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28 Dec, 2015

Jordanian Airlines Resumes Flights To Jakarta

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 28 December 2015 (16 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.my

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on “Peace through Tourism” on YouTube — the first travel industry journalist in Bangkok invited to speak at this prestigious forum. CLICK HERE.



Malaysian Solo Climber Of Three Himalayan Peaks To Conquer Seven Peaks Next Year

SEPANG, Malaysia, Dec 27 (NNN-BERNAMA) – Malaysian solo climber, Khairil Aslan Ab Rashid, who conquered three peaks in the Himalayan Mountains, Kathmandu, in Nepal recently, hopes to conquer seven peaks in seven continents within a year next year.

Khairil Aslan, 40, who arrived at the KL International Airport (KLIA), from Kathmandu yesterday, said, the success in conquering three Himalayan peaks, namely the Maru Peak, Lobuche and Island, within 32 days from Nov 26, had been a good training, in preparing for the expedition next year.

The success in conquering the three Himalayan peaks also created a record for the Asian solo climber, who made the expedition to the three peaks during the winter season.

“Subsequently, I wish to achieve a record as the fastest Asian solo climber to conquer seven peaks in seven continents within one year.

“I will begin my expedition in early Feb in Argentina, to conquer the Aconcagua peak, in the South American continent, as the first peak and conclude the expedition in Carstensz Pyramid, in the Australasian continent,” he told reporters, after arriving at the KLIA at 9:40, last night.

Besides the Aconcagua peak and Carstensz Pyramid, the other five peaks that he would climb in the seven-peak expedition next year are, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Vincon in the Antarctica, Mount Denali in North America, Mount Everest in Eurasia and Mount Mauna Kea in the Pacific islands.

The father of three was received at the KLIA by his wife, Hamizah Hashim, 37 and his three children, Nur Ainnajwa Safhia, 16, Muhammad Najman Harith, 14 and Muhammad Najmie Haziq, six. Also present at the KLIA were his friends from his home town in Batu Kurau, the state of Perak.

Recalling his experience and the challenges he faced during the climb, Khairil Aslan said, he had faced high risks throughout the expedition because climbing during the cold season was 10 times more difficult than normal.

“At the peak of Island, which was the last peak that I conquered, I was almost 95 percent dead because of the change in weather, and the wind condition was very drastic, at about 4:30 am on Dec 20. The wind was blowing at speeds of between 140 kph and 160 kph.

“At that time, I could not feel anything any more. The blood in my body was no longer flowing. At that time, one of the three sherpas told me, if we were to die, we would die together, between 4:30 am and 5:30 am,” he said.

However, Khairil Aslan said, a miracle happened at 6:30 am, when he could move his lips, while praising the greatness of Allah (God), after the sunlight appeared right above his head.

“At that time, I could warm up my body and could move my body.

Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), at 8:00 am, I set foot on Island peak and we quickly moved down to base camp subsequently,” he said.– NNN-BERNAMA

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Celebrating Urdu — Jashn-e-Rekhta to be held in Delhi from February 12 to 14

Karachi, (Dawn.com) – Continuing the tradition set last year by Rekhta Foundation, the Jashn-e-Rekhta festival is all set to kick off on February 12 to 14 next year in New Delhi.

Founded by Sanjiv Saraf, the foundation popular for curating an online portal for Urdu poetry and prose invited intellectuals from Pakistan like Zia Moheyeddin and Intizaar Hussain, among others, to New Delhi last year. This time poets Iftikhar Arif, Zehra Nigah and singers Tina Sani and the Sabri Brothers have been requested to attend the event.

Prominent names from India attending the Jashan include literary critics, poets and actors Gopi Chand Narang, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Javed Akhtar, Jeelani Bano, Mahesh Bhatt, Shabana Azmi, Tom Alter, Ashok Vajpeyi and Namvar Singh and others.

The upcoming festival will be opened by none other than the Sabri brothers with a special highlight of the event being the birth centenary celebration of legendary Urdu writers Ismat Chugtai and Rajinder Singh Bedi.

Last year the Jashn-e-Rekhta saw a lot of support from the younger lot hinting at Urdu’s popularity — attendees enjoyed the richness of Urdu through Dastangoi, plays, mushaira, qawwali, ghazal singing, discussions, baitbaazi, calligraphy workshops, lectures, exhibitions, Urdu bazaar and readings.

The free event open to all will be held at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. A food court celebrating traditional Kashmiri, Deccani, Hyderabadi, Lucknowi and Purani Dilli cuisine will also be set up for the attendees.

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Islamic Relief Organisation Conducts More Than 500 Eye Surgeries In Morocco

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Dec 27 (NNN-SPA) – The International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO) of Muslim World League (MWL), has conducted 529 surgeries, to remove the cataract, implanting of lenses, medical examination for the eyes, and distribution of glasses, to large numbers of patients, from various towns and villages of Morocco.

The Secretary General of the Organisation, Ihsan bin Saleh Tayeb, said that, according to the report, it has received from the medical team of the Organisation, these operations took about a week, where the medical team has been able to perform more than 100 operations a day.– NNN-SPA

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Qatar Chamber Signs Agreement On Employing People With Disabilities

DOHA, Qatar, Dec 27 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Chamber signed a cooperation agreement, with the Volunteer Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities, to provide training and employment to people with disabilities.

President of Qatar Chamber, Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Thani, said that, signing the agreement was part of the chamber’s commitment to social responsibility and support to people with disabilities.

Sheikh Khalifa said that, people with disability, if allowed to reach their potential, can provide a boost to the human capital of any society. That requires relying on specialists and experts to help people with disabilities.”

For his part, Head of the Volunteer Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities, Khalid Al Shoaibi, praised Qatar Chamber’s keenness, on rehabilitating and employing people with disabilities.

He said that, this segment represented a significant proportion of the Qatari society, whether they were Qatari citizens or expats. He expressed his hope that the agreement materialises into a successful initiative for employing people with disabilities.– NNN-QNA

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Jordanian Airlines Restarts Flights To Jakarta

AMMAN, Dec. 23, (NNN-Petra) — Royal Jordanian (RJ) has relaunched its direct regular ‎route from Amman to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, as of December ‎‎23, 2015.‎ Jakarta is the fourth RJ destination in 2015; the airline started operating to ‎Ankara, on December 8, and to Tabuk and Najaf earlier this year.‎

RJ President/CEO Captain Suleiman Obeidat said that reopening the Amman-‎Jakarta route comes at a time when Indonesia witnesses an increasingly ‎remarkable air traffic, which indicates economic growth.

RJ operated flights to Jakarta between 1992 and 2002; they were suspended ‎for commercial reasons.

‎ Captain Obeidat said that this route is bound to carry tourists from Jordan and ‎the Levant to Indonesia and from there transport Indonesian students who ‎study at Jordanian universities. ‎ The route will also serve the Indonesian labor force, cargo and business traffic.‎

He added that the feasibility studies conducted by the RJ showed that this route is important for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and ‎for transit passengers who come to Amman in order to connect to the cities ‎served by RJ network and that of oneworld carriers. ‎

RJ will operate to Jakarta, via Kuala Lumpur, three times a week, on Mondays, ‎Wednesdays and Fridays. ‎ The wide body Airbus 330 aircraft, which will fly on this route, takes off from ‎Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, at ‎‏01‏‎:30 and reaches Jakarta at ‎‎18:25; it departs Jakarta at 19:55 and lands in Amman at ‎‏04‏‎:15 the following ‎day. ‎

RJ customers may book their flights at any of the company’s sales offices or ‎agents in Jordan, Indonesia and worldwide, through its booking engine at ‎www.rj.com, through the RJ application on smart phones or by contacting the ‎RJ call center at 962 6 5100000. ‎ ‎

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Indonesia targets 2 Million Chinese Visitors In 2016

BEIJING, China Dec. 22 (NNN-Xinhua) — Indonesia aims to attract many more Chinese visitors, said Igde Pitana, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, at the “Wonderful Indonesia Promotion” on Monday in Beijing.

Indonesia sets the target of Chinese visitors at 1.3 million this year and two millions next year, said Pitana.

Last year, their number hit 959,000, according to the minister, making China the fourth largest source of foreign tourists.

In the first eight months of this year, the number grew by 20.74 percent to 779,348, as compared to the same period last year, according to Indonesia’s Central Statistics Bureau.

To meet the goal of two million for next year, he said, Indonesia removed visa requirements from this June to facilitate the Chinese visitors stay for 30 days..

Besides, more limits on yachts and cruises to enter Indonesia territories were canceled and more gates opened to Chinese visitors, said the minister.

Apart from Bali, 12 more cities are expanded as destinations for Chinese tourists including Batam in Riau, Semarang in Central Java and Cirebon in West Java.

“We hope the friendship and mutual understandings between the Chinese and Indonesian peoples could be well-promoted through tourism and related industries, ” Pitana pointed out.

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Komodo Airport Inaugurated in East Nusa Tenggara

27 December 2015 Labuan Bajo, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) officiated Komodo Airport of Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara on Sunday.

“I hope that the presence of this airports new terminal and the extension of its ranways will help boost the arrivals of tourists to this region,” President Jokowi said when inaugurating the aiports terminal and runway extension on Sunday.

According to President Jokowi, the expansion of the airport is very important for accelerating the economic development in East Nusa Tenggara, particularly that of the Flores Island and its surrounding.

He said that the airport was expected to become a gate for tourists to come to enjoy the beauty of Labuan Bajos beaches and undersea panorama, the beauty of Lake Kalimutu, the prehistoric Liang Bua Cave, the Komodo Park in Komodo Island, the Merah Muda Beach and many others.

The President also asked that the promotions of the region should be intensified after the inauguration of the airport terminal.

The regional government needs to cooperate with various airlines to increase the intensity of flights to the airport, the president added.

He expressed his hope that flights coming to the Komodo airport should come not only from Bali but also from other cities in Indonesia and abroad such as Jakarta, Surabaya and Singapore.

Jokowi also expected that the economy of Labuan Bajo would improve in line with the increasing number of tourists visiting the region.

The economic activities in Labuan Bajo could be generated through increasing the number of hotels, advancing creative economy in the form of souvenirs and boosting tourism-related small-business development.

He asked the airport management to continue maintenance of the newly inaugurated airport.

The airport was initially developed as an air strip in 1975. Now the airport already has a clean and specious terminal with an artistic design. It now had a 2,250-meter runway with a width of 45 meters.

The president arrived in NTT on Sunday for a working visit during which he will also inspect a 5-MW solar power plant in Oelpuah Village, Centgral Kupang District.

On Monday, the president is expected to visit Atambua to launch the inauguration of the groundbreaking development of Rotiklot Dam in the border area with Timor Leste.

He will also attend the Christmas Day celebration in Kupang before leaving for Jakarta.

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Jakarta MRT to serve as an example of development

24 December 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) expressed hope that Jakartas Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project would serve as an example for the development of a similar transportation system in other cities.

“Other big cities that need mass transportation system but do not have ample land can follow this system,” President Jokowi stated on Wednesday while inspecting the drilling work at the MRT tunnel projects site where the Senayan Station will be built.

He cited the names of several cities that had begun developing a mass transportation system, such as Palembang in South Sumatra, with its ongoing light train transit (LRT) project.

“There is also Surabaya (East Java), but it uses a tram network,” noted Jokowi.

The president said he continues to monitor the progress in the development of the Jakarta MRT.

“I continue to oversee the developments in the MRT project on a daily and monthly basis, although this is the responsibility of the Jakarta regional government,” he affirmed.

Regarding the drilling at the project site, the head of state remarked that in a span of 93 days, the drilling had reached a length of 327 meters. The drilling work at Senayan Stations location is expected to be completed at the end of 2016.

“This is the prospective location for the Senayan Station. We hope the work on other stations would also be completed,” he added.

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Indonesia plans visa free travel for 84 more countries

21 December 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli said the governmenr will waive visa requirement for short term visitors from 84 more countries hoping to boost number of tourists visiting the country.

“There are 84 more countries we decided today to grant visa free travel to be effective this week,” Rizal said after a coordinating meeting here on Monday.

Among the 84 countries include Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, Kenya, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Palestine, Honduras, Pakistan, Mongolia. Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Bosnia Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Israel, Albania, Mozambique, Macedonia, El Salvador, Zambia, Moldova, Madagascar, Georgia, Namibia, Kiribati, Armenia, Bolivia, Bhutan, Guatemala, Mauritania and Paraguay.

Rizal said he hoped that the visa waiving facility would boost the number of foreign tourists to the country, which hopes to attract 20 million foreign tourists in 2019.

A strong growth of 19 percent was recorded in the number of foreign visitors after the granting of visa free travel for 47 new countries last October.

“The growth was much higher than a normal growth of 6-8 percent,” Rizal said.

The government would also increase the number of workers in the tourism sector from 3 million to 7 million in five years.

The 84 countries would add to 90 countries already granted visa free facility bringing the total number to 174 countries, the minister said.

“Offering visa-free travel is one of the easiest ways to boost tourist numbers,” Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said earlier.

Neighboring Malaysia offers visa-free travel to 164 countries and Thailand to 56 countries.

Both Malaysia and Thailand attract far more tourists than Indonesia each year.

Last year, Indonesia recorded 9 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2014, rising from 8.8 million visitors in 2013.

in the same year Thailand recorded 26 million foreign tourist arrivals and Malaysia recorded 27 million foreign tourists.

“By waiving visa requirements, we can attract more tourists than Thailand or Malaysia in two years,” Arief has said.

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Indonesia President discusses railway development in Kalimantan

23 December 2015 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo held a limited cabinet meeting here on Tuesday to discuss railway development in Kalimantan.

“Regarding the railway development in Kalimantan, we have two big programs,” Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan said after the meeting.

The first program is development of public railway from Pontianak in West Kalimantan to Balikpapan in East Kalimantan, he said.

“If possible, it will be extended right till the countrys borders with Malaysia in the West and the East,” he said.

Jonan said the government had also received proposals from private parties to develop special railway lines.

“Private parties have submitted an application for a permit to develop several special railway lines in Central Kalimantan and also East Kalimantan. We are still processing ways to simplify the licensing procedures for them, in case they are needed,” he said.

According to the data of the Ministry of Transportation, the railway development program in Kalimantan for the 2015-2019 period covered two lines, namely one from the western border to Pontianak, Sanggau, Palangkaraya and Banjarmasin stretching up to 1,192 kilometers and the other from the eastern border to Tanjung Redep, Lubuk Tutung, Samarinda, Balikpapan, Tanjung and Banjarmasing, extending up to 1,236 kilometers.

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Indonesian Creative Industry Exhibition held

Friday, 18 December 2015 BruDirect.com GADONG, MUKIM BERAKAS A: The four-day Indonesian Creative Industry Exhibition 2015 was officially launched by Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Paduka Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong.

The opening ceremony at the Atrium of The Mall Gadong began with the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah and Doa followed by a welcoming speech delivered by Nurul Qomar, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Brunei Darussalam.

She pointed out that the event will pave way for stronger cooperation between Indonesia and Brunei that will eventually benefit the region with the Asean Economic Community coming into effect by end of this year.

The exhibition, she added, is oriented towards a ‘132B’ cooperation and this event will provide Indonesia an opportunity to display its best products that are sought-after by both local and foreign buyers.

Featuring 16 booths, the exhibition is showcasing products from different regions in Indonesia including Islamic wear and batik, snacks, herbal food, accessories, handicraft, gemstones, leather products, furniture and more.

The event hopes to create more business opportunities to increase bilateral trade volume between both countries, which in the second quarter of this year reached US$82 million.

It also aims to further strengthen trade and economic cooperation between Brunei and Indonesia, particularly so with the hosting of a business matching event among businessmen from both countries, which will take place tomorrow.

Members of the public are invited to visit the exhibition. More information about the event is available by calling the embassy’s Economic Desk.

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Santubong Homestay Nominated for Asean Homestay Standard

Sunday, 20 December 2015 BruDirect.com SANTUBONG, SARAWAK: After winning Best Homestay during the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Awards 2009/2010 and taking third place in the Best Homestay category during the national-level One District One Industry (SDSI) showcase in 2012, Santubong Homestay is adding one more feather in Sarawak’s cap with its latest nomination, the Asean Homestay Standard.

According to its coordinator Jamilah Shukri, Santubong Homestay made it to the Top 10 list out of 181 homestays in Malaysia to be nominated in that category.

“Those that have been nominated will then be judged accordingly to criteria set to be selected as the winner where the award will be handed out in the Phillippines in January next year during the Asean Tourism Forum,” said Jamilah.

The Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) is an annual tourism event organised by Asean member states while the Asean Homestay Standard is a new category to be introduced next year, said Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) senior principal assistant secretary Norsiah Patah.

For ATF 2016, all ten Asean countries need to nominate five of their best homestays.

“As for Malaysia, Santubong Homestay was one of the homestays chosen because it offers a unique experience to visitors as well as other factors that contributed to its success including the cleanliness and wonderful hospitality,” she added.

Norsiah also added that the ministry has introduced a new programme known as the ‘Kampung Stay’ recently launched in Temerloh, Pahang.

The Kampung Stay concept is an extension of the homestay programme.

While the homestay programme usually has at least 10 houses in one village and tourists staying with their host families, the trend of visitors and tourists who prefer more privacy but still want to experience the homestay experience gave birth to the Kampung Stay concept where “they will be staying in empty houses without any host family but can still join all the activities by the homestay so that is why we call it the Kampung Stay.”

For Pantai Damai assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi, the achievement means a lot to the State especially those who reside in Santubong.

“I hope that Santubong Homestay will also continue to associate with more partners as it is a good way to be able to promote the homestay and place Santubong better on the world map. Hopefully when people mention the name Santubong, they will remember Mount Santubong first, the village itself second, and last but not least, the Santubong Homestay.

“I also hope that the Santubong Homestay can be one of the leaders in homestay activities here in Sarawak,” said Abdul Rahman at the Malay Mock Wedding Ceremony organised by Santubong Homestay on December 19 at the homestay, adding that Santubong has been well known for many years as one of the main landmarks here in Sarawak in the heart of Borneo.

Also attending the ceremony were representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC), Ministry of Tourism Sarawak, Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd (Sains), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and Swinburne Sarawak.

For more information on Santubong Homestay, call 019-8879495 (Jamilah) or log on to http://www.go2homestay.com/santubong-homestay.

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Organiser Eyes Tourism Package for HobbyCon

Sunday, 13 December 2015 The Borneo Post KOTA KINABALU, SABAH: Organizing chairman of Youth, Hobby and Lifestyle Convention (HobbyCon), Johan Julian Lee Abdullah is aiming to upgrade the event to world class standard.

Johan said he wanted to provide a proper venue of air-conditioned place for each community that was taking part in the event (HobbyCon) with a specific room or hall for their own competition and the current practice was that all of the communities were placed together in the sports complex hall.

“If possible, we want the event to be a tourism package. This event is actually also sponsored by Sabah Tourism. I think they also understand that we are able to bring people from outside of Sabah to come over,” Johan said an interview during the 9th Instalment of HobbyCon at the Likas Sports Complex here yesterday.

“Hobbycon is not tied specifically to a culture. We are talking about hobby. So anyone, who likes pop culture, animation, movies and cartoons, will find it easy to take part in it. So, what we need to do is to provide them with a proper venue space and entertainment to keep them coming,” he said.

Those who came from outside of Sabah were from Labuan, Sarawak, Brunei as well as from Korea.

He also highlighted that HobbyCon had always been counting on the Sabah Tourism calendar since its first year on 2007 which was held at Asia City Complex here.

Johan emphasized that there was a very big increase in terms of people coming in as well as increasing numbers of each of the communities.

“Maybe last time when we organized the first community started with cosplaying, we had maybe about 50 participants in the whole of Kota Kinabalu. However, now we have more than 120 participants for All-Star March. That is not including the ones who are not participating in the march,” he explained.

He also said that in the first year of the event there were only 12 booths as compared to 60 booths now.

In terms of the number of participants, there were only 200 people when compared to last year’s 2,000 participants and more participants were expected in this year’s HobbyCon.

Asked about the proceeds from the sale of tickets, Johan explained that it would be used for the upcoming event as well as to hire coming guests for logistics and providing accommodation for the guests.

“This year’s guests, who came from Taiwan and the Philippines, are not just coming for this two-day event but they will also be brought to islands here.”

“We want to give them a chance to visit Sabah. This is actually good because when they go back, they can tell people and other future guests on the event and it will roll that way.”

“We also reward our volunteers a lot because they work for use for free and stay with us one whole year. So we reward them by taking them out to have a good meal together with the guests,” he elaborated.

A hairsylist, Brian Chang Chee Kang, 20, cosplayed a character namely Tsurumaru Kuninaya from a video game of Touken Ranbu.

He said he had always been a fan of various genre of animation and had participated the event for the third time.

Brian also said that the costumes had cost him about RM300 which took him two months to prepare them and being a hairstylist enables him to make his own hairstyle using a wig.

The same goes with his team mate Alisthir Chong, 22, who is a chef, and loves animation, the the first animal he likes is the Dragonball.

He said he also spent about the same amount of money as Brian for the costume of a character, namely Kogi from the same video game which he had ordered online from China.

Alisthir hoped that this kind of event should be kept up as it benefits the youth from involving in negative activities such as gambling and drugs.

Meanwhile, two women, in their 20’s, had made their costumes themselves which only costs less than RM200 for both costumes.

Irene Lee and Loretta Yap who dressed in the character of a video game,namely Alice: Madness Returns, also told reporters that they had asked for other people’s help for props and started to prepare for the costumes since September.

The highlights of the two-day event, which started yesterday, include TM-sponsored Solo and Group cosplay, a Tekken Tag Tournament and FIFA 16 tournament by Kinabalu Button Mashers, a Fuwa Fuwa Maid Cafe’ with Sailormoon theme, an All-Star March by cosplayers, band performances by Team Hikaru and showcasing a variety of ACG merchandice such as collectibles, memorabilia, comics, toys and figurines.

This year’s new activities and side events include a lightsaber performance by Fightsaber Malaysia (Lucasfilm-recognized), Cardboard Battle, event Photo Contest, League of Legends e-sports competition, HYPERAY Cardfight! Vanguard G Championship 2015 and Tamiya Competition.

The two special guest appearances were by renowned cosplayer Misa Chiang from Taiwan and prop-maker Lyron Aquino from the Philippines.

HobbyCon 2015 is sponsored and supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment Sabah, Ministry of Resource Development & Information Technology Sabah, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Sabah, Telekom Malaysia (TM) Berhad, Soundtech, Monsters Ink, D’artsign, Bread Market, Power Root, Seasons Street Lodge, Borneo Military Cosplay and Kitty In Boots

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Saudi Arabia lifts Umrah visa ban on Bangladesh

Wednesday 23 Dec 2015 – Riyadh, (IINA) – Saudi Arabia has lifted its nine-month ban on Umrah visas for Bangladeshis after the Asian nation dealt with agencies using Umrah trips to traffic people into the Kingdom. Riyadh informed Dhaka of its decision on December 14 in a letter, Arab News reported.

The ban came into force in March after Bangladesh’s Minister of Religious Affairs Matior Rahman confirmed that 11,485 Bangladeshi Umrah pilgrims did not return home in 2014.

Following this, Riyadh informed Dhaka that the Kingdom would not issue any Umrah visa until the visa overstayers returned home and action was taken against the agencies responsible.

A total of 204 firms out of 300 faced human trafficking accusations. The Bangladeshi government fined, seized the deposits, and canceled the licenses of 69 travel agencies on November 18 after they were found guilty of smuggling people into the Kingdom using Umrah visas. Another 26 agencies were also fined.

A senior official from the Bangladeshi mission here revealed that about 60,000 pilgrims come for Umrah every year.

He said the government has published a list of 70 agencies with no allegations to conduct Umrah travels next year.

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Bangladesh giving priority to build improved roads

DHAKA, Dec 27, 2015 (BSS)- Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader today said the government has given priority to constructing improved roads and highways for smooth plying of high-standard vehicles so that the passengers could travel comfortably.

“To allow plying quality vehicles, it is a must to improve the conditions of roads and highways,” he told the launching ceremony of world-renowned Scania vehicles in Bangladesh.

The minister launched the luxurious vehicles as the chief guest at a function held at the Carnival Hall of Bangabandhu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Dhaka.

Quader said the government is constructing Padma bridge and also elevated express way to bring ease to the life of the people as well as enhance trade and commerce and thus boost the country’s growth.

He said the construction of Joydevpur-Mymensingh 4-lane highways has almost been completed and that of Dhaka-Chittagong highway is in progress as the government is sincerely working to this end.

“Overall uplift of the transportation and communication system is vital for the economic development,” he added.

Pointing out that the mayors of Dhaka South and North have launched strong drives to remove all billboards, he said his ministry would provide all cooperation in this regard.

The minister said Shohag Group has been contributing a lot by introducing world-class vehicles in the country and this is adding new dimensions to the public transport system.

Aslamul Haque, lawmaker from Dhaka-14 and Johan Frisell, Ambassador of Sweden to Bangladesh, were present at the ceremony as special guests.

Md. Faruk Talukdar Sohel, managing director of Innovative Motors & Shohagh Group chaired the inaugural session while Mikhail Kiander, sales director of Scania Commercial Vehicle, were present.

Scania buses and trucks with a capacity of 310-410 horsepower being introduced in Bangladesh are less fuel-consuming and environment-friendly, Faruk Talukdar Sohel mentioned.

Scania, a global company with a sales and service organisation in more than 100 countries, offers sales and services, financial services in many markets. Scania’s production units are located in Europe and Latin America.

The company has approximately 42,000 employees, of whom some 18,400 work with sales and services in Scania’s own subsidiaries worldwide. About 12,400 people work at production units in seven countries and regional product centres in six emerging markets.

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Dhaka International Trade Fair begins January 1

Dhaka, Dec 22, 2015 (BSS)- The month-long Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF)-2016 will begin on January 1, 2016 to bring a host of local and international manufacturers and retailers under a single square of open sky.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to open the fair at 3.30pm on the day, said a press release.

Commerce Ministry and Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh will organise the annual fair at the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar at the trade fair ground near the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

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Bangladesh’s sustainable farming receives global recognition

DHAKA, Dec 19, 2015 (BSS) – The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has recognised Bangladesh’s floating gardens, a unique hydroponics production system constructed with natural grasses and plants, as “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) “.

The UN body also designated a trio of sites in Japan. These are: the sustainable river fisheries utilizing Sato-kawa system in Gifu, the Minabe-Tanabe Ume approach to growing apricots on nutrient-poor slopes in Wakayama and the Takachihogo-Shiibayama mountainous agriculture and forestry system in Miyazaki which allows agricultural and forestry production in a steep mountainous area.

The sites were officially recognized during a joint meeting of the GIAHS Steering and Scientific Committee at FAO headquarters in Rome on December 15, according to a message received here today.

These new designations bring the number of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) to a total of 36 sites located in 15 countries in Africa, Latin America, Near East and Asia.

“In the context of today’s environmental and economic challenges and climate change, small-scale and family farmers, and especially traditional agriculture, can offer real solutions for food security, the conservation of natural resources and sustainable rural development, if adequate policies and investment are directed to them”, said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.

The Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) which was launched by FAO in 2002 during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been recently endorsed by member countries, during the 39th Session of the FAO Conference, as an FAO Corporate Programme.

About the new GIAHS sites:

Bangladesh – Floating garden Agricultural Practices

Farmers in some parts of Bangladesh where flood waters can remain for a prolonged period of time have developed a unique hydroponics system in which plants can be grown on the water on floating organic bed of water hyacinth, algae and other plant residues. This environmentally friendly traditional cultivation technique utilizes the natural resources of wetlands to grow vegetables and other crops almost all year round providing numerous social, economic, agricultural and ecological benefits to the local population.

Japan – Ayu of the Nagara River System

The Nagara River is one of the cleanest rivers in Japan that provides a number of ecosystem services. Various components of the system such as river, forests and farmlands are closely linked to each other. The sustainable inland fisheries of a specific type of fish (Ayu) benefit from clean waters of the Nagara River which are maintained through upstream forest management. Local communities have lived within this linked ecosystems and have developed their livelihoods and cultural practices.

Japan – Minabe-Tanabe Ume System

Minabe-Tanabe Ume System allows for the production of high-quality Ume (Japanese apricots) and various kinds of fruits on nutrient-poor slopes. Local communities have created a thriving Ume fruit production environment by maintaining upper coppice forests for landslide prevention and maintenance of water, and Japanese honeybee for pollinators. By permitting the production of a diverse range of products, the system ensures stable livelihoods and makes communities more resilient to disasters.

Japan – Takachihogo-Shiibayama Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry System

This site is located in a steep mountainous area where flat land is extremely scarce. In this severe environment, local people have established a distinctive and sustainable system of agriculture and forestry which balances timber production with diverse farming activities — such as terraced rice growing, shiitake mushroom cultivation, beef cattle raising, or tea cultivation. The forest is maintained as a “mosaic” of conifers and broadleaf trees using traditional practices.

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Mega Beach Carnival to begin at Cox’s Bazar Dec 31

DHAKA, Dec 21, 2015 (BSS) – A three-day Mega Beach Carnival will begin at Cox’s Bazar sea beach on December 31 marking the Tourism Year-2016.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith will attend the inaugural ceremony of the carnival as the chief guest, said a release.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khorshed Alam Chowdhury, Parjatan Corporation Chairman Dr Aparup Chowdhury and Bangladesh Tourism Board chief executive officer Aktaruzzaman Khan Kabir will be present as guests.

The countdown was begun through colorful functions at Raju Memorial Sculpture on Dhaka University campus and Cox’s Bazar Laboni Point on Saturday.

Formally announcing the countdown at Razu Sculpture, Rashed Khan Menon said the government has declared 2016 as “Tourism Year” to uphold the natural, archeological and architectural sites of Bangladesh to the world.

“The government has taken a master plan to boost up the tourism industry. If the plan is implemented, a different picture of Bangladesh will emerge,” he added.

Cox’s bazaar, the world’s largest sea beach, will be decorated colorfully marking the carnival.

The programmes will feature songs of the country’s eminent singers, cultural function of local minority ethnic groups, fireworks, exhibition of different food items, folk arts and crafts, kite festival, beach cricket tournament, surfing, photo exhibition and conscious-raising events to keep the sea beach neat and clean.

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Exhibition Opens on China Silk Road tradition

Sun.mv – December 23, 2015 – An exhibition displaying the tradition of sea travels of the Chinese Silk Road has been opened in the Maldives.

The exhibition was organized by the Chinese embassy in the Maldives and is being held at the National Museum. The exhibition was opened by the Education Minister, Dr. Aishath Shiham and the Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Fukang.

The items displayed at the exhibition titled “Amazing Blue” include samples of different ships used by Chinese merchants in different eras and some of ceramic products sold by the Chinese around the world along with some of the tools used on ancient ships and some historic items.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition, Education minster Dr. Shiham said that President Yamin Abdul Gayoom has made a high priority of strengthening the 40-year-old diplomatic ties with China. And she noted the Chinese aid is fulfilling some of the election promises of the President on social developments.

The Chinese Ambassador to the Maldives, Wang Fukang also spoke at the ceremony saying that it was an important exhibition displaying the historic transactions between China and the Maldives.

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Kazakhstan grain export potential reaches 7.5 million tons

Wednesday 23 Dec 2015 – Astana, (IINA) – The grain export potential of Kazakhstan is estimated at the level of 7.5 million tons by the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan.

“According to the information from the regions, despite the difficult weather conditions, over 20 million tons of grain was harvested this year with the yield of 13.5 centners per hectare. We estimate the grain export potential to be at the level of 7.5 million tons,” said Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Kazakhstan Yermek Kosherbayev at the most recent sitting of the international coordination committee of exporters and investors.

He also noted that Kazakhstan and China signed the protocol on removal of restrictions for exporting wheat from Kazakhstan. “Moreover, we think that the export of our grain will grow because we are going to be able to supply grain to Southeast Asia through China. Besides, it is planned to increase our presence in the markets of China and increase the volume of grain export to Iran and the Arabian Gulf countries,” he added.

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Azerbaijan currency float opens new tourism opportunities

25 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan’s shift to free float currency policy may help to develop tourism in the country, as the prices will be lower for foreigners, who may enjoy nine climatic zones in one country here.

Azerbaijan, with its favorable location, rich history and diverse art, attracts those who want to get ‘two-in-one’ – both European comfort and magnetism of the East.

The country was developing its tourism sector for years now and welcomes several millions of tourists a year with an aim to attract five million tourists.

This year the country attracted many tourists interesting both in Azerbaijan and sports, as the country hosted the inaugural European Games. Over 28,000 foreign tourists mostly from Russia, UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, the US, and the United Arab Emirates gathered in Baku during the 17 days of competition.

Most part of tourists visiting Azerbaijan were expressing admiration of the modern capital and picturesque regions. However, not all were happy with the prices for enjoying the scenic countryside of Azerbaijan, despite the fact that the country has decreased the prices for accommodation in its hotels several times.

Now, when the exchange rate of US dollar and euro to Azerbaijani manat was set at 1.5528 manats and 1.6974 manats, respectively, more tourists will be able to come to the country and rejoice a longer stay.

“Visiting Azerbaijan will become more profitable for foreign tourists,” Nahid Baghirov, Head of the Azerbaijan Tourism Association, believes. “For instance, a hotel room costs about 100 manats, and if before the tourists paid for it about $95, now it will cost about $65.”

The more attractive prices may open Azerbaijan for tourists who previously preferred to visit cheaper destinations like neighboring Georgia and Turkey.

However, Azerbaijan has also many undiscovered parts with breathtaking nature, like Goygol Lake or Shahdag Mountain. Moreover, the country offers beach recreation in summer and early autumn.

Currently, the country can accommodate over 35,000 tourists in its 530 hotels, which include a series of luxury hotels – Jumeirah, Excelsior, Hilton, Four Seasons, Fairmont, JW Marriott, Kempinski – as well as many budget hotels for cost-conscious travelers. The country also plans to operate world famous 2-3 stars hotels.

This year the Culture and Tourism Ministry has classified 57 hotels and hotel-type facilities, giving them the appropriate degree of star for their services.

About 100 hotels, 66 of which are located in Baku, operate with starry degree in the country. Twenty five of these hotels are five-star, 53 have a four-star degree, and others are three and two stars hotels.

Prices for accommodation in the country start from $15 and increase depending on the hotel class and amenities provided.

In addition, to define levels of service for each hotel, all hotels in Azerbaijan, according to the law, must be certified, Tourism Minister Abulfaz Garayev believes.

This certificate will indicate the quality of service.

“It is unacceptable for two-star hotel to award itself with five stars. Therefore, mandatory certification will be carried out. This process will involve public bodies as well,” said the minister.

The country’s government has recently canceled the license for tourist activities, costing 5,500 manats (over $3,500), with a view to promote the sector.

Garayev also noted that the abolition of licensing should not result in arbitrariness and lawlessness.

The devaluation of Azerbaijan’s manat could exacerbate prices for air tickets. On the eve of the New Year, many people are afraid that devaluation will impact their travel costs, as well.

Azerbaijan Airlines announced that the company is studying the possibility of reducing the price of air tickets when departing from airports of Azerbaijan.

Within a month, the company will consider the optimization of prices for flights to cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Mineralnye Vody, Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Tel Aviv, Tehran, Dubai, Aktau, Kiev, Lviv, Minsk, Tbilisi and others.

Before this decision, AZAL said it would leave unchanged the cost of tickets in foreign currency.

However, those who prefer to travel by railroad will have to pay more now, as Azerbaijan Railways has raised the price of rail tickets to international destinations, after the second devaluation.

Will Azerbaijanis travel more in 2016?

Unfortunately, the devaluation will affect travel possibilities of Azerbaijanis, as it may lead to higher prices for tour packages abroad.

“Calculations between the tourist organizations are carried out in dollars or euros, so the cost of trips abroad will grow according to the change rate of the manat,” the AzTA head believes. “But again, it would not be an artificial price increase but a reaction to the change of exchange rate of the manat.”

As for the price of the tour sites in Azerbaijan, Baghirov said, it is too early to say anything specific in this regard. “The prices are not dictated by the Ministry, but the market: private institutions, restaurants, and hotels. They need cost-effectiveness,” he said, adding that the devaluation of February 2015 did not lead to higher prices in hotels.

In these new conditions, travel companies have to make emphasis on the development of domestic tourism, he stressed.

After devaluation, less Azerbaijani tourists will be able to travel abroad, preferring spending holidays in the country. This would be a perfect change for tourism organizations engaged in domestic tourism. By developing local tourism opportunities and services more foreign tourists will prefer to get acquainted with Azerbaijan in the future.

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Sheki prepares events to mark Cultural Capital of the Turkic World

22 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan’s city of Sheki has launched the preparatory activities over its declaration as the Cultural Capital of the Turkic World in 2016.

A press conference held on the occasion was attended by TURKSOY Secretary General Dusen Kaseinov, the city top executives, employees of the Azerbaijan Culture and Tourism Ministry, city public and media representatives.

Head of the Sheki City Executive Power Elkhan Usubov said that selection of Sheki as a cultural center of Turkic world is not accidental, since the city has picturesque nature, unique historical monuments, and developed art.

He reminded that Sheki has become the region with one of the highly developed tourism in the country.

For centuries this ancient city has long been a famous silk center and an important stop on the Great Silk Route.

Caravanserais, mosques, minarets, houses, walls, bridges and architecture talk about the antiquity of Sheki.

TURKSOY Secretary General Dusen Kaseinov, in turn, said that TURKSOY, which is considered UNESCO of Turkic world has been operating for more than 20 years in order to create friendship and fraternal relations between the Turkish nations, as well as to deliver the common Turkic culture to the future generation.

TURKSOY’s one of the successful projects is the selection of Turkic world capital that has been started since 2012.

Sheki located 380 km of the west of Baku is set in a picturesque mountain area rich in narrow gorges and green valleys, springs, purest rivers, water falls and mineral water springs framed by dense woods and alpine meadows.

The city is a real natural wonder with its beautiful landscapes, mineral water springs, forests and rivers.

Beautiful Sheki can also be called the architectural reserve of the country, since the city has 84 historical and cultural monuments. Archaeological findings suggest that the city might be one of the oldest settlements in the Caucasus. Pieces dating 2,500 years were unearthed here.

Modern Sheki was actually rebuilt in 1772 after the city was destroyed by mud streams – River Kish. Annually, Sheki becomes a place for international and local festivals which attract many people.

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“Encyclopedia of Azerbaijani Carpet” presented in Baku

24 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – The presentation of the first volume of “Encyclopedia of Azerbaijani Carpet” has been held in Baku. The book was published as part of the joint project of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Azerbaijani Carpet Museum and Japan Tobacco International. Author of the book is Roya Tagiyeva, Director of the Azerbaijani Carpet and Applied Arts Museum named after Latif Karimov.

Speaking at the presentation event, head of the department of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Fikret Babayev stressed that famous Azerbaijani carpets are included in the UNESCO list of intangible world heritage. Other speakers at the ceremony included MPs Elman Nasirov, Adil Aliyev and Jale Aliyeva.

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Azerbaijan Cultural Center opens in Zhitomir

25 December 2015 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijani Cultural Center has opened on the initiative of the United Congress of Ukrainian Azerbaijanis (OKAU) in Zhitomir, Ukraine, as part of a series of events marking the upcoming Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis and New Year.

The event was attended by staff of the embassy of Azerbaijan, members of the Ukrainian Parliament, representatives of Zhytomyr regional state administration, activists of the Azerbaijani diaspora.

The Ukrainians congratulated Azerbaijanis on the Day of Solidarity, and emphasized progress achieved by Azerbaijan, and praised the country`s international image. The participants toured the Centre and then listened to performance by Head of Azerbaijani Cultural Center named after Muslim Magomayev, People’s Artist of Ukraine Gurban Abbasov.

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Tehran to host 1st Int’l Congress on Communications, Artistic City Traveling

Tehran, Dec 27, IRNA – First Int’l Congress on Communications, Artistic City Traveling will be held in the capital from January 3-4, said head of Tehran Municipality’s Center for Communications and International Affairs.

Shahram Gilabadi told reporters Sunday that some 255 articles including 14 from the Netherlands, South Korea, China and Russia have been submitted to the secretariat of the conference of which 154 were recognized relevant to the topic of the upcoming event.

Abstracts of 80 articles will be distributed during the two-day event, he said, adding that all the articles will be published in a book until mid-February.

Recognition of tourism status quo, strengthening related activities and promoting theoretical and practical concepts in the field of artistic tourism and exposing the role of communications in development of urban arts are among the objectives of the conference, Gilabadi said.

Topics for discussion at the event include significance of artistic tourism in the world, city traveling and its relation with economy and leisure times of the citizens, he said.

The official further noted that the conference will seek to provide an opportunity for discovering beauties of the capital and displaying them.

Iran is among top five countries in terms of tourism capacities, he said, deploring that unfortunately, Tehran is not used as a dynamic and colorful museum and its tourism capacities have been neglected.

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Federation of Islamic countries sciences, technologies planned

Tehran, Dec 27, IRNA – Necessary infrastructure for formation of a federation in the field of science and technology in Muslim states have been prepared due to the activities undertaken earlier, said Head of Secretariat for Development of Islamic Countries Sciences and Technologies.

Addressing the inauguration of the First Summit of Developing Islamic Countries’ Sciences and Technologies, Mohammad Reza Golrou hoped that the federation of Islamic countries sciences, technologies will officially launch its activities at the end of the two-day event.

Describing reliance on science and technology as the best way for cutting Muslim countries’ dependency on the arrogant powers and Zionist regime, he said that cutting dependency will prepare a suitable atmosphere for independent decision-making by the Islamic states.

Golrou, who doubles as executive deputy of World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, further noted that if Muslim states share their commonalities, they will not need trade with others.

Contending that Takfiris are neither Shia nor Sunni, he added that the groups are linked to Zionism seeking to create division among Muslims.

Iran has in recent years attained a suitable status in global rankings in the wake of its efforts and is ready to exchange scientific achievements with other Muslims brothers.

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Rock tombs of Elazığ to serve tourism

ELAZIĞ – Anadolu Agency – The Roman-era rock tombs in the eastern province of Elazığ’s Ağın district will soon be brought to light, according to District Gov. Mehmet Fatih Yakınoğlu, who said the district was not very well known despite its historical touristic features such as the Hastek Fortress, İspir Mansion, rock tombs, mounds, the Sülük and Keban dam lakes and traditional Ağın houses.

He said in order to boost tourism they would work particularly on the rock tombs in Bademli village to draw local and foreign tourists to the region.

“The district is home to many rock tombs in various spots. We are working for these tombs to serve tourism,” he added.

Yakınoğlu said archaeological excavations would shed light on the history of the district, and that the rock tombs were believed to have a history of nearly 2,000 years.

“Historians say there was a settlement around these tombs. Comprehensive works will be carried out to find out the culture and life style of people thousands of years ago. I hope we will open this region to tourism as soon as possible,” he said.

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New venue draws visitors to Antalya center

ANTALYA – Doğan News Agency – The opening exhibitions of the Antalya Culture and Arts (AKS) center, the new culture and arts platform in the center of the southern province of Antalya, have been seen by more than 8,000 visitors in the first three months.

A Picasso exhibition, which displays original works, was organized under the theme “Women and Bulls” in collaboration with the Picasso House Museum and the Picasso Foundation in Spain. The other exhibition, “Light and History: Antalya Through the Eyes of Ara Güler,” features works gathered from Güler’s special archive.

Both exhibitions will remain open through Feb. 28, 2016, after which the culture center will host an Andy Warhol exhibition simultaneously with Expo 2016 Antalya, which will open on April 23, 2016.

The AKS center, which won the “Best Socio-Cultural Structure” category at the Sign of the City Awards in 2015, is located on the site of the former Antalya Trade and Industrial Chamber (ATSO) building. It has greatly altered the city’s center thanks to its rainbow-colored exterior and inner spaces including education and exhibition halls. The culture center was designated in collaboration with Suna-İnan Kıraç and the Pera Museum.

ATSO President Davut Çetin said after ATSO moved to its new building, there were many discussions on the future of the building. He said among the offerings were a private school and a business center but with the decision of the assembly in 2011, it was decided the building would serve as a culture and arts center.

He said the old building was demolished at the end of 2013 and completed in June 2014.

Çetin said with the two exhibitions, AKS was officially opened on Sept. 16.

He said that in the first three months, 10 percent of its 8,300 visitors were foreigners, 10 percent were ATSO members and the others were from Antalya. “Among these visitors, we have had 2,400 high school students. The ticket price is 15 Turkish Liras, but free for those under the age of 14, and we have a 50 percent reduction for ATSO members,” he said, adding that their purpose was not to earn large revenues.

“The purpose of the establishment of this structure is to boost Antalya’s culture, arts and education, and develop trade in the city center,” he added.

Çetin said one of the most complained about issues in Antalya was the lack of tourists in the city center, and thanks to the new AKS venue, the city center would now see more visitors.

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Historic bath and mosaics found in central Anatolia

KADİRLİ – Doğan News Agency – Ruins of a Roman-era bath and a floor mosaic have been discovered while drilling at a third degree archaeological site in the central Anatolian Osmaniye’s district of Kadirli.

A construction company that wanted to build a structure on the Dere neighborhood Şehit İsmail Işıkbol Avenue asked the Osmaniye Museum Directorate to make drilling work. Then the museum has initiated works in the field and found the ruins of a bath, which is believed to date back to the Roman era.

Next to the ruins were floor mosaics featuring bull, deer and lion motifs.

The area of the historical ruins was put under protection and the museum has reported that the archaeological excavations would begin its search for other ruins.

In accordance with the law, the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board must give permission for construction in the fields of archaeological sites.

According to regulations, before the construction starts, the museum first initiates drilling work to find out if there are archaeological remains in the field. If not, it is given permission to start construction.

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Turkish tourism to launch Europe campaign to overcome Russian losses

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – Turkish tourism sector players expecting a continued decline in the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey in 2016 unless the current diplomatic crisis between the two countries is resolved will launch a promotional campaign in Europe under the leadership of the Tourism Ministry to overcome the potential losses, according to a leading sector representative. The sector will also focus on the China and India markets in the medium-term, he added.

“Although Russia was the second largest source of tourists for Turkey, it was not our only source. Our sector lures tourists from neighboring countries, Europe, the Middle East and the United States in high numbers as well. The share of Russian tourists in the overall number is around 12 percent. Our largest source is European countries, as their share is 45 percent. We believe this rate will increase after we start a promotional campaign in these markets under the leadership of the Tourism Ministry,” said Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) head Başaran Ulusoy, in an exclusive e-mailed interview with Reuters.

Ulusoy also noted sector players have expected a dramatic rise in the number of tourists visiting Turkey from India and China in the medium-term.

“In the first 10 months of the year, the number of Chinese tourists increased by 67 percent to 282,000 compared to the same period of 2014. We can reach much higher figures in the medium-term if we can sustain the current wave,” he said.

After the Russian warplane was downed by Turkey on Nov. 24, Russia announced a number of economic and trade sanctions against Turkey, including the suspension of charter flights and a ban on tour sales to Turkey.

Due to a continuing decrease in the purchasing power of Russian people amid the Russia-Ukraine crisis and Western sanctions against the country, the number of Russian tourists visiting Turkey already dropped by 19 percent to 3.54 million in the first 10 months of 2015 compared to the same period of 2014.

February, March reservations to be ‘key’

Ulusoy said reservations in February and March 2016 will be a crucial indicator about how much of an impact the number of Russian tourists will have on the sector. “Russian tourists generally make last-minute reservations rather than early reservations. In this vein, they usually make their summer reservations in February and March,” he said. “We hope the problems will be resolved by then at least. If the crisis continues, we’ll see further decline in the number of Russian tourists in 2016.”

Tourism income from Russian tourists was around $2.7 billion last year, but this figure will see a serious drop unless the crisis is resolved, according to Başaran.

Tourist income at $46.5 billion enabled Turkey to finance some 53 percent of its current account deficit last year, according to official data.

Tourism Minister Mahir Ünal had earlier said measures would be taken to overcome the losses from the Russian market, including the extension of $6,000 in fuel support for each airplane that carries 100 people or more.

A total of 33.06 million foreign tourists visited Turkey in the first 10 months of the year with tourism revenue totaling $24.9 billion.

TÜRSAB had earlier announced its yearly forecasts at 42 million foreign tourists and $35-36 billion in tourism revenue.

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China’s Xinjiang Region Publishes Magazine For Muslims

URUMQI, China Dec. 23 (NNN-Xinhua) — Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region published a bimonthly magazine for its 13 million Muslims on Tuesday.

Xinjiang Muslims, launched by the regional Islamic Association and Xinjiang Islamic Institute, covers policy, law and scripture explanation, Islamic doctrines, mosques and fortune stories.

The magazine is published in three major languages in the region, Uygur, Mandarin and Kazak.

The circulation is 80,000, including 60,000 in Uygur, 10,000 in Mandarin and 10,000 in Kazak.

A website for Muslims(www.xjmuslim.com) was also launched on Tuesday.

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Japan welcomes Muslim travelers to boost tourism

Monday 21 Dec 2015 – Tokyo, (IINA) – Amid growing outrage over the controversial statement by the US Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump about not accepting Muslim travelers and immigrants to the country , Japan has quietly been welcoming them as they present an opportunity for the country to boost its economy.

This approach directly contradicts the rumors spread by US conservatives over the Internet that Muslims are not allowed to enter Japan, Tourism Review news portal reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” policies have not yielded great success except in the tourism sector. When the Liberal Democratic Party leader assumed power in December 2012, the exchange rate of Yen against the dollar was 85. His drive for monetary easing resulted in a sharp devaluation of the Yen. Currently, the exchange rate of Yen to dollar is 120. As a result of this foreign tourists are able to afford a visit to Japan.

The government’s initial target was 20 million tourists a year by 2020. However, the number of visitors has exceeded all expectations. The target of 20 million may be achieved this year itself, much ahead of schedule. This has encouraged the government revise its target to 30 million visitors by 2020.

Malaysians and Indonesians have a major role to play in the increase of the amount of Muslim travelers. According to Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), there has been an 18.2 percent increase in the number of Malaysian tourists visiting the country until the end of October 2015. On other hand, the number of visitors from Indonesia jumped by as much as 30.8 percent. In total, 270,000 Malaysians and nearly 200,000 Indonesians have visited Japan up to October this year. Of course, a smaller number of Muslims from other countries have also visited Japan.

Meanwhile, both businesses and local governments have been showing a positive response to this development. Prefecture published a Muslim Hospitality Handbook to teach the local people as to how they should deal with Muslim customers.

Some travel agencies have started offering special programs for Muslim travelers. A start-up company named “Travelience” has started offering one-day Tokyo tour to Muslim tourists. The company used to offer only standard lunch tours. To cater to the Muslim travelers, the guides learned about halal food and the company designed a special package for Muslims.

Japan is in the process of improving and enhancing Muslim tourism.

It is noteworthy that some of the Muslim travelers who spent some time researching on the Internet prior to their visit to Japan did not experience much difficulty in finding halal food. They said that other facilities necessary for Muslims are also available in Tokyo.

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World Bank 70 Mln USD Loan For Mozambique

MAPUTO, Dec 25 (NNN-AIM) — The World Bank has approved funding of 70 million US dollars to Mozambique as direct support to the 2016 State Budget and to the government’s five-year development programme.

According to a World Bank statement received here Thursday, its Executive Board took this decision on Tuesday. The money comes from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank affiliate which provides soft loans to developing countries.

Fifty per cent of the money takes the form of a soft loan, while the rest is a grant.

The statement added that the funding “is provided under the Eleventh Poverty Reduction Support Credit Program that supports the Government’s programmatic reform agenda agreed upon with the World Bank in the context of general budget support”.

The Bank noted that Mozambique’s high rates of economic growth in recent years, averaging more than 7.0 per cent a year for two decades, but warned that “there has been relatively little structural transformation in the economy resulting from that growth pattern”.

In particular, industrialization has not occurred. The statement noted that “the share of the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the economy grew from 13 per cent in the early 1990s to only 16 per cent in the early 2000s, and fell to 10 per cent in 2010-14”.

The World Bank has also discovered, rather belatedly, that growth in a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) does not automatically improve the living conditions of the poor. The statement stated that “recent strong growth has had limited effect in poverty reduction”.

It quoted World Bank Country Director for Mozambique Mark Lundell as saying: “Mozambique widely recognizes the need for a shift in the country’s development paradigm toward one that is broad based and inclusive.”

He claimed that the Poverty Reduction Support Credit (PRSC) “assists Mozambique’s efforts to improve its business climate, unleash the country’s ability to sustain an inclusive economic growth, and create jobs; key elements for tackling poverty reduction more effectively.”

This PRSC is also intended to assist Mozambique in implementing reforms aimed at strengthening social protection, enhancing public finance management, and improving transparency and management in extractive industries, the statment said.

The World Bank lead economist for Mozambique, Julio Revilla, claimed that “Reforms aimed at improving regulatory regime for extractives help promote investments in the sector. The revised fiscal regime ensures that the Government is able to capture a fair share of the rents generated. Likewise, greater transparency in the use of natural resources revenues will contribute to a more judicious use of resources and sharing of benefits”.

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CNN names Uganda top tour destination

Thursday 24 Dec 2015 – Atlanta, (IINA) – The CNN Travel Magazine has listed Uganda among the top 16 tourism destinations for 2016, New Vision reported.

“Meeting eyes with a silverback mountain gorilla across a misty jungle, after an arduous hike through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, leaves everlasting impressions of arguably the best wildlife safari in the world”, the CNN stated.

The CNN also describes Uganda as rich in nature. “It is an outdoor sanctuary of crater lakes, white-sand beaches on lake islands, thundering waterfalls and national parks”.

Others are Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary, where rescued and orphaned chimpanzees live out their days on an island in Lake Victoria. The visitors can cross the equator by boat there, slicing through Africa’s largest lake, according to the CNN Travel Magazine.

In addition, the Pope’s landmark visit is spurring plans towards Uganda 2040, when it aims to become a middle-income nation. Infrastructure improvements are part of the scheme.

“While the crowds are in the Serengeti or Masaai Mara, you’ll find a lush country with fewer tourists in Uganda”, said James Thornton, the director and general manager of Intrepid Travel. “Mountain gorillas are the main attraction, but the countryside offers many activities”.

Recently, Kamego Crater Lake in Kasese district was ranked the second most beautiful crater lake in the World, by an online publication known as ‘Earth prom’.

Kamengo, which is one of the crater lakes in Elizabeth National Park, in western Uganda, is popular with wildlife species including threatened bird species like flamingoes, which are not found anywhere else in Uganda.

According to Stephen Asiimwe, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda has always been a beautiful country but it is necessary to promote it as a tourism destination. The ranking of Uganda among the top 16 tourism destinations is an indication that Uganda is being re-discovered.

“It shows that Uganda is the best destination in the world”, Asiimwe told New Vision in an interview, adding that Uganda is the best destination for adventure tourism.

He added: “It shows what Government has done to promote Uganda as a tourism destination and its efforts to promote peace in the country and the region”.

The tourism sector contribution to Uganda’s GDP, in the financial year 2014/15 it increased to around $1.8 million up from $1.66 million in the previous year.

The growth in the tourism sector translates into 9.9 percent contribution to a GDP of $28.7 billion, up from 7.9 percent in 2013/14.

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OIC adopts resolution on promoting tourism in member states

Friday 25 Dec 2015 – Niamey, (IINA) – President of the Republic of Niger Issoufou Mohamadou inaugurated here on Wednesday the 9th Session of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM).

The opening ceremony saw the handover of the chairmanship of the conference from the Republic of Gambia to the Republic of Niger.

The Ministers adopted a resolution on the development of tourism in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) member states for the next two years. They called on relevant OIC institutions to support the process of implementing the program, including the establishment of an electronic Islamic tourism portal and the staging of cuisine and cultural festivals.

The Ministers endorsed the selection of Madinah and the Iranian city of Tabriz as the capitals of Islamic Tourism for 2017 and 2018 respectively. They commended the plans prepared by the relevant institutions for the celebration of the Turkish city of Konyaen as the capital of Islamic Tourism for 2016.

The Ministers renewed their commitment to strengthening efforts to create awareness about tourist attractions in OIC countries through the exchange of documentary films. They condemned the level of destruction, theft and looting of historical artifacts and monuments due to terrorism and armed extremism in member states.

The resolution welcomed the offers made by the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Islamic Republic of Iran to host the 3rd and 4th OIC Tourism fairs in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

The Ministers requested the member states to participate in the regional project on the development of sustainable tourism in the project for the “network of parks and cross-border resorts in West Africa”.

They also called on all member states and relevant institutions to promote Islamic tourism through hotels, resorts, halal foods, entertainment and sports facilities in a manner compatible with the Islamic Sharia. They also called for the introduction of Islamic tourism signs in international forums.

Addressing the ceremony, the president said that Niger is proud and enthusiastic to host the 9th session of the ICTM. He stated that the tourism sector is an important support for the economy and development of OIC member states. He added that the vast tourism potential in member states call for greater attention to be devoted to the sector since it provides employment opportunities and impacts on other sectors of the economy.

On his part, OIC Secretary General Iyad Madani stated that the holding of the conference in Niger is very significant. Apart from Niger being widely known for its African cultural heritage and traditionally warm hospitality, Madani said that the hosting of the conference in Niger renews confidence in the security and stability of this great country.

He further said that tourism provides 1 in every 11 jobs globally and that OIC member states received about 147 million tourists in 2013, compared with 156 million tourists in 2009 and that the return on tourism recorded a tangible increase of up to $20 billion.

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Saudi businessman plans $4 billion tourism project in Egypt

Tuesday 22 Dec 2015 – Riyadh, (IINA) – A Saudi businessman is in talks with Egyptian authorities over a $4 billion tourism resort in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egyptian tourism minister Hisham Zaazou told Saudi newspaper Okaz on Sunday.

Zaazou declined to name the prospective investor but said that the project would be the largest resort in the Red Sea town, a popular beach and diving holiday destination.

Egypt’s vital tourism industry has suffered from the political instability that followed the uprising against Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It took a further hit after a Russian airliner flying out of Sharm El-Sheikh crashed on October 31.

Since the crash, some airlines have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh for security reasons.

Zaazou said that he plans to make up for the loss of international business by encouraging local tourism, largely from Gulf Arab visitors.

Zaazou said around 450,000 Saudi tourists visited Egypt until November 30 this year, according to statistics he cited, compared to 400,000 last year.

Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) said in November that it plans to increase the frequency of its flights from the Kingdom to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh starting from February 2016.

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Nigeria: Tourism As a Way of Diversifying Economy

By Oludare Richards

24 December 2015 – The Guardian – Abuja — Tourism has been identified as a veritable option for sustainable development as Nigeria grapples with the challenges of the revenue depletion.

At a workshop in Abuja, organised by the Department of Domestic and Eco-Tourism Promotion of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, themed: “Mainstreaming Tourism into the Economic Agenda of Government”, issues and challenges affecting the economy due to the country’s dependency on oil was examined.

As noted in the Manila Declaration on World Tourism in 1980, Tourism is an activity that is essential to the life of nations because of its direct and indirect effects on the social, cultural, educational and economic sectors of a nation.

The uniqueness of tourism as an important sector is also evident in its ability to employ skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manpower, and despite wars, political conflicts, natural disasters, medical scares, terrorist attacks, and economic and energy crises in various parts of the world, international trade in tourism revenue has grown in geometric progression since the 1980s.

According to United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the direct economic contribution of travel and tourism worldwide amounted to approximately 2.16 trillion U.S. dollars in 2013.

The Minister of Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said there is urgent need to build a resilient and dynamic economy that is well placed to harness the country’s abundant resource endowment.

The minister described Nigeria’s experiences in the past three decades as clearly highlighting the shortcomings of a development strategy that placed a premium on foreign exchange earnings from non-renewable natural resources, especially oil and natural resources.

He said the economic and social challenges, which the country has been experiencing from the 1970s, is connected to the fall of the international oil prices.

“Our experiences in the recent past also clearly demonstrate that oil and mineral resources are non-renewable and have very limited potential for addressing the development challenges that face the country today and over the medium and long term period.

“These include providing gainful employment for the masses of school leavers and various categories of under-employed workers, addressing the challenge of poverty and tackling the environmental challenges all arising from the high rate of incidental and situational urban migration, desertification, floods and other natural disasters”. This reality makes diversification into tourism a rational consideration.

Nigeria, however, is not the only country aspiring to take advantage of the potentials offered by the tourism sector. According to UNWTO, developed countries such as Spain, France, China, Germany, Italy, Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom are among the world’s top earners on tourism receipts. According to Mohammed, for the tourism sector to meet the country’s development expectations, the government is determined to provide a more conducive environment for investors and potential tourists. In spite of all these, the minister believes there is room for development and improvement, which requires the collaboration of both public and private sectors.

The areas of need include development and improvement of infrastructure, strengthening security to enhance investor’s confidence (especially against terrorism and kidnapping), establishment of Tourism Development Fund (TDF) to serve as a pool of funds for the private sector for tourism development, and the general lack of awareness of the importance of the socio-economic importance of tourism, etcetera.

Other areas in need of the development and improvement are: Environmental development in the areas of forestations, mitigation of desert encroachment, flood disasters and development of national parks, sustainable institutional framework for public-private partnership to provide the required confidence for prospective private investors, functional collaboration among the relevant MDAs in tourism and the establishment of a national carrier. The minister consequently admitted that the government is statutorily expected to provide unique opportunities and the enabling environment for the development of a consistent long-term framework on which private investors could base business decisions.

However, it goes without saying that a prevailing atmosphere of political stability coupled with the policy of economic liberalization, diversification and the strengthening of institutional bottlenecks will give cause for optimism. In 1989, a national conference on tourism was organised in Maiduguri with the objective of appraising the state of tourism in Nigeria vis-a-vis the performance of the Nigerian Tourist Board. The recommendations from the Board led to the establishment of a department of tourism in the Federal Ministry of Trade and the promulgation of Decree 81 of 1992.

This Decree established the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and the replacement of the Nigerian Tourist Board. The main focus of the NTDC was to promote and market Nigeria as a tourist attraction and destination, encourage Nigerians to take holidays in their country whilst attracting foreign visitors to visit and enjoy the ambiance of Nigeria.

The Nigeria Tourism Policy hinges on the principles of National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS).

The policy thrust is to make Nigeria a leading tourism destination in Africa thereby generating foreign exchange earnings, creating job opportunities and promoting rural based tourism enterprises and foster cultural understanding among others.

In 1996, Nigeria produced a Tourism Development Master plan which articulates the tourism resources of the country ranging from natural endowments, cultural and historical resources into five tourism clusters for the purpose of development and making Nigeria a tourism destination in Africa. The clusters and their values include Tropical Rain Forest, Atlantic Gateway which included states like Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers etc., Sahara Gateway which includes states in the north like Kaduna, Yobe, Jigawa, etc., Conference Capital including Kogi, Nassarawa, FCT, etc., and Scenic Nature.

Ashamu Sewanu Fadipe, President, Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Services of Nigeria and former Permanent Secretary of Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, criticised the tourism policy as though being a good document, but lacks synergy among the players. Ashamu listed what he considered as challenges of tourism development namely lack of political will and enduring policy, lack of basic amenities at tourist sites (road, water and electricity), high hotel tariffs especially in Lagos and Abuja, negative image of Nigeria as perceived by the international community and inadequate power to drive the industry.

The UNWTO and UNEP set out 12 aims for all nations particularly developing nations like Nigeria for achieving sustainable development in tourism.

According to the UN, the aims, which are set to reduce poverty in the world, bears the overall objective of identifying specific policy areas for policy formulation, which will deliberate on actions towards achieving sustainable development and success of Nigeria’s Tourism Master Plan.

They are economic viability, local prosperity, employment quality, social equity, visitors’ fulfillment, local control, community well being, cultural richness, physical integrity, biological diversity, resource efficiency and environmental purity.

Ashamu maintained that these aims must be mainstreamed into a sustainable tourism agenda for economic development in Nigeria and an operational policy must be established in line with these aims. Also, Ashamu made further recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture including a recommendation for developing Operational Framework to drive the implementation of the tourism policy and the tourism master plan. He also advised that the Ministry should “Organize a National Tourism Conference with the involvement of public and private sectors, tourism organizations and selected tourism active communities.” He explained that the conference is to create tourism awareness and strengthen the Public-Private partnership.

The activities of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR), he also recommended, should be reviewed with the aim of strengthening the two bodies for better efficiency and service delivery. The development of a National Code of Practice for tourism practitioners such as tour operators, hospitality establishments, transporters and owners of heritage sites and the re-establishment of a National Carrier were also highlighted while the re-establishment of the National Carrier was identified as important to block leakages from air travel.

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Cross-Africa Bike Attempt to Boost Cycle Tourism to Egypt

24 December 2015 – Capital FM (Nairobi) – David Kinjah – the captain of the Kenyan National Cycling – is leading a five-strong team which aims to complete the Cairo to Cape Town route through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and, finally, South Africa in 34 days – knocking seven days off the previous record set earlier this year; and Egypt is using the record attempt to kick-start cycling tourism to the country.

With roads being made much safer for bicycles and ever increasing interest in cycling, Egypt could soon become a destination for Brits wanting to explore on their bikes. Egyptian online cycling groups state that there are more than 20,000 members nationwide with the number growing every month.

There are also a number of good quality bike shops opening up throughout Egypt as well as numerous cycling groups completing daily and weekly rides that welcome tourists, making Egypt the perfect destination for cycling tourism.

The CAROCAP team are riding more than 303km every day at an average of 30kph with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees centigrade, with the aim of raising the funds to supply 1,100 bicycles to be distributed across the African continent.

“This project is not just about trying to secure the bragging rights to the world record for the fastest human powered crossing of the African Continent,” said event founder Nicholas Bourne. “The project will result in tangible benefits for students and young people throughout Africa, who through our support of the official event charities, World Bicycle Relief and Safari Simbaz can receive better access to education and new economic opportunities.”

Funds will also be raised for Safari Simbaz cycling academy in Kenya ran by Kinjah.

Kinjah hopes that his efforts can help thousands of children in Africa to reach their potential by giving them an opportunity to attend school. “I’ve met youngsters who are inspired to study by being able to cycle to school rather than having to walk or run 15 km to and from school, that sort of thing makes all the effort worthwhile. We hope to fire up every school kid about what we are doing and what ultimately we can all achieve if we just set our minds to it,” Kinjah said.

Kinjah and Bourne have been joined by former national time trail champion of Egypt Adham Mahmoud, former captain of the South African Cycling team Mark Blewett and Zimbabwean National Points Champion David Martin.

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Lagos Fiesta Helping Tourism to Grow

19 December 2015 – This Day (Lagos) – The Lagos state Government did a soft launch of the ‘One Lagos Fiesta’ crossover event on Tuesday night at the Freedom Park, Broad street, Lagos.

Anchored by Gbenga Adeyinka, the event with sponsors, artists and Lagos government executives in attendance was a teaser of things to come.

The event, which will be staged between 27 December and 1st January 2016, will hold simultaneously in five locations – Agege, Badagry, Epe, Ikorodu and Bar Beach, and, with one million Lagosians and 50 artistes being mobilised for the great event.

The One Lagos Fiesta replaces the annual Lagos Countdown event which held during the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola.

At the event, the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Folorunsho Folarin-Coker said over 50 artistes are expected to perform for over 300 hours. “It’s not right that only one spot enjoys; so this year we will be going to these five locations and definitely use more next year.

He said over one million people would welcome the year 2016 at the biggest crossover party in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We reviewed the successes recorded so far with the Lagos Countdown and settled for a model that will turn the entire state into one community; celebrating change and the achievement of the past year with a strong expression of hope for the year ahead.”

He said, “Lagos prides itself as the economic and socio-cultural hub of sub-Saharan Africa with a flamboyant multi-cultural expression of its art. It is home to people from all parts of Africa and serves as a pot of diverse language groups.”

The commissioner disclosed that the One Lagos Fiesta is to further the tradition of the crossover celebration in the state but with an expanded venue format.

“The event will also showcase the multi-cultural endowment and arts of the various communities spread across the five administrative divisions of the state.

“Consequently, we have decided to take the crossover party to Agege Stadium (Ikeja), Badagry Stadium (Badagry), Ikorodu Town Hall (Ikorodu), Bar Beach (Lagos) and Epe Youth Centre (Epe),” he said.

Folarin-Coker added that adequate arrangements have been made for security, traffic management, sanitation, health and safety concerns, urging vigilance from members of the public at all times.

He said the forthcoming One Lagos Fiesta is an entire private sector funded initiative at no expense to the State Government.

“The One Lagos Fiesta is a five-day celebration of lights, fun, food, drink, comedy, dance and theatre with a strong infusion of the culture of each location.

Some of the artistes expected at the event are Olamide, Tuface Idibia, Don Jazzy and several others.

According to David Fakuade, PRO Pepsi, “We are proud to be part of this and appreciate the five locations and one Lagos Fiesta in all.”

Also Segun Ogunleye, Brand Manager of Pepsi and 7up said, “Pepsi is at the forefront of driving music and things like this. This is what the state has been ‘long throating’ for and Pepsi is glad to be part of it.”

In attendance at the launch were: Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy and Adebimpe Akinsola, Special Adviser Arts and Culture.

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Algeria: Sellal Inaugurates 24th Fair of Domestic Production

23 December 2015 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) — Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal inaugurated Wednesday the 24th fair of domestic production which runs until next Tuesday at the Exhibition Centre (Algiers).

Held under the theme “Algerian production, guarantor of an economy in progress,” this economic event brings together 356 national exhibitors on a total area of nearly 13,000 m².

The main sectors represented in this exhibition are food processing and packaging with 78 exhibitors, mechanics, metallurgical and steel industries with 69 participants, the chemical and petrochemical industries with 64 domestic producers and the financial services sector with 55 participants.

Manufacturing industries are also present in the 24th edition of the national production fair with 54 exhibitors alongside electrical, electronic and household products with 36 participants.

The aim of this fair is to promote domestic production as an import substitution tool and a diversification lever of the national economy, due to a sharp decline in oil revenues.

Furthermore, a retail space extends over an area of 3,000 m2.

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Maputo Mayor Re-Opens Botanical Gardens

21 December 2015 – Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo) — The Mayor of Maputo, David Simango, on Monday re-opened the Tunduru botanical gardens, in the heart of the city, after more than two years of rehabilitation.

The rehabilitation cost 170 million meticais (about 3.7 million US dollars, at current exchange rates), funded by Maputo Municipal Council and its partners, the national ports and rail company, CFM, and the Vale Foundation, set up by the Brazilian mining giant, Vale.

The rehabilitation contract was awarded to the Mozambican construction company CETA. Work began in October 2013, and should have been concluded by 2014. Successive delays led to an overrun of 14 months.

The work included rehabilitation of the old greenhouse, and construction of a new one, improving the paths, the fencing and the public benches, and installing a new sanitation and irrigation system.

The re-inauguration ceremony was held in the gardens themselves, as birds and butterflies flitted overhead, and a colony of bats squawked from their roosts in the treetops.

The Tunduru Gardens are over a century old, and they have acquired a rich collection of trees, shrubs and flowers. They form a green and peaceful oasis, just a stone’s throw from some of the city’s busiest streets.

“This is a place for inspiration, as well as a scientific facility for botanical research”, declared Simango. “It is an important contribution to conservation and sustainability”.

He urged the citizens of Maputo to take good care of the gardens. “We cannot allow the Tunduru to fall into ruins”, said Simango, “and we cannot let it become a dormitory. Our objective, apart from the need to preserve this marvelous space, is to give back to our citizens a pleasant and inspiring space”.

It had been feared that the gardens would be crammed with shops and fast food outlets, but nothing of the sort has happened. The main new installation is an unobtrusive tourist information centre. The Maputo Tennis Club and an adjacent bar and restaurant were already in the gardens, and continued to operate throughout the rehabilitation.

One new restaurant will be permitted, at the bottom of the gardens, near the post office, in order to bring in revenue for the Municipal Council.

One major change is that municipal police will be on duty in the gardens, and there will be full time administrative and maintenance staff, including engineers.

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Jordan Gov’t Support For Tourism To Overcome Challenges

AMMAN, Dec. 22 (NNN-Petra)– Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said, Monday, his government took a host of measures and decisions aimed at backing tourism sector and enable it to overcome the repercussions stemmed from regional situation on this sector.

Ensour made remarks as he visited Jordan Tourism Board, where he met with its board of directors and urged its members to put in place scientific studies related to key challenges facing the tourism sector, voicing his government’s desire to take more procedures to promote this pivotal sector since it creates job opportunities for Jordanians.

Jordan has a lot of Islamic and Christian tourism, archaeological and religious sites, Ensour said, adding that the board should play its role in terms of promoting and marketing medical tourism since the good reputation Jordan enjoys in this regard.

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World Bank supports Palestinian Authority’s budget with $22 million

Thursday 24 Dec 2015 – Washington, (IINA) – The World Bank transferred $22 million in support of the Palestinian State’s budget from the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan Trust Fund (PRDP-MDTF), a multi-donor budget support mechanism administered by the World Bank, WAFA reported.

The World Bank stated: “The funds contributed by the governments of France, Norway, and the United Kingdom, will help support the urgent budget needs of the Palestinian (State), providing inter alia support for ongoing macroeconomic and public financial management reforms”.

The World Bank PRDP Trust Fund was established on April 10, 2008, after an agreement signed between the World Bank and the Palestinian State.

World Bank said that supporting the ongoing Palestinian Reform and Development Plan is a central component of its effort.

It is noteworthy that the total amount of support the PRDP-MDTF have disbursed amounts to $1.4 billion.

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Abbas: New passports to be issued in the name of Palestine State

Tuesday 22 Dec 2015 – Athens, (IINA) – Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Monday that State of Palestine passports will start issuing in 2016, i24 News reported.

“Regarding the issue of a passport under the name Palestine State, we are about to proceed to the passport replacement and the issuance of a new passport within one year or even less. We have already changed all documents issued by ministries and public services, and they now bear the name ‘State of Palestine’ instead of ‘Palestine Authority’. We no longer accept from anybody to use the name Palestinian Authority”, Abbas said at a press conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Abbas was in Greece ahead of last week’s parliamentary vote to recognize the state of Palestine. “We must underline the imperative need to begin a substantial, a credible peace process but with a clear political target. A process that will give again hope to the Palestinian people, but also to the Israeli people, for a better future, for a peaceful coexistence of two peoples in the same region”, Tsipras said.

Last week, the Greek parliament’s foreign affairs committee unanimously approved a motion to recognize Palestine.

It is noteworthy that a Palestinian flag was hoisted for the first time at UN headquarters in New York on September 30 in a symbolic gesture.

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Demand for Islamic finance gaining ground in Mideast

Khaleej Times – 26 December, 2015 – Islamic finance is gaining popularity in key markets, including the personal loan sector, and there has been a marked increase in the amount of UAE residents choosing an Islamic finance loan over a conventional loan.

Compareit4me group has noticed an increase of 53 per cent of consumers searching for Islamic finance products.

The increase in popularity is across the board and research by Morgan McKinley found a surge in the global value of Islamic banking assets is forecasted for the next few years. Figures are predicted to reach $ 6.5 trillion by 2020, a huge leap compared to of $ 150 billion in the mid-1990s.

In the UAE alone, total Islamic banking assets accrued in 2013 was $ 95 billion (compared to $ 83 billion in 2012), and it is showing no signs of slowing down, with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry predicting that the annual growth rate will reach 17 per cent until 2018.

The increase has been with all consumers, with a recent study from Bloomberg concluding that in the UAE, Islamic finance has also gained popularity among non-Muslim expats.

The sector is still growing at an incredible rate; in some markets it is growing up to 50 per cent faster than traditional banking and it looks to be a trend that’s set to continue. This is predominantly thanks to an impressive increase in competition, product development and better customer value.

For a while Islamic banks slipped behind conventional banking in terms of educating customers about what they offer, how they are different and why they are an appealing alternative – but they have stepped up. Now the awareness is much greater, the products available are much wider and these efforts are paying off, as the spikes on compareit4me.com, a Middle East finance comparison website, indicate.

While UAE Islamic banks including ADIB, Emirates Islamic, Dubai Islamic and ADNIF are continuing to offer competitive products, with flat rates on loans as low as 2.36 per cent, non-Islamic banks are also increasingly offering attractive Shariah-compliant products. Commercial Bank of Dubai and Noor are offering flat rates as low as 2.75 per cent, in comparison to other banks that are offering up to seven percent.

The research by compareit4me.com found that 74 per cent of consumers are looking for personal loans and credit cards; nine per cent for home loans; five per cent for auto loans; and 12 per cent for other products, such as different types of bank accounts and business loans.

Jon Richards, chief executive officer of compareit4me.com, said: “Once they might not have been, but now Islamic finance products are most definitely viewed side by side with conventional bank products. Given the trends we’ve seen on the site, we’ve become aware that most users are blind to the fact a certain product is Islamic, they just simply want a good rate. Therefore, the main attraction for customers seeking new banking products is the transparent fees and rates which come with the Shariah offerings.”

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New Saudi tourism regulations in 5 months

Arab News – 27 December, 2015 – The Committee on Tourism at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce, in coordination with the branch of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) in Riyadh, recently held an introductory workshop where the topic was the new regulations pertaining to tourism, antiquities, museums, and national heritage.

The new regulations, which will take effect in 5 months, are related to the plans of the tourism authority which aims to consolidate the sector and attract investment in order to boost competition, said Engineer Abdulaziz Al-Hassan, the director of the SCTNH branch in Riyadh.

He said the new regulations drew on the experience of countries with broad and deep-rooted tourism sectors, and would be based on supply and demand in setting prices.

He urged all businessmen and professionals working in the tourism sector to review the new regulations on the SCTNH website and to prepare for implementation by ensuring technical or administrative arrangements are in place by this coming Ramadan.

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Iran sets up growth plan to develop renewable energy

tradearabia – 25 December, 2015 – Iran has set up an aggressive growth plan to boost green energies as a key sustainability factor as part of the economic diversification goal under its sixth Development Plan, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The environmental and economic sustainability issues in Iran’s Economy Mission 2025 have led to incentive plans to attract the private sector to renovate obsolete power technologies and develop renewable and biomass energies across the country.

Based on Iran’s energy road map, the Government plans to embrace green technologies to increase nominal capacity of power plants from 74 GW to over 120 GW by the end of 2025.

The government has called for new investments, which require technology, engineering, and know-how and to reach this capacity (120 GW), as the country requires investments of more than $ 60 billion.

Ali Mirmohammad, senior consultant and business development manager, Frost & Sullivan, said: “The electricity market in Iran grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.5 per cent over the past 10 years, which is far beyond its gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, which is currently not more than three per cent.

“Iran has witnessed the emergence of new participants in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Additionally, every year, almost 1.4 million new consumers are added to the electricity market. These developments require an additional capacity of 5,000 MW for each year and enhancement / new investments in the distribution and transmission network.”

The power generation plants in Iran are the main consumers of natural fuel resources and consume over $ 30 billion per annum of various fuels including Natural Gas (36 billion cubic metres), gas oil (12 billion litres), and fuel oil (15 billion litres).

Poor efficiency in the power generation and transmission infrastructure results in a huge loss to the economy (over $ 200 million per one per cent loss during transmission) that needs to be urgently addressed through new investments.

“Installing new generation high-efficiency turbines, design and construction of new GIS sub- stations, construction of high-voltage transmission lines, as well as inclusion of renewable and green technologies into the energy mix are major plans expected to be implemented by the Iranian Government in the post-sanction era. In addition, biomass from rural waste is the other key investment opportunity in Iran,” noted Mirmohammed.

The renewable energy industry in Iran is at a nascent stage. Located on the earth’s solar radiation belt and having a high potential has created scope for expanding solar technologies in Iran.

In the geothermal field, Iran is located on the active geothermal belt and, according to the exploration studies done in this field the country is gifted with 15 potential geothermal areas.

Currently, less than one per cent of the total energy in Iran is supplied through renewable energies. However, the Government plans to boost investment in the 6th Development Plan.

The target is to install over 5,000 MW renewable energies, which include 4,500 MW of wind power and 500 MW of solar power. Currently, the potential for installing over 15 GW wind energy in areas such as Manjil, Zahedan, Zabol, and Nishapur has been recognised by the Renewable Energy Organisation of Iran.

Mostafa Rabeie, head of International Affairs, Renewable Energy Organisation of Iran, stated: “Iran can supply over two-thirds of its energy through wind power. The long-term policy within the next decade (2015-2025) is to supply over 50% of required energy through renewables, biomass, as well as other green technologies. Renovation and modernisation of existing Thermal Power Plants with green technologies is also part of the plan.

“To reach the capacity of 5000 MW of renewable energies, Iran requires investment of over USD 10 billion while project financing is a key restraining factor in this sector as of now. To meet the challenge, Iran aims to attract foreign financing to ease investment across the country. However, this is not possible unless sanctions are lifted. Currently, over 19 projects, which require over $ 1.5 billion, have been proposed.”

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