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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Qatar Visitor January Competition

The Competition

Our January competition will be sponsored by Goods From Japan.

To enter the competition just sign up for our newsletter (see form on sidebar). You will then be  sent an email with three questions, which you must answer correctly. 

The Prize

We will choose one winner who will win a beautiful light-weight Toyosaka green Japanese tea set including a tea pot (kyusu) and five tea cups. 

The design is called Toyosaka for its lovely green color and is a specialty of the Tokoname kilns of central Japan. This beautiful tea set comes in a monogrammed wooden box.

Japanese tea setThe winner will be announced in our next newsletter, and the prize will be sent by Japanese post. 

Qatar 2008: Looking Back...

This post could fill a book - but I am way too tired for that, and I doubt you would have the time or the desire to read it. So here are what I consider the highs and lows of Qatar 2008.

Cable Cuts

Ironically, Qatar starts and ends the year struggling with slow internet due to cable cuts. Qtel seems to have learnt its lesson well as the internet speed is certainly a lot better than when we posted about it in February, and photographed one user pulling her hair out in: Another Internet Cable Goes.

Ostrich Attack

A slow internet connection is not the worst thing that can happen to you, as one resident found out in a trip to Abrouq nature reserve - the poor chap was very nearly kicked to death by an ostrich. This is a post worth reviewing as it is once again the ostrich breeding season.

Qatar Cross

The Cross Shall not be Raised in Qatar warned one Qatar columnist, yet a church was raised, delighting Christians yet sprouting debate and disagreement between Muslims in Qatar. Abroad, though, the reaction was one of respect for a guesture of tolerance and mutual repect by the Qatari government.

Qatar Olympics

Qatar was at first disappointed, then bitter at losing the bid for the Olympic Games. What riled was that Qatar actually beat one of the cities going though on the Olympic Games points system, as we saw in this post: Why Did Qatar Lose the Olympic Games?

Qatar originally said they would keep on applying for the Games until they got it, but there has been little mention since the failed application of another bid.

Gang Attack

In a racist attack, a foreign boy was attacked and brutally beaten to death. This happened not in Qatar but in a British town, as we saw in Superior Culture. The reponse was outrage - and, amongst some of us, shame.

Media Center

Center for Media Freedom was opened in Qatar. We have been fairly sceptical as to how much they would actually do in Qatar, and so far their main focus has been on journalists abroad.

Qatar Kissing

Finally, there is the rather sad story of a couple kissing who then got into trouble despite the fact they were married. The marriage involved a Christian and a Muslim couple, legally married abroad. Although they fled before the sentence was passed, they were sentenced to a year in jail. So, if you are a couple of mixed religions (with the women being a Muslim), it is probably best not to come to Qatar.

So, that was 2008 - more lows than highs perhaps, (although we did miss out all the sporting events), but that's life.

See you next year!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Future internet bubble in Qatar?

A while ago I did a post on the future of Qatar which aroused quite a bit of debate on Qatar Living here.

Ngourlay disagreed quite strongly with my prediction that one day there would be an internet bubble in Qatar. I have been meaning to reply ever since and have finally found time to get round to it.

Now Ngourlay is a brilliant programmer, and has direct experience of working during an internet boom and for dotcoms. He has far more experience of these matters than me, but I am still going to stick my neck out and disagree with him!

Let's take some of his points:

There aren't the programming skills in place, nor is there a wish on the part of the local population to become coders. Both the USA and UK had a microcomputer craze 10-15 years before the dot-com boom. There was a pool of people who understood the basics of programming who could take on development and project-management roles.

Sixty years ago, it could have been argued that there were no engineering skills to build oil rigs. There's certainly no will in the local population to become builders. A majority of Qataris want a nice cushy government position (sorry, Amnesia, I know that doesn't include you or your crowd!) Yet Qatar can and does import the skills it needs. The same can happen with the net.

The OECD said last year that the local school-leavers could barely read or write.
I think what I have noticed is a definite variation in the education of Qataris. I have met those graduating from the local schools who have obviously not had a good education.

However, it would be a mistake to think all Qataris are educated in these schools. There are a class of Qataris, who are educated either in top international schools or abroad, who have an excellent education. I have met some who could speak better English than me. I have also met (a few) who have programming skills.

But in any case, you don't have to be Qatari to start a business here. Qatcom.com, the Yellow Business Pages, was set up by a British person. Araboh.com, a site selling Arabic Books for Children, was set up by an Iraqi girl studying in Qatar. TheSmokersAngel was set up by a Brit in Qatar using the BigCommerce software.

Google certainly believes the area is going to take off. They are predicting a huge growth in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, have established offices in Dubai and are developing Arabic translation tools.

They see the current developments in social networks like QatarLiving.com, as well as other Arabic sites, as a necessary prerequisite to the development of ecommerce in the region.

While current internet advertising in Mena is still a fraction of what it is in the West, (despite strong growth over the past six months), it is predictions of an increase of over a thousand percent over the next two years that has got their mouths salivating.

I think it might be a while longer before it takes off, especially with the drying up of credit, which will probably affect Qatar more than it likes to admit.

But when the locals finally catch on to the potential of the internet there will be a bubble, and like other bubbles here it will go to extremes.

It just probably won't happen in 2009!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Qatar Group on Facebook

Qatar Visitor has started a group on Facebook named Qatar. (Okay so we weren't feeling very original.)

Qatar facebook group
It's just a place to post things you are interested in, have a discussion and meet new people.

We have been lucky enough to already have a few people join - including two of our "officers" who promise to keep everything in order!

See you on facebook!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Poets and Writers in Doha

Qatar writers and poets can now join a facebook group where they can post their musings, writings and poems and get some feedback.

The Group, which is called Poets and Writers in Doha and was started by Malik Peterson, already has 22 members and has a number of poems posted.

Remember, if you are a writer you can also post your details for editors on our Qatar Writers page.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Spix's Macaw to Return Home

50 Spix's Macaws, one of the most endangered birds in the world, are to make their journey from a Qatar conservation centre to their original home: Brazil.

spix's macaw
The Spix's Macaw are currently extinct in the wild, and there only around 120 left in the world.

Their continued survival has a lot to do with the efforts of the Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation Center, owned by Sheikh Saud, which bought up much of the remaining stock of parrots and has had great success in breeding them.

Now the center has purchased a huge farm in Brazil in the birds original territory. Domestic wildlife will be removed from the farm in order to allow the parrots to enjoy their natural habitat - an all too rare reversal of the normal order of things!

Also see:

Rare Spix's Macaws to go Back Home: in the Peninsula
Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation Center: official site
Qatar Nature: Articles about Qatar's Natural History
Al Wabra Wildlife Reserve: Qatar Visitor Article

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Qatar World Cup?

Football mad Qatar believes it has a good chance of getting the World Cup to Qatar.

World Cup Stadium

Having obviously moved on from their failure to proceed to the next round of the Olympics, which many saw as a personal snub, the country have set their eyes on the football competition.

Possible problems

English Fans in Qatar

Qatar is a conservative Muslim country. While far more liberal than Saudi Arabia, it is hard to imagine Qataris putting up with aggressive English fans fighting, drinking and throwing up in the streets.


Qatar Accomodation has expanded massively. However, much of this is the high range, expensive accomodation - not the cheap guest-house style place many football fans will budget for.


Qatar can and will build underground football stadiums to accomodate the games. That still doesn't distract from the fact that it will be unbearably hot outside - meaning no German-style huge tv screens for those fans without tickets.

Qatar's chances...

Qatar has proved before (with the Asian Games) that it can host a big event, and host it well. However, they have some tough competition to overcome (including Australia and England) and they will have to work hard to convince Fifa they can overcome the problems above.

Also see: Qatar Football

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Links

Seasons Greetings to all! Here's a few links to share with you...

Qatar Christmas (Poem!)

Celebrating Christmas - the Filippino way! (GMA News)

Christmas on the Pearl(Zawya.com)

Kite Surfing on Christmas Day (in festive attire!)

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Souq Waqif Art Courses

Souq Waqif's Dar Al Foundation will be running art courses this year.

Courses will include:

  • painting
  • drawing
  • printing
  • ceramics
  • textile
  • sculpture
For more information contact Sabrina@WaqifArtCenter.com.

Dar Al Foundation

Tour de Qatar?

Yesterday it was the Dakar rally. Today it is the Tour De France.

Image by Koltregaskes

Yep, according to the Gulf Times Qatar has approached the Tour de France, and are eager to transform it into the Tour de Qatar. 

This seems to be the latest round in self promotion via sports events - and Qatar seems to have got over the setback of being knocked out of the Olympics round. 

One coup they have scored is the tennis - which this year could potentially see a Federer-Nadal match taking place in the Qatar capital. 

Unfortunately, most Qataris have little interest in these sporting events (football excepted) and the crowds are usually 95% expatriate. 

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Qatar Internet:What's happening on the Qatar web...

I stumbled across TwitterHolic.com's Qatar page, which lists twitter users in Qatar, and ranks them by the number of 'followers' they have. Julie Lindsey wins on that score with 1,179 followers! 

On Qatar Living Brit Expat mentioned something that initially confused me when I first arrived - what is the difference between Premium and Super petrol? Both names suggest a superior level of quality. (In fact, Super is the higher octane fuel, and charges a slightly higher price.) People have also been complaining about the slow internet connection, with Red Pope providing the BBC article on the story. 

On our own forum Ronald 25 wanted to know how cheap Qatar duty free was. My colleagues tell me it is cheaper than the shops in Doha, and that cigarettes are particularly cheap (although they are already very cheap in Qatar.) I don't know how it compares to Dubai/Bahrain airport, though. 

Outside Qatar, Green Car Congress blogs about the Q Max ship, a joint project between QP and Exxon Mobil which will use 40% energy per unit. 

Meanwhile, frustrated internet users will be happy to learn from Gulf Base that Qtel will be increasing its internet capactity by 30% over the next few months. 

We have criticised Qtel in the past, but to be fair the Qatar internet seems to have regained speed remarkably quickly Perhaps Qtel has learned lessons from the previous snapped cable episode, for Gulf Base reports that the company has managed to divert internet traffic through alternative routes. 

That's all for now - things seem quiet with many people still away on holiday.  Let us know if we have missed anything interesting!

Qatar Internet: Connecting to the Internet in Qatar

Monday, December 22, 2008

NYT Condescending View of Arab Women

The New York times is running an article on how Arab Women are Making Progress ... by becoming stewardesses:

Marwa Abdel Aziz Fathi giggled self-consciously as she looked down at the new wing-shaped brooch on the left breast pocket of her crisp gray uniform

I'm a little confused as to why an article on the progress Arab women are making has to focus on flight attendents! Not intending any offence to flight attendents, but the achievements of Arab women in recent years have been much broader than this. 

As one of the comments on the story said:

Wonderful. We're bringing our sexist roles to the Arab world. The Washington Post just ran a story celebrating the first Baghdad beauty contest. Bring on the freedom, bring on the sexism!

It is, to be sure, a great stride forward that women are respected enough to hold jobs; unfortunately, it seems like those things being rewarded in our elitist papers are those things that are from a more sexist American past: beauty contests and female flight attendants.

I've just done a quick ask around of my colleagues to ask them what jobs they knew Arab women were doing in Qatar, and they came up with the following:

  • Nurses
  • Bank Staff
  • Pharmacists
  • Heads of Schools
  • Teachers
  • Special needs teachers
  • Director of a Further Education College
  • Business Women and Entreupeneurs
  • Minister of Education
I think it is true that opportunities are still more limited for women in Qatar. Some women told me that a man leaving school in Qatar could be assured of a 20,000/month job, whereas a women with a degree was more likely to get a QAR7000/month job.

They also complained that they were likely to end up in empty jobs - i.e. a company where they were just employed to fill the Qatari company.

And that's if they are allowed to work - a women needs the permission of the male members of her family before she can start work.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of women achieving in almost all areas of life - and in Qatar law women are only prohibited from taking jobs with hazardous duties. 

So it's just a shame that New York Times has to focus on giggling young girls as evidence for the growing freedom of Arab Women... 

Also see: 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Internet Cables Go Again

Internet speeds slowed to a crawl yesterday, with a number of users complaining about speed. (At Qatar Visitor we were tearing our hair out!)

The fault, it seems, was due to three internet cables being severed.

Qtel proudly boasted that Qatar wasn't really affected.

“There is no major impact for Qatar’s communication services as we have many cable operators,” said Adel Al Mutawa, executive director of Group Communication, QTel.

They then went on to say that the loss of capacity in Qatar was kept below 47 percent due to Qatar’s robust Internet strategy. (Source: Peninsula.)

Hang on - a 47% decrease in capacity is a major disruption in my book!

Or perhaps we notice it more because the quality of the Internet connection in the richest country in the world is so poor anyway.

The standard internet connection in Qatar is a pathetic 500 kbs - compared to an average of 57 mbs in Japan.

Hopefully we won't see a repeat of what happened in February of this year, when the Qatar internet slowed down to a crawl for a week or more as internet cable after internet cable was snapped - see our post on Qatar Internet then!

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The Abaya: What Lies Beneath

A teacher-friend, when talking to a class of Qatari ladies, tried to explain the word traditional with reference to the ladies' Abayas.

They were not amused.

Eyes behind the veilImage by Ayam Hassan

The innocent teacher was besieged by a barrage of protest - in reality, they insisted, they were extremely fashionable.

A look around, whether in a souq or a shopping mall, soon reveals this to be the case. The material and designs used for the Abayas are often exquisite, and many more colourful dresses for private wear are on display.

Now, in What Lies Beneath, Yousra Abdelaal takes us into the world of Qatari fashion, explaining the different Abayas available, the Qatari sense of fashion - and, of course, what women like to wear below the Abaya.

Image by Ayham Hassan

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Qatar's Yellow Pages

A Yellow Pages Directory for Qatar

A Yellow Pages for Qatar

Information at Last

Two years or so ago, when I first started writing this blog, I complained about the lack of information in Qatar.

Even as I wrote the post, one website was busy putting all the information they could find about business in Qatar onto its yellow pages site and over the past few years Qatar's new online Yellow Business Pages Directory has increasingly become an invaluable information resource for millions of people all over the world.

Business Directory

Qatcom is a directory of all the businesses in Qatar. Essentially a yellow pages, they include information such as telephone numbers and PO Boxes for 96% of the businesses in Qatar. In total, their site covers over 25,000 Qatar businesses.

When companies upgrade, something users can encourage them to do via the website, tonnes more information is added to the page - including, with the top level advert, their location on a map.

Qatcom Competition

In addition to providing, finally, a reliable source of business information, Qatcom is also running a major competition. The company is giving away a million riyals in prize money to people who sign up as a Yellow Business Pages user.

Just remember, when you win your million riyals, don't forget that you heard about the competition from the poverty stricken writers at Qatar Visitor ...

Update: You can now visit Qatcom's page on Qatar Visitor: Qatar Business Directory, or find more information about Qatar businesses on their companies page.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Qatar National Day Celebrations

I expected things to be quiet this morning, it being a holiday, but the locals were out in force, purple flags fluttering from their cars and heads sticking out of car tops.

Huge TV screens flickered on the Corniche, Arabic music blared out in the pleasant balmy sun and a regatta made the most of the pleasant weather.

Later that night we passed aspire tower, once again lit up in a blaze of colours and with more huge tv screens, presumably featuring the special National Day TV channel set up for the days events.

At nine we pulled up on the waste ground close to the recently closed Rydges hotel. We waited for an hour, admired the laser show but were finally deciding it was time to call it a day when the huge fireworks display finally went off.

National Day Fireworks
Also see: Qatar National Day on the website, or our photo stream on Flickr.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Arabic Search Engine

Yamli has just launched its Arabic search engine, allowing Arabic users to search the net with either Arabic script or Arabic transliteration.

Screen shot of Yamli

The search comes with a number of impressive tricks:

  • it will take a search term and expand it to include all possible transliterations
  • users with a non-Arabic keyboard can use its interface to type in Arabic
  • its optimized for slow connections - which will be a bonus for those of us with slow Qtel connections!
Watch the video below for more explanation!

Yamli Smart Search from Mohamed Marwen Meddah on Vimeo.

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National Day

On December 18th, Qataris celebrates its National Day, and many of its workers enjoy a day off.

The day is not, in fact, a celebration of Qatar's Independence Day but rather of the succession of Sheikh Jassim, regarded by many as the founder of the modern Qatari state.

Although his father was the first to participate in negotiations with Britain, it was Sheikh Jassim who defeated the Ottomans in a pitched battle (see the Rise of the Qatar Ruling Family for more information.)

Celebrations these year include massive fireworks and a re-enactment of The Way of the Messenger - the traditional route taken by messengers on camels. The day is being preceded with three days of camel training and dressage which will take place at the Al Rayyan club on Dukhan Road.

A full schedule of this year's events have been posted on Qatar Living here.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Qatar GDP: Soaring or Falling?

"Qatar's GDP to Soar 10% Depite Turmoil" said the Gulf Times today, quoting Samba Financial Group.

Or is it?

The statement ignores inflation, which is currently around 15%. If inflation does not fall, real growth would be around 5%.

Inflation is, in fact, projected to fall to 9%. If it does so, the growth would be around 1%, less than both the current 10% projected by Samba Group and the original 19.6% forecast for this year.

However, as the article points out, Qatar does seem to have an advantage in its reserves of Natural Gas.

Natural Gas projects are still coming on line, which should help maintain revenue growth even with falling prices.

Many Natural Gas projects are also sold on long term contracts, which will hopefully provide a more stable source of revenue than fluctuating oil prices.

Also see: Qatar Business

Aspire park

A pleasant place to spend some time away from the crowded Doha roads is Aspire Park. Hidden away behind Villagio, it is a surpisingly large and green park, complete with children's play area, football piches, greenery and trees.

A path leading up to Aspire Tower.
To get to the tower just head up the road between Villagio and Hyatt Plaza and press the button on the gate - the gate will then open automatically. Alternatively park in Villagio and walk round to the back of the mall.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Filippinos in Qatar

With the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, visiting Qatar, Filippinos in Qatar have been in the news recently.

According to their President, reported on Filippino news site Balita, it is good news for them. Instead of potentially losing their jobs in Qatar due to the world credit crunch, she believes that there are a further 37,000 jobs available for them here.

These jobs would be coming at a time when expat workers in other countries are being made redundant.

However, not every Filipinno is confident about the future, as this Al Jazeera video below shows...

Qatar Visitor Friends

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Five Sure Ways to Get Deported from Qatar

Now we don't mean to panic you. Qatar is, in many ways, quite a tolerant country. However, there are a few things that you should really avoid doing.

A drunken driver1. Drink Driving.

There is zero tolerance for Drink Driving in Qatar. Actually, this is something I totally agree with, and has been ever since I read the Ibot blog: the writer, Shannon, was put in a wheelchair at the age of eight years old. Her two young friends fared worse: both lost their lives.

However, many expats do not respect the drink driving laws and I personally know two expat drivers who lost their jobs and residence here as a result. I know many more who drink drive on a regular basis, often assuring me: "I ken handle it," as they fall out of their chairs. Others will have one drink - acceptable in the UK, for sure, but not without risk here.

Obviously, if a death was involved in a drink driving accident, the penalty would be far worse than deportation.

2. Getting Drunk

Well, let's qualify this - it usually means getting drunk in a public place and making a nuisance of yourself. If you have a liqour permit, it's legal to buy alcohol here and drink it in your own home (after concealing it in your car on the way) and it is legal to drink in a bar. It is not legal to drink elsewhere. However, the majority of people who have been arrested for drinking have been those causing problems: fighting and generally being a nuisance.

Muslims who drink should be extra careful. The law seems to be ambiguous here: they can get alcohol licences but they are forbidden to drink by Shariah law, and can be punished with a caning.

See Qatar Alcohol for more information.

3. Looove...Outside Marriage

A number of people have asked us whether it is acceptable to live together outside marriage. The answer is no, it's not. This is a strict Wahabbi country and many people, albeit usually servants, have been arrested, imprisoned and deported for sex outside marriage.

4. Offending Islam

Now let's put this into context here. There are many discussions between Christians and Muslims (and others) here, and many Muslims value the opportunity to put their point of view across, even if you don't agree with them. However, some things are sacred - that includes Mohammed and the Quran.

5. Libel and Slander

You really don't want to annoy the wrong person here. Qataris value their privacy and honour - so watch what what you say about who you say when you are chatting away on online forums here, or you might just find yourself with on a one-way plane trip back home.

These are our top five ways to get deported - let us know if you think we have missed any...

Image of Drunk Driver by Tread

Also see: Qatar Dos and Don'ts | Qatar Culture

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Qatar Visitor Website down

You may have noticed that our website is down. As far as we can work out, this is something to do with the forum. Unfortunately, we have been able to contact our forum expert (why do these things always happen on the weekend?) Hopefully we will have the website back up sooner than later. We will then probably move the forum to a seperate site so this can't happen again!

Apologies to anyone who was looking for information on it - if you need some info leave a comment here and we will try to help you!

Update: The website is now up again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Qatar Kissing Makes the News

It's some time ago since we reported the story of a married couple landing in trouble after a public kiss.

Things only got worse for the Arab couple, who are from Lebanon, when a Qatar court refused to accept their marriage.

Two polar bears kiss.These two were sensible enough to do their kissing outside Qatar.
Image by Patries 71.

A Problem of Faith

The sticky point for the court was the interfaith issue. While it is usually acceptable for a Muslim man to marry a Christian woman, the opposite is not the case.

The assumption is that the offspring of a family will follow their father in religion. It is just not acceptable in Islam for the children of a Muslim to become a Christian.

Still, the judgement raised a stir in the community - if one marriage certificate is not accepted, can any truly be judged to be safe?

Spreading Story

Now the story has reached America, being reported in the Los Angeles Times blog.

According to the blog, the offending action of the man was not a kiss, but to place his hand on his wife's shoulder.

The police simply said that the couple was found in a compromising position.

The penalty? A year in jail. Although, fortunately enough for the couple, they had fled the country before the penalty had been passed.

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Vodafone is Here

Vodafone is here, and its website is worth visiting just to see the flash intro - butterflies swirling round the screen and an image of the world before the words: It's a Big World flash up.

Vodafone Screen shot
The company is announcing its entry with a bang. In a brilliant marketing ploy, the company is concealing 500 pieces of a jigsaw around Villagio Shopping Mall tomorrow (Saturday).

Those finding the 500 pieces can take them to the Vodafone store where they get a goody bag and the opportunity to win one of 50 prize packs - including a Vodafone phone.

Then the winners of those will get to help construct a giant puzzle, and get the opportunity to win an all-expenses trip to absolutely anywhere in the world.

Given the publicity that the event is generating and will generate, that trip will be a lot cheaper than it would be buying sufficient advertising to get the same publicity!

Also see:

Qatar Telephones
Qatar Mobile Phones

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's happening on the Qatar Web

We've often thought it strange that the Qatar Web, though small, does not really interconnect very well. As a result we decided to try and start a series of posts keeping up with what is happening - so here goes...

Qatar Living is still holding its third anniversary competition. They have one Ipod nano left to give away, so if you would like the chance to win one you can find the details here. (If you like competitions you might also want to enter the Qatar Visitor competition for a chance to win a free signed copy of Qatar.)

Qatar Living Screenshot

I Love Qatar, meanwhile, is spreading the news of a spetacular New Years Eve party to be held at the Sheraton Hotel, while Mr Q Blogs about a typical Eid for a Qatar family.

Other blogs are pretty quiet at the moment. Life on the Spot, normally very vocal (especially when they get arrested in supermarket!) has contented itself with some images of Al Wakra beach (and I thought it had all been dug up!). Marjorie in Qatar wishes us a Happy Eid and then heads off to Sri Lanka for a week. Mohana has made a decision to visit India despite fears about airports and terrorism - partly because she and her husband don't want terrorists to dictate their life.

Out of the Qatar blogospere the hot news is the Qatar- Bahrain bridge, which, according to the Dubai chronicle, will be completed by 2013 (don't hold your breaths!) The Islamic Museum is still generating news and comments - although the Tuque Souq is less than complimentary, calling it a "giant blocky monstrosity of modern architecture".

Business news from Startup Arabia reports that internet advertising in the Mena Area (that's the Middle East and North Africa) is set to double over the next year. That may seem like good news for websites in a time of recession, but is a far cry from Google's claim not so long ago that internet advertising in the region was set to increase by well over a thousand percent.

Hopefully more businesses will wake up and realise how much better value internet advertising is over print advertising - a factor which may actually drive internet advertising in a time of recession. However, last time we had a look at Google Adwords, the costs per click for Qatar had actually been reduced!

Finally, a website we hadn't noticed before but which has been featured in the new edition of Marhaba is Qatar Paintballing. You can get all the details of the sport from the website, or just head along to their location in Hyatt Plaza to take part in it.

That's all we could see on our search - do let us know if we have missed anything!

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Busy Qatar

At Souq Waqif at least, Qatar seems to be determined to avoid the usual criticism that Eid is not celebrated like it used to be - or that Christmas celebrations are better than Eid celebrations.

Living statue
Like many other families, we have been taken advantage of a very pleasant winter weather to get down to the souq and enjoy all the shows and activities: these have included living statues, jugglers, dancers, caricature drawers, a tea pourer on a unicycle and comedians - all of which has been free.

Pouring teaThings look set to continue on 18th December, when Qatar gets ready to pull out all the stops to celebrate National Day. According to the Gulf Times, events planned include live music, parades and fireworks to equal those seen last month.

Also see: Qatar Holidays

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ten Christmas Present Ideas for Qatar

Gifts on display at Souq Waqif
I've had to work hard to get this list down to ten - I originally came up with 21 and then decided that would be better for a website article than for a quick blog post!

1. Books:

Choose one of the Qatar books from our book section. Have a friend interested in nature/history? Buy a copy of discovering Qatar. If you live abroad you can buy it through us - helping us to improve the site and buy more articles! (Often by the writers and editors of the books we sell!) If you want a more global view of Qatar you could also buy the coffee table book Qatar, edited by David Chaddock.

2. Lamp

Personally I like the old heavy brass lamps avaible from the junk and antique shops - one sits pride of place on my mother's hearth back home. Traditional coffee sets also make a good present, as does Arabic coffee with its faint cinemon taste.

Wood art3. Jewellery.

Qatar's gold souq has a fantastic range of very pure gold jewellery. We especially like Cartouche - a gold oblong which has your name inscribed on it. In Qatar the gold shops will inscribe your name in Arabic on one side and in English on the other.

4. Traditional clothes.

Glide across the desert sand with a black veil mysteriously covering your face, or stand proud in a thobe of pure white - at Souq Waqif and elsewhere you can buy all the traditional Arabic clothing, making for great photo opportunities.

5. Wood art.

Qatar wood art is simply suberb. By combining wood shavings of different shades and textures, the artist manages to come up with a picture that is full of colour - but uses no ink. At around QAR10,000 in the Gharaffa shop, though, it doesn't come cheap.

Calligraphy6. Calligraphy.

You don't have to be a Muslim to appreciate the beauty of some of the best pieces of calligraphy. In fact, as you can see in the Islamic Museum, calligraphy was even used by some early Christian painters.

7. Dates.

Dates are a traditional Arab gift - and are also full of goodness (and sugar!) You don't have to stick with plain dates either, as there are all sorts of varieties and spin offs available - our favourite are dates with almond and chocolate. You can find whole shops dedicated to dates in Qatar, so you won't go short of choice.

8. Arabic Perfume

You'll also find no shortage of perfume here. The Arabic perfume, which can finding lining the walls top to bottom in souq shops, is rather stronger than Western perfume.

9. Traditional Cloth

Traditional bedouin weaving still takes place in Qatar today, and the weaving can both be seen or be bought in Souq Waqif.

Bedouin cloth on display

10. Water Pipe

Shisha smoking is popular in Qatar, and small or large sets of the pipes can be bought to take home. Just be aware of the health risks first!

Related posts:

Christmas in Qatar
Christmas Dinner
Presents from Japan

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Eid Mubarrak!!!

We celebrate the first day of Eid with an excellent article by Yousra Abdelaal. In Eid Frenzy, Yousra looks at the frenzied preparations that take place in Qatar prior to the festival, and joins in at the henna salon.

Meanwhile, a question we posed (not entirely seriously) in 2006 is still arousing comment.

What does a vegetarian Muslim sacrifice?

Zizi replied:

The vegetarian sacrifices anything special to him.
Not so, answers Shahd, who believes that while a Muslim vegetarian is not required to eat meat, he or she should still make the sacrifice.

Normally, the vegetarian can sacrifice a sheep, goat, or whatever it is he pleases and he can give out the meat as sadaqa (charity), but no, i don't think there is a vegetarian tradition in islam since muslims can't prevent themselves from anything that allah has granted!
I wasn't even sure that there were such a thing as Vegetarian muslims, but a quick internet search put me right.

The International Vegetarian Union spreads the news of a Muslim-vegetarian society, with an emphasis on Islamic compassion towards animals. the page carries a number of quotes from the Quran and Hadiths regarding animals. See Islamic Duty of Compassion towards Animals.

Meanwhile, Enlightenment Next carries on article on how Muslims are becoming vegetarians because of factory farms breaking Muslims laws on the treatments of animals.

Neither, unfortunately, answer our original question. So if you can enlighten us, leave a comment, or head over to the Qatar Living forum to argue the matter out!

Also see: Eid Ul Adha

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Qatar Visitor Competition

Qatar: Front CoverWith Eid al Adha here and Christmas fast approaching, it seems the perfect time for a competition.

This time round we are offering a signed copy of Qatar to the winner of the competition. The book has been kindly donated by editor David Chaddock, who is also author of Qatar: A Business Traveller's Handbook.

The latest edition of the book features over 160 pages of beautifully written content by Qatar based writers such as Frances Gillespie, as well as over 200 photographs of the country, many of them specially comissioned.

To enter the competition all you have to do is sign up for our free newsletter (in our side bar!).

In addition to being entered in the competition you will receive a monthly newsletter with:

  • The best of What's New on Qatar Visitor
  • Updates on news affecting tourists and residents
  • Other competitions and prizes we will be running
We will never sell your email to a third party, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

The winner will be chosen by the end of December, and the prize delivered in January.

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