Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

4 Apr, 2016

Bangladesh hosts first World Grandmother Day

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 04 April 2016 (26 Jumada Al-Akhir 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

============

A WORD FROM MY SPONSORS: TOURISM MALAYSIA

FIRST WTM CONNECT ASIA TO BE HELD IN PENANG

WTM Connect Asia is an exciting new event bringing together suppliers of South East Asia and international travel product to meet with outbound Chinese, South East Asian and international Hosted Buyers. Taking place 18-20 May 2016 in the beautiful island of Penang in Malaysia, exhibitors and buyers will meet in a private setting for pre-scheduled business meetings, education sessions, networking events and interactive evening functions. By the end of WTM Connect Asia everyone will walk away feeling satisfied after two and a half days of experiencing the beauty of Penang’s culture, and most importantly making new business connections. Brought to you by the organisers of World Travel Market. For more info, please visit http://www.wtmconnectasia.com/

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.malaysia.travel.

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

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

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

==========

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

===========

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

 

Malaysia Expects To Attract 3.2 Million Muslim Visitors

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia, 30 March 2016, (NNN-Bernama) — The Ministry of Tourism and Culture through Islamic Tourism Centre hopes to attract 3.2 million inbound Muslim tourist arrivals this year, said Deputy Minister of Tourism and Culture Mas Ermieyati Samsudin.

She said, Malaysia was still the preferred global destination in the fast-growing Muslim travel market, in offering Muslim-friendly environment which includes everything from excellent attractions, halal food and accommodation.

“The significant increase in Muslim tourist arrivals in the world has put a great demand for accommodations which are ‘Muslim friendly’.

“If we exclude Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, Malaysia is the top preference for Muslim tourists followed by Turkey,” she told a press conference after presenting Islamic Quality Standard (IQS) awards to 30 domestic and International hotels and nine travel agencies here, today.

Commenting further, Mas Ermieyati said about 871 airlines from Muslim countries flew to Malaysia every week and this showed many of the airlines were interested to expand their network to Malaysia.

She said the top five tourist arrivals from Muslim countries to Malaysia were Indonesia, Brunei, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and followed by Pakistan.

The deputy minister said the top five per capita expenditure of Muslim tourists in Malaysia were Saudi Arabia with an estimated spending of RM9,459 for an average length of stay of 10 days, Kuwait (RM8,494 for 7.3 days), Oman (more than RM7,900 for 8.7 days), United Arab Emirates (RM7,389 for 7.6 days) and Iran (RM5,880 for 7.7 days).

Mas Ermieyati said the demand for Islamic Tourism had increased in recent times, with many organisations having developed their services in accordance with syariah compliance.

“The Muslim population is expected to rise from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030 and we must grab the opportunity available in the field of tourism to empower Islamic Tourism in whatever way,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Universal Crescent Standard Centre (UCSC), Dr Ismail Ibrahim said the award ceremony organised by UCSC was given to the hotel operators and travel agencies in recognition of their outstanding contribution in providing syariah compliant services and hospitality for travelers in Malaysia and abroad.

He said due to the high demand for Syariah compliance tourism, UCSC this year had received outstanding response from hotels in Indonesia, Turkey, Dubai and Malaysia which wanted to be Syariah compliance certified hotel and had submitted their application for IQS award.

Back to top

Malaysia Strives To Lure Chinese Firms

BEIJING, China 2 April 2016, (NNN-Bernama) – The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) office in China is striving to lure Chinese companies to set up their bases in Malaysia through the ‘Principal Hub’ incentive.

MIDA Consul (investment) Simon Lee Yew Weng said China’s outward foreign direct investment was on the rise globally while in ASEAN, its presence was increasingly felt.

He said Chinese investments into Malaysia had been increasing in recent years, including in the manufacturing and services sectors.

“This new incentive will meet the needs of Chinese companies going global, especially those with supply chain connectivity in the region and those involved in offshore trading and merchandising activities,” he told Bernama today.

Lee said Malaysia enjoyed very close economic, political, cultural and social links with China, and hence, MIDA believed Chinese companies would be keen to set up Malaysian bases by capitalising on the incentive to expand their business in Malaysia and the region.

He said Chinese businesses abroad would increasingly diversify into business unit management, strategic business planning, corporate finance advisory services, brand and intellectual property management, and talent management.

They would also go into corporate training and human resource management, finance and accounting, general administration, providing information technology services, bid and tender management, research and development, treasury and fund management, project management, business development, technical and supervisory support, and logistics services.

“Companies face mounting challenges to manage, coordinate and ensure that these vast activities are running effectively and efficiently from their home country.

The idea of the Principal Hub is somewhat like a control tower located in strategic overseas locations that would help alleviate these challenges, he added.

Lee said neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand were also trying to attract operations headquarters.

He said the Principal Hub incentive was intended not only to attract companies to make Malaysia a business hub to serve their extended operations in the region, but also to achieve its economic development objectives.

These include creating high-value jobs at the managerial, technical and professional levels, as well as encouraging the use of local ancillary services, he said, adding that, “This is a win-win situation for business and government.”

Besides offering a generous income tax exemption of between five and 10 years under the Principal Hub incentive, Malaysia fared well on lower costs and ease of doing business, and global competitiveness ranking.

This is due to the country’s excellent connectivity in terms of well-developed infrastructure and telecommunication facilities, rich and diverse population mix, good quality living accorded by affordable and excellent amenities, and a pro-business government.

Back to top

Malaysia At The Forefront Of Halal Industry

KUALA LUMPUR, 31 March 2016, (Bernama) — “Malaysia is evidently at the forefront of the Halal industry. Malaysia’s Halal certification has gained recognition globally. Based on the State of Global Islamic and Economic Report 2015/2016, Malaysia was ranked as the best developed Islamic economy out of 73 core countries. This includes ranking 1st for Halal Food, Islamic Finance and Halal Travel as well as being within the top 5 countries for Halal Pharmaceuticals & Cosmetics.

Malaysia is in the final phase of the Halal Industry Master Plan (2008–2020) to make Malaysia the leader in innovation, production and trade for Halal products and services.

The country is on track to become the Global Reference Centre for Halal Integrity and Centre for Innovation, Product and Trade through the strategies laid out under the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016 – 2020). Just last month, the Government has announced the establishment of the Malaysia Halal Council. This demonstrates Malaysia’s commitment to become a global Halal leader through better coordination in the development of the Halal industry,” said Dato’ Azman Mahmud, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) during the agency’s Plenary Session at the World Halal Conference (WHC) 2016, today.

Foreign companies have been leveraging on the country’s comprehensive Halal ecosystem that have been built over the years. Among the notable companies that have made Malaysia their base for halal products include Charoen Pokphand (CP) Holdings, Nestle, Kerry Ingredients, PureCircle, Cargill, Adeka Foods, Rikevita, Kewpie, IFFCO, Kelloggs and Ajinomoto. In fact, Nestle has set up a Halal Excellent Centre in Malaysia.

“Just today, BRF S.A. a leading Brazil food company and one of the top producers of poultry under its flagship brand ‘Sadia’, a well-known Halal brand in the Middle East, announced its opening of an Investment & Development Office in Malaysia. In 2015, BRF was responsible for 14% of the world’s poultry trade.

MIDA has been engaging with this company for quite some time. We are glad that BRF has finally set up an office here to gather critical information and accelerate its on-going business development and feasibility studies to invest in Malaysia. I am confident that BRF will find Malaysia as their strategic global springboard to reach the Halal consumer markets around the globe,” informed Dato’ Azman.

Not lagging behind are domestic players such as Ramly Food Processing, Mamee Double Decker, Dewina Food Industries, Felda Global Ventures (FGV) and Chemical Company of Malaysia (CCM) that have carved a name for themselves in Malaysia and the global markets.

In 2015, MIDA has approved an additional of 51 projects in this industry valued at RM2.6 billion with more than 2,900 employment opportunities. The majority of the approved and implemented projects are involved in the manufacturing of Halal food. MIDA’s engagement in WHC 2016 is part of its promotional efforts to provide first-hand information and insights of Malaysia as the Halal Gateway to global markets. The plenary session attracted more than 50 participants from both local and foreign companies.

“Built on past successes, Malaysia will continue to pave the way to accelerate growth in new, emerging and higher value added areas in the Halal industry. I trust that MIDA’s event at WHC today will translate into strategic partnerships that will propel the Halal industry in Malaysia to greater heights,” Dato’ Azman further added.

Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) is the government’s principal promotion agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to oversee and drive investments into the manufacturing and services sectors in Malaysia. Starting operations in 1967, MIDA is the first point of contact for investors that want to take advantage of Malaysia’s vibrant economy, world-class infrastructure and business-friendly environment to set up their profit centre in Asia.

For more information, please visit www.mida.gov.my.

Back to top

Calendar of Experience Malaysia Events in April

1 April 2016, (Tourism Malaysia Press Release)

April is an exciting month to celebrate festivals all around Malaysia such as The 7th Malaysia International Shoe Festival (MISF) 2016 and the Nasi Ambeng Festival. Keep yourself cool at the water festivals in Langkawi and Labuan, where you can enjoy activities on shore and the water sports competitions! If you prefer something fun and non-competitive, join the SongkRUN Water Run 2016.

Come over to Sabah and dive in the richness of the culture at the 23rd Regatta Lepa in Semporna and Sabah Fest or get to know Malaysian birds at the Wings Of Kuala Kubu Bharu: Selangor Birds Race 2016.

Don’t miss the Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza and Friends Concert where she will be joined by Anggun, Afgan, Cakra Khan, Faizal Tahir and Hafiz, or if theatre is your passion, then celebrate the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s demise with Macbeth staged with a Malaysian twist. Meanwhile, visitors can experience the beauty of the Langkawi island in luxury at the first 6-star resort opening this month, St. Regis Langkawi Resort.

To give you some ideas of what to do this month, here’s a line-up of well-balanced events for tourists, both local and foreign, to enjoy in Malaysia. Plan your trip well, or engage the services of a licensed tour operator/ travel agent.

23rd Regatta Lepa Semporna

The Regatta Lepa Semporna was officially introduced as an annual State event in 1994, paying homage to the lepa; a traditional single-mast sailing boat of the Bajau of Semporna. A flotilla of colourful boats dot the Celebes Sea as they compete for the title of ‘Most Beautiful Lepa’. The celebration includes various cultural performances, the Lepa Beauty Pageant, fireworks display, as well as traditional games and contemporary sports.

Date: 22 to 24 Apr 2016

Venue: Semporna

Organiser: Semporna District Office

Contact: +6089-781 518/663

Website: www.sabahtourism.com

Nasi Ambeng Festival

Have a taste of the unique culinary tradition of the Javanese Malay at The Nasi Ambeng Carnival, organised by the National Department for Culture and Arts at the Homestay Banghuris, Sepang. Nasi Ambeng consists of white rice served with side dishes such as chicken curry or chicken cooked in soy sauce, vegetables, fried noodles, and some salted fish, on a tray to be shared by up to four or five people.

Various activities will be held during the festival including the Javanese culture and Selangor’s heritage exhibitions and batik painting competition. Bring your family and friends to enjoy the cultural exhibition and this fragrant rice dish!

Dates: 15 to 17 April 2016

Venue: Banghuris Homestay, Sepang Selangor, Malaysia

Organiser: Culture Development Division

Contact: +603-2614 8200

Email: rosli@jkkn.gov.my

Sabah Fest 2016

The Sabah Fest is a prelude to the State-wide Harvest Festival celebration that incorporates dance, music, fashion, food, and crafts that is ethnically Sabah.

This year’s Sabah Fest focuses on Sabah’s mysterious caves. Widely known as Agop by many communities on the east coast, caves have been a definitive feature of their cultural identity spawning a wealth of folklore and ancient practices related to dwellings, deaths, burials as well as a supply of resources for present-day economic activities.

The celebration of Agop this year takes us on an expedition to sample the charms of the communities living on the east coast of Sabah – Ida’an, Dusun Sungei, Begak and Dusun Subpan who identified with the ancient cave culture. Other rarely seen groups such as the Tidong of Tawau, Dusun Sandayoh of Paitan and Dusun Melangkap of Kota Belud will also be sharing the stage to perform and display their culture and musical traditions.

Date: 29 Apr to 1 May 2016

Venue: Auditorium JKKN Sabah

Organiser: Sabah Tourism Board / Sri Pelancongan Sabah

Contact: +6088-232 121

Website: www.sabahfest.com

Something wicked this way comes!

To celebrate the 400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare’s demise, Macbeth is being staged with a Malaysian twist – the full text of the English play will be complemented by traditional Chinese Opera costumes, stage make-up and stylised gestures!

Leading Malaysian theatre director, Chin San Sooi, known for his unique interpretations of famous theatre texts, will attempt to bring together two stage traditions to Malaysian audiences: Shakespeare, whose plays and poetry belong to the world, and Chinese Opera, the oldest form of the modern theatre.

The audience will literally be seeing two performances in one: Shakespeare and the splendour of the Chinese Opera. There will be Mandarin sub-titles during the performances.

Date: 22 April to 1 May

Venue: Damansara Performing Arts Centre, Damansara Perdana, Selangor

Contact: +603-4065 0001

Email: damansara.dpac@gmail.com

Website: dpac.com.my

The 7th Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2016

The 7th Malaysia International Shoe Festival (MISF) is set to be bigger and better. Once again, it will feature two legends, Prof. Datuk Dr. Jimmy Choo OBE and Datuk Zang Toi. This highly anticipated event draws local and international shoe manufacturers, as well as shoe enthusiasts from all over the region, to Malaysia’s biggest shoe exhibition and sale.

Among the highlights of this festival are the meet and greet sessions with Prof. Datuk Dr. Jimmy Choo and Datuk Zang Toi; Zang Toi Autumn Winter 2015 Fashion Show; shoe fashion show by Amori, Melissa, Fiorucci, Larrie, Kenneth Cole, Ecco, Sentini, and Fion Poon; and fashion show by Kornna.

Date: 29 April to 1 May 2016

Venue: PWTC Hall 4

Organiser: Malaysian Footwear Manufacturers Association

Contact: +603-9285 5382

Website: www.malaysiafootwear.com

Wings Of Kuala Kubu Bharu 2016

The fourth Wings of Kuala Kubu Bharu is a great opportunity for birders to come together to enjoy nature and expand their knowledge of the different species of birds and their habitats.

Participants will go through 10 different checkpoints starting from the charming town of Kuala Kubu Bharu, past the Kalumpung Hot Springs and ending at the Genting Highlands Awana Resort.

The area is part of the Important Bird Area and has gems such as the Marbled Wren Babbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Large Niltava, Silver-Breasted Broadbills and three hornbill species namely Rhinoceros, Great and Bushy Crested. Experience the green side of Malaysia here at the Wings of KKB Selangor Bird Race event.

Participants can get the registration form at wingsofkkb.blogspot.com before 15 April 2016. Get it now before it is too late. You do not want to miss this exciting opportunity.

Date: 22 to 24 April 2016

Venue: Kuala Kubu Bharu – Genting Highlands

Organiser: Hulu Selangor District Council

Contact: +603-6064 1331

Website: www.mdhs.gov.my and www.wingsofkkb.blogspot.com

SongkRUN Water Run 2016

SongkRUN is bringing the World’s First Water Fun-Run experience to casual runners and fun seekers in Malaysia. An un-timed, non-competitive 5km fun run, the SongkRUN™ course splits into five Water+Music Zones. Each zone has its own uniquely designed experience awaiting you.

SongkRUN will be held on 3 April 2016 from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm. Become a SongkRUN runner today, where each ticket will entitle you to join the Music Party featuring Fire Brigade showers for the first time.

For tickets, please visit www.songkrun.com. The party continues when you cross the finish line and the Wet-Music Festival kicks into gear! Jive and groove with the latest beats whilst friends try to drench you and vice-versa.

Run. Play. Get Drenched. Make Friends. Dance.

Date: 3 April 2016

Venue: Sepang International Circuit, Selangor

Time: 9.00 am to 4.00 pm

Organiser: Six Foot Yellow Worldwide

Facebook: fb/songkrun

Website: www.songkrun.com

Siti Nurhaliza Celebrates 20 Years of Music

Come April 1, it will be 20 years since local pop legend Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza released her self-titled debut album. This exclusive event is free and concert tickets are up for grabs to users of the Yonder Music app and Celcom Xpax.

To commemorate her 20-year career, music streaming service Yonder Music will be throwing a Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza And Friends concert, for its subscribers on 2 April 2016, 8.00 pm at Stadium Negara. She will be joined by Indonesian singers Anggun, Afgan, Cakra Khan and local artistes Faizal Tahir and Hafiz.

The musical guests were chosen by Yonder Music and Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza. Specially for the event, Siti will cover Anggun’s signature hit Snow On The Sahara while Anggun will deliver Siti’s Bukan Cinta Biasa.

Date: 2 April 2016

Venue: Stadium Negara

Time: 8.00 pm

Organiser: Yonder Music and Celcom

Website: www.xpax.com.my

Malaysia Water Festival 2016

What is the best way to keep yourself cool on a hot day? Join the various water festivals in Malaysia this April!

Participate in the water sports competition at the Langkawi International Water Festival, such as kayak race and underwater treasure hunt, fishing and beach netball competition, building sand castles and many more.

It’s not just Langkawi that offers fun water activities for water sport enthusiasts. The annual Malaysia Water Festival in Labuan not only offers deep fishing tournament and swimming challenges, but also fun activities on shore and a mini fair to be enjoyed with your family and friends!

Date: 1 to 3 April 2016

Venue: Pantai Chenang

Organiser: Langkawi Tourism Action Council, LADA.

Contact: +604-969 8083

Email: ltac@tourismlangkawy.gov.my

Date: 24 to 26 April 2016

Venue: Labuan International Sea Sport Complex, Labuan

Organiser: Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia

Contact: +603-8000 8000

Website: www.motac.gov.my

On transit in KL? Hop on!

If you are a traveller on transit for more than five hours in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2), why not take advantage of the Showcase KL package?

With a minimum of five hours transit time, you’ll have two hours to explore the sights and sounds of Kuala Lumpur. So, more transit time means more to see and do!

The Kuala Lumpur Transit Tour – Showcase KL will whisk you away from the airport to the heart of Kuala Lumpur in just 28 minutes on a high-speed train, the KLIA Express.

From the city centre, it’s easy to hop aboard the Kuala Lumpur Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour double decker bus, relax and enjoy the city’s landmark tourist attractions. The private bus runs a continuous circle from 9.00 am until 8.00 pm daily at around 30 minutes intervals. The tour goes by the “hop-on, hop-off” concept, which allows passengers to hop-on and hop-off at any of the 23 designated stops for the entire day.

The RM100 package includes a return ticket on the KLIA Express high-speed train from KLIA Airport/KLIA2 Airport to Kuala Lumpur Central Station, and a full-day tour on board the Kuala Lumpur Hop-On Hop Off (KL HOHO).

Contact: Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau (KLTB)

Tel: +603-2698 0332

Email: enquiries@kltourismbureau.com.my

Website: www.showcasekl.comorwww.visitkl.gov.my

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Visitklofficial

The St. Regis Langkawi

The St. Regis Langkawi Resort will become the first luxury resort to open in the island that is known to many as the Island Jewel of the Southeast Asia. The St. Regis Langkawi will be fully operational on 6 April 2016. It offers guests an intimate, luxurious abode from which to explore the area’s natural beauty.

Swaying palms and the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea provide a warm welcome to The St. Regis Langkawi. Sheltered inside a secluded cove, the hotel overlooks a private white-sand beach, with the outdoor infinity pool providing the perfect spot from which to survey your surroundings. 85 spacious Suites and three opulent Water Villas represent the accommodation options here, all filled with luxurious amenities and views of the sea.

The St. Regis Langkawi is a family-friendly destination, and younger VIPs will be entertained with a host of daily activities as well as a dedicated kids’ pool in which to splash around in. A nanny/babysitting service is also on-hand for times when adults might require a quiet evening to explore the many bar/restaurant options that can be found here.

Three gourmet restaurants serve up tastes of the world to suit any palate, while the presence of three bars ensure guests will be entertained until late into the evening. A fully-featured Athletic Club provides the perfect venue for guests to put themselves through their paces. Afterwards, retire to the hotel’s in-house Iridium Spa and choose from the menu of relaxing, holistic treatments.

Venue: The St. Regis Langkawi. Jalan Pantai Beringin Pulau,Langkawi 07000, Malaysia

Contact: +604-960 6666

Website: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis/index.html

All information is correct at time of publication.

Visitors are advised to contact the event organiser for the latest updates.

For more media releases, media info and media features on Malaysia’s tourism industry, kindly visit the Media Centre of Tourism Malaysia’s website at http://www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my/

MALAYSIA TOURISM PROMOTION BOARD OR TOURISM MALAYSIA is an agency under the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Malaysia. Tourism Malaysia focuses on the specific task of promoting Malaysia at all levels. Since its inception, Tourism Malaysia has grown by leaps and bounds and it has emerged as a major player in the international tourism scene. In 2015, Malaysia registered 25.7 million tourist arrivals and RM69.1 billion in receipts.

Through the Tourism NKEA (National Key Economic Area), collaborative efforts between the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, other Government agencies and the private sector have been enhanced to help secure Malaysia’s position as a leading tourist destination and achieve the country’s target of 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion in receipts by 2020.

The targets set under the Tourism NKEA will be achieved through the implementation of twelve Entry Point Projects (EPPs) clustered under five themes: Affordable Luxury; Nature Adventure; Family Fun; Events, Entertainment, Spa and Sports; and Business Tourism.

Back to top

LEAD STORY: Bangladesh hosts first World Grandmother Day

DHAKA, 01 April 2016, (BSS) – The World Grand Mother Day was observed today in the city for the first time with a call to observe the day elsewhere in the world and to include the day in the United Nations.

At the same time, the organizers of the day has also urged the people to celebrate the day at national level.

The World Grand Mother Day was celebrated in city’s Purana Paltan area with the initiative of ‘Owly group, a china-based commercial outlet, at Bangladesh Photo Journalists Association.

Advisor of Bangladesh Photo Journalists Association Helena Jahangir and Journalist Rafiqul Islam, among others, spoke on the occasion.

Back to top

Restoring Syria’s Palmyra Saves Entire Civilisation From Demolition

DAMASCUS, Syria, 28 Mar 2016, (NNN-SANA) – The Syrian army’s recapture of Palmyra ends the destruction of the ancient caravan city and saves a civilisation, threatened by the barbaric acts of the Daesh group, the head of the antiquities department said.

“One of the most beautiful icons in the Syrian heritage is returning to Syria,” Maamoun Abdul-Karim said, as the Syrian army fully recaptured the millennia-old oasis city of Palmyra earlier on Sunday, following three weeks of intense battles against the Daesh.

“The military campaign for retaking Palmyra has saved the city from demolition and gave us hope,” Abdul-Karim said.

Meanwhile, Abdul-Karim said, his department, in cooperation with UNESCO, will start the reconstruction of the sites that have been bombed by the Daesh, which had been in control of the city since May of last year.

The head of the antiquities department said, the general panoramic view of the city is still intact, noting that the few affected sites will be restored soon.

“There is no complete destruction in the city…in a few sites only,” Abdul-Karim said, in reference to the areas that was bombed by the Daesh, including the Victory Arch, two temples and 10 tower tombs, as well as some statues.

“We are moving toward restoring the damaged areas, as we have the experience and the capabilities,” he said.

Abdul-Karim noted that, he is in direct contact with UNESCO and other concerned international organisations, for the restoration process in Palmyra.

“We will immediately start the restoration process and will assess the damages directly from the site,” he added.

The ancient city of Palmyra contains monumental ruins of a great city that was once one of the ancient world’s most important cultural centres.

Syria is endowed with several prehistoric Greek, Byzantine and Islamic roots.

Syria used to attract numerous multinational archaeological missions, seeking new clues and investigating historical facts, concerning the development of civilisations before the crisis.

Back to top

Halal tourism in W. Sumatra

Padang (ANTARA News) 3 April 2016 – The Indonesia Ministry of Tourism will develop Halal tourism in West Sumatra, a province that has a potential for such a concept just as West Nusa Tenggara province, known for similar tourism.

“West Sumatra has a potential for Halal tourism development as culturally, it is known as a religious province,” the Deputy Assistant of Business and Government Market Segment Development, the Ministry of Tourism, Tazbir, said here on Saturday (April 2).

He explained that Halal tourism is a universal concept which includes serving healthy food, providing clean accommodation and hospitability. Therefore, all the people find it suitable.

“We want West Sumatra achieve a similar status as West Nusa Tenggara which has been awarded the Worlds Best Halal Tourism Destination award,” he said, adding that demand for Halal products is from the world community.

Tazbir remarked that during his visit to a religious area, the hotel where he stayed did not inform him about the direction of Qibla in the bedroom, while hotels in Singapore provide such a facility.

“Therefore, we need Halal standards for hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions,” Tazbir said.

He added that the Ministry will continue to push for a campaign projecting Halal tourisms great potential in Indonesia, especially in West Sumatra.

Nowadays, the concept of Halal tourism is being developed in Aceh, West Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara, South Kalimantan and Gorontalo, he said.

Meanwhile, Head of Tourism Office of West Sumatra, Burhasman Bur, assessed that there were no significant obstacles to implementing Halal tourism in the province.

The tour players just have to follow the administrative procedures. For example, eateries will have to serve Halal meat certified by the authorities.

He said a regulation needs to be put in place supporting the implementation of the Halal tourism concept and improving services for the guests.

Back to top

Winners of Bangladesh talent hunt competition announced

DHAKA, 1 April 2016, (BSS) – The Education Ministry announced 12 winners of the nationwide “Creative Talent Hunt Competition-2016″ yesterday.

After national level round of the competition held at Dhaka Residential Model College, additional secretary of the Education Ministry AS Mahmud announced the names of top 12 students at a function.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid and Education Secretary Md Sohrab Hossain, among others, were present on the occasion.

The 12 winners are: Nahian Islam Inan of Mymensingh Zila School, Siratul Mustakim Shrabani of Rajuk Uttrara Model College, Moomita Rahman Ipshita of Lalmonirhat Mozida Khatun Govt. Women College, Md Moklesur Rahman Eman of Dinajpur Amena Baki Residential Model College, Shatapdi Roy of Joypurhat Govt Girls High School, Mahia Ahmed of Bogra Govt Azizul Haque College,

Shwashoto Saha Roy of Rangpur Zila School, Sorja Das of Comilla Zila School, Sheikh Azizul Hakim of Notre Dem College, Mota Kabbir Bin Motahar of Brahmanbaria Annada Govt High School, Nazmus Shaki of Comilla Zila School and Oisharya Saha Urmi of Biyani Bazar Govt College.

Back to top

AED850 Million (Usd232 Million) New Tourist And Entertainment Destination Unveiled In Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, 31 March 2016, (NNN-WAM) – Musabbah Al Marar, acting director general of Abu Dhabi Municipality, said, the ambitious project named ‘Al Qana’ is a practical implementation of the civic body’s strategy, to provide best in class services, recreational and housing facilities, in alignment with the Abu Dhabi Comprehensive Master Development Plan and Abu Dhabi Vision 2030.

The project will come up in an area spanning 150,000 square metres and is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2018. The new Abu Dhabi project will be located on 2.4 kilometres of waterside land, in the Maqta area and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2018.

The developers said, they leased 2.5 kilometres of land from the Abu Dhabi Municipality to construct the project, which is being done on a built operate and transfer basis.

The project, which is to be built under a “musathaha” agreement, will include a 5,000-metre aquarium, a 98-berth marina, suitable for mini yachts, café and restaurants, and three or four storeys of furnished apartments, which will be available for rent.

“The tourist market is expanding in Abu Dhabi, with what Etihad Airways is doing. This is one of the main projects that will put Abu Dhabi on the tourism map,” said Moataz Mashal, Managing Director of Al Barakah International Investments.

“This is one of the main projects which will start putting Abu Dhabi on the tourism map.”

Back to top

Afghanistan Football Team Beats Singapore

Kabul, 30 March 2016, (BNA)- Singapore national football team went down to a 2-1 defeat against Afghanistan national football team in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.

According to BNA report, Afghan players shine well in the match and in first half Khaibar Amani could score the first goal into Singapore gate.

Afghan athletes 1-0 ended first half of the match with their successive offenses on Singapore gate.

The second half of the match Yusuf Shirdel succeeded to score the second gold of the competition into Singapore gate.

At the last moment of the race Singapore players could score their first goal into Afghanistan gate and the match ended in the result of 1-2 with the victory of Afghan athletes.

The competition with presence of 30,000 spectators held in Tehran city-Iran.

Bakhar News Agency leader and employees congratulate the victory to all compatriots.

Back to top

Antalya sees 40 pct decline in reservations

Ankara, 30 March 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) ‎- The Mediterranean resort of Antalya has seen losses of around 40 percent in the number of reservations over this year compared to the previous year, as security concerns and the diplomatic row with Russia have continued to hit the tourism sector, according to the head of a leading association.

“We have now seen a year-on-year decline of some 40 percent in tourist reservations in Antalya, although it is early to say anything for the rest of the year. This figure can increase or decrease in the upcoming period in line with future developments,” said the head of the Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers’ Association (AKTOB), Yusuf Hacısüleyman, as quoted by Anadolu Agency on March 29.

He noted it was currently not possible to make any predictions about the sector after a series of bomb attacks in Turkey, as well as the ongoing problems with the Russian market.

He noted the city has seen a sharp decline in the number of European tourists and almost zero arrivals from Russia, although there has been a slight increase in the number of tourists from eastern countries, such as Iran.

The number of tourists visiting Antalya may decline to around 6-7 million over this year from around 11.5 million unless the Russian market is reopened and if the number of European tourists continues to drop, according to Hacısüleyman.

He noted terror attacks across the globe have hit the global tourism sector and undermined the freedom of travel of all people.

“In this vein, we have called for the end of the issuance of travel warnings by all countries, mainly European countries, for any part of the world, as the main aim of the terror attacks is already to create a sense of fear and to limit people’s freedoms… What we all need to do is condemn any attacks that limit or hit people’s freedom of travel altogether,” he said.

Hacısüleyman said in an earlier interview that they predicted a loss of $8 billion in revenue in their previous scenario upon the predicted loss of around 4 million tourists following the jet crisis with Russia, by presuming the spending per capita at $1,000 plus the multiplier effect at 1.87.

“With the addition of the expected losses from the European market, we have now revised our potential revenue losses to $12 billion,” he said on March 18, as quoted by daily Hürriyet.

Back to top

Bangladesh has close historical ties with the banyan tree

JHENAIDAH, 01 April 2016, (BSS) – Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique today said the country has close historical relation with banyan tree as the country’s all democratic movements initiated from the Bat-tala of Dhaka University.

“There was a banyan tree in the heart, now Aparajeyo Bangla, of Dhaka University. All movements of the country were initiated from under the tree. But Pakistani occupied force ruined the tree in 1971.

A banyan tree was again planted there in 1972. All sorts of programmes are held under this tree now in front of Arts Faculty building,” he said.

The vice-chancellor said while visiting one of the biggest and oldest banyan trees in Asia at Mollikpur under Kaliganj upazila in the district.

As part of the campaign to create public awareness in conserving banyan trees organized by Bangladesh Botanical Society, Professor Arefin visited the banyan tree.

DU Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Nasreen Ahmad, Bangladesh Botanical Society President Syed Hadiuzzaman, DU Biological Science Faculty Dean Professor M Imdadul Hoque, DU Botany Department Chairman Professor Mohammad Abul Bashar, Kaliganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mohammad Manowar Hossain Mollah and officer-in-charge of Kaliganj thana Anwar Hossain, among others, were present on the occasion.

Professor Arefin called for creating awareness on environment as existence of human beings will be disappeared without green nature.

Locals said the banyan tree at Mollikpara is about 250-300 year-old. Though the main tree died in course of time, its 45 different branches are alive. The tree is around 250-300 feet tall.

Back to top

Central Bank of Oman hosts workshop on Islamic finance

Muscat, 28 March 2016, (IINA) – The Central Bank of Oman (CBO) is hosting a workshop on “facilitating the implementation of the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) standards” in coordination with Islamic Financial Services Board, from Monday to Thursday, at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat, Times of Oman newspaper reported.

The event is being held under the patronage of Hamoud Sangour Al Zadjali, the executive president of the Central Bank of Oman.

The workshop is organized as part of capacity building initiatives to improve the skills and the capabilities of the staff of Islamic banks and windows operating in the Sultanate and the supervisory departments of the CBO, according to a CBO release.

The workshop will deliberate on ‘revised capital adequacy standard’ and ‘revised guidance on key elements in the supervisory process of the institutions offering Islamic financial services’ and will assist the participants in implementation of these two standards by offering them training with the help of practical case studies.

As many as 44 participants from different Islamic banks and windows and the supervisory departments of the CBO will participate in this workshop.

The IFSB is an international standard-setting body of regulatory and supervisory agencies that promotes and enhances the soundness and stability of the Islamic financial services industry by issuing global prudential standards and guiding principles for Islamic banking, Islamic capital markets and takaful sectors.

The IFSB also coordinates initiatives on industry related issues, as well as organizes roundtables, seminars and conferences and awareness programs for regulators and industry stakeholders in various countries.

CBO is an observer member of IFSB since February 2012 and participates actively in all the events organized by the IFSB. During the preparation of Islamic Banking Regulatory Framework (IBRF), Central Bank of Oman took guidance from the standards issued by the IFSB.

Back to top

China to boost bilateral ties with Nigeria

Abuja, 31 March 2016,(IINA) – China will develop modalities to enhance bilateral relations with Nigeria under the new cooperation plan of the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit, Daily Trust reported.

The remark was made by Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Gu Xiaojie at the 2016 China-Nigeria Trade and Economic Forum in Abuja on Wednesday.

The ambassador said the enhancement of bilateral relations would top the agenda of the meeting of the leaders of the two countries during President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to China in April.

Xiaojie said such high-level exchanges would boost the political and mutual trust and “inject strong impetus into the pragmatic cooperation in various fields between our two countries.”

“This is the first visit to China by President Buhari since he came into office and also makes him the first African leader to visit China after the FOCAC Summit, which is of great importance to both China-Nigeria and China-Africa relations.

“During the visit, the two state leaders will hold talks and meetings and exchange views on cooperation in all fields, and lay out the blueprint for bilateral relations under new circumstances,” the Chinese envoy said.

“The FOCAC Summit determined 10 key cooperation plans and those plans focus on resolving three major livelihood issues which are employment, food and health,” he said, adding that both countries will identify new areas of cooperation and partnership to diversify Nigeria’s economy.

Back to top

Bangladesh riverbeds yield excellent crop harvest

RANGPUR, 1 April 2016, (BSS) – The farmers have already started harvesting different crops cultivated on the dried up riverbeds and char lands in the Brahmaputra basin in the northern districts to get excellent yield this season, officials sources said.

The farmers, riverside and char people are getting excellent yield of different crops from the dried up beds of the Brahmaputra, Teesta, Dharla, Ghaghot, Jamuna, Kartoa and other rivers and tributaries.

According to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) sources and different NGOs, massive deposition of alluvial soils has made crop cultivation possible on the shoals, dried up riverbeds and char lands.

In recent years, thousands of the river-eroded, landless and extremely poor people have been cultivating various crops on the dried up riverbeds and low-lying char lands in the river basins to improve their livelihoods, earn better profits in changing fortune.

They have mostly cultivated crops like Boro rice, maize, wheat, vegetables, onion, garlic, groundnut, ‘china’, ‘kawn’, pulses, ‘gunji till’, tobacco, pumpkin, gourd, pulses, mustard, other oil seed, watermelon and many other crops on these lands this season.

The landless char people, small and marginal farmers have brought over 90,000 hectares of land under crop cultivation this year and they are getting excellent crop yield now as the harvesting will continue till commencement of the rainy season.

Char dwellers Shukur Ali, Aminul Haque, Akbar Ali, of village Char Montola, Sona Mian and Sultan Hossain of Korai Barisal, Sekendar Hossain of Char Gaynar Patal on the Brahmaputra in Chilmari upazila said they are getting excellent crop yield this year.

They have already completed harvest of their cultivated mustard, wheat, green chili and vegetables and started harvesting other crops like pumpkin, onion, garlic, and many other crops to get excellent yield with lucrative market price.

Abdul Aziz of village Char Dakshin Khoribari in Nilphamari, Farman Ali of village Char Khuniagachh in Lalmonirhat, Nur Islam of village Korpura in Kurigram, Manju Rani of village Gidari in Gaibandha have got bumper output of various crops this season.

Similarly, river-eroded Mahbub Alam, Kobiza Begum and Morsheda Begum of village Paschim Mohipur under Gangachara upazila in Rangpur are also expecting bumper production of different crops cultivated on the sandy-barren char lands of the Teesta.

Horticulture specialist of the DAE Khondker Md Mesbahul Islam told BSS that crop cultivation on these lands has been taking place due to drying up and silting up of the rivers with emergence of shoals following adverse impacts of climate change.

“Though farmers have been getting excellent crop production from the dried up riverbeds and char lands, there is no alternative to reviving water flows in the rivers throughout the year for better future, environment, agriculture, bio-diversity and ecology,” he added.

Back to top

Bangladesh seminar to boost SMEs

RANGPUR, 31 March 2016, (BSS) – Discussants at a seminar here have underscored the need for exploring potential of the prospective local small and medium enterprise (SME) sector to accelerate national uplift and enhance economic growth.

They put emphasis on flourishing female entrepreneurship in SME sector and ensuring production of international standard quality of SME products to enhance export facing the challenge of globalised free trade economy system.

The SME Foundation organised the seminar styled ‘Flourishing Small and Medium Enterprise in Rangpur Region: Problems and Prospects’ at Public Library ground in the city on Wednesday afternoon.

The seminar was arranged as part of the five-day Regional SME Product

Fair-2016 being organised here since March 29 last with assistance of the district administration, Rangpur Chamber of Commerce & Industry (RCCI) and Rangpur Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (RWCCI), National Association of Small & Cottage Industries Bangladesh (NASIB), Bangladesh Bank and other SME- related organisations.

Deputy Commissioner Rahat Anwar attended the seminar as chief guest with Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) and Convener of the Seminar Affairs Sub-Committee of the Fair Mostain Billah in the chair.

Professor of the Department of Economics of Begum Rokeya University Dr Morshed Hossain delivered keynote presentation narrating problems and prospects of flourishing SME sector in Rangpur region with suggestions for accelerating the process.

Deputy General Manager of BSCIC for Rangpur Khairul Alam Almazee, RWCCI President Ferdousi Anowara Poly, RCCI President Abul Kashem, Office Secretary of district Awami League leader Tauhidur Rahman Tutul, took past as panel discussants.

Senior Vice-president of RCCI Mostafa Ahmed, DGM (SME & Special Programmes Department) of Bangladesh Bank at Rangpur Branch Monirul Islam, DGM of Sonali Bank Limited Swapan Kumar Saha, participated in the open discussion, among others.

The discussants put special emphasis on further easing the process of

allocating SME loans and involving more female entrepreneurs with flourishing of SME sector to accelerate national development and poverty alleviation.

The chief guest laid importance on enhancing production of export quality SME products to create demand and acceptance of those in the competitive global markets to take the country ahead and enhancing national economy.

Terming the seminar as a fruitful one, he said it would help in exploring the prospective SME sector in Rangpur region and called upon all concerned for availing the assistance being provided by SME Foundation, banks and other institutions towards the directions.

Back to top

Festival to revive Ankara’s music scene

ANKARA, 01 April 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News)- Organized by the Sevda-Cenap And Music Foundation, the 33rd International Ankara Music Festival will open on April 4. With the participation of nearly 330 artists from 17 countries, the festival will present a total of 12 events until April 30. Among the events will be three world premieres and eight Turkey premieres.

Symphonic orchestra concerts in the festival’s opening and closing, artists’ first concerts, the participation of young talents and the development of joint national and international projects are some of the traditions of the Ankara Music Festival.

The opening concert of the festival will be organized on April 4, featuring the Ankara Youth Symphonic Orchestra under the baton of Fazlı Orhun Orhon. The orchestra was formed in 2011 with the members of conservatories in Ankara.

The soloist of the concert will be young pianist Tolga Atalay Ün, who is working at the Royal College of Music in the U.K.

Renowned Italian band Aniello Desiderio & Quaretto Furioso will give a workshop with classical guitarists as part of the festival. The band will also be on the stage on April 7.

The French Kafig dance ensemble, a modern dance company which combines classical music with hip hop dance and martial arts, will present “BoxeBoxe” on April 12.

The Hacettepe University Symphony Orchestra will be on the stage on April 13. The concert will be conducted by Burak Tüzün and accompanied by Rahşan Apay in cello.

Two giant names of the classical music world, Steven Isserlis from the U.K. and Canadian pianist Connie Shih, will be in Turkey for the first time as a duo on April 16.

Isserlis is distinguished for his diverse repertoire and distinctive sound deployed with his use of gut strings and command of phrasing. He is also one of only two living cellists featured in the Gramophone Hall of Fame. He gives most of his concerts on the Marquis de Corberon (Nelsova) Stradivarius of 1726, kindly loaned to him by the Royal Academy of Music.

Shih, considered to be one of Canada’s most outstanding artists, was awarded the Sylva Gelber Award for most outstanding classical artist under age 30.

On April 21, the festival will host the New York Gypsy All Stars. Masters of contemporary Balkan Gypsy music, the band have a musical chemistry with explosive staying power, blending traditional Gypsy, Turkish, Indian and Latin flavors with a scorching jazz and funk backbone, creating a unique sound which exemplifies New York City in the most eclectic sense possible.

Composed of young male musicians, Jin Myung is a Korean percussion group trying to interpret Korean traditional music in this modern global age by studying it through various international festivals and events. The festival will host the group on April 23.

On April 25, the Yurondy Ensemble, formed by Irish and Turkish artists, will make the world premiere of Turkish composer Onur Türkmen’s “Sailing to Byzantium.” The concert will be screened as a documentary.

The Yurodny Ensemble was founded in 2007 by saxophonist and composer Nick Roth, they perform contemporary interpretations of traditional music from around the world alongside new works by composers inspired by these traditions.

Türkmen, who graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1998, completed his master and doctoral studies at Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Musical Research (MIAM). He is currently teaching at Bilkent University Music and Performing Arts Department.

For chamber music lovers, the Sierra Ensemble, a San Francisco Bay Area-based violin, horn and piano trio, will be on stage on April 27. The trio blends violin, horn and piano and brings a unique combination of chamber expertise and solo artistry to the concert stage.

The festival will be closed on April 30 with the Hajibeyov Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra, which was formed in 1920 as one of the first orchestras in the Soviet Union. It is affiliated with the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Society.

Three well-known musicians from the Azerbaijan Classical Music world, maestro Rauf Abulhayev, violinist Toğrul Ganiyev and pianist Murat Adıgözelzade, will be the soloists of the concert.

Ticket prices of the festival vary from 25 to 90 Turkish Liras.

Back to top

Group show by women artists continue to attract visitors

ISLAMABAD, 28 March 2016, (APP)- Reclaiming Identity- a group show of art works by Bilqis Ajam Tabani, Sabika Yusuf and Narmeen Javed is continued to attract visitors including art lovers carrying a collection of three emerging women artists from Karachi here at My Art World. The exhibition presents a series of works by the artists in various mediums depicting their feelings and emotions about their surroundings. All the works come together to narrate a story about the youth’s affinity to their homeland from various perspectives, the curator of the show remarked.

Back to top

Afghanistan Province marks Gulghundi Festival

Kabul, 2 April 2016, (BNA)- Traditional Gulghundi festival (Purple Flower Festival) was marked in the outskirt of Parwan provincial capital Charikar the other day.

Attended by thousands of people including some foreign tourists, the ceremony was held in a peaceful environment where hundreds of street vendors and restaurants begun operations to serve the visitors. Shedding light on the importance of the festival, Abdul Wahid Hashimi the director of information and culture of Parwan province in talks with Kabul Times said that the objective of the holding the festival is to put on display the handicrafts, local dishes and natural beauty of Parwan to attract tourists and boost economy of the people there. The visitors including children enjoy the festival by playing sports, flying kites and other locals and national games on the day to mark Gulghundi festival.

Back to top

Turkish hotel occupancy rates fall below 50 percent: Association

ISTANBUL, 01 April 2016, (Doğan News Agency) – Hotel occupancy rates declined below 50 percent in Turkey in February, a decrease of 13.4 percent compared to the same term of 2015. Last year’s rate was measured at 57.6 percent, whereas this year occupancy dipped to 49.9 percent in the same period.

According to the “February 2016 Country Performance Report” carried out by Turkish data analysis company STR Global and announced by the Turkish Hoteliers’ Association (TÜROB) on March 31, the occupancy rate dropped by 9.8 percent to 48.7 percent level in the first two months of the year.

According to the TÜROB, the sharpest fall was in tourists from European countries, while Istanbul was the tourism destination which experienced the worst hit tourist-wise across most of Turkey.

In Istanbul, hotel occupancy rates fell by 21.4 percent, reaching 47.5 percent in February, compared to the same month of 2015. The occupancy rate in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya also dropped by 0.8 percent in February, hitting 48.1 percent compared to the same month of 2015, according to the TÜROB’s statement.

Hotels’ average daily rate (ADR) also fell by 10.7 percent, dropping rates to 88.6 euros per room. This number was 99.2 in the same month of 2015.

The RevPAR dropped by 29.8 percent to 42 euros, while this same number was 59.9 euros in February 2015.

In the first two months of the year, the occupancy rate fell to 48.2 percent from 57.4 percent in the same period of 2015.

Back to top

Airasia Runway Ready Designer Search 2016 Expands Reach To Five Asean Countries

KUALA LUMPUR, 31 March 2016, (Bernama) – The AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search (AARRDS) in collaboration with the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week Ready to Wear (KLFW RTW) goes regional this year with the competition expanded to include Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines, apart from Malaysia to provide a platform for young aspiring designers from around the region to showcase their talents and help catapult them into the fashion industry.

Audition rounds will be held in Jakarta (16 April), Manila (23 April), Kuala Lumpur (30 April), Singapore (7 May) and Bangkok (14 May) to discover local talents from each regional city, and the Top 3 from the respective cities will represent their country during the Grand Finale in August on the prestigious KLFW RTW 2016 runway.

Aireen Omar, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Berhad said, “There is so much talent in this region, and as a truly Asean brand, we want to expand this designer search to other countries apart from Malaysia. We hope to provide all aspiring young fashion designers across Asean with a platform to empower and catapult their careers in the fashion industry. This regional designer search will be unparalleled and bring together the region’s fashion talents and industry for the first time on this scale. We look forward to see new talents this year and AirAsia is proud to be part of their journey.”

Both Aireen Omar and Andrew Tan will be part of the panel of judges for this year’s AARRDS 2016, with Vivy Yusof, owner of renowned fashion e-commerce site FashionValet.com, Alia Bastamam, top fashion designer and Suzie Adnan, Editor-in-Chief of GLAM magazine joining the panel for the Malaysian auditions.

This designer search is open to local or international students, 28 years of age or below, and currently studying or have graduated from fashion design schools in any of the five countries included in this search. Three (3) women’s ready-to-wear sketches inspired by Asean destinations are to be submitted with the complete registration form available at klfashionweek.com. Submission deadline is by 12 April 2016.

Prizes worth at least RM350,000 awaits the winner of this competition including a confirmed show segment to showcase his or her full collection at KLFW RTW 2017, mentorship from the KLFW RTW team; RM25,000 sponsored by FashionValet to produce a capsule collection and sold on fashionvalet.com, 150,000 AirAsia BIG Points, AirAsia or AirAsia X flights, as well as many other prizes which will be announced soon.

Back to top

Airasia Celebrates 6Th International Route Into Johor Bahru With Daily Flights From Hat Yai

Inaugural flight from Hat Yai to Johor Bahru commenced operations, in line with AirAsia Group’s vision to create wider connectivity from Senai International Airport

JOHOR BAHRU, 1 April 2016, (Bernama) — AirAsia group celebrated the arrival of its first flight from Hat Yai to Johor Bahru, making this the 6th international route into Senai International Airport. Operated by Thai AirAsia, the daily direct flights marks the beginning of a much-anticipated connectivity between southern city of Thailand and southern peninsular Malaysia.

The inaugural landing was given a water salute shortly after touchdown and Senai International Airport held a welcoming ceremony at the arrival gate with the attendance of Ms Aireen Omar, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Berhad; Mr Md Derick Basir, Chief Executive Officer of Senai Airport Terminal Services Sdn Bhd; Magdlane Tuborng Melai, Director of Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia Johor Office. On board the flight FD510 was a group of Thai journalists and representatives from Thai AirAsia.

Aireen Omar, CEO of AirAsia Berhad said, “AirAsia group are pleased to be expanding services from Senai International Airport and providing our guests with a direct link between Johor Bahru and the city of Hat Yai. This brand new route operated by Thai AirAsia marks an important milestone for AirAsia group as the third airline to commence services into Johor Bahru. This new route is indeed a great new addition to our growing network in Johor Bahru and will act as a bridge for trade, commerce and cultural exchange with the city of Hat Yai.

“We are committed to investing in the communities we serve, and growing our secondary hub such as Johor Bahru. We are very happy and appreciative of the support and partnership opportunities provided by Senai International Airport. There are many more potential routes that we can explore from Johor Bahru, and we will work closely with all of our affiliates to create more connectivity into Senai International Airport,” she added.

Md Derick Basir, CEO of Senai Airport Terminal Services Sdn Bhd said, “We are delighted to welcome Thai AirAsia to Senai Airport. Hat Yai will be the second city in Thailand which is connected directly to our airport. Currently, AirAsia Malaysia flies 4 times weekly from Senai Airport to Bangkok.”

The AirAsia Group operates a total of 7 domestic routes, and 6 international routes into Senai International Airport, represented by three airlines – AirAsia Berhad (flight code AK), Thai AirAsia (flight code FD) and Indonesia AirAsia (flight code QZ).

Back to top

Iran enjoys highest potentials for transit of goods, passengers

Tehran, 2 April 2016, (IRNA) – A senior Iranian official said here on Saturday that the country enjoys the highest potentials for increasing the transit of goods and passengers.

Head of Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization Mohammad Javad Atrchian said thanks to Iran’s geopolitics and strategic potentials, the country is considered as a transit crossroads of Asia and Europe.

‘Over 10,919,000 tons of commodities were transited from the ground and marine borders areas during the last Iranian calendar year, ended March 20, 2016,’ he added.

‘Iran border terminals are one of the safest, most secure and most convenient routes in the region and play a pivotal role in connecting the East – West and South – North and other transport corridors,’ the official said.

‘Over 4.52 million tons of oil products and 6.39 million tons of non-oil commodities were transited from Iran during the mentioned period,’ Atrchian added.

Back to top

Iran plans to significantly expand helicopter fleet

Tehran, 31 March 2016,(MENAFN)- After terminating the Western sanctions, top international manufacturers of civilian helicopters are willing to resume collaboration with Iran and invest in Iranian schemes.

Accordingly, Iran Helicopter Company (ICH) stated that French, Italian, German as well as US companies expressed interest in supplying modern helicopters and their spare parts to Iran.

International companies manufacture and sell 1,000 helicopters every five years on average which makes it very difficult for newcomers to compete with them, but Iran looks forward to see it through.

“The country possesses the technology to produce modern helicopters; however, manufacturing them for the sole purpose of meeting domestic needs is not currently economical,” said ICH’s chief.

Back to top

Iran, Austria sign over $2bn MoU on bilateral cooperation

Vienna, 31 March 2016, (IRNA) – Iranian and Austrian companies from private sector signed a Memorandum of Understanding worth over two billion dollars in Austrian Chamber of Commerce for bilateral cooperation, it was reported on Thursday.

Iran, Austria sign over $2bn MoU on bilateral cooperation

The MoU included eight documents in the fields of automobile, steel, medicine and engineering services.

The documents were signed in the presence of Iran’s Head of Chamber of Commerce Mohsen Jalalpour and Head of Austria Federal Chamber of Commerce Christophe Leitl.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Jalalpour said that Austria did not support sanctions during Iraq imposed war (1980-1988) on Iran.

He added that Austria political status and its relations with Iran could be promoted to billion-euro contracts.

The official also voiced Tehran’s willingness to increase cooperation with Vienna.

Back to top

Iran’s key province draws major global investors

Tehran, 31 March 2016, (MENAFN)- Chinese, South Korean, Italian and Swedish firms plan to finance and fund 10 manufacturing projects in the western Iranian province of Ilam.

Provincial officials are doing their best to facilitate the participation of foreign investors in projects and prepare the ground for their increased presence.

Accordingly, Mehran, located southwest of the province, will enable economic activities of foreign investors in the region once it is turned into a free zone.

“We also plan to establish branches of foreign banks and construct an airport in the proposed zone, thus signing a number of economic deals,” said the provincial governor.

Back to top

Istanbul Jazz Festival announces program

ISTANBUL, 30 March 2016, (Hürriyet Daily News) – Over 200 Turkish and international musicians will participate in the 23rd Istanbul Jazz Festival, giving music lovers in Istanbul the chance to see jazz legends in approximately 50 concerts performed at more than 20 venues.

The festival program includes a range of jazz, funk, world music, blues and rock performances, with highlights including the legendary Nile Rodgers and his group Chic, as well as current and former members of The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music with Damon Albarn, Kamasi Washington, Laura Mvula, Ernest Ranglin, Hugh Coltman, Joss Stone, Vintage Trouble and Gregory Porter also performing.

An event will be presented by Blur front man Damon Albarn’s project, Africa Express. The project brings together current and former members of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music, led by conductor Issam Rafea. The group, which will reassemble for a number of gigs, will perform on the opening day of the festival on June 27 at Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theater.

The king of disco and funk, the face of the Fender Stratocaster, and the composer of almost a third of our best loved hits, from the songs of Madonna to David Bowie, Rodgers will give his first concert in Turkey together with his group Chic on June 28 at Küçük Çiftlik Park.

The festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to musicians Özdemir Erdoğan and Ergüven Başaran. Following the ceremony, Başaran will take to the stage with Swing UNLTD. The event will be topped off with a performance by a sought-after group of the New York swing scene, The Hot Sardines.

One of the most industrious figures in Turkish popular music and Jazz, Erdoğan will also offer jazz lovers an evening of nostalgia.

This year’s festival also hosts Washington, the new master of the saxophone and modern jazz. One of the foremost representatives of contemporary jazz, Washington will perform at the Beykoz Kundura, which is being used as a festival venue for the first time this year.

On July 15, the Uniq Open-Air Theater will witness a one-of-a-kind special project, French Quarter, revealing the best bits of contemporary French jazz to festival-goers. After this performance, Coltman will take the stage with his vocal style reminiscent of Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake, performing songs from his “Shadows” album, an homage to the inner world of Nat King Cole.

The festival program will also feature a children’s event for the first time. “A Childlike Day” will feature performances by Oran Etkin Timbalooloo and the Music for Peace Brass Band, while also giving children the chance to discover their musical talents and take part in fun workshops.

The living Jamaican legend, founding father of reggae and creator of energetic ska melodies, Ranglin, will present an upbeat concert with his legendary group formed of Tony Allen, Courtney Pine, Cheikh Lo, Alex Wilson and Ira Coleman. Support comes from The Budos Band, who will take to the stage to perform their afrobeat and funk melodies.

Night Out concerts

The “Night Out” event, which took place last year in various venues in Kadıköy, will feature concerts by musicians and groups including Elif Çağlar, DANdadaDAN, Son Feci Bisiklet, Plaistow, Hey Douglas and Önder Focan & Şallıel Bros.

British singer-songwriter Laura Mvula will perform together with Jacob Collier, heralded by The Guardian as “jazz music’s new messiah” in the historical garden of the Embassy of Germany Tarabya Summer Residence on July 22.

One of the strongest voices to come out of the British music scene, Stone returns to Istanbul for the festival. Hailed as the Aretha Franklin of the 2000s, she will return to Istanbul where she will delight festival-goers with catchy songs, old and new, lively and romantic, on July 23.

On July 25, at Cemil Topuzlu Open-Air Theater, American jazz vocalist and winner of the 2014 Grammy Award for best jazz album Porter will take to the stage with impressive jazz vocalist Roberta Gambarini. They will perform alongside the TRT Popular Music and Jazz Orchestra, formed of masters of the Turkish music scene such as Neşet Ruacan and Ferit Odman, in a very special performance for festival-goers. Later in the evening Porter will also perform songs from his latest album.

European Jazz Club sessions at Salon

The European Jazz Club, the event that brings the top names from the Turkish jazz scene together with European virtuosos, will be held at Salon İKSV.

Volkan Topakoğlu featuring Matthias Konrad, Ercüment Orkut “Low Profile” featuring Marius Neset, Big Beats Big Times / Full Moon Theory Live, Çağıl Kaya Band featuring Airelle Besson and Bulut Gülen Quintet featuring Yuri Honing and the Eylem Pelit Band will take the stage as part of the event.

On July 18 and 19, Zorlu Center PSM will host festival artists. Among the artists to share the stage in the venue will be Cyrus Chestnut, Buster Williams and Lenny Whitem, the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Kurt Elling, Antonio Sanchez and Migration and Brad Mehldau, Mark Guilian and John Scofield.

Tickets for the 23rd Istanbul Jazz Festival go on sale on April 16.

Back to top

Jordanian company attracts huge investments

Amman, 30 March 2016, (IINA) – CEO of Jordan Industrial Estates Company (JIEC) Jalal Aldbai on Tuesday said the incentives offered by the company in the Muwaqqar and Al Hussein Industrial cities had attracted JD23 million in investments, Petra News Agency reported.

During a meeting with Deputy Chairman of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce Ali Shukri, Aldbai also pointed to the importance of partnership with the private sector to promote the Kingdom’s business environment.

The outstanding level the company has reached in developing industrial estates, will help in providing an investment opportunity to all ventures coming to Jordan, said Aldbai.

Both sides also emphasized the importance of holding joint meetings between economic bodies in both countries to implement items of the Joint Jordanian-Egyptian Higher Committee.

Back to top

Kuwait Information Minister Opens Arabic Poetry Festival

KUWAIT, 28 March 2016, (NNN-KUNA) – Kuwait Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Sheikh Salman Al-Sabah said, Kuwait is now a glittering beacon of cultural enlightenment in the Arab region.

The country has become a main destination for Arab intellectuals and literary people, Sheikh Salman, also president of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), said, at the opening ceremony of the ninth session of the Spring of Arabic Poetry Festival.

The three-day event is being organised by Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation, under the auspices of the Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, at the theatre of Al-Babtain Central Library.

“The festival highlights Kuwait’s contributions to culture, civilisation and humanities, at the behest of the country’s political leadership, at the core of which are the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and the Crown Prince, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah,” the minister said.

He noted that poetry, in its various forms, had a remarkable impact on the literary, intellectual and political lives, and expressed the concern, hopes and aspirations of the nation, during different stages of time.

Sheikh Salman added, the agenda of cultural activities in Kuwait, under NCCAL supervision, includes a host of poetic symposia and seminars, with celebrated poets from across the Arab world taking part.

He welcomed the Arab poets to the festival and appreciated the role of the Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation, in promoting cultural enlightenment.

Meanwhile, the board chairman of Abdulaziz Saud Al-Babtain Cultural Foundation, said, the ninth session of the Spring of Arabic Poetry Festival coincides with the celebration marking Kuwait’s selection as Capital of Islamic Culture for 2016.

“This year’s festival features three poetic seminars with the first being entitled “In love of Kuwait,” he said.

“It’s a tradition for the Foundation to celebrate during this annual event a Kuwaiti poet and a poet from another Arab country; this time we are celebrating the late poets, Sulaiman Al-Jarallah, from Kuwait, and Bader Shaker Al-Sayyab, of Iraq,” he pointed out.

The first seminar on Al-Sayyab, to be moderated by Dr. Salem Khoddadh, will be addressed by Dr. Nasimh Al-Ghaith – Kuwait, and Ahmad Al-Harishi – Morocco.

The second seminar, to discuss the poetic experience of Al-Jarallah, will be addressed by the son of the late poet, Khaled Sulaiman Al-Jarallah – the Deputy Foreign Minister, and Dr. Abdulmajeed Falah – Syria; it will be moderated by Dr. Soad Abdulwahab.

On the occasion of the festival, the Foundation organises a book fair, featuring the latest publications on the two celebrated poets Al-Jarallah and Al-Sayyab.

Back to top

Kazakhstan to promote green energy at Expo 2017

Kuala Lumpur, 31 March 2016, (IINA) – Expo 2017 Commissioner Rapil Zhoshybayev said Kazakhstan is committed to promoting and discovering sustainable global energy solutions although it may seem strange for the country to do so considering that it has large fossil fuel reserves, BERNAMA reported.

Kazakhstan will host Expo 2017, under the theme “Future Energy” from June to September 2017 in the capital Astana.

Although Kazakhstan has substantial oil and gas reserves, it has set itself a target of meeting 50 percent of its energy needs from alternative and renewable sources by 2050, Zhoshybayev said in a statement.

He added that energy security was an increasing concern for many countries, with governments worried about how they could meet the needs of their economies and citizens in future decades.

“Around the world, too, the damaging impact of climate change is becoming clearer every year, thus, increasing fears about the legacy we are leaving for future generations,” he said.

Expo 2017 will be Kazakhstan’s first major international-level event; it is also the first time the expo is being held in Central Asia.

Zhoshybayev said Expo 2017 has been receiving strong international attention and that to date, 70 countries, including Malaysia, have confirmed their participation.

Zhoshybayev, who will embark on a visit to Malaysia next week, will meet with Loo Took Gee, secretary general at the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water, in Kuala Lumpur on April 4 to discuss details of Malaysia’s participation in Expo 2017.

Back to top

Khayyam statue unveiled in Oklahoma University

New York, 31 March 2016, (IRNA) – Khayyam statue, made by famed sculptor Hossein Fakhimi was unveiled in Oklahoma University, US. The statue is located in front of Hester Hall a place for International Studies.

Efforts of Director of International Society for Iranian Culture Mehdi Faridzadeh made the event possible. Faridzadeh, who is also head of Board of Trustees of New York Islamic Center, in an address to the unveiling ceremony praised works of Master Fakhimi saying that the Khayyam statue had been prepared, transferred to the US and donated to the US Cultural Society by the support of Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati and the aid of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Omar Khayyam was an 11th century Persian poet, astronomer, philosopher, scientist, and mathematician.

President of Oklahoma University (OU) David Boren appreciated the work and said that Iran’s culture and civilization is inspiring for the entire world.

He expressed hope that more American students try to learn Persian language and literature.

Boren also appreciated Farzaneh Brothers, Iranian residing in the US, for their financial supports for the event as well as development for Persian Language and Iranology studies in OU.

Back to top

Kyrgyz delegation at opening of Museum of Honey in China

Bishkek, 29 March 2016, (Kabar)- The delegation from Kyrgyzstan took part in the opening of the Museum of Honey in China, the press service of the Ministry of Agriculture and Melioration of the Kyrgyz Republic reports.

The official delegation from Kyrgyzstan took part in the opening of the first Museum of Honey “Bee Gallery” in the city of Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region of China on 23 March.

The delegation included of head of the department of agriculture and ecology of the Government’s Office of the KR Almaz Jeenaliev, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation of the KR Turdunazir Bekboev, Director of the State Inspectorate for veterinary and phytosanitary security under the government of KR Kalybek Zhumakanov.

Also during the visit the Kyrgyz delegation signed a Memorandum on mutual cooperation between Xinjiang’s international trade company Wan Tong Ren and the Ministry of Agriculture and Melioration of the KR.

In order to improve the image of the Kyrgyz bee farming the parties agreed to promote Kyrgyz honey.

In 2013, the Kyrgyz honey was recognized as the best honey in the world and received a gold medal at the international Congress of beekeeping “Apimondia”, which was held in Kiev (Ukraine).

Back to top

Launch Of Kenya-Morocco Air Service A Boost For Tourism

NAIROBI, 1 April 2016, (NNN-KBC) – The Kenya Tourism Board has welcomed the launch of flights between Casablanca and Nairobi by Royal Air Maroc (RAM), the national flag carrier and one of the major airlines of Morocco, saying it will help boos tourist arrivals in this country.

The inaugural Royal Air Maroc flight landed at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) Thursday morning and the new service is poised to open up the Maghreb region to Kenya, and the wider East Africa sub-region.

The airline will fly two times a week to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca.

The Kenya Tourism Board Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jacinta Nzioka-Mbithi, led the Kenyan team to welcome the delegation from Morocco which included RAM officials, tour operators and media from the North African kingdom.

Speaking during the welcoming ceremony at the JKIA, Jacinta said: “This is indeed a significant moment for us as we move forward to strengthen ties between Kenya and Morocco.

“Connectivity is, after all, the heart of tourism, and I am sure that the direct flights between Nairobi and Casablanca will open up the market, stimulate travel and improve tourist arrivals and receipts as well as trade between us.

“Morocco is an important emerging market for us, and naturally, we wish to strengthen our efforts to engage by showcasing Kenya as a safe and desirable destination for visitors. Royal Air Maroc’s entry to Kenya demonstrates their confidence in our tourism industry despite difficulties in the recent past.”

The KTB will work closely with the trade in Morocco to enable them to sell Kenya in their market as part of growing tourist numbers from across Africa.

Kenya has rolled out various initiatives to support the tourism sector, including the Charter Incentive Programme, waiver of visa fees for children under 16 and reduction of park-entry fess among others.

Back to top

Lok Virsa to hold Press conference to unveil Mega Cultural Event

ISLAMABAD, 29 March 2016, (APP)- The National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, Lok Virsa will hold a press conference here on March 31 to unveil the objectives of the Mega Cultural Event of Annual Lok Mela that will be held from April 1 to 10 at Shakarparian. Dr. Fouzia Saeed, Executive Director, Lok Virsa will address the press conference and share details regarding the Lok Mela known as Folk Festival of Pakistan that will capture the cultural glimpses of Pakistan for ten days at beautifully designed provincial pavilions. Started in the year 1982, this unique event has become a symbol of the federation’s recognition and patronage to the rich cultural diversity and active participation of the people of Pakistan.

Back to top

Lulu opens sixth hypermarket in Bahrain, plans two more by 2017

Bahrain, 31 March 2016, (MENAFN – The Peninsula)- Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Khaled bin Abdulla Al Khalifa inaugurates the 124th Lulu Hypermarket at Galleria Mall in Bahrain yesterday. Minister for Industry & Commerce Zayed Al Zayani Labour Minister Jamil Humaidan British Ambassador Simon Martin CMG US Ambassador William Roebuck Indian Ambassador Alok Kumar Sinha and Lulu Group Chairman Yusuffali MA are also seen.

Manama: Middle East retail major Lulu Group which is on a vast expansion mode underscored its commitment to Bahrain by opening its 6th Hypermarket in New Zinj’s Galleria Mall.

The new Hypermarket which is also the 124th store of the Lulu Group globally was officially inaugurated by Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Abdulla Al Khalifa in the presence of Bahraini Minister for Industry & Commerce Zayed Al Zayani Labour Minister Jamil Humaidan British Ambassador Simon Martin CMG US Ambassador William Roebuck Indian Ambassador Alok Kumar Sinha Lulu Group Chairman Yusuffali MA prominent businessman Mohammed Dadabhai Lulu Group CEO Saifee Rupawala Executive Director Ashraf Ali MA Bahrain Regional Director Juzer Rupawala and other top officials.

Located next to the Al Ahli Sports Club and adjacent to the US Embassy the new hypermarket will serve residents of Salmaniya and Zinj and offers easy access to Tubli and Isa Town residents as well. As always Lulu hypermarket provides the widest range of quality and value-for-money products all under one roof. The outlet has also introduced inaugul offers and deals for a range of products at attractive prices.

“The opening of the 124th Lulu Hypermarket in the Kingdom of Bahrain and the 6th in the country is a moment of great pride for the LULU Group” said Chairman Yusuffali M.A. after the inauguration. As announced earlier this new hypermarket is part of our committed BD100m investment plan for Bahrain commented Yusuffali. The group will open 2 more hypermarkets by the end of 2017 at Saar and Busaidi in Bahrain added Yusuffali.

“Our growth in Bahrain is powered by the vision of the leadership the business-friendly economic environment and the ability of our Bahraini employees to absorb and fit into the Lulu service model which puts customers above all.

We thank King H M Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa First Deputy Premier and the people of this great country for encouraging us in all our expansion strategies and efforts in Bahrain. On providing training and employment opportunity to the educated Baharaini youth Yusuffali said: “It is also our endeavour to nurture the local talent and a proof of this is our strong Bahraini work force that form the nucleus of our operations here in Bahrain. . There are more than 1200 Bahrainis who work with us not only here but in other GCC countries also and we will continue to support government’s Bahranisation plan by giving employment to more Bahrainis in our new projects.

Back to top

More Radar Scanning Done For Hidden Chambers At Egypt’s King Tut Tomb

LUXOR, Egypt, 2 April 2016, (NNN-MENA) – A radar scanning of the tomb of Egypt’s ancient King Tutankhamun in Luxor, was conducted, with another vertical scanning to be carried out by the end of Apr, to determine if the tomb has more hidden chambers, according to Egyptian antiquities authority.

“We take scientific steps to get more facts … this is the third scanning operation already,” Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Khaled El-Enany, said, during the scanning process in Luxor city’s Valley of the Kings tourist district.

After the scanning are conducted, the minister added, scientific discussions will be held during an international conference on Tutankhamun, in Egypt this May.

“We will discuss the results of the scanning processes openly, in May, during the conference,” he said, adding that, “the scientific debate will provide more scientific results.”

On Mar 17, Egypt’s antiquities ministry announced that radar scans revealed two hidden chambers behind the tomb of King Tut.

According to that scanning, which was carried out by a Japanese team last Nov, the chambers might contain metal or organic materials.

Thursday’s scanning operation is meant to determine the thickness and dimensions of the walls, the minister revealed.

In 2015, British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves announced that Queen Nefertiti’s crypt may be buried in hidden doorways behind King Tutankhamun’s 3,300-year-old tomb.

Reeves, who has been working with Egyptian experts, on the discovery of the new chambers, believes that, the last resting place of Queen Nefertiti, who played a major political and religious role in Egypt in the 14th century B.C., may be found behind Tut’s tomb.

“Reeves had a credible research, but it is not a proof that there is something, however, it deserves to be studied,” El-Enany said.

The minister said, his ministry is doing studies and scans together with international experts now, stressing that, the team does not “touch the walls and the relics inside the tomb.”

“It will be great if we find something, but if we don’t find anything, it will be a result that there is nothing behind the wall and it is a scientific result,” he explained.

El-Enany was a member of the first committee that examined the tomb, but he did not follow the two previous scans.

“That is why I’m here today, I have already read all the reports of the committee and I’m working on this issue on a scientific basis, so I have to be very careful,” he stressed.

The minister said, he is waiting for the results of today’s scanning, the findings of the Apr scanning, as well as, the results of the scientific debate in the May conference, adding that, he will establish a scientific committee that will discuss the results openly and scientifically.

He also revealed that, if the results confirm that there is a cavity behind the northern wall, “we can drill a one-inch hole into the tomb’s wall, but this is a further step.”

“I prefer to wait and see what the results of our studies and debates … this will give us more scientific judgements,” he said.

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

Back to top

Muslims’s global spending on apparel estimated $244 billion in 2015

Dubai, 22 March 2016, (IINA) – Muslims spent an estimated $244 billion in 2015 on apparel globally, according to a new report published by Salaam Gateway, the Global Islamic Economy Gateway.

The report identified over 1,000 OIC-based manufacturers of apparel, 146 key modest fashion brands, and 85 e-commerce retailers. Modest fashion represents a key sub-segment of Muslim spending on clothing, underpinned by Islamic religious obligations, with requirements for both men and women, Zawya Online news reported.

The report showed that female spending represents a larger market opportunity, accounting for two thirds of global apparel spending. There are substantial opportunities for growth in the modest fashion industry and this has been recognized by more than 25 mainstream companies that recently entered this market including brands such as Dolce and Gabbana, DKNY, H&M and John Lewis.

Mainstream fashion is fairly saturated while modest fashion is turning into the mainstream. The modest fashion-specific brands and companies’ landscape is highly fragmented with no global modest fashion players currently.

According to the report, fund managers spotted several opportunities and had already invested in emerging players including a Turkey based e-commerce retailer called “Modanisa” which received $5.5 million in 2015 and an Indonesian brand “HijUp” which received a seven-figure investment.

Back to top

NBM attracts number of book-art lovers

ISLAMABAD, 29 March 2019, (APP): The first National Book Museum (NBM) at head office National Book Foundation (NBF) is attracting a number of book-art lovers and students. The NBF book Museum, remembering national heroes and literary personalities such as Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib, Hafeez Jalandri, Saadat Hassan Minto and Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and many others of well reputed figures. “It is a great inspiration for young generation and book-art lovers to learn about their cultural values, literature, artistic asset and rich heritage,” said Managing Director NBF Prof. Dr Inamul Haq Javed.

Back to top

Oman to increase air traffic fees in state revenue push

MUSCAT, 31 March 2016, (MENAFN – The Peninsula)-Oman’s Public Authority for Civil Aviation (PACA) will raise fees charged for air traffic through the sultanate the authority’s chief executive Mohammed al-Zaabi told the official Oman News Agency.

The decision is part of a series of steps by Oman to strengthen state finances as it grapples with a big budget deficit caused by low oil prices. In January it cut domestic gasoline price subsidies; earlier this month it raised prices of water for state commercial and industrial users and it is about to cut liquefied petroleum gas subsidies for such usrs.

The new aviation tariff is expected to increase PACA’s revenues by more than 25 percent improving the sector’s contribution to the state budget Zaabi said in a statement.

He told Reuters by telephone late on Saturday that the new tariff would be based not merely on the weight of aircraft as at present but also on other factors such as distance.

“This year we were expecting revenues of 50 million Omani rials (130 million). With the new tariff we expect to add around 30 percent more. We expect another 15 million rials.”

Back to top

Pak-Iran trade to hit $5bln in five years

ISLAMABAD, 31 March 2016, (APP) – President Islamabad Industrial Area Association (IIAA) Faridoon Khattak on Thursday said that Pakistan and Iran have embarked on boosting bilateral trade which is expected to touch $5 billion in next five years. Welcoming the signing of MoU on Five-Year Strategic Trade Cooperation Plan between Pakistan and Iran he said it would also give impetus to the regional economy. Khattak recommended for the private sectors of both the countries to move forward to promote business and trade relations for the benefit of the people of the two countries.

Back to top

Qatar Airways Starts Service To Birmingham With Eight Weekly Flights

DOHA, Qatar, 31 March 2016, (NNN-QNA) – Qatar Airways, on Wednesday, inaugurated the airline’s fourth United Kingdom gateway, with direct flights between Doha and Birmingham, connecting the city with more than 150 destinations worldwide.

The addition of Birmingham marks the fourth UK gateway for Qatar Airways, after London Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh, with the eight weekly services operated by the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said that passengers now have access to more than 150 global destinations, accessed via 73 flights per week from the UK, facilitated by smooth transfers through Hamad International Airport.

The British Ambassador to Qatar, Ajay Sharma, said that, the launch of this new route will open up further opportunities for both Qatar and the UK.

“Just like Doha, Birmingham and the surrounding area is host to a number of investment projects and tourist destinations, that will appeal to investors and visitors. I am certain that this new route will successfully enhance the partnership between our two countries.”

Qatar Airways now operates 73 flights per week to the UK, with 42 flights per week to London Heathrow, 16 to Manchester, seven to Edinburgh and eight to Birmingham, from its state-of-the-art hub, Hamad International Airport.

Back to top

Saudi Arabia hands out free SIMs to arriving expatriates

Riyadh, 31 March 2016, (IINA) – The Saudi Labor Ministry has been handing out free pre-paid SIM cards to arriving expatriate workers in Riyadh as part of the country’s new service, Arab News reported Thursday.

Officials at the airport brief coming expatriates on the laws of the country and their rights and duties and then hand them the free cards.

Last week, the ministry launched the service, which is a partnership between Saudi Telecommunications Company (STC) and the General Authority for Civil Aviation. The service includes a brochure on workers’ rights and obligations and on the method of seeking assistance from the ministry when in distress.

The SIM cards are made available in several foreign languages, and will help workers communicate with their missions and loved ones back home. The idea is to make workers feel safe and comfortable during their stay in the Kingdom, the ministry said.

Other features include free minutes for local and international calls and text messages. Workers can contact the customer service number for any assistance required from the government. The program will be launched at other international gateways to the Kingdom in the coming weeks.

Back to top

Saudi Sets Up US$2 Trillion Fund For Post-Oil Era

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 2 April 2016, (NNN-SPA) – Saudi Arabia revealed on Friday, the formation of two trillion U.S. dollars sovereign fund, for the post-oil production phase, Sabq online newspaper reported.

Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, said that the move comes as the country had passed late last year the state budget with a deficit, after years of surplus, because of the low oil prices on the international markets.

To cope with the new situation, the government lifted subsidies on oil for local consumption, and other services, such as electricity and water fees.

The crown prince also highlighted that the oil production of Saudi Arabia will not be fixed, unless Iran and other oil producing countries fix their production.

Back to top

Smooth formation of tender litchi predicts bumper production

RANGPUR, 2 April 2016, (BSS) – Formation and growth of tender litchi have been continuing smoothly amid favorable climatic condition predicting excellent output of the juiciest, tasty and fleshy fruit this season in the northern districts.

Officials and experts in the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) and other related organisations have predicted bumper production of the fruit following excellent blooming in the litchi trees this season.

The farmers are busy now in nursing litchi trees in orchards and homesteads as formation of the tender fruit continues superbly after frequents rainfalls in recent days when harvest of the juiciest, tasty and fleshy fruit will begin from the next month.

According to sources at the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), over 90 percent of litchi trees in about 9,200 small, medium and big-sized litchi orchards, homesteads and other places have massively bloomed this season.

Horticulture Specialist of the DAE at its Rangpur regional office Khondker Md Mesbahul Islam said commercial litchi cultivation has already become popular bringing self-reliance to hundreds of farmers through farming the fruits in recent years.

Hundreds of litchi orchards have been set up in Dinajpur, Rangpur, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Gaibandha, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh and other northern districts as commercially litchi cultivation continues expanding every year.

“The farmers mostly have been cultivating high yielding varieties like China-3, ‘Bedana’, Bombay, ‘Mozaffarpuri’ and Madrazi and late variety ‘Kanthali’ litchi following repeated bumper production and lucrative price,” he said.

Mesbahul suggested the farmers to spray recommended dose of 80 percent Sulphur on litchi tress if mite attack is found following rise in temperature during fruit formation stage for getting excellent yield.

Talking to the news agency, litchi growers Morshed Hossain, Atiar Rahman, Aminul Haque, Nilchand Roy, Abdus Sobhan and Mozaffar Ali said they are expecting bumper litchi yield again this season to make excellent profits.

Farmers Nurul Haque, Abu Hossain, Kafil Uddin and Kaiser Hossain expressed happiness over excellent formation of tender litchi after massive flowering and hoped to earn better profits getting bumper production this season.

Noted agriculturist and Adviser- Agriculture of BRAC International (South Asia & Africa) Dr M A Mazid predicted bumper litchi production this season if the climatic condition remains favourable till June next.

“Repeated bumper production with excellent market price has been encouraging farmers in expanding commercial cultivation of the high-priced fruit in their orchards in the northern districts in recent years,” he added.

Acting Regional Additional Director of the DAE SM Ashraf Ali said formation with growth of tender litchi continues smoothly predicting bumper production of the juiciest fruit amid favourable climatic condition in the northern districts this season.

Back to top

Immediate surroundings of Byzantine Wall to be rehabilitated

TEBESSA, 16 March 2016, (Algeria Press Service) – The rehabilitation of the immediate surroundings of Byzantine wall of Tebessa (634 km east of Algiers), intended to increase the tourist attractiveness of the site, launched last December, will be completed short before the Month of Ramadhan, said Wednesday the local director of museums and archaeological sites, Azzedine Lotfi.

The works will further highlight the Byzantine Wall and Arch of Caracalla, whose architecture is unique, and will see them from afar, the official said in a statement to APS.

Leisure spaces will also open as soon as the squares nearby the Byzantine wall, notably ex-place Carnot will be ready, said the architect in charge of the operation, Fayçal Belkacemi.

The works begin at the Arch of Caracalla to reach the Byzantine Wall through the Gate of Constantine over nearly one kilometer.

Spaces of grassed areas with walkways will be created along the Byzantine Wall, plus the installation of adequate irrigation systems for the lawn, has indicated Belkacemi, who noted the “positive” feedback on social networks.

Back to top

First U.S. halal restaurant chain open first New Jersey store

New Jersey, 1 April 2016, (IINA) – The Halal Guys, the first mainstream American Halal food restaurant chain, will open their first East Coast location outside of New York City in April, QSR Magazine reported.

The franchised location will open in East Brunswick, New Jersey, and is the first of a number of units planned for New Jersey and the rest of the East Coast.

The Halal Guys launched a franchise program in 2014 when they partnered with Fransmart as an exclusive development partner.

The chain said in a statement: “We are excited to bring the brand to New Jersey first, where many customers are already familiar with us and we have already gained an impressive pre-opening following”.

Since partnering with Fransmart and announcing the launch of a franchise program in 2014, The Halal Guys has opened two corporate brick-and-mortar restaurants in Manhattan, and six franchised locations in the cities of Chicago; Houston; Manila, the Philippines; and Long Beach and Costa Mesa, California.

It also has more than 300 franchise units in development in territories including Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and the entire state of California, which sold out within the first two months of franchising, as well as international locations for the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, and Canada.

Back to top

Travel Agencies Receive Capacity Building Certificates

Kabul, 30 March 2016, (BNA) – The managing directors and owners of 25 travel agencies have received capacity building certificates after attending a seminar organized by Garzandoi Directorate of the Ministry of Information and Culture here yesterday, BNA reported.

In his remarks, Acting Minister of Information and Culture, Zardasht Shams, after awarding the certificates, stated that his ministry would do its best to promote tourism in the country and in this regard a tourism institute would be established to train professional cadres in the sector.

There is a statistic about the number of local tourists, Shams said, adding huge number of people often visit the historic sites.

He also noted that the condition for tourists from countries in the region to visit Afghanistan is suitable.

Speaking on the occasion, Abdul Khalil Oryakhil, Head of Garzandoi highlighted the history of tourism and the role of private travel agencies in tourism development.

Back to top

Tunisia tourism revenue down 54% after attacks

TUNIS, 31 March 2016, (Reuters) – Tunisia’s Central Bank said March 31 tourism revenue in first two months in 2016 fell by 54 percent to 182 million dinars ($90.21 million) compared with the same period of 2015.

The decline follows two major attacks by Islamist militants last year that targeted the industry and killed dozens of foreigners.

The tourism revenue in 2015 as a whole fell by 35 percent to 2.35 billion dinars ($1.15 billion).

Tunisia, for which foreign tourism is an important contributor to gross domestic product, has been under a state of emergency since last year’s attacks claimed by Islamic state.

Tourism industry accounts for some 7 percent of Tunisia’s GDP.

Thirty-eight people were killed by a gunman at a hotel in Sousse on the Mediterranean coast in June, three months after 21 tourists were killed by gunmen attacking the Bardo National Museum in the capital Tunis.

Back to top

Turkey eyes 1 million tourists from Ukraine this year

Ankara, 31 March 2016, (REUTERS) – Amid woes in Turkey’s tourism sector this year, Tourism Minister Mahir Ünal has said the country wants to attract 1 million tourists from Black Sea neighbor Ukraine this year to compensate.

“The number of tourists from Ukraine visiting Turkey has been increasing despite several economic problems. Turkey hosted some 700,000 tourists from Ukraine in 2015. Our aim is to lure 1 million tourists from Ukraine over this year,” state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Ünal as saying during a visit to the 22nd Ukraine International Tourism and Travel Fair (UITT) on March 30.

He also noted that the two countries have become closer in recent years, describing “Ukraine is not only a neighbor for us, but also a country with which we have high-level strategic cooperation.”

“It is essential to plan our region together in terms of tourism (and) joint cultural heritage,”

Ünal said, adding that Turkish Airlines now has flights to seven destinations in Ukraine.

The number of foreign visitors coming to Turkey tumbled 10 percent in February, the biggest drop in a decade, data released by the Tourism Ministry showed on March 29, as widening security concerns continue to eat into a major source of revenue for the Turkish economy.

In this troubled climate, the government and the sector have been working on packages to diversify the country’s tourism markets.

Back to top

United States Supports Tourism Development in Karakol

Kabul, 1 April 2016, (Kabar National News Agency) – Karakol, On March 31, the newly created destination management organization, Destination Karakol, unveiled plans to develop and promote the greater Karakol area as an appealing, year-round tourism destination. This initiative is supported by the United States through the USAID Business Growth Initiative.

“Creating Destination Karakol to build and improve year-round tourism services is a great way to unite the Karakol community behind tourism development,” said Issyk-Kul Governor AskhatAkibaev in his opening remarks. “I officially announce that I will be the first member to sign up.”

The event invited more than 60 entrepreneurs from hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, tour agencies, and service providers, as well as representatives of government, NGOs, and other community stakeholders in Karakol, including the Issyk-Kul Development Fund and the Kumtor Gold Mining Corporation. One goal of the presentation was to recruit additional members from the tourism community in Karakol.

During the presentation, Destination Karakol discussed its plans to expand and improve Karakol’s tourism offerings, including a project to develop and beautify property along the Karakol River in partnership with public authorities. The new park will provide an appealing venue for cultural festivals and river-centered activities to attract visitors to the city year-round, thus boosting economic growth and job creation in Karakol.

Experts from the USAID Business Growth Initiative presented ideas for developing tourism in Karakol based on the success of the U.S. city, Estes Park, Colorado, a town perched at the entrance to the U.S. Rocky Mountain National Park. Karakol and Estes Park are geographically similar, and share many of the same advantages for tourism development. Once seen merely as a gateway to other attractions, Estes Park has blossomed into a thriving destination on its own, so it is an ideal model for developing Karakol as a robust and appealing tourist destination.

After the presentation, Destination Karakol gained 25 new members in addition to the five core founders who created the organization last summer. “We got off to a great start,” said RahatDzhamalova, Executive Director of Destination Karakol. “Now we need to convert this interest into action.”

The destination development program is part of USAID’s broader efforts to strengthen various economic sectors in the Kyrgyz Republic, including tourism, apparel manufacturing, and construction materials. To learn more about the project please visit: https://www.usaid.gov/ru/news-information/fact-sheets/business-growth-initiative

Back to top

Vietnam Signs Deal With Malaysia Academy For Aviation Training

HO CHI MINH CITY, 1 April 2016, (NNN-Bernama) — Vietnamese Ministry of Transport’s Vietnam Aviation Academy (VAA) and D’viation Solutions, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s D’viation Group, on Wednesday signed an agreement for a comprehensive strategic partnership to enhance aviation education and training in Vietnam, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

D’viation Solutions will provide specialised technical training approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to help create a pool of skilled aviation personnel in Vietnam.

D’viation Solutions is an aviation consultant company, establish to provide maintenance and management solutions to airlines, maintenance repair organisations (MROs) and aircraft owners.

Dr Nguyen Thu Hai Hang, President of VAA, said that the aviation industry made an important contribution to Vietnam’s economy but as the economy continued to grow, it will have an added impact on airports, air traffic control, infrastructure and the highly specialised aviation labour force.

“This collaboration will create more opportunities for students to access the regional labour market,” he said.

Wong Siew Kit, Chairman of D’viaton Group said that the cooperation with VAA in aviation technical training and education, through its subsidiary company D’viation Solutions, was a favourable starting point to strengthen the bilateral relationship.

“We are committed to working together to further develop the quality of graduates in the aviation industry, not only in Vietnam but also in the regional market.”

The two sides will develop a joint training programme for future junior instructors to meet EASA standards, develop and execute the Technical English Language Competency Training programme, work together towards improving the standards of current workshops, training aid and aircraft system simulators and share training experiences.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Vietnam has the third-fastest growing international aviation passenger numbers in the world, expected to touch 63 million by 2020.

Aviation contributes US$6 billion annually to Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP) and offers over 230,000 jobs.

Back to top