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10 Aug, 2015

Lotfollah Mosque of Isfahan tops list of world’s most beautiful mosques

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 10 August 2015 (25 Shawwal 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.



Lotfollah Mosque of Isfahan tops world’s most beautiful mosques

Monday 03 Aug 2015 – Jeddah, (IINA) – Celebrating the Islamic architecture, the British daily The Telegraph has published a photo gallery of the world’s most beautiful mosques, showing the marvellous designs of the centuries-old places of worship.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in the Iranian city of Isfahan topped the list of the world’s 25 most beautiful mosques for its architectural unusualness, OnIslam reported.

The mosque, which was built in the early 17th-century under Shah Abbas I, does not have a courtyard or minaret, making it architecturally unusual.

The Iranian mosque was never intended for public use, instead it was dedicated for prayer by members of the Shah’s harem, according to the newspaper.

malaysia logo

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

Another Iranian mosque, Nasir al Molk in Shiraz, was ranked as the second most beautiful mosque by the Telegraph.

Known for its magnificent architecture, the Blue Mosque in the Turkish capital, Istanbul, came in the third place in the list.

Built under the reign of the Ottoman ruler Ahmed I between 1609 and 1616, the mosque was described as being “majestic, magnificent and utterly beguiling.”

The Turkish mosque “has six needle-like minarets that form an essential part of Istanbul’s skyline, and is an unmissable part of any break to the city,” the Telegraph said.

The Blue Mosque was followed by Turkey’s Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia) that was ranked the fourth.

A church for over 1,000 years and a mosque for 500 more, Hagia Sophia is the most spectacular building in Istanbul. It was turned into a mosque after Constantinople was taken by Sultan Mehmet II in 1453.

In the 20th Century, Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum accessible to all by the secular founders of modern Turkey.

In Egypt, the Blue Mosque and Ibn Tulum Mosques, both located in Cairo, were ranked the 5th and the 6th among the world’s most beautiful mosques.

Built in the 14th century, the Amir Aqsunqur Mosque or Blue mosque was reopened in Cairo last May following a 13-year closure to repair earthquake damage.

According to the Telegraph, the mosque is part of a funerary complex, containing the mausoleums of its founder Shams El-Din Aqsunqur and his sons. Its current aesthetic “reflects the Ottoman style, especially in the Iznik tiles depicting cypress trees and vases holding tulips”.

The Two Moroccan mosques Grand Hassan II Mosque and Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech were ranked the 7th and the 25th by the Telegraph.

“The Grand Mosque Hassan II proudly supports the world’s tallest minaret, at 210 metres,” said the newspaper in its description of the mosque.

“The World’s third largest mosque, it is the only such building in Morocco that non-Muslims can enter. It stands proud on the seafront in Casablanca, and the seabed is visible through the glass floor in the hall.”

Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah were among the top 10 most beautiful mosques.

They were followed by the two Malaysian Mosques Ubudiah Mosque in the royal town of Kuala Kangsa and Sultan Salaheddine Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque.

Three mosques in the Muslims-majority country of Pakistan were ranked the 13th, 14th and 15th by the Telegraph.

The Pakistani Faisal Mosque, Wazir Khan Mosque and Badshahi Mosque were included in the list due to their unique designs that lure thousands of tourists.

Indian mosques such as Taj-ul-Masajid and Jama Masjid were named along with Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, Masjid Sultan Qaaboos in Oman, Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq and Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque in north Cyprus.

The list also included Umayyad Mosque in Syria, Great Mosque of Herat in Afghanistan and Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba in Spain.

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Iranian-American author brings Persian cuisine to life in new cookbook

Raleigh, NC (PRWEB) August 03, 2015 – The art of preparing and cooking food comes naturally to some. For others, they master by experience. Learning from her grandmother’s side at a young age, Nasreen Zereshki was extremely eager to cook Persian cuisine. Now that she is skilled in the kitchen, Zereshki has decided to share her cookbook Recipes from My Persian Kitchen with the world.

Since Americans tend to be undereducated about Persian cuisine, Zereshki made it her goal to provide knowledgeable and easy recipes for everyone to comprehend.

“I want to educate Americans, especially American cooks, about the healthy aspects of Persian food among the oldest and best cuisine in the world,” Zereshki said.

Not only does Zereshki want to educate about all of the benefits from Persian cuisine, but she also wants to pass down all of the recipes to her extended family.

“I wanted to write this book so I can share with my daughters and grandchildren the recipes themselves, the stories I heard while cooking next to my grandmother, and my culture,” Zereshki said.

Recipes from My Persian Kitchen is a must read for any aspiring or veteran cook. Whether you do everything in your personal kitchen or in a restaurant environment, there is something to learn from this Persian cook with over 40 years of experience.

About the author: Cooking teacher and author, Nasreen Zereshki, is sharing passed down recipes in her very first cookbook. Experienced in preparing Persian cuisine, Zereshki is sharing with readers all the health benefits and beauty that it can provide. Living in Greensboro, N.C., Zereshki enjoys teaching classes and spending time with her daughters and granddaughters.

Recipes from My Persian Kitchen

By: Nasreen Zereshki

ISBN: 978-1-4834-2734-8

Available in softcover and ebook

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and LuLu

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‘Halal Goodness’ tourism program to serve Islamic cuisine in Philippine

Koronadal, Philippines (IINA) 09 Aug 2015 – A joint tourism program highlighting Muslim cuisine and culture with Cotabato city in Philippine as the core destination, is being organized by Soccsksargen (Region 12) and the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), BusinessWorld online news agency reported.

The Autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao is an Autonomous region of the Philippines, located in the Mindanao island group of the Philippines.

Called “Halal Goodness, an introduction to Muslim Cuisine,” the project capitalizes on the authentic Islamic heritage and modern-day life of Muslims in Mindanao.

Cotabato City, a part of Region 12 that also serves as the administrative seat of ARMM is known among other things, for the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid or the Grand Mosque, the Inaul Weaving Center, brassware-making, barter trade, and the heritage building of the old city hall.

The city is also home to the four-hectare double “A” class accredited halal slaughterhouse, the biggest in the country, while Koronadal City, Region-12’s regional center, has the four-story Philippine National Halal Laboratory.

Soccsksargen stands for the four provinces and independent cities in Region 12: South Cotabato, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City.

Tourism Assistant Secretary Arturo P. Boncato, in a recent meeting among Mindanao’s regional directors, said Region 12 could serve as the halal food tourism hub with these facilities, while the Department of Tourism (DoT)-ARMM may plan the expansion in their region.

The ARMM is composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan, and the City of Marawi. The region will be replaced by a new Bangsamoro political and geographical entity if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed by congress.

Nelly Nita N. Dillera, regional chief of DoT-Soccsksargen, said they are taking advantage of the existing attractions and resources to develop the food tourism program.

“Food tourism is nothing new, but what the two regions have is something authentic and with identity,” she said.

The United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization defines halal food as that fulfilling the standards of Islamic Law.

Ms. Dillera said restaurant operators and hoteliers will be encouraged to include and upscale halal cuisine in their menus.

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Spanish family in Morocco converts to Islam

El Jadida, Morocco (IINA), 09 Aug 2015 – The number of foreigners converting to Islam continues to rise in Morocco, as lately a Spanish family of three people announced their conversion on Friday, in El Jadida, 56.27 miles away from Casablanca, Morocco World News reported.

The father and his son took the Shahada in the presence of thousands of worshippers in the Nour Mosque, after the noon prayer. The daughter, on the other hand, was taught the Shahada by a woman in the women’s quarters of the mosque.

In a video posted on YouTube, the father and his son expressed their happiness to convert to Islam and their new brothers and sisters. The father decided to change his name to Omar while the son chose Idriss as his new name, although Islam does not require new converts to adopt Muslim names.

Every year during summer time, a number of non-Muslim foreigners announce their conversion to Islam, while visiting Morocco.

Thanks to its tradition of openness and tolerance, Morocco has become in recent years one of the main destinations for foreigners seeking to learn and convert to Islam. Every day, foreigners adopt the Islamic faith in different cities of the Kingdom.

The most recent conversion of foreigners to Islam in Morocco was last month, when a French man and a Swiss man converted to Islam in the Koutoubia Mosque of Marrakesh.

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Halal consumers to reach 26% of world’s population by 2030

London, (IINA), 09 Aug 2015 – By 2030, Muslim consumers are expected to reach 26 percent of the global population, according to a new paper released by Euromonitor International, offering much opportunity for companies operating in this market.

The Muslim population stands as the second-largest population and the fastest growing religion globally in 2015, and is projected to increasingly claim a bigger share of the world’s consumer spending.

Muslim consumers seek products that cater to their religious needs and comply with Islamic requirements: from halal production, process to halal labelling and packaging.

‘Doing Business in the Halal Market: Products, Trends and Growth Opportunities’ examines the specific challenges and opportunities present for a variety of products from food and beverages to beauty for key halal markets across the globe.

Given the rising purchasing power increased consumerism around the world, the white paper assesses the potential for businesses considering tapping into halal and Muslim consumer markets; helping them to understand halal certification and the demand for standardization across the food industry, and identify halal market opportunities in Southeast Asia, China, Western Europe and Australasia, (Australasia, a region of Oceania, comprises Australia).

While provision of halal goods used to be localized and depended greatly on personal sourcing, or restricted to certain Muslim-integrated areas, “globalization is resulting in a need for halal provisions to be made available more conveniently”, said Emil Fazira, food and nutrition research analyst at Euromonitor.

“Major companies adhering to mainstream trends are increasingly facing demand from Muslim consumers mainly the young and able to spend who are also interested in the latest consumer trends.”

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Tourism Malaysia Chairman To Propose ‘E-Visa’ Facility For Chinese Tourists

BEIJING, China Aug 5 (NNN-Bernama) — Optimistic that the ‘e-visa facility for Chinese’ will boost Malaysia’s tourism, Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong is expected to forward a proposal to the Malaysian Home Ministry soon.

He said as the facility would provide convenience to Chinese tourists, he was seriously looking into the e-visa implementation.

“China is an important market for us and it is a huge country. We have to consider the country’s demography as some tourists took some four hours to travel to get their travel visa done,” he told Malaysian journalists here Wednesday.

He noted that as the tourism sector made the second largest contribution in Malaysia’s economic growth, he would discuss the matter with Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also newly-minted deputy prime minister.

Earlier, Wee chaired a briefing with about a dozen Chinese travel agents here to foster better understanding on the need and challenges faced by local travel agencies.

Shenzhen Junjie International Travel Service Co Ltd general manager Maggie Mei Ge suggested the implementation of e-visa or measures to simplify the visa application for Chinese tourists were key factors to lure more Chinese visitors to Malaysia.

She said some of the tourists had to spend four hours travelling from the neighbouring province of Beijing to have their visa done.

Currently, Chinese visitors can only apply for their visas at four Visa Malaysia 1 Stop Centres (SPPV 1 Stop Centres) in the four cities of mainland China, namely Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Kunming.

The SPPV 1 Stop Centres serve as the only Malaysian Visa Application Processing Centre in China, which is authorised by the Malaysian Government to receive and process visa applications; distribute passports to applicants; collect visa fees on behalf of the Embassy or Consulate-General of Malaysia.

On visa waiver for tour groups from China which was expected to come into effect next month, Wee was optimistic the move would attract more Chinese to visit Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Beijing Byecity International Travel Co Ltd vice-president Alan Li told Bernama that despite granting the visa exemption for Chinese tour groups, the visa fee waiver (costing 80 yuan, about RM50) for Chinese tourists from Feb 15 to Dec 31 would not create much impact for Chinese tourists as they would still have to fork out 120 yuan (RM75) for the visa processing fee.

He said currently, most Chinese travellers had opted to travel on free-and-easy basis; hence, he believed to grant the visa exemption for the free-and-easy travellers would be a more practical measure.

Air China overseas sales senior manager Zhang Yun said the Chinese national carrier would resume direct flights to Malaysia from Oct 25 this year.

She believed the four times-a-week Beijing-Kuala Lumpur flights, with Airbus A330 would boost Malaysia’s tourism market.

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Malaysia To Make Forays Into Turkey Following Signing Of Free Trade Pact

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia will make forays into Turkey following the implementation of the Malaysia-Turkey Free Trade Agreement (MTFTA), signed on Saturday, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said.

He said Malaysia would be promoting investments and services in Turkey, apart from trade.

“It’s the game changer and the way to go, especially when Malaysia has investments valued at US$2 billion (US1 = RM3.85) in Turkey.

“We are quite big in Turkey through Khazanah Nasional Bhd and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB),” he told reporters after receiving Turkey Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at his office here.

Khazanah Nasional holds a 75 per cent stake in Turkey’s largest hospital chain while MAHB has taken over the operation of Turkey’s Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport and LGM Havalimani Isletmeleri Ticaret ve Turizm.

At the meeting, Mustapa and Cavusoglu, who is attending the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, discussed bilateral trade and economic issues, particularly on the MTFTA that would give Malaysia a competitive advantage in Turkey.

Mustapa said with the agreement, both countries strived to boost the total trade to US$5 billion by 2020 from US$1.5 billion at present.

Urging the Malaysian private sector to maximise the opportunities provided by the MTFTA, he said, “With a population of 74 million, Turkey is a big market for Malaysia’s businesses.”

Meanwhile, Cavusoglu said Malaysia was the first country in ASEAN that Turkey chose to sign a partnership with and it was looking forward to deepen the bilateral ties.

In 2014, the total trade between Malaysia and Turkey amounted to US$969 million, while Malaysia’s exports to Turkey totalled US$752 million and imports amounted to US$217 million.

The MTFTA facilitates greater penetration of Malaysia’s main export products to Turkey that would enjoy immediate duty-free treatment.

The items include textiles and apparel, electrical and electronic appliances, chemicals, and iron and steel products that would benefit from the phasing out of import duties in stages within eight years from Aug 1, 2015.

Malaysian palm oil and palm products are eligible for a one-off duty reduction of 30 per cent from the current most favoured nation rate (0-46.8 per cent).

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ASEAN Remains A Popular Destination For Business For Malaysian Companies

By Azizul Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Aug 6 (NNN-Bernama) — ASEAN remains a popular destination for business for Malaysian mid-sized companies with 76 per cent of those surveyed are doing business in the region.

Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia chief executive officer/managing director Mahendra Gursahani said a study conducted by the bank also showed that 80 per cent of Malaysian mid-sized companies were confident of the growth potential of their businesses over the next five years.

“One of the factors fuelling such confidence is increased demand for products and services.

“Much of this is driven by a growing middle class, as well as the relatively young population entering the workforce,” Mahendra told Bernama.

He said such confidence was a positive sign of growth for the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector in Malaysia.

“Mid-sized companies are crucial engines of economic growth and job creation across ASEAN, and are increasingly active in global trade.

“Our study shows that slowing growth in the region has not dented the confidence of their chief executive officers.

“In fact, these dynamic companies are looking to recruit more workers and expand into new markets, growing their turnover in the next five years,” Mahendra said.

Standard Chartered partnered with GlobeScan, an independent global research consultancy, in conducting the survey, with samples made up of Malaysian businesses with annual turnover of between US$30 million and US$100 million.

The latest trade statistics from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) showed that Malaysia’s exports to ASEAN improved further, expanding 6.4 per cent year-on-year in June 2015. The exports amounted to RM18.41 billion, accounting for 28.7 per cent of Malaysia’s total exports.

Meanwhile, trade with ASEAN increased 4.2 per cent to RM33.49 billion, while imports from ASEAN rose 1.6 per cent to RM15.08 billion, according to MITI.

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17th Children, Teens Cultural Festival Kicks Off In Kuwait

KUWAIT, Aug 2 (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait’s Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Sheikh Salman Al-Sabah, inaugurated, Saturday evening, the 17th edition of the children and pre-teens cultural festival, at Abdulaziz Hussein Cultural Centre in Mishref.

Children festival plays a significant role in fostering love to national traditions and heritage and consequently belongingness to the country and its culture, Sheikh Salman, also President of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), said, on the sidelines of the inauguration ceremony.

He added that, such kind of cultural festivals show the State’s interest in caring for children and pre-teens, who will make its future.

The festival, organised through cooperation between the NCCAL and Dhuwa Al-Yaddah Centre, features a wide-array of activities, aiming to help children and pre-teens acquire new skills and sharpen the ones they have.

This event materialises the state’s strategy of enhancing partnership between the public and private sectors, to serve the society, the minister said.

The 13-day event also includes lectures in history, environment protection, healthy lifestyles and reading, drawing, music playing and sculpturing skills. Moreover, the event also hosts various entertainment activities and competitions.

For his part, Chairman of Dhuwa Al-Yaddah Centre, Abdulmohsen Al-Sanee, pointed out that the festival is an attempt to help children and teens make use of the summer holiday in learning new skills through over 24 artistic, cultural and craftsmanship workshops.

A photo exhibition is held on the sidelines of the festival, showcasing an impressive collection of photos, documenting Kuwait’s history, environment and modern renaissance.

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Kuwaiti Heritage Should Be Preserved For Future Generations

KUWAIT, Aug 5 (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwaiti heritage and historic artifacts should be preserved and displayed in museums for future generations to view, said Information Minister, Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Sabah.

His remarks came during his visit of ‘Beit Al-Othman’ museum, late on Tuesday, as part of efforts to fulfill vision of the Amir and the Crown Prince, in sustaining and preserving Kuwait’s history.

Now, Beit Al-Othman is of an international reputation, manifested by the daily and continuing visits, Sheikh Salman said, adding that, he visited newly-added pavilions of the museum, that house rare items, a matter that strikes a clear example of the State’s endeavours to preserve its history.

The new sections include: Dr. Yaqoub Al-Hajji’s museum of rare Kuwaiti transcripts; Ismael Behbehani’s museum of historic artifacts (Some 10,000, with a few dating back to one century of Kuwait’s history) and a museum by the Public Authority of Youth and Sport (PAYS), which groups a number of items belonging to the ‘Golden Era’ of Kuwaiti football in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Inaugurated by the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, on Apr 8, 2013, the new museum hosts rare historical items and antiques for old Kuwaiti houses, decorating the walls of its art gallery are paintings and belongings of Kuwaiti artists.

There are also the crafts and Kuwaiti dhow (sail boat) models on display, among others.

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Royal Jordanian, Qatar Airways Enhance Ties With New Codeshare Agreement

AMMAN, Jordan, Aug 3 (NNN-PETRA) – Royal Jordanian (RJ) has further enhanced its ties with oneworld partner Qatar Airways, by launching a new codeshare agreement, that is set to further expand travel opportunities for the customers of both airlines.

Through the new agreement, which will be activated as of Aug 6, 2015, RJ passengers travelling between Amman and Doha on both Royal Jordanian and Qatar Airways will benefit from the same airline code and a streamlined level of services from these oneworld partners.

Members of the airlines’ frequent flyer programmes will also be able to collect points on each other’s flights, with this initial route, paving the way for additional codeshare expansions in the near future between the airlines across destinations in the United States and Asia.

RJ President/CEO, Captain Haitham Misto said, “Royal Jordanian and Qatar Airways enjoy a strong relationship, and they are both keen on providing superb on-board and on-ground services. This agreement will further enhance the cooperation between our two companies, thus offering our passengers more travel options and frequencies to cities around the world.”

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker, said, “Becoming a member of oneworld has enabled Qatar Airways to strengthen its competitive offering, while expanding travel options to passengers around the world within this leading global alliance network.

The launch of this new code share agreement, with our fellow oneworld member airline, Royal Jordanian, demonstrates this and will allow passengers to benefit from seamless journeys around the globe.” Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 18 years of operations, currently flying a modern fleet of 162 aircraft to more than 150 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

Royal Jordanian, the national carrier of Jordan, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. In the past eight years, it became a public shareholding company, with a vision to connect Jordan and the Levant with the world. In 2007, RJ was the first Arab carrier to join oneworld, thus any of the three global airline alliances.

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Dubai To Build World’s Longest Ski Slope, Biggest Fountain

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Aug 4 (NNN-WAM) – Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, launched Meydan One, a tourism development project, expected to feature a 1.2 km-long ski slope, an ice rink, along with the world’s largest fountain, said the ruler’s media office, via its social media channels.

The project will cover an area of 3.5 million square metres. It will be located between the 829 metre-tall Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, and the Meydan racecourse, in the emirate’s centre.

The project’s phase one is slated to be completed by 2020, the year Dubai will host The World Expo, as the first ever Arab city.

Local newspaper, SevenDays, tweeted it’s first impressions of the Meydan One project. Aside from the planned ski slope and ice rink, the development will also introduce the world’s largest fountain, capable of shooting water up to 420 metres high.

The 1.5 kilometre-long ice rink will be the world’s longest. Hotels, residential properties, a shopping mall and a high-rise building, called Meydan One Tower, are included in the project.

Dubai already has an artificial indoor ski slope in, Mall of the Emirates shopping centre, opened in Nov, 2005.

As per Sheikh Mohammed’s order, also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai will double tourist numbers to an annual 20 million by 2020.

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Guyanese To Train In Hospitality Management In Barbados

GEORGETOWN, Aug 4 (NNN-GINA) — Several Guyanese are expected to depart Guyana for Barbados where they will undergo training in Tourism and Hospitality Management.

The training initiative forms part of Guyana’s continuous efforts to build capacity in hospitality management, to further enhance Guyana’s tourism sector.

The training is one of many areas of focus for capacity building between Guyana and Barbados under a bilateral agreement. Other areas include emphasis on education, transport, immigration, security, legal services and investments and exports.

The intention of the bilateral agreement is to forge closer working relationships between the two countries, ultimately improving the lives of the people.

According to Director, Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA), Indranauth Haralsingh, a joint committee was established under the agreement to explore the area of promoting multi-destination tourism between Guyana and Barbados.

He explained that media and tour guide familiarization trips are also included. “Media operatives from Guyana can go to Barbados and those from Barbados can come here, so they can be better able to sell their country’s tourism products,” he said.

Minister of Tourism, Cathy Hughes, had expressed her intention of implementing an aggressive marketing strategy for Guyana’s tourism sector.

She also has emphasized the need for improvement in hospitality management. It is against this background that the establishment of a Tourism and Hospitality Training School was proposed.

“We have great investments, the private sector has made strong investments, but we still need to up our level of service, and it is not only in the hospitality industry, but generally in all the government offices. We want to be able to look after people well and to look after other Guyanese and tourists,” she said.

It is believed that there are a lot of deficiencies as it relates to good customer service relations in several areas of the public service, especially in the area of tourism. To correct this, the Government has placed significant emphasis on building capacity in the public service to enhance the quality of service provided.

In July 2002, Guyana and Barbados signed an agreement to establish a commission to examine ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries. The inaugural session of the Guyana /Barbados Joint Commission was held in October 2007.

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Conference On Global Cruise Tourism Held In Langkawi

LANGKAWI, Aug 4 (NNN-Bernama) — A two-day international conference and exhibition which seek to create awareness on the potential of cruise tourism will be held starting Wednesday at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) here.

Kuala Lumpur-based international event management company, WITM Event, is organising the Global Cruise Tourism Conference 2015 (GCTC’15) which will see 200 participants taking part, from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and the Middle East.

WITM Event chairman, Mohd Khalid Harun told Bernama that 13 speakers would be deliberating on the development of cruise tourism, its potential and challenges around the world.

“This is the second time that we are organising this conference after the first in Kuala Lumpur last year,” he said.

According to him, an exhibition to showcase some of the successful cruise tourism packages in Southeast Asia and the Middle East would also be held during the conference.

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Uganda To Hold International Tourism Expo To Showcase Its Attractions

KAMPALA, Aug 5 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda will hold an international tourism expo here in November to showcase the country’s attractions and as one of the key events in the run-up to the much anticipated visit of the Pope later that month, says Stephen Asiimwe, the chief executive officer of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).

The event will also be significant because representatives of top global destination marketing firms will attend and have their first appreciation of what Uganda has to offer international visitors. Uganda is considered as one of the most gifted global destinations but has been undersold for decades.

“We expect to conclude the process of signing Destination Marketing Companies (DMCs) by the end of August,” said Asiimwe, referring to companies which will sign on to promote Uganda’s pristine destinations to the United States, British, Canadian and German markets as a start.

These countries have also predominantly been the major sources of tourist arrivals for Uganda in past decades.

The climax of the expo will be an awards ceremony to celebrate excellence in the tourism value chain with President Yoweri Museveni expected to attend the awards night.

So far, 10 national tourism authorities in the region have confirmed participation at the expo, among them those from Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Namibia.

Tourist arrivals were hit in the past one year because of the Ebola epidemic which ravaged West Africa but which affected almost the entire continent because the typical stereotype that Africa is one country. Other factors included Uganda’s anti-gay legislation and regional terrorist attacks, mostly in Kenya.

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World’s biggest dates festival opens in Buraidah

Thursday 06 Aug 2015 – Buraidah (IINA) – The world’s biggest dates festival opened in Buraidah, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. The festival will continue for 40 days. The head of Qassim Municipality and the supervisor of the festival, Saleh Al-Ahmad, said it is Buraidah’s main event every year.

“The festival greatly boosts the province’s economy as tourists come from all over the Kingdom and the Gulf countries, Saudi Gazette reported. The festival showcases dates from Qassim and other provinces. Visitors are welcome to buy a variety of dates here,” said Al-Ahmad. He added that the municipality supervised and managed several festivals in the past and they had all been successful.

“We expect a great turnout at the festival and hope for high sales. “Date vendors from Buraidah are sought after in all regions of the Kingdom as they bring the purest and freshest of dates,” said Al-Ahmad.

The festival’s executive manager Abdulaziz Al-Mahoos said the festival is not only a chance to celebrate but is also a research opportunity. “The festival gathers date enthusiasts from all over the country at one place. We will conduct surveys and collect statistics on the sales and revenues throughout the festival. At the end of the festival, we will announce the results of our surveys in all transparency,” said Al-Mahoos.

He added that the festival would also raise awareness about fair pricing and quality assurance. “We will invite experts in quality assurance and we will openly discuss appropriate and fixed pricing in the dates market. The festival is an occasion to discuss issues faced by both vendors and consumers,” said Al-Mahoos.

The Qassim Municipality maintains the market, which spans 300,000 sq. meters, accommodating thousands of trucks and refrigerated trailers. Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the largest dates market in the world.

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China’s halal food exports flourishing

Tuesday 04 Aug 2015 – Gansu, China (IINA) – Muslim food businesses in northwest China’s Gansu province are benefiting from efforts to develop the Belt and Road regional trade network, WantChinaTimes news reported.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, is a trade and infrastructure network that includes overland and maritime routes. It brings together countries in Asia, Europe and even Africa, with the purpose of boosting infrastructure building, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges in those regions.

One firm in Linxia Hui autonomous prefecture has signed agreements with Turkey and Kazakhstan to export thousands of boxes of halal instant noodles to the two countries each month.

Gao Shangyun, the company’s general manager, said it had only been selling products to Muslim communities in China since its establishment three years ago. Exports to Turkey and Kazakhstan will be the first step for the company to edge into the world market, Gao hopes.

Linxia, with a population of about 2 million, has dubbed “China’s Makkah” as more than half of residents are Muslim. It was formerly an important trade town along the ancient Silk Road. Halal products made in Linxia have won rave reviews, said Deng Wanrong, deputy director of the prefecture’s ethnic affairs commission.

Another Linxia Muslim company producing canned fava beans has also been exporting its products to Yemen since last year while eyeing the Belarus market. The company and nine other Muslim enterprises in Linxia participated in an international halal food fair in Horgos in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in January, attracting many orders from abroad.

To reassure foreign buyers, Linxia has also established a center to test and certificate genuine halal food.

In August 2014, the center signed an agreement with Iran so that they can provide mutual recognition to the halal food produced by the two sides, said Ma Lingzu, director of the center.

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Dubai launches world’s ‘tallest’ residential tower

Wednesday 05 Aug 2015 – Dubai (IINA) – Dubai developer Meydan announced the launch of a new giant project known as “Meydan One” featuring a 711m-high tower, a huge new mall, the world’s largest indoor ski slope, the biggest dancing fountains in the world and a retractable roof.

In a statement, obtained by Al Arabiya News, the company announced plans to build the new 3,671,000 square meter leisure, residential and hospitality destination. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, on Monday launched the project run by Meydan City Corporation development, which will become home to more than 78,300 residents and feature the 711 meter tall Dubai One tower, the Meydan One Mall, a civic plaza with dancing water features, a 4km canal and a 100 berth marina.

The first phase is scheduled for completion before 2020, when Dubai’s population is forecast to hit 3.4 million, according to the statement, which added “the project is set to include a 300m long beach…will offer visitors swimming, paddle boats, sea kayaking, beach volleyball and night time light displays.”

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Indian Muslim scholars launch digital versions of Qur’an ‘mobile van’

Thursday 06 Aug 2015 – Srinagar, India (IINA) – Promoting the peaceful message of Qur’an and the merciful picture of Islam across the country, a renowned Indian Muslim scholar has flagged off a new van, which offers digital versions of the Muslims’ holy book The Holy Qur’an in different languages to people regardless of their faith.

The new mobile van was officially launched by noted Islamic scholar and General Secretary of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, according to OnIslam news.

“It is incumbent upon every Muslim to reach out to every citizen with the message of Allah as the holy book was not meant exclusively for Muslims alone,” Sartaj Ahmad of Satya Sandesh Foundation (SSF) told Greater Kashmir.

The state-of-the-art facility for downloading the Holy Qur’an in different languages was launched from the premises of Siraj ul Uloom seminary at Nawab Bazar in Shaher-e-Khaas.

The ceremony was attended by a galaxy of Indian Muslim scholars, including Sartaj Ahmad and Shahid Shameem of SSF and Qur’an Institute of Kanpur and students of different seminaries.

Discussing duties of Muslims towards Qur’an, Maulana Syed Bilal Hassan Nadvi lauded the organizers for launching the vehicle which will move from place-to-place with Islamic scholars on board who will be interacting with people from all faiths including tourists, replying their queries.

“They will remove misconceptions about Islam, the religion of peace and share with them digital copies of Qur’an on media like CDs, DVDs, Pendrives, cellular mobiles, memory cards and hard drives,” Maulana Nadvi said.

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UK’s largest Muslim lifestyle shows hailed as stunning success

Thursday 06 Aug 2015 – London, (IINA) – A modest fashion runway show was among the highlights at one of the UK’s largest Muslim lifestyle exhibitions last week, Exhibition World news reported.

The inaugural Muslim Lifestyle Expo 2015 welcomed more than 5,000 visitors of all faiths to celebrate the contributions made by Muslim businesses, startups and entrepreneurs to the UK’s economy and society.

Among more than 80 exhibitors at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena were businesses from Malaysia, South Africa, Norway, Singapore and Turkey.

Exhibitors represented sectors ranging from food and drink, to fashion, travel, beauty and finance. “The event was also a good showcase of how the UK is facilitating business across the world,” said expo founder Tahir Mirza.

“The Muslim Lifestyle Expo 2015 is an excellent example of the important role that the entire Muslim community plays in today’s society and fostering community relations.”

Mirza added that research valued the Muslim community’s global spending on food and lifestyle sectors at £1.36 trillion annually.

Exhibition seminars covered travel, Halal lifestyle, Islamic finance and marketing.

Meanwhile, a networking event included presentations from entrepreneurs and business experts about how to market to Muslim consumers.

“It has given us the inspiration and energy to make next year’s event even bigger and better,” Mirza said.

Exhibition highlights included a live modest fashion show directed by Zaf Shabir, entertainment by comedy stars Guzzy Bear and Sadia Azmat, as well as global nasheed artists Junaid Jamshed and Saif Adam.

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Islamic finance leads World Islamic Economic forum agenda in Cambodia

Thursday 06 Aug 2015 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia (IINA) – The use of Islamic microfinance as an alternative to conventional forms of micro-lending was on top of the agenda at the World Islamic Economic Forum roundtable in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Tuesday, with industry experts split on its possible inclusion in Cambodia’s basket of microfinance product offerings, The Phnom Penh Post Cambodia news reported.

At the meeting, attended by Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, small and medium enterprise development and higher education requirements in Cambodia were also discussed, with the event a precursor to the 11th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) to be held in Malaysia this November.

Speaking on Islamic microfinance, Tun Musa Hitam, chairman of the WIEF Foundation, said that while microfinance institutions (MFIs) seemed “rudimentary to many”, they were key to the functioning of an economy like Cambodia’s.

“It may be useful for Cambodia to examine the viability of deploying the Islamic microfinance model, which is a hybrid of Islamic finance’s social principle and microfinance’s efficiency in reaching the poor,” Hitam said.

Syed Othman Alhabshi, deputy president of academics at the international center for education in Islamic finance in Malaysia said this model of microfinance, while being interest free, also charges loan takers only for the operation costs and utilizes “cost-free capital”.

He said that currently MFIs are using “venture capital funds” to give out loans and given that MFI customers are not bankable the risk is high, leading to high interest rates to mitigate that risk, whereas, this was not the case with Islamic microfinance.

“We have endowment funds, where people give out of charity, and therefore there is no cost of capital,” Alhabshi said.

Islamic microfinance, like Islamic banking and finance, is based on the dictates of Shariah, where the loans should be interest free and take care of the welfare of the participants rather than accumulate wealth for the loan giver.

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Turkey’s first halal cruise caters to growing market

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – Antalya-based Fusion Tour has launched an Islamic cruise business expanding the spectrum of halal tourism, a rising trend in Turkey and its region.

On their September voyage to neighboring Greece, there will be no alcohol, no pork-related products and no gambling.

Everything on board will be in accordance with Islamic religious values, including segregated sports centers, single-sex spa facilities, separate Turkish baths and masjids or small prayer rooms.

The number of halal hotels and tour agents has been increasing over the last 15 years.

However, there had not been a halal sea cruise until Fusion Tour organized this special voyage, copying a lucrative format which has seen kosher-friendly and Catholic cruises internationally.

Turkey’s first Muslim-friendly cruise – themed “On the track of the Ottomans” – will leave a port in Turkey’s Aegean province of İzmir on Sept. 27 and take its passengers to the Greek islands of Rhodes and Crete as well as the port city of Piraeus by Oct. 2.

“It will not be just a cruise which does not have alcohol or pork-related products. It will be a cultural and historical tour which promises an atmosphere of social networking,” said Fusion Tour general manager Kemal Günay.

Tour project manager Gökmen Aydınalp claimed organizers have thought of everything.

“We don’t even have a painting on a wall of the ship which is against Islamic values,” he said.

“Although the tour has been just announced, interest is quite high right now because there is a huge demand for this concept,” Aydınalp added.

Passengers who booked a spot on the cruise are glad to be part of what they describe as a “much-awaited” concept. “I believe it will be an atmosphere where I and my family will feel comfortable,” said 46-year-old Hamit Kutuk, a banker, who will be one of the passengers.

“To be able to eat halal foods, being together with people who share the same Islamic sensibilities with you and being away from alcohol on this kind of cruise are important for us,” he added.

Under the guidance of two Turkish historians – Talha Uğurluer and Fatih Çıtlak –Ottoman heritage in the region will be explored.

The cruise will feature Sufi whirling dervishes, photo exhibitions and classical Turkish music, while a prayer-bead artist will have a workshop on board.

Organizers have seen huge potential in a market of over two billion Muslims worldwide, and are planning to host varied tour packages to include the Adriatic Sea, Italy, Malta, Budapest, Belgrade and Vienna in the upcoming months.

Their target will not only be Turks but also Muslims globally. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, around three million Arab tourists came to Turkey in 2014. This number was two million in 2013.

There are over 50 hotels that offer conservative service across the country. Antalya, Istanbul, İzmir, Aydın, Muğla and the capital Ankara are the major provinces which host such hotels, according to the Mediterranean Touristic Hotels Association (AKTOB).

“The number of these hotels was around 25 before 2007. Within five years, the number of this kind of hotel doubled,” said Erol Karabulut, AKTOB’s research and development supervisor. “We expect this interest will continue,” he added.

The Global Muslim Travel Index 2015 released by Mastercard and Singapore-based Crescent Rating estimated the size of the global halal tourism market at $145 billion in 2014.

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Turkey’s street vendors brought together for exhibition

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – An exhibition organized by the Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Institute on Mediterranean Civilizations featuring statuettes and old photos of street vendors from 19th century Turkey was reported to have increased interest in Turkey in the European countries where it has been displayed.

Research Institute on Mediterranean Civilizations and Kaleiçi Museum director Kayhan Dörtlük brought the 19th century street vendors of Turkey, including knife grinders and vendors selling soup, butter, rice, lemonade, ice-cream, candles and wood, who hadn’t been seen much by the younger generation together in an exhibition.

Dörtlük said the Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Institute on Mediterranean Civilizations and Kaleiçi Museum, which opened in 1996, studied the city’s tourism potential and culture.

Stating they were hosting various exhibitions, Dörtlük said they had created an interesting concept with the exhibition titled “Street Sellers in Turkey of the 19th Century: A Selection from the Photograph Archive of Suna & İnan Kıraç Kaleiçi Museum.”

He said photos taken by the leading photographers of the 19th century were delicately brought together for the exhibition, and added, “This exhibition drew great interest abroad, because they are the first photos taken in the Ottoman era in the beginning of the 1900s. These photos reflect the social life and culture of the era. We have enlarged these photos and created their stories.”

3-D street vendors

The director said they created the caricature statuettes with the contributions of ceramic artist Sadrettin Savaş, adding, “We have created a magnificent collection and displayed them both in Turkey and abroad, including Italy and Germany. The interest was great.”

He said the collection shed light on the Ottoman society’s daily life, from food and drink culture to its production and sacred things.

“The exhibition increased interest in our country. Some Europeans come here to see the authentic Turkish culture today,” he said, adding 12,000 people have visited the exhibition both in Turkey and abroad.

Dörtlük said they also opened a special section in the exhibition for the street vendors unique to Antalya, and continued,

“Some of them are snow sellers. The famous snow seller of the era was Karcı Çavuş Agha. Snow was used in Antalya to cool off water when ice factories did not exist. The yuruks brought snow from the Bey Mountains and gave them to the snow sellers to sell on the streets. Snow was sold in pieces. Hamal Başı Süllü Ağa was also one of the unique street sellers of Antalya.”

Dörtlük concluded saying they also used the voices of street sellers to make the exhibition more interesting.

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Head of Medusa found in Antalya

ANTALYA – Anadolu Agency – The head of Medusa, a Greek mythological creature who turned all that gazed upon her into stone, has been unearthed during excavations in the ancient city of Antiocheia Ad Cragum in the southern province of Antalya’s Gazipaşa district.

“We have found the Medusa figure … among the marble blocks of a big structure, most probably a temple,” said Nebraska University’s Michael Hof, who is heading the excavations. “This is a normal human-size head, maybe a bit bigger. It does not belong to a sculpture but a relief located in the front façade of the temple. It was found nearly a week ago. When the excavation is finished, it will be delivered to the Alanya Cultural Directorate.”

Uşak University Archaeology Department member Professor Birol Can said the work started in Antiocheia Ad Cragum in 2005 and was continuing with collaboration from Turkish and U.S. officials.

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Archaeology world excited about Gölmarmara findings

İZMİR – Doğan News Agency – An international archaeology team working in Manisa’s Gölmarmara lake basin is excited about new findings in the area including a massive castle and Bronze Age settlement

The latest findings discovered during excavations on Kaymakçı Hill in Manisa’s Gölmarmara Lake basin have aroused excitement in the archaeological world, including one that even overshadow the famous city of Troy.

“This area is four times larger than the ancient site of Troy in Çanakkale and the largest late Bronze Age settlement that has been found in the Aegean region. When the work is done, we will take a very significant step toward promoting Manisa to the world,” said Yaşar University academic Professor Sinan Ünlüsoy, the deputy head of the Kaymakçı Archaeology Project.

Excavations conducted by an excavation team formed by 42 archaeologists from leading U.S., European and Turkish universities are continuing to shed light on the unknown about the late Bronze Age (1600-1200 B.C.).

The project is being headed by Koç University Archaeology and History of Art Department members Christopher H. Roosevelt and Christina Luke.

A big castle, where the ancestors of the Lydians lived, was recently discovered in Gölmarmara’s Hacıevler neighborhood by the international team. The settlement, which is mentioned in the sources of the Hittite Empire, is located on a hill known as Kaymakçı.

For the excavation work, İzmir’s Yaşar University is providing educational support for students from various Turkish universities.

“Manisa’s Salihli district and its vicinity, which is a historical treasure, offer golden opportunities for archaeologists. While excavations have been continuing in Sardis, the capital of the Lydian Empire, other works in Kaymakçı aim to shed light on the region in the pre-Lydian era. In a doctoral thesis on the Bintepe tumulus, where the Lydian kings are buried, the head of the excavations, Roosevelt and Luke, reached the preliminary findings in 2001 and made surface surveys there in the summer months for the next 10 years,” Ünlüsoy said.

“They, together with me, got permission for excavations as part of the Kaymakçı Archaeology Project in 2014 and started solving the secret of the castle from 3,500 years ago. The findings revealed that there were six castles in the Marmara Lake basin in 2000. They were within walking distance. The Kaymakçı castle is the largest of these castles,” the professor said.

The three archaeologists, Roosevelt, Luke and Ünlüsoy, said they had discovered one of the largest castles of the region.

The professors also said they believed there was city underground that is not particularly deep, adding that the site was a capital where the ancestors of the Lydians lived before money came into use.

As part of the project, Ünlüsoy said they had made attempts to establish a “research and visitor center” that would include a depot, exhibition hall and conference hall.

“This center will contribute to the promotion and development of the region. It will be open throughout the year. In this way, this region will be a center of attraction thanks to its rich historical heritage from the Bronze Age to the Ottoman era as well as its natural beauty,” Ünlüsoy said.

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Road network project being implemented in Rajshahi region

By Dr Aynal Haque

RAJSHAHI, Aug 7, 2015 (BSS) – A rural road network project is being implemented with the main thrust of removing physical bottlenecks for improving rural accessibility, upgrading quality and enhancing sustainability of rural transport and market services in the project area.

The estimated cost of the six-year project titled “Improvement of Rural Roads, Bridges, Culverts and other Infrastructure of Backward Upazilas” is around Taka 425 crore.

A total of 53 disadvantaged upazilas under Rajshahi, Naogaon, Natore, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Sirajganj and Bogra districts were brought under the project being implemented by Local Government Engineering Department (LGED).

Under the project, more than 105.70-km upazila roads, 323-km union roads and 502.74-km village roads were improved besides construction of 1000-meter bridges and culverts on the improved roads connecting important places of upazila and every union with Union Parishad, and next higher road network.

Apart from this, 15.75-kilometer submersible roads and 4-kilometer road protection infrastructures are being constructed.

The rural level improved infrastructures have already started reducing transport cost, improving marketing system, increasing production and marketing facilities of agricultural products which are contributing a lot to socioeconomic development of the project area.

Roadside tree plantation activities on the 85-kilometer improved roads are progressing successfully that will ultimately help reduce carbon emission at a substantial level and that is very important to face the adverse impact of climate change in the vast Barind tract.

A total of 15 growth centers are being improved to create short and long-term employment opportunity, socioeconomic development and poverty alleviation.

Improvement of the physical facilities of rural markets will ensure fair price of agricultural products and thereby provide incentives to increase agricultural production, assist enhancement of rural economic and commercial activities.

The scheme of rural infrastructure development and creation of short and long-term employment opportunities in the farm and off farm sector will ultimately assist alleviation of rural poverty by involving rural people in economic and social activities.

Participation of beneficiaries including women and local government institutions in planning, implementation and maintenance activities of the project will be intensified.

To this end, community people are being imparted training on campaigning and awareness building on health and nutrition.

At least 80 percent work on the scheme have so far been completed, the sources said adding, implementation of these schemes would in fact further strengthen the overall activities of rural markets at the grassroots level.

With infrastructure development of the selected area, rural communication net work has been improved facilitating overall socioeconomic advancement.

Ali Ahmed, Superintending Engineer of LGED, told BSS here that the ongoing project is expected to be completed in near future. The improved transportation network will facilitate reducing the transportation cost and creating marketing facility of the produce.

On successful competition, the project will contribute enormously to raising standard of living and livelihood condition in the remote villages, he said.

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Govt to start handloom census: Pramanik

DHAKA, Aug 5, 2015 (BSS)- Textiles and Jute Minister M Emaz Uddin Pramanik today said the government would begin handloom census soon across the country.

“The government would begin handloom census in the country, because no handloom census was conducted after 2003,” he said while speaking as the chief guest at a discussion at Handloom Board in the city.

The minister said the government would also undertake a handloom related project in Chittagong Hill Tracts area, adding, “We have taken initiatives for improving the handloom sector.”

Pramanik said the government is committed to provide all out support for improving socioeconomic condition of the weavers.

State Minister Mirza Azam and secretary of the ministry Farid Uddin Ahmad Chowdhury were present as special guests in the meeting.

The minister said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would undertake initiatives to develop the socio-economic condition of country’s weavers and make them self-reliant.

He discussed the activities of Bangladesh Handloom Board during the meeting and said, “The government is hopeful to overcome existing problems of the weavers.”

During the meeting State Minister Mirza Azam said the government would take necessary steps to reopen 2.0 lakh handlooms out of 5.0 lakh in the country.

Azam said the government is working to implement a plan for establishing a handloom palli outside the capital city.

Chairman of Bangladesh Textile Mills Corporation (BTMC) Brigadier General M Bayezid Sarwar, Chairman of Bangladesh Handloom Board M Ershad Hossain and officials were present at the meeting.

Earlier, the minister, state minister and secretary visited the handloom board.

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Bangladesh Border Guard favours easing visa process

NEW DELHI, Aug 6, 2015 (BSS) – Director General (DG) of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) Major General Aziz Ahmed today stressed for making the process easier for obtaining Indian visa to discourage illegal border crossing.

“Getting Indian visa for medical purpose is still much harder than getting a tourist one. When the process will become easier, crossing of border illegally will come down too,” he said.

Major General Aziz said this at the press briefing in Indian capital New Delhi on the concluding day of BGB-BSF DG-level conference.

Indicating towards the uptrend in economic index of Bangladesh, the BGB chief said. “Bangladesh is going to become a middle-income country. So, there is no reason for migrating from Bangladesh to India illegally. ”

Major General Aziz is led a 22-member BGB delegation and BSF DG DK Pathak a 24-member delegation to the four-day conference.

The chiefs of the border guards have reiterated to bring down the number of border killings to zero.

In reply to a question on sensation Felani killing along the border, BSF DG said, they are yet to get the final report on the case. That is why the matter was not highlighted that much at the conference.

BGB DG said they would talk to Felani’s family regarding the latest development of the case.

“If they express their discontent about it, BGB will convey that to BSF. DG Pathak has assured me about a fresh trial if such situation arises,” Major General Aziz said.

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Largest exhibition centre to be built in Purbachal

DHAKA, Aug 3, 2015 (BSS)- With the Chinese assistance, the government is going to launch a project to build the country’s largest exhibition centre.

The permanent establishment to be built at Purbachal, on the outskirts of the capital, would also be the house of Dhaka International Trade Fair.

The “Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre” would be built on 20 acres of land involving Taka 796 crore.

The project would be placed before the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), which is scheduled to sit tomorrow, for final approval, said an official of Planning Ministry.

The official said the Chinese Government would provide Taka 625 crore as grant while the government would give Taka 138 crore from the national exchequer and the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) will contribute Taka 32 crore from own fund.

He informed the EPB would implement the project by June, 2018.

The official said the exhibition centre would be the permanent place of Dhaka International Trade Fair.

Currently, the international trade fair is being held in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area, adjacent to the Planning Commission, in makeshift structure.

According to the project details, the exhibition centre will have 806 permanent booths in two big halls. Each of the booth size will be 9 square metres.

The exhibition centre will have parking place for 1500 cars. The car parking place will be in underground.

Besides, the exhibition centre will have conference rooms, auditorium, media room, canteen, and other necessary amenities for the customers.

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Dhaka, Kathmandu agree to introduce bus-service

DHAKA, Aug 02, 2015 (BSS)- Bangladesh and Nepal have agreed to introduce bus service between Dhaka and Kathmandu aimed at carrying passengers between the two countries.

The decision was taken at a meeting between Road Transport and Bridges Minister of Bangladesh Obaidul Quader and Nepalese Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister Bimalendra Nidhi in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, said a release received here today.

Oabidul Quader is now visiting Nepal.

During the meeting, the two ministers arrived at an agreement for beginning the bus service between Dhaka and Kathmandu. They discussed about implementation of Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement within next January.

The Nepalese Minister thanked the Bangladesh Prime Minister for sending relief goods immediately after the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal, the release said.

It said that a car rally would be held between the four countries in October next targeting the implementation of the BBIN agreement and a joint-secretary level meeting of the same countries is scheduled to be held in the second week of September in Dhaka to finalise the necessary protocol of the agreement.

Besides, the two ministers decided to advance the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement. In this regard, the SAARC Secretariat is going to organize a meeting of the SAARC Transport Ministers in September in Nepal.

During the meeting Bangladesh Ambassador to Nepal Mashfi Binte Shams, second secretary Mohammad Bariqul Islam, officials concerned of both countries were present, the release said.

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Honor Bahasa Melayu as it Reflects Brunei National Heritage & Identity

Friday, 07 August 2015 – BruDirect.com – KOTA BATU, BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: Towards sustaining the dignity and sovereignty of the Malay language, the Language and Literature Bureau (DBP) yesterday launched the Language Month, with the objective of continuously raising awareness among the people – citizens, permanent residents and foreigners-living in the country to honour the Malay language as the official language of the country.

Yesterday’s ceremony, which was launched by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Darn Seri Setia Awang Haji Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, took place at the Malay Technology Musuem in Kota Batu. It began with the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah and Doa Selamat followed with speeches by the DBP Director Hajah Aminah binti Haji Momin and the minister.

In his speech, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports highlighted the need for the people and the community to display a joint ownership towards the Malay language, which has a vital role in interpreting the constitution, regulations and policy as the nation’s communicative language in administration and management.

The minister pointed out the need for positive action and reaction among the community to empower the language as this will enable the community to sustain and develop the perfection, purity and beauty of the language. He also stated that the people and community should be proud of the Malay language’s status as a lingua franca that drew the attention of the world and that they should continue to play their role in showing their commitment in upholding and empowering the Malay language as the official language and to ensure its precise and accurate application among every member of the community.

After the speeches, the minister officially launched the book Perkembangan dan Pencapaian 5 Tahun DBP’ and the prototype of the digital publication of ‘Nakhoda Manis’.

The event then continued with the announcement of the Language Ambassadors 2015 and the presentation of its accreditation to the recipients, who are Tan Been Tiem, Mohd Zefri bin Zain Arif, Fakhrul Razi and Irwan Rino bin Nordin.

Tan Been Tiem has been a teacher at Chung Hwa Middle School (CHMS) since June 1993 and has a strong passion for the language. She proceeded to master it and is currently the head of the Malay language Department and teaches the language for upper secondary at CHMS. She has also received awards such as the Best Teacher Award by Rotary Club, a silver recipient for CHMS Live@Edu Website Design Competition and the first runner-up in the 2012 Innovative Educator Competition for Bahasa Melayu Project.

Meanwhile multi-talented Awang Mohd Zefri Ariff is no stranger in the field of culture, literature, theatre, media and youth movement in the country and has presented numerous working papers and workshops in Asia. He holds several portfolios in NGOs and community services and is currently a lecturer in Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) as well as leading the Kumpulan Putra Seni. As an active individual in literature, culture and youth, he has been awarded with the SEA Write Award and Meritorious Youth Leader Award.

Singer and freelance composer Fakhrul Razi is a local artist who brought glory to the country after making history as the first Bruneian artiste to qualify at the finals of the World Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA) and brought home four gold, two silver awards and an Industry Award. He was crowned as the Best Soul/R&B/ Jazz Singer and his original composed song ‘Senyuman Gelapmu’ (Thy Darkened Smile) was chosen as the Best Song at WCOPA.

The fourth recipient, Irwan Rino also has his fair share of achievements. His passion for Pantun’ and ‘Mukun’ began during his teenage. He has represented the Projek Mukun MoU between Radio Televisyen Brunei (RTB) and Radio Televisyen Malaysia Sarawak, Radio Televisyen Malaysia Sabah, Radio Televisyen Malaysia, Labuan and RRI Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The minister also presented awards to the winners of the Esei Ilmiah Pangsura where Siti Nadhrah binti Norzelan emerged as the champion while the first and second runner-up went to Hajah Sariani binti Haji Ishak and Siti Norrul Aishah binti Hanapiah. He also presented awards to 87 excellent students in Malay and Malay Literature (GCE ‘0’ and A Levels) and the Lantera Bahtera award to three selected restaurants using the Malay language in their menus.

Various activities and competitions are being carried out to enliven the celebration until 2016, among them are the 8th MABBIM Lecture, 21″ MASTERA Conference, Language Roadshow and Workshop on Short Story Writing and Speech Competition. Several competitions to mark the celebration of the Language Month are also being organised, such as National Jawi Khat, Borneo Logo Design and Story Telling Competitions.

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Bandung conserves three cultural villages

3 August 2015 Bandung (ANTARA News) – A tourism practitioner of Bandung is conserving the three cultural villages of Dago Pojok, Batulonceng and Jelekong that have tourism potential.

“The preservation of Dago Pojok tourism village is an effort to develop a region rich in arts and local culture amid the incessant influx of foreign culture,” a tourism practitioner of Dago Pojok village, Rahmat Jabaril, said here on Monday.

People in this village preserve traditional forms of arts and culture such as calung and bamboo music, dances, paintings and games.

They also hold workshops to attract foreign tourists from the Netherlands, China, South Korea, and Taiwan.

According to Jabaril, the village program brings a lot of innovations to peoples activities, such as painting murals on the walls of the village.

Moreover, Jelekong village offers several cultural art forms such as Golek puppet shows, Sisingaan and Jaipong dance forms, and pencak silat martial arts.

“The finesse for painting is usually an ancestral skill learned from Odin Rohidin,” a painter in Jelekong village, Asep Sutisna, said.

There are at least 600 painters in this region, from where paintings are distributed to several foreign countries, including Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Jelekong village has several tourist attractions, as well. These include the Cangkring Waterfall, Batukarut Waterfall, and Landak Cave.

Another village in Bandung city where the tourism sector is developed is Batulonceng village, located in Lembang sub-district of West Bandung district.

Batulonceng village offers tourists several potential attractive destinations, such as megalithic sites, a natural conservation area, a traditional village and a camping ground.

“The tourism program involves tourists in activities of Batulonceng village,” the chairman of the village, Encang, affirmed.

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Lombok Sumbawa Pearl Festival scheduled for Aug 19-Sept 16

7 August 2015 – Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The international Lombok Sumbawa Pearl Festival (LSPF) 2015 will be organized from August 18 to September 15 in Senggigi, West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara Province (NTB).

The annual festival held since 2011 is part of the Lombok Sumbawa Cultural Month, Raseno Arya, an official of the tourism ministry, stated here, recently.

“During the festival, several activities, such as seminars, exhibitions, and cultural performances will be organized to promote tourism in NTB,” he informed the press.

The LSPF is organized to promote Lombok and Sumbawa as world-class pearl producers, Head of the NTB Tourism Office Muhammad Faozal noted.

Tourism and pearl trade are expected to help boost the provinces economy and improve the welfare of the people of NTB, he added.

“Pearl should again become a tourism brand of NTB, and so, we are organizing this festival. We also hope the public would be able to identify which pearls are of good quality,” he pointed out.

Indonesia is tightly competing with China in meeting the domestic demand for pearls, he emphasized.

China is able to sell pearls at lower prices, and this is affecting the pearl market in Indonesia, he noted.

“Our pearls have to compete with foreign pearls, which are sold at lower prices. Our pearls are more expensive as they are produced through a natural process. It is indeed difficult to be competitive, despite the fact that our pearls are very famous,” he remarked.

Other activities to highlight the pearl festival will include art performances, Lombok-Sumbawa woven cloth expo, a creative economy expo, a cultural dialog, and an NTB Pearl Beauty Contest.

The pearl festival is expected to attract three thousand visitors and generate business transactions worth Rp7 billion, an increase of 10 to 15 percent than that recorded last year.

According to data of the Indonesian Pearl Cultivation Association (Asbumi), last years festival recorded business transactions worth Rp6.2 billion.

Lombok and Sumbawa are the main producers of pearls in Indonesia.

Around 75 percent of the total annual pearl production of 12 million tons is exported to pearl jewelry producing cities, such as New York in the United States, Tokyo in Japan, Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland, and Milan in Italy.

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Somalia: Ice Cream and ATMs – Hope for Mogadishu

6 August 2015 – News24wire – Couples are walking leisurely along the rocky shoreline, bathers splash in the waves, young boys kick a ball in the sand. Under a row of shady umbrellas, beachfront restaurants serve seafood and tea.

Only four years ago, Lido Beach was a dangerous no-go zone in Somalia’s war-torn capital, Mogadishu. Islamist militant group al-Shabaab partially controlled the city. Violence and bloodshed confined people to their homes.

Today, hundreds of families come to relax on Mogadishu’s coastline each weekend. Hotels are being built along the shore and restaurants have opened, while vendors sell ice cream on the beach.

“I was born and raised in a hostile environment, in Mogadishu, now we see a promising future,” Asho Elmi tells dpa while lugging a heavy cooler box filled with soft drinks and ice cream along Lido Beach.

“The fear has gone. We work here until 21:30″ when the sun goes down, the 20-year-old says.

Somalia suffered two decades of anarchy and fighting between rival warlords after the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991.

Only since an internationally-backed government was installed in 2012 and al-Shabaab pushed out of Mogadishu and other strongholds has the East African nation of roughly 10 million people become more stable.

Its economy grew by 3.7% in 2014, with growth projected to reach 2.7% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Even though the political and security situations remain challenging, Somalia has made tremendous progress,” the IMF announced in late July.

Somalis can feel this progress in their day-to-day lives.

Mogadishu’s construction industry is booming. Multi-storey buildings are being erected in the city centre, while the bullet-riddled facades the capital was famous for are disappearing behind new coats of plaster and paint.

Visitors now have a choice of more than 200 hotels in Mogadishu, up from a mere 12 in 2012.

In the heart of the city, Bakaraha Market with its hundreds of shops selling fruit and vegetables, clothes and household goods – once a battlefield between peacekeeping troops and al-Shabaab terrorists – has again become a bustling commercial district where residents do their daily shopping and chat in small restaurants and coffee houses.


For the first time since 1991, “modern” imported products like energy drinks are for sale here.

“Security has improved greatly. That gave the people, especially the business community, confidence to keep their places open, even at night time,” says Nije Sharif, who manages a section of the market.

Streets are dotted with internet cafés in a city where most residents were cut off from the rest of the world a few years ago.

“A new Somalia is emerging,” believes Ahmed Tall, a business and accountancy lecturer at Mogadishu’s SIMAD University.

A sure sign of the economic upswing is the introduction of a new banking system in Somalia. Local Premier Bank struck a deal with Mastercard and in May issued a debit card for the first time in the country’s history.

Instead of queuing for hours at the tellers inside a bank, Somalis can now withdraw money at an ATM or pay in big stores with their card – a major advantage in a city where carrying larger amounts of cash is still regarded as extremely dangerous.

Somalia’s challenges remain immense. It continues to be one the world’s “failed states”, worse than Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen, according to an annual index by The Fund for Peace.

Al-Shabaab, albeit weakened, still regularly attacks government officials and civilians, causing hundreds of deaths each year. Crime is rife, infrastructure minimal and poverty high.

But there is a new optimism to overcome these barriers, says Premier Bank managing director Mahat Mohamed Ahmed.

“We see banks, insurance companies, security firms, real estate, health industry and hospitality all undergoing major expansions,” Ahmed explains.

For Somalis, those are all small but important steps in the right direction.

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Nigeria: 5 Things to Do for Free in Suleja

By Nkem Ndem

6 August 2015 – Premium Times – Suleja, sometimes confused as one of Abuja’s suburbs, due to its proximity, is one of the major cities in Niger state, Nigeria. Originally called Abuja before the Nigerian government adopted the name for its federal capital in 1976, it is now regarded as Abuja’s younger, smaller, less glamorous sister considering its local appeal.

Many people visit Suleja on their way to towns in Northern Nigeria, and the city is often overlooked as a destination in its own right. In reality, Suleja is a city with so much to see and do, from Zuma rock to Dr Ladi Kwali Pottery Centre, and there is something for everyone even if you are on a budget. Also, its location gives you endless alternatives of day trips just outside the city itself.

With an impressive climate and almost no rain between October and May, it’s easy to enjoy everything the city has to offer year round. Jovago.com, Africa’s No.1 online hotel booking service has put together a list of 5 things to do for free in Suleja.

Get a crash course on Pottery

Apart from its closeness to the federal capital, it houses the best-known pottery center in the country known as the Ladi Kwali Pottery Centre, established by Michael Cardew in 1950.

Pottery in SulejaWhile there are exceptional works displayed in the center, a visit with a tour guide, gives you the basic lecture you need to qualify as a beginner in pottery. Visitors are not charged a fee at this center, unless they want to purchase any of the works which have been listed for sale. The experience is worthwhile, especially if you are keen on the creatives.

Soak in the tranquility of Gurara Falls

The most beautiful waterfall in the city which attracts hordes of visitors from nearby city Abuja, Gurara falls has amazing scenes of rock formations together with beautiful flora of evergreen trees and bushes, rivers, ponds and waterfalls all around you.

Gurara fallsThe water is calm and almost therapeutic. You can also swim the small ponds under the falls without having to pay the normal token expected at swimming pools. It is a perfect place for a family or lovers picnic as you are bound to make memories to be treasured for a lifetime.

Hike the Zuma Rock

The Zuma Rock, one of the most prominent attractions in Suleja and a strong feature of the 100 naira bill, is an aesthetic monolith, 725 feet from ground level and covering very large expanse of land, enough to form a city of its own. The locals believe that due to the rock’s seemingly human face, it has mysterious attributes and powers. It however offers plenty of both easy and strenuous hiking and mountain biking trails for visitors.

If you decide to walk the trail, be sure to go early in the morning before it gets too hot, and bring a lot of water.

Try your hand at Street Photography

You do not have to be an expert to take pictures, thanks to all the cameras made available on our mobile gadgets. If you are the type to indulge in “creative tourism”, one great option that will combine sightseeing with learning and creativity is taking a photo tour round Suleja city.

PhotographyThere are a number of scenic sites to capture, including the Gurara Falls in Bono, the Mayanka Falls, Shiroro Dam Tourist Resort, Zuma Rock, Bina Footprints and the Nagwamatse well. It is your camera, and your insight, you do not have to spend an extra kobo. Who knows, you might take a photo that could be auctioned for millions years from now.

Explore some of Suleja’s neighbourhoods

Don’t neglect the opportunity to get to know some of Suleja’s local neighbourhoods including Madalla, Kwmaba, Garan, Bwari, Bono, and Tafa.

Check out the lovely streets and medieval houses, make friends with the locals and ask them questions about their culture, customs, trade and everyday life. You can also explore the local markets in your spare time. To flex your taste buds, savor some of Suleja’s popular street food while you are at it. Most of the local vendors will let you have a taste without necessarily buying.

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Nigeria: Medview Begins Lagos-London Route Soon

By Ibe Uwaleke

7 August 2015 – The Guardian – MED-VIEW Airlines has completed arrangement to commence direct flight operations on the Lagos-London lucrative route by November this year. Its managing director/CEO, Muneer Bankole, revealed this on Sunday night after taking delivery of another Boeing 767-300ER with registration number 5NBQN at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos.

According to him, the plane is also to be used for the annual hajj operations to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which commences on August 16, 2015.

He was piqued how Nigerians are regularly exploited on the Lagos-London route by foreign carriers, but assured that with the coming on stream of the airline on the route, such exploitation would be reduced to the barest minimum, while air travellers would now have better choices on carriers to fly them to London and beyond.

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Uganda: Faith-Based Tourism Set to Blossom

By Didas Kisembo

1 August 2015 – The Monitor – It has been quite a year for Uganda’s religious tourism. From the Martyrs Day celebrations that attracted more than three million pilgrims from within and outside Uganda, to the Eid al-Fitr celebrations that drew a large influx from abroad, this year’s papal visit will be a record-breaking visit in Africa, with Uganda becoming the fourth most visited country by a pope on the planet.

It will be the third time for the East African country to have a chance of hosting the Pope. Uganda first hosted a pope in 1969, five years after the martyrs were canonised. Pope Paul VI visited the various places from where martyrs were killed and also other holy sites. The second Pope to visit Uganda was Pope John Paul II in 1993. Few countries in Africa have hosted a pope at least two times and these include Angola, Cameroon and Benin.

“Tourism is one of the major drivers of developing economies and faith-based tourism is one of the products we have seen grow in numbers and impact on the Ugandan economy,” Ms Maria Mutagamba, the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, says.

“The Pope’s visit will not only enhance the Catholic faith, but will also socially boost Uganda’s profile as one of the major faith destinations globally. Economically, the visit is expected to benefit ordinary Ugandans marketing to the pilgrims,” the minister adds.

What it is

Religious tourism, also commonly referred to as faith tourism, is a type of tourism where people travel individually or in groups for pilgrimage, missionary, or leisure (fellowship) purposes. The world’s largest form of mass religious tourism takes place at the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. North American religious tourists comprise an estimated Shs32 trillion of the industry.

Some of the most famous holy cities are Mecca, Madinah, Karbala, Jerusalem and Varanasi. The most famous holy sites are the Kaaba, Rauza of Imam Husain at Karbala, Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, The Western Wall in Jerusalem and the Brahma Temple at Pushkar.

Uganda, too, has got many religious sites which have attracted and continue to draw more tourists into the country. Some of these include the Martyrs’ trail, Bishop Hanington monument in Busoga, the Bayudaya group in Mbale.

Kigungu landing site

It is the site where the first Catholic missionaries landed in Uganda. Every February 17, Catholics make a pilgrimage to Mapeera-Kigungu to commemorate the arrival of the religion in Uganda.

More than 130 years ago, the first two French missionaries landed at this Entebbe site, off the shores of Lake Victoria. They were led by Rev Fr Simeon Lourdel and Brother Amans, later nick-named Mapeera and Amansi by the locals. It is marked by a monument and two sculptures depicting the missionaries on their knees. The monument reads: “On this spot landed the first Catholic missionaries of Uganda on the 17th day of February in the year of our Lord 1879, Reverend Simeon Lourdel and Brother Amans of the society of the white fathers.”

The Bahai temple

The Bahá’í House of Worship in Uganda, named as the Mother Temple of Africa, is situated on Kikaya Hill on the outskirts of Kampala. Its architecture and gardens are such an attraction. Its construct started in 1958. The temple attracts an estimated 50,000 visitors every year.

Martyrs Shrine

Uganda Martyrs Shrine is a Catholic church dedicated to the Uganda Martyrs. The Shrine’s conical pyramid structure stands out in Namugongo, Wakiso District. It is renowned for its 22 more than 100 feet long copper pillars that support it. Built in form of an African hut, the church has a capacity of 1,000 seats.

Pope John Paul II, during his six-day visit to Uganda in 1993, elevated the shrine to a rank of a minor Basilica. It is currently undergoing renovation for the November papal visit.

Munyonyo Shrine

Munyonyo Martyrs’ Shrine is administrated by the community of Conventual Franciscans (Greyfriars) of the Mary Immaculate Mission in Uganda.

It is the site where four of the famous Uganda Matryrs Andrew Kaggwa, aka Andrea Kahwa, St Denis Ssebuggwawo, St Pontiano Ngondwe and Mukasa Musa (Moses) were killed. It is currently undergoing construction for a facility similar to the shrine at Namugongo.

Gaddafi Mosque

Famously known as the Gaddafi Mosque, the colourful structure with its magnificent features of art, was built and designed based on a mixture of Arab, European, and African cultures. Built on Old Kampala Hill, the mosque can be viewed from all corners of Kampala. It was completed in 2006 and opened in 2007. The second biggest mosque in Africa, its construction was greatly financed by former Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi. It is also the headquarters of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council. Foreign tourist have to part with Shs10,000 for a guided tour of the majestic structure

Polish Church

Built between 1943 and 1945 by Polish refugees who had been rescued from occupied Poland and settled here during World War, the church in Masindi, is European in style, with Polish Stations of the Cross. The inscriptions on the front are in English, Polish, Runyoro and Latin.

The cemetery near the Church of Mother of God in Murro Masindi, was tidied up a few years ago by the local parish priest, Fr Joseph Ndiraba Abooki, as it was very overgrown. The church, also called “Matki Boskiej Czestochowskiej” stands to this day. The local people, not being able to say the Polish name, call it the Church of Mother of God.

Mackay’s cave, Nateete

The cave, a seemingly insignificant structure popularly known as Empuku ya Makayi, features a colourfully sculpted painting of a white man preaching to several Africans. That man is Alexander Mackay, a pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society, who in the 1800s, fostered the growth of Christianity and formal education in Buganda.

Subsequently, Mackay dug a cave about 150 metres below his quarters where he would hide to teach Christianity and formal education.

Just below the cave is a spring dug by Mackay. This is where he could fetch water and was also a source of water for the surrounding villages as he watched over them from the wall engraving.

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Nigeria: Private Investor to Collaborate With Osun Govt to Develop Tourism Resort

Daily Independent (Lagos) – 2 August 2015 – As part of efforts to generate employment for the people of Osun state, a private tourism investor, Chief Margaret Bolanle Fabiyi, is to collaborate with the Osun state government to develop a world-class tourism resort in Ikirun.

The project, when completed will serve as a one-stop shop for leisure, hospitality, entertainment, shopping, conference and tours and that it will cost billions of naira.

Speaking to journalists in Lagos, Chief Margaret Bolanle Fabiyi, popularly called Webisco, stated that the resort, when completed, apart from being one of the best in Nigeria would also have agricultural component to grow agricultural tourism and residential houses.

The project, she added, would also create room for service providers, a hospital, school, jetty, helipad and filling station among other facilities.

Fabiyi also added that the project would generate revenue for the state as well as address the problem of unemployment by creating jobs for the people of the state in the face of harsh economic situation necessitated by the fall in the global crude oil price at the world market.

She stated that efforts were being made to complete the land acquisition and documentation, adding that the state government should do the needful by showing above average commitment financially and otherwise to birth the resort.

According to her, “We have acquired a 25-square kilometre land in Ikirun, Osun State for the development of a one-stop tourism resort second to none in Nigeria yet. The land was facilitated by His Royal Highness, the Akirun of Ikirun, Oba Rauf Olawale. The resort, when developed will have parks, hospital, school, residential buildings, jetty, filling station, business outlets, conference centre etc. We are working out the modalities and would make an appropriate comment on its update when we have sorted out the grey arrears.”

She said that President Barak Obama would had driven tourism traffic into Nigeria, but that this should not be relied on since it did not happen.

“As we continue to invest our individual efforts in promoting and marketing tourism in our country, we hope that very soon we will begin to reap the dividends. A trip by President Barack Obama, for instance, would drive heavy traffic to this country. Although we will not bank on that, given that his tenure is running fast, we are committed to continuously promoting our country as the home of hospitality in West Africa,” she assured.

Fabiyi disclosed that as part of her effort to open up the country to influx of tourists, a team of travel writers from the United States were expected in the country for the second familiarisation tour that would be organised by her in collaboration with the Federal Government to promote tourism in Nigeria.

“For the FAM Trip, we would get in touch with the facilitators so that we would not be taken unawares when ministers, yet to be appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, assume duty,” she said.

Webisco, as she is popularly called, stated that she would use WIFWETN, her organisation, to do the needful by liaising with the authorities to ensure that the trip is done to the glory of God and the benefit of every Nigerian.

On the security challenges in the country, she argued that there was no country in the world, be it developed or developing countries without security challenges.

The private investor promised to ensure that the guests are protected during their visit and exposed them only to Nigeria tourism potential, to supply them with limitless information of Nigeria potential, because there was the need to move from tourism potential to prosperity following the fall in the price of oil.

On the Familiarisation Trip (Fam Trip), Fabiyi, said that because of her background, experience and commitment, she sees Nigeria’s stabilising democratic governance as good omen to sustain this zeal by organising another Fam Trip.

She stated that this time, about 10 travel writers from the US were planning to come to Nigeria as soon as she and her team were ready, adding that the visit by the writers was expected to last for 12 days.

She informed that the planned visit by the writers was in partnership with VALinc PR, to compliment what Nigeria tourism writers had been doing and to create a window and a sustainable gateway for the world to see and appreciate our potential.

According to her, “The trip is a deliberate effort to expose top media outlets to travel, vacation and cultural opportunities here and to create a rich itinerary and present to the Americans a balanced package of our endowments. They would like to experience firsthand the old traditional Nigeria, visit local producers of food, art, fashion, culinary, nightlife, entertainment, tourist sites, beaches and historical monuments.”

She continued, “The trip, all other things being equal, will be reciprocated by us, and would also involve a US road show, meetings with appropriate media and business leaders in target areas such as Harlem and Brooklyn in New York, Atlanta Georgia, Washington DC, Chicago, Illinois etc.”

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Nigeria: Kano Hands Over Tourism Institute to State Varsity

By Ismail Adebayo

6 August 2015 – Daily Trust – Kano — The Kano State government yesterday handed over the newly established Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management to the University of Science and Technology in Wudil.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Commissioner for Works, Housing and Transport, Alhaji Shehu Haaruna Lambu, said it was in compliance with a directive of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in line with government’s commitment to boost the education sector.

A statement from the ministry’s spokesman, Muhammed Sani Durumin Zungura, restated the administration’s pledge to give priority attention to qualitative education, infrastructure, agriculture, healthcare and rural development.

Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Shehu Musa in his acceptance speech said the institute would commence academic work in a few weeks.

He said the institute had admitted 600 students who would undertake certificate and diploma courses in Tourism and Hospitality Management.

In another development, the state government has approved N18.7m for the construction of security dormitories in each of the seven entrances to the state.

The security dormitories are to be constructed at Hadejia road, Gwarzo road, Zaria road, Maiduguri road Dambatta road, Falgore forest and Katsina road. They are expected to be completed within 100 days.

Muhammed Sani Durumin Zungura said when completed it would enable security agencies identify movement of people and vehicles coming in and going out of the state.

The government also awarded two contracts for the construction of two access roads at the Tiga and Challawa Goje dams where the state Independent Power Generating Plant is sited. The Tiga road is to cost N65.8m while the Challawa road was awarded at the cost of N244m.

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Unlocking the Potential of Sports Tourism in Uganda

By Simon Musasizi

The Observer (Kampala) – 1 August 2015 – When Miss Tourism Ankole was first organized last year, it didn’t attract the project numbers, sending the organisers back on the drawing board.

This year, they had to be innovative and popularise the beauty contest with a marathon, which pulled hundreds of people, and for the first time brought on board a major sponsor, Airtel.

This was made possible after the organisers partnered with Sports Tourism International (STI), a private company championing the promotion of sports tourism as one of the key tourism products in Africa.

This was their second event in Uganda after the safari rally in Fort Portal, which was also another successful event. And now the company says that it has tested the ground and approved that it’s ready to take on sports tourism as a key driver for domestic tourism.

As a result, STI has partnered with Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) to officially launch its activities with the “Source of the Nile Corporate Challenge”, which will be running under the theme “Unlocking the potential of sports tourism in Uganda.”

The event is scheduled to take place from 28th to 30th August in Jinja town, one of Uganda’s key tourism destinations, popularly known as the “Adventure capital of East Africa.”

Thanks to River Nile; this magnet for “adrenalin junkies” from all over the world provides water sport activities such as white water rafting, speed boating, canoeing, bungee jumping, as well as quad biking and horse riding.

Jinja is also the home to the source of the Nile, which was recently voted as one of the seven wonders of Africa. According to David Kyasanku, the town clerk, the town, which remains largely neglected by government, gets about 110,000 visitors annually, with the biggest attraction being the source of the Nile and its adventure sports.

This challenge provides opportunity for the town to scale up its tourism numbers. The challenge opens on Friday, August 28 with a birding race at Kasenge Forest Resort and Samuka Island in Lake Victoria.

On Saturday, August 29, there will be football, netball, volleyball, swimming, plus adventures sports such rafting, speed boating, canoeing, bungee jumping, quad biking and horse riding. This is plus a BBQ dinner, dance and quiz. The climax of the challenge will be on Sunday, August 30 with activities such as amateur golf, canoe regatta launch of sports tourism magazine and prize giving ceremony.

For many years, tourism in Uganda has been based on wildlife and natural resources with emphasis on promoting national parks. Yet over the years, it has been evident that the number of visitors who end up in national parks remains very minimal.

Of the one million visitors that the country gets every year, between 150,000 to 200,000 end up in all the ten national parks and 12 wildlife reserves, challenging the country to diversify its products.

“We are trying to create new products. Traditional tourism is a seasonal business. Our idea is to fill up the gap of low season by encouraging domestic tourists,” says Aggrey Mwesigwa, one of the directors of Sports Tourism International.

“Most tourists get bored by visiting just the parks. So, by adding the sports beat, we are doing the icing of the cake.”

UTB board chairman James Tumusiime notes that there are three factors that drive tourism: natural assets, man-made features and soft features such as sports and cultural events.

“If these three combine, tourism becomes successful,” he says.

“I am glad that UTB is thinking outside the box to be innovative because in Uganda, we have known tourism to be limited to natural assets.”

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Nigeria: 100,000 Tourism Workers to Be Certified By Nihotour, Covenant

By Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen

1 August 2015 – Daily Trust – Lagos — The National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Covenant University, Ota and Winigroup Ltd have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to conduct capacity development trainings of over 100,000 staff working in Nigeria hotels to promote tourism in the country.

NIHOTOUR was set up by the federal government to oversee capacity development of workers in the hospitality industry in order to enhance the quality and efficiency of senior functionaries in the sector.

The MoU is for four years and renewable afterwards. NIHOTOUR will ensure that senior functionaries in the hospitality industry acquire international professional certification in hospitality from Covenant University in conjunction with Winigroup and Association of Business Executives (ABE), United Kingdom, to enhance the quality and efficiency of professionals and functionaries in the hospitality industry.

NIHOTOUR Director General, Mrs. Chika Balogun said they chose Covenant University, a premier private institution, based on its commitments to academic excellence.

Vice Chancellor of Covenant University, Professor Charles Ayo, said it was a welcome development and a step forward to upskill those working in hotel and tourism industry with up-to-date professional certification that would raise the Nigerian tourism industry to enviable heights and attract foreign direct investments.

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Ismailia Museum exhibits antiquities unearthed during Suez Canal excavation

Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 6 Aug 2015 – A 30-day-exhibition entitled “Antiquities on the banks of the Suez Canal” opened Tuesday at the Ismailia Museum, in accordance with the Ministry of Antiquities’ celebration of the official opening of the new Suez Canal waterway.

Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh El-Damaty opened the ceremony along with Major General Yassin Taher, the governor of Ismailia, a number of top governmental officials, and a representative from the Army.

El-Damaty said that the exhibition includes of 16 artifacts that were unearthed during both the digging of the Suez Canal in 1859 by a French archaeological mission and the recent excavation work carried out by an Egyptian team.

“We chose the Ismailia Museum to host such an exhibition because it is the first regional museum to be constructed in Egypt with funds from the Suez Canal International Organisation,” El-Damaty told Ahram Online, adding that the museum is witness to a very important historical era in Egypt.

Along with the exhibition opening El-Damaty also inaugurated the restoration of the Ismailia Museum garden with plans to develop it into an open-air museum. The development will cost two million Egyptian pounds.

Elham Salah, head of the museum’s exhibit, said that among the most important objects on display at the exhibition are remains of a sandstone obelisk unearthed at the original digging of the Suez Canal at Al-Qantara East, a discovery which led Fernand de Lesseps to change the path of the canal. This obelisk was given by King Ramses II to his father king Seti I, and his grandfather king Ramses I, to be erected at the Horus temple in the area of Tel Habouwa at Al-Qantara East.

A distinguished Middle Kingdom granite sphinx uncovered at the Tel Al-Maskhouta area during excavation for Al-Ismailia canal is also on show, as well as an anthropoid marble sarcophagus of a person called Jedhur from the Ptolemaic era. Salah pointed out that this sarcophagus is a distinguished example of how the art styles of the ancient Egyptians were mixed with those of the Greeks.

Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, supervisor of the development of archaeological sites at Al-Suez Canal region told Ahram Online that one of the most important objects of the exhibition is the triod statue of Tel Al-Maskhouta. The triod is carved from marble and depicts King Ramses II between deities Re-Hur-Akhty and Kheber-Re.

He added that the statue was unearthed by Francois Philipe, director of works and construction at the Suez Canal Organization. Abdel Maqsoud said that in 1876 Philipe also unearthed a sandstone relief of king Ramses II giving offerings to Ra-Hur-Akhty in Tel Al-Maskhouta.

“The mosaic depicting sections of Greek legends unearthed at Al-Sheikh Zuwayed area in 1913 is also among the exhibition collection,” Abdel Maqsoud said.

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Iran seeks first UNESCO world natural heritage listing

Tehran, Aug 5, IRNA – Despite boasting several historical and cultural world heritage sites, Iran has no UNESCO-listed natural heritage site. However, things may change.

Iran’s primary nominee for inscription on the World Natural Heritage List in 2016 is Lut Desert, or Dasht-e Lut, as locals call it.

The 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany, which ended on July 8, concluded with the inscription of the historical city of Susa in Khuzestan Province and the ancient Meymand Village in Kerman Province, increasing the number of Iran’s world heritage sites to 19.

Lut Desert’s addition in the 40th session of World Heritage Committee will boost Iran’s list of globally-recognized heritage sites, FT Daily reported.

Lut Desert: Earth’s Hottest Spot

Confirming the news, Farhad Nazari, the head of Cultural and Historical Heritages Registration Office at Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told Mehr News Agency the desert has “a very good chance” for inscription.

“The desert spans three provinces: Kerman, Sistan-Baluchestan and South Khorasan. It also boasts the world’s tallest sand-dune—even taller than those found in China,” he said.

A defining feature of Lut is its yardangs, which are wind-molded landforms that develop in the world’s dry lands. Massive yardangs, aptly called “mega-yardangs”, are easily identified on satellite images—which is the case for those found in Lut Desert.

The 25th largest desert in the world, Lut is also one of the hottest spots on Earth and recorded the highest temperature ever measured on the planet in 2005: 70.7 degrees Celsius.

In June, Farhad Azizi, director general for world heritage affairs, said a headquarters for Lut Desert will be established in Shafiabad Village in Kerman Province, once the desert is inscribed on the World Heritage List, to oversee all activities related to the desert.

Arasbaran: The Misty Mountains

According to Nazari, Arasbaran will be nominated for inscription during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in 2017.

Arasbaran is a massive mountainous region in East Azarbaijan Province, stretching along the province’s eastern border. In 1976, 72,460 hectares of the region were recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

The region covers mountains with a height of 2,200 meters, high alpine meadows, semi-arid steppes, rangelands, forests, rivers and springs.

About 23,500 nomads live in the area. Economic activities in the biosphere reserve are mainly agriculture, animal husbandry, horticulture, apiculture, handicrafts and tourism.

Due to its mist-clad mountains, the region is sometimes referred to as “The Misty Mountains”, inspired by an epic mountain range of the same name in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world of Middle-earth.

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First Iranian opera to be performed in London

Tehran, Aug 5, IRNA – Iranian composer and songwriter Amir-Mahyar Tafreshipour will perform ‘The Doll Behind the Curtain’ at Tête à Tête Opera Festival in London.

An innovative, psychological work of musical theatre, it is the first Iranian opera with an English libretto. A haunting story of an Iranian student’s all-consuming obsession with a beautiful shop mannequin, it explores the dissonance, both musical and cultural, between East and West and tradition and modernity, ISNA reports.

The libretto is taken from a story by celebrated Iranian writer, translator and intellectual, Sadeq Hedayat, with the same title.

“I started working on the composition in 2012. Since then, the opera has been critically appraised and analyzed several times in opera workshops and festivals,” Tafreshipour said.

The opera, conducted by Darragh Morgan and directed by Maya Sapone, will be performed on August 6 and 7.

Tête à Tête was founded in 1997 by Director Bill Bankes-Jones, Conductor Orlando Jopling and administrator Katie Price.

New Ideas

The 9th edition of the event is underway at King’s Cross Place with more than 100 performances of over 40 new works, and included for the first time an Iranian performance. The festival (July 21-August 9) is renowned for its support to artistic development, nourishing new ideas and driving innovation in opera. In fact, it is the world’s largest festival of new opera.

Tafreshipour received his BMus from the Academy of Music in Esbjerg, Denmark in piano and pedagogy in 2001. In 2003, he got his BMus in composition at Trinity College of Music and in 2004 a master’s at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

In 2003, he won the first prize at the Biennial Composition for New Music at Tehran University for solo piano. In the same year, he was awarded a Silver Medal for outstanding achievement at Trinity College of Music, presented by the Duke of Kent.

His works have been commissioned and performed by soloists, ensembles and orchestras including Nancy Ruffer, Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea, Tomoko Sugavara, Gabriella Dal’olio, Ceren Necipoglu, Maya Sapone, Patricia Kostek, John Anderson, Zoe Martlew and Sioned Williams.

In 2005, he was commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra to compose a harp concerto ‘A Persian Reflection’ under the baton of Pascal Rophe in 2006 in London, featured on BBC Radio 3 in a special program of music from Persia.

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Highlighting Andalusi calligraphy & stories of Andalusi Muslims

Tehran, Aug 5, IRNA – You might have heard of al-Andalus, that 800-year-period of Islamic Spain where the arts and sciences flourished beyond the wildest imaginations of the time, but have you ever wondered how all that knowledge was transmitted?

Andalusi script, said to be Europe’s only indigenous way of writing the Holy Qur’an, is a style that is at once arrestingly beautiful and astonishingly easy to pick up.

This latter feature was what made it the vehicle for the production of literally millions of copies of books in al-Andalus, from works on the Islamic sciences to botany, medicine, astronomy, poetry, chemistry, agriculture and much more. This was in turn the catalyst for the Enlightenment in Europe, opening the doors of knowledge to all.

But with the fall of Al-Andalus in 1492, and the abolition of Arabic in Spain shortly after, this script had to go underground, with documents hidden in false walls, or into the diaspora, reaching places as far afield as Morocco, Turkey and even Mali.

Cut off from its native Spain, however, it gradually fell into disuse – until the modern era, when calligraphers, many of them Western-born, recognized the value of this bridge between East and West and began to revive it.

From the history of the script to the techniques and materials involved, this is the story of how something as simple as pen and paper can transform the lives of individuals and societies at the broadest level, preserving and conveying that most valuable of treasures: knowledge.

To do this unsung script justice, a new multimedia label called Barzakh is seeking to tell its story, and the story of the Andalusi Muslims it worked so hard for, through a documentary film set in Andalusia itself. Narrated by experts in the fields of Spanish Islam, art and history, it will also follow one modern-day practitioner of this script who will show us the bold, simple elegance of the script in real time.

In a world where Islam is increasingly portrayed negatively in mass media, it is of vital importance that we revisit the times when Muslims defined sophisticated society, and create high quality visual media in our own voices that balances out the stereotyping.

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Dubai set to host medical travel conference

Saudi Gazette – 05 August, 2015 – UAE healthcare system should focus on developing numerous centers of excellence in areas such as rehabilitation, cosmetology, neurology and cardiology.

UAE is increasing in popularity as a medical tourism destination owing to its location and high standards in healthcare.

However, a large number of UAE nationals still travel out to countries such as the UK, USA, Thailand and Germany for medical services. Reducing this number to retain these patients within the country may be a challenge.

UAE has one of the highest concentration of plastic surgeons (1/18,000) in comparison to US (1/50,000) and Brazil (1/44,000).

In 2012, Dubai alone had approximately 107,000 medical tourists visit the emirate for various treatments and procedures.

This upholds the UAE’s rank as one of the top destinations for cosmetic surgery. According to Mansoor Ahmed, Director, Colliers International, “the medical tourism business is highly profitable and UAE being a central location attracts a large volume of tourists annually.

However, there is a high percentage of UAE nationals seeking medical care abroad it is essential to retain these patients in order to further profitability.”

Ahmed will discuss Collier’s International’s special report ‘establishing Dubai as a medical and wellness tourism hub’ at the upcoming International Medical Travel Conference and Exhibition (IMTEC), organized by Informa Life Sciences Exhibitions, taking place at the Dubai International Convention Centre on Oct. 7-8, 2015.

“Despite UAE’s remarkable status as a medical travel destination, it is still in competition with other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and India.

Medical services are said to cost 1/3 in these countries than they do in the UAE. Facilitation of services is required to shorten the processes in addition to growing the global insurance network which makes treatment in the UAE more attainable,” he said.

The UAE healthcare system should focus on developing numerous centers of excellence in areas such as rehabilitation, cosmetology, neurology and cardiology which will help attract more medical tourists from the MENA region and other parts of the world.

The price package and acceptance of global insurance networks should be an area of prime focus increasing the attractiveness and ease of medical travel for patients.

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New projects bolster UAE-Egypt bond

Gulf Today – 06 August, 2015 – The UAE has been a longstanding, trusted friend of Egypt and the signing of delivery protocols for four of the UAE development projects in Egypt spanning education, healthcare and transportation has pushed the relations to a much higher level.

The extensive and noble aim of the projects, which are part of the UAE social and infrastructure development programme in Egypt, could be gauged by the fact that they will benefit more than ten million Egyptians and help create approximately 900,000 temporary and permanent jobs.

The protocols include the delivery of 100 fully-equipped schools in 18 governorates, 78 fully-equipped clinics in 23 governorates, four bridges in three governorates and 600 public city buses in Cairo. The idea clearly is to alleviate the challenges faced by citizens across the country.

The benefits, as can be visualised, will be multi-pronged. While the new schools will help fight illiteracy, the clinics in rural areas will address challenges in providing women with necessary healthcare and children with much needed and timely vaccinations. The new bridges will serve to reduce traffic congestion and accidents.

Cairo is pushing ahead with various developmental programmes and the timing of the UAE assistance is perfect and laudable. The opening of the new Suez Canal channel on Thursday will elevate Egypt’s status as a key contributor to world trade and economy by serving as a vital trade waterway.

It is a matter of pride for UAE nationals and residents that the UAE National Marine Dredging Company was deeply involved in the project, which is part of a powerful consortium including Dutch companies Van Oord, Boskalis and the Belgian company Jan de Nul.

As Dr Sultan Bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State and Chairman of the Coordination Office of the UAE-funded Development Projects in Egypt, has stated, the relationship between the UAE and Egypt is based on pillars of solid foundations laid down by late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and has evolved over time to become one of the most important bilateral relations that the UAE shares with another country.

The 10MW “UAE People’s Solar Power Plant in Siwa” and 50,000 housing units delivered to the Ministry of Housing in June are among the notable projects delivered previously that have vastly benefited the Egyptian population.

The UAE leadership deserves praise for standing by the brotherly nation of Egypt at all times of need and contributing to its stability.

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Pact signed for providing Oman mobile tourism services

Oman Daily Observer – 06 August, 2015 – The finance agreement for the mobile tourism services at Salalah Port was signed yesterday at the Ministry of Tourism by Maithaa bint Saif al Mahrouqiyah, Under Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, Awadh bin Hassan al Shanfari, CEO of Salalah Methanol, Tariq bin Suleiman al Farsi, CEO of Al Raffd Fund and Nassir bin Mubarak al Alawi, Acting CEO of the Public Authority for SMEs Development ‘Riyada’.

The agreement aims at allowing the private sector to support tourism initiatives and SMEs and bring benefits to the local community. It also aims at providing technical support and training services for owners of SMEs. The project includes financing the manufacture of seven mobile vehicles that will be used as outlets for the sale of fast foods, meals, juices, fruits, craft industries and providing tourism services.

A work team of the respective stakeholders will be formed to supervise the implement of the project and develop the guidelines for the financial facilities, their terms, beneficiaries and the criteria that should be met by applicants. The work team will select entrepreneurs as per the preset objective criteria and after maintaining coordination with the respective stakeholders to provide training courses for entrepreneurs that will work in the project.

The team will submit regular reports about the progress made and will follow- up the performance of entrepreneurs. Maithaa said the project builds upon the success made by the tourism services stations in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar in the Governorate of Al Dakhiliyah. The start of this project will be at Salalah Port to meet the needs of the inbound tourists. The project will be rolled over later to the tourist sites in Dhofar Governorate.

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Azerbaijan to release Iran’s $120m blocked assets

International Islamic News Agency – 07 August, 2015 – Head of the Joint Secretariat of Iran-Azerbaijan Joint Trade and Economic Cooperation Commission Mehdi Mohtashami said Wednesday night that 120 million dollars of Iran’s blocked assets in Azerbaijan will be released.

Mohtashami said in a meeting with traders of Ardebil Province that in a meeting with Azeri delegation in Tehran, the Iranian and Azeri officials agreed on released of part of 500 million dollars of Iran, which remained stagnant in Azerbaijan, to be entered into mutual trade.

Iran has asked the government and the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) to return the assets of Iranian entities remaining on the accounts of Azerbaijan.

He noted that Iranian and Azeri officials had discussed gas swap to Nakhichevan, especially in the seasons of increase in the production, erecting secondary deposits in Azerbaijan, establishment of join bank and increasing Iran’s Melli Bank activities, joint investment and insurance and guaranteeing capital.

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Islamic finance key to African infrastructure

Khaleej Times – 07 August, 2015 – The development of an Islamic finance industry in Africa could help plug the region’s large infrastructure gaps over the coming decade, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service said in a report published on Thursday entitled “Regulations And Fiscal Incentives Could Speed Islamic Finance Development In Africa”.

However, a framework of regulation and fiscal adjustments will be necessary to foster African sukuk markets, provide wider investment options for potential Islamic investors and attract a pool of Islamic liquidity, it said.

To date, African sovereigns have issued about $ 1 billion of sukuk instruments, compared with global sukuk issuance of an average $ 100 billion per year over the past five years. Meanwhile, widening fiscal deficits and large infrastructure gaps will likely require multibillion-dollar additional financing needs over the next decade.

Experience in South Africa and Senegal has shown that a significant amount of time can elapse between governments’ announcement of intent to issue sukuk and their effective issuance, as governments gauge market interests and try to address the legal hurdles and cost of issuance.

“We believe legislation gaps are the main causes of delay between a country’s intent to issue and its effective issuance of sukuk,” Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Samira Mensah said.

The success of Malaysia in Southeast Asia as a hub for Islamic finance lies, among other things, in the strong regulatory framework to support the sector’s growth. Malaysia also moved quickly in 2009 to address the standardisation of instruments and interpretation of Shariah law.

Tax regimes are equally important to consider when encouraging sukuk issuance.

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Solar powered palm trees boost Dubai’s smart plans

Saudi Gazette – 04 August, 2015 – Solar panel powered-palm tree inspired Wi-Fi stations have become the latest addition to the smart city technology of Dubai.

Umm Suqeim Beach and Za’abeel Park are the first two locations for the Smart Palms which provide free wireless internet access. They also give information on the weather, local attractions and have facilities for charging up mobile devices.

Around six meters tall the plan is for 103 to be in place across the city at popular outdoor locations.

The initiative – part of the UAE Cabinet Year of Innovation project – has been jointly put together by Dubai Municipality, Smart Palm creators D Idea Media, Du, Sun Tab Solar Energy and Promo Tech Gulf Industry.

Hussain Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said: “Under the guidance of our leaders, Dubai has developed an international reputation as a place for technology and innovation. Through Smart Palm, the public will be able to benefit from free direct access to the Internet while providing valuable public information covering a range of topics including weather forecasts and orientation guides.”

He added “most importantly, these structures are entirely self-sufficient thanks to their mono crystal solar panels, which provide up to 21 percent efficiency.”

The Smart Palm’s fronds are topped with photovoltaic panels which take in and store energy from the sun during the day. As well as powering its facilities each palm lights up at night. The stations runs entirely on solar power and offers high-speed Wi-Fi up to a range of 53 meters, supporting up to 50 users at a time. It also has phone and tablet charging points offering two-and-a-half times faster charging speeds than a regular plug.

Two screens on each palm offer weather details, local news, a navigation application, general Dubai information — and even a selfie camera.

Other venues soon be included in the scheme include Dubai Creek Park, Al Mamzar Park and Al Barsha Pond Park.

D Idea Media said: “The Smart Palm Project is an iconic fusion of easy access information, accessible Wi-Fi and green technology.

“In order to achieve the idea behind the project, we designed and developed a product that couldn’t be realized without a unique invention process which brought together multiple disciplines including industrial design, custom built hardware solutions, software engineering and precise construction work.”

Tourists said using the “trunk” of the Smart Palm to access information was an “only in Dubai” experience.

“Palm trees with info-screens, that’s really cool” said Jason Hurst who is visiting the city from Boston USA. “And you can take a selfie and send it home.”

Other cities have also ventured into the realm of public solar-energy charging stations.

In 2013, New York City collaborated with AT&T to install 25 free, solar-powered charging poles around the city, while San Francisco now has its own solar energy stations.

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