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3 Aug, 2015

India to Fund Translation of Ancient Arabic Manuscripts Showing Islamic Health & Wellness Advances

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 03 August 2015 (17 Shawwaal 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.



India to Fund Translation of Ancient Arabic Manuscripts Showing Islamic Scientific Advances

New Delhi, 02 August 2015, (The Hindu) — Dairatul Maarifil Osmania, a centre established in 1888 for compilation of ancient Arabic manuscripts will start a multicrore translation project this year. Two lakh pages of rare Arabic manuscripts on medicine, health, history and religion will be translated into English in a project supported by the Union government.

The multicrore, translation and digitisation project will be undertaken by Dairutul Maarifil Osmania, a centre that the VI Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Siddiqui, established in 1888. The translation of the books will help to distinctly understand the contribution that Arab medicine had made to medical science.

As per the project, it is not just Al Razi’s work but all the two lakh pages of Arabic scholarship on medicine, history and religion will be translated into English, centre officials said.

Al Razi’s medical textbooks details out symptom based diagnosis. Each of the 24 volumes look into one aspect of human illness. For instance, the first volume is titled, diseases of the head and the second diseases of the eye. The third volume is on diseases of the throat, ear, nose and teeth.

The oldest compilation that the centre has dates back to 9th century AD. “Musnad Abu Yala’s Hadis or collection of Prophetic traditions was the first book that was compiled from manuscripts,” the director said.

The Union government which has in principle agreed to fund the project is expected to release Rs. 37.9 crore in the coming month. As per the calculation of Dairutul Maarifil Osmania, the translation work will alone cost Rs. 25 crore.

malaysia logo

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

The centre has edited and compiled 240 manuscripts that runs into 800 volumes with two lakh pages. The translation of the books will help to distinctly understand the contribution that Arab medicine had made to medical science.

The centre also has a collection of rare manuscripts that date back to 9th century AD. Among the works to be translated are 24 volumes, Al Hawi or encyclopaedia of medicine, in Hyderabad on Saturday.

“Al Razi could have been the first medical theorist to state that fever is not a disease but a symptom of some other illness. He lists out a 1,000 varieties of fever that are symptoms to a 1,000 varieties of diseases,” said Muhammad Mubeen Iqbal, an Arabic scholar who has done translations of ancient texts.

The instructions that seem right out of an MBBS text book was written in Arabic in 925 AD by scholar Abu Bakr Al-Razi. All of Al Razi’s medical work which runs into 24 volumes named Kutabu’l Hawi Fi’t-Tibb will soon be translated into English and converted to e-books in Hyderabad.

See spectacular pictures: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/rare-medieval-medical-texts-to-be-translated-into-english/article7491863.ece?ref=slideshow#im-image-0

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N.America Awaits Largest Muslim Festival

OnIslam Correspondent, 28 July 2015 TORONTO – Excitement is building up for MuslimFest, the biggest Muslim festival in North America, which is set to begin this Friday in Mississauga, a suburban city in the Greater Toronto Area.

“MuslimFest returns to Mississauga Celebration Square in its 14th year and will attract 25,000 visitors and welcomes everyone,” Sana Khawaja, Media Relations Officer of MuslimFest, told OnIslam.net.

“The essential role of art, based in traditional and contemporary interpretation of faith, is prevalent throughout the festival, and the event will showcase entertainment that is hundreds of years old but also retains a lineup of new performers ready to become household names.”

“It is this cultural fusion that sets MuslimFest apart and enjoyed by attendees of all backgrounds and age groups.”

Featuring local and international artists, concerts, stand-up comedy shows, workshops, films and documentaries, the festival that celebrates the vibrant Canadian Muslim culture will run until Sunday evening.

The festival has drawn praise from politicians and civic leaders across the region for showcasing the province’s diversity and promoting understanding among citizens.

“MuslimFest unofficially begins on Friday, July 31st with the first ever Canadian premier of American Sharia, a movie directed, produced and starring Omar Regan,” said Sana Khawaja.

“The evening will also include an Art Exhibition showcasing inspirational pieces on why faith matters and the Talent Performance segment allows new artist to demonstrate their skills.”

“Friday’s itinerary aims to stimulate discussion regarding Muslim identity in entertainment and have local performers recognized by their community.”

Throughout the weekend the main stage will host live performances including local musicians Yusra and Moez Shihab, Canadian artist Dawud Wharnsby, performances by CNN contributor and Comedy Central’s Dean Obaidullah along with Allah Made Me Funny star, Preacher Moss

For the first time the festival will feature Julien Breton renowned for his Light Calligraphy.

Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, Mississauga is Canada’s 6th largest city and is part of the Greater Toronto Area that has a population of over 6 million people.

Visitors to the MuslimFest will enjoy a number of activities that will engage all family members.

“Attendees will be able to indulge in an international culinary experience and walk through a modern Silk Road bazaar where merchants will be selling cultural clothes, interior design pieces and ornaments from across the world,” Sana Khawaja told OnIslam.net.

“Children can enjoy camel and carnival rides, break a sweat at basketball tournaments and get creative at the all-day Arts and Crafts Tent.

“Attendees will also be able to visit the Amphitheater for drumming and poetry sessions and workshops for youth,” Khawaja added.

Launched in 2004, MuslimFest is a joint initiative of DawaNet, Young Muslims Canada, and Sound Vision. It aims to connect with the broader community through the language of art, humor, and meaningful entertainment.

In its first year in 2004, about 4,000 people attended the one-day festival. It has since been expanded to two days and moved to the city’s public outdoor square, Celebration Square, where it attracts more than 25,000 visitors each year.

The festival was chosen by Festival and Events Ontario (FEO) as one of the top 100 festivals in the province in 2013.

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

Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011. Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population. Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world and has been ranked the best place to live in a recent report on urban safety published by the Economist. The city has recently excelled as the host of the recently concluded Pan American games.

A recent survey has showed the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian.

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Germany Opens First Islamic Bank

OnIslam & News Agencies Wednesday, 22 July 2015 – CAIRO – Germany has officially opened its first Islamic bank in accordance with Shari`ah laws in Frankfurt, offering the country’s Muslim population better chances of halal investments.

“We are proud to have this license,” Hamad Al-Marzouq, Board Chairman of Kuwait Finance House (KFH), parent of Kuveyt Türk, told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) on Tuesday, July 21.

“Exercising banking in line with the Islamic Shari`ah is very important not only for the German side, which seeks to boost Germany’s financial position, but for millions of clients wishing to use banking services offered by the bank in three Germany cities,” he added.

Marzouq was speaking during the formal opening ceremony held on 21 July 2015 in Frankfurt at KT Bank’s head office. Ugurlu Soylu, general manager at KT Bank, said the new bank is expected to boost the real economy.

“Bottom line, for our customers there is no difference to paying for something with interest charges,” Soylu told the German news agency dpa.

He added that the Islamic banking has an advantage of the pool system allowing fewer risks which are more evenly distributed, and thus a total collapse of the system is less likely.

Using Frankfurt as its base, the new bank aims to tap Europe’s second-largest Muslim community, many of whose members are of Turkish descent.

Kuveyt Turk, the largest Islamic bank in Turkey and 62 percent owned by Kuwait Finance House, set up a financial services branch in Mannheim in 2010 and applied for a full banking license in 2012. At the time, the lender said it would invest initial capital of 45 million euros ($48.7 million) in the planned German unit.

Islam forbids Muslims from usury, receiving or paying interest on loans.

Islamic banks and finance institutions cannot receive or provide funds for anything involving alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco, weapons or pork. Shari`ah-compliant financing deals resemble lease-to-own arrangements, layaway plans, joint purchase and sale agreements, or partnerships.

Investors have a right to know how their funds are being used, and the sector is overseen by dedicated supervisory boards as well as the usual national regulatory authorities. Over the past years, Islamic finance has been slow to gain a foothold in Europe.

Britain remains Europe’s main Islamic finance hub, with five full-fledged Islamic banks, with a Luxembourg venture also planning to launch an Islamic lender of its own. In 2004, the German state of Saxony-Anhalt raised 100 million euros via Islamic bonds, with Munich-based FWU Group tapping the market in 2012 and 2013.

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Three Iranian professors among top world scientists

Kashan, August 1, IRNA – President of University of Kashan said on Saturday that three professors of the university have been named as elite scientists of the world.

Abbas Zera’at told a press conference that according to a statement issued by head of regional office of the Islamic World Science Citation Center (ISC), Professor Abbas Saadatmandi, Professor Masoud Salavati-Niasari and Professor Ali-Reza Ashrafi are among the top 1% elite scientists of the world.

He said that the scientific index for selecting the elite scientists is the number of citations of their scientific works in international scientific publications.

Professor Zera’at said that the researchers who have achieved the highest international levels in accordance with the Information Science Institute (ISI) are listed in the elite world scientists’ group.

Abbas Saadatmandi and Ali-Reza Ashrafi are from the Faculty of Mathematics and Masoud Salavati-Niasari from the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Kashan.

The University of Kashan with over 7,000 students and its various faculties have 300 fulltime scientific board members in some 190 scientific fields at levels of BA, MA, BS, MS and PhD.

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CBI: Foreign banks can open branches in Iranian FTZs

Tehran, July 28, IRNA – Foreign banks can set up branches at Iranian Free Trade Zones (FTZs), Central Bank of Iran said on Tuesday.

CBI said that the decision is in line with and in the framework of the country’s resistance economy to strengthen the country’s FTZs.

It said that the decision was made following success of the government in international scene to strike a deal with the western governments aiming to attract foreign capitals and facilitate bank transactions.

It said that the Central Bank’s decision also applies to the Iranian banks operating with non-Iranian currencies. CBI said that supervision over foreign banks and disciplinary measures have been envisaged on the directives.

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Tourism Summit 2015 Held In Kuala Lumpur

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia July 29 (NNN-Bernama) — The Tourism Summit 2015 organised by the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (ASLI) will be held in the federal capital Thursday.

It would mainly focus on formulating and promulgating tourism industry-friendly and sustainable growth strategies to suit post economic integration via the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

ASLI said in a statement that the summit would bring together various local and regional stakeholders such as the Tourism and Culture Ministry and theNational Tourism Council to provide inputs on the matter.

The AEC, a pillar of the ASEAN Community which is expected to be established by the end of 2015, recognises the importance of tourism to the economies of its members, hence the specific tourism component to strengthen and promote it.

Themed ‘Connecting and Empowering Stakeholders’, the Tourism Summit 2015 will also highlight the importance of connectivity.

“Facilitating safe, secure and efficient travel is an essential component of tourism that consists of many components other than airlines.

“For a well-rounded perspective, Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad and the Department of Civil Aviation will also give their outlook,” said the statement.

The summit will also be looking at issues relating to promotion and sustainability, and shift some focus from the ‘profit’ component to the ‘people’ and ‘planet’ components.

“Amongst areas we hope to address are skills development and empowerment to alleviate poverty as well as environmental protection and conservation of resources,” ASLI said.

ASLI also hoped the one-day summit would highlight the importance of innovation in improving tourist overall experience, from planning and booking to the actual trip to post-trip sharing on various social media.

Among other stakeholders expected at the summit are Air France-KLM, Borneo Adventure, Genting, Google, Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, MalaysianAssociation of Hotels and Taylor’s University.

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flydubai Announces Direct Flights To Eritrea

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 30 (NNN-WAM) – flydubai has announced direct flights to Eritrea from Oct, this year, adding another destination to its African flight network.

Operating 4 times a week, Asmara, will be the second African destination this year, after Hargeisa, which began in June.

Commenting on the launch, Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubai CEO said, “We are keen to reflect the UAE’s efforts to support emerging markets, particularly in East Africa. Adding to our recent operations to Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Somaliland, we are delighted to add a direct link between the UAE and another emerging market with great potential for more growth. Asmara becomes the 18th destination to join our network this year.”

Sudhir Sreedharan, Senior Vice President Commercial (GCC, Subcontinent, Africa) for flydubai, said, “flydubai will be the first UAE carrier to connect Dubai with Asmara, as trade and tourism continue to rise between the UAE, Africa and the rest of the world.

The new route emphasises our commitment to bring a better travel experience and reliable aviation services to previously underserved markets, as well as, offering more travel options to the UAE, the region and beyond, through Dubai’s efficient aviation hub. Additionally, flights to Asmara will provide the Eritrean diaspora with greater opportunity to visit their families and friends in their home country.”

In line with the growing trade and tourism ties between the UAE and East and North Africa, flydubai launched its first African route to Djibouti in 2009, followed by Addis Ababa in 2011. Last year, the airline added six new routes to its network, connecting Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. With the addition of Asmara, flydubai operates 60 weekly flights to 13 destinations in Africa.

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Malaysia To Focus On Tourism Innovation And Quality

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia July 30 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia must focus on innovation and quality in order to derive maximum benefits from ASEAN as a single tourism destination, said Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

These were in addition to security, connectivity, sustainability and manpower factors, he said. He said as the chairman of ASEAN, Malaysia was willing to take the leadership role to better align policy and strategic planning at the ASEAN level to promote intra-ASEAN tourism, as well as to attract more tourist arrivals from emerging economies.

“Connectivity would be the key enabler to ensure people can travel safely, securely and efficiently and the government is currently focusing on enhancing connectivity with the medium-haul markets of China, Japan, Australia, India, Korea and Taiwan.

“This is in line with our goal to target high net-worth tourists and the Transport Ministry is championing this entry point project,” he said in his opening keynote address read out by the ministry’s secretary-general, Tan Sri Dr Ong Hong Peng, at the Tourism Summit 2015, here, today.

Nazri said some of the areas to be examined included air service agreements, border security policies and travel facilitation initiatives, as well as airport capacity development and management

“More than 90 per cent of business and leisure travellers begin to plan their travel using search engine and this innovative technology has revolutionised the entire travel and tourism experience, and social media has played a key enabling role.

“Malaysia is intensifying marketing and promotional efforts, especially in the digital space, and has launched aggressive plans to recover the Chinese market through the digital sphere.

“Increasingly, we must acknowledge the role played by online influencers such as bloggers, and by tourists themselves to share their unique experiences of Malaysia with their family and friends,” he said.

According to Nazri, sustainable or green tourism would also help the industry to promote awareness and conservation efforts with respect to the environment, as well as improving the welfare of the local communities involved, while at the same time benefiting businesses and consumers.

The ministry also emphasised on medical tourism as healthcare travel service providers had borne fruit, making the country one of the top five destinations for medical tourism in 2012 and delivered 770,000 medical tourists in 2013, said Nazri.

“I am also proud of Kuala Lumpur’s achievement in being recognised as the fourth best shopping destination globally after New York, Tokyo and London by CNN Travel in 2013.

“There is still room for improvement by positioning the country as a duty-free shopping destination, designating Kuala Lumpur City Centre such as Bukit Bintang as a vibrant shopping precinct and establishing premium outlets.”

“As for culinary tourism, local food is an important element of tourists’ total experience and it is essential to build a clear and distinct cuisine image, besides showcasing the diverse delicacies and the country’s signature hospitality as a unique selling point.”

Travel and tourism’s direct contribution to Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was RM61 billion (5.7 per cent of GDP) while total contribution was RM161 billion (14.9 per cent of GDP) last year.

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IMF Approves US$396.3 Mln Disbursement For Jordan

WASHINGTON, Aug 1 (NNN-KUNA) — The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the final review of Jordan’s economic program on Friday and enabled the disbursement of USD 396.3 million to the country.

“Jordan’s Fund-supported program has helped the country to successfully weather severe external shocks, including the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Gradual fiscal consolidation, aided by lower oil prices, ensured that public debt is expected to start stabilizing this year and, together with a prudent monetary policy, has preserved macroeconomic stability and supported confidence,” said IMF Deputy Managing Director Mitsuhiro Furusawa in a statement.

He asserted, “Significant challenges remain. Though major efforts have already been made, continued public sector adjustment is needed to put the high public debt firmly on a downward path, including through steadfast implementation of the energy strategy. With the 2015 budget well on track, the focus should be on identifying early the measures that will underlie the necessary 2016 budget adjustment.”

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Kuwait holds Islamic Expo to Prepare for Islamic Cultural Capital 2016

ROME, Italy, July 27 (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait’s Islamic exhibition in Rome, marks the beginning of preparations for 2016 Kuwait’s celebrations, as an Islamic cultural capital, said Representative of Kuwait’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah.

Speaking to KUNA, Sheikh Salman, also Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs, said, the “Art in the Islamic Culture” exhibition’s message, is to show the arts and aesthetics of Islamic civilisation.

Sheikh Salman stressed the importance of the exhibition, held in Scuderia del Quirinale museum, for promoting Kuwait’s reputation as a centre of Arab and Islamic culture, as well as, highlighting its artistic museums within the framework of enhancing cultural communication with the world.

Italy’s hosting of the first comprehensive exhibition of Islamic Art and the keenness of the Italian President, Sergio Matarilla, to open the exhibition personally, reflects the special appreciation of Italy to Kuwait’s Amir, government and people, he added.

The exhibition, which contains distinctive and rare antiques, was admired by senior Italian officials, said Sheikh Salman, adding, “The Islamic civilisation is the civilisation of construction and that Islam is the religion of communication and tenderness.”

Sheikh Salman stressed Kuwait’s keenness on supporting culture and arts, as well as showing the true image of the Gulf, Arab and Islamic worlds.

He also thanked head of Al-Sabah collection of relics, Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs, Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, as well as Director General of Kuwait’s Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah (DAI), Sheikha Hessa Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, for their efforts in collecting these special pieces, as well as praising precious care from the Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.

The exhibition, on until Sept 20, is divided into two parts. It manifests the bright image of the Islamic civilisation and is a tangible outcome of the rising bilateral ties between Italy and Kuwait.

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UNESCO, Iraq Launch Project For Conservation of Samarra Heritage Site

PARIS, France, July 30 (NNN-XINHUA) – UNESCO and Iraq signed an agreement, on the conservation and management of the World Heritage site of Samarra Archaeological City in Iraq, which has been on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in Danger since 2007.

The agreement was signed at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris by Ahmed Abdullah Abed Abed, Iraqi Minister of State of Governorate and Parliamentary Affairs, Ammar Hikmeit Abdulhasan, deputy Governor of Salah-Al-Din, and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.

“All the speakers at the event emphasised the fact that the agreement expressed a strong commitment to safeguarding the cultural heritage of Iraq, which is facing an unprecedented threat,” said a press release of UNESCO.

“When extremists seek to destroy culture and persecute individuals on cultural and religious grounds, we must also respond with more culture, with more knowledge, with more protection measures, and this is precisely what we do here today,” said the Director-General of UNESCO.

Minister Ahmed Abdullah Abed Abed described the site of Samarra as “one of the most emblematic places of Islamic civilisation” and said that, its preservation was an important part of the war against terrorism taking place in Iraq.

“The terrorism we are experiencing poses a grave threat to our country and for all the cultural sites in our country. Terrorism is no longer limited to one country, it can strike anybody anywhere,” he cautioned.

The Governorate of Salah-Al-Din will fund the 853,000 U.S. dollar project, of which the first phase will be conducted over 18 months.

Samarra Archaeological City contains the remains of an iconic Islamic city that, during most of the 9th century, served as the capital of the Abbasid Empire that extended from Tunisia to Central Asia.

Located on both banks of the River Tigris, 130 km north of Baghdad, the site testifies to the architectural and artistic innovations that developed there before spreading through the Islamic world and beyond.

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Egypt’s New Suez Canal To Give China More Investment Chances

CAIRO, Egypt, July 26 (NNN-MENA) – “The new Suez Canal area will give the Chinese side more opportunities to invest in Egypt and other countries,” Egypt’s former ambassador to China, Mahmoud Allam, said, in a recent interview.

“Egypt decides to establish an industrial city and logistics area in the Suez Canal zone, which will attract many investors and countries, especially China,” the ex-diplomat said.

The 72 km long New Suez Canal, an alternative to the original 190 km long waterway, is expected to transform a 76,000 square km area on both banks, into an international logistics, commercial and industrial hub. It is one of the key national projects that are at the heart of the Egyptian government’s efforts to revive the country’s sluggish economy.

The one-year construction work involves a 35 km of dry digging and another 37 km of expansion and deep digging of the old one.

“The investment in the Suez Canal area will give the Chinese side the opportunity to invest in more countries… Egypt’s geographical location is very important, so near to the European, Arab and African markets,” Mahmoud Allam said.

With regard to the China-Egypt cooperation, the former envoy stressed that the new project, which will be inaugurated on Aug 6, will help boost bilateral cooperation.

Mahmoud Allam said that many Chinese companies have started to invest in the north-west Suez area nine years ago, and growing Chinese investments are flowing to Egypt, after China and Egypt decided to elevate their bilateral ties to the level of “comprehensive strategic partnership” during President Sisi’s official visit to Beijing last year.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Allam hails China’s “Belt and Road initiative, saying, it’s of great importance to develop Egypt’s industries and widen trade markets.

“The initiative will connect all countries together in the aspects of opening each country to international markets,” Mahmoud Allam said.

Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, known as the “Belt and Road” initiative, aims at reviving the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe.

The network threads through over 60 countries and regions, with a total population of 4.4 billion.

“The initiative has now begun a practical implementation, I can see that the Chinese government has put a lot of money to support the infrastructure projects, which are carried out in this area,” Allam said. “We hope that both sides win… we also hope that China will help develop Egypt’s industries,” the former official added.

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East African Community Integration Nationwide Campaign Launched

KAMPALA, July 29 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda’s ministry of East African Community Affairs has launched a mass awareness campaign on East African Community (EAC) Integration throughout the country.

The campaign which is set to be rolled out in the five languages of English, Luganda, Runyakitara, Luo and Ateso will raise awareness on benefits and opportunities of EAC regional integration.

Speaking at a half day stakeholders’ workshop at Statistics House Tuesday, Edith Nsajja Mwanje, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary said citizens need to be sensitized in order to appreciate the purpose, benefits and challenges of EAC integration.

“With the EAC integration, a large economic bloc will create an economically viable market to promote investment and trade within the region and with other communities outside the region and benefits for economies of large scale,” Mwanje said.

The EAC comprises five partner states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda and has a population of about 143.5 million and a Gross Domestic Product at current prices of USD 110.3 billion at the end of 2013.

Initially, the community had a membership of three states, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda that founded the East African Community in 1967 and dissolved it in 1977. Prior to its dissolution in 1977, the EAC was one of the oldest and most prosperous Regional Economic Communities in the world.

“As a bigger sovereign state, the EAC has a wider internal market and more negotiating power in the international arena. Once fully integrated, the EAC partner states will be more visible and have stronger bargaining power with other communities,” Mwanje added.

Some of the activities of the campaign include mass media campaigns, music competitions, theatre drama and stakeholder meetings.

In November 2013, the EAC heads of state signed the East African Monetary Union protocol with an implementation schedule that will see the region launch a single currency by 2040, reducing transaction costs sustainably.

According to Mwanje, since the launch of the Customs Union in January 2005, total intra EAC trade grew from USD 1.6B to USD 3.8B in 2010, more than a hundred percent increase.

For Uganda, the volume of exports rose from USD 132M in 2004 to USD 398.8M in 2009. The volume of imports also increased from USD 416.3M in 2004 to USD 547M in 2009.

Delivering his keynote address, The State Minister in charge of General Duties Tarsis Kabwegyere said the revival of the EAC 15 years ago is one of the region’s greatest achievements.

He said in spite of the obvious benefits of regional integration, the level of public awareness about the integration process and opportunities available are still very low.

“The awareness campaign is in part a powerful demonstration of our determination to take EA to the people of Uganda to stimulate effective participation and the reaping of associated benefits,” Kabwegyere said.

Statistics from a survey carried out by the Ministry of EAC affairs in 2013 showed that 33percent of the general public respondents were not aware of the EA integration process and stakeholders were at 16percent.

Kabwegyere, also holding the portfolio of Minister of EAC affairs however said today, there are policies such as the National Policy on EAC Integration and strategies like the National EAC communication strategy in its final stages of development.

“This is a big market for Uganda’s goods, labour and capital in accordance with the EAC Customs Union and Common Market protocols. It also provides an abundance of opportunities for Ugandans to participate in and benefit from the integration process,” he explained.

The customs union has in particular catalyzed remarkable trade expansion within the region. Intra EAC trade grew by 53 percent between 2005 and 2013 and the time taken to move goods from Mombasa to Kampala has reduced from 21 days to 5 days.

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In Pakistan, Solar Lamps Turn Women Into Green Energy Entrepreneurs

Saturday 01 Aug 2015 – Islamabad (IINA) – As the sun sets and darkness falls over a village outside Bahawalpur, Shama Bibi switches on her solar lantern and starts sewing clothes for an upcoming family wedding.

Not long ago, nightfall would have forced her to stop working. But now with access to solar-powered lamps, Bibi can sew as long as she needs to. “The solar lantern has changed my life,” said the 35-year-old widow and mother of three. “I can sew clothes even in the night and earn enough to make both ends meet.”

Bibi has recently become a “Light Lady”, one of the women that the Buksh Foundation, a non-profit organization in Lahore, has trained to help spread the benefits of solar energy throughout rural Pakistan.

Under the foundation’s project Lighting a Million Lives, in collaboration with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in India, women are taught how to operate and maintain solar charging stations in their homes. The two “Light Ladies” in each of the focus villages also are given 50 solar lanterns to rent to others in their community. The one-time cost of around $5,500 to set up a solar charging station and set of lanterns is funded by donors.

Bibi says she charges a daily rent of 4 rupees ($0.04) per lantern and earns around 5,500 rupees ($54) each month.

“I’ve started sending my youngest son to school as I earn enough now to meet all the expenses,” she said. Villagers can also charge their mobile phones at the solar station, instead of having to travel to Bahawalpur and back. The foundation has so far installed solar charging stations in 150 off-grid villages around the country and plans to reach 4,000 villages by 2017.

According to the World Bank, about 44 percent of households in Pakistan are not connected to the grid. More than 80 percent of those are in rural areas. There, almost half of households use kerosene as a primary or secondary source of lighting, a 2012 World Bank survey found. Some use candles, due to the high cost of kerosene.

“Our target is to provide sustainable energy to far-flung rural off-grid areas of Pakistan and we especially want to empower women in these areas through the project,” said Fiza Farhan, CEO of the Buksh Foundation.

She said the solar lanterns not only are convenient and a source of income for some villagers but also help reduce climate-changing carbon emissions, as each lantern replaces around 500 to 600 liters of kerosene during its 10-year lifespan.

The foundation has a permanent help line at its central office in Lahore to keep in touch with the “Light Ladies” and provide them technical assistance round the clock, Farhan said. She said dozens of people contact the foundation daily asking for more solar lanterns in their villages and requesting the installation of charging stations in nearby villages.

“More women want to become Light Ladies, but for the moment we have been training only two women in each village,” she said, to ensure that each woman makes a decent income once the profits are split.

Qamar-uz-Zaman, a climate change advisor to the sustainable development organization LEAD-Pakistan, said Pakistan’s energy shortages could be reduced substantially if the government would provide technical and financial assistance for sustainable development initiatives such as Lighting a Million Lives. Pakistan faces a year-round electricity shortfall that hits around 7,000 megawatts in the summer. The country’s rural areas often suffer blackouts of more than 14 hours a day while urban areas can experience up to 10 hours a day without power, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation.

To tackle the crisis, the government needs to support off-grid solar projects and encourage people to use renewable energy sources to decrease the stress on the national grid, said Zaman. “The government can subsidize the projects by claiming international climate financing and reaching out to international donors to fund them,” he said. Gul Muhammad, 62, a farmer in the village outside Bahawalpur, can attest to the benefits of solar energy.

The lantern he hires from one of the “Light Ladies” has allowed him to cut the amount of kerosene he uses to light his farm, saving him 350 rupees ($3) each month.

The availability of cheap, portable light also means he can irrigate his farmland during dusk and dawn, times of day that previously were too dangerous due to the presence of snakes in the area. “I can now work three to four hours extra on my farmland,” he said. “And this is helping increase my income too.”

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IDB approves $77 million for funding new development projects

Wednesday 29 Jul 2015 – Jeddah (IINA) – The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group approved $76.6 million for funding new development projects in member states as well as for Muslim communities in non-member countries.

This came during the 306th session of the IDB Board of Executive Directors, which concluded here on Tuesday under the chairmanship of IDB President Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali. A number of IDB’s programs, policies and future plans were also reviewed during the meeting.

The Board approved $40.4 million for two water projects in Cameroon and Kyrgyzstan as well as $21.2 million for financing the “Animal Resources Development Project in Western Sahel Project” in Mali. Other approvals included: $13.7 million for “Vocational Training School for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Project in Zouan-Hounien” in Cote d’Ivoire, around $1.3 million as grants to support educational efforts in Muslim communities in non-member countries namely: Belgium, Burundi, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Ethiopia, India, Rwanda and the United Kingdom.

The Board reviewed a number of reports during the session including a report on IDB Group 10-Year Strategy Progress; a report on Member Countries’ Partnership Strategy (MCPS) at Group level, in addition to one on Administrative and Organizational Arrangements made for the 40th Annual Meeting of the IDB Group held last June in Maputo, Mozambique.

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Haramain train makes first trial run

Thursday 30 Jul 2015 – Madinah (IINA) – The Saudi Railways Organization conducted the first successful trial run of the Haramain Express Train on Tuesday on a 100-kilometer stretch between Rabigh and Madinah.

The 450-kilometer high-speed railway linking Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and Rabigh is expected to become fully operational next year, reducing the distance between the two holy cities to less than two hours.

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Mauritania officially joins UN-ESCWA

Friday 31 Jul 2015 – New York (IINA) – The UN Economic and Social Council on Thursday approved the request received from Mauritania for admission as a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA).

To welcome its official admission to the membership of ESCWA, a flag-raising ceremony will be held for Mauritania in front of the ESCWA headquarters, Beirut, in mid-September.

UN-ESCWA is one of the five regional commissions under the administrative direction of the UN Economic and Social Council. It coordinates its activities with those of the major offices of the UN at headquarters and of specialized agencies and intergovernmental organizations, such as the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), with a view to avoid duplication and ensure complementarity, synergy and exchange of information.

ESCWA has 17 member states (the latest countries to join were Libya, Morocco and Tunisia in 2012).

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Iran to cooperate with Indonesia on Islamic issues

Friday 31 Jul 2015 – Jakarta (IINA) – Iranian Ambassador to Indonesia Valiollah Mohammadi has offered to establish cooperation with the Indonesian government to form a team to discuss issues related to Islam in the two countries, Indonesia’s ANTARA news agency reported.

Mohammadi met with Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Thursday to discuss the formation of the team, among other subjects, according to Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a senior adviser to Indonesian Vice President.

“Mohammadi expressed his wish to Kalla on the establishment of a joint team between Indonesia and Iran that can discuss issues, especially terrorism, which frequently concerns Muslims,” Dewi said at the Vice Presidential Office on Thursday.

The Iranian ambassador wants to establish a joint team comprising scholars from Indonesia and Iran to deliberate over matters related to the existence of Muslims in the two countries.

However, Vice President Kalla asserted that the government of Indonesia wanted to establish cooperation with all Muslim counties in the world, not solely with Iran.

“Indonesia wants to promote moderate Islam, which does not justify violence, terrorism, or other aspects that lead to conflicts within the Muslim community,” Dewi remarked.

She further noted that Mohammadi and Kalla discussed, during the meeting, plans to establish cooperation between the two nations in the fields of economy, nuclear technology, and banking.

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World Bank grants Sudan $20 million in support for Great Green Wall

Monday 27 Jul 2015 – Khartoum (IINA) – Sudan’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources and Urban Development Hassan Abdel Qader Hilal has said Sudan will receive $20 million from the World Bank, as part of the bank’s support to the Great Green Wall (GGW) of the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative.

“Sudan will received $20 million from the World Bank, in support for the GGW in six Sudanese states, namely Kassala, Al-Jazirah, White Nile, River Nile, Northern and North Kurdufan,” the minister was quoted by Sudan News Agency (SUNA) as saying.

He added that Sudan has already received $8.3 million from the total amount for the implementation of the project in the above-mentioned states, pointing out that his country has the largest GGW stretch of 1,520 km long and 25 km wide.

It may be mentioned here that a delegation headed by Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is taking part in the two-day regular Summit of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall, which is due to convene Monday in th Mauritanian capital Nouakchott.

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Low-cost domestic Haj booking in the pipeline

Tuesday 28 Jul 2015 – Makkah (IINA) – The Haj Ministry will next week start receiving on-line applications from both Saudi and expatriate domestic pilgrims for low-cost Haj amid objections from the local 207 Haj service-providers.

The ministry, on its part, said it has completed all procedures to receive applications according to the charges that will serve the interests of both the pilgrims and companies. The companies, however, said the charges decided by the ministry are too low to meet the cost of accommodation, food, transport and other services. The ministry is offering domestic pilgrims three options for the low-cost Haj starting from SR6,000 and going down to SR3,000.

According to the ministry, those who opt to be accommodated in tower buildings and five-star hotels in Makkah, travel by air and move between the holy sites in buses and the train which can accommodate up to 135,000 pilgrims should pay SR6,000. The second category should pay from SR3,000 to SR5,250 to be accommodated in Mina in tents classified from A to F and will be using buses for transport in addition to the train which can transport up to 50,000 pilgrims.

The third and last category can pay only SR3,000 but pilgrims will be accommodated in various buildings in Makkah and will be transported by buses and the train during the days of Tashriq (the second, third and fourth day after the Eid). The train’s capacity for this category of pilgrims is 5,000. The ministry said interested pilgrims can apply through its electronic gate on the Internet. A six-man sub-committee of the National Haj and Umrah Committee is expected to meet soon to decide on charges which are acceptable to both parties.

Osama Filali, committee member and Saad Al-Qurashi, a former member, are optimistic that the meeting will come up with solutions that meet the aspirations of the pilgrims and Haj companies at the same time. They said the committee will be considering a number of studies and proposals on the subject before recommending concrete suggestions to the ministry.

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Kuwait Red Crescent opens crafts school in Indonesia

Sunday 26 Jul 2015 – Jakarta (IINA) – Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) on Sunday opened Al-Mubarakiya Crafts’ School and a hall in Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia’s province of Aceh, as part of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Village.

The project was named after the late Emir of Kuwait in appreciation for his humanitarian efforts all over the world, KRCS chairman Dr Hela Al-Sayer told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

The village project was first initiated by the Society’s late chairman Barjas Al-Barjas, who exerted great efforts to aid people in Indonesia on all levels, said Al-Sayer.

The village, located in the area previously struck by tsunami in 2004, contains 150 houses, a mosque, a medical center, in addition to Al-Mubarakiya School, he added.

Meanwhile, the chairman said that KRCS contributed to rebuilding Banda Aceh after the deadly tsunami disaster, pointing out that the Society had carried several projects in the area, which was also struck by multiple earthquakes, including water purification stations, infrastructure, and orphanage, as well as providing fishing boats, road construction equipment, and relief supplies.

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Mega Maldives chosen by Hajj Corp. for this year’s pilgrimage

Sun.mv – August 1, 2015 – Mega Maldives Airlines have been chosen for this year’s pilgrims through Hajj Corporation.

The agreement between the two companies were signed on Thursday by the Managing Director of Hajj Corporation, Yameen Idris and the CEO Mega Maldives, George Weinmann.

The Hajj Corporation said that they have 1300 pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia on five flights between 28 – 31 August. Their return is to be between 28 September and 1 October.

Hajj Corp. said that direct flights would be arranged instead of transits making things easier for the pilgrims. Last year, Hajj Corp. sent 500 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia via Mega Maldives.

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Asian tourists taking cultural tours in Antalya, ecological tours in Isparta

ANTALYA – Cihan News Agency – Antalya and the nearby provinces of Isparta and Burdur are attracting growing numbers of Korean and other Asian tourists who are looking for a holiday full of culture and adventure

With culture on offer in Antalya and outdoor activities available in Isparta and Burdur, tourists from East Asia are increasingly flocking to southern Turkey for holiday opportunities.

Intrigued by natural and archeological artifacts, tourists from South Korea, Taiwan and China are taking part in activities such as collecting roses, cherries and berries in Burdur and Isparta, visiting Yörük tents and participating in village house tours.

Some 295,000 tourists per year from South Korea, China and Taiwan visit Turkey to learn more about cultural, ecological, archeological, folkloric and commercial sites and artifacts.

South Korean tourists have been gravitating toward tours of archaeological sites that include everything from Xanthos on the border between Antalya and Muğla to the Ancient Theater of Aspendos, as well as eco-tours to nearby Isparta and Burdur.

“Unlike Russian, Scandinavian and European tourists, South Korean tourists don’t have a proclivity for a sea, sun and beach kind of holiday. They are more interested in natural life, villages, Yörük life and a quality time in nature. In that sense, Antalya is a very preferable place. Having a lot of historical sites, the Mediterranean resort attracts Asian tourists who come mainly to Istanbul. For Asian tourists, Burdur and Isparta are very enticing sites to visit. South Korean and Taiwanese tourists can collect cherries in Ağlasun after visiting the Ancient City of Sagalassos,” said Dr. Myung Hee, an SSR Tourism Holiday Agency Korean Tourist Guide and Archeological tourism specialist.

In addition to that, the head of the Manavgat Trade and Chamber of Industry, Ahmet Boztaş, said that as part of extending tourism to all 12 months of the year, he has been promoting tours for South Koreans so that they acquire a greater awareness of cultural and archaeological artifacts.

In the lake district of regions of Isparta and Burdur, there are many fields overflowing with different kinds of roses. Every year in May, June and July, the region brightens with a soft pink color, signifying the time for the rose harvest, when special kinds of roses are picked for the perfume industry.

During the harvest in the morning, young and old people pick roses in the fields before the petals are processed in distilleries to make rose oils.

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Dalyan’s rock tombs to be protected by fences

MUĞLA – Doğan News Agency – The world famous historical rock tombs of Dalyan become more damaged as tourists continue to sit on them while taking photos despite warnings. With a new decision, the tombs will now be surrounded with wire fences

In order to preserve the 2,400 year old ancient stone graves in the Köyceğiz district of the western province of Muğla from those who continue to sit on them while taking pictures despite all warnings, the grave walls will now be covered with wire fences.

Many people ignore the rules and try to climb to the graves, which both puts their lives in danger and harms the artifacts. Besides a wire cloth that will hopefully prevent people from risking their lives, viewing platforms situated below the stone graves have been built, on the instructions of Ertuğrul Günay, former Minister of Culture and Tourism, who is concerned with protecting both the visitors and history.

Head of the excavations at the ancient city of Kaunos, Professor Cengiz Işık has undertaken vigorous efforts to ameliorate the protection of the historical stone graves, which can be seen from the Dalyan neighborhood.

Examining the site on July 13, 2010, Günay acceded to the construction of viewing platforms so that the visitors will be able to observe the graves from a comfortable area while preserving the stone graves. The viewing platforms have recently been completed and handed over to the directorate of Fethiye Museum.

Despite all the efforts and precautions taken to preserve the artifacts, some people still enter the stone graves in order to take pictures, at the expense of damaging the historical remnants. Even though there are watchmen at the entrance of the site, some people recklessly put their lives in danger by passing a 70-80 meter high alley to take pictures, said Işık.

“Unfortunately there is nothing the institutions responsible of this area can do. They assign watchmen and announce that entrance to the graves is forbidden. However, people neglect this and continue to harm the graves. It is illogical to climb to the graves on dangerous paths filled with stones and pebbles,” said Işık, who has been working relentlessly in order to provide a pleasurable time for visitors while ensuring their and the artifacts’ safety.

Işık continued, “I have talked to Hasan Karaçelik, mayor of Ortaca, and asked to cover the walls of the grave with wire cloths to prevent the climbing to the graves through risky ways. He promised to do it as soon as possible. People knowingly risk their lives. Anytime, someone can fall and get killed. I don’t understand why they choose to cause harm instead of preserving our history.”

Karaçelik said that the preparations have been completed, adding, “The placement of the wire cloth will be completed in a few days.”

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Underground city reveals traces of civilizations

NEVŞEHİR – Doğan News Agency – Excavation and cleaning works on the largest underground city in the world in the Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir have unearthed equipment and life spaces belonging to various civilizations.

Excavation work near Nevşehir castle is being conducted on an area of 11 neighborhoods within the 450,000-square-meter ancient underground city by the Nevşehir Culture and Tourism Protection and Development Regions Board.

As part of the excavation works, the team has unearthed sepulcher ruins from the late Roman era, along with two “Bezirhane” (seed oil process unit) dating back to early periods of Anatolian civilization.

Additionally, fragments from pots and pans used in houses and kitchens, dating back to periods from the late Roman era to the early Byzantine period have been found during the archaeological dig. Pipes and oil-lamps have also been unearthed from the Ottoman and early Republican era.

Excavations and cleaning works are continuing in the region.

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Bangladesh Minister: 11 jobs created for every foreign tourist

DHAKA, July 30, 2015(BSS) – “We can earn more from tourism than garments, “Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon told the conference of deputy commissioners (DCs) being held here today. “For every foreign tourist who visits Bangladesh 11 jobs are created, “he said.

He added, “Meanwhile Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had announced 2016 as the year of tourism.” He called upon the DCs to discover the touristic “products” in their respective districts. The minister was speaking as chairman of the session on jute and textiles.

Chaired by Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, others who spoke at the meeting were Textiles’ and Jute Minister Imajuddin Pramanik, State Minister Mirza Azam and secretary, civil aviation and tourism, Khorshed Alam Chowdhury.

Narrating the achievements of the incumbent government, Menon said for the first time new aircrafts had been added to Biman’s fleet. Local flights had been resumed. Construction work on Khan Jahan Ali airport at Mongla was on. And a third terminal at the Shahjalal International Airport was on and so was the work on building an international airport at Cox’s Bazar.

A regional airport at Syedpur would also be built soon, he said. Besides, work was underway to build the Bangabandhu International Airport which would be of international standards.

The minister called upon the DCs to take care of the unused airports in their respective areas.

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Three Bangladesh cities on short-list for SAARC cultural capital

DHAKA, July 28, 2015 (BSS) – Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor today said his ministry has preliminarily selected Comilla, Kushtia and Bogra for making SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) cultural capital in 2016.

He said this while presiding over a preparatory meeting at Shilpakala Academy in the city on announcing a place in Bangladesh SAARC cultural capital in 2016 as per a decision of the South Asian regional forum.

The minister said selection of a place in Bangladesh as SAARC cultural capital would brighten the country’s image in the world and it will create a scope to project the nation’s heritage and culture to the global people.

Asaduzzaman Noor said a two-member delegation from SAARC cultural centre in Sri Lanka will visit Mainamoti, Mahasthangar, Paharpur and Shilaidah for three days from tomorrow to select a place for SAARC cultural capital.

The Prime Minister will give the final approval to a place to be declared as SAARC cultural capital, he added.

Secretary-in-Charge Aktari Mamtaz, Bangla Academy Director Genewral Shamsuzzaman Khan, Shilpakala Academy Director General Liaqat Aly Lucky and National Museum Director General Faizul Latif were present at the meeting,among others.

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Indonesia to discuss Batam area development with Singapore

28 July 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The government of Indonesia will discuss about Batam area development during President Joko Widodos (Jokowis) state visit to Singapore on July 28-29.

“I will focus on discussing about the development in Batam and Bintan Karimun since we have never placed weightage on them for years,” President Jokowi stated at the Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in Jakarta, on Tuesday.

President Jokowi sees several areas of potential in Batam that should be developed for promoting national economic growth.

The president also remarked that Indonesia will give heed to what Singapore needs in order to invest in the development in Batam area. “The most important thing is that the development of Batam and its surrounding area must be continued. I do not want it to be stagnant,” he emphasized.

During his visit to Singapore, President Widodo is accompanied by Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Sofjan Djalil, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi, Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Yuddy Chrisnandy, and Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Imam Nahrawi.

Singapore is one of Indonesia’s key partners in the sectors of trade, investment, and tourism. In 2014, bilateral trade between Indonesia and Singapore amounted to US$41.99 billion, the second-largest after that with China.

In the investment sector, Singapore ranked first in the last five years, with as many as 2,056 projects worth US$5.8 billion last year.

During the same period, Singaporeans constituted the largest section of foreign tourists in Indonesia, with 1,519,223 people. This was a 10.12 percent rise from that recorded in 2013.

During his visit, President Jokowi is scheduled to meet Singaporean President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He will also attend a business conference in which more than 150 CEOs of large Singapore-based companies will participate.

Besides bilateral issues, President Jokowi will also utilize the visit to discuss ASEAN-related affairs ahead of the regional economic integration in 2015.

Indonesia believes that people living in the ASEAN region, including migrant workers, must benefit directly from the ASEAN Economic Community 2015.

With regard to this idea, Indonesia has been working towards establishing a legally binding instrument to protect migrant workers in the ASEAN region.

On the last day of his visit, Jokowi is scheduled to inaugurate a new species of orchid that will be named after Indonesian First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo.

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Traditional celebration “Syawalan” preserved in Kudus

29 July 2015 Kudus, Central Java (ANTARA News) – The traditional celebration of Syawalan in Dawe Subdistrict, Kudus Regent, Central Java Province, which is marked with a parade of gunungan, remains preserved. This year, it took place on July 24.

As part of the local people’s way of expressing their thanks and victory after performing a month-long fasting month of Ramadhan, this year’s Syawalan rituals were held a week after Eid ul Fitr.

Syawalan origins from the word of Syawal, the name of month in Islamic-Arabian calendar system. Completed with a thousand ketupat rice cakes (rice cooked in woven coconut leaves), the parade of gunungan or cone-shape offering started from the house of Colo village’s head in Dawe Subdistrict.

From the house, the participants of the gunungan parade headed to the Sunan Muria mosque and ended at Taman Ria Colo, about a kilometer away from the cemetery. About a thousand people had waited for the coming of the parade there to fight over the ketupat rice cakes that local Muslim clerics had prayed.

According to Head of Colo village Awang Ristihadi, this year’s Syawalan celebration was the ninth, and it would remain preserved whoever the figure who heads the village.

“Whoever heads Colo village, he or she is expected to back this annual calendar of event,” he said adding that this year’s Syawalan celebration involved 300 people representing all villages in Dawe Subdistrict.

Meanwhile, Kudus Regent Musthofa said the district government appreciated all parties supporting the this annual traditional celebration that has continuously been held for years. “This tradition is so valuable that it needs to be preserved,” he said.

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10 Northern Cities Every Nigerian Should Visit

Premium Times – 30 July 2015 – For many, the thought of Northern Nigeria conjures up images of bomb-damaged and dangerous cities with inhospitable residents; however, this is not entirely true as the region features idyllic cascades, picturesque plateaus, captivating architecture and welcoming locals who are proud to show off their local cities and culture.

Those who are eventually drawn in by allure that the northern regions of of the country has, very rarely know where to go in that corner of the nation, and so for the most part end up avoiding it all together. There is however something very unique and exotic about these cities that should make most Nigerians want to visit at least once in their lifetime.

Here’s a look at Jovago.com’s Top 10 cities to visit in Northern Nigeria!

Birnin Kebbi

The capital city of Kebbi State and headquarters of the Gwandu Emirate, Birnin Kebbi is a city that boasts a blend of culture, history and tradition. Despite its decline as a river port owing to unstable political conditions, it now serves as a major local market center for food resources. Its narrow streets are lined with restaurants and bars beckoning for you to eat, drink and appreciate the culture.


Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna State is a popular trade center and a major transportation hub in the northern region. Its symbol is the crocodile, called kada in the native Hausa language. While the city has lost some of its allure, it remains scenic, welcoming, and rife with landmarks and cultural attractions, securing its position on list of must-go cities up north.


With rejuvenation over the last few years, Minna, capital of Niger State, now receives recognition and travel limelight. A museum city full of monuments and memorials that attract both multi-cultural nationals, it has an eclectic blend of Christian and Islamic traditions which has given birth to a spirited and colorful society.


The capital of Kano state and the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria, as well as the second largest city in the country after Lagos, Kano is a city to experience. Somehow Kano remains overlooked by foreign visitors as a major destination, especially since it does not boast of skyscrapers, but is rather filled with low-rise buildings, mostly in a splendid neo-classical style. Those who eventually venture into the city however discover a city of first-rate architecture, food, and cultural life. Some of its tourist attractions include Kurmi Market established in the 15th century, Kano’s centuries-old city wall, and Gidan Rumfa (Emir’s Palace, the oldest continuous site of authority in Nigeria).


Known for its festivals, especially Durbar whose main feature is horse racing, as well as its arts and crafts, versatile production of metal works (such as weaponry), pottery, mat weaving and leather works, Bauchi is a city of complex character and genuine appeal. Their traditional wrestling and boxing dexterity, draws in participants even from neighboring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Other attractions include the Wikki warm spring, Yankari National park, Sumu wildlife, Marshall Caves, Dukkey wells, and Tunga Dutse.


Formerly known as Zazzau and a major city in Kaduna State in Northern Nigeria, Zaria is one of Nigeria’s oldest cities and therefore has lots of history to tell. However, not everything about the city is old. It has a young population thanks to Ahmadu Bello University, the largest in Nigeria and the second largest on the African continent. There is a certain old world atmosphere in several of its neighborhoods radiating from a place where people typically reside in traditional adobe compounds. And there is always something to do, with all the major sights within walking distance.


While it has more of a local than national appeal, Suleja may be the most attractively surprising city in Nigeria. It’s an overlooked treasure in Niger state, just north of the country’s capital, Abuja. There are great restaurants and galleries, and a major dose of history. It is also recognized as a center of excellence for traditional West African pottery, namely the world famous Ladi Kwali Pottery Centre, established by Michael Cardew in 1950. This city is a year-round destination that is worth at least a weekend or one night of your life.


Although Jos has been greatly affected by religious and political crises and other social problems in recent times, it is a city that should be on any Nigerian’s itinerary. There is the numerous sights and sounds, majestic wildlife and excellent food. It’s a city that, despite its recent history, still exudes an intangible charm.


A truly inspiring metropolis, Yola also serves as the administrative capital of the Adamawa state. Some of the best things to see and experience in Yola include: theThree Sister Hills, which are three scenic rock formations standing side by side at the same height; the Njuwa Lake fishing festival; The Lamido’s Palace and the annual horse-riding durbar. Take a city tour to get your bearings and see all of the beauty that is Yola.


A town in Central Nigeria, Lafia, is a labyrinth of narrow pedestrian-friendly streets, and historic architecture that ignites the wanderlust in everyone who visits the city. It is currently the largest town in Nasarawa state.

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Golf Tourism Can Drive Nigeria’s Economy

The Guardian – 31 July 2015 – The country’s quest to become one of the world’s major tourism destinations could be actualised if government paid adequate attention to golf and other sports development, says Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) official, Muyiwa Salami.

Salami, who said that sports and tourism could boost the nation’s internally generated revenue if the leadership of both sectors teamed up in promoting the country’s interests, tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure a healthy relationship between sports federations and the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC).

This, he said, would save the dying Nigerian tourism sector. The DVINE Travels and Tour managing director, who doubles as South West NATOP chairman, added that two sectors could generate close to the revenue the country is currently realising from oil. “It seems that government always uses the office of sports minister to pacify the aggrieved political class with the result being that square pegs are pot in round hole.

This has been the major factor retarding the growth of Nigerian sports and tourism. “Tourism in Nigeria is supposed to be a high revenue earner if well harnessed; the same thing with sports. But the bodies saddled with responsibilities of managing these sectors are not doing enough.

They don’t conceptualize any new event that would draw foreigners into the country like many other African countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda are doing and earning great revenues from it.

What tourism and sports bring are direct monies which have immediate impact on the economy,” he noted. Salami, who revealed that he plays “golf and table tennis at my leisure times and I am an active member of Ibadan Golf Club,” added, “I know the kind of impediment facing the sport and Nigerian tourism. “None of our tourist sites or any national packs are working. The managers just pay lip services.”

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Aquaventure At Atlantis Voted Best Waterpark In Middle East

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 28 (NNN-WAM) – With school holidays’ in mid flow, families can experience one of the top waterpark attractions in the world, without even having to leave the United Arab Emirates, reports Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Aquaventure at Atlantis, the Palm, has been voted the best waterpark in the Middle East and the fifth best in the world, in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Waterparks Awards. The influential travel site this week announced, the accolade is based on millions of traveller reviews.

The 17-hectare beachfront water park, situated on the apex of The Palm’s crescent, boasts two enormous towers packed with rides, including the world’s largest diameter slide, the world’s first vertical banking family ride, with a double hump at the end, the first double slide within a slide experience, the world’s first known zipline circuit to be integrated into a water park tower and unique marine animal interactions with rays and sharks.

Within Dubai, it’s Aquaventure that takes the lead with more TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards for water parks than any other waterpark in the country.

The TripAdvisor report features over 1,000 photos taken by happy Aquaventure visitors, along with thousands of positive reviews, which refer to the park in glowing terms due to the vast range of exhilarating rides available to suit all of the family, no matter the age or thrill level desired.

Scott Deisley, Vice President of Operations at Aquaventure said, “We are thrilled that this excellent ranking by TripAdvisor endorses Aquaventure’s global standing, especially as it comes from thousands of happy guests that have passed through our door. We thank each and every person that has taken the time to share their amazing experience with us.”

The high rating comes on the heels of Atlantis’ investment of around US$27 million, whereby a second 40-metre Tower of Poseidon was added, to give the waterpark a record breaking offering to guests, both regionally and globally.

Aquaventure was ranked fifth in a list that featured Siam Park in Spain, Beach Park in Brazil, Waterbom Bali in Indonesia and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park in Florida.

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New Family Area Opens At Dubai’s Airport Terminal

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, July 29 (NNN-WAM) – Dubai International Airport, Terminal 3, has announced the opening of a new facility for travelling families with kids, reports Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Located between Gates B7 and B8, the Concourse B’s Zen Garden, features a children’s area, complete with creative play equipment, television screens, featuring children’s programming, and baby changing rooms.

The area also features conversational-style seating, with a range of both individual and group seats, and is located close to various food and beverage outlets.

“We recognise that passengers waiting for a flight have valuable time that they would like to put to good use, be it catching up with work, sharing a meal with friends, shopping or spending time with family.

“These new facilities are the first of a series of changes we are making across the terminals, at Dubai International, to create welcoming spaces for the comfort and convenience of our customers,” said Chris Garton, Executive Vice President – Operations, at Dubai Airports.

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Mozambique: ‘Disruptive’ Conservation Launched in Gorongosa

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique – 29 July 2015 – London — The community education centre in the Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique has just finished hosting an international symposium on the topic of “disruptive” conservation, which was described by the organisers as “a new model for building community driven conservation in some of the world’s most remote and biologically diverse places”.

The “2015 Lost Mountain Next Gen Symposium” brought together 33 university students, scientists and conservationists from Africa and North America.

It was based on lectures, site visits in the Gorongosa National Park, and a field visit to the Vinho community, based across the river from the national park in the buffer zone.

According to Lost Mountain’s Director, Majka Burhardt, the symposium aimed to “empower young people from around the world to look at conservation from a new perspective”.

A press release from the organisation stated that it “sought to launch a wave of disruptive conservation”. In particular, its focus was on conservation and community development around Mount Namuli in Zambezia province.

Mount Namuli is a remote 7,936-foot granite mountain, and the area has unique biodiversity – Lost Mountain states that plants and animals have evolved as if on dispersed oceanic islands “so that individual mountains have become refuges to their own unique species, many of which are yet to be discovered or described by science”.

The symposium follows on from the work of Burhardt, who in May 2014 led a team to the Mount where it recorded a new snake species, 40 ant genera and 27 herpetological specimens, many of which have yet to be identified.

Burhardt stressed that “to create a realistic plan for integrated conservation, community engagement and development on Mount Namuli, it’s imperative to bring future leaders into the discussion around conservation and allow them to be part of the action”.

The Lost Mountain Consortium receives financial support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, which is a joint initiative of the French Development Agency (AFD), Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Japanese government, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

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Minister: Egypt Witnessing Tourism Boom

Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – 27 July 2015 – Egypt is witnessing a tourism boom thanks to the success of the tourism promotion campaign in the Arab countries, said Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy.

Ramy said that Egypt’s tourism witnessed a boom during the first half of the current year, with an increase of 8.2% if compared to the same period last year.

Aviation to Luxor from London, Paris, Amsterdam and Dusseldorf is maintained, he said, adding that a number of aviation companies are keen on increasing the number of flights to Luxor.

The opening of the New Suez Canal will have a positive effect on tourism, he said, adding that the economic conference which was held in Sharm el Sheikh in March contributed to boosting tourism to Egypt.

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New Suez Canal exhibition at Egyptian Museum

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 28 Jul 2015 – On Sunday, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty is to open the “Discoveries of Egypt’s eastern gate,” an exhibition at the Egyptian Museum, as part of the ministry’s celebration of the opening of the New Suez Canal.

The exhibition, Eldamaty pointed out, is to highlight the history of the area around the Suez Canal and its military importance since the ancient era until modern times.

He went on saying that the exhibition is to put on display a collection of artefacts that have been unearthed at ten archaeological sites located on the eastern and western banks of the Suez Canal, including Pelusium, Tel Habuwa, Tel Abu Seifi, Tel Kedwa and Tel Al-Heir. Photos showing excavation works in these sites are to be also exhibited.

Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, General Coordinator for the development of archaeological sites around the New Suez Canal, told Ahram Online that the exhibition is one of three temporary exhibitions established in Ismailia Suez Museums.

He explained that the exhibition displays the most important discoveries carried out by foreign and Egyptian excavation missions in the sites surrounding the Suez Canal, including a limestone painted relief depicting the different titles of King Ramses II, a stone block depicting King Tuthmosis II before the god Montu, the lord of Thebes, as well as a stelae from the reign of King Ramses I before the god Set of Avaris town.

A collection of engraved lintels are also on display as well as photos showing the New Kingdom military fortresses uncovered in situ, royal palaces from Tuthmosis III and Ramses II’s reigns as well as remains of a 26th dynasty temple. A storage cellos, and an industrial zone were also uncovered in Tel Dafna on the Suez Canal’s western bank and a Roman structure in Pelusium.

Abdel-Maqsoud announced that for the first time since its discovery, the relief of King Ibres discovered at Tel Dafna in Al-Ismailia is to be exhibited. The relief dates to the 26th dynasty and is carved in sandstone. It shows one of the military expedition launched by Ibres across Egypt’s borders through Sinai and Horus Military Road. This stelae was discovered by the army during the 2011 revolution.

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Important ancient reliefs discovered in Aswan

Nevine El-Aref , Monday 27 Jul 2015 – On the eastern bank of Aswan, an American-Egyptian archaeological mission at the Middle Kingdom settlement of Al-Hoody has found three engraved limestone reliefs which could be of great historical significance.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty said the reliefs are in very poor condition but the texts are readable. He asserted that comprehensive conservation work is to take place in order to reveal all the engravings, as well as using a reflectance transformation imaging system to uncover its faded parts.

Mahmoud Afifi explains that early studies show that the eighth year of the twelve dynasty King Senusert I’s reign was mentioned on one of the discovered reliefs. There was also information on the ancient Egyptian missions sent to and from Al-Hoody.

Al-Hoody was a settlement for quarrying amethyst which they used in the fabrication of jewellery. The area was also a meeting point from which the ancient Egyptians sent missions abroad to collect precious and semi-precious stones.

Restoration and studies are now going on in order to reveal more of the history of the site.

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Campaign launched to rescue 100 Egyptian monuments

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 30 Jul 2015 – Within the framework of the Historic Cairo Rehabilitation Project (HCRP), the Ministry of Antiquities launched Thursday a national campaign to safeguard 100 Islamic and Coptic monumental edifices in historic Cairo.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty told Ahram Online that the campaign aims at rescuing these monuments not only for their historical and archaeological value but to give them back their original role in the Egyptian community.

Until now, he pointed out, 100 monumental buildings have been rescued since 2000 when the HCRP started and the second lot of 100 structures is to launch now.

Mohamed Abdel Aziz, deputy minister of antiquities for Islamic and Coptic monuments, said that an archaeological committee is now carefully selecting the 100 monuments in order to start their restoration and rehabilitation.

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Attractions in Kashan, Iran

Tehran, Aug 1, IRNA – The name of Kashan comes from Kasian – the original inhabitants of the city, whose remains are found at Tepe Sialk (Sialk Hill) dating back 9,000 years. Between the 12th and the 14th centuries CE, Kashan was an important center for the production of high-quality potteries and tiles.

Also, the word for a tile (kashi) comes from the name of the town. Tourists love this city because it has so much history and great buildings, Tehran-based English newspaper, Iran Daily, reported.


Archaeological discoveries in the Sialk hillocks, which lie four kilometers west of Kashan, reveal that this region was one of the primary centers of civilization in prehistoric ages. Kashan dates back to Elamite era.

The Sialk ziggurat still stands in the suburbs of Kashan after a lapse of 7,000 years.

The artifacts unearthed from Sialk hillocks are kept at Louvre Museum in Paris and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and National Museum of Iran.

Sialk and the surrounding areas are believed to have been the large water source that still runs today. Soleymanieh Spring has been bringing water to this area from nearby mountains for thousands of years. What remains of these 5,000-year-old ziggurats is not in a favorable condition like many other ancient ruins of Iran.

The two structures at Sialk are situated several hundred feet from each other.

While the three platforms of the larger ziggurat remain intact, not much remains of the smaller structure.

Experts believe Sialk dwellers made all of their tools with stone, but little by little they began to use metal for making their implements.

The artistry of these people is evident from the engravings on bones and designs on their pottery. As recent as 2007, a large pot was discovered inside the second perimeter of Sialk site with the mouth of the pot measuring 120 centimeters in diameter.

Tepe Sialk was first excavated by a team of European archeologists headed by Roman Ghirshman in the 1930s.

Jalali Fortress

Seljuk King Soltan Malik Shah I ordered construction of Qale’h Jalali, also known as Jalali Fortress, in the middle of Kashan in the 11th century CE. The fortress walls still stand in central Kashan.

Jalali Fortress is located on the edge of southern margin of the old wall of the city. As a matter of fact, the southern part of the wall and the fortress join up and forms just one piece.

Fin Garden

Kashan was also a leisure vacation spot for Safavid kings. Bagh-e Fin (Fin Garden) is one of the most famous gardens of Iran. This beautiful garden with its pool and orchards was designed for Shah Abbas I as a classical Persian vision of paradise. The original Safavid buildings have been substantially replaced and rebuilt by Qajar dynasty. The trees and marble basins are similar to the original ones.

Fin Garden was first founded alongside Soleymanieh Spring. The garden is also notorious as the scene of murder of Mirza Taqi Khan known as Amir Kabir, chancellor of Qajar King Nassereddin Shah, in 1852.

The earthquake of 1778 leveled the city of Kashan and all the edifices of Shah Abbas Safavi, leaving 8,000 casualties.

But the city was built again. Today, it has become a major tourist attraction in lights of its numerous historical houses left from the 18th and 19th centuries CE, illustrating the finest examples of Qajar aesthetics.

Qamsar and Abyaneh are notable towns around Kashan, which attract tourists throughout the year. The nearby town of Niasar, which boasts a man-made cave and fireplace, is of historical importance.

Kashan is internationally famous for its carpets, silk and other textiles. Today, the city has most of the country’s mechanized carpet-weaving factories. In addition, it has active marble and copper mines.

Boroujerdi House

Boroujerdi House is a historic house in Kashan. President of UNESCO’s General Conference Hao Ping granted the top international rate to Boroujerdi House. During a visit to the historical buildings in Kashan in 2014 at the head of a delegation, he named Boroujerdi House as the most beautiful historical house in Asia. After receiving positive feedback from tourists, Boroujerdi House has been chosen as UNESCO’s top choice in 2015.

Boroujerdi House was built in 1857 CE by architect Ali Maryam Kashani, for the bride of Haj Mehdi Boroujerdi, a wealthy merchant. The bride was from Tabatabaei family, for whom the architect had built Tabatabaei House several years earlier. It consists of a rectangular courtyard, delightful wall paintings by the artist of the royal court Kamal-ol-Molk, and three tall wind towers to cool the house. The house was constructed by 150 craftsmen during 18 years.

The house has all the classic signatures of Persian architecture. It has three entrances. The main entrance is in the form of an octagonal vestibule with multilateral skylights in the ceiling. There is a five-door chamber with intricate plasterwork. Walking through a narrow corridor, one reaches a vast rectangular courtyard that has a pool — lined by trees and green space.

There is a reception hall sandwiched between two rooms. Due to the high amount of sunlight entering these rooms, they were mostly used during the winter. The kitchen, rooms and stairways to the basement are located in the northeast area of the house.

The house is famous for its unusual wind towers, which are made of stone, brick, sun-baked bricks and a composition of clay, straw and mortar. Even the basements consistently benefit from the flow of cool air from the wind towers.

Boroujerdi House has attracted considerable attention of architects as well as Iranian and foreign scientific and technical teams.

It used to be a private home, Today, it is open to the public as a museum. The museum is divided into four sections including reception, ceremonies, residential halls and rooms

Ameriha House

Ameriha House (House of the Ameri family) is a traditional house in Kashan which was built during the Zand dynasty. It was later renovated in the mid 19th century during the Qajar era (1787-1921). The house is one of several large spectacular old houses in the central district of Kashan. Like the other historic houses around it, it was rebuilt after Kashan was ravaged by massive earthquakes in the 18th century.

This historical house has become a public museum in recent years.


Niasar Fire Temple is a building with a dome over a rocky hill at the highest point of Niasar village, 28 km west of Kashan, which can be seen from a distance. It has remained intact since the time of Sassanid Dynasty. The road to Niasar is branches into two routes near the orchards of Niasar. The left route leads to the village and the right one goes past the stone mine to reach the fire temple.

The 14×14-meter building is a chamber-like structure without any walls and a dome over it. The fire temple has been made of stones bonded with mortar.

The stones used in the lower part of the building are ordinary ones and those used in the arches and in the upper parts are square-shaped. The lower parts of the building have been coated with plaster in recent years.

The main dome of the fire temple had collapsed long ago. Before the revolution, the dome and its slanting ceilings were reconstructed, thanks to the efforts of Colonel Bahonar from the Ministry of Culture and Art. However, the dome of the temple was modeled on Islamic domes while, according to the famous French archeologist, Andre Godard, the original dome was egg-shaped.

Around fire temples, there used to be other structures where Zoroastrian priests gathered for worship. Although it is not known whether this structure was used for this purpose, there are rows of stones near the fire temple, which are remnants of a building belonging to the Sassanid Era.

Niasar cave is manmade (except for one or two natural chambers near the entrance). There is no doubt that the cave was a place of worship.

Its first cut possibly dates back to the Partian era. Most Mitra temples like the Niasar cave have been built in full darkness. The cave also has other entrances, some of which open in a rocky area that separates the upper parts of Niasar from the lower neighborhoods. These entrances, which face the north along with the Niasar Waterfall, have created beautiful scenery.

Signs of water erosion on the rocks bear testimony to the fact that the cave had been a scenic area since times immemorial. At the base of the waterfall, there are two millstones while similar millstones can also be seen inside the cave.

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Iran ready to set up medical science universities

Tehran, Aug 2, IRNA – Iran ranks 17th in the world in terms of medical advancements and access to the know-how for treating diseases, said Health Minister Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi.

He added Iran is ready to establish medical science universities in Muslim countries, including Beirut (Lebanon), Najaf and Karbala (Iraq).

Addressing the participants in the 8th International Congress of Muslim Medics, which is underway in Mashhad, Khorasan Razavi province, Hashemi said Iran is proud that its health sector is responsible both for citizens’ health and for training professionals in healthcare services.

The minister said life expectancy in Iran has increased thanks to the advancements made in the medical field in the past three decades.

“Until 30 years ago, the average life expectancy was 55 years,” he pointed out.

Hashemi said, however, non-communicable diseases are responsible for 50 percent of the deaths in Iran attributed to strokes and heart attacks.

The minister said most regional countries are plagued by addiction and diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory problems.

“Dr. Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, lauded Iran for implementing Health Overhaul Plan, which has reduced out-of-pocket costs and extended healthcare coverage to the most remote areas,” he said.

Hashemi said that healthcare is among the government’s top priorities.

“Providing citizens with low-cost and high-quality healthcare services was among President Hassan Rouhani’s campaign pledges in the 2013 presidential election. Extending insurance coverage to 10 million Iranians and lowering the out-of-pocket costs to less than 4.5 percent — out of the total costs — in 575 hospitals across the nation are among the achievements in healthcare sector,” he said.

The minister said Iran has gained significant advances in medical technologies, including organ transplant, cognitive sciences and nanotechnology.

“About 600 liver transplant surgeries have been conducted in Shiraz, Fars province, which indicates the country’s remarkable progress in medical sciences including pancreas, kidney, tissue and marrow transplants.”

Hashemi said Iran is ranked among the world’s most developed nations in terms of medical sciences despite years of sanctions.

“Articles by Iranian scientists were not published in the world’s prestigious magazines due to sanctions,” he said, adding Iran is moving towards producing wealth and technology.

The minister also said Iran has a high potential for health tourism and attracting foreign tourists.

He hoped Muslim tourists would come for treatment in Iranian medical centers. “Razavi Hospital in Mashhad is a hub of health tourism in Iran with expert medical staffs.”

The 8th International Congress of Muslim Medics opened on July 30 in Mashhad and will run until August 8.

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Oman-Saudi road link nearing completion

Saudi Gazette – 29 July, 2015 – A major road link from Oman to Saudi Arabia, which is nearing completion, will be of great advantage to those embarking on a Haj and Umrah pilgrimage, according to residents.

“The road connecting Oman and Saudi Arabia is nearing completion at the end of the current Arabic year,” reported an article in Al Shabiba, the sister publication of the Times of Oman.

The new road inside Oman is around 160 km while the road on the Saudi side will be about 519 km. The current distance between the two countries via the UAE is approximately 2,000 km.

“The reduction of travel time will be really beneficial,” said a resident. The report said that most of the Empty Quarter road has been completed and it is expected to be opened to traffic at the end of the Arabic year.

The project will facilitate one border crossing point instead of four to benefit travelers from both countries.

“The road will boost trade and tourism between the two GCC neighbors and will ensure the quick delivery of products. Moreover, movement of pilgrims between the two countries will become easier and faster,” said the report.

“The Omani part of the road has been ready for some time. The road passes through the Empty Quarter, one of the largest sand deserts in the world,” according to the report.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs stated on its Twitter account that the ministry has approved 230 Hajj campaigns for 61 companies.

The ministry also rejected 13 campaigns due to violations of regulations such as failure to renew company licenses. The ministry clarified that 199 Haj campaigns were assigned to 54 companies for Omanis, three companies were assigned 14 campaigns for Arab expatriates, and four companies were assigned 17 campaigns for non-Arab expatriates.

The project will benefit travellers from both countries.

“The road will boost trade and tourism between the two GCC neighbors and will ensure quick delivery of products. Moreover, movement of pilgrims between the two countries will become easier and faster,” said the report. “The Omani part of the road has been ready for some time. The road passes through the Empty Quarter, one of the largest sand deserts in the world,” according to the report. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs stated on its Twitter account that the ministry has approved 230 Haj campaigns for 61 companies.

The ministry also rejected 13 campaigns due to violations of regulations such as failure to renew company licenses. The ministry clarified that 199 Hajj campaigns were assigned to 54 companies for Omanis, three companies were assigned 14 campaigns for Arab expatriates, and four companies were assigned 17 campaigns for non-Arab expats.

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453 new Middle East hotel projects in pipeline

Saudi Gazette – 30 July, 2015 – The Middle East is witnessing a massive development in the hospitality sector with a total of 453 hotel projects planned in the next five years, a report said.

The new hotels will add 134,217 rooms to the hospitality offering in the region, said the report by JLL for The Hotel Show Dubai, to be held in September.

“The UAE currently leads hotel construction with Abu Dhabi and Dubai featuring as strong markets, and Saudi Arabia and Turkey following closely behind,” said Christine Davidson, group event director of the dmg events hospitality portfolio including The Hotel Show Dubai, the largest forum for the industry in the Middle East and Africa.

About 5,300 rooms are likely to be added to Abu Dhabi’s luxury hospitality offering by 2017, pushing the emirate’s total room tally to 26,000 from 20,700, said a report.

Around 2,300 rooms will enter the market by the end of the year alone, mainly in response to the boom in hotel guests during the first quarter of the year, up 20 per cent in comparison to Q1 figures from 2014, said the report.

With 45 per cent of the current supply being five-star hotels, the new hotel room openings will also be in the luxury segment with openings in the end of 2015 including the upscale Bab Al Qasr Hotel near Presidential Palace, set to boast 677 rooms and a private beach.

Abu Dhabi has been witnessing positive growth due to a large number of government initiatives to grow the emirate as a high quality tourist destination. The expansion of its International Airport and national carrier Etihad Airways, further improvement of its leisure offering and attractions, hosting world-class events, and major campaigns by the ADTCA to promote the emirate on a global scale have played a major part in its development.

Attractions launching in Abu Dhabi in coming years include the new Louvre and Guggenheim museums and Warner Bros theme park on Yas Island.

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Iran on the cusp of big boost in automotive market

TradeArabia – 30 July, 2015 – Iran automotive market is set for a major boost as customers wait for foreign manufacturers to launch operations in about six months’ time when the country will be business-ready following the deal with world powers, a report said.

Within this timeframe, the US Congress needs to approve the deal and Iran must start implementing its commitments, for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify Iran’s compliance, explained the analysis “The Implications of the Iran Nuclear Deal” from Frost & Sullivan, a growth partnership company.

“Passenger vehicles sales will experience a slowdown as customers prefer to delay their purchase in anticipation of new models and increased market competitiveness that would give better value for money,” noted Isaac Abraham, senior research analyst, Automotive & Transportation, Frost & Sullivan.

“This will happen even as existing manufacturers try to increase sales before other foreign companies increase their presence; some Chinese brands have even marked off up to 20 percent of their listed price to woo customers,” he added.

Frost & Sullivan estimates that once the market opens, it will take about 18 months for the automotive business to see high growth as Original Equipment Manufacturers will have high inventory stock and buyers continue to wait for new marquees and models.

Greater collaboration is expected between Iranian and American, European, and Asian companies, as they will integrate to gain market presence in the country. Chinese OEMs, that have filled the void left by European companies’ exit in 2012, will continue to put up a fierce competition to gain market share.

With over 11 million vehicles on the road, and about 1 million new vehicles sold every year, Iran makes for a sizable business opportunity that only a few other countries can provide. It offers various avenues of growth for vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, retail, and mobility service providers.

Iran has a high literacy rate of 87 per cent and a high Internet penetration rate of 57 per cent, but there have been no significant participants in mobility services such as e-hailing or car sharing.

This is estimated to lead the way for telematics-based software such as Taxi Dispatch Solution Systems, GPS Tracking, Electronic Toll Collection, and Traffic Data Collection. Differentiators through digitalization of retail stores and dealer management software to manage the dealership network will bring the focus on services as well.

“Now that Iran is finally at the crux of opening up for business again, the country is truly the largest untapped automotive market with high domestic demand, low labour costs, low energy costs, and scope for many regional markets it can export to,” said Abraham.

“However, the attractiveness of the market is also determined by the Iranian Government’s efforts to ease regulations to facilitate business in Iran and its efforts to improve relations with other countries,” he added.

Even at a time when Iran’s economy was tied up with economic sanctions, limiting its international trade capacities, Iran managed to sell close to a million vehicles (860,000 passenger vehicles and 125,000 light commercial vehicles) in 2014, enforce Euro IV norms in eight cities including Tehran, Karaj, Arak, and Tabriz, convert all public cars into Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) compliant vehicles, and successfully implement a vehicle scrappage program to get very old, highly polluting vehicles off the streets.

The prospect of such a country opening up to trade, giving opportunities for global automotive companies to be a part of its growth story is certainly reason to cheer.

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Tourist arrivals to rise in Abu Dhabi

Khaleej Times – 30 July, 2015 – Abu Dhabi will witness a surge in hotel occupancy rates during the summer through September, a tour operator said.

“Tourists’ numbers are expected to surge during the coming months as compared to the same period last year; thanks to festivals and events organised by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority this summer,” says Alaa Al Ali, general manager Nirvana Travel and Tourism.

Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority forecast guest arrivals are expected to reach to around 3.9 million during 2015.

According to bookings for this season indicated a continued flow of tour groups and visitors, especially from the GCC countries.

“Tourism in the emirate of Abu Dhabi is no longer seasonal because the emirate has become a superior touristic destination worldwide,” he said.

The tour operator planning to offer the best rates for hotels and resorts in the capital. “The objective is to attract more visitors throughout the year. Whether tourists are coming for business meetings or leisure travel,” Al Ali said.

Al Ali said that Abu Dhabi hotels are proving the high-end services to both tourists and businessmen.

Al Ali said: “Our offices in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai other Gulf countries have contributed to the expansion of many business plans successfully.”

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UAE, Portugal sign MoU to boost tourism

Gulf Today – 30 July, 2015 – Mohammed Khamis Bin Hareb Al Muhairi, Director-General of the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities has affirmed the importance of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in Lisbon between the UAE and the Republic of Portugal to promote and encourage cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism.

The MoU was signed by Al Muhairi in the presence of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister. The MoU aims to strengthen friendly relations between the two countries through increasing bilateral cooperation in the field of tourism, in recognition of the importance of tourism in promoting economic development, mutual understanding and goodwill, as well as reinforcing ties between people.

He pointed out that the MoU also aims to promote cooperation between the two countries and facilitate the influx of tourists and encourage cooperation between tourist agencies, corporations and other institutions working in the field of tourism.

Al Muhairi said that the MoU stipulated that both parties shall encourage mutual promotion of tourism through the exchange of information, advertisement and other promotional means in order to inform tourists on the best available tourist attractions.

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Shurooq to position Sharjah as tourism hub

Gulf Today – 31 July, 2015 – The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), the Sharjah government authority responsible for positioning the Emirate as a tourism and investment hub, reconfirmed its commitment to employing the highest sustainability and energy reduction standards in all of its current and future projects.

Shurooq has been at the forefront of energy preservation since it was established in 2009, having switched all lighting systems in Al Qasba from traditional light bulbd to LEDs, resulting in a 93 per cent reduction in power consumption.

Earlier this year, Shurooq signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) to boost co-operation between the two authorities in the fields of energy conservation, protecting the environment and attracting investors in the fields of renewable and alternative energies.

The MoU is aimed at finding solutions for renewable and alternative energy sources; co-organising events that aim to attract renewable energy investors and experts, and creating an ideal environment that encourage green investments in Sharjah.

In addition to employing the latest technologies in energy saving, Shurooq utilises environment-friendly solutions and recycled materials.

Late 2012, Shurooq unveiled its eco-friendly running track at Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah. The 3,000 square metre, which was completed using 6,000 recycled tires, was launched in cooperation with Bee’ah.

Commenting on the subject, Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, said: “We are fully committed to ensuring the sustainability of our projects and developments, including the Kalbda Eco-Tourism Project, the Mleiha Eco-Tourism Project, Al Noor Island and Sir Bu Nuair Island, to name a few of our eco-friendly projects.”

“We continue to work with our various partners and other parties to launch and employ new initiatives aimed at lowering our projects carbon footprint, through using renewable and environment-friendly energy resources, as well as energy-saving technologies.

In addition, our goal is to put Sharjah at the forefront of green practices, through attracting investors interested in this area.”

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Tourism sector undergoing significant transformation

Arab News – 31 July, 2015 – The tourism industry in the Kingdom is witnessing great interest by authorities to develop the archaeological areas, promote their support services and create the best environment for tourism products, said businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair.

He said: “The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH), under the leadership of Prince Sultan bin Salman, is working to establish a strong tourism industry, putting the Kingdom in a significant position on the Arab and international tourism map.”

Al-Hokair said that the SCTNH is working to overcome obstacles facing investors in the field of tourism, in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and the various municipalities throughout the Kingdom.

me the second source of national income because it brings financial returns and economic movement, particularly during Umrah and Haj seasons, confirming that investments in the tourism sector contribute to the national economy through employment and preparation of local cadres, and the development of this important industry.

He stated that the tourism industry in the Kingdom is going according to the planned direction, providing the best environments, climates, beaches, deserts, mountains, springs and unprecedented warm hospitality.

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UAE’s travel and tourism market looking good

Khaleej Times – 01 August, 2015 – The UAE’s travel and tourism market is emerging fast from the slowdown and will see exciting times ahead, says an industry expert.

Peter Payet, chief executive of Desert Adventures, said incoming tourism to the UAE was affected due to several economic and political factors in Eastern Europe last year. The international travel market also witnessed a slowdown, but now the trend is changing in line with the positive indicators on the economic front.

“Starting 2015, the market has been a bit soft and has not yet fully recovered from last year’s decline. We are optimistic about the end for 2015 to start a good season, moving onto a more prosperous 2016,’ Payet told Khaleej Times in an interview.

The tourism industry is one of the major pillars of the UAE economy as it contributed Dh124 billion, or eight per cent to the emirate’s gross domestic product last year. It is expected to register a four per cent growth this year and will contribute Dh130 billion to the national economy. The emirate is likely to welcome 20 million tourists this year.

“It is important to remember that tough times never last, (but) tough people do,” Payet said.

In reply to a question, he said the tourism industry will sustain the upward trend in coming five years and even after World Expo 2020 due to major initiatives taken by the government to promote tourism in the country.

“I would certainly like to think this way. The enormous amount of work, effort and investment that will be put into the additional infrastructure by the Dubai government must be leveraged,” he said.

Elaborating, he said the continuous development of the city and new attractions that are being added are boosting the tourism portfolio of Dubai.

“Economic and political stability, leisure activities, beautiful accommodation choice, accessibility made it so easy with Emirates airline and the promotional and marketing activities by the DTCM play an important role in promoting the emirate to international business partners and travellers.”

To a question, he said desert safari and cruise dinning remain an important part of tourist itinerary as approximately 90 per cent of visitors are keen to enjoy Arabian hospitality during their trip to the UAE.

Desert Adventure is a leading destination management company, or DMC, in the Middle East and managing destinations such as the UAE, Oman, Jordan and Qatar. It recently announced a partnership deal with Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company to establish the first destination management firm in the kingdom.

“Desert Adventures has signed up the agreement during Arabian Travel Market 2015 in Dubai with Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company to set up a fully-fledged Bahrain office. The company will called ‘atBahrain’ and will complement our existing operations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Amman,” he said. In reply to a question, he said mega events like World Expo 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar will boost tourism in the region.

“Yes, these major events will boost awareness and stimulate the interest from international travellers to visit the region, and to be part of such big events,” he said.

About the potential markets for the company in coming years, he said Desert Adventures established a very strong base to reach different market segments from Europe all across to Australia, Asia and Latin America.

“We observe a steady growth on Latin America font as well as Asia Pacific market.”

Regarding competition within travel and tourism industry, he said some destination management companies are primarily competing on price and compromising on quality of services will be phased out in due course of time.

“I also see that the industry is consolidating. The companies focusing on quality and service standards will be left standing tall in the DMC segment. With technology moving forward, a focus on service quality and clear brand identity, we are poised to be leading the industry evolution in the DMC space,” Payet concluded.

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Size of tourism industry crosses SR100m mark

Arab News – 01 August, 2015 – The size of the tourism industry has crossed the SR100-million mark with around 130 organizations in the field and the revenues generated through festivals are approximately SR11 billion annually, experts have said.

The figures have been provided by industry experts to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH).

“The revenue is generated through tourism trips organized by the festivals, in addition to the hotel occupancy and their activities such as visits to malls, restaurants and service centers in all the provinces where the festivals feature, an SCTNH spokesman said on Friday.

He said that the experts and economists who coordinate with the SCTNH strongly believe that the tourism event industry is a key economic driver.

Abdullah bin Abdul Malik Al-Morshid, acting director general of programs and products in SCTNH, said: “Tourism events enjoy high demand because of their benefits to the local communities. They also help in the marketing of agricultural products, promoting handicraft products and creating new employment opportunities for locals, particular for the youth,” he underlined.

Al Morshid further said the SCTNH recently announced its comprehensive program for the development of tourism events in the Kingdom for 2014-2018. The SCTNH pays a close attention to support tourism festivals through the “Tourism event support program,” which resulted in more than 50,000 temporary jobs since 2005, he said.

Mogbil Al-Mogbil, a prominent event operator and investor in tourism events, considers it as one of the most important areas for future investment in the Kingdom. He stressed on the role of SCTNH in regulating and developing this industry and turning it into a professional business “because the industry still faces some challenges, the most important of them being holding of tourism festivals linked to public holidays.”

Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Mahwoos, another event operator, said: “This activity achieves high investment returns. Event management is an important industry that requires professional operators, particularly in the area of investment.”

He appreciated the SCTNH for support to tourism event operators and organization of international tours.

Notably, tourism event industry is a new and promising economic activity poised to grow rapidly in the light of significant increase in festivals annually. Different areas in the Kingdom annually host more than 100 festivals around the year, including entertainment, shopping, desert and heritage festivals and some events related to agricultural products and entertainment festivals.

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Bahrain Summer Festival sends out message of peace

Khaleej Times – 02 August, 2015 – The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca) last week launched the seventh edition of the Bahrain Summer Festival near Sitra Mall. The month-long fun-packed event is being held at the Nakhool Garden, which was inaugurated by Baca president, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, in presence of cultural figures, reporters and families. She described the festival as a moment of joy which advocates amity and peace. “Bahrain, our homeland, is a country for all of its people”, she said, stressing the importance of negating any ideas which go against the concepts of security and peace.

She said that the whole world converges to Nakhool Garden, in Sitra, as renowned artists from different countries gather to share their works.

The Baca president thanked all the sponsors of the festival, as well embassies of Egypt, France and the Philippines, hailing their contribution to enriching Bahrain’s cultural life.

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Tehran, Athens to establish joint chamber of commerce

Tehran Times – 28 July, 2015 – Iran and Greece will establish their joint chamber of commerce by the next three months, Majid Movafeq-Qadiri, the secretary general of the Iran-Greece Joint Business Council, said.

The two countries have set a target for increasing the bilateral trade to €3 billion over the course of three years, the Tasnim news agency quoted Movafeq-Qadiri as saying on Monday.

He went on to say that Greece is a profitable market for Iranian petrochemical products, carpets, construction materials, and dried fruits, as well as technical and engineering services.

Greece has the potential to invest in Iran’s agriculture, tourism, and development projects, he noted.

It should be noted that a 70-member Iranian trade delegation will visit Greece in the sixth Iranian calendar month of Shahrivar (August 23-September 22).

Mehdi Jahangiri, the chairman of the Iran-Greece Joint Business Council, said in June that the bilateral trade stands at €1.4 billion. He added that the Iranian private sector is keen to expand trade with Greece. In this line, he proposed for establishing business centers in the two countries.

In May, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said his country is keen to expand economic relations with Iran, especially in the energy, tourism, and agriculture fields.

Kotzias pledged to take advantage of all its potentials to remove obstacles on the way of Iran-EU cooperation.

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