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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Exclusive Interview with Tim Sebestian

In the final of a series of articles for QatarVisitor.com on freedom of speech and the press in Qatar, Yousra Samir talks to Tim Sebastian in an exclusive Qatar Visitor interview.

In the interview she covers the purpose of the Doha Debates, asking whether it is a showcase for medium freedom or a genuine attempt to improve people's freedom of speech.

See An Interview with Tim Sebastian for the full story.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Alcohol Receipts

Do you keep your alcohol receipts?

To be honest, I am the sort of person who loses receipts within several hours of receiving them.

But after picking up some booze for a party today and trying to beat a hasty retreat towards the exit, I was warned that perhaps I shouldn't.

"Please wait for your receipt, sir," said the polite lady on the desk.

"I don't need it," I said, imagining some impossible position where employees could claim back their booze against expenses.

"But what if the police stopped you, sir?"

"Well, I have my alcohol permit," I reassured her.

Not enough, apparently.

You should also have proof of purchase to show that you and you alone bought the alcohol.

The police are on the lookout for people who have bought their alcohol illegally - meaning you need proof of purchase, even if you have a permit.

So keep those alcohol receipts!

See Alcohol in Qatar for more information about alcohol rules and regulations in Qatar.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Qatar Falconry

Qatar falcons

In our second article on falconry Fran Gillespie, author of Discovering Qatar, writes about falconry in Qatar.

She takes us through from the trapping of the birds just before the hunting season, their training, and the hunting of the Arab falconer's favourite prey, the Houbara - and we finish off with a video about breeding falcons in the Gulf.

For the full article check out: Qatar Falconry.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thai Snack Set to Shut?

Rumours are spreading round Facebook that Thai Snack is set to shut.

The event may seem unimportant on a country level, but this is a small country and there is a tremendous amount of affection (or should I say drooling) for the restaurant's products.

In fact, I sometimes wonder if the establishment, which many consider to be the best Thai restaurant in the country, although it is a fraction the price of some other Thai restaurants, doesn't slip some addictive substance into its food.

My wife just has to mention Thai Snack (which she does on a regular basis) and saliva starts to generate in my mouth.

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't like the place.

Anyway, rumours, which have been grumbling round the city for a year, have again surfaced that the family who run the restaurant are to leave the country.

I sometimes wonder if they don't start the rumours themselves to boost business. Although they hardly need to - the place is almost always packed.

Anyway, I'm not taking any chances - I'm off to get my fill of good Thai food while I still can.
Check out our review of Thai Snack.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Controversy in Córdoba

Whilst researching an article for QatarVisitor.com in Spain John finds outrageous lies in an attempt by Spanish Catholics to defend their destruction of an Islamic mosque famed for its beauty and to cast doubts on the tolerance and achievements of a great era in Islamic history.

When you visit the Grand Mosque in Córdoba, you are presented with a leaflet, ostensibly a tourist guide. However, on reading it, I found it was a blatant piece of propaganda for the Catholic Church's vandalism carried out on the Mosque.

Now, I would not wish to visit the sins of the father on the son, but there is no trace of repentance for the destruction of the work of art that the Mosque undoubtedly was.

Questionable "facts"

One statement that really annoyed me was:

"It is a historical fact that the basilica of San Vicente was expropriated and destroyed in order to build what would later be the Mosque, a reality that questions the theme of tolerance that was supposedly cultivated in the Córdoba of the moment."

Now, according to my research, the Muslims and Christians shared the original building for around fifty years and then the Muslims bought the Christian's half from them in order to build the Mosque. That seems reasonably tolerant to me.

Comparative tolerance

If we are talking about tolerance, lets consider a few more facts. It is well known from historical documents that the Muslims encouraged other races and religions to join in the great cultural movement that was afoot in Córdoba during its Islamic heyday and Christian and Jewish scholars in the University there produced important works.

On the other hand, following the reconquista, "Los Reyes Católicos" expelled all Muslims and Jews who would not convert, conveniently allowing them to top up their treasury with any unsold property left behind.

They also restored the Inquisition, which was responsible for around 12,000 deaths of innocent people, who were tortured until they "confessed" and then burnt alive at the stake. Such tolerance! This time the Catholic Church got its hands on the property of the deceased, allowing it to increase its already considerable wealth and its priests to live in luxury while the peasants starved.

Another Kingly Cock-up!

Apart from the idiot King Carlos III, who gave permission for the destruction of the Mosque without having seen it and then too late realising his error (not mentioned in the Catholic leaflet - how strange), the religiously fanatical Ferdinand (who was from a Jewish background - you know what they say about converts being the worst) and Isabel (the Catholic Monarchs) gave huge tracts of land to their supporters of nobility and left the peasants with insufficient to scratch a living and thus caused a problem in Andalucía which lasted until recent times.

Many of these land owners were absentee landlords and the once fertile, food producing land was left to be grazed by sheep and Spain had to import grain as a result.

The controversy continues.

In April 2010, six Muslims entered the Mosque and started to pray. This horrifying act was quickly jumped on by the security guards and four of the Muslims left quietly. The other two refused, the police were called and they were arrested.

One of the diocesan priests wrote a newspaper article to defend the action. The message was quite clear, this is a Catholic Cathedral, we won't allow people of other faiths to pray here. Tolerance?

As one newspaper cartoon put it, "You can't pray here, this is a church".

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Virgin Comes to Qatar (Again!)

Branson rode into Doha on a jetski yesterday, shooting out a plume of red and white smoke (from the jet-ski, not Branson!), heralding yet another British company's move into the country.

In what must be a bit of a blow for Vodafone, Virgin Mobile has brokered an exclusive deal with Qtel to offer its prepaid mobile phone service.

In some ways, Virgin seems like more of a match for Vodafone in Qatar. I have visited Vodafone's offices, and they are light, colourful and very modern, whereas one imagines Qtel to be a bit of a dinosaur.

But Virgin was the modern challenger to Vodafone in the UK, and in Qatar Vodafone have spurred on Qtel to be far sharper than they used to be, at least in regards to marketing.

Vodafone will certainly need their wits about them now. In the UK Virgin Mobile entered a crowded market and managed to shake it up simply by offering a simple and easy to understand pricing model when every other competitor was using incredibly complicated ones.

An essential element of the company - which is the fastest growing in Virgin group - is the brand, one which is already established here with Virgin Megastore in Villagio.

Virgin is also in Qatar with its cord-blood bank, as Shabina Khatri investigated last year in Qatar's Futuristic Cord Blood Bank.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Art Exhibition at Yama Yoga Studios

Cecilia Francisco, the Qatar based Canadian artist, is holding an exhibition of her work at the Yama Yoga Studios, which is located at Garvey’s complex in Al Aziziya, Doha.

Opening on 27 May 2010 at 7 p.m., the exhibition will run to 06 June 2010.

The exhibition, which will be entitled Duality, will feature 17 acrylic and mixed media paintings which will represent both her feelings for her new home Qatar and her longing for her home country Canada.

You can view a selection of Cecilia's images on her website: ceciliafrancisco.com, while more information about the exhibition can be found on her blog here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Harrods in Qatar?

Harrods glows bright at night.
So, Qatar bought Harrods.

At a cool one point five billion it wasn't cheap - until you consider the potential of the brand in the Middle East.

It hits a number of points with the Qataris: it has huge brand awareness in the area, it's got investment potential to help them achieve their target of reducing oil dependency, and it has to be a major boost to their prestige.

The question my colleagues are bandying around at work now is whether there will be a branch of Harrods in Qatar. (And I think the answer is probably yes.)

Qataris abroad

Many Qatars go abroad with one objective in mind - to shop.

One lady told me that when she went to London and Paris she would even take her cook with here. She would stay at her apartment in each city and always eat at home.

One wonders if the attraction of travelling would diminish as shopping around the world grows ever more homogenous.

Already you can see most big British brands in Villagio.

Although, with heat in the summer hitting 50 degrees, I don't think British retailers need to worry just yet.

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Image above by SoNewFangled
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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Beauty of the Desert People

Mahleb flowers.

In our latest article on the website, Yousra Samir finds out how the Qatari people managed to keep clean, beautiful and fragrant in a time before Qatar had running water and imported fragrances.

It may now have been an easy task, but it was one which the Qataris were able to achieve - with a bit of help from nature!

For the full fascinating article head over to the website and check out Desert Beauty.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Qatar's New Football Stadiums

Qatar's World Cup Bid

Also see: World Cup Bid Update: Qatar is not fooling around!

Qatar's world cup bid is heating up, and after talking to the editor of our sister site Soccerphile it looks as they have a real chance of winning this time.

"There's never been a world cup in the Middle East, and the powers that be think it would be a good idea," he told me.

He may be correct, with no less than FIFA president stating that the Arab World deserves a world cup.


In preparation for their bid, Qatar have announced the construction of three futuristic new stadiums, and a visually spectacular preview of what they will look like (see movie below).

The new stadiums will be built in Al Shamal , in the North of Qatar close to Al Ruweis, in Al Khor and in Al Wakra.

The country also plans to rebuild the stadiums in Al Gahraffa and Al Rayyan.

The plans for the stadiums followed last years announcement that Qatar would build the world's first underground football stadium to accommodate 60,000 spectators.


The new stadiums will be the first airconditioned outside stadiums - but not at a sacrifice to the environment.

Utilising solar power, carbon zero cooling equipment will ensure that the temperature is never more than 27 degreess celsius.

With the money to finance the project, the ambition and drive to carry it through and support from FIFA the country could very well become the first in the Arab World to host a world cup.

Qatar Stadium's Movie

Related posts and articles:

World Cup 2022 Jobs

Qatar Unveils Stunning 2022 Stadiums (The Gulf Blog)

Qatar's Cooling Fields (Taragana Blog)

Qatar Football: An overview of football in Qatar

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