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31 Aug, 2015

Guidebook planned in Japan to accommodate needs of Muslim tourists

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 31 August 2015 (16 Dhul Qa’dah 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.





First ECO – Silk Road Food Festival to be held in Zanjan

The First ECO-Silk Road Food Festival will be hosted by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) on 31 August – 4 September 2015 in Zanjan. The decision to organize the said Festival was adopted during the 25th Meeting of the Regional Planning Council (1-5 March 2015). The Festival, expected to draw local, national and international food fans/visitors, provides a unique opportunity for the Member States, particularly ECO Embassies in Tehran, to share their food culture with the visitors and to showcase their food products/industry to business community.

In another development, the “1st ECO Senior Consular Officials Meeting on Facilitation of Visa for Drivers” is scheduled to be held on 7-8 September, 2015 in Tehran. The Meeting will consider and review the progress in implementation of the recommendations of a number of meetings of the Consular Officials of the Embassies of the Member States in Tehran on implementation of visa related provisions of the TTFA and will discuss measures on visa facilitation for drivers and persons involved in transit transport in the ECO Region.

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Guidebook planned in Japan to accommodate needs of Muslim tourists

malaysia logo

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

Tehran, Aug 28, IRNA – The Japan Tourism Agency has drawn up a guidebook to help hotel and restaurant operators better understand the needs of Muslim travelers, including their food, sources told Jiji Press. The guidebook is based on surveys of some 1,300 Muslim travelers to Japan.

In recent years, the number of travelers to Japan from countries with large Muslim populations, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, has surged on the back of relaxed visa requirements and an increased number of budget flights.

But Japanese hotel and restaurant operators have not been well prepared for dealing with such guests, industry sources said.

The guidebook explains that practicing Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcohol, and that they pray five times a day.

It also says some Muslims feel comfortable knowing that a particular food does not have pork in it and that not all need to use halal-certified ingredients.

It also includes phrases in Japanese and English that hotel and restaurant operators can use to answer questions Muslims might ask. (Source: The japan Times)

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Rare copy of Quran sells for £230k at Exeter auction

Tehran, Aug 28, IRNA – A copy of the Quran that had been expected to raise £1,500 at auction sold for nearly a quarter of a million pounds.

The rare 410-page book by 19th Century calligrapher Yahya Hilmi Efendi was bought for £230,000 by an unnamed overseas buyer.

A ‘pocket’ copy of the Quran, thought to be written by the female calligrapher Shah Umm Salamah, fetched £18,000.

Both works, which were gifted to the vendor from their employer 20 years ago, were sold in Exeter, Devon, Britain.

Auctioneer Richard Bearne, of Bearnes, Hampton and Littlewoods, said the book was believed to have been written around 1876 in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, BBC reported.

In 2014, it was reported a torn page of a Quran, which was estimated to raise up to $60 (about £40), was sold for $86,000 (about £55,765).

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Egypt releases Arabic documentary on Cairo Declaration

CAIRO, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) — The first-ever Arabic-language documentary discussing the sacrifices and roles of both China and Egypt during World War II was released in Cairo Wednesday.

The documentary, dubbed “Cairo Declaration… A story of a document,” tackles the Chinese-Japanese conflicts over territories and islands seized by Japan during its war against China which started July 7, 1937 and ended September 11, 1945.

On Dec. 1, 1943, after week-long intensive meetings in Cairo, then U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, jointly vowed to continue their military operations against Japan to “restrain and punish it” until its “unconditional surrender.”

Dismissing thoughts of gains or territorial expansion, the three powers agreed their target was that “Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific” which it seized or occupied since the beginning of World War I, along with “all territories Japan stole from China.”

Japan will be expelled from all territories it took by force, read the declaration issued at Cairo’s Mena House, a restaurant complex near the renowned Giza Pyramids.

The statement was published simultaneously in Washington, London and China’s wartime capital Chongqing on the day it was issued.

The Cairo Declaration set the tone for an imminent victory in World War II, as well as the goals for post-war world order.

Adel Sabri, CEO of the Egyptian O2 E-Content company which independently produced the documentary, told Xinhua that he has been working on the documentary for three years and meant to release it on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

“The Chinese people sacrificed a lot. These sacrifices were not well highlighted and the Chinese people were not appropriately appreciated for this,” he said during the film’s release held at the Mena House hotel, organized by the Chinese Embassy in Cairo.

Sabri said he produced the film in Arabic to give Arab nations further chances to get acquainted with extra facts regarding that era, adding that the documentary will be screened on Arabic-language TV channels.

“Arabs are under-informed concerning the Chinese-Japanese war, which is why it took three years of information and fact gathering to present to Arab viewers,” he added.

Sabri pointed out that Cinema should be used widely and correctly to present historical facts to people everywhere.

“Many people do not even know that half a million Egyptians were killed during World War I, and thousands died during World War II,” he said.

Sabri stressed that millions of Chinese were also killed during these wars, but these facts were not appropriately mentioned in history books and the media.

Concerning the difficulties he faced during the making of the documentary, Sabri said collecting information was the greatest difficulty, adding that documenting and filming were additionally difficult, however his team managed to overcome these challenges.

The film introduces the deeply-rooted historical Chinese-Egyptian relationship. It also tackles the periods before and after the Cairo Declaration, along with China’s determination to retrieve its seized rights.

Meanwhile, Charge d’affaires Qi Qianjin from the Chinese Embassy in Egypt told Xinhua that the Cairo Declaration remains a cornerstone of war against fascism.

“The Cairo Declaration set the framework and foundation for a new post-war international order in the Asian Pacific region,” he said.

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Kish hosts ICAO regional confab

Kish island, Aug 29, IRNA – Kish Island hosted a two-day confab on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regional bureau on Saturday.

The two-day seminar which themed amalgamation of data base for aviation management information hosted representatives from countries in the Middle East region, it said.

Supreme Advisor for Kish Free Trade Zone Rasoul Keshpour said Kish is a suitable venue to host ICAO consecutive meetings.

The era of economic sanctions is now passing away, he said adding that such meetings would help increase cooperation between the Arab states with the Islamic Republic of Iran, he said.

Such meetings help increase level of scientific cooperation and also prepare grounds for the Iranian Elites to demonstrate their capabilities, he said.

Representatives from Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan, Oman, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have attended the two-day confab.

Topics of the agenda of the meeting was method of cooperation between countries, most significant international developments, violation of regional AIM at flight management information and status of countries committed to implement ICAO.

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Afrosiyob Train Starts to Run to Karshi

23.08.2015 – UZA – Afrosiyob Train Starts to Run to Karshi On August 22, just a few days ahead of the celebrations of the 24th anniversary of our country’s independence, the high-speed electric train Afrosiyob carried out its maiden course from Tashkent to Karshi.

Special significance is attached under the leadership of President Islam Karimov to the steadfast development of the railway transport. Wide-ranging reforms are underway in the sector facilitating the growing volumes of freight and passenger transportation.

Four years ago, the high-speed train Afrosiyob began running between Uzbekistan’s capital city and Samarkand. The train itself is manufactured by the Spanish PATENTES TALGO S.L.

The modern train containing two locomotives, eight passenger cars and a restaurant-carriage, has become for this period the most comfortable and reliable railway transportation means for our people and the guests of Uzbekistan. Suggestive of that is the fact that from the moment it was commissioned more than 600 thousand passengers have been carried by this train.

With the aim of securing the regular running of the electric train Afrosiyob along the route Tashkent-Samarkand-Karshi, specialists of the Joint Stock Company Uzbekiston Temir Yollari (Uzbekistan Railways) have undertaken enormous amount of work and efforts.

In accordance with the resolution of the head of our state “On boosting the development of infrastructure, transport and communications construction in 2011-2015”, signed 21 December 2010, as well as that “On measures to implement the project ‘Electrification of the railway section Marakand-Karshi’”, inked 5 January 2012, the latter 140.8 kilometer-long railway segment has been electrified to a full extent. At 11 stations, 9 kilometer-long railroads have been renewed, and ground works exceeding 2 million cubic meters have been carried out.

To secure a reliable movement of trains and uninterrupted operation of communication systems, a modern automated scheme of dispatcher management and automated registration of electricity metering have been established. All the crossings of the railway section are equipped with phone and radio communications, while the road has been fenced on both sides.

To date, the passenger trains from Tashkent to Karshi have had to overcome the 511 kilometer path for nearly 6 hours, while from now on, the Afrosiyon electric train is going to limit that time to 3 hours.

“We have seen Afrosiyob on the television many times and dreamed of the times when we have that train in our region,” says the Karshi resident Shodiyor-ota Khojanazarov. “Today, our dream has come true. This wonder of machinery and technology takes us swiftly from Tashkent to our city. We are grateful to the President of our country for such opportunities for our people that make our towns even more closer.”

The Karshi railway station hosted a ceremony of welcoming the Afrosiyob train. The Kashkadarya Region hokim Zafar Ruziev, chairman of Uzbekiston Temir Yollari joint-stock company Achilbai Ramatov and others noted that this new course is indicative of the tremendous transformation taking place in the lives of our people along with the demonstration of the economic potential of our country.

Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan Batir Zakirov attended the festive event.

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Tashkent: The Modern Appearance of the Old City

26.08.2015 – UZA – President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov reviewed the ongoing construction and beautification works in the capital Tashkent on August 25.

Owing to the peace and harmony reigning in our country, thanks to the selfless work of the people, Uzbekistan has been advancing on all fronts. Wide-ranging construction and beautification efforts are in progress across all the urban and rural areas of the nation, thus facilitating a steadfast elevation of the living standards of the population.

At the initiative of President Islam Karimov, our towns are being reinvigorated to a full extent on the basis of general (master) plans. It can be seen in the case of the contemporary appearance of Nukus, Urgench, Bukhara, Andijan, Ferghana, Namangan, Samarkand, Karshi, Termez and other cities.

On the eve of the 24th anniversary of our native land’s independence, the construction of new industrial enterprises, educational and medical institutions, cultural centers and sports complexes, roads and bridges, modern homes is in full swing in all regions of the country. As the good tradition established in the years of independence goes, the majority of these facilities are put into operation on the eve of the greatest and the dearest holiday of our nation.

The President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov traveled August 25 along Tashkent in order to familiarize with the enduring creative and improvement works undertaken in the megalopolis.

Tashkent is a majestic capital; it is the symbol of our state that epitomized the latter’s beauty and charm in whole. Under the guidance of the head of our state, extensive construction and creative endeavors are underway in the city. As a result, it has been undergoing renewal, preserving at the same time its historical identity. Being erected with a close eye to the traditions of national architecture art and modern urban planning requirements, the apartment buildings, social facilities, hotels, roads and bridges as well as shady alleys create all the comfort and favorable environment for locals and visitors.

Built on the idea of our country’s President, a master plan has been elaborated for the reconstruction of Tashkent’s old city. In accordance with this scheme, large-scale construction works are carried out in this part of the capital. In 2013, improvement and beautification efforts were undertaken in and around the Khadra Square. In 2014, new roads were built in Almazar Shaikhantahur districts. A new modern bridge was commissioned in May this year at the intersection of Sebzar and Abdulla Kadiri Streets.

In accordance with the 20 November 2014 decree of the head of our state to build modern residential housing, 5 five-storey buildings consisting of 160 apartments were erected in the old part of Tashkent. The construction of ten more such houses with 246 apartments is currently in progress and they are projected to be commissioned by the end of the year.

Climatic conditions, requirements of health and safety, all the peculiarities of the national lifestyle of our people were taken into account in the process of designing these buildings. Modern technologies and materials were used in their construction and finishing works.

The attention paid to creating the necessary conditions for the people can be seen already at the entrance of the apartment building. On the recommendation of the President, the height of each rung of the ladder is understated from the conventional 15 centimeters to 12 centimeters, while the slope is reduced from 27 to 21 degrees in the angle. This creates additional convenience for people, especially for the elderly.

When constructing apartment buildings, we should take into account human interests and the national mentality of our people, Islam Karimov said. In order for people to be satisfied with their lives, it is necessary to create favorable conditions and amenities, especially for our women.

The head of state gave recommendations on the creation of additional facilities for the population in the residential area, as well as on landscaping of the surrounding territory.

Our country has been making remarkable successes in all spheres. The Uzbek people live in these comfortable and modern homes. That is the very goal of our efforts, namely, the dream and aspirations of people, Islam Karimov insisted.

The ongoing creative and improvement works will help to further improve the welfare and living standards of the population.

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Sharq Taronalari Academic Conference Held in Samarkand

– UZA – Sharq Taronalari Academic Conference The international academic conference entitled “Community of Musical Culture of the Peoples of the East” has taken place in Samarkand within the frameworks of the 10th Sharq Taronalari International Music Festival.

It was attended by art historians, culture specialists, scientists, historians, experts, artists and composers from countries such as Uzbekistan, the United States, China, the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, Serbia, Lithuania, Hungary, Israel, Oman, Kuwait, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, as well as representatives of international organizations.

Minister of Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan Bahodir Ahmedov, Assistant Director General of UNESCO Eric Falt and others noted that the International Music Festival “Sharq Taronalari”, organized at the initiative of President Islam Karimov, serves for the advancement of cultural relations between the peoples, the revival and popularization of classical songs and melodies.

Held every time the festival takes place, the scientific conferences contribute to the study and promotion of the history, traditions and identity of the musical art of diverse peoples of the world.

The purpose of this conference that is directed at addressing the community of musical culture of the East is the study of evolution stages of music of different countries, analysis of their similarities and thereby the consolidation of friendship bonds between peoples.

“Uzbekistan’s noble endeavors aimed at promoting the music art, studying and propagating the national music and preserving it for future generations are worthy of high evaluation, and for that we are grateful to President Islam Karimov,” said Eric Falt, Assistant Director General of UNESCO. “Pearls of the Uzbek music art – Shashmaqom, Katta ashula – are included in UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The essence and significance of the international music festival “Sharq Taronalari” are in tune with the objectives of UNESCO. Therefore, our organization supports this forum.”

At the international conference participants exchanged expertise and experience on research works conducted by academics and art historians for learning the musicology and source studies of the East, along with the musical culture of different peoples. They stressed the need for further development of mutual cooperation among scholars on this front.

“Located in the heart of the Great Silk Road, Uzbekistan played an important role in the spread of musical art in the world,” said President of the International Association of Music Art “Min-On” (Japan) Hiroyasu Kobayashi. “Once again we have seen this during today’s international forum that brought together musicologists from many countries. The conference facilitates the study of similarities in the arts of different peoples, consolidation of their impact on bolstering the friendship between and among them.”

The specialists noted the special role of Uzbekistan – one of the centers of ancient civilization – in the development and spread of musical culture in the East. Also underscored were the outcomes of attention paid in our country to the promotion of national musical arts, preservation of classical songs and melodies.

Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan Adham Ikramov delivered a speech at the conference.

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Azerbaijan makes cultural treasures more available

28 August 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan made its cultural treasures more available for low-income segments of the population.

The ancient Land of Fire – Azerbaijan – is a country that can astonish anyone, both local and foreign, with its cultural beauties. Moreover, when visiting the numerous cultural sites in the country, locals prefer to go to places with budget entrance fees. Over 140 museums are functioning in the country.

The country approved new rules for visiting cultural sites for low-income segments of society, veterans, physically challenged people, and children with disabilities under the age of 18, the Cabinet of Ministers reported on August 28.

The preferential visits to state and municipally-owned cultural properties, as well as privately owned museums and attractions under the protection of cultural institutions, includes free admission for non-commercial purposes.

Moreover, there is no need for consent in preferential visits from the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Office of the State Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher”.

For preferential visits to such cultural sites, the said persons should apply to the overseeing cultural institution under the state and municipality itself or the head of the institution if the sites are privately owned.

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Baku to host another Eurovillage festival

26 August 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Yet another exciting Eurovillage festival will take place in the Icherisheher, or “Old City”, a unique state historical and architectural preserve in the center of Baku.

Supported by the European Union and various European embassies in Baku, the Eurovillage 2015 is scheduled for September 19.

During the daylong event, stands representing several European countries will accessible to the public near Gosha Gala Gapilari (Old City Gates).

Residents and guests of the country will have a chance to acquire information about the cultures, histories, and national characteristics of the various countries.

Guests will also enjoy a wide range of entertaining programs such as quizzes and performances from popular bands and musicians.

The opening ceremony will be held at 11:00 am. EU pavilions, musical programs, quizzes, dancing, karaoke, museum tours, face art, and other entertainment will be held between 12:00am and 6:00pm.

The event will come to end with the performance of the Croatian Klara More at 06:30pm and UK’s Peatbog Faeries band at 7:00pm.

The first Eurovillage was held in the capital of the Land of Fire in 2012 in the run-up to Eurovision 2012, which took place in Baku. Since then, the festival has become a tradition, gathering hundreds of people every year.

The Old City is a unique town within the city of Baku with its own infrastructure and residential communities. The fortress is located in the center of Baku along the coast of the Caspian Sea.

Unique historic monuments and a wide range of tourism options make Icherisheher one of the most popular tourist attractions in Azerbaijan.

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Hungarian Wizz Air plans to resume flights to Azerbaijan

27 August 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air told Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) CJSC about its intention to resume flights to Azerbaijan in March 2016, the press service of CJSC told Trend August 27.

Talks of the sides on the resumption of flights of the Hungarian airline to Azerbaijan will take place in the near future, AZAL said.

“The Azerbaijani side agreed to the implementation of flights by Wizz Air in March 2016,” the press-service said. “It should be noted that the Azerbaijani side has repeatedly appealed to Wizz Air with a proposal for implementation of flights in summer and winter of 2015, but received no response.”

Direct flights between Baku and Budapest were conducted in accordance with the memorandum of cooperation signed by the civil aviation administrations of the two countries, but then Wizz Air stopped implementation of flights to Baku.

The resumption of flights between Baku and Budapest was postponed for an indefinite term.

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Azerbaijani designer to present collection in China

By Amina Nazarli

28 August 2015 – TODAY.AZ – New collection of Azerbaijan’s famous designer Gulnara Khalilova will be presented at the 4th Eurasian international clothes festival “Silk Road.”

The stylish event will be held in Urumqi, China between August 29 and September 2.

The main organizers of the festival are the People’s Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, Textile Industry Association of China and others.

The annual Silk Road festival pays tribute to the enduring influence of this ancient way. The Clothes Festival presents thoroughly modern fashion shows and industry fairs.

Last year Khalilova was awarded “Master Exhibition & Performance Award” at the third Eurasian Silk Road festival. She demonstrated her peculiar handmade knitted dresses and national and evening dresses.

Khalilova’s work of national collection can be found in Egypt, the library of Alexandria, the Cultural Center of Istanbul, and the cultural centers of various cities in the U.S.

The designer took part in preparing the classic Azerbaijani operetta “Arshin mal alan” by famous composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov staged at the 100th anniversary of the State Theatre of Musical Comedy, where she created costumes.

Her works are also very popular in collections of famous Turkish public figures, representatives of culture and art Ajda Pekkan, Emrah Erdogan, Beyazit Ozturk, Soner Sarikabadayi, and others.

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Low-cost Turkey-Azerbaijan flights to become available soon

27 August 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines received permission from Azerbaijani side to operate flights to the country, the Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) told Trend August 27.

AZAL said the request by Pegasus to carry out the flights from Turkey’s Istanbul to Azerbaijan’s Gabala and back was granted and the appropriate airport slots were approved.

“The decision regarding the date of start of flights on the route depends on the Turkish side,” said AZAL. “It is also possible that in winter this year one of the Turkish carriers will start operating flights to Lankaran.”

AZAL also said that the regular flights between the two countries get approved by intergovernmental agreements.

“A corresponding agreement between the civil aviation authorities of Azerbaijan and Turkey was signed November 2014, and currently its terms are being fulfilled by both parties,” the Azerbaijani airline further told Trend.

The airline also said it continues to closely cooperate with Turkish Airlines, which is carrying out flights to Baku, Ganja and Nakhchivan.

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Guyana MPs give go-ahead to tourism budgets

Georgetown GINA, August 26, 2015 – The National Assembly today approved $865.7 million for the Ministry of Tourism.

This covers a $685.8 million allocation to the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, for the period January 01 to August 31, 2015, and an allocation of $180 million for the new Ministry of Tourism for the remainder of 2015.

During the deliberation on the estimates, Minister of Tourism Cathy Hughes was asked to provide clarification on an aggregated $30 million increase in subsidies in 2015 as against 2014, for the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA).

She explained that this is to implement a marketing plan and to fund various vehicles to promote destination Guyana. In this regard, the Minister said the monies will fund measures such as GTA representatives’ attendance at trade shows, and the promotion of Destination Guyana, via outlets such as magazines, and radio and television stations across the world.

Clarification was also sought on an allocation of $3.95 million for the maintenance of buildings. Minister Hughes explained that the work is to be done at the Colgrain House, which is the location of the new Ministry. She further clarified that the interventions to the building include electrical works and changing the different door locks.

Of the $179.9 million approved for the new Ministry of Tourism, the sum of $68 million is budgeted for the development of policies, for a sustainable national tourism industry, and $74.1 for tourism development, including measures aimed at creating a destination market plan, to position Guyana as a globally recognised tourism destination.

A sum of $37.8 million covers consumer protection services, including among others, measures aimed at increasing awareness of consumer rights, and participation in World Consumer Day activities.

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Guyana plans heritage celebrations at Indigenous Village Sophia

Georgetown, GINA, August 26, 2015 – Preparations are almost completed for the hosting of activities to commence Indigenous Heritage Month 2015 celebrations at the Indigenous Village, Sophia, as workers were today putting the final touches to the three additional benabs constructed. September is being observed as Indigenous Heritage Month in Guyana.

This year the theme for the annual observance is “Preserving our customs and traditions.”

In an invited comment, Advisor to the Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Mervyn Williams, advised that these final touches are expected to be completed tomorrow, August 28, 2015.

Williams reminded that Santa Aratak (popularly known as Santa Mission), located in Region Three, is Heritage Village 2015 and all arrangements have been finalized in the village to facilitate the grand celebration on September 12, 2015.

He explained too, that the necessary logistical arrangements have already been made to transport the persons who will be participating in these activities from the 187 indigenous communities.

With regard the much anticipated heritage games; Williams explained that plans are also well advanced in the coordination of the various games with a view of allowing persons from all areas to compete in the various competitions to share their talent.

Indigenous workers adding the finishing touches to the main building at the Sophia Exhibition Centre

As it relates to the display of indigenous arts and crafts, the Ministry will this year be focusing specifically on promoting only the products of the indigenous communities during the exhibitions as it was noted that previously the participation of other exhibiters with non-indigenous products, food and drinks, did not allow for the effective participation of the indigenous peoples.

“We will encourage our Indigenous leaders and people to focus on promoting all things Indigenous,” Williams said. In the same breath, he appealed to other Guyanese to visit the indigenous Village and participate in the activities as it is done with the “we are all Guyanese,” concept in mind.

Williams observed that Guyana is a multi-cultural and multi-faceted society and as such no culture is better than the other. He urged the indigenous population to come out in their numbers and show the nation their diverse cultures and way of life.

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Caribbean supporting Guyana’s Tourism development

Georgetown, GINA, August 28, 2015 – The Government’s sharp approach in developing Guyana as a must-see tourist destination has attracted the attention of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), which is now seeking to assist with implementing some of the priority actions for the sector.

Secretary General of the CTO, Hugh Riley, who is currently in Guyana, will be meeting with Minister of Tourism, Cathy Hughes, to discuss ways to advance cooperation and mutual interests. Riley is accompanied by Director of Membership Services at CTO, Faye Gill.

“We have come to understand that the Minster has a sharp focus on what Guyana’s tourism development should look like, we need to understand that as the CTO, we feel we have the skills and tools to help to deliver what Guyana’s national tourism priorities are, and ensuring that local communities benefit is a key part of the sustainable aspect of tourism,” Riley told media operatives, last evening, at a cocktail reception, hosted by Minister Hughes in their honour, at the Cara Lodge.

He further explained that, the CTO is extremely happy that Guyana has taken the lead in the area of sustainable tourism development at the community level.

“We feel that the CTO can assist in helping local communities to understand the value that tourism brings to their lives and in helping all stakeholders involved, to understand how to further develop those communities,” Riley said.

Minister Hughes explained that the visit of the Secretary General is timely and historic, since it occurs at a time when there is a fresh approach to the way Government business is being done. She referred to the recent installation of the new Government, the creation of the Ministry of Tourism, and the passing of the APNU+AFC’s first budget.

The Minister also reported that the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) and the Ministry of Tourism have received a 25 percent increase in their budgetary allocations.

“I will be meeting with the private sector and especially the membership of THAG (Tourism and Hospitality Association of Guyana) to explain how that budgetary allocation will unfold, and what we plan to do with it. Your input is very very important to our decision making process”, she said.

The Minister has indicated that it is the intention of her Ministry to work closely with the CTO and will be discussing with the team the focus of Guyana’s Tourism Policy and targeted niche markets.

“We look forward to the partnership and collaboration and to fruitful discussions tomorrow, to advance the tourism agenda and to discuss areas of mutual benefit for Guyana and tourism in general, because I think that our existing relationship is one we can build on and we can learn from them, they can support us in marketing Guyana” she said.

Minister Hughes advised that community-based tourism is an area receiving significant focus by her Ministry as this is seen as a way of improving the lives of the people in those communities, while at the same time showcasing their culture, hospitality and way of life.

“Community-based tourism is an area of tourism where we want to build, because we feel strongly that people in the rest of the world are interested in. This is the time where we want to come to and see communities … how they live, what their culture is, so in the whole community-based tourism model, we feel that is one we can duplicate and build on in the regions, and that is key in creating employment within the regions too,” Minister Hughes said.

To this end, the Minister advised that the Ministry is collaborating with the regional administration, to identify and develop an inventory of tourism products.

“We have started getting the regions themselves to identify those tourism prospects, so next week in Region Eight, we have a team of 20 individuals who are going to IWOKRAMA to receive training, these are people already in tourism-related organisations support services, but we want to take them to the level where they can expand their businesses,” Hughes said.

According to the minister, this is done against the backdrop of the vision of creating another industry to support the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in addition to the traditional contributors, rice, sugar and mining.

The Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world and it attracts approximately 25-26 million visitors annually. Last year US$2B was spent in the Caribbean region.

The CTO, established since 1989, has been at the forefront of promoting and positioning the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination, and a leading sustainable tourism destination as one sea, one voice, one Caribbean. The CTO brings together 30 destinations/countries, speaking four languages in one destination

Guyana has been a member of the CTO since 1992, and has benefited from a range of programmes, events, conferences, initiatives, and advocacy efforts in advancing its tourism sector.

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Historic Sumail Castle Of Oman

SUMAIL, Oman, Aug 22 (NNN-ONA) – The Wilayat of Sumail is known for its green oases, castles and forts. The wilayat has about 115 forts and castles, the most important of which are Sumail Castle, Al Shahbaa Castle and Al Dawaa Tower.

Sumail Castle was built almost 380 years ago, during the era between Imam Abdullah bin Mohammed, who became Imam in 1560 and Imam Nasser bin Murshid al-Ya’arubi, who became Imam in 1624.

The castle has many external walls, in addition to the façade and the gate, which have many defensive components, such as the arrow launch sites that were used to defend the castle.

The castle consists of many architectural units, the most important of which is the Wali House (a two-storey building), which was built completely of “Sarooj” (building material made of mud) and gravel.

It has two entrances, the first one is opposite to the Mosque and the Sable or “Majlis” and the other is leading to a yard that has several rooms that were dedicated to other purposes.

There is also a three-room building behind the Wali House, in addition to another building directly beside the Wali House.

The castle has three store rooms for storing Omani dates, in addition to soldiers’ rooms, a kitchen and water wells that have been engraved in the rock, to avoid leakage of water.

The castle has eight round towers, semi-round and square towers that are distributed between the castle’s walls. The castle has many archaeological buildings, such as the soldiers’ barracks and a small building west of the soldiers’ barracks. There are also two rectangular buildings, one of which is believed to be a jail.

Many cultural events are organised at the castle’s yard, as it is the case with Al Shahbaa Castle in the Wilayat of Nizwa. In response to the Royal Directives of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the castle, which extends over more than 10,000 square metres, has been restored by using the local building materials, Omani “Sarooj” and gravel. Mud and fronds were also used in the restoration process.

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Malaysia: Pm Najib Tells Stakeholders To Leverage On Strong Tourism Fundamentals

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said Malaysia’s tourism fundamentals, just like its economic fundamentals, are still strong and need be conveyed through various channels to woo in more visitors to the country.

The prime minister listed them down as the country’s renowned hospitality and a culture of friendliness, rich natural heritage, cultural diversity and now, more than ever, the value for money that foreign tourists would experience in Malaysia compared to other destinations due to the exchange rates.

“All of these are still huge selling points that need to be amplified and communicated across all channels to drive up tourism numbers,” he said at an event titled ‘An Hour with the Prime Minister’ organised by the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) here Thursday.

Najib said the government was aware that the competition was stiff, with other countries equally driven to pull in tourists into their borders.

To make Malaysia’s tourism sector more competitive, he said: “Incentives may need to be revised and immigration issues like visa-on-arrival and visa fees as well as electronic visas need to be revisited to make it easier for tourists to enter the country.”

Najib said airlines and airports too needed to be further engaged to increase direct flights and greater connectivity, both of which had shown to be directly correlated to increased tourist arrivals.

He suggested that the Cabinet Committee on Tourism reconvene soon to tackle cross-ministerial issues that had to be resolved.

“In the meantime, the industry itself must believe in Malaysia’s tourism fundamentals and must in their own way market those fundamentals to help boost the industry,” he said.

Najib pointed out that MATTA and its members had a role to play to help project the truth about the country to markets abroad.

This should be done, he said, “so that misconceptions and negative views grounded in falsehood – especially as spread through social media – can be corrected and tourists are not put off from visiting the country”.

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Mozambique Identifies Special Economic Zones For Agriculture

MAPUTO, Aug 26 (NNN-AIM) — The Mozambican government has identified 24 “development hubs” where Special Economic Zones for agro-businesses can be established, according to Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco.

he qas quoted as saying in Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily, Noticias, that the Special Zones would promote investment in key sectors which can raise agricultural production.

The establishment of these zones, Pacheco added, was being coordinated with the Ministry of Economy and Finance since the private operators who invest there might be offered various tax exemptions.

The 24 Special Zones are located along Mozambique’s six agricultural development corridors. These are the Maputo and Limpopo corridors in the south, the Beira and Zambezi Valley corridors in the centre, and the Nacala and Pemba-Lichinga corridors in the north of the country.

Opportunities in the six corridors have been identified for the value chain of products such as potatoes, wheat, beans, maize, soybeans, rice, poultry and cattle, as well as for forestry products.

Several Special Economic Zones already exist but these are mostly for industries and tourism. The best known is the Beluluane Industrial Park on the outskirts of Maputo, where the MOZAL aluminium smelter is located.

Special zones are supposed to boost employment and production in exchange for tax breaks for the companies willing to invest.

In addition to the Special Zones, Pacheco said his Ministry was negotiating with the Mozambican Tax Authority (AT) to exempt from Customs duties and value added tax (VAT) the import of spare parts for agricultural equipment.

This would include tractor tyres and irrigation tubing, which will fall substantially in price, if the AT accepts the Ministry’s proposal.

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Rail-link between Ethiopia-Djibouti To Open Early 2016

ADDIS ABABA, Aug 27 (NNN-ENA) — The new railway line connecting Ethiopia and neighbouring Djibouti will become operational early next year, says Getachew Betru, the Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Railways Corporation.

The 450-mile (724-kilometre) line which is being built by China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction (CCECC) at a cost of $4 billion is one of the major projects being undertaken to create new manufacturing industries in Ethiopia.

The project is also part of Ethiopia’s plan of constructing around 5,000 km of new railway lines across the country by 2020.

Getachew told a media conference here Wednesday that by October 2015, a considerable portion of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti project would have been completed. “We will start (operations on the line) in early 2016,” he said, noting that the new link would be a game-changer for land-locked Ethiopia.

The link to the port of Djibouti on the Red Sea would be “one of the most vibrant economic corridors in the world”, he added.

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Jordan, Egypt Discuss Economic Cooperation

CAIRO, Egypt, Aug 27 (NNN-PETRA) – A Jordanian economic delegation, discussed in Cairo, with senior officials in the Egyptian public and private sectors, ways to strengthen bilateral relations in various sectors.

Head of the delegation, Chairman of Amman Chamber of Commerce, Issa Haider Murad, praised Jordanian-Egyptian relations, noting that Jordan continues its efforts to enhance reform environment in the various sectors.

He said, Jordan has completed a system of incentive investment and business development legislations, to simplify procedures for investors’ work environment.

He expressed hope to benefit from Egyptian expertise in infrastructure projects, especially after Jordan has finalised the Public-Private Partnership Law, which allows establishing major projects managed by the private sector.

Murad stressed the importance of the Egyptian cooperation, in paving the way for Jordan to join the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Treaty.

Murad called for holding a permanent Jordanian exhibition in Egypt, to inform the Egyptian private sector about Jordanian products, and remove obstacles that prevent the development of trade exchanges between the two countries.

In turn, Chief Executive Officer of Egyptian General Authority For Investment and Free Zones (GAFI), Alaa Omar, expressed his country’s desire to the promotion of economic relations with Jordan in various sectors.

He pointed out that Jordanian investments in Egypt fall in tenth place, Arab wise, and in the 22nd globally, worth more than US$2 billion in various sectors.

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Ghana to have first Islamic bank this year

Sunday 30 Aug 2015 – Accra, Ghana (IINA) – The Bank of Ghana has revealed recently that Ghana could see launching operation of the first Islamic bank this year, Ghana’s online news agency Pulse.com.gh reported.

The central bank earlier had to ask for an extension of launching till November because of challenges in meeting all key banking requirements.

Islamic finance may be viewed as a form of ethical investing, or ethical lending where no loans are possible unless they are interest-free.

Among the ethical restrictions is the prohibition on alcohol, gambling and consumption of pork. Islamic funds would never knowingly invest in companies involved in gambling, alcoholic beverages, or porcine food products.

Its practitioners and clients need not be Muslims, but they must accept the ethical restrictions underscored by Islamic values.

Head of Banking Supervision at the Bank of Ghana Franklyn Belyne said the regulator is waiting for some final requirements to be met by the yet-to-be-named bank before it can start operations.

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Turkey, Indonesia underpin Islamic Banking

Thursday 27 Aug 2015 – Kuala Lumpur, (IINA) – The Indonesian government is pushing for the formation of a new Islamic bank through the merger of four domestic banks, IslamicFinance reported.

Bank Mandiri, Bank Negara Indonesia, Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Bank Tabungan Negara have been prompted to merge their Islamic finance operations and form the new institution with capital of $1.12 billion and combined assets of more than $8 billion reported Nikkei.

The push comes as Indonesia strengthens its Islamic finance industry domestically and promotes it internationally with the aim of forging multilateral relationships with Turkey and the Islamic Development Bank. Previously Indonesia and Turkey have said they were ready to put up $300 million each for the creation of an Islamic mega bank.

Turkish financial authorities plan to treble Islamic banking assets as a percentage of total assets within the domestic banking sector from the present 5.2 percent over the next 10 years, in a bid to nurture the country’s Islamic finance market.

Whilst the proposed Indonesian or Turkish banks will be hugely overshadowed by Gulf Islamic Banks in terms of assets and capital, they will have access to much bigger markets. Both Indonesia and Turkey being Muslim majority countries with combined populations of around 325 million offer greater growth prospects in engaging unbanked populations of their societies, as well as eating into the market share of conventional banks.

According to data from the IslamicFinance.com Islamic Bank Chart, the top six global Islamic Banks are all based in the Gulf with combined assets of just under $250 billion.

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Russia to link with Malaysia in halal food, Islamic finance

Friday 28 Aug 2015 – Moscow, (IINA) – Russia is working actively with Malaysia to facilitate and develop its halal industry and Islamic banking, says Regions-Russia Association President Linar Yakupov.

According to Malaysian Daily Express, Yakupov noted that the Malaysian companies, involved in the halal industry, could enter into joint ventures to set up production and distribution centres in the Russian market, which has a Muslim population of more than 20 million people.

“Russia is really pushing towards its agenda on import substitution. We grow a lot of agricultural raw materials, which need to be processed.”

“We know our shortcomings. I think we are gaining momentum as there are Malaysian companies which are matured enough to go into the Russian market,” he told reporters after attending the 4th AEM-Russia Consultations, chaired by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohammad.

The consultations were held on the sidelines of the four-day 47th Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting (AEM) and related meetings, which ends Tuesday.

The Russian delegation to the AEM is headed by its Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukaev.

Touching on Islamic banking, Yakupov said a feasibility study was being undertaken by Malaysian experts to establish either Islamic banking or Islamic banking window in Russia.

The minister pointed out that Russia had reached a level where it could provide good industrial technologies to the Asean market.

In 2014, Russia was Malaysia’s 22nd largest trading partner, with total trade amounting to US$2.8 billion, up 55.2 per cent, from US$1.81 billion recorded in 2013.

Last year, Malaysia imported US$2.07 billion worth of goods from Russia, up 77 per cent, from US$1.17 billion imported in 2013.

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‘Cradle of Islam’ launched at Melbourne Islamic museum

Saturday 29 Aug 2015 – Melbourne (IINA) – A Saudi Arabian pavilion named “the Cradle of Islam” was launched on Wednesday at the Islamic museum in the Australian city of Melbourne.

Nabeel Al-Saleh, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, opened the pavilion in the presence of several prominent Arab and Australian dignitaries. Speaking on the occasion, Al-Saleh said the Kingdom’s support to the museum reflects the Saudi government’s keenness, in its capacity as the birthplace of the divine religion as well as the land of the two holy cities, in introducing the Islamic culture to the outside world. Saudi Arabia had earlier granted $1 million to finance the activities of the museum, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

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Dushanbe hosts Tajikistan’s first int’l tourism conf

Sunday 30 Aug 2015 – Dushanbe, Tajikistan (IINA) – Tajikistan’s first international tourism conference with the theme of “Tourism of Tajikistan: opportunities and new possibilities for cooperation” was held in Dushanbe on August 29-30.

The first day of the conference discussed topics such as the prospect of opening new horizons in the tourist sector, faster implementation of plans and activities, the role of associations in the field of tourism development, as well as other issues pertaining to this vital sector.

The event was attended by delegates representing various government departments and agencies, international organizations and diplomatic corps.

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Djiboutian PM launches village project funded by Qatar charity

Sunday 30 Aug 2015 – Arta, Djibouti (IINA) – Djiboutian Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed laid the foundation stone for a village in Arta region. The village, funded by a Qatari charity group, would consist of 100 housing units as well as a health center, primary school, mosque, a tailoring center, drinking water network and other infrastructure facilities.

It is noteworthy that the African Relief Committee (ARC) has taken the responsibility of building the village, which will be the fourth of its kind in Djibouti, and the period of implementation is one year.

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Bangladeshi scientists develop new zinc-rich rice

Sunday 23 Aug 2015 – Dhaka, (IINA) – Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) has developed a second breed of zinc-rich rice which grows faster, gives better yield and is of better nutritional values than its predecessor, OnIslam.

Named BRRI dhan72, the second hi-zinc Aman variety was developed two years into the release of the world’s first biologically fortified (Biofortified) high-yielding variety zinc rice – BRRI dhan62 in August 2013.

The National Seed Board released the new rice breed last July 12 and the seeds will be made available to farmers for cultivation in the Aman season (June-November) next year.

BRRI dhan72 has a yield of 5.7 tonnes per hectare against 4.5 tonnes of BRRI dhan62. The latest breed is also nutritionally richer with 22.8-milligram zinc content a kilogram, over 3mg higher than what BRRI dhan62 contains.

Biofortification is the process of breeding crops to increase their nutritional values. This can be done either through conventional selective breeding or through genetic engineering.

And it’s the first method through which BRRI dhan72 has been developed.

Zinc is one of the three most vital micronutrients, deficiency of which adversely affects children’s natural growth and immune system. Proper zinc supplementation can reduce the severity of morbidity from a number of common childhood diseases including diarrhea and pneumonia.

Though fruits, vegetables and animal products are rich in micronutrients, these are often not available for the poor in Bangladesh as well as in many other Asian countries where the poor’s daily diet consists mostly of relatively much inexpensive low-zinc staple rice.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly half a million children die each year globally due to zinc deficiency.

Seventeen percent of the global population is at risk of inadequate zinc intake. The regional estimated prevalence of inadequate zinc intake ranges from 7.5 percent in high-income regions to 30 percent in South Asia.

Among the three rice seasons, Aus, Aman and Boro, in Bangladesh, Aman contributes a big part of the country’s total paddy output.

It requires less irrigation and inputs to grow rice during the rain-fed Aman season than what it takes during the dry Boro season.

Of all the varieties developed by the BRRI, BR11 (Mukta) has so far been the most popular among Aman rice growers since the breed’s release in 1980.

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Ugandan Muslims open first Islamic television channel

Sunday 23 Aug 2015 – Kampala, Uganda (IINA) – Fulfilling an old dream, Muslims in Uganda have launched the country’s first-ever Islamic television channel, hoping it will herald a revival of their faith in the country after years of absence of Muslim voice in the media, OnIslam reported.

“Our listeners demanded for a Television station they would relate with and that is how the idea was conceived,” Al-Hajji Karim Kalisa, the managing director of Salam TV, told OnIslam.

Despite having several Islamic radio stations in the country, the demand for an Islamic TV channel was strong.

“We approached television owners, who sympathized with Islamic programs, but they would either allocate fifteen or thirty minute’s maximum and call it the Islamic half hour,” Kalisa added.

The dream came closer when one of the three local television channels agreed to give Muslims extra hours during the 2014 Ramadan period.

“We had one hour per week and it increased to 5 hours per day the nights inclusive from 2:00 to 6:00am,” Kalisa added.

The agreement reached during Ramadan was a breakthrough in the Muslims work to start Salam TV, which goes back to Uganda’s liberalization of the media industry in 1993.

At this time Kalisa was working as an administrator with the Union of Muslim countries for East, Central and Southern Africa.

The Union supported the setup of five Islamic radio stations in the country.

“Our main agenda is to develop the Muslim community and ensure they have enough knowledge and information to enable them live happier lives,” he said.

The dream was finally fulfilled on the 10th of June 2015, just a few days to Ramadan, when Muslims in Uganda were treated to the news of the first ever Islamic Television in the country.

He stresses that through Salam TV programming, they are ensuring their programs are beneficial to a complete family.

After the launch of the Islamic TV channel, Kalisa led a campaign to refurbish the oldest Qur’an school in the country, known as Lukalu, which was found in Butambala district in Central Uganda.

Since then, over US $141,000 has been collected through a fundraiser the Television has spear headed with construction due to start.

The TV channel and Qur’an school were urged to restore the true image and teachings of Islam in Uganda.

With the revival of Islamic TV and schools in Uganda, Muslim leaders have been working to bring scholars from different parts of the world to preach the true teachings of Islam, in accordance with the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

“The audience has been very welcoming since all we do is talk about the beauty of Islam,” head of Daawah at the Salam TV station, Shaban Uthman Menya, told OnIslam.

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Aceh displays its oldest copy of Holy Qur’an at Islamic exhibition

Monday 24 Aug 2015 – Aceh, Indonesia (IINA) – The Indonesian province of Aceh has displayed its oldest copy of the Holy Qur’an during an Islamic exhibition held in Nagan Raya, according to media reports.

The 700-year-old manuscripts, previously known as Panto Reu, were not among the 62 ancient Qur’an manuscripts that are 300-500 years old and displayed at the government museum in Nagan Raya, West Aceh.

“In this occasion, we want to introduce a historical object that has been stored in West Aceh,” the head of Islamic Law of West Aceh, Mursalin, told Republika Online on Sunday.

Written by Sheikh Maulana Malik Ibrahim 700 years ago, the ancient manuscripts of Qur’an were stored in the Mugo, Panton Reu in West Aceh.

The revelation of the Indonesian centuries-old Qur’an manuscripts comes almost two weeks after finding another copy of the holy book, that is deemed one of the world’s oldest copies of the Holy Qur’an in India.

The 410-year-old Qur’an copy, which is believed to be the oldest in the Indian subcontinent, is believed to be dating back to the period of Mughal ruler, Akbar, which existed at least four centuries ago.

Indian historians described the recovered 604-page copy as a “piece of art.” Almost a month after its discovery in UK’s Birmingham, the claimed oldest copy of the holy Qur’an is set to be sent to Turkey for verification.

Last July, fragments of what is thought to be the world’s oldest Qur’an was found in the University of Birmingham, with experts saying the manuscripts date back to the era of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), some 1,370 years ago.

The announcement followed radiocarbon analysis which proved that it was written in the period between 568CE and 645CE, with 95.4 percent accuracy.

The unique copy will be examined by the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) in Istanbul to verify its actual date.

“The center will carefully study the manuscript using as reference the available manuscripts and the books on various types of recitations to confirm the date of the Birmingham copy,” the director general of the center, Halit Eren, Makkah daily reported.

Eren stressed that the radiocarbon analysis conducted by the university is not usually accurate, saying that there can be least 10 years more or less.

He added that Turkey, Tashkent, Egypt and Yemen have the oldest copies of the holy Qur’an in the world.

“When the current incidents in Yemen are over, we will examine its copies of the Qur’an which may be the oldest in the world,” he added.

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Saudi charity to offer free treatment for cancer patients

Wednesday 26 Aug 2015 – Jeddah, (IINA) – Eman Charity Organization for Cancer Patients signed a contract on Monday with the Saudi Ministry of Health to establish the first medical complex, offering free services to cancer patients, Saudi Gazette reported.

“The medical complex will have three towers with a total area of 5,000 square meters, the total cost of the project is estimated at $39.3 million dollars and is set to be completed in three years”, said a source from the charity.

The source also said, “The towers will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, there will be 30 units for daily treatment and a separate section for breast cancer checkup”.

In the same contexts the source noted, “Eman will be the first charity organization in Saudi Arabia which offers support and help to cancer patients, with such a project, the organization will be able to provide its services to the entire society”.

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Evidence of Ergenekon epic found in Altay Mountains

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Findings obtained during excavations in Kazakhstan, carried out by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) in collaboration with the International Turkish Academy, have shed light on Turkish history.

To launch the findings, an international seminar was recently held with the participation of leading historians and archaeologists.

International Turkish Academy head Prof. Darhan Hıdıralli said the discoveries found in the excavations overlapped the places featured in the Ergenekon epic. He said graves found during the excavations also revealed significant information about the Göktürk era.

The findings in the excavations gave clues that the region might be Ergenekon, where Turks took shelter during hard times.

“The geography, which is featured in the Ergenekon epic and known as the place where Turks sheltered during hard times, is the same with the high peaks of the Altay Mountains. Musical instruments found in the graves prove to us a rooted cultural life and a developed civilization in that period. Why did such a civilization live in these precipices rather than more comfortable lands? Iron-made tools and other things found in the excavations reveal that the people of that period came to this region to escape from some difficulties, just like it is told in the Ergenekon epic. All these things confirm our thesis that this place is Ergenekon,” Hıdıralli said.

Hıdıralli said the excavations proved that epics could be a source for human history. He said, “We should not underestimate the myths. It is not the first time that Ergenekon, also known as Nevruz and Salvation, has been associated with the Altay Mountains. But for the first time excavations prove us that Ergenekon and the Altay Mountains have a relation.”

The first stage of archaeological work on the Altay Mountains between 2012 and 2014 unearthed the grave of a Turkish soldier, who was buried with his horse, weapons and lute, and a Turkish poet, which date back to the 6th and 8th centuries, the period of the Göktürks.

Hıdıralli said the plant motifs found on the musical instruments proved the findings were from the Göktürk era. “The fish skin used in the sword hilts is a type of fish which only survived in the Pacific Ocean. This proves to us that the Göktürks reigned even in the Pacific Ocean area, or they had good relations with the people there. It is also known that the swords are in Turkish style and were not brought from another region but produced in this region,” he said.

The International Turkish Academy announced that excavations would continue in the Altay region and Mongolia and the findings would be shared during an international archaeology seminar titled “From Celestial Mountains to Ötüken.”

The Astana-based Turkish Academy was established in 2012 with a contract signed by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.

Working on Turkish history, geography, literature, music and arts, the academy is also working to find the grave of Attila in Hungary as well as the grave of Sultan Alparslan in Turkmenistan’s Merv city.

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Historical Turkish meatball restaurant expands abroad

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi (The Historical Sultanahmet Meatball Restaurant) said it has signed a number of master franchising agreements for 60 new branches across Europe in a press release on Aug. 28.

The fourth generation of the famous meatball restaurant, which opened in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square on the historical peninsula in 1920, speeded up the enterprise’s overseas journey. The restaurant’s first foreign branch was opened in Azerbaijan, and there are now three branches in the country, according to the press release.

The company’s board member who is responsible for foreign operations, Mert Tezçakın, said 40 Sultanahmet Köftecisi restaurants will be opened in Britain, 15 in Germany and five in the Netherlands along with the master franchising deals. The first branches in these countries will be opened in 2016 and others will follow, said the company.

In line with the agreements, a number of production facilities will also be opened in the European cities of Manchester, Saarbrücken and Amsterdam, he added.

“We plan to create dozens of jobs for Turkish people abroad,” he said. The company also plans to sell frozen Sultanahmet meatballs in a number of supermarket chains abroad.

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Iranian epic ‘Muhammad’ aims to change image of Islam

TEHRAN – Agence France-Presse – The award-winning director of Iran’s most expensive ever film, “Muhammad,” says he hopes it will improve Islam’s “violent image,” but the religious epic risks angering many Muslims despite not showing the prophet’s face.

The huge production about the childhood of the prophet cost an estimated $40 million and took more than seven years to complete. The 171-minute film, which stars many top Iranian actors, was set to premiere on Aug. 26 in 143 theaters throughout Iran, the day before it opens the Montreal Film Festival.

In an interview with AFP in Tehran, its director Majid Majidi, 56, said extremists and jihadists such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “have stolen the name of Islam.”

In the Western world, “an incorrect interpretation of Islam has emerged that shows a violent image of Islam, and we believe it has no link whatsoever” to the religion, Majidi said.

“Muhammad” is the first part of a trilogy on the life of the prophet. The film depicts events before his birth and up to his teenage years, before he became prophet, which according to the Koran was at the age of 40.

While Iran has denounced cartoons of the prophet like those published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Shiite Muslims are generally more relaxed than Sunnis about depictions of religious figures.

While many planned screenings of “Muhammad” in Shiite-majority Iran have already sold out, in the Sunni Muslim world the production has triggered controversy.

“Definitely, some countries like Saudi Arabia will have problems with this film but many Islamic countries, including Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and many others in Southeast Asia, have asked for the film,” Majidi said.

The first major production about the prophet’s life, “Mohammad, Messenger of God” from Syrian-American filmmaker Moustapha Akkad, also drew criticism in the Muslim world when it was released in 1976.

In an attempt to allay the concerns of Muslims, Majidi looked for alternative ways of showing the prophet, and chose not to picture his face at all.

“To have the hero throughout the movie and not show his face once is a big challenge,” said a smiling Majidi, whose “Children of Heaven” was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 1998.

Majidi and his Italian Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro came up with a special technique.

“We customized a steadicam especially for the prophet. Wherever we have the prophet in the film, we see through his POV (point of view), even in his childhood,” Majidi explained.

“Everyone is curious to see the prophet in the film, but you cannot see his face,” he said, adding that the prophet can only see by his profile, or with his back to the camera.

Still, Majidi’s solution is not enough for experts at Al-Azhar, a leading Sunni Muslim institution based in Egypt.

In a statement, Al-Azhar “objected to portraying prophets and messengers in art” as it is “tantamount to belittling their spiritual status.”

It opposes not only portraying the prophets’ faces but also their voices. “The actor who plays this role may later play a criminal, and viewers may associate these characters with criminality,” Abdel Dayyem Nosair, adviser to Al-Azhar head Ahmed al-Tayyeb, said.

The next two films in the trilogy could prove even more controversial as the young hero is not yet a prophet in the first instalment.

“There are no disputes over this period” of the prophet’s life, said Majidi, who has won international prizes including the Oecumenical Special Award in Montreal for promoting unity among religions.

“From the time he becomes a prophet, even dialogue would be very difficult to manage, but I believe it is still achievable,” the director said.

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Nuclear deal will boost Iran’s tourism industry

Shahr-e Kord, Aug 29, IRNA – Deputy head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Morteza Rahmani Movahhed said on Saturday that Iran nuclear deal will give a boost to Iran’s tourism industry.

Speaking to IRNA, Rahmani Movahhed said that a safe atmosphere is a prerequisite for improvement of tourism industry.

He said that there are no accurate statistics about the number of foreign tourists visiting the country over the past four months, but noted that in cooperation with border police, the accurate number will be figured out within a month.

On visa waiver requirements for visitors from Muslim countries, Rahmani Movahhed said that as noted by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, any country that waivers visa requirements for Iranian nationals, Iran would do the same reciprocally.

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Iran’s Ritual and Traditional Plays festival underway

Tehran, Aug 29, IRNA – Iran’s 17th Festival of Ritual and Traditional Plays is being held in Tehran for ten days.

The opening ceremony of the event was held at Mahak Hospital and Rehabilitation Complex on August 26.

The complex is dedicated to helping Iranian children suffering from cancer, Press TV reported.

“We are very happy to launch the 17th Festival of Ritual and Traditional Plays at Mahak hospital,” said the festival’s secretary Davoud Fahali-Beigi on Wednesday.

“We pray to God for the well-being of all children who are under treatment. We are their messengers of happiness.”

During the event, participating artists and performers visited various sections of the hospital and performed theatrical pieces for the children.

This year’s festival hosts stage and street theater troupes from cities across Iran. Theater lovers will also get the chance to attend the Fifth International Seminar on Ritual and Traditional Plays on the sidelines of the annual event.

Lecturers and researchers from Iran, Afghanistan, Belgium, India, Indonesia, Poland, Finland and Austria will attend the seminar.

They will discuss traditional and ritual theater in their countries and hold workshops during the three-day seminar.

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VFR, a good source of tourism revenues for Iran

Tehran, Aug 30, IRNA – Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) is a form of travel which is widely practiced across the world and has been a great source of income for many countries. VFR accounts for 60 percent of Turkey’s total tourism revenue highlighting the importance of such type of tourism in boosting a country’s economy.

The result of a survey held in the year to March 2015, showed that about five to six million Iranians live abroad constituting seven percent of the country’s total population.

Yet, there are large numbers of second-, third- and even fourth generations of Iranian emigrants living across the globe, who were not included in the 2015 statistics since they do not hold Iranian ID cards.

Large population of Iranians residing abroad can be considered a great tourism market, which can bring substantial revenues to the country.

Ali Chegini, the head of Foreign Ministry’s Consular Affairs Department, recently announced Iran has eased travel restrictions for overseas Iranians.

“Once their Iranian nationality is proved, they can visit the country without a passport or visa,” he said, adding each Iranian emigrant can serve as a travel agency to publicize his/her country’s attractions and draw the attention of foreigners to Iran,” he said.

“There are plenty of baseless rumors about ban on the travel of Iranians born abroad to the country as well as unfounded allegations about confiscation of their identification documents on arrival in Iran,” he said, stressing that Iranians born abroad can visit Iran without worrying about the confiscation of their documents.

Scholarly interest into VFR travel developed in the mid-1990s after Jackson’s (1990) seminal article suggested that this type of tourism was much larger than suggested in official estimates. Most official data collections differentiate travel as being for leisure, business, or VFR purposes.

In many destinations, VFR is the largest or second-largest form of travel by size. Definitions have been traditionally lacking due to the complexities involved in understanding VFR travel. VFR travelers can state a VFR purpose of visit but that does not necessarily mean that they are staying with those friends/relatives. Similarly, they may be accommodated by friends/relatives although they may have other purpose of visit.

VFR tourists have been found to spend more than any other tourists in their destinations. They spend a great deal of money on everything and in every sector unlike other tourists who may only spend on particular things or activities.

Therefore, it is not surprising that countries such as the Philippine have launched tourism campaigns annually to invite Filipinos living abroad to visit to their homeland. These campaigns, particularly, focus on first-time visitors to the country.

Precise figures are not available on the number of VFR tourists, as those traveling to their homelands with the main goal of visiting their relatives and friends are usually classified in the same category as other tourists.

A survey was conducted in China to study tourism behavior of VFR tourists and explore the economic impacts of such tourism for the host country.

The result of the study can be used by Iranian tourism policy-makers to increase the number of such tourists to the country.

Ireland is one of the most successful countries in attracting VFR tourists. The Irish diaspora spent up to $284,000 on accommodation in the first four months of 2015.

More than 41.4 million visited Turkey in 2014 — a growth of 5.6 percent from a year earlier — of whom 35.8 million were foreigners and the rest were Turks residing abroad.

Although foreign tourists constitute a major portion of tourists to Turkey by size, Turks spent much more on different activities and things.

VFR tourism can bring great amounts of revenue to Iran, as more Iranians are emigrating. The Iranian diaspora can play a major role in introducing the true image of Iran to the world since one of the main obstacles to attracting foreign tourists is the false propaganda conducted by certain countries.

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Egypt bids to Promote Domestic, Arab Tourism

Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – 28 August 2015 – Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab held a meeting on Thursday 28/08/2015 with Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal and Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy to discuss preparations of promoting tourism, especially from Arab countries, in the holidays of Eidul Adha (Greater Bairam).

Mahlab underlined the importance of intensifying tourism campaigns and tourist programs in the upcoming period in order to lure tourism during Eid holidays.

He also said that it is possible to benefit from pilgrimage season to promote tourism, through offering special prices for Saudi citizens on the plans which transfer the Egyptian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and almost return without passengers.

The aviation minister, meanwhile, said that large discounts will be made on the flights during pilgrimage season in order to lure Saudi tourists.

The tourism minister reviewed samples of the promotion campaign, which is being organized by the ministry under the rubric “Egypt is near” in the Arab countries.

The campaign includes advertisements in TV channels, newspapers and Arab magazines along with the streets and squares of these countries and in the social networking websites.

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Nigeria: Ebonyi Showcases Tourism With Indigenous Celebrities

27 August 2015 – The Guardian – STARS of the Nigerian entertainment industry, especially those in the movie and music segments, and other invited foreign stars will be hosted by the Ebonyi State Government tomorrow, according to the Committee on Culture and Tourism.

Those expected include Patoranking, Splash, Sinach, Tekno, Cha Cha Ekeh, Angela Okorie, Grace Amah, Andy Chukwu, Chita Agwu, Tracy and Treasure Daniels, among others.

Chairman of the committee, Dr. Jerry Uhuo, told the media that the event is being packaged to showcase to the world the state’s hidden potentials, using the entertainment industry as the driving force.

He noted that Ebonyi has great, hidden potentials that could boost its Internally Generated Revenue and end overdependence on crude oil if harnessed, adding: “If we had harnessed these kind of potentials, we wouldn’t have been talking about crude oil.

What we have is enough to give Ebonyi what it needs to develop. “We took time, as a committee, to tour over 40 tourist centres in Ebonyi and found that we have enough potentials to develop the state.

We specifically visited Amancho Cave, which is about six kilometres under the ground, and right inside is a place where you can host over 4,000 persons.

We need to develop and showcase such places to the world. “The committee felt that the only way we can get the world to know what we have is to involve those in the entertainment industry.

We felt that it is important to bring home so many of these stars from Ebonyi so that they can see our potentials. “Many big men in the music industry who have made names are from Ebonyi State.

In fact, in the marketing sector of the music industry, Ebonyi has the highest number, about 90 per cent, but they do not identify with the state because they felt the state does not identify with them.”

Uhuo disclosed that the state has formed a union called United Ebonyi Artists, where every artist from the state would be registered, adding that the platform would afford the upcoming artists the opportunity to develop their talents.

According to him, the time has come to rewrite Ebonyi history through the harnessing of its potentials, beginning with the entertainment industry, in the quest to transform the state.

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At Least 144 Tourism Projects Planned for Algiers

Algerie Presse Service – 26 August 2015 – Algiers — At least 144 tourism projects, comprising hotels and complexes, are planned for Algiers, announced Tuesday in Algiers Minister of Town Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry Amar Ghoul.

“A total of 144 projects for the building of hotels and tourist complexes will be launched soon with a view to providing 25,000 new beds,” said the minister during a visit to three private hotels and a bungalow complex.

The objective is to reach 50,000 beds in the medium term, he said, adding that the total amount of the projects underway hits DZD 130 billion and are expected to generate some 15,000 jobs.

The new hotels will be built in Hussein Dey (New Dey) with 460 beds, in Bab Ezzouar (Hani hotel) with 146 beds and in El-Hamiz (Alkathir hotel) with 100 beds.

There are 172 hotels in Algiers with a capacity of nearly 20,000 beds, according to the tourism directorate.

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Cameroon Hotel Managers to Boost Tourism

26 August 2015 – Cameroon Tribune – Cameroon is known for its legendary hospitality. Its visitor-friendly tradition, various lifestyles, and cultural heritage, colourful festivals and rich natural attractions, have won it the appellation ‘Africa in miniature.’

Such attractions, according to Arthur Soria, the Managing Director of the booking portal, Jovago Cameroon, have the potential to make Cameroon an outstanding destination in Sub-Saharan Africa. He made the remark in Cameroon’s economic heartbeat, Douala, recently, during a session to sensitise hotel managers on the importance of promoting the Cameroon destination.

Blessed with other attractions such as beautiful beaches, forests and wildlife, landscapes, mountain peaks, rivers, palaces, monuments, museums… Cameroon is endowed and needs a vibrant private sector to assist government in promoting tourism by improving its attractiveness. The session, whose objectives were to enhance the attractiveness of the Cameroon destination and sensitise participants on the importance of having their structures represented on Jovago booking portal website, www.jovago.com, was attended by over 30 staff from various structures in the hospitality industry.

Speaking on government’s efforts to promote tourism, Arthur Soria called on stakeholders to continue to boost service quality, comfort, security and hygiene. In this regard, Jovago Cameroon has secured partnerships with airlines and bus companies to ease access to tourist sites in the country. The participants were encouraged to make use of the partnership to spur more visits to tourist sites.

However, two hotel managers were of the opinion that efforts were still needed in offering incentives for private investments such as Income Tax exemptions, interest subsidies and reduced import duties, as well as public investments to overcome access hurdles and increase the attractiveness of tourism.

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Dubai to host 10th World Health Tourism Congress

Gulf Today – 30 August, 2015 – Under the patronage of Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce (DTCM), and for the second consecutive year, Dubai will host the 10th World Health Tourism Congress (WHTC) from Sept 6 to 7, with the support of the Arab Tourism Organization (ATO) and GCC Council of Health Ministers, with the participation of GCC states and over 80 countries from Africa, Asia and Europe.

WHTC will be held at Mohammad Bin Rashid Academic Medical Centre in Dubai Health Care City (DHCC). The congress is organised by Grand Aurum Marketing. The congress will host the ministers of Health and Tourism of a vast majority of the Arab countries, and by the end of which “Dubai’s declaration for health tourism development in the region” will be issued.

Furthermore, the organisers declared that participants will be attending from over 80 countries.

Dr. Bandar Bin Fahd al-Fehaid, President of the ATO, noted that the concept of Health Tourism is perpetuating and becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the world; adding that over $ 100 billion are being spent yearly, among which $ 27 billion spent by Arabs.

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Abu Dhabi launches tourism roadshow in key GCC cities

Saudi Gazette – 30 August, 2015 – Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) is touring a number of GCC cities later this month in a promotional campaign featuring Abu Dhabi’s unique tourist offering to boost shoulder season tourism growth.

Representatives of TCA Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector is meeting with the travel and tourism’s key players in each country to showcase the emirate’s various destinations that combine sea and water attractions, modern entertainment, desert spas and retreats, heritage and cultural sites and charming oases.

TCA Abu Dhabi also highlights the opportunities and facilities available for the business tourism segment though the incentives and services offered by Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau (Abu Dhabi CB).

“TCA Abu Dhabi is back to touring the major cities of the Arabian Gulf, following the highly successful campaign during the holy month of Ramadan. We will be providing more attractive offers to encourage our GCC guests to enjoy their time in Abu Dhabi and stay longer, especially that the weather has started to cool down,” said Sultan Al Mansouri, KSA Country Manager, TCA Abu Dhabi, with responsibility for the GCC.

TCA Abu Dhabi’s roadshow kicked off at Grand Hyatt Muscat in the Omani capital last Aug. 26 and then proceeds to Kuwait City to meet the country’s forerunners in tourism at the Regency Hotel Kuwait today (Aug. 30). Doha will be the next major stop on Sept. 1 at Sharq Village & Spa, managed by Ritz-Carlton, before heading off to the InterContinental Regency Bahrain the following day. The roadshow in Saudi Arabia will start at Kempinski Riyadh on Sept. 6, then moves to Mövenpick Hotel Al Khobar on Sept. 8 and ends at Park Hyatt Jeddah on Sept. 9.

Tourists from the GCC are on the list of top 25 nationalities that frequently travel to Abu Dhabi, which has uniquely succeeded in preserving its authentic, traditional characters. Recent statistics indicate that Abu Dhabi’s hotels received more than 62,499 hotel guests from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the first half of 2015, an impressive increase of 28% compared to the same period of last year. Abu Dhabi also received 30,909 hotel guests from the Sultanate of Oman, an increase of 15%, 13,306 guests from Kuwait and 13,156 guests from Qatar.

“Our current roadshow combines meeting with the leaders of the travel and tourism sector in the GCC and representatives of prominent media organizations in their respective countries. The meetings focus on the collection of upcoming cultural and art activities listed on Abu Dhabi’s agenda, all the while calling attention to the promotional offers extended to visitors by the emirate’s hotels and shopping centers as they play a major role in attracting visitors,” added Al Mansoori.

Abu Dhabi’s highly anticipated events are expected to draw a large number of visitors from neighboring GCC countries, especially celebratory activities for September’s Eid Al Adha bringing together a group of top-tier Arab singing stars to grace the stage in Abu Dhabi City, Al Ain and the Western Region.

An array of cultural and heritage events will follow in October including the seventh edition of Al Ain Reads Book Show which will focus on local publishers and hosts preeminent Emirati writers in open discussion sessions, and the National Traditional Handicrafts Festival, considered a major attraction for everyone interested in reviving traditional crafts.

In November, all eyes will be on the UAE capital during the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi Art will captivate modern art enthusiasts as one of the region’s leading art events, and the return of the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival will be a visitor magnet with its interactive aspect that brings back to memory original arts and traditions in the vast area it occupies in Al Wathba region amid spectacular sand dunes.

“The roadshow presents a wonderful opportunity for us to profile the excellent facilities available in Abu Dhabi to GCC businessmen and entrepreneurs through the Convention Bureau’s wide-ranging cluster of free consultation services,” said Mubarak Al Shamisi, Director Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau.

“Abu Dhabi has emerged as an international destination for the specialized Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) tourism and global events. Investors from the GCC will find plenty of opportunities to strike major deals in Abu Dhabi, in cooperation with a far-reaching network of experienced, highly-qualified partners across all economic fields and events,” added Al Shamsi.

Abu Dhabi CB has revitalized the emirate’s business, specialized exhibitions and incentives tourism sector which has seen remarkable growth over the past five years. More than 24 major international conferences and business meetings were held in Abu Dhabi in 2014, with some events hosting in excess of 5,000 delegates.

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500-year-old miniature document top attraction at Madinah exhibition

Arab News – 30 August, 2015 – The King Abdul Aziz Foundation will put on display next week a 500-year-old miniature manuscript, according to the SPA.

The manuscript is one of the oldest documents owned by the foundation.

The miniature, a decorative painting on a manuscript, will be displayed at an exhibition in Madinah along with many other local, Ottoman and foreign documents about the holy city. The exhibition is organized by the foundation in association with the Madinah Development Authority and will open on Sept. 6.

The Exhibition of Madinah Manuscripts will have a number of rare documents of historical significance about Madinah; they will be displayed for the first time for researchers as well as visitors. Twelve libraries from the Kingdom and abroad will participate in the exhibition with the support of Saudi Aramco.

At the event, the foundation will highlight Madinah’s development over centuries. The exhibition will also focus on the rich libraries of Al-Saud era.

The exhibition will also focus on manuscripts of early Islam, verses of the Holy Qur’an on various items such as leaves, stones and bones. It will highlight the Holy Qur’an’s final compilation during the time of Caliph Othman bin Affan. A collection of the sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, will enrich visitors’ experience.

Using high-quality photographs, the foundation has documented in a huge volume the details of manuscripts present in the cabinets of the Holy Mosque and in libraries of schools, including those of the 8th century Al-Shihabiya School. According to reports, there were 124 libraries spread all across Madinah in the early Al-Saud era.

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Iran launches first overseas farming plan

Islamic Republic News Agency – 29 August, 2015 – Cultivation has begun over eight hectares of farmland in the Central Asian country, with the next project expected to start in Ukraine in the next few months, said Agricultural Jihad Ministry’s Mohammadreza Shafei-Nia, reported Press TV.

A similar plan is in the works for Ghana whose agricultural sector accounts for over half of the African nation’s gross domestic product and is the world’s second largest cocoa producer.

Water-intensive rice and corn crops as well as oilseeds and livestock inputs have been cited by Agriculture Ministry officials as the target products which Iran seeks to grow on farmlands overseas.

The semi-arid country is awaking to its water shortage vulnerability, rushing through a series of exigency plans to tide over the problem.

Iran has already abandoned a bid to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat which involves using underground water to produce the staple like many other water-intensive commodities.

The latest sacrifice is Iran’s renowned watermelons which have sparked a heated debate over whether to ditch growing the staple of many summertime picnics and cookouts.

An overuse of deep reservoirs has left water tables severely depleted and saline and led to environmental damage. With a harsh drought persisting, experts say it will take many decades before Iran’s aquifers recharge and clean up.

Agricultural Jihad Minister Mohammad Hojjati has said the government has envisioned investment on 500,000 hectares of farmland in a number of countries to secure food supplies.

There are plans for long-term leasing of farmlands or ownership of plots over a few 10,000 hectares in the countries with high agribusiness potentials, the minister said.

Hojjati cited Brazil where Iran is pushing for development of 60,000 hectares of land to cultivate agricultural products. Serbia has also welcomed Iran’s investment in its agriculture.

Food security is a serious matter for Iran, given the size of its population which has grown over 80 million and seen its food basket grow smaller.

“Between 38 percent to 40 percent of the Iranian families’ economy is related to food which requires us to build a berth for reducing prices of nutritional products and providing for facile access to them,” Shafei-Nia said.

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Bangladesh to holst Int’l Buddhist circuit conference

DHAKA, Aug 30, 2015 (BSS) – A two-day international conference would be held in the city from October 27 aiming at showcasing the Bangladesh Buddhist heritage to the foreigners for further flourishing overall tourism.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said this while addressing a press conference at his ministry’s conference room today.

Participants from 13 countries will join the conference titled ‘National Buddhist Workshop and International Buddhist Circuit Conference’ at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC), he said.

The minister said the government has undertaken various initiatives to further flourish the country’s tourism sector, adding, “The tourism sector is flourishing across the country under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.”

Menon paid rich tribute to the greatest Bangalee of all times Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members, who were brutally killed on August 15, 1975.

He said his ministry has undertaken an initiative to hold the conference in collaboration with the United Nations World Tourism organization (UNWTO).

Menon said the civil aviation and tourism ministry would uphold the centuries-old Buddhist heritage in Bangladesh to the people of the participating countries.

He said UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai along with officials from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka will attend the conference.

Secretary Khorshed Alam Chowdhury, additional secretaries Swapan Kumar Sarkar and Rafiquzzaman and Parjatan Corporation chairman Dr Arup Roy were also present at the press conference.

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Equator Carnival can become new tourism icon for Pontianak

24 August 2015 Pontianak (ANTARA News) – Tourism Minister Arief Yahya has expressed hope that the Equator Carnival, held in Pontianak on Saturday and Sunday, would become a new tourism icon for West Kalimantan.

“We hope the Equator Carnival would become a new tourism icon for West Kalimantan and would boost the provinces economy,” the minister affirmed here on Sunday.

The minister considered the Equator Carnival, organized in the West Kalimantan capital of Pontianak for two days on August 22 to 24, to be a success and could be held annually to promote the provinces tourism.

He claimed that the event, which was held in conjunction with the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Indonesias independence, was a huge success.

“Thank God, the carnival was a great success,” Minister Yahya stated in Pontianak at the conclusion of the activities on Sunday.

He pointed out that a large number of people, particularly the residents of Pontianak City and those from outside the city, had come to enliven the carnival event.

“More than half the residents of Pontianak City flocked to the Kapuas Square last night to enliven the folk festivity,” the minister noted.

The Equator Carnival comprised three events: land carnival, water carnival, and folk festivity. Hundreds of decorated boats and cars took part in the events.

Yahya is confident that the Equator Carnival 2015 will be able to boost the real sector business in Pontianak, even though it lasted for only two days.

He expressed hope that Pontianak and West Kalimantan would greatly benefit from the event.

“We hope this event proves beneficial for Pontianak and West Kalimantan, with regard to tourism development and boosting tourist arrivals in the region,” he remarked on Saturday.

“I think West Kalimantan has immense tourism potential, which can be developed in future. Moreover, Pontianak has already been declared a river tourism city in the development plan for 2014-2019,” Yahya added.

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Indonesia allocates Rp100 billion to develop Lampung airport

25 August 2015 Bandarlampung (ANTARA News) – The government, through the Ministry of Transportation, has allocated Rp100 billion for the development of Raden Inten II airport in Lampung, Sumatra.

The airport is being developed in two stages, with the first phase being implemented between 2011 and 2017 on a 206-hectare plot of land and aims at accelerating the embarkation process for Hajj pilgrims, Sumarju Saeni, the spokesman of the Lampung provincial administration, noted here on Tuesday.

He revealed that the second stage, which is an extension phase, will be implemented from 2018 to 2030 and will cover an area of 198 hectares.

“The government has also prepared a budget for the development of other airports including the Kertajati airport, Blimbingsari, Dekai, and Bantu Kunik, among others,” he added.

Sumarju remarked that the Lampung provincial government had committed to expediting the development of Raden Inten II airport in a bid to transform it into an international airport.

Hamartoni Ahadist, the second assistant for general affairs of the Lampung provincial administration, pointed out that the provincial government had granted several assets for implementing the airport extension plan.

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South Sumatra to build monorail for 2018 Asian Games

26 August 2015 Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) – The South Sumatra provincial administration plans to expedite the construction of a monorail in Palembang city to support the Asian Games slated for 2018.

“The monorail will be stretch from the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport to the Jakabaring integrated sporting areas and will be 25 kilometers long. The construction should be started immediately to facilitate the transportation and mobilization of athletes, organizers, and guests from 40 participating Asian countries”, South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin said on Tuesday.

He explained that the construction of the monorail was important because the road congestion level in Palembang was increasing.

The government is expected to give priority to the construction of the monorail, discussions around which have been underway for a long time, the Governor said.

Earlier, the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises, Rini Soemarno, had said that the construction of light rail transit or a monorail was still awaiting approval through a Presidential Regulation.

The monorails construction in Palembang, which will host the Asian Games 2018, is the priority of the ministry and will be immediately started.

Monorail construction will help reduce traffic congestion due to the rapid growth of the number of vehicles in Palembang.

“South Sumatra will host the Asian Games together with Jakarta, so every proposed construction and development to support the event should be begin soon”, said Soemarno.

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Malaysia to produce herbal medicines in Kampar

26 August 2015 Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) – The Malaysian government through Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) has recommended its herbal medicine company Bio Alpha to build a herbal medicine factory in the regency of Kampar, Riau.

“Hopefully in the next several months construction will start,” Abdul Rahman Yasir, Senior Vice President of MTDC said here on Tuesday.

The factory will be built by phases with the first phase to cost U.S.$3 million, Abdul Rahman said.

Rahman said later there will be investment in opening 51 hectares of herb plantation in the area of Sungai Pinang, sub-district of Tambang, Kampar.

“The land will be cultivated with herb plants such as turmeric, pasak bumi (aphrodisiac)ginger, etc.” he said.

There are also medicinal herbs from Malaysia that could not be found in Indonesia, he added.

Bio Alpha executive William Hon said his company has produced various types of herbal medicines in Malaysia and has exported part of its production to various countries.

“Our products have even entered the Chinese market,” William said. The market is potential that the company is prompted to open more production facilities in neighboring countries including in Kampar, Indonesia, he said.

“I see Kampar is highly potential for cultivation of medicinal herbs,” he added.

Kampar Regent Jefry Noer said he supports the plan hoping that the project will help open more jobs for local people. “The factory will certainly need workers and it will provides market for the herbal products of local farmers,” he said.

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Some 21 yachts to enliven Sail Tomini 2015

25 August 2015 Palu (ANTARA News) – Some 21 yachts participating in the “Back to Down Under Rally” are scheduled to enliven the main event of Sail Tomini on September 19, 2015, at Parigi Moutong district in Central Sulawesi, an official stated.

“The yachts have entered the Indonesian waters in Tarakan and are sailing towards the waters of Central Sulawesi,” noted Raymond Lesmana, the tour operator of the Back to Down Under Rally.

According to Lesmana, the yachts have entered the Indonesian waters in Tarakan and are sailing to Berau. He added that they are scheduled to arrive in Tolitoli on August 26.

After arriving in Tolitoli, they will sail to Kwandang, Manado, Gorontalo, and Togean islands to enjoy the underwater panoramic views in Central Sulawesi.

“They are expected to sail past Kayubura beach at Parigi Moutong district where the main event of Sail Tomini will take place on September 19,” Lesmana remarked.

He noted that some 28 yachts, participating in the Back to Down Under Rally, will enliven the main event of Sail Tomini, but some of them had left the cruise route in the Indonesian waters as they were discontent with the services offered by the Indonesian government in Tarakan.

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Indonesia to participate in developing Timor Leste`s infrastructure

26 August 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has stated Indonesia is always committed to participating in the development of infrastructure in Timor Leste.

“We will encourage investment between the two countries,” he said in a joint press conference with Timor Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo here on Wednesday.

President Jokowi said he will also try to encourage mutually beneficial trade relations between Indonesia and Timor Leste.

He further said the issue of Indonesia-Timor Leste borders particularly two land borders is expected to be settled at the end of this year.

Both countries will discuss the settlement of northern sea borders before the southern sea border, he said. “I think this can be solved quickly,” he said.

Timor Leste Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araujo meanwhile said the two countries had agreed to enhance cooperation in the field of economy, defense, education and culture.

“This will strengthen not only government-to-government relations but business-to-business ties as well,” he said.

To date, some 400 Indonesian private companies are operating in Timor Leste and 500 Indonesian students are studying in Timor Leste, he said.

He further lauded Indonesia for its commitment to conduct capacity building in the field of agriculture, fisheries, infrastructure and forestry.

“We have signed two MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) in the field of agriculture and forestry.,” he said.

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