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Saturday, December 30, 2006


Dead trees in Um Slal MohammedAlso see:

Qatar Image Library

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Price rises

The day after Qatar public servants got a major pay rise (40% for Qatar nationals, 20% for other nationalities), food prices seemed to double. I was shocked in Mega mart to see most imported veg was around 18 riyals/kilo ($5) mark. Even normally cheap "local" vegetables were expensive. The small, pale courgettes that are normally as cheap as chips had shot up from 3 riyals (80 cents) to 6 riyals ($1.60). The increase was repeated in other shops such as Carrefour, and small local shops were even worse.

So it was no surprise to see the Peninsula screaming "Consumers are ditching Qatar". It seems that it is now cheaper to leave the country and do your grocery shopping abroad.

It is usual for prices to increase around the time of major festivals (it's now Eid Al-Adha), and I have also heard rumours that there are temporary shortages of some foods. Hopefully, then, this is a temporary increase in prices, because a lot of people are counting on a fall in prices after the end of the Asian Games.

Also see:

Cost of Living: Renting property in Doha

Qatar Resident's Guide

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travelers have to say Qatar


Sacrificial tents

Cars wait outside a sacrificial tent in Umm Slal Mohammed, Qatar.

Sacrificial tents like this one dotted Qatar today. Any animal killed after the Eid prayers at dawn today (Eid Al-Adha) is considered a sacrifice. However, it is now illegal to kill animals anywhere other than an officially designated place, and expatriates repeatedly breaking the rule will be deported.

Also see:

Qatar Image Library

Eid Al-Adha (blog post)

Eid Al Adha (Article)

Eid Al-Adha in Qatar

Book flights,hotels or cars with Expedia.

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Friday, December 29, 2006

Eid Al-Adha

In the back of a pick-up truck

At the moment it seems that every pickup truck in Doha has a sheep or goat (sometimes several) bleating plaintively in its back. This is Eid Al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, which both celebrates the end of the Haj (the pilgrimage to Mecca) and remembers the time Abraham almost sacrificed his son Ismael (as opposed to the Old Testament's Isaac), only to be told in the nick of time that a goat would do instead. It’s also a time when Islam demands a blood sacrifice or Udhiya.

Arriving at the live animal market, Carrying sheepyou could smell blood in the air from the nearby abattoir. These, however, are not the sacrifices, but additional meat taken for feasting. An friend I ran into told me that he would sacrifice his sheep after the morning prayers the next day. “This is from God,” he added. I asked him if he would be sacrificing the sheep himself. “I can’t do that,” he said, a little guiltily – it is considered quite manly by some people to kill your animals yourself. “I have a Somali to do that.”

Some of the sheep and goats struggled as they were dragged away, or hauled onto shoulders, while others slumped as if they knew their fate was unavoidable. According to Islam, when an animal is killed its throat is cut and it is held until all the blood has drained out of it. It is also of utmost importance that the animal is blessed in the name of Allah before it is killed.

Cows, sheep and goats are all acceptable sacrifices. (I also saw a camel being trucked away from the market). If you are poor, it is not necessary to sacrifice a whole animal – instead, groups of people band together to buy a single animal. The meat is not wasted – instead, a third is distributed to the poor, a third to the extended family and a third to the person who makes the sacrifice.

There's tonnes of information on the net about Eid Al-Adha. There's just one question that is still bugging us, and we'd be very grateful if someone could leave the answer on a comment.

What do vegetarian Muslims sacrifice?

A busy day at the animal marketAlso see: Ramadan

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

Image of sheep sacrifice in Iran


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Qatar football

AL Arabi and AL Sadd fight it out on the pitch

Initially the Qatari crowd was quiet compared to the Thais sitting opposite. Then a clapping began, swelling up. Then, with the first of three Qatar goals, the crowd – the biggest I have ever seen in tiny Qatar – surged to their feet, yelling their support.

We were at the quarterfinals of the Asian Games football, in Al Gharaffa stadium. Qatar went on to beat Iran – who had won their previous 15 Asian Games football matches – in the semifinals, becoming the first host nation to reach the finals in twenty years, and topped it off by beating Iraq 1-0 in the finals in front of an 18,000 strong crowd. This wasn’t just a fluke, either – just two years before they had become champions in the Gulf Cup.

Qatari men are football mad, and their national team is the most highly ranked in the Gulf. Yet, until now, little has been written in English about football in this tiny peninsula. We set out to try and collect what information we could.


The first football club was set up when Bedouin nomads were still roaming the desert, in Dukhan in 1948. In 1950 the first Doha club, “Al-Ahli”, was established. The Qatar Football Association was founded in 1960 and in 1970 became associated with FIFA.

The Qatar football team

Despite the size of their country, the Qatar football team are highly rated and have a pretty impressive list of results: see here: fifa.com. They are now ranked 58th in FIFA's World Rankings, and their dream now is to enter the World Cup for the first time. They are coached by a Bosnian, Dzemaludin Musovic, and the team plays in all white.

Star players

Khalfan Ibrahim has become the first Qatari to win the Asian Football Confederation player of the year award. At just 18 years old, he's also the youngest player ever to win the award. He's probably one of the reasons Qatar has got as far as they have in the Asian Games, too, scoring two goals in his international debut match against Bangladesh, and a further two against Thailand in the semi-finals of the Asian Games.

Sebastian Quintana played some superb football during the Asian Games. As you might have guessed from his name, he wasn’t actually born in Qatar, but was brought to Qatar from Uruguay in September 2004 by French coach Bruno Metsu. (He had to look Qatar up on the map when he was recruited). He started playing for Al Gharaffa, scoring 14 goals in their first season and helping them to the top of the Q league, before moving to Qatar Sport club, where he scored 19 goals in 20 Games and was voted Q-league player of the year. After two years of residence he was allowed to play in the National Team, and scored 4 goals during the Asian Games. Qatar claims he is only 18, but this seems highly unlikely.

Leagues and clubs
There are 20 clubs in the country. 10 play in a higher league (known as the Q-league), ten in a lower league. Each of the ten teams in the higher league will play a total of 18 games. The bottom two teams of the top league are relegated, the highest two of the second-tier league promoted. The 10 clubs presently in the Qatari top flight are Al Sadd, Qatar Sports Club, Al Arabi, Al Rayyan, Al Ahli, Al Shamal, Umm Salal, Al Gharrafa, Al Khor, Al Wakra.

Qatar’s football teams have large and modern stadiums with a capacity of up to 50,000 (Khalifa stadium). Given the population of the country (approximately 900,000 including a majority expatriate population), these stadiums are never going to be filled for a normal football match.

Football supporters Time and timeAl Sadd fans show their support for their time by throwing up white paper again outsiders have commented that Qataris do not support their teams or country in any numbers. One writer noted that even the biggest games would only draw in a crowd of 10,000. Now remember there are only about 180,000 Qataris, so roughly 90,000 males, many of whom will be either too young (there is a huge birth rate) or old and infirm to attend, and you realise that 10,000 is a massive number. A UK equivalent, taking into account the relative size of the populations, would be about three million. Using the same maths, even a more normal crowd of a thousand or two for a club match is huge. (Some Qatar residents – who make up the majority of the population but are not citizens – have become fans, but the majority of the supporters at the games are Qatari).

Anyone who has been present at the games can not doubt the enthusiasm of the football supporters. The wild Arabic football chants and drumming sound closer to Africa than to Europe. Happily, supporters have managed to avoid the violence that has dogged English football. Instead, after winning a game they prefer to hop in their Landcruisers and drive up and down the Corniche, leaning out of their windows, honking their horns and letting off firecrackers. Well, what would you do if you had no alcohol or night clubs? (Qataris, unlike residents, are not allowed to drink alcohol and are often prevented from entering nightclubs).

Best club
Al Sadd, Qatar football11 times Q-league winners and only former winners of the continental cup, are probably the best team, although the supporters of their close rivals Al Arabi might disagreee. Al Sadd is a street in Doha, Qatar's capital city, which gives you some idea of the scale of things here. However, their president is Sheikh Tamin Bin Hamad Al Thani, who is also the heir to the throne.

Big money

Oil money is pouring into football here. In 2003 each football team in Qatar was given an initial ten million dollars to go out and employ some big foreign names. One of the football coaches told me that there is a former Tottenham player in his mid-40s receiving nearly two million dollars a year. The most well-known foreign player here is Gabriel Batistuta, an Argentinian striker, but he has been joined this season by Nigerian Jay-Jay Okocha (formally of Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League), Cameroonian Bill Tchato and Australian Tony Popovic.

Developing talent

Qatar doesn’t just want to employ big names. They are also aiming to develop home grown talent, and have launched a sports academy called Aspire to do so. Every year the academy aims to take on 70 youngsters in Qatar to develop their sporting talent; not a huge amount, considering the athletic skills of every child in the country is tested. The head football coach is Michael Browne – former Charlton Academy Chief. (See www.aspire.qa/). Football is also incredibly popular in schools – one UK teacher in a secondary school told me he was astonished at how fast the football played in the schools was.

Further information:

Qatar football association
Contact details: 7th Floor, QNOC Building
West Bay P.O. Box 5333
DOHA Tel:+974/494 4411
Fax:+974/494 4414
football [at] qatarolympics.org

Website: http://www.qfa.com.qa/ (currently under construction)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

De-Qatarising Yourself; or How I Escaped: The Whole Story

By Steve

I had been warned, rather fore-armed, that the process of leaving the country is more tortuous than that described elsewhere for entering. And so it proved, although I must say from the outset that it was not as bad for me as it has been for others, and in October 06 they did simplify the procedure somewhat as I discovered on Trial The First. Everyone I had contact with was very helpful and nice about everything, which really helped. The trail leads all over Doha at least three times to every place, some four times, and that’s if nothing goes wrong, which is not possible. Form signings, stampings, checkings, re-stampings, re-checkings ad ridiculusem. Also of course, this is the Ministry of Education experience, others, especially private companies will be different, perhaps easier, perhaps not and employ people to do it all for you. I choose to do it myself just for the laugh really!


Also see: Qatar Visas

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Camel racing

Waiting for the net to go up

A camel foams at the mouthThe camels were held back by green netting. Their handlers stood tense in front of them, holding onto their ropes. Arab riders on large camels jostled by their robot counterparts on smaller camels. Then, with a crack, the netting shot up and the handlers went scampering out of the way as the camels galloped off, closely followed by their beeping and hollering owners.

The Place

Shahhaniya. Head out of Doha along Al Rayyan road. Follow the signs to Dukhan. A few kilometres after passing Al Rayya football stadium, you’ll come to a roundabout. Take the first exit, and turn left about a kilometre further on, just after the Oryx sign.

The Jockeys:

Child jockeys Until recently, children as young as four were purchased from their parents or kidnapped and sold into use as jockeys. See Mental Mayhem for an account of child jockeys being used only last year, or the Ansar Burney Trust for some disturbing pictures and stories. While this was already illegal, Qatar has now introduced severe punishments for anyone caught using child jockeys, and is going to greater lengths to enforce these laws, in contrast to some other countries in the area. They have also established an orphanage for children whose parents cannot be found. Happily, when we were at the track we saw no child jockeys, and there were plenty of police to make sure everyone was obeying the law.
One camel gets an ass whipping
Robot jockeys Replacing the children are robot jockeys. These are controlled by the camels’ owners who are following in the four wheel drive vehicles. Not only can the owners control the robots’ arms to whip the camels and pull the reins, they can also hurl abuse at the camels through speakers. The robot jockeys weigh about 26 kilos and cost about five and a half thousand dollars, which compares to about two thousand for a child.

The race

At the start of the race the camels are accompanied by older A camel is closely followed by its ownercamels and their jockeys. At a certain point they are released, and only followed by their owners. When the owners press the whip, the whip hand of the jockeys whirs round with an electric sound that can be heard clearly from the side of the race track, cracking the camel with a series of whacks on its rear end. You can get up close for the start and finish of the camel race, or watch it safely from the stadium.

Race information

Ring +974 487 2028 (mornings only) for race information.

The camel chasers - we decided not to throw our lot in with this lot
Qatar visitor YouTube videos

The start of the camel race

The end of the camel race

Also see:

Qatar camels


Qatar Visitor Bookstore

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Centre

Inside The Centre
By Chantelle

Location On Salwa Road next to the Ramada Hotel.

Review Megamart, the supermarket in the centre, is essentially geared towards Westerners. It’s also a place where you can get things which you can’t get elsewhere: I’ve bought Easter eggs (three months after Easter), rhubarb, risotto rice, mint jelly, fresh rosemary and both fresh and tinned lemon grass here. Having said that, you can’t always guarantee you’ll get exactly what you want, and the prices of some products are substantially above other supermarkets. Mega-mart has a board for classifieds which always seems to have a good selection of second hand cars available. You’ll also find Megamart in Landmark shopping mall.

Beyond the supermarket, the shopping’s not that great. There’s a range of perfumes -includingKashmir rug a number of major names including Lancome, Gucci and Christine D’or – and jewellery. There’s a lot of clothes, but frankly the quality and selection was not better than can be had in the souks and the prices are more expensive, even with a 20% sale on. I was also shocked that I was unable to buy the pair of stockings that I desperately needed. The most interesting shop was Khazana of Kashmir. Here you can purchase hand woven silk carpets and rugs from Kashmir, teak benches and hand carved antique furniture from India.

Also see:

Book flights,hotels or cars with Expedia.

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travelers have to say Qatar


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Two laws

"Man to be lashed for illicit relations," proclaimed the Gulf Times in big letters this morning. The court "awarded 100 lashes to a Turkish man (30) after it found him guilty of illicit relations with a Filipina housemaid (38). The court also ordered to deport both the accused immediately. The woman, being a Christian was spared of the lashes..."(Gulf Times December 21).

Qatar has Sharia law (i.e. Islamic law). However, as in the example above, the full consequences of this law applies only to Muslims. Nor is the law applied as severely as in Saudi Arabia. While the death sentence is handed down, in practice it is almost always commuted by the Emir. Furthermore, while being drunk in public is illegal and will result in a lashing for Muslims, residents (including Muslims) are allowed to purchase alcohol (if they possess a permit) to be consumed at home, and to drink alcohol in hotels and licensed clubs. Unlike Saudi Arabia, amputation is not allowed by law.

I've also been told the lashing is not as severe as it is in Saudi Arabia. It does not take place in a public place, and Qataris have told me that the person administrating the punishment must keep his arm - from shoulder to elbow - by his side. Some consolation, perhaps, for the Turkish man who has just lost his job, residence permit - and girlfriend.

Qatar Culture

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Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Tuesday, December 19, 2006


A mechanic's sign
Officially, mechanics are not allowed in most areas of Doha. TheA street full of auto electricians government prefers to keep oily enterprise like that off the beautified streets of Doha and in places like the industrial areas. However, auto-electricians are allowed, and in practice they will do normal repairs on your car.

The street in the picture (off Bin Hamad Street in Ibn Mahmood area) is full of these little workshops. These places are far cheaper than the official car garages: a basic service, with an oil and oil filter change, normally sets me back about 70 riyals (about twenty US dollars). It's worth finding a good mechanic and building a relationship with them. Then they will not only repair your car, they'll also run around for you, have your car tested and obtain your Estimara(road permit) for you.

See: Driving in Qatar: Practical Information

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Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Monday, December 18, 2006

Qatar traffic accidents

How many accidents should a country like Qatar expect in a year?

There's a population, according to the Cia Factbook, of around 900,000, with almost 25% under the age of fifteen. A large percentage of the population are imported workers on a low income with no chance of getting enough money to buy a car (the majority of Qatar's population is not Qatari). As many Qatari women are still not allowed to drive (they require permission from the male members of their family before being allowed to obtain a licence), we can assume non-drivers outnumber drivers.

Just for comparison, the U.K. with a population of around 60,000,000 had 229,000 accidents in 2001, equating to a little over 3000 accidents per million. Given that the standard of driving is worse but car ownership is lower, could we expect a similar number in Qatar?

Actually no. According to this article in the Peninsula, there were seventy thousand accidents in the first 11 months of 2006. Even assuming there are 300,000 vehicles, if an average of two vehicles are involved in a crash, that means there was a crash rate of fifty percent. Fortunately, the vast majority of these were minor incidents, with a total of 127 deaths. These were road deaths - I suspect this number would be substantially higher if off road deaths were to be included.

It is possible to reduce the danger of accidents by becoming a good defensive driver. Forget aggression (you will be outdone), and expect the unexpected. Don't rely on others indicating, expect people to change lanes (or suddenly pull across three lanes) without checking to see if the lanes are clear, and forget any pride you have to concentrate on getting where you are going in one piece.

And if you are still worried, just be grateful you are not in Saudi Arabia, where according to this post on Life on the Spot it appears driving, like most things in Saudi, is far worse than it is here.

Driving in Qatar

Qatar Visitor's 90 Second Guide to Driving in Qatar (podcast)

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Qatar Visitor Book & DVD store


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Record rain in Doha

A car makes wave as it ploughs through a puddleNavigating flooded roads on Saturday, I had to drive carefully around broken down saloon cars with flooded engines. On a trip round the industrial area this morning things were even worse - large floods hid the potholes which plague this huge complex, and there were more broken down cars littering the roads.

It's not normal. According to this Gulf Times article, it was last this rainy in 1964, when the highest rainfall ever was recorded with 155 mm, but it looks like this will be surpassed this year. Certainly, this December is already well above average, having recorded 30 mm in the first half of the month compared to an average annual rainfall of 13 mm - and that is for a whole month.

It's cold, too, at least for those of accustomed to Middle East sunshine. "I've never known it this cold. Wet, yes, but not this cold," said one Qatari I know. It's not going to get warmer soon, either, the forecast is for 10 degrees celcius. Still, in Saudi, a colleague informs me, it is 6 degrees - and they haven't even got alcohol to warm themselves with!

Also see:
Rain cripples city and suburbs. (The Peninsula)
Qatar weather

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holidays, festivals and important dates in Qatar

Future updates to this post will be made to the Holidays and Festivals section of our website.

Qatar holidays are, mostly, Islamic holidays. Islamic holidays do not have a set date as they follow a lunar calendar. Often, the exact day of a holiday like Eid Al Fitri will not be announced until the night before.

National day

One exception to the above is National day. September 3rd is the day Qatar ceased to be a protectorate of the British and became fully independent. There is normally a one day holiday.


Friday is a religious holiday for Qatar, but not to the extent that shops are closed all day! Big supermarkets like Mega-mart and Carrefour will be open for most of the day, shutting only for an hour around midday. Most shops will be shut for the morning, including those in the malls, although the major malls themselves will be open. Restaurants open at 12.00 for people coming out of mosques, while most shops will open towards evening time. Friday morning is the quietest time of the week, and great for driving – conversely, Friday evening is extremely busy. For many people, Friday is their only day off.

Eid Al Fitri

Eid al Fitri marks the end of the month long fasting that is Ramadan – not surprisingly it involves a lot of eating. (Eid itself means feast, while fitri means to break the fast). Muslims rise early in the morning and pray before sun rise, and then spend the day visiting family and friends – and eating large amounts of food, snacks and cakes! For some Muslims this is the biggest holiday of the year, and many expat Muslims feel homesick at this time. The festivities in Qatar normally last for several days. While there is no set holiday, during Ramadan the Emir normally announces a week long holiday which starts before the Eid and continues for a few days after. Hotels and the Qatar Distribution Centre are forbidden to sell alcohol during Ramadan. However this year expats with alcohol permits were able to stock up beforehand, with two months extra allowance before Ramadan, and were allowed to purchase alcohol again the day after Eid Al Fitri.

Lailut Ul Qadr (Night of Power)

Lailut Ul Qadr occurs during Ramadan, and celebrates the time when the verses of the Koran were first revealed to Mohammed. This is a very important day for Muslims – Mohammed said this one night was worth more than a thousand months – and devout Muslims will spend the whole night praying and reading the Koran.

Eid Al Adha

Eid al Adha, or the feast of sacrifice, remembers the time when Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Ishmael, only to be stopped at the last minute. This is the time when all Muslims who can afford it make a sacrifice: usually a cow, sheep or goat. The meat is then divided into three: a third for the family, a third for poor relatives and a third for the poor and the needy. There is normally a holiday for Eid Al Adha.

Mawlid An-Nabi (The Prophet’s birthday)

Ask some Muslims what the most important day of the year is, and they will say Mohammed’s birthday. Yet others believe that celebrating this day is “Haram” (forbidden), as the celebration was added after the death of Mohammed and therefore breaks the convention that Islam was handed down complete to Mohammed. There is not normally any special holiday in Qatar.


Ashurra, is celebrated by Sunni Muslims (Qatar is mostly Sunni, although there are a number of Shiite expats living and working here) as the day Noah’s ark found ground, the day Abraham was born and the day the Kabaah*, the holiest place in Islam, was built. Ashurra means ten in Arabic, and it is celebrated on the 9th and 10th day of the lunar month Muharram. Fasting on these days is an optional extra.

*The Kaabah is a small cube-shaped building located in Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca. It is considered the holiest place in the world for Muslims. When Muslims pray, they face towards the Kaabah (Wikipedia).

Also see:

Culture and Religion in Qatar

Qatar Visitor Glossary

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Friday, December 15, 2006

Qatar football team takes the gold medal as Asian Games finish

The Asian Games finished with a bang for Qatar today as, just anMany expat residents supported the Qatar team hour before the start of an amazing closing ceremony based on the 1001 nights, they beat Iraq 1-0 to win the gold medal in the Asian Games football tournament.

The game itself was far from spectacular, and though Qatar easily outplayed Iraq, they were far from their best. Despite this, Qatar could easily have had several more goals - Sebastian Quintana very nearly scored seven minutes into the game, but the Iraqi goalkeeper managed to deflect his header out of the net. Apart from that the first half was uneventful, with some mostly unconvincing attempts by the Qatar team, although Khalfan Ibrahim did have a spectacular run at the goal, easily beating several Iraqi players but not quite able to score.

Iraq made more of an effort in the second half, putting the host team under pressure for the first time This save by the Iraqi goalkeeper wasn't enough to save the gamein the game, although Qatar rarely looked in serious danger of conceding a goal. Finally, Qatar player Rajem managed to connect with a shot from the corner, heading the ball into the net from just a few yards out.

The athmosphere in the packed 18,000 seat stadium was fantastic, and there was huge support for Qatar, with chants varying from "Allah Akbar" to "Oleh-oleh". At the end of the match the cheering was so loud it was deafening, as the Qatar team threw their coach and anyone else in grabbing distance into the air. It's a fantastic result for this incredibly small country, and a great way to end a very successful Asian Games.

Also see; Iraqi soccer team scores major upset over terrorists

Qatar soccer

Qataris wave a banner in support of their team
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Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Camera men

Camera men film the finals of the Asian Games football

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Asian Games football

Qatar beat Iran last night in a packed Al Sadd stadium, inflicting the first defeat on Iran in fifteen Asian Games football matches. Sebastian Quintana scored the first of two goals at 28 minutes. Hussain Yaser Adbulrahman, a former English League player, then scored a second goald, bouncing the ball off a defender into the net 74 minutes into the game. The large Qatari crowd was ecstatic, shooting down the Corniche after the game to celebrate by driving their landcruisers up and down the Corniche. Qatar will now meet Iraq (who earlier beat the Koreans 1-0) in the finals.

Qatar soccer

Update: the venue for the finals has been changed to Al Sadd and the time to 4 0' clock.

Book flights,hotels or cars with Expedia.

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Monday, December 11, 2006

Qatar Asian Olympic Games and the Sport City

The olympic flame in Khalifa stadium
Once again it was a grey Qatar day. If you haven't been here before, ‎you might get the wrong impression about Qatar - even confuse it with an English autumn. In fact I've ‎been told that this is the worst weather Qatar has ever had (although that is a European viewpoint - ‎Qataris normally greet rain with delight,) and I'm sure we've had the average yearly fall of seven ‎centimetres in the last two weeks.‎

Along with many other Qatari residents, we braved the rain and wentAspire academy along to Sport City today. To do ‎so we had to first park the car - the one draw back of the day. This muddy mess of a car-park was ‎obviously one designed with land cruisers in mind - if there had ever been such a thing as a design. At ‎least we had a car - there didn't appear to be any buses, and there is a chronic lack of taxis in the ‎cities. Most of my car-less friends rely on illegal private drivers to get around.‎

It was my first time within the huge complex, and parking aside, I ‎was amazed and impressed. Every building, including the mosque, seemed like an image from the future. In Aspire, a low curving building which will probably still look modern in twenty years time, we had the choice of watching wrestling, gymnastics, ‎cycling, wishu, boxing and other events. Tickets and refreshments were, as normal, ridiculously ‎cheap.

Wushu competitorAfter watching several events at Aspire, we strolled across to Khalifa stadium, ‎where we watched the running, high jumping, shot put and discus throwing. Khalifa stadium is truly impressive, ‎with arches and struts carving high above the spectators. It was cold, though, and it was hard to ‎imagine that this was the country which had punished us with almost 50 degree temperatures.‎

After watching the athletics, I wandered over to the Cultural Section. Here you can see the visual arts, ‎a display of armour by Qatar Museum (some of it very rare indeed - included elephant armour - one ‎of only two sets in the world), a philatelic exhibition and an incredible photographic exhibition.‎

As we scraped the bottom of our car on the ridiculously muddy and bumpy car park, I realised we had ‎been to one of the top sporting facilities in the world. Maybe Qatar's ambition to hold the world ‎Olympic Games are not so far-fetched after all. All they need to do now is sort out the transport - and ‎some decent parking.‎

Also see: Qatar Asian Games

Khalifa Stadium
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Qatar Visitor Bookstore


A beginner's guide to Arabic


Arabic is treasured by Muslims as the language God spoke to Mohammed in, although it has evolved since this time. There are a number of different dialects, with some differences, although normally Arabic speakers find themselves mutually intelligible. This can lead to frustrations when learning Arabic, especially in Qatar where there is such a variety of people and therefore dialects. I sometimes find myself being given different Arabic words for the same things by different nationalities, and sometimes if you ask a group of people a word they will end up arguing over which is the correct one. You may also be given the classical Arabic version which, while undoubtedly correct, may not be the Arabic used in everyday speech. (There’s also a sort of pidgin-Arabic used for foreigner workers with a tenuous grasp of Arabic). If you are interested in learning Arabic in Qatar, have a look at this list of language courses in Qatar (some free or very cheap) or at the Arabic language books on the Qatar visitor bookshop.

It is worth noting that you absolutely don’t need to speak Arabic to function in Qatar. However, not everyone speaks English and there times when it will be an advantage. Arabs will also be pleased at the interest in their language, and are always eager to help you learn.

Arabic writing

Arabic is written from right to left, although numbers are written from left to right The system of numbers we use in the West are sometimes known as Hindu-Arabic as they are based on Arabic numbers, which are in turn based on Hindu numerals. They were introduced by Arabic scholars - 0ne of these scholars' Latin name was Algorismus, from which originated the word algorithm.

One word you must know...

Khalas, meaning finished – used all the time, and even by people with a good knowledge of English. You’ll probably also hear: Yani - I mean.

Common religious phrases

Religion in Qatar is a part of everyday life, and this is reflected in the language. For instance, if you ask someone in Qatar how they are, they will reply “Fine, thanks be to God”, or more commonly just “Thanks be to God”. It’s worth knowing these phrases, as you will be sure to hear at least some of them.

Alhumdullelah – Lit: Probably closest to Thanks be to God, although used a lot more frequently than in the West. It is often mis-translated as Thank God or Thank goodness.

Assa-lum-alaikum – standard greeting lit meaning “peace be with you brother”, to which you should reply Wa-alaikum-salam

Inshau’ Allahh – God willing (or, sometimes, “you haven’t got a chance mate!”)

Bismillaah (short for Bismilaah Al Rahman Al Rahim) – Bismillaah means the name of and Al Rahman And Al Rahim are the two names of God. This is normally expressed before beginning something, whether food, a journey or an exam.

Mashaoulaah! – this literally means what God wants. It may be said to you when you report something good has happened to you, and is meant to avoid envy.

Other basic words and phrases

How are you:

To a man: Keif Halek
To a woman: Keif haluki

Answer: Bikhair, Alhumdullelah: fine, thanks be to god or more informally Zane (fine)

What is your name? – Ma Ismoka?
My name is – Ismi ... (Lit., name is... – in Arabic the subject of a sentence is often left out.)

Note: Men should be careful before asking other men about the female members of their family in Qatar. Try using the Keif Al Hal, or how’s your family)

If you please –Min fad lak
Thank you Shukran
thank you very much – Shukran jazeelan
You’re welcome - afwan
Yes - Naam (formal) Aiwa (informal)
La - No
Sorry – Asif
Today – Al Yaum
Yesterday - Ams
Tomorrow - bukrha
please – minfadlak/ lau samaht


Do you speak English?– Hal tatakalam Al Englesia?
I don’t speak Arabic. – La Ataklam Al Arabeia.
I speak a little Arabic? – Atakalam Al Arabeia Kaleelan,
I don’t know. - La Aa’ref.
I don’t understand. - La Afham.
Slowly – shwei shwei (can also mean a little)
Again! Haratan okhra.


How much? – Kam?
Food – Taa’m of Akel
Drink (verb) - Yashrab
Drink (noun) - Sharab
Water - Maa’
I want – Oreed
A little – Kaleel
A lot - Katheer
big - kabeer
small - Sagheer


Where is...? .... min wein? (informal) min Aina (formal)
Left - Yasaar
Right - Yameen
Straight on – seedah
Take me to...please Khuthnee ela...min Fadlak


one - wahed
two - ethnan
three - thalathah
four – arba’ah
five - khamsah
six - sitah
seven – saba’h
eight - thamaneiah
nine – tesa’h
ten - ashara

Farsi - useful phrases

Japanese language basics

The Online Indonesian Phrasebook

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Asian games football: Qatar v. Thailand (quarter finals)

Qataris celebrate after their teams first goal
As we arrived at the AL Gharaffa stadium in Doha earlier this evening, the previous match had just come to a halt and a couple of thousand Iraqi supporters were going wild, chanting "Iraq" over and over again. Eventually, they started to move away and we nabbed a centre field seat, jammed our free Qtel/Qatar hats over our heads and settled down to watch the match.

We thought this was going to be a tough match for Qatar, and indeed they nearly conceded a goal immediately. For the first ten minutes the Thais seemed to be all over the Qatari team, who were nervous and seemed unable to coordinate as a team. The right-winger on the Thai team seemed particularly dangerous, and we were sure he would end up scoring a goal.

However, Qatar gradually pulled themselves together, and, 26 minutes into the match, the ball rebounded off the Thai goal keeper and was tapped back in by Khalfan Ibrahim.

After this, the Qatar team outplayed the Thais, although they had some help with some A narrow miss for the Qatarisspectacular saves from their goal keeper. At times they seemed to pass the ball with ease around their smaller opponents. At 50 minutes Khalfan Ibrahim scored again in exactly the same manner as before. A minute later Abdullah Obaid repeated the feat and the crowd went wild.

It was nice to see a (large) stadium half full - there are only about a 120,000 native Qataris, and if a bomb had gone off a fairly sizable percentage of the male population would have disappeared. The Thais were also well represented, and at first were loouder than the Qataris, although they were rather more subdued in the second half. After the first few minutes, Qatar played well and fast, and to get a world class team from such a small population is a real achievement. Hopefully, they can repeat their win in the semi-finals. I'll be there watching to see if they can do so.

The teams line up before the match

See also: Qatar Football and Khalfan Ibrahim: A name to remember

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Dinosaur Exhibition: The Lost World Returns

A dinosaur snarls at the entrance to the exhibition A dinosaur fossil exhibition is currently being held at the Sheraton Hotel. Not only is entrance free, there is a lost world bag for children and free glossy brochures for adults.

Some of the exhibits in the show are the only complete fossil skeletons of their type in the world. All are superbly presented and lit. The exhibition is complete with scary dinosaur sounds (my two year old was most impressed) and accompanying video shows.

After your children are sufficiently scared (mine wouldn't let me put her down), you can move onto the jewellery and clothes exhibitions. We saw superb examples of Moghul jewellery, including an exquisitely crafted 17th century falcon made from gold and studded with gems which must have been worth a fortune. Posted by Picasa

It was also very interesting too to see the difference Dinosaur skeletonsbetween old Qatari clothes - made with ornaments of silver and old coins - and the much richer gold laden clothing of the present. It also gives you an inkling into the psychology of this very young country when you see phrases like "as early as the 1930's". This was referring to the crossover from silver to gold- it is, of course, only very recently that Qatar has become the rich country it is now.

This was an excellent (and free way) to spend a rainy afternoon. If you fancy visiting, the exhibition is open until the 14th December, after which the fossils will be going back into storage until there is a museum ready for them.

swimming dinosaur
Also see:

Cultural Events Schedule

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Doha Asian Games - cycling on the Corniche

Yesterday we had another day of rain in Qatar. Being a desert country, Qatar's roads and drains are not set up for flooding, and - on the backroads, which have avoided the pre-Asian Games facelift and where potholes are still common - driving was distinctly hazardous.

Rain was followed by a day of English grayness, but that didn't put off Qatar residents. Many flocked to the stadiums to watch the Games, while other took their plastic chairs down to the Corniche, where the roads had been blocked off for the cycling and running events.

Two cyclists battle it out on Doha's CornicheOne poor chap has to walk back A dhow passes by, with national flags fluttering proudly
Helcopters buzzed overhead, filming the cyclists
A runner passes by, with the Sheraton hotel in the background

Things to do in Qatar

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

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