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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hip hop concert

Fatman Scoop, a New York city hip hop hype man, will be playing in Doha on Thursday June 7th. He will be supported by DJ Nelson from France, DJ Joe from American and DJ Ledz from Qatar. Tickets are available from Virgin Megastore and cost Qr195 or Qr 395 for VIP seats. For more details ring 5463533/5543975, email afifkhan@vivapresents.com or check out their website vivapresents.com .

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Film festival

A five day film festival of French films is being held at Cinema Land in Landmark mall starting today. Each day will feature two films: one feature film and an animation film. Films will be shown in the evening at 5pm and 7.30 pm respectively. See the link above for more information and a schedule.

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Desert heat party

An all night desert heat party will held at the singing sand dunes on June 7th, with the BBC's Judge Jules DJ'ing. Tickets are available from Virgin, Movenpick and Crepaway and cost QR100 and QR150 if bought in advance or Qr 150 and 250 if bought on the day. Ring 5498760 for details.

Directions to the singing sand dunes

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Travel insurance in Qatar

Also see our 2009 Qatar Travel Insurance Update.

It can be hard to find online companies that insure Qatar Residents. One company that do provide insurance are Columbus Direct, who are affiliate to Qatar Airways.

I found their prices very reasonable compared to the Lonely Planet’s insurance service. I also found them quick to respond to email s (although not, unfortunately, to my email requesting to become an affiliate!)

I was initially suspicious when I couldn’t find the level of cover on their site. In fact, this only appears after you have put in your details, and their medical cover is very good.

The company has had both good and bad reviews – check them out here.

My wife’s company also recommended Qatar Insurance. I rang them, and when I finally managed to get through to the travel insurance section I found them friendly and helpful.

Their premium was substantially lower (more than a quarter of the price) than Columbus Direct, but so was their cover. When I rang them, Qatar Insurance offered $250,000 of medical cover compared to $5,000,000 worth of cover from Columbus Direct. However, when I actually visited them at their building they only offered me $50,000 of medical cover.

I couldn’t find reviews of Qatar Insurance on the net, although like I said they came recommended.

If you do book with them, make sure you give them the correct dates. After you have paid, they will not adjust the policy – your only option will be to take out a new policy.

If you have any good or bad experiences with travel insurance from Qatar, please leave a comment or email us!

Columbus Direct
Email: admin@columbusdirect.com
Tel: Tel 0870 033 9988

Qatar Insurance
Enquiry form
Tel (Operator): 4490 490
(After office hours)
Tel (Operator): 4490 491
Location Al Dafna area close to City Centre Shopping Mall.

Also see: Information for Expats and Qatar Life Insurance

Qatar Tour Agencies

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Rising cost of living in Qatar

Year on year inflation reached 15% in the first three months of this year according to a story in the Gulf Times today.

Many residents will be surprised – sometimes inflation here feels a lot higher. Furthermore, in terms of rental prices Doha has now overtaken many international cities including Brussels, Dallas and Toronto. Rent now averages over Qr8000 ($2,200) for a three bedroom apartment.

Food prices will also be hurting people on lower incomes – some foods seemed to have doubled in the last few weeks. I was shocked to see imported beans in Family Food at QR30 (eight dollars) a kilo.

With all this inflation you’d expect interest rates to be high. I visited QNB’s central bank’s website and found the benchmark interest rates as below:

Qatar Central Bank Rates
Previous Current
O/N Deposit Facility 4.90% 5.15%
O/N Lending Facility 5.25% 5.50%
Repo Rate 5.85% 5.55%

So if you have money in a saving’s account in Qatar, you are currently losing in the region of 10% a year!

The low rate of interest may be related to the desire of Qatar to join a currency union, and the consequent pegging of the Qatar riyal to the plunging dollar. Coupled with frantic growth and the huge amount of money flowing into the country, inflation is inevitable.

I still remember Black Wednesday in the UK, when our country were forced out of the European Exchange Mechanism by currency converters. Our Government estimated it cost them ₤3.4 billion – other estimates put the cost at ₤24 billion.

On the other hand, by staying out of the currency union we retained control over interest rates. Sensible interest rates by the Bank of England has lead to a decade of low inflation and economic stability.

With Kuwait recently abandoning its currency peg, the possibility of Qatar doing the same has to have increased. In the meantime inflation is increasing and less affluent Qatar residents are starting to suffer.

The saddest part of all this is the departure of long term Doha residents. An example of this was a long letter to the paper last week. A family who had been in Doha for thirteen years, and who are very fond of the country, were finally having to leave because of the increase in rent. The writer warned that it was getting increasingly difficult for companies to afford to employ people with families, and the result could be a more transient population of single men in the future. This would be a sad fate for a country where families and children are valued so highly.

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A walk along Doha’s Corniche

Doha’s much vaunted Corniche is indeed easily the mostFlags by the Sheraton Hotel on Doha's Corniche attractive part of this capital city, and where I take all my guests when they first arrive in this city – normally on the way home from the airport. In the day, you can admire the incredible colour of the Doha’s bay, in the evening you can appreciate one of the region’s superb sunsets, and at night the city lights up in an array of colours.

The Sheraton at the far end of the Corniche is one of Doha’s most iconic buildings. Until recently, this pyramid shaped hotel stood alone; now it is beginning to be overshadowed by the buildings shooting up all round it. Next it is Sheraton park. In addition to a childen’s play area, and cool green lawns where you can sit back under the shade of palm trees, free wireless internet is now available here.

This is where Doha’s Corniche starts. There’s a large parking area too – be careful to stick to the marked area or you may return to find a parking ticket slapped on your vehicle.

This is a popular posing place for Doha’s ultra cool motorcycle crowd – you can sometimes admire the not-very-Muslim angel of death painted on one bike. These lads are part of the macho risk culture that exists among some of the younger Qataris here, and often leave the parking area with an impressive wheely.

There’s a popular little cafe here, where you can buy snacks, ice-cream and drinks. Unfortunately, it’s a little shabby, and doesn’t match up to the rest of the Corniche. It also serves awful coffee - but its range of fresh juices are great. (Tip – you have to tell them if you don’t want sugar in your juice.) In the car park opposite, drivers too lazy to walk the sparse few metres to the cafe sprawl in their land cruisers and blare their horns until waiters attend to them.

Tourist dhows will take you on a trip of the bay from here and several other locations scattered along the Corniche. They used to take you to Palm Tree island, until the resort was mysteriously demolished just before the Asian Games. The jetty here is a great place to watch small fish swarming in the clear water, and there’s also a tiny little beach where you can paddle (no swimming allowed, I’m afraid).

Further on along the Corniche you’ll come to Bal HambarDhow on the Corniche restaurant. This place sits right on the sea, so you can sit on cushions and enjoy traditional Arabic food as the waves lap along the wall below.

Walk on until the next roundabout, and on the other side of the road, you’ll come to Al Bidda park - also called Rumeila Park. This is a real oasis, frequented by numerous species of birds who are drawn by the grass, trees and water gardens. At one end of the park is a children’s play area, where you can also buy refreshments. Beyond that is Doha’s heritage village, which showcases traditional Qatari life during festivals and special events.

Continue along Doha’s Corniche, and you’ll pass an imposing concrete structure – this is the Emir’s palace, though it is used more for receptions than as a place of residence.

Nearly opposite is the parking place for a large number of traditional dhows. It’s well worth aThe Museum of Islamic arts walk around, looking at the traditional fishing traps and admiring the wooden boats. This is also a popular place for fishing, which is forbidden around most of the Corniche. Rather than casting lines, most of these fisherman use long rods to get the bait to the small fish which they usually catch.

This used to be the location of the superb dhow restaurants, now sadly demolished. From here you can see across to the Museum of Islamic arts, which has been constructed on its own artificial island. Although, like most of the museums in Qatar, it is currently closed, its opening is scheduled towards the end of 2007.

Fisherman relax at a cafe on Doha's CornicheOn from the museum is a huge commercial harbour. On the other side of this, fishing boats congregate, and sometimes you can buy fish fresh off the boats. There’s also a little cafe where fisherman like to congregate to drink strong Turkish coffee and smoke tobacco through long water pipes while playing dominoes.

On the other side of the road is another park, barer than the other two but again with a children’s playing area. This park backs into Qatar’s National Museum – although this is under renovation, you can still walk around and look at the displays.

Selling fish on the CornicheThe restaurant Ras Al Nasa and Doha club are at the very end of the Corniche and bring our walk to an end Overall, the Corniche is clean, well maintained and popular, and offers a superb view of Doha’s beautiful bay. If it only had a couple more cafes and some ice-creams parlours where we could rest our weary feet and soothe our parched throats, it would be perfect!

Also see: The Corniche Virgin (posted on www.greeker.blogspot.com)

Things to See and Things to Do in Qatar

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Private Palace

Private palaceAlso see: Reduce speed now

View Qatar Images

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Renting outside Doha

One answer to Doha's exorbitant rents can be to live a little out of town, and I know a number of people who commute to nearby Al Wakra. Villas advertised in the Gulf Times today were in a price range of QR5500 - 6500 ($1500-1800) for two to three bedroom villas in a compound with a swimming pool and fitness club.

Unfortunately it means having to live in Umm Slal, which, after you have seen its forts, is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Still, the equivalent in Doha would get you a one bedroom flat (if you're lucky), so it could be well worth it.

Umm Slal is close to Doha, although traffic could be bad in rush hour. If you are interested get down to the Exhibition Centre before the end of today or check out the advertiser's website: www.almourouj.com.

Also see: Umm Slal Mohammed: forts and streams

Qatar Visitor's Resident's Guide

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Emir's cup finals

The finals of the Emir's football cup will be held on Saturday evening on the 26th May at Al Ahli football club (venue changed from Khalifa Stadium). The match will see a face-off between Al Sadd and Al Khor - with Al Sadd being the hot favourites to win.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Qatar Today

I spotted this magazine while shopping in Food Palace this morning, and bought it along with the nappies and baby milk. I have to admit I expected it to be as bad as the Qatar Business magazine, which I occasionally buy to keep up with things, and which has yet to discover paragraphs let alone decent writing.

However, a glance at the articles revealed both a writing style which is readable and proper use of paragraphs.

Content in the first section of the magazine focuses on Qatar news – not particularly interesting, to be honest, but then they don’t have a lot to work with. It then goes on to look at regional and world issues. There’s a distinct but not exclusive focus on business news.

The magazine then has some features (far too long for me to bother reading) and some shorter articles: The Manager Effect, Mastering the art of Communication, Quest for our roots and so on.

What I liked, though, is that the magazine has not adopted the standard sycophantic style of some other publications here. That’s despite the cover title (“A vote for democracy”) which at first I thought would a sugar coated description of Qatar’s “democracy”.

In fact, in addition to emphasising the “half-hearted” nature of the debate concerning democracy, the magazine goes on to criticise the lack of press freedom in Qatar asking:

“Though official censorship has been lifted, has the pen really been uncapped?”

Overall, the magazine wouldn’t replace an international publication, but at QR10 it’s a bargain for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening locally.

Right, I’m off to change the baby’s nappy. I forget to get baby wipes, but luckily I have a copy of Qatar Business which should be up to the job...

Also see:

Qatar Media & Newspapers

Qatar Books

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Monday, May 21, 2007


I received this comment on my blog today. The original comment was made on my Adhan post (which I thought was inoffensive!) Rather than respond to it, I thought I'd just leave it up and see what other people think of it. Comments welcome!

You clearly know nothing about the country. How long have you been here? One, two or three years…still u know nothing…One ppl do not try to convert you...Two it is advised to wear conservatively here and not to provoke the other gender, and by means to other gender male workers who are mainly Indians or low labors ..dont know if you heard about the rape ratio here, thanks to the disrespectful those who wonder around in tiny mini skirts with half of their bum showing off and sleeveless tops… At least have some RESPECT to the ppl…ur staying in their country…enjoying the leisure of fancy beaches, hotels, clubs…earning ten times what u used to earn in ur home country..So the very least is respecting the ppl of the country!! And if u do dress disrespectful ppl will eye at u at a very shallow manner and will think you’re a prostitute and workers will have easy access =) Thanks for having no respect to my country , and for your blog. If you dont like it...I suggest you book at ticket and fly back to your home country.

I have responded to another comment, which I think is by the same guy. You'll find that on my Alcohol post.

There's also an excellent post on conversion on one of my favourite blogs, Clockwork Orange -the post is called Crescent over Cross.

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Kuwait changes dollar peg

The Gulf Times announced today that Kuwait has changed its peg against the dollar. The currency is now linked to a basket of currencies.

Despite all the fuss being made (destroying chances of monetary union e.t.c.), the appreciation today consisted of a mere 0.37%.

Never-the-less, it sets a precedent that could be followed in Qatar. That would be good news for expats, many of whom have seen the value of their salary in non-dollar currencies steadily eroded by the decline of the dollar.

It could also lead to a decline in inflation, as prices of imports in non-dollar terms decreases.

Currently Qatar remains committed to a currency union. Whether this is such a good idea remains to be seen. Not only would Qatar lose control over interest rates (and therefore a major weapon against inflation, a real problem in Qatar), the likelihood is that the currency union's economy would be dominated by Saudi Arabia's huge economy.

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Sadhew weaving

In Sadhew weaving, a traditional Bedouin craft, strands of camel, goat or sheep hair is wrapped around a nool or spindle. This is a small wooden instrument held in the hand. The nool is used to spin the wool round until it becomes a thread, which is then wrapped around the bottom of the nool.

A tradional loom on display in a Bedouin Heritage Village
The wool is then died with traditional red and black colours. Although traditional dies made from local organic materials are still sometimes used, modern commercial dies produce a much stronger colour. Using a loom, the wool can be woven into carpets, tents and cushions and other items.The finished product
You can see Sadew weaving taking place at the heritage village (located between majelis Al Trawon Street and Corniche Road), and you can buy Sadew products in Souq Waqif.

A trader displays Sadew weaving at his shop in Souq WaqifAlso see:

Qatar Culture

Qatar Clothing

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Disability in Qatar

With a historical emphasis on marrying within the family in Qatar, disability was always going to be high. The people in Qatar don't help themselves by eating huge quantities of sugar and fast food. Unlike in the past, when life was hard, they don't make up for it with hard physical labour either.

Servants do all the house work, and expats do all hard and unpleasant physical work. For some Qataris, the only exercise is the act of staggering between house and the waiting land cruiser. Consequently, some middle aged Qataris have difficulty walking. Diabetes is high, striking many people while they are still young.

While Qatar's population does not have quite the awareness of disability that many Western countries have, the Government has made an effort. There are ramps and disabled toilets in most public places now, and disabled parking is common - and, even more surprisingly for someone used to driving on Qatar's chaotic roads, respected.

If you’re like us, you’ll also have been getting messages asking you to cooperate or thanking you for cooperating with the disability survey for the past couple of weeks. (We actually had a representative from the survey come round a couple of months beforehand). This is a nationwide survey to find out just how much disability there is in Qatar.

Qatar has also just hosted the second Annual International forum on Human Needs. The forum was held at the Shafallah centre, a school for disabled children. A film has also been made about the one of the centre's students, focusing on his eventually successful struggle to become a policeman.

There has been recent attention in the media too, with The Gulf times focusing on the motivational story of a blind Qatari man who obtained a doctorate, and now works for the Qatar government as a sociologist.

However, awareness among the ordinary people of Qatar seems to be low, and I have yet to see one disabled scooter being used in the country.

The Government stated aims include providing special facilities in public places, enabling disabled people to work and allowing them to take part in decisions concerning them. What remains to be seen is whether the government can move beyond these surveys and aims, and take real action to help disabled people. There’s reason to be positive. Despite the mind numbing bureaucracy that you encounter here, the Government is active and progressive.

However, the real causes of much of the disability is unlikely to be removed. Banning marriages between cousins would cause an outcry, and as for removing the country’s fast food joints – fat chance!

Also see: Healthcare in Qatar

Scooters Direct UK - exporting scooters to the Middle East.

Mobility Aids - mobility products available on line.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


Driving off-road on the Ras Abrouq Peninsula, we were surprised to come across this Oasis.

Oasis in the desert

In front of the Oasis there is a fort - not a real one, but built to be used in a film set. A lonely security guard bounced out as we arrived, delighted to have someone to talk to.

The pool where gazelle drink from
He told us there used to be a well here, but this has now been closed off. Instead a pool has been built, and gazelles visit the Oasis to drink from the pool.

When we asked him if the water came from the well, he shook his head and said "Tankers!"

Also see: The Singing Sand Dunes

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Qtel launches Mozaic service

Qtel today launched it's Mozaic service. Customers have the choice of two services. Mozaic TV+ will offer WiFi broadband internet, IPTV (i.e. TV using internet protocol technology) and telephone) and a a telephone line. The alternative is Mozaic mobile offering internet access through the mobile phone. The service is not yet available to all areas of Qatar,

I don't use cable tv but friends have complained about Qtel's tendency to suddenly change channels without warning. They have also complained about the backup service, although the new 111 number is a substantial improvement over the previous service. However, as Adsl alone costs QR 200/month, and a landline costs QR100/quarter, the service seems to represent remarkable value, even after the one-off QR300 installation fee.

Read the full announcement here.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Qtel to change international dialling code

Qtel has announced that it will be changing the international dialling access code from 0 to 00 from 21st May 2007 - see this announcement on Qtel's website for more details.

Also see: Useful Telephone numbers

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Doha Clinic Hospital - This hospital may harm your computer...

While doing some research on health insurance, I tried to get in contact with Doha Clinic Hospital. As usual, they could not be bothered to answer the phone. (How do private companies in Qatar survive???)

So instead of ringing them, I thought I'd try their website. This is what I got:

Personalized Results 1 - 10 of about 95,400 for doha clinic hospital. (0.06 seconds)

Doha Clinic Hospital

This site may harm your computer.
Welcome To Doha Clinic Hospital Website, The First Fully Integrated Private Hospital in Qatar, For Complete Overview of our hospital please click on ...
www.doha-hospital.com/ - Similar pages - Note this

Google warns:

"This warning message appears with search results that we've identified as sites that may install malicious software on your computer." and

"Malicious software is often installed without your knowledge or permission when you visit these sites. Some examples of malicious software include programs that delete data on your computer, steal personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers, or alter your search results."

So, not only is it impossible to ring Doha Clinic Hospital if you are ill, they actually spread disease to your computer. Some hospital!

Also see: List of hospitals in Qatar

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Museum frustrations

or why it’s hard to be a tourist in Qatar...

I’d wanted to see to visit the weaponry museum for a long time, but I’d always been put off by having to obtain a permit first. This week I had visitors, which gave me the motivation to try and organize a trip.

I first obtained the number from the Marhaba information guide, which didn’t function. I then checked under museums in the phone book, but the only number listed under museums was that of the tiny Al Khor museum. I rang directory enquiries who gave me the wrong number. The number they gave me put me through to the National Museum, where I was passed along a chain of three people, before being given another number, and passed along another chain of three people. The last person I spoke to gave me another number, which I rang, only to be given another number - which was “currently not available”.

I again tried the number from the Marhaba, which worked this time. The person in charge was away, but his replacement told me I must obtain a letter from my company, which must be faxed to the weaponry museum with the time and date I wish to visit. Then I would be granted a permit.

I never got around to obtaining the letter. I have a suspicion the situation would be the same as when I applied for a permit for the Oryx park (no reply). If you are a tourist, forget trying to organise it yourself and go through a tour company. If you are resident in the country, it’s probably easier to wait until the museum hold an exhibition.

It’s a real shame that the museum seems so determined to stop people from coming. As I found during their exhibition in the Asian Games, they have a fascinating collection of exhibits, beautifully mounted and presented and including an extremely rare example of elephant armour.

The courtyard of the former Al Wakra museumAfter giving up on the weaponry museum we drove to Al Wakra. We eventually located the Museum in an old house opposite the Sea Gardens – not easy, as there was no sign. On our first try, the caretaker vanished as soon as we appeared. We went away, and sneaked back later, creeping round the side of the museum so he wouldn’t see us until it was too late. After we had cornered and bullied the caretaker into letting us in, we saw why he had been so reluctant. The whole place was full of rubbish – including the now dismantled sign.

We were disappointed - after all, the museum is still advertised on the Qatar Tourism website. But then, so is the Ethnographic museum in the Doha's only remaining wind tower (closed), the displays in Doha fort (closed), Pearl Island (demolished)... well, you get the picture.

Also see:

The Sheik Faisal Museum Definitely not closed or demolished!

Qatar National Museum

Things to See and Do in Qatar

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Sunday, May 13, 2007


An exhibition in rock art by German artist Chipo Zainab Musandi will be held at the Diplomatic Club on May 16th and 17th. Ring Mr Daoudi 5750484 for more information about the exhibition.

See this story in the Peninsula for information about Chipo Zainab Musandi.

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Growth in tourism?

Qatar expects 1,500,000 million tourists by 2010 according to this story in the Gulf Times today. Apparently they had 900,000 visitors in 2006.

Exactly where all these visitors are I don't know, as I've met precisely two tourists in the last two years.

The first was a British-Sri Lankan chap with his family, taking a stop-over on the way to Sri Lanka. I met him on the plane on the way back to Qatar in August 2006. The poor guy didn't realise that the temperature was in the high 40's, and that he wouldn't be able to venture outside.

The second was in the Qatar National Museum. In an hour of walking round the former palace we met one other person - a Swedish lady staying in the Sheraton Hotel.

I wonder how the numbers of tourists are counted? If they count the number of tourist visas given out, it would include all the people who come to visit families, look for jobs and also certain dodgy ladies who frequent the bars here.

Still, there's good shopping here, and the newly rebuilt Souq Waqif is fantastic. They've made it easy to get a tourist visa, there's good desert tours, and an entertainment city is being built. You can certainly do things you probably can't do at home: sand ski-ing, sand boarding and big game fishing (if you can ever manage to organise a trip). If Qatar could clean up the beaches a bit and actually promote camel racing instead of hiding it away, it could really become a worthwhile destination.

As long as they don't try to persuade people to come in August, that is.

Also see:

Fancy a holiday in Qatar, anyone?

Qatar Tour Agencies

Visa Services

Qatar Travel

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Real Estate Exhibition

The second Qatar International Real Estate and Investment Exhibition will be held from the 21st to 24th May at the Qatar National Exhibition Centre.

For more information telephone +974 444 0408, Fax +974 431 3330, email info@tcqatar.com or dohapropertyshow@yahoo.com .

Also see: Buying property in Qatar and Qatar Property

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Accomodation: Bavaria City Suites

Al Dafna Towers, commissioned by Bavaria City Suites Doha, though open, is not yet quite complete. When we arrived we were directed to Tower 1 - clearly the others are not yet available.

The huge complex will be providing 2,200 Suites and studios for short to long term residence. Prices vary from QR6,600 for a 12 month rental of a "Deluxe Studio" to QR 25,00 for a short term (1-3 month) rental of a three bedroom "Imperial Suite".

The facilities are not all available yet, but will include a cafe (which should have opened in April), pool, restaurants, Wellness centre, Angsana spa, kids club, shop and private beach club access - though this can't be on the actual complex itself as it is surrounded by buildings and roads. All of these should become available this year.

The location is pretty good - it's directly opposite Doha's City Centre Mall, in the middle of the business district and ten minutes walking distance from the Corniche.

Contact details:

Tel: +974 – 4969111
+974 – 4969112
Email: bcs.doha@bhihotels.com
PO Box 23488, Doha, Qatar
Location: Al Dafna

Note: Since the post was written Bavarian Hotels has walked away from the project.

The Bavaria City Suites in Doha's business district
Renting in Qatar - Essential Dos and Don'ts

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Renting accommodation in Qatar - update

“Pay Rent QR 15,000/ month for an apartment that you don’t own
buy your own house from QR 7,500 /month.”

So says an advertisement currently running in the Gulf Times, and many residents must be asking themselves the same questions.

So how much are flats now? We had a dig around the internet and in the papers.

Mirage property is offering a studio apartment for Qr 5,600 ($1,500), a hotel apartment for Qr 15,000 ($4000), a five bedroom villa for Qr 16,000($4,400) and another 5 bedroom villa for Qr 24,000 ($6,600).

Modern House Property Consulting, advertising in the Gulf Times are offering villas between Qr 16,000 ($4,400) and Qr 40,000 ($11,000) riyals each. (Yes, I checked – Qr 40,000!).

Thinking hotel apartments might prove better value, we rang Al Muntazah Plazah Hotel (contact details below). For a 3 bedroom apartment they charge Qr 18,000 ($5,000) per month including services and tax.

The cheapest I found – a private letting – was near Lulu Hypermarket with 1 bedroom, 1 sitting room, 1 kitchen and 1 bathroom for Qr 5000 ($14,000). There were also two bedroom flats going for QR 7,500 ($2000) in the centre of Doha.

If you look in the less popular areas such as Bin Mahmood, Al Hilal and the Souq area or just out of town in Al Wakra, you can find more reasonable prices. Reasonable, that is, for Qatar.

Where to look:

You can find rental accommodation advertised in the local papers, on supermarket walls, on Qatar Living or try the below:

Al Muntazah Plaza Hotels
Tel: +974 4355677 - 6 Fax: + 974 4355757
Email: info@almuntazahplaza.com

Mirage property consultants
Telephone: +974 444 4431
Fax : +974 431 0408

Homes to rent
Telephone 4134839, 4134837, 4134817/ FAX 4134846
Electronic mail Office@Homes2Rent.biz

Also see Buying property in Qatar

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


The Doha Players are holding a production of Anni (based on Little Orphan Annie) this month. The production will open on 23rd May and there will five evening shows and three matinees. The price will be QR30 for children and students and Qr 70 for adults.

Tickets, which will be on sale by the Monday 7th May can be bought at Landmark in the Music Master shop opposite the body shop, or at the International Centre for Music. Ring 5755102 (office hours) for more details, or email doha_players@yahoo.com or dohaplayers@qatar.net.qa.

Wednesday 23rd starts 7.30 p.m.
Thursday 24th starts 7.30 p.m.
Friday 25th (two shows) starts 2.30 + 7.30.
Saturday 26th starts 2.30.
Thursday 31st starts 7.00.
Friday 1st June (two shows) starts 2.30 + 7.30.

Also see: Finding out what's on in Qatar

Doha Players Website

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

New hotel in Doha

The George II hotel in Bin Mahood Area: one of Doha's newest hotels
The George II is one of Qatar’s newer hotels. I’ve noticed it several times while driving along C ring road towards Hamed Hospital. As it’s name suggests, from its design at least it could have been lifted out from London or Paris and, when lit up at night, it is very pretty.

Coming in at a starting price of Qr650/night (not including 17% tax) it doesn’t quite make onto our cheap hotels list – unless your stay is for thirty days, when the price drops to Qr470. Although I haven't stayed there or read any reviews, this four star hotels seems to fit our luxury hotel guide better, as it appears both comfortable and luxurious – I particularly like the touch of placing a rose on the bed. The staff also appeared very friendly and helpful.

The hotel’s price includes wireless internet and breakfast, and would prove very good value for travelling businessmen. It has one major drawback, though – no booze!

The hotel is located at the Al Sadd signals opposite the Children’s emergency hospital. To book telephone +974 4445405 or fax +974 4367939.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

The Heritage Village

Walk through the gates at one end of RumeilaThe Heritage Village on Doha's Corniche park and you'll find yourself in a mock-up of a traditional Qatari village. Not a desert camp, but a seaside settlement, complete with well, nets and even a Dhow permanently under repair.

During festivals and special occasions, this heritage village becomes a hive of activity. During the afternoon the almost forgotten crafts of weaving and and wickerwork are taken up, and in the evening music and dancing take place.

One of many attractions is the Tawash, or pearl trader. In the village two men demonstrate the weighing and selling of the pearls. One of these, an elderly gentlemen, is unusually chatty, and will relate how he accompanied one of the last pearl diving trips as a young lad. He’ll then pullTraditional craftsmanship can be found at the Heritage Village out his body building pictures from when he was a young man, and offer to teach your children scuba-diving. He also likes to relate how he bangs stones upon his chest to keep him strong, and sleeps on a bed of nails – although he advised my daughter not to imitate him when she got home.

Sadhew weaving, or Al Sadwh, the “old womanish craft” of weaving is featured in another building. The role of different people in the village is also explained, along with miniature model displays of weddings and wedding clothes. You’ll also see the Daza – the ornate wedding box which must be presented to the bride along with the Al Sawgh or wedding gold – and read about the night of the Henna, when the bride is decorated with haden and ladened with expensive gold jewelry and ornate clothes.

Move on and you’ll see a loom – rather more ornate and complicated than the ones I’ve seenMen work at a loom in Doha's heritage village before, requiring two men to work it. Other attractions include old tea pots, an old well, and jewellery displayed by masked bedouin women. In one corner of the park is a traditional Dhow, and the tools used to work on the dhow are displayed (if not in use!) Nets and fishing traps similar to those you can still see today on Doha’s Corniche are hung to dry.

Food available included Qatari, Omani and other regional dishes. We particularly liked the Zatar pats – small pastries filled with Zatar (Thyme) and baked in a blazing oven in front of you. There’s other things to buy, including books on local culture and language, and a huge range of clay pots.

With the attractions much improved over a couple of years ago (when it featured little battery driven dolls turning round a wheel), it's well worth a visit. Just be careful your kids don’t go home and put nails in their beds...

Also see The Dhow Boatyard

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Lethal crash outside Hyatt Plaza

Long term residents of Qatar know just how dangerous driving in Qatar is. Fortunately, most accidents in the city do not result in deaths. This was not the case yesterday with this horrific accident outside Hyatt Plaza. A speeding land cruiser shot the lights and slammed into this Mitsubishi Lancer. According to the story in the Peninsula today, the car then burst into flames, although the wreck looks so awful it appears that the driver and two passengers would have been killed instantly.

Lethal crash outside Hyatt PlazaQatar traffic accidents

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


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Qatar Athletics Super Grand Prix

The Qatar Athletics Super Grand Prix will be held at Qatar Sports Club in Doha on May 11th. Twenty events will be featured with total prize money of $600,000. Tickets will be free, and a shuttle bus service will be organized for residents. For more information contact the Qatar Athletic Federation: Tel +974-5502699, Fax: 4944506 or email athletic@qatarathletic.com .

Also see; Qatar Football

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Qatar postal services

Q-post's general post office in Doha

Q-post's main post office is located on Corniche Road, and there’s little chance of missing it – it’s huge! You have to drive up several levels of the stepped car park to get to the entrance. and you’ll also get a good view of the city here. Inside, the building is pleasant enough, and there’s a cafe where you can relax as well as internet access.


Alas, post is notoriously unreliable even within Qatar. According to the Gulf Times, a post card can take 6 weeks to cross the city – unforgivable when it only has to be transferred from one box to another.


There is no organized system of street postal addresses in Qatar. To receive letters, customers must rent out a post office box.

Renting a Post Office Box

You’ll need to fill a form available either at the post office or on this link. The form must be submitted along with a copy of your ID and the fee. (At the time of writing it costs QR300 annually to rent a box in the main Post Office along with an initial fee of QR260.) You can also purchase an electronic card to open your post office box – the price depends on how swanky a card you want (head office only).

For more information contact:
PO Boxes Section
Tel : (+974) 4464230 - 4464223
Fax: (+974) 4830981
Email: pobox@qatarposts.com

Other services:

E-resident Allows the renewals of dependant’s visas and residents permits. See here for details .

Follow me

Allows your post to be forwarded to a different location, including outside the country.

For details: Tel. (+974) 4464446, Fax. (974) 4464280 or email customers@qatarposts.com

Khazaz service

Delivers your post, for an additional charge, from your PO box to your company location on a daily basis.

Public health card renewal

Submit your old health card along with a copy of your ID, a single photograph and QR100, and your new health card will be delivered to your PO Box.

Qatar Post premium

Arranges for door to door delivery of important documents. Of course, an additional fee is charged. See here for details.

Stamp Collecting

If you are interested in collecting stamps check out the Qatar Philatelic Bureau. For more information on the Post Office contact Customer Service:
Tel: +974 4464446/ 4464277
Fax: +974 4464280
Email: customers@qatarposts.com
Or check out their website.

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Possible water shortage this summer

Kharama, Qatar's monopoly utility provider, is warning of a possible water shortage this summer. The company has asked its customers to be restrained in their use of water, and advised them to make sure they have adequate back up facilities, according to the Peninsula newspaper. Read the full story here.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Laughter Factory

The Laughter Factory will take place on Sunday 6th and Monday 7th May at the Ramada Hotel. Shows start at eight O' clock, and tickets cost Qr85. This month comedians Gordon Southern, Carey Marx and Stewart Francis will be featured. Telephone the Ramada on 4417417 for more details.

Also see: Finding out what's on in Qatar

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Newspaper editors and Al Jazeera

In a recent article in an Arabic (translated here on Memri) a Qatari newspaper editor focused on a major world injustice. No, not street children starving in India, or the raping and murdering of his Muslim brothers and sisters in Darfur, but the harsh treatment of Qatari newspaper editors who are being deprived of their rightful dues and swimming pools. Another newspaper editor explains why.

It’s very unfair that Al Jazeera employs non-Qataris and gives them more money than me. Why should they have a luxurious apartment, swimming pools and money when they are not Qatari? We have Qatarisation kicking out talented people in every other industry to make room for Qataris, why not in Al Jazeera too?

I mean look at it. What have these fancy foreign journalists got? Okay, so they are talented, determined, well-educated people who fought their way to the top in a competitive industry and have experience of working in world-renowned news networks. They are the best in the world at what they do, and some of them have risked their lives and liberty to do their job to the best of their ability. Between them they are providing the Middle East with a world class network, and giving the Middle East a voice it has never had before. But they weren’t born in Qatar!

And this is a crucial point – Qataris are special. We must be - why else would we be guaranteed cushy jobs for life and plenty of money when we pay Indians starvation wages to work 12 hours a day 6 days a week despite being the third richest country in the world?

Why are we special? It’s nothing to do with our education, for sure. It’s not our education, and its not our morality (you should see how some of us treat our employees).

Actually, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s definitely something to do with being born on top of a large pile of gas and oil. Surely that’s makes us special. So, you see, it’s not fair that some people earn more than me.

So come on. Kick out those journalists and give the job to me. And then hire some more journalists to do the work for me – just make sure I earn more than them this time!

Also see: Qatar moves into groceries

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Camp in the desert

Cushions in the desert
At this camp on the way back from the Inland Sea visitors can rest, eat and smoke Shisha before the hair-raising trip through the desert dunes is repeated.

Also see:
A Trip to The Inland Sea
Qatar Tour Companies

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Jeep Wrangler Roadshow

Car enthusiasts might want to get down to the Diplomatic Club tomorrow. The Jeep Wrangler Road Show kicks off on Thursday at five o' clock, launching the new Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The show will include entertainment, games and
driving demonstrations on test tracks.

Also see: The Qatar Driving Test

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Car theft

At times like these, with temperatures hitting the 40's at midday, it is common for residents to leave their cars running with the AC on. However, it may no longer be safe to do so. In another example of rising crime in Doha, a second car was stolen in broad daylight yesterday. The car had been left running outside it's owner's house while the owner entered his house. This followed on from the theft of a Toyota Corrolla last month which has still not been recovered.

Also see: Crime

Other news: In Home on wheels the Gulf Times reports on a Qatari man living from his car after being ordered out of his courts by a Qatari court. Maybe it's time for Fathers for Justice to come to Qatar...

Meanwhile, the Japanese Prime Minister visited Qatar yesterday, leading a high powered business delegation. Qatar, which supplies Japan with Natural Gas, requested assistance with developing nuclear power. Read the full story on the Peninsula.

Read about Japan on Japan Visitor.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Qatar culture

or How not to lose your job in the first week

Below we’ve compiled a list of cultural pointers – things we’ve come across from our own experience, rather than gleaned from a book .

Of course it’s dangerous to generalize, especially in Qatar, which is a huge cultural melting pot - Qataris themselves only form 20% of the population. Never-the-less, we have noticed some points that seem to be shared both by Qataris and by many of the Muslim residents from countries around Qatar.

Before reading these, it’s worth mentioning that this is not Saudi Arabia and that most minor slip ups are tolerated. In fact, until you get a feel for the culture, you are bound to make a few mistakes. I certainly have, and have always been gently informed as to my error. However, major transgressions could have more serious consequences.

Men and women

Women’s rights in Qatar have advanced considerably in recent years. Women can drive, with the permission of the men in their family, and often hold positions of responsibility. Nevertheless, women in general just aren’t considered to be as important as men. In Islam, a man’s judgement is considered to be superior to that of women, and therefore a women should obey the men in her family. Honour is also important for men, and they have a duty to prevent women from bringing shame upon their families.

1. If you are a man don’t ask men about their wives, unless they mention them first. Don’t ask their names, don’t ask how they are. I have made this mistake before and been gently told off. You can get around this by the polite “How is your family?” Asking about their children, on the other hand, is fine.

2. Do not ask a member of the opposite sex to meet you in a closed room. At the very least keep the door open and make sure you are clearly visible through the open door. Men, do not object if a woman brings along a close relative to a private meeting. Try to meet in semi-public places like a library.

3. Men should allow women to keep their distance. Avoid all physical contact – although a handshake can be returned if it initiated by the women. If you are a woman and you do not keep your distance from a man, the man might assume you have a sexual interest in them. (Not all men, I’d like emphasize, just some.)

4. Depending on where you work, do not ask a women to remove her neqab (face covering). I know a person who was fired for requesting this – and she was a woman. However, in some institutions, such as the Supreme Education Council, women are discouraged from covering their faces.

Greetings and physical contact

While contact between unmarried men and women is anathema, it recently seems to have become acceptable for married couples to hold hands in public. Even Qarari couples (married, of course) can now be seen holding hands in malls and shops.

However, it is quite common for men (unmarried!) to hold hands. The standard greeting between men is also a kiss, usually repeated, on the cheeks. (Bedouins may prefer to touch noses). Unfortunately, I have one Arab friend who always insists on giving me a big bearded kiss, usually accompanied with the words, “Come on John, you’re in the Gulf now” as I veer away from him. Thankfully, most Arab men seem happy with a handshake.


When I first came to Qatar and asked for something, I wondered why some people in authority would say “No, khalas, finished,” to a request. Surely a simple no would do. After a while I realised that the matter rarely was finished. Rather than accepting a no from a person in authority, many people will carry on complaining and fighting – and, as often as not, getting their own way in the end.


Qatari men can be quite quiet and thoughtful. However, many other Gulf residents seem to be uncomfortable with silence. Situations like exams seem to place a real strain on them. On the other hand, interrupting and simultaneous talking are both normal and acceptable, and should not be taken as deliberate rudeness.

Eye contact during conversations is important, although you should avoid staring at women.


Family is immensely important, certainly more important than any business meeting you might have. So if a person has a family problem, expect meetings to be delayed or cancelled. Men also feel they have a duty to protect the honour of the female members of their family.


Unless your point of view is similar to the general consensus here, it’s probably best to steer clear of politics. Israel and Palestine are particularly touchy subjects.


Islam is the most important part of most Qatar residents’ lives, and ranks above friends, country and even family.

1. Discussing religion - Again, unless you are a fellow Muslim, it’s just not worth talking about this to people. If you try to convert someone you will be breaking the law, and could be deported. If you want to discuss religion, try Qatar Blah Blah or Qatar Living, where you can do so safely and anonymously.

2. Mohammed – Do not criticize him. Following the recent cartoons in newspapers in Europe, this is a particularly sensitive subject at the moment.

3. The Koran – Always treat the Koran with utmost respect. Muslims believe that Allah handed down the Koran to Mohammed. As Mohammed was said to be illiterate, this is considered to be a miracle. Challenging this or treating the Koran without the utmost respect is deemed to be heresy. Some Muslims here even object to the Koran being placed under other books. In one extreme case I know of, a British man threw a CD containing recordings from the Koran out of a colleague’s car. The man was not only physically ejected from the car; he was fired from his job the next day.

4. Fatalism – Devout Muslims believe everything that happens is ordained by God. Hence, the common use of the phrase God willing – something can only happen if God is willing. Fatalism can discourage planning for the future. An example of this occurred when a friend asked me why I only had two children, and I mentioned the cost of university, and overpopulation. “John,” my friend chided me, “God will take care of that.”

Obviously, fatalism can also discourage safety precautions. Take road safety, for example. People often question why they should wear seatbelts and drive safely when their death and the manner of it is determined by God. However, the government is doing its best to persuade people to take road safety more seriously.

Safe topics of conversation

So what can you talk about? Not sex, for sure. People are often interested in telling you about their food. (In fact, the next day you may find them bringing a sample for you to try). Football is also very popular with many men. Family, is an instant winner. Try carrying pictures of your kids around to show people. Which leads onto...


People adore kids here. Many can’t understand why we would limit ourselves to two children when we could have six or more. Expect sweets to be offered to children (a white lie is useful here – I tell people my child is gets hyperactive if she has sugar). Disciplining your children in public can lead to a negative reaction, so get the little buggers somewhere private before telling them off.

Show you care.

Life is more personal here. It’s important to care about each other. If an Arab mentions a problem to you and you deal with it too peripherally you may be regarded as uncaring and unhuman. So if someone has a problem, show your personal interest, even if your clock is ticking away. Which leads onto:

Don’t be direct

Don’t get straight down to business – take your time to exchange prolonged greetings.

Wrong: “Hi Mustafa. How are you? Okay, about this business with...”

Right: “How are you Mustafa? Have you recovered from that flu you had? You still look a little pale...” and so on with lengthy replies on both sides.

Criticisms should also be applied indirectly. For example, if a you accuse someone of blatantly plagiarizing some work, you will probably receive an outright denial. However, a more gentle, “I think you had some help with this,” is more likely to receive an admission of guilt.

Refusing invitations

If you are invited to do something you don’t want to do, don’t say no, say Inshallah, which means God Willing and is about the most useful phrase around. Repeat this as many times as necessary. Ditto for anything else that you want. (This can annoy even the locals. One Jordanian man once told me: “Don’t Inshallah me, John!”)


Insults are taken more personally than in the West. In the case of accidentally insulting someone, explain very carefully that it was not intentional, and a result of a cultural misunderstanding.


People here don’t have the same sense of time Westerners do, so don’t rush things – they may be insulted if you do. Just to illustrate this, when I was at a recent lecture, all the Westerners turned up on time, or apologized if they were five minutes late. Locals arrived and left throughout the lecture, including one who came three minutes before the end. Lateness does not usually require an apology. What is rude is glancing at your watch during a meeting or while talking with a local.

Agreeing time can also be problematic, and agreeing an appointment a long time in advance may be a waste of time.

Mobile phones

Locals find it difficult not to answer the phones – in fact when you drive round Qatar, every second driver seems to have a cellular appendage extruding from the side of his or her head. Expect conversations and meetings to be punctuated by calls to the other person.Not all women object to being photographed

Be careful with photographing people, especially women. Pictures are forbidden in Islam (in the Hadiths), and artists traditionally focused on calligraphy. Having said that, many men are happy to have their picture taken, and may even encourage you. It also seems acceptable to take pictures of women taking part in tourist activities such as the displays at the heritage village, although again ask permission first.


Shake hands, give and receive and eat food with the right hand. Left hands are for bottoms! Which leads onto...

Food and drink

Always politely refuse the first offer of food. Don’t worry, your host will vigorously persuade you to partake. However, even if you don’t want anything to eat, it is probably best to eat a small amount. At the very least you will be expected to have a drink. Leave a small amount of food behind.

Food is often eaten by hand, and hands and arms should be washed before eating.

As you probably know, pork and alcohol are Haram (forbidden). Pork is actually illegal, and will be taken off you if you enter the country. Alcohol can be purchased by expats with permits – but in reality, enter a hotel bar and there is a fair chance you’ll see some Qatari men drinking.


Be careful when talking about dogs.Winnie the Pooh and a psychopathic black ghost/monster look for (halal) animals Many Muslims feel they are dirty animals, although some Bedouin love their hunting dogs. Avoid any metaphor or reference which could possibly be misinterpreted as comparing people to dogs. A Muslim women I knew almost divorced her British husband because of the proverb “Why keep a dog and bark yourself.”

Some locals –not the majority – also object to the use of even the word pork and pig. Indeed, if you buy Winnie the Pooh books in Jarir bookshop, which is admittedly a Saudi business, you will find every Piglet picture has been scrubbed out with a black marker pen. (The picture here is by Camper - see original post.) .Finally...

It can sometimes be easy to offend locals, who are not always shy to complain about you. On the other hand, at least in my experience, when you win the friendship of the people here, they are fiercely loyal and can not do enough to help you.

Also see: Life in Qatar

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