MP to host Central India’s biggest travel mart   no comments

Posted at 4:38 am in the places I would like to go

BHOPAL: Over 1,500 tour operators from across world are expected to participate in first edition of Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart (MPTM) to be held at hotel Palash in Bhopal from Friday. Three-day travel mart will showcase tourism attractions in state that would lead to an enhanced brand image as a destination on five ‘W’s – wildlife, water, worship, world heritage and wonders of nature.

‘Destination Madhya Pradesh’ will get together all stakeholders of tourism industry in state such as hoteliers, travel agents and tour operators, adventure tour operators, tourism districts, handicrafts and handlooms.

“With the advent of strong middle class, state is perceived as an excellent ‘value for money’ destination,” said Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (MSTDC) managing director Raghvendra Singh.

“This is going to be the biggest event in Central India and undoubtedly a great platform for B2B networking. Domestic tour operators from all over India, with buyers from major markets such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Nagpur and emerging markets such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, etc have registered their participation,” he added.

“MPSTDC has started skill development courses in different districts across state to get trained staff,” says general manager planning, Mukesh Kapoor.

Delegates from different related sectors in Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Scandinavia, Netherlands, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin American countries including Chile and Peru are likely to attend the travel mart, he said.

The event proposed to be held once every year will also showcase various destinations in India and abroad, thus providing an opportunity for people of ‘Madhya Pradesh’ to see what the tourism world has to offer in terms of sight – seeing and travel packages.

Highlights of mega event:

Biggest travel mart in Central India

Participation from over 115 buyers and media from 10 countries

Over 2,000 B2B appointments

Tour operators from USA, UK, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India to participate

Biggest congregation of travel-trade related people from Madhya Pradesh

Participation from sectors of wildlife resorts camps, Buddhist destinations, adventure tourism and luxury hotels.

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Written by enfoquec on October 17th, 2014

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Piano recital opens Abu Dhabi Classics season   no comments

Posted at 4:38 am in the places I would like to go

ABU DHABI – A stunning piano recital from French prodigy Lydie Solomon opened the revitalised Abu Dhabi Classics 2014/2015 concert season last night, with the soloist receiving a standing ovation after her debut appearance in Arabia.

Playing to a full house at the Manarat Al Saadiyat arts and culture centre on Saadiyat Island, the 32-year-old soloist led the audience through her concert dedicated to the travels of Polish composer Frdric Chopin.

The performance was part of this seasons Classics theme The Traveller – highlighting some of the best classical music from East and West.

Following a three-year break, Abu Dhabi Classics has been reintroduced by Abu Dhabi Tourism Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and runs from October until May. Leading international musicians and orchestras will perform at numerous venues across Abu Dhabi city, Saadiyat Island and the emirates heritage heartland, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Al Ain.

Solomon, whose father is French and mother is South Korean, started playing the piano at the age of two by playing Beethovens Ode to Joy by ear. At 10 years old, she gave her first recital at Belgiums Printemps Musical de Silly and at 13 her first broadcast concert with the Orchestre de la Garde Rpublicaine for Radio France.

Speaking after last nights sold out concert she said: This was very emotional for me. The audience was part of the story and we were all on a journey together. It was a great pleasure for me to perform here in Abu Dhabi as I am always moved to discover new cultures, languages and people. This is my first time in an Arabic country and I have been very impressed and am already looking forward to returning.

I love Chopin and I feel really connected to him. Since my youngest days aged around ten or 11, Ive felt a connection with his extreme sensitivity and most of the pieces I play describe the way I feel. Chopin was a great traveller and I love taking the audience from one place to another and from one state of mind to another. A concert is me and the audience embarking on and finishing a journey together.

Dr Ronald Perlwitz, Head of Music Programming, Culture Sector, TCA Abu Dhabi, said the evening was an outstanding success and showed the level of talent that has been attracted to perform in the emirate during the Classics season.

Lydies performance was a stunning start to the Classics season. The audience was treated to a masterful display of her ability, and this curtain-opener bodes extremely well for a series which has been very well received on the classical music circuit, both regionally and internationally, said Dr Perlwitz.

The Abu Dhabi Classics season continues on October 27th with a free performance by some of the United Arab Emirates finest artistes at the Al Qattara Arts Centre in Al Ain, for a night of classical music and poetry starring Faisal Al Saari, Abdullah Al Heydah and Ali Mohammed Matar Helal Al Keebali.

The first month of the season ends with a performance by world-renowned violinist Gidon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica chamber orchestra at Abu Dhabi Theatre on 28th October.

On November 20th, Spanish composer Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI will perform the highly anticipated world premiere of Ibn Battuta: Voyager of Islam at Emirates Palace.

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Written by enfoquec on October 17th, 2014

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On My Mind: Heritage protection   no comments

Posted at 4:22 am in the places I would like to go

Motivated by ideology and sometimes by simple greed, various groups use war to ravage cultural, historical and religious treasures.

While this tragic phenomenon has occurred throughout history, the current fighting in Syria and Iraq is providing opportunities for new depths of this depravity, whose goal is nothing less than destroying the vestiges of ancient civilizations.

“Antiquities officials in Iraq and Syria warn of a disaster as the region’s history is erased,” the Associated Press recently reported. Five of UNESCO’s six world heritage sites in Syria have been destroyed – only the one in Damascus has been spared. And that occurred even before ISIS expanded its murderous rampage across Iraq and Syria, willfully destroying churches, an Armenian shrine, Shia mosques–including one housing Jonah’s tomb–and many more, while also slaughtering thousands.

“What distinguishes Syria’s war on cultural heritage is the deliberate destruction of religious sites in order to stoke sectarian hatred,” wrote Christian Sahner in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Whether it targets Sunnis, Shiites, Christians or other groups, the destruction seeks to erase entire peoples from this diverse land by denying them a connection to their past.”

This type of violence is not new to the Middle East.

In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two 1,400-year-old Buddha statues in Afghanistan. Just as world outrage could not prevent that atrocity, it seems unlikely to stop ISIS today. For this brutal terror organization, taxing those who loot and sell artifacts is an important source of revenue to acquire more weapons, a side benefit to overseeing the pillaging of sites ISIS has destroyed.

Jews perhaps know more than others about having their cultural possessions plundered. Two years ago, 1400 Jewish-owned paintings confiscated by the Nazis and hoarded by an art dealer were discovered in a Munich apartment.

Preserving the vestiges of virtually extinct Jewish communities is a particular challenge. Obliteration of the 400-year-old Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue in Damascus in May wiped out a collection of thousands of Jewish artifacts in Syria, including century-old Torah scrolls, historical texts, and ancient Judaica.

In Iraq, like Syria, there are very few, if any, Jews. But after deposing Saddam Hussein in 2003, US forces discovered hundreds of Jewish artifacts in Baghdad.

The collection, assembled and hidden by Saddam’s regime, was so extraordinary that a US federal agency, the National Archives, brought it to Washington for restoration and preservation. Last year a selection of pieces were displayed at the National Archives, and later at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage.

The entire Iraqi Jewish Archive was slated to return to Baghdad in July. But some contended that it should stay in the US “These invaluable items, some personal, some communal, rightfully belong to the Jewish community,” argued my colleague, Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s Director of International Jewish Affairs. “Given the political and security situation in Iraq today, Jewish religious items may not be secure or accessible to those who are most interested in them.”

The US Senate unanimously called on the State Department to renegotiate the original agreement made with Iraq for taking the items out of the country.

In May, an agreement was reached to extend their stay in the US. That was before ISIS seized large areas in Iraq.

The National Archives has digitized the collection so it can be viewed online by anyone, anywhere in the world. Still, there is nothing like possessing the originals. And while there might be a dispute over provenance, Iraqi Jews in the US or the wider American Jewish community could legitimately claim to be custodians.

There is precedent. Murals painted by Jewish artist Bruno Schultz on the apartment walls of Nazi officers were smuggled out of Ukraine to Israel and displayed at Yad Vashem. After years of controversy, an agreement was reached recognizing that the murals belong to Ukraine but would remain in Israel on long-term loan.

A decades-long dispute between YIVO and the Lithuanian government was finally resolved last month.

At issue was the huge collection of prewar Jewish materials that survived the Nazis. While about half of the 10,000 publications and 1.5 million documents are held by YIVO in New York, the Lithuanian government balked at allowing YIVO to transfer the rest of the collection from Vilna. Over the next five to seven years, all materials in New York and Vilna will be digitized.

Unlike the situation in Lithuania, there is no one to negotiate with in Iraq. Unilateral action would be prudent, given the circumstances. Moreover, the US has a vested interest. “No one should be too unmindful that the US government put 3 million dollars into this project,” to restore and protect precious Iraqi Jewish heritage items, says Baker.

Indeed, why send them back to Iraq?

The writer is the American Jewish Committee’s director of media relations.

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Written by enfoquec on October 15th, 2014

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Madinah to host traditional festival   no comments

Posted at 4:22 am in the places I would like to go

Madinah will host a traditional forum here later this month that will include the ancient tradition of lighting fires to welcome guests, camel races and poetry readings.
“Narkom Haiyah” or “Your Fire is Alive,” is the second such event being held in the region. It will be held from Oct. 28 to 30 in Al-Swaydrah, under the aegis of Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman.
Abdullah bin Marzouq Al-Suhaimi, head of Al-Swaydrah Center and the chairman of the forum’s supreme committee, thanked Prince Faisal on behalf of the region’s families for supporting the event.
He said the forum aims to preserve Saudi heritage by ensuring that young people understand and have a connection to the past.
One of the traditional events is a fire-lighting competition for 40 young men under the age of 20. The lighting of fires has in the past been a welcoming gesture for guests, symbolizing the generosity of Arabs. The young men also have to make and serve coffee. A committee of elders will evaluate the contestants.
Al-Suhaimi said there would also be a world-class camel-racing event. Camel races date back to pre-Islamic times and is considered a manifestation of wealth, power, heroism and a source of pride for tribes across the Arabian Peninsula, he said. There would be participants from Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Individuals would be able to go for camel rides, he said.
Other events include poetry evenings, traditional games and the auction of horses, camels and sheep. People would be able to rent tents with basic amenities.
Al-Suhaimi said tour operators would be organizing trips to and from Madinah for tourists, who will visit various ancient sites in the area. He praised the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities for its efforts to promote tourism in the region and the country.

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Written by enfoquec on October 15th, 2014

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ISIS Magazine Justifies Murder of Steven Sotloff ‘The Jew’   no comments

Posted at 4:22 am in the places I would like to go

The Islamic State terror group (also known as ISIS or ISIL) recently released what it says was a letter written by murdered American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff just days before his execution, and justifies his killing by noting that he was a Jew.

Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS days after the first such execution of another journalist, James Foley, in revenge for a US-led air campaign against the jihadi group in Iraq. As the campaign spread to Syria, two other hostages – British aid workers David Haines and Alan Hennings – were similarly executed.

In the latest issue of ISIS’s English-language magazine, Dabiq, the group responds to criticism of its decision to systematically execute journalists and aid workers by citing Sotloff’s Jewish heritage and Israeli citizenship.

“The case of Steven Sotloff contains a direct refutation against those who portray western journalism and humanitarian aid as purely innocent, for this man was a Jew and citizen of the Jewish state,” the article read.

It went on to note that apart from working for several major US publications such as TIME, Foreign Policy and Christian Science Monitory, Sotloff also did freelance work for two Israeli publications: the Jerusalem Post and the Jerusalem Report.

Sotloff graduated from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya after studying there between 2005 and 2008, and eventually made aliyah (emigrated to Israel). But testimony from freed European hostages suggest Sotloff’s captors did not have any idea he was Jewish or Israeli – despite the reportedly great lengths he went towards to keep his Judaism in captivity.

That was largely down to a concerted campaign by friends, family and associates to scour the internet for any hint of his Jewish or Israeli identity and have the information removed, in the knowledge that his life would be in even greater danger should ISIS find out.

The article cited reports of the campaign to hide Sotloff’s identity, and provided a photocopy of his Israeli identity card.

“The war against Islam for the sake of tāghūt [rebelling against Islam - ed.] is a media war as well as a military and intelligence struggle. It is not surprising then to know that dozens of specialists were employed to hide his Jewish identity from the world prior to his execution. This intelligence operation was done in cooperation with the Jewish state and media,” it read.

The article ends with the previously-unseen text of a letter it claims was written by Sotloff days before he was beheaded. In it, Sotloff tells his mother that her appeals to ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were received but essentially being ignored as long as US airstrikes persisted. In what was likely a pre-scripted appeal by his captors, designed to emotionally torment his family, Sotloff then appeals to his mother to pressure the US government.

“Mom, you can still save my life, just like the families of my previous cellmates who I’m sure you’ve met ,” it says, referring to several European hostages released after their governments negotiated with ISIS. 

“Pressure our government to not involve themselves in the affairs of these people. At the rate that Obama’s administration is going, this could very well be the last you hear from me. Please don’t let that be the case. Fight for me. I love you.”

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Written by enfoquec on October 15th, 2014

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Israel Knesset member calls for storming Al-Aqsa   no comments

Posted at 4:07 am in the places I would like to go

An Israeli Knesset member has called for storming Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in East Jerusalem on Monday on the occasion of Sukkot, one of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals, which started on Wednesday and lasts for a week.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Moshe Feiglin invited Jews on his site on Saturday to gather outside the mosque compound at 6:30am on Monday before storming the site.

The Palestinian NGO Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowments and Heritage, meanwhile, said a radical Jewish group had called for storming the mosque compound at 7:30 on Sunday.

The group is a coalition of organizations and figures who call for rebuilding Solomon’s presumed temple on the site of what is now Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The foundation said the 1,000-square meter mosque is a property of the world’s Muslims.

It called on Palestinian Muslims to form a human shield to protect the place of worship and counter Israeli plans against it.

A number of Palestinian youths have started gathering at the mosque late on Saturday to defend it against any potential violations, according to an eyewitness who requested anonymity.

Israeli police broke into the mosque compound on Wednesday morning and clashed with Palestinian youths inside.

The clashes left 20 Palestinians injured along with three Israeli policemen.


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Written by enfoquec on October 13th, 2014

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Fighting generalizations with wisdom, patience   no comments

Posted at 4:07 am in the places I would like to go

Whenever Islam is brought into any discussions, the Kingdom finds itself dragged into it. It is understandable that being the host of the two holiest sites in Islam gives it a prominent position in the minds and hearts of Muslims all over the world. In addition to that its political and economical clout makes its voice heard and its actions get noticed. Despite all that, the Kingdom has never claimed to be the sole representative of Islam and Muslims, that its social and cultural practices personify Islam or defines it in any way.
However, there one cannot deny that there are those who believe that the “Saudi version” of Islam, with its understanding of Sunnah and its tangled social and religious aspects, exists. And those cannot be stripped down of their beliefs, it is their right to embrace the interpretation that suites them as long as they kept it as it should be, a belief and a concept of life, that the world is not obliged to adapt to it and to embrace it. I believe that has always been the Saudi official stand.
Having said that, even with that realization, that we are not the sole representatives of Islam, we still have to take notice of the arguments that we find ourselves thrown in the middle of. Just recently, because of the so-called-liberal Bill Maher, Islamophobia has again found its way to the fore, not that it was that far anyway!
The Middle East conflicts, and groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS make sure Islamophobia remains alive and a hot topic in the western world. They are doing their best to tarnish the image of Islam in every possible way they can. The man obsessed with Islam, Maher, kept repeating his usual rants about Islam and Muslims in which he likes to categorize all Muslims as sympathizers of the IS and its views, along with many other ugly allegations, to the point that provoked his guests, non were Muslims, and pushed one of them, the well known actor Ben Affleck, to call Maher and his cohost Sam Harris both “gross” and “racist.”
Most of the coverage that followed this episode, focused on the very obvious and basic principle of discussions; generalization is misleading. You cannot take groups like the IS or Al-Qaeda, with their few thousands supporters, to taint a whole religion with more than 1.3 billion believers and hold them responsible for such radical views of Islam. And along those lines of defense, the Kingdom is usually brought into the discussion. Mostly taking women and their rights, and few of the publicized radical views of Saudi citizens on the social media, as examples that the Kingdom is just a part of the Muslim world and should not be taken as an excuse to generalize their practices on the whole of it.
Women cannot drive in the Kingdom but they can do that everywhere else in the Muslim world, there are those who sympathize with those terrorist groups, but there are those who denounce them, actually, the Kingdom is part of international coalition to fight them.
Such repeated arguments make it necessary for us, I believe, to stop and think about those topics that set us apart from the whole world. How the blurry intersections between what is religion and what is social heritage became a point used against the country, and against the religion. This is not only a reaction to claims made by media or personalities like Maher and whoever adapting his views, it is in a way, a soul-searching journey to discover and understand what sets us apart, and why.
Growing as a modern country requires us to face such tough topics, to answer the difficult questions, and to meet the burdensome challenges. You cannot grow, if you do not understand yourself.


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Written by enfoquec on October 13th, 2014

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