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Empower saved 16.4%of district cooling consumption in first month of "Set to 24 C and Save" campaign

posted on 27/07/2015

Emirates Central Cooling Systems Corporation (EMPOWER) has saved almost 16.4% in June 2015 compared to the same period last year, as part of its summer campaign ‘Set to 24 C and Save'.

Ahmad Bin Shafar, Chief Executive Officer of Empower, said adopting energy saving tips helped consumers to reduce their consumption and bills without affecting their air conditioning experience.

"We achieved significant results in just one month and expect more impressive results by the end of the campaign in September 2015. We had record savings in projects like Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT), Business Bay area and International Media Production Zone (IMPZ)," added Bin Shafar.

"Our team at Empower played a key role in spreading awareness of this campaign, leading to widespread public engagement. Our campaign brings benefits to consumers and environment and it is easy to implement," he said.

Prior to the launch of the campaign, the company provided tips such as setting the room temperature to 24 C, in addition to other recommendations that help district cooling users minimise their energy consumption especially during peak times in summer.

This is the result of monitoring around 2500 billed tenants in Empower projects. Currently, around 746 buildings are using Empower district cooling services, catering to50,000 customers.

Empower currently operates more than 1 Million RT, providing environmentally responsible district cooling services to large-scale real estate developments, such as Jumeirah Group, Business Bay, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai International Financial Centre, Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Ibn Battuta Mall, Discovery Gardens, Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai World Trade Centre Residences and Dubai Design District, among others. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395283665900.html


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ADX approves new regulations for trading, clearance and depositing

posted on 27/07/2015

The board of directors of Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) has approved the enforcement of new regulations for its operations including trading, clearance, registering and depositing of securities certificates.

In a press release, the ADX said the new law is aimed at strengthening the national economy, maintaining growth, adopting best practices for stock markets and providing high quality services to investors, in line with Abu Dhabi Vision 2021.

The board made the decision at a meeting chaired by Chairman Hamad Abdullah Al Shamsi.

The 73 articles of the new law regulate operations conducted on the exchange, as well as procedures for managing confidential information about investors and clients, defining the rights and liabilities of parties to transactions, and storing confidential information about securities ownership transfers for at least 15 years.

Article 7 provides for the creation of electronic registers of deposited securities. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395283682018.html


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UAE Banks Federation highlights a year of achievement in annual report

posted on 27/07/2015

The UAE Banks Federation, a professional body representing 50 member banks operating in the UAE, has released its annual report for 2014, detailing its priorities, achievements and activities undertaken during the full year.

In his introduction to the report, Chairman of the Federation Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, identifies in particular the Interim Marginal Lending Facility, work co-ordinated by the Federation on the Mobile Wallet, support given by the Federation for the launch in September of the Al Etihad Credit Bureau, and the Customer Charter as major achievements.

He says, "Discussion of best practice, identification of threats to the industry and development of common positions on issues of significance to member banks continued to be the principle goals of all the Federation specialised committees. Some noteworthy examples of the subject areas focused on in 2014 included SME financing, Close-Out Netting, Anti-Money Laundering, Customer Charter and Emiratisation."

The report notes that during 2014 the UAE Banks Federation worked closely with the UAE Central Bank to launch the Interim Marginal Lending Facility, which allows banks to access support from the Central Bank on an overnight basis against eligible securities as collateral. IMLF has been designed as a mechanism allowing the banks to borrow funds from it overnight, to help manage their liquidity.

The report also highlights the ongoing efforts made by the Federation to develop the Mobile Wallet project, confirming that the initiation phase of the initiative was successfully completed during the year. Regular coordination meetings were held with primary stakeholders, particularly the Central Bank and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. When implemented, the platform has the potential to make the UAE a truly digital economy where both smart phones and feature phones can be used to access banking services. It will also make the UAE on par with developed financial markets such as the USA, UK and Japan.

With regard to the launch of the Al Etihad Credit Bureau the report recognises the active role played by the Federation through its direct involvement with the bureau administration. It encouraged member banks to co-operate with the Credit Bureau discussed and resolved issues that emerged just before the initial phase of the project reached completion. The Credit Bureau started releasing its credit reports on consumers from September 2014.

The Customer Charter, launched early in 2015, is a voluntary Code of Conduct adopted by members of the Federation to provide bank customers in the UAE with clear guidelines about service standards from banks. The Charter also contains details of the responsibilities of customers to ensure that their own behaviour does not prevent banks from providing secure and appropriate products and services to them.

The annual report highlights other proposals that the UAE Banks Federation put forward during the year. One major proposal was about how banks could further support the development of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE. The Federation has been working on a central definition of an SME which it believes will facilitate efforts to further develop and measure the growth and development of the SME sector.

Another key proposal highlighted in the report is the Islamic Governance Unit (IGU), which seeks to enable the further development of the regulatory environment for Islamic banking in the UAE. A proposal to establish a sharia compliant governance unit at the Central Bank was put forward by the Islamic Banking Committee of the Federation. The main objective of this initiative will be to create guidelines and policies that are applicable to all types of Islamic financial institutions.

The report contains overviews of the UAE economy in 2014 as well the performance of the financial sector, and in this context it points out that according to the international rating agency Moody's Investor Service, healthy economic growth, combined with increasing confidence, will support credit growth of between 7 percent to 10 percent annually for the banking system. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/economics/1395283670831.html


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Bank of Sharjah announces financial results for H1, 2015

posted on 27/07/2015

Bank of Sharjah yesterday announced its financial results for the six months ending June 30, 2015, with net profit increased by 16% to reach Dh 176 million, compared with Dh 152 million for the same period of 2014.

During the period, the Bank continued to grow its loan book while maintaining the solid structure of the balance sheet, with high levels of both liquidity and capital.

According to the results, total assets reached Dh 26,946 million, an increase of 13% over the corresponding 30 June 2014 figure of Dh 23,805 million and of 8% from Dh 25,054 million when compared to the 31 December 2014 figure. This was mainly driven by Dh 829 million or 5% increase in customers' deposits.

Loans and advances reached Dh 15,459 million, 11% above the corresponding 30 June 2014 figure of Dh 13,947 million, and 10% more than the 31 December 2014 balance of Dh 14,080 million.

Net liquidity reached Dh 6,236 million as at 30 June 2015, 17% more compared to the same period of 2014 at Dh 5,352 million and 2% higher than 31 December 2014 balance of Dh 6,085 million.

Shareholders' equity at the end of the first half stood at Dh 4,462 million, 4% above the balance for the corresponding period of 2014 after payment of 2014 dividends.

Net interest income increased by 22% compared to the corresponding period of 2014, which translated into a 17% increase in the net operating income to reach Dh 316 million in 2015 compared to Dh 269 million in the same period of 2014.

Impairment charge on financial assets for the first quarter of 2015 increased by Dh 13 million from Dh 36 million in 2014 to Dh 49 million in 2015.

All the above led to the 16% increase in net profit for the first half of 2015 reaching Dh 176 million, against Dh 152 million for the same period of 2014. As a result, earnings per share for the period were up by 12% and reached 8.3 fils compared to 7.4 fils in 2014.

Commenting on the results Ahmed Al Noman, the Chairman of the Board, expressed the Board's satisfaction with the interim results. He added that the success of the Bank's first debut bond issuance and the accomplishment of this transaction is testimony of the strong reputation of Bank of Sharjah. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/economics/1395283663156.html


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Etihad Airways experiences record guest numbers during Eid-al-fitr

posted on 27/07/2015

Etihad Airways announced yesterday that it has experienced one of the busiest travel periods in the history of the airline with 291,518 guests flying across its global network during Eid-al-fitr, an increase of 12 percent on the 260,641 guests flown in the same five day period in 2014.

The load factor out of Abu Dhabi during this period rose from 82.1 percent in 2014 to 82.3 percent in 2015, with a network-wide seat factor of 78.3 percent. The airline operated 83 more flights out of the hub than during Eid-al-Fitr in 2014.

In anticipation of the demands that the peak summer period brings, Etihad Airways and its Abu Dhabi airport partners prepared and implemented a number of key initiatives at the hub to manage the busy flight schedule.

These initiatives included amending the flight schedule to improve connectivity, the provision of complimentary coach and bus services, additional baggage allowances and Etihad Guest miles for early and off-peak check-in, as well as the deployment of 100 extra ground staff.

Capt. Richard Hill, Etihad Airways' Chief Operations Officer, said, "We're pleased to have once again carried record numbers of guests and baggage across the Etihad Airways network during Eid-al-Fitr, one of the busiest and most challenging periods in the year.

"Managing such significant traffic volumes in such a short period was the result of major advance planning and involved hundreds of Etihad Airways' staff working around the clock to support the operation in Abu Dhabi and around the world."

More than 100 additional Etihad Airways staff members were temporarily recruited from across the organisation to assist guests at check-in and at boarding gates, and cabin crew offered Iftar and Eid-al-Fitr refreshments to those at check-in, security, and immigration. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395283665526.html


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UAE property sector is key growth driver

posted on 27/07/2015

According to the UAE Economic Report 2015 by Bank Audi, the real estate sector is considered one of the key drivers of the country's national economic activity.

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai markets recorded a positive yearly change in terms of performance and prices in the residential and office markets.

UAE investors' top three goals are buying a new home (25 per cent), starting or investing in a new business venture (21 per cent) and retirement (13 per cent), according to Franklin Templeton Global Investor Sentiment Survey.

Hafeez Abdullah, Chairman of ‘The H Holding Enterprise', said that the survey which polled over 11,500 investors in 23 countries showed that the UAE is the most confident country in the region.

The H Holding Enterprise, a major investment firm in the UAE, recorded unprecedented growth across all its investment arms, including real-estate and hospitality divisions. "Around 94 per cent of UAE investors expect to meet their targets in 2015. Our real-estate arm OMEGA Properties has had a very positive year exceeding our expectations. Our other operations in hospitality are doing well too,” said Abdullah.

"The UAE has a unique investment environment where all industries grow in harmony. The focus on tourism sector, for instance, has brought several opportunities to the real-estate market, such as hotels, infrastructure and facilities management. Also, there is a well-planned strategy to enhance collaboration between the public and private sectors for the benefit of all kinds of investors,” added Abdullah.

The same report also shed light on the tourism sector, saying that its improvement was driven by a number of initiatives and mega tourism and leisure projects by the UAE government, encouraging each emirate to have its own niche in the market.

"This is the right time to invest in the UAE. We have diversified our capital across other industries that have potential for growth in the medium and long run, including video production, for example,” concluded Abdullah. – The Gulf Today - http://gulftoday.ae/portal/2ad7bd90-f8d1-4f2a-a719-6fc0cd1a9200.aspx


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UAE participates in GGGI’s 7th Council meeting in Bali

posted on 27/07/2015

BALI, INDONESIA: The UAE has participated in the 7th session of Council of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), which was held in the Indonesian Island of Bali under the chairmanship of Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, former Indonesian President and the President of the General Assembly and Council of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

With the participation of a large number of high-level officials from Member States of the Organisation, the UAE delegation to the meeting was led by Dr. Thani Ahmad Al- Zouaydi, UAE Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Director of the Department of Energy Affairs and Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On this occasion, Al- Zouaydi said the UAE interest and its commitment to green development reflects the vision of its wise leadership in accessing to more sustainable future to achieve energy security and reduce environmental risks along with acceleration of the process of social and economic development.

He also said that the UAE is one of the founding countries of the Global Green Growth Institute and is an active member of the organisation' council since its inception and contributed through its distinctive participation in highlighting the leading role of the country and its commitment towards achieving sustainable development and green growth locally and regionally.

The participants discussed during the meeting held from 22nd to 24th July, many of the key strategic issues of the organisation and the progress of its programmes and plans of work in the Member States and the mechanism of its development. They also discussed the budget and financial issues of the organisation and the partnership between the organisation and other relevant international bodies, in addition to many other administrative issues that were on the agenda. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395283665152.html


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UAE takes part in Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions, ANNHRI

posted on 27/07/2015

The Emirates Human Rights Association is participating in the12th conference of the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions, ANNHRI, which started yesterday in Amman, Jordan, with the participation of representatives of the ANNHRI of 14 Arab countries.

The UAE's delegation was headed by Mohammed Salem Al Kaabi, Chairman of the Emirates Human Rights Association (EHRA).

The conference will discuss the annual report of the ANNHRI and the strategy and programme of its work for the next three years, adopt standards of providing assistance to member institutions in the network and cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, as well as to help Somalia to establish a national human rights institution.

Representatives of the Permanent Arab Committee for Human Rights at the Arab League as well as a number of international institutions and commissions involved in human rights are participating in the conference.

The UAE Society for Human Rights, is one of the important institutions of civil society involved in the area of human rights and the Arab Network for National Human Rights Institutions in order to promote the development and protection of human rights in the Arab world and facilitate cooperation among its members, in accordance with the strong partnerships and challenges facing the national human rights institutions. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395283668552.html


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Singaporean delegation visits Hedayah centre for countering extremism

posted on 27/07/2015

A research delegation from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, has visited Hedayah, the International Centre of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, CVE, to learn about the centre's unique role in countering violent extremism.

The visiting delegation was headed by Dr. Ooi Kee Beng, Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, who was also accompanied by Shaun Phillip Grosse, Deputy Chief of Mission, from the Singaporean Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Maqsoud Kruse, the Executive Director of Hedayah, welcomed the visitors and briefed them on CVE's goals, mission, and vision, as well as the centre's role in countering violent extremism especially through the current status regionally and globally. Mr Kruse reiterated the importance of partnership between Hedayah and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies as well as the mutual aspects of collaboration in research and analysis, training and capacity building in Southeast Asia.

Dr. Beng commended Hedayah for its leading role in contributing effectively to the international community's prevention efforts of violent extremism targeting all community groups at all levels and fields. Dr. Beng also expressed his wish to collaborate with Hedayah particularly on its cultural diplomacy initiatives to counter violent extremism and radicalisation. Such initiatives focuses on providing youth with positive and proactive alternatives through cultural and intellectual programmes which aim to protect young people from the risk of falling into violent extremism.

During the meeting, participants discussed outcomes of many important initiatives implemented by Hedayah, including the "Abu Dhabi Memorandum on Good Practices for Education and Countering Violent Extremism", that highlights the crucial role of developing critical thinking skills and boosting a culture of innovation and creativity in the educational settings, "CVE Research Conference 2014", which resulted in producing several research papers and applied and conceptual scientific studies, and the "Global Threat Assessment Report 2015", which focuses on CVE-related threats in Southeast Asia in particular. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395283661552.html


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New sting operation cracks down on illegal diesel trade in UAE

posted on 27/07/2015

A new sting operation, as part of the ongoing joint inspection campaign organised by a committee of various Dubai government entities, has fined several companies and agents involved in illegal trade of diesel in the UAE.

The campaign, was announced at the beginning of the year, following a meeting held by the concerned authorities - Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA), Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED), Dubai Municipality, Roads and Transport Authority ( RTA ), Dubai Police and Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC). The committee decided to take joint measures regarding the activation of the UAE Federal Cabinet decision No. 37 of 2013 that requires traders and agents working in this sector to fully commit to the UAE's laws and legislations in effect.

Since the creation of the committee, four sting operations have been undertaken resulting in unravelling the illegal activities of several companies involving diesel that does not comply with the industry standards and specifications. Other violations include trading without obtaining necessary permits from concerned authorities in the emirate, or non-abidance with the trading activities prescribed by the trade license.

Through this campaign, Dubai Government entities are taking strong actions against violators,with fines being imposed when any irregularities are found, including non-conformance to the specifications and standards set by ESMA and other associated safety and environmental preservation and storage standards. The sting operations will continue until all companies active in this vital sector adhere to the related laws and regulations.

Saif Al Falasi, ENOC 's Group Chief Executive Officer, said, "We thank all government entities and stakeholders for their invaluable support in achieving the campaign goals, which supports the UAE's efforts towards achieving the 'Green Economy for Green Development' initiative launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

"As the first country in the region to approve the standards of diesel, it is imperative that we take strict measures to ensure compliance with the highest levels of safety, quality and commitment to environmental standards. Undoubtedly, close cooperation between ENOC and the different government entities will help regulate the oil derivatives market and limit illicit activities that have negative implications on the country's economy, the environment and public health," Al Falasi added.

Ahmad Bahrozyan, Chief Executive Officer of Licensing Agency at RTA , said, "The daily vehicle inspection campaigns by RTA constitute a very important part of its efforts towards controlling and issuing violations against illegal activities. The team is present at eight vital locations across Dubai, in addition to the dedicated land plot at Al Hubab area for vehicle impoundment. RTA strives to cooperate with all government entities, each according to its respective jurisdiction, by taking part in similar inspection campaigns. The joint committee hopes to control the irregularities and contraventions in the diesel trading sector, which fully supports the UAE cabinet decision to use the new, low-sulphur diesel."

Alia Al Harmoudi, Director of the Environment Department at Dubai Municipality, pointed out, "The campaign has been successful due to the concerted efforts of the participating entities, including Dubai Municipality, as they bear the responsibility of inspecting and controlling industrial and service facilities within the boundaries of Dubai. Such measures enable the concerned authorities to verify compliance levels with the adopted environmental laws and legislations issued with the aim of protecting the multiple environmental elements- namely, air, water and soil."

Zaid Alqufaidi, Managing Director of ENOC Marketing, said, "Several serious violations were recorded during the joint inspection campaign, and Dubai government entities played a key role in controlling these violations and imposing the due penalties against offenders according to their jurisdictions. This initiative would not have been so successful without the concerted efforts and advanced levels of coordination among all the involved entities. The continuity and persistence of such campaigns have definitely limited the irregularities both in numbers and quality." – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395283666274.html


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Five fire stations battle massive Dubai blaze

posted on 27/07/2015

Fire brigades from five Civil Defence stations battled a massive fire that broke out in a warehouse in Ras Al Khor area in Dubai on Sunday.

Eleven warehouses were gutted in the blaze, officials said.

No casualties were reported in the fire that broke out at 11am.

The blaze was brought under control five hours after it was reported, said officials.

The fire was reported in a warehouse that stored flammable materials like paint and cargo materials. Forty firemen from Ras Al Khor, Karama, Rashidiya, Port Saeed and Al Ras stations were pressed into action.

The extent of losses caused by the fire was not immediately known. Forensic experts from the Dubai Police have examined the scene and investigations are on to determine the cause of the fire. – Khaleej Times - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/five-fire-stations-battle-massive-dubai-blaze


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UAE's Ministry of Interior partakes in security training exercise in Slovakia

posted on 27/07/2015

The UAE Ministry of Interior (MoI), represented by Abu Dhabi Police GHQ's response team for CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) incidents, participated in a security training exercise conducted in Slovakia by the US Department of Energy and the Slovakian interior ministry from 6-10 July.

In the five-day CBRN exercise, various training scenarios were implemented by the participating teams.

Several Slovak local entities, represented by the country's national team, and representatives of a number of countries took part in the training.

The UAE's participation in the five-day exercise is part of strategic cooperation and partnership with Slovakia and in implementation of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries in security fields.

The delegation of the MoI underscored the importance of participating in such exercises that promote exchange of expertise and build upon each country's levels of readiness.

It also highlighted the importance of recognising opportunities for improvement in security fields and identifying the best international practices that have already been adopted. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395283673984.html


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Khalifa Foundation supports 40 Emirati families in Liwa Dates Festival

posted on 27/07/2015

The Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation has announced it will contribute in the eleventh session of the Liwa Dates Festival this year by supporting the participation of 40 Emirati families in the popular festival which is considered one of the most important culture and heritage events in the country.

Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Chairman of the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, the festival is a celebration of ratab, the half ripen dates, which are in season in the UAE from July until September.

A spokesperson at the charity foundation said that the organisation's contribution is part of its strategy to support Emirati families through its various initiatives including helping them participate, showcase, and market their products in various exhibitions across the country such as the Global Village in Dubai, Sharjah Expo, and the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival in Al Wathba, amongst others.

The organisation helps families by encouraging them to increase production, become self-reliant, and produce a varied and sustainable sources of income. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –

http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395283668987.html


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Liwa Dates Festival farmers compete with their best ratab

posted on 27/07/2015

Hundreds of date palm farmers from Al Gharbia, Al Ain, Swaihan, Abu Dhabi and further across the UAE arrive everyday at the Liwa Dates Festival, bringing freshly picked ratab (half ripe dates) from their orchards, hoping to convince the industry's experts that theirs are the tastiest, healthiest, best looking and best produced dates.

For the 11th consecutive year, the annual festival that celebrates the ratab harvest, organised every July by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee - Abu Dhabi is conducting daily, throughout its week long programme, dates and locally grown fruit competitions, the expert judges looking not just for best in taste product, but also for the best grown fruit.

UAE May have hundreds of date varieties, and in the Liwa Dates a Festival, taking place this 22nd to 30th July in Liwa, in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi Emirate, five of the most popular varieties are competing in the ratab beauty contest. These include kunaizi, khallas, dabbas, boumaan, farth, along with nukhba, which is a competition for best mixed varieties of dates.

"During daytime, we receive the dates directly from farmers. By evening time we make a preselection, then, early next morning we go to insect the farms of the finalists and in the evening we announce and award the winners," said Dr Samir al Shakir, international consultant of palm dates technology, member of the judging committee at Liwa Dates Festival.

Each date variety makes for a different competition category and the top 15 places in every category are awarded cash prizes from Dh 125,000 to Dh 5,000, except for nukhba competition, which receive from Dh 200,000 for the first place to Dh 6,000 for the 15th position.

To qualify for any of the ratab competitions, farmers must submit dates from their own UAE based farm, harvested this summer. Each participant is allowed to enter maximum two ratab varieties competitions.

"Each participant must enter between 10 and 15 kilograms of dates into the competition," pointed out Dr. Shakir.

These are usually presented into two traditional Emirati handmade baskets. All entries are lined up on long tables in a private room, where they are closely inspected by the judges. The short listed finalists' baskets are then moved onto a public display area, where all visitors may marvel at them and sometimes even taste them.

For the nukhba competition, participants must bring at least 15 varieties of dates, but no more than 20. Each variety must contain at least three kilograms of dates. For all ratab contests, the dates must be neither fully ripe, nor unripe, just half ripe.

"For every competition we receive dates from around 300 farmers and we select only around 20 finalists. Just by looking at them, we can pick up the best baskets. It is the size and the general condition of the dates that make them stand out to begin with," said Dr. Shakir.

"We then start a thorough investigation, looking at the dates' weight, doing size measurements and checking its health. Based on all of this, we give a grade for each entry," he added.

The grade represents only 50% of the final score, though, the other 50% coming from the farm' s condition.

"The next morning we go to inspect the farm, making sure, first of all, that the dates we receive actually come from the farm owner. Just by looking at the palm tree, we know if they were cut from there or not. We also take into consideration the general keep of the farm, if materials are recycled, if the palm trees are pruned, if the irrigation is eco-friendly and the use of fertilisers - we prefer and encourage farmers to use bio-organic ones," explained Dr. Shakir.

For fair judging, the inspectors do not know which dates belong to which farm, and it is not uncommon that the best looking ratab from the finalists drop to bottom positions because the farm was found in a poor state.

Apart from ratab, Liwa Dates Festival also has competitions for locally produced mangoes, lemons and mix fruit baskets. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395283663436.html


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RTA announces 50% discount on issuing NoL cards

posted on 27/07/2015

The Automated Fare Collection Systems Department at the Road and Transport Authority, RTA's Corporate Technical Support Services Sector, has announced a 50% discount on the fees of issuing a NoL card, or the electronic ticketing card, which enables users to pay for various RTA transport modes in Dubai.

The move intends to bring more public satisfaction and attract additional numbers of users to public transport means such as the metro, public buses, tram and marine transit modes.

Commenting on the discount offer which started yesterday, (July 26th) and runs until September 24th, 2015, Khalid Al Awadi, Director of Automated Fare Collection, RTA, said, "This discount would cover all types of Personalised NoL Blue Cards, which is now issued at a rate of Dh35 (instead of Dh70), and the Personalised NoL Gold Card, which is now issued at a cost of Dh45 (instead of Dh80). It would also include Standard NoL Card with Special Designs, which is issued for Dh65 (instead of Dh100), and NoL Gold Card with Special Designs at a cost of Dh65 (instead of Dh110)."

"Sales of Personalised NoL cards during the first half of this year have increased to as much as 160% compared to the same period last year, whereas the sales of NoL cards seasonal permits have rocketed to 94% when compared to their figures reported during the same period last year.

"Achieving these sale figures indicates that the objectives set by the RTA for these initiatives have actually started to be realised in terms of facilitating the use public transport means, and encouraging the public to use them," added Al Awadi. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395283665339.html


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Ahead of its time: Dubai Tram system second to none

posted on 27/07/2015

Dubai Tram, which was launched in November 2014, has some unique characteristics, making it highly competitive with other tram systems that have been around for much longer in advanced cities of the world, its operator, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), says.

The network, which mainly covers Al Sufouh, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence areas, is clearly different even at first glance: There are no overhead suspended electrical wires that characterise tram systems worldwide. If fact, its power is "ground fed”, sourced from the very tracks it runs on.

And it is the world's only network whose stations have gates that open and close automatically, raising the safety standard and convenience to users.

No other tram system would have been practical in Dubai because only Dubai Tram is designed to operate in the emirate's blistering climate of up to 50 degrees Celsius, the RTA says. Little wonder then its stations and footbridges are fully air-conditioned, which is also a world-first, adds the RTA.

Behind the scenes, unknown to many riders, there are some clever measures built into the system to keep the journey as safe as possible. For example, every tram driver has to take an alcohol test through a handy machine that detects even the smallest traces of alcohol. The driver is only allowed control of the tram once the test is passed.

There is also the "dead man's switch” on the lever that the driver has to press every three to five seconds, ensuring that the tram driver is paying attention. If the driver loses control or forgets to press the button, the tram will automatically come to a complete halt immediately.

And with a series of high-tech communications and control systems — for users and operators — Dubai Tram is ensuring it stays ahead of its time.

The 10.6km tramway is served by 11 stations and 11 trams, which are driven by more than 80 certified drivers.

It only costs Dh3 to hop on board, making Dubai Tram one of the most affordable networks in the world.

Around a million people have already vouched for its popularity, with 943,982 riders using the tram during the first three months of this year alone, the RTA says. – Gulf News - http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/transport/ahead-of-its-time-dubai-tram-system-second-to-none-1.1556216


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Dubai’s taxi companies reap rewards from hybrid cabs

posted on 27/07/2015

More than 200 hybrid taxis will be on Dubai's roads by the end of the year, the Roads and Transport Authority said, and the number is set to grow because of cost savings, improved fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance.

Even before the Government announced plans last week to scrap fuel regulation, cab companies had decided to add to their hybrid fleets.

Cars Taxi last month acquired 55 more hybrids, taking its fleet to 100, while the Dubai Taxi Corporation has 69 and will add 30 by December.

Concern about rising fuel costs may prompt public transport authorities to purchase more hybrids over the long-term, experts said.

"I don't think there will be a major shift in purchase in the short-term, but it will become a strong factor,” said Eyad Trabulsi, senior consultant operations with Burj Park management company.

"It's a good idea because of cost saving and the amount of time taxis spend in traffic.”

There are 177 hybrid taxis in Dubai, said Ahmad Al Suwaidi, chief executive of the RTA's Dubai Taxi Corporation, the emirate's largest taxi operator.

"A hybrid vehicle performs at its optimum in heavily congested traffic,” he said.

"This is because at slower speed only the electric motor propels the vehicle.” The fuel cost saving was about 29 to 31 per cent per taxi per year and fuel efficiency also improved by about 30 per cent, as per RTA figures.

"The advantages are better fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions,” he said. "The braking system of a hybrid requires less maintenance, resulting in less wear and tear.”

Al-Futtaim Motors, distributor of Toyota in the UAE, said it was in discussions with several fleet operators.

"In addition to the 55 hybrid Camry for Cars Taxi, we have had orders from other fleet operators,” said Jon Williams, managing director of Al-Futtaim.

"We are also in the final stages of discussion with new taxi companies which will see this figure increase.”

Hybrids do not require charging stations like plug-in vehicles. Instead, the Toyota hybrids are a combination of an electric motor and a combustion engine.

Sales growth could pick up as awareness spreads.

"One of the key drivers is the low total cost of ownership, which translates into lower maintenance costs, less wear and tear and, of course, less fuel consumption,” Mr Williams said.

More hybrid taxis could also mean calmer roads, Mr Trabulsi said.

"Apart from the environmental and cost benefit, there is a social benefit, because hybrid vehicles are not as powerful as regular ones when you accelerate. So from a commuter's perspective, it will be a good check for aggressive taxi drivers.” – The National - http://www.thenational.ae/uae/transport/dubais-taxi-companies-reap-rewards-from-hybrid-cabs


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Dubai camel milk chocolate heads for Harrods

posted on 27/07/2015

Dubai's own artisan camel milk chocolate is now being sold in London's world-famous department store, Harrods.

Al Nassma, the seller, is the only producer of camel milk chocolate in the world.

Martin van Almsick, general manager at the company, said: "Ten years ago, a non-European premium chocolate was not even imaginable. Yet, here we are, a thriving UAE brand producing an authentic elite chocolate matching the highest standard. The fact that an upscale department store with a long tradition and an impeccable reputation such as Harrods, has opened its doors to a niche brand such as ours, reflects a global trend towards innovative, out-of-the-box luxury products.”

The locally-inspired brand was established in Dubai in 2008.

The camel milk chocolate concept has taken four years of research before coming to fruition.

Camel milk is prized for its historical significance as a dietary staple in the formative years of the UAE's development, as well as for its health benefits, with a high vitamin and mineral content, antiviral and antibacterial properties and low fat content.

It has higher levels of potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, sodium and zinc and there is 10 times higher levels of iron and three times the amount of vitamin C.

It was also used by Bedouin as a natural cosmetic to bathe in, wash their hair and to protect them from the sun.

Mr van Almsick said that "as an exclusive product conceptualised and produced in the United Arab Emirates, that has rapidly gained global consumer appreciation, we feel that the exotic appeal will be well received by Harrods customers”.

So far, the chocolates are sold at a handful of locations – Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab hotel and Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. – The National - http://www.thenational.ae/uae/dubai-camel-milk-chocolate-heads-for-harrods


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Dubai-based artist’s painting ‘Blue Horse’ bought by Duchess of York

posted on 27/07/2015

A painting by Dubai-based artist Sylvain Tremblay, entitled, 'Blue Horse', has been purchased by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, at a charity auction in London, it was announced yesterday by Canadian University Dubai, where Tremblay is a guest lecturer.

The proceeds of the auction are earmarked for charities supporting sustainable water projects internationally.

Tremblay, who is best known for his world record-breaking portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, crafted from desert sands, donated his Blue Horse painting to the Formula E charity event held at the Natural History Museum in London recently.

The piece was among a number of other works that contributed to the US$1 million plus funds being raised in support of ONE DROP and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, to fund a new safe water access project in Guatemala.

The striking Blue Horse image is among a collection of equine exhibits crafted by the Canadian artist, initially inspired by the UAE's annual horseracing event, the Dubai World Cup. Several other pieces from the collection were exhibited to an audience of VIP guests at this year's race, to pay tribute to the event's 20th anniversary celebrations held at Meydan Racecourse.

Tremblay, who is a visiting lecturer at Canadian University Dubai, was in attendance at the exclusive Formula E Gala Dinner in London to witness the celebrities, dignities and distinguished guests take part in the charity auction of money-can't-buy pieces.

The funds raised will help around 37,000 people to access safe, sustainable water supplies for both drinking and economic development initiatives in the Central American country. – Emirates News Agency, WAM –http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395283665713.html


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