Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

26 Oct, 2015

UK company plans Tehran-Moscow luxury railway trip

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 26 October 2015 (13 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.




Iran’s Flowers, Medical Herbs Exports Stand at US$20 mln in 6 months

KHOMEIN, Central Prov. Oct 22, (NNN-IRNA) – Managing Director of Flower Houses, Medical Herbs and Mushrooms Affairs of Agricultural Jihad Ministry said Wednesday, Flower and medical herbs exports stood at $20 million over the past 6 months of current Iranian year (began on March 20).

Seyyed Mohammad Kiaie made the remarks in the opening ceremony of Mahallat 14th National Flowers and Medical Herbs Exhibit.

He said that the Iranian flowers and medicinal herbs were exported to the littoral countries of the Persian Gulf and the Central Asian countries.

‘The government has begun allocating bank facilities for expansion of the flower houses to contribute to increasing the production of flowers and herbs as of the beginning of the fall season,’ added Kiaie.

He said that the area of indoors and outdoors flower houses in Iran is 718 hectares today in which 10,000 people are employed, adding that each year some 7% is added to the cultivation area.

Back to top

LEAD UK company plans Tehran-Moscow luxury railway trip

Tehran, Oct 24, IRNA – A luxury train company connecting world capitals plans to launch a tour service between Moscow and Tehran after running a successful first-ever adventure from Hungary to the Iranian capital.

malaysia logo

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

Golden Eagle Luxury Trains will travel along the route of the Silk Road through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, beginning in 2016, the company said on its website.

The British private travel agency operated its first excursion in October 2014, crossing the Balkans and the Bosphorus in Turkey on the way to Iran aboard deluxe railcars.

But it had to stop the service in late August this year after Turkey closed a section of the track in response to unrest in its Kurdish-populated east.

The trip costs from 13,595 pounds per person, including 14 nights on board in an en suite cabin, a night in a hotel in Moscow and two nights in Tehran, Golden Eagle said.

It offers full service, sightseeing programs and the beautiful scenery that rolls leisurely by for 6,012 miles.

The Iranian government plans to spend heavily to develop its tourism industry in an ambitious plan aimed at attracting 20 million foreign travelers and up to 30 billion a year by 2025.

The country is among the world’s top potential tourist destinations with a treasure trove of ancient sites, including 19 places listed on the UNESCO.

Tourism officials have said they expect a “tsunami” of foreign tourists when Western sanctions are lifted on the country.

Iran has started to issue 30-day visas for tourists from 58 countries upon arrival in its airports, local media reported on Wednesday.

Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, has said the government’s new policies and the easing of visa rules are opening the door for the return of foreign tourists.

“For tourism development in Iran, our organization has prepared a package for $25 billion of investment in 1,300 projects,” he said in September on the sidelines of a signing ceremony to hand over two hotels in Tehran to France’s AccorHotels.

Hotel groups from several countries are pushing to boost their portfolios in Iran which is being tagged as the most lucrative emerging hospitality development market. (Press TV)

Back to top

OIC to launch specialised TV channel in 3 languages

Friday 23 Oct 2015 – Jeddah, (IINA) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has taken another step toward launching a new television channel, which aims at providing a positive change in the Islamic world, Arab News reported.

OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani said: “The Islamic world today urgently needs to have a serious and meaningful television channel that would contribute to positive change and help Muslims achieve their goals”.

OIC’s Communications Director Maha Akeel read out Madani’s comments during a recent meeting of the ad hoc committee tasked with launching the channel at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah.

Madani said the new channel will broadcast across the world and that it will discuss issues affecting Muslims, create awareness of Islamic teachings, and encourage solidarity that would ensure action is taken on critical matters as defined in the OIC charter.

He added that the current developments that are taking place in the Islamic world had motivated the OIC to improve its media capabilities, which would be used to “defend and clarify our mission, identity values, culture values and invest in what this nation has in terms of its immense human and natural resources”.

The meeting discussed the draft of a feasibility study submitted by Lola New Horizon (Madrid), Media Research and Consultancy (Madrid) and Creative Media Solutions (Dubai).

“We are now in the process of discussing the financial, legal and management aspects of the television channel”, said Akeel. “We will now be looking for partnerships with private investors and with those who have knowledge of the television industry”.

According to Akeel, the channel is expected to launch within two years, and it will broadcast in English, Arabic and French, the three official languages of the OIC, noting that there will be a simultaneous broadcast on the internet for the channel.

She pointed out that the channel would not be a 24-hour news channel. “We are not competing with CNN or BBC or other mainstream English or Arabic television channels. But we will definitely focus on the core issues of the Muslim world, such as that of Palestine”.

Back to top

Iran Issues 30-Day Visas At Airports

TEHRAN, Oct 22, (NNN-IRNA) – Iran has started to issue 30-day visas for tourists from 58 countries upon arrival in its airports. The Persian-language newspaper Donya-ye Eqtesad reported that the move is in line with a plan that was approved by the government two months ago. The visas can be extended by 15 more days, the report added.

Foreign tourists could previously get 14-day visas at Iran’s airports and their visas could not be extended.

The plan mostly benefits tourists from Europe. Eligible countries are Azerbaijan, Albania, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Armenia, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Italy, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Cyprus, Belarus, Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Luxembourg, Poland, Georgia, Norway, the Netherlands, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Greece.

Next are tourists from Asian and Pacific countries including Uzbekistan, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Bahrain, Brunei, Japan, Singapore, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Palestine, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, South Korea, North Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Vietnam, and India.

Citizens from Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico can also apply for 30-day visas upon arrival in Iran.

Donya-ye Eqtesad added that the instant visa is obtainable for tourists from the above-mentioned countries and it does not apply to those who hold official passports as well as businessmen and journalists.

It also said that there is no restriction for foreign tourists to obtain a visa upon their arrival at Iranian airports several times within a year.

However, citizens of the USA, Somali, the UK, Canada, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot obtain visa upon their arrival in airports and they need to obtain visa from Iranian consular services in their countries, the report concluded, according to Press TV.

Iran has revoked visa requirements for nationals of 7 countries as part of its plans to boost tourism industry in the country. The citizens of Turkey, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Bolivia, Egypt and Syria can travel to Iran and stay in the country without visa from 15 to 90 days under the new visa requirement regulations

Other reports say Iran wants reciprocal visa waiver programs with 28 countries as part of its bid to boost inbound tourism.

The instant visa program is part of a wider plan by the Iranian government to boost revenues through attracting tourists. Officials say the country plans to attract 20 million foreign tourists in order to generate up to $30 billion in revenues a year by 2025.

Back to top

Kuala Lumpur to be among top livable cities by 2020

Tuesday 20 Oct 2015 – Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – Malaysian Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan has said that Kuala Lumpur is being readied to become a world-class metropolis and one of the top livable cities by 2020, BERNAMA reported.

“A major ongoing project is the Mass Rapid Transit system that is expected to bolster the investment proposition of Greater Kuala Lumpur, the pulse of Malaysia’s economic activity,” he added when closing the Third Meeting of Governors/Mayors of ASEAN Capitals, here on Tuesday.

Tengku Adnan believed that networking among ASEAN capitals – to be signed into the Kuala Lumpur Declaration – would become a reality and improve the quality of life in the cities concerned.

He said Kuala Lumpur aimed to double tourist arrivals to 16 million by 2025 while generating 4 billion Malaysian Ringgits in additional investments and creating 71,000 job opportunities.

“To achieve this, Kuala Lumpur will need to unlock its full potential as a destination by developing an ambitious strategic plan across all key tourism segments,” he said.

Back to top

Malaysia’s Islamic Finance Industry Poised For Greater Growth

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 (NNN-BERNAMA) — Malaysia’s Islamic finance industry is poised for a greater future and will grow in line with the national aspiration of becoming a global hub, said Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

“It (the industry) is set to grow. Its international dimension will continue to increase because we are becoming an international hub for Islamic finance,” she told reporters after presenting scrolls to International Centre For Education In Islamic Finance (INCEIF) graduates here Saturday.

Zeti said the convocation, for 248 graduates from 40 countries, was an initiative to provide great talent that would help drive and spur the industry, going forward.

Locals made up 55 per cent of the graduates followed by students from Somalia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Yemen, Brazil, the United States and Germany

“This would be a tremendous boost for the industry that has always complained that they don’t have enough talent. That’s why we established Inceif.

“This is an investment by Bank Negara. It achieved everything that we wanted in developing talent and in carrying out research,” she said.

Zeti, who is also INCEIF Chancellor, said Malaysia was increasingly being recognised throughout the world for being at the forefront of research in Islamic finance.

INCEIF President and Chief Executive Officer Daud Vicary Abdullah said Malaysia was recognised as a leader in every aspect of Islamic finance, be it for legislation, reporting structure, governance structure, human capital and instrument development and, independent reporting.

“Malaysia is probably twice as far ahead as the next competitor in terms of its infrastructure to grow and support Islamic finance,” he said.

Daud also said Malaysia must continue producing top quality graduates from as many countries as possible to carry the message forward.

Back to top

Algeria: 20th International Craft Industry Fair – Best Stands Rewarded

22 October 2015 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) — The best innovative stands in crafts, woodwork, metalwork, glassware and home-made dresses have been rewarded Wednesday in Algiers during the 20th International Craft Industry Fair.

Six stands have been chosen by the National Commission of Craft Industry for “their creativity, attractiveness and high level of marketing of products.

A honorary award was given to the State of Palestine, the Fair’s guest of honour, in the presence of several members of the government.

In this regard, Minister of Town Planning, Tourism and Craft Industry Amar Ghoul hailed the “excellent quality” of the national handicraft product presented at the fair which received “800 Algerian artisans and 120 foreign craftsmen.”

The Minister also emphasized the need to “promote creativity through the consolidation of training to enable artisans to compete in international markets.”

Ghoul said his sector will continue “to support artisans to make crafts industry complementary to the tourism sector, a key element of economic development.”

A Prize of Crafts will be awarded to the best product in November, on the occasion of the National Day of Crafts Industry.

Back to top

Uganda: Date Set for Second Sabiny Tourism Fete

18 October 2015 – The Monitor – Kapchorwa — The second annual Sabiny Culture and Tourism Festival has been set for November 11 to November 14, a month later than the earlier date, officials close to the organisation have told the Sunday Monitor.

Mr Kalifani Chemutai, the chairman organising committee of the Sebei Cultural Centre that is in charge of the festival, said they had written a letter to President Museveni over the event.

The letter says: “With support from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, together with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the festival will attract local, regional and international participants to celebrate Sabiny positive culture and share ideas with the Sabiny community… ”

The Kapchorwa Resident District Commissioner, Ms Jane Frances Kuka, signed the letter, which also asks President Museveni to invite Kenyan Deputy President William Samoei Ruto.

Back to top

Nigeria: FAAN to Construct Second Runway at Abuja Airport

18 October 2015 – Daily Trust – Lagos — The Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engr. Saleh Dunoma, has assured of the provision of a second runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Speaking with newsmen in Lagos at the weekend, he said due to the increase in passenger and airline movement at the airport, a second runway would prevent deterioration of the existing one.

He said: “The second runway is very important; it is key to our operations. The present runway has deteriorated so much such that we need to do a major work on it to make it better. So the second runway will be necessary. You cannot afford to close Abuja airport because it is the seat of government and it is important to our economy”.

He added that given the present rate of growth in the industry, the existing runway may not effectively sustain the traffic.

The event had earlier been set for October 10 and 11, but the organising committee claimed they did not have support from the government and had to look for other means to fund the event, hence the delay.

Mr Chemutai blames the failure by government to get involved in the activity on political intrigue. Last month when presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi visited Kapchorwa, Mr Chemutai was the lead organiser of the welcoming entourage. He was introduced to the crowds as the Go Forward candidate for Tinger County MP to take on incumbent, Dr Stephen Chebrot.

Last year, the event was held on December 29 and a host of activities were held to showcase Sabiny culture and norms. President Museveni was the chief guest at the event held at the cultural centre in Kakwai, Kapchorwa District.

Early this year, Mr Sali Gadafi, the tourism development officer in the Ministry of Tourism, paid a visit to the centre ahead of the event.

“We have been sent by the Ministry of Tourism to help in the preparations of the venue ahead of the festival in September. We are very impressed by the organising committee who are about to complete the VIP section at the venue even before government steps in as directed by the President. We are here today to guide and work with the organising committee for the success of the festival, it’s a great initiative that will boast tourism in Sebei sub-region,” said Gadafi.

Back to top

Mauritius and Palestine to Reinforce Tourism Cooperation

19 October 2015 – Government of Mauritius (Port Louis) – Mauritius and Palestine will further reinforce cooperation in the tourism sector whereby both countries will explore the various possibilities to attract more tourists from Palestine to Mauritius and vice-versa.

This was the focus of discussion during a courtesy call by the Minister of Tourism of Palestine, Mrs Rula Ma’ayah, on the Prime Minister, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, on October 16, at the Treasury Building in Port Louis.

In a statement, Mrs Rula Ma’ayah, expressed overall satisfaction regarding discussions with the Prime Minister in view of reinforcing relations between Palestine and Mauritius. She also thanked Mauritius for its unflinching support to the Palestinian cause in the United Nations Human Rights Council. According to her, Mauritius though being a small country has equally the same importance as other countries, for its vote is determining.

Mrs Rula Ma’ayah also qualified her mission as being fruitful for having the opportunity to discover the numerous facets in the tourism sphere which she can share back in Palestine with regards tourism promotion.

It will be recalled that the Minister of Tourism of Palestine, was in Mauritius from 15 to 18 October 2015 at the invitation of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Tourism and External Communications, Mr Xavier-Luc Duval, during his visit in Palestine this year.

During her stay, Mrs Rula Ma’ayah also met different stakeholders evolving in the tourism sector as well as attended several conferences.

Back to top

Uganda: Tourism Continues to Make Positive Strides

21 October 2015 – The Observer (Kampala) – Uganda continues to stamp its mark on the international tourism scene.

A couple of months after winning the Best Exhibitor Award at the Indaba Tourism Expo in Durban, South Africa, Uganda has once again won more accolades, the most recent being at the just-concluded Magical Kenya International Tourism Expo.

Uganda was awarded the Best Overall Exhibition Stand and Best Stand Design at East Africa’s biggest and most popular international expo, which took place in Diani, near the city of Mombasa, Kenya.

The expo, which happens every year, attracted more than 120 participants from 35 countries, 16 of which were Ugandan, according to Kenya Tourism Board.

This milestone, according to Stephen Asiimwe, the chief executive officer of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), comes at a time when the board has focused its efforts towards allocating more resources to marketing the country internationally.

“This is proof that Uganda has what it takes to be a major tourism destination,” Vincent Mugaba, UTB’s head of public relations, told The Observer.

“We have just come out of the blue and now competing with big players. If, with our small budget, we can do this, then it means it’s just the beginning because our budget is beginning to grow.”

Recently, the country got a boost of $25m (about Shs75bn) from the World Bank as contribution towards the growth of the tourism sector. Tourism is Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda, with an annual GDP contribution of 7.9 per cent.

UTB estimates that last year, receipts from tourist arrivals amounted to $1.39bn. This is figure expected to shoot to $2bn per annum in the next five years, according to projections from the tourism master plan.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, tourist arrivals last year stood at 1,266,046 tourists, indicating a five per cent increment from 1,206,334 in 2013.

“Right now there is an interest on Uganda because our parks aren’t congested and we have diverse cultural heritage,” Mugaba says.

This November, Uganda hosts the Pearl of Africa tourism expo that will attract foreigners.

Back to top

Uganda’s Tourism ‘Oscars’ Set for November

23 October 2015 – The Observer (Kampala) – All is set for the first edition of the Tourism Excellence Awards (TEA) at Imperial Royale hotel, on November 20.

The awards, recognizing the key enterprises and personalities in the subsectors that service and shape the tourism sector in Uganda, will be the climax of the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo.

President Museveni is expected to preside over the prestigious event. The expo, going into its second year, will run from November 17 to 19 under the theme ‘Family and Travel.’

It aims at raising the profile of ‘Destination Uganda’ domestically, regionally and internationally. The expo brings together tourism stakeholders along the tourism value chain.

It is a unique opportunity for the tourism business operators to meet new clients, network, promote and market their businesses.

Edwin Muzahura, the Uganda Tourism Board marketing manager, said the only way to improve the level of service delivery in this fast-growing sector is to get the customers to assess the service providers.

This explains why the public, with the guidance of the award’s technical committee, does the nominations and voting using the online and SMS platform. The best exhibitors, both foreign and local, will also be awarded at the gala night.

Over 10 national tourism authorities in the region have confirmed participation, among them Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Rwanda and Namibia. The expo will take place at the Kampala Serena gardens from 9am to 6pm, daily.

Back to top

Sudan Plans Sennar As Capital of Islamic Culture Project

18 October 2015 – Sudan News Agency (Khartoum) — The First Vice-President of the Republic, Lt. Gen. Bakri Hassan Salih chaired on Sunday at the Council of Ministers’ General Secretariat the meeting of the Higher National Committee for Sennar, as Capital of Islamic Culture Project for year 2017 in the presence of a number of Walis (governors) of participating States and the concerned Ministers.

He asserted that efforts will continue until the project achieves its aspired goals.

The meeting reviewed report of performance of the General Secretariat of Sennar as Capital of Islamic Culture Project from October, 2014 to October 2015 along with discussing remaining of the 2015 plan which includes implementation of a number of projects and programs according to the six key axes.

The Committee also deliberated over general feature of the General Secretariat Plan for the year 2016 which set to prepare Sennar town to receive the event and to make the activities and tourism and cultural programs planed to be implemented in 2017.

The meeting gave directive for completing the infrastructural projects.

The meeting indicate the role of media in promotion for importance of the project and solicit of foreign support as well as importance of contribution of sons of Sennar, in particular and sons of Sudan, as general, to the project.

Back to top

Sudan Approves Visa Waiver with Vietnam for Official Passports

22 October 2015 – Sudan News Agency (Khartoum) — The Council of Ministers chaired by the President of the Republic, Field Marshal, Omer Al-Basher approved in its regular meeting, Thursday, an agreement on mutual exemption of visas between Sudan and Vietnam.

The agreement which included the diplomatic, special and official passports presented by the Foreign Minister, Prof. Ibrahim Ghandour who pointed out to the growing political and economic relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the cabinet heard to a report on launching of the 11th session of Khartoum International Book Fair presented by the Minister of Culture, Al- Tayeb Hassan Badawi.

The report pointed to the participation of 500 local and foreign publication house in the exhibition, including 267 Arab publication house with more than a million books as well as wide participation of publishers, authors, intellectuals and writers.

Back to top

Gambia to Host International Conference On Islamic Civilisation

19 October 2015 – The Point (Banjul) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Research Centre for Islamic History, Arts and Culture (IRCICA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOHERST) Friday signed a memorandum of understanding for The Gambia to host conference on Islamic civilisation in mid-2016.

The signing ceremony was held at the ministry’s office in Kotu at the Futurelec Building, and the MoU defined the roles of each of the parties involved, including the Gambia government, IRCICA and Turkey.

Prof. Dr. Halit Eren, Director General of Organization of Islamic Cooperation Research Centre for Islamic History, Arts and Culture (IRCICA), said IRCICA is an inter-Governmental organization of the OIC cultural centre based in Istanbul, Turkey.

He said IRCICA as the centre of the OIC is organising activities all over the world not only in the member countries, but also in non-member countries and in the regions were Muslim communities are found.

He said a series of Islamic civilization symposiums were held in all these regions.

Prof. Dr. Halit Eren said this would be the second conference in West Africa as the first was held in Dakar, Senegal, adding that during the conference they would have a scholar’s symposium, academic symposium and so on, and they would invite all scholars from the regions and all over the world.

The MoU would bring a new start between IRCICA and The Gambia and they would focus on other activities in the coming years.

Dr. Abubacarr Senghore, Minister of High Education Research Science and Technology, said it was not surprising for Turkey to be a genuine friend of The Gambia and Africa at large.

The MoU was endorsed by President Yahya Jammeh about two years ago, he said.

The difference between the one that would be held in The Gambia and one held in Senegal is that the conference to be held inThe Gambia is going to cover the entire landscape of Islamic civilization.

He said the Gambia would also host the OIC summit in 2018.

He said Banjul had over the years hostedmany conferences, but this one was very unique, adding that it is a very important event and they are grateful to IRCICA as it is a very big opportunity for them.

Ergin Soner, Turkish Ambassador to The Gambia, said the significance of the meeting was the signing ceremony for further cooperation between IRCICA and The Gambia.

He said in the second half of 2016,they are going to have in The Gambia the Islamic civilization conference.

They would also try to observe the culture and scientific relations, and want to establish and improve relations not only in the field of politics and economy, but also in the field of culture, research, education, science and technology, the ambassador continued.

Ambassador Soner said they are grateful for the contributions of the IRCICA and also the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, adding that they are determined to improve bilateral relations between Turkey and Gambia, but also relations especially in Sub-Saharan countries in the field of science, research, technology and education.

He said two years ago, during the Tourism Ministers conference in 2013, they were received by President Yahya Jammeh and they proposed to the President to hold the symposium in The Gambia.

He said the next OIC Summit after the one in Istanbul would be held in The Gambia in 2018.

Cherno Omar Barry, PS for MOHERST, said the visit is a follow up following a governmental agreement between the ministry and the centre, and also the Government of Turkey, to host in The Gambia the fourth international congress of Islamic civilization in West Africa.

They are realising all the commitments and promises made during a visit led by the Minister of Higher Education to Turkey, PS Barry said.

He said the purpose of the meeting was to sign an agreement that had already being established for a while now, which was going to allow The Gambia to host the International Congress on Islamic Civilization in West Africa.

He said the congress is going to be a platform for sharing their knowledge, research on issues related to Islam, Islamic civilization, Arabic influence in Africa as well as a host of other areas of interest.

Back to top

Gambian Tourist Board hails role of Travel Agents

19 October 2015 – The Daily Observer (Banjul) – Abdoullah Hydara, director general of Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board) has underscored the importance of travel agents whose role he described to be “very critical in the success of tourism.”

Hydara was speaking during a recent welcome dinner accorded top 60 Belgian travel agents on their arrival at Destination Gambia last Friday, 16th October 2015.

The Belgian delegation are in the country to learn and sell the Destination Gambia in Belgium and beyond. Their trip was jointly made possible by Glenaki Tourism Industry Consultancy, through the Gambia Tourism Board, in collaboration with the Brussels Airlines.

DG Hydara expressed his satisfaction over their arrival, noting that it was yet another epoch-making and history in the tourism development of the country – for the first time to witness large number of travel agents in the country at a go.

Reiterating the significant role of the travel agents, he noted that it is from them customers inquire and seek advice when making their booking to any country.

The director general further described travel agents as very important component in the tourism industry, noting that they appreciate and sell destination better once they learn about the country because they are well informed.

He projected that the country would experience an unprecedented winter tourism 2015/2016, while applauding Glenaki Tourism Industry and the Brussels Airlines for their efforts in facilitating the arrival of the 60 top Belgian travel agents to Destination Gambia.

In a similar contribution, Adama Njie said travel agents do serve as good ambassadors of any nation they understand when it comes to selling of such destination. He affirmed that the arrival of such a large number of agents will be used as a yardstick to all GT Board’s international public relations and marketing firms representing the Gambia Tourism Board in different countries for replication.

Back to top

Zimbabwe: Zimtrade Seeks to Boost Mozambique Exports

21 October 2015 – Zimbabwe Independent (Harare) – Trade between Zimbabwe and its second largest export destination, Mozambique is set to improve after business leaders from the neighbouring country expressed interest in local mining, engineering and fast food consumer goods sectors, the country’s trade facilitation body has said.

Zimbabwe enjoys a trade surplus with Mozambique one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa- currently growing at an average annual real gross domestic product growth rate of 8%.

Official figures show that exports to Mozambique, at US$577 million in 2014 accounted for 18,8% of the country’s total exports against imports of US$148 million.

ZimTrade, the country’s trade facilitation body on Tuesday said a business delegation from Mozambique, comprising 12 companies, will participate in an Inward Buyer Mission from November 3 to 6.

“The delegation will comprise buyers interested in sourcing products from Zimbabwean suppliers in the following sectors: mining consumables; protective clothing; building and construction; automotive; engineering products and services; fast moving consumer goods such as dairy products, fruit and vegetables, among others,” ZimTrade said in a statement.

“The Mission is an integral part of ZimTrade’s efforts to continue to grow trade between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Since 2012, total trade between the two countries has increased by 64% from US$443 million to US$725 million in 2014.”

The four-day mission will commence with a half-day Trade and Investment Seminar to be held on 3 November 2015, and will be followed by business-to-business meetings, ZimTrade says.

Experts say Mozambique is a lucrative market whose logistical proximity presents tangible advantages for local companies.

Zimbabwe and Mozambique are both members of the Southern African Development Community and qualifying products enjoy duty free entry into either country. Additionally, the two countries have an operational bilateral trade agreement, which also gives duty concessions to qualifying products.

Back to top

Morocco Launches US$90 Mln Oued Martil Development Project

20 October 2015 – Maghreb Arabe Presse – Tetouan — King Mohammed VI launched, Tuesday in the northern city of Tetouan, the development and recalibration works of Oued Martil, a high environmental, social, urban and economic impact project, part of the integrated economic and urban development program of the city (2014-2018).

The USD 91-million project reflects the particular interest granted by the Sovereign to environmental protection and sustainable development, as well as His constant commitment to promote the economic attractiveness of Tetouan, improve the living conditions of its population and open new urbanization zones.

It stems from a comprehensive and integrated vision aiming at protecting the towns of Tetouan and Martil against the risk of flooding, creating an urban area on the banks of Oued Martil that could contain the future expansion of the city of Tetouan and host residential, cultural, recreational, sports, business and commercial spaces.

The development and recalibration project of the bed of Oued Martil will stabilize the banks of the Oued and thus service nearly 1,600 hectares, which would relieve the current urban pressure on the city, more particularly in the old medina and the “Ensanche” neighborhood, and enable these two historic sites to get anew their heritage and tourist vocation.

The serviced land will accommodate areas dedicated to economic and commercial development (shopping centers), large-scale facilities (bus station, indoor sports complex), cultural activities (Madinat Al Maarifa, Islamic cultural center, cultural complex, museum), tourism activities (corniche, marina, golf, hotels, tourist residences, landscaped parks, camping), and housing prjects (standard and social housing).

During the development of this area, special attention will be given to the integration of existing neighborhoods and respect for social diversity.

This pilot project will reinforce the five-year program of economic and urban development of Tetouan which is meant to improve the living conditions of local population, promote the assets of this region and consolidate the position of the city at the national level.

Back to top

Tourism Minister, Mayor To Hold Confab On Georgetown Beautification

18th October, 2015 – GINA – Minister of Tourism, Catherine Hughes will meet for the first time in her official capacity with Mayor of Georgetown, Hamilton Green for their first in-depth discussion on the M&CC’s city beautification programme. She will be accompanied by recently appointed Director General of Tourism, Donald Sinclair.

High on the agenda will be the Ministry’s plans to officially adopt a section of the Camp St. Avenue and replant a number of Flambouyant saplings. These thickly flowering trees in the past used to provide Camp St. with a colourful aesthetic beauty rivaled only by Brickdam and Avenue of the Republic.

The team is also expected to discuss issues surrounding the restoration of Georgetown’s iconic structures, and the landscaping and ‘greening’ of the entire city to restore its sobriquet: The Garden City.

Minister Hughes expressed the hope that this discussion will be the first of many since the Ministry intends to collaborate with M&CC as far as possible in its efforts to restore the city centre and every section and ward from Water Street, north to the East Coast and south to the East Bank of Demerara.

She pointed out that many tourists, even those who visit Guyana to experience the wonders of our numerous waterfalls and our flora and fauna in the Hinterland, request sight-seeing tours to our heritage sites in the city. The unique architecture of the Stabroek Market, Parliament Buildings and the St. George’s Cathedral is still talked about on social media.

Back to top

Bangladesh Seeks U.N. Support To Boost Buddhist Tourism

DHAKA, Oct 23 (NNN-BSS) — Bangladesh wants support from the United Nations for improvement of infrastructure of its over 500 ancient Buddhist relics and archeological sites to attract a large number of Buddhist tourists out of 480 million Buddhist followers around the world.

“We would like to see UN initiative in encouraging international donors for infrastructure improvement centering our major Buddhist archaeological sites like Paharpur, Mahasthangarh and Moinamoti so that we can include Bangladesh in the South Asian Buddhists Tourist Circuit,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) Akhtaruzzaman Khan Kabir told BSS.

He said the UN has supported Cambodia in improving its historic Buddhist sites and presently Cambodia has a share of two million Buddhist tourists annually.

The BTB chief said Civil Aviation and Tourism Minster Rashed Khan Menon held a meeting with United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary General Taleb Rifai and sought UN support in this regard at a conference in Cambodia early this year.

After the meeting, as per advice of the UNWTO, the Bangladesh government has decided to organize a two-day international conference on Buddhist Circuit with the participation of 13 Buddhist populated countries in Dhaka city on Oct 27-28 to prepare an action-based roadmap to improve Buddhist tourism in Bangladesh.

“The Buddhist archeological sites are our ready tourist products, we need an action-oriented roadmap to build infrastructure and a global standard planning to attract Buddhist tourists,” he said.

He said the Bangladesh government expects that the UNWTO will involve international donors and investors for improving infrastructure centering Buddhist settlements here as per the roadmap of the conference.

Kabir said UNWTO is giving technical support to the Bangladesh government through its world renowned Buddhist tourism experts in organizing the conference.

The UNWTO nominated its advisor Ludwig G. Rieder, a renowned expert on Buddhist tourism, as the moderator of the conference who will also present a major paper on the flourish of Buddhist tourism in Bangladesh.

“He has already visited different Buddhist attractions in Bangladesh to have himself prepared for the main paper of the conference that will give a guideline to make the roadmap,” Kabir said.

Kabir said he will help build a platform for Buddhist tourism with networking of tourism players of regional countries, especially among Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.

In his marketing research, Director of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) Masud Hossain projected that Bangladesh can earn six billion US dollars in revenue in a year, if it can attract 1.5 lakh foreign tourists to visit Buddhist heritage sites annually.

Presently, 1.3 million tourists visit different Buddhist sites in Nepal, Bhutan and India while Myanmar received 3.5 million Buddhist tourists in 2014 and set a target of getting 7.5 million by 2020.

“If our neighbouring countries can attract a lot of Buddhist tourists, then why we can’t make it despite having historic Buddhist sites like Paharpur, Mahasthangarh and Moinamoti,” Masud said.

According to the Indian Bureau of Statistics, about 2.25 lakh foreign tourists visited Gaya in 2014 while over two lakh in Bodhgaya, 1.25 lakh in Nalanda and 1.25 lakh in Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha.

Masud said only 3,241 foreign tourists visited three ancient Buddhist sites — Paharpur, Mahasthangarh and Moinamoti — to date.

Back to top

German FM Promotes Cultural Diplomacy In Tehran

TEHRAN, Oct .20, (NNN-IRNA) – Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art signed an agreement with Germany’s Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation to boost cultural and artistic ties.

This was signed in the presence of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Ambassador to Tehran Michael von Ungern-Sternberg and Ali Moradkhani, art deputy of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

The agreement includes organizing a joint exhibition of German and Iranian modern art in Berlin, Mehr News Agency reported.

The German officials also visited artworks by Iranian and German artists and said the museum and its art collection reflect Iran’s rich heritage.

“Cultural diplomacy plays a major role in achieving the objectives of enhanced bilateral ties and sets right the wrong perceptions in Europe of Iran and Islam,” Steinmeier said.

He said “this is not merely an agreement, but a good opportunity to compensate for the shortcomings of the past in cultural and artistic exchanges between the two sides, and the chance has arisen once again.”

Moradkhani expressed hope that such collaborations will extend artistic cooperation between the two nations and introduce Iranian art to the world. The Prussian foundation in Berlin, was established in 1957 to acquire and preserve the cultural legacy of the former state of Prussia.

Back to top

Indonesia Wins Three World Halal Destination Awards

JAKARTA, Oct 21 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia won three awards as the world halal tourism destination at the World Travel Awards 2015 event held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said here on Wednesday that the award reinforces Indonesia as a world-class halal tourist destination.

“This victory is for all of us, and in the future, we should be more focused on developing Indonesia as a global halal tourist destination,” he noted.

Indonesia successfully won the award for the Best Halal Tourist Destination and the Best Halal Honeymoon Destination for Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara province as well as the Best Family-Friendly Hotel for Sofyan Hotel.

The winners of the World Halal Travel Awards 2015 were announced at a gala dinner in Abu Dhabi on October 20, 2015, in conjunction with the World Halal Travel Summit 2015.

Indonesia competed with Malaysia and Turkey to win the halal tourist destination award.

The minister revealed that Indonesia was nominated in five categories as it is considered as one of the fastest-growing countries in global tourism.

“This award is given to those who are the best in the international travel and halal tourism industries,” Arief emphasized.

The World Halal Travel Summit and Exhibition is established by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Back to top

Search For Natural Treasures In Pulau Kukup Off The Straits Of Melaka

JOHOR BAHARU, MALAYSIA, Oct 22 (NNN-Bernama) — Pulau Kukup is a mangrove island located 1 km offshore from the predominately Chinese fishing village of Kukup on the mainland, at the southwest coast of Johor state, off the Straits of Melaka.

Though the island is lesser known to outsiders, Pulau Kukup with a status of a National Park has a wealth of natural attractions luring those who love nature and outdoor activities.

The island among others has a river flowing and a verdant landscape that provides a tranquil atmosphere.

The national park is also the second largest uninhabited mangrove island in the world and the only mangrove island in the state, said Pulau Kukup National Park assistant manager Rosmona Musa.

“It was opened to the public on Aug 31, 2003 and the island was declared a Ramsar (Wetlands of International Importance) site on Jan 31, 2003, along with Tanjung Piai and Sungai Pulai,” she added.

Visitors to the island have to take a 10 minute boat ride to get there from the Kukup fishing village that is located in the district of Pontian.

Undeniably, one look at the 150 year old fishing village does not reveal anything and it passes off as just another fishing village.

Walk through the narrow streets and fishermen can be seen unloading their catch, old men puffing away as they chat by the roadside and fishmongers waiting for customers.

Spanning 1,447 hectares, whereby the mangrove forest makes up 647 hectares of the island, the uninhabited island boasts of a unique ecosystem.

“If we talk about national parks in Pontian, Tanjung Piai located close by will usually come to mind although there are two national parks in the district namely Tanjung Piai and Pulau Kukup.

“Besides that, Johor also has the Endau Rompin National Park (Peta entrance) Endau Rompin National Park (Selai entrance), Gunung Ledang National Park and the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park,” she said.

The island’s land formation is also quite unique and Rosmona says there is a myth to why the landscape is different compared to others.

While other islands have inconsistent land formations with high and low land due to the presence of hills, Pulau Kukup is just flat.

According to local myths, the area had been cursed that caused the island to overturn and sink. The bottom part of the island then resurfaced and was covered with mangrove forests, she explained.

“The island was also said to be a popular pirate’s nest back in the days because its location. The name Kukup was is believed to come from the word ‘telungkup’, that in Malay means overturn or ‘gugup’ that means bewilderment,” she added.

Rich in biodiversity, the island is home to 12 species of vertebrate fauna, over 76 bird species including the endangered ‘botak kecil’ (lesser adjutant).

The writer’s hopes for a glimpse of the bird, which was fond of nesting on tall trees, was dashed.

This is because the 15 metre high suspension bridge that straddles 30 metres over Sungai Ular and Pulau Kukup was shut down due to safety factors, said Rosmona.

However, her disappointment was shortlived as the panorama of Pulau Kukup was even more spectacular from an observation deck that stood 18 metres high.

Located at the end of the road accessed by visitors, getting to the top of the five-storey tower may be daunting but the view of the forest canopy makes it all worth it.

Bird lovers visiting from September to February will be treated to the sight of birds migrating as the national park is a stopover location.

This is because the southwest coast of the island is a muddy shore that acts as an important food source for migratory birds and other wildlife.

The plethora of flora and mangrove trees there can also be viewed closely by taking a stroll on the 600-metre long pedestrian platform or 120-metre arboretum provided.

The national park where 23 natural mangrove species grow also hosts endangered mangrove species like the ‘Berus Mata Buaya’ (Bruguiera Hainesii).

“Here we work to conserve the Berus Mata Buaya mangrove. We have eight of them here,” said Pulau Kukup National Park Wildlife assistant Ismail Sairan.


Mangrove trees by the coast of Pulau Kukup can reach up to 18 metres also contain the largest ‘bakau minyak’ (Rhizophora Apiculata) in Peninsular Malaysia.

The Malaysia Book Of Records (MBOR) has also recognised the size of these trees.

Even more interesting was finding a hybrid of the ‘bakau minyak’ and ‘akik jalar’ (rhizophora stylosa) named ‘rhizophora x lamarckii’, which is estimated to be 100 years old.

“Here we also have all kinds of sea snails such as ‘siput sedut mata merah’ and ‘siput berongan’, fiddler crab, water monitor lizard and other species that can be observed up close,” he said.

Mangrove forests are very important to the survival and growth of marine and land life. It is not only a source of food, but is also a shelter and protects against erosion. Therefore, should be taken care of.

On the island, conservation activities are actively carried out such as planting of mangrove trees and planting of 100 seeds.

With not less than 50,000 visitors to the national park each year, the natural treasures of Pulau Kukup promises an invaluable nature experience.

Back to top

Street Arts Festival In Malaysia In Nov

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 (NNN-Bernama) — The Busker and Indie band competitions will be among activities lined-up for the MaTiC Street Arts Festival to be held here Nov 7 and 8.

The festival, to be held for the first time and organised by the Malaysian Tourism Centre (MaTiC), will also feature performances by artistes and demonstration on comic and cartoon drawing, mural and graffiti painting, street football competition.

Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said the festival could help promote the diversity and uniqueness of Malaysia to tourists.

It could also serve as a platform for those in the art industry to promote their talent and works, she told a media conference on the festival here.

She said in organising the festival, it would also indirectly promote MaTiC as one of the Kuala Lumpur tourism icons and a one-stop tourism information centre.

Among the local artistes to perform during the festival are Akim and Majistret, Bunkface, Lan Typewriter, S.O.G, Ana Rafali, Shiha, Ainan Tasneem and Sakura Band.

There will also be a ‘Flash Hollywood and Football’ exhibition at the MaTiC Mini Auditorium and Gallery from Nov 6 to 8.

Back to top

World Bank Offers US$250m To Develop Key Afghan Route

KABUL, Oct 21 (NNN-Xinhua) — The World Bank has provided a grant of 250 million U.S. dollars to Afghan government to help improve road transport links along a main highway linking the capital of Kabul to the northern provinces, said a statement issued by the bank here Wednesday.

The grant was approved to help support the Afghan government’s efforts to improve road transport links across the Hindukush mountain range, including the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel, the statement said.

Built in the 1960s and located between 2,500 and 3,400 meters altitude above sea level, the Salang pass is a critical road that connects Afghanistan’s northern provinces, in addition to Central Asian countries, with the rest of the country and beyond to South Asian countries, according to the statement.

“Rehabilitating these roads to create reliable connections across the Hindukush mountain range is essential for Afghanistan’s economic prospects and for national integration,” World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan Bob Saum said.

The Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity Project will develop existing mountain crossings into dependable, all-season roads that will allow vital transport of passengers and goods to cross the Hindukush mountain range throughout the year, according to the statement.

“There are currently only two road crossings over the mountain range, with the Salang highway carrying most of the cross-Hindukush traffic, and an unpaved secondary crossing between Baghlan and Bamiyan (provinces). The project will carry out civil works for the upgrading of the Baghlan to Bamiyan road (152 km) to a paved road as well as the rehabilitation of the Salang road and tunnel (87 km),” the statement said.

“Harsh winters often force closures of the Salang pass and so upgrading alternative roads at lower altitudes, such as from Baghlan to Bamiyan, is important to secure traffic flows and economic activities throughout the year,” Saum noted

The Central Asian country has suffered from significant transport infrastructure gaps in terms of connectivity and accessibility. These gaps result in relative isolation of parts of the country and negatively affect regional and internal integration and trade.

The country is located at the intersection of Central Asia and South Asia, and the existing highways provide international links to Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, according to the statement.

The project will be implemented under the responsibility of Afghan Ministry of Public Works (MPW) over the next seven years.

Back to top

Oman Takes Part In Expohalal Spain

MUSCAT, Oman, Oct 22 (NNN-ONA) – The Expohalal Spain was opened today in Madrid, Spain.

60 Arab and Islamic countries are participating in the expo including, Jordan, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Malaysia and Iran, in addition to the host country.

Kefaya bint Khamis al-Raisiyah, Oman’s Ambassador to Spain, attended the opening ceremony, with the Sultanate’s delegation, which includes a number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The Sultanate’s Ambassador stressed the deep-rooted friendship and good relations between the Sultanate and Spain.

She pointed out that during Expohalal, the Sultanate’s delegation will seek to enhance partnership and cooperation with Spanish companies.

The 17 participants, representing a number of Omani small and medium enterprises, expressed their joy of sharing experiences with the other participating companies from around the world and exploring opportunities for venturing.

Back to top

Iran’s Flowers, Medical Herbs Exports Stand At $20mln In 6 Months

KHOMEIN, Central Prov. Oct 22, (NNN-IRNA) – Managing Director of Flower Houses, Medical Herbs and Mushrooms Affairs of Agricultural Jihad Ministry said Wednesday, Flower and medical herbs exports stood at $20 million over the past 6 months of current Iranian year (began on March 20).

Seyyed Mohammad Kiaie made the remarks in the opening ceremony of Mahallat 14th National Flowers and Medical Herbs Exhibit.

He said that the Iranian flowers and medicinal herbs were exported to the littoral countries of the Persian Gulf and the Central Asian countries.

‘The government has begun allocating bank facilities for expansion of the flower houses to contribute to increasing the production of flowers and herbs as of the beginning of the fall season,’ added Kiaie.

He said that the area of indoors and outdoors flower houses in Iran is 718 hectares today in which 10,000 people are employed, adding that each year some 7% is added to the cultivation area.

Back to top

Proposal To Build Two New Bridges Between Malaysia-Thailand

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 (NNN-Bernama) — Timeline, cost management and detailed design for the two new bridges between Malaysia and Thailand should be discussed and finalised soon in order to complete the project, said Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

Anifah and his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai discussed the matter when they co-chaired the 13th Joint Commission (JCM) for Bilateral Cooperation and fourth Joint Development Strategy (JDS) for Border Areas ministerial meetings here.

The two new bridges are the Second Bridge Link at Rantau Panjang-Sungai Golok and Bridge Link at Pengkalan Kubor-Tak Bai.

“The ministers reiterated the need for both sides to adhere to the agreed timeline in implementing the projects. The ministers noted that both sides would begin discussions on the cost management soon.

“The ministers also agreed on the need to expedite the necessary detailed design for the two bridges to ensure both leaders can officiate the groundbreaking ceremonies next year,” Anifah said in a statement.

“Unless we can complete these two key projects, it would be difficult for us to transition from the current JDS Action Plan to the Second JDS Action Plan,” Anifah added.

Apart from those projects, the ministers also exchanged views on cooperation in rubber, including on the establishment of a rubber city, where the plan could link the two rubber cities to ensure they could complement each other.

“The designated location for the rubber city in Thailand is at the Chalung Industrial Estate in Songkhla province while the proposed site in Malaysia is Ladang Bukit Ketpang in Kedah,” he said.

The meeting also discussed bilateral issues, among others, security cooperation along the borders, including prevention of human trafficking and confidence-building measures in southern Thailand.

The ministers also exchanged views on regional and international issues such as combating human trafficking, illegal immigrants and environmental issues that included transboundary haze pollution.

Back to top

KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail Project Draws Interest

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Some 150 companies have responded to invitations by Malaysia’s Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) for a request-for-information (RFI) exercise regarding the proposed high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

These include entities based in Singapore, Malaysia, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East and North America, SPAD and LTA said in a joint news release on Monday.

The LTA said that as of 6pm last Friday, the parties – believed to include Japanese, Chinese, Korean, American and European consortia – had registered their interest in the RFI.

The LTA said companies that had yet to register their interest were still welcome to do so. All responses to the RFI must be received by 12pm on Nov 18, 2015.

In a joint statement, SPAD chief executive Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah (pic) and LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said; “We are pleased by the market’s positive response to the RFI exercise. We look forward to receiving their feedback next month.

“This feedback will be critical in helping us with the commercial model of the project, and will help ensure that this project starts off on the right note.”

The RFI exercise is expected to be concluded by the end of the year.

Back to top

Morocco To Have First Full Islamic Banking Institution

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Morocco is poised to have its first fully-fledged Islamic banking institution by October this year and is the only North African country rated investment grade seeking to tap the US$1.8 trillion industry.

In a statement here, the Finance Accreditation Agency (FAA) said it had the opportunity to work closely with the Moroccan government to introduce a sustainable framework, which includes building a pipeline of quality talent for the Islamic finance industry.

“Strong demand for Islamic finance products has prompted the Moroccan government to introduce new banking laws with provisions for establishing Shariah compliant banks,” it said.

On the sidelines of the International Participative Finance Forum Casablanca, which was attended by more than 400 high-level bankers and regulators from across the African region, FAA Chief Executive Officer Dr Amat Taap Manshor said it is important to build a strong talent pipeline to support Morocco’s future Islamic finance industry.

As Islamic finance is fairly new to the Moroccan market, it is important to have the necessary regulatory framework and institutional ecosystem besides strong learning initiatives to support human capital development, Amat Taap said.

FAA also said with more than 15 institutions having expressed interest in establishing Shariah compliant arms, the predominantly Muslim nation has invited key Malaysian institutions to help advise them on Islamic finance.

In addition, Morocco’s efforts to improve market liquidity and attract foreign investors has led to the creation of a Sharia board of Islamic scholars to oversee its young Islamic finance industry.

Morocco’s potential in Islamic finance may also present itself with opportunities to attract players from the Malaysian market to their shores, FAA said.

“By putting the right pieces into play at this early stage, the country will be in a strong position to grow into a resilient and robust Islamic finance hub for the African region,” it added.

The FAA is a quality assurance body dedicated to promoting high standards in the financial services industry through the application of internationally benchmarked learning standards and the accreditation of learning programmes targeted to elevate competencies among finance professionals.

Back to top

Islamic centre in California connects Muslim community through art, music

Tuesday 20 Oct 2015 – California, (IINA) – In a bid to building bridges between American Muslims, a California mosque is using art, music and celebrations to bring members of the Muslim community together, according to media reports.

“I think one missing thing … right now, today, is beauty, really paying attention to the beauty of Islam, and its rich history,” California mosque leader Ali Sheikhulislami told National Public Radio (NPR) on Sunday.

Sheikhulislami, the leader of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California (ICCNC), was talking about activities being held by his mosque.

In its majestic building, ICCNC tries to be a model of harmony between the Muslim community by hosting plays, open mic nights, painting and ceramics classes.

“Every inch of this building just has a meaning,” manager Azita Sayyah said.

“The unique thing about the American experience is we are able to come to this country and practice the religion the way we want to, and to do it in a way that we’re tolerant of each other,” said ICCNC’s Ahmed Sheikhulislami.

The United States is home to a Muslim community of between six to eight million.

Back to top

China, Maldives To Discuss Free Trade Agreement

Sun.mv – October 19, 2015 – Economic Minister, Mohamed Saeed has said that the discussions on the China-Maldives Free Trade Agreement would begin towards the end of the year.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Investment Forum in China, Minister Saeed said that the Government is working to modernize the trade sector. And so the China-Maldives Free Trade Agreement is part of that work. The Minister said that the Government is also working to open the businesses to new markets.

Minister Saeed said that President Abdulla Yamin’s Government has regained the trust of the investors and noting that there are a lot of new investments coming to the country which have not come before, Minister Saeed said that “this is the time to invest in the Maldives.”

The Minister said that having a leader that develops the country through economic development is very good.

Noting the bridge project and the airport development project, Minister Saeed said that the economic relations between the two countries have grown since the Chinese President, Xi Jinping’s historic visit to the Maldives.

Before leaving the country to take part in the Investment Forum, Minister Saeed said that this year’s Forum would be more successful than the last year’s event in Singapore.

The Minister said that about 700 companies are taking part in the forum. That includes companies from the host, China, Singapore, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and countries from East Asia.

Minister Saeed said that this year’s forum is focused on Financial Sector, Banking, Real Estate and Transportation.

And so a high priority would be given to projects for the new land under the second phase of the Hulhumalé which includes the Sports Complex and the Stadium project for the youth.

Minster Saeed said that investors would be given information about opportunities in the Financial Sector in the Maldives.

While last year’s Investment Forum was held in Singapore, next year’s forum is set for India.

Back to top

Air Asia resumes flights to Maldives

Sun.mv – October 24, 2015 – The first in the series of flights from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) landed in the Maldives on Thursday. The company has decided to hold flights between the Maldives and Malaysia three days a week. Air Asia X cancelled their flights to the Maldives in March 2014 after it began late in 2013 claiming that they were operating on a loss with the lack of support from the Maldives to the Airline.

Back to top

German tourists top arrivals to Turkey

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – In a tough year for tourism in Turkey, Germans have topped the list of tourists visiting the country in the first eight months of 2015, according to figures from the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

About 3.75 million German tourists visited Turkey during the period, followed by Russian tourists at 2.78 million, and British tourists at 1.8 million.

In the first eight months of last year, there were 3.5 million Russian tourists arriving in Turkey, but numbers have dropped significantly due to the ongoing economic crisis in Russia.

Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) Chairman Başaran Ulusoy interpreted the data in an interview with Anadolu Agency.

Ulusoy said the devaluation of the Turkish Lira against the euro gave Turkish tourism an important advantage and would help Turkey compete better in the coming period.

“We think this trend will continue in the near future. But we should be careful that Turkey does not start presenting an image as a ‘cheap country,’ while still offering affordable vacations,” he added.

Back to top

Film producers turning eye to Turkey’s Muğla

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – The southwestern Turkish province of Muğla, which is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, is also becoming increasingly popular among producers, with films and TV series shot in the province in recent years.

Australian actor Russell Crowe’s recent effort “The Water Diviner,” as well as Turkish productions such as “Dondurmam Gaymak” (Ice Cream, I Scream), “Dabbe: Cin Çarpması,” (Dabbe: Curse of the Jinn), “Sürgün İnek” (Exiled Cow), “Mandıra Filozofu” (Dairy Philosopher) as well as TV series “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (Magnificent Century), “Baba Ocağı” (Father’s Hearth) and “Güzel Köylü” (Beautiful Villager) are among the best known productions that have been shot in Muğla recently.

Muğla Governor Amir Çiçek said the province had been home to many civilizations since the ancient era, making it an attractive and culturally rich region that was now being discovered by film producers.

“We have many historical and cultural spaces for TV series and films. The area has green valleys, coves and thousands of plant species. This is why it is so popular among producers,” Çiçek said.

He added that the local administrations aimed to make everything easier for directors and producers who want to make films in the city.

“This is why there has been a great increase in cinema and TV series productions shot in the region in 2015. The tolerance and hospitality of the people living in the region is also a great factor in this increase. This year, Muğla and its districts have been home to 12 TV series, 19 films, nine documentaries, 18 travel programs, seven promotional films and two music videos. It has doubled its number from previous years,” the governor said.

Çiçek said TV productions also led to a rise in the number of visitors to the region, with people visiting Muğla in order to see the sites of productions they see on TV.

“Thanks to the films and series made here in recent years, the city has become a natural film site. There is local tourist boom, especially in the Bozüyük neighborhood of the Yatağan district and the Akyaka neighborhood of the Ula district, where many film shootings take place,” he added.

The governor also said locals were performing in a number of the productions shot in the province.

“Lots of people living in the region have begun to act in the productions. Young people are trained in this field. A cinema workshop has been established for them. People between its the ages of 12 and 60 have joined these workshops. I believe important films stars will emerge from our region in the coming years,” Çiçek said, adding that applications had already started for future films and documentaries in Muğla and its districts.

Back to top

Secret tunnel found in historical Turkish castle

KONYA – Anadolu Agency – A secret tunnel has been discovered in Gevale Castle, located on the Takkel Mountain in the Central Anatolian province of Konya’s Selçuklu district, which had been home to many civilizations during the Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Karamanids and Ottoman eras.

The head of the excavations at the castle, Necmettin Erbakan University History of Arts Prof. Ahmet Çaycı, said the excavation works at the site had been carried out with a team of 30 people.

He said they had discovered many historical findings which were delivered to the Directorate of Museums after they were inventoried.

Çaycı said the excavations would take a break at the end of the month and would resume in May 2016.

He said Gevale Castle was home to many cisterns, adding the need for water was met by those structures in castles from the Middle Ages. The professor said they had so far discovered 60 cisterns in the castle and further works would increase this number.

“The number of cisterns in the castle gives us clues about how many people used them in which eras. We will find answers to the questions like how many cubic meters of water had been collected in these cisterns and how many people were able to benefit from it. How many soldiers were there or how many people lived there? We will find the answers. Then we will be able to find out the population,” he said.

Çaycı noted castles from the Middle Ages had some architectural structures like hidden tunnels in order to establish a connection with the outside, and they had found traces of a hidden tunnel in the first year of excavations at Gevale Castle.

We were very excited about the findings, he said, and continued: “We have discovered secret tunnels in the castle. We have cleaned there and revealed a 100-150-meter part of the tunnel. We believe that it is almost 300 meters (long). This tunnel becomes integrated with the cistern. This structure was also found in the Urartian castles in Van. This tunnel is connected to the cistern through a secret way.”

He said it was hard to realize the structure from outside the castle. “It is closed with a vault and looks like a part of the land. But when you go deeper, you understand that it is a tunnel. The first examples of secret tunnels go back to the Hittites. This tunnel is about 4,000 years old. Our findings show that it was used by the Seljuks but we are sure it was also used in earlier eras. This tunnel was built in the Hittites era.”

Back to top

Ancient shipwrecks found in Istanbul’s Yenikapı

KOCAELİ – Anadolu Agency – An inventory of the types of wood used in the production of 37 sunken ships discovered in Istanbul’s Yenikapı neighborhood during the construction of the city’s Marmaray subway project has been taken, shedding light on ancient ship production techniques.

Associate Prof. Ufuk Kocabaş from Istanbul University’s Department of Conservation and Restoration, said scientific study of the shipwrecks had continued after the end of the excavations in Yenikapı, in a written statement.

He said teams from the Istanbul Archaeology Museum were carrying out the documentation and protection of thousands of artifacts which were obtained during excavations between 2005 and 2013.

He said the conservation work for 27 of 37 shipwrecks found in the Byzantine-era Theodosius Harbor was continuing at the Yenikapı Shipwrecks Research Lab, adding the most important findings at Yenikapı were the shipwrecks from various periods.

Kocabaş said the shipwrecks were unique sources to learn about the function of the harbor and ship production technology in the ancient era.

“The recent data shows that among these Byzantine-era ships, the ones from the 5th and 7th centuries were made of needle-leaved trees such as cypress and pine trees, while the ones from the 9th and 11th centuries were totally made of large-leafed trees including oak and chestnut trees, and those between the 7th and 9th centuries were made of both type of trees. There is an evident change in the material of ships between the 5th and 11th centuries. The observations of 27 shipwrecks, which date back for a long time period, shed light on ship construction techniques in the Byzantine era and also the changes in the use of wood through time,” said Kocabaş.

He said the third volume of a book series of the Yenikapı shipwrecks’ anatomy was about to be finished, adding, “The Yenikapı shipwreck numbered 112 was studied at the university as a doctorate thesis and it was the first shipwreck whose examinations have been fully completed. The next (step) is to work on its details. It will be the first archaeological sample whose construction technology will be examined by Turkish academics.

It takes years to work on the anatomy of a ship and it is hard work. We try to find a sponsor for the books that we write on this issue.”

Kocabaş said they had been working on a detailed map showing Byzantine-era trade and products as well as drawings of Byzantine-era artifacts and the locations of harbors. “The goal is to release 20 academic books on these findings which will bring us the world’s largest shipwreck museum in Istanbul,” he added.

Stating that the variety of shipwrecks provided a unique opportunity to understand the development of ship production technologies in the Mediterranean, Kocabaş said, “I have compared shipwrecks from the 5th and 10th centuries, which are of various sizes and were constructed with different techniques. The galleys, which are very different from trade ships with their long and naïve body structures and wood types, are the first archaeological samples dated back to the Byzantine era. Galley remains are rarely seen in underwater archaeology works. Since the galleys used in the Byzantine fleet have been so far examined in iconographic sources, these first samples provide a unique opportunity for the examination of ship construction technology.”

Scientific work on the shipwrecks has been continuing, said Kocabaş, adding the restoration of nearly 1,500-year-old wooden remnants might take many years.

Back to top

Little-known ancient city in İzmir subject of new documentary

İZMİR – Doğan News Agency – The ancient city of Atarneus in İzmir’s Dikili district has become the subject of a new documentary, shot by producer and director brothers Serdar and Sercan Gazi.

The documentary will be translated into English and German subtitles and screened for the first time at international documentary film festivals.

The Gazi brothers, who live in Istanbul, said they chose Atarneus because it was little-known and a documentary had never been made about it before. For the documentary, they made shootings from the air and on the land in the Dikili, Çandarlı, Bademli and Bakırçay districts over the course of two weeks. Visuals from the famous ancient sites of Pergamon were also included in the documentary as they also have a relation to the history of Atarneus, which was a significant coastal town of the Pergamon Kingdom in the 2nd and 3rd centuries B.C.

The head of the Pergamon excavations, Felix Pirson, and deputy head Güler Ateş, who have made surface surveys in Atarneus, provided academic contributions to the documentary.

Serdar Gazi said they had finished the shooting of the documentary. “Atarneus’ history is very rich. We realized after the start of shooting that there was a magnificent hidden story behind the ancient city.

Because life has existed there since the Bronze Age. Some issues will be revealed for the first time with the support of academics. I believe the documentary will draw attention of Dikili public and history aficionados. Shooting process was joyful; lots of people helped us here.”

The other director, Sercan Gazi said the traces of ancient lives on the land could still be seen in Atarneus, and continued:

“Generally the history of Pergamon ancient city is told in the history of this region. But although the ancient city of Atarneus was established long before Pergamon, it is lesser known. So attempting to protect cultural heritage, we decided to make a documentary on it. Our main purpose was to draw more attention to the region and thus provide more protection for it,” he said.

He added that the 45-minute film would be translated into English and German and sent to participate in international film festivals.

Atarneus was an ancient city in the region of Aeolis, lying on the mainland opposite the island of Lesbos, northeast of the town of Dikili. It gained fame in the 4th century B.C., when it was ruled by the Hermias of Atarneus over an area from Atarneus to Assos. It was later an important port of the Pergamon Kingdom in the 2nd and 3rd century B.C.

The city is said to have existed until the 1st century A.D., when it was abandoned due to an epidemic or an earthquake.

Back to top

Garuda posts profit of $51 million

23 October 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Garuda Indonesia has announced that its net income jumped 123.4 percent to US$51.4 million in the year that ended on September 30, 2015, after it suffered a loss of US$220.1 million during the same period last year.

The national flag carrier also managed to increase its total revenues from US$2.831 billion in the January-September 2014 period to US$2.845 billion in the corresponding period this year, Garuda Indonesia President Director M Arif Wibowo said here on Friday.

Total expenses fell to US$2.72 billion from US$3.08 billion.

“The companys increased performance is a result of the application of business development strategy through the so-called “quick wins” program and tight cost efficiency discipline, implemented in a sustainable manner since early 2015,” he said.

The performance was achieved at a time when the aviation industry was facing a wide range of challenges, including economic slowdown, volcanic eruption and haze disaster, he said.

During the January-September 2015 period, Garuda Indonesia Group including Citilink managed to transport 24.55 million passengers, up 17.5 percent from 20.89 million passengers in the same period last year, he said.

Just in the third quarter, Garuda Indonesia transported 17.69 million passengers comprising 14.51 million domestic passengers and 3.18 million international passengers. During the same period last year, the company had handled 15.56 million passengers.

Arif said Citilink, a subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia, carried 6.87 million passengers in the year that ended on September 30, 2015, a 28.8 percent increase compared to 5.33 million during the same period last year.

The frequency of Garuda Indonesias and Citilinks flights in the domestic and international sectors rose to 186,105 in the third quarter of 2015 from 165,642 in the same period last year.

“In addition, the production capacity (availability seat kilometer/ASK) also increased from 36.9 billion (in 2014) to 38.75 billion in 2015,” he said.

As of now, Garuda Indonesia Group operates 181 planes including eight Boeing 777-300ERs, 22 Airbus A330-200/300s, two Boeing 747-400s, 10 ATR72-600s, 15 Bombardier CRJ1000 NextGen, 88 Boeing 737-300/500/800NGs, and 36 Airbus A320s, with the average age of 4.7 years.

Back to top

Indonesian airlines welcome visa free facility

23 October 2015 Surabaya, E Java (ANTARA News) – Airlines began to race offering discount in welcoming the government policy which offers visa free facility for short term visitors to Indonesia from 75 countries.

The facility is expected to draw more visitors to the country amid the global economic malaise.

Indonesian airlines saw the policy as benefiting air transport business that they are ready to offer significant discount for ticket price.

Commercial Director of AirAsia Indonesia Andy Ardian Febryanto said the budget airline offered a 30 percent discount for international flights.

Discounts are given for direct flights such as from Surabaya- Kuala Lumpur, Surabaya-Johor Bahru, Surabaya-Penang and Surabaya-Bangkok, or “Fly-Thru” flights or with transit in Kuala Lumpur or Bali, such as Surabaya-Taipei, Surabaya-Beijing, Surabaya-Seoul, Surabaya-Tokyo and Surabaya-Sydney, Andy said here on Thursday.

“Surabaya always has a special position as the main destination and market. Although we are aware amid the worrying condition of the economy interest in traveling has dropped sharply by 70 percent , but we are optimistic that the visa free policy would recover the interest in traveling abroad,” he said.

He said there are 22 travel agents offering discount for international flights effective as from November 1 until April 2016.

Therefore, foreign travelers including tourists , business visitors and others could take advantage of the visa free travel to Indonesia, he added.

Currently the airline could only offer discount for international routes as there is regulation restricting freedom to offer discount for domestic flights, he said.

Under the new policy, visa free facility is offered for short term visitors to Indonesia from South Africa, Algeria, the United States, Angola, Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, the Netherlands, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, India, Britain, Ireland, Island, Italy, Japan, Germany , Canada, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Croatia, South Korea, Kuwait,Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Egypt, Monaco, Norway, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, France, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, China, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Seychelles, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain , Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vatican, Venezuela, Jordan, and Greece.

Back to top

Azerbaijan promotes its tourism potential in Argentina

23 October 2015 – TODAY.AZ – To promote the country’s tourism potential, the Azerbaijani Embassy in Argentina has held a seminar on “Land of Fire-Azerbaijan: the Millennium culture, diversity, architecture, modernism.”

The seminar was supported by the Turkish Airlines office in Argentina.

Attended by Argentina’s Tourism Ministry, the country’s leading tour operators and representatives of mass media, the event sought to promote tourism in Azerbaijan and to attract Argentinean tourists to the country.

Speaking at the event, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Argentina Mammad Ahmadzade, the head of Turkish Airlines in Argentina, Numan Cizmecioglu, and others informed participants of the rich historical and cultural heritage, architecture, cultural diversity, national cuisine, tourism projects, the modern tourist infrastructure, international events held in Azerbaijan and other issues.

Short films related to the tourism sector were screened at the event, as well as national cuisine offered, and brochures and information booklets about Azerbaijan in Spanish and English were distributed to the participants.

As part of the event, in the coming days, the delegation of leading tour operators in Argentina will visit Azerbaijan to become familiar with Azerbaijan’s tourism sector.

In recent years, the two countries have sought to expand tourism, organizing various events and exhibitions, and offering classes in tango to familiarize the two nations with each other’s cultures.

Earlier this May, Azerbaijan and Argentina signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of tourism. The agreement was inked as part of the meeting of Azerbaijani Culture and Tourism Minister of Abulfaz Garayev with his Argentine’s counterpart in Croatia.

Azerbaijan Translation Centre and Argentina are working to translate Argentine books into Azerbaijani, specifically ‘La invención de Morel’ of Adolfo Bioy Casares and one about the history of tango.

This April, Argentina joined the 14th Azerbaijan International Travel and Tourism Exhibition held in Baku. The head of branding for Latin America Group, Rodolfo Milesi, visited the city as part of the fair and said that such exhibitions would contribute to expanding bilateral tourism relations between Azerbaijan and Argentina.

He noted that modern Baku and the country`s ancient history attracted Argentineans.

Baku’s Museum of Modern Art recently opened its doors to the “Engravings from Argentina” exhibition for the public to familiarize Azerbaijanis with Argentinean culture.

Azerbaijani State Customs Committee’s statistics shows that the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $5.27 million in January-April 2015, which is 65.1 percent more than compared to 2014.

Back to top

Wizz Air to return to Baku in March

23 October 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Wizz Air will resume flights between Hungarian capital Budapest and Azerbaijan’s Baku starting March 2016, said Azerbaijani Airlines Vice President Arif Mammadov on October 23. He said that a contract will be signed with Hungary’s largest low-cost airline on October 28.

“We have agreed to the terms of Wizz Air for 99 percent,” said Mammadov. “A delegation of the Hungarian airline will arrive in Baku on October 27.”

“The contract will be signed on terms that are preferential for the Hungarian company on October 28. Wizz Air was offered to operate to Gabala, but the airline insisted on Baku, and we agreed on this issue,” said Mammadov.

He noted that the Hungarian airline will start operating flights between Budapest and Baku from March next year.

“We offered them to begin flights in the winter, but they decided to start in March,” said Mammadov. “First, flight frequency will be one flight in a week and in the summer will increase to two flights a week.”

“At the same time, we put a condition not to stop flights in winter, otherwise the contract will be terminated and such benefits won’t be provided,” he said.

Direct flights between Baku and Budapest began in June 2013 in accordance with a memorandum of cooperation signed by the civil aviation administrations of the two countries.

Wizz Air, however, indefinitely postponed flights from Baku to Europe this March and compensated existing ticketholders for 20 percent of the full airfare.

Before the incident, round-trip airfare from Baku to Budapest cost 160 euros, which made the company popular among Azerbaijanis and European tourists visiting Baku.

The largest low-fare airline in Central and Eastern Europe, Wizz Air, earlier had announced that it would resume flights from Baku to Budapest in April as part of the intergovernmental agreement on air service.

Due to the large flow of tourists using this route to Europe, Hungary even planned to open a visa center in Baku for rendering technical services and issuing Schengen visas for the citizens of Azerbaijan.

Back to top

Tabriz to host Culture Days of Ganja

22 October 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The present capital of East Azerbaijan Province in the northwest of Iran, Tabriz, will host the “Culture Days of Ganja” next spring.

Head of the Ganja City Executive Power, Elmar Veliyev, and Governor of the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan, Ismail Dzhabbarzade, came to the decision at a meeting on October 21.

The meeting went over the development of bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as the construction of a center for the sale of products from Tabriz. The sides also discussed the construction of a bust of the prominent Azerbaijani poet, Nizami Ganjavi, in Tabriz.

Meanwhile, the unveiling of Tabriz Street in Ganja was held during Dzhabbarzade’s visit.

Earlier this February, Veliyev visited Tabriz as part of a sister city program between the East Azerbaijan Province and Ganja.

Some 375 km away from Baku, tourists will find the ancient city of Ganja, the second largest city of the country. Research showed that Ganja is more than 4,000 years old.

Ganja was also the capital of Azerbaijan when the country first declared its independence in 1918, thus playing a leading role in the history of the country.

The region is famous for its nature, namely Goygol Lake and reserve. A large mountain lake surrounded by the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus was formed as a result of a devastating earthquake that destroyed the Kapaz Mountain in the 12th century.

Despite numerous destructions during its long existence, Ganja has retained the appearance of a beautiful city with many monuments of architecture. One of the main features of the city is the Juma Mosque, Ganja’s central mosque.

Tabriz is the capital of East Azerbaijan province, in the Azerbaijan region of Iran. The city is made up mainly of Azerbaijanis, followed by Persians, Kurds and other nationalities. The population speaks both the Azerbaijani and Persian languages.

Tabriz, with a population of 1.5 million people, has had a long and turbulent history and its oldest civilization sites date back to 1,500 B.C. It contains many historical monuments representing the transition of Iranian architecture in its long historical timelines.

Carpets occupy a special place in the culture of Tabriz, which is famous for its great rugs throughout the world.

From 1375 to 1468, Tabriz was the capital of Kara Koyunlu state of Azerbaijan, until the defeat of Kara Koyunlu ruler. Ak Koyunlus selected Tabriz as their capital from 1469 to 1501. Some of the existing historical monuments, including the Blue Mosque, belong to the Kara Koyunlu period.

In 1501, Shah Ismail I entered Tabriz and proclaimed it the capital of his Safavid state.

Back to top

Emirates to commence flights from Kannur, Kerala

Khaleej Times – 24 October, 2015 – The first major boost to Kannur International Airport, which is getting ready for trial landing in December this year has come from Emirates.

The world’s biggest international carrier based in the UAE has confirmed operation of international flights from Kannur, Kerala’s fourth international airport, once it becomes functional, according to a report in the Times of India.

The airline has sought permission to start services from mid 2016. A letter in this regard was written to Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Nayan Chaubey by Dubai Civil Aviation Authority Director General Mohammed A Ahli. The report quoted Ahli as saying that Emirates was keen to launch services to Kannur airport as soon as it becomes operational. Ahli cited the inconvenience caused to Calicut-bound passengers owing to repair works at Karipur airport and hoped that operation to Kannur will address the problem partially.

The airline was forced to discontinue 11 weekly flights to Calicut from May 15 in the light of the strengthening and re-carpeting of the runway. To make up the loss partially, the airline was allowed to operate seven weekly flights to Cochin and two flights to Trivandrum.

Emirates airline is among nine foreign airlines approached by the Kannur International Airport Limited (KIAL) for operating flights to the new airport. The others are Oman Air, Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, flydubai, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways and Maldivian Airlines.

KIAL managing director G Chandramouli had written to these airlines after talks he had with various airlines at the World Routes 2015 forum in Durban. The platform was used to showcase the airport and the opportunities that would be part of commencing air connectivity to north Kerala.

Meanwhile, hectic works are on for facilitating the landing of the trial flight on December 31. Airport officials said that 2400 metres of runway would be ready by then. It would be extended to 3,040 metres in the second phase.

In the case of the terminal building, the structural work for the first two floors had been completed. The supporting infrastructure is also getting ready. Fifty per cent of work to provide dedicated power to the airport by the Kerala State Electricity Board has been completed.

Back to top

Dubai Airport readies for contactless departures

Khaleej Times – 21 October, 2015 – Immigration counters will soon be relics of the past as Dubai International airport is pressing on with plans for contactless departures as early as next year. And since sky is not the limit when it comes to passenger comfort, Emirates passengers could get the immigration facility on board before landing at Dubai airport.

“We are coordinating with other partners and the contactless process will be launched in the first quarter of 2016,” Major General Obaid Muhair bin Surour, Deputy Director of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs-Dubai, told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of Gitex Technology Week on Tuesday.

In the first phase, departure will be without immigration counters and in the second phase it will be implemented for arrivals, Maj-Gen Surour explained.

He also talked about the scenario where passengers can complete the immigration or smart gate process on board Emirates planes before landing at Dubai International airport.

The combination of advanced passenger information, biometrics, and IRIS on the move technology (IOM) will help the seamless departures and arrivals of passengers at the airport within seconds, he explained.

Emaratech – the leading online, smart and technology solutions company in the Arab region – is behind all smart gates in Dubai.

Earlier this year, Emaratech showcased IOM technology in Dubai with its top official saying: “We are currently working closely with our strategic partner, the General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs, to maximise the benefit of having IOM. We believe that IRIS on the move is the future of intelligent travelling.”

Maj-Gen Surour mentioned that Dubai Airport already has 125 e-gates and smart gates where departure and arrival is possible without stopping at immigration counters. Users of these gates require mandatory registration of their passport and national ID.

Dubai’s second airport, Al Maktoum International Aiport, does not have e-gates or smart gates at the moment. Maj-Gene Surour said the new airport will have them next year. Emaratech is a strategic partner in this upgrade, he added.

The smart gate is recognised as the most efficient and advanced around the world from a technical, operational and security point of view. The smart gate uses IRIS cameras to capture facial and eye biometrics of registered users. Passengers can speed through immigration in as little as 20 seconds. This means, three passengers will be able to proceed each minute using the smart Gate.

The smart gates are free to use by registered UAE citizens and residents. There are 20 registration stations throughout Dubai for travellers to register their biometrics for smart gate passes.

Back to top

Ras Al Khaimah recognised as global investment destination

Gulf Today – 22 October, 2015 – Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) together with Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA) have proved to be premier investment destinations showcasing global competitiveness as part of the Free Zones’ excellence.

Both organisations have recognised government entities that has brought significant contributions to the free zones’ growth and achievements over the years.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Chairman of RAK FTZ and RAKIA recently presented the awards to the recipients during the Strategic Partners Awards Ceremony, which was held at Rixos Bab Al Bahr Hotel in Al Marjan Island.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Humaid Al Qasimi, Managing Director, RAK FTZ, welcomed the attendees to the ceremony by placing emphasis on the free zones’ solid appreciation to their valued partners’ continued excellence and support. “Side by side, RAK FTZ and RAKIA have been experiencing remarkable development throughout the years, and we could not have done it without the unremitting assistance provided by our outstanding partners,” Sheikh Mohammed noted.

“We are grateful for our strategic partners’ keenness in strengthening cooperation as it aided us in delivering specialised and efficient products and services to our more than 8,000 international investors. They have indeed served as backbones in increasing the global competitiveness of RAK FTZ and RAKIA as premier investment destinations, as well as the business-friendly reputation of the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah,” he added.

Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone is a special economic zone in Ras Al Khaimah. It has investments from more than 8,000 companies in over a hundred countries, representing more than 50 industry sectors.

Back to top

Qatar Airways welcomes Air Maroc to Doha

The Peninsula – 23 October, 2015 – Qatar Airways yesterday welcomed the flagship carrier of Morocco, Royal Air Maroc’s first direct flight to Doha, as part of the two airlines’ joint business agreement which they signed at the Arabian Travel Market Dubai in May 2015.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker joined Morocco’s Minister of Infrastructure Transport and Logistics Aziz Rabbah, and the Chairman and CEO of Royal Air Maroc Driss Benhima to celebrate the commencement of the next phase of the joint business between Qatar Airways and Royal Air Maroc.

As part of this new partnership, Royal Air Maroc will operate three flights a week to Doha in conjunction with Qatar Airways. Flights between Qatar and Morocco have now increased from seven to 10 times weekly, operated jointly by Qatar Airways seven times-a-week and by Royal Air Maroc three times-a-week.

Both Qatar Airways and Royal Air Maroc will be offering a consistent product with an all Boeing 787 Dreamliner operation between Doha and Casablanca.

Speaking at the press conference, Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways is delighted and proud to welcome its partner, Royal Air Maroc, to our hub and home, Hamad International Airport in Doha. Our new partnership will strengthen both airlines and provide greater options and a seamless network for our passengers between the Middle East and Africa, and beyond.

Royal Air Maroc’s thrice-weekly service between Casablanca and Doha combines with our own daily flights between the two cities to provide an enhanced operation, while the frequency increase not only supports inbound tourism and trade, but is also an important new link for onward travel in both destinations.”

Driss Benhima said the partnership with Qatar Airways is crucial in the history of Royal Air Maroc. “This joint business allows us to create a bridge between Asia and Africa that will facilitate the movement of passengers in a seamless fashion on the extensive network of Qatar Airways in Asia and the comprehensive network of Royal Air Maroc in Africa,” he said.

Aziz Rabbah said: This partnership enhances the brotherly relations between the State of Qatar and the Kingdom of Morocco in the field of air transport, and will also enhance the cultural, economic and social exchanges between the two countries.”

Qatar Airways’ joint business with Royal Air Maroc will offer much broader opportunities for passengers who will benefit from a greater choice of flights and connectivity to destinations such as Marrakech, Agadir, Dakar, Accra or Nouakchott, which will be complemented by frequent flyer benefits such as the ability to earn and redeem Qmiles on flights operated by Royal Air Maroc.

Back to top

Halal tourism expected to grow steadily

Saudi Gazette – 24 October, 2015 – The World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition (WHTS15), the world’s largest international gathering of organizations, government officials and professionals dedicated to developing, and investing in, global Halal tourism, concluded its deliberations on Wednesday amid a response exceeding all expectations.

Experts and observers, who participated in the halal tourism summit in Abu Dhabi National Center for Exhibitions, said it witnessed the signing of many agreements between hotels and Arab, European and Asian tourism companies to attract more tourists from the Arab and Muslim countries that attach importance to the concept of halal tourism in particular and family tourism in general.

Chairman of the Arab Tourism Organization Dr. Bandar Bin Fahd Al Fehaid said, “During the summit interactive working sessions were held for all the participants including ministers and senior officials in the Arab, Muslim and other countries of the world. Apart from these, there were senior businessmen and investors concerned with this industry at the regional and international levels.”

The aim was to familiarize them with the concept of halal tourism and its services. They were acquainted with the commercial opportunities that halal tourism can provide as a new product and how all the authorities related to the tourism sector can take advantage of halal tourism. He said they can benefit from halal tourism in order to market the Arab region and promote it by linking the sector to Arab culture and traditions.

Al Fehaid said the magnitude of halal tourism is estimated at 10 percent of the total income of the global travel and tourism sector. The income of the sector reached $ 145 billion last year. The number of travelers from the Muslim countries reached 108 million. This segment is expected to grow further to reach 150 million by 2020 with returns expected to reach $ 238 billion.

Meanwhile, Sayyid Mukhtar Ould Muhammad Al-Hadhrami, secretary general of the Arab Tourism Organization, said at the conclusion of the tourism summit the organization had presented a number of initiatives and recommendations.

He expressed the organization’s readiness to cooperate with support to all the authorities that are interested to develop the concept of halal tourism for Arab and Muslim countries. These include taking advantage of means of communications and the social media in increasing the share of halal tourism in the travel and tourism sector, laying down quality criteria and supporting tourism in the hotels, resorts and restaurants that conform with the standards of this sector. They also include drawing up strategies to attract a segment of tourists interested in halal tourism.

Earlier, Halabooking.com revealed, at the start of the summit, the popularity of Muslim-friendly holidays is soaring faster than any other travel sector in the world. HalalBooking.com’s London HQ, a global leader in the Halal travel industry, has seen a tremendous rise in halal-conscious holiday bookings in 2015.

“Our sales tripled in the first 3 quarters of 2015 compared to the same period last year. We have had sales in the millions per hotel aiming to hit tens of millions next year. This is the result of our hard work to provide the best search and booking experience for halal-conscious travelers.

“In 2016 we are aiming to build on this success and to expand our portfolio of properties extensively and to launch new destinations in Western Europe and Asia Pacific”, said Ufuk Secgin, chief marketing officer at HalalBooking.com.

The event attracted government officials and professionals developing, and investing in global Halal tourism. Over 6,000 participants, including travel and tourism professionals and agencies, hospitality groups and hoteliers, tour operators, developers, destinations and key industry decision makers from around the globe are scheduled to attend, in addition to over 200 international exhibitors and sponsors.

Back to top

New Jeddah airport to be ready by mid-2017

Arab News – 24 October, 2015 – The new upgraded King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah will open for full operations in mid-2017, according to the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), the country’s regulatory body.

Construction on the new facility and testing of all equipment would be completed at the end of 2016, said Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, GACA’s director general and chairman of Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), a local publication reported Friday.

Al-Hamdan on Thursday laid the foundation stone for a new Saudia building in the support area next to the airport’s new building. Saleh Al-Jasser, director general of Saudia, was also present at the ceremony.

At a press conference later on Thursday in the operations building, Al-Jasser said the SR350 million Saudia facility would also be ready by mid-2017, as part of its strategic program that includes fleet development, expansion of its flight network, and installation of the latest information technology.

Al-Jasser said the new building would allow Saudia to administer all operations under one roof. The plan is eventually to increase the number of flights from 500 to 1,000 a day, which would be one of the highest airline operations in the world, he said.

He said the Kingdom’s airports would increase the number of passengers they handle from the current figure of 28 million to 45 million by 2020, a goal that has been laid down in GACA’s operational plan.

On privatization, he said Saudia has taken significant steps in certain areas including supplies and types of services, and setting up companies with shares owned by the public.

Al-Jasser said the entry of a third airline company in Saudi Arabia was no problem for Saudia and would be good for competition. He was referring to the plan by Qatar Airways to launch Al-Maha airline company to operate along local routes in the Kingdom.

Al-Maha would reportedly initially operate flights from Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah, Abha and Qassim. Qatar Airways already operates international flights between Doha and Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Taif, Qassim, Al-Ahsa and Madinah.

Back to top