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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Al Koot fort

Al Koot Fort was built in the Ottoman period, in 1880, when Doha was little more than a village. At the time this would have been at the outskirts of the town. The Ottomans had been welcomed by Sheikh Qassim, although by the end of the century they were at war together: see The Rise of the Qatar Ruling Family for details. The fort is currently shut to visitors.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Qatar Visitor Glossary

What is...? Essential words for living in Qatar


Adhan - Muslim prayer call

Allah – God

Al-Thanis – the ruling family of Qatar. See The rise of the Qatari ruling family

Aspire – a classy sporting academy in the Sport City. Tests the whole of Qatar’s young population to find the most promising athletes of the future.


Bedouin – formerly nomadic tribespeople. Some of the older Qatari Bedouins will have spent their early life travelling in the desert as nomads.


Corniche – seafront. The Corniche in Doha is probably the nicest place in Qatar, curving round the bay for several kilometres. Trees provide shade, with grass to lie on and flowers and fountains to look at, and its several play areas should keep the kids entertained.


Doha – the capital city of Qatar.


Emir (also spelt Amir) - the ruler of Qatar, currently the moderate and modernising Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Eid – Eid means feast, and refers to festivals: Eid al Fitr (celebrated at the end of Ramadan) and Eid Al Adha, which remembers the time when Abraham nearly sacrificed his son. For more details see Holidays, festivals and important dates in Qatar.

Estimara – road permit. Cars older than three years must pass an annual road test before being issued their permit.

Exit permit – required by all residents (except dependants) to leave the country. See Qatar Visas.


Hadith – refers to the sayings and actions of Mohammed, and forms the basis of Sharia law.

Hajj – the annual pilgramage to Mecca. Every Muslim who is able to do so should make the pilgrimage at least once in their lives.

Halal – anything that is permissible under Islam.

Hamour – a local fish – very tasty!

Haraam – forbidden under Islam (e.g. pork, alcohol, music).

Health card – entitles residents to free or discounted health treatment. See Healthcare in Qatar.


ID card – you obtain this after completing your residence permit. By law you should carry this around (although I’ve never, ever been asked for it), although other forms of ID such as your passport or Qatar Driving licence are also acceptable.

Imam – a religious leader, or someone who leads the prayers. It has also been used to refer to the Caliphs of Arabia, the rulers who initially followed Mohammed.


Gulf Times – Qatar’s longest running English language newspaper. It’s a good source of second hand cars and goods.


Khaleeji music – popular form of Gulf music.

Khalifas – the former ruling family of Qatar, who conquered and moved to Bahrain in 1783, but retained some control over Qatar until the intervention of the British in the nineteenth century. They maintained their claim to parts of the country, including Zubara, and in 1986 shots were exchanged between gun boats. The territorial dispute was finally resolved by the International Court of Justice in 2001, with an island being ceded to Bahrain which in turn relinquished its claim to parts of the mainland.

Khor El Adaid – The Inland Sea. Connected to the sea, this salt-water lake is a popular camping destination, but is only accessible with off-road vehicles.


Land cruiser – weapon of mass destruction, far more dangerous than the camel it replaced, but no less loved by its owner.

Liquor permit – required to purchase alcohol at the Qatar Distribution Company.


Majlis – a meeting place for men or women ( but not both together), originally a tent.

Mobile phone – has replaced the sword in the affection of the Qataris, but it is just as lethal when combined with land cruiser (see above).


Oud – Arabian lute (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oud).


Pearl, The – huge real estate development, where expats can buy property. See Buying property in Qatar.

Peninsula – another local newspaper – rather more critical than the Gulf Times.


Qatar Airways – a fast growing airline that, as it frequently reminds us, is one of only four “five star” airlines in the world.

Qatar distribution company – monopoly owners of the only two alcohol outlets in the country – also sells to hotels.

Q-league – Qatar’s top football division, with 10 teams playing within it. See Qatar Football.

Qatar Riyal – Qatar currency. 1 riyal is worth about 25 US cents. The riyal is currently pegged to the US dollar.

QBS – a local radio station which broadcasts in English and French.

Q-post – Qatar’s postal service, currently holding onto at least three of my parcels. Even though they only have to put mail in a box (there is no organised system of addresses), they still seem to have immense trouble delivering on time. One article in the Gulf Times suggested an average of 5 weeks for a postcard to cross the city (i.e. move across the room from one box to another!)

Qur’an, (also written as Al-Quran, or Koran) – Islam’s religious text. Muslims believe
it was handed complete from God to Mohammed . The evidence for this claim is partly based on their assertion that Mohammed was illiterate, and would therefore not have been able to compose such a great piece of work.

Q-tel – Qatar’s telecommunications service, which will be opened to competition for the first time this year (2007).


Rababa (also spelled rebaba) – a one string musical instrument used by the Bedouin.

Ramadan – a month of fasting that forms one of the pillars of Islam.

Robot jockeys – have been used to replace the child jockeys who used to race camels. See Camel Racing for pictures and details.


Sadew weaving – Bedouin weaving making use of camel, goat and sheep hair.

Sharia law – Islamic law. See Two Laws

Sport city – impressive sporting facility which includes Aspire academy and the fifty-thousand seater Khalifa stadium, where the closing and opening ceremonies of the Asian Games were held.

Sunni – a branch of Islam. Qatar is predominantly Sunni.

Supreme Education Council http://www.english.education.gov.qa/section/sec/ – runs part of the education system.

Shia – the second biggest branch of Islam after Sunni. Unlike Sunni Muslims, Shia maintain that Ali was the first Caliph after Mohammed, and believe in following the guidance of Mohammed’s family.

Shisha – a water pipe used to smoke flavoured tobacco. The water has a cooling, smoothing effect on the tobacco and the effect is milder and more pleasant than smoking a cigarette.

Sheikh – Sheikh literally means respected older person, but it can also be used to address members of a royal family.

Souq – also spelt souk/soug/soukh. This essentially means market, but some souqs resemble more modern shopping malls. See Souq Waqif for pictures of a more traditional souq.


Thobe – a long white robe worn by men.


Umrah (also spelt Omrah) – a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time. Unlike the Hajj, it is not compulsory.


Wahabism – an Islamic movement. Its adherents believe in following directly the words and rulings of Mohammed. Qatar is predominantly Wahabi, although it is not practised as strictly as in Saudi Arabia. There has been some suggestion that Qatar may have adopted Wahabism in order to placate their larger neighbour.


Zakat – money that is donated to the poor and needy, those who are in debt, those who have converted to Islam and others. The third of the five pillars of Islam.

Zam-zam – water from the Zam-Zam well in Mecca, which is believed by many to be blessed. The Zam-zam well was believed to have been revealed to Hagar, Abraham's wife, when she was seeking water for her baby son in the desert.

Zubarah – former base of the Khalifa family, now rulers of Bahrain.

Also see:

A beginner’s guide to Arabic

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Hyatt plaza

This shopping centre will probably soon be eclipsed by the larger Villagio being built next door, although there seem to be enough shoppers in Doha to go around all the malls. Never-the-less, Hyatt Plaza is a pleasant enough place to shop, with some classy shops and a light airy feel to it when you stroll in. With Villagio coming up next door, they try hard too - I noticed new shops and attractions on my last trip and they even have a magazine: Hyatt Plaza Style.


This is one place you really can’t miss. Just go past the huge Khalifa stadium, and the Villagio The giant shopping trolley outside Hyatt plazadevelopment, and you’ll see a giant shopping trolley outside the complex, just to make sure you don’t get the wrong idea.


There’s parking for a 1000 cars. We also saw a few taxis drive in and out.


There’s the shops that appear everywhere in Doha such as the Body shop, but there’s also some less common ones. The Japanese Daiso is the nearest thing Qatar has to a pound shop, and what most of my friends seem to find most interesting. This is a shop with tonnes and tonnes of cheap stuff, and everything unmarked (and most of it is unmarked) costs 6 riyals. Some of it is junk, of course, but there’s also some very interesting things such as traditional Japanese toys. This shop is located opposite Mr Price and above a Homes R Us. Hyatt Plaza also a big focus on clothes, make-up and jewellery: there are many small stalls in the middle of the complex selling jewellery and there’s a large Paris Gallery selling perfume and make-up.


The supermarket here is Giant Stores. I’ve seen one or two scrubby looking Giant stores in town but this place is really quite good. It has a wide range of goods including computers and other electronics, the food counters are good and there’s a café to relax in the middle.


There’s the normal food court where you can have your fill of American and Arabic junk food. There’s also an Italian restaurant, Il Foro Romana, which is set in the middle of the hall surrounded by mock broken columns, several cafes including, of course, the inescapable Starbucks’. (Are they on the moon yet?).


This is quite a good place for kids. In addition to Mothercare, there is a toy store, an Early Learning centre, a Cute Cuts hairdresser and a "Jungle Zone", which resembles a miniature theme park with rides such as "jungle train" and “mountain coaster". You can also rent out rooms for children's parties, with Hyatt Plaza providing all the food and entertainment. In addition, on our most recent visit Hyatt Plaza had added inflatable slides, a bouncy castle and other amusements to an area of the parking lot outside.

Website: www.hyattplaza.com

Also see:

Gondolas in Villagio

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

The sounds of the animal market

Two young camels

Listen to the sounds of the animals and people at the live animal market in Doha.

Qatar Camels

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Discovering Qatar: by Frances Gillespie

ISBN 99921-70-32-8 Sponsored by RasGas
148 pp

Detailed information about Qatar, and especially about Qatar’s culture and history, is not easily available. So it was a real pleasure to discover Discovering Qatar, which deals with both the history and natural history of Qatar.

The book starts with an overview of the history of Qatar, from the first signs of people to the recent development of the country. It then focuses on specific areas of the country – and their history – and on the former lives of the Qatari people, so different until a few short years ago. The second half of the book explores the natural history of the peninsula, with sections on many of the land and sea creatures that inhabit Qatar. The book is illustrated throughout with superb photography.

The author and long term Doha resident, Frances Gillespie, is a former President of the Qatar Natural History Society, which organizes trips and lectures about Qatar, and coordinator of the Qatar Archeology Project . She has contributed to several books, and is a regular writer for the Gulf Times. In Discovering Qatar she has succeeded in producing a book which is full of detail but never fails to be fascinating.

Unfortunately Discovering Qatar is not yet available on Amazon, but you can pick it up in Qatar at Carrefour and local book shops, or email the author directly on gillespi[at]qatar.net.qa .

Also see Books, book stores and libraries in Qatar

See Qatar Visitor Bookstore for more books on Qatar.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Qatar's early history

Qatar’s early history is characterized by uncertainty and speculation. However, with the oldest of Qatar’s archaeological sites, Al Shagra, dating back to 6000 BC, the first habitation that historians can be certain of takes place at the end of the Stone Age.

One theory is that these early inhabitants were probably pastoral nomads, searching for grazing for their animals at a time when the climate was more temperate. An alternative theory is that they were hunter gatherers living on what cereals and plants they could gather as well as animals and sea creatures such as gazelle, onager (wild ass), hares, turtle and dugongs. They were probably also fisherman who utilized small and basic boats, and may have been involved in pearl diving. Shards of Ubud pottery, dating back to 5000 BC and originating from Iraq, suggests that some sort of trading network also existed.

Originally, it was thought that there may have been continuous habitation from this period on. Now it seems likely that there were long periods when Qatar was uninhabited. Findings from a site in Al Khor, which had previously been assumed to be from a wide range of cultures and times, have now been proved to be from between 5600 and 5300 BC. After 4000 BC the climate became drier and harsher, and it would have been difficult for nomads with cattle to survive. Dr Kullweit, quoted in a recent article in the Gulf Times (see sources below), suggested that these nomads may gradually have adopted camels and become the Bedouin of Arabia.

Later on Qatar was probably part of Dilmun, a Bronze Age kingdom which grew rich by providing a trading link between Mesopotamia and the Indus valley in India. Dimun was mentioned in the Summerian myth of the flood, and was later said to be the location of the survivors of the flood. Many archaeological sites associated with Dilmum are located on nearby Bahrain, but the kingdom covered the Eastern coast of Arabia, and Barbar Pottery, manufactured in Bahrain circa, 2450 – 1700 BC has been found in Ras Abrouq.

It is not clear exactly when Dilmun declined in importance, but it is probably linked to the collapse of the Indus civilisation in the second millennium and a decrease in the copper trade it controlled. Following Dilmun, Kassites, who had taken control of Babylon, were present in at least parts of Qatar. They used a tiny island in the bay of Al Khor to produce the royal colours of purple and scarlet by crushing sea snails, and Kassite ceramics have been discovered in Al Khor itself.

Ancient historians (Itabo and Herotodus) believed that Phoenicians were the first inhabitants of the area. While they could not have been the first (their civilization existed from around 3000 BC, and they only became a significant power from around 1100 BC), it’s interesting that they were famous for their purple die – produced from sea snails.

The Amiri Diwan website suggests that there was inhabitation during Roman and Greek times. A stone house has been founded in Ras Abrouq: this may have been part of a temporary fishing station. After this period there seems to have been no evidence of habitation for some centuries, although there may well have been nomads moving through the land: the camel had been domesticated and utilised for travelling in the third millennium BC. The Amiri Diwan website believes that Qatar again produced purple die, as well as pearls, in the third century AD, and acted as a trading link between West and East at the time of the Sassanids, a Persian Empire which existed from 226-651 AD.

Visitors to Qatar can see stone age tools and arrow heads in the Qatar Natural History Museum. Rock carvings can be seen in Jabal Al Jassasiya, and ancient burial mounds in Omm Slal Ali date to the third millennium BC.

Also see The Rise of the Qatar Ruling Family.



Gillespie, F. (2006) Discovering Qatar

Gotting, F. (1996) Healing hands of Qatar


Gillespie, F. (2007) in Gulf Times (January 12 2007)
Expert puts spotlight on region's rich archeological past


Amiri Diwan: History of Qatar http://www.diwan.gov.qa/english/qatar/qatar_history.htm

Wikipedia: Dilmun http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilmun

National Geographic: Who were the Phoenicians? Wikipedia: Sassanid Empire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sassanid_Empire

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Iranian Early History

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rumeila Park

Click here to listen to the sounds of birds in Rumeila Park

Rumeila park
Rumeila Park is located on Corniche Road and has probably the best outdoor children's play area in Doha, with slides, swings and climbing frames all placed on safe sand. There's a large water garden, with shops built around it, an open air theatre, a skateboarding half pipe (which children tend to slide down rather than skate up) and a couple of cafes. The heritage village is located at the Southern end, and showcases a traditional village plus arts and crafts; annoyingly, this is only open during festivals and special occasions. In addition to the water, grass and trees, attract birds, and you can see them play on the ground or listen to their song. There is also a great view across the water to Doha's ever-changing skyline.

Rumeila park

Also see Blogging in Sheraton Park

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Qatar fencing

Once again the clash of swords will be heard in Qatar, only this time it won’t be feuding desert tribes battling in the desert. The 4th Qatar Fencing Grand Prix (epee), with a total prize of $31,000, will be starting on the 19th January and running until the 21st. The event is being run by the Qatar Fencing Federation (www.qatarfencing.com), will consist of both individual and group events and will take place in the Aspire Academy in Sport City. On Friday, heats for the individual competition will start from 8.30, and on Saturday the competition will start at 9.00, culminating in the individual finals at 18.00. The team events will take place on Sunday, again starting at 9.00 and finishing at 18.00.

Contact details
Address: Qatar Fencing Federation
PO Box 22966 Doha, Qatar
Tel: +974 4838391/2
Fax: +974-4838314
Email: qff@olympic.qa

(When I rang to see how much the tickets were, the federation didn't know, although they thought it would probably be free).

Also see: Qatar football Clubs and societies in Qatar
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Qatar Grand Masters

The Qatar Grand Masters will be held from the 24th to the 27th January this month at the Doha Golf Club, with practice on the 21 and 22nd and the pro-am on the 23rd. Players competing for a total pot of $2.4 million will include Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and last year's winner Retief Goosen.

You don't have to be a golf lover to enjoy the event, as a walk round the superbly maintained grounds, not to mention the ability to sit outside in the sun and enjoy some of the free flowing alcohol from the beer tent, make a change from much of the rest of Qatar. At least, assuming the weather has warmed up by then!

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Swimming in the sea in Qatar – Is it safe?

In a country like Qatar, it’s truly a relief to cool off in the sea – and there are any number of almost deserted beaches in which to do so. But is it truly safe to swim in Qatar’s seas?

Before I frighten you with a list of hazards, I should mention that I (along with everyone else I know) go swimming in the sea all the time, I take my two year old daughter with me and I have heard of no fatalities in the two years I have lived in Qatar. However, I do wear wetsuit boots to protect my feet from both sharp coral and the possibility of stepping on a stone fish or sting ray.

Potential Hazards


Barbecuing is popular in Qatar. Unfortunately, many people do not clean up after themselves and every public beach seems to have broken glass hiding among the sand. It's best to avoid bare feet even before you get in the sea.


Should you get stuck in a current, the advice remains the same as ever – don’t swim against the current. Either swim across the current, or wait until the current stops and then swim back to shore.


There are both large and small species of jellyfish. I have only experienced mild irritation to the skin from the smaller types while fishing (waist deep) in the sea, but more poisonous species do exist, and some people on Qatar Living have reported very painful stings.

Sea snakes

Although there are several species of sea snakes living in coastal waters in Qatar, none of them are aggressive. Although poisonous, they do not represent any serious danger unless disturbed.

Stonefish and Lionfish

Qatar has two types of these deadly fish: stone fish (synanceia) and false stone fish (pseudosynanceia). Both normally occur around rocks, and as they have very effective natural camouflage they are extremely difficult to spot. Stone fish poison is very strong and stings can be fatal. Lion fish are also extremely venomous, but are more visible than Stone fish. In the event of someone being stung by any of these fish, get them to a hospital as soon as possible.


Despite recent publicity, stingrays are rarely fatal. Incidents happen when the fish is taken by surprise. I tend to splash about when entering the sea, to let the fish know I am coming - occasionally you may see the fish swim away as you approach. In the event of someone being stung, immerse the affected area in water as hot as the person can bear. The person should then be taken for immediate medical treatment.


The Persian Gulf has a huge range of sharks, from small harmless reef sharks and nurse sharks to hammerheads, tiger sharks and great whites. Despite this, it's really not something to worry about. Shark attacks are extremely rare, and sharks have more to fear from humans than we have to fear from them (see this article).


The threat you should worry most about it! Riding jet-skis in Qatar, like cars and motorbikes, is an opportunity for young men to behave like complete idiots, and youths compete to show off their skills and bravery.

This may seem a scary list, but as long as you avoid those jet skiers and take reasonable precautions you should be okay. You may also be lucky enough to see other, less scary species but equally fascinating species such as dolphins, turtles and the rare dugong or sea cow.

Also see:

Qatar Sea Slugs

Discovering Qatar by France Gillespie

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Grand Hamad Street

 A giant hand clutches the hilt of a sword in Grand Hamad Street

Grand Hamad Street is a broad road splitting the centre of Doha in two as it sweeps towards the Corniche. Off Grand Hamad Street you will find the branches of all the major banks as well as Khaleej Insurance. As you drive towards the Corniche, on your right you'll find the bus station, Kathindo - an Indonesian restaurant and shop - and, a little further back, the Gold Souq. On your left, in 2 grey buildings, you have Souq Al Ahmed. This souq has, in addition to other merchandise, a large range of clothing and tailors, while nearby Souq Najada mobile phone and telecommunications shops.

.Two giant swords touch to form an arc over Grand Hamad Street.Also see Ambitious plans for Doha

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Getting your car inspected

In Qatar, cars older than three years must have a yearly check. Fortunately, getting the technical inspection done is surprisingly painless. Once you have managed to actually get to the traffic inspection company (through the traffic snarls and potholes of the industrial area), the process is fast and efficient.

The inspection itself is meticulous. There are two areas you need to pass: the technical test, which evaluates the condition of the car, and the legal test. On the legal test you can fail on things such as a bad scratch or having dark windows (these need a police report in Qatar).

Getting there

It’s best to avoid busy Salwa Road and the awful roundabout at the end of it. Instead, take Muntazah street. Be careful - although this is a three lane highway with only desert to each side, the speed limit is 100 kmph , not 120, and there are speed cameras. This road will deliver you into the middle of the Industrial area, avoiding some of the worst roads. When you get to the Industrial area, go straight ahead at the roundabout onto street 33 and continue until you hit Al Kassarat Street. Turn right. You’ll drive past the Qatar technical Inspection Company, come to a roundabout and come back upon yourself. Don’t drive in through the front, instead turn right just before you get to the complex and drive round to the back entrance.

Before going

Before going to the centre I had a mechanic check my car over for faults, and he polished out a scratch. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher mounted in your car (available at the technical inspection company). I was advised by my garage to get my car jet washed, prior to the test. This involves washing the engine and underside of the car, although to be honest I didn’t bother.

What do you need

Your road permit , or a photocopy of it. That’s the small ownership card you get when you buy your car. That’s all you need. Good, isn’t it?

First check

Upon arriving drive round the back of the company and enter through gate number 1. Upon entering, take a ticket with a number on it. Park your car and enter the building. Wait for your number to come up, then hand your road permit and keys to the guy at the counter and pay the fee. He will put them in a bag with a slip for the inspector and a receipt. Exit the building, drive your car to the garage to the left of the office (assuming you are now facing the building). When you car is in the garage you exit your car and re-enter the building. You are not allowed to stay in the garage or speak to the inspectors, but you can watch from the office. (You can get a cup of tea while you do so. ) When the car has been finished (the process takes about ten minutes) your number will come up again. Collect your keys, road permit and report. The report will tell you if you have passed.


If you fail you get a free retrial, so long as you take it within thirty days. You will only get tested on what your car failed. When you return, tell the man on the gate that this is your retest. The process is then the same, except you use the garage to the right of the building.

After passing

When you have collected you report, don’t just drive away. Turn left and join the queue of cars driving past the next building. A man will look at your report, sign it and stamp it.

Insurance and road permit

The second building in the complex contains insurance companies booths and a traffic department. Unfortunately, when I was there most of the booths were unmanned and a typist told me I would be unable to get my insurance there anyway, which was a bit disappointing. I renewed my insurance at Khaleej Insurance, on Grand Hamad Street. (Ring +974 4414151 for details).


You can ring the QTIC on +974 4604029/4604086.

Extra services

QTIC operates a pickup service for addresses in Doha. Ring the number above to arrange. They also operate mobile testing units.

Also see Driving in Qatar

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Also see Gondolas in Villagio

Location: Between Sport City and Hyatt Plaza on Al Waab Street.

Villagio has a mock Italian design, which doesn’t really work on the outside but does on the inside. Its best feature is its ceiling, with the cloud effect successfully giving you a floating feeling of space. Though this place is far from finished, it will be successful as it has Carrefour as its anchor shop, meaning all and sundry will flock to it.

What’s there?

Not as much as there’s going to be – there’s a few shops already open, but there will be a total of 220 stores spread over 130,000 sq m of retail space (or 150,000, depending on where you get your information from), which just beats the 129,000 metres of retail space at City Centre Mall, currently the country’s largest. Apparently its going to have everything City Centre has got – ice rink, cinema, bowling alleys e,t,c – plus a rollercoaster just to top it off. It already has some of the old stalwarts you see everywhere such as Body shop and Next, but also some shops I haven’t seen elsewhere in Qatar, including Cool Cat and Top Shop. A Starbucks dominates the entrance, although you hardly have to go far to find one of these in Doha, or the overpriced coffee they sell.

Verdict: most of the shops are heavily focussed on clothes at the moment, although as you can get virtually anything you want in Carrefour, it hardly matters. It also comes close to succeeding in giving you that feeling of walking through a village, largely due to the sky ceiling. Should be truly impressive when it is finished.

Telephone: +974 4135444

Qatar Visitor Bookstore


Monday, January 08, 2007

The Sheikh Faisal Museum

Bus from Pakistan

(Full name) The Sheikh Faisal B. Qassim B. Faisal B. Thani B. Qassim B. Mohd. AL Thani Museum, Al Samariyah, Shahinaya, Qatar.


The museum, a member of UNESCO, is located on a huge estate near the camel racing track in Shahinaya. The estate also contains a variety of animals and game, including the rare oryx. The museum itself contains of a five halls, but will shortly double in size – an adjacent building, of similar size to the first, stands ready for exhibits.

The owner

The museum beA picture of a Bedouin Alongs to Sheikh Faisal, great great grandson of Jassim, who defeated the Ottomans in battle while in his eighties and is regarded by some as the founder of Qatar. Sheikh Faisal himself is an interesting man. He shared the same wet nurse as the Emir, and is known as the brother of the Emir although they are in fact second cousins. He’s a high profile and very successful businessman, and among numerous other enterprises owns the City Centre Mall in West Bay, currently the largest and busiest shopping mall in Qatar (Villagio will be larger when it is finished) and reputed to be seventh biggest in the world. He’s been collecting antiques since the 1960’s, and his museum has over three thousand exhibits, all beautifully presented.


The museum is open to all nationalities, although a permit should be obtained before visiting. This can be done by... We stopped off on the off chance, and were given the museum caretakers mobile number to ring. He very graciously not only allowed us to enter, but gave us a guided tour around the museum.

The museum is shut from 1st July to 31st August.

What’s there

The museum is divided into the following:

Islamic art: Really much more than Islamic art. Arms and armours forms a huge part of it, with spiked mogul helmets and ancient cannons making you glad you’re alive now and not them. Also includes jewellery, and wood work.

Classic cars- this superb collection, which charts the development of cars all the way from an ancient cart to classic American saloons - will soon have an entire building to itself.

Coinage and currency – covers all the major denominations.

Prints and manuscripts – This was particularly impressive. Ancient manuscripts dating back to 11 HD showed complicated mathematical diagrams, reminding viewers that much of the basis of maths came from Arabic writers.

Fossils – includes dinosaur eggs, rare and strange minerals collected from the desert fossil of a dinosaur embedded in a skeleton

There's also a library of about 12,000 books and manuscripts.

Getting there

You definitely need a car! Head out of Doha along Al Rayyan road, past the Qtel tower. When you have gone past the Al Rayyan football stadium you won’t have far to go. You’ll see a sign to the museum – head past until there’s an opening in the road and then do a U-turn. If you over-shoot just head onto the roundabout at Shahinaya and come back on yourself. There’s a long driveway up to the estate, where a security guard will greet you.

Contact details

Email: dr.t@antiquescity.net

Website: http://www.fbqmuseum.com/

Contact: Waheed Al Dulaimi
Mobile: +974 5691406
Landline: +974 4906715/4906716
Fax: +974 4869977

The New Old Souk

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Qatar tennis

Also see: Qatar football

Murray hits the ballThe 6th January 2007 saw the finals of the Qatar Open, with young Scotsman Andy Murray battling Ivan Ljubicic for a US$122,000 first prize, a golden falcon and a golden sword. Ivan took the match in two sets, winning both sets 6-4, although the nineteen year old Scot did get a golden dagger for coming second. (The next year the Scot went on to take the trophy in front of a crowd packed with his spectators.)

The tournament, a yearly event in Qatar, started in 1993 and entrance, even for the finals, is usually free.

With total prize money of mre than a million dollars, there have been some big names playing in the QatarRealisation that free tickets to the biggest Qatar tennis event of the year generates a sudden rush for tickets Open. Past players have included Boris Becker, Stefan Edberq, Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic, Thomas Muster, Jim Courier, Petr Korda and Marcelo Rios. World number one, Roger Federer, considered by many to be the best tennis player ever, won in 2005 and 2006, although he was absent in both 2007 and 2008.

So with all these players, Qataris must be keen on tennis? Well, not really - only a handful turned up to watch the finals, compared to several hundred Westerners. The Government, however, is enthusiastic about all things sporting, and has done its best to encourage the sport.

The Qatar tennis federation was formed in 1983, and since thenIvan Ljubicic, winner of the 2007 Qatar open instructors and training centres have been introduced into school, while children with the best potential have been selected at primary school age for the elite Aspire Academy. Tennis was taken up by the major sports clubs and league and cup competitions introduced. In 2001 Qatar also became the first country in the Middle East to hold a women’s tennis tournament: Qatar holds both the Qatar Open for Women and the ladies ITF tournament. Nevertheless, football continues to be the sport most young Qataris are passionate about, with tennis appearing to be more popular with expatriates. Some play even in the hot summer months, although the fearsome heat will deter most.


The tournaments take place in the Khalifa Tennis and Squash complex. (See map at the bottom of this post). This is not far from the Corniche, between Khalifa Street and Al Marhkiya Street, and near the General Post Office.

Sony Ericsson Movie

The 2008 Sony Ericsoson cup saw a match being played on the former Palm Tree Island.

Qatar Open Video

Watch the final play in the Murray v. Ljubicic match on YouTube.

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Khalifa tennis stadium


Friday, January 05, 2007

Map of Qatar

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The KDF Islamic Centre from Souq Waqif
On Friday morning this chair has been left outside a shop in Souk Waqif, opposite the KDF Islamic Centre. With an extremely low crime rate, it is common for shop owners to leave their shops open but unattended, or even leave large items outside overnight. This shop owner didn't leave his products, though - extremely valuable falcons.

After taking this photo, I was lucky enough to meet the architect. The KDF Islamic Centre represents a combination of five buildings, including the Qatar Centre for the Presentation of Islam. This is an organisation which tries to convert non-Muslims to the faith. The Centre also has a multi-purpose hall and is home to a bank. Three of the five buildings have separate entrances for men and women. The Mosque forms the centre of the building. The idea behind the combination of buildings was partly to attract non-Muslims, who might be scared of entering a mosque, into the building. The spiral shape of the tower is to symbolise touching with the sky and with Allah.

Coffee and dancing in Souq Waqif

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Thursday, January 04, 2007


The beach at Al KhorOlder than Doha but far smaller in size (the whole municipality had a population of 31,000 according to the 2004 census) and importance, Al Khor is located an easy 50 kilometres from the capital city, to the North of Doha. This former pearl fishing centre is currently under renovation – beautifully manicured flower beds greet you as you drive in from the desert, but the road alongside the Corniche is shut off and half the city seems to be being dug up.

What to do

There’s not a lot to do in Al Khor, although I always find it a refreshing change to Doha. The harbour is worth a visit, and there’s a fish market just in front of the harbour. There’s mangrove swamps to look at, which should prove popular for birdwatchers. You can walk along the beach, where several play areas have been set up for children, baseball nets strung up and sun shelters erected. Between the beach and the harbour, there’s a small museum, although to be honest it’s currently pretty rubbish. Amazingly, I noticed two public libraries, and a department for the promotion of culture.There may be more things to do in the future, as half the town is being rebuilt, though its probably worth wandering round the town now to appreciate the older buildings and wind towers before they get knocked down.


Bull dozers at work in Al Khor on a dark and chilly December dayThere’s a Hamad Medical Corporation Hospital nearby, but most of the facilities available are in Al Khor community. This is a housing complex for employees of Qatar Gas and Ras Gas. The community has a population of four thousand and has a medical centre, a supermarket and several clubs for its inhabitants with swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts and so on. Al Khor International School was established at the behest of Qatar Gas and Ras Gas, and is a satellite school of Doha English Speaking School. Education is also available in French.

School contact details:

Doha English Speaking School Al Khor (DESS),
Address: Al Khor community, PO Box 22166, Doha, Qatar
Website: http://www.akdess.com/school.htm
Email: akisbs@qatar.net.qa
Tel: +974-4734666
Fax: +974-4734665


Despite being a small town with a population of 30,000, Al Khor has a 20,000 capacity stadium and a football team in the Q league.


Second course at a Turkish restaurant in Al Khor There’s a few restaurants strung along AL Khor’s main street – the vast majority of which seem to be Turkish. You can have some very good food here for very good prices – try asking them to put you together a platter of mixed food.


Al Sultan Beach Resort is a new and plush hotel with 224 rooms, all equipped with with wireless internet. It’s also the only hotel we could find. We were quoted a pricey 1200 riyals ($330) for a night in a standard room.

Contact: Tel: 4722666 Fax: 4724111 Reservation: 5766660

Around Al Khor

There's some public gardens just outside Al Khor, and at nearby Al Thakira there are salt marshes which provide a very different scene to the normally dry desert. If you are feeling brave, cross the salt marshes in search of the Al Thakira beach. Losail racing circuit is located halfway between Doha and Al Khor, and has a number of races throughout the year. If you have got a four by four you could also visit the rock carvings at Jabal Jassiya.

Getting there:

If you go along Suhaim Bin Hamad , carry along under the new underpass by Hamad hospital, and just keep going straight! You’ll drive into and through the desert, past Losail Racing Track, until you hit the town. You can normally head straight through town and then back along the Corniche, but currently you need to head through the centre of town, past two mosques, and take the third exit off the roundabout after the public library. This will take you to the fish market, museum and beach.

Also see: Messaieed Industrial City

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Iran Visitor: Tehran



Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Desert cold

While I was driving this afternoon my phone rang and I passed it to my friend to answer. It turned out to be my wife. After starting to exchange pleasantries, my friend’s voice suddenly rose with excitement.

“What! Are you sure? Yes, we’re on our way now.” Then he put my phone down and turned to me. “Carrefour, now, and put your foot on it. They’ve got heaters!”

As you might have guessed things are starting to get ridiculous around here. At a time when, according to this article ,Siberian winds are sweeping the region, we are living in accommodation designed for blistering desert heat - large roomy houses with high ceilings and powerful, though currently useless, air-conditioners. Often, it's colder inside the house than it is outside. When I had dropped in at my friend's house earlier he was sitting on his sofa with a duvet pulled around him. Fully clothed.

We shouldn’t complain: its not the coldest it’s ever been. It was slightly colder in 1964, apparently, although not for very long. At least no-one is living in tents anymore, as many still were then.

However, we are living in a country with no heaters left. And when there are heaters, news gets out and there’s a rush on them. When Lulu hypermarket got a consignment in a few days ago, there was a mob around the heaters, and they were sold out in minutes.

So did we get a heater? We located the customer advisor - who had been nabbed by a lady presumably acting on the same rumour we’d heard - and he promised they would be in by 5.00 tonight. Or maybe tomorrow. If not then, definitely the day after. He refused our offer of a bribe to reserve us one, but I‘ve got his phone number, and I’ll be ringing him shortly before five tonight. Who knows, I could be down to two duvets and a single set of pyjamas tonight.

Also see: Record rain in qatar

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