need to have a sustainable mechanism in place to build the future and contribute to the future generation, while we highlight pioneers in the field.

“The curriculum of the programme will also have topics related to gender sensitivity, which will be supported by practitioners from the field.”

According to BIBF director Solveig Nicklos, the programme aims to guide women in Bahrain into leadership positions in the industry and in the region.

“BIBF has remained the core resource to help continued growth in the sector that we focus on and we are happy to be part of this programme,” she said. “The sessions will comprise five training workshops covering a range of topics including communication, banking, Islamic finance, insurance and investment. It will also include three mentoring sessions per student that will be provided by a group of experts from Bahrain’s leading financial institutions.”

Also present were, CBB external communications head Nayla Ali Al Khalifa, BIBF marketing and corporate communications head Hisham Abu Al Fateh and BIBF assessment and development manager Amal Al Awadhi.

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Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector thriving, number of visitors up

Gulf Today – 10 July, 2015 – Mohamed Helal Al Muhairi, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ADCCI), has spoken with The Prospect Group about the role of the private sector in the emirate, as well as the economic outlook for Abu Dhabi.

According to Al Muhairi, the future economic outlook for Abu Dhabi looks, ‘rosy’. Large numbers of companies are trusted the Abu Dhabi economy – in 2014 the number of companies registered here grew almost 10 per cent. The number of visitors has always gone up, and the tourism sector is thriving.”

Al Muhairi states he wants the ADCCI to be the voice of the private sector in Abu Dhabi. So far, the ADCCI has opened two representative offices in Singapore and South Korea to help foster relationships in international markets, with two more office in Serbia and Egypt expected to open imminently.

The Director General of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI) has spoken out on the private sector’s contributions to the economy of Abu Dhabi, as well as revealing exactly what the organisation is doing to support private sector enterprise in the largest of the seven emirates.

Speaking with The Prospect Group, Al Muhairi says, “The role of the private sector in the economy is substantial. It contributes to almost 50 per cent of the GDP of Abu Dhabi and 90 per cent of the workforce.”

The specific initiatives we have in ADCCI for the future are to support the private sector and help our local members expand on an international scale — plus, we want to provide them with the training to help them succeed in global markets.”

SMEs form a huge percentage of the private sector – in Abu Dhabi alone it contributes to 80% of the private sector. The ADCCI is also helping these small businesses to develop and realise their potential by creating unique training courses, that will help them learn how to export products and services beyond the UAE, as well as helping them to survive in more volatile international markets.

No discussion about Abu Dhabi’s economy would be complete without a mention of oil — and Al Muhairi has plenty to say on the matter. “Non-oil GDP today is around 40 per cent, and in our Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision, we want that to increase to around 60 per cent. To do this, we need to attract skilled labourers, who can help and support us in diversification of the economy. The industries we’re focusing on right now are health, education, aerospace, energy and renewable energy.”

“The reduction of the oil prices helped Abu Dhabi’s economy to diversify, and at the same time, it’s given the private sector the chance to export the product internationally at competitive prices.”

And what is Al Muhairi’s message to private sector investors? “We’re giving the chance to you, as the private sector, to come and work in Abu Dhabi, he says.

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New push to develop Bahrain’s knowledge-based industries

Gulf Daily News – 10 July, 2015 – A specialised study to develop Bahrain’s knowledge-based industries and identify investment opportunities in the sector is being carried out by the Gulf Organisation for Industrial Consulting (GOIC) in partnership with the Industry and Commerce Ministry, it was announced yesterday.

The announcement follows a series of meetings held in the presence of a team of experts and consultants from the World Bank.

The first phase of the project has been completed.

It includes an analysis of the economic progress of Bahrain and the product space in manufacturing industries, in addition to a series of discussions with industrial investors from the public and private sectors.

GOIC’s study team represented by strategic planning consultant Dr Laila Diab and the World Bank’s team represented by Dr Raj Nharali will complete the second phase of the project in collaboration with the ministry.

It will include presenting the results of the assessment to representatives of the public and private sectors and putting together a number of recommendations on the adopted policies, promising knowledge-based industries and investment opportunities in the kingdom.

It was also announced that the results of a comprehensive sector survey of knowledge-based industries in Bahrain were presented in January.

The meeting resulted in identifying production and export capacities, industrial maintenance activities and available investment opportunities, capacities and facilitations in the country.

Also during the same meeting, new and innovative industrial investment opportunities were introduced as part of promotion programmes presented by the ministry during the “Invest in Bahrain” forum.

The ministry had listed this study as part of its action plan for the year and co-ordinated and collaborated with GOIC to develop the initial concepts of the study.

The study team is also currently drafting a scientific methodology and a roadmap under an integrated guiding system. The team convened with officials in charge at the Economic Development Board, Tamkeen and Bahrain Development Bank.

Moreover, the team visited a number of investment companies within the Bahrain International Investment Park in addition to some investment parties that are interested in this sector.

The methodology and roadmap include collecting and analysing data and information relating to key technologies in the sectors of metals (particularly aluminium), water treatment, plastic industries, chemicals, electrical industries, electronics, pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.

The tasks of the team also include examining these technologies and determining appropriate opportunities to develop relevant manufacturing industries and studying the existing industrial infrastructure in Bahrain and similar initiatives and experiences in GCC countries, in addition to the competitive advantages in the kingdom.

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Asia absorbing over $5bn worth of Iran’s exports

Islamic Republic News Agency – 10 July, 2015 – Iran’s Trade Development Organization announced that during the first two months of the current Iranian year, started March 21, over 10.934 million tons of export commodities worth 5.39 billion dollars were absorbed in the Asian continent.

During the corresponding period a year ago, over 11.923 million tons of commodities worth 4.616 billion dollars were exported to Asia which shows that exports comprised 94.2% and 92.7% of the total exports during the period in terms of weight and value, respectively.

A comparison between exports during the mentioned period and the same period last year shows a decrease of 8% in terms of weight and an increase of 9% in terms of value.

European continent absorbed 342 thousand tons of Iran’s export commodities worth 242 million dollars which comprised 2.96% and 4.4% in terms of weight and value of the total exports during the mentioned period.

Iran’s export to the European continent within the first two months of the current Iranian year over the same period last year shows that exports decreased by 4$ in terms of weight but made an increase of 4% in terms of value.

The African continent in this period absorbed 279 thousand tons of Iran’s exports with a value of 106 million dollars. In the mentioned two-month period, 373 thousand tons of Iran’s commodities worth 122 million dollars were exported to Africa which showed that the amount constituted 2.9% in terms of weight and 2.4% in terms of value of the total exports during this period.

Exports to the African continent showed a decrease of 25% and 13% in terms of weight and value, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Pacific continent absorbed 2 thousand tons of Iranian’s exports worth $ 3 million and the American continent 1000 tons of Iran’s export commodities, worth $ 3 million.

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Deal signed to construct Snow Village in Oman

Times of Oman – 11 July, 2015 – As part of promoting tourism in the Sultanate, an agreement was signed with a Dutch company to construct the first snow village in Oman. The OMR 12 million project will part of the Palm Mall in Muscat as an integrated commercial tourism project.

Shaikh Mahmoud bin Mohammed Jarwani, Chairman, Tamani Global Company, and owner of the Palm Mall, said: “We focus a lot on the quality of the projects to be distinct and different from what exists in terms of components,” pointing out that it is expensive but the country needs such a project to promote tourism.

He added that currently the company is working on preparing young Omanis to manage the Palm Mall project and its facilities according to an integrated plan to boost tourist and recreational facilities, hotels and others.

He also expressed his delight in partnership General Reserve Fund of the state, which owns 25 per cent of the project.

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Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan ink air link accord

Arab News – 12 July, 2015 – Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan Wednesday signed an agreement on air communication, according to the country’s Ambassador to Riyadh, Rasim Rzayev, who signed the accord with Faisal Hamad Al-Sugeyr of the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA).

The ambassador said this is the first step for the upcoming direct flight from Baku to Jeddah. His country recently concluded 15 cooperation and partnership deals with Saudi Arabia and another seven will follow very soon.

Hacıaga Hajiyev, deputy director of the Azerbaijan State Civil Aviation Administration, and GACA representatives were among those present.

“There are good opportunities for cooperation between our country and Saudi Arabia in various fields, including investment banking, joint projects, agriculture, petrochemical industry, ICT, tourism, construction and industry,” the envoy said.

He pointed out that a delegation of 100 companies, led by Minister of Commerce and Industry Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, was in Baku recently reflecting the two states keenness to promote economic and trade relations between the two countries.

The deals will constitute a basis for signing new agreements in Saudi Arabia in November. He said the trade turnover between the two countries stood at $ 14.66 million as of 2014. Both counties are interested in increasing our trade turnover.

“We already signed a deal on elimination of double taxation and protection of investments,” he added.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Saudi Arabia in April 2015 can be described as the best index of relations between the two countries,” he said.

Saudi Arabia is interested in investing in the development of the agrarian sector in Azerbaijan, said Saleh Al-Abdad, representative of the Saudi Fund for Development.

He said the fund is ready to finance the agricultural sector of the country through Azerbaijani banks.

The Kingdom, represented by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), has helped Azerbaijan by giving financial assistance for various projects.

In 2002, within the framework of projects for the construction of secondary schools in Baku, SFD extended a loan amounting to SR35.7 million to Azerbaijan. In 2005, the Saudi government provided also financial assistance worth $ 50,000 for rehabilitation.

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UNWTO lauds Saudi tourism body for heritage projects

Arab News – 12 July, 2015 – The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has praised the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) for protecting the country’s heritage.

Taleb Al-Refai, secretary general of the UNWTO, said the new name of the body reflects this focus, and congratulated Prince Sultan bin Salman, the SCTNH chairman, for his work in the tourism sector.

“The UNWTO will continue to support the SCTNH’s efforts, and the partnership between the two parties will be further enhanced in future,” said Al-Rifai.

Last week, Hail’s rock art was included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

The addition represents a new historic achievement for the Kingdom, said Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Ghabban, vice president of the SCTNH.

“Hail’s rock art is the first such location in the Arabian Peninsula registered on the World Heritage List. It shows numerous inscriptions covering 10,000 years of history.”

He said the rock art shows the daily life of people in the prehistoric period, with numerous representations of human and animal figures, fishing activities, religious practices and social customs.

The official said the site was important because there is a lack of information on the Neolithic period.

He said that the SCTNH had worked to register the site with the United Nations by cooperating with local and international teams.

“The commission has set up visitors’ centers and other facilities, while the Ministry of Transport has built a road to the site.”

Al-Ghabban thanked Prince Sultan and Hail Gov. Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen for their support.

Saudi Arabia has currently four sites listed with UNESCO, including Madain Saleh, Diriyah and Jeddah’s Al-Balad historic district. The latest addition was made on June 3 during the World Heritage Committee’s 39th session in Bonn, Germany.

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Oman planning to build ‘biggest’ solar energy plant in Middle East

Saudi Gazette – 09 July, 2015 – Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) said on Wednesday it would build the Middle East’s largest solar power plant in a $ 600 million deal with California’s GlassPoint Solar to reduce pressure on its natural gas reserves.

“The project will be fully financed by PDO,” Raoul Restucci, managing director of the sultanate’s top oil and gas exploration and production firm, told reporters. GlassPoint will provide technology and help to build the plant.

Construction of the first phase of the plant, ultimately expected to generate 1,021 megawatts, will start this year and the facility is to begin generating steam in 2017.

Oman is an oil exporter but lacks the ample reserves of its Gulf neighbors, so it is eager to get more from its oilfields by pumping high-pressure steam into ageing wells.

At the same time, its ambitious industrial development plans promise to siphon off supplies of natural gas that would traditionally be used to generate the steam.

So it plans to use solar power to produce steam; the new plant will save 5.6 trillion British thermal units of natural gas each year, Restucci said.

Last September Oman’s State General Reserve Fund, a sovereign wealth fund, and other investors said they were injecting $ 53 million into GlassPoint to accelerate the deployment of solar steam generators.

GlassPoint, which has had a pilot steam-generating project in Oman since late 2012, has said it aims to develop a solar manufacturing capability and local supply chain in the country.

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