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21 Dec, 2015

Asia’s first Islamic-compliant airline takes off

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 21 December 2015 (10 Rabee’ al-Awwal 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




It’s the year-end school holidays and festive season. A time to take a break, celebrate, chill out, dine and SHOP! Yes, shop, and now say 1MYES for 1Malaysia Year End Sale. It’s the biggest sale bonanza of the year with BIG bargains, BIG offers and BIG rewards at shopping outlets nationwide for nearly two months. That’s not all. Expect special deals and price cuts during back-to-school sales, which will bring huge relief to moms and dads. Bring the whole family and enjoy a fun day of outing. There are also special rewards for tourists, such as tourist privilege cards, tax-free shopping, gift redemptions with purchases and GST refund at exit points. A long line-up of events and activities awaits everyone. It will be a fun time for all. Contests, promotions, prize galore, songs and dances, art and crafts, Christmas shopping, meet and greet Santa, New Year’s Eve party and much more will build up the momentum before curtains call to say goodbye to 2015, and hello 2016!

Don’t miss out on the fun. In fact 1MYES extends right into the New Year. Check out 1MYES special offers, events and happenings throughout the country.

For a full listing of all the great shopping opportunities, pls click on this link

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.myfacebook: 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.



Asia’s first Islamic-compliant airline takes off

Kuala Lumpur (IINA) – Malaysia’s first Islamic-compliant airline Rayani Air began operations Sunday with its maiden flight taking off from the capital to the resort island of Langkawi, local media reported.

In-flight meals served on board its flights are completely halal, with alcohol consumption strictly prohibited. Muslim flight crew must don the hijab while non-Muslim crew are to be decently dressed, managing director Jaafar Zamhari told reporters. There will also be prayer recitals before take-off.

“We are the first Malaysian airline to be Shariah-compliant based on guidelines by relevant authorities. We are proud of this,” Jaffar was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper. “The Shariah-compliant aspects will be refined as time goes by,” he added using the Arabic word for Islamic law, AFP reported.

The airline’s website says: “Malaysia’s latest airline is doing what is fundamentally right in the aviation industry – committed to greater passenger satisfaction. While the industry is battling for a bigger share of passenger load, Rayani Air will instead focus on service delivery.

“Rayani Air boasts of experienced teams of high calibre in all categories – Engineering, Flight Operations, Ground Operations and Commercial. You can be assured that you will enjoy the best in terms of safety, customer satisfaction and special fares.”

Rayani Air will serve domestic sectors and will expand rapidly to popular international cities in the region. Rayani Air operates Boeing 737s that offers comfortable seating arrangement for both Business and Economy classes. Our aircraft seats are covered with high quality fabric that provides added touch of comfort and luxury. We offer wide legroom that is enough to stretch and recline comfortably.

All passengers get a complimentary welcome snack pack with tasty muffin, fruit juice and peanuts – all hygienically packed in a handy box. Rayani Air also offers additional meals at a very friendly price.

Rayani Air is a collaboration between an oil and gas company, Merdeka Jayabumi Enterprise and mining company, Terus Maju Metal. It received an air service licence and air operator certificate from the Department of Civil Aviation on Friday.

For now, the airline serves five destinations in Malaysia: KLIA2, Langkawi, Kota Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, reported The Star. It plans to expand its services to South-east Asia, China, Australia as well as the Middle East.

The airline is setting a 10-year target to establish a network tocapitalise on the umrah and haj pilgrimage market.

Jaafar said Rayani Air had acquired two Boeing 737-400s aircraft at this initial stage to serve KLIA2 in Kuala Lumpur and Kota Bharu (Kelantan) with LIA as their operation hub, before including Kuching and Kota Kinabalu next year.

“It is our hope that the decision to make Langkawi our operations hub will turn Langkawi into a hub for tourism where travellers would come here first before being channelled to other tourism destinations in the country,” he said.

The airline also plans to add two more Boeing 737-400s and two 737-800s to its fleet by 2017 as a move to increase its domestic routes and flight frequencies.


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Bangladesh confers small entrepreneurs award

DHAKA, Dec 20, 2015 (BSS) – A total of 14 entrepreneurs of the country got the “Successful Small Entrepreneurs Award 2014″.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith handed over certificates and crests to the award winning entrepreneurs at a function at Sonargaon Hotel here on Sunday.

The award has been given as recognition by International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB), a platform of top business leaders, to those entrepreneurs who have successfully established their businesses in the country.

To give the award, IBFB conducted a long scrutiny with the help of district administrations and district business chambers of the country.

IBFB gave the awards in seven categories to promote SMEs. In the Agro-Processing category, architect Mir Al Amin, managing director of Noorjahan Agro-Processing Industries Private Limited of Bagerhat, got the award.

In the Agri Inputs and Agri Technology category, proprietor of Messrs Rony Agro Engineering of Satkhira GM Nurul Islam Rony, proprietor of Messrs Abdul Hakim Mandal of Joypurhat M Abdul Hakim Mandal, chairman of South Bengal Fertilizer Mills Limited of Jessore M Faisar Rahman and proprietor of Messrs Rezaul Hasan of Naogaon M Rezaul Hasan won the award.

In Handicrafts category, proprietor of Rong Handicrafts of Jessore Tanuja Rahman, proprietor of Sananda Boutique House of Naogaon Lipi Saha and proprietor of Provati Boutique and Fashions House of Naogaon Parvin Akhter got the award.

In the Fisheries and Livestock category, proprietor of Messrs Sabuj Matshya Khamar of Khulna M Fasiar Rahman, proprietor of Jannatnetri Ma Fatima Fish Hatchery of Jessore M Mostafa Khan Feroz and proprietor of Dream Agro of Sylhet Belal Ahmed Imran were awarded.

Proprietor of Messrs Ripon Metal Industries M Ashraful Islam won the award for Engineering Industry, while proprietor of Marine Chemical Company of Rangpur M Shahedul Islam for Light Chemical Industry.

Proprietor of Bagan Bari Nursery of Sylhet Akbar Hossain Kismat was awarded for Nursery Development.

A four-member selection committee headed by IBFB director Mohammad Ali Deen first nominated 60 entrepreneurs from 23 districts of the country. Then after a detailed scrutiny, the committee selected 14 winners for the award.

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ADB Allocates $1.5 Bln for Energy, Transport and Urban Sectors in Azerbaijan

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN – The Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s updated business plan for Azerbaijan will allocate around $1.5 billion in loans and technical assistance grants to help the country diversify its economy and promote sustainable, non-oil growth.

“We thank the Government of Azerbaijan for the excellent collaboration during the business plan preparation and look forward to effective implementation of this proposed assistance,” said Kathie Julian, ADB’s Officer-in-Charge, Azerbaijan Resident Mission.

The Country Operations Business Plan (COBP) for 2016-2018, approved on 8 December 2015, comprises 8 investment projects in energy, transport, and the water and urban services sector. ADB’s intervention in the transport sector will ensure better connectivity and facilitate access to services, while the water supply and sanitation projects will increase the living standards of the population. Energy projects will improve the power distribution network, thereby providing reliable and continuous energy supply to homes and industries.

During 2016–2018, ADB will also continue to grow its private sector operations with a focus on financing commercial banks for onlending to small and medium-sized enterprises including agro-businesses, and for opportunities arising from industries such as the gas sector.

The COBP is aligned with the priorities of ADB’s Azerbaijan Country Partnership Strategy for 2014–2018, and the Government of Azerbaijan’s Azerbaijan 2020 vision document.

As of 2014, ADB assistance to Azerbaijan totaled more about $2 billion, including approved loans and technical assistance grants.

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

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Gambia Ecotourism Society Vice Chairman Speaks Out

16 December 2015 – The Point (Banjul) – In an interview with The Point newspaper, vice chairman of Ecotourism Society The Gambia (ESG), Mustapha Bah, said many would agree that tourism is a significant tool for development.

He said this has been demonstrated well in Kartong where Sandele Eco Retreat hosted the second Ecovillage Design Education course.

During the course, sustainable agriculture and environment experts gave lessons to local people on environmental protection and conservation thus encouraged climate smart agriculture in a bid to “grow what you eat and eat what you grow”.

Across the country, there are a host of similar success stories which are bringing The Gambia international recognition in the area of ecotourism and responsible tourism, Mr Bah said.

He pointed out that authorities need to look more closely at the social and environmental impacts of tourism, despite its tremendous performance in the economy.

He said: “As a developing country, we need to look inwards and endeavour that the policies in place are implemented accordingly in the best interest of national developments.

“This would encourage and attract foreign investors to invest heavily in the tourism sector in the country and it is also a necessary step in the process of establishing a vibrant tourism industry. Both the actions of investors and tourists play crucial roles in the socio-cultural values and protection of the country’s environmental assets.

“From an economic perspective, tourism provides wealth and job opportunities for young peoples. However, it could be argued that most of the wealth accumulated leak away from the community and that the jobs provided are mainly low rate income and so do not have a deep impact in development of the local populace.

“Most tourism related businesses in The Gambia are owned and managed by foreigners and as such, the local people or communities benefit very little from the profit made from the businesses tourists bring to the country, even though Gambians carry the burden of the impacts.

“Most of the tourists coming to the country are brought by foreign-owned tour operators such as Thomas Cook, and Gambia Experience who cover a very large area of the tourism market yet they employ few Gambians.

“One-third of the local people who are lucky to be employed in the tourism industry can usually only expect six months of work per year.And they are paid at very low rates which often cannot and do not sustain their families for the preceding six months until the next holiday season.

“From the socio-cultural perspective, tourism is known for bringing together people from different backgrounds, cultures and traditions thereby promoting peace. At the same time, due to globalisation effects in the sector of tourism, many communities have lost their cultural identity due to urbanisation and in addition tourism helped create parks and protected areas where unique examples of flora and fauna can be found.

“Perhaps the tourism industry needs to be carefully and strategically decentralised whereby every community can showcase their products and services directly to the visitors and gain maximum benefits.

“Considering the motivational factors, about 75 per cent of tourist’s attraction sites are located in the rural areas and yet rural people enjoy a tiny portion of the income gain from the tourists.

“Maximum support should be given to rural eco-lodges, who at times fail to meet industry standards, in order to help them upgrade and standardise their products and services to meet the needs of tourists.

“This will enhance sustainable development throughout the country because the income generated from tourist activities could be used to buy tools and other farming materials which will accelerate agricultural contributing towards achieving the Vision 2016 food self-sufficiency.

“In order to ensure smooth relationships between tourists and their host, a sensitisation campaign must be taken into consideration on how to manage the desires of tourists and to conserve the environment for sustainable development.”

To conclude, Mr Bah added that the tourism department should take steps to support to Ecotourism Society, The Gambia, a newly-found wing serving as watchdog in the advancement of ecotourism businesses.

He said the society also paves the way for tourism-related businesses in the rural areas such as eco-camps, local craft and waving, and eco-related projects.

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Nigeria’s Arik Air Ups Frequency On Lagos-Accra-Monrovia Route

17 December 2015 – This Day (Lagos) – Arik Air, West and Central Africa’s largest carrier, is increasing its frequency on the Lagos-Monrovia route from three weekly to four weekly flights effective Sunday, December 13, 2015.

The additional flight will be operated on Sunday to add to the existing Monday, Wednesday and Friday operations. This flight will also operate via Accra, Ghana as of the former schedule.

Outbound flight departs Lagos at 7:20 am (local time) and arrives in Accra at 7:20 am (local time). The flight thereafter departs Accra at 8:05 am and arrives in Monrovia at 10:05am (local time). The inbound flight departs Monrovia at 10:50 am and arrives in Accra at 12:50 pm (local time). The flight then leaves Accra at 1:35pm to arrive in Lagos at 3:35pm (local time).

Arik Air inaugurated the Lagos-Monrovia service on August 12, 2010 with twice a week flight service. This was later increased to four weekly before the suspension of flights to Monrovia due to the Ebola outbreak in July 2014. Arik Air resumed flight services to Monrovia on October 5, 2015 with three weekly flights.

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Uganda Plans to be a “Hot Tourist Destination” by 2016

15 December 2015 – The Monitor (Kampala) – Uganda is getting there and indeed the power is now with us to flaunt our tourism industry.

Just like in the last few years, Uganda continues to do well on the global charts in terms of having some of the world’s tourism hotspots.

Uganda, according to Business Insider, will be among the 12 key destinations that tourists must look out for in 2016 if they are to get value for their money.

“2016 is all about emerging destinations. Wilderness, wildlife and culture; these themes will illuminate the year’s travel itineraries,” Anisha Shah, a broadcast journalist and photojournalist, specialising in travel to emerging destinations wrote in her article on Business Insider.

Anisha is a veteran broadcast journalist with key global broadcast and publication houses, including BBC, CNN, BBC Travel and Huffington Post.

In her article, Anisha credits Uganda for possessing half of the world’s wild mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest sanctuary.

“Trekking to see them is a wildlife experience of a lifetime. The larger-than-life, humanlike gorillas and chimps induce an indescribable affection for nature,” the travel journalist writes.

Other destinations, including key wildlife migration corridors, national parks, and gushing falls and the source of the River Nile in Jinja are inducing features that shall be hard for tourists to resist next year.

She also highlights the explosive crater lakes across much the country as some of the features that have turned the landlocked nation into a lush oasis.

The tourism sector, on average, contributes about Shs6.5b to Gross Domestic Product. The growth is captured in the government tourism master plan that seeks to at least see the same triple in the next five years.

This has been a growth from Shs5.6b recorded in the 2013/14 financial year. The growth translates into 9.9 per cent contribution to GDP up from 7.9 per cent in 2013/14.

The growth, according to Ministry of Tourism, has been a result of an increased visitor numbers, which in the 2014/15 financial year, grew from 1,206,334 to 1,266,046.

Government says the new achievements could have resulted in its increased spend on tourism marketing across, even as critics insist less has been done to market Uganda’s tourism potential.

However, there have been some visible marketing efforts, although they have largely remained sparse and inconsistent.

For instance, government recently published a supplement in the New York Times highlighting the country’s tourism and growth potentials.

Such efforts, although long-term, could be key ingredients in the growth of the country’s development, not considering that Uganda has also been a key destination for high profile visits, including the recently concluded papal visit.

The tourism sector, according to government, if well harnessed, on average has the potential to create 600,000 jobs annually.

Anisha also identifies Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary, among the key destinations, which can be accessed through a boat ride on Lake Victor after crossing the Equator.

“It is a pristine island paradise where you meet orphaned and rescued chimps,” Anisha writes but she is also cognizant that there could be a new drive as Uganda seeks to become a middle-income country by 2040 “a plan incentivised further by the Pope’s recent landmark visit”.

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Cameroon to Boost Tourism Potential

14 December 2015 – Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé) – The night of Thursday, December 10 to Friday, December 11, 2015 was certainly very long for Senators and cabinet ministers who took part in a plenary session consecrated to the adoption of the 2016 Finance Bill of the Republic of Cameroon.

The Finance Bill which contains the 2016 State budget balanced in income and expenditure at FCFA 4,234.7 billion was adopted by the Senate during a more than eight-hour long plenary sitting that spilled over to about 6:45 am, Friday December 11, 2015, leading to the endorsement of the bill.

But before the adoption of the bill, cabinet ministers took turns to the rostrum of the Senate to respond to several questions within the framework of controlling government action.

One of Senate’s Vice Presidents, Paul Tchatchouang who opened a series of questions to members of government quizzed the Minister of Finance on what government is doing to improve on the tourism sector in the wake of falling oil prices in order to boost State revenue. Alamine Ousmane Mey, in his response, stated that government is leaving no stone unturned in her quest to develop the tourism sector in the country. He said the 13th session of the National Tourism Board chaired on Thursday December 10, 2015 by the Prime Minister has instituted accompanying standards to boost tourism potentials and hence increase revenue source.

On the payment of indemnities for those whose property have been damaged in the course of the construction of Yaounde-Douala express road as was asked by Senator Jean-Marie Mama, Finance Minister assured that compensation will be paid to them progressively. On whether the Finance Bill reflects the aspiration of grassroots people, Alamine Ousmane Mey reiterated that the proposed budget which was drafted with instructions from the President of the Republic, gives priority to poverty alleviation and attenuating high cost of living by increasing allocation of investment budget to growth-driven sectors like energy, agriculture, infrastructure amongst others.

Transport Minister, Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o again was interrogated on the situation of the national airliner, Camair-Co. He told Senators that two audits are to be carried out by CONSUPE and an international firm (Boeing Consulting) as a prerequisite move to rejuvenate the company. After the autopsy of Camair-Co is completed, FCFA 30 billion will then be pumped in to resuscitate the ailing air carrier, he said. Other questions centered on road infrastructure, agriculture, programming of investment projects as well as civic education and moralization.

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Tunisia to hold Néapolis International Children’s Theatre Festival

15 December 2015 – Tunis Afrique Presse (Tunis) — No less than 130 shows are on the agenda of the 30th edition of the Néapolis International Children’s Theatre Festival set for December 20-28 in Nabeul.

Eleven countries will take part in this event, namely Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran, France, Italy, South Africa, India, Argentina and Russia, said Director of the present edition at a news conference held Monday in Tunis.

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Malaysia sets up Global Halal Support Centre

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Dec 15 (NNN-Bernama) — The Global Halal Support Centre (GHSC), and information and data centre which aims to promote Malaysia as a world reference centre in halal knowledge and halal-related services, has been set up.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, I Madius Tangau, said the GHSC would also provide support to Malaysian companies and service providers in the halal-related sectors.

“These include halal integrity know-how, information on halal certification and capacity building and investment opportunities in Malaysia,” he said at the two-day Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries (SMIIC) Halal Conference here Monday.

The text of his speech was delivered by Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah.

The centre was initiated by the Halal Industry Development Corp (HDC), a corporation under the International Trade and Industry Ministry.

Madius said the opening of the GHSC was in line with the strategic initiatives under Malaysia’s Halal Industry Master Plan towards making Malaysia a leading global halal hub.

He said halal certification on consumer food products and goods in Malaysia began since 1974.

“The Department of Standards Malaysia, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia and HDC lead the halal management and governance structure in the country.

“HDC acts as a one-stop agency in the development of the national halal industry which has a comprehensive halal value chain,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, launched the SMIIC Halal conference, which saw the participation of 32 nations.

The SMIIC is aimed at eliminating technical barriers to the halal trade and to establish an accreditation system to tap the halal economy, which is estimated to be worth US$2.3 trillion.

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Malaysian Airports Welcomes More Airlines, Add Frequency

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), the world’s second busiest airport operator group in terms of passengers handled, welcomes more international airlines to operate at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

“We still have the capacity (for them to operate here),” said Managing Director Badlisham Ghazali, in an exclusive interview with the News Straits Times.

Badlisham, who joined the management in June last year, said MAHB also welcomed more frequencies from the existing operators in Malaysia’s main international airport and one of the major airports of South-East Asia.

“Emirates is doing four times daily. They will bring back the A380 to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)… Qatar Airways has increased its frequencies to KUL to 24 weekly flights, four daily.

“Air China is four times weekly. The new airlines we welcome is co-owned Shanghai and Hainan airlines (four times weekly). These are the frequencies that we welcomed back … not all of them are new airlines. Intra-Asia traffic is big,” he said.

For other airlines in KLIA, Badlisham said, China Southern operated 10 times weekly, both Bangkok Airways and Jetstar Asia (four times weekly) and Xiamen Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines (three times weekly).

“Oman Air, British Airways and All Nippon Airways run daily,” he said.

He hoped that Turkish Airlines, which went from seven times to 10 times weekly, would increase its frequencies to twice daily.

Badlisham said MAHB has participated in global conference, Routes, a platform where airlines talked about scheduling, to encourage other airlines to come and operate in KLIA.

MAHB is listed on the Main Board of Bursa Malaysia Securities Bhd.

It currently manages and operates 39 airports in Malaysia – five international, 16 domestic and 18 short take-off and landing ports; and one international airport in Istanbul, Turkey.

The airport operator also provides airport management and technical services for the development, operation, maintenance and management in overseas international airports.

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Uganda Improves In Human Development Index Ranking

KAMPALA, Dec 17 (NNN-NEW VISION) — Uganda has improved in this year’s United Nations Human development Index rankings (HDI), reflecting a progress in the country’s overall well-being of its citizens.

The report released by United Nations Development Programme; a UN agency indicates that Uganda leapt one place on the index of 185 countries ranked, from the 164 position to the 163 position. Kenya and Tanzania, however, still rank above Uganda in position 145 and 151 respectively.

Worldwide Norway ranks first, followed by Australia, Switzerland and Denmark in second, third and fourth positions respectively.

According to UN, the idea behind this ranking isn’t the wealth (GDP) a country has but rather how well it looks after its people.

Thus HDI not only incorporates measures for income (per capita income), but also life expectancy and education levels into a single development score, which is designed to give a holistic sense of how a country is doing.

UN said the report provides a good opportunity for countries to chart progress in the welfare of its people.

Releasing the results, UN also released the list of the most improved countries, naming China, Singapore, Iran, Mozambique and Rwanda as the six most improved countries.

However, of these Rwanda made the most impressive progress, leaping by three points on the index since 1990 when the rankings were started.

UN said Rwanda’s progress is exceptional given its fractious past where much of its development was pegged back because of genocide.

UN said overall all 142 countries with complete data (for a few places, such as Ethiopia and Somalia, some data was missing) are more developed than they were a quarter of a century ago, ‘except unlucky Swaziland’, which has been ravaged by AIDS.

On the other hand countries that have recorded negative progress are Tajikistan, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Central African Republic.

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Afghanistan gains WTO Membership After 11 Years

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 19 (NNN-XINHUA) – The World Trade Organisation (WTO), formally approved Afghanistan’s membership, at its 10th ministerial conference, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

Afghanistan has become the 164th WTO member and the 36th least developed country (LDC) to join the global trade body, after 11 years of negotiations.

“Today is a historic day for Afghanistan, as we reaffirm our commitment to free market economy, in order to alleviate poverty and achieve lasting peace and stability,” said Mohammad Khan, Afghanistan’s First Deputy Chief Executive, at the ceremony for the accession.

The landlocked Asian country expects to reap the benefits of the WTO membership for its post-conflict reconstruction.

“For the last decade, we have focused on rebuilding state, academic institutions and the private sector. We request the international community to provide technical capacity, to enable Afghanistan to handle the post-WTO accession process,” Khan said.

He said, Kabul had accelerated domestic reforms, in order to woo investment in key sectors of the economy, including transport infrastructure and energy.

“We are committed to greater fiscal discipline and creation of a favourable environment for trade and investments,” he said.

Roberto Azevedo, WTO Director General, said, Afghanistan’s membership was “an endorsement of the extensive programme of domestic reforms the country has undertaken, to accelerate economic growth.”

Zou Jiayi, China’s Assistant Minister for Finance, who was attending the WTO conference, said, the admission was “a triumph of multilateralism” that inspired developing nations.

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Bangladesh bid to boost Boro rice cultivation

JAMALPUR, Dec 17, 2015 (BSS) – The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) has taken massive programme to cultivate Boro paddy in all the seven upazilas of the district in the upcoming Boro season.

The DAE sources said, under the programme, a total of 1, 27,558 hectares of land would be brought under cultivation with the target of producing 5,03,412 tonnes of rice in the district.

Of the total, 18,388 hectors of land would be brought under hybrid

variety, 1, 08,476 hectors under high yielding variety (HYV) and 694 hectors under local variety of paddy.

Farmers have already prepared seed beds on 7,546 hectares land against the target of 6,995 hectares in the district this year.

Deputy Director of DAE Dr. M Rafikul Islam said the farmers of the district are expected to put in their best efforts to achieve the production target.

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Desert Theatre Festival opens in Sharjah

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates, Dec 18 (NNN-WAM) – Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, attended the opening of the Sharjah Desert Theatre Festival, at Kuhaif area, here.

Sheikh Sultan watched the inaugural show, an epic poem penned by him, under the title “Alia and Isam.”

He also attended the second show, an Emirati play titled “Towi Bakhita” which is adapted from a novel with the same title, by the Emirati author, Maryam Al Ghafli.

The festival, which will run for four days, will attract numerous actors and artistes, who will stage various shows and plays.

The event will focus on the vision of Sheikh Sultan, of boosting the efforts of streamlining theatre in the emirate.

It is organised by the Theatre Department, in Sharjah Department of Culture and Information.

In attendance were a number of Sheikhs, senior officials, artistes and fans.

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King Tut’s Golden Mask Attracts Tourists After Back On Display

CAIRO, Egypt, Dec 19 (NNN-MENA) – Eager foreign and local visitors, once again were gathering around the gold and blue mask of legendary Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, after its restoration.

“It is so exciting to see the mask here … I came today just to have a close look at this breathtaking piece of art,” said Kevin Tan, a Chinese tourist, who was visiting Egypt for the first time.

Inside a glass showcase under spotlights, the glittering mask attracted hundreds of tourists, who came to welcome the priceless mask back home.

The Egyptian authorities announced that the golden burial mask of King Tut was put back on display, Wednesday, at the Egyptian Museum, after eight weeks of restoration by a team of Egyptian and German professionals.

In Jan, media reported that the long shiny blue beard of the king was damaged, by the museum’s cleaning workers and then was glued back onsite, hastily and unprofessionally, in Aug, 2014.

According to reports, dried glue was visible along the joints between the beard and the mask. This led the Egyptian government to seek the help of professional conservators from Germany, to restore the matchless archaeology.

To help accelerate the fixing process, the German ministry of foreign affairs donated 50,000 euros, for the restoration process of the mask which started on Oct 10.

“It is done,” German conservator, Christian Eckmann, who oversaw the restoration work, told reporters, at a press conference at the Egyptian Museum.

That the mask was back at the museum was happy news for many, who came to take photos with the golden piece of art, especially after the museum’s administration broke a taboo, by allowing the entry of cameras into the museum for one month.

“I’m so lucky because my flight back home will take off tonight. I’m happy I had the chance to see and take photos with the fantastic mask,” Tomoko Shimiza, a Japanese tourist said, as she posed to take photos next to the mask.

The return of the mask at the museum was not easy for restorers, who carried out the repairing process. It took the team more than two months to accomplish this mission, meticulously and successfully.

Eckmann said, during the restoration, the team discovered an internal gold tube, which is still stuck in the beard. The tube was used to connect the beard to the mask.

“This was one of the most challenging procedures, to separate this internal tube, in order to clean the beard,” he added.

Mahmoud Halwagy, head of Museums, at Egypt’s Ministry of antiquities, said that, the repair was great and very professional.

He confirmed that the mask has gone a complete scientific analysis and laser scanning, and the beard detachment from the mask and the removal of epoxy were carried out with very simple materials.

The process also included warming the mask to facilitate the removal of the epoxy, he added.

Tutankhamun, who ascended to the throne at the age of nine and died at 19, is the world’s best known Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. The young king ruled from 1332 BC to 1323 BC, during a period known as the New Kingdom, in Egypt’s history.

He won his fame for his tomb, which was discovered by British Egyptologist, Howard Carter, in 1922 and has remained one of the best preserved.

When Carter discovered the treasure, the ceremonial beard was already loose and Carter himself removed it for the first time. In Dec 1925, Carter did the first restoration of the mask.

“Ninety years after Carter accomplished the first restoration of the mask in Dec 1925, we have the pleasure to present the mask in its original form,” Eckmann proudly said.

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Christmas Tree Lighting At Dama Rose Hotel In Damascus

DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec 20 (NNN-SANA) – A Christmas tree was lit on Saturday evening, at Dama Rose Hotel in Damascus.

Tourism Minister, Bishr Yazigi, said, the lighting of the tree is a “message of peace for all Syrians of all denominations, particularly since Christmas and the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, coincide this year.”

For his part, Greek Orthodox Patriarchal Assistant Archbishop, Luca al-Khoury, said, the lighting of the Christmas tree is an expression of joy, and that celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad, at the same time, shows coexistence and harmony among Syrians.

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Al Noor Island Opens In Sharjah

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates, Dec 16 (NNN-WAM) – Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, opened Al Nour Island, on the Khalid Lagoon in Sharjah, in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Sheikh Abdullah bin Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah.

Sheikh Sultan toured the island’s different sections, including the ‘Butterfly House,’ a nature-inspired structure with an ornamentally perforated shadow roof, bio-morphic exterior, and green light and plant-covered walls. The Butterfly House hosts as many as 500 exotic butterflies brought from the Far East Asian countries, including the Danaus chrysippus, also known as the African monarch, the Doleschallia bisaltide, also known as the Autumn Leaf, and the Pachliopta aristolochiae or rose butterfly, which is extensively found across South East Asia and is known for its bright colours.

He also stopped at the oval-shaped OVO Art Sculpture, a famous sculpture that has been displayed in major cities around the world, and has dazzled millions of visitors and tourists. With its elliptical shaped design and inspiring combination of colours and lights, the sculpture is set to present unique shows combining light with music, through a collection of musical soundtracks inspired by nature and composed exclusively for Al Noor Island, to give visitors a sense of tranquillity and serenity.

Al Noor Island, developed by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), is located in Khalid Lagoon and is the Arab world’s first island to combine nature, art and entertainment. The island extends over an area of 45,470 square metres and reflects the art styles of a world renowned designer, who has many outstanding achievements and projects around the globe, such as the Swarovski Crystal Worlds (Swarovski Kristallwelten) museum, including the green spaces and several imaginative sculptures, at the Schonbrunn Palace in the Austrian capital – Vienna.

Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Shurooq, said, the opening of Al Nour Island represents another milestone in realising the vision of Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, for providing unique destinations in the emirate of Sharjah.

The opening ceremony was attended by Sheikhs and senior officials.

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Kuwait Airways Launches New Business Strategy

KUWAIT, Dec 18 (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait Airways said, on Thursday, it would be rescheduling some of its flights, as an initial stage, in accordance with its new business strategy.

The changes will be applied according to the fifth article of the Freedoms of the Air set of aviation rules, which allows airlines to operate individual routes between two host countries, the state carrier explained in a statement.

Tickets sold, specifically on the London-New York, New York-London route will be suspended, said the airline, however the Kuwait-New York (via London) and vice versa, along with the Kuwait-London routes will not be affected.

Confirmed flights on the London-New York, New York-London routes until Jan 16, 2016, will go ahead as planned, however, passengers with confirmed tickets for trips on the route after that date will be given the option of either a complete refund, or the opportunity to select another airline without any additional costs.

As of Mar 28, 2016, the airline has also decided to suspend its direct flights to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Egyptian cities Sohag and Alexandria, with flights from Kuwait to London, from Kuwait to New York and Kuwait to Manila set to receive an increase in the winter 2016-17 period.

The airline is undergoing a complete overhaul, as it has completed an initial stage, whereby, it has received 12 leased Airbus aircraft and awaits the arrival of another 10 Boeing 777 aircraft in 2016.

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Islamic Tourism Ministers To At 9th Conference

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 18 (NNN-Bernama) — The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will present a special programme on Islamic tourism during the 9th Session of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers from Dec 21-23 in Niamey, Niger.

OIC Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Affairs, Hameed Opeloyeru, said that the programme aimed to step up cooperation among OIC countries and encourage intra-Muslim tourism by promoting tourist attractions and facilities within the Muslim world.

As part of the programme, a web portal for Islamic tourism will be launched in three languages (Arabic, English and French), which will be implemented and run by the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, he said in an OIC statement.

Other initiatives include highlighting the Capitals of Islamic Tourism, which are appointed each year, by giving time to the 57-Member States to give publicity through the media, establishing a statistical database on issues relating to tourism development, and organising food and cultural festivals.

It will also include a programme to encourage and facilitate private and public sector investments in tourism through an investors’ forum where discussions will be held on the development of human capital to ensure individuals of international standards are employed within the tourism sector.

According to Opeloyeru, the main priority of the conference is implementing the OIC development and cooperation framework in tourism among Member States over the next two years.

Other agenda include choosing the capital of Islamic tourism for 2017 and 2018, adoption of activities to celebrate the Islamic Tourism Award, discussions on professional skills needed for tourism, developing tourism facilities, and related research, training and marketing.

A tourism and cultural exhibition will also be held on the sidelines of the conference, the statement said.

Ministers will also discuss the promotion of Islamic tourism through the development of hotels and resorts, which are Syariah-compliant, as well as Halal food, entertainment and sports facilities, and the promotion of Islamic tourism in the international arena.

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Niger to host Islamic Tourism Ministers Conference

Sunday 20 Dec 2015 – Niamey (IINA) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will hold the 9th Session of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM) in the Nigerien capital of Niamey on December 21-23.

The session will focus on a matrix of major priority actions to be taken towards the implementation of the OIC Framework for Development and Cooperation among OIC member states in the field of tourism over the next two years.

Items on the agenda of the conference include the selection of the OIC City of Tourism for the years 2017 and 2018, adoption of activities in commemoration of the Islamic Tourism Award, discussion of tourism occupational skills and standards development, tourism facilitation, research, training, and marketing. A cultural and tourism exhibition will be held on the sidelines of the conference.

The ICTM will review the reports of relevant OIC institutions, namely the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Center for Islamic Countries (SESRIC); the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA); the Islamic Center for the Development of Trade (ICDT); the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO); and the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA).

Tourism Ministers are expected to focus on encouraging member states to promote cooperation in the areas of education, vocational training, organization of workshops and symposia to consider urgent matters and elaborate concepts and new methods to expand and diversify tourist activities in OIC countries.

The conference will also discuss the elaboration of marketing strategies for potential tourism demand and motives of travel for tourism, and encouragement of member states to develop projects in the framework of public-private cooperation and benefit from the facilities offered by OIC institutions in this regard.

Additionally, the ministers will discuss the promotion of Islamic tourism through development of hotels and parks, in line with the Islamic Shariah, halal food as well as leisure and sport facilities, and promoting Islamic tourism at the international level.

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Malindo Air Launches KL-Colombo Route

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Dec 19 (NNN-BERNAMA) – Malindo Air today launched daily services from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo, Sri Lanka, the airline’s ninth country, in its international network expansion.

Chief Executive Officer, Chandran Rama Muthy, said, Colombo as a new destination for Malindo, marks another profound milestone, and the launch of today’s inaugural flight to Colombo, highlights a new era in the young airline’s journey.

“Whilst it’s true that, as we continue to expand, we are taking more people on more aircraft to more places, we have to continue our efforts to provide the best service for our customers,” he said in a statement.

Introductory fares for the new route start at RM339 for Economy Class and RM579 for Business Class, one-way all-inclusive, and include perks, such as free baggage allowance, in-flight entertainment, a meal and light refreshments.

He also said that, Malindo Air is working very closely with Tourism Malaysia to promote a wide variety of attractions in Sri Lanka, including the F1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix, 1Malaysia Mega Sales, Borneo Jazz Festival, LEGO Land theme park, as well as, exciting eco-tourism spots like Belum Forest, Mulu Caves and Mount Kinabalu.

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Guyana National Tourism policy by Jan 2016

Georgetown, GINA, December 15, 2015 – The National Tourism Policy, which will guide interventions in the tourism sector, will emphasise eco-tourism development and selling Guyana more effectively on the international market. It is expected to be completed by the end of January 2016.

This was disclosed to the Government Information Agency (GINA), by Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes, during a recent interview. The Minister further stated that the development of the local tourism sector will be pursued in a studied and structured manner.

“When you are marketing Guyana on an international market, when they hear Caribbean, they think of blue water and white sand, and so it is very important for us in our marketing, which will really kick off next year,to identify ourselves as South America … it’s the magnificence of the Amazon, its huge rivers like you would see down south in the US, it’s the beautiful Essequibo, the Demerara, dark waters, creek water. That is the vision,” Minister Hughes explained

The policy will also address legislation and regulations on tourism investment, incentives and concessions, marketing, product development, human resource development, infrastructure, aviation, sustainability, best practices and more.

“We want to identify with the recent study we did, a few packets that we are going to be able to sell to the world, this is a real eco-tourism experience, so I think that’s an idea of the various facets that you can expect in the tourism policy. The policy will also focus on establishing and promoting specific niche markets within which research shows Guyana has a competitive advantage.”

Tourism is viewed as an important sector in the national economy. It can attract foreign investment, create jobs especially within indigenous communities and encourage production in other areas such as construction.

Meanwhile, as the government moves to develop the local tourism sector in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, a number of challenges have been identified

The Minister is of the view that there is a greater need for effective time management in the public service as this is affecting the development of the local tourism industry. Noting that tourism must become everyone’s business, the minister is calling on all Guyanese to play a role so that the sector could grow. She pointed to the impact crime is having on the sector.

Hughes noted that the pile-up of garbage and the indiscriminate dumping of waste were having a negative impact on the industry. She is now happy that the “Restore Guyana” campaign is currently ongoing to clean up Georgetown and its environs.

Among the plans identified by the Tourism Ministry isto put in place the requisite mechanism to benefit and encourage private companies in the sector to expand and further develop their business.

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Guyana seeks to attract cruise lines – as Minerva docks

Georgetown, GINA, December 18, 2015 – Minister of Tourism Catherine Hughes said that the government is pursuing advertising Guyana in cruise line magazines. She said this is one way of showing this South American nation as a viable tourism destination.

She told the Government Information Agency (GINA) that direct communication with several cruise lines is being made which is intended to secure a spot on their itinerary. Promotion of Guyanese working alongside cruise lines will be done through social media, Minister Hughes noted.

The minister told GINA of this development prior to boarding the cruise ship Minerva of the cruise line ‘Swan Hellenic’ which docked at the Guyana National Shipping Corporation’s Wharf, Georgetown, today.

Once the 2016 Budget allocation for the tourism sector is finalised, funding will be streamed into an international marketing programme. Here, deliverables will be specifically packaged for the target market. In order to promote more tourism, packaging of Guyana will have to be done to cater for all the needs of potential visitors. This includes materialising a plan whereby animals can be shown, traditional foods tasted, and cultures exchanged.

The vessel Minerva is 135 meters long and weighs about 13,000 tonnes. It brought 181 passengers. The ship’s Captain Neil Broomhall indicated that while this part of the world is not always on the map, returning to Guyana as a tourist destination will definitely occur.

The last visit of Minerva in Guyana was in March, 2014 for threedays. The vessel sails off at 20:30 hours today to Grenada as its next destination.

Passengers were taken on tours around Georgetown and other areas of interest as time permitted. Wynne Macgregor, a passenger indicated she would like to “have a look around, see what the city has to offer.” The visitor was interested in seeing the Botanical Gardens and the seawalls.

The Swan Hellenic cruise line has been in business for over 60 years. Facilitating beauty salon, pools and a library, which has approximately 50,000 volumes in fiction and non- fiction, Minerva caters for all its passengers’ needs.

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Guyana to prioritise eco-tourism

Georgetown, GINA, December 19, 2015 – The development of the eco-tourism industry in Guyana will be given heightened emphasis in the Ministry of Tourism’s National Tourism Policy, as the government moves to further advance the sector. This was disclosed recently by Tourism Minister Cathy Hughes in an interview with GINA, which will be aired this weekend.

The Minister is of the view that it is not widely known that the eco-tourism industry is still the fastest growing industry in the bigger tourism model.

“For eco-tourism, there are some very specific things that need to go with that, the whole issue of organic…. The issue of sustainable tourism, and in most places of the world, there are few models that can be called eco-tourism and therefore it’s a process of growth, and so we want to say that it’s more sustainable tourism right now with adventure tourism, but we want to identify with the recent study that we did, a few packages that we are going to able to sell to the world.”

The eco-tourism industry is growing in Guyana, and is expected to contribute to the conservation of the largely intact natural environment. In the past years, the number of resorts and lodges has increased, offering adventure and eco tourists an experience different from the typical island experience.

Last month, the Ministry of Tourism completed an assessment of the eco-tourism sector in Guyana, and identified areas for further development. Eco- tourism has been identified as one of the more important niche markets which the government intends to promote fully.

The Minister has advised that “one of the very important things we’re focusing on is in each region’s identifying the opportunities for tourism, the products, the businesses that could be developed with assistance from the private sector, so we did that initiative in Region 8. I personally went out to Region 10 on two occasions and we’ve looked at possibilities there. To go hand in hand with that I also went to the Rupununi area, Surama and Rewa looking at their community tourism model which is an excellent model that can be duplicated elsewhere.”

Eco-tourism has been touted as one of the many unique niches for Destination Guyana simply because the country is endowed with massive pristine tracts of tropical rainforest, high species biodiversity, amazing wildlife, majestic rivers and waterfalls, mountain ranges, savannahs, wetlands, and indigenous communities with low carbon lifestyle. All these make Guyana’s eco-tourism potential unsurpassed.

The National Tourism Policy is expected to be completed by January 2016.

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Business forum for young Uzbek entrepreneurs

UZA – Young entrepreneurs gather at the business forum A business forum of young entrepreneurs under the title “Youth entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan: state and prospects” has been held in Tashkent.

Young entrepreneurs from all regions of our country took part at the event, jointly organized by “Kamolot” Youth Public Movement, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan, the Central Bank, ministries, agencies and commercial banks.

Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan A.Shayhov, chairman of the Federation Council of Trade Unions T.Norboeva, first deputy chairman of the Central Council of “Kamolot” Youth Public Movement F.Muhammadjonova and others spoke at the closing ceremony of the forum and highlighted the macroeconomic stability and economic growth in Uzbekistan as a result of implemented reforms on the basis of the “Uzbek model” of development, initiated by President Islam Karimov.

There is a significant contribution of our talented young people in the progress, made in all spheres of our life.

A great attention is paid in our country to introducing modern technologies in the sphere of production and services, says Sardor Negmatov from Navoi. I am immensely pleased that young entrepreneurs are actively involved in carrying these tasks. At the forum, I presented proposals on producing high quality products based on innovative technologies.

Ownership is guaranteed, enterprising and motivated young people receive comprehensive support in our country, Umarova Zarnigor from Tashkent said.

This process is important to stimulate young people to implement its plans and objectives. At the forum, we were given expert advice about the business plan, registration of business entities, possibilities and conditions for young people in the business sphere.

Presentations of the ideas and initiatives of young men and women were considered at sectional zones. Business ideas on the effective use of information and communication technologies, establishment of production of consumer goods, tourism development, strengthening social partnership on the basis of socio-economic protection of young entrepreneurs, further improvement of the legal documentation for youth entrepreneurship were highly appreciated by experts. Proposals concerning the current state and prospects of youth entrepreneurship in Uzbekistan were presented to the relevant ministries, departments and organizations.

Active participants were awarded with diplomas and gifts at the event.

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British chief rabbi supports teaching Islam in Jewish schools

Sunday 20 Dec 2015 – London, (IINA) – Britain’s chief rabbi has called on the country’s Jewish schools to amend their curricula to include Islamic studies in order to be able to comply with new educational guidelines being put in place by the government, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle published on Wednesday, Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis took a radically different position than he had expressed in the past, when he and representatives of other Orthodox organizations advocated against the push for British schools to include a second faith in their religious studies curriculum.

The new rules would cut down the amount of time Jewish schools that follow the state curriculum could dedicate to Jewish schools by a quarter.

“It is more important than ever that our children have a better understanding of Islam and that we build strong relationships with British Muslims. As such, the chief rabbi has recommended that schools take this opportunity to teach students Islam, a faith which is widely discussed but often poorly understood in public discourse,” a spokesman for Mirvis said.

“Although the chief rabbi has not issued any formal guidance on this issue since, ultimately, it is for the schools themselves to judge how best to tailor their curriculum we have had a series of positive discussions with a number of our schools and made recommendations to them,” the spokesman added.

The spokesperson called the chance to include Islamic studies a “valuable opportunity.”

The Reform Movement in Britain praised Mirvis on Thursday, with the movement’s senior rabbi, Laura Janner-Klausner, telling The Jerusalem Post that she felt that teaching about Islam was both “an excellent idea” and “long overdue.”

“We are stronger as a faith group, and as a community, when we better understand others in our society,” she said.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the founder of the New York based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which works on Muslim-Jewish dialogue both in the United States and Europe, also approved of the decision.

“Given that Jewish communities live alongside Muslim communities not only in the UK, but around the world, it is very important for Jewish youth to be exposed to the guiding principles of Islam,” he said.

British Muslims were likewise welcoming of the move, with the Muslim Association of Britain (MCB) stating that it believed that such a policy would foster better understanding and cohesion in society.

“The more schools teach about other religions, the more understanding will prevail among children, which can only be a positive thing,” said Association President Omer El-Hamdoon.

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Oman inaugurates Islamic Art Exhibition

Wednesday 16 Dec 2015 – Muscat, (IINA) – The Islamic Art Exhibition in Oman was opened on Tuesday at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the governorate of Muscat under the patronage of Sheikh Hamad Al-Ma’amari, undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture for Cultural Affairs, ONA reported.

The exhibition, which lasts until Thursday, is organized by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, and it marks the occasion of celebrating Nizwa, capital of Islamic Culture for 2015.

The exhibition includes photos for mosques, Omani minarets, Quranic manuscripts, towers, castles, houses, wooden and metal handicrafts, jewelry, and weapons ornament. Each photo will have Arabic and English descriptions of it.

Sheikh Al-Ma’amari said that the exhibition coincides with the Sultanate’s celebrations of the 45th Glorious National Day, as well as celebrating Nizwa the Capital of Islamic Culture 2015.

He added that the exhibition depicts many values and Islamic art that highlights the Omani rich heritage in the Islamic art whether in the Holy Quran, mosques and minarets.

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Oman hosts international photography competition

Wednesday 16 Dec 2015 – Muscat, (IINA) – The Square 2015 Exhibition of the International Competition for Photography was opened under the patronage of Dr. Faris Al- Said on Monday at the Omani Photographic Society (OPS), and it will continue until Wednesday, ONA reported.

Al-Said expressed in a statement his impression about the pictures displayed in the exhibition and the work done by the Omani artists and their counterparts from various countries. He pointed out that the works of international competition are technically difficult but aesthetically great, wishing that such wonderful ideas will continue.

It is noteworthy that Square 2015 represents the first international competition organized by the OPS. The society won 37 awards, including gold, silver, and bronze medals and honorary awards in the field. The themes were open in the black and white theme and the colors theme.

The competition received a large international participation, as 1757 pictures participated. Around 23 countries displayed 288 pictures from 131 photographers.

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UAE citizens to travel to Europe visa-free

Thursday 17 Dec 2015 – Brussels, (IINA) – The European Parliament (EP) took the final step on exempting the UAE citizens from the Schengen visa by voting overwhelmingly for the resolution on Tuesday, WAM reported.

The Head of the UAE Mission to the European Union and Ambassador to Belgium Sulaiman Al-Mazrouei said that 537 of 667 of the EP members voted in favor of granting a visa waiver to the UAE citizens travelling to the Schengen area countries.

“Today’s vote is the final seal of approval for the full exemption of UAE citizens from Schengen visa requirement. Today, we move from the initial stage to the full implementation of this visa waiver program”, he added.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its diplomatic missions in Europe have exerted great efforts and conducted various discussions over the past three years to obtain a resolution from the European Commission concerning a waiver of the UAE Nationals of the Schengen visa.

The UAE’s achievements and gains due to its openness to the world have resulted in establishing strong strategic political, economic, trade, and cultural partnerships with most countries on different continents.

The resolution demonstrates the keenness and the unlimited support given by the UAE leadership to providing decent living standards to the UAE citizens whether inside the country or abroad. This is also evident in the resolve shown by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have the requirement of entry visas waived for the Emiratis.

The UAE is the first country in Asia and Africa to get the Schengen visa exemption for its citizens.

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Halal meat plant launched in Kazakhstan

Friday 18 Dec 2015 – Aktobe, (IINA) – Kazakhstan’s LLP Aktep has opened a major meat processing plant in the Aktobe region in the west of the country. The new facility is certified to halal standards and will process 7,200 tonnes of beef annually.

It is believed the project will be instrumental in developing Kazakhstan’s beef industry, which currently faces a lack of processing capacity. The project’s investment cost is estimated at KZT2 billion (US$6.5m), including KZT140m (US$450,000) allocated by the country’s authorities for local infrastructure.

At the opening of the plant, Vice-Minister of Agriculture Gulmira Isayeva said the facility would have a huge impact on the development of beef industry in the west of Kazakhstan. “The project will result in an increase in the number of livestock and will expand the export potential of the region. The plant will create 88 new jobs,” said Berdybek Saparbayev, governor of the Aktobe region.

According to company representatives, the production cycle will be based on the latest European technology, and processing will be fully automated. Meat will be produced in quarter-carcases and half-carcases, in the form of semi-finished products and minced vacuum-packed products.

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Baku to host 5th International Carpet Congress

11 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan, famous all over the world for its carpet weaving traditions, will host the fifth International Congress in 2017, dedicated to its beautiful carpets.

The work is already underway to hold the high level event that aims to present the colorful national carpets to the world.

Currently, representatives of International Conference on Oriental Carpets are on visit to Baku to examine exhibits of museums and private collections. During their visit, the experts will hold several meetings with the organizers and experts of the congress, and hold trainings.

As carpet weaving has been a part of Azerbaijani culture since time immemorial, the experts will get familiar with the history and quality of the carpets to be exhibited at the congress.

Carpets occupy a preeminent place among all the examples of Azerbaijani craftsmanship. In 2010, the Azerbaijani carpet was proclaimed a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage by UNESCO in 2010.

Ancient Azerbaijani carpets are stored at the White House, the U.S. State Department, and many other museums across the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Azerbaijan’s Carpet Museum established in Baku in 1967, being the first carpet museum in the world is the very place that can familiarize all the interested with the unique examples of the national carpets.

At first, the museum was located in the Juma Mosque in the Old City. In 1992, the museum, named after well-known Azerbaijani scientist Latif Karimov, the founder of carpet studies and Azerbaijani carpet history, was moved to 123a, Neftchiler Avenue.

A new carpet museum, designed in the form of a rolled carpet, opened in the Baku Seaside Park in 2014 and all carpets were transferred to this museum.

The early emergence of the art of knotting carpets is tied closely to sheep raising traditions and the availability of natural dyes in the region – fig leaves for ochre colors, madder for reds, saffron for golden yellow hues, pomegranate peels for reddish browns.

The carpets feature different patterns and a color palette from several schools, including Guba, Baku, Shirvan, Ganja, Gazakh, Karabakh, and Tabriz.

Some 600 different designs decorate Azerbaijani carpets. The most popular design style is Buta, which has 72 shapes and three main symbolic meanings: fire, water, and the cypress.

Over many centuries, carpets have become not only an accessory but also a necessity for the Azerbaijani people. They are seen in almost every house. In ancient times, no man married a girl who could not weave a carpet. Families used to buy carpets as the main part of the dowry for their daughters.

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Talented Azerbaijani artists present works in Paris

11 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The famous “Russian world” gallery, located in the 8th district of Paris organized an exhibition ‘Transformation’ of young Azerbaijani artists Jamala Rahmanli and Vugar Guliyev.

The opening was attended by honored artist of Azerbaijan Esmer Narimanbeyova, director of the “Ulduz” association Aytan Muradova, representatives of the Azerbaijani embassy in France, and French artists.

The exhibition displays 22 works, which were accepted with great interest by the gallery visitors.

The main goal of the exhibition is to show the transformation of the artist’s feelings and emotions. The feeling, transformed into a visible thing reflects the artist’s both personal and social state, as well as global topics that interest him or her.

Each picture is a story, telling about feelings, experiences and emotions, transferred to canvas in different manner, forms and colors. Sometimes a blank canvas turns into a companion with which, disconnecting from the outside world, you talk.

The event will last until 13 December.

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First female eyes nomination for Iran’s clerical body

17 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran a female is seeking nomination as a candidate in the election for the Assembly of Experts.

Esmat Savadi, who holds a PhD degree in jurisprudence and principles of law and is a fellow at Iran’s Azad University, has put forward her nomination for the election of the Assembly of Experts, Tasnim news agency reported Dec. 17.

However she needs to be vetted by Iranian watchdog body of the Guardian Council. Since the Islamic Republic was founded in 1979 in Iran the assembly of experts has never seen a female or non-cleric member.

According to Iranian constitution those who wish to stand as candidates at the election of the assembly of Experts must be educated in Islam and capable of understanding Feqh (religious jurisprudence). So far all those who elected as members of the assembly had studied at religious seminaries not universities.

Electoral candidates must possess the following conditions:

A reputation for religious belief, reliability, and moral behavior.

The ability to interpret Islamic law (Ejtehad) to the extent that they can understand certain issues in Islamic jurisprudence (Feqh), and can determine whether the Supreme Leader meets the conditions of leadership.

A political and social understanding, and familiarity with the issues of the day.

Belief in the system of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Not having an anti-political and anti-social background.

Clause 1: The source of determination of whether candidates possess the above qualities are the jurists (foqaha) of the Guardian Council.

Clause 2: Individuals whose interpretations of Islam (Ejtehad) have been explicitly or implicitly validated by the Supreme Leader have no need for confirmation of their knowledge by the jurists of the Guardian Council.

Clause 3: Residence, birth, or nativity in the electoral district is not a necessity for the voters or candidates.

The Assembly of Experts is comprised of 86 Islamic scholars (Mujtahids) who are elected by the public to eight-year terms. The Assembly of Experts is an influential body in charge of supervising the supreme leader and organizations under his direct control as well as electing a successor for him.

On Dec. 17, Iran started the nominee registration process for the upcoming election of the Assembly of Experts to be held in late February.

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World Bank approves $1 bln for Egypt

18 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ- The World Bank Group has authorized $1 billion in aid to Egypt to help the country implement economic reforms, according to a press release issued by the group, Sputnikreported.

“The Board also approved a US$1 billion in a development policy finance operation for Egypt to help the country carry out key economic reforms,” the release said on Thursday.

The loan is the first in a series of three annual World Bank development finance loans to Egypt, according to the release.

“World Bank Group support to Egypt will focus on the country’s urgent need to create more jobs, especially for the youth, improve quality and inclusiveness in service delivery, and promote more effective protection of the poor and the vulnerable,” the bank’s Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti Asad Alam said in the release.

Egypt needs foreign aid since four years of political turmoil after the 2011 Arab Spring uprising against long-standing Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak undermined the country’s poor economic growth.

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ADB loans US$150m for Uzbekistan highway

18 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved allocation of the next tranche in the amount of $150 million to the Uzbek government for the national highway construction, ADB office in Tashkent told Trend Dec.15.

This is the third tranche allocated under the multi-tranche financing program worth $500 million for the construction of national highways approved by the bank in August 2011 as part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program entitled ‘Regional Roads Development II’.

The first tranche of $130 million was granted in 2011 for 24 years including a four-year grace period. This was directed for the reconstruction of the A-373 road at the Kamchik pass at a length of 74 kilometers.

The second tranche (December 2012) in the amount of $220 million was granted out of the ordinary resources of the bank for 25 years, including a five-year grace period at a standard preferential bank rate based on LIBOR. The ADB funds were used for the reconstruction of individual sections of the Tashkent-Osh highway (A-373) with a total length of 75 kilometers with the replacement of the two-lane asphalt surface to a four-lane concrete one.

The current loan will be used for the reconstruction of individual section of Guzar-Bukhara-Nukus-Beynau (A-380) road with a total length about 87 kilometers. The government of Uzbekistan will allocate $80 million for the project.

In April 2010, ADB approved the provision to the Uzbek government of a debt package to the sum of $600 million for the construction of the national highway.

ADB funds are being allocated for the reconstruction of individual sections of the Guzar-Bukhara-Nukus-Beynau (A-380) and Tashkent-Andijan (A-373) roads with a total length of 450 kilometers.

Uzbekistan joined the ADB in 1995. During this time, the bank has approved loans for about 40 joint projects in education and health care, modernization of generating the capacity and energy infrastructure, rail and road infrastructure, public utilities, agriculture and financial sector with a total project cost of over $14.5 billion with a share of ADB financing being about $5 billion.

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Three-storey tunnel planned under Bosphorus

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency – A total of 16 companies have taken specification documents for a Dec. 23 tender to build a three-story tunnel project in Istanbul that is expected to ease the traffic burden, according to officials.

In line with the project, the winners will undertake deep drilling activities both under land and at sea in the Bosphorus over the next year.

The three-story tunnel will pass under the Bosphorus, featuring tubes for both cars and trains. Trains will pass through a tube in the middle, while the tubes below and above will be for vehicular transit.

One part of the planned 6.5 km-long tunnel will connect a high speed subway system from the İncirli neighborhood on the European side to Söğütlüçeşme on the Asian side. The second part will connect a two-lane land route between Hasdal on the European side and Çamlıca on the Asian side.

The tunnel will be integrated into four subway lines, the TEM Motorway, the E-5 Motorway and the Northern Marmara Motorway, according to officials.

After the tunnel is completed in the next five years, around 6.5 million passengers are expected to use it on daily basis.

Interested companies have the opportunity to obtain the specification documents until the day of the tender.

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Turkish opera and ballet halls on rise

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet daily News – The number of opera and ballet halls increased by 25 percent compared to the previous season in 2013-2014 to reach 15, while the number of seats increased 51.8 percent to 10,288, according to a new Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) report on Opera, Ballet, Orchestra, Choir and Group Statistics.

Accordingly, six orchestras, 13 choirs and nine groups were affiliated last year with the Directorate of Fine Arts in Turkey.

The number of opera and ballet halls increased by 16.7 percent in the last four seasons, while the number of seats showed an increase of 102.6 percent.

However, in comparison with the 2012-2013 season, the number of works staged in opera and ballet halls decreased by 19.7 percent to 188 in the 2013-2014 season. The number of national works staged in opera and ballet halls decreased by 19.7 while the number of foreign works decreased by 19.6 percent.

In the same term, the number of opera and ballet viewers increased by 6.7 percent to hit 400,420.

Audience figures, meanwhile, also dropped with spectator numbers for national works decreasing 16 percent and numbers for foreign works plummeting 38.9 percent year on year.

In the 2013-2014 season, 412 artists worked for the orchestras affiliated with the General Directorate of Fine Arts, 41.3 percent of whom were women.

The number of shows made by the orchestras did not change in comparison to the previous season, coming in at 212. However, the number of viewers saw a 7.5 percent decrease to fall to 141,393.

During the last four seasons, the number of orchestra shows increased by 15.8 percent, while the number of viewers increased by 12.7 percent.

Thirty-eight percent of 701 artists working for the choirs were women. The occupation of vocal arts featured the highest rate of women artists at 53.90 percent.

The number of choir shows fell to 168 – a 32 percent decrease – and the number of viewers fell to 69,250, representing a 30.4 percent decrease.

In the 2013-2014 season, 384 artists worked for groups affiliated with the General Directorate of Fine Arts, with 27.1 percent of their employees being women.

The number of shows made by groups decreased by 9.9 percent to 183. In the same period, the number of viewers fell to 205,510 – a 10.3 decrease.

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Ergüven’s film shortlisted for foreign Oscar

LOS ANGELES – Agence France-Presse – France’s “Mustang” and Hungary’s “Son of Saul” are among the nine films that have made it onto a shortlist in the contest for the foreign-language Oscar, Academy Awards organizers said late Dec. 17.

The nine films, seven of them from Europe, one from Colombia and one from Jordan, were selected from 81 submissions. “Mustang” is the first feature film by Franco-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Ergüven.

Focused on five sisters living in a village in northern Turkey who are kept at home by their family when they are deemed too rebellious, it was screened at the Director’s Fortnight at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and has received international critical acclaim.

It is the first time in decades that France is being represented by a non-French-language film.

The last time was in 1960, when its Portuguese-language submission, “Black Orpheus,” won the Oscar. France last won an Oscar in 1993 with “Indochine,” starring Catherine Deneuve.

The harrowing Holocaust drama, “Son of Saul,” that offers unflinching depictions of the gas chambers of Auschwitz, claimed the runner-up Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes has been widely acclaimed for taking audiences into a Nazi concentration camp and showing the Holocaust in a different way.

Others in the running are Belgium’s “The Brand New Testament,” Colombia’s “Embrace of the Serpent” and Denmark’s “A War.” Finland’s “The Fencer” also made the cut, as well as Germany’s “Labyrinth of Lies,” Ireland’s “Viva” and Jordan’s “Theeb.”

The shortlist will now be whittled down to five finalists who will be announced together with all other Oscar nominations on Jan. 14, 2016. The 88th Academy Awards will take place in Los Angeles, U.S. on Feb. 28, 2016.

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Gaziantep cuisine added to UNESCO list

PARIS – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep has been added to the list in the gastronomy category of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

UNESCO recently announced the designation of 47 cities from 33 countries as new members of the network, which includes cities within its seven creative fields including Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music.

Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin praised the move, saying the variety and quality of Gaziantep’s cuisine had been registered by the world and the city had become one of the world’s “capitals of taste.”

“We received the Nobel of our own category. Now Gaziantep’s cuisine is recognized as one of the world’s most important cuisines,” Şahin said after the announcement.

Launched in 2004, UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network comprises 116 cities worldwide. It aims to foster international cooperation with and between cities committed to investing in creativity as a driver for sustainable urban development, social inclusion and cultural vibrancy.

“The UNESCO Creative Cities Network represents an immense potential to assert the role of culture as enabler of sustainable development. I would like to recognize the many new cities and their countries that are enriching the Network with their diversity,” said the Director-General Irina Bokova, as UNESCO celebrates in 2015 the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

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Symposium on Life during Ottoman Empire

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Istanbul Bilgi University will organize a symposium titled “Food, Drink, Fine Clothes and the Good Things of Life: Consumption in the Ottoman Empire” on Dec. 19 and 20.

The conference will approach the subject of Ottoman consumption during the early modern period (1450-1850) using two main avenues: Food and drink on the one hand, and clothes and jewelry on the other.

Apart from houses and other dwelling places, most people interested in the material lives of the Ottomans tend to favor these two types of consumption. As the present conference was scheduled before the end of 2015, leaving very little time for preparation, the organizers thought it was best to focus on what seemed to be the two biggest interests – at least in the eyes of the present convener.

Among the speakers of the symposium will be a leading authority on Ottoman history, Suraiya Faroqhi, Gülhan Balsoy (Bilgi University), Tülay Artan, Marloes Cornelissen (Sabancı University), Arif Bilgin (Sakarya University), Rosita D’Amora (Università del Salento), Malte Fuhrmann (Turkish-German University), researcher and author Priscilla Mary Işın, Philippa Lacey (University of East Anglia), Rhoads Murphey (İpek University), Hedda Reindl-Kiel (Universitaet Bonn), Stefan Rohdewald (Universitaet Giessen), Aslı Sağıroğlu Arslan (Erciyes University), Özge Samancı (Yeditepe University), İklil Oya Selçuk (Özyeğin University) and Ahmet Yaşar (Fatih University).

The language of the symposium, which will be held at the santralistanbul campus in the Board of Trustees Meeting Room, will be English.

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First excavations to start in city of Amos

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – Excavations are soon set to start on the 2,200-year-old Amos, one of the most important ancient cities in the southwestern province of Muğla’s Marmaris district.

Located on a hill in the Turunç neighborhood’s Kumlubük area, Amos will host teams from the Marmaris Museum Directorate, Selçuk University and the Marmaris Trade Chamber (MTO) during the excavation process.

MTO Chairman Mehmet Baysal said they had previously made environmental arrangements in Amos and registered the monumental artifacts in the ancient city, which is almost 25 kilometers away from the center.

He said that for the archaeological excavations, they had initiated joint work with the Marmaris Museum Directorate and Selçuk University.

“We have finished the feasibility work. The university determined a budget of 467,000 Turkish Liras for the excavations, which are set to continue for three years,” he said.

He said works would start in the ancient city in the event that they found a budget, noting that the university was looking for a sponsor. “If they can’t find a sponsor, the chamber will provide support,” he added.

Baysal said they planned to start excavations next fall. “The ancient city of Amos has never been excavated. University academics, who will carry out works there, think they will be able to find very precious artifacts in Amos and make a great contribution to tourism in Marmaris.”

One of the most important cities of the Union of Rhodes, Amos means “the Goddess Temple” in a dialect of Ancient Greek. Known as Samnaios in the Hellenistic era, Apollon was considered the leading god of the city.

The city is surrounded by 1.8-meter-thick and 3.5-meter-high walls and towers. The city, whose most important surviving structure is a theater, was settled from the Hellenistic era until the Eastern Roman era.

The ancient city also has terraces where the coves around the area can be seen, together with the sunrise and sunset.

Rental agreements from the second century B.C., which were unearthed during excavations in 1984 by Professor George Ewart Bean, show that Amos’ history dates back 2,200 years ago.

The ancient city was declared a first-degree archaeological site on Oct. 14, 1978.

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Cult of Zeus found in Metropolis

İZMİR – Anadolu Agency – A cult area built for Zeus, the main god of the ancient Helen mythology, has been found in the ancient city of Metropolis, located in Aegean İzmir province’s Torbalı district.

According to a statement made by the Sabancı Foundation, this year’s excavations, carried out by the foundation in collaboration with the Culture and Tourism Ministry, have been completed in the ancient city.

Pieces of columns, which indicate the area was a center of worship, a piece of an altar and a sculpture pedestal have been discovered in the excavation. Detailed examinations made by the excavation teams revealed the region was a cult area dedicated to Zeus.

The excavations also revealed that the main god Zeus was mentioned with the title “Krezimos” in the ancient city of Metropolis for the first time anywhere in the world.

It is believed that Krezimos means “protective Zeus who brings abundance and wealth to Metropolis” since Krezimos, which is a unique title to Metropolis, is similar to the word “crescere,” meaning “to grow” or “cultivate” in Latin.

According to archaeologists, worshipping Zeus Krezimos started in the 2nd century B.C. and continued in the Roman era.

The statement quoted the head of the excavations in the ancient city of Metropolis, Manisa Celal Bayar University Associated Professor Serdar Aybek, as saying, “For the first time a religious area was discovered in the ancient city, where (only) social structures had been discovered so far. We have been following the traces of history in Metropolis for 25 years and this year we found very important data. Both inscriptions and architectural data proved the Zeus Krezimos culture existed only in the ancient city of Metropolis. Further excavations are very important to completely understand the cult area and its structure.”

Sabancı Foundation General Director Zerrin Koyunsağan said the ancient city was open to culture tourism and visitors this year.

The statement said the ancient city of Metropolis, which has been unearthed during excavations since 1990, is located between Torbalı’s Yeniköy and Özbey neighborhoods.

The history of the city date back from the Classical Age to the Hellenistic Age, Roman and Byzantine ages and the Ottoman era, the statement said, and continued:

“The excavations so far have unearthed a Hellenistic era theater, assembly building, portico, two Roman-era bathes, a complex of bath and sports field, a peristillium house, stores, a toilet and streets. Also, tens of thousands of findings including Hellenistic and Roman era ceramics, coins, glasses, architectural pieces and sculptures, have been discovered in the ancient city.”

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Hititology workshop at METU

ANKARA – Hurriyet Daily News – As part of the 50th anniversary of the Middle East Technical University (METU) Alumni Association, a workshop titled “Hititology in the 100th Year of the Hittite Language” will be held on Dec. 20 at the university’s Vişnelik campus between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

The workshop will include presentations on new academic studies of the Hittite language and archaeology. A special text that will be written in the end of the workshop will be published in the METU Bulletin.

Among the titles of presentations in the workshop are “Kültepe archives and tablet publications,” “Thoughts on the problems of ancient science in Turkey,” “Hititology and Sedat Alp,” “Hititology in Turkey and the world,” and “Latest developments in Hittite archaeology: The Ovaören excavations.”

A special text written at the end of the workshop will be published in the METU Bulletin.

The year 2015 is said to be the “100th year of the Hittite language” because Czech scholar Bedřich Hrozný declared in 1915 that the Hittite language was an Indo-European language.

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Garuda to strengthen medium-haul flight network

16 December 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia will strengthen its position in the medium-haul flight market in 2016, with a travel time of five to seven hours, according to its President Director Arif Wibowo.

“The current market situation does not allow us to expand in the long-haul flight market, so we are focusing on medium-haul flights,” Wibowo remarked here on Wednesday.

He explained that starting next year, there will be additional flights to and from China.

“This year, we have been operating three weekly flights on the Guangzhou-Beijing route, and Shanghai will be added soon,” Wibowo revealed.

He said the Hong Kong-Denpasar and Singapore-Denpasar routes will be served by Garuda’s wide-bodied aircraft.

He opined that Garuda’s strategic business unit has recorded a passenger growth between eight to nine percent, which is not significant.

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Development of Tanjung Lesung to be expedited

16 December 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The development of the Tanjung Lesung Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for tourism will be accelerated as a government program to support the transformation process.

Situated on the western coast of Java island in the district of Pandeglang, Banten province, the Tanjung Lesung resort will soon become Indonesias new hub for business activities and a novel gateway for tourists.

Budiharto Setiawan, the chief representative of Bank Indonesia Banten, remarked that the accelerated development of the Tanjung Lesung SEZ is also part of the local governments program to expedite the transformation process.

“Besides accelerating the development of the Tanjung Lesung SEZ, the government of Banten province is also increasingly building connectivity infrastructure,” Setiawan remarked during the annual meeting of Bank Indonesia in Serang on Tuesday night.

He stated that in view of the future economic challenges, Bank Indonesia believes that transformation is required to make Indonesias economy better.

Setiawan highlighted the need to transform Indonesia from a consumer-oriented country to a nation supporting production, from an importer to an exporter, and from a producer of raw natural resources to a nation that produces products of higher added value.

To this end, Setiawan emphasized that transformation must be supported by an increase in the industrialization process in the creative industry sector, tourism industry, and the maritime industry being adopted by Banten to develop the Tanjung Lesung SEZ for tourism.

Inaugurated by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in February 2015, the Tanjung Lesung Special Economic Zone will be developed into a maritime-based, world-class integrated tourism area in Indonesia.

President Jokowi at the time expressed hope that the development of the Serang-Panimbang toll road, which has been set for completion in three years, can be carried out in tandem with the construction of the Tanjung Lesung SEZ.

He noted that the development of the toll road will be carried out by the government, which will then be followed up by the development of the Tanjung Lesung SEZ for tourism.

President Jokowi remarked that the SEZ for tourism in Tanjung Lesung was declared 24 years ago, and a presidential decree on the development was issued three years ago, but the central and regional governments were too slow to follow it up.

“Therefore, I have set a target to complete it in three years,” Jokowi affirmed.

The Tanjung Lesung tourism region, which is built in the coastal tourism area, is based on the Water City tourism master design in 2020, similar to the one in Venice, Italy.

Tanjung Lesung is one of the popular tourism areas in Banten, besides the Carita Beach and other coastal tourism locations.

Tanjung Lesung also has the Ujung Kulon National Park (TNUK) located on the westernmost tip of Java, where Mount Krakatoa is also located.

The SEZ for tourism covers an area of 1.3 thousand hectares, which will have various tourism infrastructure and facilities, including hotels, tourism vocational schools, and other supporting facilities.

The beaches along Tanjung Lesungs coastline are known to be some of the best as they offer good surf, calm swimming spots, considerably healthy reefs, and white inviting sands.

Only a three-hour car ride away from bustling Jakarta and just 30 minutes from Carita beach, Tanjung Lesung is a pleasant choice for a weekend getaway.

Although Jakartans and beachgoers from other cities in the country continue to flock to this area on the western coast of Java, but Tanjung Lesung will remain serene and private, as there are limited accommodations here.

The beauty and serenity of Tanjung Lesungs surrounding area is also due to the legendary peak of Krakatau, the sight that makes Sunda Strait famous around the world.

Krakatoa, or Krakatau in Indonesian, is undeniably famous for its volcanoes in the archipelago due to the worlds loudest recorded bang that it created in 1883.

Scientists from across the world still come to conduct research on the volcanic richness of West Java coast and its natural surroundings.

Today, Tanjung Lesung offers an ideal location to unwind and immerse oneself in the beauty of nature found along the vast stretches of soft white sandy beaches, clear and calm blue waters, and fresh tropical breeze.

The 15-kilometer-long shoreline offers an array of beach activities such as beach volley, beach football, or one can simply soak in the indulging sunshine.

Tanjung Lesung can also act as a staging point for those keen on venturing to the Krakatau volcanic island or planning to visit the TNUK.

No wonder, Banten Governor Rano Karno expressed belief that the Tanjung Lesung SEZ will serve as an important driver for achieving sustainable economic growth and creating jobs for the public of Pandeglang district.

“The development of Tanjung Lesung SEZ will definitely improve the economic conditions of the local community and create around 200 thousand jobs,” Rano stated after President Jokowi inaugurated the SEZ for tourism.

Rano expressed hope that during the development of the Tanjung Lesung SEZ, 70 percent of jobs could be given to the local community of Pandeglang district.

The Banten governor noted that the Tanjung Lesung SEZ, with a 13-kilometer coastline, will become an integrated tourist destination among the 536 tourism attractions in Banten province.

He noted that the SEZ was expected to boost economic development of the local community.

“The development of Tanjung Lesung SEZ for tourism is in keeping with the nations interest to address the regional development imbalance in Pandeglang district, in particular, and in Banten province, in general,” Rano added.

Tajung Lesung resort is envisaged to feature top-range hotels and restaurants, a convention hall, several golf courses, marina and theme park, education, and health facilities.

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Over 40 investors keen to invest in Kertajati Airport

17 December 2015 Bandung (ANTARA News) – More than 40 domestic and foreign investors have expressed interest to invest in the development of Kertajati Airport, President Director of West Java International Airport (BIJB) Virda Dimas Ekaputra stated.

They have shown interest to develop ground infrastructure, such as the flight terminal, transport connectivity, and other facilities at the airport located in Majalengka district, Ekaputra remarked here on Thursday.

“The foreign investors who have expressed interest are from Switzerland, Turkey, Munich Airport (Germany), Qatar, and India. There are also domestic investors,” he revealed.

He explained that the BIJB had officially opened the tender for investment through an event called “Market Sounding” to meet the investors.

According to Ekaputra, several strategic partners had raised concerns over the development of the largest airport in West Java province.

He affirmed that through the event, the BIJB had invited domestic and foreign investors and had selected strategic partners for the construction of ground facilities at the Kertajati Airport.

“We had invited them here to provide information on the bidding process and other necessary requirements. After the event, we will move on to the pre-qualification phase, which will take place in the second week of January 2016.

According to the rule of law, foreign investors may hold a maximum stake of 49 percent. West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan has instructed to give at least 40 percent stake to foreign investors.

“Our policy allows it. We have also discussed it with the minister, and there is no problem,” Ekaputra noted.

According to the auction, it appears that they are seeking strategic partners apart from PT Angkasa Pura II as the state-owned corporation was originally the first option based on the concept of market sharing between Husein Sastranegara Airport in Bandung and BIJB in Majalengka.

“But, honestly, the plan for a joint venture between BIJB and Angkasa Pura had reached a deadlock state, although we had given sufficient time to them to reach a decision,” he stated.

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