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8 Feb, 2016

Iran exports first shipment of hand-woven carpets to U.S.

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 08 February 2016 (29 Rabee’ al-Thaani 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




Five Malaysia’s homestays (Homestay Banghuris; Homestay Kampung Lonek; Homestay Kampung Taman Sedia; Homestay Kampung Santubong; and Homestay Miso Walai) received the ASEAN Homestay Award at the first ASEAN Homestay Award Ceremony at the ASEAN Tourism Forum in January 2016. Malaysian Homestay Programmes give tourists the opportunity to stay with a chosen family, interact and experience the daily life of their homestay family and learn the culture and lifestyle of the rural community in Malaysia. Each homestay programme offers different types of activities, depending on the culture, food, economic activity as well as location. Every state in Malaysia has its own uniqueness in terms of culture, ranging from the nasi dagang in Kelantan to the sumazau dance in Sabah, as well as the long houses in Sarawak. Visitors can undertake activities such as rubber tapping, Fish breeding, Jungle trekking, White water rafting and Tree Planting. A 2-day 1-night homestay package starts at between RM150 and RM250 inclusive of accommodation, food and activities (the actual cost depends on the activities offered by the homestay operator and activities requested by tourists). For further details, pls check out the official Homestay Malaysia website at www.go2homestay.com.

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.




End To Confusion On Visa System For China’s Tourists To Malaysia

BEIJING, Feb 4 (NNN-Bernama) — The confusion on the visa system for tourists from China finally ended following the four-day working visit of Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, here.

In the past, the visa-free program for tourists from China could not be implemented because the Chinese government had yet to give its feedback on the Malaysian initiative.

As a result, Chinese tourists had still to apply for the visa to visit Malaysia although the Cabinet had decided to introduce the six-month visa exemption for Chinese tourists coming in groups of 20 or more effective Oct 1 last year.

The government had decided early last year that payment for visa application from Chinese nationals would be exempted from Feb 15 to Dec 31 last year in an effort to attract more tourists from that country to Malaysia.

However, the initiative was postponed because the Chinese government did not give any feedback and as a result, there was confusion among the Chinese nationals on the visa requirement to visit Malaysia.

Ahmad Zahid’s four-day working visit to China concluded in success by clearing the air on all confusions over the visa issue.

The success achieved during the brief visit proved that Malaysia not only had close diplomatic relations with China but also the long-established friendship that started in 1975.

Ahmad Zahid said the working visit followed the immediate action to ensure that the government’s aspiration to accept eight million Chinese tourists to Malaysia had been achieved.

“We are aware that the Home Ministry had faced obstacles in implementing everything that had been agreed upon at the higher level previously. As such, the visit is to help in clearing several obstacles in administration faced by both countries to obtain the special approval in implementing the visa payment exemption and e-visa,” he said.

He added that the brief visit was successful due to the cooperation of the Malaysian Ambassador to China, Zainuddin Yahya as well as the Malaysian Embassy officials in China to ensure the implementation beginning March 1 was not delayed.

In the 2016 Budget recalibration recently, the government announced visa exemption and the non-payment of fees for Chinese nationals visiting Malaysia for a period of less than 15 days.

It was also announced that tourists from China need not apply for visa to visit Malaysia between March 1 and Dec 31 this year.

Ahmad Zahid said his working visit was facilitated by the good relations between Prime Minister Najib Razak and Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang as well as his personal contact with the Secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Centre of the Chinese Communist Party, Meng Jiangzhu, and his Chinese counterpart, Guo Shengkun (China’s Public Security Minister).

“Such relationships must be maintained with other friendly nations such as the United States on a bilateral basis and multilateral basis especially with ASEAN member countries,” he added.

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AirAsia X Launches Kuala Lumpur – New Delhi link

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 4 (NNN-Bernama) — AirAsia X Bhd now connects Kuala Lumpur direct to New Delhi, India, with four times weekly flight services.

In a statement, AirAsia X said it was offering a promotional all-in-fare from Kuala Lumpur to New Delhi from as low as RM459 one way for standard seats or from RM999 one way for the Premium Flatbed seats, both inclusive of taxes.

These promotional fares are available for online booking from Thursday until Feb 14, for the travel period from Feb 4 until June 30.

AirAsia X Chief Executive Officer Benyamin Ismail said the airline now has a stronger foundation to be in India, in complementing the existing route network of its affiliates AirAsia Bhd, Thai AirAsia and AirAsia India.

“In 2015, our affiliates AirAsia and Thai AirAsia carried over one million guests in and out of India.

“With AirAsia X’s entry into this market, we can provide even more connectivity for our Indian guests to the rest of Asia and Australia,” he added.

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Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Travel Fair To Promote Domestic Tourism

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia Feb 5 (NNN-Bernama) — A total of 60 players in the tourism industry, among them travel agencies, hotels and tourism product entrepreneurs, will promote domestic tourism at the Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Travel Fair themed ‘Dekat Je’ (It’s Close By) in Johor this month.

Tourism and Culture Ministry secretary-general Dr Ong Hong Peng said the inaugural fair organised by Tourism Malaysia would be held at KSL City, Johor Baharu, for three days from Feb 26.

“We are targeting sales worth RM1 million by offering various domestic products and tour packages to the anticipated 15,000 visitors,” he told reporters after the pre-launch of the fair here today.

He said he hoped that the fair would help increase the number of domestic tourist arrivals in view of the high foreign exchange rate as well as help Malaysians plan their holidays.

“This year, we are targeting 66.8 million domestic tourist arrivals with spending power of RM45.7 billion,” he said, adding that in 2014 the number of domestic tourist arrivals was 60.7 million with spending power of RM41.4 billion.

Ong said that in 2014, five states were the main focus of domestic tourists, namely Perak, Johor, Pahang, Kedah and Selangor.

He said the campaign to promote domestic travel would also help boost the local economy as a result of the fall in the value of the ringgit, as well as offset the slowdown in tourist arrivals from certain markets, especially Singapore.

“For this year, Tourism Malaysia will also intensify its tourism campaign in countries that have large markets, including China, India and the Middle Eastern countries,” he said.

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MATRADE To Expand Malaysian Products In West Africa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 (NNN-Bernama) — The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) aims to use Nigeria and Ghana as a platform to promote Malaysian products in the West African region.

MATRADE Trade Commissioner to West Africa Saifuddin Khalid said the West African region had started opening up their economies, resulting in increasing demand for foreign products.

“We will mount several programmes in Nigeria and Ghana and use these two countries to explore the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region,” he added.

ECOWAS is a 15-member regional group with a mandate to promote economic integration in all fields of activity of the constituting countries.

Member countries making up ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.

“ECOWAS has a unique agreement where products move freely between the 15 countries. This is an opportunity for Malaysian companies to expand there, also due to language advantage.

“Ghana and Nigeria use English as their intermediate language. With the right strategy and partner, Malaysian companies can succeed in this market,” said Saifuddin.

He added that Ghana would be an appropriate route to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger due to its proximity to the countries.

“Ghana is the passage to the three countries because they are landlocked with no ports. So the products would need to enter through Ghana, Congo or Benin to reach there.

Saifuddin noted that Malaysia enjoyed good relationship with West Africa before the region was hit by political uncertainties in the 1990s, which led to Malaysian companies divesting their investments there.

“We have seen the recovery in the political environment from early 2000 when they started conducting elections. They have free political will. Foreign investments have started flowing into the region again.

“We believe it is going to be better now and it is high time Malaysian companies re-explore the region,” he pointed out.

However, Saifuddin noted distance as among the challenges to trade in the West African region.

“The cost will be high due to the long distance between countries. So we have to restrategise in terms of pricing,” he added.

Currently, Saifuddin said Malaysian oil and gas companies have been scouting the region for oil and gas exploration.

Besides, Saifuddin said MATRADE would continue to organise specialised trade missions and business matching programmes in West Africa to boost trade between Malaysia and the region.

“This is an incentive that we provide for free. We will also do the due diligence with our partners and process the follow-ups as the distance with West Africa was our main challenges”, he said.

As Africa diversified its economy and increased its source of supply, Malaysia’s exports to Africa rose 5.9 per cent in 2015 to RM20.61 billion, accounting for 2.6 per cent share of Malaysia’s total exports.

Major exports to the region comprised both industrial and consumer products, namely palm oil and palm-based products, petroleum products, chemical and chemical products, processed food as well as machinery, appliances and parts.

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Langkawi Tourism Revenue May Hit Rm6 Bln This Year

LANGKAWI, Malaysia Feb 1 (NNN-Bernama) — Langkawi’s tourism revenue this year could hit RM6 billion, up from RM5.8 billion in 2015, with the introduction of new attractions, says Langkawi Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Khalid Ramli.

Speaking to reporters after opening a Chocohauz outlet at Oriental Village here Sunday, he said the projected revenue is based on tourists’ expenditure on accommodation and food, and does not take into account air fares, personal purchases and the like.

Khalid said with Thursday’s announcement of the recalibrated Budget 2016 by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, LADA plans to jointly promote new attractions as well as the upgraded Sky Bridge, Inclinator and Sky Dome to domestic tourists with its subsidiaries as well as industry players.

The authority also plans to upgrade Oriental Village to make it the nation’s best eco theme park, he added.

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Malaysia Launches Incentives To Boost Tourism

KUALA LUMUR, Malaysia Feb 1 (NNN-Bernama) — The government hopes to provide three forms of incentives to tour and travel companies in efforts to attract more foreign tourists to the country, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said he would be tabling the proposal for the three types of incentives to the Cabinet and hoped Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak would give the approval.

Zahid Hamidi said the proposed first incentive was to offer special allowance to company representatives who bring in foreign tourists following joint promotion programmes with Tourism Malaysia, abroad.

The second incentive was corporate tax reduction for tour operators and agencies which succeeded in attracting foreign tourists, he said.

“The third incentive is special provisions for tour operators and agencies to cover printing and advertising material costs for promotion,” he said when closing the Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) Tourism Fair 2016 here Sunday.

Earlier, Ahmad Zahid said tourism was an important sector in contributing to the national income and a fast way to help revive the economy.

Recognizing this fact he said the government was always looking for ways to facilitate the arrival of tourists to the country, including granting visa exemption for Chinese tourists, as announced by the Prime Minister in the 2016 Budget Calibration recently.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister said he would be off to China today (Monday) to inform the leaders there of Malaysia’s latest stand on visa exemption for Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia.

“We will also help simplify certain procedures used by the authorities there (China),” he said.

He said with this move the government has targeted the arrival of eight million Chinese tourists with an average spending of RM3,345 per person which can generate a yearly revenue of RM22.11 billion.

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Rayani Air Starts Inaugural Kl-Kota Kinabalu Flight

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia Feb 1 (NNN-Bernama) — Rayani Air Sdn Bhd, a Shariah-compliant airline, today starts its inaugural Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Kota Kinabalu flight, its third route after KL-Langkawi and KL-Kota Baharu.

The arrival of its Boeing 737-400 aircraft with about 70 per cent passenger capacity at about 11.10 am at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport was welcomed by Sabah state Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Masidi Manjun.

Masidi in his speech said the state government welcomed the flight services by Rayani Air as it was in line with its effort to stimulate the country’s domestic tourism industry.

“This is a logical move to ensure the nation’s economy continues to strengthen, more so in the challenging global economic situation,” he said.

Masidi said many people in Malaysia had not yet discovered the beauty and uniqueness of their own country, hence the domestic tourism must be encouraged, and Rayani Air’s services to Sabah would help Malaysians get to know the state better.

He said Sabah offered many tourism products including natural environment such as Mount Kinabalu climb, resort islands for snorkeling and cultural activities.

Masidi hoped Rayani Air would always provide quality services including in terms of timing to be on par with other international airlines.

He also proposed the airline to expand its route destinations to major towns in Sabah such as Tawau and Sandakan.

Meanwhile, Rayani Air executive director, Ravi Alagendrran, urged customers in Sabah to continue supporting the airline to enable it to provide the best services to its passengers.

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Perak Eyes RM2.1 Billion in Tourism Earnings

IPOH, Perak state, Malaysia Feb 3 (NNN-Bernama) — The tourism sector in Perak state is expected to contribute up to RM2.1 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) next year.

State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Communications and Multimedia Committee chairman, Nolee Ashilin said currently, the tourism sector was the third biggest contributor to the state’s GDP after the manufacturing and industrial sectors.

“There is a lot of tourism potential in the state but the exposure on its existing tourism products is not yet satisfactory, especially in the international market,” she told reporters after an evening tea function with the Perak Tourism Association, here, yesterday.

Nolee Ashilin noted that the Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) and Ipoh Convention Centre, expected to be completed soon, could attract more tourists to Perak.

She said the state would also be developing new tourism products to promote agro-tourism, with four to five areas already identified to make a difference for Perak.

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LEAD STORY: Iran exports first shipment of hand-woven carpets to U.S.

Sunday 07 Feb 2016 – Tehran (IINA) – Head of Iran’s National Carpet Center Hamid Kargar announced that the first shipment of Iranian hand-woven carpets had been exported to the US, MEHR News Agency (MNA) reported on Saturday.

Kargar referred to the licensing of Iranian carpet exports to America as a result of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) implementation. He added that “Iranian hand-woven carpets have retaken the route to old and traditional markets and the first export shipment of the product was delivered in Los Angles through the port of Hamburg.”

He further asserted that over the past few years, competitors have taken the lead in managing to gain a good share of U.S. carpet market, noting that India has become the number one exporter of carpet to the United States, according to the U.S. customs statistics.

The official said that his country seeks to achieve a reasonable growth in the exports of Persian carpets to the American market, adding that “the abolition of economic sanctions is promising for boosting exports of the product due to reduction in transport and insurance expenditures.”

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Saudi Arabia to fast-track causeway, rail line work

TradeArabia – 06 February, 2016 – Saudi Arabia is to fast-track a second causeway with Bahrain and a planned rail link, said a report.

Work on the project has been effectively started by the Saudis and the plans included reclaiming an island on which a passenger station and a cargo yard were to be built, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

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10 Mln+ Tourists Visit Indonesia In 2015, Exceeding Target

JAKARTA, Indonesia Feb. 1 (NNN-Xinhua) — As many as 10.41 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia last year, exceeding the 10-million target, the statistic bureau said here Monday.

In Bali, the center of country’s tourism industry, foreign tourist arrivals rose by 6.65 percent from a year earlier to 363,800 in December, said Suryamin, head of the national statistic bureau.

The Indonesian government estimates 12 million foreign holidaymakers will visit the country this year, according to Tourism Minister Arief Yahya.

The government plans to add the inclusion of countries having free visa facilities to 84 from 45, as a favorable policy to lure more foreigners, said Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Fishery Rizal Ramli.

Indonesia expects 20 million foreign holidaymakers to come to the country by 2020, according to the minister.

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Indonesia to host OIC Summit March 6-7

3 February 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Indonesia will host the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Jakarta, from March 6 to 7, 2016.

Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said on Wednesday that the summit will be attended by 56 heads of state and government, four observers, representatives of the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno LP Marsudi remarked that the summit was expected to resolve the Palestinian issue and make a breakthrough for peace in the Middle East.

“The summit is an example of Indonesia’s commitment to world peace,” the minister stated. “President Joko Widodo sends a message of peace to the Middle East.”

The Indonesian government expected that the meeting would be able to address the Palestinian problem.

The March 6, 2016 meeting will be followed by ministerial and senior officials meetings. Meanwhile, heads of state and government will attend the summit on March 7, 2016.

State Secretary Minister Pratikno said: “Indonesia is a country with the largest Muslim population in the world. It can promote a moderate and tolerant brand of Islam.”

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has committed to allocate funds amounting to Rp2 billion (approximately US 163 thousand dollar) to support Palestinian capacity building in the police and tourism sectors.

MOFAs spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir stated during a press briefing here on Wednesday that the funds were part of the Indonesian governments support. He said other ministries had also committed to providing assistance to Palestine to become an independent nation.

“Indonesia will not stop offering support to the Palestinians to achieve their independence,” he remarked.

With regard to the United Nations Security Councils (UNSCs) resolution for Palestine that was not adopted, Indonesia expressed its deep regret over the failure, but said the struggle is not yet over, Nasir emphasized.

Nasir stated that the Indonesian government will continue to support Palestine in achieving independence through all multilateral and bilateral forums where Indonesia is a member, such as the Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and Asia-Africa Conference (AAC).

“We are still holding discussions with the President (Joko Widodo) to include Palestinian issues in the commemorative summit of the 60th AAC,” he noted.

The AACs 60th anniversary commemorative summit will be held in April 2016. Also, various events will be organized on the sidelines of the summit. The main event will be attended by leaders of various Asian and African countries.

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Suramadu bridge to accelerate development on Madura Island

3 February 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Surabaya-Madura (Suramadu) Bridge was built to accelerate development on Madura Island, stated President Joko Widodo (Jokowi).

As compared to sea transportation, the bridge facilitates smooth and efficient flow of goods and people, the head of state noted while chairing a limited cabinet meeting at the presidential palace held here on Wednesday to discuss the development of areas surrounding the Suramadu Bridge.

Jokowi hoped that the presence of the 5,438-meter-long and three-meter-wide bridge would narrow the development gap between the islands of Java and Madura.

The meeting was attended by Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, East Java Governor Soekarwo, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Darmin Nasution, Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Resources Rizal Ramli, and Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan, among others.

The bridge connecting Surabaya, the capital of East Java, and Bangkalan on Madura Island, was inaugurated on July 1, 2009.

The country’s longest bridge was built over the Madura Strait and was constructed at a cost of Rp4.5 trillion, or US$428 million, by the state.

Suramadu (abbreviation of Surabaya and Madura) Bridge has three cable-stayed sections, with respective lengths of 192 meters, 434 meters, and 192 meters. The bridge has two lanes in each direction in addition to an emergency lane and a dedicated lane for motorcycles.

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Australia, Indonesia boosting tourism and economic growth

4 February 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – Australia is expanding efforts to encourage two-way tourism between Australia and Indonesia as a key driver of shared economic growth and more knowledge of each others country.

Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson said tourism powers economies and supports communities.

“We want to increase tourism in both directions. The Indonesian Government has already recognised the potential economic boost a strong tourism industry can deliver,” the ambassador was quoted as saying by the Australian Embassy here on its website.

According to the ambassador, Australian tourism can help Indonesia realise that vision. More than a million Australians visit Indonesia every year. Australian tourists contribute 18 trillion IDR (AUD$1.8 billion) a year to the Indonesian economy, Ambassador Grigson said on Tuesday.

He said as Indonesia seeks to develop its tourism industry beyond Bali, ease of travel is integral to its success. Indonesia has already experienced a 19 per cent increase in tourists from countries which were granted visa free access in 2015.

“A quarter of all tourists to Bali are Australian. We want to see more Australians come to Indonesia and experience sunrise at Mount Bromo, taste the spices of Padang and watch the sunset at Borobudur,” Grigson told Indonesian tourism industry representatives in a speech in Jakarta.

Beyond these economic benefits, tourism builds links between people. It challenges stereotypes. It opens up new worlds and greater understanding.

“I want more Indonesians to visit Australia. We have world class cuisine, galleries and unique experiences. With famous wildlife, fabulous wine and fantastic weather, Australia beats any other destination,” he said.

Australia was the tenth most popular destination for Indonesian tourists in 2014 with a total of 149,800 visitors, up 7.6 per cent from 2013.

More Indonesians travelling to Australia will make expanded flight routes between Australia and Indonesia more viable in the long-term, bringing benefits to both our economies.

“Indonesian investors may also be missing out on opportunities to capitalise on some of the major tourism infrastructure projects currently underway in Australia. In 2014 alone, investment in the Australian tourism industry was valued at $53.7 billion,” he said.

He added that the more Australians and Indonesians experience each others countries, the deeper their connections become.

“The tourism industry is integral to the prosperity of both our countries. Now is the time for us to reach out to each other as neighbours and shape our futures together,” Grigson said.

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Palembang designates Al-Munawar kampong as religious tourism site

1 February 2016 Palembang, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) – Palembang will develop the Al-Munawar kampong, an Arab quarter, as a religious tourism site as the area has a vibrant Islamic environment and distinctive culture.

The development of faith tourism was aimed at harnessing Musi Rivers tourism potential, Irene Camalyn Sinaga of the South Sumatra tourism and culture office, stated here, Monday.

Musi Rivers tourism should be supported by other tourist attractions, she remarked.

In the kampong, most of the houses are over a century old and are located near Musi River.

Head of South Sumatra’s health office Lesty Nuraini said she would support the plan by improving the cleanliness of the kampong and by educating the local inhabitants on leading a healthy lifestyle.

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Indonesia one of Top Ten destinations for Chinese New Year 2016

1 February 2016 Beijing (ANTARA News) – Chinas largest online travel agency, Ctrip.com, has revealed that Indonesia is one of the ten favorite destinations for Chinese tourists who want to celebrate Chinese New Year 2016 abroad.

The ten favorite destinations based on the bookings made by the customers since mid January 2016 are Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, United States of America, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia.

Easy access in obtaining visas is one of the strong reasons they chose such countries, one of local media quoted the Publicity Manager of Ctrip, Yan Xin as saying here on Sunday.

Indonesia ranked eighth of the ten countries that became the favorite destinations of Chinese tourists.

Deputy of Sales affairs Director for the Asia Pacific Mission of the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism, Jordi Paliama said it was a good news to consider Indonesia as one of the Chinese tourists favorite destinations.

“We would continue to improve our a variety and innovative promotions to attract more and more Chinese tourists,” he said in the event of “Indonesia Direct Promotion”, Beijing.

The Ministry of Tourism has set a target of 200 visits of Chinese tourists for January-February 2016. It increased around 50 percent from the amount of 137,181 Chinese tourists visiting Indonesia at the same period in 2015.

To increase the number of Chinese visits, the Ministry of Tourism also conducted a promotion programs in Wuhan, Shanghai, and Beijing.

Ctrip.com estimated around six million Chinese people would spend their Chinese New Year holiday in foreign countries, starting from 7 February, with some 100 countries to be visited including Antarctic.

East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea remained the most popular destinations, while Singapore and Thailand became two Southeast Asian countries which attracted a lot of Chinese tourists during the celebration of the Year of Monkey.

Around ten thousand Chinese tourists have been making reservations for holidays in Thailand, while some other preferred to choose Universal Studio, Singapore, to enjoy the warmth of tropical breeze.

For a cruise tourism, around 90 percent of Chinese people chose to go to Okinawa and Kagoshima in Japan, and Jeju Island in South Korea.

The Office of China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) reported that in 2015 there were 5.2 million Chinese people spent their Chinese New Year holiday abroad. The number was increased around 10 percent compared to the same holidays in 2014.

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Govt to complete international aviation safety standards

2 February 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian government will implement certain safety aspects to meet all aviation safety standards in the first quarter in 2016.

This was said by the Special Envoy of the Minister of Transportation for the election of Members of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Indroyono Soesilo.

Indonesia has passed a test for ICAOs safety standards, namely the Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP), with a score of 94.5, Indroyono said here on Monday.

As for ICAOs aviation safety, namely the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP), Indonesia still has a score of 45.

“It means, we have to get a score of 20 more to reach 60 and qualify,” he said.

This month, Indonesia will follow the safety test flight by ICAO and in March by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

“God willing, we are confident of qualifying,” Indroyono said.

According to him, being a member of the Council of ICAO for 2016-2019 is very important for Indonesia after four unsuccessful attempts.

He said Indonesia plays an important role in world trade, and four of the nine flight information regions (FIRs) are controlled from Cengkareng (Tangerang) and Makassar (South Sulawesi).

In addition, Indonesia has 237 airports, including 27 airports serving international flights.

“The country has 1,142 aircraft with 17 scheduled airlines and 44 non-scheduled ones. We have the potential to become a member of the council,” he said.

The Director General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Transportation, Suprasetyo, said the institution has implemented corrective actions as per a plan, covering a number of aspects of flight safety.

“The document in this regard has been submitted, in which we have answered 98 percent of 1,016 questions,” he said.

Suprasetyo is optimistic that Indonesia can qualify the safety standards set by the ICAO, covering licenses, operation, navigation, aircraft, accident investigation, airworthiness, and other regulations. “We are optimistic to reach a score above 70,” he said.

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Indonesia to accelerate development of tourism in 2016

2 February 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – President Joko Widodo has called on his officials to expedite the development of Indonesia’s tourism sector in 2016 in a bid to boost the country’s economic growth.

President Widodo noted in his opening remarks during a limited meeting held to discuss the Lake Toba Tourism Destinations Development Plan at the presidential office in Jakarta on Tuesday.

“I have urged the tourism minister to speed up development activities in the top ten tourist destinations,” he noted.

The top ten tourist destinations to be developed based on the “single destination, single management” concept are the Borobudur temple, Mandalika resort, Labuhan Bajo beaches, Mount Bromo-Tengger-Semeru, Thousand Islands, Lake Toba, Wakatobi diving spot, Tanjung Lesung beaches, Morotai Islands, and Cape Tanjung Kelayang.

President Widodo is optimistic that by developing the tourism destinations, the local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would also boost their productivity and absorb more manpower.

“We need a quick breakthrough in terms of regulation and work in other areas to deliver results at the earliest,” he emphasized.

In particular, the president has called to boost connectivity and accessibility in Lake Toba by improving the airport and road infrastructure.

“I am aware that two or three weeks ago, Coordinating Minister of Economy (Darmin Nasution), Public Works Minister (Basuki Hadimuljono), and Tourism Minister (Arief Yahya) had visited Lake Toba,” he remarked.

President Widodo hoped that the visit would be followed up by a concrete action plan to be rolled out in the area, including organizing marketing activities, implementing international service standards, and holding cultural and art performances.

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Govt designates Lake Toba as international tourist destination

2 February 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The government has designated Lake Toba, located in North Sumatra, as an international-standard tourist destination and aims to improve the living conditions of the local population.

“Lake Toba is to be turned into an international-standard destination,” Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said after a limited cabinet meeting on the Development Plan of Lake Toba Destination and the Tourism Authority Agency for Lake Toba, here on Tuesday.

The government is preparing the legal documents to establish a Lake Toba tourism authority, he said after a meeting presided over by President Joko Widodo.

“Lake Toba is being prepared to become a new Bali in Indonesia. We are confident that we will be able to do so and Lake Toba will be developed into a nature and geo-park tourism destination,” he added.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Resources Rizal Ramli outlined several points concerning the development of Lake Toba.

The lake area needs to be cleaned up, he said, adding that the government would help small-scale fishermen by providing feeding box technology, while the big fishermen will be asked not to damage the environment.

The inhabitants of seven districts located around Lake Toba must benefit once Lake Toba is developed as a world-class tourism destination.

For that purpose, every district will be guided to come up with specialized products to be supplied to meet the needs of tourists.

Supporting facilities will also be developed in the area, the minister said.

In the meantime, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said Lake Toba has been designated as an international destination that will be managed in an integrated fashion by an authority.

“The target is to earn an average of US$1 billion annually from foreign tourists. The investment at the initial stage for Lake Toba will be Rp20 trillion, of which Rp10 trillion will come from the government and the rest will come from the private sector,” he said.

The government will expedite the issuance of a presidential regulation for the development of a zone to be managed under one roof, he said.

Acting Governor of North Sumatra Tengku Erry Nuradi has asked for a toll road to Lake Toba and environmental improvement measures in the lake area.

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Singapore retailers riding strong on fashion trend set by Muslim woman

Monday 01 Feb 2016 – Singapore, (IINA) – The business venture of a Singaporean Muslim woman in clothing called, Sufyaa, has hit $1 million in turnover in 2014, just three years after its launch, The New Paper online news reported.

Label owner Azrina Tahar. aged 38, says of her runaway success: “I never expected in my wildest dreams to reach such a milestone so quickly.”

Today, her designs cross borders to buyers from the UK, Malaysia, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Dubai.

She is part of a global market that is rapidly growing: Muslims reportedly spent US$230 billion (S$327 billion) on clothing in 2014 a figure that is expected to balloon to $327 billion by 2020, a recent Thomson Reuters State of the Global Islamic Economy Report says.

The untapped arena of the fashion industry recently made headlines around the world as high fashion house Dolce & Gabbana launched its line of Abayas and hijabs in the Middle East.

Last year, Japanese retailer Uniqlo collaborated with UK-born designer Hana Tajima to release an inaugural modest wear collection while Sweden’s H&M featured its first hijab-wearing model, Mariah Idrissi.

Ms Azrina tells The New Paper on Sunday that she travelled to London for the Muslim Lifestyle Expo in August last year, where Sufyaa was the Singaporean representative.

She says, “Our designs were flying off the rack. I sold 90 percent of my line when I was there. Some of them ordered designs to be delivered because we didn’t have enough (stock) with us.”

Azrina says demand for modest wear is the highest it has ever been.

When she started out, she sold a mere 500 items ranging from shawls, slip dresses, tops and bottoms every month.

Now, she does not go a month without seeing “at least 3,000 items” fly off the rack.

On good months, she can sell up to 4,000 items. The online traffic to her label’s website sees her shipping about five orders abroad weekly, which, on average, makes up 30 percent of her monthly total sales.

But it is getting “more competitive in our own backyard”, says Ms Azrina.

“When I started, there weren’t many modest wear retailers.

“Now, there are always new modest wear stores sprouting up online, so while it is becoming popular, it is also becoming more competitive.”

She adds, “I am just constantly setting myself apart from the rest of the stores with personalized services.”

Islamic Fashion and Design Council founder, Ms Alia Khan, says Asia’s fashion designers can expect more to be demanded of them as international awareness continues to grow.

“With the surge that Muslim fashion has experienced over the last five years, you can probably expect Singapore to be exporting to more destinations in the near future,” says the Dubai-based chairman.

“The awareness and the exposure that modest fashion has been getting in recent times with the likes of DKNY, Mango, Zara and Tommy Hilfiger jumping on the bandwagon prove that mainstream labels are starting to pay more attention to opportunities in the arena of Muslim fashion.”

Alia says the market for modest fashion is ever growing as Indonesia, Turkey and even Australia constantly appear on the radar when it comes to modest clothing demands.

“Some of the online stores I’ve worked with around the world have told me that their market is starting to go beyond Muslim women.”

Religion aside, more women are opting for designs that are more conservative and modest, Alia explained.

“It is definitely exciting times.”

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Japan’s Aichi service area to offer halal food for Muslim travellers

Monday 01 Feb 2016 – Aichi, Japan (IINA) – The Okazaki service area on the Shin Tomei Expressway will start selling halal bento (boxed meals) when it opens in February to accommodate the needs of a growing number of Muslim tourists, The Japan Times news reported.

Using produce grown by local farmers, the meals will be prepared in accordance with Islamic dietary laws to ensure Muslims don’t have to worry about their food while on vacation in Japan.

Currently few restaurants in Japan cater to the dietary restrictions of Muslims, which includes a ban on eating pork and drinking alcohol.

“Many tour buses use the expressway, but we’ve never heard of a service area providing (halal food),” said an official at the Japan Tourism Agency.

The bento will be produced and sold by Toyotan Honpo Corp., a company in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture that develops regional specialties. The company will open its store at the Okazaki service area.

The rest stop is a prime location as it is situated halfway between the Kansai and Kanto regions, with Toyotan Honpo keen to take into account the dietary needs of group tour passengers traveling long distances.

There are four main dish options, including chicken teriyaki and gyukakuni (beef cube stew), with all meals created using ingredients that have been certified halal.

The bento is served with Aichi no Kaori rice, a local brand produced by the chairman of Honpo, 40-year-old Etsushi Ohashi, and comes with side dishes of boiled carrots, shiitake and taro from Mikawa, Aichi Prefecture.

The move to halal foods is not an entirely new one.

There are many Indonesians working in Toyota-affiliated companies in the city of Toyota. The deli section of a supermarket run by Masahide Itakura, 48, offers halal food as well. The supermarket has won the trust of local Muslims by separating and strictly managing ingredients and seasonings, as well as all cooking utensils used.

With tourists from Muslim countries often limited to eating light food, such as onigiri (rice balls), when visiting Japan, Honpo has already received orders from travel agencies for the product.

Located between the junctions of Toyota-Higashi in Toyota and Hamamatsu Inasa in the city of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, the Okazaki Service Area will be the biggest one in the Tokai region when it starts operating on Feb. 13.

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PM directs for ensuring facilities to encourage tourists to visit Murree

ISLAMABAD, Feb 5 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Friday directed for ensuring all essential facilities at the earliest to facilitate and encourage tourists to visit Murree. The Prime Minister emphasized for establishment of quality health facilities and clean drinking water to cater for the needs of locals and visitors, must be secured as early as possible.

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BISP, AHAN ,TCS sign MoU for promotion of handicraft

ISLAMABAD, Feb 4 (APP): A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between BISP, Aik Hunar Aik Nagar (AHAN) and TCS at Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Secretariat for promoting handicraft skills of BISP beneficiaries and provision of better access to their products in the national and international markets. Federal Minister for Industries and Production, Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, Minister of State and Chairperson BISP MNA Marvi Memon, Chairperson AHAN Shireen Arshad Khan, Secretary BISP, Muhammad Saleem Ahmed Ranjha, CEO AHAN Naveed Sheikh, Regional Director TCS, Farrukh Nadeem, Joint Secretary Ministry of Commerce Fareena Mazhar and several parliamentarians, diplomats, representatives of NGOs, civil society, media and government and international organizations were present on the occasion of E-Commerce MoU signing ceremony, says a press release.

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BISP beneficiaries’ Handicraft work to be promoted through E-Commerce: Marvi Memon

MUZAFARABAD, Feb 5 (APP): Minister of State and Chairperson Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Marvi Memon here on Friday said BISP and AHAN (a non-governmental organization) have jointly launched a programme to promote the handicraft work of the beneficiaries through E-Commerce. Speaking at a gathering of the beneficiaries of BISP here, she said through this programme, the beneficiaries would send their handicraft work to the local office of BISP with the picture and than their work would be displayed on the webpage of BISP.

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Tk 752.51-cr to boost Bangladesh rural infrastructure project

RAJSHAHI, Feb 6, 2016 (BSS) – Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) has been implementing a big project aiming at enhancing the accessibility of the rural people to the markets and economic opportunities in the region.

The project will help widening the access to markets and economic opportunities and boost the earnings, access to basic services like health and education of the rural poor.

The six-year project titled “Sustainable Rural Infrastructure Improvement” is being implemented in 21 districts under Rajshahi, Rangpur and Khulna division at a cost of around Taka 752.51 crore including ADB’s loan worth of Tk 414 crore.

According to the officials concerned, main thrust of the project is to increase rural income and reduce rural poverty through sustainable economic growth, social and gender development and improving infrastructure in the project area.

Under the project, around 700 km of upazila roads and 100 km of union roads are being upgraded to bitumen standard to provide connectivity between agricultural production areas and growth center markets.

The rural road network will ultimately promote overall development of the transportation system. Thereby, socio-economic condition of the rural people will be elevated by providing assistance for higher agricultural production and their marketing.

It will also help the rural people in poverty reduction efforts by reducing the transport cost, developing marketing system, increasing sustainable agricultural production and creating short and long term employment opportunities in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.

Cross drainage structures, such as bridges and culverts with a total length of 3,270 meters are being constructed. Provisions for road safety such as road signs, delineators and bollards near the approach to the bridges and reflectors added to tree trunks and provision of loading and unloading zones were incorporated into the design of upazila roads.

Women belonging to labor contracting societies are engaged to improve road shoulders, embankment stabilization, planting trees on roadsides, planting of shrubs on embankment and other road maintenance works.

Roadside tree plantation activities on the improved roads are progressing successfully that will ultimately help reduce carbon emission at a substantial level and that is very important to face the adverse impact of climate change in the region.

The scheme has a provision of improving infrastructure of 92 Growth Center Markets (GCMs) including creation of 50 women markets. The markets will have various necessary privileges like paved trading areas, sheds, improved water supply system, adequate drainage facilities, sanitation facilities and market offices.

Besides, long-term employment and business opportunities in around 500 shops and open stalls in GCMs will be created for women. Indirect project benefits likely to facilitate poverty reduction are increased in farm income, higher crop yields resulting from improvement in the availability and use of fertilizer and other inputs.

Engineer Ali Akhtar Hossain, director of the project, told BSS that over 75 percent work on the project have so far been completed and its implementation would in fact further strengthen the overall activities of local government bodies.

Besides, the scheme is working for capacity building and institutional development through providing training to the Union Parishad representatives, LGED Officials and community groups.

Upon successful implementation by this year-end, the project will contribute enormously to raise standard of living in the remote villages, Ali Akhtar added.

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Ekush E-Book to boost awareness of Bengali literature

DHAKA, Jan 30, 2016 (BSS) – Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu today said country’s maiden electronic book “Ekush E-Book” will bring the best Bengali literary works under the grasp of people.

The minister came up with the observations while unveiling the e-book at Midas Center in city’s Dhanmandi this evening. The function was attended by Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor, among others.

Mobile phone manufacturer OK Mobile made the e-book with the help from advertizing agency Matra.

“The e-book will amplify the interest of reading and bring the people fond of Bengali literature close in home and abroad. This is another step in establishing Digital Bangladesh,” Inu added.

According to the organizers, in primary stage, the e-book will showcase the works of Imdadul Haque Milan, Faridur Reza Sagar and Afzal Hossain. Later other works will also be included in the book.

This e-book will only be found in the Ekushe Tab produced by OK Mobile.

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Austria offers help to boost Bangladesh tourism human resources

DHAKA, Feb 2, 2016 (BSS) – An Austrian University today expressed keen interest to provide assistance to National Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (NHTTI) under Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) to initiate a three-year graduation (honours) course for creating world standard tourism human resources in Bangladesh.

This was revealed while a delegation of IMC University of Applied Science, Krems, Austria led by its supervisory board Heinz Boyer held a meeting with high officials of BPC and other tourism stakeholders at Hotel Abakash here.

PBC Chairman Dr Aparup Chowdhury chaired the meeting while NHTTI Principal Parvez A Chowdhury moderated. Presently the NHTTI is conducting various hospitality courses with highest two-year diploma.

The Austrian delegation said they will provide all assistance with their curriculum and teaching staffs to launch a honours course at NHTTI.

Dr Chowdhury hoped that the Austrian support will help the Bangladesh tourism industry in a greater extend as it has been suffering from lack of skilled human resources since long.

The BPC chairman said if the NHTTI could introduce international standard courses, it will open door of international hospitality job market in front of Bangladeshi youths.

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Numerous Maldivian products exhibited at fair in India

Sun.mv – February 3, 2016 – Addu Women’s Association is participating in Surajkund International Crafts Mela, which started in Faridabad, India on February 1. Twenty countries have participated in this year’s fair, aimed at showcasing artwork from different cultures.

52 Maldivian products are being showcased in the fair.

Secretary-General of Addu Women’s Association, Shafqa Shafeeq spoke to “Sun” and said that Maldivian stall was showcasing all handicraft work.

The Association said that the fair had proved to be a great opportunity for people who are talented in handicraft work, as well as those who teach how to harness the talent.

Shafqa said that the Maldivian stall had proven to be very popular among visitors, and was generating good money.

Bidhabin Boduberu Group is also in India representing Maldives in the fair along with Addu Women’s Association.

The fair will continue until February 15.

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Maldives receives 29 World Travel Awards nominations

Sun.mv – February 4, 2016 – Maldives has received 29 nominations in the prestigious World Travel Awards.

Maldivian resorts, travel agencies, and national airline has received nominations in 29 categories, which include leading Indian Ocean beach destination, leading cruise destination, favorite Indian Ocean destination, leading dive destination and most popular Indian Ocean honeymoon destination.

In addition to this, Maldives Tourism Board has been nominated as leading Indian Ocean tourist board, while national airline Maldivian has received nominations from three categories.

Maldivian resorts have received nominations as best resort in Indian Ocean, leading dive resort, leading beach resort, leading family resort and leading green resort.

World Travel Awards has been handed out since 1993, with 160 countries nominated from different categories this year.

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Archaeologists find Bronze Age shipwreck off Turkey’s southwest

MUĞLA – Anadolu Agency – Underwater excavations off the western province of Muğla’s Marmaris district have unearthed a shipwreck in the Hisarönü Gulf dating back up to 4,000 years, one of the oldest shipwrecks ever found in Turkish waters.

The work is part of a project initiated in 2007 to reveal Turkey’s underwater heritage, supported by the Development Agency. The project coordinator, Dokuz Eylül University Marine Sciences Associate Professor Abdurrahman Harun Özdaş, said underwater archaeologists, marine physicists and marine biologists were working on the project as part of a 15-person team.

Özdaş said part of the aim was to take an inventory of shipwrecks in Turkey’s waters, some of which date back 4,000 years.

“Based on the remains of these ships, the places where they stayed and the objects they left, we make maps. We define this as Turkey’s Underwater Geographic Information System,” he added.

Özdaş said they discovered a very unique Bronze Age wreck 40 meters deep in the Hisarönü Gulf, crowning this season’s work.

“For the first time in 30 years, a Turkish university has found a wreck from the Bronze Age in Turkish waters. So the first excavation season has finished successfully,” he added.

Özdaş said the ship sank in the Aegean Sea up to 4,000 years ago after a large storm, making it “one of the oldest wrecks ever found in our water.”

“The results provide very important data about the history of the region. Conservation of the findings is continuing in the Bodrum Museum. Excavations will also continue throughout 2016,” he said.

“We have been carrying out the only underwater archaeological research project in the area nonstop since 2007. We have so far discovered more than 100 wrecks and their potential fields. Also, more than 20 underwater harbors and more than 400 anchors from between the Bronze Age and the Ottoman era have been found,” he said.

He said discovered underwater cultural heritage and ancient shipwrecks had been transferred to Dokuz Eylül University Marine Sciences and Technology Institute’s geographical information system.

“Along with trade ships, wars ships were also recorded. Last year’s works discovered a wreck carrying glass bullions from the 11th century and they were added to our archive as a different sample,” Özdaş said, adding that the works had unearthed wrecks of ships carrying amphora, tombs, roof tiles, grindstones, brick columns and column capitals.

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Turkish designer displays fashions at Louvre

PARIS – Anadolu Agency – Turkish-French designer Ece Ege has revealed her latest collection, Woven Tales, at the Paris Fashion Week.

The creative director of Dice Kayek, the fashion house she founded with her sister Ayşe in 1992, showed off their spring 2016 collection at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, based in the Louvre.

Ege said she wanted her collection to resemble an image in the mind and said it had been inspired by characters such as Peter Pan.

She said the collection was the result of six months of hard work as her team of 20 produced a couture collection in wool flannel, organza silk mikado, sateen and velvet.

Dice Kayek, a member of the Prêt-à-Porter and Couture Federation, is the first Turkish brand to take part in Paris’ official couture show.

Ege, who was trained in Paris, received France’s prestigious Femme en Or award for successful women in 2003.

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Hereke carpet regains fame with TV dramas

KOCAELİ – Anadolu Agency – Turkey’s famous Hereke carpets, which are displayed at the Ottoman sultans’ palaces, mansion and pavilions, including the Dolmabahçe Palace, have regained their lost fame thanks to Turkish TV dramas, according to the head of a carpet firm.

The Hereke carpets have lost their fame because of cheaply-made lookalikes and the lack of effective promotions in the international arena. But recently, the carpets, which have been used as a décor in Turkish dramas that draw viewers in many countries, have risen in fame along with the shows.

Director of a carpet firm in the northwestern province of Kocaeli, İsmail Şaşdım said the production of Hereke carpets began in 1843 with the establishment of Hereke Fabrika-i Hümayun, in order to meet furnishing and curtain needs of palaces that were built in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

He said Hereke carpets are as valuable as artifacts because they are hand-made, and added the carpets had become well-known in the world.

Knot makes it different

“What makes a Hereke carpet special is its knot. Traditional carpets have two types of knots, single and double. Double knot is a hard process but it gives strength and a visual quality to the carpet when it is finished. This is why carpets are made with double knots in Hereke,” Şaşdım said.

Another distinctive feature, he added, was their thinness in comparison to traditional hand-made carpets. “Our carpets, which have the least number of knots, have 36 knots. Even these carpets are two- to three-times thinner than traditional carpets. When using silk, they are even thinner. They have 100-144 knots in each centimeter,” he said.

Unfortunately, accord to Şaşdım, the number of carpet weavers is decreasing. In the past, Hereke weavers numbered nearly 60,000 but today, that number has dwindled to a few thousand.

He said new weavers were no longer coming and the old ones were the only ones keeping the technique alive.

The carpets that Şaşdım’s firm has produced were used as décor in some 20 TV shows including historical dramas such as “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (The Magnificent Century), “Diriliş Ertuğrul,” “Filinta.”

“We receive demands for new dramas. We do our best to meet these demands. Turkish dramas make great contribution to both the promotion of our country and the continuation of this artwork. The recognition of Hereke carpets increased thanks to dramas,” he added.

Şaşdım said these carpets were sent all around the world, especially the U.S. and Japan. “Germans in particular show a great interest in Hereke carpets. When they come to Turkey, Japanese people buy Hereke carpets in Cappadocia and Istanbul,” he said. When buying a Hereke carpet, it is important to keep a sharp eye out for fakes, according to Şaşdım.

“Since the brand Hereke is a renowned one, all carpets feature something symbolizing Hereke. If there are too many carpets in a place and they sold for cheap prices, they can never be Hereke carpets. One square-meter of a wool Hereke carpet is finished in almost four months. If a carpet is sold for cheaper than the value of a four-month worker, you need to be suspicious there. Low price is not asked all the time; you need to be sure about the carpet. You need to know designs and knots unique to Hereke.”

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Shamkir in Azerbaijan, youth capital of 2016

04 February 2016 – TODAY.AZ – Shamkir city, attracting local and foreign tourists with its favorable climate, rich cultural and historical heritage, was chosen “Youth Capital” of 2016.

The selection was carried out with the organizational support of the Youth and Sports Ministry with the aim to develop and expand youth activities in the regions of Azerbaijan.

The active participation of young people in social, political and cultural life of the city is provided in the city which has been chosen “Youth Capital”.

The symbolic key of “Youth Capital” was delivered to Shamkir on February 3 and was marked with a solemn ceremony. The young people with the 50-meter state flag reached the central square, where thousands of peoples gathered to welcome the symbolic key.

Addressing the event, Chief of Shamkir City Youth and Sports Department Emin Ismayilov congratulated the city’s youth.

“Now we should be more responsible. We are targeting to realize new projects. Today, Shamkir is conducting several measures to realize the youth policy,” he said

Shamkir is one of the oldest region of the country, located 399 km away from Baku. The city was known as “Shamkur” since the fifth century and served as a large trade and commercial center.

The favorable climate, pristine nature, rich cultural and historical heritage, and infrastructure make the region attractive for tourists.

Shamkir’s most attractive feature is in the pages of its German past. German colonies, which existed here in the 19th-20th centuries, left a lot of historical artifacts and the some streets were even lined with German houses, Lutheran churches, wine production, etc.

The whole region is full of greenhouses where the households cultivate vegetables and export the produced products to neighboring countries.

Today Shamkir is not only the historical past, but also a modern city that offers visitors a range of possibilities. Over the past several years, Shamkir literally transformed and now the city has new landscaped parks, hotels, entertainment complexes, restaurants, and a modern shopping mall.

One of the symbols of modern Shamkir is a unique Flag museum, designed in the form of an eight-pointed star. Lined with glass that lets light flood in, the two-story building contains valuable exhibits, informing visitors of the ancient and modern history of Azerbaijan.

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Masalli: Beautiful corner of “magic water”

05 February 2016 – TODAY.AZ – Masalli, a beautiful and unique city located in 240 km of Baku, is the southern region of Azerbaijan attracting many tourists every year.

The picture perfect, cozy and beautiful land is known for its sub-tropical climate, azure beaches on the coast of the Caspian Sea and a diversity of hot springs.

Favorable climate promotes growth of lush forests in the region, which creates a perfect habitat for various rare animals and valuable trees such as oak and ironwood, the wood so heavy that sinks in water.

Majestic Talish Mountains never cease to amaze travelers with its unique beauty and freshness.

To enjoy the picture perfect nature of Talish woods with all its own beauty, it’s better to visit this beautiful city in autumn, winter, or spring.

Despite being located away from main thoroughfares, the southern region without a doubt is a potentially perfect area for tourism.

Masalli is a promising medical region for tourism, thanks to its beautiful Healing waters called “Istisu”, translated as “hot water”

The source does not dry for many hundreds of years, and no one knows the exact history of its occurrence.

The water, coming from the bowels of the earth at a depth of 90-250 meters, has been called magical water since ancient times. It’s rich with hydrogen sulphide, calcium, sodium, chloride, magnesium hydrocarbons, and iodine, which makes it a cure for thousands of diseases.

The waterfalls of Istisu add a special beauty to this region and are popular among tourists. Picnic lovers can fade in to the thick woods of the nature, and enjoy the cool, refreshing air of the waterfall in summer

Thanks to the mild subtropical climate, the average temperature in the region stands at +29 degrees Celsius in summer and +7 degrees C in winter.

The abundance of sunlight, water and fresh air make Masalli a paradise for subtropical plants including tangerine, oranges and lemons.

Not surprisingly, with its pleasant climate, Masalli is blessed with many amateur gardeners. Even the residents sometimes joke that if to drop a seed to the ground it will surely germinate.

The region is full of picture perfect town and villages, where the residents honor the traditions and crafts such as pottery, weaving mats and baskets, as well as making and painting traditional chests.

At the time chests were considered an indispensable attribute of marriage. Brides took away their dowries in chests, leaving their father’s house. Today, only 2-3 people in Masalli’s Erkivan village are engaged in this ancient craft.

Speaking of Masalli, it is impossible to avoid its rich and diverse cuisine, which has an ancient history.

The region is famous for 20 kinds of rice dishes.

The most popular dish that is made only in Masalli is “Lavangi” — it is made from fish and chicken stuffed with nuts, onions and sumac, then prepared in a special firewood oven called “Tandir”. The dishes cooked in this oven are very delicious, juicy, and have an unusual taste.

Masalli is also very rich with its architectural sights that as the 19th century Mosque and old baths. It is also possible to see the mosques that were built back in 16th century in the nearby villages.

One can endlessly travel and study Masalli, every time discovering something new. Each day held in this generous region will be rich with unforgettable experiences and will be a bright page in the life of any tourists visiting Azerbaijan.

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Omani-funded ‘Message Of Islam’ Exhibition Kicks Off In Pretoria

PRETORIA, South Africa, Feb 2 (NNN-ONA) – ‘Message of Islam’ exhibition began in Pretoria, the political capital of South Africa, under the auspices of Semane Molotlegi, Queen Mother of the Royal Bafokeng, amid senior official attendance, extensive media coverage and academic presence, that included various segments of South African community, along with a number of heads of the GCC, Arab and international missions in Pretoria.

Queen Semane emphasised in her speech, the importance of this exhibition, which comes at the right time. She pointed out that, Oman is a country of tolerance and is constantly pushing for dialogue, to resolve the problems between the countries. She noted that the choice of the exhibition in Pretoria as a station, is a sign of the depth of relations between the two peoples and that her country highly esteems Oman for this choice, wishing progress and success to Oman’s leadership, government and people.

Mubarak bin Salim al-Zakawani, Sultanate’s ambassador to South Africa, praised the Omani-South African relations. He explained that this exhibition carries important implications, about the culture of tolerance and dialogue among peoples, which is an agreed-on political approach and culture in the Sultanate’s relations with the entire world.

The exhibition includes many paintings that show the spirit of tolerance in the Omani society, the acceptance of Omanis of all cultures and the nature of peaceful coexistence in the Omani society, as well as, a corner for Arabic calligraphy, shadow art, “Act for Tolerance” campaign and dozens of manuscripts and books, on the Sultanate’s history and civilisation.

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AFDB Cfaf 60-Billion Package To Finance Mali-Ivory Coast Road

BAMAKO, Feb 2 (NNN-AfDB) — The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Government of Mali have reached an agreement on a CFAF 60-billion funding package to fund a multi-national road infrastructure and transport links improvement project along the Bamako-Zantiebougou-Kolondieba-Boundiali-San Pedro corridor shared by Mali and Ivory Coast.

The CFAF 40-billion loan and a CFAF 20-billion grant agreement was signed by Hélène N’garnim-Ganga, AfDB Resident Representative in Mali, and Mali’s new Minister of the Economy and Finance, Boubou Cissé. The event was also attended by Mamadou Hachim Koumaré, Mali’s Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Integration.

This high-impact project will be financed with concessional resources from the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Transition Support Facility (TSF). It involves the construction of 140 kilometres of improved asphalt roads, creation of a high-quality transport corridor between Bamako in Mali and the port of San Pedro in Ivory Coast.

The project is expected to open up Mali and to facilitate the transportations of persons and goods. The road passes through one of the country’s major farming regions. The works include the installation of solar-powered lighting systems in a number of locations, the construction of multi-purpose centres for women’s associations, and the provision of farm produce processing kits.

Other components of the project include the provision of drinking water wells, the development of 100 kilometres of rural footpaths, the renovation of health centres and the provision of medical equipment and supply of ambulances and three-wheeled vehicles to transport patients. It also includes the development of local markets with childcare facilities and the construction of bus stations.

The project also includes the construction of urban roads in Kolondieba and a checkpoint, as well as a cattle market on the border between Mali and Ivory Coast. It is the largest project of its type to be implemented in Mali.

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Nigeria: Air Cote d’Ivoire Commences Flights to Abuja

4 February 2016 – Daily Trust (Abuja) – Air Cote D’Ivoire announced yesterday that arrangements were underway to operate the Abuja-Abidjan route.

The airline made this known in a statement signed by its Country Manager-Nigeria, Mr Moustapha Fofana, in Lagos.

According to the statement, the service between the two strategic destinations is expected to commence on Feb. 15.

The statement said that, “this was coming on the heels of the airline’s recent launch of the delivery of yet another new Dash 8-0400 aircraft.

“The recently acquired airliner is one of three new aircraft expected to join the carrier’s young fleet this year.

“A total of three weekly flights will be operated between both destinations in a two class configuration of 7 seat in Business Class and 60 seats in Economy class.

“The flights will depart from Abuja on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 09:20am and arrive in Abidjan at 11: 05am.

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Gambia Offers Best Form of Ecotourism – British Tourists

3 February 2016 – The Daily Observer (Banjul) – The Gambia has been, and continues to be, a popular tourist destination since in the 1960s and apart from agriculture, the tourism sector ranks among the biggest contributors to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Because it offers all year round sunshine, Destination Gambia is seen as an ideal place to escape the harsh winter months of Europe, also offering holiday makers sandy beaches. Its proximity to Europe also offers an affordable holiday to increasing numbers of traveling Europeans.

Another factor that attracts tourists to The Gambia is the beauty of its wildlife, especially the 550 species of birds it offers. For Eric and Ann Kennedy, middle-aged tourists from Dorset in England, this is the second successive year they have been coming to The Gambia for holidays. They described the destination as the best place for ecotourism.

“I have been to many countries in the world purposely for ecotourism and these countries include South Africa, Israel, Jordan, Poland, and France but The Gambia is the best in terms of bird watching and offers several species of birds that these countries cannot. Not only the birds because we have seen snakes, lizards, wild pigs and monkeys,” Eric told the Daily Observer.

“The Gambia does not only offer year-round sun and beach holiday but bird watching as well; so anyone going for holiday to experience conservation should come to The Gambia because you will learn a lot. The guards are very knowledgeable and they seem to know a lot about birds.”

Eric’s wife, Ann, added that another feature of The Gambia that strikes her most is its hospitality, with everyone offering a beautiful smile. “When we came here last year, we decided to put everything on a DVD and show it to our friends back home and all of them were in awe of The Gambia and hopefully before the end of this year, some of them will come here for the first time.”

Bird watching in the country is supervised by The Gambia Bird Watchers Association. Since its formation in early 2000, the association has come up with innovative ideas to make the industry more attractive. Recently, in an attempt to develop a new event for the tourists, the Association initiated a vulture feeding programme where vultures would gather to feed on fish, meat and chicken trims.

The event is becoming very popular with tourists coming on a daily basis to witness vultures being fed. “Most of the tourists have been coming here for many years and consistently go through the same routine every year and it is becoming boring for them,” Yankuba Jammeh the Secretary General of the Association said.

“The importance of wildlife cannot be overemphasised and bird watchers are known to be high spending tourists who wouldn’t stay at the hotel but would move around to get first hand information of the Gambia’s flora and fauna, therefore, they need to be exposed to things that would attract them to come back to the country.”

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Morocco hosts te world’s largest solar power complex

Sunday 07 Feb 2016 – Ouarzazate City, Morocco (IINA) – With Noor Ouarzazate, the first solar power project run by the Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN), Morocco claims to have the world’s largest solar power complex with an overall capacity of 580MW.

Built on an area of more than 3,000 hectares, Noor Ouarzazat includes four multi-technological solar power plants, developed in total respect of the international norms, particularly in terms of technology. The project is also associated with a research and development platform, which covers more than 150 hectares, Morocco World News reported.

Officially inaugurated last Thursday in Ouarzazate by King Mohammed, the first phase of Noor Ouarzazat “Noor I” was carried out under the independent power producer (IPP) scheme. This plant, which covers over 480 hectares, has a generating capacity of 160MW and is equipped with a thermal energy storage device allowing it to operate at full capacity for 3 hours without sunlight (after sunset or cloudy weather).

The second and third plants of the Ouarzazate solar complex (Noor II and Noor III), whose construction works were launched on Thursday by the sovereign, adopt as well the IPP scheme for production.

With thermo-solar cylindrical parabolic troughs and 7 hours of energy storage capability, the 200MW power plant (Noor II) will be built on an area of 680 hectares.

Noor III, which will require an estimated budget of 645 million euros, will be built on an area of 750 hectares. The plant is an installed capacity of 150 MW, which will employ central tower technology with salt receivers and 7 to 8 hours of energy storage capability.

These three projects, combined with the photovoltaic phase (Noor IV), will make Noor Ouarzazate the largest multi-technology solar production site in the world with a capacity of 580 MW and a total investment of over 24 billion dirhams, excluding common infrastructure developed by MASEN and National Electricity and Drinking Water Office (ONEE) for the needs of developers.

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Arab Industries Exhibition To Be Held In Oman

MUSCAT, Oman, Feb 6 (NNN-ONA) – Arab Industries Exhibition will kick off next Tuesday, at Oman International Exhibition Centre. The three-day exhibition is organised by the East Coast for Organising Exhibitions, and coincides with the Omani Industry Day.

Khadija bint Mubarak al-Battashiyah, Chairperson of the organising company said that the participation will be outstanding this year, as the exhibition is being organised for the fourth year in a row. It hosts governmental institutions interested in industry, economy, and investment and the Omani companies operating in various industrial areas from both sectors.

She added that the exhibition aims to provide and meet the needs of Omani industrialists and consumers and to support the Omani economic movement in industrial areas. It also aims at creating great opportunities for all companies and institutions working in this area, to showcase their best products for the development and prosperity of the national industrial sector.

Suleiman bin Othman Awlad Thani, Head of Media Committee of the exhibition, said that, the exhibition this year will witness a significant marketing for the Sultanate and the Omani industry through the participation of media organisations from the Sultanate, GCC countries, Egypt, Belgium, Morocco and the participation of more than fifty delegations from the GCC and Arab countries.

He added that, the forum includes several working papers and various panel discussions for major Arab investors, industrialists and entrepreneurs. The exhibition will also host Omani fashion show, to highlight the Omani traditional fashion by Omani designers.

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Oman, Thailand Discuss Tourism Cooperation

MUSCAT, Oman, Feb 2 (NNN-ONA) – Sayyid Adel bin Al Murdas al-Busaidi, Oman Tourist Affairs Advisor, at the Ministry of Tourism, received in his office, today, Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), and his accompanying delegation, currently visiting the Sultanate.

The two sides discussed several topics and aspects of joint cooperation, in the field of tourism.

Sayyid Adel briefed the guest on the tourism sector in the Sultanate, growth rates in the number of tourists and tourism services, cooperation between the concerned authorities in the Sultanate, for the advancement of the tourism sector and the aspirations, in accordance with the future vision of the Omani strategy for tourism.

The two sides touched on the possibilities of joint cooperation, especially in the field of tourism projects, how to take advantage of the Thai tourism experience and revitalisation of tourist traffic between the two countries.

The two sides also expressed their willingness to activate cooperation initiatives in the tourism side, stressing the importance of continuing further cooperation in the fields of tourism, to achieve the desired goals.

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Qatar Airways Starts Non-Stop Service To Mozambique

DOHA, Qatar, Feb 3 (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways will upgrade its service between Doha and Mozambique’s capital of Maputo, to non-stop B787 Dreamliner, three times weekly, starting Mar 27.

The airline currently serves the Doha – Maputo route three times a week, via South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg.

With the start of the new non-stop service to Maputo International Airport, passengers from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific, can now take advantage of a seamless one-stop connection to Mozambique’s capital city via Doha, saving approximately five hours per direction from prior itineraries.

Travellers from Mozambique will have more convenient options to more than 150 destinations around the world, including popular destinations like Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Karachi, Mumbai, Delhi and Dubai.

Qatar Airways launched scheduled flights in Oct, 2012 to Maputo, Mozambique’s cultural, political and commercial centre.

With Tuesday’s announcement, to de-link flights from Johannesburg, Qatar Airways’ Maputo route will become a dedicated non-stop service between Qatar and Mozambique, operated on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said, the announcement was a significant vote of confidence in the Mozambican travel market.

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Oman to kick off $649 million tourism project

Monday 01 Feb 2016 – Sur, Oman (IINA) – The Sultanate of Oman will kick off in the following months the first stage of a 1.8 million square meters tourism project, which comes within a strategy to develop the sector, diversify sources of the national economy, and maximize the utilization of tourism sites, Hotelier Middle East reported.

The project, which is located in Ras Al-Hadd in A’Sharqiyah region, will cost around $649 million, according to the Oman Tourism Development Company.

Omani Minister of Finance Darwish Al-Balushi stated that the first stage of the multi-phase project will be initiated during the first quarter of 2016.

The joint venture between the Sultanate and Al-Diar Real Estate Investment Company of Qatar comes after an agreement was signed in November 2014 to set up a tourism project in Ras Al-Hadd in the A’Sharqiyah region.

The project will be developed in four phases; the first one includes the establishment of a 100-room eco-themed resort, 50 hotel villas, 150 residential villas and a 7,000-sqare meter mall, set for completion by the end of 2018.

Phase two involves the addition of 100 new five-star hotel rooms at the resort, as well as an additional 196 residential villas, a center for wildlife preservation and an observation park set over a 10,000 square meter area.

Phase three will see the construction of a separate 200-room five-star resort, an additional 50 hotel villas, and 179 residential villas, as well as the development of a new market area covering 16,000 square meters and the construction of a specialized marine life park.

The final phase of the Ras Al-Hadd project will see the opening of a 150-room five-star hotel, 50 hotel villas, 175 new residential villas, as well as the construction of a dedicated heritage village, in addition to a specialized staff accommodation zone housing 836 employees.

The Qatari company said in a statement published on its website that the resort and residential developments, as well as the attractions, firmly adhere to the core themes of sustainability and responsible tourism management.

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UAE launches project for biggest library in Middle East

Tuesday 02 Feb 2016 – Dubai, (IINA) – UAE’s Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum launched on Monday an AED 1 billion project to build the largest library in the region, WAM reported.

The seven-storey Mohammed bin Rashid Library will be constructed on an area covering one million square feet in Al-Jaddaf. It is scheduled to open in 2017 and will house more than 4.5 million books and include several areas for interaction, events, activities, educational and cultural festivals. The library will also host several cultural and cognitive initiatives, such as the Dh2.4 million ‘Arabic Language Award’, launched recently to help people embrace their Arab identity.

There will also be a museum of the Arab heritage and the history of human civilization as well as venues for arts and literary exhibitions, heritage preservation initiatives and a 500-seat theatre for lectures, seminars and launching of intellectual and cultural initiatives regionally and globally.

“We are the leaders of civilization, duty and culture, and so we need to revive the spirit of learning and curiosity within our culture through innovative initiatives that push our boundaries”, said Sheikh Mohammed at the grand launching event.

“This is why we decided to start the Year of Reading by launching this state-of-the-art library and to let everyone know that we will transform the UAE into an Arab and global cultural and learning center while strongly establishing reading as a societal norm”.

“We want a dynamic library which will reach you before you reach it, visit you before you visit it, and which encourages you to start reading from childhood, while supporting you as a scientist, researcher or specialist, when older. The library will be a compound for books, a community for readers and writers, and an association for content, culture and thought owners,” Sheikh Mohammed added.

The library will also serve as a platform for hosting and launching the most significant intellectual and cultural initiatives regionally and globally.

“The human mind is the center of development, and the book is the tool used to renew the mind. A nation can never grow without a renewed mind and a lively, knowledgeable spirit”, Sheikh Mohammed noted.

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Saudi Arabia to refurbish 900 ancient mosques

Friday 05 Feb 2016 – Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia (IINA) – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to refurbish, preserve and document 900 ancient mosques in the Kingdom, Arab News reported.

Representatives from the SCTNH and the ministry held a meeting in Riyadh to outline details of the program. Mashari Al-Naim, general supervisor of the SCTNH’s Architectural Heritage Center, said the body’s President Prince Sultan bin Salman and Minister of Islamic Affairs Saleh Al-Asheikh, would oversee the projects personally.

The agreement would include recording the history of these ancient buildings. The SCTNH and the Al-Turath Heritage Foundation announced last November that they had restored 21 mosques around the country.

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Dubai among top five model cities of future

Gulf Today – 06 February, 2016 – The International Real Estate Federation (IREF) has recently recognised Dubai as one of the top models of ‘Cities of the Future’.

This recognition shows Dubai’s international standards of urban planning, including implementation of highest standards of sustainability, smart cities and financial vibrancy.

In his comments, Ahmad Bin Shafar, Chief Executive Officer of Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (Empower), said that this global achievement was the result of the vision and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who launched significant initiatives with regards to the environmental sustainability, Smart Cities and knowledge-based economy.

Bin Shafar said, “The urban planning in Dubai is among the best in the world, which makes the Emirate an ideal city for living, work and tourism. The sustainability criteria, combined with economic diversification, have formed an attractive hub not only for the Middle East but also for Asia and Africa. Dubai excels in infrastructure and quality services, with world-class district cooling services as one of the best environmental sustainability practices. Empoweris currently supporting many cities in the world to adopt this technology under the supervision of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).”

He further mentioned, “Dubai is now beyond the stage of following the standards of the ‘Cities of the Future’, as it is setting new benchmarks. It has redefined sustainability, urban planning, smart city transformation, and knowledge-based economy concepts. The planned sub-communities within the city of Dubai have led to deliver better services, making the service available by service providers without duplicating efforts.

For example, Empower offers district cooling services for large areas across Dubai, and due to the developed urban infrastructure and adherence to green standards, we succeeded in becoming the world’s largest district cooling company.”

Earlier this year, Danielle Grossenbacher, the World President of The International Real Estate Federation said that Dubai ranks among one of the top 5 models of ‘Cities of the Future’, adding that it is a typical example of great cities that apply sustainability criteria and financial vibrancy with ability to face challenges.

Bin Shafar pointed out that such international rankings increasingly put the responsibility on all organisations working in energy in Dubai to adopt green sustainable solutions, implement the vision of the government, and promote their success regionally and globally.

“We have seen a qualitative shift in the growth of district cooling industry in the UAE. We have raised the efficiency of energy resources consumption, reduced wastage rates, developed a monitoring and measurement system, and achieved significant savings through our energy conservation campaigns. Empower’s environmental sustainability solutions went even further by switching to Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE) system, saving millions of gallons of fresh water.”

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Japan signs investment pact with Iran

Tehran Times – 06 February, 2016 – Japan and Iran signed a bilateral investment pact Friday in a bid to give Japanese firms an edge in the global rush for access to the resource-rich nation.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida signed the pact with Iran’s visiting Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayyebnia during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

The signing comes after Tokyo lifted sanctions on Iran last month following confirmation by a U.N. nuclear watchdog that Tehran had implemented measures promised under a landmark nuclear deal it struck with six major powers in July. The sanctions included halts on new investment in oil and gas.

Since the nuclear deal was concluded, the United States, European countries and China have been increasingly strengthening ties with Iran in a race to tap into its business potential. Iran, with a population of around 80 million, has rich oil and natural gas reserves.

Japan is determined not to fall behind its rivals and hopes the pact will eventually lead to greater auto exports and greater participation in the development of Iranian oil fields, Japanese officials said.

Earlier Friday, Tayyebnia praised the high quality of Japanese technology.

“The country of Japan, which in the eyes of the Iranians has always been associated with high-quality and trustworthy products, will have a higher chance to enter Iran’s market and establish long-term partnerships,” he said.

He added, there is “great appetite” in Iran for fuel-efficient, high-quality cars and motorcycles, renewable energy and improvements in agricultural processing.

With the lifting of the sanctions, Japanese insurance companies will be able to issue policies covering trade deals involving Iran. Japanese businesses will also be able focus on making new investments in Iran’s oil and gas sector.

Japanese companies are already lining up to resume business with Iran, with Suzuki Motor Corp. on Thursday saying it was considering returning to the Iranian market.

The lifting of sanctions may also allow Japanese companies to return to a development project in Azadegan, one of the world’s largest oil fields, in Iran’s southwest. Japan had a 75 percent stake in the project but withdrew in 2010.

Iran’s first shipments of crude oil since the lifting of sanctions departed from the country’s main oil terminal bound for Japan and China. The shipments left on Jan. 27, an Iranian oil ministry official said.

Each of the tankers is carrying around 2 million barrels of crude worth about $ 66 million.

Iran aims to boost its crude oil exports to Japan from 110,000 barrels per day during the sanctions to about 300,000, an Iranian news report said.

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Riyadh growth creates ‘major investment opportunities’

Arab News – 06 February, 2016 – Saudi Arabia’s capital city has major opportunities for investors across several sectors, the High Commission for the Development of Riyadh stated in its investment climate report for last year.

The report, published in a local newspaper on Friday, was released in four parts, which included the background on the Kingdom’s economy, Riyadh’s growth and infrastructure, regulations for investors, and investment opportunities in the public and private sectors.

The report stated that the city issued 29,136 building permits in the financial year 2014/2015, accounting for 25.7 percent of the 113,519 permits issued countrywide.

It noted that over the last few years the construction taking place was transforming the city into a major urban center that included skyscrapers, mega malls and buildings, which were designed in an innovative and unconventional manner.

The building boom in Riyadh contributed to the establishment of more than 170 factories producing building materials, ceramic and glass. There was also support for citizens in the form of loans from the Real Estate Development Fund, the report stated.

In the real estate sector, construction of houses has kept pace with the 8 percent growth in the population, with 1 million units built, and vacancies of only 4.3 percent.

This was a strong indicator of the relative balance between supply and demand, the report stated.

The area of land used for residential, industrial, agricultural and green purposes amounted to 60,000 hectares in the city, while there were planned developments over 120,000 hectares, and 50,000 unplanned areas.

The report stated that in 2015 livestock in Riyadh amounted to 42.8 percent of the country’s wealth in the sector. This was divided into 11 million sheep or 18.3 percent, 151,000 goats or 14.6 percent, and 251,000 cows or 55.1 percent of the total.

The report stated that there were 17 dairy farms in Riyadh producing 1,258 billion liters of milk or 70.6 percent of the Kingdom’s total milk production. There were 103 million poultry representing 17.1 percent of the total in the Kingdom, while apiaries produced about 7,388 kg of honey representing about 7 percent of the Kingdom’s total production.

In the business and commercial sector there were 404,000 companies operating over the 2013/2014 financial year. In the health sector, there were 47 hospitals out of the Kingdom’s total of 268, in addition to 225 health centers out of the Kingdom’s total of 435.

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First national IT conference held in Jeddah

Saudi Gazette – 06 February, 2016 – The first national computer faculties’ conference will held at King Abdulaziz University from February 17 to 18, with organizers saying the conference is aimed at developing educational processes and scientific research in the Kingdom to meet international standards.

A number of the Kingdom’s colleges and universities that focus on computer and information technology will be attending the conference.

The dean of King Abdulaziz University’s computing and IT faculty, Abdulrahman Bin Hilal Al-Talhai, said: “The conference is the first of its kind and it is a forum at the level of computer colleges in Saudi universities and the conference will be, God willing, a unique opportunity to showcase the latest scientific research, international practices and developments in the provision of specialized academic programs at the university level. It will also explore the expected developments in this scientific field and how to use them.”

The conference adopts a concept of “educate the system” by providing a scientific platform to share success stories in academic, research and administrative practices among the Kingdom’s computer colleges as well as looking at ways to benefit from successful experiences in order to improve the performance and output of colleges.

A number of international academics from the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States and Canada are participating in the conference and providing their experience at their respective universities during panel discussions.

Abdulrahman said the conference will have several topics focused on developing lesson plans, direct training and practical application of academic accreditation and quality assurance, along with education-based laboratory classes, as well as project management and task forces, the relationship between colleges outputs and the labor market and the partnership between technical colleges, companies and the development of scientific research.

He said that the scientific committee would oversee the establishment of the first national competition in computer programming on the sidelines of the conference.

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US Muslim woman to be America’s first hijab-wearing Olympian

Thursday 04 Feb 2016 – New Jersey, (IINA) – Ibtihaj Muhammad, a saber fencer for Team USA, will make history later this year when she becomes the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, according to media reports.

Team USA announced on Tuesday that Ibtihaj, 30 year-old, qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after winning a bronze medal in the saber fencing world cup in Athens last weekend, earning her the necessary number of Olympic qualifying points. She previously made headlines when she became the first Muslim woman to compete for the U.S. in fencing.

Ibtihaj is ranked second in USA Fencing’s women’s standings and will compete in the individual and team events in Rio this summer. Muhammad’s teammate, Mariel Zagunis, who took gold in the Athens world cup and is ranked first in the U.S., will fence alongside her in Brazil later this year. The entire Team USA Olympic fencing team Muhammad, Zagunis, another U.S. women’s saber fencer and a replacement athlete for the team event will officially be named on April 11.

Rio will be Muhammad’s first Olympics. She failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic games in London after she tore a ligament in her hand.

According to her biography on the Team USA website, Muhammad said she “hopes to make history in 2016 as the first U.S. athlete to compete at the Olympic Games in a hijab.” She told Team USA that she recognized “a lack of minorities in the sport” and said “there were barriers that needed to be broken in women’s saber.”

It’s been quite a few days for Ibtihaj. Last week, she clenched a spot on the U.S. Olympic team during an event in Athens, Greece. And not to bury the lede, but President Barack Obama gave her a shout-out on Wednesday while delivering a speech at a mosque in Baltimore.

Obama asked Muhammad to stand up for a round of applause and gave her some words of encouragement. “Bring home the gold… No pressure,” he said.

The three-time All-American from Duke University was one of several Muslim community leaders who sat down with Obama for a roundtable discussion about the state of Islam and Islamophobia in the United States before his speech.

Muhammad said she is honored to be representing not only her dreams, but the dreams of fellow Americans. She hopes she can be a role model for future athletes, especially Muslim Americans.

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