Saturday, February 24, 2024 | 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.
Bird's eye view - The Outpost Al Barari. Supplied picture
Desert delight: Outpost Al Barari hotel resort set to open soon

A one-of-its-kind hotel resort – artfully embedded in nature, in the heart of the desert – will soon open in Qatar, joining other properties that have either opened recently or are set to be inaugurated next month in time for the FIFA World Cup 2022. “The Outpost Al Barari is about combining close to nature experiences with luxurious hospitality into an iconic hotel concept,” founding partner Peter Van De Bunt told reporters at a press preview of the resort Wednesday. The resort features 21 villas, comprising the Emiri and Heritage villas that provide guests with ultimate privacy. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar The 35,000sqm property, located 66km from Hamad International Airport, offers curated experiences that celebrate the country’s rich natural environment and heritage – surrounded by soaring sand dunes and desert wilderness. The resort will receive its first guests on November 19, while the official grand opening will take place later, it was revealed. The resort features 21 villas, comprising the Emiri and Heritage villas that provide guests with ultimate privacy and uncompromising comfort, scenic views of the desert “from private terraces with infinity pools that are inspired by the turquoise sea of Qatar”. Inside a Heritage Villa. Supplied picture “The idea is always to be embedded in nature, disconnect from the city life, and just enjoy and celebrate nature… We are a resort where there is subdued music, relaxing fireplace, we’re going to have open fire barbeque here as well, there is outdoor sitting…” De Bunt said. Besides taking an immersive desert walk, inland sea safari, camel ride and fat-bike trail, guests can also explore an array of offerings: from ‘Yoga on the Dunes’ and ‘Outdoor Cinema’ to an unforgettable culinary experience such as having a romantic dinner atop the dune while overlooking “the immense desert panorama”. Peter Van De Bunt tours reporters at the property Wednesday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar Another way to see a picturesque view of the desert and dunescape is to go up 50m above the ground via the Al Barari hot air balloon. At night, the resort’s stargazing deck allows guests to stare at the stars and other heavenly bodies while having a snack or dinner. “The beauty is you are combining that luxury hospitality in a natural setting,” De Bunt said, noting they have seen this trend – an increasing interest in such kind of experiences – over the last 15 years. “We are trying to take everything on to the next level, talked a bit about the dining concept and desert tours, it will be educational (since) we are a brand of purpose. That's the beauty about it, it's not about just hospitality, selling rooms to make money, it's about a purpose really, and that is something meaningful and I think it fits into the time as well,” he pointed out. A gastronomic journey also awaits guests with exclusive private dining services either at the resort or at scenic desert sites. The Outpost Al Barari’s food and beverage concept is a blend of Mediterranean and Qatari cuisine, he said. According to De Bunt, The Outpost Al Barari is a homegrown brand that aims to expand to different countries in the region, including Oman. “Fast is the time frame. By end of this year, we'll hopefully sign all the contracts and then we would start doing it first in Oman and then, we plan the next one because it's like a snowball effect. “It is not just beautiful, it's also a high-yielding investment because we are really targeting in terms of experiences the ultra-luxury market and so the yields are quite pretty high compared to conventional hotel investments,” he noted. “It's a concept that caters to the local market but I hope that we are beautiful enough to attract and retain international guests as well.”

Joseph Rivera and Kulinarya Qatar chairperson and PFCTFQ overall head Dahlia Agbanlog at the event.
Philippine Food, Culture and Trade Festival kicks off

The much-awaited Philippine Food, Culture, and Trade Festival Qatar (PFCTFQ) kicked off yesterday, featuring more than 30 Filipino cuisines and trade exhibitors with hundreds of patrons in attendance at the Sapphire Plaza Hotel in Doha. The two-day event puts a spotlight on the Kulinarya Food Court, Bazaar and Trade Fair exhibition, “Munting Prinsipe at Prinsesa” pageant for children, Tiktok competition, HipHop Battle Championship, Karaoke challenges, and live band competition. Officials from the Philippine embassy, as well as prominent Qatari businessmen in partnership with Filipino entrepreneurs, are expected to grace a ‘grand opening’ today from 8am. Organisers noted that today’s highlights include a grand cultural fashion parade dubbed as the "sagala" with more than 300 participants, talent competitions, cultural performances, cooking competitions, exhibitions, and other activities for families. In a press statement, PFCTFQ programme director Joseph Timothy Rivera said the attendance for the initial programmes yesterday was overwhelming and a bigger crowd turn-out was expected today. “The outcome on the first day was beyond our expectations and we are braced for a more exciting day today as we welcome more guests from various nationalities,” he said. PFCTFQ is organised by Kulinarya Qatar in collaboration with the Philippine embassy in Doha and the Filipino community headed by the Association of Filipino Realtors and Entrepreneurs in Qatar. According to the organisers, PFCTFQ serves as a precursor to upcoming community and public events planned by Kulinarya Qatar and the Philippine embassy until next year.    

Deap Qatar holds a lecture at ACS International School Doha for Grade 6 and 7 students aimed at raising environmental awareness.
Creating awareness on protecting environment in the community

Apart from its regular beach cleanup drives, the Doha Environmental Actions Project (Deap Qatar) held a series of talks and lectures this month at various schools across the country. A lecture at Birla Public School focused on the negative effects of plastic pollution and how people, especially students, can be part of the solution than contributing to this environmental menace. Fourth grade students at Qatar Academy Doha were engaged in an interaction about the global environmental crisis. Deap Qatar holds beach cleanup drives to mark World Cleanup Day this month. The presentation highlighted the key role the each individual can play to help mitigate various environmental concerns by taking action locally in the community. The group also held similar presentations at Philippine School of Doha (PSD), ACS International School Doha (for Grade 6 and 7 students), and Compass International School Doha (for Grade 7, 8 and 9 students). At PSD, Deap Qatar director Jose Saucedo said: “We learned about the global and local impact of plastic pollution, and discussed different things the students can do to help mitigate the problem in Qatar and around the world.” PSD students take part in the lecture. Deap Qatar’s beach cleanup drives were also organised this month, including at Al Zubarah beach, to mark the World Cleanup Day – held annually on September 15. The initiative, organised by the Ministry of Municipality (represented by the General Cleanliness Department), in co-operation with Deap Qatar, Qatar Museums, HSBC Bank employees, and other companies and organisations in the country, brought together 200 volunteers from different sectors and collected six tonnes of waste. Deap Qatar director Jose Saucedo with students of Birla Public School. Deap Qatar’s social media posts saw some 53 volunteers from the Filipino community, led by Bantay and Kasannga team, taking part in a cleanup activity at Fuwairit recently, removing 200kg of trash. A similar initiative at Al Thakira gathered dozens of volunteers to clean the area aimed at protecting the mangroves. Deap Qatar also launched in August its free environmental educational packs for primary and secondary schools (English and Arabic) that “contain several mini lessons that can be included in the school’s curriculum or serve as an extension for extracurricular activities such as beach and desert cleanups or eco-club educational activities”.

A moment from the activation zone at Place Vendome in Lusail Friday. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam.
World Cup activations draw crowds at major malls

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) has set up activations at three major malls in Qatar, providing number of engaging and interactive games and activities for visitors to enjoy. The activations at Place Vendome, Mall of Qatar, and Doha Festival City, which began on September 22 and running until October 5, serve as a platform to promote the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and what the host country has to offer as a tourism destination. The three major malls also hosted previous SC activations in August, giving football fans "a feel of the World Cup excitement.” Visitors who want to explore Qatar’s culture and heritage can explore Katara – the Cultural Village, Al Zubarah Fort, and Souq Waqif, in addition to experiencing dhow boat tours and visiting FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 cultural activations, a flyer suggests. /> For Qatar’s mega attractions, several destinations such as Al Maha Island Lusail, D’reesha Performing Arts Festival, Festival in Motion, Qatar Fashion United by CR Runway, Our Life, and Fan Village Cabin Free Zone by Al Emadi Hospitality are places to discover. Those who are looking for fun and entertainment can head to FIFA Fan Festival, The Doha Corniche, Lusail Boulevard, Arcadia Music Festival, and MDL Beast Presents – Aravia for live and “eletricying performances and events" throughout the tournament. Qatar also offers an array of curated experiences, including thrilling adventures such as sand duning, Inland Sea, mangrove kayaking, kite surfing and waters sports, among others. The activations also distribute a pocket fan guide about the stadiums; match schedule; travelling by metro and tram, taxi and bus; Qatar etiquette, Covid-19 restrictions and updates, as well as advice and services from Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health. "It feels great to be part of the activities here today, I and my family had missed the mall activations in August so I was very happy to know that they are doing it again this month and my kids really enjoyed the VR games and the 360. This is phenomenal and I hope there will be more, " said Jay from the UK. Such excitement resonated with many mallgoers and shoppers who lauded an initiative that received a positive response since its launch in August to mark the 100 days countdown to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Nationals from other GCC countries, especially Saudi Arabia, also visited the activation Friday, expressing their support for Qatar's hosting of the prestigious tournament from November 20 to December 18. With just 57 days to the much-awaited mega sporting event, football fever has been spreading across the nation that is eager to welcome players and fans from around the world.

Doha Healthcare Week will also begin on September 29 with an array of activities.
Paediatric conference, healthcare week slated to begin on Sept 29

Staff Reporter The Paediatric Neuroscience Conference 2022 will bring together local and international neuroscience experts from Europe, North America, and the Middle East and North Africa region from September 29 to October 1. The virtual event puts a spotlight on the advancements in treating neurological disorders. The three-day event, organised by Sidra Medicine in partnership with the Society for Research into Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida, will witness key speakers sharing their “insights and best practice methodologies to understand the epidemiology and mechanisms of neurological diseases, focusing on treatable neurological and neurosurgical disorders”. The programme, according to the organisers, includes a series of lectures on “recent advances in diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that have helped improve the health outcomes of children living with chronic neurological and neurosurgical diseases”. Several physicians, surgeons, nurses, and allied health professionals will be attending the conference. Organisers noted that the Paediatric Neuroscience Conference 2022 will be an Accredited Group Learning Activity (Category 1) as defined by the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Healthcare Professions – Accreditation Section and is approved for a maximum of 13 hours. The event will also tackle the recent advances in the surgical management of treatable neurosurgical disorders in children including hydrocephalus and spina bifida, as well as the role of personalised medicine in neurological disorders in children. The Paediatric Neuroscience Conference 2022 takes place three days after the hosting of the Precision Medicine and Functional Genomics Conference 2022 where researchers, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and community members from different countries will converge from today (September 23) until September 26 at St Regis Doha. Doha Healthcare Week will also begin on September 29, giving the local community the opportunity to take part in an array of health and wellness activities for different age groups. It will conclude on October 3. A prelude to the latest edition of the World Innovation Summit for Health scheduled from October 4 to 6 in Qatar, this five-day celebration will take place in collaboration with several local partners, including the Ministry of Public Health, Primary Health Care Corporation, and international partners such as The British Medical Journal. According to the organisers, the Doha Healthcare Week urges community members to donate blood aimed at supporting Hamad Medical Corporation’s ongoing campaign, in addition to supporting breast cancer awareness initiatives and activities.

The conference provides an opportunity for participants to learn about co-ordinated efforts to develop precision medicine around the world and specifically in the Middle Eastern region.
Top experts to attend Precision Medicine and Functional Genomics conference

The Precision Medicine and Functional Genomics (PMFG) 2022 conference is all set to take place from September 23 to 26 at St Regis Doha, bringing together researchers, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and community members from different countries. “Precision Medicine takes individual variations in genetics, pharmacogenomics, proteomics, microbiome, environmental, lifestyle factors, and others into account, allowing healthcare providers to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment,” Sidra Medicine’s chief research officer Dr Khalid Fakhro said in a statement. The sixth edition of the annual event, which will be preceded by a pre-symposium Biotech Forum tomorrow (September 22) at Sidra Medicine’s hospital auditorium, aims to “explore the latest developments and innovations in biomedical research and how they translate into precision medicine solutions”. According to the organisers, the four-day in-person symposium has pre-and post-conference workshops, as well as a satellite half-day meeting focusing on two major themes: ‘How cellular, organoid, and animal models are being used to facilitate the discovery of basic disease mechanisms and potential cures;’ and ‘The development of advanced therapies to treat diseases.’ “Over the years, the PMFG series has grown significantly in topics and diversity with a wide range of speakers and a growing audience worldwide. As part of its National Vision 2030, Qatar is committed to building a knowledge-based economy in the biomedical and health sciences. “Sidra Medicine supports this goal by actively engaging clinical and scientific expertise to establish a leading model for Precision Medicine in the region,” Dr Fakhro said. He noted that the conference also aims to “discover how personalised medicine can move from vision to practice and to draft with us the roadmap for a personalised health data ecosystem”. Organisers noted that the conference provides an opportunity for participants to: Learn about co-ordinated efforts to develop precision medicine around the world and specifically in the Middle Eastern region, best practices for conducting successful precision medicine clinical trials, learn how advanced diagnostics and personalised treatments improve the quality of care for children with rare and chronic diseases (i.e. immune deficiency, hemoglobinopathy, cancer, etc), understand the value of using cell, organoid, and animals as disease models in biomedical research and learn about modelling of human tissues and diseases and how large-scale data resources, genome sequencing and novel technologies are driving precision medicine.

Qatar Museums Chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani graced the inauguration of four stunning art exhibitions at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. PICTURES: QM
Qatar's vibrant art scene is focus at four stunning exhibitions

Four stunning art exhibitions at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, which opened to the public on September 16, put a spotlight on Qatar’s vibrant art scene, according to Mathaf director, Zeina Arida. Qatar Museums Chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani graced the inaugural event on Thursday. The exhibitions forms part of Qatar Creates, showcasing the works of renowned artists from across the region. “Providing a platform for artists who explore Arab perspectives and share cultural and historical connections with Qatar has always been at the heart of the vision for Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art," Arida explained. “That’s why as we celebrate the creative power and heritage of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia region through the Qatar – MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia) Year of Culture 2022 I am so pleased to see four incredible exhibitions open at Mathaf. “From Sophia al-Maria’s incredible installations in Invisible Labors daydream therapy, to Taysir Batniji’s works of art that explore the struggle for freedom and systematic oppression, Ho Tzu Nyen’s work inspired by polarizing figures in South Asian history, and the work of alumni from @dohafirestation’s artist in residence programe in Majaz, I have no doubt they will be enjoyed by all who visit,” HE Sheikha Al Mayassa posted on her social media pages,” HE Sheikha Al Mayassa posted on her social media pages. Speaking on the sidelines of a media tour on Thursday, Arida said al-Maria’s ‘Invisible Labours daydream therapy’ and Batniji’s ‘No Condition is Permanent’ (both running until January 21, 2023) are the artists’ first monographic exhibitions in the region. She said the works of Batniji are very intimate but as well political that attempts to tell in a very poetic way, the fragility and the impossibility of returning to Palestine. “There is a very vibrant work (of Batniji) titled ‘To My Brother’ that is a tribute to his brother, who was killed during the First Intifada in 1987,” Arida noted. One Tiger or Another (open until January 21, 2023) explores history as the product of both fact and fiction, through a CGI-animation by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen (b. 1976) and artefacts relating to the legend of Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, one of the most famous and polarising figures in South Asian history, across mediums and time. Majaz: Contemporary Art Qatar (open until February 25, 2023) marks five years of the Artist in Residence programme at the Fire Station in Doha, featuring 25 alumni and their works.    

beFitness Active Wear is a fitness clothing brand that seeks a balance between aesthetic and functionality while maintaining sustainability. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Decode marks exclusive launch of beFitness Active Wear

Locally-designed Spanish women’s sportswear label beFitness Active Wear was launched recently at Decode, the unique concept store from Fifty One East. The launch event, which marks the worldwide debut of the brand, was attended by founders Adiel Mohamed (a Qatar Chain Reaction Saturday Social Ride cyclist) and Carla Pregiguero, brand ambassadors and sports and fitness enthusiasts. According to Pregiguero, the new fitness clothing brand aims to provide women a comfortable feel either on daily use or when doing physical exercise and fitness training such as running and yoga, among other activities. “Our concept is a fitness clothing brand that looks for sustainability, in the sense that it seeks a balance between the aesthetic and the functional. Undoubtedly, this brand has pieces that, analysing the latest trends, you can (and want) to wear, not only for your training but also in your day-to-day living,” she said. beFitness Active Wear will be retailing exclusively through Decode, located on the ground floor in Lagoona Mall. From sportswear to designer denim and from vintage-inspired to modern apparel, Decode brings an array of global brands to a huge space of more than 635sqm. The launch further enhances the store’s position as the ultimate destination for international casual ready-to-wear labels. It also reinforces Fifty One East’s commitment to supporting the sports and fitness community in Qatar. With its motto "training has never been so comfortable”, beFitness Active Wear is a fitness clothing brand that seeks a balance between aesthetic and functionality while maintaining sustainability. While the brand mainly targets women; the founders said a custom-made men's line is also available upon request and it includes apparel for gyms, wellness clubs and sports teams. “In the brand’s catalogue (available on our website in Spanish and English), most of the garments are made up of a very high percentage of polyester and a very high percentage of nylon (depending on the piece) and in all of them in a lower percentage, we will find a percentage of spandex, which makes the garments long-lasting and resistant to any impact or type of position or body movement,” Pregiguero said. Matching the latest fashion trends, the brand’s collections adopt a minimalist style with monochromatic and functional looks aiming to make women feel comfortable wearing the pieces during training and also in their daily routines. “Today when it comes to physical exercise, there are many variants that influence the practice of physical activity that we carry out and its success. One of these requirements is the use of the best brands of sportswear,” Pregiguero noted. beFitness Active Wear apparel are also available for all countries in the Middle East and soon in Spain, she said.    

Sri Lankan ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen at the Explore Sri Lanka event. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Sri Lanka keen to promote tourism

The Sri Lankan Tourism Board is geared towards a much wider effort to promote the South Asian country as a tourism destination, particularly in Qatar and the region, ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen has said. “The worst is behind us, the fuel/gas situation has been resolved, and hotels have opened up. We are ready to welcome tourists and showcase our beautiful country,” the envoy told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the recently held Explore Sri Lanka at Education City. To further attract more visitors from Qatar, he said Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism visited Doha recently, engaging with Qatar Airways to look for possibilities of collaboration between the two countries. Besides bilateral trade and investments, he underlined the importance of tourism as an equally important income-generating sector for Sri Lanka, which witnessed an increasing number of visitors in a post Covid-19 pandemic period during the early part of this year. “It was peaking, then we had a few dull months. Right now is our low season (but) despite that we had 40,000 foreigners visiting us last month… We are hoping that by November and December these numbers will pick up and we’ll be able to showcase what Sri Lanka has to offer,” Mohideen said. Emerging from a domestic crisis, he said Sri Lanka is bouncing back as one of the most popular leisure and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) destinations. The envoy highlighted the importance of co-operation between Qatar and Sri Lanka in the cultural field saying it plays a key role in deepening friendly relations. He noted that the recently held cultural event, which forms part of the Qatar – MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia) Year of Culture 2022 also provides an opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase its rich culture and heritage in the country. “Culture goes hand in hand and once you start appreciating others’ culture, that relationship grows deeper,” Mohideen said, adding that cultural exchanges between the two countries will continue. The embassy, he said, is planning to hold a number of cultural events “to showcase our culture and heritage in all facets, it’s a multi-dimensional thing… so that people in Qatar can experience and begin to appreciate what we have to offer better.” With the Year of Culture and the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, Mohideen said Sri Lanka has been given the opportunity to bring traditional performers and take part in a wider celebration “which I’m sure will be an enriching experience for the people and visitors (especially those who will be coming for the first time) in Qatar.”    

QPO executive director Kurt Meister
QPO to perform outdoor concerts during World Cup

The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO) will perform a number of outdoor concerts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, providing fans with popular Arab and football-themed music, QPO executive director Kurt Meister has said. “There will be open-air concerts, we have many requests. Altogether, eight to 10 outdoor concerts and we will have smaller groups in the fan zones with the brass section or with the string section to welcome football guests,” he explained. Meister said that some of the locations for these upcoming QPO concerts include the Doha Corniche, Katara Amphitheatre, and Oxygen Park at Education City. He noted that many similar performances had taken place at venues like the Ceremonial Court at Education City last year. The world-renowned Orchestra presented a unique concert last month in an indoor setting, at the Katara Opera House, putting a spotlight on Qatar’s rich maritime history, as well as enhancing and preserving Gulf folk music. Led by Maestro Kamoliddin Urinbaev, the music at the event titled ‘Gulf Folk meets the Philharmonic’ was composed by QPO’s deputy executive director, Nasser Sahim, with award-winning composer Dr Amer Jaafer and Qatari singer Mansour al-Mohanadi. Apart from entertaining audiences during the 29-day tournament, Meister said that QPO also aims to bring more interesting music for people, especially football fans, to enjoy. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, taking place from November 20 to December 18, is set to receive a large number of foreign visitors from various countries. “We think about performing famous football (-themed) songs. Last year, we made arrangements… also the most famous football songs from different countries… such kind of music we will do. “We are also working on performing Arab-themed music, and again also we have new compositions for the QPO, it’s our target,” he added. “We will be very busy from 10am to 12 midnight (during the much-awaited tournament in Qatar).” QPO set a series of performances in the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, including the concerts this month: Philharmonic at the Library: Music from Around the World, featuring eight members of the Orchestra to perform Schubert’s Octet in F Major scheduled at Qatar National Library on September 14; Sergei Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf at the Hamilton International School Theatre, Mesaimeer on September 16; and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20. Peter and the Wolf was composed by renowned Russian musician Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 while Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 was “the first of six stunning pieces composed for piano and orchestra between 1785 and 1786,” and “was regarded by 19th century critics as Beethoven-like, the highest level of praise during the period- and a moody epoch to the Romantic Era”.  

Sri Lankan ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen and other guests, lead the cake-cutting ceremony at the Explore Sri Lanka - Qatar-MENASA Year of Culture 2022 Friday at Education City. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Explore Sri Lanka event showcases culture, heritage

  A series of traditional performances and activities yesterday marked the Explore Sri Lanka cultural event at Education City, aimed at showcasing the South Asian country’s rich culture and heritage. The event, which forms part of Qatar-Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) Year of Culture 2022, showcased Sri Lankan dances and provided an opportunity for visitors to try authentic Ceylon tea and a wide range of native food and products. Sri Lankan traditional musical instruments and products on display at the event. “As you would note, culture is one of the most effective tools to bring people closer together, encourage dialogue, and deepen understanding between nations,” said Sri Lankan ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen, who led the cake-cutting ceremony at the celebration. Traditional performances take centre stage at the Explore Sri Lanka cultural event. Explore Sri Lanka was attended by Ali Hassan M R al-Emadi, second secretary of the Embassy of Qatar in Sri Lanka, Qatar-Indonesia Business Council president Farhan al-Sayed, embassy officials, members of the Sri Lankan community in Doha, and other guests. This special occasion, Mohideen said, gives residents and visitors in Qatar a great exposure to identify their rich cultural heritage and learn more about their traditions, arts and crafts, and mouth-watering traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. Sri Lankan ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen hands over a memento to Ali Hassan M R al-Emadi, second secretary of the Embassy of Qatar in Sri Lanka. The envoy also highlighted the strong and long-standing friendly relations between Qatar and Sri Lanka, saying such a vital juncture allows both their people to come together. “The people connection is a cornerstone of our bilateral relationship and we value it. In the last 18 months, we had a lot more engagement with our counterparts here, and we believe in the coming months and years, we will take this relationship to new heights. The event featured traditional Sri Lankan dance performances “The friendship which is a key ingredient in this relationship grows from strength to strength. I am confident that our bilateral ties would be further enhanced through this cultural co-operation for the benefit of both our countries,” Mohideen said. Visitors try a variety of Sri Lankan foods at the event. He lauded Qatar Museums’ Years of Culture initiative, saying the MENASA edition has given them the opportunity to display Sri Lankan culture and heritage, arts, crafts, and cuisines in Qatar. He thanked QM, Qatar Foundation, and Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their continued support and invaluable assistance. Sri Lankan artists showcase artworks at the celebration. “This is the first time that Qatar is partnering with an entire region – MENASA,” the envoy said, noting that the Years of Culture programme – under the leadership of QM Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani – is an international cultural exchange that deepens understanding between nations and their people. Sri Lankan ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen with embassy officials, members of the Sri Lankan community in Qatar, and other guests. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam

Alaraby TV's officials during a media tour at its new home at Burj Alfardan in Lusail City Wednesday. PICTURES: Thajudheen.
Alaraby TV to offer 'the best news service possible'

Qatari company Alaraby Television will provide 'the best news service possible' to its audience, featuring documentaries, investigative stories, and TV programmes, output manager Mahmoud Omar said. Alaraby TV network is moving both its channels Alaraby and Alaraby 2 to the new studios in Lusail City. The multi-platform entertainment and cultural channel, offers Arab viewers a bouquet of programmes ranging from music, art, society, comedy, drama, films and documentaries. The total headquarters area is about 6,500sq m, of which 4,500 sq m are allocated for studios and service areas. “In our editorial agenda, we have a special interest in human stories, and in matters that interact with people’s daily lives, in addition to the big stories,” he said on the sidelines of a media tour Wednesday at the new headquarters. Alaraby TV will cover the latest in politics, sociology, business, culture, and the arts, a statement said. The political news channel will follow developments, presents news, and analyse the various dimensions and implications of events, and prioritise integrity and objectivity. Alaraby TV provides accurate information in its news and political segments, fortified by a sober and in-depth reading that relies on diverse points of view, it was explained. “Our grid starts with a morning news show and ends with an analysis news show. In between everything that matters to our viewers here in the Middle East and beyond will be dealt with,” Omar said. Mahmoud Omar About its new home at Burj Alfardan in Lusail, he said: “We have the very latest in the TV industry, this is a plug-and-play facility, also a full IP (internet protocol) TV. We have the best in terms of camera robotics and editing software, including the latest in Avid for the newsroom.” Equipped with the latest in broadcast technology, Alaraby’s new studios add “fascinating visual effects to professionalism and objectivity, in pursuit of competence and excellency”. The total headquarters area is about 6,500sqm, of which 4,500sqm are allocated for studios and service areas, particularly the 360-degree technology. It is supported by smart cameras and screens, and the OLED transparent screens, marking a debut in a live news studio. This comes alongside devices that support Virtual Reality, and the latest lighting systems. Content creators at work in Alaraby TV's digital department. Omar said that Alaraby TV, which broadcasts interactive news bulletins, covers news round the clock, and features a range of talk shows, political satirical programmes, documentaries, and investigative films, has about 70 reporters around the world and plans to increase its network of reporters and correspondents. “We cover internationally but obviously we have a special interest in the Middle East and it's a first,” he said. Alaraby TV’s two-hour morning news show, Sabah Jadeed, underlines the latest events and developments, as well as presents interesting technology, economy, and social media-related content to its audience, especially Arab viewers, the statement said. Alaraby accounts on social media platforms are among the most followed, with a number exceeding 45mn on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Rehan Ali Syed (L), Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa
Easing of travel policy to further boost Qatar's tourism: experts

Recent updates to the country’s Covid-19 travel and return policy will help attract more visitors in the lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, further boosting Qatar’s tourism sector, industry experts have said. “This is a very timely move by the authorities to tell the world that Qatar has taken the utmost precautions to ensure the virus is kept under control. Opening up the country is extremely important as we are just two months away from the historic 2022 FIFA World Cup,” Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed told Gulf Times. With several pre-FIFA activities lined up in the remaining weeks before the prestigious event, he said the number of visitors, along with friends and families, who want to explore the country before watching the games is expected to rise. Syed noted that some people from ‘Red-listed’ countries resisted coming earlier due to quarantine protocols but are now welcome to be part of the celebrations. He lauded the efforts of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) for its consistent monitoring and working round the clock to ensure the safety of citizens and residents, as well as visitors, from any health hazards. Part of MoPH’s policy updates, which took into effect on September 4, includes removing the list of countries subject to Covid-19 ‘Red Health Measures’ and quarantine requirements for all travellers arriving from abroad. However, people who test positive for Covid-19 are required to undergo isolation and quarantine based on the procedures followed in Qatar. Outing Qatar founder and managing director Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa shared a similar view, saying that the latest MoPH policy updates will help entice many visitors to come to Qatar this year and beyond, positively impacting local tourism and other sectors. With the ease of implementation of such measures, he said Outing Qatar and its partners are planning to provide a unique VIP experience to guests, especially those from neighbouring GCC countries. “We are experiencing a significant increase in our bookings compared to the previous months. Further, our helicopter tours are almost fully booked until the end of September,” he said. The company offers curated and luxury experiences (sea, sky and land) to discover Qatar’s beauty through car rentals, yacht charters, dunes adventures and helicopter tours. According to Eleiwa, the number of stopover tourists who plan to experience authentic Qatari and Arab hospitality, in addition to visiting museums, cultural centres and stadiums, is also expected to increase with the new MoPH policy updates. “Globally, all the current indicators show that we are moving from what is called the new normal to our normal life since the end of 2019. Leisure and business travel are almost back,” he said. While countries have been lifting travel restrictions and tourism is slowly restarting in many parts of the world, Eleiwa underlined the importance of co-ordinated health protocols that protect travellers, workers and communities.

Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan with Qatar-Indonesia Business Council Farhan al-Sayed at the recently held Indonesian Cultural Day. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Resort being developed by Qatar in Indonesia 'to be ready by 2024'

A new resort being developed by Qatar will rise in 2024 in Labuan Bajo, Flores island in the Nusa Tenggara region of east Indonesia, Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan said. Speaking to reporters recently, the envoy said the Qatari side and one of the Indonesian companies promoting the local tourism industry are working closely, especially in building the facilities. “Hopefully, if everything goes on well, by 2024 it (the resort) will be operational… For this reason, the Indonesian government introduced a new policy. We call it 'New 10 Balis destination', so we copy Bali as the basis and then we develop it into other islands with some modifications. “Then, among them is the island of Lombok, the Mandalika area, and next to that island, we have the island of Flores, which is close to the Komodo island and one of the areas we call Labuan Bajo, so this new hotel will be in that area,” Hassan said, adding that this area is a gateway to many exotic destinations in the eastern part of Indonesia. According to Indonesia’s ministry of investments, the '10 New Balis' project consists of 10 destinations in Indonesia that are assigned to be 'the next Bali' – projected to attract a large number of visitors. The '10 New Balis' includes Borobudur Temple (Central Java), Belitung (Sumatra), Mount Bromo (East Java), Labuan Bajo (East Nusa Tenggara), Lake Toba (North Sumatra), Thousand Islands (Jakarta), Mandalika (West Nusa Tenggara), Wakatobi (Southeast Sulawesi), Tanjung Lesung (Banten), and Morotai (North Maluku), the ministry said, noting that each of these destinations has its unique features and scenery “that even Bali cannot provide”. Visitors can explore several exciting places surrounding the Nusa Tenggara such as the Batu Cermin Cave, Rangko Cave, and Cunca Wulang Canyon Waterfalls, among others. “Indonesia is very famous for tourism especially if you are talking about the island of Bali. But Indonesia consist of thousands of islands and if you are just focusing on Bali it is not enough because Bali is not really big enough to accommodate all the foreign tourists coming to Indonesia,” the envoy said. While Qatar has invested in Indonesia’s telecommunications (Ooredoo) and banking sectors (QNB), among others, he noted that tourism has become one of the most interesting sectors to be developed lately. Hassan said the resort being developed by Qatar in the Labuan Bajo area is one-of-its-kind. He expressed optimism that “there could be some other things coming up”. The envoy also underlined the strong relations between Qatar and Indonesia, saying that His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani visited Indonesia twice - in 2017 and 2019, further cementing the close and deepening ties between the two countries. The envoy added that Indonesia is continuously witnessing an increasing number of visitors from the Middle East, including Qatar, both citizens and other nationalities. “As you may know, Qatar is a hub and Qatar Airways is already flying to Indonesia, now to Jakarta thrice daily and it is always fully booked; and to Bali so far one flight daily and maybe it will return to twice a day,” he said.    

The Lusail Marina Food Arena offers a picturesque view of uniquely-designed buildings. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Drive, eat and drink: Lusail Marina Food Arena a leisure hotspot

The Lusail Marina Food Arena has continued to attract a large number of customers even during the hot summer months, providing a variety of food offerings via dine-in and drive-thru options at a scenic location. A unique way to experience dining, this concept has enticed many residents and visitors in Qatar to explore an array of local and international cuisines at their convenience. The number of visitors is expected to further increase as the weather improves, making it one of the many touristic hotspots in Lusail City. “Normally during the weekend, this place is packed but customers also keep coming in even during the weekdays. We hope to receive more in the weeks ahead, and especially during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” said a staff member at a café, which offers a variety of drinks and specialty coffee. She added that the growing popularity of the recently launched e-rickshaws (three-wheelers) in Lusail also helps bring mall-goers from Place Vendome to visit and try a wide range of food and beverage selections in the Food Arena. These environment-friendly vehicles in Lusail transport people between Place Vendome, Lusail Marina Food Arena and Katara Towers from 7pm to 3am. A 15-20 minute ride costs QR60, and each vehicle can seat up to four people, including the driver. The Food Arena hosts more than 65 food and beverage outlets, which offer different food and beverage choices: from burgers, pizzas, sandwiches and 'karak' to noodles, pastries, pancakes and healthy options such as salads, smoothies and fresh juices, among others. Dining and hanging out in the Food Arena have become a habit for many visitors, especially those who frequent Lusail Marina for a late afternoon or evening walk or jog. “It’s accessible, there are plenty of parking spaces and a lot of food choices, either a full meal or just a light snack with family or friends. Sometimes I use the drive-thru option but on several occasions, I have my dinner here before going home,” said a Filipino expatriate, adding that Lusail City has emerged as a popular tourism destination in the country. Apart from the numerous coffee shops, juice stalls, street eateries and restaurants, the Lusail Marina Food Arena also offers visitors a picturesque view of the Katara Towers, the promenade, Place Vendome, and the uniquely-designed buildings that surround the place.    

mbassador Ridwan Hassan hands over a memento to Aysha al-Mudahka at the event.
Indonesian Cultural Day celebrated in Qatar

An array of traditional performances, activations, and live demonstrations marked the Indonesian Cultural Day at Education City’s Multaqa Plaza on Thursday. The event, which also forms part of the 77th Independence Day celebration of Indonesia, was organised by the Embassy of Indonesia in Doha with the support of Qatar Foundation and the Association of Indonesian Communities in Qatar (Permiqa). The celebration started with a Tumpeng cutting – led by Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan. A popular Indonesian cone-shaped rice dish, Tumpeng symbolises the gratitude of the Indonesian people for the blessing of independence. A series of cultural dances took the centre stage such as Legong Condong, Gemufamire (East Nusa Tenggara Sajojo), Pendet, Si Patokaan, and Kebyar Merah Putih, in addition to traditional musical presentations such as Angklung demonstrations and saxophone performances by cultural groups such as Puspa Qinarya, Indonesian Ladies Angklung and Sanggar Seni Messaied. Visitors had the opportunity to explore a wide range of traditional Indonesian cakes and snacks such as Kue Jagung (steamed sweet corn coconut layer cake), Dadar Gulung (coconut pancake), Onde-onde (fried sesame balls), Pempek (fried fish cake), and Kue Angku (glutinous rice steam cake), among others. Speaking at the event, Ambassador Hassan highlighted the strong and deep-rooted relations between Qatar and Indonesia not only in the area of politics and economy but also in social and cultural fields, including people-to-people contacts. The envoy underlined the importance of co-operation in the cultural field to enhance bilateral ties between the two countries, saying: “We perceived cultural diplomacy as an important part of our mission. Building trust and understanding among nations could be started through cultural diplomacy.” Apart from dance and musical performances, the event also featured coffee demonstrations, traditional games, and the uniqueness of Indonesian batik weaving. Batik is traditional Indonesian clothing painted with night candle liquid using a tool called “canting”. In 2009, Batik was acknowledged as one of the Masterpieces of Intangible Cultural Heritages by Unesco. Special guests at the Indonesian Cultural Day included Aysha al-Mudahka, director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Qatar Foundation (QF); Faycal Haman Adama, directorate of Cultural Diplomacy, Qatar Museum; Alexandru Rosca from QF’s Communications Office; and Farhan al-Sayed, chairman of Qatar – Indonesia Business Council. Representatives from various embassies attended the event, including Wipawan Khanthahiran (Thailand), Daphne Sohan (Singapore), Fazlinda Fuudzil (Malaysia), Farhanah Suhaili (Brunei Darussalam), and Tran Phuong Thao (Vietnam); as well as the members of the Asean Committee in Doha Working Group.    

Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed
Visitors can expect curated Arab experience during World Cup '22

Visitors of the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar can expect memorable and curated traditional Arab experiences throughout their stay, an industry expert has said. “Since we are managing a large number of group arrivals into Qatar, we are ensuring that we are adequately staffed and have various services for the visitors,” Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed told 'Gulf Times'. He said the industry is well-equipped and prepared to provide an array of offerings for World Cup visitors during the tournament and beyond. The much-awaited event is set to take place from November 20 to December 18, and the country will be hosting 1.5mn visitors. Excitement has been building up across Qatar starting from the 100 days countdown last month, and football fans can expect more than 90 special events – from music festivals, cultural displays, and street performances – on the sidelines of this prestigious international football competition. “We are working hard to get the ground transportation in line to extend to our customers so that they can seamlessly enjoy the game and the other post-game activities. We plan to brand some of our retail outlets close to the stadium with a football theme especially the new one opening in Lusail Promenade,” Syed said, adding that their new camp at Sealine will be ready to host guests and give them a traditional Arab experience. He lauded the programmes of Qatar Tourism, saying it has always taken initiative to ensure that customers are provided with the best quality services. According to Syed, the programme will extend free tour guides to local residents, assisting and answering all the queries of the clients. “With the ‘Qatar Specialist’ online programme, it will encourage more people to enroll and be part of this historic event." “We are extremely busy with many people coming to Qatar as a pre-event visit in order to finalise their trip and stay in Qatar during the World Cup," he added.    

One of the rickshaws in operation in Lusail on Sunday evening.
E-Rickshaws offer trendy, environment-friendly transport option in Lusail

Trendy rickshaws (three-wheelers) have become the latest popular mode of transportation in Lusail City, ferrying people between Place Vendome, Lusail Marina Food Arena and Katara Towers. An employee told the Gulf Times that at least five electric rickshaws have been operating since July between the three destinations and are usually stationed at the I Love Lusail statue, the Food Arena and Place Vendome. Operating from 7pm to 3am daily, he said the demand for rickshaw rides continues to rise, especially during the weekend, when families and children like to roam around the area. The environment-friendly e-rickshaws, which can also be operated manually by pedalling, run at speeds between 15kmph and 23kmph. They provide an opportunity for visitors to explore the three popular sites conveniently. A 15-20 minute ride costs QR60, it was learnt. Each rickshaw can seat up to four people, including the driver. "We try not to be go fast for the safety of everyone as there are also a lot people along the way, and we want them to enjoy the ride," said a driver. At least two rickshaws stay at Place Vendome station, another two at the Food Arena, and one at the I Love Lusail 'station' - they can also be used for any emergencies. With a six-hour charge, a rickshaw can run for at least seven hours, but "most of the time," the driver said, " we only charge it for an hour or two because we have too many customers." Passengers, the driver noted, have been enjoying the rides, which also allow them to relax, listen to Qatari music and take pictures of the beautiful scenery. Some visitors hope that the number of environment-friendly vehicles like rickshaws will increase in Qatar particularly, in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, providing a convenient service to more people who want to visit places and boosting the country's tourism, food & beverage, and retail sectors. The demand for such modes of transportation is expected to further increase during the colder months, attracting local and international visitors. An employee of a food outlet at the Lusail Marina Food Arena said they saw that many of their customers took a rickshaw ride from Place Vendome. "With these rickshaws, we expect the number of customers to increase more in the coming weeks once the temperatures start to go down. We have seen that a lot of people love to roam around in these vehicles, which we really find very attractive," she added. A 15-20 minute ride costs QR60, it was learnt. Each rickshaw can seat up to four people, including the driver. With Lusail emerging as a tourism hotspot in Qatar with various attractions, this new mode of transportation is expected to draw more crowds in the coming days - giving people one more reason to visit the place.