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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Qatar Hotels: User Reviews and Competition

We'll be annoucing the winners to our Qatar Photo competition in our newsletter tomorrow. In April, however, we are asking competitors to write something rather than take a photo.

Simply Sign into Qatar Visitor with your Google/Aim/Yahoo or Open ID account to leave an instant hotel review and you could win one of five prizes.

Here's how it works:

We'll be choosing the more interesting five reviews to win Amazon vouchers worth a total of $125. All you have to do is leave a few lines about either a hotel you have stayed at or eaten at - so get writing!

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Qatar Sponsorship Law

A new sponsorship law has been announced today. Many of the features of the previous law have been retained. Hopefully, though, the law will clear up some existing confusion about the conditions. Insofar as the law has changed, it does seem to be extending and protecting the rights of both employees and women.

Below we have covered some of the main points - many of which cover frequently asked questions by our readers.

Main Points

Leaving Jobs: As before, workers leaving their jobs without an NOC will have to wait for two years. A period of five years had been under discussion, but was not excecuted. Those with an NOC (No Objection Certifcate) from their employer will be able to continue working in Qatar.

Sponsoring Families: Until now women seeking to sponsor husbands and children have often had their applications rejected. The new law states that they can sponsor both spouses and children. Qatari women can also sponsor foreign husbands and children.

Residents Permits: Those on residence permits who wish to spend more than six months out of the country can do so as long as they pay a fee first.

Children: Children may be brought into the country up until the age of two years of age without a residence permit by a parent who has a residence permit. However, the parents must apply for the child's residence permit within sixty days of child arriving in Qatar.

Exit Permits: While employers must continue to request an exit permit from their employers, those not granted an exit permit can seek a clearance certificate from court. In the event of them not having a pending court case or judgement, they will then be allowed to leave the country without an exit permit.

Travel Documents: Employers are not allowed to retain their employee's passports or travel documents.

Death: Sponsors must pay for the funeral of their employees, and for the costs of transporting the body to the home country of the deceased should the deceased's family request this.

Related articles on the website: Labour Law | Working Women in Qatar

More Information:

The Peninsula

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Qatar Jobs


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cloud Computing in Qatar

As Yahoo shuts down its own contribution to office on the web, Yahoo briefcase, three of Qatar's universities announce a initiative to develop cloud computing on the web. 

Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing: explanation

For the non-techies amongst us cloud computing refers to the ability to complete tasks and store information on the web. 

If security can be guaranteed the advantages are huge. 

When a laptop is stolen or a hard drive fails a user can just get on another computer - any computer - access "the cloud" and continue as before. 

It also means one does not have to lug around laptops or sensitive data - instead users can have different computers in different locations without having to worry about transferring data - a boon if a person works partly in the office and partly at home.

It is also great for collaboration - as we have found with writers in Qatar, an editor in Japan and a programmer in India. 

One document can be uploaded to the cloud - we use Google Docs - and then shared with other parties, who can then edit or annotate the original document. 

The Players


Yahoo's briefcase was one of the forerunners of cloud computing, but has been taken over by over services.

As Yahoo! pointed out, other services like Flickr - offering online photo storage - are also examples of cloud computing. 

(Indeed, images used in this blog post are those stored by users on Flickr and licensed under Creative Commons.)

In many ways Google is leading the race (though it lags in photo storage) with Google Apps, a paid service for offices, Google Docs and Google Video and You Tube. 

Meanwhile Amazon Web Service are providing extremely cost effective services for web developers - a move which has been extremely popular, with over 300,000 developers using the service by 2007. 

Qatar's Contribution

Now Qatar is getting in on the act with the Qatar Cloud Computing Initiative. 

Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Qatar University and Texas A&M University are collaborating with IBM both develop cloud computing and to build a cloud computing network which will allow Qatar based organisations to test applications on the net. 

Further steps may see the Qatar Science and Technology park integrating its resources with the project. 

Embracing ICT

Qatar can put some European countries to shame with its recent efforts to embrace IT.

We were very impressed when Hukoomi was launched, and even more so when North Western University demonstrated a program that could go out on the net, collect the most important news stories of the dayand turn it into a news broadcast read by an online bot - all without the intervention of a person. 

The launch of a Qatar based Science and Technology park will hopefully maintain the pace of development of technology in Qatar.

Qatar Visitor Friends


Qatar Clubs: Qmotion

The Dolphins Swimming Club have announced a number of changes.

Name Change

The club has been renamed Qmotion, although the swimming section will still be called the Doha Dolphins. The club also has a new website: Qmotion.com (unrequested music played upon opening). The club can also now be contacted at info@qmotion.com.

Also see: Qatar Clubs for a full list of clubs and societies

Additional Programs

The club are also running additional programs with the launch of their Start to Run and Start to Walk programs, and will be holding a free assessment for anyone interested on Saturday followed by a free session on Sunday.

To enrol visit the following links:

Start to Run

Start to Walk

Also see Qatar Clubs for a full listing of Qatar Clubs and Societies.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Editor of the Peninsula Leaves

In what is a bad day for Qatar news - but a very good day for the Gulf Times - Rachel, the editor of the Peninsula, is leaving the paper.

Under Rachel, the only female editor in the GCC region, the Peninsula newspaper, which had always been in second place to the Gulf Times, rose to match the Gulf Times in terms of quality if not in circulation.

A new front cover, an improved TV guide and quality international business news provided by the Financial Times, not to mention a policy of including those sections of the population who had felt neglected by the media, all helped to raise circulation by 20% in just twelve months.

Rachel has also shown more internet savviness than most, reaching out to readers on Qatar Living and Facebook as well as providing a daily news round up via the Doha Daily newsletter.

We wish her the best of luck in her next position!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The RSPCA in Africa: Movie

This has nothing whatsoever to do with Qatar, but hey, it made me laugh...

We hear much of the excellent work undertaken by the RSPCA. However, in Africa, the work of RSPCA volunteers goes relatively unnoticed. If you have some time to spare and want to do something really positive for Animals in Africa, then becoming an RSPCA volunteer may be for you. The attached clip highlights an RSPCA volunteer at work in a Game Reserve.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

200Kbps a perfect line, says Qtel

After struggling to make changes to the Qatar Visitor website for over an hour, I dialled Qtel and waited the obligatory hour until they could be bothered to answer the phone.

My mission was to upgrade my internect connection. Unfortunately, as I have a Mozaic connection, I am stuck with the standard Qtel line.

(Apart from the internet connection, Mozaic is quite a good deal, actually - check out our review here.)

After listening to me moaning about the problems of building websites on Qtel's standard connecton, the chap on the other end of the line got me to take a speed test.

"So how fast is it?" he asked.


"That's a perfect line, man - what are you complaining about?"

Meanwhile, this is what the rest of the world says...

While a basic consumer in India is still struggling to get over 2Mbps, Japanese residents will soon be able to upload and download at a speed of up to 1Gbps.

(From Tech Ticker)

That's right, while the richest country in the world provides internet speed at 200KBPs, India's internet users can get ten times that. Meanwhile Japan's internet users are looking at a top speed of 500 times what Qtel is providing.

Now that's a perfect line.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Qatar Photograph Competition: Second Update

With one week left of our photo competition we have provided a second selection of the photos submitted so far. You can also see our first photography update.

Remember that there is still time to enter the competition - we have some great prizes ranging from HDR software to an electronic cigarette kit and a handmade Kagura facemask.

Photographers may also be interested in our sponsor's photography competition: the topic is Smoking, and the prize is an electronic cigarette kit.

Doha Sky by Poppie Sharman

Vivid colours streak across the Doha sky

Islamic Museum HDR by Kalifa Al-Misnad

Fishing boats in the background of the Islamic museum.

Cute Little Girl by Rajsekhar Paul

A little girl peeps out from behind cupped hands

Aqua Velet by Shiva Sharma

Panorama of the Inland SeaSunset by Sam Agnew

Orange sunsetCamel Racing by Stuart Frizzel

Camel trainers scamper out of the way
Doha Road by Kenji Punzalan

A vivid contrast of colours above a Doha road.Islamic Arts Museum by Kenji Punzalan

A blue sky and pool contrast with the stone cladding of the Islamic museum"Frame and Fortune... Doha!" by Angelino Bantay Jr.

A photographer is framed against the arches of the Islamic museumCamel Market by George Lewis

Camels fight at feeding time in the Doha camel marketDoha by Tammi Moe

The Doha skylineDhow by Thomas Watkins

The bright orange of this dhow's cover contrast with the colours around it. Aspire Park By Mirna Mahjudin

Aspire park with Arpire tower in the background

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Qatar Visitor Friends

Qatar Jobs

Doha Hotels


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vodafone: The first 1000

I have just signed up to be one of the first thousand customers on Vodafone's first 1000 offer

I normally let the others make the first leap and then evaluate their experiences (I let friends try out Qtel's Mozaic Offer before joining them). However, in what seems a particularly good deal Vodafone are offering QAR 700 riyals worth of calls (at least that's how I interpret it - they 700 riyals worth of value) for just QAR70. 

It will also be a good chance to assess them - will they come up with any sneaky ways to limit the use of that (use within a month e.t.c.) or will they be as straight as everyone is hoping?

Certainly with the disenchantment many customers have with Qtel, Vodafone has a golden opportunity to win loyal customers, even despite the disadvantage of coming against a well established competitor. 

Let's hope they make the most of that opportunity!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Falling Rents

All the stories in the papers today have been about falling rents in Qatar. There have been several reports predicting falls, with predictions ranging from a 10 to 25% decrease in rents.

For everyone apart from landlords this will be a huge relief. Rent price increases had increased by over 100% between 2005 and 2007, and landlords generally found ways to get round limits on rent increases imposed by the government.

While owners could protest against rent increases, or even take landlords to court, there was nothing to stop landlords evicting the tenants a few months later because the property needed renovation.

Indeed, when one friend was asked to move out of her house so that it could be 'renovated', she realised that the issue was the rent - which, to be fair, was by then very low compared with surrounding properties.

Reluctant to leave a house which had been her home for two decades, she approached the landlord directly and offered to pay increased rent - an offer which was accepted.

Her house wasn't among the most expensive. At one point prices seemed to increase every month - and some large villas are still going for well above the QAR20,000 mark.

It's not unusual to hear expats who have been here a few years to moan that they could easily have bought a house for the rent they have paid over three or four years.

These high prices triggered speculation in real estate - and a bubble. However, that bubble has well and truly popped now, with land prices in some areas falling over 30% in one month alone last year.

What's more, further downward pressure on prices is likely to be maintained with 9000 apartments due to come on line by 2009.

Also see:

Huge Falls in Rent Predicted | Qatar Property Articles

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Qatar's Mangrove Swamps Under Attacks

We are a big fan of Qatar's mangrove swamps, covering them in our website, and we must be one of the few residents who have actually been snorkelling in them.

The greenery they provide is a great contrast to the scrub of the surrounding desert, and they are of immense benefit both to the environment and to fish stocks.

Yet it seems the swamps, supposedly under official protection, are under continuing attack.

We were upset when the beautiful swamp at Al Wakra was destroyed - a few managed to avoid the destruction but were then lost when the beach was dug up.

Now, according to an article by Fran Gillespie in the Gulf Times, the swamps at Al Dhakira are also being dug up.

The swamps, which were planted by the Qatari government in the 1990's in an admirable attempt to protect against coastal erosion and protect the environment, are in fact protected.

A Goverment resolution forbids the “cutting, or destroying, or transporting plants” and “rooting out or cutting of wildlife organisms or parts of it, or the collection of their seeds unless there are scientific purposes behind it”.

So it's quite suprising that the reason given to an environmental scientist by the engineer on location was simply:

“Local people did not like the smell”.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wealthy Fish

In Oil and Gas rich Qatar even the fish are wealthy - in fact they even have their own wealth department, which is probably why this Lobster is so happy!

Original Lobster image by Sr Curran.

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Qatar Visitor Friends

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spanish Food comes to Qatar

tapasImage by Sifu Renka

Food enthusiasts will be delighted with the latest addition of food to Doha's culinary selection: a Tapas bar.

Named Picasso's, the bar has opened in the Eastern wing of the Ramada hotel and will be open from 6 Pm on a daily basis.

While we have not yet checked out the restaurant personally, you can rest assured that as soon as we have done we will add it to our restaurant reviews!

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Qatar Jobs

Doha Hotels

Monday, February 09, 2009

Qatar Courtesy

by Jean

I am just home from my second visit to Qatar -where I had a really wonderful time. I saw so many things, from camels to cakes, to the Inland Sea and stunning flights of thousands of cormorants - and in the process got very close to some sand dunes.

The one constant thing that I noticed, from the start of my flight out with Qatar Airways to my boarding my return flight some 9 days later, was the unfailing courtesy extended to me as a woman.

Shopkeepers in the souks, in Villagio, Carrefour, and the wholesale vegetable and fish markets (another amazing treat) were unfailingly polite and helpful. At one shop the cosmetic counter girl did not have the product I wanted, and went then to all the others to try and find it!

I am slightly disabled, and the airline staff seated me in an aisle seat, near the toilets, and
enquired if all was well on more than one occasion. They also ensured that as there was space on the plane I had maximum space I will definitely travel with them rather than Emirates on my already much anticipated next trip.

They were also exceedingly patient with a gentleman who wanted three seats together (one of them mine!) which apparently he felt he deserved because he had checked in first, having been at the airport 4 hours earlier..... I am sure I could not have been as polite and smiling with such an awkward customer - perhaps this is the Qatari way?

Qatar Visitor Friends

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Images of Qatar: Qatar Photo Comp Update

After the first week of our competition we have already had some excellent images submitted. Choosing the best will be a difficult job, and I am very glad that I am not the judge!

We have published a small selection of the images here. Remember that there is still plenty of time to enter the competition, and a great selection of prizes to be won - ranging from a free HDR download to a Japanese Kagura mask.

Also see our article on Desert Photography by our judge Abigail Harman

The Islamic Museum at night by Shabbir Husain

Qatar's Islamic Arts Museum shimmers in the dark Doha night.Al Kharrarah sunset by Roger Clark

One of Qatar's superb sunsets.Doha Port by Dwi Yudianto

The sky streaks above Doha port.Qatar Falconry by Faizal Duta

Two young arab men with their hawks.
Qatar National Day by Ashish Balsawer

Standing on top of a car with a Qatar flag on Qatar National DayQatar Cranes by Tevfik Oguzhan Yilmaz

Cranes at sunset
Dune Tracks by Shabbir Husain

Tracks left behind in the vast desert.Trio for Comp by Jacquie Mecklenborg

Three camels kneel upon the desert floor
You may also be interested in seeing how the Japan Visitor competition is panning out: Japan Photo Competition.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Qatar Property: The Movie

For more information see our articles and resources on Qatar Property.

The Pearl Qatar | Qatar Property | Buying Property in Qatar | Property Links and Resources

Also see a selection of our other movies:

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Dune Bashing Gone Wrong

Driving in the desert we came across this horrific accident - a very real reminder of the dangers of desert driving...

desert accident

Desert accident 2

A Thank Goodness sign on the back of the car

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Also see: Desert Day Out

Qatar Visitor Friends


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

American Women Associan: February Events

Sunday, February 1, 8, & Monday February 23

American Women's Association presents
"Accessorize your Camel".

AWA has organized two shopping days for Camel accessories. The last day will be spent putting the accessories on the camel. Shopping time is 9:30 AM. till noon. Ladies only please.

info at :
or check AWA website :

Monday, February 9
American Women's Association
General Meeting @ Retaj Al Rayyan Hotel.
Our speaker this month will be from the College of the North Atlantic who is an expert on security. He will be speaking to us about self defense. Some of the meeting will be interactive, so gym clothes and tennis shoes are recommended.

Registration begins at 9:30 AM.
Meeting begins at 10:00 AM.
Members 60 QR. Guests 80 QR.
Ladies only please.

info at :
or check AWA website :

Tuesday, February 10
American Women's Association Pokeno. Join us for a fun game of Pokeno (similar to Bingo).
No experience necessary to play.
Bring a 50 QR wrapped gift and 10 QR.
Start 9:30 AM. Ladies only please.

for info :
or check AWA website :

Thursday, February 12
American Women's Association Dinner
@ The Italian Job at the Ramada Hotel.
Join us for a very special dinner with live entertainment and have a great time with other AWA members.
Spouses are welcome.
Dinner is at 7:00 PM.
50 QR deposit per person
can be made at the General Meeting.

info at :
or check AWA website :

Sunday, February 15
American Women's Association Textile Souq Tour
Start at 9:30 AM.
Ladies only please.

info at :
or check AWA website :

Monday, February 16
American Women's Association Monthly Coffee Morning
@ the home of AWA's member.
9:30 AM until 12 PM noon.
Ladies only please.

More info at :
or check AWA website :

Wednesday, February 18
American Women's Association Abaya Shop.
Purchase an abayaah with us and then shop around and have lunch afterwards in your new abayaah.

start at : 9:30 AM.
50 QR deposit.
Ladies only please.

More info at :
or check AWA website :

Sunday, February 22
American Women's Association Cooking Class.
Learn to cook 3 recipe which can be make into at least 9 Indonesian Dishes or more.
@ the Indonesian Ambassador's residence.
9:00 AM until 12:00 PM noon.
Deposit 50 QR/person upon sign up. ( We only offer limited spots )
Payment can be made
@ General Meeting or Monthly Coffee.
Ladies only please.

More info at :
or check AWA website :
Also see:

Qatar Clubs | Things to Do in Qatar | Things to See in Qatar

Monday, February 02, 2009

Charming Foul Food

This brand of beans always gives me a laugh...

Beans with the brandname Charming and the words

Also see: Pregnant Chicken | Private Palace | Sealine Sign | Moving Stationary | Construction Sign

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Doha Hotels


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Qatar Photo Comp - More Prizes

In addition to the three great prizes already on offer on our Qatar Photo Competition, E Cigarette Direct have kindly offered an Electronic Cigarette pack as an additional prize.

The Electronic Cigarette is an alternative smoking device, which allows smokers to indulge their habit with many of the harmful substances in the E-Cigarette stripped out of it.

E-cigarette Direct have told us this is not recomended for non-smokers, and if you are a non-smoker winning the e-cigarette you should give it to a smoker, or to someone trying to stop smoking tobacco. In addition, any minors (under 18 years of age) will be found an alternative prize!

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