Brazil's Foz do Iguacu hopes to become halal tourist destination, attract UAE visitors

The city has one of the largest Arab communities in Brazil



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 1:46 PM

Last updated: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 2:06 PM

Foz do Iguacu, a Brazilian city, is poised to be the number one halal destination in Latin America in the hopes that it will attract more tourists from Arab countries, including the UAE.

Located on the border of the world heritage site Iguazu Falls, Foz do Iguacu has one of the largest Arab communities in Brazil and is a major tourist destination, housing two mosques in the city.

Top Brazilian officials have reiterated that Expo 2020 Dubai offers Brazil the opportunity to cement bilateral relations with a host of countries.

Making the most of this opportunity, while trying to become a magnet for Arab tourists, Foz do Iguacu is represented thrice in the Brazilian pavilion's projections characterising its tourism and cultural diversity.

Jihad Abu Ali, director of international affairs at the Municipal Government of Foz do Iguacu, said several steps are being taken to help the city become a halal destination.

"The biggest agenda has been the partnerships between Foz do Iguacu, the state of Parana and the Arab Brazilian chamber of commerce to turn Foz do Iguacu into an international tourism halal destination. We are organising the city in a way so that it has all the characteristics that will allow us to welcome Muslims from around the world," he said.

The history of Muslims' settlement in Brazil began with the importation of African slave labour in the country. But over the years, Syrian and Lebanese communities have begun residing here, setting up businesses and practising mainly dentistry and medicine.

Thus, most of them are Arabs in origin, with smaller but growing numbers of Brazilian converts.

Furthering the collaboration, the Brazilian state of Parana plans to boost Muslim-friendly tourism after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (ABCC), Cdial Halal certifier and the city of Foz do Iguacu.

"We have around 25,000 Muslims living around, which includes Palestinians and Syrians as well. This represents 8 per cent of the population of Foz do Iguacu. It annually receives two million tourists, 20 per cent being foreigners. The local hotels have a 35,000-room capacity," Ali said, adding that the city already has all the characteristics to become the "best halal destination for tourism."

"We have two mosques, we have over 25 restaurants and we have a very receptive community to receive tourists," he said.

A landmark tourist attraction, one of the two mosques, the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab mosque, has been inspired by the architecture of the Al Akssa mosque and is the largest in Latin America.

"In 2008 we started our project to welcome visitors to our mosque. The mosque is the fifth most significant tourist destination in Foz, receiving around 100,000 tourists a year and being part of the City Tour offered to travellers," he said.

The city is also in the process of creating a new visitor centre to highlight that Foz do Iguacu and Brazil are great examples of integration in the world.

Plans to commence direct flight from the UAE to Foz do Igaucu

In 2020, Brazil’s trade flow with GCC countries reached $8.8 billion, making the economic bloc their fifth largest trading partner with Saudi Arabia and the UAE being the main destinations for Brazilian exports and origins of imports.

UAE-based companies, such as Emirates Global Aluminium, Aabar Investments, Mubadla Development and others, are already investing in Brazil. The famous Belmond Hotel Das Cataratas, located inside the Igauzu National Park, apparently has links with the UAE.

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Foraying into this further, the city also plans to commence direct flights from the UAE to Foz, which is integrated to a trinational area, sharing borders with Argentina and Paraguay.

“The city has quite a few agendas for development. The first one will be the possibility of a straight flight to the UAE from Foz do Iguacu, another agenda is to integrate with the big players of tourism and we also participated in some round table conference with Abu Dhabi and presented potential business opportunities with Foz do Iguacu," Ali said.


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