May 23 - 29, 2005



Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Kingdom has said "the Qur'an promotes truth and justice; hence we all have to take care of the holy book"
This he stated at an award giving ceremony to the students who won top prizes in a Qur'an competition held in Riyadh Emphasizing the importance of learning the Qur'an, crown prince observed that it is the key to understand the true teachings of Islam. "We have to study the Holy Qur'an deeply to understand its noble teachings because it's the guide to truth and  justice and is the symbol of every Muslim," the crown prince said while addressing the Qur'an contest winners. 



The Qur'an memorization contest, named after the crown prince, was organized recently by the National Guard's Islamic Guidance Department.

"We have to exert more efforts to understand the meaning of the Qur'an, not just to memorize it and recite it melodiously."

Prince Abdullah later inspected a vehicle prepared by the department, as part of its campaign against terrorism. The vehicle displayed Qur'an verses and sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) that prohibit killing of innocent people as well as pictures of terrorist attacks in various parts of the country.


Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a 49-article memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the end of the 7th session of Iran-Saudi Arabia Joint Economic Commission held in Riyadh.

The accord was inked by Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari and his Saudi counterpart Hashim bin Abdallah bin Yamani.

Based on the agreement, the Iranian banks of Melli and Parsian are due to establish new branches in Jeddah. The agreement also sets the framework for Iran to hold exclusive exhibitions in Saudi Arabia.

The two sides expressed their readiness to establish joint companies for construction of automobiles and spare parts, production of cement and extraction of minerals.

Iran announced its interest to export different kinds of automobiles, agricultural and road-building machinery and medical instrument. Under the agreement, Iran and Saudi Arabia are to expand cooperation in the fields of sea and land transportation, electricity, joint venture, news, construction of power plant and exchanging experts and expertise.

The 7th session of Iran-Saudi Arabia Joint Economic Commission was held on May 16-17, while its 8th session is to be held in Tehran.


Jordan's King Abdallah opened the third annual meeting in a row of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea resort with the participation of about 1,300 leaders of the world's business, politics and civil society.

Held under the theme "Seizing the Moment", participants focused on ways and means of speeding up reforms in the Arab world and the latest developments of the Arab-Israeli peace process with a view to building up international support for the next steps.

The discussions will also engage regional players with the wider world on the issue of international terrorism and nuclear proliferation, organizer said. The conferees "will be challenged to respond to peoples' demands for improvement in their daily lives through wider political participation, improved economic opportunities and greater peace and stability throughout the region.

The conference would provide a platform for appraising the outcome of latest elections held in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia as well as the democratic agitation in Egypt. Relations between the United States and each of Iran, Syria, and Lebanon will be on the agenda, the WEF said.

Representatives of 19 regional countries and the G-8 nations are meeting in Jordan to address key trade, investment and finance issues in the broader Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).

The two-day meeting, said to have paved the ground for the WEF conference, is sponsored by the Jordanian government and four US bodies-the US Export Import (EX-IM) Bank, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the US Trade and Development Agency and the US State Department.

The conference builds upon the commitments made by the leaders of the G-8 and Broader Middle East and North Africa region to a partnership for progress and a common future at the June Sea Island G-8 summit, and the subsequent December 2004 forum for the future held in Morocco," according to a statement by the US sponsor.

Delegates from the 27 countries discussed how more financing can be made available to support increased trade, investment and economic development in the broader MENA region, which includes all Arab countries, as well as neighboring states like Israel, Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Studies are under way to expand the Prince Muhammad Airport in Madinah in order to accommodate more than one million passengers including pilgrims annually. Madinah Governor Prince Muqrin is closely following up the studies as he intended to make it one of the best airports in the region with state-of-the-art facilities.



Madinah airport currently receives nine flights a day from certain Islamic countries carrying about 3,600 Umrah pilgrims.

The expansion comes on the heels of another project by the Civil Aviation Corporation (CAC) to establish four new passenger lounges at the Haj Terminal of King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.

New lounges will be established by the private sector on a build, operation and transfer system (BOT). The passenger lounges, which are planned to accommodate the growing number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, will be provided with aerobridges.

The civil aviation corporation is planning to set up 40 TV screens to provide information on flight arrivals and departures and 1,000 additional seats for pilgrims' comfort as well as 300 new toilets.

The Kingdom is making plans to receive 10 million pilgrims annually in the backdrop of growing Muslim population in countries around the world. Jeddah's King Abdul Aziz Airport is the main gateway of pilgrims, which at present receives more than one million Haj pilgrims and nearly two million Umrah pilgrims.

The aviation corporation has embarked on another project to expand an airport in the southern city of Bisha. The project is estimated to cost SR113 million. Work on the Bisha airport will be completed within two years when its lounges will be ready to accommodate 400 passengers. The airport will also be able to receive three planes at a time once the project is completed. The project includes construction of buildings for administration, cargo and postal service.

The corporation is weighing prospects of establishing a new regional airport in the northwestern coastal city of Dhuba after its seaport reportedly has become a major hub for Gulf passengers traveling to Egypt and other African countries.

The Kingdom has spent more than SR50 billion on airports over the past two decades. There are three international airports in the Kingdom. King Fahd International Airport in Dammam is the largest, with an annual capacity of 16 million passengers.


Indonesian housemaids will once again start arriving Saudi Arabia following new bilateral arrangements. The special committee formed by the Ministry of Labor had meetings with visiting officials from Indonesia in Riyadh and arrangements have been worked out under which maids are to get a better deal

The Kingdom has been the largest market for Indonesian domestic staff, issuing about 15,000 visas monthly for maids. Indonesia suspended manpower exports to the Kingdom on Feb. 2, 2003, to implement sweeping administrative reforms at local recruitment agencies.

In the absence of Indonesian maids, the Kingdom had increased its dependence on Philippine and Sri Lankan maids, and also had plans to get them from Cambodia and Vietnam. An official letter in connection with the agreement is being forwarded to officials concerned with the recruitment of maids in Indonesia.

Under the new arrangements, Indonesian maids will be paid a monthly salary ranging from SR750 to SR900 and will be entitled to a weekly off or SR25 in lieu thereof. They will also be entitled to leave with pay if they fall sick. In the event of a maid's death, the sponsor will make burial arrangements locally or transport the body back home.

The sponsors will bear all costs related to their maids including air tickets, accommodation, food and health care. They will also facilitate and bear the expenses of maids who wish to perform Haj or Umrah. Above all, the sponsors will treat their maids according to Shariah. The sponsors will also bear the responsibility if their maids suffer from psychological or physical disorders at the workplace.

An estimated 23 million are foreign nationals who work in largely menial or blue-collar positions in Kingdom. About one million work as domestics, such as gardeners and maids. The vast majority of the 400,000 maids are women from Asia.

Maids have also been running away from their sponsors for a variety of reasons, including non-payment of wages and maltreatment by family members. The Saudi Embassy in Jakarta and the Indonesian Manpower Ministry have held meetings to remove the obstacles to labor recruitment from the country at a time when 40,000 labor visas had been held up at the embassy.

There were three major impediments to recruiting domestic servants from Indonesia. First, the manpower ministry allowed only 27 of 400 Indonesian recruitment firms to handle Saudi labor applications. Second, the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh wanted a fee of $25 to endorse the work contract of each maid, but the Kingdom had rejected the scheme. And third, the manpower ministry had imposed a quota system on recruitment firms, limiting the number of visas they could arrange each month.


French Tourism Minister Leon Bertrand, Iran's Ambassador to France Sadeq Kharrazi, Deputy Commerce Minister Feizollah Arabsorkhi and several businessmen attended the inaugural ceremony of the exhibition which runs through May 24.

The fair is sponsored by Iran-France trade centers, the Iranian Embassy in Paris as well as the Iran and France chambers of commerce and industry.

Some 25 rolls of Iranian silk carpets along with 200 rolls of other hand-woven ones are being put on display at the Paris exhibition.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, Kharrazi expressed gratitude over the presence of the French minister and the Iranian deputy minister. "Iranian carpet is symbol of Iranian arts, industry, history and identity," he said.

He added every region in Iran has its own style and each style represents a particular region and tribe. Arabsorkhi also expressed appreciation over Iran-France good cooperation in holding the exhibition.


A two-member delegation of Gem & Jewelry Export Promotion Council of India (GJEPC) recently had a tour to Jeddah to explore opportunities for a road show on the country's gem and jewelry industry. The focus of the road show is to invite buyers to India International Jewellery Show (IIJS) 2005 being held in Mumbai from July 14-18.

The team, headed by Pankaj Parekh, the council's convener for the eastern region, held meetings with Saudi businessmen from the gem and Jewellery sector and extends an invitation to them to visit the IIJS 2005.

"The 65,000-member GJEPC organizes Asia's largest gem and Jewellery trade exhibitions annually, which was a great success in 2004. The show, which showcased varieties of Indian gems and Jewellery of exquisite craftsmanship and design, and high precision machinery, had 1,200 stands and 30,000 visitors.


United Arab Shipping Company (UASC) recorded many achievements in 2004. "2004 was a year of record achievements for UASC, as the container trade continued to experience growth in volumes and improved freight rates," UASC chairman Dhiyaa Habeeb F. Al-Khayoun told the company's 28th general assembly meeting held in Dubai.

"During the year, the company registered an annual turnover of $982 million and a net profit of $135 million, thereby achieving profitable financial results for 10 years consecutively," Al-Khayoun said briefing the meeting about the company's activities, achievements and audited financial results for 2004.

The past year has further strengthened the financial position of UASC, whose accumulated profit at the end of it increased to $155 million after allocations to the statutory reserves. Accordingly, the general assembly has declared a dividend equivalent to six percent of the paid-up capital, which amounts to $59.472 million.

Jorn Hinge, chief trade and operating officer of the company, said UASC achieved another landmark record of transporting over one million TEUs in addition to 890,000 freight tons of general cargo.

The company's strong performance in 2004 was due to a combination of favorable conditions prevailing in the liner markets and its efforts to improve operational efficiency and control costs. During the year, the company adopted a growth strategy, part of which was to order eight 6,800 TEU high-speed containerships that will be completed and delivered in 2008.

The board of directors expressed their sincere appreciation for the governments of the shareholding states (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Iraq) and expressed the company's gratitude to the public and private sectors as well as its worldwide customers for their continued support to UASC. Special appreciation was extended for the efforts of the company staff.

Dhiyaa said that Acting President & CEO Khalifa Al-Shebli could not be present as he was briefly indisposed and announced the appointment of Ken Bloch Soerensen as the company's new president and CEO. Soerensen has been working as executive director of European Liner Affairs Association Brussels, Belgium an industry association that represents top 25 container lines' interests in Europe particularly vis-a-vis the European commission and other institutions. Prior to this, Soerensen had 23 years experience in the container transportation industry including his association with A.P. Moller-Maersk and senior management positions with APL.

Soerensen will take his new position with effect from July 1. The chief trade and operating officer reported the estimated financial results for the 1st quarter of 2005 during which the company achieved a profit of $30 million as compared to the profit of $22.8 million, registered for the same period in 2004.


Jeddah has acquired one more landmark, this time a mega mall, whose opening last week was visited by hundreds of shoppers. "It's a mega mall, because it's huge and unique in terms of features, facilities, amenities and services,"

"It's one of the most prime locations of the city, where Tahlia and Sitteen streets are considered the most important commercial spines. The mega mall has a simple 'L' shape design that contains a single four-level retail spine with anchor stores at both ends, a hypermarket that is accessible from the mall along with a separate entrance from the parking area, and an office building on Tahlia Road with its separate entrance and distinct identity.

Two hundred stores occupy 50 percent space of the 100,000 sq-m mall. Aside from Danube Hypermarket, which has taken 15,000 sq-m area, it has a fun land, a family entertainment center, a space race section, a bachelors' car racing and entertainment center, a food court for 25 restaurants, Serafi Business Wings, health and fitness center and, above all, prayer halls for more than 500 persons and parking space for 1,200 cars.

It has made full use of its space with floor plans that provide for car park, hypermarket, retail shops and department stores on ground floor; prayer halls for men and women on first floor; additional car parking area, coffee shops, seating areas, "Ice Rink," "Fun Land" theme park, and "Space Race" games center, aside from retail shops, on second floor; and food courts, seating areas, fun land theme park, space race, bowling, rock climbing and Go-carting on third floor.

The SR500 million mega mall is a family owned project. The family already has two malls in Jeddah and one in Makkah. Both Jeddah malls are located in downtown Balad one with 400 shops and the other with 20 shops and office blocs. The Makkah mall, located in Al-Gazzah district, has 250 shops.

Newly developed mall is to targeting middle and upper segments of shoppers. The city has scope for more malls since many have already sprung up. There is a scope for new malls provided decisions are right on procedures, design, criteria and location, says the market expert.



(Inputs from PAGE sources and courtesy to Tehran Times).