Saturday, January 31, 2009
I visited Qatar last exactly one year ago, and saw the early stages of the ambitious Pearl development. WOW - what progress this year!
I have just come back from my second visit, and found the area amazing. The approach passes two mirror glazed contorted towers, seemingly one-dimensional on first glance, then taking a more solid shape as you drive by.
Then over the causeway edging the blue Doha waters, past a curved crescent of "posh" shops, such as Armani, Hermes, Cavalli and more and under an elegant and imposing marble floored arch, passing the main foyer/entrance on your right.
In here are yet more shops - one with the Rolls Royce logo! - and an elegant atrium with cooling water features, leading through to the one promenade which is now open.
Safely fenced, this is ideal for the many children playing there, whilst elegant parents watched proudly.
The sapphire-blue waters are already housing the first of no doubt many stylish yachts and catamarans.
Sitting in the sun here, with the misty towers of Doha in the distance and drinking coffee at one of the coffee shops now open was a great experience and I really look forward to the next visit, when no doubt the first of the many different types of appartment blocks and houses will be inhabited.
The Pearl Qatar by Shabina Khatri and Qatar Property by David Chaddock
Friday, January 30, 2009
I spotted this movie on Qatar Living, so apologies if you have already seen it.
If you are interested in the Pearl Qatar be sure to check out our full length article on the subject here: The Pearl Qatar.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Great little movie here by MidWestintheMidEast
At least it was light for these guys - I had nearly crashed into it when returning home late at night!
If you are planning to drive in Qatar, be sure to check out our driving podcast - even if the advice didn't work out very well for us:
Qatar Visitor's 90 Second Guide to Driving in Qatar
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
We'll be wrapping up our January competition tomorrow, so if you are still interested in entering now is the time to do so. The prize is a Japanese tea set provided by our sponsor Goods from Japan, and all you have to do to enter is sign up for our newsletter and answer the three simple questions contained within.
If you wondering what our newsletter looks like you can see an example here: Qatar Newsletter. If you are not interested in a tea set, we'll be announcing a new competition in our next newsletter with three great prizes to be won.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The standard of living in Qatar is improving - but what about the cost of living?
Movie: Human Development Report: 2007
The Qatar Natural History Group will be marking its 30th anniversary this year, and in celebration will be having a fabulous buffet dinner at the Diplomatic Club on Friday 6th March. The event will also be open for non-members. For more information click on the image below to download their flyer (PDF).
Monday, January 26, 2009
On the weekend of 24th to 26th April 2009, there will be the smell of burning oil and hot rubber, twinned with the scream of engines at 19000 rpm as 20 or so Formula One cars hurtle round the Sakhir Racetrack in Bahrain. This is the Gulf Air Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.
Image by Sabbah
Attempts are being made to enhance overtaking possibilities with new rules this year making the rear wing narrower and higher than before. Hopefully, this will make racing more exciting, although Schumacher, Alonso and Hamilton have shown that overtaking is possible on virtually any track if the driver has what it takes.
Team Form in 2009.
With these new rules, it is harder than ever to predict which teams will have the edge this year. In addition to the rear wing, other changes include a larger front wing with variable geometry, slick tyres instead of grooved and a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) as at least a token acknowledgement to the existence of global warming and the contribution that cars make to it. (Please note, drivers of gas guzzling 4-wheel drive vehicles!)
In the last week both McLaren and Ferrari have launched their new cars.
This year testing halts once the racing begins, so the teams will be working flat out in the next few weeks to test their new developments. It also means that the drivers will be less familiar with the cars at the start of the season.
Upset in Bahrain.
By the time the circus reaches Sakhir circuit, we should have some idea of this year's form, although last year Ferrari's performance had been unpromising until Bahrain. In fact, Bahrain completely upset the order that had been established in the first races, with Hamilton having a disastrous race and Massa showing winning form for the first time that season.
Toyota have also launched their 2009 car. The former Honda team are in talks with Mercedes and McLaren over the supply of engines. Pedro de la Rosa started testing the new McLaren car in Portugal yesterday.
An Exciting Year in Prospect.
With new cars, new rules, a possible "new" team (formerly Honda) and a new race on the calender in the Middle East, this looks like being an exciting year. Will Hamilton retain the Championship or will Massa prove the winner? Will Renault continue the resurgance it showed in the second half of last season to bring Alonso into contention? Will Vettel be able to show his form of last year after his change from Toro Rosso to Red Bull?
Will BMW become a dominant team in 2009?
Questions answered in Bahrain
These questions will be at least partly answered in Bahrain and by the end of that race we should have some idea of the teams' pecking order in 2009.
Bahrain Grandprix Highlights
Write for Qatar Visitor
Posted by James Dunworth at 11:30 AM
Sunday, January 25, 2009
A friend the other day was asking me about dentists in Qatar, and I pointed her to our webpage on dentists. Of course, as she pointed out, there is no indication of how good these dentists are. And while the dentist was quite cheap compared to some of the other dentists around, she still had a pain in her jaw several days after going to the dentists.
The next exciting horse race meeting in Qatar will be on 29th January at Doha Racetrack - with the main race being the Championship Class 2000m for 4-years and over horses - serious prize money of 500,000.00.
Entrance and a program is free. In addition to the racing, children can usually enjoy a bouncy castle and pony rides. Although no gambling is allowed, there are plenty of prizes to be won, and you can enjoy the spectacle from the club's restaurant, set high above the race track. The next race is the 25th February. Go and have a look at these wonderful Arab horses and have a great day out.
Also see: The Arab Horse: The Beginning
Saturday, January 24, 2009
For our latest article Shabina Khatri spent two days interviewing marketing staff, employees and potential customers at The Pearl-Qatar. She found a mixture of results, from visitors overawed by the huge artificial island built on the former pearl diving grounds to engineers worried about the delays in the construction.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Congratulations to John Todd, Head teacher at Compass International School Doha, for winning our December competition. John is pictured below, being presented with a copy of Qatar by author David Chaddock.
Remember there is still time to enter our January competition! We will be announcing the winner in our next newsletter, on January 29th - and at the same time releasing details of our next competition, which will be our biggest yet.
Qatar Visitor Friends
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Can YOU ride a horse 160 kilometers? Endurance riding is an equestrian sport based on riding long distances (60, 80, 100, 120, and 160 km) with periodic veterinary checks to monitor the horse's health and condition during the ride. The horse completes the ride when it passes all necessary criteria and is judged "fit to continue" by a veterinary judge at the finish. The first to cross the finish line is considered the winner. The top ten horses also stand for the coveted "Best Condition" award, an honor that goes to the horse judged to be the most superior in condition in addition to "fit to continue." Here again the Arab horse excels, as one would expect!
How can you get started? Whether you do or don't have a horse already, you should attend an endurance ride, meet endurance people, and find someone experienced and knowledgeable in horses and the sport of endurance to help you get started - the next Endurance Ride in Qatar is on the 7th February.
Another good way to get started in endurance would be to attend the clinic coming up at Al Samariyah Stables in April. An American endurance rider, Maggie Mieske, and her farrier husband, Nelson, will be hosting the clinic and covering such topics as: a vet check demonstration, hoof care, conditioning, nutrition, tack and saddle fit, pit crewing, electrolytes, probiotics, etc. Pre-registration and pre-payment will be required. If you don't have a horse, you may choose to rent one from the stable for a lesson or a fun ride on the trail after the clinic. Contact Maggie for details at email@example.com.
Also see The Arabian Horse: The Beginning by the same writer
Posted by James Dunworth at 8:00 AM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
In what will mean disaster for small scale merchants and residents alike small shops in residential areas of Qatar could cease to exist from March onwards.
According to the Gulf Times today the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Urban Planning has decided not to renew the licence of convenience and corner stores in residential areas of Qatar.
These little shops are incredibly convenient, and often offer services beyond what people expect in the West - delivering goods after a phone call as well as the ubiquitous newspaper delivered to the door before work.
With the current shortage of taxis, and with most women refusing to take a bus, for many fetching the daily bread will become a daily nightmare.
Posted by Qatarguest at 3:15 PM
It's impossible to describe the anger felt by people here about the situation in Gaza. It's the topic on everyone's mind, and whatever their political leanings few fail to condemn Israel. Many blame America as well, and our caretaker, a lovely and good natured gentleman who is always happy to help us, keeps a picture of Bush with a shoe superimposed over it - this he grinds his foot into every time he enters the door.
This anger has spread beyond Qatar: I was surprised to come across this video on You Tube of a British-Jewish politician condemning the attacks in Qatar.
Posted by James Dunworth at 2:15 PM
Thursday, January 15, 2009
We have long been a fan of Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera has annoyed the Americans and the Brits in the past, so much so that it was rumoured that the two allies were thinking of bombing their strongest Arab allies' news channel.
However, the fact that Al Jazeera has been thrown out of almost every country in the Gulf (Israel, surprisingly, is one of the few that has not expelled them at some point or other,) and that they have received threatening mail from Al Qaeda suggests that they have annoyed almost everyone at some point or other.
Which is what a good news channel should do.
Al Jazeera does something that has not been done by a news channel before. It gives the Arab people a voice. And recently it has hit the news itself for its reporting of the harrowing conflict in Gaza, with feature articles in the International Herald Tribune amongst others.
It has done so not only for its reporting of the news, but for the way it is reporting it.
One of Al Jazeera's problems is not getting the news - it has 6 reporters in Gaza, and is the only major network represented there - but getting it out to an international English audience.
For while their Arabic audience is huge, in America their audience is tiny - and at times deliberately blocked.
As a result the channel has turned to social networking to get their results across.
Internet users can follow Al Jazeera's updates on Twitter, and their You Tube channel has received over two and a half million views.
Their viral efforts may have been helped by the fact that they have a Qatar blogger, Mohammed Nanabhay, co-leading a digital leap team.
It may well take a blogger to understand the communicative and viral potential of the internet.
And with six out of ten youngsters in America now getting their news from the internet, that potential is huge.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
In her latest article for Qatar Visitor, Carvings in the Rock, Frances Gillespie looks at the rock art that is carved into the limestone rocks of Qatar around the area of Jabal Al Jassasiya.
It is tempting to use the cliche "ancient rock carvings" when descibing them, but at least some of these carvings seem to have been made hundreds rather than thousands of years ago, judging from the features that adorn some of the boats. It is not always clear, though, whether these features were included in the original design of the boats or whether they were added on at a later date.
Nor is it clear why some of the carvings were made in the first place, especially those with parallel range of cup marks. In the article Frances looks at the different theories for the creation of the petroglyphs - and at the holes in the theories!
Also see: Qatar Archeology | Qatar History | Qatar Nature
Posted by James Dunworth at 11:51 AM
Monday, January 12, 2009
Our partners, Bayt.com, are running a competition to help them find a visual style for their movies.
To enter the competition you have to create a video showing your use of an original creative design.
The winner of the competition will win the contract for all or part of the videos they are creating.
For more information check out the movie below or visit the Bayt Jobs I Can Draw site.
Remember you can also see a list of current jobs in Qatar and the Gulf provided by Bayt.com on our Qatar Jobs page.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
"It's funny," said my friend. "Tennis matches used to be free here, yet the tennis courts were half empty. Now they charge, and the courts are packed."
Maybe tennis is coming of age in Qatar - just like, it seems Murray, is. The first time I watched him in the finals, he was defeated. (We caught the last play of the match in a movie you can watch at the bottom of this post: Qatar Tennis.)
Last year he won, but it seemed a scrappy victory. This time his victory over Roderick, the world number 8, seemed smooth and almost easy - raising barely a grunt out of him until the final set. (See the movie below!)
If it was packed, though, it was packed with expats rather than Qataris. Qataris were present, and it was great to see young children enjoying the match, but despite the efforts of the Qatar Tennis association, who are encouraging young children to start playing, tennis has a long way to go before it even starts to match the hold football has on Qatari hearts! (The international match being held next door certainly didn't help Qatari attendance!)
So why is tennis so much more popular now? Perhaps it is because there are just so many expats here now - the official population has doubled since we started Qatar Visitor. Or perhaps it is just because until you put a price on something, people accord it no value.
Qatar Visitor Friends
Friday, January 09, 2009
Souq Waqif is one of my favourite places in Qatar. It makes me wince to use such a cliché but a trip to Qatar really would not be complete without a visit to the Souq.
So it was a pleasant surprise during a recent meander round to find that there are now three hotels serving the needs of guests.
All the hotels also have the added advantage that they are in easy walking distance of the Islamic Arts Museum, the Corniche and the harbour with its traditional wooden dhows.
Hotel Souq Waqif
Tel: +974 4433030/ 4432288
Fax: +974 441 9292
This is the plushest - and the most expensive - hotel we looked at. Standard rooms started from QAR900/night.
Located closest to the Corniche, in front of the main car park, a large and airy restaurant is located to the front. First impressions were good and the staff polite and helpful, although unfortunately when we visited every room was occupied. We will return for further inspection!
Al Khariss Hotel
Address: PO Box 23618, Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar
Tel: +974 4310786/4354323
Fax: +974 4324345
I think this hotel has a fabulous location. Standing on the central street of the souq, interesting shops crowd to either side and just opposite is one of my favourite shops: Al Ghalaffa. The hotel itself is situated above the Khariss cafe, which I am also fond of, despite (or perhaps because of) the weird items that you find on their menus.
Yet be warned that the hotel has the slowest lift in the world. (Fortunately it only has to go up one floor.)
The rooms are also decorated in the traditional style - which was a bit bare for my liking. And at QAR800, they were only slightly cheaper than Hotel Souq Waqif.
Tel: +974 4374417
Fax: +974 4374417
Address: PO Box 16919
This hotel is the oldest of the bunch, with photos going back to the 1960's. (You can see an old photo of the hotel here and a nightime image here.
Although slightly more expensive than when we first blogged about the hotel, Bismillah still makes it into our list of Budget Hotels in Qatar with a single room starting at QAR400 and a double room at QAR500.
A faint musty smell, which reminded me of my backpacking days in Asia, put me off the rooms a bit. The smell seemed to come from the ceiling, which looked a bit too traditional for the more discerning of guests.
On the plus point it is actually affordable, boasts another great location and has great view of the souq (see below).
Doha Luxury Hotel Guide
Qatar Hotel Directory
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Nigel, former owner of Qatar Journal, is now working via the Doha Daily to deliver a condensed pdf version of the Peninsula newspaper to subscribers.
The idea is based on the premise that many of us are too busy to work our way through an entire newspaper: hence a small pdf version with the most important stories of the day.
To sign up for the news summary just visit Doha Daily and enter your name in the box - you will have the option to unsubscribe should you wish.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
It is some time since we wrote our review of the Ritz Carlton Sharq Village and Spa, and when they contacted us to request an update we jumped at the chance to view the hotel again.
My reasons were partly selfish - I already know by reputation and experience that the hotel is excellent. However, the chance to be shown round the hotel in person was too good an experience to miss.
We visited on one of Doha's few dull and grey days. I was warned that the day would not do the hotel justice, but the courtyards still looked superb.
According to the public relations manager, legend says that the Sharq village and Spa lies on the remains of an ancient village.
In a story she said they had got from the Emir himself, an ancient souq was founded by a noble Sheikh.
According to the story, the village first prospered as traders settled, building ornate homes around courtyards and furnishing them with treasures brought back from their travels.
Then, after some centuries, the village was abandoned - until recent time, when it was rebuilt as the Sharq Village and Spa.
The Sharq Village maintains the village-like athmosphere, with ornate villas or 'beits' built around courtyards each functioning as a separate hotel.
Each villa is attended to by its own personal butler.
In the center of the complex lies one feature the original hotel did not have - a large and intricate swimming pool, floodlit at night.
On our trip we ate at the Al Liwan, a restaurant that is also a favourite of the Emir.
A Lebanese starter of delicious cold salads and olives was followed by sushi, prawns straight from the open grill in front of us, sea bass and lamb cooked in the Qatari style - all topped off with the traditional Om Ali*.
The buffet is varied from day to day, so there is no guarantee you will have the same selection! The chef is currently planning to have both Indian and Greek style buffets.
For the sake of balance we always try to look for negative points as well as positive points, although it is harder than most with the Sharq Village and Spa.
There are two small points.
Planes flying directly overhead could get annoying, although the sound is muffled in the main area of the hotel.
And having to walk outside between the buildings is fine now, but would be unpleasant during the hottest summer months. Partly because of that, there are golf carts ready to whisk guests between the buildings.
The verdict remains the same as our first visit - absolutely fantastic!
Agree or disagree? Remember, on our Doha hotel page you can rate Doha hotels, or even leave your own review.
Also see our full review of the Sharq Village and Spa
Om Ali: an Arab dish which can best be described as a sort of cross between rice pudding and bread pudding (and tastier than both!)
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Ex-Qatar Visitor man Mathew Harris has made good with cheese - cheese so good it has had the royal stamp of approval.
Matt was the man behind our interactive map of Qatar, and the designer of our Qatar Today ad, as well as a number of the website's other features.
Now he has turned his back on the busy life of the city and headed off to the rural bliss in Devonshire.
Taking his chance to get away from a computer screen, he has also started his own Devonshire Deli.
And at Qatar Visitor, we have no doubt that it was the superb and unbeatable taste of his cheese that attracted Prince Charles to the market this day.
So, if you are heading towards the UK and fancy some rather special cheese, be sure to check out his website!
Posted by James Dunworth at 7:30 AM
Monday, January 05, 2009
The Peninsula recently ran a story on Twitter: Small Talk is the Next Big Thing. (Unfortunately, this was on Oasis, which is not published online).
The article predicted that twittering, or micro blogging, will be the next online networking craze.
Admittedly, the article was from the Guardian rather than a home grown piece. And in fact, Nigel, writing directly for the Peninsula, predicted a surge in community websites like Qatar Living rather than in new fads like Twitter.
And in Qatar, Twitter, though already being used, has yet to take off.
One huge advantage
However, in this modern day Twitter may have hit on the key to attracting today's time-starved audience:
In fact you are forced to be quick. Each message has to be written in 140 characters or less.
Which takes seconds.
In today's world of information overload and of people trained by television to have a miniscule concentration span, that's a work of genius.
How to Use It
How you use it depends on your purpose.
It would be ideal for keeping up with friends. However, currently a majority of users seem to be webmasters and online marketers.
(Which is another reason it will be successful. Connect with the key players on the internet and the rest will follow!)
They are using twitter to disseminate ideas, follow industry specific news and to network with the movers and shakers of the internet.
Whether you are keeping up with friends or networking, it is usually best to ignore the question looming over the box: What are you doing?
Most users are not likely to be interested in your current activities unless, as happened to one twitter user, you happen to be in a plane crash (or other interesting event).
Instead, users point to interesting pages on the web (not always their own), keep up with news and have quick fire conversation.
To get in the conversation you have to follow and be followed.
Follow a few people and soon people will start to follow you back. But if you are boring, over post, under post or spam you will soon find your followers shrinking.
A host of services are already following twitter to make it easy for you to search and connect with people.
One is Mr Twitter, which looks at you, your followers and who you follow and identifies people you may wish to connect with.
There is also TwitterHolic, which handily lists twitter users in Qatar.
Twitter may not have many users in Qatar, but those that do use it are major players on the internet.
Al Jazeera and Qatar Airways both make heavy use of twitter, as do a number of bloggers: Mohammed N , Julie Lindsay, the e-learning blogger, Abdurahman Warsame, who runs No Longer at Ease and former Qatar Journal owner Nigel can all be found twittering.
Qatar Living and I love Qatar are examples of those who joined earlier and then, after a brief dalliance, have stopped using it.
I have a feeling, though, that they will be back.
Qatar Visitor on Twitter
Update: 7/01/08 I notice Qatar Living is active again on Twitter!
Qatar Visitor Friends
Sunday, January 04, 2009
As desperate job seekers from the West and elsewhere flood Qatar with job applications - even Qatar Visitor has been receiving daily emails by job seekers requesting help finding work - Bayt.com has announced that it will holda virtual job fair in Kuwait.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
In a recent post on Qatar Living we asked what websites people thought Qatar needed.
Food and Friends
British Expat felt that Qatar needed a Looking for Friends website - but only so that regular Qatar Living users could have the forum back to themselves!
Other people were thinking about their stomachs rather than their hearts: Bahrain 83 wanted a website where people could go and order food online from the most popular food outlets - and for an example pointed at this website: Feedme.
Maps and Shops
Onemakikomoto wanted a Qatar Mapquest, updated daily, to help commuters plan routes and avoid local diversions and road construction.
Steve and Kim pointed out that there were already interactive maps on Qatcom, and that people could find businesses on the websites power pages. Big Boi also mentioned the interactive Doha Map site.
Steve and Kim were also looking forward to another website, Qbay, an online Qatar auction and market which would combine shopping online with a delivery service.
Websites for future?
Already there has been huge growth in the internet in Qatar. Qatar Living is huge, Qatcom has come from nowhere to provide an online directory of over 25000 Qatar companies and Araboo has provided the first e-commerce site.
This could be just the beginning. What websites do you think we will see in Qatar in the future?
Qatar Internet Bubble
Qatar Internet Directory
Qatar Internet: Web Access
Qatar Facebook Group
Posted by James Dunworth at 8:00 AM
Friday, January 02, 2009
There is a huge and very impressive book fair underway at the Qatar Exhibition Center.
While most of the books from the 741 stalls in the center were in Arabic, there were enough books in English to keep book fans happy. This included one section where all books for sale cost ten riyals.
The Qatar Authorities had promised not to censor any titles, and with books with names such as "The Courtesan", not to mention other titles with raunchy sections, it was clear that they had kept their word.
Booksellers may, of course, have exercised self-censorship, which is really the preferred way of doing things round here!
As we mentioned before in Whatever Happened to the National Library of Qatar, the number of books pulished in Arabic is a tiny fraction of that published in other countries.
Book fairs like these at least give a very positive push towards cultivating a love of reading among Qataris and Qatari residents - and it was especially nice to see bus loads of school children leaving with bags full of books.
With a booksellers coming from 21 different counctries, it is also an opportunity to see a greater range of books than is normally possible.
The book fair will remain open until the third of January. So if you want to stock up on reading material it would best to head down there shortly - or you might find yourself waiting till next year for a similar opportunity.
Also see: Qatar Books Reviews
Thursday, January 01, 2009
These are our new year's resolutions for the Qatar Visitor website.
- Have our website redesigned.
- Speed the website up
QatarChatter used to be a website, but the domain dropped and it was bought up by regsite.com We loved the name, and thought it perfect for a forum, so we bought it from them in turn.
We'll also reluctantly be adding Google ads to it. Unfortunately, our bandwidth costs are increasing every month, and ads have now become a necessity.
Qatar Visitor Friends