Friday, December 01, 2023 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar has been a journalist since 2013 at Gulf Times, reporting on events related to Qatar. He was earlier a journalist for eight years in the Philippines. He became one of the 2015 United Nations Foundation Global Goals Press Fellows. He has also attended a number of journalism seminars in the Philippines.
A number of hypermarkets offer Japanese products.
Qatar food stores well stocked for global visitors

Major hypermarkets and supermarkets in Qatar have stocked, as well as added, various food products and offerings that cater to the needs of football fans from different countries. “We have enough stocks of food items, including bottled water, different juices and carbonated drinks, mainly from countries such as the UK, Italy, and the US where we have offices,” LuLu Group International regional manager Shanavas P M told Gulf Times.LuLu worked closely with Qatar authorities to determine the specific needs, as well as dietary preferences, of fans and tourists coming to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022, 'Gulf Times' had reported earlier. It is learnt that the demand of international foods and beverages has increased since the start of the tournament, which opened on November 20.Safari Mall also added more food items on its shelves, providing an array of selections for local and international visitors, according to procurement manager Rajesh Nair.He disclosed that Safari is also offering ready-to-eat ‘easy meals’ for customers, including for vegans and vegetarians, at a nominal cost. Another major hypermarket in Doha, meanwhile, added more food products such as refried beans, guacamole and soured cream (Mexican); Japanese sweet sauce, organic Tahini, and sushi rice (Japanese); and vegetable rice sprinkles, organic brown rice and barley tea (Korean).Vision Food Trading CEO Jewan Park noted a demand surge in a wide range of Korean products in Qatar since the start of the World Cup, especially popular foods and drinks such as Kimchi and citron tea. Vision Food is a major distributor of Korean products in the country. He said Korean products and food, now widely available in Qatar, including other outlets and at the Doha Metro, are not only popular among Korean visitors but also to different nationalities. “These are fast-moving items now,” he added. Park added that even Korean restaurants in Qatar have been attracting a large number of residents and football fans since the start of the tournament.

Mexican and Ecuadorian supporters gather at a mall in Doha. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar
Festivities go beyond stadiums

The excitement over the FIFA World Cup 2022 extended beyond the stadiums and fan zones as football fans created a festive atmosphere at shopping centres, metro stations, and in some open spaces in Doha, a few hours before the start of the first match Sunday.Colourfully-clad supporters of participating teams, especially Mexicans and Iranians, took their loud chants and cheers to a major mall in Qatar – to the delight of many shoppers and employees.Nationals of different countries, both residents and visitors, found themselves cheering for other teams as they take videos and photos with other fans.**media[871,872]**Alfredo from Mexico City, who was with a group of Mexicans at the mall, told Gulf Times that the 2022 edition of the World Cup is amazing, saying “the vibe is great (in Qatar)”.“I want to go to the Corniche, and I also like museums, as well as the library which I saw on Youtube which is very big, I want to go there as well. I plan to go to 10 different matches, I'm very excited about that,” he said, expressing optimism that the Mexican football team will reach the quarterfinals.A similar ecstatic atmosphere could also be seen outside the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, as well as in a number of metro stations such as Msheireb, Corniche, West Bay Qatar Energy and Al Bidda Sunday, bringing together supporters of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Qatar, among others.A huge crowd gathered at the FIFA Fan Festival to watch the opening ceremony and the match between Qatar and Ecuador in a live screening.

Gulf Times
Qatar festivities go beyond stadiums

The excitement over the FIFA World Cup 2022 extended beyond the stadiums and fan zones as football fans created a festive atmosphere at shopping centres, metro stations, and in some open spaces in Doha, a few hours before the start of the first match yesterday.Colourfully-clad supporters of participating teams, especially Mexicans and Iranians, took their loud chants and cheers to a major mall in Qatar – to the delight of many shoppers and employees.Nationals of different countries, both residents and visitors, found themselves cheering for other teams as they take videos and photos with other fans.Alfredo from Mexico City, who was with a group of Mexicans at the mall, told Gulf Times that the 2022 edition of the World Cup is amazing, saying “the vibe is great (in Qatar)”.“I want to go to the Corniche, and I also like museums, as well as the library which I saw on Youtube which is very big, I want to go there as well. I plan to go to 10 different matches, I'm very excited about that,” he said, expressing optimism that the Mexican football team will reach the quarterfinals.A similar ecstatic atmosphere can also be seen outside the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, as well as in a number of metro stations such as Msheireb, Corniche, West Bay Qatar Energy and Al Bidda yesterday, bringing together supporters of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Qatar, among others.A huge crowd gathered at the FIFA Fan Festival to watch the opening ceremony and the match between Qatar and Ecuador in a live screening.

Spectacular fireworks display shown on the mega-screen.
Revelry peaks as FIFA Fan Festival inaugurated

A spectacular fireworks display, drone show and live performances by renowned singers and entertainers at the Doha Corniche Saturday marked the official opening of the FIFA Fan Festival.The celebration, with Qatari comedian Hamad al-Amari as presenter, featured a “Welcome to Qatar” ceremony for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and enthralled a large number of football fans in Qatar and from around the world last night.The event was attended by FIFA and host country officials, along with FIFA Legends, who raised the FIFA World Cup 2022 Winners’ Trophy on stage, gracing a special occasion that marks the start of the prestigious tournament with the first match between Qatar and Ecuador Sunday at Al Bayt Stadium.Famous Lebanese singer Myriam Fares and Colombian star Maluma, as well as local and other international musicians and performers, took to the stage and entertained the crowd.Many supporters of participating football teams reveled at the FIFA Fan Festival, singing and dancing as they roamed the venue while others took part in games and activities.“Look at the crowd, this is awesome and then the music, it’s incredible," said Armado from Mexico, who was with other compatriots at the event.Visitors will enjoy an array of live performances and entertainment, including different activations and offerings, at the FIFA Fan Festival throughout the tournament.Screening of live matches on the mega-screens will also be held at the venue on top of a variety of local and international cuisines and beverages available in a family-friendly environment.The pedestrianised Doha Corniche will feature daily musical festivals, cultural activities, street fairs, and various entertainment shows.Its 6km stretch from the Sheraton Grand Doha Hotel to the Museum of Islamic Art Park has become the largest theatre in the world for live performances.Football fans can also experience riding newly refurbished dhows, docked along the Corniche area, it is learnt.According to organisers, commuters can reach the FIFA Fan Festival via Doha Metro's West Bay Qatar Energy (Red line), Al Bidda (Red and Green lines), and Corniche (Red line – exit only) stations.Apart from taxi, Uber and Careem, organisers noted that fans can also get to these venues by taking a shuttle bus loop or a stadium express bus for free by showing their Hayya cards.The FIFA Fan Festival will be open Sunday from 4pm-2am; from 11am-2am between November 21-29; and from 4pm-2am between November 30 and December 18.

The Qatar 2022 Contact Centre responds to an array of concerns round-the-clock. PICTURES: Ram Chand
Qatar 2022 Contact Centre receives more than 500,000 calls, 300,000 e-mails from fans

The Qatar 2022 Contact Centre has so far received more than 500,000 calls and 300,000 e-mails from football fans, mostly related to Hayya card inquiries, since opening in March and recorded a 94% satisfaction rate, centre director Khalid Aljumaily has said. Operated by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Contact Centre assists fans through different channels and eight languages, such as Arabic, English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Chinese, and Hindi/Urdu, in addition to having up to 750 agents being in service and in different shifts 24/7, he explained.Khalid Aljumaily speaks to journalists at the Qatar 2022 Contact CentreAljumaily was addressing a press briefing yesterday during a media tour of the Contact Centre, located at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology Al Nasr Tower B at West Bay. The SC official noted that apart from the main team in Qatar, the Contact Centre also operates international offices in India, Oman, Jordan, Kosovo, and Columbia for language support. “For example, we have a Columbia office for Spanish, as well as Portuguese; Kosovo for German, Spanish and Portuguese because it's in central Europe; we have the Indian site for English and Hindi/Urdu; while Jordan, Oman, and Qatar for Arabic and English languages,” he said.As Qatar receives a huge number of football fans from various parts of the world (with different time zones), Aljumaily said the centre’s international offices will enable them to work more efficiently and cover more hours based on their shifts. Besides WhatsApp calls, messages, and emails, he said they also deployed different channels to assist fans, in addition to having an official chatbot where people can interact and send their inquiries. “If the problem was not solved at that stage, then that inquiry can be redirected to our contact centre,” Aljumaily said.From Hayya and ticket purchases-related concerns, he said, he expects interactions to shift to accommodation, transportation, and activations such as fan zones, and other general matters related to fans, the tournament, and Qatar. “For example, there is no match today, they can just simply call the Contact Centre and say ‘I would like to do some activities what do you recommend today’, so that's also being taken into consideration and will be addressed,” Aljumaily said.He noted that Contact Centre agents underwent a series of training, from soft skills (how to handle a call, how to respond) and core training to specialised training. These include troubleshooting a number of technical issues that fans might encounter, as well as data correction. According to Aljumaily, the Contact Centre in Doha also deploys supervisors to different locations to oversee the entire operation round-the-clock.

Swiss ambassador Edgar Doerig interacting with sculpture artist David Pflugi at the CSD yesterday. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkula
Swiss envoy launches Club Suisse Doha

The Swiss embassy in Qatar, in co-operation with partners from the private sector, launched the Club Suisse Doha (CSD) initiative yesterday at the Doha Port’s Mina District, in line with the Swiss National Football team’s participation in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.Swiss ambassador Edgar Doerig led the club’s inauguration, highlighting the strong bilateral relations between Qatar and Switzerland, including trade and investments, politics and culture and arts.The club, he said, serves as a platform to bring Switzerland closer to Qataris, residents, and international visitors, giving them the opportunity to discover the different aspects of Swiss culture.Aside from Swiss sculpture artist David Pflugi’s unique works at the CSD, the envoy also cited a number of permanent and temporary installations in Doha by Swiss artists, including Urs Fischer’s Teddy Bear at Hamad International Airport, Pflugi’s work at 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, and Ugo Rondinone’s Doha Mountains near 974 Stadium.According to the embassy, the club is open to the public and serves as a meeting point for Swiss, residents and international guests where they can “experience Switzerland in its diversity and a rich cultural programme”.The event is also aimed at promoting sustainable tourism and share Switzerland’s passion for sports and football.Some of the activities at the CSD include watching the football matches live on TV in a unique Swiss atmosphere, savouring a variety of Swiss cuisines, live shows by Swiss and Qatari musicians, Art atelier showcasing Pflugi and other Swiss artists, organising chocolate workshops, welcoming special events in collaboration with Swiss companies, temporary exhibitions on sustainability and human rights, and exchanging ideas and networking.Pflugi’s The Victory Works at the CSD features stunning objects described as “priceless artefacts” and “true monuments” – both in complexity and size – which have been signed by football legends: Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Fernando Torres, Lionel Messi, Luka Modrik, and Kylian Mbappe, among others.

QT chief operating officer Berthold Trenkel at the media roundtable yesterday. PICTURES: Thajudheen.
QT offers over 9,500 rooms for World Cup

Qatar Tourism (QT), in collaboration with booking platforms Expedia, Airbnb, and, has issued licences to more than 3,500 properties under its Holiday Homes initiative, offering over 9,500 rooms for the FIFA World Cup 2022 visitors.Launched in 2021, Holiday Homes aims to add more accommodation options and promotes a safe, as well as an enjoyable experience, for visitors. “We are looking forward to an amazing tournament, to an amazing experience for every visitor that is coming to Qatar,” QT chief operating officer Berthold Trenkel told a media roundtable yesterday.According to QT, sun and sea enthusiasts will enjoy the numerous offerings and family-friendly beach club experiences such as all-day dining, purpose-built fan zone, culinary grab & go services and live entertainment, among others, at three newly-opened beaches at West Bay: B12 Beach Club, Doha Sands and West Bay Beach.In addition, QT’s Service Excellence focused segment witnessed the revamping of its call centre, setting up more than 60 information centres and over 10 virtual concierges, and the training of thousands of frontline service professionals under its Qatar Host programme. “I’m pleased to say that leading up to the major event... we got 550-plus licenced tour guides in the country. We have the right level of language expertise. We needed to make sure that we have plenty of German-speaking, Italian-speaking tour guides, and so on,” Denisa Spinkova from the Tourism Marketing and Promotion Sector said.QT also partnered with Vodafone for an SMS campaign to welcome visitors, encouraging them to use of the mobile app and get information about Qatar’s curated experiences and events. The app is live in eight languages. features “Shaheen” – a visitor chatbot that allows real-time conversation with a customer service agent on the ground.“I am really proud to say that we have managed to cover all main visitor touch points. Anyone who is starting to plan their travels to those who actually arrive in the country and until the moment they leave, we have them covered with information and inspiration and everything they need to know,” Iris Wagner from the Tourism Marketing and Promotion Sector said. Qatar Tourism added that around 500,000 copies of Qatar Now guidebook and 1mn copies of Qatar Map (pocket fold), featuring key tourism sites and event information during the tournament, will be printed and distributed at key locations. Digital versions can be viewed through Qatar Airways, digital kiosks, and Visit Qatar app.Visitors will also have the opportunity to ride 40 newly renovated Dhow boats, supported by new pontoons built by QT’s partner at Ashghal.

Gulf Times
Qatar a hugely attractive tourism destination, says football legend

Qatar’s hosting of major sporting events makes it a hugely attractive global tourism destination, renowned ex-footballer Andrea Pirlo said. “I find Qatar to be very interesting for international tourists because of sports events (that it hosts) such as the Formula 1 and Moto GP” he told Gulf Times in his recent visit to Doha.Pirlo said Qatar has become an engrossing destination for a lot of people who want to visit and explore its unique and curated touristic offerings, in addition to knowing the country better. One of the attractions in Qatar he likes most is the Souq Waqif – a key tourism landmark that lures a huge number of local and international visitors. Pirlo said his visit to Doha involved sightseeing and going to places that he likes: “I always like to go to Souq Waqif because it is very characteristic of this region, and I like to go in the night because it is crowded, I love to see the people going there, so it is really very nice to see this culture.” He added that Qatar has also become his favourite family destination, saying it is one of the safest countries for visitors, alongside a welcoming environment. “I find people here to be very friendly, always welcoming the tourists with open arms, and I’m sure that they (tourists) will love Qatar and will feel like home,” Pirlo said. He describes the country’s transformation as stunning since his first visit in 2003 with the Italian team. He also cited the country’s unparalleled hospitality and hopes to visit the country more often in the future. “Qatar means a lot to me, it is special... I find it much more different from the year when I visited Qatar for the first time,” he stressed.

Gulf Times
“No Football. No Worries.” Andrea Pirlo fronts latest Qatar Tourism campaign

Legendary Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo stars in a new global campaign by Qatar Tourism titled “No Football. No Worries.”The iconic sportsman, who famously played for the Italian national team, will show just how much Qatar has to offer and where to experience its world-class offerings.In a series of humorous advertisements, viewers see Pirlo enjoying various adventures in Qatar, from sandboarding down the desert dunes of the Inland Sea and soaking up the culture in the Museum of Islamic Art to kitesurfing at the country’s new resort, Fuwairit Kite Beach.“I have really enjoyed exploring Qatar. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people and has so much to offer. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you can enjoy Qatar and experience adventure, culture and thrilling activities – I have been many times before, and I can’t wait to visit again,” Pirlo said.Haya al-Noaimi, head of the Promotion Section at Qatar Tourism, said: “Qatar will soon be home to millions of visitors from around the world and we look forward to sharing with guests the variety of captivating experiences that feature in our latest, playful campaign.“From vibrant souqs to majestic natural landscapes, Qatar offers its warm, authentic hospitality at each touchpoint of the visitor journey while catering to every interest and every type of budget.”“No Football. No Worries.” adverts are launching on global broadcasters. They will be activated in 17 countries on November 15 across local TV stations, social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and online platforms including YouTube and the Google Display Network.The campaign forms part of Qatar Tourism’s new global brand platform, “Feel More in Qatar”, which focuses on the family-friendly activities and experiences on offer in Qatar. The central “Feel More in Qatar” campaign will launch in December. It sees three engaging animated characters introduce a family to the breadth of emotional experiences they will have in Qatar, as well as the country’s renowned hospitality and warm welcome. The characters - Shaheen the falcon, Maha the Arabian oryx and Lulu the hawksbill turtle, represent Qatar’s iconic wildlife and guide the family to discover the soul of Qatar; a destination that blends cosmopolitan modernity and stunning landscapes with rich tradition and culture.Pirlo is currently manager of the Turkish Süper Lig club Fatih Karagümrük. During his active football-playing years, he starred for Inter and AC Milan, Juventus, New York City FC, and his Italian national side. Pirlo appeared in every match of Italy’s title-winning run at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, scoring the first goal in the final penalty shoot-out that helped his side secure victory over France.Qatar Tourism has an ambitious long-term strategy to increase the number of inbound visitors to more than six million annually by 2030. The destination will achieve this by boosting the entire tourism value chain, increasing local and international visitor demand, and driving a multiplier effect across the domestic economy.

 Qatar's three new beaches offer a host of amenities. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
QT opens 3 new beaches at West Bay

Qatar Tourism (QT) opened three new downtown beaches Wednesday at West Bay, offering residents and FIFA World Cup 2022 visitors an affordable and family-friendly beach club experience.Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker, along with Hamad International Airport COO engineer Badr al-Meer, led the inauguration of West Bay Beach, B12 Beach Club, and Doha Sands – located in the heart of Doha.“At Qatar Tourism we continue to expand our offerings to cater to every kind of traveller, at every kind of budget. As the country strives to welcome 6mn visitors a year by 2030, strong additions such as this, show the world that everyone is welcome in Qatar,” al-Baker said.The three beaches offers beach-goers, besides an overlooking the naturally beautiful coastline of Qatar, a host of amenities: a volleyball court, a purpose-built fan zone, and a delectable food court at West Bay Beach; 600 sun loungers, water sport activities, versatile all-day dining and a children’s playground at B12 Beach Club; and 1,000 sun loungers, a concert stage and quick-service food outlets at Doha Sands.According to Qatar Tourism, the beaches – primed to be some of the city’s most sought-after destinations for families and tourists during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and beyond – offer unforgettable experiences for all.“As we prepare to welcome more than a million visitors in the coming weeks, we find ourselves at a particularly exciting moment, both in our country’s history and for its tourism industry.“With Qatar set to be the Middle East’s fastest-growing destination by 2030, these three beaches are the latest addition to what continues to be an impressive programme of new developments across the country,” Al-Baker said.Qatar Tourism noted that West Bay Beach, B12 Beach Club, and Doha Sands also position Doha “as a unique and desirable capital city with so many beach destination options at convenient and easily accessible locations”.The newly inaugurated beaches fall under Qatar Tourism’s West Bay Beach Project, which sees an extensive new development in the heart of Doha covering 40,000sq m of premium beachfront.Al-Baker noted that 2022 witnessed a phenomenal number of new openings across leisure, entertainment, and hospitality offerings, catering to every kind of traveller. These include the 230,000sq m Al Maha Island, which offers family-friendly fun, especially with the Lusail Winter Wonderland and Nammos Qatar beach club; and the Lusail Boulevard, a pedestrian-friendly destination that features climate-controlled streets and an array of retail and dining options.“Qatar has both expanded its offering while also leveraging its natural assets and its true differentiators. For example, the consistent winds and ideal ocean conditions of Fuwairit Kite Beach resort make for an energetic experience for visitors, and a haven for kite surfers.“At the same time, The Outpost at Al Barari, a first-of-its-kind, sustainable luxury resort in the heart of the Inland Sea nature reserve, offers guests a serene chance to escape from busy modern lives,” al-Baker said, adding that Qatar’s ambitions as a leading international tourist destination extend far beyond Dec 18.

Glimpses of the cruise ship's interiors and from the Naming Ceremony. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar and supplied
MSC Cruises introduces future of cruising with official launch of MSC World Europa in Qatar

* MSC Cruises introduces future of cruising with official launch of MSC World Europa in Qatar   MSC Cruises marked the Naming Ceremony of its newest flagship, the MSC World Europa, at the revamped Doha Port Sunday in time for Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup from November 20 to December 18. The event featured a traditional maritime ceremony at Doha Port, which was attended by Qatar Foundation (QF) Vice-Chairperson and Chief Executive HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive and Qatar Tourism Chairman HE Akbar al-Baker, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Secretary-General HE Hassan al-Thawadi, MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, Master of the Vessel Captain Marco Massa, and several guests.  PICTURES: Joey Aguilar and supplied The *MSC World Europa, dubbed as the world’s largest environmentally focused cruise passenger ship, will serve as a floating hotel, providing football fans with a unique hospitality experience. “The *MSC World Europa is our most innovative vessel. She is the world’s best-performing cruise ship in terms of *CO2 emissions per guest,” said Vago, adding: “Running on LNG, the cleanest fossil fuel and, of course, Qatar’s most renowned export.” He stressed that MSC, like Qatar, placed climate change at the forefront of its agenda and reiterated its commitment to reaching net zero carbon from its cruise operations by 2050. The Naming Ceremony also underlines the overall commitment of MSC, together with Qatar Airways, to boost tourism in Qatar, the region (where MSC Cruises is brand leader), and internationally. “Over the years, we have proven our commitment to supporting Qatar’s economic diversification, which is guided by Qatar National Vision 2030,” Vago said. “And of course, to further develop Qatar’s global tourism destination profile. Qatar has a wonderful tourism offering to meet a huge variety of interests, and an array of destinations.” “In 2016, our own MSC Fantasia became the first major cruise ship to call at Doha,” he said. “We have been reliable partners ever since.” “And today, we renew our commitment to Qatar by homeporting our most modern and innovative ship in Doha,” Vago added. Speaking at the press briefing Sunday, HE al-Baker noted that Qatar welcomed more than 560,000 cruise visitors and 182 port calls since the launch of cruise tourism in the country. For the 2021/22 season, he noted, the top nationality of cruise visitors to Qatar are Italians, enjoying 29 calls to Doha Port by two MSC vessels. “While Qatar Airways is the global aviation gateway to Qatar, the marine industry is very important to tourism and the long-term economic and cultural connections it brings,” HE al-Baker said. “As sustainability is vital to the future growth of aviation, the *MSC World Europa illustrates how the marine industry is addressing the challenges of efficiency and emissions reductions.” “The Naming Ceremony of the *MSC World Europa is an important prelude to the FIFA World Cup 2022 and shows the enormous endeavour and collaboration necessary to deliver the best World Cup ever,” he added. HE al-Baker said that Qatar Airways serves more than 150 destinations around the world, including the major cruise cities, while its network and its people play a key role in connecting MSC Cruise passengers to the most sought-after destinations and the authentic experience in Qatar. He cited Hamad International Airport (HIA)’s major expansion that will increase its capacity to 58mn passengers and provide an unparalleled travel experience. Meanwhile, the event witnessed a cutting-edge video-mapping projection onto the ship’s hull, a huge drone show, and a spectacular fireworks display. Part of the celebration included performances of local artistes and international singer-songwriter Matteo Bocelli, hosted by comedian, producer and entrepreneur Hamad al-Amari. Bocelli presented his solo work for the first time in Doha and his new album is set to be released by early 2023 via Capitol Records. An environmentally-advanced cruise ship The MSC World Europa is the most innovative and environmentally advanced cruise ship in the MSC Cruises fleet. On top of groundbreaking advances in terms of reduction of emissions and energy efficiency, the LNG-powered ship paves the way towards the uptake of carbon-neutral synthetic and other alternative fuels as soon as they are available at scale. Spanning 22 decks, with 215,863GTs, 47m wide, 40,000sq m of public space and 2,626 cabins, the MSC World Europa is an ultramodern urban metropolis at sea offering a veritable world of different experiences, while setting a new standard for the cruise industry. The MSC World Europa will spend her inaugural season in the Middle East, offering 7-night cruises to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, the UAE, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and Doha. The ship’s season will commence on December 20 with a special four-night sailing from Doha to Dubai. Departing Dubai on March 25, 2023, it will head to the Mediterranean Sea for summer 2023. She will offer seven-night cruises calling on the Italian ports of Genoa, Naples and Messina, as well as Valletta in Malta, Barcelona in Spain, and Marseille in France. The MSC World Europa will feature selective catalytic reduction systems, shore-to-ship power connectivity, advanced wastewater treatment systems to comply with the so-called Baltic standard, the strictest global standard for wastewater disposal to sea, an underwater radiated noise management system to reduce potential noise and vibration impact on marine mammals, as well as a wide range of energy-efficient equipment and systems.

NMoQ in black and white. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Attention to art and architecture sparkles in photo exhibition

Renowned fine-art photographer, author and educator Joel Tjintjelaar has underlined Qatar’s vibrant art scene and the stunning architecture across the country, featuring 27 striking black and white images in his first exhibition in the Middle East. “First of all I think the art here in Qatar is really amazing. Just look at what they do with the museums here, there's a lot of attention to art,” the multi-award-winning photographer told Gulf Times. Sheikh Abdulla bin Jassim Al-Thani Palace at NMoQ He was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of ‘The Age of Modern Architecture in Qatar’ exhibition on November 8 at M7, which was attended by Qatar Museums chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa. The event, sponsored by Qatar Tourism and running until January 21, 2023, draws inspiration from grand architectural design objects that contribute to the identity of Qatar.   Renowned fine-art photographer, author and educator Joel Tjintjelaar at the ‘The Age of Modern Architecture in Qatar’ exhibition. These include the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Qatar National Library, Katara Towers, Burj Doha, National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), and the Al Janoub Stadium, among others. “I’ve been everywhere to shoot architecture. Well I like a place where there's a connection with history… look at the National Museum (of Qatar), it is based on the desert rose crystal so there's always this connection. It is a young country but the architecture, it respects the environment, the culture, and that is what I like about,” said Tjintjelaar, who also lauded renowned architects such as Jean Nouvel and I M Pei, who designed the National Museum of Qatar and the Museum of Islamic Art, respectively. Qatar National Convention Centre While having the opportunity to photograph Nouvel’s architectural designs in France, he said seeing the architect’s works in Doha is “something completely different and see that he is really a great architect.” He noted that he also finds the Al Janoub Stadium amusing, noting that its architect, the late Zaha Hadid, was one of his favourites. Katara Towers Tjintjelaar, who specialises in black and white, long exposure, architectural, landscape, and still life photography, said there are numerous buildings in Qatar that he likes to photograph, including mosques and the new Lusail Plaza Towers, and hopes to conduct a workshop next year. Qatar National Library Tjintjelaar was born in Jakarta and raised in The Netherlands. He was trained as a criminal lawyer but worked in IT for more than 20 years before he quit his daytime job in 2014 to do photography full-time. The exhibition displays 27 striking black and white images at M7 Burj Doha. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam

Berthold Trenkel
QT: Qatar 2022 visitors to enjoy football and much, much more

                 Staff Reporter   Qatar is ready to welcome a huge number of FIFA World Cup visitors who will have the opportunity to experience a wide range of tourism and hospitality offerings apart from the football frenzy, Qatar Tourism (QT) chief operating officer Berthold Trenkel has said. “Everyone will be focused on the stadium, on the matches … but for me, this is the part that I want to show people we have much more than football,” he told Gulf Times on the sidelines of a recently held QT event. Trenkel noted that the QT partnered with various social media channels and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) with their influencer programme, giving “people the best experience so that they see what the country has to offer”. He cited the recent opening of new attractions and hotel properties and resorts, in addition to shopping and entertainment centres in time for the prestigious tournament, which will take place from November 20 to December 18. One of these hotels is Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha, which offers luxurious amenities for different age groups such as a vibrant entertainment programme, several dining outlets, an engaging kids’ club, and state-of-the-art fitness facilities. The 35,000sq m Outpost Al Barari, on the other hand, offers curated experiences that celebrate the country’s rich natural environment and heritage – surrounded by soaring sand dunes and desert wilderness. The resort features 21 villas, comprising Emiri and Heritage villas, which provide guests with ultimate privacy and uncompromising comfort, scenic views of the desert “from private terraces with infinity pools inspired by the turquoise sea of Qatar”. Al Maha Island, meanwhile, is also expected to attract many visitors with its engaging activations, particularly the Lusail Winter Wonderland besides its high-end restaurants and eateries. The recently opened Lusail Boulevard – a unique leisure and entertainment spot and touted as the “Champs-Élysées of the Middle East” – features a vibrant and diverse shopping, commercial and residential area. “Al Maha will be amazing, all its facilities, not just the Lusail Winter Wonderland but also the new restaurants that are coming,” Trenkel said, noting that a new tourism campaign is set to be launched soon. “Qatar is ready, the stadiums and infrastructure, everything is ready ... I know it is less than two weeks to go. The key point, we are fully ready,” he stressed. Hamad International Airport (HIA)’s first phase expansion, inaugurated yesterday, increases its capacity to 58mn passengers annually, in line with the expected flow of visitors and football fans during the tournament. “The airport (HIA) is ready, the decorations are magnificent, and it is amazing. Even the arrival experience (at the airport) has changed,” Trenkel said.

Dr Othman al-Thawadi, Dr Kamilla Swart and Dr James She.
Sada Insight: AI system for sport media and events launched

               Staff Reporter An artificial intelligence (AI) technology and data system aimed at providing ultrafast AI-based sentiment analysis, search, statistics and alerts on various aspects of a mega event like the FIFA World Cup was launched yesterday at The Pearl-Qatar.  ‘Sada (meaning ‘echo’ in Arabic) Insight: AI for Sports Media and Events’ was borne out of a research project about ‘Sentiment Analysis on FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Using Artificial Intelligence and Twitter’ by Hamad Bin Khalifa University College of Science and Engineering associate professor Dr James She, Dr Kamilla Swart and their teams at HBKU. Swart initiated the 2010 FIFA World Cup Research Agenda and has been part of several research initiatives that aim to enhance knowledge of mega sporting events in the Middle East and North Africa region, and Qatar in particular. According to the organisers, this project was initially funded by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and CyPhy Limited, and later on collaborated with Michael Linley, Victoria University, and Qatar University’s College of Business and Economics assistant professor Dr Othman al-Thawadi. Dr She, also the project lead, said “the unique capabilities of our AI technologies and Data system – Sada, developed in this project, are the ultrafast access and continuous insights about the sentiments for different aspects of a mega sports event by analysing the growing amount and complex content of tweets. “So far, over 1mn tweets highly relevant to the World Cup event, as the first in the community, are collected and analysed. The AI system, Sada, will collect more highly-related tweets every day, and then continuously analyse and report the sentiments of the identified concepts and keywords from newly accumulated tweets containing text, emoji or even user shared images later on using advanced machine learning techniques and system technologies.” As such, media channels, reporters, organisers, and individual professionals could get a nearly real-time summary and timely ideas about wide-ranging topics and incidents perceived by the public about a sport event. Organisers noted that social media remains a key source for retrieving public sentiment, citing Twitter as one of the most popular platforms for social media. More than 400mn tweets are posted daily and more than half a billion tweets were obtained in the previous World Cup. This large dataset allows the public reaction to an event like the World Cup to be analysed, providing information on public perceptions and attitudes. This research investigates the relationship between the sentiment based on Twitter tweets and the World Cup 2022, organisers said. “These tweets are only collected with the relevant hashtags or keywords about the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Through our AI and data-driven Sada system and the derived methodologies, we discovered the sentiments and fun facts of some features important to the sentiments about the period before the World Cup. “The result shows that people are positive about the upcoming World Cup. Other breakthroughs and powerful features of the Sada system include the intelligent analysis of social media languages, daily mobile alerts, and summarised insight of total and daily tweet amount, average sentiment, and smart information visualisation,” the organisers added. Al-Thawadi underlined the capability of the Sada system and its generated insight to assist with better management and decision-making across all phases of event bidding, planning, and implementation. “Moreover, Sada system and the produced insight has applicability across different types and sizes of special events, ranging from sport to even non-sport, mega and annual sport events. “The initial groundwork of this project was a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and the 2022 FIFA World Cup has presented an opportunity to evolve the analysis of public sentiment using AI technologies and massive data from social media that can provide real-time insights in order to create smarter events,” he noted. Dr Swart said that for future work, the collaborative project team will investigate the public sentiments by advancing novel AI, data, and system technologies from HBKU to help discover other key aspects or even predict the golden ball winner of this World Cup. “For example, football players’ sentiment could reflect their on-field performances, and the higher the sentiment could help us to track and predict the winner. Since many tweets can involve complicated sentences, and even contain trending multimedia content like emojis, images, or even video, the involved AI technologies, system, and methodologies in Sada is envisioned to provide much more accurate and earlier insight about the public’s sentiments of any mega sports event faster than hearing your sound echo,” she said.

High demand for football-related items at shops in Souq Waqif and elsewhere. PICTURES: Thajudheen and Joey Aguilar
Football fever grips shops as demand for accessories soars

Several retailers in Doha are doing brisk business as the demand for football- and World Cup-related products – ranging from countries' flags to banners and a wide range of accessories – continues to rise sharply in the run-up to the mega event in Qatar. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be held from November 20 until December 18. While FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 official licensed merchandise is sold at select outlets and can also be ordered online via the Qatar Post e-store, a variety of other football-related products, such as flags, scarves and headgear, can be found at different stores in Doha. It is prohibited to promote the sale of items bearing the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 logo, trophy, mascot or FIFA trademark, without obtaining prior approval from FIFA. The authorities have repeatedly reminded commercial entities and the public not to sell or use such products. The sellers are also mindful of this and they ensure that they store or sell no such product that is in violation of the law. An employee of an outlet at Souq Waqif, which sells FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 official licensed products, told *Gulf Times that orders from many companies in Qatar have increased significantly in the past few days. “Many people (of different age groups) are visiting the shop daily since late October,” he said. “They are looking for jerseys, caps, footballs and small flags. Flags of different sizes are also in high demand, both from walk-in customers and bulk orders.” Jerseys, he noted, cost QR99 (fixed price) each at their store but some outlets offer other similar products for QR50 using other designs and fabrics, while prices of flags range from QR5-QR30 depending on the size. Keychains are pegged around QR30, while miniature World Cup trophies, in addition to other unique items such as fancy sunglasses, cups and water bottles, are also in demand. Another shop employee shared the same view, saying that FIFA World Cup items have provided a huge boost to their sales, leading some to temporarily keep their usual wares aside in view of the World Cup rush. “Excited football fans, whether families, groups of friends, especially those who have bought tickets for the matches, began purchasing accessories like flags and caps to show support for their teams,” he said. He expressed confidence that the trend, just like any related to any major sporting event, would continue in the coming days and throughout the tournament. Shops and boutiques at malls, shopping centres and in other locations across Qatar, apart from tourist spots, also get a fair share of the pie, receiving an influx of shoppers, it is learnt. Prices of basic football-themed t-shirts start from QR35 while caps cost between QR45-QR75. PICTURES: Thajudheen and Joey Aguilar A boutique employee said they often run out of stock of jerseys with the names of participating countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Portugal and Qatar “for some obvious reasons”. “Price is not an issue, customers don’t even ask for discounts, they simply pay and want to get hold of them,” he said. “Some would buy more than one jersey – it's mostly football fans who collect such items.”

Gulf Times
All Doha Metro carriages to be Standard Class during World Cup

* Gold and Family class to be suspended from from November 11 to December 22 Qatar Railways Company (Qatar Rail) has announced that all Doha Metro carriages will be Standard Class from November 11 to December 22 to maximise train capacity throughout the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Qatar Rail tweeted Sunday that the Gold and Family class will be suspended during this period, when a large number of people are expected to use the Metro services. From November 11 to December 20, the Metro will run from 6am to 3am, Saturday to Thursday, and from 9am to 3am on Friday. There are 37 Doha Metro stations across the Red, Gold and Green lines. According to Qatar Rail, 110 Metro trains will be in service or on standby while 18 trams will be deployed at all seven Lusail Tram stations. Hayya Card holders will be allowed to use the Metro free of charge between November 10 and December 23. A total of 18,200 parking spaces at 13 Metro stations will be available under its Park & Ride service. Qatar Rail noted that its metrolink feeder services will serve 23 Metro stations, while the metroexpress on-demand service will be available from 6am until noon. Meanwhile, Qatar Rail gave a service update on Sunday's launch of metrolink service No M111 from the Msheireb Metro station shelter 2 to cover the Fereej Abdel Aziz area, and resumption of the M105 service from the DECC station shelter 1 to cover Al Dafna zones 60 and 61. Metrolink route M112, which uses higher capacity buses, also started operating Sunday to and from Al Doha Al Jadeda station, and comes every 12 minutes. Several other metrolink routes and services were either launched or increased their coverage in October, including M110, which extended its service to Perlita Gardens at The Pearl-Qatar. Qatar Rail has been intensifying its Metro and tram services in time for the World Cup, scheduled to take place from November 20 to December 18, ensuring a safe, environment-friendly and seamless travel experience for passengers. The Metro network played a key role in the success of eight major local, regional and international sports events since the Metro’s inception in 2019, according to Qatar Rail.

Maryam al-Jassim
World Cup live screenings at Msheireb Dowtown Doha

Msheireb Dowtown Doha’s (MDD) premium zones will offer live screenings of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 matches, Msheireb Properties public relations and communication manager Maryam al-Jassim said. The Barahat Zone will serve as the hub for live viewing either on a giant screen or in special pods, she told media on the sidelines of a press conference announcing the World Cup activations at MDD, surrounded by famous landmarks such as Souq Waqif, the Doha Corniche, and the main metro station – Msheireb. Besides the Barahat Zone, the official pointed out that many of the hotels within the district are also expected to offer live screenings of the matches throughout the prestigious tournament. She urged football fans, residents and visitors to explore the different activation zones, including the Heritage Zone, which hosts Al Annabi Village. Located at the company house at Msheireb Museums, it will serve as the Qatar National Team’s celebration hub, in partnership with Qatar Football Association and Qatar Shell. The Heritage Zone also houses the Universo Olivetti exhibition, a gallery of graphics and architectural models that tells the story of the Italian visionary “Adriano Olivetti”; and the Frida Kahlo - The Immersive Biography, an emotional and immersive journey through the life story of one of the world’s most iconic artists. The Sikka Zone will be hosting the Intaj – Film, Television, and Theatre exhibition (from November 8) – a multimedia exhibition of Qatar’s cinema, film making and theatre movements by the Doha Film Institute; Mawater Warehouse Exhibition, a showcase of unique cars (from November 15); and Host Country Media Centre, which provides broadcast and media facilities for 2,000 journalists; among other activations. “This will be the best version of the World Cup, and we welcome all visitors to see the beautiful Msheireb Downtown Doha,” al-Jassim said. She added that football fans would also have the chance to see the ‘Forever Valentino Exhibition’ at M7 – the largest to date and its first presentation in the Middle East.

Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha consists of two towers comprising of 378 luxurious rooms and suites. PICTURE: Ram Chand.
Katara Hospitality, Rixos Hotels debut All-Inclusive concept in Qatar

*Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha is set to reimagine the 5-star experience in Qatar Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha, Qatar’s first luxury beach resort to pioneer the all-inclusive lifestyle concept, opened Tuesday in time for the welcoming of over a million football fans for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022. The event highlights a unique brand of hospitality that Katara Hospitality, in partnership with Accor and Rixos Hotels, is introducing to Qatar for the first time. The hotel reiterates the brand’s commitment to creating an elevated 360° experience for guests. Officials of Katara Hospitality and Rixos Hotels lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony. PICTURE: Katara Hospitality. “We are very proud to witness the re-opening of the fully restored Gulf Hotel Doha in partnership with Rixos Hotels; 50-years ago, Gulf Hotel was the country’s first five-star hotel and helped lead the hospitality industry in Qatar," Katara Hospitality’s deputy chairman and Qatari Diar CEO engineer Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said. “The main purpose of the project restoration was to celebrate the heritage of Qatar and to bring back the original iconic identity of the building. Rixos brand is firmly rooted in the generous and authentic approach to hospitality as the origins and traditions of Turkish heritage, and we are happy to welcome the Turkish hospitality to Qatar with the opening of the first Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha,” he added. The Farmhouse is an all-day dining restaurant that introduces high quality, farm-fresh ingredients, with an emphasis on authentic Turkish cuisine. PICTURE: Katara Hospitality Since its opening in 1973 as the Gulf Hotel, the building itself has become a landmark in the city and this new venture reimagines the property with luxurious offerings under the All-Inclusive concept within the Rixos brand name. Established in 2000, the fast-growing Turkish hotel brand has redefined the meaning of All-Inclusive by creating individual and meaningful experiences through an unlimited selection of premium products and services across bucket-list worthy destinations. “This iconic landmark is the ideal venue to introduce Rixos and its All-Inclusive concept to Qatar. Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha perfectly balances the striking contrast between the 1970’s architecture of one of Doha’s most recognised landmarks with all the style and functionality that is expected of a leading 21st-century luxury hotel,” Rixos’ chairman Fettah Tamince said. The new venture reimagines the property with luxurious offerings under the All-Inclusive concept within the Rixos brand name. Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha consists of two towers comprising of 378 luxurious rooms and suites. The guest rooms blend comfort with the cutting-edge technology to satisfy all guests. The hotel features the brand’s highly acclaimed signature Anjana Spa. Offering luxurious amenities for different age groups, the hotel features a vibrant entertainment programme, several dining outlets, and engaging kids’ club and state-of-the-art fitness facilities. Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha’s dining outlets include the Farmhouse, the all-day dining restaurant that introduces high quality, farm-fresh ingredients, with an emphasis on authentic Turkish cuisine; Rasa provides guests with Indian classics with a modern take; Mr Tailor, a steakhouse offering the finest meat cuts and presenting Eastern Mediterranean cuisine; Crust, the 24-hour lobby lounge featuring a bakery with desserts; and M lounge. The Exclusive Sports Club and Rixy Kids Club are among the attractions. Since its opening in 1973 as the Gulf Hotel, the building itself has become a landmark in the city. PICTURE: Katara Hospitality Katara Hospitality acting CEO Andrew Humphries said: “Today marks a key milestone for Katara Hospitality with the re-opening of the Gulf Hotel, known to be the first 5-star hotel in Doha, and reiterates the hotel’s commitment towards creating an elevated brand experience for guests.” Rixos Hotels UAE regional general manager Cenk Unverdi said: “The opening of Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha is a monumental achievement for everyone involved, and the introduction of the All-Inclusive concept in Qatar’s hospitality landscape helps reiterate the hotel’s commitment to creating an elevated brand experience for guests.” Rixos Gulf Doha Hotel general manager Sherif Kasseb said: “The Qatari market is ready for an All-Inclusive destination where guests’ only concern is to sit back and unwind while their every need is attended to. Rixos Gulf Hotel Doha is fulling this market gap and will soon become the go-to destination for business travellers and vacationers alike. We look forward to welcoming guests to our hotel.”