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25 Jul, 2016

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca a Jewel of Islamic art

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 25 July 2016 (20 Shawwal 1437). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.




Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines Berhad have renewed their collaboration in the interest of promoting tourism to Malaysia. Malaysia Airlines will sponsor flight tickets to bring in foreign media and tour agents, under Tourism Malaysia’s Mega Familiarisation Programme, from the UK, Asia, ASEAN and Oceania regions. The projects and programmes will run between July-December 2016. The Mega Fam Programme is one of Tourism Malaysia’s most effective efforts to generate wide publicity on Malaysia as a preferred leisure and business destination and boost the country’s tourist arrivals and receipts. It is the most cost-effective way to promote Malaysia as it garners the support of industry players to subsidise the cost of the programme through various sponsorship of air fares, accommodation, and ground support. Many successful tour packages and articles have been produced as a result of this programme. In 2015, Tourism Malaysia brought in 904 Mega Fam participants, in conjunction with 15 major festivals and tourism events. A total of 50,542 Mega Fam participants have attended the programme from 2000 to 2015.

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



The Tourism Authority of Thailand is projecting 3.52 million visitors from Malaysia in 2016, up 3% over 2015. The second largest source-market for Thailand after China, Malaysia is generating strong growth in arrivals by repeat travellers and female visitors. Thailand is the Number One favourite destination of Malaysian outbound visitors. In addition to the overland border crossing, the two countries are now connected by 352 flights weekly, including secondary-city connections such as Johor-Haat Yai, Penang-Samui and Kuala Lumpur-Chiang Mai. TAT market research shows that 70% of the Malaysian visitors love Thailand for the shopping and 40% enjoy the health & wellness experience. The share of female visitors has also grown strongly from 35% of total Malaysian visitors in 2007 to 57% in 2014. Building upon the momentum created by ASEAN integration process, the TAT is investing heavily in ensuring strong arrivals growth, with projections for 3.66 million arrivals in 2017.

A special app has been created by the TAT to help Muslim visitors find the appropriate facilities and services. It can be downloaded by clicking here: http://www.tourismthailand.org/muslimfriendly


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.




Sri Lanka Invites Malaysia To Join Bay Of Bengal Economic Caucus

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka July 22 (NNN-Bernama) — Sri Lanka has invited Malaysia to become a member of the Bay of Bengal Economic Caucus, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said the proposal was voiced out during his courtesy call on Sri Lanka President, Maithripala Sirisena yesterday as well as Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe today.

“They will initiate a meeting at the country leaders and government level so that the caucus will involve Malaysia and several other countries,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid said he believed a new economic development would be created at the Bay of Bengal basin through this caucus.

Replying to a question, the deputy prime minister said he would bring this proposal to the Foreign Ministry and also the Economic Planning Unit and the Prime Minister’s Department to study Malaysia’s participation.

“I am confident this is a new proposal which directly could expand our market and that of the members of this caucus,” he said to Malaysian journalists at the end of a two-day working visit to the island nation here, today.

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Task Force Formed To Push Forward Sarawak Tourism Industry

KUCHING, Sarawak state, Malaysia July 19 (NNN-Bernama) — The Sarawak state Ministry of Tourism has formed its Tourism Task Force Committee to conduct comprehensive studies on ways to push the state’s tourism industry forward.

The committee is headed by Sarawak state Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg and assisted by his assistant minister and the Resource Planning Assistant while the working committee is led by the state secretary as well as the Tourism Ministry and Resource Planning Ministry.

Abang Johari said the committee is empowered to look into the existing status of the industry and explore new areas for the industry to move forward.

It is also to position tourism as a strategic sector in the government catch-up plan in order to improve Sarawak state economy to be on par with Peninsula Malaysia.

“The task force committee has identified three important strategic push for the state’s tourism sector to explore the tourism potentials at the regional level and focusing on the southern, central and northern region of the state,” he told reporters after chairing the first meeting of the committee here today.

He said, in the central region, it would include developing the lakes’ tourism potentials such as Bakun, Murun and Baleh dams while Miri and Limbang would be the focus in the northern region.

“We will enhance our infrastructures in these strategic areas, for instance

in Kuching, we will look into the development of what we call tourism’s corridor from Damai, including our wetland park and the Bako National Park right up to Bau, Lundu and Sematan,” Abang Johari said.

He said the task force had also identified the infrastructure needs in these places and the authorities to oversee the development of these lakes and other tourism assets in Mulu, Miri, Lambir and Sibuti in Niah.

“We are looking into how to get revenue for these products in order to maintain and promote the state assets. There must be certain revenue generated from these activities,” he said, adding that the state government had the power to impose certain fees on these assets.

He added that the committee had been given one year to work on the new approach and it would be implemented by next year.

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Malindo Air Establishes Interline Partnership With Qatar Airways

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia July 21 (NNN-Bernama) — Malindo Air has teamed up with Qatar Airways to offer seamless connectivity for passengers when travelling between ASEAN and more than 100 destinations in Qatar Airways’ network.

In a statement today, Malindo Air Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chandran Rama Murthy said the partnership, which took effect on July 8, 2016, would allow Qatar Airways’ passengers to tap into Malindo Air’s growing short-haul regional network that currently serves 36 cities in 13 countries, including 13 major airports in Malaysia.

“This will give convenience for travellers from all corners of the globe to visit Malaysia and experience our diverse culture, explore our eco-tourism and enjoy the renowned Malaysian hospitality,” he said.

He added that Malindo Air’s extensive network coverage in Malaysia would also enhance the choice of travel destinations for customers in both the business and leisure segments.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said following the partnership, Malindo Air passengers would find it easier to travel to new leisure and business destinations in Qatar Airways’ expansive network whilst enjoying the high quality service.

“Many of Malindo Air’s regional destinations are now also within easy reachof Qatar Airways’ passengers, providing greater ease of travel for passengers travelling to and from cities where we previously did not serve,” he said.

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LEAD STORY: Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca a jewel of Islamic art

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.40.40 AM


21 Jul 2016, Casablanca, (IINA) – Art lovers all over the world enthusiastically agreed that the creative aesthetic of the Hassan II Mosque embodies the peak of Islamic sacred art.

Because of its perfect combination of modern and ancient Islamic artistic traditions, the Hassan II Mosque is an elegant expression of Islam’s spirituality and a magnificent example of Moroccan architecture. The Moroccan Islamic art tradition exhibited in this mosque reflects various architectural styles in vogue at various points of Morocco’s history. The style is a synthesis of Berber, Mediterranean, Eastern, African and Andalusian contributions, Morocco World News reported.

The mosque, which was completed in 1993, is a large complex of nine hectares. Its fine and detailed artistry is the result of 35,000 workers and craftsmen working over 50 million hours. Nineteen cranes were installed in order to erect the building, which houses a prayer hall, minaret and school.

The holy site can house nearly 100,000 worshipers. Its esplanade alone can accommodate 80,000 devotees. The far-reaching echo of its muezzin’s call for prayer is heard across Casablanca. The minaret also flashes a laser visible 30 km distance at sea. Also, since the roots of its pillars are ceaselessly beaten by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, it required the construction of an 800 m long pier.

The mosque draws inspiration from other mosques of the Islamic tradition. The mosque prayer hall is a replica of the Merenid School, and its tall spire is a copy of both the majestic Hassan Tower and the Koutoubia Minaret. The green roof is a reproduction of the Qarawiyyin University of Fez. On the inside, the Hassan Mosque features embellishments that employ arabesques and polygonal constructions of stucco and mosaic. The interior spaces feature ornaments of foiled arches and floral patterns of painted and engraved wood.

The Minaret: Soaring nearly 200 m, a skylight tops the minaret and a metallic cover made of shining copper called jamour. Because of its exceptional height, sophisticated technology and modern construction techniques were used to erect the minaret. This is marked in the reinforced concrete (béton armé), which is able to resist against the combined effects of the wind and earthquakes.

While the prayer hall can hold over 25,000 people. Its rectangular plan is supported by 78 pillars and is 200 meters long, 100 meters wide and 60 meters high. It has three naves perpendicular to the qibla wall. The central nave is larger and higher than the rest. The roof of the prayer hall undulates with a succession of varied domes, where suspended glass and chandeliers-imported from Italy- light the hall.

The 3,400 square meter roof is movable and is capped with emerald green tiles. In Islam, green denotes goodness and spiritual plenitude. Once this mobile roof is opened, it changes the central part of the prayer hall in a magnificent, sun-bathed courtyard.

Meanwhile the madrassa (school), a building that houses theological and other modern classes for pupils, covers 4,840 square meter and includes a basement and two stories. It is built back onto the qibla wall. The madrassa includes a library, a museum and multi-purpose rooms for seminars, colloquia and conferences. These rooms are all equipped with sophisticated audiovisual equipment.

After 7 years of sustained work, the Hassan Mosque was inaugurated by King Hassan II and other African leaders on August 30, 1993. That day coincided with the eve of the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) birthday. On that memorable day, all Muslims are in a festive mood and frequent holy shrines to read out psalms and praise the Almighty God.

The location of the mosque is strategic. Erected at the western tip of the Islamic World, opposite the setting sun, the fog and the swell of the open sea, the building is at the uttermost end of Islamic lands a religion that was born in the Orient and whose extreme west is Morocco. It was near that gigantic memorial that Oqba Ibn Nafi, the propagator of the Islamic faith, gave a historical discourse to his fellows, after realizing that the Atlantic Ocean had been a natural barrier against the continuation of his preaching campaign 14 centuries ago.

The Mosque is an emblem of an entire nation. It symbolizes solidarity, commitment, creativity and spiritual devotion of the Moroccan people. It constitutes, without doubt, a fundamental element of Morocco’s national heritage. As a result, it is world-renowned as a stunning example of Islamic sacred art.

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IMF approves $3.47 billion for Morocco

Washington, 24 Jul 2016 (IINA) – The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a two-year arrangement for Morocco under the Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL) for an amount of $3.47 billion.

The access under the arrangement in the first year will be equivalent to about $1.73 billion, according to an IMF statement. The new PLL arrangement will provide Morocco with useful insurance against external shocks as the authorities pursue their reform agenda aimed at further strengthening the economy’s resilience and fostering higher and more inclusive economic growth.

“The authorities have successfully reduced fiscal and external vulnerabilities and implemented key reforms with the support of two successive 24-month PLL arrangements”, the same source pointed out.

Morocco’s first PLL arrangement for $6.21 billion was approved on August 3, 2012. Morocco’s second 24-month PLL arrangement for $5 billion was approved on July 28, 2014.

The PLL was introduced in 2011 to meet more flexibly the liquidity needs of member countries with sound economic fundamentals and strong records of policy implementation but with some remaining vulnerabilities.

Following the Executive Board on Morocco, IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair of the Board Mitsuhiro Furusawa said: “Despite the difficult global and regional environments, Morocco has made significant strides in reducing fiscal and external vulnerabilities and addressing medium-term challenges, supported by the two successive Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL) arrangements.

External imbalances have declined substantially and fiscal consolidation has progressed, while policy and institutional frameworks have been strengthened, including through the implementation of the new Organic Budget Law, the adoption of the civil service pension reform, and ongoing improvements to financial sector oversight.”

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British Muslim runner Mohammad Farah sprints to brilliant London win

London, (IINA), 4 Jul 2016 – Britain’s double Olympic champion Mohammad Mukhtar Farah “Mo” produced a devastating 5,000m display on Saturday at the Diamond League event in London to prove he is in top form heading into the Rio Olympics.

His time of 12 minutes and 59.29 seconds was the fastest mark of the year, and the fourth time in his career that he has dipped under 13 minutes, Arab News reported.

Farah made his move after 3600m and never looked back, making the final 1400m appear almost like celebratory laps of honor. He crossed the finishing line by doing his trademark Mobot celebration.

Fellow Briton Andrew Butchart was second in a time of 13:14.85, with American Bernard Lagat third in a season’s best 13:14.96.

“This is amazing, I got amazing support from the crowd,” said Farah. “I wanted to do it for them.

“This is my last chance before Rio Olympic in Brazil; this track has so much meaning to me. Not many athletes can do it in their hometown.

“This is my best form (heading into a major event). I am in good shape. I have to keep my feet on the ground. Anything can happen over the next two-and-a-half weeks. I have to stay patient and cool.”

Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers consolidated her position as the number one sprinter in the Diamond League format by winning the women’s 200m.

The 33-year-old Mo showed exactly why he is the favorite to defend his two Olympic titles in Brazil next month with a stunning example of speed and stamina at the Olympic stadium.

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Malaysia’s first Chinese mosque seeking funds for additional structure

24 Jul 2016 Ipoh City, Malaysia (IINA) – Mosque Muhammadiah at Taman Tasek Jaya, Malaysia’s first mosque of Chinese Muslims in Ipoh City, is appealing for funds to build an additional structure to the building, which is estimated to cost RM3.5 million.

The new building, which is expected to be ready in 2018, will also display unique Chinese architectural designs, The Sun Daily news reported.

Mosque Chairman Datuk Dr Fadzli Cheah Abdullah said the centre would be used for religious and social activities, adding that RM100, 000 had been collected to date.

“The three storey building which will operate as a cultural centre will include an office, library, religious classrooms, a multipurpose hall, lecture and wedding hall, gallery, kindergarten and a clinic for health screening and kiosks selling packet food,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after attending the mosque’s Hari Raya Open House here today, he said the centre will also cater to the needs of other non-Muslim communities as well.

“Our objective is to promote racial harmony and unity among the people when they get together at the centre,” he said, adding that non-Muslims can hold their functions like weddings and meeting at the centre, however he added that certain rules and regulations must be adhered to.

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Yemen’s Aden International Airport to resume operations on Tuesday

Sunday 24 Jul 2016 – 14:42 Makkah mean time-19-10-1437

Aden International Airport, Yemen (Image from Internet)

Aden (IINA) – The International Airport of Aden will resume operations on Tuesday after intermittent closures because of the emergency events in this temporary capital city of Yemen.

“The airport will be open to passengers as of next Tuesday, according to the flight schedules of Yemen Airways,” Yemeni Minister of Transport Murad Alhalmi said in a statement to Yemen News Agency SABA, adding that the airport will receive the first flight arriving from Cairo Airport.

Alhalmi stressed that his ministry is making great efforts for the sustainability of the trips, pointing out that the shortcomings and deficiencies are due to security reasons. He pledged to redouble the efforts to overcome all these problems through continuous contact with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, as well as the prime minister, minister of interior and the governor of Aden.

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Arab Tourism Union chooses Riyadh as its headquarters

Monday 25 Jul 2016 – 11:37 Makkah mean time-20-10-1437

Riyadh, (IINA) – The Arab Tourism Experts Union, a tourism body of experts seeking to promote tourism among the Arab countries, selected Riyadh as its headquarters. The union also decided to open branch offices in a number of Arab countries.

The countries that represent the general commission of the union include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Oman, Tunisia, Algeria, Kuwait, and Lebanon. Decisions to this effect were taken during a series of meetings held in Amman, Saudi Press Agency reported.

According to the report, members of the union’s secretariat general were also elected with the former Algerian minister of tourism, Abdulqader bin Graina, as chairman of the union.

The tourism sector in Saudi Arabia is doing remarkably well as Saudi Arabia ranked first in the Middle East and 36th internationally in the size of the travel and tourism investment.

The Travel and Tourism Index 2015, issued by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), also ranked the Kingdom first in the Middle East and 36th internationally for job opportunities in the tourism and the travel sectors.

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Indonesia most favorite destination for Australian tourists

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – 24 July 2016 – Indonesia has so far proven to be the most favorite destination for Australian tourists, overtaking New Zealand, Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema said.

“The variety of natural wealth and beauty, culture and world-class tourist facilities that the Indonesian government offers to tourists have become special attractions for Australian tourists,” he stated in a press statement released on Saturday.

His remarks came when the Indonesian Tourism Ministry and the Indonesian Embassy in Australia were conducting a promotional activity at Hotel Hyatt in Canberra recently.

Besides helping promote mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries, the tourism sector can also create jobs in Indonesia, he added.

He underlined that he supported the program to conduct tourism promotion in several Australian cities such as Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The program will serve as a venue for a meeting between Australian travel agents and their Indonesian counterparts directly, he said.

The ambassador has called on Australian tourism companies to encourage Australian citizens to visit other Indonesian tourist destinations than Bali.

Data from the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra showed that almost 85 percent of 1.2 million Australian tourists visited Bali in 2015.

Nadjib offered potential visitors from Australia other tourist destinations such Toraja, Lake Toba, Raja Ampat, Labuhan Bajo, Tanjung Kalayang, Seribu Islands, Borobudur Temple, Mount Bromo, Wakatobi and Morotai Island.

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Citlink to open regular flight between Manado and China

18 July 2016 Manado, North Sulawesi (ANTARA News) – Indonesias low cost carrier Citilink said it would open regular flights between Manado and China later this year.

So far the subsidiary of the nations flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, has served chartered flights for tourists from China to Manado.

In the second half of this year, the airline will carry thousands of Chinese tourists to Manado on chartered flight, Citilink District Sales Manager Tia Nugroho said here on Monday .

Until August, 2016, around 3,000 Chinese tourists are expected to fly to Manado with Citilink on chartered flights.

Some of them including from Hong Kong already arrived in Manado on July 12 with 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft.

The airline is also studying the possibility of opening direct flight between Manado and Singapore as many people from Manado chose to spend their holidays in Singapore.

The airline is still studying the business profitability of opening the new route, Tia said.

Sriwijaya Air also plans regular flight between Manado and Gungzhou, China later this year.

On Saturday, Sriwijaya Air carried 189 Chinese tourists to Manado in its first flight between Guangzhou, China, and the North Sulawesi capital city on a chartered flight.

The Boeing 737 800 NG of the Indonesian airline arrived in Manado in the morning on Saturday.

An official of the airline said Sriwijaya is considering opening direct flight between a number of other cities in China with Manado, adding demand for flights to Manado is high in demand in China.

Another Indonesian airline, Lion Air, has also made its first flights carrying tourists from China to Manado on chartered flight.

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West Java tea obtains geographical indication certificate

20 July 2016 Bandung, W Java (ANTARA News) – A flagship tea product from West Java under the trademark Java Tea Preanger has received the Geographical Indication Certificate from the Directorate General of Intellectual Property, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.

“The certificate was given at the National Intellectual Property Forum 2016 and was handed over by the Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasonna Laoly, to the provincial administration, at a ceremony witnessed by Vice President Jusuf Kalla,” the Vice Governor of West Java, Deddy Mizwar, said in a press release received by ANTARA here on Tuesday.

He stressed that the certificate was important for local product development.

A geographical indication certifies the origin of a certain product according to the geographical environment, including natural factors, human factors, or a combination of these factors that provides specific characteristics and quality to the product.

“It is important for our country, because Indonesia is very diverse with geographical indication products that can be developed for the national economy,” he added.

Having the certificates means the Java Tea Preanger has a specific character according to West Javas geographical conditions.

“The tea is very unique because of its seeds, lands where it grows and also the processing. The tea has the characteristics of West Java,” Deddy remarked.

He noted that the certificate can be used as a reference to maintain the quality of Java Tea Preanger.

“This is a very high quality tea that makes it expensive. We preserve the quality as mentioned in the Geographical Indication Certificate. This is our intellectual wealth,” Deddy stated.

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Indonesia to hold national product fair in USA

23 July 2016 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The Indonesian Trade Promotion Center (ITPC) and the Indonesian Consulate in Chicago, the United States of America (USA) seeks to enhance promotion of national products by organizing Remarkable Indonesia Fair (RIF) 2016 on July 23.

“The event not only introduces Indonesias goods and services, but also features the countrys diversities of culture, history, and economic potential to the American people, particularly in the Midwest,” the Head of ITPC in Chicago, Wijayanto, said in a press release received by ANTARA News here.

He is optimistic that the event, which is being held for the first time in Chicago, will give a significant push to the governments efforts in improving its national branding in the US.

Although it is the first, Wijayanto is determined to make this exhibition an annual event in Chicago.

Businesses and governments have been facilitated with exhibition booths. The products displayed at the fair all relate to Indonesia.

The Indonesian government has put up notices in some public places to promote the event.

“We are also heavily promoting it on the social media. If you want more information, go to Facebook and Instagram @remarkableindonesiafair or click www.remarkableindonesiafair.com,” Wijayanto said.

Some 33 businesses and government agencies will participate in the fair.

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Six-Year Economic Blueprint For Three Southern Thai Provinces

BANGKOK, July 25 (NNN-Bernama) — Thai government has unveiled a six-year economic development blueprint for the three southern provinces of Pattani,Yala and Narathiwat.

Government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said, the blueprint will see three major districts in the provinces be develop based on their socio-economic identity.

“The government will develop Nong Chik, Pattani into a model city for advanced mixed agro industry, while Betong in Yala is to be a self reliant city for sustainable energy.”

“Sungai Kolok will become a cross border trade hub. The three cities will form an economic triangle to stimulate development in the region,” he was quoted by the media.

The announcement of a major economic initiatives in the southern provinces by the government coincided with Prime Minister’s Gen Prayuth Chan-o-chan visit to Narathiwat Monday.

According to Sansern, the Prime Minister will meet local officials in a major drive to boost investments in the three violence-hit southern provinces.

“The Prime Minister is encouraging the use of economic approach to solving problems and develop the southern border provinces in order to improve the quality of life and create sustainable peace,” he said.

More than 6,000 people died as a result of years of hostilities and conflict in the three southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

The six-year plan said Sansern will begin next year until 2022 under a two three years phases which will also see the linking of logistics system in the three provinces with Malaysia and Singapore.

The Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (SBPAC) will work with the provinces’ chamber of commerce as well the local businessmen, he said.

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New operating hours for Belait museum in Brunei

Borneo Bulletin – July 22, 2016 – The Museums Department yesterday announced that the Belait District Museum located in Jalan Maulana will be open to the public from July 23 to August 5 from 9am-5pm.

Meanwhile on Friday, the museum will be open from 9am-11.30am and from 2.30pm-5pm.

Starting August 6, the museum will be open five days a week from Saturday-Wednesday.

The Museums Department aims to protect and preserve the Belait heritage, promote education and instil interest and appreciation for the nation’s heritage.

This building was built in 1938 on six acres of land as the official residence for the Assistant British Resident and later the Belait District Officer until 1990.

Its structure is a blend of Malay and colonial architecture. The residence had also previously been used as a banquet hall for His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s visits to the Belait District in conjunction with His Majesty’s birthday celebrations.

The Belait District Museum houses four permanent galleries and a gallery for temporary exhibitions.

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Chinese rank Brunei as 5th best spot to explore culture

Borneo Bulletin – July 23, 2016 – FOR many globetrotters, palm-fringed golden beaches, pristine rainforests and the famed Kampong Ayer are Brunei’s top attractions.

But, according to Hotels.com Chinese International Travel Monitor survey published this week, it is Brunei’s culture that has captivated Chinese travellers the most.

Chinese tourists have ranked Brunei as the fifth most popular destination globally for exploring local culture, behind Japan and Australia, India and Cambodia, the survey said.

The survey was conducted by market research firm Ipsos in May 2016, among 3,000 Chinese travellers. To complement this data with opinions of hoteliers, Hotels.com carried out a global survey of 5,800 accommodation partners.

Hotels.com predicts millennial (people born in the 90s), as the fastest growing segment, with the group spending over a quarter (27 per cent) of their income on international travel, based on data.

“The personas should encourage the market to think about Chinese travellers in a new light. Perceptions of Chinese travellers as bus tour groups wanting only Chinese breakfasts and Mandarin translations are outdated.

“Our research shows that Chinese travellers are more diverse and sophisticated than ever before,” Hotels.com Vice President and Managing Director Asia Pacific, Abhiram Chowdhry said.

The most popular cities for Chinese travellers include New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, according to Hotels.com’s China website.

As for famous landmarks, the Grand Canyon is No 1 among Chinese travellers. However, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and Japan’s Mount Fuji are also among the most coveted attractions.

In terms of spending, Chinese travellers visiting Honolulu, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Miami and Seattle paid the most in 2015, the study found. Internationally, Chinese visitors spent the most in London, Dubai and Milan.

According to the recent figures from the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism of Brunei Darussalam, Chinese formed the second largest number of tourists coming to the Sultanate after Malaysians in the first quarter of this year. The number of Chinese tourist arrivals showed a slight growth at 17.7 per cent compared to 16.5 per cent in Q1, 2015.

China and Malaysia also remained as the main contributors for the leisure and holiday market at 55.7 per cent for Q1, 2016 with each representing 37.5 per cent and 18.2 per cent respectively.

Over the past years, tourist arrivals from China has also seen a growth with year 2015 recording over three per cent rise compared to the previous year’s 16.9 per cent, making the number of Chinese travellers only second to those from Malaysia.

Of the total Chinese travellers, 36 per cent were in the country for leisure and holiday while Malaysian arrivals for the same purpose was lower at 19.3 per cent.

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Traditional items on display at Junjung Ziarah

Borneo Bulletin – July 24, 2016 – UNIQUE and eye-catching items were on display yesterday by various members of the Belait community at the Junjung Ziarah held at the Padang Bandaran Kuala Belait.

One of the booths, manned by representatives of the numerous mukim’s of Ulu Belait, saw the display of a Topi Lalanjang.

Siah Omping, 54, a resident of the Apak-Apak Bangkong Longhouse of Mukim Sukang said the hat is made of bamboo.

“It is usually worn by men during festivities such as Hari Gawai during the Tarian Ngajat, a traditional dance originating from the Iban race,” added Siah, while she informed that nowadays they make it for souvenirs and is usually bought by tourists.

At another booth, representatives of Mukim Bukit Sawat displayed musical instruments which are made of wood.

Hajah Norhidayatul Asmah binti Abdullah, 57, explained that one of the instruments is called Lungga and was made of a light wooden material called Sadaman.

“Legend has it that when it was made because during the olden times, we couldn’t afford brass to make musical instruments such as the gulintangan,” stated Norhidayatul. She stated that it is usually played with another wooden instrument called Tangkrong, which is made from bamboo.

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Procurement proposal okayed for Padma Bridge rail link

DHAKA, July 20, 2016 (BSS)- Bangladesh Railway will set up new broad gauge railway lines from Dhaka to Jessore through Padma Multipurpose Bridge to connect the country’s southwestern region.

The Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase (CCGP) today gave nod to the procurement proposal of a package under the project.

Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury chaired the meeting held at the cabinet division.

“As per approval, China Railway Group Limited will implement the direct purchase under WD1 package at a cost of about Taka 27,652.57 crore,” M Muksodur Rahman Patwary, Additional Secretary of Cabinet Division told journalists after the meeting.

Aiming to develop direct rail connectivity between the capital and the southwestern part of the country, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the Padma Bridge rail link project at the cost of Taka 34,988 crore on May 3.

The rail link would go through Dhaka-Gandaria-Mawa-Padma Bridge-Bhanga Junction connecting Rupdia station and Singia station via Bhanga Junction and Padmabila Junction.

A total of 172 kilometers new rail track would be built including 3

kilometer double-track on Dhaka-Gandaria section under the project.

Patwary also said the committee okayed the procurement proposal of 668 meter long Pre-stressed Girder including RCC Deck on Baro Baliatoli Andermanik River in Kalapara Upazila under Patuakhali District.

“The proposal will be implemented by Max-ranken JV at a cost of about Taka 168.75 crore,” he added.

The other proposals are: Consulting services for Technical Advisory Group (TAG) under Project Design Advance (PDA) for Results-Based Rural Connectivity Program (Taka 18.84 crore), 50,000 tons Phosphoric Acid import (Taka 144.29 crore), MOP Fertilizer import under agreement between Belarusian Potash Company (BPC) and Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC) (54.60 crore) and first variation of Construction of 11 storied Bangladesh Election Commission Bhaban (BEC) with 2 basement including Civil, Sanitary,

Internal Electrification, Gas connection works at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar under Construction of Election Resources Centre (Taka 101.62 crore).

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Roadmap to promote ecotourism in Sundarbans, Saint Martin on card

DHAKA, July 20, 2016 (BSS) – Aiming to minimize the adverse impacts on nature as well as fascinate both local and foreign tourists, the government has put emphasis on promoting ecotourism in all tourist spots especially in Sundarbans and Saint Martin.

To this end, the government has taken move to formulate a roadmap for the ecotourism so that contribution of the tourism sector to the GDP would be doubled from the existing 2.4 percent.

Ministry of Environment and Forest, Ministry of Shipping, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation and Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) have submitted separate proposals for the roadmap to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism (MoCAT) in a meeting here on Tuesday. Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon chaired the meeting.

In the next meeting, a high-powered committee would be formed to prepare the roadmap for the ecotourism after scrutinizing the proposals.

Menon said the government wants to develop the tourism sector in such a way that it could contribute more towards the country’s economic development as well as generate further employment opportunities.

Referring to the achievement of Sri Lanka and Nepal in tourism sector, Menon said: “We want to contribute double to the country’s GDP in next few years.”

As per the statistics of World Tourism Council, Bangladesh has earned Taka 40,760 crore in 2015 from the tourism sector which was 2.4 percent of the total GDP. If the trend would continue, the contribution would stand at Taka 73,810 crore in 2016.

Identifying the insufficient transport, tourism infrastructures, facilities and lack of awareness as the main barriers to the ecotourism in Sundarbans, the proposals submitted by different ministries and organization suggested to introduce tourist friendly ships, construct environment friendly motel, safari park fencing, birds viewing facilities, wildlife photography facilities, battery-run boat, angling spot and other facilities so tourist could enjoy their trip.

It also advocated for establishing cultural tourism sites in the neighbouring villages of the Sundarbans mangrove forest-in Khulna and Satkhira-to promote ecotourism.

Besides, taking into consideration of different natural resources in the Saint Martin Island, they also opined to establish sea aquarium, large scale scuba diving, beach bike racing and other sports, ship for the tourist, motel and flying boat operation which would bring opportunity for the tourist to enjoy Aerial view of the island.

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NBF initiates number of schemes for boosting book reading habits

ISLAMABAD, July 25 (APP): The National Book Foundation (NBF) has started a number of schemes for boosting the book reading habits among the students and general public.

An official of NBF told APP that the Foundation has established a number of clubs including, general book clubs, travelers’ book clubs, hospital book clubs, prisoners free mind book clubs, Book City, which provide a very conducive environment to public for developing book reading habits.

He said the NBF also conducts book fairs, festivals, publishes books of local writers and entertainment magazines besides providing books at discounted rates.

He said that 55% discount is available at NBF sales outlet and 50 % on other prescribed book shops for the registered members throughout the country.

He said that NBF has been publishing books relating to history, culture, and national leadership to promote the soft image of the country.

He said that NBF has also established a number of libraries including, children library, women library, general reading library, national book museum and summer camps for children.

NBF has also launched ‘book on wheels’ or ‘mobile book vans’ service, in which, public is being provided with their favourite books at their door steps.

He said that NBF take books on wheels to educational institutes and on holidays, to parks and recreational places to attract people to books.

“NBF has also signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with various universities and other organizations for opening up of new book shops at their premises,” he added.

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Taxila museum has great potential to attract tourists

ISLAMABAD, Jul 24 (APP): The Taxila Site and the Museum has a great potential to attract national and international visitors and enjoy the first hand experience of being at the unique historical sites of antiquities and human settlements of Gandhara Buddhist heritage.

An official of Taxila Museum told APP, he said that Taxila is a unique site showing so any layers of civilizations in this country, starting with prehistoric heritage and moving to the Greeks and moving to Buddhist and Islamic culture.

He claimed that Taxila, one of the six World Heritage sites of Pakistan, is inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980.

“Comprised of a vast complex of archaeological heritage, the site includes a Mesolithic cave, 4 settlement sites, a number of Buddhist monasteries of various periods and Muslim Mosques of the medieval period as well as presence of the Buddhist Stupa and monasteries at Taxila from 1st to 5th century A.D,” he said.

He said that Taxila Museum is attracting a large number of domestic tourists from across the country and number of foriegn tourists.

The Museum officials claimed that people from different walks of life and specially students of various educational institutions are visiting the beautiul Museum from various parts of the country.

He said that the guides on duty, brief the visitors about history and great civilization of Gandhara here at Museum.

He said that last month number of senior government officials from Sri Lanka and a delegation of 50 monks also visited the Museum.

Taxila possessed an important and significant place in the Buddhist religion as the first image of Lord Buddha was carved here.

Besides, he added, Buddhism spread to China, Korea and Japan from here.

He said that the Museum authorities keep open the Museum to facilitate the visitors on daily basis.

He said that the students of various universities are also visiting Taxila Museum for research purpose.

A visitor student of University Muhammad Imran said that Taxila Museum is one of the beautiful Museum and specially for the students of research it is very helpful place.

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Sufi Museum Album to be launched on July 30

ISLAMABAD, Jul 24 (APP): Indus Cultural Forum (ICF) would launch Sufi Music Album `You’ at Lok Virsa, a National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage on July 30.

The Organizer of the event said that in order to support the band and the music, participants only need to buy and show the music album ‘You’ to enter the launching ceremony hall.

He said that the music album (CD) will be available on discounted price of Rs.500/- through stalls near to entry gates.

“Each group of up to 4 persons (family or friends) may buy and show one CD of the album,” he added.

Indus Cultural Forum (ICF) is a community platform of culture and arts-lovers.

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Lok Virsa to launch cultural DVDs on July 26

ISLAMABAD, Jul 17 (APP): Lok Virsa Mandwa Film Club would launch 10 DVDs of its cultural programmes including ‘Soruz contest’ ‘Balochistan folk culture’ and ‘Punjab De Rang’ on July 26.

Lok Virsa is one of the largest publishers of the traditional music and culture, an official of Lok Virsa told APP.

He said that audio and video cassettes, CDs, VCDs and DVDs produced by Lok Virsa are available in the market.

He further said that Lok Virsa also edited, complied and produced a set of 36 cultural documentaries and over 500 audio cassette labels of nation’s cultural heritage.

“A professional video studio has been established by the center at Islamabad. The equipped mobile units of the center can reach any part of the country to capture an event,” he added.

He said that the center offers professional documentaries and video programmes to television networks, universities and other institutions on rental as well as on sale basis.

“It also markets its productions on CDs and DVDs for home consumption,” he informed.

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Maldives attends first Islamic Finance Forum in South Asia

Sun.mv – July 20, 2016 – The first Islamic Finance Forum in South Asia has been scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka.

The first forum of the first Islamic Finance Forum of South Asia would be held at the Ramada Hotel in Colombo from 26 and 27 July.

Maldives Center for Islamic Finance (MCIF) is a partner of this forum.

Talking to Sun Media, the Chairperson of the MCIF, Dr. Aishath Muneeza said that the main providers of Islamic Finance in the Maldives would be taking part in this forum.

And so the Maldives Islamic Bank, Captial Market Development Authority (CMDA), Amaana Takaful, Islamic Window- Ayadi Takaful of Allied Insurance, Housing Development and Finance Corporation (HDFC) along with Maldives Stock Exchange and other companies.

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangaladeshi institutes of Islamic Finances would also be taking part in tis conference along with officials from the Islamic Finance Centers of USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Mauritius, UAE and Kuwait.

Speakers from different countries are set to lecture in the forum. The main topic of discussion at the forum is assisting the development of countries through Islamic Financing.

Other topics up for discussion include Microfinance, Capital Market and Asset Management.

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President inaugurates land reclamation project for airport development

Sun.mv – July 25, 2016 – President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, on Monday, inaugurated the land reclamation project to build the new runway in Ibrahim Nasir International Airport – part of the large government project to re-develop the entire airport.

About 60 hectors of land will be reclaimed to build the new runway a task assigned to Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG).

Maldives Airports Company Limited reported that the runway will be 3,400 meters and 60 meters wide.

The airport development project also includes a 120,000-ton cargo terminal and a fuel farm with the capacity to store 45 million liters of fuel.

Speaking to reporters regarding the project, Minister of Economic Affairs Mohamed Saeed said that it will take approximately 4 months to reclaim the land, sheet pile it, and level the ground.

“This will be different from previous land reclamation projects. We are building a Code F runway. The Code F runway needs to be strong enough for A 380 size aircrafts to land. We want it to be of quality so that it cannot be no longer used along the way,” said Saeed.

Managing Director of MACL, Adhil Moosa said that INIA will be one of the best airports in the region, once the re-development project is complete, in 2018.

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Maadhoo Resort opens first underwater restaurant in Malé Atoll

Sun.mv – July 20, 2016 – OZEN by Atmosphere at Maadhoo, has been opened at K. Maadhoo Finolhu as the first resort with an underwater restaurant in Malé City.

The resort opened on 15 July is the third resort in the Maldives by Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts. Atmosphere Kanifushi Maldives in Lhaviyani Atoll and OBLU by Atmosphere at Helengeli are being run under the Atmosphere brand.


The resort was opened on Friday with an underwater restaurant by the name of Minus Six Meters. It is one of the five restaurants at the resort.

Other resorts with notable underwater restaurants in the Maldives include Conrad Maldives Rangali, Anantara Kihavah Villas Resort and Per Aquum Niyama.

Maadhoo Resort opens with the first underwater restaurant in Malé Atoll

Maadhoo Resort was developed with the use of the sand banks near the island as well. Two of the sand banks are connected to the main island with a bridge.

The resort has 41 beach villas along with 48 beach rooms on the northern sand bank of the resort. And the resort has a 430 square meter water villa Ozen Suite. Some of the villas on the island have eight meter long swimming pools.

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Western Tien Shan added to UNESCO World Heritage List

ASTANA – The Western Tien Shan, the trans-boundary serial nomination located across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan has been included on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage List.DSC_6865

The nature of the Western Tien Shan region has a high level of endemism and endangered species of flora and fauna, reports the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The World Heritage Committee unanimously recognised the unique nature of the region, which has a high level of endemism and endangered species of flora and fauna, including Menzbier’s marmot, the snow leopard, the Karatau mountain wild sheep, as well as many others (a total of 24 species are included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species),” said a ministry’s statement.

International experts also recognised the outstanding universal value of the Western Tien Shan for the conservation of agro-biodiversity of the planet. It is the land of the crop wild relatives of cultivated human species, particularly fruit and nuts, including Sievers apple, an ancestor of all the cultivated varieties of apple trees. It is a valuable gene pool that can be used in the future to search for sources of resistance to diseases and pests.

The World Heritage Status is a guarantee of unique natural complexes and integrity and the states and the international community are committed to further preservation and development.

The Western Tien Shan includes 11 locations that make up the seven specially protected areas of the three countries. Aksu-Zhabagly state nature reserve, Karatau state nature reserve and Sairam-Ugam state national nature park are situated in Kazakhstan. Sary-Chelek, Padysha-Ata and Besh-Aral nature reserves are located in Kyrgyzstan and Chatkal nature reserve is in Uzbekistan.

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Uzbekistan cultural corner established at Heritage Museum

ISLAMABAD, July 21 (APP): Uzbekistan Cultural corner established at Heritage Museum of National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage, Lok Virsa.

Lok Virsa established the corner with support of the Embassy of Uzbekistan.

An embroidered panel and national cloth of Uzbekistan, called ‘Suzanna’ gifted by Embassy to Lok Virsa for displaying at the Uzbek cultural corner of the Museum.

Appreciating the gesture by the Uzbek Embassy, the Executive Director said that the link passage with central Asia at the Lok Virsa showcases the cultures of all central Asia states including Uzbekistan and provides an illustration to the visitors about the cultural similarities that Pakistan shares with these countries.

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World’s largest necropolis in Turkey’s southeast

ŞANLIURFA – Doğan News Agency – A large number of expansive rock tombs which could constitute part of the world’s largest necropolis have been discovered during work carried out by the Şanlıurfa Municipality around the historic Urfa Castle in southeastern Turkey.

Within the scope of the works carried out by archaeologists on the area of some 45,000 square meters, nearly 80 tombs have been restored so far, while roads have been built and environmental arrangements have been made in the area. These restorations were important steps to help turn the southeastern province into a center of attraction.

Among the newly found tombs, one was situated on the highest part of the castle’s hill and was bigger than the other tombs. It was estimated to have belonged to the nobles of Edessa King Abgar’s family. The tomb had rooms for 10 people. Also, floor mosaics were found in one of the tombs.

Syriac inscriptions and fine engravings can also be seen in another tomb in the area.

Officials said the area could be the world’s largest necropolis when the other rock tombs in the skirts of the castle, in the Kızılkoyun and Dedeosman neighborhoods, were fully uncovered.

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Iraq’s marshes, once drained, named World Heritage Site

BAGHDAD – Reuters – A wetland in southeast Iraq, thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden and almost completely drained during Saddam Hussein’s rule, has become a UNESCO world heritage site, Iraqi authorities said on July 17.

Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshlands of Mesopotamia are spawning grounds for Gulf fisheries and home to bird species such as the sacred ibis. They also provide a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa.

Saddam Hussein, who accused the region’s Marsh Arab inhabitants of treachery during the 1980-1988 war with Iran, dammed and drained the marshes in the 1990s to flush out rebels hiding in the reeds.

After his overthrow by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, locals wrecked many of the dams to let water rush back in, and foreign environmental agencies helped breathe life back into the marshes.

The marshes, which covered 9,000 square kilometres (3,500 square miles) in the 1970s, had shrunk to just 760 sq km by 2002 before regaining some 40 percent of the original area by 2005. Iraq has said it aims to recover a total of 6,000 sq km.

Vast, remote and bordering Iran, the marshes have been used in recent years for drugs and arms smuggling, receiving stolen goods and keeping hostages for ransom.

The Marsh Arabs have lived in the wetlands for millennia, but are on the fringes of Iraqi society. A study put their population at 400,000 in the 1950s but several hundred thousand fled Saddam’s repression or become economic migrants.

Estimates of the numbers returning vary wildly. Many Marsh Arabs are illiterate and have struggled to find work outside the marshes.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on July 17 praised UNESCO’s decision, which he said “coincides with the consecutive military victories in the war against” Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The militant group, which has been pushed back from about half the territory it seized in 2014, controls some of the world’s richest archaeological sites in northern Iraq but has not come close to the country’s south.

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Underwater basilica in İznik to shed light on Roman era

BURSA – Anadolu Agency – An underwater Roman era basilica found only 20 meters off the shore of Lake İznik in the northwestern province of Bursa will be revived for tourism, as an “underwater museum” project at the site is underway, according to local authorities.

“We used to say that ‘the history of the basilica goes back 1,500 years but we retrieved coins that date back 1,800 years. Accordingly, we can say that the basilica is approximately 1800-1900 years old. The basilica that the Christian council gathered in is three meters below the water because of earthquakes,” Bursa Mayor Recep Altepe said during an inspection at the site with İznik Mayor Osman Sargın.

Altepe said the underwater archeological excavations have been ongoing around the site for nearly a year, noting the remnants of the sunken basilica from the Roman period were open to visit and they were planning to develop “the best underwater museum practice in the world.”

The project will be a valuable addition to both the district and the country in terms of tourism, he said.

İznik has been a capital of civilizations and it has great importance because of its rich history, he added.

Altepe said once the Bursa Metropolitan Municipality received a permit from the Culture and Tourism Ministry, he and the Archaeology Department in Uludağ University (UÜ) promptly started their work at the site, which has been continuing for the past year.

Sand, soil and other materials found at the site can be carried to the shore with the newly built systems, he said.

Altepe highlighted that there were various cemeteries at the site where coins, tiles and mosaics could be found, adding: “The traces of the region are truly being resurfaced for the first time.”

“We will do what is necessary for this historical site dating back 2,000 years to be visited. The basilica remnants, which are of great importance to Christendom and İznik, will be available for visitors to explore. The process is continuing at full speed. We want to build the world’s most beautiful underwater museum practice here. We are diligently working for this project that will add great importance to İznik and Turkey in terms of tourism.”

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Turkey to open Göktürk museum in Mongolia

Fatma Aksu – ULAANBAATAR – Turkey is set to reorganize the area around the Orkhon inscriptions of Bilge Tonyukuk, a military leader of a nomadic confederation of Turkic peoples in medieval Central Asia known as the Göktürks, and build a museum to showcase remnants found at the surrounding archeological site in the Mongolian capital.

“This is the easternmost boundary for old Turkic tribes. The area beyond this was (inhabited by) Mongols,” said historian Prof. Ahmet Taşağıl, a Göktürk expert.

Taşağıl said the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) was planning to build a museum in the area where the Göktürk monuments, known as the Bain Tsokto inscriptions, were preserved as they were originally built.

“At the time, this place was a social complex where ideas were inscribed and ceremonies were held in order to enable future generations to draw a lesson,” the professor said, explaining that the inscriptions were full of lessons on how the second Göktürk state was founded, how its enemies were fought and how to properly run a state.

According to Taşağıl, the original stele will be removed once TİKA completes building the museum.

“In the last stage of the project, original monuments will be moved to buildings which will eventually become a museum for protection purposes and replicas will be put in their place,” he said, praising Turkey for finally “owning up its treasures.”

Upon orders from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, TİKA ran a $5 million project to build an 11-kilometer asphalt road in Ulan Bator’s Nalaikh district to enable easy transportation to the site.

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Istanbul Opera Festival in July

ISTANBUL – Hurriyet Daily News – The 7th International Istanbul Opera Festival will take place between July 2 and 16 this year.

Organized by the State Opera and Ballet, the festival will kick off on July 2 with a gala concert to be performed by the Istanbul State Symphonic Orchestra under the baton of Borislav Ivanov at the Lütfi Kırdar Congress Hall.

The foreign soloists at the concert will be Bulgarian tenor Kaludi Kaludov and baritone Kiril Manalov.

As part of the festival, the “Hekimoğlu Opera,” composed by Tolga Taviş, will be on stage at the Kadıköy Municipality Süreyya Opera House on July 5.

The work, to be performed by the Samsun State Opera and Ballet, tells the story of Hekimoğlu, who lost his father as a boy and became a public hero thanks to his struggles against injustice.

The best examples of the “Turquerie” movement of the 18th century will also be performed at the festival.

Mozart’s opera “Abduction from Seraglio” will be staged by the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet in the garden of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum on July 14 and 15.

The festival will be closed by the İzmir State Opera and Ballet, which will perform Mozart’s opera “Zaide” on July 16 at the Kadıköy Süreyya Opera.

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Rize Turkey: The city of waterfalls

RİZE – Hurriyet Daily News – The Black Sea province of Rize, with its idyllic highlands harboring every shade of green and scores of waterfalls, is waiting to be discovered by Turkish and international visitors.

Rize is dubbed “the city of waterfalls” for the many waterfalls found around the province, Provincial Culture and Tourism Director İsmail Hocaoğlu told state-run Anadolu Agency.

The province is in a region of northern Turkey where rain makes the ground particularly fertile, Hocaoğlu noted.

“Rize is a center for water and rain. So water is precious to us. Our city is a city of valleys and creeks. Waters from the Kaçkar Mountains and various other valleys meet in the sea,” he added.

There are approximately 100 waterfalls in Rize, Hocaoğlu said.

“Waterfalls are one of the most important natural themes in our tourism. All visitors coming to our province especially seek to visit the prominent waterfalls in the area before they leave. The Bulut Waterfall in the Ayder Plateau is one the many prominent waterfalls. The Bulut Waterfall is one of the tallest waterfalls in Turkey. It is a 200-meter tall waterfall that meets a stream. In the same spot the Gelintülün and Kaçkabanı Waterfalls also attract attention,” he added.

Koçkabanı in the Çamlıhemşin district is prominent among the most visited spots in Rize, with small waterfalls such as Gelintülü and Palovit in the Çamlıhemşin Valley.

Particularly noteworthy are the water drops when scattered from the Palovit Waterfall, forming a rainbow on a sunny day. It is a sight that photo enthusiasts as well as nature-lovers flock to the area to see.

“Palovit is a waterfall that is richest in terms of water,” Hocaoğlu said.

“It stands out as the most visited waterfall here in recent years. The Ağaran Waterfall in the Çayeli district is also one of the tallest waterfalls in the area, and is the closest big waterfall to our city. The Cimil Waterfall is found in the İkizdere district. We have waterfalls in every district. In our city, which is the hometown of water, waterfalls are a crucial factor of tourism,” he added.

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Nigeria: Abuja-Kaduna Railway Ready For Flag-Off

ABUJA, July 23 (NNN-ALLAFRICA) — The minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi has carried out a final check on the Abuja – Kaduna railway, declaring the project, ready for flag-off by President Muhammadu Buhari, come July 26.

‎Speaking at the Idu station of the rail line in Abuja, the minister, who was accompanied by the national chairman of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC), John Odigie Oyegun‎, said, “we are ready to go. From the things we have seen today (yesterday), we are set to go. This test run exercise has been on for over a month. We said it was going to run for two weeks but we allowed it for six weeks so that everybody can use it.”

While revealing the time the rain lines will start commercial business, Amaechi said, “We are targeting that from Tuesday after the president must have flagged off the Abuja-Kaduna rail, we will then begin to charge passengers.”

The minister who sought the opinion of the passengers before fixing the fare said, “They suggested 500 on economy and I will do that.

“One of the reasons why we did not commission earlier is because we wanted the train to run for at least a month and check if there will be any problem but we have done that for over a month and there was no problem.”

On the challenges of getting passengers, he said, “the passengers have found solution to their problems and they don’t need to be transported to Idu before they board the train to Kaduna. People on their own have devised a means of boarding the train from Kubwa and Kubwa presently has the highest number of passengers. The train presently has the capacity for 330 passengers.”

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Algeria Among Top Five African Countries In Public-Private Partnerships

WASHINGTON, July 22 (NNN-APS) — Algeria is among the top five African countries to have recorded the most public-private partnership (PPP) projects during past 15 years, according to the latest annual report on the economic development in Africa from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The report released here Thursday ranked Algeria fifth in terms of investments under PPP projects with an amount of 13.2 billion US dollars being recorded for 1990-2015 period. In Africa, Algeria is behind only Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa and Egypt in this respect.

The UNCTAD study, which examined PPP projects in 52 African countries, showed that the top five countries accounted for almost two thirds of the total value of investments in PPPs, while half of the continent (27 countries) had investments of less than a billion US dollars.

The PPP projects launched in Africa ranged from simple service contracts to large scale concessions and infrastructure projects. The majority of partnerships, around 70 per cent, were for infrastructure development, according to UNCTAD.

Algeria was also ranked by UNCTAD as being among the least indebted countries in Africa. The report deals with the complex problems of growth in Africa and the continent’s needs in terms of financing.

Between 2011 and 2013, Algeria’s foreign debt amounted to only 2.8 per cent of national income, or 5.59 billion USD, according to the UNCTAD figures.

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Egypt Keen To Lure More Chinese Tourists

By Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, Egypt, July 25 (NNN-XINHUA) – Egypt has seen promising growth in the number of Chinese tourists this year, yet the country is exerting more efforts to increase the number in the near future, Egyptian Tourism Minister, Yehia Rashed told Xinhua, in an interview.

The number of Chinese visitors to Egypt increased from 65,000 to 135,000 in 2015, and the tourism ministry has been targeting to greatly multiply the number in 2016, amid recession in Western tourists, given the distinguished ties and the growing partnership between the most populous Arab country and the most populous country in the world.

“The growth is promising. However, we’re still far away from the targets we want to achieve. We certainly appreciate and value the Chinese tourists coming to Egypt. I think we don’t have enough share out of that market,” the minister said, stressing that his ministry is working on all of the strategies to attract more Chinese tourists.

Rashed explained that, his ministry is currently working on all relevant mechanisms, including airline shares, development of the marketing and the advertising strategies and others, “to increase the volume that we generate from the Chinese market.”

Egypt has been suffering a sharp decline in the tourism sector over the past few years, due to political turmoil. The situation further deteriorated due to the Russian plane crash in Sinai that killed over 200 in Oct, last year, an Italian student’s death from torture in Cairo, in early Feb, and a tragic fall of an EgyptAir flight in May that killed all 66 people on board.

Tourism is one of the main sources of national income and foreign currency reserves in Egypt, with about four million Egyptians working in the industry.

In 2010, it brought the country about 13 billion U.S. dollars, as over 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt. The number of visitors kept falling until it reached 9.3 million in 2015, with 6.1 billion dollars in revenue.

The Egyptian tourism minister argued that, the attack on tourism is not restricted to Egypt, citing some recent terror and violent acts in Munich, Nice, the United States and others, stressing his country’s massive efforts to fight against terrorism, in and outside its territories. “We need global cooperation to make the world much safer,” he said.

Many Russian and Western tourists listened to the travel advisories of their governments, to avoid Egypt for safety reasons, yet Egypt is noticeably achieving more security and stability, as testified by most foreigners visiting the country.

“The message is that, Egypt is where history started,” Rashed told Xinhua, adding that, he has talked to many Chinese living in Egypt, and “they all feel very comfortable and safe to live, walk in the streets and drive here, which is a testimony that Egypt is evidently safe.”

Egypt launched on Saturday, the first Afro-Chinese Arts and Folklore Festival, in the capital Cairo, under the auspices of the tourism ministry, featuring various kinds of arts and performances from 17 countries, including Egypt, China, Morocco, Algeria, Cameron, Ethiopia, South Sudan and others.

The minister said, tourism is a very cultural-embedded industry, boasting that Egypt has one-third of the antiquities of the world “besides the largest beaches on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, that are so attractive to all visitors, including the Chinese.”

“I certainly believe that this festival comes on time, and we really need to work together to make it more popular to bedazzle people outside Egypt and urge them to the visit the country,” Rashed told Xinhua, describing the festival as a proof of Egypt’s safety and “an additional value” to visiting the country.

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Uganda Tour Operators Get New Leadership

24 July 2016 – East African Business Week (Kampala) — Uganda tour operators under their umbrella group, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), has constituted its new board members consisting of eight elected members.

Babra A. Vanhellepute of Asyanut Safaris and Incentives, was re-elected as Board Chairperson and in her acceptance speech, she said: “Babra is back to strengthen structures and systems implemented in her first term, and to lobby more for better working environments for tour operators, as well as giving guidance to the board and association at large.”

The other members on the new board include among others, Jacqueline Kemirembe of Platinum Tours & Travel Ltd who was elected Vice Chairperson, she also promised to lobby for better working conditions for tour operators.

Dennis Ntege of Adrift East Africa Ltd, was voted Board Secretary as Costantino Tessarin of Destination Jungle Ltd, was elected Board Treasurer while Lydia Nandudu of Nkuringo Walking Safaris (U) Ltd, Gary Segal of Uganda Safari Company, Dona Tindyebwa of Jewel Safaris Ltd and Civy Tumusiime of Acacia Safaris were voted as Committee Members.

The new board members were elected and installed into office during the AUTO Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2016 that took place in Kampala last week.

In the meeting over 200 people and more than 100 tour operators including several heads and owners of tour companies in Uganda, who form the membership of the Association were charged with the responsibility to elect the new board members.

AUTO’s mission includes among others to uphold the good reputation of Uganda as a tourist destination. This is done by ensuring that Uganda Tour Operators maintain the highest standards of service and value that gives agents and individual clients the confidence of knowing that Uganda has mechanisms designed to consider the possible redress of any wrongs which a client may have suffered.

AUTO is also given the mandate to recommend certain standards which the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife might consider in determining whether or not to grant or renew the license of an operator.

It provides a means for the Association’s members to seek protection or redress in any dispute either with another member or a non-member of the Association as well as endeavour to instill a spirit of unity and loyalty to each other amongst members of the Association.

As stipulated in the AUTO constitution, members held nominations of candidates, who were then seconded by at least one member of the association. Thereafter, an election to vote for a new board was held. A total of 186 votes were cast, with only one invalid vote.

The election that was presided over by a private Electoral Committee was headed by Dr. Akankwasa (Ministry of Tourism Wildlife & Antiquities). Other members of the Committee included: Raymond Engena (Uganda Wildlife Authority), John Waigo (Uganda Tourism Board) and Senior Commissioner of Police Wilson Omoding. It was agreed that the elections were free and fair, with the greatest level of transparency.

At this year’s AGM, the previous board gave an account of what they have accomplished over their two years of service since 10th July 2014 when they were voted into authority.

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Nigerian Airlines in Liberalised African Airspace

22 July 2016 – This Day (Lagos) – By December 2017, Africa will begin the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration on the liberalisation of Africa’s airspace for airlines on the continent. Chinedu Eze takes a look at the possibility or otherwise of Nigerian carriers to compete effectively with other regional operators.

While the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Africa Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) see the gains in Africa opening its airspace for the region’s registered airlines to operate without immigration hindrances from one country to another, some countries in the continent seem to be apprehensive about the development.

The apprehension stems from the fact that some of these countries do not have major airlines that can compete effectively with others; they feel that other countries that have such airlines would take advantage of those that do not have. But comparatively Africa does not have major international carriers. The fleet of successful airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, South Africa Airways, EgyptAir and others in the continent when combined is less than the total number of aircraft in Emirates fleet.

In fact, IATA believes that it is when the Yamoussoukro Declaration (also known as Yamoussoukro Decision) (YD) is implemented that the region would be able to grow major carriers that would eventually dislodge mega airlines from Europe, the Middle East and the US from the continent.

According to IATA, the air transport industry in Africa already supports 6.8 million jobs and generates $72.5 billion of economic activity on the continent but this would more than double few years after the implementation of YD.

IATA said enhanced intra Africa air connectivity would generate 17, 400 jobs and add about $128.2 million annually to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

National Boundaries

According to the World Bank, Africa is home to 12percent of the world’s people, but it accounts for less than one percent of the global air service market.

The World Bank said part of the reason for Africa’s under-served status, (according to published World Bank study, Open Skies for Africa – Implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision,) is that many African countries restrict their air services markets to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers.

The Bank explained that this practice originated in the early 1960s when many newly independent African states created national airlines, in part, to assert their status as nations.

“Now, however, most have recognised that the strict regulatory protection that sustains such carriers, has detrimental effects of air safety records, while also inflating air fares and dampening air traffic growth,” the World Bank said.

It noted that African ministers responsible for civil aviation themselves acknowledged this in 1999, when they adopted the Yamoussoukro Decision, named for the Ivorian city in which it was agreed. It commits its 44 signatory countries to deregulate air services, and promote regional air markets open to transnational competition.

It followed up on the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988, in which many of the same countries agreed to principles of air services liberalisation. In 2000, the Decision was endorsed by head of states and governments at the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union), and became fully binding in 2002.

Implementing YD means that a Nigerian airline can operate from Lagos to Lome and Lome to Dakar and to other destinations without visa and immigration restrictions and it is expected that this would boost intra continental trade and make more people travel in the continent. This is becoming a greater reality with the introduction of e-passport from African citizens by the African Union to herald visa free continent.

It is believed that if taken advantage of, YD will benefit Nigeria more because throughout Africa, Nigeria has the highest population of indigenous travellers, which continues to grow because of Nigerians penchant for international business, overseas studies and tourism. In addition, millions of Nigerians reside outside the country, in many parts of Africa, Europe, Asia, Americas and even Australia and New Zealand and they are always on the move. So Nigerian travellers are a huge market for the continent and they remain arguably the most mobile people in the continent.

But it is not few countries that are sceptical and almost antagonistic to the implementation of YD. but IATA believes that those who oppose YD would eventually embrace it when they realise the inherent and invaluable benefits in liberalised African airspace.

Contrary to the countries and airlines that expressed misgivings about the implementation of YD, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, once noted to THISDAY that African operators do not see the big picture in the liberalisation of Africa’s airspace, noting that the implementation of YD will make small airlines big operators in the region and would now be able to compete effectively with international carriers.

“You remember in West Africa, before we established an airline called Asky, the only way to travel from Ivory Coast to Togo was through Paris. This is an embarrassment for all of us in Africa. Why should we fly first to Paris before visiting our neighbours next door? This has to stop and the only way it can stop and save our brothers and sisters the hardship of travelling to north and back to south is to open the markets in Africa. Today the 60 per cent market that we had in intercontinental traffic that we had 20 years ago is down to 20 per cent, taken over by European carriers.”

Gebremariam believes that liberalised African airspace is the solution to the development of air transport in Africa. Many aviators believe that implementation of YD would boost trade in Africa and instead of travelling to Europe, Asia and the US, Africans would trade more with themselves which would boost the strength of their currencies and create employment for more people, forcing international companies to establish manufacturing concerns in the continent. Above all, they believe that it would also boost air transport in the continent.

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Algeria: Arab Summit Will Be ‘Special,’ Says Bensalah

24 July 2016 – Algerie Presse Service (Algiers) – Arab summit, whose works will begin Monday in Nouakchott under the theme “Summit of Hope,” will be “special,” said Sunday in Nouakchott Speaker of the Council of the Nation (Upper House of Parliament) Abdelkader Bensalah.

In a statement to the press, upon his arrival in Nouakchott, Bensalah said he was pleased to be in Nouakchott to represent President of the Republic Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the 27th Arab Summit, and expressed Algeria’s readiness to ensure its success.

He also hailed the efforts of Mauritanian officials, who accepted to host the Summit and has managed, in a short period of time, to create the necessary conditions to ensure the success of the Summit.

Bensalah was welcomed at Oum-Tounsi international airport in Nouakchott by Mauritanian Prime Minister Yahya Ould Hademine and Foreign Minister Isselkou Ould Ahmed Izid Bih.

The Algerian delegation to the Arab Summit, led by Bensalah, comprises Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ramtane Lamamra and Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and Arab League Abdelkader Messahel.

Messahel participated Saturday in the Arab Foreign Ministers’ preparatory meeting for the 27th Arab Summit.

The Foreign ministers agreed on, during their meeting, the Summit’s agenda and a series of draft resolutions.

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Fourth Oman International E-Commerce Conference Opens

SALALAH, Oman, July 23 (NNN-ONA) – Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI), in the Governorate of Dhofar, in collaboration with Middle East Centre for Social Consultancies and Studies, will organise, next Tuesday, at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Salalah, the 4th international e-commerce conference under the theme “e-payment.”

The opening ceremony of the two-day conference will be held under the auspices of Sayyid Mohammed bin Sultan al-Busaidi, Minister of State, and Governor of Dhofar.

The conference aims at promoting e-transformation and raising companies’ awareness of the importance of e-payment and its role in enhancing development and promoting e-commerce in the Sultanate and Arab world. The conference provides a platform to showcase Arab and international successful experiences, share knowledge, build national capacities and getting updates on the latest developments in e-payment field.

The conference targets academics, e-payment officials, managers of the legal departments at the public and private companies, employees in-charge of digital transformation for e-government, members of the judiciary and law-enforcement authorities, lawyers, bankers, employees at electricity and water sectors, as well as, all those interested in the field.

The conference is expected to come out with several recommendations that would promote trade in the Sultanate and the Arab world.

The conference is held under strategic partnership with the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) and the United Nations (UN), for the second successive year.

Organisations, such as Information Technology Authority (ITA), Progress Soft International and Bank Muscat, will take part in the conference.

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Jordan Conference Explores Challenges To Female Entrepreneurs

AMMAN, July 24 (NNN-Petra) — Experts and entrepreneurs from a number of Arab countries have gathered in Amman to explore challenges facing female entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa and discuss policies needed to ensure greater economic empowerment of women.

That was the main theme of the “Empowering Women Within the Comprehensive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the Middle East and North Africa” Conference which opened here in Amman today.

Minister of Labor, Ali al-Ghazawi, spoke about a number of local initiatives targeting rural areas and seek to provide jobs to women and enable them to start small projects. He put the cost of these initiatives at JOD53 million.

The conference is organized by the Business and Professional Women Association and Al Ahli Bank in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization “UNIDO” and the Union for the Mediterranean.

UNIDO Representative in Jordan, Gerardo Patacconi, said the international organizations seeks through this conference to identify policies and priority action needed to facilitate the work of women in the Southern Mediterranean region, as well as the empowerment of women and enhance their role in the Middle East and North Africa region.

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Abu Dhabi to Welcome Students to Tourism Youth Summer

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, July 21 (NNN-WAM) – Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, (TCA Abu Dhabi), is geared-up to accept a fresh batch of students, to its annual Tourism Youth Summer Programme.

The summer programme is an ongoing project that aims to find and inspire the next generation of tourism professionals for Abu Dhabi.

The three-week course will run from July 24 to Aug 11 and will incorporate both instructional workshops and seminars, as well as, work placement for all attendees. All students will also gain first-hand experience in the hospitality and tourism sectors and the role they play in the development of the emirates.

Fatima Nasser Al Melhi, Industry and Tourist Guide Training Unit Head, at TCA Abu Dhabi says, “They (the students) will get the opportunity to experience a tourism-related entity, where they will get to see the different components of the tourism industry and how they help contribute to the development of the country.”

“Tourism is one of the largest employers worldwide, and the sector has an extremely important role to play, in economic sustainability, yet there is often the belief that having a job in tourism equates to little in the way of career advancement.

By running this programme, we want to challenge this assumption and prove that there are many opportunities for progression in the sector,” she added.

Now in its eighth year, the camp will be held from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm daily, at several hotel establishments across the emirate.

During the camp, which is open to UAE Nationals only, the 50 girls and boys, aged between 18 and 21, will take part in a number of workshops, which will be held in English, covering a range of topics from culture, hospitality, aviation, tour operations, events, attractions, sports tourism, entertainment and entrepreneurship.

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Kuwait E-Visa Service Effective As July 21

KUWAIT, July 22 (NNN-KUNA) — Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah inaugurated on Thursday the electronic-visa sector at Kuwait International Airport; whereby applicants can obtain the entry visa online ahead of arrival in the country.

Speaking upon inauguration of the e-visa service at the air facility, Minister Sheikh Moahmmad advised staff and personnel to subject the new system to regular check-up and maintenance, cautioning that any glitch would impair the service, thus tarnishing Kuwait image abroad. Qualified national manpower should be assigned to run the system, he instructed.

Minister Sheikh Mohammad, who oversaw successful test of the system, urged the concerned personnel to maintain such excellent performance round the clock. “Real operation of the system should be equally effective and I will not accept less than that,” he stressed.

The system is part of a wide-scale strategy to upgrade and speed up the State services for all people, namely citizens and expatriates. Security personnel should perform effectively, security wise, and provide good treatment to departing and arriving people at the same time, he said.

Ali Al-Muaili, in charge of the technological sector in the Ministry of Interior, addressed the minister and other attendees, saying that the e-visa system provides the visa to people abroad via the MoI website, www.moi.gov.kw, thus they will be spared the energy-time wasting at Kuwait airport.

For his part, Major General Talal Maarefi, the Director General of Residency Affairs, said the applicant, via the new service, gets an immediate online reply, explaining that the instant visa is granted to citizens from 52 states, including expatriates in the GCC countries, who have a residency visa valid for no less than six months, also indicating that the special service is given to people of 13 professions.

The minister, who was received by senior security officials at the airport, toured various sectors of the facilities and gave instructions to ensure that effective and speedy service is provided for the travelers.

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Turkey’s Rixos Hotels adjusts to market shifts

Khaleej Times – 23 July, 2016 – The Turkish market is adjusting to the fall in Russian tourists that has been replaced by GCC, Indian and Chinese traffic, which is picking up strongly.

The tourists from the GCC, India, and China are filling the gap left by the Russians, said Fattah Tamince, chairman of Turkey’s Rixos Hotels, which has properties in 12 countries including Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.

Turkey’s tourism hit a severe blow when a Russian jet was shot down by Turkish forces in Syria, as Russian tourists stayed away from the tourist hotspot.

“The market is picking up gradually,” Tamince said in an interview with Khaleej Times. “We have replaced the Russian segment with GCC countries, China and India.”

“From July 13, we are increasing the number of direct flights from key cities of the US – New York, Washington and Boston – to Antalya, and the GCC region to facilitate the growing demand.”

He said that tourism is growing especially from Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE. “It is crucial that we increase the number of flights from Dubai to Antalya because it is public knowledge that Dubai connects the entire world. The change will be finalised towards the end of July,” the hotelier said.

On his plans of entering the Abu Dhabi market, Tamince said: “Abu Dhabi is the future. In light of the potential of the city, we have also bagged the ideal location, one that is surrounded by landmarks such as the Louvre and Guggenheim (Museums).”

Considering the success of the Bab Al Bahr property in Ras Al Khaimah, he said he is in negotiations with authorities in the emirate to develop “a unique and explosive concept”.

In the Turkish city of Antalya, he is working on developing the largest hotel destination.

The chairman says he not a hotelier but a destination creator. A self-made man, Tamince, who left his home at age 15, to become a businessman three years later and the richest man in Antalya.

About his newest destination, Land of Legends, he said it is a multi-concept destination in Antalya that offers a unique experience for families incorporating the best entertainment and luxury hospitality.

The unique city within a city includes the Land of Legends theme park, a luxury five-star hotel, a shopping boulevard, a wildlife park, a 280,000 sqm water park with 72 waterslides, a splash cinema and a water coaster.

The $ 1 billion project began operations on July 1, where 15 million tourists will visit annually. Land of Legends took 30 months to construct. The entire property will begin operations towards the end of 2017; entertainment and other facilities will gradually open over the course of 2016-17.

On the difference between Land of Legends and Europe and the US’ Disney theme parks, he said: “The concept is entirely different. We have created our own characters, shows, concepts, strategy, philosophy and environment, courtesy of the famed Franco Dragone.”

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ACCI launches ‘Ajman Local Brand’ initiative

Gulf Today – 25 July, 2016 – The Ajman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) launched an initiative titled “Ajman Local Brand” which will feature several direct meetings with owners of local brands and franchisees in Ajman.

The step aims at enhancing sustainability and growth of the emirate’s brands and reflects the Chamber’s role and its constant communication with the entrepreneurs and owners of local brands. It is also meant to overcome the difficulties and challenges in the process of local trademarks.

The initiative was launched during a meeting held in La Villa Café-Ajman in the presence of Mohamed Al Janahi, Executive Director of Investment and Business Development and Jamila Kajour, Director of SME Support, along with a number of owners of brands and Chamber’s employees.

Al Janahi said that the initiative came within keenness of the ACCI to enhance its direct contact with owners of trademarks, especially those, which can be franchised locally and internationally. The emirate owns many of distinct brands in several sectors run by Emirati young entrepreneurs, he said.

It further seeks to create an innovated and cooperative sector through sharing suggestions and ideas between owners of trademarks to contribute to developing the emirate’s economy and promoting this sector, Al Janahi said.

He also praised efforts and support of His Highness Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ajman, and Sheikh Ammar Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman and Chairman of Executive Council offered to the young entrepreneurs to serve their business and meet their aspirations.

For her part, Kajour explained that the initiative will feature meetings to be organised at the trademarks’ shops covered by the initiative to extract their suggestions and ideas and share expertise in order to develop the services provided for them. She also stressed keenness of the Chamber to communicate with all the official authorities in the emirate through the initiative to deliver their views and aspirations to serve development of heir enterprises.

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Iran’s exports up 62% in 3 months

Islamic Republic News Agency – 25 July, 2016 – Managing Director of Iran Road Maintenance & Transportation Organization for Information Technology and Communications Office Faramarz Maddah said that 1,643,000 tons of products were exported from land borders while 471,000 tons of products were imported from the same borders.

Referring to the fact that 7% of the total imports and exports is related to road and 93% is related to sea, Maddah reiterated that Bazargan Border having 60% share is the most active border in the country and Astara and Mirjaveh borders having 14% and 11% share ranked second and third respectively.

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Low-energy architecture to power GCC states

Khaleej Times – 23 July, 2016 – The pressure on the UAE and the rest of GCC countries to focus on new low-energy architecture will increase over the next eight years as billions of dollars are ploughed into infrastructure development across the region, new research shows.

According to a regional market study, spending on building exteriors will increase from $ 8 billion this year to $ 12 billion in 2024. Accounting for 41.8 per cent of the overall façades market last year, Saudi Arabia alone is estimated to grow to $ 5.5 billion by 2024, up from $ 3 billion this year.

Architects and developers need to prioritise lower heating and air conditioning costs to achieve energy efficiency, says the report which was commissioned by dmg events Middle East, Asia and Africa, organisers of the Windows, Doors & Façades trade exhibition launching in Dubai in September.

The study says significant growth in the GCC façades market will stem from a big rise in the number of construction, refurbishment and renovation projects driven by tourism and major events like the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Expo 2020 Dubai and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Issued by US-based market research and consulting specialists Grand View Research, it points to a major opportunity for architects, developers, and manufacturers who will assemble in force at the Dubai World Trade Centre for the inaugural Windows, Doors & Façades event from September 18-20.

The study estimates increased spending on facades in the other Gulf countries between this year and 2024 as follows: the UAE with $ 2 billion to $ 3 billion; Qatar with $ 1 billion to $ 2 billion; Kuwait with $ 603 million to $ 825 million; Oman with $ 434 million to $ 535 million; and Bahrain with $ 226 million to $ 305 million.

“The key factor expected to drive the façades industry is the need to lower heating and air-conditioning cost and achieve greater energy-efficiency,” said Muhammed Kazi, exhibition director of Windows, Doors & Façades.

“Façades give buildings a superior look which is a big priority for corporate headquarters. But these impressive glass fronted buildings consume the highest energy and regulating their temperature is a big task.”

“With massive development scheduled in the region, despite the decline in oil prices, there is now a big opportunity for architects and other design professionals in the GCC countries. This is especially the case in the UAE, which is the region’s largest user of energy on a per capita basis, with 70 per cent of primary energy usage through buildings, mainly due to air-conditioning and lighting,” he added.

The Windows, Doors & Façades exhibition will showcase a wide range of products for optimising energy retention and management, which vary from embedding the use of plants into the design of buildings, using minimal sliding doors, automated layered glazed panels as well as digital, interactive façades, already popular in major cities around the world.

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R Hotels’ Palm property to focus on health, wellness

Gulf Today – 23 July, 2016 – R Hotels unveils the latest developments of its 253-key property in Palm Jumeirah. Envisioned as the first holistic health and wellness resort in the UAE, the group is expected to sign a partnership with a renowned global brand in developing the concept and providing the services.

Sumair Tariq, Managing Director of R Hotels, commented: “With the increasing number of hotel projects underway in the region, R Hotels strives to offer a distinctive concept in this highly competitive market. People are more health-conscious than before and we have witnessed an increased demand for products which are designed for healthy lifestyle including leisure activities, food, and even gadgets. With this trend, our group is keen to introduce the region’s first health and wellness resort, by partnering with trusted brands.”

The pre-opening of the property will be headed by Samir Arora, who is currently the General Manager of Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham JBR. In his role as pre-opening General Manager, Arora will be in-charge of dealing with the key partners of the property ranging from contractors, consultants and suppliers.

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Armenian investors ready to boost presence in Iran

Tehran Times – 25 July, 2016 – Armenian ambassador to Tehran Artashes Tumanyan has said that his country is ready to boost investment in Iran.

In a Sunday meeting with the chairman of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Masoud Khansari, the Armenian official said that investment in the field of information technology is prioritized, IRNA reported.

The central bank of Armenia has developed plans to expand banking and monetary cooperation with Iran, Tumanyan added.

He went on to say that Armenia will organize an exclusive expo in Tehran in the seventh Iranian calendar month (Sept. 22-Oct. 21).

Armenian companies are also interested in investing in Iran’s poultry farming industry, he stressed.

Khansari, for his part, said that cooperation between the two countries should be planned so that it leads to presence in a third market. He proposed that holding joint exhibitions and dispatching trade delegations should be increased.

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Italy eyes $ 1.1bn Iran high-speed rail deal

TradeArabia – 17 July, 2016 – Italy’s state railways company expects to sign a contract to build the first stretch of a high-speed rail line in Iran in February 2017, its chief executive said.

The contract for the roughly 100 km-stretch between Qom and Arak is worth about €1 billion ($ 1.1 billion), Ferrovie dello Stato chief Renato Mazzoncini said at an event in Rome.

Ferrovie signed a framework agreement to build two high-speed lines in Iran when Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Tehran with a delegation of business leaders in April.

Mazzoncini said the overall deal would be worth about €4 billion ($ 4.41 billion).

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SR53bn to be spent on Saudi domestic tourism

Arab News – 17 July, 2016 – The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH), the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, Jeddah municipality and all other departments of the government are eager to promote national tourism.

Mohammad Abdullah Al-Amri, director general of the SCTNH branch in Makkah Province, said the commission is expected to spend SR53.5 billion on local tourism and about SR90.8 billion on inbound tourism in 2016.

He said the SCTNH is expecting around SR144.3billion in revenues in 2016 from visitors and residents of the Kingdom.

He said the expected revenue through local tourism is much more than what Saudis traveling abroad spend, as it is estimated that Saudis spend SR86.4 billion on tourism abroad.

He said the government’s Vision 2030 will lead to non-dependence on oil revenue, and will assume Saudi Arabia’s new economic transformation plan.

Meanwhile, Jeddah will put in its share to the tourism economy in the long run, and there will be a significant growth in domestic tourism.

Al-Amri said they have planned new strategies for the promotion and development of domestic tourism according to Vision 2030.

“It is clear that tourism is an essential part of the Kingdom’s vision, which provides business, and creates jobs and investments,” he said.

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Iran plans first tender to draw $12bn green investment

tradearabia – 18 July, 2016 – Iran is planning its first tender for utility-scale renewable-energy projects by year end as it begins a green power build out that could draw $ 12 billion of investment by the time it’s complete.

The nation wants to install 5 gigawatts of renewable energy in the next five years and an additional 2.5 gigawatts by 2030, Iran’s energy minister Hamid Chitchian told Bloomberg in an interview in London.

The Persian Gulf nation, re-opened to investors following last year’s nuclear deal, has been courted by international green power investors at the same time it boosts oil production for export.

“We’re not going to use the money from oil in that sector at all,” Chitchian said. “All the investment will be done by the private sector, including local and foreign companies.”

At least 150 trade delegations from around the globe have visited Tehran in the six months since economic sanctions were dropped.

While businesses and diplomats have clamored to tap the market of 78 million people, deals have been slow to materialize as banks and financial institutions exert caution to ensure the nuclear accord sticks. Western powers accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Iran always denied.

Tehran’s government is seeking commerce with countries and companies offering the best financial terms rather than prioritising political and historical ties.

The energy ministry is already in talks with some of the world’s largest renewable-energy players including Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Siemens Wind Power, Chitchian said.

Vestas’ chief sales officer, Juan Aratuce, said last month that Iran could be an important new market for wind energy. Automaker Iran Khodro Company is negotiating with South Korea’s LG International Corp. to jointly develop electric vehicles.

“Foreign direct investment dried up during the sanctions but it is already starting to flow,” said Mohammad Hassan Habibollahzadeh, Iran’s charge d’affaires in UK. “Many companies have signed agreements during the last few months. Electricity is considered to be one of the most important sectors,” he added.

Most of Iran’s power plants are over 40 years old and need to be renovated and repowered, he said. The government is planning to invest a total of $ 50 billion in its electricity system in the next seven years.

The energy ministry has set 12 separate feed-in tariffs for renewables, depending on the type of technology and the size of the power plant. That system will be kept for projects under than 100 megawatts. The new tender system will be used for facilities with higher generation capacities.

According to him, Iran will tender 1 gigawatt of wind and as many as 3 gigawatts of solar, likely in several stages. It is also seeking to build biomass and geothermal plants and swap natural gas for electricity with Armenia, stated Chitchian.

Iran may also add solar to its system of energy swaps, which before sanctions were lifted allowed the country to traded crude for refined products. Under a so-called “solar for service” program, developers and land owners would split cash flows generated from power sales.

Iran currently supplies 80 per cent of its power from natural gas and wants to raise that figure to 90 percent by the end of next year.

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Saudi Vision 2030 goals to reform economy

Arab News – 19 July, 2016 – GCC countries are facing budgetary problems, which could result in long-term deficits if not addressed.

While every GCC government has announced spending cuts to conserve budgets, conventional cost-cutting is only a short-term fix and could potentially slow a country’s growth over time, according to a recent study by management consultancy Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company.

For GCC governments to cut costs and grow simultaneously, Strategy& recommends adopting a Fit for Service framework. This approach would allow GCC government entities to achieve sustainable reductions in their budgets while also reinforcing investment in the services that are essential to long-term security and robust growth.

Fadi Adra, partner with Strategy& and a member of the public sector practice in the Middle East, said: “The GCC’s budgetary problems are not a cyclical condition that will resolve themselves with time. The price of oil for example, which contributes to three-quarters of GCC government revenues, has fallen to its lowest levels in over a decade, while the cost and demand for core public services continues to rise.”

Adra added: “Oil-based budgets however are also not viable over the long-term, whether or not the price of oil rebounds. To put this into perspective, even if GCC governments can grow non-oil revenues by 10 percent annually over the rest of this decade and the average price per barrel of oil returns to $ 50, their budgets would still need to be reduced by approximately $ 100 billion on an annual basis— this is 7 percent of the GCC’s total GDP — in order to eliminate fiscal deficits. This is why adopting a Fit for Service approach is critical for GCC nations.”

According to Strategy&, adopting a Fit for Service approach is driven by four actions — articulating a strategy, transforming the existing cost structure, building critical capabilities needed to execute the strategy funded by cost savings and reorganizing the operating model for optimal performance.

“For example, every GCC government should be able to articulate clearly a coherent way to service its constituents, quickly find savings to reduce deficit spending and release funds needed, maintain a multitude of capabilities to execute its strategy and develop the appropriate operating models aligned with the strategy,” said Ashish Labroo, principal with Strategy& and a member of the firm’s energy, chemicals and utilities practice in the Middle East.

Rawia Abdel Samad, director of the Ideation Center, a think tank for Strategy& in the Middle East, said: “By adopting a Fit for Service approach, GCC governments for example can achieve 20 to 40 percent reductions in their cost structures.”

Some GCC governments have already taken steps to adopt initiatives aligned with a Fit for Service approach. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the government’s national transformation plan — Saudi Vision 2030 — has ambitious goals to reform various aspects of government.

Sevag Papazian, principal with Strategy& and a member of the digital business and technology practice in the Middle East, said: “It is easy to see why conventional cost-cutting has become the default solution to budgetary shortfalls in the public and private sectors.”

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