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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Qatar Internet Freedom - How Far Can We Go?

What can you say on the Qatar Net, and what will get you into trouble?

That's what Shabina attempts to find out in her latest article: Maintaining Boundaries on the Internet - How Far is Too Far?

The article follows on from the recent furor over the Qatar Living post criticising the behaviour of young Qataris on National Day, and Shabina manages to talk to many of the key players involved in the issue.

Despite the contradictory laws on the issue, Shabina also does her best to provide some guidelines for internet users, and the article is a must read for anyone contributing content to the Qatar web.

Click here to read the full article.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Silver Work in Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif is one of my favourite places in Qatar, always full of interesting corners to be explored. In one of these corners we discovered this gentleman hard at work making a silver ring.


Hot flames burn as this jewelry maker focuses on a silver ring.Close up of the silver work.







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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shame on Qatar National Day - Apology

An apology has been posted on facebook for the thread on Qatar Living which caused the recent outrage in Qatar.

To All the Qataris who I have hurt and upset, I will repeat this one last time in the hopes that the sincere message will finally be accepted. I am deeply sorry for criticizing anything related to the celebration of your special day and using such a thoughtless choice of words and tone. It is very clear after the 2 days of hell that I have been going through that my words hurt and that they opened up a platform for more hurtful words. I am grieving as a Muslim to know that my brothers and sisters feel such anger, outrage and hurt for something I did.
A number of Qataris accepted the apology, some very graciously, with one writing:
Apology accepted and the case is dismissed :) Thank you Lisa for taking the time and effort to write the above apology message.. It proved that you have a kind heart inside of you and that you are open to listen to others’ opinions’ and advices regarding your actions.
You can read the full apology and the replies here: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=209632513836&topic=12733

Incidentally, I have read the original post (thanks to Shabina and her post on the furore on Global Voices, which links to the cached version here), and I don't think it was meant as an attack on Qataris or Qatar, rather a criticism of the behaviour of Qatari youths on National Day. The problem is perhaps the rather strident way in which it was written (at a time of emotion).

Qatari blogger Amal Al Malki seems to confirm this, writing:

Criticism can be harsh. I think that criticism should be harsh, and that burying one’s head never changed anything. It is only when some one exposes the problematic status quo, critiques it and provides alternatives that a situation changes. In order to progress, we need to constantly evaluate our present to better our future. Yet, the criticism needs to come from a good place within us—one that hopes for the prosperity of one’s country.

What makes us angry isn’t the criticism in specific but its language!

It's also very true that criticism of our own country is much harder to take from an expat that from oneself or one's country people. I know Brits who always moan about the UK but bristle when foreigners start putting the country down.

So there's a balancing act for us expats who like to shoot their mouth off. On this blog, we take the view that we are not here to change Qatar - that's a job for Qataris, should they wish to do so. That doesn't mean we don't want to write about these issues, though, not least because one of the aims of the blog is to provide information for people thinking of coming to Qatar, and trying to decide if Qatar is right for them. To do that we need to give our opinion.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

QatarLiving.com needs to be careful

According to an article in the Peninsula a Qatari is demanding an apology from QatarLiving.com after critical comments were posted on the website.


The comments had in fact been removed by moderators, but it shows the difficulty in running a huge forum with thousands of posters.

I remember discussing this with QatarSocial.com, who told me that I was lucky to run an information website where I did not need to constantly monitor new content being added.

The article and the attack were not really fair on QatarLiving.com, especially as they had both promoted the event themselves and removed the offending comments - I personally can't see what else they be expected to do!

Interestingly, the post on Qatar Living that chronicled the article copied the Peninsula article word for word without linking to the original article.

This is another area Qatar Living really has to be careful with. Not only are Qatar Living users opening the website up to lawsuits should internet copyright ever be enforced (and those whose copyright is most often stolen, the Gulf Times and The Peninsula, would certainly have the resources to do so,) they could also end up having their website removed from Google's indexes and their adsense accounts being removed under the Digital Millenium act.

This would be a disaster. Qatar Living has been a huge success, not just for the website owner but also for Qatar. The website demonstrates that, online at least, Qatar has a measure of freedom of speech. (A measure, because, as the removal of comments show, Qatar Living, like all of us, practises self-censorship (which is really, censorship as Nigel pointed out in the comments).) What's more, it's Qatar's number one English language social networking site, and social networking, according to Google, is a prerequisite for e-commerce.

With Qatar and ICT pouring money and effort into developing IT and the internet in Qatar, Qatar Living is unlikely to be closed down any time soon. But the website does need to be careful!

Update: WeirdWeb has just pointed out that some Qatari students have set up an anti-Qatar Living page on facebook. There is some rather scary stuff on that page!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Al Jazeera - getting more critical of Qatar?

This is a video I have only just stumbled across, although it is not exactly new.

What I found interesting about it, though, is not so much the story but the veiled criticism of Qatar and the Gulf States. It's particularly interesting for us at the moment, as we are working on an article exploring just what we can and can't say on the Qatar net.



Al Jazeera has been criticised in the past for not criticising Qatar, and this could be part of a deliberate attempt to be more balanced.

The Emir himself has said that the channel should be independent, even when the ruler who sponsors it disagrees with the content (see middle of the video below for the relevant content - unfortunately the content is repeated several times!):


After several years here, I am starting to get more surprised over what has not been censored than what has been censored. Thousands and thousands of threads (if not hundreds of thousands) have been posted on QatarLiving.com, many of which have been critical of Qatar or which have discussed religion, and only one has been censored over the last four years.

And I've yet to hear of a blog being censored..

Sadly, what is censored is often done so by mistake - Qtel seems to block many useful sites for web developers. Surely this is through error rather than by design?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

HSBC: Qatar Worst Place for Making Friends With Locals

In a recent HSBC survey of how well expats mix with locals, Qatar ranked last out of 26 countries.

It only confirms what many expats know to be truth. While Qataris are often very friendly, we tend to move in different circles, have very different lifestyles - and have a vast cultural chasm that can be hard to bridge.

Yousra has also argued that Qatar men are very shy, putting up another barrier to integration.

In addition, the majority of people come to Qatar to make money rather than to experience the culture.

Perhaps more worrying, Qatar ranked last out of all the countries measured in terms of overall satisfaction, and only scored reasonably in two areas - managing finances (8) and healthcare (13).

The Middle East location is no excuse. Despite lower salaries in the country, expats ranked nearby Bahrain a very impressive 5 - which put it ahead of France and the US.

If you are British, don't gloat. Our performance was also far from impressive - a miserly 23!

Download the full report here.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Rain in Qatar

Most of the year the weather in Qatar is dry and dusty - when it does have storms they are dust or sand storms rather than rain.

When it does have a downpour, the city's drainage systems can struggle to cope, with some smaller streets flooding.




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Sunday, December 13, 2009

National Day Events

Vodafone and ILoveQatar have produced an excellent guide to what's on on National Day. Check it out here: National Day 2009.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Football in Dubai

Our partner blog Soccerphile is covering the footie in Dubai. In the latest post our writer struggles to navigate round a city confused by traffic works, attends some football matches - and bears witness to some crowd trouble. Check out World Club IV for more info.

Qatar Blogging Conference

Kudos to ICQ Qatar for holding the first ever Qatar blogging conference at the Sharq Village and Spa!

My favourite speakers were Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategist blogger, Ahmad Hamzawi, Head of Google Engineering for the MENA* area, as well as Qatar Visitor writer Shabina.

Of particular interest to business bloggers were several opportunities that Jermiah and Ahmad identified for Qatar.

One was in web services and analytics - after Ahmad pointed out that Technorati did not cover Arabic speaking sites Jeremiah argued that this was an area of opportunity, although not everyone in the audience agreed. Another area that was not mentioned, but seems a pretty obvious one, is keyword analytics - wordtracker is a popular paid service in the UK and the US, but does not cover the Middle East.

You can check out Jeremiah's presentation and comments from the bloggers involved here: Meet the Arabic Blogosphere.

Areas for Improvement

One small criticism was the lack of access to the internet. Neither I nor my partner in crime were able to access the wireless - perhaps in the future ICT could provide a password for the Sharq Village and Spa network?

Also, an area I felt needed to be covered is just what Qatar bloggers can talk about, and where are the no go areas. Giving us some guidelines in what we can write about would both give us more confidence in our posting and prevent us from getting into trouble!

Web Strategy Presentation

Here is the presentation, hosted on one of the tools Jeremiah mentioned in the workshop.



Food

As always the food at the Sharq was excellent - especially the rare lamb. And while unfortunately my pictures of the event itself didn't come out well, I did snap an okay one of the delicious lamb, hamour and prawns:

Delicious buffet lunch at the Sharq Village and Spa


*Middle East and North Africa

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

To the Defence of Dubai

A few months ago an article entitled The Dark Side of Dubai upset a lot of people in the Emirate.

It told the story of people sleeping in cars because of debt, of workers trapped without their passport being paid a quarter of their promised wages, of European expats having the time of their life while ignoring the poverty stricken workers around them.


A lot of it rang true, and there are similarities with Qatar. Even Al Jazeera ran a documentary on workers who don't get paid in Qatar, and the Gulf Times occassionally runs stories on people stuck here because of debt.

(One heart breaking story was that of an American who had borrowed money to pay for his mother's medical treatment. His mother died, he lost his job and was then stuck here with mounting debt, no way to get out of Qatar until he had paid for it and no way to pay it.)

Now in the Gulf News Linda Heard has risen to the defence of Dubai, attacking Johan Hari:

What's his problem? Did the five-star hotel in which he stayed in Dubai forget to deliver his laundry on time? Does he have an agenda? Or has he been dodging too many bullets for too long?
How dare he complain about Dubai after staying in a nice hotel there!

Johan Hari shouldn't, it seems, have asked a poor girl about slavery when she was having such as wonderful time in Dubai.

Chain gangs don't exist - she calls them his "chain gang hallucinations" - and in any case, even if they do it doesn't matter because it is worse in the US and the UK.

Of course, terrible things do happen in the UK and the US. However, I don't see the logic which says it is okay for bad things to happen in the Middle East if they also happen in the West. Surely we should criticise bad things wherever they happen? (Except in Dubai, of course, where everything is perfect.)

The article rang false. But this piece that I read about the writer did not:

She's rarely wrong in what she says but she's consistently only half-right -- the half that her readers want to hear.

She carefully leaves out all issues and facts which are uncomfortable to Arab readers.
(Source: Liberal Propoganda.)

Essentially, her article in the Gulf News is propoganda - she's a Western writer paid to make Arab readers feel better.

Which explains her outrage that Johan Hari should dare to care about the workers in the country after being treated to a stay in a luxury hotel!

But I wonder how comfortable she feels with herself...


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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Compulsory Marriage Testing in Qatar

If you want to get married in Qatar and you want to do so without a battery of medical tests, you ought to do it quickly.

Qatar plans to introduce compulsory medical screening for couples planning to get married from the 13th December.

And it's not just for Qataris - locals and residents will also be affected.

While this might have raised eyebrows in the West, it's perhaps not that bad an idea in a country where it is normal to marry within the family, with a huge proportion of people still marrying their cousins - a tradition thought to increase the risk of developing certain diseases.

If you want more information on how to tie the not in Qatar check out our recent article: Getting Married in Qatar.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Seafood at the Grand Hyatt

We've eaten at a few brunches in Doha, but this one in the Grand Hyatt in Qatar is easily the best. Here you can see poached lobster, mussels, squid, steamed prawns and smoked salmon. We blinked at the price but after eating there we think it deserves the price tag!



And if you think this looks good you should have tried the short ribs...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Have you seen this dog?

Evelyn has contacted us asking for help in finding her lost dog.

This very unusual dog, who has the unusual ability to howl like a human singer whenever you say the word Tabouleh (check out the video below), answers to the name of Bonaparte.

The dog was previously stolen and resold to a British lady, who later found out that she belonged to Evelyn.

Evelyn is suspicious again, as her posters seeking information are continually being taken down.

If you have seen this dog, please contact us on admin [@] qatarvisitor.com and we will forward the email to Evelyn.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ten Qatar Employers Share Their Favourite Interview Questions

Several people have asked us for common interview questions in Qatar.

To answer this question, we went out and asked Qatar recruiters what their favourite interview questions were - and what answer they were looking for.

The Employers


In Qatar, you can find almost every nationality under the sun.

And though the backbone of the country's economy is oil, you'll find almost every industry here.

That's why we interviewed employers from several different nationalities and industries.

Hamida, for example, is an Indian lady who runs a recruitment agency. She wanted to know why people would want to come to Qatar.

Meanwhile, Patricia, the Canadian deputy dean of the College of the North Atlantic, was interested in how people could relate current research to real life problems at work.

The Answers

We weren't just interested in what questions people asked. We also wanted to know what answers they were looking for.

Several interviewers mentioned that they weren't just interested in what people said.

Some were looking for enthusiam (a 'twinkle in the eye' said Khalifa) while others were studying body language.

To view all the questions - and answers - click here.

To keep up with our job related articles, sign up here.

Are you an employer?

We are still collecting employer's favourite questions and answers. If you have any, please send them to us!



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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Servant's Stories

Servants in Qatar have taken a bit of a bashing recently.

Local newspapers have focussed on how they can't be trusted, with some Qatar Livers jumping in to agree.

To top it all off, this newspaper cartoon was published, though no one knows whether it's more maid bashing or whether it is satirising the current attitude towards servants in Qatar.

Maid abusing child.
In our latest article, we asked servants from the Indonesian embassy's shelter to tell us there side of events.

See what they have to say in Servant's Stories.


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Monday, November 23, 2009

Westerners care for animals, not pets?

Our most recent article is a piece about pets in Qatar.

In it Fiona Murray questions Qataris about why dogs - with the exception of Salukis - are considered dirty in Qatar, and takes a trip to the Qatar Animal Welfare Society, recently devestated by fire.

The idea for the article was sparked off by an conversation I had with a Qatar Sheikh I met in the falcon souq.

He was sitting there, a hooded bird perched on a thick glove.

He was a friendly gentleman, but got quite angry over the issue of animal rights, especially where it concerned hunting.

"You Westerners care more about animals than people," he complained. "When there are people starving to death all over the world, why are you fussing about a few animals?"

Like many people in Qatar, he can not understand Westerners' fuss over animals.

But does he have a point? Are we more concerned about animals than people?

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Qatar 2022 - First Ad


This is the first ad of the Qatar 2022 bid (which I found on Naz Qatar's twitter feed.) You can also follow the bid team's effort on Twitter at (or should I say @) Qatar2022Bid.




Friday, November 20, 2009

Job Interviews: Just how useful are they?

Talking the Talk Versus Walking the Walk

We're currently interviewing interviewers about job interviews (I really wanted to say that!), and are coming up with lots of interesting material for our next website article. (Favourite interview questions in Qatar, for our Qatar jobs section!)

However, to me it seems there is a fundamental problem with interviews. Essentially, that you are always testing what people can say as opposed to what people can actually do.

Like me, you probably know people who can really talk the talk - people who sound like experts, but who are completely useless at their job.

You may also know people who aren't the best talkers, but who do quietly get on with their job - and produce really good work.

Personally, I am far more interested in what people can do than what people can say.

We only employ freelancers to work on the websites, but I recently chatted to one of these freelancers before giving her an assignment.

She really had absolutely nothing to say. She said so little, I barely knew she could speak English. She had, however, sent in a really good piece of work as an example, so I took her a risk and gave her a piece of writing to do.

She's done about eight articles for us since then, and they have all been excellent.

Which makes me wonder - just how useful are interviews?


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Win a Ticket to the "After Shows Party"

I Love Qatar are running a competition to win two tickets to the After Shows Party on December 3rd in The Majlis Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel Doha.

It's a competition with a difference, as to enter you have to suggest the theme of the next competition.

Check out The Competition Competition for details.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Do you interview people in Qatar?

Qatar Visitor is collecting popular job interview questions in Qatar.

We are also interested in whether different nationalities are looking for different things in interviews.

Essentially we want to know:

What are your favourite questions in an interview?
What are you looking for in an answer?
Your nationality.
Your company.

If you want to let us know please email us on admin [at] QatarVisitor.com, direct message us via twitter (@qatarvisitor) or leave a message on Facebook. We'll include a link to your company website with any interview questions/answers we publish.

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A Test for England - and Qatar!

Also see: Qatar 2022 Bid on the website.

The football match between England and Brazil will be a test not just for England but for the tiny Gulf country of Qatar too.

It's the biggest match ever held here, and Qatar has no experience of England fans.

Journalists are here to cover the match, and are already impressed with the sporting infrastructure.

One wrote:

"This correspondent was left slack-jawed after being shown around one of its incredible sport development institutes earlier on Friday."

The country has also won praise for its sports academy.

From buying talent from abroad, Qatar has changed to recruiting the best talent, training and nurturing them, and returning them to their home country.

One thing Qatar can't do anything mcuh is the heat, at least outside the stadiums.

It's in the cool season, though unusually warm compared to previous years, yet Fabio has already joked that the best place to hold the match would be in an air-conditioned hotel.

There's also the reaction of the fans to consider when they realise they can only celebrate/commiserate the end of a match in expensive bars, where the price of a beer can sometimes approach ten pounds a pint!

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She knew that they might take him!

The British community has been keenly following the heartbreaking case of the British mother whose son was abducted in Qatar.

Tricked into signing a custody form, she has now lost her young son to the family of her deceased husband.

One friend, who has lived in the Gulf for many years, tells me that the British embassy often warn British nationals seeking to get married of the possible consequences of divorce.

"You realise that if you ever separate, you may never see your child again," is the stark warning he said British nationals were given.

Unfortunately, when you are young and in love you are generally prepared to risk the consequences - if you can envision there will ever be any.

This case was slightly different, of course - it was not even the father claiming custody, but his family. Specifically, I believe, his grandmother.

Now one Qatari, though not wholly unsympathetic, writes:

"I think the mother is to be blamed. She was married to a Qatari for god sake. She knows our laws. She knew that they might take him."

You've been warned!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Qatar Martial Arts Actor

Aukment is a film starring Qatar martial arts actor, Ahmad Al-Suilaiti. I didn't actually know there was a Qatar martial arts actor, but I followed the link from Mr Q's blog post on Celebrity Qataris.

The film is actually based on Ahmad's own story. According to an interview on Qatar Happening, Ahmad ran away to Thailand to become a proffessional fighter and, as in the story, ended up joining a martial arts camp.

We're fascinated, and will try to find out more. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer below...




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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Qatar Bloggers Event

ICT Blogging Event
ICT Qatar is holding an event for bloggers on Saturday 12th December.

The event will be held at ICT Qatar, and if past events there are anything to go by the food will be fabulous!

The event seems partly aimed at the corporate world, although I think they'll have a hard time getting the majority of Qatar companies into blogging. (And when they do they will probably be the boring company blogs no-one wants to read!)

However, the invitation does say bloggers, and even "individuals interested in blogging" should attend.

Apparently there are also some well known bloggers attending, although the flyer I have been sent doesn't say who. (I have tweeted and emailed for more info.) It could be some big names, as they had some impressive people speaking at their media conference - Darren Rowse? Shoemoey? (Update - speakers include Jeremiah Owyang, Ahmed Hamzawi, Ammar Mohamed & more - check out this page on ICT Qatar for more info.)

I think I'll do a John Chow, and just blog about the food...


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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fourteen Reasons why you should leave Qatar

Before anyone accuses me of being overly negative, check out my 10 reasons to stay in Qatar. Although, worryingly, I can think of 4 more reasons to leave than to stay. Then again, I am British, and we are very good at moaning!

1. With a maid to clean and cook, you are becoming spoilt.

Or, instead of thinking how unfair it is that maids have to do all your cooking and cleaning, you spend all that valuable new free time you have moaning about servant problems.

2. You should also consider leaving if you are the maid doing the housework, and you are getting sick of spoilt expats.

3. Your children are growing up here. When you go home, it will not be their home, but at the same time they can never truly belong to Qatar. They will grow up without ever truly belonging to one place.

4. The driving and the drivers are nuts.

5. You are becoming racist. It's a strange thing, a thing which my wife pointed out to me, but many people seem to become racist here. Perhaps its human nature that a melting pot of human culture can lead more often to mutual disrespect than to mutual understanding.

6. You are sick of living by the sea but having no decent beach to visit. And while the Corniche is lovely, it drives you mad that you can't dive into that gorgous sea.

7. The weather may be okay now, but in the summer it is just way too hot.

8. If you could make as much money, or even nearly as much money, at home. Alternatively, you would make less money, but when you figure in living costs it would be the same.

9. The H Tax - (housing, according to Johnson) - the large amount of their pay some employees have to spend on housing. Although, to be fair, this is coming down.

10. The traffic is going to get worse - much worse! Did you realise that there are ten thousand new cars being added a month to the roads? Expect gridlock well before Qatar's planned train system arrives. And expect road chaos while the train system is being built.

11. If someone else with the same (or fewer) skills and the same (or less) experience as you is getting paid more because they are a different nationality.

12. If you are an Asian man and are sick of being turned away from malls because of the colour of your skin.

13. English breakfast...

14. QBS.



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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

News Flash: Junk Food Good For Kids!!!

A Mac Donalds LogoBrillant news broke out from Qatar, and will cause celebrations around the world.

McDonalds is healthy - especially for children!

According to the Peninsula article, an outstanding (and, of course, independent) piece of journalism in its own right, Mc Donalds:

" is a leader in promoting healthy lifestyle for children and their happy meals are enjoyed by children and adults alike. McDonald’s always pay attention to their young customers and make sure to provide them with nutritious meals and toys to simulate their imagination, in addition to play areas for them to exercise and play. "

Here's one person who will be pleased:

An image of David SpurlockSpurlock, author of:


Cover: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America
And director of Supersize Me.

He used to think Mac Donalds was unhealthy (check out the trailer below), and will no doubt be relieved to know that the opposite is in fact the case.

Shameful!

Despite this revelation, many parents are still insisting on feeding their children at home, and forcing salad, vegetables and fruit down the protesting victims' throats.

Some try to force their children to appreciate the food and recipies built up in their cultures over hundreds of years.

To which we say - Shame on You!

No doubt it's parents like you who are the reason why Qatar has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.

Throw out the vegetables. Flush the juice down the toilet. And pack your kids into your Landcruiser and take them for a nice health meal of coke, big mac and chips.

And Ignore This Rubbish Below!



Also check out: Krispey Kreme Invade Qatar

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Monday, November 09, 2009

The Best Blogs in Qatar

It's time for another update on our favourite Qatar blogs. We've done this before, but sadly many of our favourite blogs have disappeared or been abandoned. In the meantime new ones have risen up to take their place. And, of course, there are some which have just passed us by before...

Mimiz Qatar: Diary of a Qatari Girl

This is a new blog for us which has just been pointed out by Dohanews. However, from a first reading it looks awesome. Recent posts talk about life in Qatar, a visit to Mecca spoiled by the religious police, and her thoughts and feelings in London. Check out Are You Really that Racist? for a heart wrenching story of what life is really like in Qatar

A Day in Qatar

Follow the life of writer Mohana as she struggles with learning Arabic - and having a year with no new clothes. (She'll get no sympathy from me, as a year without clothes shopping sounds like heaven...) Read for long thoughtful posts on life in Qatar and in general.


Hack the Bone

Meredith (is this Meredith from Twitter?) and DKM blog about various topics - idiotic Americans making fools themselves on Twitter, the Tribeca film festival, getting tipsy at a party, puppies - basically, anything they feel like. Read for fun, lighthearted posts.


Moz Boondoggle

A little bit of nepotism, as Shabina does a monthly article for us. She's (obviously) a superb writer, and probably keeps up with Qatar affairs more than anyone else in Doha via her twitter feed. (You can keep up with her twitter feed via the rss feed on her blog or follow here.) On her blog she links to or posts her latest articles, including those on Qatar Visitor (okay, we said this was a bit nepotistic!) and Global Voices online.

Amal Al-Malki

This is a very different blog from most of those listed here. Beautifully designed, the blog is intended as a forum for creative writing, both in English and in Arabic. Read it for thoughtful writing, or get involved and do some writing yourself.

Mr Q

Mr Q, who runs I Love Qatar, gives us the Qatari perspective on events in Qatar. Despite the name of his website, he's not always positive. Read for the (male) Qatari viewpoint.

Ummon

A Qatar based magazine editor blogs about her children, Qatar, Arabs (and how their achievements compare to India) and many other things. Read for a feel of a Qatari lady's life.

Aisha's blog

Aisha is another Qatari (I think) who blogs away on Qatar Living. Her blog is more of a traditional weblog than one focussed on Qatar Happenings. Read to follow the life and musings of a Qatari lady.

Marjorie in Qatar

Marjorie in Qatar continues to blog strongly, and from the many comments on her blog it seems that she has many loyal followers. Read for good and sometimes amusing posts on life/ society in Qatar.

Mohammed N

Mohammed N keeps us updated with his work for Al Jazeera. Read for the latest news on Qatar's homegrown international news network.

Sybils and Krit's Qatari Adventures

The adventures of an American expat adjusting to life in Qatar. Has lots of pictures of Qatar, with some great ones of the recent tennis. Read for a personal view of Qatar. (Whatever you do, don't insult the Hello Kitty pics.)

Off the Press

From the struggles of the staff to survive in Qatar to the details of what's behind Qatar's events, Off the Press is a blog by the Doha What's On guide Qatar Happening. Read for recipies, recommends and the stories connected to the happenings.


This is an interesting blog by a sceptic in Qatar. Keen to meet Qataris - he even goes on holiday with his Qatari buddy - he blogs about what he finds strange in Qatar as well as personal matters (wisdom teeth!).

Please let us know in the comments if there are any blogs that we have missed...

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Let's Pick on Maids

It seems to be pick on maids time in Qatar at the moment.

Background

If you are visiting from the West, you have to understand that it is normal for families, both Qatar and expat, to hire a 'maid' in Qatar.

These maids can be paid as little as QAR600 or 700 riyals a month (about a hundred English pounds).

For this they frequently work six days a week.

Some maids are treated badly. Maids in Qatar have been tortured, raped and murdered.

I think this is probably the minority, though - speaking a couple of Asian languages, I have chatted to quite a few maids and most are miserable because they are desperately lonely and homesick, and sick of dealing with badly behaved children.

(One maid said to me, after one of her little charges had bitten the other: "If I was back in my village, we would give this little brat a good thrashing".)

The happiest seem to be those working with families of their own nationalities, or those working on a part time basis for several different families.

A Wonderful Woman

We had a maid for a while.

Originating from India, she had originally been a school teacher, but events had conspired against her.

She was hardworking, intelligent and caring. Our children adored her, and we trust her to this day.

She still does a little work us, but even when she is not working she will often drop in to see the children.

Our only complaint is that she spoils the children rotten.

Kick Them While They are Down

A common conversation topic in Qatar is "servant problems".

Perhaps because of a desire to assuage guilt, it's also a common story in the Gulf Times.

One Gulf Times story reported that, in reaction to concern about maids, some researchers went and interviewed many domestic employers.

They came back with horror stories about the maids. No-one, however, thought to ask the maids how they felt or what they had experienced.

Now a new horror story in the Gulf Times covers a maid who rented out a baby to beggars.

The story occurred in India, not Qatar.

'Shocking Business'

Immediate condemnation followed in Qatar Living.

Said one:
"every local over here hired housemaids... are they aware of the fact...or the laws here are strict enough so no maid have the courage to behave bad towards the kid."
Another writer complained:
It is not all that easy to find a trustworthy maid nowadays. Even if you think you have a good caring maid, you need to be right on top of them to monitor their freedom, activities and local connections. A surprise visit at times and continuous monitoring would allow you to assess the situation and act accordingly.
Another advised:
once in a while it is wise to come home early or un-scheduled. This way a parent could catch a maid off-guard should she be doing something fishy.

Any truth?

We hire servants for pennies and expect them to be wonderful people.

And sometimes they are. I know of one who is holding a whole family together.

(She prepares food, picks the children up and gives them the love and attention they need while the mother gads about town.)

However, these child carers are, for the most part, unvetted and untrained. Incidents and problems are inevitable.

At the moment, though, only one side of the story is being told...

WeirdWeb

On Twitter, Nigel Gourlay complains:
"How poorly people treat those who care for their children. In previous compound, one maid was being starved by employers."
He went on to describe how the other maids bought food and vitamins for her, before describing how another servant was being beaten by her employers.

Nigel ended up putting that one in a taxi to her embassy.

I suspect there are many other maids' stories out there which are not being told...

Update: Get the other side of the story with our article, Servant's Stories.


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Messenger of Peace

A scene from the Message
A scene from the original film

During the ground breaking Tribeca festival recently held in Doha an astonishing announcement was made.

The story of Islam and the life of Mohammed, if current plans are to go ahead, are to be made into a film.

Astonishing because, according to Islamic law, neither Mohammed nor his direct family may be represented in film.

Making a film about a Mohammed without Mohammed appearing can be done. The 1970's film The Messenger managed a whole film about the Prophet without us hearing his voice or seeing his face. (His staff does, though, appear at the end, smashing the false idols in the Kaaba.)

To help them produce a film worthy of the Prophet and the huge potential audience it would have, the Qatari company commissioning it hope to enlist Barri Osbourne, who has previously worked on the Matrix and Lord of the Rings.

For our take on the film and its implications check out The Messenger meets Lord of the Rings.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

10 Reasons to Stay in Qatar

A view of the city from a Doha beach
You're spending way too much time waiting in traffic, your salary is worth half what it was a few years ago and you've just had a bad day at work.

We all have those times when we start wondering if it's time to go home.

Here's ten reasons to stay...

1. It's cold, wet and miserable at home, everyone's moaning about the recesssion and you've forgotten what its like to go weeks without seeing the sunshine. (Only valid if you are from England or some equally grey place.)

2. So the traffic is bad. It's bad everywhere, in fact it's worse in many places - and at least Doha is small!

3. There's no work back home.

4. Even though your salary may not be worth as much as it used to be, chances are it is still better than you would get back home - and it's tax free.

5. It's true that it's hard to get a drink - but on the plus side there's no fighting in the street, there are no violent yobs puking outside pub doors and you can go out any place in the city at any time of night and feel safe.

6. There are loads of great places to eat, and while the pricey is getting pricier you can still get great nosh for a few bucks.

7. The shopping is amazing, and it is getting better all the time. (Actually, I hate shopping, but it makes my wife happy.)

8. You live by the sea, and the Corniche and the view from the Corniche is beautiful. (Unfortunately, you can't swim in that tempting sea.)

9. It's winter, and you can still swim in the pool.

10. You are living in a dynamic country which is changing probably more rapidly than any other country in the world. Its changing economically, its changing culturally, its changing architecturally. You may have no idea where it is going to end up - but that's is precisely why its worth hanging around to find out.

I ran out of positive reasons at ten, but let us know in the comments if you can think of any more.

And just to balance things out, next week we'll look at ten reasons to leave Qatar...

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

German Festival

The German embassy is holding a five week long German-Arab culture festival.

The festival actually started a couple of days ago, but we have only just heard about it now!

The festival features music, architectural exhibitions, photography and much more.

For more information on the festival check out their website, Hiwaruna.

Our 2008 Predictions - Two True Already!

I came across an old post today - 10 predictions for Qatar's future.


And two have come true already. They are:

5. The real estate bubble will pop. People always say a bubble is not going to pop, and it always pops. There will be another bubble a few years later.

6. Inflation will decrease - in the short term. However, this will be associated with recession, which may be milder than the rest of the world due to Qatar's oil and gas reserves. After a while inflation will rise again, and after five years an apple will cost one hundred million riyals.
Well, we will have to wait to see what happens to the apples, but the rest seems to have happened.

The post got picked up on Qatar Living, and a number of people came up with their own predictions, which included:

11. Roads in Industrial Area can be used for F1 Racing :)
12. No more Exit Permits.
13. Motorist are well educated of Road Ethics and Zero Road rage cases.

I particularly liked this one:

23. There will be Country wide refrigeration during summer.

You can find all the predictions here (on this blog) and here (on Qatar Living). Which do you think will come true?

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

16 Tips to Help You Win Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews can be tricky.

Although you may feel relaxed, research shows that the informal settings and distractions of home can lead to really bad interviews.

One friend of mine, wrongly assuming that an interview wasn't serious because it was on the telephone, actually remembers hearing the interviewers laugh in the background because his answers were so bad.

You also have to connect with your employer - without the advantage of eye contact and body language.

In our latest article on the website Mariam Nonha deals with all these issues and more.

Check out 16 Tips to Help You Master Telephone Interviews for the full article.


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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Food Mission Impossible

roaring bread oven
As old timers will tell you until you start to sleep, Qatar is becoming more and more expensive.

It is now impossible to imagine having even a fish and chips on anything less than a Sheikh's salary.

That's why we were suprised when Shabina Khatri accepted our challenge to find ten places in Qatar where you can eat for less than QAR 15.

Putting her weight on the line, Shabina rose to the challenge, and find them she did - although judge for yourselves whether she cheated with one of our own favourites, Thai Snack...

The article, which is accompanied by great photos, covers loads of places where you can both have a good meal and stay within your budget, and is especially handy when you are a bit broke. (We should really be putting this out towards the end of the month, not the start!)

Check out Cheap Eats in Doha for the full article.


Also lots of thanks to Omar Chatriwala for the great images of the naurah and the roasting chicken.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Qatar Population Increase Only Good For Business

When I first arrived in Qatar I could never dream that the population of Qatar would reach over one and a half million.

Yet according to the Gulf Times it now stands at 1.67 million, a 3% increase over the previous month.

Looking back at our old blog posts, I can see that I reported that the population of Qatar had been estimated at 400,000 in 2004.

When I joined this blog, I remember working with another writer to estimate that at the then current rate of growth Qatar would overtake the world's population in about 100 years.

Good for Business - and Websites

Back then no-one really read us - I remember being very pleased when we had 30 people visit the blog in one day.

Now we get 500 people to the blog - and often well over 3000 visitors and 6000 page views on the website - on a daily basis.

A major part of the reason for our success, and the success of Qatar Living, has been the phenomonal growth of Qatar.

More people means more readers for our posts, and more customers for businesses and shops.

It's also great for job seekers all over the world - there is at least one place which is still hiring!

Bad for Everyone Else

I also remember being able to drive to work in ten minutes.

And having a wage which is worth, in real terms, probably twice what it is today.

Meanwhile, the rapid growth in population is a logistical nightmare for hospitals and services.

Huge money is being poured into Hamed Hospital, and my son's life was saved by some first rate doctors in the children's hospital.

But it can't be easy dealing with a quadrupling of the population...

What about Qataris?

People in the UK feel threatened by immigration, although the influx is a fraction of that in Qatar.

Qataris could not be blamed for feeling swamped by the massive amount of people coming into the country.

As a result, tensions can and do arise - although despite some evident racism (not just from Qataris!), to the country's credit I have never seen anything approaching the British Nationalist Party party in the UK.

Yet.

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Qatar Jobs

Qatar Job Search

Search for Qatar Jobs
We've recently launched a new website called Qatar Job Search, which enables job seekers to search thousands of Qatar vacancies.

The site utilises a custom google search index to search numerous sites which list Qatar jobs.

Sites indexed include local jobs sites such as All Qatar Jobs, websites with a jobs classifieds section such as Qatar Living and large jobs websites such as Bayt.com.

We've tweaked the code to try and ensure it returns only jobs in Qatar, that the most recent jobs are weighted first and that posts older than one month are not indexed.

So please check it out - we'd love to hear any feedback!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Who to follow on Twitter, Qatar?

I follow about 70 or so people on Twitter, but I have been cutting quite a few people out recently as not much of what they have to say applies to Qatar. Either that, or they are only there to try and sell something. Or they are boring.

(I know Twitter says "What are you doing?" but truth is, unless you are doing something really, really exciting, I just don't want to know.)

Basically, I have worked out there is one person I have to follow to find everything of any possible interest in Qatar, and that is DohaNews.

I don't know how she does it, but every interesting news item, blog post and forum discussion is covered on her feed, while all the boring stuff is cut out.

And it's all done with a sense of humour.

One recent exchange went:

dohanews Education City's upcoming million-volume library project will 're-empower books,' cover 2 football field lengths (awesome) http://u.nu/83qn3

IvanGiesbrecht @dohanews Great news about the library. But who will read all these books? 6 days ago from TweetDeck

dohanews @IvanGiesbrecht Not to read, silly. To sit there and look pretty :) 6 days ago from web

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

100% Ownership for IT Companies in Qatar

We are very impressed with the most recent change in Qatar's foreign ownership laws, which now allows 100% foreign ownership of Information and Technology companies.

Of course, you would still have to cough up QAR200,000 for a company here, and rent an office, but then Qatar is looking for serious investors in the country.

This is one of three sectors which have been thrown open to full foreign ownership - the other sectors being distribution services and consultative and technical work services. These join a number of existing areas where this is already allowed.

Giving up 51% of your business, even with a revenue sharing agreeement which allows you to keep the bulk of the profits, puts off some investors, and it's a smart move to remove this obligation from areas of the economy which could do with a boost - or which could boost other industries in Qatar.

We also suspect that ICT Qatar, a fairly forward thinking organisation which seems faster on its feet than some Qatar beaurocracy, may be behind the move to encourage IT investment.

You can read the original article in the Peninsula. You can also read David Chaddock's article on How to Set Up a Business in Qatar.

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Behind the Ghutra

Marjorie in Qatar has an excellent post today on the discrimination faced by men in Qatar.

Many of us Westerners are apalled by the subjegation of men in Qatar (only the other day I saw an angry Qatari woman berate her obviously intimidated husband in public), and it is great that finally an expat woman has the courage to speak out about it.

As Marjorie writes:


Since it would be preposterous to believe any person would choose to wear an item of clothing that I personally don't wear, I am led to the self-evident conclusion that the men of the Gulf region are being forced to wear the ghutra by their oppressive female overlords.
Check out the full post here: Behind the Ghutra

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