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19 Oct, 2015

Pearls Expo being held in Istanbul’s Islamic Arts Museum

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 19 October 2015 (06 Muharram 1437). 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.




Malaysia Urban Retreat Festival to be held 13-15 November

KUALA LUMPUR 16th October, 2015 – Ever thought about a mini-getaway to rejuvenate your Mind, Body and Soul that is just under 30 minutes away from home and without you having to break the bank? Wonder no more, as MURFEST 2015 (Malaysia Urban Retreat Festival) returns for its second year running. This weekend Urban Retreat will be held on 13th to 15th November 2015 at Hotel Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar.

Supported by Malaysia Major Events (MME), a division of Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), an agency under the Ministry of Tourism & Culture (MoTAC), MURFEST is well on its way to becoming Malaysia’s Largest Wellness, Music and Dance Festival.

“We see the potential in MURFEST in attracting a global audience, especially with the current awareness among people to lead conscious living, towards a healthy and diverse life,” said Tony Nagamaiah, the General Manager of MME who was present at the press conference. “As we profile Malaysia as the hub for fitness and wellness activities, we target international arrivals at event, among those who are instructors, speakers, participants and musicians from all around the region. This influx of foreign as well as local attendees shall contribute to an estimated economic impact of over RM10 million generated from tourist expenditure within the country.”

MURFEST 2015 is also supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia through FIT Malaysia and by Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat), a statutory body placed under the Ministry of Health Malaysia.

An experience like no other, some of the top names that will guide you and bring you into the health and wellness filled weekend are Simon Borg Oliver, Kosta Miachin, Anna Sugarman and our very own brand ambassadors, Atilia Haron and Jojo Struys. Besides having an array of classes and workshops offered at the festival, participants can also indulge themselves with inspiring Speakers, Music as well as dance workshops.

“The main aim of MURFEST is to educate the young and invigorate the souls of our seniors to embrace a wellness or fitness practice that they can adapt into their lifestyles. We are not reinventing the wheel here/’ says Festival Founder & Director Shobie Malani. “Most people have been exposed to at least one of these workshops. What we are doing is bringing communities together to gain knowledge, to change mindsets, to cultivate a mindful and healthy society.”

Participants will also be able to indulge in all things organic and healthy at the JUST BE Market, which would also be open to the public. This market place will consist of organic food, semi-precious healing stones, natural healers, herbal and ayurvedic healing, essential oils, and simply networking with fellow wellness enthusiasts. This three-day festival has over 80 different classes and workshops to choose from which consists of yoga, pilates, qi qong, aqua yoga, zumba, capoeira, motivational speakers, sound healers and many more.

MURFEST’s signature concert, URBANITE will be happening as well at the Hotel Pullman Kuala Lumpur’s Ballroom on Friday, 13th November, bringing you international & local bands in genres like reggae, soul, world music, fusion and percussionist. This not to be missed weekend retreat experience starts from RM60. MURFEST also provides Corporate Wellness Workshop packages which is HRDF (Human Resource Development Council) claimable. For further information on the booking procedures please go to www.murfest.com or email to support@murfest.com

Malaysia Major Events (MME) is a division of Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB), an agency under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia (MoTAC). MME was established under the Government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to identify, promote, facilitate as well as support viable international events to be staged in Malaysia.

With its main objective to enhance Malaysia’s economic growth and profile, MME is also tasked to identify and support major event bids for sports, arts, lifestyles and entertainment events and provide assistance to home-grown and home-hosted events in order to further strengthen Malaysia’s global appeal as the venue of choice for major events in the region. MME also acts as a conduit between the public and private sectors in ensuring seamless processes are achieved through synergistic relationships with diverse event stakeholders in staging successful events in Malaysia.

For more information, please visit www.mymaiorevents.com.my and follow us on www.facebook.com/MyCEB twitter @MyMajorEvents and Instagram @mymajorevents MURFEST 2015 – #murfest2015 #mymurfest #urbanite #fitmalaysia

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“Islam Message” Exhibition Held In Paris

MUSCAT, Oman, Oct 13 (NNN-BNA) – ‘Islam Message’ exhibition, organised by the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, in collaboration with the Permanent Delegate of the Sultanate to UNESCO, and the Sultanate’s embassy in the French capital, Paris, continues its activities at the UNESCO headquarters.

The organisation of the exhibition comes within the Sultanate’s efforts, to promote and enhance the culture of peaceful co-existence and understanding among nations, cultures and people, according to Oman News Agency (ONA).

The exhibition includes 48 pictures, about the religious life in the Sultanate in general, as well as Oman fine art and calligraphy paintings.

It also includes some models of the Omani craft and glimpses of the social life in Oman, in the past and present. It should be noted that the exhibition also launched the e-exhibition, which include all the paintings, items on display and documentaries in 18 languages, that anybody can browse using the touch screens, ONA said.– NNN-BNA

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Indonesia, China Sign $5.5 Billion High Speed Rail Deal

JAKARTA, Oct 16 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Indonesian and Chinese state-owned companies Friday signed a $5.5 billion deal to build the first high-speed railway in Southeast Asia’s top economy, after Beijing beat Tokyo to win the construction project.

The line will connect the Indonesian capital Jakarta with the mountain-fringed city of Bandung, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) away, and is a key part of President Joko Widodo’s plans to overhaul the archipelago’s infrastructure and attract investors.

Japan was long expected to build the railway but China entered the contest earlier this year, and Tokyo’s bid was rejected last month after a chaotic bidding process that infuriated the Japanese.

On Friday the chairman of state-owned China Railway International, Yang Zhongmin, signed a deal with a consortium of Indonesian state companies to form a joint venture to build the railway, with construction set to start next year and the line to begin operating in 2019.

“This high-speed train will make it easier for the public to travel,” he told reporters in Jakarta, where the deal was inked. “This major project will also provide major employment opportunities and boost the economy.”

State-owned China Development Bank will provide 75 percent of the funding, with the rest coming from the Chinese railway company and Indonesian consortium.

The railway line will not need any financing from the Indonesian government, nor a government guarantee. One reason that Indonesian officials gave for rejecting the Japanese bid was that it would require government funding.

The high-speed train route will cover eight stations from Jakarta to Bandung, and the train will travel at around 250 kilometres (150 miles) an hour.

The Indonesian government repeatedly changed its mind about the railway project, before eventually agreeing to accept China’s bid for a high-speed line.

The chaotic bidding process and final decision angered Tokyo, which is increasingly competing with Beijing for influence in Asia, with chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga slamming it as “extremely regrettable”.

Japan’s loss came despite its reputation as a world-class train maker, famed for its “shinkansen” bullet trains.

China has built thousands of kilometres of high-speed railway in recent years, but its safety standards have come under scrutiny — a 2011 crash killed at least 40 people and injured about 200. — NNN-AGENCIES

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ADB to provide Pakistan $1.2 billion for infrastructure development

Dawn.com, MANILA/ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has agreed to provide a $1.2 billion assistance package to Pakistan, the major chunk of which will be spent for improving power, transport, agriculture and urban service sectors, Radio Pakistan reported on Saturday.

According to the agreement, the bank in its new five year partnership strategy with Pakistan will provide the amount annually for infrastructure development and institutional reforms.

Apart from collaborating in rehabilitation of power transmission and distribution systems, construction and repair of highway, ADB. will also help rehabilitate the Indus Basin Irrigation System and invest in transport projects in urban centres of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

The assistance package will also expand the outreach of Benazir Income Support Programme, the poverty reduction initiative started by country’s federal government back in 2008.

About 2.4 million women beneficiaries will be added to the programme with the help of this annual assistance package.

Related: Challenges hampering Pakistan’s potential growth, says ADB chief

The incumbent PML-N government which inherited the Benazir Income Support Programme has already spent Rs40 billion on the BISP and enhanced allocation to Rs97bn.

Sources in the Finance Division back in April said that during the current fiscal year the government had designed the NISP and enhanced allocations to Rs118bn — Rs97bn for the BISP and Rs21bn for the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme (PMYP).

The Asian Development Bank will help establish a government owned disaster risk fund to mitigate risks and enhance resilience to natural disasters.

The bank claims to be one of Pakistan’s largest development partners, having provided more than $25 billion in loans, as well as more than $200 million in grants, as of Dec 31, 2014.

This funding has included 316 loans to improve Pakistan’s infrastructure and services, and to support reforms.

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

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Algeria: Sellal Calls for Promoting Algerian Craft-Trade Products

15 October 2015 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) — Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on Thursday here stressed the need for “promoting” the Algerian craft-trade products so that this sector of craft industry “contributes” to the country’s economic development.

During the inauguration of the 20th International Craft Industry Fair, placed under the theme “Craft industry, a partner in sustainable development,” Sellal called for “modernizing” the local product in a bid to be making it competitive on the international market.

In this regard, the Premier emphasized the importance of training and qualifications to produce quality and innovative products, asserting that that State “encourages” professional craftsmen to develop this sector.

More than 750 exhibitors are taking part in this fair, including 116 foreign craftsmen from 11 countries (Tunisia, Syria, Palestine, India, Pakistan, Senegal, Burkina-Faso, Mali, Western Sahara, Niger, and Mauritania).

This edition aims at raising artisans of the importance to improve the quality of the craft products. The fair is an opportunity for the promotion of the Algerian craft products and the exchange of experience between artisans.

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Algeria: Commercial Port Project to Be Launched in 2016

14 October 2015 – Algerie Presse Service – Biskra — The new commercial port in the country’s centre, between the cities of Cherchell, province of Tipaza, and Tenes, province of Chlef, is due to be launched in 2016, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said Wednesday.

“The port project, one of Algeria’s major projects, will be launched in 2016,” Sellal said at the Tripartite meeting (Government-Central Union-Employers) in Biskra (425km-southeast of Algiers), in reply to concerns expressed by business managers taking part in the meeting.

The project will be executed by national public and private companies, in partnership with foreign investors, according to the Prime Minister.

The transhipping port is planned to have “huge” capacities, he added.

The project, which requires an investment of about DZD200 billion, will be fully funded by the State.

To be carried out in three stages, the port project will be delivered in ten years.

The new port in the country’s centre, to stretch over 1,000 hectares, will have a logistic area of 300 hectares.

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Commercial Rice Farming Cushions Cameroon Women From Climate Stress

16 October 2015 – Thomson Reuters Foundation – Ndop — Women farmers in western Cameroon are leading the way in commercial rice production, benefiting from new seeds and marketing opportunities that are helping them cope with climate stresses and provide for their families.

A programme run by the Upper Nun Valley Development Authority (UNVDA), a government agro-industry body, aims to help rice farmers adopt better crop varieties, use water more efficiently and adapt to climate change.

“I have been able to pay school fees for my children and medical bills from the sale of my rice crop, unlike before when the harvest from my vegetable farm was uncertain,” said Bridget Ngang, one of over 300 female commercial rice farmers in Ndop.

Her vegetables were often ruined when heavy rains brought floods, she explained.

Cameroon’s Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), together with international partners, has developed improved rice varieties that are more resistant to climate extremes, as well as farm technologies to increase rice productivity.

In the last 15 years, scientists have released 18 varieties under a line called New Rice for Africa (NERICA), developed by the Africa Rice Center which crossed an African species tolerant to local stresses, including drought and pests, and a high-yielding Asian species.

“These varieties can resist submersion, droughts and high temperatures including pests and diseases,” said UNVDA General Manager Chin Richard Wirnkar.

The local development authority is involved in a project led by the Africa Rice Center which has established a “rapid impact” seed programme to distribute new high-yield seed varieties to farmers.

It also promotes post-harvest technologies like rice milling and packaging, processing activities, and stronger links with input dealers and micro-finance institutions.

The project gives households opportunities to raise their income by developing new rice-based products like rice flour and husks for fuel, and exploring the use of rice in fortified foods, including vitamin-rich cereals.

The government acknowledges that achieving its plan to make Cameroon an emerging economy with double-digit growth by 2035, and implementing the new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty and hunger depend largely on the economic empowerment of women.

“Commercial agriculture will play a key role in achieving the SDGs in Africa and the contribution of women in this area cannot be ignored,” said Wirnkar.

With renewed government interest in the rice sector in recent years, Cameroon has the potential to become a rice granary for the Central African region, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

But making this a reality requires strengthening rural infrastructure such as roads, irrigation, and rice milling and rice processing facilities – as well as farmers’ ability to market their produce.

Mary Agoh, 52, farms rice on 15 hectares (37 acres) of land in Ndop, in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, from which she now comfortably feeds her family, selling her surplus to wholesale buyers to boost her income.

In a country where 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, Agoh is now counted among the wealthy.

She and Ndop’s other women rice farmers are helping boost Cameroon’s rice production to unprecedented levels.

In the last few years, Cameroon grew less than 20 percent of the rice it needed. In 2012, the country produced 102,000 tonnes of paddy rice and had to import up to 375,000 tonnes to meet demand, according to figures cited by the IRRI.

But experts say production has been on the rise since women embraced the commercial rice production scheme. The land developed for rice fields under the UNDVA project more than doubled last year to around 3,300 hectares, and it is adding 700 hectares more in northwestern villages.

Thanks to a good harvest in 2014, the UNVDA had to increase its initial FCFA 250 million ($435,868) budget for collecting paddy from farmers by FCFA 50 million.

Things were not the same even five years ago, when tradition prevented women in the area acquiring or inheriting land they could use for large-scale commercial farming.

“We were condemned to produce on small rented plots that limited us to subsistence agriculture with crops like maize and vegetables that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and food crop loss,” said Agoh.

Cameroon’s 1996 constitution grants women the same rights as men to access, own and control land, and also allows them to participate in decision-making on land matters, but customary norms have made it hard for women to obtain land.

When UNVDA launched its project in 2012 to support over 13,000 rice farmers nationwide with improved seeds, fertiliser, herbicide, information, training and equipment rental, the women in Ndop did not want to miss out.

With help from the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), they held a series of protests, pushing local authorities to allocate them land so they could join men in commercial rice farming.

Ngang and Agoh are just two of millions of African women farmers who have suffered from cultural practices or laws denying them access to land. But their success in overcoming those barriers suggest things may be changing in Cameroon.

Here the government has drafted a new family law that will help enforce women’s property rights once adopted by the National Assembly, officials say.

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Algeria: Over 500 Participants at International Craft Industry Fair

13 October 2015 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) — More than 500 participants will take part in the 20th International Craft Industry Fair which will kick off on Thursday at the Exhibition Centre in Algiers.

Guest of honour of this edition whose theme “Craft industry, partner in the sustainable development,” Palestine will be represented by 14 craftsmen, said the director of the development of handicrafts at the ministry Chokri Ben Zaarour.

This fair, which will be held until October 24, aims at raising the awareness of the craftsmen about the need to improve the quality of the craft products.

The fair is meant to be “an important space to promote the Algerian craft product abroad and an opportunity to exchange experiences between craftsmen,” according to the source.

This fair, to which will take part about 90 foreign craftsmen representing several countries, will allow discovering the new handicraft projects and the new techniques of precious stone cutting.

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Chinese Mission to Help Benin Increase Cotton Production

13 October 2015 – Forum on China-Africa Cooperation – Cotonou — A Chinese mission is currently visiting Benin to help the country’s cotton farmers increase their productivity, an official source in Cotonou told Xinhua on Tuesday.

“Our objective is to improve Benin’s cotton yield by introducing a Chinese cotton variety that gives 6 tons of cotton per hectare against a Beninese variety that produces less than 2 tons per hectare,” head of the mission told Xinhua.

He said besides introducing the Chinese cotton variety in Benin, the mission he leads will also train Beninese farmers on best farming practices.

In Benin, cotton represents 40 percent of foreign earnings, 12 to 13 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, about 60 percent of the national industrial fabric and it is a source of income for more than a third of the population.

Despite the enormous efforts made by the Beninese government and its partners to develop the cotton sector, the performance of the sector has remained poor.

For the last several years, Benin’s cotton yield has continued to drop, raising questions over the viability of the sector in Benin.

Besides a drop in the international prices, other internal obstacles have continued to threaten cotton production. Some of the factors include reduced fertility of the soil, climatic changes, high production costs and lack of training for farmers.

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Gambia: ‘Destination Marketing Key in Tourism Development’

15 October 2015 – The Point (Banjul) – Bakary Jammeh, chairman of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard), has said that marketing a destination is key in tourism development.

The GTBoard chairman was speaking on Tuesday at a daylong tourism stakeholders’ forum held at Banjul International Airport.It was organised by the GTBoard in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

The meeting was convened for stakeholders in the tourism sector to discuss the way forward in Destination Gambia.

“I would remind us that it is not only the Gambia Tourism Board that should market The Gambia as a destination abroad, but it is the responsibility for all to manage this important Destination Gambia,” Mr Jammeh said.

GTBoard chairman thanked The Gambia government for its commitment and support to the tourism sector.

He further said the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is a key partner for the promotion of tourism in the country “that is why all along they (GCAA) have been improving the facilities at the airport”.

“We would not leave any stone unturned in improving the services at the airport,” Mr Jammeh said, adding that the airport complex is a very dynamic institution since it is the door to the country, particularly for the tourism industry.

He noted that the Gambia government had invested a lot of time and resources in the promotion of tourism all geared towards making The Gambia all-year-round tourism destination.

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Gambia Tourism Minister Presides at Destination Stakeholders’ Forum

15 October 2015 – The Daily Observer (Banjul) – The minister of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) Wednesday presided over the opening of the 2nd In-Country Destination Stakeholders’ forum organised by The Gambia Tourism Board with the support of Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

The purpose of the two-day forum included updating the destination stakeholders on key strategic plans of the industry and some of the initiatives undertaken in efforts to achieve targeted arrival numbers; create the opportunity for all key stakeholders in Destination Gambia to be under one roof, with the main objective to discuss and agree on plans to transform the destination to be the Tourism Haven, in line with the Vision 2020, as well as MoTC strategy plan 2015-2020.

The In-Country Destination Stakeholder’s forum was attended by different tourism stakeholders, among them the international public relations and marketing firms representing The Gambia Tourism Board in different countries; ground tour operators; members of Gambia Hotel Association; Tourism and Travel Association Gambia; Tourism Marketing Committee; officials of GTBoard, NCAC, GTHI; MoTC.

Addressing the forum, Benjamin A Roberts reflected on the previous season 2013/2014 in comparison with 2014/2015, in which the country had suffered decline of 42% on tourist arrival to the country.

As the expectation is high, the minister expected everyone, especially the PR Marketing Firms, to work harder than in the past to enable positive growth.

He went on to inform the PR and marketing firms, the Ministry and GTBoard’s expectation from them as they (PR and marketing firms) are to create the requisite synergy to ensure the realisation and surpassing the target of 500,000 tourists arrival in the destination by the year 2020.

Minister Roberts discussed the Ministry’s various engagements and action points which include working on the negative images on The Gambia as regard to sex tourism; their focus on FAM Trips on travel agents especially for the German and Netherlands markets; regular update of PR and marketing firms on product initiatives within the destination and among other plans.

He used the forum to thank all stakeholders, PR and marketing firms especially Glenaki Tourism Industry, for partnering with Gambia Tourism Board and SN Brussels for recently bringing 60 sales and travel agents on a FAM Trip to Destination Gambia, and as well Kombo Beach Hotel for hosting them.

Momodou C Joof, the permanent secretary at MoTC, who earlier welcomed the stakeholders, especially the PR and marketing firms representing The Gambia in different countries, gave the recap of the day’s proceedings; Abdoullah Hydara, gave the overview of the two-day forum including the strategic plans.

In addition, different presentations were made by Hillsbalfour – UK; ATL – Nigeria; AVIA Reps – Germany; Glenaki – Belgium; Interface Tourism – Spain; Tourreps – Netherlands, among others.

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Ghana, Gambia Plan Joint Tourism Promotion

12 October 2015 – The Point (Banjul) – Ghana and The Gambia will by the end of this year begin a joint tourism promotion and marketing programme.

The two countries would also embark on a knowledge exchange programme, under which staff of the Ghanaian and Gambian tourism facilities would undertake industrial attachments for on-the-job skills upgrade.

According to the terms of a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the two countries desire to enter into a multiple destination agreement, whereby a tourist who buys a ticket to visit The Gambia or Ghana would automatically visit the other country as one package.

Details of the draft MoU were spelt out at meetings between officials of the Gambia’s Tourism and Culture Ministry, the Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Training School and a Ghanaian delegation led by David Nana Anim, the president of the Ghana Tourism Federation (GHATOF).

Other members of the Ghanaian delegation were Reuben Kojovi, the Assistant Director of Projects with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, and Ms Mabel Ashorkor-Adjei of Yehoda Hospitality.

Briefing newsmen after a week-long visit to Banjul, Nana Anim said the Gambian side expressed the desire to have Ghanaian movie and music celebrities undertake visits to the country.

As part of a cultural exchange programme, drama and dance groups from each country would exchange performance tours, he said.

He said the Gambian tourism operators had put in a request to GHATOF to help them to strengthen their private sector grouping into a vibrant advocacy group that would have a voice in policy making.

Nana Anim also said the draft MoU was currently being studied by officials of the two countries, and that the final document would be signed by the relevant ministers of state of the two countries.

He said the biggest threat to efforts at any joint Ghana-Gambia tourism co-operation was the absence of a direct flight linking the two countries.

Nana Anim said Gambia Air, which used to fly to Accra, had ceased operation, but added that there were moves in consultation with the board of airline representatives in Ghana to remedy the situation.

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Morocco Launches Cultural and Historical Programs

16 October 2015 – Maghreb Arabe Presse – Tangier — King Mohammed VI dedicated and launched this Friday a series of projects geared to consolidating the city’s cultural promotion and rehabilitating its rich and prestigious historic legacy.

The Sovereign dedicated the Hercules Caves rehabilitation project and launched construction of a media library in the Ziaten neighborhood and a cultural center in Dhar El Guenfoud neighborhood, for a total value of 80.5 million dirhams.

The projects, which are components of the large-scale “Tangier-Metropolis” program, reflect the interest that HM the King grants to preserving and developing the city’s historical legacy and constant will to promote scientific activity, stimulate research and spread knowledge.

These initiatives are also part of the Sovereign’s efforts to improve the local population’s access to cultural entertainment structures and, henceforth, spur the development of intellectual potentials and creativity skills.

The Hercules caves’ revamping project (10 million DH) consisted in reinforcing the caves’ internal walls, refitting external spaces, building shops, cafes and restaurants, and modernizing the lighting network.

The goal of the project is to safeguard and develop this natural site, a national heritage site, reinforce its role as a leisure site and promote and develop ecotourism in the region.

Launched by the Sovereign in March 2014, the project was carried out in partnership between the interior ministry, the Tangier-Assilah prefecture and the city’s urban commune.

Meanwhile, the future media library, an illustration of HM the King’s will to democratize access to culture, will be located in the Ziaten neighborhood, close to the city’s new university center.

The media library (to cost 48 million DH), conceived as a space for exchanges and reflection, is part of efforts meant to make reading accessible and entertaining to everybody, promote access to information and knowledge and support scientific research.

Built in partnership between the interior and culture ministries, the Tangier-Assila prefecture and the Tangier urban commune, the media library will extend over 3,340 square meters. It will feature a 250-seat auditorium, a library, reading spaces for adults, teens and children, a collective room, spaces for people suffering from visual and hearing handicaps, halls for exhibitions and multimedia and an Andalusian-styled garden.

The cultural center in the Dhar El Guenfoud neighborhood will serve as a pole of arts, entertainment and leisure and a location for cultural events for local inhabitants and inhabitants of neighboring areas to promote the emergence of new talents, especially among young people.

The new center, to cost 22.5 million DH, is set to contribute to the thriving of the target population through cultural, arts, education and social activities to encourage openness on knowledge, youth creativity and skills development.

Extending over 1,430 square meters, the project includes a conference room, an exhibition hall, a multimedia room, a rehearsal room, three music rooms, drawing, painting, sculpture and drama rooms and a library. It will be built in partnership between the interior and culture ministries and the Tangier-Assilah prefecture.

This set of projects, that add up to the various initiatives taken by HM the King in Tangier, are mainly meant to consolidate the Detroit capital’s international touristic and cultural calling.

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Egypt Minister Keen On Maintaining Historical Hotels

12 October 2015 – Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou said on Sunday 11/10/2015 that the government is keen on maintaining historical hotels and maximizing their competitiveness to adapt with the latest developments in hotel management.

The remarks were made while delivering the operation license of the Nile Ritz-Carlton Hotel to the director general of the hotel. He noted that the hotel will be inaugurated soon after having the operation license from the Tourism Ministry.

The re-inauguration of a huge hotel like “Nile Ritz-Carlton” would send a positive message about the development achieved in the tourism sector, he said. Zaazou asserted that the tourism ministry and tourism authority exerted efforts to restore tourism movement to Egypt, especially cultural tourism, which has suffered during recent years.

Since 1959, the hotel, located across Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, has been operating as Nile Hilton.

Under an agreement, the luxury hotel would be administered by the Ritz-Carlton for 20 years after extensive renovation. The operations at the hotel were managed by Hilton for about 50 years since it was inaugurated by late president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

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Demand for Uzbek Cotton, Textiles on the rise

16.10.2015 (UZA) – Demand for Uzbek Cotton and Textile is on the Rise in the World Market XI International Uzbek cotton and textile fair, organized on the initiative of President Islam Karimov, has opened in Tashkent.

The forum has become a new stage in the development of international collaboration in cotton production, processing, transport and sale. Today this traditional international event contributes its fair share to not only development of cooperation of Uzbekistan with large textile companies and leading traders from various countries, but also to strengthening partnership among countries, firms and companies, involved in cotton production, processing, sale and transportation.

Thanks to the fair, world-scale interest in strenthening the existing business links as well as establishing new ones with partners in Uzbekistan has been increasing year by year. While the first International Uzbek cotton fair in 2005 accepted representatives of around 170 companies from 30 countries, the current fair is hosting over 1000 representatives from more than 40 countries. The geography of Uzbek cotton exports has also significantly changed over the last years. The main markets for Uzbek cotton were European countries until 2000, but in the last years exports to China and South-East Asia has also increased.

Uzbekistan is one of the biggest suppliers of cotton to the world market, while paying significant attention to processing, noted managing director of «Cotton Outlook» international agency R.Butler. Due to effective investment policy, the current cotton processing rate amounts to 40 per cent. This trend signals that Uzbekistan is a prospective country for investments, as it has high-quality cotton and workforce, gives benefits and preferences for successful businesses.

Demand for Uzbek cotton may be explained by its high quality, and transparent pricing system, implemented in the last years, on the base of Cotlook A index, which allows avoiding dramatic fluctuations of prices for cotton. Besides, three foreign-trade companies- Uzmarkazimpeks, Uzprommashimpeks and Uzinterimpeks are involved in cotton exports and their representative offices and trading houses abroad ensure stable supplies all year round.

Cotton on offer has high quality indicators, which are improving every year by creating new sorts. Today a whole list of fast-ripening cotton-trees with high crops, length and purity of fiber, sustainable to pests and adapted to climate conditions are grown in our country. All Uzbek cotton of high quality is within the micronaire range on demand in the world market, which is one of the main characteristics of cotton.

One of the latest achievements of our scientists has been the technology of gen-knockout, the first in the world. This allowed growing “Porloq” series with sustainable improved qualities. Thanks to this new fiber type has been included in the pricing offers, which is 12 per cent higher than the ordinary fibers.

In the last years export potential of Uzbekistan has significantly increased, and the structure of supplies to foreign markets has changed due to high value-added products on offer. Currently, textile companies in Uzbekistan are exporting their products to 55 countries in the world and the geography is increasing constantly.

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Toward Better Tourism and Closer International Cooperation

UZA – Toward Better Tourism and Closer International Cooperation The 21st Tashkent International Tourism Fair entitled “Tourism on the Silk Road” opened 5 October at the capital’s Uzexpocenter complex.

The opening ceremony of the event organized by the Uzbektourism National Company and the advertising agency “The Great Silk Road” with support from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) was attended by representatives of Uzbek and foreign travel agencies and companies, hotels, specialists of the sphere and representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in our country.

Speaking at the occasion, Chairman of Uzbektourism Farrukh Rizaev, Executive Director of the UNWTO Zoltan Somogyi and others stressed that the tourism sector has been advancing steadily in Uzbekistan under the leadership of President Islam Karimov and that everything necessary is created for an exciting and meaningful leisure of travelers.

Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to further support and develop tourism in the Republic of Uzbekistan”, signed 10 October 2012, serves as an important guide for action in the promotion of the travel industry and tourism infrastructure as well as the active encouragement of national tour services in the international markets.

In terms of the number of historical monuments Uzbekistan is included in the list of top ten nations. Our ancient cities like Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Khiva and Shahrisabz are famed throughout the world. The rich cultural and spiritual heritage and the beautiful nature of our country create an opportunity to stimulate modern forms of travel such as ecotourism, geotourism, climbing, extreme and cultural tourism, fishing, white-water rafting.

As a result of the expansion of tourist routes, improvement of transport and communications and the sphere of services, the flow of tourists to our country has been increasing. In 2014, the volume of tour services in Uzbekistan amounted to 116 percent vis-à-vis the year 2013, while the export of such services reached 120 percent. In January-June this year, the number of arrivals to our country by tourists from abroad grew by 7 percent compared with the same period last year.

Uzbekistan Airways national company has attained a well-deserved niche in the international tourist market. The aircraft fleet and airports have been modernized, while the geography of flights has expanded – an important factor in attracting potential tourists to our country. Running from the capital Tashkent to Samarkand and Karshi, the state-of-the-art high-speed Afrosiyob train creates convenience and comfort of tourists.

1,279 tourism entities and facilities, including 548 hotels, tourist camps and campgrounds, 731 travel companies operate currently in Uzbekistan.

Great many projects are implemented in our country in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization. Uzbekistan joined the institution in 1993. The UNWTO Silk Road Samarkand Regional Center has been functioning in the ancient city since 2004. International tourism fairs, conferences and seminars are held jointly with the Organization. Last October, Samarkand played host to the 99th Session of the Executive Council of the UN World Tourism Organization, which proved an essential stride toward bolstering the travel industry.

Held since 1995, the Tashkent International Tourism Fair has been making a great contribution to the development of this sphere in Uzbekistan. It helps to inform the world community about our country’s immense potential in the field, enhance and consolidate cooperation with travel companies of foreign nations.

This year’s fair is attended by representatives of more than 700 firms and companies from Uzbekistan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Latvia, Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, China, India, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Vietnam Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Dominican Republic, Israel, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and other countries.

“Uzbekistan has created extensive opportunities for doing business, including interaction in the travel industry,” Suchin Jienjitlert, Secretary General of the Thai Hotels Association, has suggested. “There are many in Thailand who wish to visit Uzbekistan. During this fair, we intend to get familiar with this country’s capacities in the sphere of tourism, establish cooperation with local firms and companies.”

Organized within the framework of the exhibition, Hosted Buyers program offers an opportunity for executives and managers of foreign companies to get to know the tour destinations in our country, and establish contacts and conclude mutually beneficial agreements.

The program of the fair included an international conference entitled “Preserving cultural heritage as a contribution to the development of tourism in Uzbekistan” organized by the Uzbektourism National Company in cooperation with UNWTO. It was noted during the forum that special significance is attached in our country to the perpetuation and study of the rich cultural legacy and that it is critical in the promotion of tourism.

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Guyana plans a fresh approach to tourism development

GINA – October 16, 2015 – From where Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela meet, stretching eastward and to the north, is the second largest Administrative Region of Guyana, encompassing 47,213 km², and probably the richest in natural resources.

With Mount Roraima at 2,810 metres high standing at the tri-juncture, one can only guess the amount of the region’s gold deposits. One gold mining company, Guyana Goldfields Inc. believes it can extract 3.29 million ounces of gold over the next 17 years. Forested lands with some of the most sought after species blanket the area. Rivers of fresh water form intricate patterns and often cascade over rocks into breathtaking waterfalls. The Region’s natural wealth can only be rivalled by the resourcefulness of its people. This is Region 7 (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), and it is here that Guyana’s first ‘Green Town’ would be established.

It is the vision of the Government to transform Region 7 into a model for sustainable development. The plan will see the administrative centre, Bartica achieving the status of township and being used as a model ‘Green Town.’

As the vision unfolds, the Bartica Stelling will be transformed into a modern docking facility with attractions for tourists. A state-of-the-art mall to cater for visitors’ souvenirs will be built.

Food is an essential aspect for any visitor, as such there would be a restaurant and a bar complete with seating facilities that overlook the Essequibo River. The ambience and atmosphere that the improved stelling with its facility will provide would be the ideal place for tourists and persons to stop and enjoy the natural beauty of the Essequibo River.

The new Bartica will employ the use of renewable energy sources to power the entire community and in this regard, feasibility studies will be done for a large hydropower development in the Mazaruni, in partnership with Brazil. Tumatumari will benefit from a small hydro system as well.

With the option of solar energy, persons will remain connected to a local grid with their homes outfitted with solar panels. During the day residents will self-generate energy for daily activities and at nights they will use the electricity from the grid.

In keeping with David Granger’s vision of making Bartica the first green town, plans are well underway as pre-feasibility studies commenced with technical teams examining the region, to assess the energy needs.

Infrastructural development plays an important part in development; hence focus will be on bettering the town’s facilities. Persons would be able to enter Bartica by road, using the Parika-Goshen road link that is currently being upgraded and a bridge over the Essequibo River will further aid accessibility into Bartica.

The Government’s mobile asphalt plant will support the upgrade of all the internal and existing road networks to double bituminous treatment surface (DBST) standard. The Bartica- Potaro Road, Agatash, and Byderabo Front, are targeted while roads at Track X; Caribese Hill North and Mora will be completed.

A $6M allocation will ensure the construction of a new bridge at Wax Creek, Upper Mazaruni; while the sea defence at Byderabo will be fortified.

Already, tourists have begun to take advantage of the flora, fauna and overall bountiful beauty of the Region. Bartica is now a major attraction for yachters who dock their vessels in the Essequibo River.

The transformation of the community is not limited to only infrastructural work or provision of electricity; it entails that every sector within the region will benefit from massive upgrades, thereby significantly boosting the level and quality of services that residents can abundantly enjoy.

Towns are attractions for visitors and another key area that has to be addressed is health. The intention is to offer a wider range of medical services so fewer patients are referred to the Georgetown Public Hospital; hence the Bartica Hospital will be extended and rehabilitated while Imbaimadai will get doctors’ quarters. Upgrade to facilities would provide for specialist doctors.

Budget 2015 provides allocations that will be used to acquire much needed medical equipment that will ultimately enhance the quality of services now being offered.

Hospitals in other communities within the region are also slated for upgrades. Kamarang District Hospital’s operating theatre will see some improvement, while other health care facilities will be boosted as both nurses and doctors’ quarters will be enhanced. This will enable the most populous villages to have resident doctors and nurses. By the end of October 2015, eight resident doctors will be sent to the region.

Recognising the importance that education plays for a developing nation such as Guyana, significant sums of money have been allocated for the sector for the execution of special projects that are aimed at boosting the efficacy of primary and nursery education.

Living quarters for teachers and students will be constructed, rehabilitated and expanded, because of the remoteness of the region; also emoluments will be offered for personnel, as it is difficult to find teachers who will readily accept postings in such areas.

The region is outfitted with three secondary schools, namely Waramadong Secondary-located in the Upper Mazaruni; Bartica Secondary; and Three Mile Secondary; there are also a number of primary and nursery schools. Recognising the gaps existing between nursery and primary, and primary and secondary schools, the administration recently launched a US$1.7M Early Childhood Project at St. Anthony’s Primary. The project, funded by the World Bank aims at improving children’s literacy and numeracy ability at the nursery level up to primary grade one in all hinterland regions, especially riverine areas. This programme plans to also focus on parents, teachers and students.

With this initiative along with other investments that will be made to the education sector, it is hoped that significant improvement will be seen in the National Grade Six Assessment, the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) or the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) results.

For 2015 more than $100M will be spent across the region on the education sector. Of this amount $72.244M will be spent to construct and extend schools and living quarters along with the completion of the Chinowieng and Kartabo Primary Schools; the extension of Agatash Primary School and the construction of living quarters at Waramadong Secondary school. Further, $15.6M will be spent to improve the facilities and accommodation by outfitting same with the necessary equipment needed and $4.5M will be spent to improve transportation to the sector with the procurement of a boat complete with outboard engine and an All-Terrain-Vehicle (ATV).

The administration’s thrust to transform and beautify the country will not end with Region 7. Whilst it will be used as a model for development, other regions such as Regions 1, 8 and 9 are also eyed for such transformation.

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Guyana tourism minister to launch new marketing campaign

Georgetown, GINA, October 12, 2015 – Recognising the need for an effective and aggressive broad-based marketing campaign, to achieve its objective of making Guyana a must-see tourist destination, Government is currently crafting its marketing approach, as the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) continues to attend international events promoting Guyana.

Minister of Tourism Cathy Hughes unveiled several plans which she intends to implement soon. Among these is the establishment of a website. These plans, she stated will see more people becoming better aware of Guyana’s tourism sector, its potential, and what it has to offer.

“There are also plans to establish a space within the Ministry, where all our literature can be easily accessed by the public, where you would have a few computer monitors that people who have come for a visit, can sit down and go online, and so see the kinds of places they can go. Then we can put the people directly onto the specific company or tour operator they will have selected,” Minister Hughes advised.

The Minister believes that this is necessary since it is important that there is a location, strategically in the centre of the capital where persons can garner information. In the meantime, Minister Hughes noted that persons who are interested in sourcing information on Guyana and its tourism products can visit the GTA website, www.guyana-tourism.com.

“The GTA has a website, a Facebook page and several of the other new technologies, and we also have good relationships with several of the social media groups and sites that we support, and therefore we are getting our message out,” Minister Hughes stated.

Meanwhile, Minister Hughes indicated her intention to relocate the GTA to a more central and accessible location noting that “one of the things we are doing is that we are looking at the utilisation of the space here (Ministry of Tourism-Colgrain House), and it seems as though we may be able to accommodate everybody here. We are looking at a very central location that we hope we can get refurbished and we can include the GTA in that office.”

Minister Hughes committed the GTA towards creating more awareness of Guyana’s Tourism product, and she firmly stated that her Ministry will promote ‘Destination Guyana’ as a premier Nature and Adventure must-see tourist package.

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Three Agreements To Promote Heritage And Tourism In Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct 12 (NNN-SANA) – Syrian Tourism Ministry, signed a total of three agreements with the Information Ministry, the Export Development and Promotion Agency (EDPA), and Syriatel.

The signing, which is part of the World Tourism Day activities, organised by the Tourism Ministry, under the “I belong to Syria, I belong to the future” slogan, was held at Dar al-Assad for Culture and Arts (Opera House).

The event’s coordinator, Ruba Sasilla, told SANA that the agreement with the Information Ministry seeks to improve cooperation between the two ministries, to promote tourism elements in Syria and its cultural and human heritage.

She said that, the agreement with the EDPA seeks to distribute, ship, and export promotional items related to the “I belong” initiative and facilitate tourism promotion activities abroad.

The agreement with Syriatel seeks to launch an application called Mobile Syria, that includes a promotional tourism map for all tourist sites and tourist facilities like restaurants, hotels, theme parks, and various activities in Syria, Sasilla concluded.

In a speech at the event, the Tourism Minister said that, such an occasion is an opportunity to assess work, what was achieved, what was done right, and what was done wrong, asserting that the Ministry is working hard to leverage its partnerships, on parallel tracks to strengthen the tourism components of Syria and reflect its true, civilised image.

The event also included a ceremony for honouring tourism activities that participated in revitalising the sector, as well as, some youth projects and figures working in the field of tourism and mass media, in addition to screening a documentary on the tourism sector in Syria and artistic performances.

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Qatar Airways Signs Code-Share Agreement With Sun-Air

DOHA, Qatar, Oct 13 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways has signed a code-share agreement with Danish carrier, SUN-AIR, a franchise of British Airways.

From Oct 8, SUN-AIR and Qatar Airways introduced code-share flights between Billund, Aalborg and Aarhus in Jutland, the Western part of Denmark, and several European destinations including Oslo, Brussels, Manchester and Munich.

This new cooperation expands the options for Qatar Airways’ passengers travelling to and from Denmark, opening up an enhanced range of travel options in addition to Copenhagen.

The code-share agreement will lead to excellent new connections between Denmark and a large number of business and leisure destinations around the world, including Bali, Singapore, Mumbai, Goa, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hanoi, Shanghai, Hyderabad and Dhaka.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker said, “SUN-AIR’s company values are closely aligned with those of Qatar Airways and we therefore see excellent opportunities with this new code-share agreement, maintaining and enhancing our competitive offer to customers.

“Qatar Airways is expanding rapidly across the world and the agreement with SUN-AIR further strengthens our position, whilst providing our passengers with an unrivalled global network.”

SUN-AIR’s Commercial Director, Kristian Tvergaard, said that, the code sharing offered unique connections for the customers between the company’s three bases in Jutland – Billund, Aarhus and Aalborg – and the Qatar Airways hub in Doha.

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 18 years of operation and today flies a modern fleet of 166 aircraft to 152 key business and leisure destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America.

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Tourism Has Contributed Significantly To Malaysia’s Economy – Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 (NNN-Bernama) — The tourism industry has contributed significantly towards Malaysia’s economy since the inception of the National Transformation Programme (NTP).

Prime Minister Najib Razak said the nation’s tourism sector is now the sixth largest contributor to the national economy, contributing a total of RM161 billion or 14.9 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014.

“In spite of a year of tragedies that saw the whole world grieve with us, our tourism industry still managed to attract 27.44 million tourists with RM72 billion in tourist receipts to boast. These are healthy figures that we are not afraid to flash out.

“However, the impact of tourism goes beyond tourist arrivals or tourist receipts, its impact is most important on the sustainable development of our economy and society,” he said in his blog NajibRazak.Com here.

Since the inception of NTP, the tourism industry has played a role in opening up new opportunities for Malaysians, therefore, the prime minister thanked the Tourism and Culture Ministry for its aggressive promotional campaigns abroad, as it has resulted the nation no longer being known as “the country between Singapore and Thailand”.

“The promotional campaigns have successfully showcased our uniqueness, our harmony and diversity. We are the model country for a progressive and moderate Islamic nation.

“One billion tourists, one billion opportunities, the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, celebrated recently on September 27, strikes a resonance to Malaysia’s journey towards 2020,” he said.

In turn, tourism had benefited Malaysians directly, in 2014, the industry brought in RM19.4 billion of investment, more impressively, it had contributed a total of 1.77 million jobs (13 percent of total employment), Najib said.

“The trickle down economy will benefit even the small homestay in the remote area of Sabah providing the local communities opportunities to enhance their quality of life.

“The consistent growth of our tourism industry had also encouraged cultural practitioners to keep on championing our heritage as a source of living. I thank them (cultural practitioners) especially for keeping our culture alive and reminding us of our identity,” he said.

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Izetbegovic Inaugurates Kuwait-Funded Resort In Bosnia

SARAJEVO, Bosnia, Oct 18 (NNN-KUNA) – Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic opened on Saturday, the Sarajevo Resort, an integrated Kuwait-funded tourist project, in Osenik village, in the Municipality of Hadzici on the south-west outskirts of Sarajevo.

The resort, consisting of more than 400 housing units and recreational facilities, cost nearly USD 30 million; it was developed by Kuwait’s Gulf Real Estate Co.

In his address at the opening ceremony, Izetbegovic commended the Kuwaiti-Bosnian ties, as a good example for friendly countries to follow.

Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomes the investments from friendly countries, such as the State of Kuwait, and seeks even closer cooperation in all fields in the future, he affirmed.

Izetbegovic noted that, his country has a lot of ample investment opportunities in such areas as agriculture, energy, tourism and industry, and called on private sector investors, to tap into these opportunities.

On his part, Kuwait Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nasser Al-Mutairi, said, the project will have a positive impact on the economy of the Balkan country and create numerous jobs, in addition to serving the domestic and foreign tourism.

“Since the establishment of diplomatic ties with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kuwait has been keen on cementing bilateral ties and economic cooperation,” he said, citing the contributions of Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) and the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), to the development of infrastructure projects.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Gulf Real Estate Co., Jassem Ahmad Al-Kanderi, said, the Sarajevo Resort, a purpose-designed settlement, took two years to complete.

“The project, with a total area of 160,000 square metres, has the capacity to accommodate 1,125 tourists; it has an artificial lake covering 12,000 square metres, around which 160 facilities are arranged,” he pointed out.

“The project has two covered pools, a hotel, restaurants, sports courts, supermarket, as well as, many other ancillary facilities. More than 50 million BAM (Bosnian Mark or USD 29.06 million) were invested in the project, so far,” he revealed.

The resort will be an oasis for guests from the Arabian Gulf and the Middle East, who will find peace and pleasure during summer months in the vicinity of Olympic Mountains Bjelasnica and Igman, as well as the capital city of Sarajevo, Al-Kanderi added.

The opening ceremony also gathered President of Hadzici Municipality, Hamdo Ejubovic and a number of diplomats and businesspeople.

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Sharjah Participates In Third Heritage Exhibition In Portugal

COIMBRA, Portugal, Oct 12 (NNN-WAM) – Sheikha Najlaa Mohammed Al Qasimi, UAE Ambassador to Portugal, has participated in the opening ceremony of the 3rd edition of Portugal’s International Heritage Exhibition, IHE, in Coimbra, Portugal.

The inauguration ceremony of IHE was attended by a number of high-ranking officials, including the Portuguese Secretary of State for Culture, Jorge Barreto Xavier, and the Chairman of the Sharjah Heritage Institute, Abdul Aziz Al-Mussalam.

During her speech, Sheikha Najlaa hailed the friendly relations that link the two countries, which began with the Portuguese expeditions, that left a unique mark on UAE heritage. She invited attendees to visit the UAE pavilion, run by the Sharjah Heritage Institute.

The Ambassador said that, the Institute continues to gain more momentum as a beacon of culture and knowledge, with the support and direct supervision of Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

Following the inauguration ceremony, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Culture, toured the UAE pavilion, where he was presented with a commemorative trophy by Mr. Al-Mussalam, who also presented a trophy to the UAE Ambassador, in gratitude for her support.

The Sharjah Heritage Institute team included Saqer Hassan, Director of Coordination, Khalid Al-Jallaf, Calligrapher, Aysha Ali, Studies Department, Eiman Al-Hadi, Exhibition Management, and Abdul Aziz Reznara, International Relations.

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Dubai Developer To Build $4.8 Billion Resort In Bosnia

SARAJEVO, Oct 11 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Dubai-based developer Buroj Property Development said it plans to invest 4.3 billion euros ($4.8 bln) to build a luxury tourist resort near Sarajevo, in what could be the biggest foreign investment of its kind in the Balkan country.

Bosnia, where Muslim Bosniaks are the largest of its three ethnic groups, has seen an influx of tourists from the Middle East in recent years and a growing number of Middle Eastern buyers of properties, attracted by the country’s mountain landscape.

“The initial investment in the project is worth around 920 million euros, while the total investment will amount to 4.3 billion euros” over the next eight years, Ismail Ahmed, the company’s manager, told a news conference.

The ‘Buroj Ozone’ will stretch over an area of 1.3 million square meters and include thousands of housing units, hotels and the largest shopping center in Bosnia, Ahmed said.

It will be located in the municipality of Trnovo which lies below the Bjelasnica and Igman mountains, venue of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games, around 20 kilometers from Sarajevo.

Ahmed said construction would begin in April or May next year pending a resolution of regulatory issues and necessary permits from the Trnovo municipality, which will lease the land to Buroj Property Development for 99 years.

The project will create at least 10,000 local jobs, he said.

“The aim of this unique project is to turn Bosnia and Herzegovina into a tourism leader of southeast Europe and to put its rich natural resources at the disposal of local and international clients,” he said.

“Many people associate this country with the war and this project will help change that image,” Ahmed added.

Since the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian war, which claimed 100,000 lives, Bosnia has attracted scarce foreign investment.

Tourism is seen as an expanding industry in the Balkan country. Visitor arrivals in the first five months of 2015 were up almost 26 percent from the same period last year.

A World Tourism Organization study predicts that Bosnia would have the third highest tourism growth rate in the world by 2020.

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Iranian-Afghanistan Railways To Be Linked Soon

TEHRAN, Oct 12, (NNN-IRNA ) – Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhundi has reviewed the issues about connecting the Iran-Afghanistan railways with Afghan Urban Construction Minister Seyyed Saadat Mansur Naderi.

Akhundi said that Kwaf-Herat railway will soon be put to use.

He said that on order to make best use of this railroad it is necessary for it to be connected to the railways of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, the railway of the Silk Road through the southern coasts of Iran to China will be completed.

The Iranian minister of roads and urban development told his Afghan counterpart that a five-nation Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China meeting is pursuing the completion of the Silk Road Railway.

He focused on Iran-Afghanistan border trade, arguing that its volume is vey high, particularly in the north of Doqarun border, and in Mahirud border near Birjand, requiring construction of roads by a joint team of the two countries.

Afghan Minister of Urban Construction Saadat Mansur Naderi appreciated Iran’s hospitality and said that Iran and Afghanistan have lots of commonalties, such as the holy Islamic religion, history, culture and language.

‘Accordingly, Iran has always acted as Afghanistan’s close friend and assisted the Afghans in various scenes greatly, for which the people and government of Afghanistan have always been thankful,’ he added.

He noted that the objectives of his visit include being benefitted from Iran’s precious experience in trade and rural development fields.

‘We intend to invite and encourage the Iranian merchants and capitalists to have a share in Afghan reconstruction,’ he said, adding that the government of Afghanistan is ready for full cooperation with them.

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India, Palestine Sign USD 22 Million Agreements

RAMALLAH, Palestine, Oct 13 (NNN-PTI) – India and the Palestinian Authority, signed agreements to finance development projects with a total cost of USD 22 million.

A USD 17-million agreement will boost educational services and capabilities, while a USD five-million deal, would be designed to support the Palestinian Authority (PA) budget.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU), was signed between the Palestinian Ministry of Culture and the Indian council for cultural relations.

The agreements were signed on the sidelines of the Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Ramallah, the West Bank, on Monday, during which he met with PA President, Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas expressed gratitude to India for its political and financial support of the Palestinian people, specially the budgetary assistance and development projects.

Mukherjee, during a dinner banquet held by Abbas, said, India was exchanging expertise with Palestine, for the benefit of the two peoples. He said, peace and stability in the region was in India’s interest.

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Mozambican Rail Company Launches New Carriages

MAPUTO, Oct 14 (NNN-AIM) — Mozambique’s publicly owned port and rail company, CFM, has inaugurated 29 new passenger carriages in ceremonies here and in the central Mozambique city of Beira.

They are among the 70 carriages and goods wagons ordered from China to boost passenger transport capacity in the southern and central rail systems. Half of them will go the Beira Corridor, to be used on the lines to Machipanda, on the border with Zimbabwe, and on the Sena line to the Moatize coal basin in Tete province, with spurs to the sugar town of Marromeu, and on to Malawi.

The rest of the consignment is for the southern lines from Maputo to South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, including the heavily used commuter trains between Maputo and its twin city of Matola. All the newly arrived carriages and wagons will begin operating immediately. The investment cost a total of 4.9 million US dollars.

At the Maputo ceremony Monday, CFM Chairman Victor Gomes said there are now 63 passenger carriages to serve the southern routes. The new Chinese-built carriages, he added, had better safety systems, and can undergo maintenance within CFM.

“We are pleased to note that the demand for rail services is gradually increasing,” said Gomes, who put the average annual increase in demand for passenger services at between three and five per cent.

Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita said the investment would reduce the chronic dilemma of shortage of transport. “CFM is giving a strong signal that it is committed to implementing the strategies outlined in the government’s five year programme for the transport area”, he added.

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Islamic banking in Malaysia urged to expand overseas

Thursday 15 Oct 2015 – Kuala Lumpur, (IINA) – The domestic Islamic banking industry players should be brave enough to tap into foreign markets to expand their businesses and grow the industry, said Dr Mohammed Daud Bakar, group executive chairman of Amanie Advisors, Shariah advisory firm, Bernama News reported.

Daud said that companies were too afraid to face the potential risks in the foreign markets. “They should use their expertise to explore outside market.

“In this segment, we have the experts and many countries hope that we bring our capital as well as expertise to set up a Malaysian bank,” he told Bernama.

He said, “Malaysia has the capability to set up banks and companies offering Islamic banking products and services as it is the third biggest Islamic banking industry player in the world after Iran and Saudi Arabia”.

On the company’s expansion plan, he said, Amanie Advisors was looking to enter new markets, such as Nigeria, India and Gambia, to provide Shariah products and services due to strong demand for the industry which was expected in the next three years.

“We are going to Morocco next week to organize national event, ‘International Participative Finance Forum Casablanca 2015′.

“Our strategy is to focus on new markets as there are less competition compared to the established ones…we want to be more active in the new markets,” he said.

The homegrown Shariah advisory firm also aimed to be more visible and impactful in the global industry after it won the ‘Award of Islamic Economy Knowledge Infrastructure’ by Global Islamic Economy Summit last Monday in Dubai, he said.

Amanie Advisors is a Shariah advisory firm specializing in Islamic finance solutions. It offers a wide range of services including Shariah advisory and consultancy, training and research and development for institutional and corporate clientele focusing on Islamic financial services.

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Islamic heritage exhibition held in Singapore

Singapore, (IINA) – Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim opened the Jameel Prize 3 exhibition, which is an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition, at the National Library here on Sunday. Speaking to reporters after opening the event, he said that exhibitions like this can help members of the public better understand Islamic traditions and their contributions to the world, according to AsiaOne news agency.

Such art shows, he said, are an opportunity for young artists from various backgrounds to draw on Islamic tradition and culture to create contemporary pieces of art. “I welcome this exhibition as a way we can break down that barrier, that lack of understanding, for us to appreciate that the rich history of Islam can be brought forward into the modern world by young minds of different backgrounds,” he said.

Professor Alan Chan, Dean of Nanyang Technological University’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, said Islam has a rich heritage that is not well understood, and hoped the exhibition would generate a better understanding and appreciation of the religion.

The past achievements of the Islamic world in art, craft and design are reflected in the work of many contemporary practitioners in these fields. The aims of the Prize are to raise awareness of this new work and to explore it as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today.

The show features works by 10 artists and designers shortlisted for the Jameel Prize in 2013. The international art prize, worth £25,000 (S$53,900), is awarded every two year, and was launched in 2009 by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, in partnership with Art Jameel, an initiative of the Dubai-based Abdul Latif Jameel international business group.

The exhibition is organized by NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media, with sponsorship from the S.M. Jaleel Foundation.

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Philippines, Qatar to boost ties in education, halal sectors

Sunday 11 Oct 2015 – Doha, (IINA) – The Philippines through National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) is seeking to establish relations with Qatar in the fields of education and halal industry, according to media reports.

A delegation led by NCMF Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao is in Qatar now to meet institutions and agencies to explore possible partnerships.

Lao said they have met Qatar University (QU) officials and the areas of possible collaborations discussed included scholarship exchange and research to develop the Philippine halal industry.

She also noted that through the research QU could help in the development of the industry, which could be a source in meeting food security needs of both parties.

For his part, NCMF Commissioner Edil Baddiri said there is also a plan to invite investors from Qatar such as Hassad Food, which focuses on food security in Qatar.

“A 100-hectare plot has been allocated for halal industry in the Zamboanga Economic Zone (Zamboecozone). Our goal is to connect Hassad to Zamboecozone. With food products we have in Region 9 and ARMM areas there is huge potential that there will be a programme or project with Hassad” said Baddiri.

“Our Halal industry is in infant stage and with Zamboecozone and investors like Hassad will fast-track progress and promotion of the Philippine halal industry” he added.

With the Asean Integration there is a need for the Philippines to catch up with countries such as Malaysia Thailand and Indonesia with regard to the halal market.

Being largely dependent on food imports Qatar is seen as a viable market for halal products from the Philippines.

Having recently launched Kulinarya Qatar an initiative to promote Philippine tourism via Filipino cuisine Santos believes having a robust halal industry can turn the Philippines into a destination of choice for tourists from Qatar and the rest of the GCC.

Baddiri said Lao had met Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon R Jimenez Jr who is keen to develop the Philippine halal industry with respect to tourism.

With regard to education, Lao said they wanted to harness partnerships by expanding the scholarship exchange programme to include other areas.

The delegation will meet Qatar Foundation officials on Monday and discuss endowments and scholarships. “This is a good beginning and we will try to find out ways wherein the Philippines with NCMF and counterpart agencies and institutions like QU can work together and help each other in promoting shared interest” said Baddiri.

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Egypt to build largest park in Middle East

Monday 12 Oct 2015 – Cairo, (IINA) – The Egyptian government began today the first phase of creating a new administrative capital, the city will be built on the Cairo Road near Suez, around 60 kilometers from Cairo, it will have the largest central park in the Middle East.

According to the head of Arab Contractors Company, the company in-charge of the project, the administrative capital will have several districts specialized in the services of a single department, such as Ministries District, Business District and Financial District. The city will also have a global trading center, an international university, a medical city, a schools complex, 15,000 housing units as well as central park, which is planned to become the largest park in the Middle East.

He added that the new administrative capital aims to provide a better service to citizens as well as to reduce the traffic congestion in Cairo, noting that it will use a diameter of 10,500 acres and a total of $36.4 million.

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‘Oman’s “Message of Islam” exhibition being held at UNESCO HQ

Tuesday 13 Oct 2015 – Muscat (IINA) – After visiting 26 countries and more than 72 cities across the world, the travelling exhibition, ‘Oman’s Message of Islam’ has reached the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, MuscatDaily.com reported.

Organized by the Omani Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs (MARA) in cooperation with sultanate’s permanent representative to UNESCO and the embassy in Paris, the exhibition will be held till Wednesday.

A press release stated that the exhibition stresses on sultanate’s adherence to religious tolerance, mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence between nations, cultures and peoples.

The welcome ceremony was earlier held in the presence of, Chairperson of the executive board of UNESCO Mohamed Sameh Amr, Ambassador and permanent representative of Egypt to UNESCO, Sultanate’s Ambassador to UNESCO Dr Samira bint Mohammed Moussa and other officials.

Addressing the gathering, Dr Samira said, “In 1995 UNESCO member states including Oman pledged to promote tolerance and non-violence worldwide. Tolerance is one of the principles of humanity that plays a major role in achieving unity, solidarity, and cohesion among nations, reducing conflicts between individuals and groups”.

Dr Mohammed bin Said al-Mamari, scientific advisor in the Office of the Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs and supervisor of the exhibition, said, “It is our strong belief that peace and stability can be realized today in any society through dialogue and understanding. We sincerely believe that by working together, we can achieve the goals of religious acceptance and peaceful co-existence”.

Nada al-Nashif, assistant director-general for Social and Human Sciences in UNESCO, thanked MARA for organizing the exhibition.

The exhibition has a total of 48 pictures. A documentary in 18 languages is also being screened to showcase life in Oman and the co-existence of Muslims with followers of other religions.

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$228.7 million Saudi grant to people with disabilities

Thursday 15 Oct 2015 – Riyadh, (IINA) – The Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs announced that it will pay around SR858 million ($228.7 million) to 5,721 people with disabilities in order to buy them special cars, Arabnews reported.

Undersecretary at the Ministry for Social and Family Affairs Abdullah Al-Muaiqil said that the people who applied between 2007 and 2014 would get SR150,000 ($40,000) to buy a car, noting that all checks will be paid within a month at rehabilitation centers across the Kingdom.

He said that the second phase of the car program will include the disabled people who registered this year, pointing out that a committee had been formed to oversee the payments as stipulated in a royal decree.

Al-Muaiqil disclosed that around 10,700 people would likely to benefit from the service once everyone complete registration process. He also stressed the ministry’s keenness on ensuring that payments are given out as smoothly as possible.

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Turkish hoteliers president named deputy chairman of global tourism organization

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – Osman Ayık, the president of the Turkish Hoteliers Federation (TUROFED), has been elected the deputy chairman of the United Nations World of Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Affiliate Members.

The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) said in a statement that TUROFED and TOBB Tourism Council President Ayık had been elected as the deputy chairman of UNWTO on behalf of TOBB on Oct. 12.

Ayık won the support of nearly 500 members at the UNWTO general assembly. TOBB held the post of deputy chairman for the third time since March 2012, and Ayık has held it for two years.

Noting that Turkey is one the most important tourist areas in the world, and hosts large numbers of tourists, Ayık said he was proud to be in the UNWTO assembly.

Countries in the assembly included Russia, Jamaica, Uruguay, Spain, the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, South Africa, Namibia, Colombia, Argentina, Malaysia, India, Azerbaijan and Egypt.

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Istanbul Design Week begins

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Designers, design exhibitions and conferences on design have all come together under the same roof during Istanbul Design Week, which opened on Oct. 14 at the Old Hat Factory (Eski Şapka Fabrikası).

Keeping the concept of “Creative Season” and the theme of “City and Design,” Istanbul Design Week offers participants a full week of design events, including design exhibitions, conferences, workshops, parties and opening ceremonies where major design groups come together.

The event, which will continue until Oct. 18, is organized by the International Design Fairs (IDF) with the support of project partners such as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, daily Hürriyet and Dream Design Factory (DDF).

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LEAD STORY: Pearls Expo being held in Istanbul’s Islamic Arts Museum

ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency – The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts host the “Pearls, Jewels from the Sea” exhibition featuring more than 100 pieces. A highlight of the Qatar-Turkey 2015 Year of Culture initiative, the exhibition, the pieces of which were collected and curated during the last 10 years, was already shown in Brazil, the U.K. and Japan, and gained great success.

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The Qatar Turkey 2015 Year of Culture, which is being held under the patronage of Qatar Museums’ Chairperson Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, is a year-long cultural exchange program dedicated to connecting people in Qatar and Turkey through culture, community and sport.

The exhibition celebrates a wide array of stunning objects of historical interest to both countries. The collection consists of pearls as well as shells, tiaras, lockets, brooches and necklaces, mostly from the Gulf region.

Curator Hubert Bari, who is also the contributor of the 2013 book “Pearls,” said when talking about Gulf countries, people immediately think “gas and oil.”

“Nobody remembers people had glories in the past with another commodity. It was pearls. During more than 5,000 years in Qatar and Bahrain as well, thousands of people dove for pearls and an entire economy was based on this.

Pearls are a crucial part of Qatar’s heritage and an important feature of much Ottoman jewelry. Most pearls from the Gulf were sold to Constantinople, which would later become Istanbul, for the sultans. Topkapı Place was full of Gulf pearls in the past,” he said.

“Bringing pearls to Istanbul as part of the Qatar Turkey 2015 Year of Culture feels like a natural way to celebrate the warm friendship and spirit of collaboration and partnership that exists between these two countries,” Bari added.

Also speaking at the opening, the Qatar Museums Director Sefa Sağlam said, “We’re proud of the long, shared history of cultural and diplomatic relations between Qatar and Turkey and excited by the opportunity to build upon this. Pearls are real highlight of what has been a hugely successful Year of Culture program to date, helping to promote cultural exchange and deepening understanding between our countries’ cultural institutions, educators, government bodies, businesses and people.”

The most ancient piece of the exhibition is a bracelet that dates back to the 3rd century, while the most contemporary one is a necklace called “Frozen,” designed by German-Vietnamese artist Sam Tho Duong in 2011.

Some of the highlights of the display are pearl earrings designed by Bvlgari and used by British-American Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor as well as a Byzantine necklace that dates back to the 7th century. The exhibition, co-organized by the Turkish Culture Ministry and Qatar Museums, will continue through Jan. 10, 2016.

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Tehran reinvented by contemporary art

Hurriyet Daily News – Iranian culture according to many people in Turkey is exotic and one that needed to be discovered. The latest articles written in the newspapers open an angle, yet not enough to discover the contemporary art scene in the city. Going to Tehran and visiting the exotic Farah Diba Collection at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art or attending the parties are among the things one must do in Tehran.

However, little did anyone know, there is a vibrant and lively contemporary art scene in Tehran and there are about 200 art galleries in the city. Some parts of the city are exclusively allocated for art galleries; every Friday night there are art gallery show openings and every month collector groups from abroad visit the city to buy or see art. Tehran is also a city full of cultural goings on.

“There is a very active cultural life in Tehran and not only in Tehran, but Shiraz and Esfahan are right now having the (opening of) branches of art galleries,” said Maryam Majd, the owner of the Assar art gallery. “We are hosting different collector groups in Tehran and we can say that everyone is coming to Tehran to buy Iranian art.” Noting they will be hosting a collector group first from Hong Kong and then from Belgium, Majd also added the local art market is so good in Iran they do not need to visit art fairs.

According to Nazila Noebashari, the owner of the Aaran Gallery, a very active art gallery that hosts as many as 16 art exhibitions in one year, this busy and vibrant art market is not a coincidence. “This has been like this since the beginning,” she said, adding that the beginning was the modern era of Iranian art. The modern art era in Iran had its rise in the late 1940s and 1950s. These years were the times that Iran increased its contact with the West.

“In terms of art, this was the period of Kamal al-Mulk, who died in 1940 and left many art students behind him. Al-Mulk’s students continued the modern era. After the active 1950s era, the 60s and 70s followed the modernism with the vibrant international art scene, as local artists participated in fairs and founded galleries, while the interest of foreign collectors rose. As a result, with the support of the government in 1977, the Tehran Museum for Contemporary Art, which is a still very active institution in Iran in supporting art, opened its doors.

“The area is currently one of the richest cultural areas of Tehran. This area is full of art galleries and there is a vibrant local art scene there,” said Noebashari. The Iranian Artists’ Forum is also the reason for the city’s rich cultural background. Even though these venues come to the fore in terms of promoting art, only the museum’s hidden Farah Diba collection is known by the people who visit Tehran.

Modern day articles on Iranian contemporary art always refer to the Farah Diba Collection, which is indeed the collection of Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art and is home to the world’s most valuable collection of western modern art outside of Europe and the United States. This collection includes works by Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon. The collection was bought under the supervision of Farah Pahlavi, the former queen of Iran who fled the country along with the late Shah during the turbulent events of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Even though the collection is known as the Farah Diba collection, it is the museum’s collection,” Maryam Majd said. The collection was made by Kamran Diba and Farah Diba together for the museum, she added. While some Turkish professionals have had the privilege to see the collection, Rabia Bakıcı Güreli, the vice chairperson of Contemporary Istanbul, said, “This year as part of the Contemporary Istanbul’s program, CI Focus will be hosting a section titled ‘Contemporary Tehran.’ As part of this program we visited Tehran. The museum was designed by Kamran Diba. The architecture of the museum is fascinating. The works have been kept in the cellars and store rooms.”

Güreli added it was known that with the increase in oil reserves during the 1970s, the museum was made with the support of Pehlevi. Güreli also noted the collection consisted of many Iranian artists. “However, the western artists in the collection are really fascinating and worth seeing. The largest (Mark) Rothko work I have seen is (in) that collection,” she said.

Works by Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Warhol, and Marcel Duchamp have also fascinated Güreli. This also makes Iran special, she added and said, after the Islamic revolution in 1979, “I have heard that a work of Willem de Kooning was exchanged and the rest of the collection kept as it is. This is an important thing.”

Even though the collection is a world-renowned mystery for contemporary art lovers, for some Iranian art professionals it is just another exotic thing to see in Tehran. To open a new dimension on Tehran’s growing face, this year, as part of its 10th year, Contemporary Istanbul is bringing Tehran galleries to the fair, added Güreli. It will be possible to see works by emerging and established artists such as Nasser Bakhshi (Aaran Gallery), Babak Roshaninejad (Assar Gallery), Ali Akbar Sadeghi (Shirin Gallery), Moreshin Allahyari (Lajevardi Foundation – New Media Society) and Houman Mortazavi (Dastan’s Basement), she said.

There is a certain expectation from Iran or from an Iranian, said Behzad Khousravi Noori, an artist, academic and writer. “Where is Iran and who is Iranian? There is a certain expectation on that and people come to Iran with an expectation and when they come they see something completely different,” Noori said.

“However, people encounter normal life, and of course there is art and there are parties; people are living normally and creating art,” added Noori.

There is a real difference for visitors between the Iran that is expected to be seen and the real Iran. The expectation in fact goes beyond the realness. “Every single thing that you are doing in Iran has been colonized by the grand political agenda.

In this case there is a dark expectation for the people coming to Tehran. And after that they realize there is something different. They have the knowledge of this discourse but they cannot really experience that knowledge or this dark discourse. But this creates the superficial and shallow writings on Iran and also on Tehran. People would like to follow exotic things in Iran,” Noori said.

However there is much more to see in terms of art, according to Noebashari. “Journalists coming to Iran, they do not want to see us; they don’t want to see the normal. For us art in Iran is a normal thing. They want to show the extreme things from Friday prayers to mad parties. But we are living normally in Iran,” she said.

It is a reality that Iran has not presented itself well in recent years, said Majd. “However, this era has ended and now there is social media. It is possible to find different and varied information with the exposure of social media.”

It is known the reason Iranian art has evolved in the world contemporary art world is because its own collectors collect Iranian artists, even though they left the country after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Saeed Kouros, a second generation Iranian collector, said this was true.

Many families have been collecting Iranian art for many years. Kouros is a collector and a painter who has been continuing this practice. “My family has a private collection, which consists mainly of Islamic art in Tehran. I am the second generation. My father was a collector and my mother was a painter,” Kouros said.

Kouros has many works from calligraphy to oil on canvas paintings. As a collector, Kouros also supports young Iranian artists. “We need to support them for them to continue collecting art,” he said. According Kouros, Islamic art can be collected from the Islamic land.

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Istanbul’s lost island may come to light

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency – The historical Vordonisi Island, which is 700 meters away from the Maltepe shore and known as Istanbul’s lost island, has been brought to light with the support of the Maltepe Municipality. Remnants of the island have been recently photographed by an exploration team.

The purpose of the team was to explore the island, which sunk under water during a large Istanbul earthquake in 1010 and neglected ever since, and open it to water tourism.

Speaking during the trip, Maltepe Mayor Ali Kılıç said, “As the local administration, we do our duty to explore the natural beauties in our neighborhood. The Vordonisi Island, which dates back 1,000 years and sunk under water during an earthquake, will provide us both archaeological and seismic information.”

Kılıç said the island would contribute to tourism in the district and added, “We will progress until a certain point but we can handle it with the interest of relevant officials. This is a cultural underground mosaic.”

The island, which is said to have sunk with a monastery and priests on it, has been photographed by six divers. The team provided the following information about this 10th island of Istanbul:

“It is necessary to conduct scientific research on this island and to examine the condition of rocks. Then its real history can be revealed. We hope this diving will attract attention and the sunken island will be given importance. It is not quite possible to see the monastery, since there are sea creatures on the island. It is known a monastery exists on this island, which is nearly 1,200 year old.”

A 100-year-old anchor found by the divers during their research has been delivered to the mayor.

Vordonisi, called the “Small Island” by the Byzantines, “Sunken Monastery Rocks” by the Ottomans and “Bostancı Rocks” by sailors, sank in 1010 during an enormous earthquake in Istanbul with a monastery and priests.

The 10th of the Princes Islands, Büyükada, Heybeli, Burgaz, Kınalı, Sedef, Tavşan, Kaşık, Sivri and Yassı, Vordonisi is known for its monastery, built by Patriarch Photius, who was sent to exile on the island in the Eastern Roman Empire era.

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Traces of Trade on UNESCO list

KAYSERİ – Anadolu Agency – The Kültepe Tablets, the earliest written documentation of life in Anatolia, have been included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

At a press conference held on Oct. 16 at the Kayseri Archaeology Museum, Kayseri Governor Orhan Düzgün said Profesor Fikri Kulakoğlu had applied for the inclusion of Kültepe in the Memory of the World Register, with the initiative of the Kültepe excavation head.

“In this way, Kayseri will draw the attention of people interested in history and culture. We believe that the number of visitors will increase at the ancient site of Kültepe where these tablets were found and the Kayseri Museum where they are on display,” the governor said.

Düzgün said the artifacts would be moved to the new archaeology museum, which is under construction inside the Kayseri Castle, in 2016. “The new museum will have a more contemporary style,” he added.

Kayseri Mayor Mustafa Çelik said the geography of Kayseri had a history of 5,000 years, adding, “The genetic codes of our business mind are written on these tablets.”

Kulakoğlu said the existence of the ancient clay tablets distinguished Kayseri from other cities, as the “richest part of Anatolia” had been found there. “The people of Anatolia learned how to read and write in Kültepe,” he said, adding that the site had contributed many artifacts to museums in other cities, such as Ankara Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and the Istanbul Archeology Museum. Regarding the clay tablets, he said, “The tablets have information about the activities of ancient traders. They shed light not only on Anatolian history but also on the history of Mesopotamia and Syria. Everything money-related are on these tablets.”

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Ellinair launches direct flights from İzmir to Thessaloniki

ISTANBUL – Ellinair has started to launch Thessaloniki flights from İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport, the airport’s operator TAV said in a written statement on Oct. 7. The reciprocal direct flights between İzmir and Thessaloniki will be performed twice a week.

Operated by TAV Airports, İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport hosted the ceremony for the launching of Greek airline company Ellinair’s Thessaloniki flights, which will take place reciprocally on Saturdays and Tuesdays.

The ceremony at İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport welcomed Turkish and Greek guests including public officials, tourism officials and journalists from both Thessaloniki and İzmir.

“As one of the most significant tourism and trade cities of the country, İzmir opens its gates to the world with the new destinations included to our flight network. Today, we are connected to 20 domestic destinations and 74 international destinations in 27 countries with direct flights performed from Adnan Menderes Airport. We are pleased to connect İzmir and Thessaloniki with Ellinair. We believe the deep-routed history and continuously progressing relationship between Turkey and Greece, particularly in recent years, will further improve with the tourism sector,” said TAV Ege General Manager F. Erkan Balcı to mark the opening.

Adnan Menderes Airport provided services to almost 11 million passengers in 2014, an increase of 7 percent compared to 2013. The airport also hosted 74,048 flights in the same period with an increase of 7 percent, according to the statement.

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Iran, Azerbaijan discuss connecting national railways

Astara, Gilan, Oct 10, IRNA – Head of Azerbaijan Railway Company underlined the importance of Iran-Azerbaijan railway network.

‘Connecting Azerbaijan national railway to Iran will result in development and flourishing of the two countries’ economy,’ Javid Qorbanov said on the sidelines of Joint Iran-Azerbaijan Economic Commission meeting in the city Astara, Gilan Province on Saturday.

The meeting of Joint Iran-Azerbaijan Economic Commission was presided by Iranian Communications and Information Technology Minister Mahmoud Vaezi and Azeri Economy and Industry Minister Mustafa'(ov.

Astara city is located 200 kilometers from Rasht city and it is a border city.

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Iranian President hails importance of tourism

Sari, Mazandaran Prov., Oct 12, IRNA – President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that development of tourism helps create jobs and effective to cut unemployment.

Speaking to a group of people in Mazandaran Province, President Rouhani said that tourist attractions of Mazandaran Province are spectacular and well-known for the international tourist agencies.

He said over the past 40 years, forests and green environment and pastures account for major tourist attractions of Mazandaran province.

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Antiquities dating back to 3,000 years age unearthed in Talesh

Astara, Gilan province, Oct 12, IRNA – Some 36 items antiquities dating back to 3,000 years ago were unearthed in Talesh, provincial police commander said on Monday.

Colonel Abbas Esmaeili said that 36 items of antiquities were found in a hideout of the smuggler.

Experts from Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said that the antiquities belong to 3,000 years ago and worth 2 billion rials.

Talesh city is 110 kilometers west of Rasht, capital of northern province of Gilan.

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Bangladesh-Malaysia visa-waiver deal for official passports

DHAKA, Oct 15, 2015 (BSS) – The agreement between Bangladesh and Malaysia on “The Partial Abolition of Visa Requirement for Diplomatic and Official Passports” came into effect from today, a foreign ministry statement said here today.

“As per the deal, citizens of one country having in possession of valid diplomatic or official passports may enter other country without a visa and stay for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days,” the statement said.

The agreement was signed on December 3 last year in Putrajaya during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Malaysia.

“This deal shall be in force for a period of five (5) years from the date of enforcing. Thereafter, it shall be automatically extended for a further period of five (5) years,” the statement said.

Both Bangladesh and Malaysia completed all formalities of ratification of the agreement by September 2015.

“Implementation of the deal will facilitate increased contact between political and functional levels of Bangladesh and Malaysia and thereby help further enhancing bilateral relations,” the statement added.

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Dhaka-Chittagong high speed train on the cards

DHAKA, Oct 13, 2015 (BSS) – The travel time between Dhaka and Chittagong would be brought down to only two hours from the existing six to seven hours with the introduction of high speed trains on the country’s most important route as the government has embarked on a mega plan to this end.

Officials familiar with the plan said the cost of the project would be around US$4billion, while five years will be required to complete the scheme.

To execute the plan, the government has given the task of conducting a feasibility study to China Railway Engineering Group which recently submitted its preliminary report to the government.

Railways Ministry Secretary Md Feroz Salah Uddin made a power point presentation on the proposed Dhaka-Chittagong Express Railway Project in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official Ganobhaban residence here on October 8.

Railways Minister Mazibul Haque, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader and State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid Bipu and advisers to the Prime Minister were also present on the occasion.

According to the sources, the project will need 3000 acres of land, while 100 megawatt uninterrupted electricity would be required to operate 10 trains simultaneously at a speed of 200 kilometres per hour.

They said there would be arrangements for both transporting passengers and goods on the proposed route, but carrying of passengers would get priority.

Eighty percent of total passengers who travel on this route would be interested in making journey in the high speed train. The high speed train would reduce both time and cost of the passengers as well as make their journey comfortable.

If Cox’s Bazar is linked with express railway, travelling to the tourist town would be easier.

With the introduction of express railway, the sources said, an extensive communication would be established with the Chittagong Seaport side by side with creating a scope for inter-state communication.

Multidirectional rail link would be set up instead of capital-centric unidirectional rail system. The travel cost will be less in the high speed train in comparison with air and bus routes.

At present, the railway line between the two cities passes through Akhaurha in Brahmanbaria, but with the introduction of express line, the route could be shortened by around 90 kilometers.

If the project is implemented, the high speed trains would first go to Moynamati in Comilla via Fatullah of Narayanganj and Daudkandi and Mohanpur and then run parallel with the existing Comilla-Chittagong rail line.

On the proposed route, 110-km new rail line will have to be built only up to Comilla from Dhaka through land acquisition, and the land of the existing rail line will be used for the remaining part.

The officials said if diesel-electric traction locomotives run over standard gauge tracks, the speed of the train would be 160 kilometres per hour, but the speed would increase to 200-kph if it runs entirely on electricity.

They said a number of Chinese companies have expressed their eagerness to build the express railway between the country’s two major cities. With the launching of the high speed train on the route, it would open up a new horizon in Bangladesh’s communication system, the officials added.

Speaking after the power point presentation on the proposed Dhaka-Chittagong Express Railway, the Prime Minister asked the authorities concerned to implement the scheme by considering the long-term benefits of the country and its people.

“The mega project will have to be executed considering the long-term benefits of the country and its people and whatever be the cost, the best one proposal will have to be chosen for the country’s better future,” she said.

In this connection, Sheikh Hasina mentioned that the country’s present foreign currency reserve is over $ 26 billion, which could help move ahead with the project implementation.

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Indonesia launches pilgrimage tourism promotion

17 October 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Tourism Minister Arief Yahya kicked off activities to promote pilgrimage tourism which has so far not been optimally developed in Indonesia.

“Currently, pilgrimage tourism needs to be developed more seriously, including the management of the destinations, the packaging of tourism product, and the promotion as well as marketing of special interest tourism segment,” Minister Yahya said at a workshop and kick-off meeting on pilgrimage tourism destination development here on Friday.

The Tourism Minister said there has been a shift in tourism paradigm from “sun, sand and sea” to “serenity, sustainability and spirituality.”

A study showed an increase of up to 165 percent in faith-based tourism over the past five years.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 2010 estimated that some 330 million tourists, or 30 percent of the total global tourists, visited religious sites.

Indonesia has a number of pilgrimage and cultural heritage sites, such as ancient trails and sacred places, which date as far back as the seventh century. There are even megalithic sites in the country.

The country has a lot of characteristics to develop pilgrimage tourist destinations of Islam, Catholics, Christianity, Hindu, Buddha, Confucius, and 245 local faiths.

“We can say that Indonesia has a very complete package of religion-based tourist destinations which are internationally recognized,” the minister said.

Indonesia has Borobudur Temple which has been recognized as a world cultural heritage, and Maria Sendangsono Cave which won the Aga Khan Award, he noted.

The government has set a target of attracting 20 million foreign tourists, and 275 million domestic tourists by 2019. The country hopes to earn up to Rp240 trillion in foreign exchange and create 13 million jobs in the tourism industry.

Indonesia plans to further promote “Wali Songo” (Nine Islamic Saints) as a pilgrimage route.

The Wali Songo sites are located in eight districts and cities in the provinces of East, Central and West Java.

According to the 2014 data from some sources, a total of 12.2 million domestic tourists visited the Wali Songo sites with each tourist on an average spending Rp300 thousand per visit, or a total of Rp3.6 trillion a year.

Some 3,000 foreign tourists visited the sites, with the total expenditure coming to US$450 thousand a year, or US$150 a day.

The tourism ministry hopes that the Wali Songo pilgrimage tourism will be able to attract 18 million domestic tourists, or 15 percent of the total target of domestic tourists, by 2019.

Some 18 million tourists are expected to spend Rp7.2 trillion in total per year, or Rp400 thousand per tourist per visit.

Some 10,000 foreign tourists are expected to visit Wali Songo sites and spend a total of US$1.5 million per year, or US$150 per day per person.

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Indonesia, Papua New Guinea to open new air-route

17 October 2015 Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA News) – The governments of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have agreed to open the Jayapura-Port Moresby flight route, reaching the decision at their two-day meeting that ended here on Friday.

“The opening of the new flight route linking Indonesia, particularly Papua, to Papua New Guinea will hopefully enhance economic cooperation between the two countries,” Chief of the Border Area and Foreign Cooperation of the Papua Provincial Government, Suzana Wanggai, said here on Friday.

She said the opening of the new flight route will not only benefit bilateral and economic cooperation but will also allow both sides to develop other sectors.

“The agreement to open the new flight route was reached at wide-ranging talks between the two countries which also discussed commonly-debated issues such as security, borders and so on,” she said.

The opening of the new flight route is also part of the effort to ensure connectivity between Papua and other areas and is in line with the vision and mission of the Papua governor and vice governor to develop their region, she said.

“Hopefully, the new flight route can be realized next year, enabling the two countries to soon develop the way they have planned,” she said.

She added that the opening of the new flight route can also enhance bilateral relations and cooperation between the two neighboring countries.

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Indonesia Urges Universities to attract African students

13 October 2015 Yogyakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has urged universities to attract students from African countries to pursue their education in Indonesia.

“This can strengthen the relations between Indonesia and Africa,” Director for Africa from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Larso Simbolon, said at a workshop here on Tuesday.

According to Larso, Indonesias universities should consider African countries as part of the effort to internationalize Indonesian higher education.

“The number of African students is still small,” he said, adding if more students from Africa start pursuing higher education in Indonesia, the countrys diplomatic relations with Africa will be more harmonious.

“Moreover, Africa has the potential to grow in terms of economy and also has natural resources,” he said.

The ministrys higher education institution guidance director, Totok Prasetyo, explained the reasons behind few African students coming to Indonesia.

Of the total 909 foreign students studying in Indonesia, 262 came from 32 countries in Africa.

“As of now, African students are not interested in studying in Indonesia,” he said.

Therefore, the embassy in Africa should promote Indonesian universities in that country.

“Indonesia’s representatives in Africa should promote Indonesian higher education,” he said.

Prasetyo pointed out that there are many fields of study that can be promoted in African countries, such as micro-finance and disaster management studies.

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Foreign tourists fond of traditional Indonesian cuisines

12 October 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Several foreign tourists visiting Jakarta are in fact fond of traditional Indonesian cuisines, according to Cinema 21 Director of Food and Beverage Dody Suhartono.

“Every day, we see many foreign tourists coming to our restaurant to enjoy traditional Indonesian cuisines, such as nasi rames (rice and side dishes served together), meatballs, soto (kind of soup), satay, and pickles,” Suhartono remarked here on Monday.

He noted that tourists visiting a restaurant located in Metropole historic building will easily be able to find traditional Indonesian cuisines from different regions across the country.

“The food we serve does not contain flavorings, but the foreign tourists have immensely liked them,” Suhartono said, adding that he chose to prepare natural broth that takes about seven hours.

Interestingly, this restaurant also serves food that is typical to the style of the past, such as the pudding tray duku, corn pudding platter, and ice gruel.

“In the past, we usually bought pudding tray duku from vendors, but now, all the foods are served at this restaurant is a hygienic way,” he noted.

He expressed hope that by serving such traditional cuisines, the visitors at the restaurant would be able to reminisce about the past.

According to Suhartono, the restaurant serves a menu encompassing the cuisines of all islands in Indonesia, including Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi, among several others.

Besides foreign tourists, several ambassadors from friendly countries also usually visit this restaurant.

“The most unique dish served at this restaurant is a vegetable made from papaya flowers, but it is prepared in a way that it does not taste bitter, in addition to gruel as well as traditional snacks and special pickles from Betawi,” he remarked.

Culinary expert William Wongso had earlier estimated that in the near future, the culinary mecca of the world will shift to Indonesia.

“Today, the mindset of the world community is different. People have tried different flavors, and in the near future, I believe the culinary mecca of the world will move to Indonesia,” William affirmed.

He noted that the cuisines of Indonesia have a unique taste and are rich in spices that had drawn the Europeans to colonize the country.

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Indonesian President chairs tourism development meeting

15 October 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo chaired a limited cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss the national development of the tourism industry.

“Amidst the ongoing global economic sluggishness, including in Indonesia, the tourism sector is the fast driving the economy. The number of tourist visits in August 2015 reached 850,000, reflecting an increase of 2.87 percent from that last year,” the President said.

The government has begun to improve the tourism promotion program, he stated.

“All countries in Southeast Asia have experienced a decline. Thank God, it increased (here), and this could pick up momentum, with the number of tourists visiting our country increasing. I have seen that the promotional material prepared by the tourism and cultural tourism is good,” he remarked.

Besides promotion, the government will also improve supporting infrastructure for the tourism industry.

“The problem is promotion and product improvement in the field,” he noted. The meeting also discussed transportation infrastructure development projects.

Among those who attended the meeting were Vice President M Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Rizal Ramli, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, and Transportation Minister Ignazius Jonan.

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