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12 Jan, 2016

Hundreds of French mosques open their doors to the public

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 11 January 2016 (01 Rabee’ al-Akhir 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




From just about 100 malls in the late 1980s, the total number of malls in Malaysia had increased more than three folds to some 360 malls today, offering over 100 million square feet of net lettable retail area, with a real estate value in excess of RM100 billion. About half of the malls are located in the Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur and Selangor) while the rest are scattered all over Peninsular Malaysia and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. The country has eight clusters of major shopping destinations, namely (1) Klang Valley (2) Penang (3) Johor (4) Malacca (5) Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (6) Federal Territory of Labuan (7) Kuching and Miri in Sarawak, and (8) Langkawi in Kedah. Each cluster has its own shopping attractions, from a string of mid-range to exclusive and award-winning world-class outlets, to old-world stores, street markets, handicraft centres, heritage bazaars, to premium and duty-free outlets. These varied attractions have over the years contributed towards making Malaysia one of the leading shopping destinations in Asia, thanks in part to the steadfast efforts of Tourism Malaysia, an agency under the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Malaysia, in collaboration with the key players of the country’s retail sector to promote Malaysia’s shopping tourism. Streamlining Tourism Malaysia’s efforts in promoting the shopping sector is the Secretariat Shopping Malaysia, which is established to market Shopping Malaysia as a recognisable brand in world-class shopping.

Click here to read more

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.



Hundreds of French mosques open their doors to the public

10 January 2016 Paris (ANTARA News/AFP) – Hundreds of French mosques are participating in a major open-house event this weekend, offering visitors the opportunity to come in for tea and a chat about Islam in a country shaken by jihadist attacks.

Organised by the country’s leading Muslim body, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), it aims to stimulate dialogue about Islam and create a greater sense of “national cohesion”, a year after 17 people were killed in jihadist attacks in Paris targeting satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

“The objective is to create a space where people can be together and meet normal Muslim worshippers and all of our fellow citizens,” CFCM president Anouar Kbibech told AFP.

The idea is to use the anniversary of the January 7 attacks to “highlight the real values of Islam, to set straight the cliches about links to violence and terrorism,” he said, describing the venture as a “gesture of openness”.

“Instead of dwelling on these tragic acts, it seemed more useful and important to celebrate the spirit of January 11,” he said, referring to the date when millions of people took to the streets in a mass show of solidarity.

Following the November attacks, in which jihadists killed 130 people, France declared a state of emergency which has seen police staging around 20 raids on Muslim places of worship. At least three have been closed on suspicion of radicalising their members.

Dubbed “a brotherly cup of tea”, the initiative will take different forms with local mosques handing out hot drinks and pastries, offering guided visits, putting on debates and calligraphy workshops, and even inviting people to attend one of the five daily prayers.

Although not all of Frances 2,500 mosques and places of worship are taking part, the most important ones are, including the Grand Mosque of Paris. The event comes after a year which saw a surge in anti-Muslim acts in France, some of which targeted places of worship, although the number was much lower after the November bloodshed than after those that took place in January.

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Pakistani airports improve facilities for old, sick travellers

KARACHI, Dawn.com, 06 Jan 2016 – : The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has introduced ‘free of charge CAA help facility’ for senior citizens, special and unwell passengers at major airports across the country. The CAA spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday that initially the facility had been introduced at the Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad airports which in the second stage would be introduced at other airports also.

The service was in addition to other facilities airlines were offering to their passengers, he said adding this was in accordance with the National Aviation Policy 2015. The director general CAA had taken special measures to further improve the facilities and make travelling easy and comfortable.

“Hygiene inspectors have been introduced to keep round-the-clock check on cleanliness of the airports. CAA facilitators are available round-the-clock for providing assistance to passengers where and when required,” he said in the statement.

More such facilities, he said, were on the anvil while suggestions by the passengers were being considered for provision of better services.

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Iran starts new era in tourism

Isfahan, Jan 5, IRNA- Deputy Head of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), Morteza Rahmani Movahed informed that a new era has begun in tourism and with cultural and human capital this era can be heralded.

Rahmani Movahed in the cosing ceremony of the first International Tourism Brand Conference held in Isfahan. He was addressing a comprehensive list of participants in this event including people of Isfahan, universities, Chamber of Commerce, industry and agriculture, Municipality, Isfahan Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism office, UNWTO and UNESCO representatives, professors and foreign scientific faces.

He added that the conference resulted in introducing Iran as a tourist spot for the world. For promotion of tourism in Iran, he added that creative and active human resources will be employed.

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AirAsia Opens New Int’l Routes From Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi, Penang

SEPANG, Malaysia Jan 10 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia Bhd is set to launch three new international routes from Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi and Penang later this month. It will inaugurate direct flights from Kota Kinabalu to Wuhan on Jan 22, Langkawi-Guangzhou (Jan 24) and Penang-Ho Chi Minh (Jan 25), its head of commercial, Spencer Lee said.

“This is a very exciting year and January is a busy month for us, with new routes beginning its daily operations. We are very confident that AirAsia will continue to grow and remain profitable,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters after flagging of 14 Malaysian contestants in the AirAsia Anniversary Challenge in conjunction with the airline’s 14th anniversary at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) here yesterday.

AirAsia had offered promotional fares from as low as all-in RM88 one way, inclusive of taxes and fees, on airasia.com for travel from Jan 22 to Oct 29 this year.

On the contest, the participants, who were paired with local celebrities, had to complete various tasks and missions such as the selfie and shopping challenge, putting their knowledge and endurance to test’ via the foot-race around gateway@klia2.

The winner stands to win up to RM180,000 worth of gifts, including one year’s worth of free seats to any destination operated by AirAsia Bhd (flight code AK), a RM3,000 Lazada shopping cash voucher and a RM1,400 AirAsiaGo hotel cash voucher.

Apart from the grand prize, other contestants also stands a chance of winning up to RM20,000 Lazada shopping vouchers during the grand finale.

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Muslim Halal Products Export To Hit Rm50 Bln This Year

BANGI, Malaysia Jan 8 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia is targeting halal products export to hit RM50 billion this year compared with last year’s target of RM40 billion.

As of September 2015, the export value of halal products totalled RM31.1 billion, up 27 per cent from a year earlier, said Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Ahmad Maslan.

Hence, he was confident of achieving the target of RM40 billion for 2015.

The top five markets for Malaysia’s halal products exports last year were China, Singapore, the United States, Indonesia, and the Netherlands, he told reporters after visiting Dewina Food Industries Sdn Bhd, the manufacturer of popular halal food brand, Brahim’s, in Bandar Baru Bangi, Friday.

The top six halal products sectors included food and beverage, halal ingredients, palm oil derivatives, cosmetics and personal care, industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals, he added.

Ahmad said as of December 2014, there were 5,415 halal certified companies in Malaysia, an increase of 30.5 per cent from 4,443 recorded in 2013.

Out of the total, 1,841 or 34 per cent were Bumiputera companies, he said.

“I urged that more Bumiputera companies are involved in halal certification and acquire the halal certification as halal and Muslim are closely related,” he said.

Halal Industry Development Corporation Chief Executive Officer Jamil Bidin said halal exports contributed about five per cent to total exports as of September last year.

Meanwhile, Ahmad reassured that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) would not affect the halal industry as there was a clause in the trade pact that gave recognition to the industry and Malaysia Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

“We don’t have to worry as it would not affect the halal industry, furthermore, it (TPPA) recognises the halal industry and Jakim certification in the agreement.

“This puts the halal industry in good stead for the future,” he added.

Also present was Brahim’s Group Executive Chairman Ibrahim Ahmad.

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Tourism Malaysia Makes Strong Pitch At New York’s Travel Show

NEW YORK, Jan 10 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia continues to be an attractive destination as evident at the ongoing three-day New York Travel Show that saw

Malaysia’s New York office making a strong pitch to highlight its tourism attractions.

Tourism Malaysia’s New York office marketing manager, Mary Scully said a review of the 2015 tourism traffic from North America to Malaysia discerned a growing propensity towards luxury travel.

And also what she described as “unique experience travel” such as encountering wild animals in their habitat.

“Besides these trends, we also noticed families travelling together, the so-called generation travel, to Malaysia,” she told Bernama at the trade show, adding that she had discerned ‘positive energy’ that was reflected by bloggers who highlighted new trends in travel.

She said some of the bloggers already knew Malaysia and the sheer beauty of places like Melaka, Kota Kinabalu and Penang.

However she said one of the challenges that many Southeast Asian nations faced in attracting the tourist traffic from the United States was the lack of direct connectivity to their respective destination.

This challenge is also faced by Malaysia, she said.

Meanwhile Arthur Richards, a native of Pennsylvania, took his first trip to Malaysia in 1998.

Richards, who is an architect by profession, said that Malaysia’s finest asset was its “welcoming, warm and helpful people”.

“When we talk about tourism, we usually talk about landmarks, sightseeing, connectivity, food and shopping. But in Malaysia’s case, its best asset is the people,” he said when met at the show.

“And this is my experience as a passionate traveller who frequently visits Asia,” he said, adding that he had visited historical landmarks such as the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat and Great Wall of China.

According to Tourism Malaysia and Immigration Department Malaysia, overall tourist arrivals fell by nine percent in the first half (January-June) of 2015, with 12.57 million international visitors clocked in Malaysia.

Of these arrivals, North America accounted for 122,386 tourists in the first six months of last year, with 262,106 arrivals clocked for the entire 2014.

This year Tourism Malaysia New York plans to participate in trade and consumer shows such as the Boston Globe Travel Show and the joint trade show with Matrade in Santiago, Chile.

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Indonesia Accelerates Railway Development – Pres Jokowi

JAKARTA, Jan 7 (NNN-ANTARA) — Indonesia needs to develop its railway network in an effort to advance its transportation sector, promote economic activities and ensure connectivity across the country.

With that aim, the government is accelerating the development of railway infrastructure in various parts of the country to promote connectivity. The ventures include railway projects in Java, Sulawesi, Papua and Sumatra which will ensure better connectivity not just among the people but also regions.

“We have started developing railway projects in a number of regions in Sulawesi and Sumatra. I hope that a project will also be started this year in Papua. If that does not happen in the first semester, then it would surely happen in the second half of 2016. The work should begin this year,” President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said as he opened a limited cabinet meeting.

Construction of Trans-Sulawesi Railway project is now underway and it is expected to commence operations in 2018.

On Nov 25 last year, President Jokowi had inspected the construction of the first phase of the 2,000-kilometer (km) Makassar-Manado Trans-Sulawesi Railway Project, which is being built at a cost of Rp40 trillion.

The first phase of the Trans-Sulawesi section stretches 145 km from Makassar, the South Sulawesi provincial capital, to Parepare Municipality, and is expected to begin operations by the end of 2016.

“The railway service is expected to commence operations in 2018 and will connect the two capitals,” the President told newsmen after the inspection of the first phase.

The government was committed to providing infrastructure in various regions in the country.

“The infrastructure will come up not only in Sulawesi but also at other places. In Papua, we are still conducting a study, which is expected to be completed in the next quarter. That will make possible for the construction to possibly start in 2016,” he had noted in November.

On Monday Jan 4, the President said the implementation of railway project in Papua should begin by June, or latest by October or November this year.

Regarding the light rail transit (LRT) project in Palembang, South Sumatra, the government hopes that it would be completed in 2018, before the 18th Asian Games.

South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin said the development of railway stations that are a part of the LRT project, has been accelerated. Five of the 13 planned stations, part of the 24.5 kilometer LRT project, had been under construction for only two months after the groundbreaking ceremony.

“The work on the Rp7.2 trillion project is going on much faster than the initial schedule, thanks to the enthusiasm of South Sumatra which plans to host the Asian Games,” Governor Alex Noerdin noted recently.

During the cabinet meeting, President Jokowi also heard a report on the preparations for the construction of a multi-billion dollar high-speed train (HST) that will connect Jakarta with Bandung in West Java.

“I want to know about the constraints and obstacles, particularly about the licensing processes, the ground planning permits, the station development permits and other licensing obligations,” the President told the cabinet meeting.

The limited cabinet meeting was attended by the West Java governor, deputy governor of Jakarta, Bandung mayor and representatives of the state-owned companies (BUMNs) consortium involved in the project.

Jokowi, who was formerly the governor of Jakarta, heard recommendations from governors, district heads and mayors whose areas the Jakarta-Bandung HST project touches.

The consortium chairman, Bintang Probowo, noted before the end of last year that his side had secured all ground planning permits and the approvals of all districts/municipalities whose areas had received clearance for the fast train project.

“We have set a target to secure the remaining permits in the coming one to two days or before January 14,” Bintang affirmed.

President Jokowi said the construction of the fast train project was not being financed from the state budget and involved no government guarantees. This project, he said, is coming up through a business-to-business scheme, including a joint venture between Indonesia and China.

Earlier, two competitors had vied for the HST project, namely Japan and China.

Japan had conducted a feasibility study which put the investment value for the project at US$6.2 billion.

Later, China also conducted a feasibility study that showed that the investment needed for the construction of the high speed train development was only US$5.5 billion.

The Indonesian fast train project, similar to Japan’s Shinkansen train network, is expected to commence its groundbreaking ceremony on Jan 21 this year.

According to Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, the groundbreaking ceremony of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed train project is expected to be held on Jan 21, as all permits will be secured by mid-January.

He said the groundbreaking ceremony will be held in Walini, Purwakarta, West Java.

Pramono said President Jokowi had ordered the completion of all licensing processes, so that the groundbreaking ceremony could be held on Jan 21.

West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan revealed that the project would start from the Halim area in East Jakarta and would reach Gedebage or Tegalluar region in Bandung, West Java.

“About 95 percent of the land used for the project is located in West Java. So, approvals were needed from the West Java governor and eight district heads for ground planning recommendations,” he emphasized.

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Indonesia’s Shariah Financial Services Show Promise: Pres Jokowi

JAKARTA, Jan 7 (NNN-ANTARA) — The Shariah financial services remain prospective in Indonesia despite the global economic slowdown, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said.

“We see that the growth in Shariah financial services remains prospective in Indonesia even though the global economic slowdown is affecting our economy,” he noted in a limited meeting held here to discuss the formation of a Committee on Shariah Economic Development.

The ongoing promising future of Shariah financial services in the country is apparent by the growth of non-conventional banks, Shariah mutual funds, and Shariah law-based non-banking industries, he remarked.

“I have highly lauded the Financial Services Authoritys (OJKs) effort to provide the Shariah banking stimulus package as part of the economic deregulation packages,” President Jokowi pointed out.

The head of state, however, reminded the related parties of making a new breakthrough to increase the contribution of the Shariah banking sector to accelerate economic development in the country.

Therefore, in connection with a plan to form the Committee on Shariah Economic Development, President Jokowi said its existence should be able to improve the performance of Shariah financial services in the country.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, while according to Bank Indonesia (central bank), the total assets of the country’s Islamic finance reached Rp476 trillion, wherein one US dollar is equivalent to Rp13,600.

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Indonesia’s Semarang Being Developed Into World-Class Tourist Destination

SEMARANG (C Java,Indonesia), jAN 7 (NNN-ANTARA) — The old town of Semarang is being developed into a world-class tourist destination to increase the number of tourist arrivals in the capital of Central Java Province.

The infrastructure and old buildings in Semarangs old town are being repaired with the assistance of the Central Java provincial administration and the Indonesian central government, acting Semarang Mayor Tavip Supriyanto said.

The Old Town of Semarang Revitalization Project was officially launched in front of the Johar Post office Headquarters on New Year’s Eve 2016.

Several businessmen from Semarang and Jakarta will also help in the old towns restoration project as they care for the nation’s heritage.

The central government has allocated funds for infrastructure repairs, including Rp68 billion for Merak road and Rp30 billion for Mpu Tantular road.

“We hope to make Semarang’s old town a world’s heritage and not just Semarang city’s pride. Therefore, we have established cooperation with the provincial and central governments to realize this project,” he noted.

Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo remarked that the old city is part of the world’s heritage, and therefore, it should be repaired and preserved.

The renovation will be carried out by involving the old buildings’ owners, including state enterprises that own some of the buildings, according to the governor.

Semarang city, one of the five major cities in the nation, is located along the north coast of Java Sea.

The old records of the city dated back to the 15th-18th century A.D., and Semarang has captivating ancient and colonial monuments that still stand until now.

The city’s old town is located close to its ocean harbor where tourists can still find an interesting collection of unusual buildings dating back to the Dutch colonial era and even further back to the time of the Dutch East Indies Company.

The city boasts several Chinese temples, including Sam Po Kong (Kedung Batu), built in honor of the Chinese Great Admiral Zheng He who visited the area in 1405, and the Tay Kak Sie Temple.

The Blenduk Church, a 1753 Protestant church built by the Dutch, is located in the old town called “Oudstad.”

Tugu Muda, or the Youth Monument, is dedicated to the heroes of Indonesia’s independence struggle and is located in front of Lawang Sewu Building at the end of Pemuda Street, one of the city’s major shopping streets.

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Indonesia govt to improve image of the Prophet in education

9 January 2016 Jombang (ANTARA News) – Religious affairs minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin has said he will improve the image of Prophet Muhammad in Islamic education as the Prophet is shown as one who likes war rather than being tolerant and loving.

“Based on the research carried out by the Department of Research and Development of the Ministry of Religious Affairs it is understood that students have learned about the Prophet as an individual who likes war rather than other good deeds,” he said before attending the commemoration event to mark the 15th anniversary of Roushon Fikr Foundation in Jombang, East Java, Saturday.

Education materials used in classrooms narrated more about battles involving the Prophet such as the Wars of Badr and Uhud, while other sides of the Prophet like his teachings about love and tolerance were less exposed, the minister, who is a politician from the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP) said.

This kind of education has been worsened by the inflow of negative global cultures including those carrying violent content through games and films to slowly but surely ensure that the violent culture is instilled in the minds of the school children, he said.

“This is what we are trying to improve thoroughly to explain the real character of the Prophet,” he said.

His office would design formulation about religious lessons that would make the younger generation understand more the core of the religion, Minister Lukman said.

With regard to Islam, efforts need to be made to develop a moderate Islam in line with the meaning of Islam linguistically which is salvation, he said. In other words Islam must be developed not as an extreme religion.

“The substance is that a religion must be able to bring welfare to all human beings and make men as men by upholding their esteem,” he said.

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Indonesian has potential to become ASEAN language: Expert

8 January 2016 Surabaya, E Java (ANTARA News) – Indonesian language has the potential to become the lingua franca of the ASEAN during the era of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), according to a linguist from the State University of Surabaya (Unesa) Dr Suhartono.

“Indonesian and Malay are two languages that could potentially become ASEAN languages,” the lecturer at the Unesas Faculty of Language and Letters remarked in Surabaya, East Java, on Friday.

However, he believes that Indonesian is more potent than Malay based on at least four scientific arguments, although the government still needs to conduct diplomacy.

“The four arguments are that Indonesian language has been taught in several countries, can be easily mastered, has a good rate of development, and some of its vocabularies are also part of the languages used in other ASEAN countries,” he said.

However, Suhartono pointed out that unlike Malay language spoken by the people in Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, South Thailand, and South Philippines, the distribution of Indonesian language has been uneven.

“Although the distribution of the Indonesian language is uneven, the vocabularies of the language are used in numerous ASEAN countries,” he noted.

According to Suhartono, Indonesian language is easily accepted and has long become the medium of communication in the three ASEAN countries of Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, and Malaysia.

“Moreover, Indonesian has been taught in some ASEAN nations in the face of the AEC and also in Japan, Australia, and some other countries,” he remarked.

In the meantime, Rector of Unesa Prof. Warsono remarked that he supported the governments efforts to negotiate with ASEAN countries over the use of Indonesian as the language of the ASEAN.

“The Unesa also encourages Indonesian to become the ASEAN language since Malay speakers constitute 60-70 percent of the ASEAN population in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei Darussalam,” he added.

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Indonesia has largest number of Islamic Education Institutes

9 January 2016 Jombang (ANTARA News) – Indonesia is unique with regard to Islamic educational institutes and has the largest number of them as compared to other countries, religious affairs minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said here Saturday.

“Indonesia has long been known as a religious nation because of its Islamic educational institutes, which numbers the largest in the world,” the minister said at the commemoration event marking the 15th anniversary of Roushon Fikr Foundation in Jombang, East Java.

Indonesia is unique because it is not a religion-based state such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or the Vatican, he said.

Although it is not a religion-based state it is also not a secular state, he added.

“Indonesia officially does not use religion as a formal foundation but it also does not separate religion and state,” he said.

Indonesia has been inseparable from religious values for a long time. Its predecessors have never separated religion from their daily lives as shown by the huge number of various religious activities carried out by communities in the country, he said.

“They are traditions from the ancestors. They have deliberately created them to make the Indonesian community closely connected with religious values. It could happen because many Islamic organizations continued to develop religious institutions that have numbered up to hundred thousand,” he said.

Religion in Indonesia must become the national strength to preserve good values to prevent the negative impacts of current globalization, minister Lukman said.

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Test runs of trains on Tongi-Bhoirab double-line begin

DHAKA, Jan 7, 2016 (BSS) – The newly constructed Tongi-Bhoirab double-line railways opened to train movement on experimental basis today.

Bangladesh Railway Additional Director General (operation) M. Habibur Rahman confirmed this to BSS.

He said running of passenger and goods trains on the new railways would save time and help avoid crossings.

Bangladesh Railway General Manager (project) Sagar Krishna Chakravarty said the construction of double-line railways from Tongi to Bhoirab at a cost of Taka 2,212 crore ended recently.

The government of Bangladesh and Asian Development Bank (ADB) financed the project.

It is expected that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will formally inaugurate the newly constructed railways. Officials said the new railways will make it possible to run more trains on Dhaka-Chittagong, Dhaka-Sylhet and Dhaka-Kishoreganj routes.

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E-Gate installation begins at Maldives airport

Sun.mv – January 5, 2016 – Department if Immigration and Emigration has begun installing E-Gates at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Information Officer of Immigration, Hassan Khaleel told Sun Media tonight that after the installation of the E-Gates are complete, the service would be first available to Maldivian nationals and later for foreigners.

E-Gate service allows self-service while entering and leaving the country as opposed to an immigration officer checking passports.

To use an E-Gate, one simply scans the passport, touch for fingerprint and look at the installed camera.

Immigration said that they would stop stamping passports once the service begins.

“Without completing the procedure, the E-Gate won’t open. If so, that person cannot leave,” Khaleel said.

He said that the security at the airport would be multiplied when the E-Gate services are introduced and considerably reduce the number people that enter the country on false passports.

Khaleel said that the E-Gate system installations would be completed in about four days. He said that the service would begin after the new passport has been introduced this January.

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Maldives tourism urged to “stand against” those who call for boycotts

Sun.mv – January 8, 2016 – MP for the Kaashidhoo constituency and the Chairman of Yacht Tours, Abdulla Jabir has called to the Tourism Industry to standup against those who call to boycott the Maldivian tourism.

Speaking on Channel 13’s News Talk, MP Jabir said that calling to boycott tourism is not something the people would accept and no political party should work to destroy the country’s economy.

Jabir called to the Maldives Association of Tourism Industries (MATI) and Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) to voice as one and come out against those who call for the boycott.

“I call to MATI and MATATO that people of our industry has to unite and come out. To lobby against.” MP Jabir said.

He said that the Maldives would not function if it loses the tourism sector and if that happens, the country would fall back to the 50’s.

“That is not something we can believe.” Jabir said.

While a group of people are calling to boycott the Maldivian Tourism, Jabir said that there is no reason that tourists should not come to the Maldives and even if false information about the country is given to the foreign countries, it would not be believed.

He said that the target for the year should be three million tourists and the current government can achieve that goal because President Abdulla Yamin is a capable person.

“In very high speed, the government has planned to do things. A lot of it is being done right, I believe. Especially, the thinking of President Yamin is making the Maldives as a developed country like Singapore on a fast rate. For that, billion dollar projects has to come.” MP Abdulla Jabir said.

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Discover Azerbaijan more easily

07 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan makes a New Year gift to tourists who want to come to the country, as visa requirements will be simplified.

Earlier, all tourists despite the budget needed to book a hotel room in order to get a visa to Azerbaijan, soon will be able to stay in cottages or private apartments as well.

Head of the Inbound and Domestic Tourism Committee at the Azerbaijan Tourism Association, Murad Keremov told Fins.az that village house will be able to provide the reservation, which is necessary for the visa document.

He added that this rule applies not only village cottages, but private apartments, and tents that meet the necessary standards. Rural houses, mountain shelters and farmhouses were included into the classification of hotels and hotel-type facilities under the recent decision by the Standardization, Metrology and Patents Committee.

This decision is good news for both tourists who want to visit the country as well as for local tourists, Keremov believes.

The positive aspect for foreign tourists is that they can stay not only in hotels now, he said. “One part of tourists who wish to visit the country want to stay in village cottages, foreign tourists are not interested in expensive, luxury hotel. Incoming tourists want to stay in the mountains, to go to the top of the mountain, or to taste vegetables grown in the village. This is a type of tourism when the tourists stay in homes of local people, and live with them.”

He noted that many of tourists coming to Azerbaijan want to visit ethnic minorities, get familiar with them. The new standard adopted in Azerbaijan will open up the door for this type of tourists.

Azerbaijan has both natural beauty, historical and cultural diversity to show to their visitors.

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.

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

Moreover, the new decision will increase competition between hotels and hotel type facilities, which may further decrease the prices.

At present, documents required in Azerbaijani embassies for getting a visa are as follows: 1 application form, 2 color photos (3×4 cm on a white background), passport or ID document, an invitation, tourist voucher, or other information confirming the purpose of visit, and a receipt confirming the payment of the state duty.

Visa applications to Azerbaijan are considered within a month at the latest, or 48 hours if the visit is urgent. Moreover, tourists can also get their visa online at www.evisa.mfa.gov.az.

Local population will also enjoy this new decision as tourist companies will start cooperating with village houses. As a result, everyone will be able to choose tour pack suiting every budget.

Keremov said there are still points to be clarified in this regard, for instance, who will provide tourists with the booking document. The certificate can be presented by either tourism companies or the homeowners.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry said a decision on this issue is yet to be achieved. The ministry is holding discussions with relevant tourism associations.

The simplest versions will be chosen taking into account opinions of both the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the electronic services related to the issuance of visas.

The more attractive prices for foreign tourists that were reached after the recent depreciation of the manat and decrease of prices for services in many hotel type facilities may open undiscovered places in Azerbaijan for tourists who previously preferred to visit cheaper destinations like neighboring Georgia and Turkey.

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Tour d’Azerbaidjan-2016 scheduled for May

07 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – The roads of Azerbaijan will once again revive with the cycle wheels this spring, as Tour d’Azerbaidjan- 2016 cycle race will be held in the country.

The five-stage 2.1 category competition is scheduled for May 4-8.

Tour d’Azerbaidjan, organized by Azerbaijan Cycling Federation, Youth and Sports Ministry and Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee, with the support of the International Cycling Union, was first held in 2013.

In 2011 Tour d’Azerbaïdjan, a cycling tour in memory of national leader Heydar Aliyev “Big Caucasus” was organized, and in 2012 – the tour became an annual event, later transformed into Tour d’Azerbaidjan.

Last year the tour brought together 24 teams from around the world, which competed in a five stage race covering the entire Azerbaijan. The total distance covered by riders was 870 kilometers.The race was held across Baku, Sumgayit, Ismayilli, Gabala, Mingachevir and Sheki.

Sergey Firsanov of RusVelo won the closing stage of the Tour d’Azerbaidjan -2015, while Primoz Roglic took the overall win.

Today, cycling is one of the developing sports in Azerbaijan, which dated back to 1930.

Since the early 1990s, Azerbaijan hosted a wide range of bicycle contests. The national cyclists continued to participate in Baku and Azerbaijan championships riding 40 km per hour.

After Azerbaijan National Cycling Federation was founded in 1997, the sports became to revive in the country. Although the Federation is too young, but the achievements and the projects that have been put in practice still to give a better result.

One of the main commitments standing as a priority for the Cycling Federation is to establish new cycling schools and clubs across Azerbaijan’s provinces, as well as stimulating the young generation into loving the sport.

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EASA to boost civil aviation in Azerbaijan

08 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan will be able to further develop its civil aviation, as the European Commission intends to boost this field in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The European Commission has awarded European Aviation Safety Agency a $5.4 million technical contract to support the sustainable development in the countries such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Armenia in line with international and European standards.

The EASA will begin implementing the 4-year contract starting this February.

The Agency will provide training, dedicated initiatives on safety management and civil aviation administration management, effectively addressing safety findings, support for the implementation of existing comprehensive aviation agreements, and support for the harmonization of regulations and working practices with international safety and security standards.

Azerbaijan has invested huge funds to develop the civil aviation in the country. It’s an important member of the International Civil Aviation Organization Council. Around $15 billion has been invested in developing the aviation in Azerbaijan over the last 10 years. Four new airports were constructed and two more were modernized, helicopter and aircraft fleets were fully renewed, the most modern planes such as the Airbus, Boeing and even Boeing Dreamliner were put into operation.

Recently the country hosted the 35th session of the Interstate Council on Aviation and Airspace, where ICAO Council President, praised the work carried out by the Azerbaijani government in the aviation sector.

Last year saw the 105th anniversary since the first flight over Baku. The rapid development of civil aviation started in Azerbaijan since the French biplane Farman-4, piloted by Sergey Utochkin, made a few circles above awestruck onlookers and successfully landed with a thunder of applause.

Azerbaijan Airlines is a major air carrier and one of the leaders of the aviation community of CIS countries. AZAL with the newest airplane fleets, consisting of 25 airplanes, does not have a single old plane.

For its services, AZAL received a prestigious “4 Stars” from the leader in air transport research, the world-famous British consulting company Skytrax last June.

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Azerbaijan Fashion Week due in Moscow

07 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – Azerbaijan Fashion Week for the first time will be held in Moscow on March 6-8.

Organized by the Moscow-based Azerbaijani Culture studio in partnership with the Russian-Azerbaijani Friendship Center, the event will take place in Moscow’s President Hotel.

The two-day event stipulates holding of a fashion show, after party, exhibition and sale, welcome party and workshop for the guests.

Local fashion designers and domestic brands including fashion, perfumes, cosmetics, accessories, and others are invited to take part in the Azerbaijani Fashion Week.

For the detailed information please contact Ulker Kurbanova on +7(495)7961044; or mail ulker.kurbanova@mail.ru.

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Turkish Museums should become centers of attraction

Nazlan Ertan – İZMİR – Muharrem Kayhan’s interests in the heritage of Caria and Ionia started in mid-1980s, and his 30-year journey led him to one of the most significant collections of the period. The former chairman of Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD) has also been involved in restoration of an Ottoman mosque, Isabey, in his hometown of Aydın.

How did the exhibition “Testimonies of Anatolian Antiquity” come about?

Lucien (Arkas of Arkas HoldingF knew that I was a collector of coins. A team from the Arkas Art Center came to see the collection and when they saw the whole picture, they wanted to display both the coins and the other objects. We worked a year on this, to select what would be on display and how to do it.

What started you on your long journey as a collector?

I was always fond of reading of history from early on, but I think the main trigger was the fact that every day, going from home to work, I passed through antique Ionia. It would have been strange if I had remained oblivious to the heritage around it. So I started looking for the traces, for the documents that would give me more knowledge of the heritage of these lands.

And you focused on coins?

When I first started my collection in the 1980s, the first items were not coins. But I was drawn to ancient Greek coinage and since the end of the 1980s, I have collected about 2,000 coins. It was catalogued in two volumes in Sylloge Nummorum Graeocorum series, which are now standard reference books in the domain (of coins).

I saw that coinage was much neglected in Turkey. This is because they are difficult to display. Coins are more than collection items that are pretty to own and to show; they require a real knowledge of the time of the city it belongs. It requires real work to understand the symbols on it. It is work.

Many collectors also start with what is closest to them – for physical reasons. Fortunately for me, what I had in my proximity was one of the most important sites in the world, Caria, where the first coins were minted.

Are coins, besides being historical testimonies and works as art as you say, also a display of the power of the sovereign? What do the coins in your collection tell us about Anatolian antiquity? Was there a monetary unity there?

Surely money is a display of sovereignty. Until Alexander the Great, the rulers did not put their faces on the coin, they used symbols. After that, they started putting their own likeness.

There was no Monetary Union in Anatolia; each city has its own money, its own symbol. What happened was that some cities sometimes recognized the value of each other’s coins. This is relatively easy, because the money back then is based on the value of the metal, not of symbolic value. Examples of “common currency” are rare. There is the rare instance of six cities coming together in 400 B.C. and minting coins that on one side had a picture of Hercules fighting with the snake and on the other side, their city symbols. Why they did this, what was the alliance about is unknown. But unlike the “Monetary Union,” which we know as a stable structure, these are not continuous alliances.

Is it difficult to be a collector?

It is certainly a lot of responsibility. You are the trustee of a great heritage. These are delicate objects, whose restoration and display is very difficult. Moreover, any damage can put you in a very difficult position. It is not an enviable position.

The exhibition at the Arkas Art Center was not only rich but aesthetically pleasing, with a great deal of information made available. We do not always see that in museums in Turkey. Do you think there is improvement in Turkish public museums?

Turkey is a country rich in heritage and we have a great deal to display in our museums in terms of archaeological heritage. In some countries, it is just the opposite: there is very little to display in the museums but the items they display are displayed well, with good architectural design. What we need to make sure in Turkey is to build museums with good architectural design. In such a case, museums themselves become centers of attraction. For example, İzmir Archeological Museums, which is a mine of archeology, needs a better building – one that should be made by an internationally renowned architect.

In the opening of the ceremony, both you and Arkas emphasized the need for young people to know about heritage. How can this be encouraged?

This is an education. The history of this land is very rich. When I was a child, our schools used to take us on museum tours. Both schools and parents should take the responsibility for teaching the next generation of the heritage they sit on. Popcorn and cinema would only take you so far.

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Arkas Arts Center displays testimonials of Anatolian antiquity

Nazlan Ertan – İZMİR – There is a smallish woman dressed in a cloak draped across her right shoulder, sitting in a massive chair. The fact that she has her hands resting on her thighs and her feet in a footstool, as well as the elaborate pleats in her clothing, indicate that she is a sacred person or holds a sacred office. She seems to be intentionally mutilated: the head is missing and the hands have been partially torn off.

The statue is one of the most interesting items that make up the “Testimonies of the Anatolian Antiquity,” a collection of 300 historical objects and 500 coins brought together in İzmir’s Arkas Art Center. The collection is part of approximately 2,000 coins and 1,315 historical objects belonging to İzmir-born businessman Muharrem Kayhan. The “Seated Woman” is believed to be from the archaic period in Miletus and Yeniköy, made around 540 B.C. According to Jean-Luc Measo, the curator of the exhibition, it is one of the statues that decorated the sacred way from Miletus to the Temple of Apollo at Didyma.

The statue was an anniversary gift from Kayhan’s wife, Berna. Other items, such as coins, terracotta, bronze, marble and glass objects, are the result of his passion, his slow and deliberate acquisition both in Turkey and abroad since the mid-1980s. The display also includes 45 coins from the collection of his brother, Hilmi.

It is easy to succumb to the cliché that a collection almost infallibly reflects the collector himself. Kayhan’s own background and the geography he lives in rings very close to the focus of the collection, which is made up of coins and other objects from Caria (the region that extends from the south of Menderes river to the north of the Muğla province in southwestern Anatolia) and Ionia (which covers modern day İzmir and Aydın on the Aegean coast) during the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic eras.

“Day in and day out, I treaded on the path of history on my way from home to work and work to home,” Kayhan told Hürriyet Daily News on the telephone. Kayhan Family owns Söktaş textiles, a forty-five-year-old company based in Aydın. “It would have been unusual not to be curious about where I live. I am very happy that the coins in particular have returned to the lands of their birth.”

His interest started with historical objects in the 1980s but quickly turned into coinage because coins, with their rich history, gave him the opportunity to expand his knowledge and provide hints on how the ancestors of his native land lived. “A collector without in-depth knowledge of what he collects is just a hoarder,” he added.

The long path to exhibition

“The Testimonies of Anatolian Antiquity,” the first and possibly only display of Kayhan’s vast personal collection, opened to the public through his friendship with Lucien Arkas, the chairman of Arkas Holding. “Lucien Arkas knew of my collection and wanted to exhibit it. It took us 1.5 years to choose, classify and set up what we want to display,” Kayhan said.

“The objects and the coins are organized in a thematic framework, rather than a linear chronology,” explains Müjde Unustası, the director of the exhibition. “Archaic era… cult objects, gods and goddesses, the house, women and animals are the main themes of the exhibition, presenting the life in antiquity through coins and other objects.”

This is, indeed, a multidimensional life, with rituals for table, for feasts, for work, marriage and for burials. Delicate glass, soft curves on marble, delicate statuettes of animals and deities find their place in the Arkas hall, united in the diversity of the different civilizations they represent.

“The Archaic to the Byzantine periods are characterized by the combination of ethnic, religious, linguistic and economic identities, all marked by local traditions, the Greek civilization, Roman contributions, and the pre-Hellenic heritage,” says Maeso, the exhibition’s curator. “The story told by the objects here is a vast chronology of the coming-together of populations and lands, bound by exchanges and influences, a rich history and dramatic upheavals. It is a living legacy which reveals the customs, ways of life, funerary ceremonies and the urban and agrarian life.”

Coins occupy a particular place in the exhibition – not only because they are the main interest of the collector but because of the great displays that make them not only informative but fun to look at.

“Those coins from antiquity are works of art and historical evidence – two qualities which I hope will be revealed to the visitor,” says Kayhan.

They clearly do. To the smallest coins that are no more than small punched ingots to the larger Miletus coins with the symbol of the bee, they tell a complicated story of what our ancestors believed to be sacred. Then they became money as a source of power and legitimacy, with the detailed portrait or profile of the ruler carefully chiseled. “Rulers used their symbol, but not their face before Alexander,” said Kayhan. “It was after Alexander that the images of the rulers appeared on the coin.”

In the room devoted to the Hacetomnid Dynasty, the profile of Apollo can be seen on the coins issued by the rulers in the fourth century B.C. They wore a double hat, like the official governors of the Persian Empire and hereditary Karian dynasts who had to push for their own interests against those of the Persians. In many ways, not least by their coinage, they were the forerunners of the Hellenistic kings.

“I have decided to end my coin collection this exhibition,” says Kayhan. “What is missing in the collection from these lands and periods is both very rare, if not inaccessible.”

As I tour the exhibition before my interview with Kayhan, a group of school children around eight years old rush in. Despite the orderly way they enter, it is clear that they are more interested in the grave and the objects around it, the main feature in the large hall. Some focus on the lion sculptures, another asks immediately to be shown the animals, possibly referring to the small ornaments of bulls, stags and dogs from the Roman period on the second floor.

Kayhan is passionate about museums, which themselves are centers of attraction through their architecture, enabling the next generation to become more aware of their heritage. “Schools and parents have a role to play there. Cinema and popcorn can only take you so far,” he says.

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Sudan: Important Archaeological Discoveries At Al-Khandaq Unearthed

6 January 2016 – Sudan News Agency (Khartoum) – Dongola — A Specialized Mission affiliated to Department of Archaeology of Faculty of Arts in Khartoum University, has explored important archaeological discoveries of mass grave dated back to pre-Christian era and a castle at Al-Khandaq area, Al-Golid Locality, Northern State.

The Mission will continue exploration at the area to determine the archaeological sites surveyed by the Mission.Head of the Mission, Professor, Intisar Saghiroun Al-Zain told Sudan News Agency(SUNA), that the discoveries affirms that Khandaq, before three centuries was a commercial city and a river port that received commodities coming from Egypt, Turkey, the Levant and Europe after that the commodities were distributed to different areas of Sudan via caravans.

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Algeria – Economic Growth Expected to Rise in 2016, 2017

7 January 2016 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – Washington — Algeria is expected to record a rise in the economic growth of 3.9% in 2016 and 4 % in 2017, said the World Bank in its report on global economic prospects published Wednesday evening in Washington.

According to the forecasts of this international financial body, the growth of Algeria’s real gross domestic product (real GDP) will pick up again in 2016 to reach a 3.9% progress against 2.8% in 2015, despite the oil price decline.

In 2017, Algeria’s economic growth is expected to further improve to reach 4%, said the WB.For 2016 and 2017, the World Bank maintained its growth forecasts for Algeria, anticipated in June 2015, and slightly reviewed the growth upwards in 2015 by +0.2%.Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Algeria will remain stable, at the same level of that recorded in 2010, according to the Bretton-Woods body.

Overall, the economic growth in the Africa and the Middle East region (MENA) is expected to rise in 2016 to 5.1% boosted by the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, leading provider of the world energy market.

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Nigeria: Ooni Unveils Plans for Youth in Sports, Tourism

January 2016 – Daily Independent (Lagos) – The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, has dedicated the New Year to youths with a promise to engage three thousand of them at the ongoing construction of a Tourist Resort in the ancient town.

In a statement by his Director of Media and Public Affairs, Moses Olafare, the monarch said that his plan for 2016 was to turn around the fortune of the youths.

According to him, he would soon unfold a new programme that will “open a vista of hope in terms of gainful employment for the youths.

“Felicitating with the people of Ile-Ife, Osun State and Nigeria for the New Year 2016, the Arole Oodua said: “No fewer than 3,000 youths would be engaged at the ongoing project site of Ife Grand Resort spanning over 1000 hectares of land to provide job opportunities for the people.

“Oba Ogunwusi said that his focus was beyond the shores of Ile-Ife, disclosing that an arrangement had reached advanced stage to take the unemployed youths off the streets. He noted his efforts were geared towards checkmating the growing crime rate in the society.

He said: “40 squares miles of land have been acquired at Ife reserves to drive massive agricultural revolution, which would pave way for cocoa, oil palm and rubber plantation. And this scheme would also create job opportunities for nothing less than 20,000 people. I have also set up a working committee on the Youth Sports Drive and Talents Hunt, which is being coordinated by the renowned former Super Eagles coach, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde and ex-Secretary General of the Nigerian Football Association (NFA), Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi. The programme will come out with a template of bringing back the old glory of sport competition. It will be tagged Oduduwa Cup and it will take place in all parts of the Yorubaland.”

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Egypt: Transport Minister Inspects South Sinai Roads

3 January 2016 – Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – Transport Minister Saad El Gioushy inspected on Saturday 2/1/2016 Nafaq-Ein Moussa road due to open within days to serve trade, tourism and development projects in South Sinai.

El Gioushy also inspected expansions to Cairo-Suez road due to open in March.Two more lanes were added to the road to meet the high demand of trucks between the two cities.

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Algeria: Up to 150 Exhibitors Projected at Tourism Show in Oran

3 January 2016 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – Oran — Some 150 national and foreign exhibitors are expected to participate in the 7th edition of the International Tourism, Travel and Transport Fair “SIAHA 2016″ from 18 to 20 February at the Convention Centre of Oran (432-km west of Algiers), said Sunday the organizers.

The trade event will bring together national and foreign professionals of the sector of tourism and travel, including the offices of tourism, travel agencies, hotels, transport companies, banks, insurance companies and investors, said the organizers. Many foreign exhibitors from Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Malta, Jordan, Thailand and India will participate in this edition.

The annual event is an opportunity to establish business contacts and share experience between the different operators for the promotion of the Algerian tourist product through the different bilateral meetings.

The trade event will allow presenting new and underway tourist projects and the prospects for the development of domestic tourism, as well as the new destinations, added the organizersIt will be also an opportunity for air and sea transport companies, car hire agencies and insurance companies to present their services, said the organizers.

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Egypt: Tourism Ministry Eases Measures for Tourism Visas

4 January 2016 – Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – The Tourism Ministry is easing measures for tourism visas in coordination with relevant authorities, Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou said. The Egyptian authorities allowed a group of Chinese holidaymakers to enter the country with an upon-arrival visa but on condition that the travel agency guarantee them and they have enough money, the minister said in statements on Sunday 3/1/2016.

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Egypt: Tourism Minister Meets JTUE Representatives

6 January 2016 – Egypt State Information Service (Cairo) – Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou on Tuesday 5/1/2016 met representatives of the Japanese Travel Union of Egypt (JTUE) to discuss ways to promote tourism inflow from Japan. The meeting also dealt with broadcasting positive messages on Egypt in Japanese media outlets and inviting Japanese tour operators to visit the country. Zaazou reviewed with the delegation measures taken by the ministry to promote Egypt as a tourism destination. He added that the Egyptian government took all security measures needed to secure areas of tourist attractions.

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Nigeria: Use Tourism to Augment Revenue Loss – Daura Emir

By Habibu Umar Aminu

7 January 2016 – Daily Trust (Abuja) – Katsina — The Emir of Daura Alhaji Umar Faruk Umar has stressed the need to explore the potentials of tourism and hospitality industry to augment decline in revenue that has affected execution of developmental projects across the country.

Umar, said this when the newly chairman of the State Hotel Management Board paid him a courtesy visit. He said the sector has remained a veritable tool for many countries as such we cannot be left out in the exploration of the sector.

He advised the board to continue to partner security agencies to prevent suspicious persons from taking shelter in hotels across the state. Earlier, General Manager of the state Hotels and Tourism Board, Alhaji Abubakar Badaru Jikamshi said they were at the palace to seek royal blessing and intimate the royal father of efforts been made towards exploring the sector for revenue generation.

He said, the strategic location of Daura on Nigeria’s border with Niger Republic has made it economically important, which leads to the influx of diplomats, tourists and other commercial visitors on a daily basis.

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Uganda: Senegalese Play Lights Up Kampala Festival

2 January 2016 – The East African (Nairobi) – The second Kampala International Theatre Festival would not have been opened better than with the Senegalese production Moi, Monsieur et Moi (Me, Sir and Me!).

Written and acted by Patricia Gomis, Moi, Monsieur et Moi is the story of a little Senegalese girl, who has been given away, to an aunt, a cousin and an uncle — who force her to carry out heavy household chores with little time to play.

It is a tale of girls in Africa who are mistreated by their parents, guardians, teachers, and bosses. It is about how they raise their heads to find a place in society.

Through the eyes of a clown, the difficult story of a girl growing up into a woman is told, transcending both suffering and laughter.

The girl grows up in a polygamous family and witnesses African spiritual rituals and daily life happenings as she attempts to come to terms with her predicament.

Through the play, Gomis recounts her troubled early years in Senegal and briefly in France. She says she initially wanted to tell her life as a child, adolescent and young girl, repeatedly given to members of her family, who mistreated her.

Her uncle purported to take her to France to live a better life but only to turn her into a slave worker in his home. He hid her passport and did not try to find her proper documentation. A relative in France enabled her to escape back to Senegal.

Gomis says the main challenge of her production is to play all the parts by herself and the characters to be recognised by the audience.

She is married with children and lives in Senegal. She studied theatre in France on a scholarship.

In Dakar, Gomis has introduced street children to dramatic plays, and performs in hospitals to give some warmth to those who suffer.

Moi, Monsieur et Moi, which toured Africa for three months this year, was a guest performance at KITF, which hosted an array of readings and productions by celebrated playwrights, directors, and actors at the Uganda National Cultural Centre in the National Theatre in Kampala.

The five-day festival attracted eight plays from Senegal, Uganda, Kenya, Iraq/Belgium, and Kosovo.

The plays were: Grave Robber Services (Uganda, 60min) by Kaya Kagimu Mukasa; Body Revolution (Iraq/Belgium, 40min) written and directed by Mokhallad Rasem; Marriage Chronicles (Uganda, 40min) by Sam Lutaaya; Room of Lost Names (Kenya, 40min) by Sitawa Namwalie; The Betrothal (Uganda, 90min) by Joshua Mali; Waiting for Tain (Kosovo, 40min) by Mokhallad Rasem; and We Won’t Forget (Kenya, 105min) directed by Wanjiku Mwavuganga.

Grave Robber Services examines the things that poverty and lack of employment can push people into. The protagonist is a university graduate with a first class honours degree but with no job. He persuades his friend who works in the funeral home to help him steal a coffin, clothes and a gold watch from a deceased rich man in order to gain money and approval from family and friends.

He is able to sell the dead man’s belongings to raise capital for his business but has to live with the fear of being discovered by the police who are hunting for the grave robbers.

Body Revolution is about the Arab Spring that was sparked off by a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in December 2010. How does the body react to violence and fear? It’s an abstract production using actors performing on video footage, still pictures, music and sound effects.

We Won’t Forget focuses on terrorism and how it has recently plagued Kenya. It reminds us that people lost their lives and their loved ones, and as much as we should move on and heal our wounds, we should not forget the lost and shattered lives. It also urges us to be vigilant against terrorism. The play is a fusion of various forms of theatre including spoken word/poetry, monologues, music, dance and fine art.

Organised by the Sundance Institute East Africa and Bayimba Cultural Foundation, the festival aims to provide a platform for the best and relevant theatre productions — where the work of risk-taking artists that aims at contributing to a meaningful and engaging dialogue is experienced.

The festival focuses on showcasing alternative presentations, in alternative formats and alternative spaces, giving theatre artists and audiences multiple and alternative lenses through which to present and consume theatrical performances.

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Saudi Arabia To Privatise Three Airports

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Jan 6 (NNN-SPA) – Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), announced on Tuesday, that it will privatise three international airports in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, in 2016 and 2017.

The authority plans to privatise Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, in the first quarter of this year, president of GACA, Faisal Al-Sugair, said.

He added that, King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Dammam’s King Fahd International Airport, will be privatised in the second and third quarters of 2017, respectively.

He noted that, the programme of privatisation is to improve services provided to passengers, adding, it seeks to transfer privatised sectors into profitable ones to be an income source for the state.

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Shaikh Nasser’s Efforts To Preserve Bahraini Heritage Lauded

MANAMA, Bahrain, Jan 6 (NNN-BNA) – Bahrain’s First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sport (SCYS), and President of Bahrain Athletics Association, Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, paid tribute to the King, for his support to the national heritage, by taking up sports like equestrian and hunting with falcons (falconry) and by issuing decrees to protect wildlife.

He also lauded the efforts of the King’s Representative for Charity Work and Youth Affairs, SCYS Chairman and President of Bahrain Olympic Committee, Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, in this respect.

He praised the initiative of Shaikh Nasser, in launching Bahrain Falcons and Hunting Competition, stressing its role in preserving Bahrain’s customs, by giving the Bahraini and GCC youth the opportunity to compete in heritage contests.

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Omani Asayel Exhibition To Begin Tuesday

MUSCAT, Oman, Jan 7 (NNN-ONA) – Omani Sayyid Fatik bin Fahr al-Said, will sponsor the opening of the fifth International Exhibition of Horses, Camels and Heritage ‘Omani Asayel’ at Oman International Exhibition Centre.

The 3-day exhibition, organised by Vision Expo and Asayel Company for Press and Publication, will open in the presence of a large number of senior officials and those interested in equestrian and camel sports and heritage.

The first day of the exhibition will include the opening ceremony, welcoming shows to the chief guest and the attendees, by the Royal Cavalry, Royal Camel Corps, Household Cavalry and the Royal Guard of Oman Cavalry, as well as, the participation of the Ministry of Sports Affairs.

Mohamed bin Isa al-Fairouz, Chairman of the Organising Committee of the exhibition, said that, the exhibition this year is sponsored by a variety of government institutions, involved in the tourism sector, such as the Ministry of Tourism, out of their interest in tourism and its promotion in the Sultanate, and expand its reach in various places of the Sultanate and to all the diverse sectors in the Sultanate.

He also said that the exhibition includes a number of interesting exhibits and diverse competitions, in the areas of equestrian, camel and heritage, during Jan 12-14, adding that, a number of government and private institutions will take part in the exhibition, in addition to the participation of a number of private sector companies.

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Bahrain’s Culture, Heritage, Tourism Diversity Highlighted

Kuwait, Jan 8 (NNN-BNA) – Kuwait’s Minister of Information, also Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Sheikh Salman Al-Sabah, praised the diversity of tourism in Bahrain, and the employment of Bahraini cultural heritage, in tourism’s favour.

In a statement to Kuwait News Agency today, following concluding his visit to Bahrain, to attend the inauguration ceremony of Manama, the Capital of Gulf Tourism 2016, the Kuwaiti minister expressed great pride, in the wide variety of cultural and heritage centres, theatres and museums he witnessed in Bahrain, which are a source of pride for GCC people.

He wished the Kingdom of Bahrain further successes, to attain in the cultural and tourism fields.

The minister congratulated Bahrain on the launch of Manama, the Capital of Gulf Tourism 2016. He extended gratitude to Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister, Zayed Al-Zayani, for inviting him to participate in the event, and the fine hospitality, commending the efforts of Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities’ President, Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa.

He hailed the deep-rooted bilateral relations and cooperation in various areas, chiefly tourism and cultural sides.

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Four women hold top posts in OIC

Saturday 09 Jan 2016 – Jeddah (IINA) – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has appointed four Arab women to top positions in the 47-year-old organization, according to local media reports.

The OIC is the world’s second-largest international organization after the United Nations, consisting of 57 countries. Iyad Madani, the OIC’s secretary general, is committed to women’s empowerment. The new appointees, from Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Algeria and Yemen, will work at the OIC’s headquarters in Jeddah in the departments of cultural and social affairs, media and information, women and family, and political affairs. There are 12 women working in the general secretariat, the report said.

Saudi media figure Maha Aqeel has been appointed earlier as the OIC’s director of media and information. She is one of the first women to take up a leading position at the organization. She worked as an English-language journalist before moving to work at the OIC as the editor in chief for the magazine of the organization. Six years later she was promoted to her current position.

Muhlah Ahmad from Mauritania is the director general for cultural, social and family affairs. She served as her country’s education minister between 2005 and 2007. “The Muslim world faces many challenges currently, mainly extremism which must be countered. We must raise the awareness of young people by spreading the right values of Islam,” she said. Fadilah Qrain from Algeria, who joined the OIC in 2014, was appointed director of social and family affairs. She said her goals include boosting the role of women in the Muslim world and providing better care for children and the youth. She also wants to protect family values and the institution of marriage, and support the elderly and persons with special needs.

Nouriah Abed Al-Hamami, who represented Yemen at four ministerial meetings of the OIC, and was the first Yemeni woman to work in the diplomatic field, was appointed director of the human affairs department. She said her aim is to ensure many women take up leadership positions, work toward changing perceptions in the West about Muslim women, and make sure there is greater respect for Islam.

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Palestinians to turn ‘Dawbsheh’ family home into museum

Thursday 07 Jan 2016 – Ramallah, (IINA) – Palestine is planning to turn the house of the Dawabsheh family, which was set on fire by Jewish extremists in a deadly attack last July, into a museum, Anadolu Agency reported.

“This year, the house of Saeed and Riham in the village of Duma, will be turned into a museum in order to expose the brutality and the ugliness of the Israeli occupation and its settlers”, said Nasser Dawabsheh, Saeed’s brother.

Nasser is the uncle of Ali, the 18-month-old toddler who was killed in the arson attack. He said the family succeeded in preserving a number of items from the torched house.

The July attack near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus killed Ali and his parents and left four-year-old Ahmad with severe injuries.

“Baby Ali’s stroller, Ahmad’s toys, the parent’s bedroom, half-burned photos and many other things will be available for visitors”, he said. “No one should forget what settlers did to my brother’s family, and their home will remind the entire world about the crime forever”.

Meanwhile, Mohammad Dawabsheh, the representative of the Dawbsheh family, said that the structure of the museum is almost done.

“The Palestinian Authority allocated three million shekels (roughly $760,000) to renovate the house and turn it into a museum”, he said.

The Dawabsheh Museum will include humanitarian, legal and political messages to the entire world, he added.

The deadly arson attack sparked outrage among Palestinians and the long delay in justice has been considered one of the factors behind recent violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

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Events to mark ‘Manama Capital of Gulf Tourism 2016′

Thursday 07 Jan 2016 – Manama (IINA) – Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain, has called for the advancement of the Gulf tourism sector and strengthening its contributions to the economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

During the launch event to mark Manama the Capital of Gulf Tourism 2016 on Wednesday evening, Prince Salman bin Hamad praised the trends of the GCC countries to support intra-GCC cooperation in order to achieve regional integration at various levels, including the tourist aspect.

He said the selection of Manama as a Capital of Gulf Tourism 2016 comes within these trends, stressing the need to work to achieve the operational steps aimed at making tourism a supporting source of the GCC economies and raising its economic contribution to them.

The Crown Prince highlighted that Bahrain’s rich cultural heritage has contributed to Bahrain becoming a global and GCC tourist destination.

A short documentary about Bahrain’s rich culture and history was presented during the launch event, which highlighted the Kingdom’s tourist attractions and the historical milestones achieved by the Kingdom.

It may be mentioned here that the ministers in charge of tourism in the GCC countries have recently approved “Manama” as Capital of Gulf Tourism 2016.

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Siemens to help Iran improve railway infrastructure

08 January 2016 – TODAY.AZ – German’s Siemens company is ready to help Iran to improve its infrastructure sector, Yashar Azad, a spokesman with Siemens told Trend Jan. 7.

He made the remarks while responding to a question about the cooperation document was signed between the parties Jan. 6.

Iranian media outlets reported Jan. 6 that the country’s Railways and Siemens have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in various fields.

Based on the agreement the parties will cooperate in electrification project of Tehran-Mashhad railroad, construction of Tehran-Isfahan high-speed railway, providing and maintenance of 500 passenger cars, as well as updating railway systems of the Islamic Republic, according to Iranian media outlets.

Under the agreement Siemens will also take steps to transfer technology to Iran via selecting Iranian partners.

“After the sanctions are lifted, Siemens and Iran will discuss possibilities of improving the country’s infrastructure sector, in particular in railways sector. Both parties have agreed to this,” Azad said.

Azad further underlined that any agreement will only take effect after lifting of all international sanctions, without giving further details about the signed document.

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Iran to provide internet services to Afghanistan

Kabul, Jan 10, IRNA – Afghanistan Ministry of Communication and Information Technology Spokesman, Yasin Samim said that an agreement has been reached for buying Internet services from Iran.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with IRNA Samim said that we signed a contract to pay $105,000 for each 10 Gigabyte.

Currently Afghanistan is paying $250,000 for the same amount. He said that as a result of entering the Internet market in Herat, gateways would be created in Herat, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif for people to have access to Internet and the price would fall to 20 to 25 percent.

He added that Afghanistan has to pay $135,000 for each 10 Gigabyte of internet services from Kazakhstan.

He referred to low quality as well as high Internet charge and being fully dependent on Pakistan as major problems on the way of Afghanistan to access Internet. He noted that implementing new plans will put an end to Internet problems in Afghanistan.

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‘Communication and City Art Tourism’ forum wraps up in Tehran

Tehran, Jan 10, IRNA – The First International Forum on Communication and City Art Tourism has been held in Shahr Gallery at Tehran’s Goftegou Park.

Started on January 3 and ended on 4, the event hosted various international urban experts during the first edition of the initiative to introduce new approaches to sustainable development in City Art Tourism.

“New tourism strategies should make citizens feel better,” said Shahram Gilabadi, Head of the Communications and International Affairs Center of Tehran Municipality, adding that “the good feeling ameliorates citizens’ relationships”.

During the closing ceremony, eight out of 81 selected articles were commended by Tehran Municipality, Tehran.ir reported.

The Deputy Mayor also stated that the valuable experiences gained at the forum will be published as a book to share with city experts and leaders.

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Islamic clothing exhibition opens in Tehran

Tehran, Jan 10, IRNA – Islamic clothing exhibition is open to public in the permanent exhibition site of Tehran Municipality at Goftegou Park, from January 6 to January 13. The expo, aiming to show Islamic dressing style, is concentrated at four categories of social, working, home, and youth clothing, Tehran.ir reported.

The event is open to public in the permanent exhibition site of Tehran Municipality at Goftegou Park, from 9 am to 8 pm every day from January 6 to January 13.

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Iran to hold exclusive trade fair in Baghdad in mid-Feb.

Tehran Times – 09 January, 2016 – Iran will set up its second exclusive trade fair in Iraq from February 16 to 19, Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI) announced.

The first fair was held in Baghdad in the same time last year with 260 Iranian companies in attendance.

Iraq was the 2nd leading importer of Iranian non-oil goods in the previous Iranian calendar year, which ended on March 20, 2015, according to the Iran Customs Administration.

Iran exported $ 6.182 billion of non-oil goods to Iraq and imported $ 60.369 million of non-oil goods from the country.

Last February, Iranian Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ali Tayyeb-Nia said Iran and Iraq seek to increase their bilateral trade from currently $ 12 billion to $ 20 billion.

He added that Iran has fertile grounds for trade cooperation with Iraq, particularly in the field of exporting technical and engineering services.

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Air India to introduce daily Dubai-Kochi flight

Khaleej Times – 09 January, 2016 – Air India will introduce daily flight services from Dubai to Kochi from January 11, adhering the long-pending demand of Indians living here, the company has announced.

“Air India will be operating Dubai-Kochi-Dubai sector with brand new A320 aircraft with cap of 180 seats,” said Melwin D’Silva, Regional Manager- Gulf, Middle East and Africa of Air India.

With this, the flight operating from Sharjah-Kochi- Sharjah would stand withdrawn effective January 11, he said.

Air India operates 74 flights per week in and out of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah international airports.

Flight AI-934 on Dubai-Kochi sector will depart from Dubai at 1330 hours and arrive in Kochi at 1910 hours local time, he said.

“On the return leg, AI-933 will depart from Kochi to Dubai at 0935 hours and arrive in Dubai at 1235 hours local time,” he said.

Air India and Air India Express operates more than 300 flights per week between India and Gulf countries.

Air India is also offering an introductory promotional fare of Dh330 one way and Dh785 return with 30kg free baggage allowance.

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Mauritania remains attractive destination for Saudi investors

Arab News – 09 January, 2016 – Mauritania offers plenty of opportunities for Saudi investors as well as attractive tourist places, a senior Mauritanian official said.

Mauritanian Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Naha Mint Hamdy Ould Mouknass, who held a meeting with Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) Chairman Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil in Riyadh, said his country is keen on expanding bilateral trade and investments, especially between the private sectors of the two countries.

She said her country considers the Kingdom an important market, adding that Mauritania’s strong points include security, peace and political stability.

“The country thus remains an attractive destination for Saudi investors, especially in the fields of industry, agriculture and tourism. We can cater to the needs of 400 million west African population from Mauritania,” she added.

The minister said she intends to send a trade delegation from her country to the Kingdom’s major cities of Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah for exploring business opportunities.

Al-Zamil said in his speech that the Saudi businessmen and investors are keen on initiating trade partnerships, especially in setting up industrial cities.

“There are several other prospective areas where the two countries could engage in profitable ventures. We have to explore these new areas through frequent meetings and dialogues between the businessmen of the two countries,“ Al-Zamil said.

The meeting took place in the presence of CSC’s Secretary General Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Otaibi and Mauritanian Ambassador Mahmoud Ould Mohamed Lemine.

Mauritania Saudi Mining and Steel S. A. (Takamul), which is headquartered in Nouadhibou, Mauritania with its operational office in Zouerate, is active in iron ore exploration in Mauritania.

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Turkish food festival begins in Jeddah

Arab News – 09 January, 2016 – Rosewood Jeddah is hosting a Turkish food festival, which continues till Jan. 20, under the supervision of Turkish Sous-Chef Tahir Guneysu.

More than 150 Turkish dishes, described as most popular and traditional, feature the festival being held at the hotel’s Habsburg restaurant.

Guests at the opening performed by Turkish Consul General Fikret Ozer included diplomats, members of the staff from various consulates, and business and community leaders.

The Turkish ambiance at the venue includes a statue of the Ottoman sultan.

Among those present at the inauguration were Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak, Turkish Vice Consul Hadan Eskiocak, Qatar Airways Country Manager for Kingdom and Yemen Ahmed Mir and Rosewood Jeddah MD Hans Peter Leitzke, aside from Guneysu.

Executive Chef Amjad Al-Ghandoor said the two-week festival will treat the hotel’s guests on a “rich and memorable” culinary journey, allowing them to sample varieties of Turkish cuisine.

Guneysu and Al-Ghandoor presented a selection of vegetable and meat dishes, including a choice of cold Turkish mezze appetizers, Iskender kebab, one of the meat dishes of north western Turkey. and guvec, a traditional Turkish stew, as well as lahmacun, a round thin piece of dough topped with minced meat and vegetables, and herbs.

“We are thrilled to organize the Turkish Food Festival at Rosewood Jeddah,” said Chef Amjad.

“The idea behind the festival is to bring well-known and popular dishes from Turkey all the way to Jeddah. I’m hopeful that the guests will experience and enjoy the true Turkish dining experience right here in Jeddah,” he added.

A variety of different live cooking stations feature a selection of “mouth-watering” Turkish desserts, including gozleme, a savory traditional Turkish pastry and a Turkish renowned dondurma (ice-cream) served in authentic Turkish style. Guests utilized the opportunity to interact with the chefs.

“I am honored that my home country cuisine is recognized and presented at the first Turkish Food Festival and, of course, very excited to be managing the event on behalf of the hotel. I am so proud of the cuisine created in Turkey and really can’t wait to know how much this food festival will be loved by the people of Jeddah,” said Guneysu.

Guneysu added that he and Amjad have prepared a diverse and rich menu for visitors, including a large selection of Turkish specialties, with menu rotating every day.

The event is sponsored by The First Group, Platinum Magazine, Alam Al-Rajul magazine, Destination Jeddah, Mix FM and Qatar Airways.

Those eager to experience a taste of Turkey will be able to dine each evening from 7 p.m. to midnight, and the brunch on Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the festival.

Guests can enjoy the Turkish dinner buffet for SR205 per person, including water and a choice of Turkish coffee or tea; the Friday brunch is priced at SR230 per person, including a welcome drink.

Prizes for the daily raffle draw include Qatar Airways flight tickets to various destinations, a football match ticket, a jersey shirt signed by a football player or a night’s stay at the stunning Rosewood Jeddah.

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10-day heritage festival to kick off in Old Jeddah

Saudi Gazette – 04 January, 2016 – Gov. Prince Mishal Bin Majed announced that this year’s Kunna Kida (We were like this) heritage festival will be launched in Old Jeddah on Wednesday.

The governorate’s Public Relations Director Yasser Al-Maddah said the theme of the festival is “A New Dawn” and it will run for 10 days.

“The prince took a tour around the area on Saturday to ensure that everything is ready for the start of the festival. There will be over 100 shows on the opening day. There will also be an art exhibition, historical corners, fashion shows and various activities,” said Al-Maddah.

He said there will also be several kiosks where people can sell merchandise.

“There will also be theater showing plays that reflect the traditions of Old Jeddah. We have turned Al-Juffaly Park into a recreational space for visitors and tourists,” said Al-Maddah.

He said Jeddah is growing to be an international attraction from a national attraction.

“In June 2014, Historical Jeddah was included in UNISECO’s World Heritage List. After great efforts exerted by Jeddah Municipality and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, Kunna Kida Festivals have become a way to revivify the city and to celebrate the heritage of the people of Makkah province,” said Al-Maddah.

He added the previous festivals were attended by millions of visitors.

“We expect a great turnout in this year as the festival coincides with the mid-year school break. The shows offer authentic re-enactments of the lives of the people in Jeddah half a century ago. Visitors can eat the food, smell the aromas and listen to the music of historical Jeddah,” said Al-Maddah.

He added the organizers of this year’s festival aimed to convey a new start by the theme “A New Dawn”.

“The theme is a celebration of the honor Historical Jeddah had earned by UNESCO. It is also a celebration of a new generation of Jeddah Youth and what they can bring to the table when it comes to developing their city,” said Al-Maddah.

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Iran, China to develop trade, transport ties

Tehran Times – 05 January, 2016 – Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit Iran by next month to discuss bilateral economic ties, said Majid-Reza Hariri, the deputy head of Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce.

During his visit, the two country are planning to sign memorandums of understanding in infrastructural development projects specially construction and development of ports and railway in addition to free trade zones, ISNA reported on Monday.

Iran and China are also moving toward a crucial currency swap mechanism which is expected to help ease their mutual trade activities.

The mechanism envisages payments in yuan to suppliers of commodities and services to Iran in return for the oil that Beijing purchases from Tehran.

On Sunday, Hariri said the two countries are in early talks over the scheme, adding that they yet need to work on details.

Back In December, a delegation of the Iranian Ministry of Road and Transportation visited their Chinese counterparts in Beijing and discussed major rail projects.

The two sides highlighted the significance of linking China and Iran via railroads that also crosses Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

China was the leading importer of Iranian non-oil goods in the previous Iranian calendar year, which ended on March 20, 2015, according to the Iran Customs Administration.

Iran exported $ 9.159 billion of non-oil goods to China and imported $ 12.56 billion of non-oil goods from the country.

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Efforts to improve Saudi-Egyptian tourism

Saudi Gazette – 05 January, 2016 – The Elaf Group, a SEDCO Holding Group company and a leading provider of travel, tourism and hospitality services, hosted a special meeting with Egyptian Minister of Tourism Hisham Zazou at the Elaf Jeddah Hotel, Red Sea Mall to discuss ways on how to reinforce tourism for both Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On hand to welcome Minister Zazou were Elaf senior officials like Mohammad Bin Mahfouz, VP, Travel & Tourism; Abdullah Bakri,VP, Hotels; and Jawaid Abdul Hameed, VP Marketing were present while the Elaf team was headed by Chief Operating Officer Asim Abdullah Danish.

During the meeting, both parties talked on how to increase two-way tourism for Elaf customers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian delegation encouraged the Elaf Group to promote Sharm El Sheikh, a city situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula and along the coastal strip of the Red Sea in Egypt, to its customers visiting the country. Lastly, the two parties also expressed intentions to explore possible investment and partnership opportunities that would be beneficial to Egypt and the Kingdom.

Danish said: “We are pleased to have hosted this special meeting with Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou and his delegation. We are confident that today’s meeting will later result in stronger ties between Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, especially in the move to promote Egypt as a key tourist destination and to position Elaf Hotels as a highly preferred venue for stay by visiting tourists. We look forward to working closely with Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and help in developing their tourism industry.”

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Job opportunities galore in the Oman tourism sector

Oman Daily Observer – 05 January, 2016 – Thanks to the Sultanate’s well thought out diversification strategy, which seeks to move away from overdependence on the country’s finite fossil fuel reserves, the blossoming tourism sector, while still in its early stages, is growing and is set to become a significant contributor to Oman’s economy.

Besides the steady growth and income generation this sector has shown over the past few decades — since the outset of the country’s tourism drive in the 80’s — in tandem with this is the new array of opportunities it affords for those seeking employment in the hospitality industry.

The tourism sector has seen a tenfold increase and — compared to the few international standard hotels that were open for business at the beginning of Oman’s modernisation drive and its contemporary era of renaissance that began in the 70’s — today we can see many, many more five star and budget hotels, fantastic first-rate resorts and an ever-growing supplementary service industry that has grown in tandem with sector itself and has spread to many parts of the country.

Initially, it was only the capital area of Muscat in the north and the country’s second capital, in the southernmost Dhofar region of Oman that modestly catered to and provided international standard accommodation to overseas visitors to the Sultanate’s shores.

This is in complete contrast to the current day situation, where world-class hotels and resorts are flourishing in many parts of the country and where nearly 4 million passengers a year pass through Muscat International Airport.

And once the new state-of-the-art terminal opens this year, it will be able to handle 12 million passengers a year, which is in-line with His Majesty’s government’s targets for the sector.

Corporations and individuals were encouraged early to invest in tourism and hospitality related fields and those who did are indeed benefitting from doing so.

Considering that Omanis are by nature hospitable, it is rather surprising that not that many have sought to find employment in the hospitality sector — which has been an employment ‘safe haven’ for expatriates who make up the majority of employees in this sector.

However, with more and more batches of eager Omani students graduating from locally based specialist hospitality institutes, such as NHI, OTC and those taking related courses offered at various colleges and universities, there is now no shortage of prospective Omani employees in the sector.

Traditionally, Omanis loath to work in the hospitality industry and sought employment as civil servants and administrators, or in the oil industry, education and as technicians and the like.

No wonder, then, that there is an overabundance of people employed and seeking employment in these areas, but with fewer and fewer positions available, enterprising young Omanis with the right mindset have and are opting for employment in the tourism-cum-hospitality sector.

Currently, around 45,000 people making up 2.8 per cent of the workforce are directly employed in the sector, which is expected to rise to 3.7 per cent and 72,000 people by 2025.

With around a third of those employed in the field consisting of Omanis, it is clear that there is much more scope for new Omani entrants.

For hospitality industry employers as well, it makes sense for them to seek employment locally, as they then do not have to worry about visas, air tickets and other associated costs, which in turn is a boon for the local economy.

Another additional benefit of working in the tourism sector, besides being exposed to other cultures and the special sense of working in an international type of environment, is the opportunity of utilising what has been learnt to open up one’s own business — a number of industrious ex-hospitality industry employees have become restaurateurs, hoteliers, caterers, tourism consultants and the like in their own right.

In what has become an Omani-style spirit of perseverance, diligence and enterprise, young Omanis are taking up new challenges, overcoming barriers and proving their worth by going for, taking on and succeeding in new employment opportunities that present themselves.

It is the new work ethics materialising out of the need for diversification, which will help ensure stability even when the going gets tough.

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Sheikh Salman: GCC strives for more developed tourism sector

Kuwait News Agency – 07 January, 2016 – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have always strived for a more developed tourism sector in the region, Kuwait’s Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah said on Wednesday.

“As a council, we aim to develop the tourism industry in the region,” Sheikh Salman told KUNA upon arrival in the Bahraini capital Manama.

Sheikh Salman is on a two-day visit to the country to take part in a ceremony to name Manama as the Gulf touristic capital. He is also expected to visit a number of cultural sites in the Bahraini capital.

Citing Bahrain’s tremendous touristic potential, Sheikh Salman hoped that Kuwaiti and Bahraini ties would be further strengthened.

Calling it a first step towards greater prosperity, Sheikh Salman congratulated the Bahraini leadership on naming Manama as the touristic capital of the Gulf.

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‘Shop Bahrain’ festival beguiles Gulf tourists

Saudi Gazette – 03 January, 2016 – Small businesses for young Bahrainis, local shops in traditional markets, as well as special activities for families and children in malls, are some of the features of the second edition of Bahrain Shopping Festival ‘Shop Bahrain’.

The shopping festival, which started on Dec. 24 and ends on Jan. 23, succeeded in grabbing the attention of visitors through providing several special activities such as, Oud music in Moda mall, children cinema, art workshops, reverse bungee jumps, rock climbing, bitty balloons, and more.

‘The Family Fair’, which was held during the New Year’s eve weekend at Prince Khalifa bin Salman Park was one of the events that many Saudis and Kuwaitis attended. The fair included fireworks as well as concert by Bahraini singer Hind.

‘VIVA Shop & Skate’ is not only a big skate for kids to enjoy playing, but also an area where small business for young Bahrainis to showcase their products. Some of these small shops sell cupcakes, ice cream, and T-shirts that have Bahraini jingles on them.

Shop Bahrain Project Director Nawaf Al Koheji said some of the family businesses as well as private companies are contributing something in the festival and local shops in ‘Bab AlBahrain’ and ‘Souk AlMuharaq’ are part of the event. People who buy from those shops can be part of the pull awards and prizes during the festival. Tourists also can enjoy visiting local bazaars.

He explained that Saudis considers being in the first rank of Bahrain visitors, then Kuwait and Qatar since there are around eight million tourists from the Gulf area every year. By the end of the first week of the festival, the figures showed out that ‘Shop Bahrain’ is attracting double the number of visitors compared to last year’s festival.

“We are proud that Bahrain was chosen to be the capital of Gulf tourism in 2016,” he added.

Al Koheji further said people attending the festival and buying stuff from certain retail shops can collect points for special deals.

Tourists during this month will enjoy the discounts in several stores that reached more than 40 percent in some of the products.

There are more than 20,000 instant prizes awaiting the festival visitors, so they have chances of winning by shopping at any of our participating retail outlets and malls.

Gulf Air and VIVA Telecom company and American Express are some of the strategic partners of the festival organizer ‘Tamkeen’.

Shoppers and visitors can find out the latest information about Shop Bahrain through the festival’s website www.shopbahrain.com or by following any of its social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube @shopbahrain.

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