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28 Mar, 2016

9th Forum for Islamic Businesswomen to be held in Riyadh

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Shamsi

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 28 March 2016 (25 Jumaada al-Akhir 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

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A WORD FROM MY SPONSORS: TOURISM MALAYSIA

TOURISM MALAYSIA PROMOTES “JOHOR HOLIDAY PACKAGES”

Tourism Malaysia has published a new “Johor Holiday Packages” brochure containing 25 holiday themes covering eco-tourism, city tours, golf, theme parks, edutourism and special interest tourism destinations in Johor. All the programmes were developed with the cooperation of seven travel partners in the state. Each package offers different activities to make it easier for tourists to choose the destination that they want to visit based on their interests. Among the activities include a visit to Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) Stadium during a match, theme park marathon, a stay at Tiram Indah Village in Ulu Tiram, visits to the Bugis Village, Jawa Village, and many more. For instance, the JDT Stadium package offers consumers a visit to the stadium, as well as watch a football match, worth RM30 per pax. The theme park marathon package offers families the opportunity to spend four days at various theme parks comprising Legoland, Angry Bird, Hello Kitty and Austin Hill Adventure Park. The package which includes accommodation and private vehicle costs RM1,295 per pax. A “Homestay 3D2N” package in Bugis and Jawa villages promises a unique taste of the Bugis and Jawa food and cultures, and costs RM300 per pax at each homestay. The 2D1N stay at Tiram Indah Village package offers a horseback riding experience from as low as RM60. It offers a basic horse riding lesson which is ideal for people of all ages.

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.malaysia.travel.

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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

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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.

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STORIES IN THIS DISPATCH. PLS CLICK ON ANY OF THE HEADLINES BELOW TO GO DIRECTLY TO THE STORY

 

Inaugural ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Summit 2016 to be held in UKM, Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, 25 March 2016,(Bernama) – A committee formed by students from Aminuddin Baki Residential College of National University of Malaysia (UKM) will organize an ASEAN level entrepreneurship program: ASEAN Young Entrepreneurs Summit (AYES) 2016. AYES 2016 will be held on 16 & 17 April 2016 at Dewan Canselor Tun Abdul Razak (DECTAR), UKM.

This program is inspired by 2 previous successful national level programs organized by the students from the same college: National Young Entrepreneurs Summit (NYES) 2014 & 2015. Among the collaboration partners for AYES 2016 are ASEAN Youth Organization, ASEAN University Network, Minister of Higher Education Malaysia and Centre for Entrepreneurship and SMEs Development (CESMED), UKM.

The theme for this year is Empowering Marketing for Young Entrepreneurs. There are 4 objectives:

1) To give opportunity to students and young entrepreneurs to learn from successful entrepreneurs in ASEAN.

2) To be a platform for students and young entrepreneurs to share experiences, knowledge and expand their network.

3) To contribute to the development of entrepreneurship in ASEAN

4) To encourage students to choose entrepreneurship as their career instead of become employee after graduate.

In order to achieve the objectives, the summit will be filled with several activities:

1) Talks and experience sharing with 4 renowned young speakers/entrepreneurs: Dato’ Fazley Yaakob, Motivational Consultant with 10 years experience in motivational talks and seminars, Rita Dato Sosilawati as Managing Director of Nouvelle Beauty Centre Sdn. Bhd., Tan Wen Dee, Malaysia’s lead for HotelQuickly and Mr Jonathan Yabut, The Apprentice Asia Winner.

2) Workshop on Business Canvas Model

3) Pitching Competition

4) Resolution: “The impediments and approaches for young entrepreneurs to be a part of the ASEAN market”

As the outcome of the summit, participants are expected to acquire following benefits:

  1. Learn marketing skills from experts
  2. Expand network
  3. Bring their innovations and ideas in spotlight
  4. Get tips from successful entrepreneurs
  5. contribute to Asean

Targeted participants are youngsters in ASEAN countries, including students from higher institution, young entrepreneurs and youngsters who are interested in business and entrepreneurship. 600 participants are expected to participate in the summit. Registration can be made via website: www.ayes2016.com.my. Closing date will be on 1st April 2016.

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9th Forum for Islamic Businesswomen to be held in Riyadh

The Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (ICCIA) in collaboration with the Women Investments Section of the Council of Saudi Chambers is organizing the 9th Forum for Businesswomen in Islamic Countries in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 22th to 26th May 2016. The Businesswomen 9th Forum will be held concurrently with the 17th Private Sector Meeting and the 15th Trade Fair of the OIC Countries.

The Businesswomen Forum will be held for two days, the first day will for the Official Inauguration of all the events in the Expo Center in the presence of the Senior Saudi Officials and the second day will be in the Council of Saudi Chambers and shall be divided into three major sections: Presentation on the success stories of the Businesswomen of the Islamic World; Bilateral Business Session (B2B); Networking Dinner.

The main goals of the trade exhibition are:

(+) Familiarize and present products, industries, and services provided by the OIC members.

(+) Increase the commercial exchange between the the OIC members.

(+) Deepen the commercial bonds between the committee members.

(+) Identify the available opportunities in investments, commercial and economic growth of the hosting country, and meet investors from different countries.

(+) Open new market for the different industries and products provided by the members of the committee.

The General Secretariat of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (ICCIA) has been organizing Businesswomen Forums since 2005, which provide excellent opportunities and platform to Businesswomen / Entrepreneurs of OIC Countries, to identify challenges; determine the areas which need support; build network; exchange experiences and know how; and identify new markets and expand the existing level of economic ties amongst the business community, through trade and investment.

This has been done by organizing seven (7) Forums First in Sharjah, U.A.E. in March 2005; Second in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 8-10 December, 2006; the Third was held in Doha – State of Qatar 13-15 January 2008, the Fourth in Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic on 2-4 November 2008, the Fifth Forum in Cairo, Egypt on 22-24 April 2010, the Sixth Forum in Bahrain on 12-14 December 2012 and Seventh Forum in Tehran – Islamic Republic of Iran from 28th to 30th October 2013.

Download the registration form here: http://www.islamicexpo-sa.com/en/bwf-registration-form/view/form

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Jakarta Convention Center to hold biggest marine tourism expo

Jakarta (ANTARA News) 27 March 2016 – The Tourism Ministry supports the countrys biggest marine adventure tourism exhibition, “Deep & Extreme Indonesia 2016″, which will be held at the Jakarta Convention Center, from March 31 to April 3, 2016.

“The Tourism Ministry supports the organizing of the event. Lets explore the beauty of Indonesias underwater world,” Tourism Destination Development Deputy of the Tourism Ministry Dadang Rizki said here on Sunday.

Organized since ten years ago, the exhibition is the biggest and most complete of its kind held in the country. It explores marine tourism markets in various regions to be developed into world best diving tourist destinations.

It is admitted that Indonesia is best for its beautiful undersea world with various diving destinations such as Raja Ampat in West Papua; Bunaken in Manado (North Sulawesi); Lembeh Bitung in Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara/NTB); Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT); Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko in Wakatobi (Southeast Sulawesi); and Morotai as well as Halmahera in Ambon (Maluku).

Indonesia has thousands of places of this kind that are scattered across the country from Sabang in Aceh Province to Marauke in Papua Province, he said.

Dadang explained that the Indonesian underwater world is host to various coral reefs which serve as habitat for more than 2,000 fish species and various sea biota.

Different fish species such as wrasse, dansel, trigger, sweetlip and unicorn are all can be found there. There are also various big fish species such as tuna, marlin, hammer head sharks, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, barracuda, dolphin and whales.

Different tourism operators and diving organizers, government organizations, tourism promotion boards and travel bureaus will take part in the exhibition.

The operators and diving organizers will display diving operator ship and various diving accessories, and other water sport devices. They will also exhibit underwater photography equipment.(*)

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Afghanistan create history, beat West Indies by 6 runs in World T20

Hindustan Times, Nagpur, Mar 27, 2016 – Minnows Afghanistan scripted history on Sunday as they defeated 2012 champions West Indies by 6 runs in their final group league encounter of the ICC World Twenty20 in Mohali to sign off on a memorable note.

West Indies failed to surpass a target of 124 as the Associate nation were able to restrict them to 117 for eight.

The defeat does not change anything in final equations as West Indies have already qualified for the semi-finals and also maintained their pole position in the table. They will play their semi-final in Mumbai.

The story of the day, however, was all about the talented Afghan boys, who have impressed one and all with their spirited display so far in the tournament.

After a string of close losses, the Afghans kept their calm on today to beat a much-fancied West Indies side, who looked formidable even in the absence of Chris Gayle.

There were emotional scenes all around after Afghanistan completed the formalities, prompting West Indian star Chris Gayle, who was rested from today’s game, to congratulate them and even pose for pictures with the victorious team.

Afghanistan scored 123/7 in 20 overs after being put into bat. Najibullah Zadran’s 40-ball-48 studded with four boundaries and a six was the reason for them reaching a fighting total after being down at 56 for five.

In reply, the Afghan bowlers maintained a disciplined line and length.

It was heartening to see skipper Asghar Stanikzai toss up the ball to off-spinner Mohammed Nabi with West Indies needing 10 runs off the last over.

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60,000 new jobs created for key professions in Azerbaijan

26.03.2016, Khabar Agency – Demand for teachers, doctors, civil servants and the military remains high in the Kazakh labor market. In 2015, 60 thousand new jobs were created for these professions. Leisure, entertainment and telecommunications jobs are in high demand as well. Increased job growth was seen in real estate sector.

Growth here made up 8.1%, but given that the sector makes up less than 1% of the labor market, its impact on the overall situation is insignificant. The number of the employed decreased by 4.4% in the mining industry, by 3.8% in manufacturing, by 1.3 % in construction and trade.

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“Muslim Emoji”, first Islamic app for emoticons

Jeddah, (IINA), 10 Mar 2016 – A new app called “muslimemoji” was released for Android and IOS stores, a one-dollar application that has been identified as “the first Islamic app for emoticons,” TheAsian online news reported.

The makers describe the application as the only application with over 100 Islamic emojis to be used with Messenger, Whatsapp, Email, and different platforms. According to them, it’s the only emoji app dedicated solely for Muslims in phones application stores.

In the application, you can see “Halal/Haram” emojis, which is the equivalent of allowed/forbidden. There are also Holy Qur’an and Kaaba, as well as bearded men, and girls wearing veils. It’s noteworthy that the face emojis are the same as normal emojis, only with beards and veils added.

The responses to the app varied on its page on the store, in the “Google” store it was downloaded over 50 times, with almost 27 giving it a rating of 1 out of 5, on the other hand, only 10 gave it 5 out of 5; making its average rating 2.3 out of 5. While on the IOS store, the application’s average rating is 3.5 out of 5.

It’s not the first custom-emoji application on the android or the IOS stores, but it’s said to be the first Islamic one.

This comes after Apple introduced 150 new emojis to its store last year, among them were a mosque, Kaaba, and Tasbeeh (praising the God) emojis for Muslim users. The new emojis garnered a lot of attention on Twitter, with people praising Apple on the move, which probably encouraged the makers of “muslimemoji” application to come forward.

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Malaysia’s International Reserves Rise to $96.1 Billion

Kuala Lumpur — MENAFN – Qatar News Agency – 24/03/2016 – Malaysia’s international reserves totaled 96.1 billion at March 15, slightly higher from two weeks earlier, the central bank said in a statement Tuesday.

The central bank didn’t give a reason for the rise in reserves from 95.6 billion at February 29. The Bank said that the reserves position was sufficient to finance 8.4 months of retained imports and was 1.2 times the short-term external debt, according to (Bernama) news agency.

The main components of the international reserves were foreign currency (US88.3 billion); International Monetary Fund reserves position (US0.8 billion); Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (US1.1 billion); gold (US1.2 billion); and, other reservs (US4.7 billion). Its total assets stood at RM439.156 billion.

The central bank’s assets included the Malaysian government papers (RM2.05 billion); deposits with financial institutions (RM2.84 billion); loans and advances (RM7.16 billion); land and buildings (RM2.11 billion); and other assets (RM12.73 billion).

Its liabilities comprised paid-up capital (RM100 million); reserves (RM128.03 billion); currency in circulation (RM88.6 billion); deposits by financial institutions (RM162.08 billion); Federal Government deposits (RM11.72 billion); other deposits (RM554.86 million); the central bank papers (RM21.26 billion); allocation of SDRs (RM8.01 billion); and other liabilities (RM18.81 billion).

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“Algeria destination” draws visitors in Moscow

Moscow, (Algeria Press Service), 26 March 2016 -The “Algeria destination” has drawn many visitors to the 24th edition of the Moscow International Travel and Tourism Exhibition (SITEV) where many tour operators, mainly Russian and Chinese, showed interest in the touristic products showcased there.

“Algeria’s touristic potential has been highlighted in Moscow. We managed to get in touch with several travel agencies. Russian tour operators for example showed interest in seaside and Saharan services,” representative of the National Tourism Office Mourad Medjdoub told APS on the sidelines of this exhibition that wrapped up Saturday, and in which Algeria has partaken for the 4th time.

Extending over an area of 65 m², the Algerian stand was decorated with pictures and videos representing several touristic sites. The Algerian stand caught the interest of a large number of visitors who discovered the pictures of Algerian touristic sites that need further promotion and advertisement.

The visitors also admired the some professional handicrafts products made by calligrapher and ceramic art specialist Said Djaballah, and copperware manufacturer El Bouziri Othmane.

Contacts have been established with Russian craftsmen for a possible partnership in the future.

Chaib Ahmed Chaouki, trade manager at a travel agency in Ouargla expressed his satisfaction about Algeria’s participation in the SITEV. “We managed to catch the interest of our partners from Russia and China in the Algeria destination.”

“Our partners know that Algeria has the largest number of Roman sites after Italy, like the Roman Ruins in Tipasa, Djemila (Setif) and Timgad (Batna). We will keep in touch with them to implement this partnership”, Chaouki said.

Moussa Bouteggui, general manager of a travel agency in Tamanrasset also expressed his optimism for fruitful partnerships.

Algeria’s participation in the 24th SITEV “is part of the tourism development strategy and the tourism development plan 2030 that stresses the need to prospect promising tour markets to promote Algeria destination.”

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27th Future Generation Cultural Festival Kicks off in Kuwait

KUWAIT, 25 March 2016,(NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), inaugurated the 27th Future Generation Cultural Festival.

The cultural event, to last until Mar 31, includes a number of children theatrical shows, as well as, fine art and reading workshops.

The festival coincides with Kuwait’s celebration as the Capital for Islamic Culture 2016, and will highlight Kuwait’s civilised and cultural role in sponsoring future generations, the Council’s Secretary-General, Eng. Ali Al-Youha said, in his opening speech, on behalf of NCCAL’s President, Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.

Children are the strategic human storage that should be protected and raised by intellectual and cultural values, in order to perform their roles in serving their country, when they become adults, Al-Youha said, confirming the Kuwaiti political leadership’s faith, in sponsoring the youngsters out of moral principle and constitutional right.

Providing the appropriate environment that grants the children the foundations of social, interactive, and mental growth is very important, he noted, adding that, this year’s festival is filled with cultural and artistic activities.

Al-Youha also stressed the importance of providing a special culture for the children that fits each stage of their growth and helps them develop correctly, in order to achieve an integrated educational system for the future generations, noting that Kuwait has always kept up with the international interest in children’s culture and literature.

For his part, NCCAL’s Assistant Secretary General for the Culture Sector, Mohammad Al-Asousi stated to KUNA that, the festival has become a distinctive cultural landmark at the Council, especially since it carries an important strategy in the development of children’s conscience, through various cultural actions.

The opening ceremony was followed by the Khalifa Al-Qattan’s 10th Formative Art Workshop for children and youngsters, themed “Youngsters’ Creativities in Islamic Arts” and will last until Mar 26.

It is a drawing contest for children, which aims at encouraging them to improve and refine their artistic talents and creativities through formative drawing and painting.

The festival also saw the launch of an interactive gallery entitled “Faith Sprouts Train” held in cooperation with “Faith Sprouts” magazine of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Ministry.

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World Bank loans US$12 mln for urban development in Kyrgyz Republic

Bishkek, 25 March 2016, (Kabar National News Agency) – On March 18, 2016 the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a financing of US$ 12.0 million equivalent for the Urban Development Project in the Kyrgyz Republic. US$ 6.6 million of this financing is a concessional credit, and US$ 5.4 million is a grant.

The Urban Development Project aims at improving the quality of municipal services, energy efficiency, and seismic resilience of urban infrastructure in a number of towns of the country. Specifically, the project will improve water supply in Kerben and Sulukta, help switch Toktogul and Balykchy towns to more energy-efficient street lighting options, improve solid waste collection in almost all of these towns, as well as work on the seismic safety and energy efficiency of the existing social infrastructure.

“This project is part of the World Bank’s engagement strategy aimed at addressing poverty and vulnerability in urban areas through improved access and quality of municipal services. The project will both help improve municipal infrastructure, such as water supply, street lighting and roads, and build capacity for service delivery,” says Jean-Michel Happi, World Bank Country Manager in the Kyrgyz Republic. “Working closely with both central and local government authorities, the new Urban Development Project will provide an opportunity to extend the Bank’s support to the towns that are experiencing important development pressures such as population growth, have large gaps in service provision, and lack financial means to bridge these gaps.”

An important part of the project will be strengthening the Kyrgyz government’s capacity in urban planning as well as the capacity of the participating towns to deliver local services. At the national level, the project will promote the country’s urban policy reform agenda by supporting the State Agency for Architecture, Construction and Communal Services in the formulation of urban policy objectives and priorities to be then reflected in an urban policy development roadmap.

At the local level, the project will help participating towns in developing short- and medium-term performance improvement plans for utilities, procuring and installing automated customer registers and billing and collection tools to upgrade revenue management and generation systems, as well as in developing energy savings action plans.

“The Urban Development Project is expected to benefit 59,000 country residents in total, including women and children, especially, girls,” says Kremena Ionkova, the World Bank’s Senior Urban Development Specialist and the TTL of the Project. “The positive outcomes of the project will include reduced burden of fetching water for household use, secure and better managed solid waste collection services, higher level of comfort in schools especially during winter months, improved lighting of roads and public spaces – all areas of activity where women are disproportionally affected. Participating towns will benefit from reduced energy expenses as well as from renovated and more functional infrastructure.”

The project will be implemented in 2016-2020 by the Community Development and Investment Agency (ARIS) in close cooperation with the State Agency for Architecture, Construction and Communal Services and participating towns. The Kyrgyz government will contribute an equivalent of US$ 2.4 million to support the project implementation.

The World Bank’s overall mission in the Kyrgyz Republic is to reduce poverty, promote economic growth and shared prosperity. 45 percent of the World Bank’s assistance to the Kyrgyz Republic is in the form of grants. The other 55 percent is in highly concessional credits with no interest, and only a 0.75 percent service charge. Credits are repayable in 38 years, including a 6-year grace period, while grants require no repayment. The Bank’s financial assistance to the Kyrgyz Republic since 1992 amounts to over US$1,3 billion, in the form of grants and highly concessional credits.

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2nd International Comics festival held in Bejaia

BEJAIA, 26 March 2016, (Algeria Press Service) – About a hundred participants took part Saturday, in Bejaia, in the opening of the 2nd International Comics festival held this year, under the theme of encouraging reading.

Organized by the Association for Culture Development of Bejaia, the event, in addition to the themed expositions, includes a multitude of entertainment, combining comic and Cosplay competitions, master classes, training, and games.

The event, which included the participation of the 2007 Cosplay World Champion in Japon, Isabelle Jeudy, essentially focuses on cosplay, which is a discipline in full development on the national level. Cosplay is basically a recreational impersonation of fictional characters.

Japanese comics, top of the list, are represented under all forms of artistic expressions, including Mangas and their Chinese or Korean derivates. However, the French-Belgian creation, such as that of Tintin, continues to jealously maintain its enthusiasts.

It is also the case for national comic artists and press cartoonists whose success is increasing.

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Afghanistan, China To Sign Silk Road Accord

Kabul, 26 March 2016, (BNA) – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Salahuddin Rabbani met the Chinese Ambassador in his office here the other day, a MoFA statement said.

At the beginning, the Chinese Ambassador stated that all preparations have been taken for the next official visit of the Afghan Chief of Executive to Beijing, and hoped that the draft agreement on Silk Road project cooperation between the two countries shall be finalized and shared with the Chinese side for finalization and shall be signed during this official visit.

The Chinese Ambassador also presented the invitation for the upcoming Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) which is due at the end of April in Beijing, to the Afghan Foreign Minister and asked him to participate in this conference.

Later on, Salahuddin Rabbani assured that the draft agreement on Silk Road project cooperation is under finalization in collaboration with the relevant ministries, and the aforementioned agreement would soon be finalized and shared with China. Rabbani also assured of his participation in CICA which is to be held at high ranking level.

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Air Arabia launches flight from Sharjah to Sarajevo

SARAJEVO / SHARJAH, 24th March, 2016 (WAM)- Air Arabia has launched its inaugural flight from Sharjah to Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The delegation on the inaugural flight was led by the Chairman of Air Arabia, Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed Al Thani.

Flights to Sarajevo, the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, operate thrice weekly on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, departing Sharjah International Airport at 08.15 arriving at Sarajevo International Airport at 12:20. Return flights will leave Sarajevo at 13:10 before landing in Sharjah at 20:35. Starting on July 1, 2016, Air Arabia flights between Sharjah and Sarajevo will increase to six weekly flights.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed Al Thani, Chairman of Air Arabia, said, “The launch of a direct Air Arabia service will make a significant contribution to strengthening ties between the UAE and Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the three-day programme, we explored several opportunities to foster visitor and trade growth between the two countries.”

Adel Al Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia commented, “We are delighted to launch our non-stop services to Sarajevo, our first new route in 2016. The city is a popular tourist destination all year long and has seen increasing trade relations with the UAE in the past few years. We believe that this route will prove beneficial for both countries and increase connectivity between the Middle East and Europe.”

Sarajevo is a historic city influenced by the Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Its booming tourism sector provides a wide range of cultural attractions, shops, restaurants and cafes. The scenic landscape that surrounds the city is also a prime destination for ski trips and adventure holidays.

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Amu for further Bangla-Indo connectivity to achieve SDGs

DHAKA, 25 March 2016, (BSS) – Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu today underscored the need for strengthening regional integration and connectivity further more between Bangladesh and India in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“It is possible to achieve sustainable development goals by enhancing bilateral business and commerce between Bangladesh and India basing on the historical ties,” he said while addressing a discussion on “Mutual Cooperation for Sustainable Development” at Shishu Academy auditorium here.

Bangladesh-India Moitri Samity organized the discussion marking the 46th Independence Day of Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh-India ties initiated through the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. The support and cooperation of Indian government and its people during the war in favour of Bangladesh was an unprecedented example in the global history,” Amu said.

He said the two neighboring countries should make united efforts for the economic development to change the fortunes of the common people.

Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Dhaka Dr Adarsh Swaika also joined the discussion with Bangladesh-India Moitri Samity President Professor AK Azad Chowdhury in the chair.

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Azerbaijan Tourism Association, Russian Tyumen region sign agreement

Moscow, 26 March 2016, (Azerbaijan State News Agency) – Azerbaijan Tourism Association and Russia`s Tyumen region have signed a memorandum of cooperation for a three year term.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of Travel and Tourism international exhibition in Moscow.

Under the deal, the sides will conduct experience exchange, organize joint conferences, workshops and exhibitions, and implement joint projects.

Tyumen enjoys fruitful partnership with a number of Azerbaijani regions.

According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, trade between Azerbaijan and Tyumen made 5.2 million US dollars in 2015.

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Bishkek to host Fourth International Festival of Ballet Art

Bishkek, 25 March 2016, (Kabar) — Bishkek to host the Fourth International Festival of Ballet Art within the framework of the Year of History and Culture declared by the Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev. The State Directorate for preparation and holding of the Year of History and Culture of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

The event will be held at the Kyrgyz National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre from 15 to 21 May and is dedicated to the great Kyrgyz dancer, People’s Artist of the USSR Byubyusara Beishenalieva. This year, she would have turned 90 years. The participants of the festival will be the stars of the Russian ballet, the leading soloists of Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The program of the cultural event includes masterpieces of world ballet classics, the best and favorite works of foreign and Russian choreography. The grand opening of the festival will be held on May 15.

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Tunis to host Dialogue and Peace Values Symposium

Rabat, 25 March 2016, (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) – Upon invitation from the Tunisian minister of education, the preparatory committee for the international symposium on “dialogue and peace values promotion” will convene in Tunis on 30 through 31 March this year.

The focus will be on preparatory measures, academic and organizational, for this symposium scheduled for 18 through 20 April 2016 in Sousse, Republic of Tunisia, in association between the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the Arab League Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ALECSO) and the Tunisian education ministry.

The symposium will take place under the patronage of the head of the Tunisian government, with the presence of a constellation of thinkers and scholars committed to peace and intercultural and interfaith dialogue.Mr Mohamed Ghemari, Director of the Secretariat of ISESCO Executive Council, General Conference and Sector-specific Ministerial Conferences, will take part in this meeting.

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Rwandese wins Constantine International Cycling Circuit, Algeria

Constantine, 26 March 2016, (Algeria Press Service) – Rwandese Areruya Joseph on Saturday won the International Cycling Circuit of Constantine, ninth event of the Grand Tour of Algeria (GTAC 2016), ahead of Moroccan Essaid Abelouache from Emirates’ Nasr-Dubai club and Algerian Abderrahmane Mansouri.

The 21-year old Rwandese cyclist finished the race in 2:44.12, ahead of Moroccan Abelouache (2:45.37) and Algerian Abderrahmane Mansouri (2:45.54).

It was a big surprise foll specialists, who expected a winner from the Emirati club, which has dominated the GTAC.

On Sunday, the cyclists will head to Algiers for the International Rally of Algiers, the tenth and last event of GTAC2016, scheduled for Monday evening from 7 p.m..

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Decree establishing the Higher Institute for Languages at Tartous University

Damascus, 19 March 2016, (SANA) – President Bashar al-Assad issued on Saturday Decree no.98 for 2016 establishing the Higher Institute for Languages at Tartous University.

The aim of establishing the Institute is to contribute to promoting the standard of foreign language teaching in Syria, granting degrees in language specializations, holding language learning courses and doing language teaching studies and researches.

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Dubai announces World Future Sports Games in December 2017

DUBAI, 12 March 2016, (WAM) – Dubai today announced that it will organise World Future Sports Games in December 2017 as the first initiative of its kind in the world featuring innovation and futuristic technology based sports competitions.

The World Future Sports Games was unveiled as Dubai announced Future Sports as a new innovation driven economic sector supported by a new global entity, World Federation of Future Sports based in Dubai.

The first edition of the World Future Sports Games will be hosted in Dubai from December 28 to 30, 2017. The Games will be held over three days once every two years with the participation of teams from around the world in nine futuristic competitions that employ modern technology and artificial intelligence: driverless car racing, robotic soccer , robotic running competitions , manned drones racing , robotics swimming, robotic table tennis, robotic wrestling, drones races and cybathlon competition.

The future sports initiatives have been launched under the directives of Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and under the supervision of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation.

“Today we start a new phase in our march to the future through the launch of these unique initiatives that are built on the success of our global platforms, the UAE Drones for Good Award and UAE AI and Robotics Award for Good. Over the last two years, these platforms have attracted thousands of entries and hundreds of teams from around the world to strengthen the position of the UAE in the field of innovation at the global level,” Sheikh Hamdan said.

He pointed out that Dubai will activate future sports as a catalyst to drive innovation and research and development. “Innovation in sports is an important part of building the UAE innovation system and achieving our vision to enhance the advanced status of the UAE in this area at the international level.”

Sheikh Hamdan said the World Federation of Future Sports will work with specialised international federations to create an integrated global system to support the new Future Sports Sector by organising scientific and technological competitions in different parts of the world integrating research and technological development with sports. The initiative will contribute to attracting thousands of researchers and professionals from around the world to create economic value worth billions of dollars.

The World Federation of Future Sports will be headed by Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Managing Director of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation. Mattar Al Tayer, in his capacity as Vice Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, will be the Vice Chairman of the World Federation of Future Sports, while Saif Al Aleeli, CEO of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation, will be the Secretary General of the Federation.

The global initiative has been announced at the conclusion of the World Drone Prix in Dubai. On the occasion, Sheikh Hamdan called on the youth around the world to explore innovative ideas in all areas, and actively participate in this championship to create innovative applications that can help enhance human life.

Speaking on the occasion, Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi said traditional sports throughout history have contributed to social and economic development and attracted billions of dollars in investments. He said future sport is capable of achieving the same in the coming period and it will also contribute to promoting R&D in various technology-related sectors.

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Etihad Airways expands Istanbul services with new Sabiha Gokcen operation for 2016

ABU DHABI, 25 March 2016, (WAM) – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will expand its services to Istanbul during 2016 with a new four times weekly service to Sabiha Gokcen Airport.

The service will commence on 1st July 2016 and be served by an Airbus A320-200, with 16 seats in business and 120 in economy. The route will provide more travel options for guests travelling between the UAE and Istanbul as well as access to over thirty two-way connected markets and over 240 weekly connections around the world over the Abu Dhabi hub.

The airline already operates a daily service to Istanbul Ataturk Airport but market demand has created an opportunity to deploy additional capacity into Sabiha Gokcen. The airport is an increasingly popular gateway for visitors to Istanbul and the southern section of the region. It is well connected to other domestic cities on the Asian side of the city, including Yalova and Bursa.

James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer for Etihad Airways said: “Istanbul is a critically important market within our global network and we plan to serve both city airports to support our wider expansion plans. We have seen an increasing number of guests travelling between both the United Arab Emirates and Turkey and we want this trend to continue and grow during 2016.

“The timing of the service is excellent to attract local travelers between Abu Dhabi and Istanbul, whilst also enabling seamless connectivity with markets in the GCC, Indian Sub-Continent, Northern Asia, Southern Asia and Australia.

Istanbul is one of the world’s most popular tourism destinations thanks to its major attractions, cultural heritage and history. Located where Asia and Europe meet, visitors will gain access to attractions that include ancient mosques, palaces, monuments and traditional bazaars.

Etihad Airways originally launched services to Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey in June 2009. Today the airline operates a daily service on the Airbus A330, with full network connectivity.

Istanbul Ataturk is already such a popular destination within the Etihad Airways network, that it will host one of the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which are also being added to other cities such as Dusseldorf, Perth, Shanghai and Johannesburg during 2016.

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Exhibition of young Azerbaijani artists in Vienna

Vienna, 23 March 2016, (AZERTAC) – An exhibition of drawings by young Azerbaijani artists Dilshad Imranova and Narmin Abdullayeva has been launched at the Vienna International Centre (VIC).

Participants in the launch ceremony included Azerbaijani Ambassador to Austria Qalib Israfilov, director of Azerbaijani Contemporary Art Center Chingiz Khalilov, employee of the International Atomic Energy Agency Bakhtiyar Sirajov, as well as embassy staffers, Azerbaijani students studying in Vienna, Vienna residents and employees of VIC.

President of VIC Art Club Raymond Nader said the exhibition played a vital role in promoting Azerbaijani culture and arts, and improving the international image of Azerbaijani artists.

Ambassador Qalib Israfilov thanked VIC Art Club for assistance in organizing the exhibition. He highlighted Azerbaijan`s accomplishments in the fields of culture and arts

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Family Cinemas To Boost Afghan Film Industry

Kabul, 22 March 2016, (BNA)- The Kahkashan Family Cinema has been established in Kabul to provide opportunities for the families so that to see their desired movies in a proper and different environment.

Wali Talash head of the Afghan film directorate said that the civil and imposed war in Afghanistan had badly affected Cinema and film industry in the country, adding that based on efforts of the Afghan Film directorate, from among 36 cinemas, only Cinema Pamir and Ariana still remained active. “Since 2002, there have been 16 cinemas functioning in the country, where around 11 of which are in Kabul, including the five classic cinemas and six small 3D and 5D ones.

There are three 3D cinemas in Herat and three other in Mazar-e-Sharif” Talash said, adding that sans Cinema Ariana, Park, KhairKhana and Pamir which runs through government’s support, the remaining others depend to private sector. According to Afghan Film official, due to insecurity most of the families cannot go to Cinemas, and preferring to see their desired movies through local TV channels, Satellites or cable, which this has caused serious concerns to Afghan film and the Ministry of Information and Culture and would badly affect the art of going to Cinemas.

“To improve the art of going to Cinemas, we have hired female staffs for Pamir cinemas so that to pave the ground for families and to see their favorite movies”, Talash said, adding that fortunately another family cinema has been established with private funding by Abu Baker, one of the country’s businessmen to help families watch their movies far from any social disturbance.

Hinting to projection of the movies in the Kahkashan family cinema, Talash said that the cinema would import their movies and would be checked by the Afghan Film, adding that besides Kahkashan cinema, another businessman known as Ibrahim would also take the initiative to establish cinemas in Kabul and Balkh provinces.

Ahamd Sakhra the in charge of Kahkashan family cinema said that cinema is the 7th art and main goal behind establishing of such environment is to pave the way for families to have some fun far from the ongoing challenges in the country. “The Kahkashan family cinema is indeed a private one, which can afford 70 people at the time and would accommodate around 350 people in different seven timings. The tickets’ prices depend upon timings. From one o clock to three o clock is 300 Afghanis and the ticket price goes high during the night which reaches to 500 Afghanis”, Sakhra told The Kabul Times, adding that cartoons and educational movies would be also projected for children.

According to the cinema official, the movies are being projected with HD qualities, hoping that in the coming future different branches of Kahkashan to be established so that to ease the 7 million population of Kabul to see their desired movies.

Ahmad Shekib one of Kabul resident said that the art of going cinema has been badly affected during the civil war, and establishing of such family cinemas would help improve the industry, criticizing the cinema ticket pricing as according to him people facing economic challenges and such prices are not meeting people’s demand.

There are 117 cinema halls in the country, where 90 percent of which had been destroyed during the civil war. The establishing of such family cinemas would further boost the art of going cinema and pave the way for family to see their movies in a conformable environment.

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First Turkish-Iranian film on screen in May

Ankara, 24 March 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) – The first film to be jointly produced by Turkey and Iran, “Yarının Adı Başka” (Tomorrow’s Name is Different), is set to be released in May.

The film, which was mostly shot in Köprüler neighborhood in the eastern Turkish province of Van’s Edremit district, was written by Moharram Zaynalzadeh and directed by Mustafa Dalezy.

Iranian director Delazy said they had chosen Van because of its natural beauty.

“The shooting took two months and it was a big success. We shot the film with Zaynalzadeh, who also acts in it. The film is a sequel of (Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s classic 1987) film ‘The Cyclist,’ played by Zaynalzadeh. He is the lead actor in our film too. Most of the crew on set was Iranian and most actors were Turks,” Delazy said.

After six months of work, the film will be released in May, he added. Alongside Zaynalzadeh, the film also stars actors Volkan Keskin, Zelal Dere, Fırat Tanış, Metin Keçeci and Selahattin Taşdöğen.

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Photo Exhibition of Traditional Turkish Hammams in Paris

Paris, 24 March 2016, (Al-Ahram Weekly) – According to an article in Al-Ahram Weekly in January, Egypt’s traditional public bathhouses (hammams) may have “reached the point of no return,” with neglect, indifference and sometimes outright hostility all taking their toll on these important expressions of the country’s architectural and cultural heritage.

For author Rasha Sadek, most of the bathhouses, the oldest of which date to the Mameluke period, have long since fallen into disrepair or closed, and those that are left are threatened by further deterioration or even demolition. While there were apparently once as many as 1,350 public bathhouses in Cairo alone, today there are only 16. Of these, only a handful are still functioning, and their disappearance would mean the end of a continuous tradition that goes back to Roman times and that since the Umayyad caliphate has been central to Arab and Middle Eastern culture.

However, it is not only the bathhouses of Cairo that are faced with conservation challenges. Tunis, too, has seen its traditional bathhouses decimated in recent decades, as changing residential patterns and cultural practices have meant that many former customers have either moved away from the older parts of the city in which the majority of the bathhouses are located or have decided to break with traditional practices such as visiting them.

It is the plight of these remaining traditional bathhouses that is the subject of a new exhibition at the Institut des Cultures d’Islam in Paris, which brings together photographs of a dozen or so still-functioning Tunisian hammams and provides intriguing testimony about these threatened institutions. Some 19 Tunisian and foreign photographers have submitted photographs to the exhibition, entitled Regards posés, hammams de la médina de Tunis, many of them showing institutions that have clearly experienced better days, but are continuing to eke out a living nonetheless.

The exhibition, shown at the French Institute in Tunis before it transferred to Paris, has been organised by a Tunisian NGO, L’Mdina Wel Rabtine, made up of residents, local shop-owners and friends of the medina, or historic centre, of Tunis. This large district of narrow winding streets, shaded bazaars and shops, mosques, historic houses and residential areas is the Tunisian equivalent of Islamic Cairo.

Like the latter, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses many important historic buildings, among them the famous 9th-century Zeitouna Mosque, an important seat of Islamic learning. Like the latter, too, it is a living commercial and residential area, though one facing an array of conservation and other challenges.

According to the exhibition organisers, members of L’Mdina Wel Rabtine have identified the sites of some 50 historic hammams in the medina district, with 26 of these still functioning, seven closed, and 17 having completely disappeared since they were first surveyed in the early 19th century. In the absence of a plan to save them, the medina’s surviving 33 hammams are threatened with further deterioration along the lines of that facing those in Cairo.

If urgent action is not taken these important surviving witnesses to the city’s past may be threatened with disappearance. The present exhibition, among other things an exercise in consciousness-raising, thus has a polemical character. While it has proved possible to safeguard many of the medina’s grander historic buildings, often by adapting them for new and different purposes, the area’s less-grand heritage has sometimes been more difficult to conserve.

The hammams, like much of the residential or commercial building making up the district, were never intended to make any particular architectural statement, and, indeed, they are largely hidden from public view and their design is purely functional. However, it is this kind of second-tier heritage that largely gives the district its historical character. Destroying it or allowing it to fall into disrepair would mean destroying the context of the grander historic buildings.

The problem is that unlike them this comparatively inglorious heritage has historically had fewer defenders. Finding ways of refunctioning it for present purposes has also proved more difficult, since whereas grand historic buildings can usually be adapted for touristic or official purposes, this has been more difficult for more modest and possibly not necessarily always very well designed or built vernacular structures.

The hope is that grassroots and civil society interventions such as those led by L’Mdina Wel Rabtine and other associations can now suggest new ways forward. They might even provide ideas for the conservation of Cairo’s threatened historic hammams, which are facing many of the same sorts of problems as those identified in Tunis.

A GREAT LUXURY: In his Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, written in the 1830s, the 19th-century British orientalist Edward Lane described the importance of Cairo’s public bathhouses to the city’s social and cultural life.

“Bathing,” he explained, “is one of the greatest luxuries enjoyed by the people of Egypt,” adding that there were between 60 and 70 functioning public hammams in Cairo at the time. These had an important social, as well as hygienic, function, since people would often go to them to relax and to meet friends and neighbours.

The hammams were built according to a tried-and-tested architectural plan that led the bather through hot and cold rooms and out towards a relaxation area. “The building consists of several apartments, all of which are paved with marble, chiefly white, with an intermixture,

in some parts, of black marble, and small pieces of fine red tile, in the same manner as the durka’ah (tiled reception area) of a room in a private house. The inner apartments are covered with domes, which have a number of small, round, glazed apertures, for the admission of light,” Lane wrote.

“The bath is believed to be a favourite resort of ginn (or genii), and therefore when a person is about to enter it, he should offer up an ejaculatory prayer for protection against evil spirits, and should put his left foot first over the threshold.”

As Lane’s description attests, as well as having an instantly recognisable architectural style the baths also played an important role in the neighbourhoods in which they were located and were the source of many popular stories and traditions. Even in Lane’s time, however, wealthier people had private bathrooms and it must have been a brave bather indeed who submitted himself to the massages provided in the public bathhouses.

“The bather sits on the marble seat of the faskeeyeh (fountains), or lies upon a napkin on one of the leewans (benches), or by the edge of one of the tanks, to submit to the first operation, which is that of cracking his joints,” Lane wrote. “The operator cracks almost every joint of his frame: he wrings the body, first one way and then the other, to make several of the vertebrae crack: even the neck is made to crack twice, by wrenching the head round, each way, which produces a sensation rather alarming to an inexperienced person; and each ear is generally twisted round until it cracks: the limbs are wrested with apparent violence; but with such skill, that an untoward accident in this operation is never heard of.”

It is not recorded whether Lane himself underwent this operation.

The Tunis hammams are built on a very similar plan to the one described by Lane, and aspects of the historic design are clearly recognisable in the modern photographs. There is the same enfilade of connecting rooms, cold, hot and dry, and the same decorative tiles and intermittently glazed plaster domes.

Just as importantly, the Tunisian hammams seem to have provided the kind of experience once provided by those in Cairo. Writing in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, a landmark work and important repository of historical knowledge, the French orientalist A. Louis explains that originally the proprietors and attendants of Tunisian hammams came from among the Mzabis of southern Algeria, forming a guild in Tunis that included personnel such as the haraz al-mahras, haraz al-maksura and haraz al-badal, all of whom had distinct professional functions. The tayyab, or masseurs, were also on hand to provide the experience described by Lane, including scouring with a friction-glove made of goat hair.

Tunisian ladies, Louis writes, once “went to the baths with much ceremony and an escort of two or three servants. One carried clean linen wrapped in a silk scarf (sorra), another the silver or copper bucket (stul al-hammam) in which were placed traditional objects – a copper bowl with a long handle to ladle out water (tasa), the box of fuller’s earth (taffala), the coarse-toothed comb (khallas), the fine-toothed comb made of tortoise-shell (fallaya), the friction-glove and the small round ‘curry-comb’ (mahakka) made of threads of coarse wool or hempen tow mounted on a cork disc.”

“The women’s sessions provided the occasion, both in towns and villages, for the young bride to parade herself before her friends in the various items of her trousseau,” Louis writes. Like in Cairo and other cities throughout the Arab world, the traditional bathhouses were also considered to be “‘a silent doctor’ (al-tabib al-bakkush), able by its warm atmosphere, as well as the abundant perspiration it produces, to cure all ailments and particularly various forms of rheumatism.”

Photographs of the El-Marr, Daouletli, Sidi Sahbi, Kachahine, Saheb Ettabaa and other bathhouses in Tunis are included in the Institut des Cultures de l’Islam exhibition, with most of them looking down at heel and in need of extensive renovation. Other bathhouses included in the exhibition, among them the El-Metihra and Sidi Rassas baths, have now apparently been abandoned. While tourism can do something to preserve those that are left, as it can also do in Cairo, Jamel Oubechou, until recently the Institut’s president, sounds a warning note in his introduction to the exhibition.

“The association that put together the present exhibition intended it to be primarily an artistic one, and in this it has far exceeded its remit in the way the photographers have dealt with their subjects, drawing connections in their various aesthetic approaches,” he writes. “However, the exhibition is also a social one, and it is intended to sound the alert about the ways in which the Medina of Tunis is changing and the risk that tourism and the pressures of modernity could come together to turn it into just another folkloristic attraction, dehumanising it and obliterating its historic, human and social character in favour of a location for photo-shoots or items in fashion magazines.”

While the exhibition is intended primarily to draw attention to the hammams of Tunis and the cultural and architectural traditions of which they are a part, it may ironically also be drawing further attention to its host institution in Paris.

Opened to the public in 2013 after some years spent in a temporary building, the Institut des Cultures de l’Islam, or Institute of the Cultures of Islam, is a municipal institution, funded by the Paris Council, intended to spread knowledge of the cultures – Arab, African and Asian – of Islam. The Institut has swiftly established itself as playing an important role in furthering the public understanding of Islamic cultures from its premises in the city’s 18th arrondissement, notably through its language teaching and its programme of events and exhibitions.

It was therefore with some astonishment that observers greeted the news, announced earlier this year, that the Paris Council would not be financing the Institut’s expansion, part of the original plans, thereby forcing it to scale back its programmes and the important work it does both in Paris and the wider French environment. This decision, leading to the resignation in protest of the Institut’s director in February, cannot but appear as a short-sighted one, and not only because of the Paris Council’s otherwise well-attested habit of spending public money on cultural white elephants.

Unlike some of these latter projects, the Institut serves a genuine public need, and it has provided a valuable new venue in an area of Paris that historically has lacked cultural and other institutions. The present exhibition, modest in scale, but well-conceived and intriguing in subject matter, is an indication of the kind of valuable work the Institut could do more of were it to be better funded.

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Hepsiburada’s ‘Online Bazaar’ wooing Turkish shoppers

Istanbul, 24 March 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) — “Online Bazaar,” a new investment by Turkey’s Hepsiburada.com, a market leader in the country’s online retail sector, has attracted great interest from users since being launched in early 2016.

More than 2,000 stores have applied to be part of the application, according to Hanzade Doğan Boyner, the chairwoman of Hepsiburada.com.

“We started trials in 2015 but only fully started operations in 2016. Currently we have more than 2,000 stores registered and this figure is increasing steadily,” said Doğan Boyner.

At Online Bazaar, stores can sell whichever product they wish to by registering to and using the infrastructure of the Hepsiburada.com platform, while buyers can compare and buy a wide variety of products under the guarantee of Hepsiburada.com.

Doğan Boyner said a new payment system had been established with the new initiative, licensed by Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), as well as a new cargo company aiming to better serve consumers.

“Speed is very important in e-commerce. The product needs to be there at the requested date and time. So rather than relying on established cargo companies with old systems, we decided to make our own investment,” she said.

Doğan Boyner said both of these new systems, payment and cargo, were offered to all stores that register themselves at the Online Bazaar platform, in order to smooth the sales and delivery processes.

A $35 million logistics center has been set up in the northwestern district of Gebze as part of the process, and Doğan Boyner said more than 150,000 different products were stored there, with 1.2 million total items stored at the center.

“If you order a desk and a pen at the same time, the system in Gebze releases them at the same time,” she said.

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Malindo Air Celebrates 3rd Anniversary with safety campaign week

SEPANG, 22 March 2016,(Bernama) – Malindo Air celebrated its 3rd anniversary today with a safety campaign week which was officially launched by Secretary General of Ministry of Transport, Datuk Seri Hj Saripuddin Bin Hj Kassim at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Main terminal. Also present to witness the launching ceremony were Managing Director of Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad, Datuk Mohd Badlisham Ghazali and CEO of Malindo Air, Mr Chandran Rama Muthy.

Datuk Seri Hj Saripuddin said, “The Ministry of Transport of Malaysia is committed to bringing about change for the betterment of civil aviation in Malaysia. Making the workplace safe is a joint responsibility of both the employers and the workers. Thus training the employees is the key to achieving a successful safety programme and management must be committed to make investments in safety. While the government and its agencies provide the leadership, legislation and guidelines, it is the organisations who have to take the lead. As safety and health at work is everybody’s responsibility, it is very imperative for the employees to give their fullest support to their employer’s effort.”

Chief Executive Officer of Malindo Air, Chandran Rama Muthy said, “We are very serious in complying with the safety and security standards set by the authorities. We got full marks from the stringent Civil Aviation and Safety Authority of Australia (CASA) at a recent safety audit in Perth. In January this year, Malindo Air obtained the IATA Standard Safety Assessment (ISSA), a voluntary safety audit programme, which helps airline operators to conform to global safety standards and best practices. ISSA also introduces elements of a Safety Management System (SMS).”

Chandran also added that the Safety Campaign Week program that they are embarking on will contribute to increased emphasis on improving safety management, and aligning Malindo Air with global best practices, ensuring a convenient and safe travel experience for their travelers.

In conjunction with its 3rd anniversary, Malindo Air has introduced the following special offers for their customers:

Promo code Happy 3 campaign

It is running exclusively for 3 days only from 22 – 24 March 2016. Travel period is from 22 – 15 May 2015. Customer can enjoy 10% off from base fare, excluding taxes, fees and GST. Customer can get the promo code on our website, social media (Facebook and Instagram).

To redeem, the Promo code must be entered at the time of checking out during online booking, and will not be accepted after the transaction is completed.

Malindo Miles

Customer can enjoy double miles points when they purchase Malindo flight tickets from 22 March – 21 April 2016. Travel period is from 22 – 31 Oct 2016. Malindo Miles Frequent Flyer Membership Number MUST be inserted at point of booking. Double miles will be awarded within 14 days after your departure date.

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Future Banking in the technological advancement era

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 March 2016, (Bernama) – The Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) and IBFIM organised the Islamic Finance Conference 2016 with its theme ‘Future Banking in the Technological Advancement Era’ for professionals in the financial services industry as well as accountants, auditors and senior managers in various corporations including government link companies (GLCs).

Delivered by the most prominent speakers from Islamic finance fraternity, the conference discussed pertinent issues surrounding the newly introduced Investment Account Platform (IAP) and new ways on banking model and operations.

Dato’ Mohammad Faiz Azmi, President of MIA, said with the exponential growth in the Islamic Finance sector, we accountants must continuously enhance our knowledge and skills especially in the area of Islamic Finance.

“I firmly believe that our accountants can excel and add value in Islamic Finance. Our members are the enablers of many Islamic Finance activities, from the initiation, structuring, execution and the accounting to the audit tax and governance areas too. We have played a role in many of the Islamic Institutions and Financial Institutions successes since the set-up of Lembaga Tabung Haji in Malaysia in 1963 and have innovated service offerings such as Shariah Audit and tax solutions to help support the industry. We are very proud of our role in making Malaysia one of the more innovative Islamic Finance centres in the world,” he said.

While acknowledging the contribution made by the professional ancillary services towards the advancement of the Malaysian Islamic finance industry, Dato’ Dr. Adnan Alias, Chief Executive Officer of IBFIM reminded the Islamic banks to be steadfast and ready to embrace innovation backed by sophisticated technology.

Othman Abdullah, Managing Director, Silverlake Group said the Islamic banking industry must embrace financial technology given it can provide a number of innovative value-based approaches, helping financial institutions to fulfill their strategic objectives.

Attended by closed to 100 participants comprising accountants, auditors and senior managers from various local corporations, the conference concluded with a better understanding on the newly introduced Investment Account Platform (IAP) that could trigger widespread acceptance by corporates and small and medium enterprise towards Islamic banking and finance.

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Petronas Rewards Loyal Customer with Mercedes-Benz CLA200

KUALA LUMPUR, 23 March 2016, (Bernama) — Nine years of staying loyal to the same fuel brand has paid off for Annambah Nagappan, 46, a clerk from Klang, Selangor, with the biggest reward of her life from PETRONAS.

Annambah, who was announced as the grand prize winner in PETRONAS’ Pump n Win Campaign at a prize presentation ceremony held at PETRONAS Station Solaris today, was ecstatic when she received the keys to her brand new Mercedes-Benz CLA200.

“This is truly the best day of my life. Winning the grand prize is all the more meaningful. I have been using PETRONAS fuel for many years – I even know the employees at the station I frequent. Today, I feel like my loyalty has paid off,” said Annambah, adding that PETRONAS has been the fuel brand of choice for her family for many years. Annambah also received a fuel card worth RM1,000.

Mohd Ibrahimnuddin Mohd Yunus, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad (PDB) said the company strives to not only highly rewarding campaigns and promotions, but also focuses on providing a complete, value-added experience to customers every time they fuel up at PETRONAS.

“As two time consecutive Formula One champions, we deliver more than just winning fuels. We want our customers to have a winning experience on the road and we strive to provide the best offerings and services at our retail network nationwide to ensure true value for money experience every time,” added Ibrahimnuddin.

“I strongly urge all Malaysians to take the opportunity to fuel up with our PETRONAS Primax to enjoy the superior Formula One technology formulated via our partnership with the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team.”

Wan Habib Abdul Rahman Wan Zawawi, 53, from Kuching, Sarawak, said it was a happy moment for him and his family to be driving home with the first prize – a brand new custom-designed PETRONAS PROTON Iriz.

“I always leap at the chance to participate in campaigns and promotions organised by PETRONAS. This win is worth the effort and I am lucky to be able to share it with my family,” he said.

Retiree Lee Fok Key, 62, from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, said he was lucky to have three PETRONAS Stations near his home and enjoys the convenience they provide. He also won the first prize of a PETRONAS Proton Iriz.

“This is my first time winning something from PETRONAS and I’m very happy! I want to pass on this gift to my younger brother who is studying at Universiti Malaysia Sabah as it would help him to get around,” he said.

Wan Habib Abdul Rahman and Lee, who were among the nine first prize winners in the campaign, also received fuel cards worth RM1,000 each.

The campaign awarded more than 1,600 weekly winners over eight weeks with Piaggio Vespas, JAVA foldable bicycles and Mesra points to redeem for fuel and items at PETRONAS Stations and Kedai Mesra. The Piaggio Vespa winners also received fuel cards worth RM500 each.

The campaign by PDB is among the many on-going initiatives introduced by the company through its extensive retail network. PETRONAS’ winning fuels are available at more than 1,000 PETRONAS Stations nationwide. Together with over 760 Kedai Mesra, we offer one-stop convenient centres concept of fuelling, dining, shopping, banking, car spa and other services, all under one roof.

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Maldives President to visit Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA, 26 March 2016,(Bernama) — Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, President of the Republic of Maldives will undertake an Official Visit to Malaysia from 28-29 March 2016. The visit is at the invitation of YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The President would be accompanied by his wife, Madam Fathimah Ibrahim and senior officials from the President’s office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives. This would be President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s inaugural visit to Malaysia since assuming his post in November 2013.

The Official Welcoming Ceremony will be held in the morning of 29 March 2016 at the Perdana Square, Putrajaya. During the visit, YAB Prime Minister and the President will hold a bilateral meeting that would provide opportunities for both sides to review the existing relations and cooperation as well as identify potential areas for future collaboration.

Malaysia and Republic of Maldives enjoy warm and wide ranging substantive relations in the field of education, tourism and technical assistance which have brought about mutual benefits to both countries. This visit will provide a new impetus to the bilateral cooperation that would cement and elevate the Malaysia and Republic of Maldives relations to a greater height.

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Iran participates in Moscow Intourmarket-2016 exhibition

Moscow, 25 March 2016, (IRNA) – Russia’s International Travel Fair was inaugurated here on Friday in presence of Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei and participation of hundreds of Iranian and foreign companies.

The 11th International Travel Fair of Russia dubbed Intourmarket-2016 kicked off here on Friday and will last for 4 days in the venue of Crocus Expo international exhibition center.

Travel agencies from more than 35 countries, including Iran, as well as representatives from around 70 republics and provinces of Russia are displaying their tourism attractions in the fair.

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Iran prioritising tourism industry

Ardebil, 23 March 2016, (IRNA) – An advisor to Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization said that attraction of foreign tourists is a priority to develop the industry nationwide including in northwestern Aredebil province.

Behrouz Nedaei said here on Wednesday that considering lifting of Iran’s sanctions and the country’s additional security compared to the neighboring states, an increasing number of tourists visited Iran last year (ended March 19).

He also said that tourist attractions of the province such as hot-water springs, breath-taking landscapes, museums, and handicrafts need to be bolstered by construction of five-star hotels.

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Iranian President’s visit to boost Pak-Iran economic linkages

ISLAMABAD, 26 March 2016, (APP)- Minister for Finance, Senator Muhammad Ishaq Dar on Saturday said that the visit of Iranian President Dr Hassan Rouhani would set the momentum for Pak-Iran future cooperation. He was talking to Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli at a meeting here.

Both the leaders agreed to augment economic and trade cooperation between Pakistan and Iran while also focusing on efforts to promote investment activities. Minister Dar and Minister Fazli are the co-chairs of the Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC). While welcoming the Iranian Interior Minister, the Finance Minister said that he was pleased to receive him on the sidelines of the visit by Iranian President.

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Japan Provides $63 Million For Irrigation, Roads in Afghanistan

Kabul, 26 March 2016, (BNA) – The Government of Japan has contributed over USD 63.654 million to the government of Afghanistan to support improvement of irrigation systems and rural access in Afghanistan, an embassy statement said.

According to the statement, the funding, contributed through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank, will support the two on-going projects, which are essential to meet the country’s needs to improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan, and the recurrent cost expenditures of the Afghan government.

According to statement, Japan has allocated USD 15,000,000 for Irrigation Restoration and Development Project (IRDP). The assistance from Japan is to co-finance IRDP project to improve the irrigation systems and the broader water resource management in Afghanistan as well as people’s access to services. The contribution will help increase agriculture productivity in the project areas.

Japan has allocated USD 15,000,000 to Afghanistan Rural Access Project (ARAP). The funding from Japan is also to co-finance ARAP project, which will help rural communities to benefit from all-season road access to basic services and facilities through rehabilitation and maintenance of rural roads and infrastructure.

Based on the statement, the country has also allocated USD 33,654,545 as the Recurrent Cost Window. Over USD 33 million will be added to the operating budget of the Government of Afghanistan through the Recurrent Cost Window of ARTF, facilitating continuation of the government’s service delivery to the Afghan people.

Japan has been assisting Afghanistan’s nation-building efforts in various fields, ranging from security to economic and social development sectors including agriculture, rural development, infrastructure and human capacity development. The cumulative Japanese assistance to Afghanistan since 2001 amounts to USD 6.131 billion.

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Malaysia’s International Reserves Rise to $96.1 Billion

24 March 2016, (MENAFN – Qatar News Agency)- Malaysia’s international reserves totaled 96.1 billion at March 15, slightly higher from two weeks earlier, the central bank said in a statement Tuesday.

The central bank didn’t give a reason for the rise in reserves from 95.6 billion at February 29. The Bank said that the reserves position was sufficient to finance 8.4 months of retained imports and was 1.2 times the short-term external debt, according to (Bernama) news agency.

The main components of the international reserves were foreign currency (US88.3 billion); International Monetary Fund reserves position (US0.8 billion); Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (US1.1 billion); gold (US1.2 billion); and, other reservs (US4.7 billion). Its total assets stood at RM439.156 billion.

The central bank’s assets included the Malaysian government papers (RM2.05 billion); deposits with financial institutions (RM2.84 billion); loans and advances (RM7.16 billion); land and buildings (RM2.11 billion); and other assets (RM12.73 billion).

Its liabilities comprised paid-up capital (RM100 million); reserves (RM128.03 billion); currency in circulation (RM88.6 billion); deposits by financial institutions (RM162.08 billion); Federal Government deposits (RM11.72 billion); other deposits (RM554.86 million); the central bank papers (RM21.26 billion); allocation of SDRs (RM8.01 billion); and other liabilities (RM18.81 billion).

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Brunei plans to train locals as public transport drivers

26 March 2016, (Borneo Bulletin Online) – The Ministry of Communications has called upon Bruneians to help the development of the public transport system, saying that plenty of opportunities have been identified for this.

In an interview, the Minister of Communications, Dato Paduka Awang Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat explained that the ministry – the country’s regulator for matters related to all forms of civilian and public transportation -intends to introduce local bus drivers as part of initiatives in improving the country’s transportation network.

“We are calling on Bruneians to take up this challenge,” the minister said, adding that, “We know it will be trying but the transportation sector does need support by whatever means necessary including the participation of local drivers.”

It was also shared that the ministry is planning to set up driving schools to specifically train bus as well as truck drivers for promoting localisation.

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More Turkish women consider writing code as career

26 March 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) – Just one event among many that shattered her dream of becoming a code writer despite the fact that she had trained for precisely that line of work since 2003. Having studied coding in her high school years, she graduated from the Computer Technologies and Coding Department in 2009 at the Istanbul Trade University. She even took private courses on coding and database.

To no effect.

Elmas remains sour to have been judged on her gender rather than her skills.

“I was pretty much annoyed by this stance. That’s why I decided to change my career path despite the fact that I have trained as a coder and loved this job,” says Elmas, 27, who now works on search engine optimization for websites.

Elmas’s experience captures challenges waiting or affecting female coders around the globe and also in Turkey.

Made of words, numbers, brackets – incomprehensible to a layman – code directs programs to accomplish set tasks.

Behind any shiny graphic interface, complex computer game, smartphone app, there is coding.

The computer world, and specifically coding, has long been seen as male-dominated environment. Figures appear to support this.

A 2013 survey indicated that 11.2 percent of software developers worldwide were women.

Moreover, the U.S. research suggested that women faced double standards even though they turned out to generally be better at coding than men.

The research on GitHub – one of the largest open-source software communities in the world – showed that 78.6 percent of proposed code changes made by women were accepted compared with 74.6 percent of those made by men.

When these women revealed their identity, the rate dropped to 62.5 percent. The researchers concluded that bias against female code writers “exists.”

In Turkey, the percentage of female code writers surpasses 20 percent, according to Nuri Ödemiş, deputy chairman of the Istanbul-based IT and Software Authors Association, or BİYESAM.

At least 160,000 coders have been employed by the Turkey software sector, Doğan Ufuk Güneş, chairman of Istanbul-based Software Industrialists Association, or YASAD, told Anadolu Agency.

At the national level, there has been no academic study or survey on whether or how women programmers face prejudice. But, female code writers and prominent figures of the industry speak of a rampant bias against women.

“I can say that there has been discrimination against women within the sector,” Ödemiş told Anadolu Agency.

He believes reason behind this bias was a reflection of problems within society.

Özge Kasap, a 28-year-old programmer, conceded that irrespective of any working environment, being a woman is a challenge.

“During a job interview, an employer questions a woman’s plans to marry or to have a child. I did not hear such questions being asked to male candidates,” Kasap noted.

Elmas stated that her story presented prejudice against women programmers during hiring process.

Another problem facing women in coding stems from a tendency for male workers to stick together.

Özdemiş said that male workers tended to isolate the – most often than not, lone – female worker.

Kasap added that she heard of other female coders switching departments due to pressure from male workers or because their ideas were not well considered.

“If a person is good coder, gender should not make a difference,” Kasap said.

The Software Industrialists Association’s chairman Güney argued however that the software sector was a most convenient place for female workers.

“Our work is free from time and place. You don’t have to be here to do the job. A woman coder can work from home even if she gets pregnant,” he said.

Despite existing difficulties, Elmas and Kasap were confident that a bright future awaited tech-savvy women.

Elmas said self-confident women solidarity among women coders was beginning to flourish.

PhD candidate Kasap said she observed that the number of girls enrolled in the coding department had surpassed the number of male students.

“When I enrolled into university (in 2009), we were two girls at the Coding Engineering Department (at Istanbul-based Bahçeşehir University),” Kasap said.

On March 21, the Ministry of Education revealed that it had set up a commission to revise coding class to teach programming at an early age. Coding will be taught at middle school, according to senior officials of the ministry.

In recent years, Turkish girls have outperformed boys at the central university placement exams.

Nationwide results released in March 2015 showed that, for example, 72 percent of girls scored the 180 points needed to apply for the second round of Turkey’s national university entrance exam.

Only 66 percent of boys made the grade, according to the government-run Measurement, Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM).

Not only are girls outscoring boys in tests, they are also enrolling into universities in higher numbers.

“In the future, I believe there will be successful female coders whose names will be written in gold letters,” Kasap said.

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Azerbaijan Museum of Modern Art to host “Spotted Tembel hat” exhibition

Baku, 24 March 2016,(AZERTAC) – The “Spotted Tembel hat” exhibition, which will take place in the Museum of Modern Art from 31st of March until 17th of April, is a collaborative project of Azerbaijani artist Naila Sultan and Israeli ceramic artist Roi Maayan.

The mythical materials of the “Israeli” – the Tembel hat (a bowl shaped hat, made of cloth) and the beach paddles (a wooden paddles used in a beach game in which the players hit a small ball back and forth), are in fact anachronistic representations of “Israeliness”. Those representations of the “fair Israeli” were indeed part of an active mechanism aimed at creating images defining “the new Jew”, one who is detached from the diaspora, sweet on the inside and prickly on the outside.

Naila Sultan is a member of the Union of Painters of Azerbaijan. She took part in several ceramic symposiums in different countries, as well as in Israel.

Roi Maayan, a leading Israeli potter, is often invited all around the world to collaborate with local artists. In each of these journeys the artist wishes to create a material and technological dialogue between the local ceramic tradition of his hosts and his own in order to create a hybrid body of work.

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Muslim travellers favour UAE

MENAFN, 24 March 2016, (Khaleej Times) – The UAE has ranked the second-most popular destination in the global Muslim travel market revealed MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2016.Malaysia retained the top position by securing a score of 81.9 and the UAE moved up one spot to take the second position with an Index score of 74.7.

There was an estimated 117 million Muslim visitors globally representing close to 10 per cent of the entire travel market. This is forecasted to grow to 168 million visitors by 2020 equal to 11 per cent of the market segment with a market value projected to exceed 200 billion.Key drivers of the Muslim travel market growth were population growth a growing middle class younger population increasing access to travel information and increasing availability of Muslim-friendly travel services and facilities.

Better Internet access coupled with a high penetration of smartphones have made travel planning easier in general. Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the top countries when it comes to smartphone penetration. A younger more technology-savvy population also means more Muslims are active on social media and use it to get information.

Asia and Europe were also revealed as the two leading regions in the world for attracting Muslim visitors – accounting for 87 per cent of the entire market.

The 130 destinations – representing more than 95 per cent of Muslim visitor arrivals in 2015 – ranked in the report covered 48 OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) destinations and 82 non-OIC destinations.

“Many already successful destinations around the world are looking to diversify their visitor base to maintain tourist growth rates in today’s increasingly competitive travel market. The UAE remains committed to intensifying its tourism offerings across all segments. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the country is making great strides in the global Muslim travel market as well as rising to second place..” Eyad Al Kourdi senior vice-president and general manager UAE MasterCard said in a statement.

Fazal Bahardeen CEO of CrescentRating & HalalTrip said: “One of the biggest trends we are seeing is non-OIC destinations making a concerted effort to attract the Muslim tourist and they now represent over 63 per cent of the destinations covered in the GMTI. Japan and Philippines have taken some major steps over the last few months to diversify their visitor arrivals and boost their economy in the process.”

Indonesia climbed two places to take the fourth spot while Bahrain became the biggest mover jumping four spots to take the 10th position.

Singapore also retained its pole position for the non-OIC destinations with Thailand the UK South Africa and Hong Kong making up the top five.

The overall average GMTI score for 130 destinations currently stands at 43.7. From a regional perspective Asia Pacific destinations lead with an average GMTI score of 56.5.

Each criterion was then weighted to make up the overall index score. This year two new criteria – air connectivity and visa restrictions – were added to further enhance the Index.

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Traditional Medicines Popular Among Bruneians Despite Free Healthcare

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, 26 March 2016, (NNN-Xinhua) — There is a high prevalence of traditional medicines used in Brunei despite the free healthcare system provided in the sultanate, local media quoted a scientific study as saying Saturday.

According to Dr. Dk Nurolaini, deputy dean of Universiti Brunei Darussalam, over 62 percent of the Bruneians perceive traditional medicines to be a safe form of medication in her study.

She conducted the questionnaire based study to find out Bruneian’s perception, attitude, knowledge and practices on the use of traditional medicines.

The study saw a total of 2,400 randomly administered patients attending health centers and hospitals across the country, aged between 16 to 85 years.

Out of the total respondents, over 62 percent of the participants perceived traditional medicines to be a safe form of medication as it is made up of natural sources and had been used for generations.

More than 400 participants agreed that traditional medicines can be easily found at specialized shops and supermarkets in the sultanate.

Meanwhile, 59 percent or 1,396 Bruneians were found to have used some form of traditional medicines throughout their life, with a majority of their users from the older age group (56 years and above).

According to the World Health Organisation, traditional medicine is the diverse health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal or mineral based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques to maintain well-being, as well as to treat, diagnose or prevent illness.

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Companies’ law to cultivate corporate culture, mobilize investments: Dar

ISLAMABAD, 26 March 2016, (Associated Press of Pakistan) – Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar Saturday said the new companies’ law was important to cultivate corporate culture and mobilize investments.

Besides encouraging investors and raising foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows, it would also have a positive impact on the country’s economy, he said while addressing seminar on the draft Companies Bill, 2016, organized by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) here. The minister suggested that more time should be served on consultation of draft Companies’ Bill 2016 to come up with a modern and comprehensive and balanced legislation.

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Over 7,000 tourists enter Iran through Astara border point

Astara, 26 March 2016, (IRNA) – Director of Astara border terminal Jalal Diansaei said 7,143 foreign tourists have entered Iran from March 15 to 25 through this border point.

He told IRNA on Saturday that the tourists are mainly from Central Asian countries, especially Azerbaijan Republic.

The official added that in the same period 7,735 foreign tourists left Iran through this border point. The port city of Astara located in northwestern part of Gilan province is the third major border crossing of Iran with around 800,000 foreign and domestic passengers shuttling between the two sides of the border annually.

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Pakistan, Iran vow to remove barriers, boost trade

ISLAMABAD, 26 Mar 2016, (APP)- Pakistan and Iran vowed on Saturday to remove non tariff barriers to take bilateral trade volume up to $5 billion from existing $270 million in next five years. Addressing Pakistan Iran Business Forum here, Minister for Commerce, Engineer Khurram Dastgir Khan said under an MoU of Five Year Strategic Trade Cooperation Plan, signed on previous day, the two countries expressed their resolve to start a fresh era of bilateral trade and economic relations.

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Pakistan’s energy security is Iran’s responsibility: Rouhani

ISLAMABAD, 26 March 2016, (APP) – President of Islamic Republic of Iran Dr Hassan Rouhani Saturday assured the Government of Pakistan that provision of its energy security was Iran’s responsibility besides reiterating bilateral commitment to take volume of trade to US$ 5 billion within next five years. “In the presence of distinguished Prime Minister of Pakistan, the officials, the authorities, tradesmen, entrepreneurs and delegates, I announce that Iran is responsible for provision of Pakistan’s energy security. This is our commitment in the area of electricity.

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Syria plans to restore Palmyra Castle to its former glory

Palmyra, 26 March 2016, (SANA) – The archaeological Palmyra Castle was found to have sustained massive damage deliberately inflicted by ISIS terrorists before they have fled deep into Tadmur (Palmyra) city.

While it can only be seen from the outside, the castle seems to have had the stairway leading through its entrance blown up and completely demolished, along with many other parts of the castle’s structure.

It has so far been difficult to reach inside the castle due to the demolition, yet SANA camera was able to take close up shots of the castle from over the hill on which it is located. The damage done to the structure was evident.

SANA reporter however affirmed that a group of army soldiers found a way and managed to enter the castle and made sure its inside has been cleared of explosives.

The castle, which is located in the western part of Palmyra city, came under full control of the army only yesterday afternoon following intensive pinpoint operations to spare the castle any further damage.

The military operation in the area has been in full swing over the past days with the aim to restore security to the city and the archeological site, which ISIS took over last May.

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Qatar, Burkina Faso sign cooperation agreement

Doha, 23 Mar 2016, (IINA) – Qatar and Burkina Faso on Tuesday signed an air services agreement to open skies between the two countries to operate any number of passenger and cargo flights with full traffic rights, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

The agreement was signed by Qatar’s Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti and Burkinabe Minister of Transportation, Urban Mobility & Road Security Souleymane Soulama.

The two ministers also witnessed signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) allowing the national carriers of both countries to operate fifth-freedom cargo flights to any intermediate points or any points beyond the two countries to other countries.

The MoU was signed by Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority Abdullah Nasser Turki Al Subaie and Director General of the National Agency for Civil Aviation of Burkina Faso Abel Sawadogo.

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Kuwaiti Prof wins award for documenting Muslim geography heritage

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 24 Mar 2016, (NNN-SPA) – Saudi King, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, granted the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP), to President of the Kuwaiti Studies and Research Centre, Professor Abdullah Yusuf Al-Ghunaim, in recognition of his efforts to document Muslim geography heritage.

This came during his patronage of the delivering ceremony of the prize of 2016, in Riyadh today. The ceremony was attended by dignitaries, intellectuals, academicians, scientists and literati from across the globe.

Al-Ghunaim was awarded the prize in recognition of his geographical books: “The Pearls” and “The Arabic Geographic Heritage” in addition to his unprecedented record of earthquakes in his book: “Arabic Register of Earthquakes.”

Al-Ghunaim is the second Kuwaiti scholar to win the top-level award, after Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sumait, who won it in 1996, in recognition of his great efforts in serving Islam worldwide.

Some others prizes in different categories went to some figures like, Imam and Preacher of the Grand Mosque, Saleh bin Abdullah bin Humain, Mohammad Abdul-Motaleb, an Egyptian professor, and Mohammad Moftah, a Moroccan professor.

Launched for the first time in 1979, the KFIP recognises outstanding works of individuals and institutions, in five major categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language and Literature, Medicine, and Science.

Its aim is to encourage excellence and contribution of all aspects of civilisation, enrich human knowledge and develop mankind.

Each of the five prize categories comprised of: A certificate written in Diwani calligraphy, enclosed in a binder of the finest leather, inscribed with the winner’s name and a summary of his/her work, which qualified him/her for the prize, a 24 carat gold medal weighing 200 grammes, and a check of SAR 750,000 (an equivalent to USD 200,000), distributed equally between the winners, if there are more than one in each category.

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Sharjah Book Authority Launches World’s First Virtual Reality Book

SHARJAH, 26 March, 2016 (WAM) – Children in the UAE are set to enter a fun new age of reading with the launch of the world’s first virtual reality book. The service will be available in both Arabic and English, by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) as part of its campaign to promote the eighth edition of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF), which will take place from April 20-30, 2016 at Expo Centre Sharjah.

SBA chose the title ‘Baba Zayed’ – a publication from Kalimat publishing house – as the first book to be used by virtual reality technology. The book enables children to learn a brief biography about the founder of the Union, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is renowned as being not just a political leader, but a forward-thinking visionary. The book was specifically selected by SBA to enhance the national identity among children in the UAE.

Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, said; “At Sharjah Book Authority we strive to make the best use of technology to enhance culture and knowledge, especially in its application to children’s literature. With the launch of the digital publication Baba Zayed, we are seeking to utilise the latest development in expanding knowledge. This technology has been available in world markets for some time, but its uses up until now have been limited to digital games and films. This book will be the first of its kind in the world that uses the 3D VR Glasses to enable children to read and at the same time enjoy 360-degree interaction with the story.”

The launch of the virtual reality Baba Zayed, which encourages children to engage with its events and be influenced by its characters directly, aims to attract children and encourage them to read by taking advantage of their passion for technology and its latest developments. The new offering is in line with SBA’s literary initiatives that involve a range of inspiring and innovative ideas to increase children’s interaction with books and instill a love of reading, as well as help facilitate SCRF 2016 as an interactive platform that combines learning, fun and activity.

SBA began its promotional campaign for the virtual reality book at KidZania in Dubai Mall through interactive platforms that included VR headsets that downloaded the electronic interactive version of Baba Zayed in Arabic and English.

Al Ameri added; “The use of digital virtual technology in books is one of the creative ideas that exemplifies the vision of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, for the importance of nurturing children’s minds with knowledge and intellect. We want children to discover the pleasure of reading and aspire to make use of all means that help achieve this target. In doing so, we hope to contribute to creating an educated generation capable of building itself and serving the nation.”

Al Ameri noted that the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan succeeded in achieving a qualitative leap in the history of the UAE. “Inspired by his great personality, we decided to start our new project by converting a set of books into virtual reality technology, starting with the Baba Zayed title. This is because we believe in the need for children to learn about Sheikh Zayed, his inspiring traits, his visionary qualities and his passion for knowledge and reading. Through the new virtual reality book, we aim to strengthen national identity among children in the UAE,” he added.

The 11-day SCRF will bring together a significant number of top Arab and international children’s authors who will participate in a series of sessions to discuss the best ways to help stimulate young people to read. Publishers participating in the festival will be displaying an array of new titles for the children’s market.

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Sikka Art Fair 2016 Explores Variation Of Art Forms By GCC-based Artists

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, 25 March 2016, (NNN-WAM) – The SIKKA Art Fair, a key initiative in the Dubai Art Season, which concluded yesterday, provided emerging and established artists with a platform to display their work and avail otherwise unparalleled opportunities for growth.

The event played a critical role in celebrating regional and international pieces. This year’s edition was held from Mar 13 to 24.

Participating for the first time in SIKKA Art Fair, the art collective Satwa3000 concept took the iconic Cafeteria symbol, found in many areas around Dubai and translated it into an art form.

Satwa3000 provided a new concept for Cafeteria, bringing together the corner store and cafeteria. Satwa3000 was a joint work of Yannick Poffet, Michael Fessler and Maxme Carmatte, in an interdisciplinary collection, bringing different skills together.

In addition, Cinema Akil was a new addition to 2016 SIKKA Art Fair’s busy schedule.

The short open air screenings included six contemporary short narrative films from the Gulf, as well as, a line-up of critically acclaimed feature films, dealing with the different aspects of the past in exceptional settings.

The screenings took place in the backyard of the Al Fahidi neighbourhood, surrounded by the rich history and the special ambiance of the exhibits of the fair.

Butheina Kazim, co-founder of Cinema Akil, said that, the programme of the cinema screenings provided an experimental approach by showcasing, for the first time, on the big screen, a selection of web-isodes and art videos from the Gulf, speaking about the culture and the traditions in various cities of the peninsula, to spread the love of film and show alternative cinema settings.

SIKKA Art Fair aims to empower youngsters with positive energy and support their creative projects through dedicated platforms for all artistic disciplines.

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“Green paradise” in the heart of Tunisia’s desert

Tunis, 18 March 2016, (African Manager) – The Sahara Desert is probably the last place where we seek to grow plants and vegetables.

But this is the dream attached to an ambitious project to make the largest sand desert in the world bloom again.

In its latest move, the Sahara Forest Project (SFP) will build a “farm” of $ 30 million dollars over 10 hectares in Tunisia in order to diversify the environment and create jobs, food and drinking water in the region.

Today, over 800 million worldwide live in “food insecurity.” This means they do not know from where their next meal will come, and this number is expected to increase as the world population grows and our planet is warming.

Water scarcity already affects a large proportion of the world population, which is another challenge that SFP hopes to meet.

We try to achieve a triple bottom line,” Joakim Hauge CEO of the Norwegian company told CNN. “Something that makes financial sense, but also delivers social and environmental benefits.”

The desert sun will be harnessed for solar power to heat and electrify the site. Seawater will be piped in to cool greenhouses and allow year-round cultivation of crops.

Seawater will also be desalinated to extract both salt and fresh water, and the humidity of the greenhouses will be used to spur the growth of new plant life outside the facility, in the hope of regenerating a wider ecosystem.

The methods may seem far-fetched, but a successful pilot of the model in Qatar produced vegetables at a comparable rate to European farms over three crops a year, while plants multiplied rapidly around it. A scaled up facility is under construction in Jordan.

In Tunisia, it is hoped that local people will be employed as farmers and technicians. The project has the support of the Tunisian government, which seeks to mitigate the effects of global warming, including drought.

While the SFP is expanding, Prof. Heribert Hirt, head of the Center for Desert Agriculture at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia said the problems are not dissimilar to doing agriculture on Mars.”

“(Among) the biggest problems in the entire region of Northern Africa and the Arab countries are the dust and sand storms that constantly cover up solar panels and get into all machinery that is exposed,” he said.

However, he believes that the SFP is “worth the effort and will teach experts how to transform these vast regions of unused land back into agriculture.”

The SFP intend to scale up their model to have a greater impact. Looking beyond its work in Tunisia and Jordan, the group has embryonic plans for a 4000-hectare mega-facility that would employ 6,000 people and deliver 170,000 tons of produce each year.

“The project of the Sahara Forest allows the cultivation of plants, but also to give hope and opportunity to people,” says its website.

“(It) can be implemented successfully in some parts of hottest deserts of the planet.”

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440 Russian travel agents visit Djerba

Tunis, 23 March 2016, (African Manager) – 440 Russian travel agents arrived on Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Djerba for a 5-day “go and see visit” to finalize a contract with thirty hotels in the Djerba-Zarzis region.

This promotional action was organized by Tunisia’s National Tourist Office (TNTO), the Hotel Trade Federation and Russian tour operator PEGASE.

According to regional delegate of tourism in Medenine, Ahmed Kalboussi, security conditions in Djerba are provided through heavy security deployment and stringent arrangements by hoteliers.

It is said, moreover, that two direct flights Moscow / Djerba / Moscow each week will be put in place.

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Turkey imports natural gas from US for first time

Ankara, 25 March 2016, (Hurriyet) – Turkey imported 83 million cubic meters of liquefied natural gas from the United States in January after the latter became an LNG exporter with its shale gas resources, state-run Anadolu Agency reported based on information from the Turkish Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK).

According to the report, the import, which constituted 7.15 percent of the total LNG import of around 1 billion cubic meters in January and 1.54 percent of the total natural gas import of around 5 billion cubic meters in January, was the first LNG import from the U.S., as the consumption and import of natural gas reached record levels during the month due to weather conditions.

Turkey’s first LNG import from the U.S., which started exporting LNG to international markets in 2016 thanks to its shale gas resources, was conducted through the spot market.

Qatar also exported 437 million cubic meters of LNG to Turkey via the spot market in January, while Algeria and Nigeria provided Turkey with 468 million and 171 million cubic meters, respectively, in the same month.

According to the EPDK figures, Turkey imported almost 400 million cubic meters more natural gas in January year on year, with 240 million cubic meters of the import consisting of LNG.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s figures, the U.S.’s total natural gas production rose to 727 billion cubic meters in 2014 from 546 million cubic meters in 2007. Between the same years, shale gas production in the U.S. reached 380 billion from 36 billion cubic meters, as the country provided almost 48 percent of its natural gas from shale gas in 2014.

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Turkish tourism and economy struggle due to bombings, Russia chill

Ankara, 24 March 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) – Suicide bombings in Istanbul, a row with the Kremlin and hard times for the Russian middle class – all these factors spell trouble for Turkey’s tourist industry and its wider economy.

Nowhere is the mood gloomier than among shopkeepers in Istanbul, Turkey’s cultural gem and scene last weekend of the second suicide attack on tourists in the city this year.

“There’s zero business now,” said one clerk at a clothing store near the medieval Galata Tower, a top destination for foreign visitors.

“Everyone is nervous,” chimed in his friend a few hours after the attack – blamed by the government on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – which killed three Israelis and an Iranian in Istanbul’s most popular shopping district.

Their feeling that business, already bad, can only get worse is understandable. In January, an Islamist militant blew himself up near the Blue Mosque, killing 12 people from Germany – which traditionally accounts for the largest number of visitors to Turkey.

Economists forecast that tourism revenue will tumble by a quarter this year, costing the country around $8 billion.

The risk is that better off tourists such as Germans will choose to take their holidays elsewhere while Russians, Turkish tourism’s number two market, will be forced to stay away due to an economic crisis at home and political tensions following Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane in November.

Overall visitor numbers to Turkey fell a relatively modest 1.6 percent last year, according to Tourism Ministry data.

But the signs are not good before the May to October peak season, when Turkey usually earns around 70 percent of its tourism revenues.

Unfortunately for Turkey, tourists from the richest countries, who tend to be the biggest spenders, are also the most easily spooked by security worries.

“Security concerns have the biggest impact on high-income tourist groups, who are most likely to change their plans to visit,” said Mehmet Besimoğlu, an economist at Oyak Investment.

German travel group TUI has reported a 40 percent drop in summer bookings for holidays in Turkey and the picture for Britain, the number three market, is uncertain.

British holiday company Thomas Cook said more of its customers were opting to holiday in Spain, as well as the United States and Cuba. Fewer wanted to go to Turkey, it added.

Altogether Turkey has suffered four suicide bombings this year, bringing the death toll to more than 80. The other two, claimed by an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), struck the capital, Ankara, which relatively few tourists visit.

ISIL has also been blamed for bomb attacks last year that killed more than 130 people.

While these were in Ankara and near the Syrian border, the effect on tourism – which accounts for about 4.5 percent of the $800 billion economy and provides more than one million jobs – has already been felt.

Last year, for instance, the number of Italians visiting Turkey decreased by 27 percent while Japanese dropped off by nearly 40 percent.

Now, economists say, the drop-off in tourism is so pronounced it could have a broad economic impact. They estimate an $8 billion fall in revenue would knock more than half a percentage point off economic growth, which the government is targeting at 4.5 percent for this year.

With tourism accounting for more than half of Turkey’s current account earnings last year, this would also spell trouble for the central bank’s hopes that the deficit can be brought down from a yawning 4.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2015.

Some economists believe tourism could prove an even bigger drag on the economy. “If terrorist attacks continue and things get worse, the impact could be as high as one percentage point being deducted from economic growth,” said Muammer Komürcüoğlu, economist at Is Invest.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has announced a plan to offer emergency support to the tourism sector, including a 255 million lira ($87 million) grant and a facility to allow firms to restructure their debt.

Turkey is no longer able to rely on Russians seeking sunshine and southern beaches as a back-up due to the combined effects of economics and politics.

Middle class Russians have been hit hard by an economic crisis caused by the weak price of oil, the country’s main export earner, and Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis.

One result has been a dive in the Russian currency which has made foreign holidays, including in Turkey, much more expensive. Two years ago, Russians needed just over 15 rubles to buy a Turkish lira; now they need almost 24.

On top of that has come the chill in relations between Ankara and Moscow. President Vladimir Putin signed a series of punitive economic sanctions against Turkey, including a ban on charter flights, in retaliation for its shooting down of the Russian warplane near the border with Syria.

The biggest impact from the sanctions would be to tourism, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has said.

Numbers of Russian tourists declined by nearly a million last year, to 3.6 million. That could get even worse this year, said Ercan Erguzel, an economist at Morgan Stanley.

“Based on our talks with sector representatives, we have the impression that number of Russian tourists may even fall to below 1 million in 2016 in the most extreme scenario,” he said.

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Young Bangla launches Microsoft Service Engineer Development Program

DHAKA, 25 March 2016, (BSS) – The Center for Research and Information and its youths led platform Young Bangla has rolled out a comprehensive initiative titled “Microsoft Service Engineer Development”.

The scheme, the first of its kind in the country, aims at reaching out the youths at grass-root and creating a skilled workforce around the country.

Experts from Microsoft will provide those young minds with soft skill training, enhance their knowledge and make them competitive for the world.

As part of that initiative, a workshop was held at the Feni Government College on March 24.

The event drew a spontaneous participation from a diversified youth group, numbered around 50, comprising college goers, university students and young professionals.

Akhter Hossain Ovi, Microsoft Student Partner, presided over the event while, Nadim Mirza coordinator of Young Bangla Feni Zila unit, was responsible for the overall coordination.

The workshop shed light on basic computing skills, along with the necessary operating skills while lessons were given as regards solution to some less know but frequently appeared problems.

Impressed by the outcome of the event, all the participants opined that similar programmes need to be arranged on regular intervals. They also unanimously admitted that this event helped them develop a deeper interest in enhancing ICT based skills while the lessons have excelled their level of understanding in ICT.

All the attendees were awarded certificates endorsed by Microsoft Bangladesh.

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