Monday, August 25, 2008

The Syrian Gold Mine

A nice article on Forward Magazine about Syria's great touristic potential compared to the disappointing measures taken by Syrian authorities to enhance the tourism industry.


I usually try to avoid a certain discussion, comparing the achievements of the Dubai government in tourism to those of Syria. This has become a recurring theme in the social and business circles of Damascus. I don’t think it is a valid comparison, for a variety of reasons, a basic one being that we don’t have as much money for investment as Dubai does. But let’s avoid Dubai for a moment, and look at Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and even Lebanon.

Turkey welcomed 22 million tourists in 2006. The following year, the number increased to 25 million, generating the hefty revenue of $13 billion. They are now targeting 28 million tourists for 2008, with a revenue of $15 billion. Egypt had more than 10 million tourists in 2007. Tourism authorities expect the number to reach 12 million in 2008.

Syria has 2,800 historical sites dotted on its landscape, outnumbering those of Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey. Why have the Syrians not reached the ambitious igures currently found in Turkey or Egypt? The Syrian Ministry of Tourism annually spends only $5.5 million promoting Syria internationally, whereas Turkey spends $60 million, and even Jordan spends $15 million. Additionally, our resources are limited: the Damascus International Airport, for example, processing 30 lights a day, can’t handle more than two airplanes simultaneously; Syrian Airlines currently has a modest working leet of no more than seven working airplanes; the Tourism Ministry says that we only have ive 5-star hotels in Syria and eight 4-star hotels; and Syrian hotels have 48000 beds nationally (according to the Ministry) while the city of Istanbul alone has 65,000 beds at its hotels. If the right buttons were pushed— by a team of wise and dedicated tourism oficials—then Syria can start generating more than $5 billion out of tourism. This naturally needs a proper legal framework to facilitate investment in the tourism business; after all, it takes no less than one month for a limited liability company to be established in Syria, whereas in Turkey it takes one day. When an investor applies at the Trade Registry Ofice, with proper documents, the company becomes a legal entity upon registration.

Additionally, Syria has to give its public transport system, banking services, financial institutions, and insurance companies a face-lift; not to forget hotels, restaurants and healthcare. Cooperation between different officials, municipalities (like Damascus and Aleppo) or different Ministries (like Tourism, Electricity, and Transporatation) is a must. what good would luxurious hotels be in different Syrian cities if the roads leading to them are unsafe? What good would magniicent resorts be in the ancient city of Palmyra if the electricity gets turned off throughout most of the day? In the 1890s, the internationally acclaimed American writer Mark Twain wrote, “Damascus measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble to ruin. She is a type of immortality.” He added, “In her old age she saw Rome built; she saw it overshadow the world with its power; she saw it perish. Damascus has seen all that has ever occurred on earth, and still she lives. She has looked upon the dry bones of a thousand empires, and will see the tombs of a thousand more before she dies. Though another claims the name, old Damascus is by right, the Eternal City.” It is indeed an Eternal City—and a gold mine, if used correctly.

Northwestern University expected to open journalism school in Qatar

Source: International Herald Tribune

EVANSTON, Illinois: Officials from Northwestern University in Illinois are finalizing a deal to open a journalism and communications school in Qatar, university officials said.

"It's a good partnership for us. It is doing something we haven't done before," said Henry Bienen, Northwestern's president.

The Northwestern extension would be part of a Qatari government-sponsored higher education complex known as Education City. It is a 2,500-acre (1,012-hectare) site in the city of Doha.

Northwestern would offer undergraduate classes similar to ones at the university's Medill School of Journalism and School of Communication, the Chicago Tribune reported in its Friday editions.

Several American universities including Cornell, Texas A&M, Carnegie-Mellon, Virginia Commonwealth and Georgetown already have campuses at the Education City complex.

The site is maintained by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, a nonprofit organization founded by the Qatari royal family in 1995.

The Qatar Foundation will pay for construction of the university. Northwestern will fund around 50 faculty and staff, some of whom will rotate between the Evanston campus and Qatar.

The school would enroll about 40 students, Bienen said. Tuition would run the same as on the Evanston campus; this year it is approximately $33,408 (€24,982).

Though the curriculum has not been finalized, classes would be offered in reporting, writing, theater, film, and communication.

Barbara O'Keefe, the dean of Northwestern's School of Communication, said from the Qatar Foundation's point of view "it is central to their plans for the development of Qatar to have a great educational institution that develops journalists and broadcasters and other professionals."

O'Keefe envisions students will intern at local media outlets including Al-Jazeera TV, the largest Arab-language television network based in Qatar.

Bienen said Northwestern is also discussing the possibility of opening another journalism school in India.

أضخم نوافير العالم "بدبي" العام المقبل

المصدر: أربيان بيزنس

أعلنت شركة "إعمار" العقارية الإماراتية،
أن أعمال إنشاء "نوافير برج دبي" التي تعدأضخم نوافير من نوعها في العالم ستنتهي العام المقبل

وقال "أحمد المطروشي" العضو المنتدب للشركة: إن النوافير تمتد على مساحة تزيد عن 275 متراً, أي ما يعادل مساحة ملعبين لكرة القدم، مما يجعلها أكبر بنسبة 25 % من نوافير "بيلاجيو" في لاس فيجاس بالولايات المتحدة الأمريكية.

وأشار أنها ستضخ مياهاً في الهواء بارتفاع يزيد عن150 متراً, أي ما يعادل ارتفاع برج مؤلف من 50 طابقاً, وسيتم تزويدها بأكثر من 6600 من الأضواء المختلفة وأجهزة إسقاط تعكس 50 لوناً.

وذكر أن كمية المياه التي تضخها النوافير في الهواء ستبلغ نحو 22 ألف جالون، وستتمتع النوافير بقدرة رسم 1000 تشكيل وعرض مائي لتكون مزاراً متميزاً للسائحين. وبيَّن أن هذه العروض ستصاحبها أنغام موسيقية تتنوع بين المقطوعات الكلاسيكية والموسيقى العربية والعالمية.

وأشار "المطروشي" أن النوافير تتميز بموقعها بالقرب من "برج دبي", أطول مبنى في العالم، و"دبي مول" الذي يتم تشييده ليكون أحد أهم وأكبر وجهات التسوق والترفيه في العالم.

وأفاد أن الشركة أطلقت مسابقة للجمهور لاقتراح اسم للنوافير, وسيحصل الفائز على 100 ألف درهم إماراتي( 27 ألف دولار تقريباً), وسيتم اختياره من قبل لجنة تضم عدداً من كبار المديرين بالشركة، ونخبة من المهندسين وخبراء العلامات التجارية.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sabri Moudlallal, the Often Forgotten Traditional Singer

A video for the late Aleppo singer, Sabri Moudallal, who was, and is still respected to many Aleppians and Syrians as well. His spiritual voice, especially when performing the call for prayer from the Ummayyad Mosque in Aleppo, gave a very pleasant feeling of spiritual intoxication. This is just in his memory.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

American Universities Dominate Top World Universities

American universities are considered the best educational institutions in the world due to their tremendous research and resource potential and activities, in addition to so many other factors. Here is a list of top 50 universities in the world. Source: Webometrics