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 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.
Scenes from *Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love.
Global debut of musical showcases Indonesian folklore's appeal

An Indonesian musical performance titled *Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love* made its international debut yesterday (May 22) at Katara – the Cultural Village in Qatar.Qatar Museums (QM) Chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Indonesia's culture director-general Dr Hilmar Farid, Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan and other dignitaries attended the opening night.Directed by Rama Soeprapto, this specially commissioned production brings to life stories from Indonesian folklore, which hold a precious place as part of the world's intangible heritage, as recognised by Unesco.The performance, which concludes tomorrow (May 24), forms part of Qatar-Indonesia Year of Culture 2023.The director told reporters that *Hayati weaves a tale of love, self-discovery, and the true essence of life.The central character, Panji, embarks on a quest to find his beloved Sekartaji, only to realise that in searching for love, he ultimately finds himself.“While he is looking for Sekartaji, his love, he discovered that in looking for love, he finally found himself”, which is what life is about, Soeprapto said.Acclaimed Indonesian performers Achmad Dipoyono and Kadek Dewi Aryani star as main characters Panji and Sekartaji, respectively.The production, Soeprapto noted, aims to evoke a deeper understanding of life's meaning through “enchanting music, mesmerising dance, and thoughtful design”.Bringing together a rich tapestry of sounds, the performance incorporates diverse musical instruments from across Indonesia.Accompanied by enchanting melodies and synchronised movements, the dancers from Bali and Java showcase their skills and enthralled the audience.In an interview, Soeprapto said that *Hayati is a reflection of life itself.Panji symbolises the essence of man while Sekartaji represents womanhood.The tree, Hayati, embraces their journey, symbolising the universal essence of love.“Hayati is the tree which embraces it. The essence of love is actually the essence of life,” he stressed.Soeprapto emphasised that the performance transcends language barriers, allowing different cultures to come together and appreciate the beauty of Indonesian culture.As the performance unfolded at Katara, spectators were moved by the profound message conveyed through art and music.Soeprapto said he hopes that *Hayati would serve as an ambassador of diplomacy, bridging cultural gaps and promoting understanding among people from all corners of the world.Highlighting the significance of the venue, Soeprapto noted that Katara is a beautiful space that sets the stage for meaningful connections and unity.He added that the debut of *Hayati in Qatar marks an important milestone, representing Indonesia's first-ever series of performances to be showcased on an international platform.He said that understanding and connecting with people is the key to falling in love with a culture.Saying that if *Hayati is embraced as an ambassador of unity and peace, Soeprapto expressed his enthusiasm for future opportunities to share this fascinating performance worldwide.He said that he has already been invited to bring *Hayati to Mexico.In a press statement, ambassador Hassan said: “Qatar and Indonesia share a lot when it comes to cultural heritage and its influence on our societies today, not least of which is the pride we have in our ancestors’ wisdom and teachings.”Aisha Ghanem al-Attiya, director of Cultural Diplomacy for Qatar Museums, said: “*Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love* is one of this Year of Culture’s principal events.”“We are grateful to the Indonesian ministry of education and culture, research and technology and the cast and crew for the passion that went into creating this masterpiece,” he said.BOX:Universal meaning behind *Hayati“Hayati” means living, which encompasses a person’s journey through trials in the ultimate search for peace and love that enable deeper appreciation of life itself.Originating in the East Javanese courts of the Kediri and Janggala kingdoms during the 12th century, the stories of Panji and Sekartaji were later adapted and transformed in other parts of Indonesia and the wider region.The Panji story follows the adventures of Prince Raden Panji, who travels to various kingdoms in search of his beloved princess, Dewi Sekartaji.The story is often used to convey moral lessons and cultural values, such as the importance of loyalty, bravery, and perseverance.The Sekartaji story, on the other hand, centres around the character of Dewi Sekartaji, who is said to possess unparalleled beauty.The story explores themes of love, betrayal, and the struggle for power and control.These stories were traditionally performed as *wayang (shadow puppet) plays, accompanied by Javanese gamelan music.Today, the central character is portrayed using different masks throughout the performance.In Panji stories, a mask is a form of nonverbal communication that portrays the character and the personality of the central figure.The character's traits can be recognised through the shape of the eyes, nose, and mouth.The character of Panji can be identified by the mask worn by the performer.The design of the mask determines whether the performer is playing an antagonist, protagonist, animal character, and so on.The colours of the mask also convey different meanings through five colours: red, white, yellow, green and black.Red represents courage, white represents purity, yellow symbolises joy, green means gratitude, and black represents wisdom.Music and design masters bring ancient stories to lifeThe play’s musical concept seeks to transport the audience to the Majapahit era (13th–16th centuries CE), the height of artistic expression in ancient Indonesia, by combining traditional Javanese and Balinese ensemble music.Director Rama Soeprapto said: “There have been so many versions of Panji and Sekartaji and their story over the centuries. I wanted to create a simpler version with *Hayati: Panji Searching for the Essence of Love* that audiences can understand and connect with. It has been a welcome challenge.”Producer Bayu Pontiagust explained that *Hayati is an original show.“What I am trying to visualise within the production is how to maintain its origins from the classic Javanese and Balinese tradition, while imbuing it with a modern touch through musical and visual elements,” he said. “I want the audience to not only experience and understand the essence of the story, but also enjoy the choreography.”Costumes for *Hayati were designed by Era Soekamto, a household name in Indonesian fashion.Known for her batik designs, she often takes inspiration from the ancient Mataram and Majapahit kingdoms of Indonesia and has expressed her hope that the stories she is able to tell through her batik help others learn and understand their history.“To me, the philosophy is like the tree of life,” she explained. “When the roots are stronger, the nation will grow stronger too.”

Media Shout - 2017, an artwork by Nadim Karam.
A unique shift in Qatar's burgeoning art scene

Qatar’s burgeoning art scene is taking a unique turn, thanks to the growing appreciation of art by citizens and those who call the country home, an international arts manager has said.“I think it (Qatar) is setting itself apart, thanks to the locals and people of Qatar who are appreciating art in a different way than we’ve seen. Over this... the GCC as a whole has changed its approach and point of view towards art,” Garo Bardakjaian, in charge of international relations for renowned Belgian-Lebanese artist, sculptor, and painter Jean Boghossian, said as he lauded Qatar’s vibrant art scene.He noted that people like Boghossian and a number of participating Middle Eastern artists in the ‘Eruption’ exhibition at Msheireb Downtown Doha have showcased their works with pride, serving as ambassadors of the region to the world as well.According to Bardakjaian, the warm reception extended to these artists underlines the welcoming atmosphere for Middle Eastern artists returning to their homeland.“It is always a welcoming and heartwarming scene when we see us being welcomed back to the Middle East,” he said, noting that the globally-renowned artist is a Belgian-Lebanese of Armenian descent.Other exhibiting artists at the Eruption exhibition at Msheireb include Amal al-Aathem, Anachar Basbous, Anastasia Nysten, Clara Carvajal, Houmam al-Sayed, Jumanah Abbas, Mahmoud Obaidi, Maryam al-Homaid, Morrison Pierce, Nadim Karam, Nicolas Panayotou, Nourbanu Hijazi, Peter Zimmermann, Said Baalbaki, Tamara Haddad, Yasmina Nysten, and Zheng Lu.The exhibition was organised by Anima Gallery and Msheireb Properties, and brought together the works of local, regional and international artists at Msheireb. The show will run until June 10 at Sikkat Alwadi.Bardakjaian said Boghossian, who become popular for his unique experimentation with fire as his medium of choice, is exhibiting his work titled ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’, which “depicts the tension and beauty of a canon blast with billowing smoke, reminding us of the fragility and power of anticipation.”He explained that the painting itself has inclusion of damage (by fire), which is part of the artist’s process.The artist, Bardakjaian noted, comes from a family of jewellers and at a very young age was exposed to fire as a medium to create jewellery. Over the years, he then pursued his passion and transitioned to becoming a full-time artist.The artist’s exceptional work at the exhibition, he pointed out, captures the split-second moment when smoke puffs out after a cannon explosion – a depiction of the readiness to pursue his passion and aim for excellence in his chosen field.

US ambassador Timmy T Davis with Qatar’s Minister of Finance HE Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari, Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ assistant director of Protocol Saeed 
al-Hajri cutting a cake at the event yesterday. 
PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Embassy celebrates US independence and US-Qatar ties, Mardi Gras style

The US embassy in Qatar transformed the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) into the vibrant streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, yesterday to mark the 247th US Independence Day.The lively event, led by US ambassador Timmy T Davis, was attended by Qatar’s Minister of Finance HE Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari, Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ assistant director of Protocol Saeed al-Hajri, diplomats from various embassies in Qatar as well as other dignitaries.Davis sang and danced at the event, joining a number of performers on a huge parade float that entertained the crowd.The festivity featured jazz and brass music, in addition to a wide range of culinary delights, showcasing a New Orleans tradition that “grew from a French religious festival into a multicultural American celebration”.In his speech delivered in a space decked in the Mardi Gras colours of purple, green, and gold, the envoy underscored the importance of celebrating the rich diversity of the US and the deep-rooted bilateral ties between the US and Qatar.Citing the warm welcome and authentic hospitality he received since arriving to Qatar, the ambassador said: “I’m impressed by the genuine kindness that I see every day from the people of Qatar and others who call Qatar home ... building authentic relationships is a genuine element of Qatari culture.”“In the spirit of building our bonds of friendship, today I have a special opportunity to share with you all a snapshot of where I come from, my roots, my home, the city of New Orleans,” Davis said.“A city that has seen its share of struggle and which has even experienced Qatari generosity in the wake of Hurricane Katrine, New Orleans is a place where music, food, and culture thrive,” he said. “The diversity in New Orleans comes from the rich history of its people ... nicknamed the birthplace of jazz, it is a place where the music is just as vibrant as the food.”For Qatar’s first Mardi Gras, three musicians performed American music throughout the night – the Doha-based “AFCENT Band” of the US Air Force Central Command, and two bands visiting from the US: New Orleans go-go funk and brass band “Brass-A-Holics”, and Minneapolis, Minnesota bluegrass act “Barbaro”.Performers tossed beaded necklaces from the parade float, a popular Mardi Gras tradition, as guests enjoyed beignets and other New Orleanian famous dishes.Besides his achievements as US ambassador to Qatar, Davis also underlined the success of the 5th US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue in Doha, during which the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussing various areas of bilateral relations between the two countries, ranging from trade and investment, education and culture to energy cooperation, labour rights, regional security and defence co-operation, and law enforcement and counterterrorism.

Al-Attiyah Gate, an illustration from the book.
New book takes readers on an architectural journey of Qatar

Architect Ibrahim Mohamed Jaidah has launched his newest book, ‘Discovering Arabian Deco, Early Modern Architecture in Qatar’, taking readers “on an architectural journey of urban development since the discovery of oil through the three most significant decades”.The publication features an exceptional collection of rare photographs, drawings, and reproductions, as well as underlines the architectural transformation in the capital city from the “1950s to urban necessity in the 1960s to urban modernity in the 1970s.”“This is my fourth book. I did a history of architecture in Qatar before the oil period, I did the interior designs the Qatari style, the 99 domes, but this book is about Discovering Arabian Deco, the Qatari Early Modern Architecture, from the discovery of oil until the end of the 70’s,” the author said on the sidelines of a signing ceremony at Msheireb Museum’s Bin Jelmood House at Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD) on Tuesday.Jaidah’s book also puts a spotlight on the 1960s movement, named ‘Arabian Deco’, and presents some of the pivotal moments during these periods that shaped Doha’s development.“You got the first school, first apartment buildings, first banks, it is also documented in this (book). It’s a very important era (1950s, 1960s, and 1970s). The unique thing is... I’ve discovered that there was also a Deco style architecture, and I call it Arabian Deco because it has palm trees, it has eagles, so I think it is so unique and it is something that I want to feature,” he said. “It is the first time this style has been highlighted in our architectural history.”Jaidah noted that he has done an extensive research for the book, which included a huge archive of photos he has taken for the last 35 years, in addition to having a research team within his firm, AEB Qatar.An exhibition was also organised as part of the event, showcasing the book’s highlights depicted through 3D-printed models and architectural illustrations with a focus on the buildings from the Arabian Deco era. The exhibition is open to the public at the Mohammed bin Jassim House Museum at MDD.In a press statement, Msheireb Museums manager Abdulla al-Naama said: “We are proud to host the book launching of one of the renowned Qatari architects and authors. Our hosting of the event reiterates our mission of supporting the creative community and offering them a platform to reach out to the wider community. “Besides, the book will be available in Msheireb Museums’ library to allow researchers, academics, students and readers to purchase or have more information about our rich legacy. This is a crucial step to document our heritage and preserve it for the coming generations”.The book is now available at Msheireb Museum’s gift shop, located on the ground floor of Bin Jelmood House.

Islam Makhachev led the ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening of UFC Gym Qatar. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
UFC Lightweight champion kicks off UFC Gym launch with masterclass

UFC Gym Qatar, an extension of the renowned UFC brand, and Al-Mana Holding led the grand opening of their second gym at The Pearl Island on Monday, featuring UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev as guest of honour.“This gym has everything, it's great. We can do our training camps here since it has everything. It’s a major platform for combat sports in Qatar and hopefully MMA’s (mixed martial arts) future champions in the octagon," Makhachev told a press briefing.“It’s clear to see how the country’s created this amazing reputation for hosting sporting events and why it’s becoming the sports capital of the world. Inshallah we will see a few UFC events here.”Noting it was his first time to visit Qatar, he hopes to return back to Qatar in the future – at the UFC gyms in particular – to hold some training sessions.The newly-unveiled state-of-the-art facility provides limitless classes and personalised training sessions in various disciplines such as MMA, boxing, Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai, and HIIT, as well as an array of youth programmes. The gym also features a dedicated gym-area and UFC Octagon, among others, in addition to an exclusive women’s area for female-only classes.The UFC GYM team offers a free pass for enthusiasts and aspiring MMA fighters, urging them to also visit the UFC Gym Qatar website and explore the customised membership tiers.“The much-anticipated opening of our second location on The Pearl has become a central focus for Al Mana Holding. Our research shows there is an appetite for an all-inclusive facility offering an MMA-inspired training space and traditional fitness under one roof.“We’re very much looking forward to contributing to the growth of Qatar’s vibrant fitness community by continuously expanding our sports offering,” Al Mana Holding deputy CEO Abdulrahman Hamad al-Mana said.The inauguration of The Pearl-Qatar branch forms part of Al Mana Holding’s expansion plans aimed at promoting UFC Gym’s unique ‘Train Different’ philosophy. This follows the New Salata branch opening in August 2022 and another massive location opening in Al Kheesa at the end of 2023.It is learnt that the first branch witnessed an increasing number of memberships, giving them the chance to excel in their sport and for others to try something new.As Qatar continues to make significant strides as a leading sports destination, MMA offers an opportunity for people in Qatar to exercise and stay fit in an exciting and enjoyable way.At the press briefing, Makhachev underlined the importance of preparations, hard training, and being in top shape, which includes holding training camps in the mountains as part of their conditioning.He also offered some tips for aspiring MMA fighters, saying that training and having a background in wrestling and Sambo, which he did for a couple of years, would significantly help in advancing their careers.

Results from the workshop by Suzana Joumaa. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
VCUarts Qatar exhibition takes visitors on a flavourful journey

An exceptional exhibition, titled ‘The Edible Lab: Food, Culture & Design’, takes visitors on a flavourful and intricate journey with the works of 13 students at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar).Led by designer and VCU arts Graphic Design chair Qatar Astrid Kensinger, the exhibition formed part of the Liwan Open Day and Exhibition Openings Sunday. This showcases the latest multidisciplinary design experiments and innovative research projects incubated at Liwan Design Studios and Labs.Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, Kensinger said: “The Edible lab is a new elective undergraphic design at VCUarts Qatar. It’s looking at food, culture, design and really activating memories, oral histories, stories, so culture through the kitchen if you will.“Each student chose one food so you can see, we have black seed, chili pepper, fig, we had the olive, mango, the date, pomegranate mushroom, lemon, Kiwi, banana, blackberry and onion.“Each (student) did one and then they spent the semester researching how did that food come to Qatar, when did it come to Qatar, is it in your kitchen? If not, put it in the kitchen and make something with your grandmother and so they explored many different topics and themes through the lens of the kitchen.”The participants included students: Selma Fejzullaj, Sharifa al-Attiayah, Al Maha al-Muftah, Amna al-Humaidi, Shouq al-Kuwari, Ohoud al-Saygh Black, Noof al-Atteya, Almaha al-Mahmoud, Alanood al-thani, Adila Hayati, Dalal Johar, Minseo Kim, and Fae Siddiqui.The exhibition puts a spotlight on both tangible and intangible cultural heritage through personal stories, featuring traditions such as recipes, rituals, celebrations, feasts, and superstitions, in addition to grandmothers’ advice.Visitors are given the opportunity to explore the richness and complexity of these traditions at the exhibition – presented at Liwan for the first time. It combines posters and books that draw from students’ personal experiences and connections to the ingredients.In running a research lab called ‘The Intangible Lab’, which looks at the intangible cultural heritage of Qatar, Kensinger said she hopes to activate students who become activists in cultural preservation, and to listen and seek out memories from grandmothers, mothers, and aunts.“So that's part of what we did so each student made three posters, one poster was the anatomy of the food, one poster was a recipe with the food, one poster was “how to” with the food, and they also made books that house all the information, and if you click on the QR codes you can hear oral histories from the students’ perspectives,” she said.The second exhibition highlights the results of three workshops conducted by different artists at Liwan: first, “Creating Contemporary Wooden Sculptures,” led by interior architect Suzana Joumaa; second, “The Monobloc: A Chair for One, A Chair for All,’ led by interdisciplinary designer Majdulin Nashrallah”; third, “The Kimono and the Abaya: Cultural Hybrids through Fashion”, led by fashion designer Sayuri Kurotsu.

Zheng Lu's 'The Release of All Beings From Suffering Is All Beings Releasing Themselves - 2014'.
Shift in the global art market

The global art market has seen a significant shift in recent years due to an increasing number of art enthusiasts and collectors have emerged in the Middle East and China, it is learnt. The rising economic prosperity and cultural awareness, as well as the growing interest in contemporary art, are among the factors driving such focus, according to renowned Lebanese artist Nadim Karam.“I feel that things have gone beyond Europe for the moment... they have shifted to this part of the world and I think China, where I'm doing projects also,” he told Gulf Times, noting that these regions “have this awareness of the importance of culture and dialogue” apart from having the resources.“How can you do anything without improving dialogue, communities and culture? There is an awareness here I feel. I think the voice should be raised even further in the direction of cultural improvements and community interaction through projects related to culture, public art and other things... because public art could in one way or another bring cultures together and bring communities together,” Karam said.He was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the ‘Eruption’ exhibition at Msheireb Downtown Doha on Wednesday, organised by Anima Gallery and Msheireb Properties. Karam was one of the high-calibre artists participating in the show, which will run until June 10 at Sikkat Al Wadi.It is learnt that countries in the Middle East, including Qatar, have been investing heavily in building iconic museums, galleries and cultural institutions such as the National Museum of Qatar and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. China’s major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, meanwhile, are witnessing a huge interest in contemporary art, and are becoming key hubs for arts and culture.The artist also lauded the efforts and vision of Qatar Museums chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani that aim to transform the country into a vibrant cultural centre in the region and even beyond.“That's fantastic. I think to be able to do something like this and to have this vision it's extremely important. I mean to be able to bring all those artists to create work here, works in the desert, works within Qatar and whatever surrounds it... this is great and a huge thing for Qatar, for Doha,” he said.While Karam has done a number of projects in neighbouring GCC countries, he is looking forward to be doing a major work for the city of Doha. “I feel that there are so many potentials and I think the choice of artists for doing the major works is the kind of decision taken by the Qatar Museums in the sense that they're looking for getting works that express what are the needs of the actual societies if you want and it's very important,” he said.

Ghada Sholy at the ‘Eruption’ exhibition. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar
Eruption art exhibition at MDD

Anima Gallery and Msheireb Properties opened ‘Eruption’, a one-of-its-kind art exhibition that brought together the works of local, regional and international artists at Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD) yesterday (May 10).The show, which will run until June 10 at Sikkat Alwadi, presents a mixed array of artists from across the globe - including emerging talents and established masters – and puts a spotlight on a wide range of artistic disciplines, from sculpture and painting to digital and sculptural installation.The participating artists are Amal al-Aathem, Anachar Basbous, Anastasia Nysten, Clara Carvajal, Houmam al-Sayyed, Jean Boghossian, Jumanah Abbas, Mahmoud Obaidi, Maryam al-Homaid, Morrison Pierce, Nadim Karam, Nicolas Panayotou, Nourbanu Hijazi, Peter Zimmermann, Said Baalbaki, Tamara Haddad, Yasmina Nysten, and Zheng Lu.“Eruption is an exhibition that tackles in a way the effects of social media such as TikTok and Instagram, as well as journalism and everything in general, how it affects our art, how it affects our life socially, physically, emotionally, politically, in every single way.“Every artist is interpreting the word ‘eruption’ in his or her way. We have local artists, we have artists who live in Qatar, resident artists, and we have artists from all over the world, it is an international exhibition,” Anima Gallery founder Ghada Sholy said.Speaking to Gulf Times, renowned Lebanese artist Karam lauded Anima Gallery for organising a timely and unique exhibition in Doha, one of the cities in the region that has given so much attention to public art.“I think this is phenomenal that we managed to do, Ghada and Anima Gallery has done this exhibition which is really good. It shows hope, it shows moving forward (from the Covid-19 pandemic), which is nice,” he said.Karam’s work titled ‘Media Shout’, which belongs to his ‘Shout and Silence’ series, portrays a relaxed, armchair posture of those seeking to shape how people see the world.Garo Bardakjaian, in charge of international relations for renowned Belgian-Lebanese artist, sculptor, and painter Jean Boghossian, lauded the exhibition describing it as “a very beautiful selection of art”, thanks to Anima Gallery for putting such good calibre artists next to each other.”“I’m also a fan of Nadim Karam, who is also exhibiting. I think he is an amazing artist. It is very lively, very well-curated exhibition,” he said, noting that Doha is a city that welcomes and appreciates art and artists from different backgrounds.Boghossian’s work, titled ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’, “captures the moment of action towards achieving one’s ambition”. “The painting depicts the tension and beauty of a canon blast with billowing smoke, reminding us of the fragility and power of anticipation.”

Maha al-Shebani highlights the importance of cultural diplomacy at the Intercom Doha Tuesday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar.
'Sheikha Al Mayassa a fashion icon raising awareness on global issues'

Qatar Museums Chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has become “a fashion icon known to be bold in her choice of abayas in official events”, which aims to raise awareness on global issues, a researcher at Qatar Museums has said.“In 2010, she wore an abaya made completely out of recycled plastic to raise awareness on the increase of plastic pollution on the planet,” said Maha al-Shebani at a panel discussion at the Intercom Doha 2023 conference, which concluded Tuesday at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ).She said HE Sheikha Al Mayassa, who is also one of the most active of the Royal siblings on social media with one million followers on her Instagram (IG) account (second to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani), uses her fashion statements to encourage and empower local talents.Al-Shebani noted that HE Sheikha Al Mayassa also established M7, which now serves as Qatar’s hub for innovation and entrepreneurship in design, fashion, and technology.This unique institution offers local talents the needed resources and expertise to bring their ideas to fruition as it helps empower designers to collaborate, explore, and establish successful businesses.She said that HE Sheikha Al Mayassa utilises her social media pages to provide a platform in recognising emerging local artists and residents in Qatar, showcasing new exhibitions in Doha and abroad, and new creative initiatives, in addition to highlighting diplomatic developments through arts and culture.An example, al-Shebani said, was Her Excellency’s post where she welcomed Vietnam’s Vice President and her delegation at NMoQ, describing it as “a wonderful presentation of cultural relations.”She also underlined HE Sheikha Al Mayassa's larger-level initiatives such as the Years of Culture programme, launched in 2012 after Qatar won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. “It is an annual initiative where Qatar partners with nations for an entire calendar year to collaboratively enjoy and educate one another on each country’s culture and artistic offerings”.In her talk, al-Shebani, who graduated from the School of Advanced Study, University of London, with a degree in global diplomacy, cited her research and highlighted how culture – cultural diplomacy in particular – can impact international relations.“My research defines cultural diplomacy as a two-way strategic tool that aims to encourage learning and teaching, both together, to ultimately avoid cultural misunderstandings and misconceptions to positively influence major national level relations and agreements,” she said.Al-Shebani noted that countless cultural misconceptions and stereotypes flood today’s world due to extensive globalisation “be it in the development of the internet”, the spread of social media, or even the popularisation of Hollywood films around the world.”

QM chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani speaks at the opening of the Intercom Doha 2023 conference Sunday at NMoQ. PICTURE: QM
Intercom Doha 2023 conference kicks off at NMoQ

The Intercom Doha 2023 conference kicked off Sunday at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), bringing together museum professionals from across the globe to exchange knowledge and discuss the latest advancements in the industry. “The conference marks the very first time that Qatar has been host to the International Committee for Museum Management, Intercom: one of the most important committees in the world for helping museum managers set standards and establish best practices,” QM Chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said in her speech. “I look forward to collaborating and sharing ideas and insights that will help one another continue to move forward in managing our institutions, and, more importantly, our futures. “Most of all I look forward to sharing what Qatar has done to develop its own authentic museum experience about Islamic, Arabic and Qatari heritage and culture,” HE Sheikha Al Mayassa added. Titled ‘The Future Museum: Framing the Skills and Mindsets of the Visionary Leader Conference’, the three-day event organised by Qatar Museums (QM) offers participants the opportunity to attend a series of keynote speeches and panel discussions, as well as take part in a number of workshops. Session one Sunday witnessed Dr Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic, professor of Leadership and Management at Hult International Business School, focusing on 'Profiling the Leader: Key Skills and Future Mindsets of the Museum Leader'. John Wetenhall of The George Washington University Museum in the US presented Charging for Charity while Anne-Marie Gilis of KU Leuven in Belgium puts a spotlight on Qatar's emerging museum landscape. Dr PierLuigi Sacco, professor of Cultural Economics, IULM University Milan; senior researcher, metaLAB at Harvard, and visiting scholar at Harvard University, and special adviser to the European Commissioner for Education and Culture, talked about ‘Museums as Platforms of Behavioral Change for Societal Challenges’ during the afternoon session. Prof Dr Desmond Hui, professor and head of the Department of Art and Design at The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, is also set to deliver a keynote speech Monday titled ‘The Future Museum for cross-cultural exchange of knowledge and experiences during the morning session. Other presentations Monday will include ‘The “cultural identity” model of Fondazione Brescia Musei’s Alliance for Culture’ by Stefano Karadjov from Fondazione Brescia Musei, Brescia, Italy; The Future Museum by Cristina Beard from Provincial Museum Network of Lugo, Spain; The Museum as Family Home: Shaping a New Mindset for Museum Leadership in West Africa by William Geblerkpor from Museum of Natural and Cultural Heritage at Shai Hills – University of Ghana; Leadership and Patrons by Anna Dentoni from Promotori Musei del Mare, Galata Museum, Genoa, Italy; The impact of the visit to the US Museum on the management thinking of the Capital Museum leader Han Yong by Yu Qihe from School of Foreign Languages in Southeast University, China; Sustaining Art Museums: A Study of Corporate Governance of M+ by Anqi Li from The University of Hong Kong; Challenges and benefits of succession planning: a case of the national museums of Zambia by Esther Kabalanyana Banda from Lusaka National Museum, Zambia; Louvre Abu Dhabi: and A Blueprint Universal Model Paving the Way for the Future of Museums in the Region by Manuel Rabate from Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE. Day three will see a series of roundtable discussions and presentations by QM speakers and experts, and those from the region, focusing on Museum Leadership Across Mena, Museums and Society, Museum Audiences and Cultural Leadership, and New Museums and New Ideas. QM CEO Ahmad Musa al-Namla said: “As the pre-eminent cultural institution in the region, QM plays a crucial role in driving change and serving as a role model for the museums sector. The conference provides an ideal opportunity to gain knowledge and insights from one another, and to extend a warm welcome to our colleagues from across the globe to experience our rich cultural heritage, dynamic contemporary art scene, and exceptional array of museums and galleries.” Sheikha Amna al-Thani, acting deputy CEO of Museums, Collections and Heritage Protection, and NMoQ director, said: “We are incredibly proud to be hosting Intercom Doha 2023 this week, and to have the chance to bring together museum professionals from around the world in conversation, to discuss ideas and visions for the future. We look forward to showcasing our vibrant museum scene and sharing our experiences and perspectives on the future of museums with the international community.” Dr Fatema al-Sulaiti, director of International Co-operation and Governmental Affairs, shared her view on the conference’s importance in offering a forum for museum directors, curators, educators, researchers, and communications professionals to tackle the challenges and other hindrances confronting cultural institutions, in addition to deliberating on the latest innovations and trends in the sector. “The focus of Intercom Doha is particularly timely as it provides a platform for participants to examine the findings of Icom-Intercom’s recent research into the effects of global crises on museum leaders and decision-makers. QM is honoured to host this gathering that will generate fresh perspectives and solutions on a matter of significant importance,” she said. Intercom chair Dr Goranka Horjan said: “The latest global research by Intercom has revealed that good museum leadership and governance is a complex matter. A main goal of the Icom’s Intercom is to explore strategies that can assist museum professionals in running their institutions. “The conference in Doha focuses on how to equip museums with visionary leadership and useful management tools designed to communicate the value museums provide to society, which will in turn, make the decision-makers, legislators, and other interest groups more committed to museums and to understand that value. “In addition to this, better advocacy is needed to provide support and funding, and to explore new opportunities for museums to deal with present and future challenges like sustainability, digital transformation, climate change, funding issues, new working environments, and operational demands."

Philippine ambassador Lillibeth V Pono
Philippines School of Doha hosts graduation ceremony

It is essential to produce graduates who are equipped with the skills and expertise needed to compete and succeed in today’s ‘global knowledge economy’, according to Philippine ambassador to Qatar Lillibeth V Pono.Speaking at Philippine School of Doha’s (PSD) 2023 graduation ceremony of Grade 12 students recently, the envoy said: “In a post-pandemic world beset by a host of complex challenges, the ultimate goal is for the Philippines to produce graduates ready and able to hold their own in the global knowledge economy and contribute to the country’s growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.Some 176 students graduated from Grade 12, while 282 completed Grade 10, a total of 300 from Grade 6 and 315 from K-2 for the 2022-2023 academic year, according to PSD.Pono underlined the importance of achieving this goal in the post-pandemic period that continues to be confronted by a host of complex challenges. These include “the devastating effects of climate change, the horrors of wars and military conflicts, economic meltdowns, and the emergence of advanced artificial intelligence”.She urged graduates to be resilient and continue achieving their goals and ambitions despite these issues that may confront them, expressing confidence in their ability “to thrive in difficult circumstances, as you have demonstrated in the last few years during the pandemic.”“I trust that your education from the Philippine School Doha has equipped you with the knowledge, skills and patriotism to contribute to nation-building and development.“Now, more than at any other point in recorded history, we are witnessing a world being reshaped by major geopolitical developments and technological innovations, so sweeping and fast, it’s almost impossible to keep up,” Pono said in her speech.The envoy cited the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak, impacting all facets of society, particularly the education sector.“To this day, the world continues to battle the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This pandemic has, for better or worse, upended every aspect of our lives and forced us to redo things differently in a way, which, a few years prior, would have been unthinkable.“Nowhere is this more apparent than in the education sector. The restrictions in mobility put in place at the height of the pandemic resulted in face-to-face classroom sessions being replaced by virtual learning. I imagine that for a system that places a premium on hands-on and in-person interaction, switching to Zoom or Google Classroom overnight may have been a little jarring,” she said, adding that these kinds of tests only bring Filipinos’ perseverance.Pono noted that while many returned to face-to-face classes, blended learning and hybrid classrooms remain very much in place and have emerged as acceptable modalities for learning.The envoy said the graduation ceremony at PSD marks a step closer to achieving the goals set by the Philippine government in the 2023-2028 Philippine Development Plan.“The most notable of these goals is, of course, the improvement of lifelong learning through quality, inclusive, adaptive, resilient, and future-ready basic education for all. Related to this is the development of globally competitive and inclusive higher education, as well as technical and vocational education and training programmes,” she said.

The Ned Doha
Afternoon tea, special menus lined up for coronation day

The upcoming coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla in the UK has inspired a slew of special culinary offerings to mark the occasion, which is expected to boost further Qatar’s hospitality and food and beverage (F&B) sector, it is learnt.Anticipating a high demand for such offerings, a number of leading hotels, restaurants, local bakeries and online food platforms in the country are providing curated dishes to mark the historic event scheduled for May 6.On its Instagram and Facebook pages, Qatari-run enterprise has posted pictures of a traditional Afternoon Tea Box “exclusively for the upcoming royal celebrations” on May 5 and 6.Posted by Sarah Ahmed, the offer costs QR250 and it includes 10 assorted finger sandwiches, four classic scones, two traditional eclairs, two traditional Victoria sponge cakes, two traditional almond tarts, and two English breakfast teabags, in addition to “festive coronation goodies” as a bonus.Orange Blossom, known for its artisan homemade fresh food prepared using premium ingredients, is also offering a Coronation Day Afternoon Tea on May 6.Priced at QR245, the offering includes drinks, savoury items, scones and sweets.The Ritz-Carlton, Doha is hosting a Coronation Brunch on May 5 in honour of the coronation and it is being held at the hotel’s signature steakhouse, STK Doha.“As for the demand for such offerings during this period, we anticipate high demand for our Coronation Brunch due to the excitement and significance of this event.“The coronation of King Charles is a momentous occasion, and we believe that it will have a positive impact on Qatar's hospitality and F&B sector, bringing guests together.“Qatar is a country that prides itself on inclusivity and is a melting pot of different cultures, making it a unique destination for guests from all over the world therefore a celebration of such magnificence will be an incredible experience for all,” The Ritz-Carlton, Doha Marketing director Natavan Malikova told Gulf Times.She said the offering features live entertainment, a kids' club and a delicious menu curated by its culinary team. The menu includes a variety of starters such as crab cakes, shepherd's pie with lamb and mashed potato, and Scotch eggs. The brunch prices begin at QR275.Malikova noted that the hotel will also offer main dishes such as a grilled meat platter, including lamb chops and sausages, grilled salmon with broccoli and lemon sauce, and a traditional roast with Yorkshire pudding. For dessert, guests can enjoy a selection of sweet treats including lemon tart, STK special – Junk Chalice, and Eton Mess.She said that for The Ritz-Carlton, Doha, hosting the Coronation Brunch at STK is an opportunity to showcase its culinary expertise and exceptional service to its guests.“We are committed to creating a memorable experience for our guests that not only celebrates the occasion but also reflects our dedication to providing the highest level of luxury service in Qatar,” she said, adding that the hotel extends its warmest congratulations to the United Kingdom on the historic occasion.The Ned Doha general manager Niels Kristensen said significant events such as the UK King’s coronation have “notable influence on Qatar’s hospitality and F&B sector as it provides an opportunity to showcase our exceptional hospitality, creating unique experiences and memorable events for our guests”.“We would like to extend a warm welcome to our guests to join us in celebrating the United Kingdom King’s Coronation. We look forward to providing an exceptional experience and creating lasting memories for all who attend,” Kristensen added.Market by Jean-Georges Doha at W Doha is offering a British Brunch on May 5, featuring specially crafted British dishes starting from QR350. The event will feature some musical moments also, as Qatar-based singer Faraway Martin will be performing.The Red Lion Doha and its branches have shared on social media their curated offerings, from a special brunch package to ‘Flexi Liquid Brunch and ‘Coronation Brunch Menu’ on May 5 and 6 from QR250. Patrons can also enjoy live coverage of the coronation at Red Lion, Al Mansour Suites Hotel, Mansoura, with a special menu from 12 noon on May 6.

Romil Putong Abule during the fastest crossing of Qatar on foot.
Filipino expat in Guinness World Records for fastest crossing of Qatar on foot

Filipino expatriate Romil Putong Abule now holds the new Guinness World Records for the ‘Fastest crossing of Qatar on foot (male)’, completing the feat in one day, eight hours, and 59 minutes on October 20, 2022.“I cannot describe how happy I am because to be honest, I really didn’t expect to finish it,” Abule, 35, told Gulf Times, noting a number of challenges along the way, including the hot weather in October.The record was previously held by Tunisian athlete Sadok Kochbati, a fitness coach, gym instructor, and ultra-runner, who finished the run in one day, 10 hours, 19 minutes, and 18 seconds on February 4, 2022.According to a post on the Guinness World Records website, Abule “wanted to achieve this record as a challenge for himself and to be an inspiration to others, especially his family”.Abule said that he had no previous sports endeavour or running experience in the Philippines before coming to Qatar. However, he was prompted to do running as an expatriate to fight homesickness. Since then, he often participated in a number of races in Qatar.“This was the start of his sporting journey and the next thing he knew, he has been doing it throughout the past 10 years. His goal is to be recognised as one of the best Filipino runners in Qatar,” Guinness World Records noted.Abule said he started his journey at Al Ruwais at 5.30pm on October 20 and continued to Qatar’s major highways, but had to pause every hour to make a two-minute documentation with a number of witnesses (more than 30 persons of different nationalities) since there was no adjudicator from Guinness. After a day, he said he rested for approximately 30 minutes before resuming the run.“There were moments that I had to slow down because I was really tired and had only a few minutes of rest,” he said.After submitting all the needed documentation last year, Abule said Guinness replied on April 28 saying his application “for Fastest crossing of Qatar on foot (male) has been successful and you are now the Guinness World Records Title Holder!”

The Doha Metro provided a safe, reliable and environment-friendly mode of transportation to Qatar residents and visitors during the Eid al-Fitr holidays across its network. PICTURE: Qatar Rail
1.73mn metro ridership during Eid holiday

Qatar Rail announced that the Doha Metro and Lusail Tram has recorded a ridership of 1.73mn passengers during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, providing a safe, efficient and environment-friendly mode of transportation across its network.Qatar Rail tweeted Monday that “the 2nd day of Eid was the busiest, with around 239,000 passengers, and the networks operated seamlessly and safely”.The Eid al-Fitr holidays offered residents and visitors in the country the opportunity to explore the different tourist spots, from the iconic museums, art galleries and shopping centres to Qatar’s natural wonders, in addition to the huge public art installations outside the capital city.During the Eid break, Qatar Rail noted that its “front-line staff dedicated their efforts in ensuring effective crowd management at Doha Metro stations. Our customer service staff played a key role in assisting and guiding the passengers to their favourite destinations”.Several popular tourism sites, as well as major malls, shopping centres and public parks, can be accessed via the Doha metro stations and through Metrolink transportations, bringing passengers to and from Katara – the Cultural Village, Souq Waqif, Souq Al Wakra, Msheireb Downtown Doha, Al Bidda Park, Doha Corniche, National Museum of Qatar, 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, Qatar National Library, Education City, Lusail city, Mall of Qatar, Place Vendome, Villaggio and Aspire Park, and City Centre Mall, among others.The Eid holidays also witnessed an array of events and attractions – held at various locations across Qatar – attracting a large number of residents and visitors who prefer to ride the metro trains. Among the highlights began during the first three days of the Eid holidays, held between April 21 and 23. These include events organised by Qatar Tourism and were held at Msheireb Downtown Doha, Qatar National Convention Centre, and Lusail Multipurpose Hall.The Lusail QNB station was one of the busiest stations due to the festivity at Lusail Boulevard. The shows and attractions, which concluded on April 28, drew crowds who had the chance to witness and take part in a series of fun-filled activities and parades in the evening, particularly the spectacular fireworks display and drone shows.It is learnt that many arriving passengers at Hamad International Airport during the holidays were able to enjoy the services provided by the Doha metro via its Terminal 1 in going to key destinations in Doha.

Some of the activities at Lusail Boulevard Friday as most of the Eid al Fitre festivities across the country were concluded Friday.  PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Eid al-Fitr celebration ends on a high note

Most of the Eid al-Fitr celebrations across Qatar concluded Friday, providing an array of crowd-pulling events featuring family-friendly shows and activities for different age groups.The first three days of the holidays, held between April 21 and 23, witnessed stellar performances from renowned artistes in the region, fireworks displays at various locations, including the Doha Corniche, and a wide range of children’s shows.The events were part of ‘Feel Eid in Qatar’ campaign, organised by Qatar Tourism, in partnership with Qatar Airways, marking the festive occasion and drawing a large number of attendees.Fans of popular Egyptian singer, actor, composer, director and songwriter, Tamer Hosny, along with DJ Rouge, thronged the Al Mayassa Theatre, Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) for a live performance on April 21.On April 22, renowned Lebanese artistes Marwan Khoury and Najwa Karam enthralled the audience at the same venue with their hits, bringing a unique celebration of Khaliji music. The third day of Eid showcased Qatar’s very own Fahad al-Kubaisi, recent winner of Saudi Idol – Hames – and Emirati singer Balqees, in a one-of-a-kind concert.The Eid holidays also witnessed the reopening of Lusail Winter Wonderland and other celebrations at various locations such as Katara – the Cultural Village, Msheireb Downtown Doha, The Pearl-Qatar, Al Bidda Park, Lusail Boulevard and Souq Waqif, among other venues, which attracted a large number of families.The festivity at Lusail Boulevard, which also concluded Friday, included a special performance by popular singer Khadidja Mouath on April 27, in addition to an array of shows and fun-filled activities in the evening such as bubble and clown shows, jugglers, Asian Dragon Tiger show, Drummer Girls show, Michael Jackson show, and Big Feather show.Besides the spectacular fireworks and drone show, the celebration at Lusail Boulevard also featured a series of parades, carnival and stage shows, and street entertainment that lasted until midnight.“I had the chance to spend at least a day at Lusail this Eid break and it was absolutely amazing. The atmosphere was lively, weather was pleasant, and there were a lot of food offerings around,” Filipino expatriate Roselyn P told Gulf Times.Indian expatriate Aneeta M echoed the same experience saying that their daughter enjoyed the parade, fireworks display, drone show, and the different roving performances in the evening.Some of the celebrations at Katara – the Cultural Village featured music performances by members of the Police Training Institute, Eid gift-giving for children at the Katara Corniche during the first three days of Eid, “The World 2030” performance at Al Hekma Hall, ‘best dress competitions’ for boys and girls below 15, Eid quiz “Questions and Answers”, and fireworks display on the first and second day of Eid at the Katara Beach.Msheireb Downtown Doha marked eight days of Eid al-Fitr with several activations, children’s games, arts and crafts and other educational activities, roving performers and live musical performances. An interactive planting workshop for children, organised in partnership with the Ministry of Municipality at Sikkat Al Ghafa, also attracted many participants.A beautifully decorated Barahat Msheireb offered visitors a relaxing environment, as well as a wide range of food and beverage options.“Shaun the Sheep”, a much-loved children’s show, enthralled the audience for three days at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall while the Sports Festival at Asian Town wowed spectators from April 21 to 23.Other activations and shows during the Eid break included mall roaming shows, mega park carnival at Al Bidda Park, a unique shopping experience and festivities at The Pearl Qatar’s Porto Arabia, and a musical theatre show at Hamilton International School.The Eid holidays also saw a large number of residents and visitors exploring several popular destinations outside Doha such as the Purple Island in Al Khor, Al Zubarah Fort, 'Shadows Travelling on the Sea of the Day' (by renowned Icelandic–Danish artist Olafur Eliasson), Arsan Cafe (Old Ruwais Police Station), and Al Khor Park, Al Ruwais Park.Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO, Rehan Ali Syed noted that travel agencies with destination management facilities also performed well in promoting various experiences in the country, including desert safaris, beach camps, shopping trips, kayaking in the mangroves, Baladna Park, as well as visits to stadiums, apart from Souq Waqif and other hugely popular destinations.It is learnt that hotels and resorts in Qatar witnessed high occupancy during the Eid al-Fitr holidays, offering enticing options and staycation packages.

The Sealine area is among the biggest attractions.
'Other countries in region to benefit from Qatar's growing tourism stature'

The growing popularity of Qatar as a favoured leisure and family destination is expected to benefit the region as it raises the interest of travellers from different regions to also explore other GCC countries, according to industry experts.Avens Travel & Tours, Doha managing director Naser Karukapadath told Gulf Times that from Qatar, many travellers from different regions such as Asia and Europe can opt to visit Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, among other destinations in the Middle East.He lauded the efforts of Qatar Tourism in making it easier for international visitors to enter the country, saying such a move will positively impact not only Qatar and the region’s tourism industry but other sectors as well, including retail and hospitality.“The new Hayya platform is very attractive, it is expected to attract many visitors from all networks, especially from GCC countries – both citizens and residents – and we will also see visitors from Asian countries such as India, Pakistan and the Philippines,” Karukapadath added.The Hayya platform, according to Visit Qatar, aims to welcome visitors from different countries via a seamless entry process such as using e-gate facilities at the airport and fast lane at the border for those travelling by car. It is learnt that the Eid al-Fitr celebration in Qatar witnessed a surge in the number of visitors coming to the country, especially by car.“The opening of land borders has seen a big jump in cars from all the GCC states entering Qatar, The Abu Samra border has been experiencing extremely busy times,” Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed told Gulf Times.He noted that an increasing number of people are keen on visiting Qatar post-FIFA World Cup 2022 and free entry through the Hayya Card has made it much easier for everyone to visit the country. “It is clear that with restrictions relaxed on visits, it has set the tone right for everyone to explore Qatar,” Syed said.Citing an example, he stressed that “the Eid celebration in Qatar has been phenomenal, as the fireworks shows and loads of events across the city have been quite welcoming."“There has been a surge in numbers with all the resorts, hotels running at very high occupancy.”Syed added that travel agencies with destination management facilities did well to promote various experiences in Qatar such as desert safaris, beach camps, shopping trips, kayaking in the mangroves, Baladna Park as well as visits to stadiums, apart from Souq Waqif and other hugely popular destinations.He stressed that the World Cup benefited the entire region as many passengers got to experience Gulf hospitality by staying in different countries and shuttling to Qatar. Moreover, they were pleasantly surprised to see the high level of safety across the entire region, and were also impressed by the quality of facilities available in the region."They look forward to exploring the region more," he said. "We are seeing surge in the number of queries from passengers on long transit, keen on experiencing Qatar."

Promotions attract a large number of shoppers at LuLu stores. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Eid shopping gives a fillip to retail sector in Qatar

The retail sector in Qatar got a further boost prior to and during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, as many residents and visitors spent time shopping and dining at souqs, malls and shopping centres across the country, it is learnt.Families also thronged hypermarkets and supermarkets, which witnessed a huge demand for both food and non-food items even before the start of the Eid break on April 21.Speaking to Gulf Times, LuLu Group International regional manager Shanavas P M said LuLu’s promotions on apparel (halfback) and other items attracted a large number of shoppers, both residents as well as visitors from neighbouring GCC countries and elsewhere.He said people started to shop in big quantities for groceries, meat, fish, vegetables and other food products during the last week of Ramadan, and the rush continued throughout the Eid holiday.While many residents in Doha prefer to spend the holidays abroad, it is learnt that quite a big chunk of the population has stayed in the country and opted to roam around, shop, dine and experience the Eid celebrations at various locations in Qatar.“We hope to see a similar trend during the next Eid holiday (Eid al-Adha),” Shanavas added.Several retail outlets at malls and shopping centres have also seen an increase in footfall since Day 1 of Eid al-Fitr, with many shoppers coming from Saudi Arabia in addition to residents of Qatar.An employee of a popular apparel chain, operating mostly at malls, said their sales surged during the first three days of the Eid holiday due to the influx of customers.“Even our old collections for men, women and children – dresses, shirts and accessories – were all sold out. Most shoppers buy in bulk,” she said. “I presume that our other stores in Doha also had record sales.”The windfall experienced by several restaurants across the country, including those in hotels, during the Ramadan period also extended until the Eid holiday, it is learnt.“We received a lot of people who mostly came from road trips or long drives, visiting different places such as Dukhan and Al Ruwais during the Eid al-Fitr holiday,” said an employee of a popular restaurant in Al Khor.Like other restaurants in Al Khor, he said he was happy to see an increasing number of visitors from Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries, including Kuwait and Oman, who are exploring the area.“We hope to see more travellers from different countries in the future, with the new Hayya system in place, and share our rich culinary scene here. Of course, we hope to do good business and contribute to the economy” he added.

Fergie (right) and Chaine (left), along with friends, at Purple Island during the Eid holiday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
An escape from the bustling city life during Eid holiday

Providing an escape from the bustling city life, Qatar’s natural wonders offered visitors a haven to create unforgettable memories with families and friends during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, it is learnt.Qatar residents and visitors thronged places outside Doha to relax and experience the beauty, unique sceneries and serenity of these ‘must-visit’ destinations.“It's fun and exciting to have road trips and gather with friends and family in Qatar during the Eid holiday. There are lots of places to go to and roads are accessible,” Filipino expatriate Fergie D told Gulf Times.“Tourism spots in Qatar are interesting to see. Historical places are informative. I love the art installations. Some of the artworks are really amazing, and they make me think about their meaning,” he added.Fergie, along with his wife Chaine, daughter Kaliya and a group of friends, travelled by car to visit Al Zubarah Fort, 'Shadows Travelling on the Sea of the Day' (by renowned Icelandic–Danish artist Olafur Eliasson), Arsan Cafe (Old Ruwais Police Station), Al Ruwais Park and Purple Island.“The long drive was worth the time and I was fascinated by how Qatar maintained its cultural heritage while keeping up with the modernised world. Surprisingly, our trip was not exhausting as I expected it to be because I enjoyed the scenery. The Middle East vibe was greatly present when we were on the road. The trip was amazing,” Chaine said.“You feel overwhelmed inside Al Zubarah Fort – you realise how vast their history is. You get the same feeling when you visit Arsan Cafe. The tourist spots (at least the ones we visited) won't fail you. They are worth a visit,” she added.Purple Island in Al Khor continued to be a crowd-puller, receiving a large number of holiday-goers since the start of the Eid break.The spot provides visitors with a chance to reconnect with nature due to its lush greenery and “serene views of Qatar's largest and oldest dense mangroves reserves”, according to Visit Qatar.Like Fergie and Chaine, Indian expatriate Saheer shared the same experience, saying he enjoyed the road trips this Eid, and was able to visit various places in the northern parts of Qatar.“I love to travel by car and repeatedly make visits to places like Al Zubarah, Purple Island and Arsan during this time of the year, when it’s not too cold neither too hot, and because Qatar has amazing roads,” he pointed out.He said he also plans to revisit 'one-of-a-kind locations' such as Zekreet to see the rock formations, Richard Serra’s exceptional art installation, and Zekreet Beach.