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Friday, April 30, 2010

Qatar Turtles

In her latest article on Qatar Nature, Qatar naturalist and author Fran Gillespie dives into the the fascinating world of the Qatar turtle - a creature which is born on the shores of Qatar, but only returns to lay eggs after full maturity some 45 years later.

A turtle lays eggs on a Qatar beach.
The journey to this maturity is fraught with danger, from foxes and seagulls to nets and plastic bags that can be mistaken for the jelly fish turtles like to eat. But at least one danger has been removed - in Qatar rangers protect the turtles from human interference and egg stealing.

For the full story see Qatar's Marine Turtles.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Those Qatar Traffic Lights

Al Sadd traffic lights.

Does anyone else hate those flashing amber traffic lights in Qatar?

If you are not in Qatar, a quick background would be handy.

Qatar used to have lots of roundabouts.

On the advice of British traffic police (who could see that many drivers in Qatar either did not know the rules of roundabouts or know them and ignored them) the government has been slowly pulling up the roundabouts and replacing them with traffic lights.

Where the roundabouts remain, they are being equipped with traffic lights.

But on some traffic lights, they have a special flashing amber lights which remains of for several minutes. This allows you to go if there is a car coming.

But they can change at any second.

This leaves you with the horrible situation of trying to watch the amber lights while at the same time as watching the traffic coming from your left. A situation which involves a lot of head whipping.

Of course, miss a second's opportunity and you will be deafened by a cacaphony of horns.

Go after a red light and you could face a QAR6000 fine - and points on your licence.

(The best way to deal with this is to get a passenger to watch the lights while you watch the oncoming traffic. But it only works if you have a passenger!)

Does this bug you too?

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Friday, April 23, 2010

IPADs for Qatar

IPADS are now available for Qatar and the rest of the Middle East.

A Qatari friend has set up a website to supply the device to Qatar and the rest of the Gulf.

For details check out Ship My Pad.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Visa On Arrival Extended

As we were hoping, the visa upon arrival has been extended.

The Qatar UK Embassy has a rather confusing message which could mean anything, but the US Embassy states:

"Visa Upon Arrival Has Been Extended Until Further Notice"

You can see the notice here: Qatar Embassy Visa Form.

We checked with the British Embassy's press officer, and was told that the Embassy had heard the plan was under review. Meanwhile, the British embassy website says:

We have been advised by the Government of Qatar that the plan to remove – from 1 May - the provision whereby British passport holders can obtain a visitors visa on arrival in Qatar will not now go ahead. British visitors intending to travel to Qatar may currently apply for a visa on arrival in Qatar.

If you are planning to visit Qatar, please check with your embassy and airline to see if there has been any change in visa regulations - as we have said for years, things can change very rapidly in Qatar.

For more comprehensive information see our page Qatar Visas (which we'll be updating with this information in just a minute!)

Also see: Canceling your Visa

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Al Wakra's New Beach

Al Wakra Beach
Al Wakra is changing

I took my first visit to Al Wakra in almost a year.

As usual, it's changed.

(Things rarely remain the same for long in Qatar!)

On the main road you can see new shops - a pizza hut, a fast food joint.

But it's the beach area where things have really changed.


Head to the beach area, and where there was rough area, a mangrove swamp and some old ruined buildings, you can now see the construction of old buildings.

(Does that sound strange? Think Souq Waqif. They're new, but they look old.)

The park, sadly, is gone. So are the mangrove swamps, a former haven for birds and a nursery for fish.

The beach, though, looked pretty. The tide was up when we were there, and the beach curved round in a lovely semi-circle leading to a jetty I am sure was not there before.

Dhows, both old and new were pulled up on the beach, but neatly, while old new buildings with coloured door lined up around the side.


We swam, as best we could in the shallow water.

You need to be careful. Sharp stones mix with sludge underneath the water. But there's no need to put your feet down.

The water is so salty that you can put your feet up and float without a twitch of your fingers. We did just that, lying on our backs and admiring the clear sky and the declining sun.

Afterwards, I noticed an elderly Qatari couple, the woman veiled, walking along the edge of the beach together in the sunset, dipping their feet in the sea and enjoying the feel of the sea against their bare legs.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Qatar Living Down?

Update: The site is up again (As soon as I posted this!)

We're trying to update our driving page, and have been having a little debate about tests. We've been told that Westerners have to take tests now, while the updated government website says in Arabic and English that you don't have to.

Before ringing the Ministry of Interior up, I decided to have a quick check on the net. There's an interesting discussion on QatarLiving, but when you click through the website is down.

I hope it's back up soon, but the website has been having problems all week. I have tried several times earlier in the week to post for a friend, but it has not worked.


We hope the site is up soon. Some sites see Qatar Living and Qatar Visitor as competitors, but we have different concepts (articles v. user generated content). We get a lot of hits of Qatar Living, and as there are many links from our site to Qatar Living I believe we boost them as well.


I've heard rumours that the site is thinking of closing itself down, but I am sceptical. The site has got to be worth a lot of money, so, unless there has been external pressure, the logical option would be to sell rather than shut down the site.

It is also possible they are feeling the pinch, though. Since the recent controvery over Qatar National Day I've seen fewer adverts on the site. They, like us, have google adsense, but with forums the clickthrough rate is lower (per page view) while with thousands of users server costs must be huge.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Driving Licence Points - and how people are escaping them

In the last couple of years police have got tough on driving offences in Qatar.

It's now very easy to get points on your licence, and you get points for relatively mild offences such as parking.

(In Qatar you can get done for parking even where there are no no-parking signs on the road - as happened to Amnesia from I Love Qatar - so be careful.)

Some people have reacted positively - one Qatari lady tells me she now drives very carefully after receiving points and a huge fine as a result of driving through a red light while speaking on her mobile phone.

Of course, it's obvious to everyone that the laws have made no difference to some drivers on the road.

But get 15 points and you lose your driving licence.

So how are people managing?

One Qatari explained to me.

"When you get close to 15 points, you just ask your friend, or your brother, or your cousin to go and take the points for you.

"As for myself, I haven't got any points on my license at all."

"You must be very careful," I said.

"Yes. I know a man from Pakistan who will take points for 50 riyals each. He has taken all my points."

Also see: Qatar Visitor's 90 Second to Guide to Driving in Qatar

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Children's Dentists in Qatar: The Good and The Bad

A dentist checks a little girl's teeth.
A Bad Experience

My little daughter had a traumatic experience at the dentists in Qatar.

We took her with toothache to a government clinic. When he approached her with a huge needle she screamed and refused to let him anyway near her.

The dentist gave us the name of a hospital.

"They'll take care of here there," he assured us, writing 'uncooperative child' on the appointment slip.

My wife took my daughter to the hospital. They ordered her and my son out, wrapped her in a blanket, forced her mouth open, gave her an injection and extracted the tooth.

Needless to say, this left her traumatised and terrified of dentists, I thought she was going to have a lifelong fear of them.

Toothache Two

When my daughter had toothache again, I chose a dentist from the list of dentists on our dentists' page - obviously I chose one with numerous positive ratings.

I rang the dentists everal times, discussing different options. The receptionist recommended one dentist who she said was excellent with children, and we waited a few days to see this dentist, getting some painkillers and anti-biotics in the meantime.

In two visits the dentist won my daughter's trust. It took a lot of time. She had my daughter riding up on down on the dentist's chairs, and playing dentists - she even had her examining my wife's teeth.

The first trip my daughter still wouldn't let the dentist put a mirror in her mouth, or lie down on the couch to be examined, but she did consent to the dentist looking at her teeth by the window. The second trip she had her fillings done.

"I thought she was going to put a needle in my mouth," my daughter explained to me later. "But it wasn't a needle, it was a magic fairy toothpick.

"You need that to make the sad teeth happy again, you see."

If you need a great dentist for a frightened child, I throughly recommend them: Dr Sarah's Specialist Dental Centre off Salwa Road, full details on our Dentist's Page.

By the way, I have not been asked to write this review or received any money for it. I am just writing it because I was extremely impressed. (I wouldn't say no to a discount off our next trip, though - it's not the cheapest place :))

Also see our other blog post on Dentists in Qatar.

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Indonesian Breakfast Four

Classy is holding it's fourth Indonesian Breakfast event.

If you haven't been before, this is an event held by Indonesian ladies and presenting an array of delicious Indonesian dishes.

The event will be held from 9.00-noon on the 21st April 2010 at Al Waab Garden's Club House. There will also be a bazaar.


Soto Ayam (chicken soup with rice noodles)

Nasi Goreng
(fried rice with egg, chicken and vegetables)

Kolak Pisang and Nangka
(banana and jackfruit soup in sweet coconut milk soup)

Fruit and Traditional Snacks

Tickets: QR35/person

For more information contact Siska on 563-4649/ siscabell@yahoo.com.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

How To Avoid a Teaching Disaster in Qatar

In our latest article Yousra Samir, with the help of her mother, a long time Qatar teacher, gives some sterling tips on how to avoid your own cultural disaster when teaching in Qatar.

You can read the full article here: Qatar Teaching Tips.

When reading the article, I couldn't help thinking of the problems I have heard of while living in Qatar.

Inappropriate Material

One pair of teachers I heard of taught a book about the life of a street walker. (I am using a synonym here as I don't want to get blocked!)

Once caught, they couldn't understand the problem.

"But it was in the exam syllabus," they complained.

The friend who reported this thought they shouldn't have been sacked. However, my personal opinion was that anyone with such low cultural awareness probably isn't suited to Qatar.


Another person was fired for using swearwords.

I personally have more sympathy here, as it easy to lose your control for a second.

However, his use of language was reported by one of the children and he lost his job.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

QV Article on Huffington Post

Shabina's latest article for us, Qatar Exile, has been syndicated by the Huffington Post, the world's largest blog.

You can see the article on the Huffington Post. It's been stripped of its images, though, so you may prefer to read it on our website here: Exile in Qatar.

Well done to Shabina - who is, in our opinion, one of Qatar's most talented journalists.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

BBC: Qatar Housing Crash

Qatar's steep housing price falls have made it onto a BBC news report.

The UK news channel, while pointing out that the country is forecast to grow by 16% this year, chronicles the over building which has lead to a surplus of demand over supply.

A representative of The Pearl, interviewed for the report, claims that it is taking a long term view and that it has not seen any price reduction.

Despite the title of the video, not everything in the report is negative.

The country can be pleased that it now pays the highest salary in the Gulf, a salary which is "luring" job seekers to the country.

The report also suggests that the outlook for prices in the long term is more positive.

You can see the full report here: Overbuilding Causes Qatar Crash.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Coming to Qatar after May 01? Change your flight!

If you are coming to Qatar at the start of next month,and you are affected by the new visa rules. , it may be a good idea to change your flight and come a few days earlier.

Similarly, if you need to do a visa run, do one before the end of the month. That will give two months for you to decide what to do (or, even better, for the government to change its opinion).

Hopefully the government will delay or even cancel their plans to get rid of visa on arrival, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Thanks to one of our readers for this wise suggestion!
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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Visa Change

IMPORTANT: This information has changed - please see our more recent Visa Update.

If you are planning to visit Qatar after 1st May please be aware that the current visa policy may be changing.

According to the Gulf Times at least some nationalities who used to be granted visa on arrival will now have to apply for a visa prior to arrival. These nationalities include France, America and the UK, which has a warning on its website.

I'm assuming that the report, which appeared in the Gulf Times and not the Peninsula on the 1st April, is not an April Fool's joke!

The sudden change in policy is likely to catch out thousands of visitors, many of whom come to Qatar to visit relatives.

If you are not sure whether the changes will apply to you, telephone your airline or travel agent to make sure.

Is Qatar ready?

This seems very short notice, and it is possible that Qatar will change its mind.

If not, hopefully the country is setting up the systems and personnel needed to deal with a massive increase in visa applications.

My own father telephoned the Qatar embassy in Britain (formerly very helpful) 14 times last year in an attempt to get an extended visa to Qatar. On the one occasion the phone was answered the person answering was neither polite nor helpful.

I also notice that there is yet to be any mention of the policy on the Qatar embassy page in America!


It also seems a shame to take a move which will obviously seriously hamper tourism after the government has put so much effort into developing it.

Obviously the country doesn't need the money tourism generates, but it seems to want tourism nevertheless.

The city has built a brilliant souk and an arts museum which many visitors will enjoy, while the number of hotels in the country has exploded. It also holds numerous sporting events which attracts visitors from all over the world. But applying for a visa, especially if combined with unresponsive embassies, will soon put a dent in visitor numbers.

Read more: Gulf Times | Global Voices | Qatar Living

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Exile in Qatar

M.F. Hussein, the Indian artist persecuted for his nude paintings of Hindu deities, Hussein Bin Laden, long haired grandson of Omar Bin Laden, and Khaled Mishal, head of Hamas, have something in common.

All, at some time or another, have been given refuge by the state of Qatar.

In her latest super article for Qatar Visitor, Qatar Exile, Shabina S. Khatri covers the story of these exiles, interviewing Mishal's son in the process.

Read the full story here: Exile in Qatar.

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