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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The sun sets over Doha bay

Walking back from Sheraton park, where we had been watching performers practice for the opening of the Asian Games, we noticed the sun shimmering through the cloud above this Dhow.
The sun sets over the Corniche


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Last minute accomodation for the Asian Games

Every hotel seems to have been booked up in Qatar, but it is still possible to find accommodation (although you might be sleeping on someone's floor!) Adverts for accomodation are appearing on Qatar Living, or you could leave your own message asking for a bed - or sofa!

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Doha Games Opening Ceremony

Qatar doesn’t believe in doing things in halves, as it will demonstrate tomorrow with the opening ceremony of the 15th Asian Games – an event Qatar believes will not only overshadow the opening ceremony of the Olypmic Games in Sydney, but will be the biggest event ever in Asia.

“We are eagerly awaiting what will be the culmination of several years of planning for the biggest ceremony Asia has ever known,” said the Deputy Director General of DAGOC modestly. “We are doing things in this ceremony that have never been done before,” added David Atkins, the Australian director.

The event will make use of the creative skills of 8,000 artists, and will feature Chinese popstar Jack Cheung, Bollywood star Sunidhi Chauhan, Lebanese artist Magida El Roumi and tenor José Carreras. It’ll take place in Khalifa stadium, originally an open topped 25,000 seat stadium but now a 50,000 seat venue with a floating roof.

The ceremony should certainly be worth watching, and once again demonstrates Qatar's determination to stand up and be noticed by the world despite its tiny size.

Also see:

The Qatar Asian Games

The Asian Games Torch returns to Qatar

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Monday, November 27, 2006

The City Centre Mall

City Centre

Location: Not in the city centre, surprisingly, this strangely named mall is situated in walking distance of the Sheraton Hotel in West Bay.

Description: Doha’s largest mall, City Centre, may not be the classiest of Doha’s shopping centres, but it is my favourite. You can certainly find your expensive jewellery, brand-named clothes, exquisite perfumes and deliciously fragrant bath oils, but at the same time there’s things for people on the tightest of budgets. There’s a range of electronic gadgets to keep the husbands amused while you get down to business, and a fantastic (and large!) amusement area for children with bouncy castles, computer games and even a go-kart racing track!

Essentially this a mall with everything, and you can do your banking at one of its banks, pay your telephone bills at q-tel, have lunch in a restaurant and then go ice-skating without leaving the building. The only thing its really lacking is a decent bookshop – but then, that’s the same for every mall in Qatar (although this could be changing soon - see this post on books).

Carrefour, the supermarket here, always has some sort of sale on, and I’ve spent many a happy afternoon browsing through baskets full of clothes while my husband trails miserably behind me. (You do have to watch the quality of some things here, though, and I have seen several counterfeit products). There are many, many shops here, and it will take several trips before you really know your way around.

Features:

- ice-rink
- food court
- multi-screen cinema
- ten-pin bowling
- waterfall
- exhibition hall
- huge range of brand name shops including BHS, the Early Learning Centre, Debenhams
- tonnes of restaurants, fast food outlets and cafes
- large car park (still not enough on Fridays) and probably the best taxi rank in Qatar

Telephone: +974 439 3355

Also see:

Landmark Mall


The New Old Souk

The Gold Souk

Pearl diving

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Personal ads with a difference

Qatar residents have a different take on personal ads, as a scan through these ads show.

Proposal invited for a Keralite Christian Boy aged 28 years, 5 ft. 8 in. tall, MSc. (Management IT), working in reputed Firm in Qatar, from parents of well-educated girls (minimum high degree, Masters preferred) living in Qatar. Please email details with recent colour photograph.

Alliance invited from well-off and highly educated Indian Muslim Family for their daughter, 25 years old, MBA in business, 5’5, very beautiful. Muslims only may contact ... for further details.

Parents of British National of Pakistani origin seek sincere, polite and beautiful girl, preferably doctor, for their son (computer engineer, 27, based in U.K.) and a boy, engineer or doctor, for a girl, 24, graduate.


However native Qataris (as opposed to the foreign residents, who make up most of the population here) would not dream of advertising their children in the local paper. Their marriages are normally arranged by mothers, often between cousins – which perhaps account for the high incidence of blood disorders in Qatar. Other potential prospects may be garnered at wedding parties, when the girls remove their veils (a woman’s wedding party takes place separately from the man's) and the mothers can check their prospective daughters-in-law out.

Also see English Language Newspapers in Qatar

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Asian Games Torch returns to Qatar

The Asian Games Torch being carried at a gallop across Bahrain
The Doha Asian Games Torch returns to Qatar today (25th November) after travelling 50,000 kilometres through more than 14 Asian countries, starting with India and ending in Bahrain. After being carried by and on trains, bicycles, motorbikes, camels, horses, trams, rowing boats, dhows, canoes, cable cars, rollerblades, skis, dragon boats, classic cars and ferries, it will finally arrive at Al-Shamal port in a traditional Dhow at around 2.30 in the afternoon. It will be carried ashore by Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the 15th Asian Games Torch Relay Ambassador, but a further 1000 Qatari residents will carry the torch around Qatar over the next seven days. The welcome party should be worth watching, although you can expect crowds!

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What to do in Qatar:

A kitesurfer soars through the air

Wondering what to do in Doha? Here’s a few ideas, which we’ll add to as times goes on.


1. Markets: visit the wholesale markets: buy dates and spiceHuge and juicy watermelons piled high at the Omani markets in the Omani market, or veg and fresh fish in the veg and fish markets. Then wander over to the animal markets (avoiding the slaughter house) and gawp at the camels, or look at the falcons in the bird markets...

2. Sailing/windsurfing: join the sailing club (temporary membership is available), or hire boats from the Regatta Sailing Academy Tel: +974 550 7846 Fax: +974 442 4577. This is based at the Sheraton Hotel: (974) 4854444.

3. Sand boarding/skiing: ring a tour company (see numbers at bottom) and book a sand boarding trip.

4. Dune and wadi bashing: if you drive past Messaieed towards Sealine on a Friday you will see quads for hire along the side of the road. Alternatively, hire a quad from sealine beach resort or go in a four wheel drive with a tour company – the safest alternative. (If you go in a rented car remember insurance is not valid off-road).

5. Take a dhow trip round Doha bay – boats are available along the Corniche and trips cost a few riyals.

6. Fishing: for boat trips contact Basil on +974 5518100, or book a trip with Doha Club (contact Ahmed at the Doha Club +974 4418822 or +974 5800530 – if their boat is mended yet, that is). Fishing trips are also organised by the tour companies – see details below. You could also ring the Qatar Sea Angling Association (David Bolton +974 550 0179) – they hold meetings and fishing competitions).

7. Shopping: Visit the souks: buy Qatar pearls in the Gold Souk or sniff at the spices, browse the antiques and admire the falcons in Souk Wakif. Or go to the malls – you can buy anything in City Centre Shopping Mall, or head upmarket with Landmark or Blue Saloon.

8. Try blokarting (www.gulfkarts.com) Contact: Mobile [+974] 507 2661 Fax [+974] 465 4813 Email: dan@gulfkarts.com .

9. Check out the mangrove swamps in Al Wakra and Al Thakira.

10. Scuba diving: ring Pearl Divers +974 444 9553, or Doha Sub-aqua club on +974 5651775.

11. Jet-skiing – can be rented from Sealine beach resort (tel: tel/fax: +974 4822540).

12. Horse riding. You can ride horses at the Sealine Beach Resort, or take lessons at Al Shaqab Riding Club (Tel: +974 481 2061) or at the racing and equestrian club’s training section (see full details on their website or tel/fax +974 tel/fax: +974 4822540.

13. Comedy: go to the Laughter Factory in The Ramada and see international comedians. Ring +974 4417417 for details.

14. Check out the bars and clubs. At Rydges you’ll find non-stop sport at the roof-top bar, or you could go to Garvies European Club for a wilder experience. The Qube is currently Doha’s newest nightclub, located in a stand-alone building at The Ramada Hotel, with a separate area for women and couples upstairs.

15. Saunter along the Corniche in the evening, enjoying the fresh breeze coming off the sea. Or buy fresh fish straight off the boats (see more pictures ).

16. Motor-racing – Losail Racing circuit saw both GP racing and the world super-bike racing last year, although they won’t be holding any more races until 2007.

17. Camel racing - visit the camel racing stadium in Shahaniyya, and either watch the camels in training and have a camel ride or watch the races (starting after the Asian Games). Ring +974 4872028 for details.

18. Horse racing – usually takes place every Friday at the Racing and Equestrian Club off Al Furousiya St. It’s not just free – you can also win prizes. Look on their website , email them at prms@qrec.net or tel/fax: +974 4822540 for more details.

19. Golf: play a round of gold at the Doha golf club. Although joining is expensive, the gold club is open to non-members, as is the Doha Golf Restaurant. Even if you don’t play golf, both the course and the clubhouse make for a refreshing change of scene from the surrounding desert. Call +974 4832338 for details.

20. Eat seafood at the Dhow restaurants while watching the lights reflect off the bay. Drive along The Corniche till you get to the Dhow harbour. Turn left and the dhow restaurants are at the end of the jetty. The fishing dhows are also worth a look and some photos.

21. Parasailing – ring Sheraton Recreation on +974 4854600.

22. Natural History – The Qatar Natural History Group organise trips on the last Friday of every month to places of interest around Qatar, for a charge of Q10 per vehicle. They also arrange lectures and distribute an e-newsletter – which is a lot more than a newsletter, containing pictures and information about Qatar. Visit the Qatar Natural History Group website for more information.

23. Ice skating – okay, it’s not very traditional, but how many people can say they have been ice-skating in the desert? There’s an ice-skating rink at the bottom of City Centre shopping mall.

24. Swimming – provides a welcome relief from the heat. All the major hotels have swimming pools, while at sealine you can swim in either of the two pools or the fenced-off swimming area of the beach.

25. Alternatively, go to a beach and swim for free. Al-Wakra beach is close to Doha and has good access and parking. Wear flip-flops – many of the beaches contain broken glasses and sting rays and stone fish both live in Qatar waters. (Don’t be too scared of sea creatures– in two years of living here I haven’t heard of one incident while swimming. Jet skis are far more dangerous). Why not have a barbecue at the same time?

26. The Inland Sea – ring a tour company and book a trip to the Khor Al Adaid - also known as The Inland Sea. (Only accessible by four wheel drive).

27. Flying: take a flight over Qatar. Ring Kabitha on 432 9101 between 7.30 and 12.30 in the morning for details.

28. Kitesurfing– there is an active kitesurfing club (40 member from 20 different nationalities) with qualified instructors. Email qatarkitesurfing@hotmail.com (they are both quick to respond and helpful) or ring Jonathan on 00974 5350336 for lessons on Friday and Saturday, alternatively another instructor, Acrum, is available in the week (5899217)

29. Football - drag yourself along to a local football game, and listenQatari football supporters demonstrate their enthusiasm by throwing paper into the air to the Arabic football chants shouted to the sound of drums. There are ten football teams in Qatar (the Al Sadd team is probably the best), and what their supporter lack in numbers they up for with enthusiasm.

Please comment or contact us if we’ve missed anything major. (I’m sure we have!)

Also see:
Tour companies

Books, bookstores and libraries in Qatar.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The new old souk

Doha used to have an old souk Souk Waqif. However, times move on, and it was decided that progress required knocking it down and replacing it with a new souk that looks like an old souk.

I went to the new old souk (also known by more cultured people as Souk Waqif) prepared to sneer and came away impressed. In previous, brief, visits I had seen a lot of tourist tat, but a deeper look revealed that this was only a small part of the souk.

What it’s famous for (in Qatar, anyway) is its dried herbs and spices, and in some areas the air wafts with the scent of them. Incense that looks like rocks is arranged alongside the herbs, lending themselves to the array of colours that make these shops so attractive.

However, there’s a lot mA picture of a veiled Qatari lady adorns a shop signore to Souk Waqif than just herbs. This is a huge and maze-like complex. It’s not finished, either, and men in white turbans wheel barrows of concrete and rubble past you as you make your way through windy streets.

Colourful Indian dresses hang the walls outside the shops, or you can choose material for a tailor to turn into a dress. The traditional Qatari clothing is also available: white for men, black for women. You’ll see Qataris shopping here – a couple of middle aged ladies, covered head to toe in black, were briefly alarmed by my camera, before I assured them I was photographing the souk and not them.

Both antiques and replicas are available here, along with old photos of Qatar and its culture. These included traders haggling over piles of pearls, pearl divers being hauled up by their handlers and Bedouin nomads in their traditional camps or alongside their camels.

Feel tired, and you can relax in a traditional coffee shop, lounging on the cushions Antiques sit out side a souk shopwith a Turkish coffee and a Shisha and watching the passer-bys or admiring the old pictures. I was expecting this to be expensive, but the coffee, served in the traditional manner, only set me back three riyals (less than a dollar) – a quarter of the price of Starbucks.

The highlight of this trip came as I was walking back to my car along the edges of the souk. I suddenly came across rows of falcons, eyes blinkered with ornate hoods, perched on wood above spotless sands. These were not the small timid birds you can buy for three hundred riyals in the bird market, but big proud fierce creatures used to being treated with respect. The shop owner graciously allowed me to photo and film his birds.

Being British, I prefer something old to something new pretending to be old, and dislike the Qatari method of ‘preservation’ i.e. knocking things down and rebuilding them from scratch. But, unlike some of the forts in Qatar, Souk Waqif has been revamped with taste and style, and it is well worth a visit. In fact, I’ll probably go back next week for another one of those Turkish coffees...

Also see:

The Gold Souk

Pearl diving

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Qatar weather

Winter rain hit Qatar today. I should have seen the signs – the swimming pool Rain, puddles and an overcast sky: not a common sight in Qatarwas distinctly chilly over the weekend, we turned off the air conditioning in the office the other day, opening the window in its place, and the usually unspoilt blue of the sky has been slightly obscured by fluffy white cloud.

Yet when it rained today we were unprepared. My friend had left his sun roof open to the unexpected drench of rain, and I was out in a t-shirt. In our defence, it’s the first time we’ve seen a drop of rain since April. Its early too – I haven’t heard anything about the imams praying for rain. Almost certainly, the rain today will make the newspaper tomorrow.

Not to worry though, the forecast for tomorrow is for fine warm weather, and by the time this is posted it should have returned to its normal sunny self. This is, after all, a country which sees less than ten centimetres of rain a year on average*. Not that we mind the rain or the cooler weather. Not after experiencing a Doha summer, when temperatures can get up to 50 degrees centigrade, a temperature not even air-conditioning can shield you against.

I remember on a (relatively) cool late August evening attempting to walk alThe reflection of a moving car is visible in this carpark puddleong the Corniche with my family, hoping for a sea breeze to make the heat bearable. After 10 minutes we gave up and lurched back to the car, rather worried about my young son who was very red in the face.

In mid-September a friend and I tried fishing, arriving at the beach at about half past four in the morning. By seven thirty we were soaked in sweat, again retreating to the safety of the car and gulping down water.

But at some point between then and now the weather becomes perfect, like a hot English summer – except that you are so acclimatised to the heat that what would be hot in England is very pleasant here. And, of course, there are the continual blue skies. “It’s a lovely day,” I used to say to my colleagues when I first arrived, only to feel silly because of course every day was a lovely day – hot, maybe, but with beautiful blue skies that you might see a few days a year in the U.K.

Soon the weather will become a little bit too chilly for my liking and I might even get out the little heaters I bought last year. It’ll never even approach an English winter, though, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here and I’m staying here.

When to visit: October to June (although that might be pushing a bit)
Avoid: July
Avoid at all costs: August and September

*Marhaba (Issue no.35) reports an average annual rainfall of 70mm per year)


Things were back to normal in the morning
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Friday, November 17, 2006

Qatar Luxury Hotel Guide

The Sheraton Hotel at nightNote - an updated and expanded version of this post is now available on our website: Qatar Visitor's Luxury Hotel Guide.

Having already posted about cheap hotels in Qatar, we decided to cover the other end of the market. We’ve also done the opposite to our cheap hotels post, starting with the most expensive hotels and working our way down. Of course hotel rates vary according to demand, and current prices are likely to be distorted by the Asian Games, so we decided the placing based on the prices provided through the Expedia booking service for next year. (We were not able to obtain prices for The Ramada or Rydges).

The Ritz-Carlton Sharq Village and Spa
Tel: +974 4256666 Fax: +974 4256660 Address: PO Box 2662, Doha, Qatar
Location: Ras Abu Aboud Street close to the Doha Club.

This is not actually open yet, but they will be shortly. Their cheapest rooms are not that expensive yet, but their most expensive rooms cost more than two and a half thousand dollars a night! (Price information from Expedia.)

Key points:

- wireless internet capacity throughout resort
- will resemble an “ancient desert village” (though you can bet it’ll be rather more comfortable)
- will feature roaming entertainers playing traditional music, reciting poetry and so on
- will feature 71,500 foot square foot “six senses” spa with 23 treatment rooms and will include plunge pools, mud baths, tai chi, yoga and crystal therapy (?)

Bavaria City Suites
Tel: +974 – 4969111 Fax: +974 – 4969112 Email: bcs.doha@bhihotels.comPost: PO Box 23488 Location: Al Dafna

This huge (2000 suites and studios) complex cannot be missed: drive into the centre of the business district towards city centre and you will see the four buildings dominating the skyline. It's only very recently opened, and not all facilities are yet available.

Key points

- right in the centre of the business district and close to Corniche
- 5,500 square feet swimming pool
- personal assistant service
- business centre
- Angsana spa

Four Seasons Hotel (five star)
The Ritz Carlton HotelTel: (974) 494 8888 Fax: (974) 494 8282 Post: P.O. Box 24665, Doha, Qatar
Location: West Bay (end of Corniche Road close to The Sheraton)
Great views over the sea front, but when I visited they served some awful coffee in the lobby. Has had mostly good reviews from travellers.

Key points:

- includes beach and marina with water sports
- sauna and spa services

The Ritz Carlton Hotel (five star – or six star according to the Qatar Explorer website!)
Tel: (974) 484-8000 Fax: (974) 484-8484 Post: P.O. Box 23400 Doha, Qatar
Location: West Bay Lagoon
This island resort, close to Doha golf club, has had very good reviews from some of its former guests.

Key points:

- situated on own island
- indoor and outdoor pools
- 235 berth marina + clubhouse
- close to Doha Golf Club
- 9 restaurant and bars

Sheraton Hotel Doha (four star)
Tel: (974) 4854444 Fax: (974) 4832323 Post: P.O. Box 6000 Doha Qatar
Location: Corniche
I have a soft spot for the Sheraton Doha hotel, as I suspect other Doha residents do. It's been here a lot longer than many other Doha hotels and has become a fmaous and familiar landmark, its pyramid design rising above the Doha Corniche. Its vast inside, but smacks of old-style charms. Its food has always been excellent when I have eaten there, and very good value. On the other hand, there have been mixed reviews of the hotel by its guests.

Key points:

- 70 acres of landscaped gardens
- private beach
- lagoon
- convention centre with capacity to host 5,000
- range of indoor and outdoor restaurants

The Millenium Hotel, Doha (five star)
Tel: +974 4411800 Fax: +974 447 8881 Address: PO Box 24249, Doha, Qatar
Location: Jawaan Street, Al Sadd
This is a very new hotel, and I have yet to see any reviews. It’s located on Al Sadd, which has a number of up-market shops.

Key points:

- No access to sea
- Indoor rooftop pool
- Spa, turkish bath + steam room

The Marriot Hotel (four star)
Tel: 4298888 Fax: Fax: 974 4 418784 PO Box: 1911
Location: Abu Aboud Street
The Marriot Hotel is next to the sailing club and has a small private beach – although it’s basically within a small harbour. When I ate there I found the food to be very reasonable in price and the service excellent (see link below). It’s also had excellent reviews.

Key points:

- temperature controlled pool
- private beach
- marina

Also see A night with a whirling dervish

Look No Further Best Rate Guarantee at Marriott.com

The Grand Regency Hotel (5 star)
Tel: +974 434 3333 Fax: +974 434 4444 PO Box 2606
Location: Next to Sports Roundabout in Al Sadd district

I’m always driving past this relatively new hotel and it does look stunning, especially at night. Its a long way from the sea, though, and is located next to a busy roundabout – expect agitated beeping if you wander outside at rush hour. I read two great reviews and two terrible reviews of the place – take your pick!

Key points

- no access to sea
- panoramic lift (no, I don’t know what it means but I can’t wait to find out)
- fat burning studio (???)

Sealine Resort
Tel: +974 476 5299 Fax: +974 476 5298 Address: PO Box: 50255, Massaieed, Qatar
Location: Masaieed – i.e. in the desert!
If you’ve come to Qatar to do business in Doha, then don’t bother coming here – it’s miles away from the city. There is a lovely beach, and loads of things to do – although it may be worth giving a mkiss on Fridays, when hordes of people descend from Doha, and the dunes around are torn up by four wheel drives. It’s also had two very bad reviews on Trip Advisor, and one on Yahoo!, out of a total of four reviews! If you walk up to the door and ask to book a room it can be ridiculously expensive, but I've seen it advertised as cheap as 88 dollars online.

Key points

- leisure activities include windsurfing, jet ski-ing, camel and horse riding
- quads for hire if you fancy trying dune bashing
- well set up for children with two pools and two bouncy castles
- at least a forty minute drive from Doha
- rooms and bungalows available

Also see: Riding camels on the sand

Movenpick hotel and resort (4 star) The Movenpick
Tel: + 974 4291111 Fax: +974 4291100 Address: PO Box 24220
Location: The Corniche

A friend who has been going to the Movenpick for years visited recently, and was absolutely shocked at the price of a drink – even beating top London hotels.

Key points:

- close to National Museum
- near Corniche (sea front) but no beach or direct access to sea
- has had both good and bad reviews

George IV Hotel (4 star)
Tel: +974 4445405 or Fax +974 4367939 PO Box: 24160

This new eight storey hotel is situated along C-ring road, on the Al Sadd traffic signals. It's not the in best of areas, although you can get to pretty much anywhere in the city in ten minutes from here.

Key points

- free internet access
- doesn't provide alcohol

Rydges Plaza Doha (four star)
Tel: +974 4385444 Fax: +974 4385445 Address: P.O. Box 22686, Doh Qatar
Location: Corniche

Rydges is opposite the Cornich, so while it’s close to the sea it doesn’t have a beach. It has a small roof top pool – very pleasant, but not sufficient for real exercise. The rooftop bar is popular with expats but can be rather loud. Drinks were more reasonable than some of the other hotels last time I went.

Key points:

-Close to the sea (not the beach) but you need to cross the road to get to the Corniche
- Excellent access to the soukhs (local markets)


Ramada Hotel (three star)
Tel: +974 4417417 Address: PO Box 1768, Doha, Qatar
Location: C Ring Road
While the pool is great for kids, but the night life at the Ramada’s nightclubs can be plain seedy at times (although if you are a single man back from three months on an oil rig you might like that), and the band absolutely awful. (I though it was Karaoke Night the first time I went there). On the other hand, they are very active and put on shows and events such as the Laughter Factory (well worth a visit), and the alcohol is reasonably priced (for Qatar). It’s situated a few kilometres away from the sea.

Key points:

- lots of things on
- long way from the sea
- bars and clubs popular with expats

See also: Brunch at the Ramada

Your experiences – we’re both too poor and too mean to stay in these hotels, but if you have a positive or a negative experience in any of them we’d love to hear from you!

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Doha Towers

Doha Towers
Doha Towers Doha Towers
Also see: Builders in Qatar

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Working: Qatar style

Ahmed is from Egypt, and he is a government driver.

Everyday, Ahmed picks my friend up from his apartment and drives him ten minutes up the road to the office where he works. He hangs around the office all day, chatting with the people who do the photocopying in the photocopying room, and the people who sit on their hands on chairs outside the canteen, and the people who play patience and check the cricket scores on the computer.

When my friend has finished working, Ahmed drives him home. He gets paid 1,500 riyals ($400) a month to do this.

You might get the impression from this piece that people in Qatar do no work. On the contrary, many people work extremely hard. A lot of them do twelve hour shifts. Chances are, you’ll work a lot harder in the private sector, although this is not always the case, as a thousand doctors and nurses will vouch.

Many of the people who work twelve hour shifts have a second job. I met one Egyptian man who used to drive twelve hours for KFC. Then he would go and do another six hours for another company. He was putting his third son through Medical School. His son, he said, often complained that Medical School was hard.

The disparity between working hours is not fair, of course. But then, as people in Qatar know well, life’s not fair.

Also see:

Finding work in Qatar

Qatar Jobs

Builders in Qatar


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Studying languages in Qatar

Future updates to this post will be made to the Studying Arabic and Other Languages in Qatar section of our website.

Also see: Qatar schools Further education in Qatar

It is often easier for an English speaking expatriate to function in Qatar than for a native Qatari. Only the other day I watched an elderly Arabic man struggle to make himself understood in broken English to a Philippine nurse. With the importance of English, it is not surprising that English courses are widely available. However, language courses do not stop there, and you can study a large variety of languages.

Below we’ve included just a few of the language schools in Doha.

Language Schools in Doha

Government Schools (open to all)

The Language Teaching Institute (evening courses)
Languages taught: Japanese, Arabic, English, French taught by native speakers.
Telephone: +974 4657690
Address: PO Box 3224, Doha, Qatar
Location: New Slata, opposite the Indonesian Embassy.
Course length and frequency: Works on a term system, with placement tests for new students being held three times a year. Terms last three months, lessons are held three times a week in the evenings.
Note – The institute is run (and subsisised) by the Ministry of Education and therefore fees are very reasonable.

Website: The Language Institute

Private Schools

The Berlitz Language School
Languages taught: English, Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, French, Spanish, Dutch, Russian
German, Italian, Urdu, Portuguese
Telephone: +974 4550506/4550507
Fax:4550503
Address: PO Box 23605
Location: Al Hilal - D Ring Road.
Course length and frequency: Usually students meet three times a week for one and a half a time. Each level lasts two months.

The British Council
Languages taught: English (Native speakers).
Location: 93 Al Sadd Street
Telephone: +974 4426193-4
Fax: +974 4423315
Address: P O Box 2992DohaQatar
Course length and frequency: 7 weeks Twice a week Two hours a day
Courses include: Young Learners, Adult Learners, Exam Preparation, Business English
Tests

The Online Indonesian Phrasebook

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Healthcare in Qatar

Also see:
Giving birth in Qatar
List of hospitals in Qatar
Experiences in Doha Hospitals
Life Insurance in Qatar
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All fees are correct at the time of publication and are subject to change.

Immunisations

According to the World Health Organisation's country list no immunisation is required.

Health care

Most treatment is available in Qatar including psychiatric and cancer treatment. Qatar has invested a lot of money in its health system, doubling its expenditure over the last two years, and has first class equipment. Qatar obviously has ambitions in the medical arena: Hamad Medical Corporation hold regular conferences, have continual training for its medical staff, have started manufacturing medical equipment and hope to develop ‘health tourism’. However, the bureaucracy, as ever, is confusing and chaotic, and when I rang up to get more information and the receptionist couldn't understand my request, she hung up on me.

Currently, residents have to pay for public health care, but it is heavily subsidised. Qatar is planning to move towards a system of health insurance, although no plans have yet been announced. In the meantime, to reduce the strain on its health service, Qatar is encouraging the development of the private health sector. People who choose the private sector or purchase private health insurance generally do so for speed and convenience (and to avoid the dreaded bureaucracy!)

Health check

When coming in to the country you will have a health check. This will include a chest x-ray and blood test to check for diseases such as HIV. Failing the health test will mean being sent back to your country.

Clinics

For non-emergency treatment your first visit should be to a clinic. (A visit to the clinic is also like a microcosm of Qatar society – watch the local nurses swan around chatting and attending to their nails while Indian and Philippino nurses do all the work). Which clinic you visit will depend on where you live. The clinic will refer to you the hospital for further treatment if necessary.

Charges (subject to change)

A single visit to the clinic costs Qr30/$8. Alternatively, buy a health card for Qr100/$25 (see below) which covers you for a year. Consultations and treatment (non-emergency) in the hospital often cost extra.

Medicine is heavily subsidised. For example, I recently purchased a course of antibiotics from a government pharmacy for five riyals (1.5 U.S. dollars). Expect to pay a lot more if you go private.

As mentioned above, the current system is due to be revamped and replaced with a system of health insurance.

Obtaining a health card

You can obtain a health card at a health card office – located either in your clinic or at Rumeilla Hospital. To obtain a health card at a health card office you will need photocopies of your passport and visa or your ID, two photographs (4cm x 3cm), the appropriate fee, your hospital appointment and health centre card and the completed application form.

The application form is written in both Arabic and English and can be completed in either language. It doesn’t have to be typed.

You will be given a number which you can use while you are waiting for your card. You health card should be available within two weeks.

You can apply or renew your health card at the Qatar general post office – details are on their website here.

Health cards can now be renewed online on Qatar E-government .

Disability equipment

Our sponsors, Scooters Direct UK, are a British company who export scooters and mobility equipment to the Middle East.

Children’s health

There is an excellent paediatric hospital in Al Sadd. Qatar does not have health visitors like the U.K., but does have a similar system of immunisation.

Admission to hospital

Hamad Medical Corporation provides extensive information on hospital admission here .

Useful numbers

Al Khor Hospital: 474 5555
Al Amal hospital (cancer): 439 7830/439 7829
Emergency: 999
Hamad General Hospital: 439 4444
Women’s Hospital: 439 6666

Paediatric hospitals:
Abu Bakkar: 469 9314
Al Rayyan: 480 3582
Al Sadd: 469 2948


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List of hospitals in Qatar

Includes some of the major hospitals in Qatar with their location and contact details.

Also see:
Healthcare in Qatar
Giving birth in Qatar
Experiences in Doha Hospitals
Our sponsors: The Disability Shop

Hamad Medical City

After the Asian Olympic Games, the Olympic village will be integrated into Hamad Medical City, containing within its grounds Hamad Hospital, Al Amal Oncology Hospital, Rumailah Hospital and the Woman’s Hospital.

Emergency Telephone Number: 999

Government Hospitals

Al Khor General Hospital
Location: on the main road out of Al Khor (towards Al Thakira).
Tel: +974 474 5555

Hamad General Hospital (includes Accident and Emergency)
Also offers private medical service + “five star” patient rooms.
Tel: +974 4394444
Location: Off Al Rayyan Road opposite Lulu Centre.

Al Amal Oncology Hospital (cancer treatment)
Aims to provide total cancer care. Includes early detection unit, therapy, counselling and rehabilitation.
Tel: +974 4745555
Location: Off Mohammad Bin Thani Street next to the women’s hospital.

Rumailah hospital
Services include plastic surgery, Ear nose and throat surgery, ophthalmology and a stroke unit.
Tel: +974 4393333
Location: off Al Istiolal Street, next to the Olympic Village.

The Women’s Hospital
Also include “five star” rooms.
Tel: +974 439 6666
Located in the same grounds as Hamad Hospital.

Children’s emergency centre: (Al Sadd)
Tel: +974 439 2948
Location: Next to Al Sadd traffic signals.

A new 305 bed hospital is now being built in Al Wakra, but will not be ready until late 2009.

Hamad Medical Corporation Website

Private Hospitals

Scooters direct UK - exporting scooters to the Middle East.

Al Ahli Hospital
Tel: +974 489 8888
Postal Address: PO Box 6401, Doha, Qatar
Location: Ahmed Bin Ali Street

The American Hospital
Tel: +974 442 1999
Email: ahdoha@qatar.net.qa
Location: Al Muntazah, next to the Labour Department on C-ring road.
Postal Address: PO Box 22314, Doha, Qatar

Al-Emadi Hospital
Tel: +974 466 6009
Postal address: PO Box 5804, Doha Qatar
Location: On D ring road, opposite Regency Hall and near The Mall roundabout.

The Doha Clinic Hospital
Email: dohaclnk@qatar.net.qa
Tel: +974 432 7300
Location: New El-Merqab Street, Fariq Al-Nasr
Postal Address: PO Box 9958, Doha, Qatar
Emergency: +974 4327303


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Monday, November 13, 2006

Finding work in Qatar

This post was originally posted on Qatar Guest. It has been edited and updated for this site.

My story

Working in the Middle East was part of a long term plan for me. After working abroad for several years, I returned to my country to obtain extra qualifications. This took me about two years. I then found my job on a job-listing website. I got a reply shortly after sending a C.V. and references that were never checked, and an interview was arranged in my country.

Upon arriving at the interview, my prospective Qatari employers accused me of being late. Luckily, I had brought the email they had sent me with the correct time and the date.

It took my employers so long to respond to the interview that I thought I had lost the job. When I was offered the job, I nearly turned it down because of the difficulty in obtaining a copy of the contract. I was also distressed when I was informed (three days before leaving) that my family would not be able to come for 2-3 months. My departure date was then delayed for a month, and for a while I thought the whole thing was never going to happen. Against this, I am now heartily glad that I took these risks and came to Qatar.

Why work in Qatar?

Most people come here for the money - which is tax free. But let's not forget that Qatar is actually quite a nice place, although you need a bit of money to enjoy it fully. Westerners can enjoy a superior life style, with domestic help in the home, without having to give up alcohol or substantially change their dress. (See Living in Qatar: Myths and Realities).Christians and Shia Muslims can enjoy relative freedom of worship. And don't imagine that the whole country is arid desert - the city is being beautified (the Corniche is lovely), and even the desert if far from being devoid of greenery.

Look for work from home or come to Qatar?

I am much better off as an employee who was recruited from the U.K. than some colleagues who were recruited locally. I am on an international contract, which has substantially better pay and conditions, such as flights back to the U.K. every year for myself and my family. The situation might, of course, be different if you already have contacts or family present. (If you are recruited locally you may also be able to negotiate an international contract).

A word of warning

Some people get into debt to come here and then can’t find a job. Others find a job which doesn’t pay enough to cover their debt. There are also unscrupulous agencies (not Qatari) who demand payment to bring workers here. I spoke to a maid who had to pay 1200 Riyals to come here (she now earns QR600 a month). She was lucky she had the money to pay up front: other workers take on debt with these agencies which their wages are insufficient to cover. They are then unable to escape their debtors because of threats against their families. In the past workers have been known to commit suicide because of the pressure they are under.

While there are probably many respectable agencies, it is not worth borrowing money to come here.

Working outside

Working in the sun can be brutal, especially in August when temperatures can reach 50 degrees. There is supposed to be a limit above which workers cannot work, but this is not always enforced. If you are Muslim, it is often possible to work night shifts during Ramadan – check this with your employer before you arrive.

Where to look for work:

I looked for work:

  • on general job search engines for the Gulf
  • on company websites
  • in the job sections of newspapers such as the Guardian
  • in industry specific job websites

Websites to start looking on:

Qatar Visitor's Jobs Page
List jobs from around the Gulf

Qatar Petroleum
One of the biggest employers in Qatar. Require all sorts of specialities.

Qatar Liquefied Gas Company

Hamad Medical Corporation
A huge employer of medical staff in Qatar. Check out their website:

The Supreme Education Council
Gradually taking over from the Ministry of Education.

Q-tel
Telecommunications company. Has jobs, although at the time of writing their “apply online” page is down. Obviously they need you!

Q-post
Provide postal service in Qatar. With no street addresses, only postboxes,it can’t be that hard (although according to the Gulf Times, it takes five weeks to deliver a postcard across the city).

Qatar Airways
Growing fast and always need staff.

Canadian Bureau for International Education

The British Council
Has vacancies for teachers from time to time:

Dave’s Esl Cafe
Teaching jobs, especially EFL.

The Guardian
Advertises jobs in Qatar from time to time. You can subscribe to their jobs section for free.

College of the North Atlantic (Some jobs are for Canadians only).

The Language Teaching Institute
Tel: 4657690 PO Box 3224, Doha, Qatar
The Language Teaching Institute often looks for teachers, but unfortunately doesn’t have an email contact address or website. (Update: the school now has a website here: The Language Institute, Doha.)


There are many more. Try looking directly on the websites of companies you are interested in.

Contract?

Some people never receive contracts. Although I saw a copy (after much nagging), I never signed one. On the other hand, all the terms of the job offer were honoured, although at Qatari speed. (Really, if you are not calm and patient, Qatar is not the place for you.) I know that many people turn down work in Qatar because they are never given a contract to sign. I took the risk – it could have backfired.

Things to ask about

When you will receive your 1st pay check - Your first pay check may be two to three months after you arrive (you will probably receive loans to subsidise you during this time.) Check with your employer and budget accordingly.

Days and shifts worked – many people work a six day week. Some people also work two shifts, morning and afternoon/evening. This means 4 rush hours a day.

Accommodation - What you really want is accommodation included, or at the very least a substantial housing allowance. Prices are rising ever higher, and have increased since this article was first written (see Housing Inflation). I recently heard villas being advertised for QR 22,000/month ($6000) and an increasing number of expats are leaving the country because of this. Workers on lower wages often sleep six to a room.

Bills = often included in the contract.

Flights – Look for a yearly return flight to your country in your annual holiday. If you are bringing family, make sure they are included.

Family –Normally, you are only allowed to bring family if your salary is above a certain level. When family is provided for, flights and education is often included. You will not be able to get permanent residence for children over the age of 18 by yourself.

Travel allowance – A monthly allowance towards the cost of travel is quite common, although probably not that important if your wages are substantial.

Bonuses! And when you receive them - this may not be until you leave the country and your job.

Health insurance - most foreign companies provide health insurance. Otherwise try International Health Plan.


There is huge variation in pay (have a look at the Qatar Living forums). Pay can be very good, or rather low. Skilled expatriates might get paid 30,000 Riyals or more, while labourers get 600 Riyals. Qatar is not an incredibly cheap country, so do your research before coming here.

For some idea of costs, try reading The Cost of Living.

Finally

If it is a choice between working here or in Saudi, then it really is no contest: Qatar is a far, far more pleasant place. (See The Religious Policeman or A thought in the the Kingdom of Lunacy if you don’t believe me!)

Good luck!

Find out more about Qatar - buy guidebooks in the Qatar Visitor Bookstore .

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Books, bookstores and libraries in Qatar

Future updates to this post will be made on the Books, Book Stores and Libraries section of our website. For book reviews of books related to Qatar and Arabic Culture see Qatar books.

There don’t seem to be many books in Qatar, a fact which is not surprising when you consider that more books are read in Greece than in the whole of the Gulf. In fact, sometimes your spirits lift when you are about to enter into a bookstore, only to find out that in fact only stationary is sold.

There are currently two bookshops with a good selection of English books. Jareer bookstore is set on Salwa Road. It's a large store, and has a cafe on the ground floor. You’ll have to go upstairs to find the books though – the first time I went in I thought there were no books, as downstairs is the usual stationary, computers, postcards and so on.

Turn off Salwa Road into the little side road that goes past Jareer bookstore, turn right, left, right and left again at the traffic lights onto Nasser Street and you’ll find Family bookstore (close to the next set of traffic lights). Smaller and cosier than Jareer, Family bookstore still has a good selection of books (better than Jareer in some areas) – perhaps because it is wholly dedicated towards books. I liked the way that books about Qatar and The Gulf jumped out at you as soon as you entered the shop – probably as good a selection as you’ll find anywhere except in the Qatar Visitor Shop.

Only two bookstores, but the competition is about to hot up. Magrudy's, a chain from Dubai, are about to open a franchise in The Centre, with two more shops to follow.

There’s also the Qatar National Library. No, this is not the sci-fi building you’ll probably see if you do a search on the internet – this has yet to be built. The current National Library is set in a pleasantly-old building. (This is something you appreciate after being here a while - old buildings are an endangered species in Qatar!) It’s located on Ras Abu Abour Street – drive right to the end of the Corniche and take the first exit off the roundabout, go straight ahead and you’ll find it on the corner of the second roundabout you come across.

Its difficult to join – you have to complete a form in Arabic, get it stamped by your employer and so on and so forth – but anyone can wander in and start reading. Free newspapers are available downstairs, but go upstairs, through the doors ahead of you, turn left and walk round to the back and you’ll find the English section. Don’t expect anything new, but there are treasures to be found. (There are signs asking to leave your books on the table – which is exactly where I found them when I returned after a two week absence!)

Read Reviews of Qatar Books


Qatar Newspapers

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Kempo in Qatar

If you’re one of the 23,000 Indonesians in Qatar, and you’re wondering what to do in your spare time, Pak Hadi might have the answer for you. Every Thursday and Saturday, in the grounds of the friendly Indonesian embassy, Pak Hadi, Pak Jodi and Pak Mukhlis teach Kempo to groups of students.
Kempo in Qatar
What is Kempo? It’s a sport that has its origin in Shaolin Kungfu, and is widely practised in Japan. However, in the 1960’s a group of Indonesian students went to study in Japan. While there, they became students of Kempo, and introduced it into Indonesia in 1965.

Kempo in Qatar When I asked what the difference was between Kempo and Kungfu, Pak Mukhlis answered that whereas Kungfu could be quite artistic, Kempo was more practical. However, Kempo doesn't just focus on self-defence, but on developing its practitioners both physically and mentally.

Kempo in Qatar
Other nationalities are welcome, and Pak Hadi is happy to teach in English, although he admits he might struggle with Arabic. Kempo lessons take place at the Indonesian Embassy on Thursdays and Saturdays from 7.00 to 9.00, but you can also learn in Messaieed and Al-Khor.

Contact number: 0974-4667213 (Muchlis)

Also see: Clubs and Societies in Qatar

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Friday, November 10, 2006

The Qatar Asian Games

Just eighteen days to go tReady or not...o the Asian Games, and as I write this (at eleven o’ clock on a Friday evening), I can hear the frantic banging of electric drills and screeching of dragged metal girders from the road outside. The whole city seems like a building site, and is in a rushed scramble to get ready before the eyes of Asia turn upon it. Of special annoyance is the seemingly random opening and shutting of roads – never with notice, signs or explanation.

Yet I have a feeling that everything will go smoothly during the games themselves. Yes, there will still be unfinished buildings everywhere, and there will be journalists sleeping on floors (a friend is putting up several), but the stadiums are built, the rehearsals complete and the roads – well, lets not talk about roads anymore. It’s a sore point with Doha residents. But they’ll be functioning. Orrie, the Doha Asian Games mascot, counts the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the start of the 19th Asian Games

The city is immensely proud of having won the opportunity to host the 19th Asian Games. The successful holding of the games are crucial to part of a bigger strategy to put this tiny country on the map, attract tourism and diversify away from its dependence on oil and gas. Qatar has a lot of hopes pinned on this event.

It’s perhaps worth remembering that part of the reason the Asian Olympic Games were started were to provide an avenue for countries to compete without going to war. As we’ve pointed out before, Qatar likes to show off through its sport and its buildings rather than through armies and weapons. If only other countries in the region would take the same attitude.

Asian Games Football Tournament

For more information see the offical website of the 15th Asian Games
Building from the Doha Athletes Village

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


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Camel road sign

A sign warns motorists of wandering camels

Qatar Camels

Qatar Camel Racing

View Images of Qatar

Qatar Visitor Bookstore

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Giving Birth in Qatar

Having a Baby in Qatar: Personal Stories and Practical Information

Also see:

Healthcare in Qatar
List of Hospitals in Qatar
Giving Birth in Qatar: Website Article

Experiences

I’ve had very good experiences with the health system here, and when my daughter was born in the Women’s Hospital (next to Hamad Hospital) everything went smoothly. (See Experiences in Doha Hospitals). However, not everyone has been so lucky. When my wife accompanied a friend to hospital yesterday, she found a poor lady in labour. Although the woman was already dilated two centimetres, she had been told to wait in the queuing system and had been there for three hours.

When my wife summoned a doctor, the doctor angrily told the women to go home and come back a few hours later (the women lived in a compound in a remote area of Qatar). Meanwhile, the hospital administration offered to book her a room – three days hence.

When the woman finally made it to the delivery room and begged for some painkillers, she was told it was too late. She delivered her baby a few minutes later, without even an aspirin for pain relief. It is perhaps telling that this lady was Indian and not Western, and I doubt that a Western or Arab lady would be treated in this way. Sadly, where you come from, and how important you are perceived to be, seems to affect the quality of service you receive here.

Practicalities

Communication

What my wife has found worst in Qatar (at the health centre and women’s hospital), has been the lack of communication. Whereas in the U.K. midwives told her everything she needed to know, in Qatar she found she needed to push for information all the time. You also need to be very clear what you want regarding pain killers, and it’s a good idea to tell your doctor before you go into labour what painkillers you want.

English is the lingua franca in the hospitals, and many staff can not speak Arabic. However, the level of English varies considerably. Obviously, this will cause difficulties and misunderstandings.

Registration and bureaucracy

Your initial check up will be in a health centre. When you go to the hospital you have to start a file, even if you already have a file in the clinic. This is called “open file”. Without this you can not have an appointment (apart from in the case of an emergency”). When you start a file you will need:

- photocopies of your marriage certificate
- photocopies of your and your husband’s ID cards/passports
- health card

Charges (subject to change): Government Hospitals

Appointment with doctor: Qr50($14)
Health card: Qr100($27)
Night in hospital: Qr100($27)
Scan: Qr100($27)
Medicine is heavily subsidised and very cheap.

Government hospitals: details

Emergencies: 999

The Women’s Hospital
Located in the same grounds as Hamad Hospital.
Tel: +974 439 6666

Al Khor Hospital:
Tel: 474 5555

Also see: http://www.hmc.org.qa/hmcnewsite/

Painkillers

All standard painkillers, including epidural, are available. Again, be very clear about what you want before you giving birth.

Special rules

Men are not allowed to accompany their wives while they are in labour in Hamad, though they may in private hospitals. After the birth, there is normally a delay before the mother and child are sent to the room and the father may visit. This may be several hours. Women are allowed to visit the mother for a few minutes but are not supposed to stay. However, exceptions are made if you fuss a lot – my mother-in-law was with my wife almost the whole time.

Mother and baby

Hamad’s policy is to keep mother and babies together as much and possible. You will not be separated from your baby without good reason.

Equipment

My doctor friend from Hamad Hospital assures me that the equipment in Hamad is first rate, and superior to that of the private hospitals.

Birth certificates

Handily, the National Health Authority is opposite Hamad Hospital next to Lulu shopping centre. To obtain your birth certificate you will need a copy of each parent's passport (including visa) and paperork provided to you by the hospital - in the case of Hamad Hospital this is a vaccination card. You will need to complete a "New Born Notification Data Collection Form" which must include both parents' religion, occupation and qualifications. The cost is a very reasonable 20 riyals ($5)and the process takes about a week.

Private hospitals

One lady we met spoke very highly of the American Hospital here. You can also give birth in the other private hospitals listed at the bottom of this post. All the hospitals allowed fathers attend the birth. However, if there are any complications you will be sent to the Women’s Hospital.

Hospital details and prices

Prices include a two night stay. Doha Clinic Hospital and the American Hospital are covered by Bupa.

The Doha Clinic Hospital
Email: dohaclnk@qatar.net.qa
Tel: +974 432 7300
Location: New El-Merqab Street, Fariq Al-Nasr
Postal Address: PO Box 9958, Doha, Qatar
Emergency: +974 4327303
Consultation: Qr 150 ($40) for the first consultation, Qr 125 ($35) for subsequent consultations. 10% discount available with friendship card (cost 100 riyals), outpatient treatment only.
Normal delivery: Qr 6-7,000($1,600 - $1,900)
Caesarean delivery: 8-9,000 ($2,200 - $2,500)
Website: http://www.doha-hospital.com/

The American Hospital
Tel: +974 442 1999
Email: ahdoha@qatar.net.qa
Location: Al Muntazah, next to the Labour Department on C-ring road.
Postal Address: PO Box 22314, Doha, Qatar
Consultation: Qr80 ($20)
Normal delivery: 6-7000 ($1,600 - $1,900)
Caesarean: 7-9,000 ($1,900 - $2,500)
Website: http://www.ahqatar.com/

Al Ahli Hospital
Tel: +974 489 8888
Postal Address: PO Box 6401, Doha, Qatar
Location: Location: On D ring road, opposite Regency Hall and near The Mall roundabout.
Consultation: 200 ($55)
Normal delivery: Qr 6,500 ($1,800)(double room)
Qr 7,300 ($2000) (single room)
Caesarean: Qr 12,000 ($3,300)(double room)
13,600 riyals ($3,700)(double room)
See this discussion on Qatar Living for a positive report: http://www.qatarliving.com/discussion/al-ahli-hspital-14jul2006

Al-Emadi Hospital
Tel: +974 466 6009
Postal address: PO Box 5804, Doha Qatar
Location: Ahmed Bin Ali Street
Consultation: 1st: Qr 150 ($40), subsequent consultations Qr 100 ($25)
When I rang they said that they did not have one set price, and that price varies on the doctor’s diagnosis.
Website: http://www.alemadihospital.com.qa/site/

Links

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Qatar Basics

Essential information for anyone thinking of coming to Qatar.

Electrical System
The electrical system is the same as in Britain, with the same kind of plugs (240 volts, plugs with three square pins). American devices cannot be used in Qatar (although laptop computers usually adjust their voltage automatically).

Safety
Crime is almost non-existent in Qatar, and the police are honest. Qatar has suffered only one terrorist attack, and this appears to be an aberration. Qatar feels very safe.

Money
The local currency is the Qatari riyal (QR) which is fixed to the dollar at a rate of $1= QR3.64. This is theoretically divided into 100 dirhams, although in practice only 25 and 50 dirham coins are available. There is sometimes a shortage of these coins, so expect to be given change in the form of chocolate or chewing gum.

There are no currency controls, and money can be freely taken in or out of the country.

Cash machines (ATMs) are widely available, and are connected to international networks. Major Credit cards and travellers cheques are also widely accepted, although travellers cheques maybe less necessary here than other places because of the very low crime rate.

Driving
Cars drive on the right in Qatar. Visitors can drive for one week using driving licences from their country. There are a huge number of place to hire cars. See Driving in Qatar

Transport
Buses are available. They are modern and air-conditioned. They are used mostly by (male) immigrant workers, as most Qataris and ex-pat professionals have cars. Buses cost 2 riyals within Doha, and 7 riyals for intercity journeys.

There are modern and cheap (and honest) taxis. These start at at less than and a dollar and then cost 25 cents a kilometer. Another alternative is to use ‘limousine’ services. These are effectively unmetered upmarket cabs. They cannot be hailed from the street.

Emergency Number
The emergency number is 999 for all services.

Telephones
The international dialling code is +974. There is only one phone company and calls to and from Qatar are very expensive. It may be very expensive to use a foreign mobile phone here. Check with your operator. It is possible to get a pay-as-you-go phone here relatively cheaply. Many people use internet calling to reduce their bills.

Internet
Internet cafes are widely available and cheap to use. The internet is censored for pornography, but not for politics. See Qatar Surprise .

Language
English is almost universally used in Qatar. Indeed, as most shop assistants and taxi drivers are not Arab and cannot speak Arabic, the locals need to use English.

Clothing
Clothing should be modest, but the required level of modesty is often exaggerated. See Living in Qatar: Myths and realities.

Weather
It can hit 50ºC in Qatar in the summer, and it’s also extremely humid. The weather is much more pleasant during the spring and autumn, and a light jacket will be necessary during the winter. Recently, there has been an increased amount of rain.

Weekends and working hours
The weekends are Friday and Saturday, although some workers are required to work 6 days a week. On Friday morning all the shops are closed except for a few in the large shopping malls. Saturday shop opening hours are normal.

Shops are frequently open from early in the morning until late in the evening, although many of those outside the shopping malls close in the afternoon.

Working hours are approximately 8am-12pm, and then 4pm-8pm, although government departments frequently work only in the mornings. Workers should not be required to work more than 8 hours a day without over time, although this doesn't always happen in practice.

Food and Restaurants
There is a huge variety of restaurants with cuisine from all over the world. All the main international fast food restaurants are present. Vegetarians are well catered for in Indian restaurants, although their choices may be limited in other restaurants.

Also see our Resident's Guide to Qatar

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