Wednesday, May 31, 2023 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar has been a journalist since 2013 at Gulf Times, reporting on events related to Qatar. He was earlier a journalist for eight years in the Philippines. He became one of the 2015 United Nations Foundation Global Goals Press Fellows. He has also attended a number of journalism seminars in the Philippines.
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.

Children take part in a number of activities at Msheireb. PICTURE: Thajudeen
Entertainment galore at Msheireb

The various activations and festive atmosphere at Msheireb Downtown Doha continue to attract a large number of visitors, marking eight days of Eid al-Fitr holidays. Described as “one of the biggest and most engaging Eid festivals for visitors of all ages”, the eight-day celebration at Msheireb features an array of family-friendly activities and attractions for people to enjoy.Starting at 5pm, children could be seen at arts and crafts booths at Barahat Msheireb to take part in a number of interactive games. The beautifully-decorated venue provides visitors with a relaxing environment, in addition to a wide range of food and beverage offerings.The 360-photobooth was among the most-queued activities in the area this Eid, giving holiday-goers the opportunity to create unique and unforgettable moments which they can share on social media. “The activities here at Msheireb are amazing. I find time to take my son to these kinds of festivities because it helps a lot in keeping him away from electronic devices like cellphones and tablets,” Indian expatriate Prakash M told Gulf Times.Besides its health benefits, he said face-to-face, physical/engaging and educational activities also help young children “to be more creative in general” and develop their social skills. Live musical performances every evening remain to be a big hit as it serenades audiences with enchanting pieces at different areas of Msheireb, it is learnt.Filipino expatriate Alex M said visitors like him have been treated with exceptional entertainment shows and activations since the first day of Eid al-Fitr holidays at Msheireb. “I and my family spend our afternoon here at Msheireb because the place has so much charm, it gives us more reasons to return and spend the rest of the evening roaming around, watching the shows, and dining at different restaurants this Eid,” he said.“We can all take the tram but the place encourages people to walk while roaming around. You’ll be able to discover some of the best restaurants and cafes in town that offer the best cuisines and beverages,” Alex added. The Ministry of Municipality also held a fun and interactive planting workshop for children at Sikkat Al Ghafa, giving them the chance “to experience planting and take home an actual plant to nurture”.

Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa, founder and managing director , Outing Qatar
Eid al-Fitr holidays boost tourism sector

The local tourism industry got a further fillip with Qatar’s Eid al-Fitr celebrations, attracting an increasing number of visitors from abroad, especially from neighbouring GCC countries, an industry expert has said.Speaking to Gulf Times, Outing Qatar founder and managing director Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa said the Eid al-Fitr break is witnessing an ncreasing demand for local tours and curated experiences.“We get a lot of bookings from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and nationals from other Gulf countries this Eid holidays. We also receive many bookings from guests in Europe. People tell us that they love to visit Qatar because it is definitely a luxury destination,” he added.Malls, shopping centres, museums, and art galleries, as well as popular leisure and tourism spots outside Doha such as hotels and resorts, beaches, and the inland sea, have been receiving a large number of domestic and international visitors since the first day of Eid, it is learnt.Eleiwa said nationals from different GCC countries who watched the matches during the FIFA World Cup 2022 find the Eid holidays an excellent opportunity to visit and experience what Qatar has to offer.He noted that football fans were busy going to stadiums for the matches, and had to return home to rest and relax after the prestigious tournament. However, the Eid holidays – backed by a wide range of events and offerings – enticed many to return.Eleiwa lauded Qatar Tourism for its efforts to promote the country as a favourite family and luxury destination, and for launching a revamped Hayya platform, allowing visitors to enter and spend their holidays in the country.The expanded functionality of the Hayya platform aims to invite tourists who require a visa to visit Qatar and enjoy its various touristic offerings.Avens Travel & Tours, Doha managing director Naser Karukapadath echoed a similar view saying that Qatar has become a popular tourism destination, including the Eid Holidays, due to its various offerings and the ease of entering the country.He said they recorded an increase of 15% to 20% in bookings this Eid al-Fitr break compared to the previous year during the same occasion.Karukapadath said Qatar continues to draw a large number of visitors from other countries this Eid al-Fitr and he expects more will come during the Eid al-Adha holidays in June.He pointed out that Qatar Tourism’s ‘Feel Eid in Qatar’ campaign played a key role in promoting the country as a leading tourism and luxury destination, and in boosting the local tourism sector.

Gulf Times
Wide range of activities and events to mark Eid celebrations

From malls and shopping centres to iconic museums, landmarks and destinations, including public beaches and parks in Qatar, various locations around Qatar are expected to receive a large number of holiday-goers from today on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.Many residents find the Eid break a chance to bond and spend more time with their families and friends, either taking part in road trips or engaging their children in an array of fun-filled and interactive activities.Residents and citizens were also seen doing some last-minute shopping for Eid yesterday, with malls, hypermarkets, souqs, shops selling sweets and gifts, and tailoring shops, among others, wearing a busy look along with the areas around them.Msheireb Properties, in collaboration with government institutions concerned, recently announced that Msheireb Downtown Doha will be hosting what it described “as one of the biggest and most engaging Eid festivals for visitors of all ages”.Barahat Msheireb has been beautifully decorated to welcome visitors from today until April 28 starting at 5pm, aimed at creating “unforgettable memories in an immersive experience, featuring captivating musical performances and enchanting storytelling sessions”.Some of the activations include a 360-photobooth, food and beverages station, arts and crafts, Eid trivia and contest, live performances, magic shows, planting workshops (organised by the Ministry of Municipality), roaming shows, and interactive experiences and games, among others.Part of Katara – the Cultural Village’s Eid programme, set from 4pm to 10pm, includes a music troupe (police band) show at Al Hekma Hall; Eid gifts distribution at the Katara Corniche, 'The World 2030' play, dress competitions for boys and girls, Eid quiz, and a fireworks display on the first and second days of Eid at 8.15pm at Katara Beach.Indian expatriate Rushab told Gulf Times that he plans to do ‘event hopping’ with his friends this Eid al-Fitr, going from one venue to another to experience the different celebrations.“I think this is going to be exciting because there are a lot of things to do this Eid, and I want to spend it with some of my friends and compatriots,” he said, adding that a road trip is also on their list.“I’ve been here in Doha for more than a decade and up to now, I have not visited Al Zubarah, Ruwais, the Purple Island, and some of the beautiful beaches. I hope I can do that this Eid,” said Rushab, who was checking all the scheduled Eid events in Qatar and the places he mentioned on Google Maps.One can also celebrate Eid al-Fitr at Lusail Boulevard with parades, carnival, drones, fireworks and more. Taking place from 4pm to 1am on the second, third and fourth days of Eid, the celebrations will include parades, music and DJ performances (5pm to 1am), stage shows, fireworks and drone show (10pm), carnival games and cultural activations for all ages, face-painting and henna, etc.At 9pm throughout the weekend, the skies of Doha will light up with a dazzling fireworks show along the Doha Corniche.Malls and shopping centres are also set to host wholesome activities to mark Eid al-Fitr, engaging shoppers to roaming performances, henna painting, children’s show, circus, and arts and crafts.As part of Qatar Tourism’s ‘Feel Eid in Qatar’ campaign from April 21 to 23, music concerts, children’s show, live stage shows, and sports festival are scheduled to enthrall residents and visitors.Qatar Tourism announced that Lusail Winter Wonderland will reopen throughout the Eid holidays, allowing families to take part in the celebration.Festivities are lined up at The Pearl Island, Al Bidda Park (Mega Park Carnival), Souq Waqif and Al Wakrah Old Souq and Asian Town.Besides public beaches, public parks such as Katara South Hills, Museum of Islamic Art Park, Al Khor Park and Aspire Park, among others, are also expected to receive a large number of visitors this Eid holiday, especially in the afternoon.

AL Zubarah Fort.
Exploring local destinations in Eid holidays

The Eid al-Fitr holidays provide an opportunity for residents and visitors to explore Qatar’s ‘hidden gems’: from its iconic museums, cultural village and art galleries to the sand dunes, rock formations, beaches and archaeological sites.“Today (April 19), we were able to visit these spots: Zekreet rock formations, Zekreet beach, Zekreet valley, Dukhan Town Centre, Zubara Fort, and Shadow at the Sea of The Day, before going to Ruwais Port, and the Old Ruwais Police Station, which is now a coffee shop (Arsan Café),” Filipino expatriate John Bonalos told Gulf Times.He said he finds the Zekreet beach child-friendly due to its shallow waters, suggesting the best time to come is sunset.According to Bonalos, he often passed by Zekreet when participating in ultra-run events and cycling rides but it was his first time to visit the ‘Eye in the Rock’ formation and mushroom hill.He said “it is worth the visit” especially for first-timers like his companions, who were mostly her wife’s colleagues, and one who grew up in Qatar but has yet to see the area.Bonalos added that they wanted to see the Film City – a main tourist attraction that also hosts what is called a ‘Mystery Village’ – but was closed during their visit. Al Khor and Al Thakira were also on their list but time and some conditions did not permit them.He pointed out that Arsan Café, located a few metres from the beach, is a favourite destination because of its scenery, offering a unique attraction for many visitors. It is listed as a heritage site under Qatar Museums, and located 110kms from Msheireb Downtown Doha.“When it’s low tide, you will see an attraction – the fish trap. The Old Ruins at Ruwais (Al Mafjar beach) is also worth the visit but we weren’t able to go there,” Bonalos said. “Regarding Zubara Fort, it has become more presentable now, and there’s a new building there by Qatar Museums.”Arsan was opened in 2019 and its name was inspired by horses, meaning “a bridle, which is a strap or rope that riders use to guide and control the horse” according to its owner, Shaikha Alsada.It is learnt that many residents who prefer to stay in Qatar throughout the Eid al-Fitr holidays have similar plans of going to these local destinations, in addition to popular sites in Doha such as Katara – the Cultural Village, National Museum of Qatar, The Pearl Qatar, Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, and Msheireb Downtown Doha, as well as a number of public parks.Indian expatriate Sachin M said he will be taking his family to various family-friendly events and attractions across Doha this Eid al-Fitr, including roaming and entertainment shows at malls and shopping centres.“Children love these activities so we have to take them there first, but I also want them to see nature such as the beaches, the rock formation in Zekreet, and the famous East-West/West-East installation by renowned American artist Richard Serra. There are a lot of places in Qatar to visit and this Eid holiday is the right time,” he said, adding they also plan for s staycation at a hotel in Doha for the remaining three days of the break.

QOSM president Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Thani
Years of Culture deepens relations between nations, says QOSM chief

Qatar Museum’s (QM) Years of Culture initiative continues to build bridges and deepen the relations between nations year after year, according to mountaineer, philanthropist and 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum (QOSM) president Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Thani.“Even though there are so many Indonesians that live in Qatar, but the best way to build these bridges is by having cultural exchanges between the two countries,” he said. “So I'm very excited to learn more about Indonesia and also teach people in Indonesia about our culture.”Sheikh Mohammed was speaking on the sidelines of a signing ceremony on Monday at 3-2-1 QOSM, announcing QM’s partnership with celebrated Qatari entrepreneur and athlete Ali bin Towar al-Kuwari who will serve as the CultuRide Ambassador of the Years of Culture initiative.CultuRide, a premier programme of the Years of Culture – with Indonesia as the partner country this year – will take place in June. It aims to bring together professional athletes and cycling enthusiasts in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for a cultural tour of key historical sites.“I'm so proud to see that this year’s Year of Culture it's going to be with Indonesia and it's a country that I feel very close to but I have never been to, but I'm looking forward to discover more of it over this year.“The Years of Culture, year after year, have been building bridges across countries. Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world,. It's a huge country, it's like a continent but we know almost so little about,” Sheikh Mohammed said.He underlined the role of sports and cultural exchanges in understanding the culture of other countries, as well as building lasting friendships, citing that sports has been a huge part of his personal life as a mountain climber.“I try my best to spread the joy of sports and the importance of sports,” he added.Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulla al-Thani is the first Qatari to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. He also climbed the summits of Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Mount Vinson (Antarctica), Mount Elbrus (the highest peak in Europe), Mount Kosciuszko (Australia), and Mount Aconcagua (South America), which is the highest peak in the Western hemisphere.He said a famous mountain in Indonesia is also on his bucket list but the plan was delayed for four years now due to the unrest in the area.Sheikh Mohammed also noted that Qatar hosted more than 500 international sporting events in the past 10 years, including the prestigious FIFA World Cup 2022, making it a global hub for sports.

Souq Waqif continues to attract a large number of visitors. A scene after Iftar Friday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar.
Qatar gears up for Eid al-Fitr celebrations

With a wide range of hospitality and culinary offerings, concerts, and fun-filled activities, Qatar residents and visitors will have more reasons to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holidays in the country.An official of a luxury hotel in Doha told Gulf Times that they have been witnessing an increasing number of bookings from Qataris, as well as nationals from neighbouring GCC countries especially Saudi Arabia, for the upcoming Eid break.She lauded Qatar Tourism’s vigorous ‘Feel Eid in Qatar’ campaign and other initiatives to entice more visitors to visit and experience a one-of-kind holiday in the country.Qatar Tourism recently announced that some of the region’s most popular artistes will take the centre stage and enthrall the audience for three days.These include Tamer Hosny, along with DJ Rouge, on April 21; Marwan Khoury and Najwa Karam on April 22; and “a trio of the genre’s most popular artists”: Qatar’s very own Fahad al-Kubaisi, recent winner of Saudi Idol ‘Hames’, and Emirati singer Balqees – who made her mark on the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 official soundtrack with ‘Light The Sky.’The Eid celebration in Qatar will also see fireworks displays at night, in addition to an array of wholesome and family-friendly events and activities.Citing a rise in demand for staycations this Eid, the hotel official said many families now opt to spend the holidays in Qatar than travelling abroad due to the presence of five star hotels and resorts across the country.It is learnt that Katara Hospitality-owned and operated hotels also recorded an increase in the number of bookings this Eid for staycations, where guests avail of discounts, promotions, and other deals on room rates and meals at their restaurants.The Eid holidays also provides an opportunity for both residents and visitors to explore and rediscover Qatar’s bourgeoning culinary scene and its iconic museums, popular tourism and cultural spots such as Souq Waqif, Msheireb Downtown Doha, The Pearl-Qatar, and Katara – the Cultural Village.An employee of a restaurant at Souq Waqif told Gulf Times that they have been extremely busy even after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 since visitors keep coming back after the prestigious event.“We had a very short break but because of the pleasant weather and the diverse food offering here, many people love to visit this place,” he said. Souq Waqif remains to be a popular destination for both locals and tourists as its restaurants, cafes, and several retails shops continue to receive a large number of customers, including this Ramadan period.“A lot of families here and from Saudi Arabia come for Iftar and Suhoor, probably because this place has an amazing appeal. We hope to see more guests in the coming days since many people often travel during the Eid holidays,” he added.

Rehan Ali Syed
Old favourites, GCC destinations in demand for Eid holiday travel

Besides a number of popular tourist spots in Europe, neighbouring GCC countries and those that offer visa-on-arrival for Qatar citizens and residents have become favourite destinations for Eid al-Fitr holiday travellers this year, it is learnt.“There is a major surge in bookings for the upcoming Eid holidays. Georgia, Turkiye, Thailand, Armenia and any other destinations where visa is freely available for residents, the demand is quite high,” Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed told Gulf Times.He said the upcoming Eid al-Fitr break will be the “first full-fledged holiday” for many travellers from Qatar post-FIFA World Cup 2022 and post-Covid-19 pandemic, an occasion that is now witnessing a surge in travel demand.While the coronavirus Omicron variant may have hit the travel sector and other businesses last year, Syed said with the disease becoming endemic, people are looking forward to getting on a flight and enjoying the break.He cited a mix in travel demand, saying many Qatari citizens opt for luxurious breaks to the Maldives, Greece and Dubai (the UAE), while expatriates are looking for options where they can avail of visa-on-arrival facility to avoid the hassle of applying for visas.In general, places like Georgia, Turkiye, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Armenia and Dubai have been the most popular over the past few years. "During the Eid holidays, every traveller is looking at a 4-5-day holiday window,” Syed said, adding that they have also been receiving a number of enquiries for Saudi Arabia, especially to Al Ahsa due to its relative proximity to Qatar.“With the success of the 'Riyadh Season' initiative, the local citizens are eager to experience the 'Jeddah Season' as well,” he said.“Eid holiday travellers are looking for short trips rather than travelling to Europe or UK. Everyone wants to spend more time enjoying and relaxing with their loved ones rather than spending long hours on flights. So, ideally any destination reachable within 4-5 hours with minimum hassle is mostly preferred,” Syed noted. “In recent times, Greece has come up as a good destination for families along with Phuket in Thailand."Avens Travel & Tours, Doha, managing director Naser Karukapadath shared a similar view, saying that many Eid travellers from Qatar prefer fewer flying hours for their journey.This Eid, he said a lot of travellers find GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman attractive compared to some European destinations.Karukapadath said Saudi Arabia has been attracting an increasing number of visitors, especially during the Eid holidays due to its proximity to Qatar and its new policy of easing visa restrictions for GCC residents.He noted a huge travel demand after the Covid-19 pandemic as leisure traffic for different tourism destinations, including countries in the region, continues to rise.

EU ambassador and head of EU delegation to Qatar Dr Cristian Tudor. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
EU envoy expects bilateral trade boom

A post-World Cup period is expected to witness a significant boost in trade relations, as well as in other areas of co-operation, between Qatar and European Union (EU) and EU member states, EU ambassador and head of EU Delegation to Qatar Dr Cristian Tudor has said. “I think that the EU member states and Qatar are very well engaged and I strongly believe that post World Cup there will be a substantial boom in trade relations,” he told Gulf Times, noting the tournament’s positive impact on Qatar.FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 was lauded and highly regarded as the best ever, showcasing “Qatar’s ability to stage mega events and set a new benchmark for future mega-event host nations”. EU ambassador Dr Tudor said that Qatar seems interested in continuing to expand its network of embassies in Europe, which reflects “how important Europe has become for Qatar.”“And this is reflected also in our EU policies towards the GCC, as we opened a diplomatic mission in Qatar, and lately a few additional EU member states have opened diplomatic missions in Doha. For instance, I am very happy to see the impact of Finland who opened the embassy not long ago and as a result I see more business delegations and more co-operation between the Qatari and Finnish private sectors... This is something fantastic,” he said.Citing a pro-active private sector, EU ambassador Dr Tudor said people are aware of Qatar’s success, particularly those who came for the World Cup and are coming back to visit and set up businesses. Tudor described Qatar as “a very important strategic partner” for the EU – a country that played a key role in helping many Europeans and Europe in general during the Covid-19 pandemic.Capitalising on the success that Qatar had with the World Cup, the envoy said he sees a lot of opportunities to strengthen these relations and co-operation with Qatar this year. Ambassador Tudor noted that the EU Delegation to Qatar is focusing on organising (hopefully) in May the senior officials meeting, which he said is like the annual strategic dialogue between Qatar and the EU. He said discussions on organising the next round of human rights dialogue in Doha are also underway, hopefully, to take place either in September or October this year.

Library tour
QM offers Ramadan activities and beyond

Qatar Museums (QM) offers an array of free educational activities and art workshops for both adults and children during Ramadan, providing an opportunity not only to enrich their knowledge and skills but also learn more about the country’s rich culture and heritage. The 45-minute Ramadan Walk-In Gallery Tours, which will run until April 18, allow visitors to explore rare collections at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), "encompassing 1400 years of history, across three continents”. The Arabic tour takes place on Tuesdays at 9pm while the English tour is set on Saturdays at 9pm at the MIA Galleries. A daily library tour at MIA from 12 noon to 1pm, both English and Arabic, allows attendees to browse the collection of books at the museum and learn more about Islamic Art. It also features a dedicated section for children at the library. According to QM, MIA is hosting the Planet Kids Club for ages 5-11 on April 18 from 8 to 9.30pm at the MIA library. The club also organises different activities and storytelling aimed at helping to protect Mother Earth. “Storytimes dedicated to caring about our world, different arts and crafts, and educational segments about museum objects all await your children. Join us this month for a reading of “The Good Luck Bird” by Najla AlAzii,” QM noted. On May 4 and 5, after the Eid al-Fitr celebrations, residents and visitors can take part in “The Sultan’s Feast: A Fifteenth-Century Cookbook” gallery tour and dinner at IDAM by Alain Ducasse, located on MIA’s top floor. This unique tour, led by award-winning writer, scholar and Arabic literature translator Dr Daniel Newman, allows participants to rediscover “the MIA galleries, and objects in its collection that relate to food and cooking in medieval times”. QM noted that participants will be transported back to the tastes, smells and sounds of the 15th Century Islamic World after the museum tour. “Chef Fabrice Rosso, head Chef at IDAM by Alain Ducasse, will craft a Sultan’s Feast to delight your palate. Participants will also get to experience a spice-smelling station, perfumes of the 15th Century, and discuss Dr Newman’s book in more detail”, QM noted.

Gulf Times
Filipino Food Month in Qatar

The Philippine embassy in Doha will highlight a number of Filipino restaurants in Qatar to mark ‘Buwan ng Kalutong Pilipino’ or ‘Filipino Food Month’ during April.Themed “Pagkaing Sariling Atin, Mahalin at Pagyamanin (Love and treasure our own food)” this year, the embassy noted that “this national celebration aims to appreciate, preserve, promote, and ensure the transmission of the vast Filipino culinary traditions and treasures to future generations”.The celebration also aims to preserve, enrich, and promote Filipino cuisine as part of the nation’s cultural heritage, history, and identity, according to a press statement from the Philippine Department of Agriculture. Filipino Food Month is also poised to support various industries, farmers, and agri-communities.“Aside from highlighting our rich culinary tradition, may this event provide a platform to acknowledge the role of our local communities especially our farmers, fisherfolk, and other sector involved in food production, the culinary industry, and national food security,” President and concurrent Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Ferdinand Marcos Jr said in a statement.It is learnt that Qatar is witnessing a growing number of Filipino eateries and restaurants as the demand continues to increase for a wide range of dishes.In the Philippines, the celebration will feature various conferences, live cooking shows and concerts, as well as other events across the country.The Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM) noted that “Filipino food is often referred to as one of the world’s earliest fusion cuisines, having its ancestral cooking influenced mostly by the surrounding environment of people’s settlements and early foreign visitors such as the Mexicans from the galleon trade period and the Muslims from neighboring countries”.PCHM added that “Filipino cuisine has complex and distinct flavours—mostly a combination of salty, sour, sweet, and bitter, although spicy dishes are also highly concentrated in Bicol and in the Muslim areas of Mindanao.“Majority of its dishes are also best served as viands with rice—the country’s major food staple—and dipping sauces and condiments such as buro (fermented rice and fish), bagoong (fermented salted fish or shrimp), and suka (vinegar)”.