Saturday, March 02, 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.
The Rawdat Al Khail Park offers green spaces and scenic views for visitors to enjoy. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar
Qatar's public parks key holiday attractions

With vast green sceneries and spaces, as well as fitness and play areas, Qatar’s public parks continues to be favourite destinations for many residents and visitors during holidays. The Doha Corniche – pedestrianised throughout the three-day Eid Festival – drew hundreds of thousands of festival-goers, especially in the evening where key attractions take place. Just adjacent to the Corniche is the 2mn sqm Al Bidda Park, which provided visitors a place to rest and relax while watching the fireworks display and the first-ever giant balloon parade at night. The park has many play and fitness areas for both adults and children The Rawdat Al Khail Park attracts many football enthusiasts Featuring an amphitheatre, several playgrounds, walkways, bicycle paths, and parking areas, Al Bidda Park continue to draw crowds since its reopening a few years back. The Rawdat Al Khail Park, the erstwhile Al Muntazah Park located in the busy Mansoura area of Doha, has been attracting a huge number of visitors since it opened last month. Apart from its lush greenery and scenic view, this park features several fitness and play areas, in addition to a 1,300m pedestrian and bicycle path, and wide green areas to sit and unwind. It also has 401 car parking slots. A huge play area in the middle of the park Sitting areas spread across the park An Indian expatriate who was with his family said they like to visit the Rawdat Al Khail Park because of the various play areas for children and its proximity from their home. “Many eateries and food stalls are also a walking distance from this park so food is easy to get, and it’s very comfortable for us, it saves time,” he said. “It also has a lot of toilets, which is really very important for a park.” Football and volleyball are among the popular sports and recreational activities at Rawdat Al Khail Park, besides walking, jogging, and cycling. Some visitors said they prefer to play volleyball during this period when humid summer temperatures start to set in than during the cold season. “You burn a lot of calories and you tend to sweat a lot when the weather is slightly hot and it’s humid, that feels great,” one of the players said. “But when it is cold, you just want to stay home and sleep”. Other parks such as the Katara South Hills at the Katara – The Cultural Village also continues to entice many residents who often spend their early morning and afternoon to walk and jog. This place offers a picturesque view of the beach and a number of landmarks, including Galleries Lafayette, the highway going to Lusail, and Katara mosque, among other attractions. The park has been a haven for different species of birds due to the plants and trees that surround the whole area, including walkways and in various locations. South Hills visitors can also roam around the cultural village, which hosts several art galleries and exhibitions, as well as restaurants offering authentic Arabic and international dishes. Many of the parks in Qatar, including Aspire Park, Souq Waqif Park, and Old Airport Park, are accessible via the Doha Metro, providing a reliable mode of transportation to commuters.

The giant balloon parade underway at the Doha Corniche yesterday. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Giant balloon parade thrills Eid fest visitors

More than a dozen character balloons soared above the Doha Corniche on Wednesday, marking the launch of the region’s first-ever giant balloon parade on the second day of the Eid Festival in Qatar. Festival-goers witnessed helium-filled balloons featuring characters from popular video games, cartoons and films such as Angry Birds, Minions and Super Mario, among others, alongside a Qatar Airways balloon plane. A large number of people thronged Qatar’s famous thoroughfare, which has been transformed into a colourful walkabout as part of the festival. The much-anticipated parade was held late in the evening on Wednesday. The parade on the festival’s opening day (May 3) was cancelled due to bad weather, according to Qatar Tourism. Spectators, especially children were thrilled to see the balloons. “It was a long wait but worth it,” said a resident who had gone to the Corniche with a friend. “It was simply great. Seeing some of my favourite characters as giant balloons made my day,” said a youngster who had been waiting for the parade with his family. Another key part of the programme – the daily fireworks display – lit up the sky from 9pm and added to the spectators’ delight. It will continue today at exactly 9pm and is expected to draw a big crowd, many of whom arrive in the early afternoon and wait patiently to take part in the festival and witness key activities and shows. Many of the festival-goers, along with their families and friends, were fascinated to witness both the daily fireworks display and the giant balloon parade.  An Indian expatriate said he was surprised to see such a huge crowd at the venue and hopes that there will be more food stalls in the future.  The festival is hosting activities for different age groups such as the local marching bands that roam around the venue to greet and entertain visitors.  The organisers said the giant balloon parade and a third live concert will be held on the concluding day (today) of the festival, in addition to carnival games, an inflatable play area for children, and an array of food stalls. Qatari artiste and singer Nasser al-Kubeissi enthralled the audience with his performance yesterday, a day after renowned Iraqi artiste and composer Mahmoud al-Turki drew a huge crowd on the first day of the festival. Fans of Saudi Arabian artiste/singer and composer Sultan Khalifa will have the opportunity to witness his show today. Food trucks, serving Arabic, Indian and other dishes and snacks, saw huge demand for different types of food and beverages at the event. Apart from the Doha Corniche, the Eid al-Fitr holidays has led to citizens and residents spending time shopping and dining at major malls and restaurants. Others are taking the opportunity to explore various places of interest and cultural centres in Qatar, such as Souq Waqif and Katara – the Cultural Village, among others. Parks and beaches have also been huge crowd-pullers over the past few days. It is learnt that Qatar’s hospitality and food & beverage sectors has received a further boost with families, as well as individuals, booking special ‘staycation’ packages in many hotels and resorts throughout the Eid holidays. Msheireb Downton Doha witnessed a surge in the number of visitors since the start of the Eid break with families, individuals and groups visiting several restaurants, which offer authentic local and international dishes.

The fireworks display marked the start of the first Eid Festival in Qatar at the Doha Corniche.
Eid Festival kicks off

The first-ever Eid Festival in Qatar kicked off on Tuesday, featuring a spectacular fireworks display and a live concert on the Doha Corniche that attracted a huge number of spectators. Such a gathering was a first since the Covid-19 outbreak. The fireworks display at 9pm enthralled the crowd, who filled a stretch of the Doha Corniche, as well as several areas of Al Bidda Park. The spectacle marked the start of a three-day festivity in the country, which will conclude on May 5. In a statement, Qatar Tourism’s Marketing and Planning department head Hessa al-Thani said: “Qatar Tourism is pleased to bring back large-scale events that are open and accessible to everyone, especially on this joyous occasion of Eid. We’re particularly proud to bring to Qatar a new show not yet experienced in the region. Furthermore, we are pleased that this festival will support and benefit partners across the tourism and hospitality sector”. Qatar Tourism’s Events and Festivals Technical Support Section acting head Hamad al-Khaja said: “We are delighted to celebrate Eid in Qatar with the residents and visitors of Qatar, having paused for some time owing to the pandemic. We are also continuing our tradition of hosting family-friendly events, bringing multiple activations that suit every age and that align with our culture and traditions.” One of the highlights of the three-day event – the region's first-ever giant balloon parade scheduled 4.30pm – was cancelled yesterday due to bad weather, according to Qatar Tourism. The parade, which will feature more than a dozen helium-filled balloons with varying designs, shapes, and colours, was supposed to take off at 4.30pm yesterday (May 3) but the timing was changed to 9.30pm. However, organisers announced later that it was cancelled. As part of the programme, the parade of giant balloons, featuring characters from popular video games and films such as Angry Bird, Minions, Super Mario, and Disney, among other cartoons, is expected to take place today (May 4). The first day of the festival showcased wholesome activities and activations for families and individuals to enjoy such as marching bands, carnival games, and food stalls. All food trucks, offering an array of local and international dishes, snacks, and drinks – from burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and sweets to coffee, milk teas, and other offerings – witnessed long queues since the opening of the event. Both the Doha Corniche and Al Bidda Park served as a play area for children and picnic ground for thousands of visitors, especially families, spending the Eid holidays in the country. For the live music concert, renowned Iraqi artiste and composer Mahmoud al-Turki took the centre stage at a dedicated section of the event, drawing a huge number of fans. Qatari artiste and singer Nasser al-Kubeissi is scheduled to perform today (May 4) at the festival while Saudi Arabian artiste/singer and composer Sultan Khalifa will be on stage on May 5. The festival also offers a number of fun-filled carnival games for different age groups, in addition to inflatable play areas for children to enjoy. The Doha Metro and Lusail Tram networks, which have 12,000 parking spaces for metro users, proved to be a reliable mode of transportation as it helped ease public movement during the Corniche Road closure for the Eid Festival. The network’s 37 stations provided seamless transportation for passengers going to key destinations in the city and the Corniche area such as the National Museum, Souq Waqif, Corniche, Al Bidda, West Bay, and DECC station, in addition to leisure destinations, parks, and gardens. Many residents are spending most of their time during the day at major malls and shopping centres before heading to the Eid Festival using the metro. It is learnt that the Qatar National Library is also one of the most visited places in Qatar this Eid. “I’m trying to maximise my Eid holidays by roaming around the city, going from one place to another using the metro. It’s a very practical way since it saves me a lot of time and money,” said Filipino expatriate Jerome F, who, along with his friends, also witnessed the fireworks display. Box: The daily schedule of events is as follows: * Crowd entrance and lineup from 3pm * Giant balloon parade from 4.30pm to 5.30pm * Concert from 7.30pm to 9pm * Fireworks display at 9pm * Games and activities/roaming performers from 5.30pm to 11pm * Helium balloon showcase from 5.30pm to 11pm    

Rehan Ali Syed
'Qatar to benefit from Eid Festival'

Qatar’s tourism sector stands to benefit from the staging of the first Eid Festival in the country, scheduled to kick off on May 3 and run until Thursday at the Doha Corniche, a travel and tourism industry expert has said. “The Eid Festival is an extremely good initiative to increase inbound tourism, as well as to boost the local business, thus having a positive impact on the economy,” Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed told Gulf Times. The three-day festivity in Doha, marking the start of a series of events in Qatar before the hosting of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, will feature the region’s first-ever giant balloon parade, as well as concerts, marching bands, daily firework displays, carnival games and food stalls. Holiday-goers will also have the chance to witness live concerts during the festival led by renowned Arab performers such as Mahmoud al-Turki today, Nasser al-Kubeissi tomorrow and Sultan Khalifa the day after. Syed lauded the efforts of Qatar Tourism in organising and hosting major events, exhibitions, and sports competitions to attract visitors from different countries across the globe. “Qatar Tourism is working hard on increasing more tourist numbers into the country. These events help position Qatar as a country which is open for tourism. He noted that the influx of visitors from other GCC and other countries is growing on a regular basis, with 93 countries getting visa on arrival. It is quite obvious that Qatar is keen on developing tourism within the country. According to Syed, Qatar has a lot to offer as a tourism destination such as stunning museums, art galleries, cultural centres, and shopping malls and a variety of exciting activities such as kayaking, desert safari, and dhow cruise, among others. Annual and much-anticipated events such as the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition remained appealing to a large number of visitors, especially nationals from neighbouring GCC countries. The 18th edition of DJWE is set to take place from May 9 to 13 at the Doha Exhibition and Conference Centre. It will bring together more than 65 exhibitors under one roof, including 500 renowned international brands, as well as exclusive pavilions from Turkey and India. Bollywood superstar Alia Bhatt will inaugurate the exhibition.    

Dr James She at the exhibition.
AI art an opportunity to explore tech potential

The growing interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) art in Qatar provides an opportunity for artists to explore the various potentials of the technology to create exceptional pieces, a university professor and media artist has said. “AI art is something that I promote and since people have varied creativity, we will have different possibilities and stories to tell,” Dr James She, an Associate Professor in the College of Science and Engineering at Hamad Bin Khalifa University Qatar, told Gulf Times. He was speaking on the sidelines of his latest exhibition titled 'Keep Flying: AI Art and Arabic Heritage,’ taking place until May 31 at Katara – the Cultural Village Building 19. The unique show features a collection of 15 human and machine co-generated paintings that highlight one of Qatar’s and the Gulf’s treasured and living heritage, falconry.   Dr She’s latest exhibition, which showcases artworks that were produced using the AI technology Style Transfer, aims to show the distinguishable features of falcons and falconers in a new way while preserving their original aesthetics and sentimental values. With AI art, Dr She said that artists in Qatar and the region can go beyond using traditional techniques and materials in telling an interesting local story. “If you can make a machine artistic and ‘culturally aware’, a lot of applications will become really powerful and relevant to the local community,” he pointed out. However, Dr She underlined the need to continuously innovate and be more creative in either modifying or developing new AI technologies. “There is no magic, AI is a technology, it is an algorithm that learns data, and it is like a human, you learn by data but if you don’t educate that person about culture (for example), then it is hard to do a good job,” he said, citing the key role that AI plays in various sectors of the society. “In education, you look for a lot of visual content, it is not about art but you want to make things look attractive and artistic but you also want to make it culturally matching to your audience,” noted Dr She, who discussed ‘AI for calligraphy’ in November last year. “Calligraphy is something really important in this region, in this culture, so you can see a lot of application.”    

Italian ambassador Prunas and Qeeri scientists at the webinar.
Italian Research Day marked with webinar on eco-sustainability and environmental transition

A webinar on Thursday marking the Italian Research Day underscored the importance of creating practical but sustainable and innovative solutions to protect the environment. Titled A new approach for a new world: Eco-sustainability and environmental transition between research and practice, the webinar saw the participation of Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas and scientists from the Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute (Qeeri) and the Milan city’s Green and Environment Division. “Sharing experiences between a well-established and innovative institution such as the Qeeri and the environmental department of larger European cities such as Milan,” Prunas said, “can help us bridge research and implementation of practical solutions aiming at zero emissions, carbon neutrality, and air quality, and building efficiency are not only topics of academic analysis but also matters of administrative policies and urban planning." “Italian local administrations know that very well and certainly, it is the case of the city of Milan, which has always been willing to learn from different contexts in order to foster high level of innovation in its urban and social contexts,” he explained. He thanked the Qeeri for partnering with the Italian embassy in Doha in celebrating the event this year, an edition dedicated to highly topical issues such as environmental protection and sustainable development. The participation of Milan city’s Environmental Department, Prunas said, also underlines the excellent and growing co-operation between Italian and Qatari institutions. The ambassador pointed out that Italy plays a leading role in forging global environmental policies, especially in climate change issues, citing the hosting of a number of events last year during the G20 meeting and COP26. “This year many things have changed – despite our will – (and) our approach to sustainable development has been progressively influenced by emerging issues such as energy security and human rights,” Prunas said, adding: “The current war in Ukraine brought new concerns and a broad feeling of insecurity.” “However, this does not mean that our commitments towards the environment have been superseded,” he continued. “On the contrary, they rather need to be in some cases accelerated, and in other cases innovated with new considerations that are perhaps redefining methodology of action towards sustainability and energy diversification.” “Prompt environmental actions cannot be further procrastinated,” the envoy said. “We continue to need analysis and research, as well as practical implementation of those projects that we fruitfully carry out, joining forces with academic institutions around the world.” Several topics were tackled during the webinar, including *Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Energy Management for Smart City Applications by the Qeeri’s Energy Management Programme chief scientist Dr Antonio Sanfilippo. He said that the programme is aimed at creating a solar mapping and forecasting platform, develop smart grid solutions for hot desert climates, craft demand response solutions for efficient energy use in Qatar, and promote sustainable farming such as hydroponics and aquaponics, among others. Other topics were discussed were *Qatar Challenges with Reinforced Concrete Corrosion by the Qeeri’s Corrosion Centre senior research director Dr Hanan Alshareef Farhat, *Solar Desalination: Initiative Road Map by the Qeeri’s Water Centre senior scientist Dr Abdelnasser A Aboukhlewa, and *Towards an Iot (Internet-of-Things)-Based Integrated Platform for Healthy Connected-Building by the Qeeri’s principal scientist Dr Abdlmonem H Beitelmal. “We aim to develop an IoT-based health-connected home solution, an intelligent decision-support platform, that actively tracks and manages indoor thermal comfort and air quality,” said Dr Beitelmal. “The system includes proper interpretation and evaluation of the environmental sensors’ data for economically viable commercial solutions.” Moderated by the Qeeri’s Energy Centre scientist Dr Alessandro Sinopoli, the webinar also saw the participation of Dr Angelo Pascale, the director of Milan city’s Green and Environment Division, who discussed *Separate Waste Collection and Circular Economy in Milan. Qeeri executive director Dr Marc Vermeersch underlined the importance of education in aiming for long-term impact of efforts to address environmental concerns. “The best approach (to tackle climate change issues) is to have these young kids as ambassasors for the institute, and these ambassadors go and reach out to their families and to their local communities to adopt best practices,” he said. Dr Vermeersch noted that various Qeeri initiatives can be adopted by other regions around the world. “I believe that if we do this on a broader scale, and we have to do it, it will have a significant impact,” he said.    

Dr James She showcases his latest artworks at Katara. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
'Keep Flying: AI Art and Arabic Heritage' exhibition opens

A unique collection of human and machine co-generated falconry paintings at Katara – the Cultural Village puts a spotlight on falconry – “a living heritage in Qatar and the Gulf which connects the region culturally and historically”. Titled 'Keep Flying: AI (artificial intelligence) Art and Arabic Heritage', the exhibition opened on Wednesday and will run until May 31 at Katara’s Building 19. It is supported by the College of Science and Engineering, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar and Katara. “Besides the horse, the falcon is another (Qatari) cultural symbol which was originally used for hunting, but later on evolved and became a heritage. It represents the symbol of strength, endurance, and sharp vision,” Dr James She, an Associate Professor in the College of Science and Engineering at HBKU Qatar, told Gulf Times. Following his successful ‘Keep Running: AI Art and Qatari Heritage’ exhibition in 2021 at the Doha Fire Station, Dr She’s latest show features 15 artworks that were produced using the AI technology Style Transfer. The exhibition aims to show the distinguishable features of falcons and falconers in a new way while preserving their original aesthetics and sentimental values. Seeing an end of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr She said the exhibition also mirrors a return to normalcy where people can “Keep Flying” as its title suggests. “Although we humans have been impacted by the virus (Covid-19), but I think our spirit, just like their (Qatari and Arab) culture, we keep flying, we are trying to find ways to resume (to normal),” he said. According to Dr She, the exhibition reflects the Arab’s zeal in preserving their identity and tradition despite present technological advancements and amid their evolving economy. The exhibition, organisers noted, exemplifies how emerging AI technologies can empower a computing machine to learn about important subjects and artistic styles, and then perform with the creative decisiveness of a human artist. As a university professor, Dr She, whose interests focus on AI and multimedia for art, media, culture and human creativity, underlined the importance of continuous research of new AI technologies. “Now we have a new AI technology, we create all these artworks in a new pop art style, it is not like a traditional painting, it is not like the AI trying to duplicate (something), this is something new,” he added. “I’m using the AI to identify a new style that human eyes will see as a pop art, we analyse key theories and different art styles in a modern or pop art style.”    

Embassy advisory
Philippine embassy closed from May 1-4

The embassy of the Philippines in Doha has announced that it will be closed on May 1 to mark Labour Day, or International Workers’ Day, and from May 2 to 4 for public transactions in lieu of the Eid al-Fitr holidays in Qatar. The embassy noted that during the holidays, it can be reached at +9745527-5123 (consular hotline), +9746644-6303 (assistance to nationals hotline), and +9744483-1585 (duty officer). For labour-related concerns, the Philippine Overseas Labour Office can be reached at +9743318-2459 (skilled workers), +9745054-0707 (household service workers), +9745591-5961 (Social Security System), and [email protected] (Pag-Ibig Fund), and +9747043-7972 (Office of the Social Welfare Attache). However, the embassy, also part of its advisory posted on its social media pages, stated that it will remain open for overseas absentee voting from 7am to 4pm, including Friday, Saturday, and holidays, until the last day of the election on May 9. The first day of the 30-day overseas voting for the 2022 Philippine national and local elections saw 566 of the more than 40,000 registered voters casting their ballots at three polling precincts of the embassy. The embassy reminds voters that “premature announcements of exit poll results in relation to the 2022 national and local elections constitutes grave violation of Philippine election laws.” Some voters like Ronaldo Nilo shared their experience on social media saying: “Today, we have done our solemn duty and right of suffrage as Filipinos. Although we, OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) are very small (approximately 1.7mn) compared to the approximately 66mn registered voters in the Philippines, it is good to know that our votes are being counted and our voices are being heard."    

Alia Bhatt
Alia Bhatt 'excited, honoured to be part of DJWE 2022'

Bollywood superstar Alia Bhatt is immensely excited and honoured to be making her way to Qatar for the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE) this year, the local representative for the Indian artiste has said. “She is very excited to be a part of the jewellery exhibition, to interact with the people and to experience the warm hospitality of Qatar as Qatar always does. It’s an exceptional special year to have the DJWE because it’s the year of the FIFA World Cup 2022,” FAB Entertainment CEO Fauzia Vohra told reporters at a recent roundtable. Taking place at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre from May 9 to 13, DJWE 2022 will bring together more than 500 brands from over 10 countries across 30,000sqm. It will also feature two pavilions: the Indian pavilion with 18 exhibitors and the Turkish pavilion with eight exhibitors. Vohra said Alia’s preparations are under way in terms of her styling and dress, the piece of jewellery that she will be wearing during the event, as well as the logistics preparations in terms of hotels and flights, among others. “The preparations are definitely on to make sure that it (DJWE 2022) is a successful event. Alia has done an event (in Doha) a very long time ago but this will be the first time that she will be appearing for a government-sponsored event in Qatar,” she said. About being selected as the special guest of honour and face for the exhibition, Vohra stressed that India remains to be a very important DJWE partner. “We have been having the India pavilion for a couple of years but we also wanted someone who was international. Alia is an international face and she recently appeared at the Berlin Film Festival for her most recent movie, and she is also making her Hollywood debut with a Netflix movie. "She is extremely huge in this. She is the biggest face and name right now who is very obvious. Also in line with the culture, cultural fabric of Qatar. It was fitting,” she said. According to Vohra, Alia has never been to a jewellery exhibition, “it is a first for her, and she knows that it is a landmark jewellery event in the world. The DJWE is not just something big in the region but it is an event that is big globally and she is excited to be part of this global event”. About future projects with Qatar, she said: “We will be very welcoming of any opportunities that the government extends for Alia to be part of." Qatar Tourism had recently announced that it would be hosting the first-ever Eid Festival from May 3-5 at the Doha Corniche. This will be followed by DJWE 2022, which will bring together more than 500 brands from over 10 countries, continues to provide international, regional and local brands with a networking platform for companies and visitors in Qatar and beyond.    

Qatar Tourism aims to attract markets such as India and China for major events like the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE), which returns this year at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre from May 9 to 13, a senior official said.
Qatar Tourism aims to attract key markets for major events

Qatar Tourism aims to attract markets such as India and China for major events like the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE), which returns this year at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre from May 9 to 13, a senior official said. “The main tourists that come to Qatar are Indians and Saudis and they are our main target audiences,” Sheikha Hessa al-Thani, head of Marketing and Planning department at Qatar Tourism told a recent roundtable discussion with media. Qatar Tourism is also expecting visitors from the GCC markets such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – where a campaign promoting DJWE 2022 went live on Thursday. The much-awaited 18th edition of DJWE’s main campaign celebrity is Bollywood superstar Alia Bhatt, the official pointed out. The event, which brings together more than 500 brands from over 10 countries across 30,000sqm, will feature two pavilions: the Indian pavilion with 18 exhibitors and the Turkish pavilion with eight exhibitors. With a huge number of visitors expected to attend during the five-day event, Sheikha Hessa said the DJWE will follow all the Ministry of Public Health’s Covid-19 precautionary measures. "DJWE, one of our longest-running events that has grown to attract exhibitors and visitors from international markets, is the only business-to-consumer show of its kind in the region, connecting brands with customers directly," she said while adding that various brands from all around the world are participating this year, catering to varied consumer tastes. With the travel restrictions eased now, Qatar Tourism is expecting a large number of international visitors this year as it is set to host the country’s first Eid Festival from May 3 to 5 at the Doha Corniche. The highlights of the three-day festivities include the region’s first-ever giant balloon parade, marching bands, daily firework displays, carnival games, and food stalls for residents and visitors to enjoy. Live music concerts will witness top artistes from the Arab world – Mahmoud al-Turki, Nasser al-Kubeissi, and Sultan Khalifa – performing in Qatar. According to Visit Qatar website, al-Turki, who will be performing on May 3, is an Iraqi artiste, singer and composer who started his career in 2012 and achieved huge success in terms of views on YouTube and all social media platforms. His concerts have attracted large audiences, and he has presented a group of singles that were great hits. Al-Kubaisi, a Qatari artiste, singer and brother of noted singer Fahad al-Kubaisi, will be on stage on May 4. Despite his young age, he has made a name for himself in the world of Qatari songs. He has gained a huge following on social media, including in other Gulf countries. According to Qatar Tourism, al-Kubaisi “was at the Coral Swar Theater to perform the most famous patriotic song ‘Allah Ya Omri Qatar’ which turned into a stepping stone to his fame”. Khalifa, a renowned Saudi Arabian artiste/singer and composer who is famous by the name Hagrous, is better known for songs: "Adman Hubk", "Qalil Alshawq". He has taken part in many of the Saudi General Authority of Entertainments concerts and festivals and national day parties. He is a former football player of the Al-Qadisiyah team.    

DJWE returns this year at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre from May 9 to 13 after a pause in 2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions..
DJWE 2022 to have many firsts, including Louis Vuitton's ‘Saturne necklace’

French luxury fashion house and company Louis Vuitton is set to present for the first time the ‘Saturne necklace’, an extraordinary jewellery piece of more than 141 multi-coloured sapphires totaling 186.42 carats, at the 18th edition of Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE). As one of the much-awaited annual events in Qatar, DJWE returns this year at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre from May 9 to 13 after a pause in 2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions. Louis Vuitton, which recently announced the impending opening of its first store at Qatar Duty Free in Hamad International Airport, is participating for the first time in the Doha Fair. The unveiling of its latest creation – featuring the LV Monogram cut diamonds – serves as one of the exhibition highlights this year. According to Qatar Tourism, the exhibition will also feature a jewellery line by Al Maha Collection, specially designed to put a spotlight on Down Syndrome. DJWE 2022 will also witness Ali Bin Ali introducing new brands from Switzerland and the US, and Al Majed Jewellery signing a licensing agreement to be the official licensed luxury jewellery and accessories for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Létrange, a brand of Printemps, will showcase a unique piece of a Croco leather bag with handles made of white gold and decorated with diamonds of approximately 200 carats. An exclusive DJWE Lounge will be presenting for the first time, famous jewellery-themed movies throughout the five-day exhibition. Another highlight is the Young Qatari Designer initiative, featuring a number of upcoming local talents and entrepreneurs who will showcase their works at the event. “We have a number of young Qatari designers (at DJWE), and one of them is Hairaat. She is a Qatari designer who started out in the Young Qatari Designers and now owns her own booth at the exhibition. It’s amazing to see our young talents graduating and becoming one of the big exhibitors,” Hessa al-Thani, head of Marketing and Planning department at Qatar Tourism, told a round table discussion yesterday. “This is the first time we will have a dedicated space for workshops and talks by jewellery experts. We have international visitors that are coming in. Our main campaign celebrity is Alia Batt (Bollywood superstar),” she said. In addition to major exhibitors such as Alfardan Jewellery, Ali Bin Ali Luxury, Al Majed Jewellery, Fifty One East, Al Muftah Jewellery, Blue Salon, and Amiri Gems, the Turkish and the Indian pavilions will also take centre stage at this year’s DJWE. “I see it (DJWE) growing bigger and bigger. Something that Qataris always love is their jewellery, not only the local community but also everybody can relate to. It will always continue to (grow). “We’re excited to bring DJWE back and showcase the latest in luxury design by both international and local brands. DJWE has had a long and successful history in Qatar, and is the only exhibition of its kind in the region,” Hessa al-Thani said, adding that they are also expecting visitors from neighbouring GCC countries to attend the exhibition. The event, which will bring together more than 500 brands from over 10 countries, continues to provide international, regional, and local brands a networking platform for companies and visitors in Qatar and beyond. “DJWE is one of Qatar Tourism’s most anticipated events, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to welcome visitors from Qatar and across the region. This exhibition highlights Qatar’s offering as a premium destination for business events, where designers and jewellery aficionados can explore and nurture their creativity under one roof,” said Hamad al-Khaja, acting head of Events and Festivals Technical Support Section at Qatar Tourism. DJWE’s official sponsors and partners are QNB (official bank sponsor), Qatar Airways (official airline partner), and Alfardan Automotive (official car sponsor).    

Qatar offers a wide range of stopover packages.
Qatar in the reckoning for 'Stopover Destination' award

Qatar is a finalist for the ‘Stopover Destination in the Middle East’ category at the 2022 Wave Awards, Visit Qatar has announced. “With an abundance of cultural itineraries, adventure activities, family entertainment and relaxing spaces; Qatar is the ideal destination to getaway and explore new experiences in 2022,” Visit Qatar posted on its social media pages on Wednesday. The award is given by TravelAge West magazine, described as “the trusted voice of the travel industry in the western US”. The editorial team reviews many travel suppliers and products annually, and shortlists 'Editor’s Pick' nominees who will then be receiving awards. Qatar Airways has also been listed in the Editor’s Pick for the Best Airline, International 2022, along with other international airlines such as British Airways, Emirates, Fiji Airways Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines. Voting can be done at until April 30, and the official awards ceremony and gala on June 9 in Los Angeles, California. Qatar offers a wide range of stopover packages, giving visitors “a taste of local culture, desert adventures, world-class shopping, fine dining, and much more”. A favourite family, leisure and business destination with a wide range of iconic hotel options, Qatar allows a visa-free entry for nationals from 95 countries. Qatar Tourism noted that travellers can take advantage of the $14 per person per night (starting offer) stay in a selection of luxury 4-star and 5-star hotels. The country offers themed stopover packages to suit a variety of interests such as “a thrilling desert safari, disconnect and enjoy luxurious resorts, spas, and restaurants, admire museums, galleries, and various public art installations in the country’s thriving arts scene.” Visitors also have the opportunity to witness and take part in upcoming events in the country such as the Eid Festival 2022, in addition to several other festivals and exhibitions before and during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Scheduled from May 3 to 5, the Eid Festival will take place on the Doha Corniche, featuring colourful giant balloon parades, live music performances, fireworks display, carnival games, roaming shows, and food and beverage stalls. According to Qatar Tourism, one of the most anticipated events – the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE) 2022 – will be held May 9 to 13 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. The 18th edition of DJWE will bring together more than 65 exhibitors, including 500 renowned international brands, as well as exclusive pavilions from Turkey and India, under one roof. Acclaimed Bollywood star Alia Bhatt is the face of this year’s global campaign of DJWE.    

Georgia and Armenia continue to be popular destinations for expatriates in Doha while Turkey and several European countries are top of Qatarisu2019 travel bucket list, especially during short holidays like Eid, it is learnt.
Increasing demand for Eid holiday travel

Georgia and Armenia continue to be popular destinations for Qatar residents, it is learnt, while Turkey and several European countries are at the top of the travel list for Qataris, especially during short holidays like Eid. “Georgia and Armenia have been booming amongst the expat communities since few years now,” Tawfeeq Travel Group chief executive Rehan Ali Syed told *Gulf Times. “There are various agencies providing 4-5 days fixed departure tours to both the countries during the Eid holidays.” He noted that the biggest unique selling point of these destinations are short flights and visa-free entry for Qataris and residents, in addition to their beautiful weather and nature. Besides tourism, Syed said that members of the Asian communities are also exploring higher education opportunities, mainly in Georgia. “So, the travellers are not just going to enjoy holidays but also explore what else the country has got to offer,” he said. During the upcoming Eid break, he noted that the most emerging destinations out from Qatar include Dubai, Georgia, Turkey, and Phuket (Thailand) for expatriate communities. Many Qataris, Syed added, are opting to go for Umrah. Otherwise, places like Turkey, Dubai, Greece, Sarajevo, Maldives and Seychelles are some of the key destinations for the short holidays. “This season will eventually give a kick start for the summer bookings and emerging travel trends in the market,” the official said. “Everyone is looking for a stress buster where they can spend quality time with family, and all these destinations give you a bespoke experience.” Apart from looking for unique experiences, Syed said that many travellers are also willing to explore new places that are easily accessible and affordable especially for a short break, in addition to being a safe destination. “Turkey (as a travel destination) has really picked up due to easy accessibility with several entry points and varied offerings for all various age groups,” he said. “In the case of Europe, getting an appointment for a visa is not easy, and (the process) might take 1-2 weeks minimum, which can hamper travel plans.” “Now, travellers are more educated … they do some research before going ahead with their holiday bookings, and one of the most important criteria is whether they can get visa on arrival,” Syed said. Two European countries – Spain and Switzerland – are some of the few destinations that witnessed significant tourism growth in recent years, and would continue to attract visitors from Qatar in a post-coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic era, according to the official. “The Qatari traveller is all about luxury, and these destinations are known to raise the bar with their overall natural scenic beauty and the availability of various sporting activities like skiing, mountain hiking, sledging with reindeers, and others,” Syed said. Sreekanth Menon, the general manager of popular online travel portal, which specialises in budget holiday packages, shared a similar view, saying that visa-free destinations for Qataris and expatriates such as Georgia and Armenia – apart from Azerbaijan and eastern European countries like Serbia – have huge appeal for expatriates in Qatar. He said that people prefer package tours over individual travel, since they get “everything in one plate”, such as hotel bookings and airline fares, among other offerings, at a much lower rate. “A normal plane ticket to Georgia would be much costlier than a package tour, and there are many different packages,” Menon said. “People are also (working on a) budget, which is a big concern for everybody nowadays. That is why most of them are taking package tours.” He said that cities like London and Paris, and countries like Spain and Switzerland, as well as beach destinations like Maldives, continue to attract Qataris. African destinations like Kenya and Tanzania – which were already popular even in the pre-Covid-19 pandemic era due to safari adventures and mountain climbing at Mount Kilimanjaro – are once again witnessing an increasing number of Qatari visitors, according to Menon. However, he said that travel demand from Qatar to a number of countries in other regions like Asia has dropped because of health restrictions and pre-arrival procedures. “People have to feel fully confident and safe with their choice of destination,” he said. “They are looking for hassle-free travel – not only about visas but the procedures, which are slightly complicated in other destinations.”    

Berthold Trenkel speaking at the event.
QT plans to double employment opportunities in tourism sector

* Seven-fold increase in number of visitors in Q1 2022 * QT aims to increase travel & tourism sector's contribution to GDP from 7% to 12%   Qatar Tourism (QT) plans to double employment opportunities in the tourism sector as it continues to position the country as a global leader in service excellence, COO Berthold Trenkel has said. “Our strategy focuses on creating experiences across six demand spaces. These are active holidays; relax and rejuvenate; sun, sea and sand; cultural enthusiasts; luxury city breaks; and romantic getaways. These demand spaces portray a holistic and all-encompassing view of what Qatar has to offer and which customer segments we would like to focus on,” he said at QT’s recently held Annual Tourism Industry Ramadan Ghabga. QT Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker, along with other officials from the public and private sectors, attended the event at Al Messila, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Doha. Citing a seven-fold increase in the number of visitors in the first quarter of 2022, Trenkel said they expect an even stronger second half. “We have an ambitious, but achievable vision and strategy for 2030. Over the coming years, we aim to increase the number of visitors to Qatar three-fold, increase spend in our destination by 3-4 times and grow the travel and tourism’s sector contribution to the GDP from 7 to 12%,” he said.   Trenkel noted that Qatar now offers visa-free access for more than 95 countries, and the 96-hour free transit visa is being reactivated. QT also expects the opening of 50 hotels by the end of 2022 to accommodate visitors. April 15 saw the opening of Place Vendome, a Parisian-inspired development that offers retail, leisure, entertainment and luxury under one roof, in Lusail City. This new family destination features a mall, three hotels, restaurants and coffee shops, stores of international brands, daily laser shows, fountains and other attractions. QT, which underlined its achievements last year, expects the opening of new attractions soon, as well as an array of events and initiatives, according to Trenkel. “But it is with no doubt that this year is a legacy year for Qatar. We’re excited to have the eyes of the world on Qatar as it prepares to host the first-ever FIFA World Cup tournament in the Arab world and Middle East. “As the countdown begins to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, I know we are all eager to showcase the country to the millions of fans who will visit us for this once-in-a-lifetime event. To do so, it is absolutely imperative that we continue to work together and collaborate to ensure the most memorable experience for all. “I am confident that this year and beyond, working together, we will continue to go from strength to strength, and will see the launch of several projects that will attract visitors to Qatar well beyond the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” Trenkel said. Prior to this prestigious tournament, he said QT is gearing up to host the first-ever Eid Festival from May 3 to 5 at the Doha Corniche. The three-day event will feature entertainment shows and activations for the family, including the region’s first-ever giant balloon parade, in addition to concerts, marching bands, daily fireworks, carnival games and food stalls. Another highly anticipated event, the latest edition of Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE), is set to take place from May 9 to 13, occupying 33,000sqm of space at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. DJWE will bring together more than 65 exhibitors from more than 10 countries across the globe, including 500 renowned international brands. It will also feature exclusive pavilions from Turkey and India. Superstar Alia Bhatt will inaugurate the exhibition. The exhibition will hold a series of workshops with jewellery and watches experts. Official sponsors and partners are QNB (official bank sponsor), Qatar Airways (official airline partner), and Alfardan Automotive (official car sponsor). Trenkel highlighted QT’s major milestones in 2021: the launch of its first-ever global campaign - 'Experience a World Beyond', which has bagged many international awards; bringing back in-person events and successfully hosting the Qatar International Food Festival, Qatar Live, Heya and Shop Qatar; and the launch of its Service Excellence programme, as it collaborated with various sectors and partners to ensure all its products and services deliver an unparalleled experience to visitors and residents at every touchpoint of their journey. As part of its digital transformation strategy, he noted that QT launched the award-winning Visit Qatar website and mobile application, which serves as a guide to help visitors plan unique itineraries. According to Trenkel, QT hosted more than 100 journalists in Qatar last year and appointed nine new representative offices for travel trade around the world, helping to put Qatar firmly on the tourism world map. “Our 2021 achievements are a testament to our tourism strategy, which puts the visitors at the heart of all our programmes and initiatives,” he said, thanking its partners for their contributions to QT’s continuous success.    

The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum features interactive exhibits and a wide range of rare and notable collections, marking the achievements of sports, athletes and the Olympics. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar.
3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum further cements country's position as major international sporting hub

The opening of the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum further cements the country's position as a major international sporting hub, and highlights its importance as a diplomatic tool in fostering peace and unity among nations, it is learnt. "The opening of the 321 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum also proves that sport is once again a cornerstone of this country's policy in building its future," Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan told Gulf Times. Qatar has long been acknowledged for its big role and achievement in the world of sports, he pointed out."As far as I know, at least since it had successfully organised the Asian Games in 2006, Qatar has continued to be a regular host of various world-level sporting events, starting from Tennis, Formula 1, MotoGP, including the World Cup 2022," the envoy said. "This certainly proves the international community's trust to Qatar. I think putting sport as a diplomatic tool is the right decision because the role of sport in building friendship between nations has been widely acknowledged," the Indonesian ambassador observed. The 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum at the Khalifa International Stadium in Aspire Zone features interactive exhibits and a wide range of rare and notable collections, marking the achievements of sports, athletes and the Olympics. Ambassador Hassan noted that Indonesia also sees Qatar as a strategic partner in the sports field, citing that in 2021, the Indonesia Olympic Committee signed a Sports Cooperation agreement with the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC). "Indeed, the implementation of this Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was somehow limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, as the Covid-19 policy becomes more eased, I hope that the implementation of this MoU can be even more optimal in the future. I believe that this Sports Museum can be a bridge for increasing people-to-people contact for all communities in Qatar, including the Indonesian community. According to Qatar Museums Chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, 3-2-1 is the first museum in the Middle East dedicated to achievement in sports. Designed by Spanish architect Joan Sibina, the museum is spread over approximately 19,000sq m, making it one of the largest of its kind. "With the Qatar-Indonesia Year of Culture 2023, the relationship between the two countries will be getting closer in the future," the envoy added. International Walking Football Federation in Qatar and Asia Pacific president Farhan al-Sayed said the opening of the museum underlines Qatar's significant contribution in the field of sports as it hosts major global sporting competitions, including the 2022 FIFA World Cup. As Qatar won the bid to host the Asian Games in 2030, he said "this is just a preparation for the country to eventually host the Olympic Games." Al-Sayed echoed the view of ambassador Hassan, highlighting the efforts of Qatar, being a sports hub, in fostering peace, unity and camaraderie among nations.    

Dana Club has two gyms for its members. PICTURES: Ram Chand
Dana Club unveils new brand identity

Dana Club, now owned and operated by Katara Hospitality, has unveiled its new brand identity, further enhancing its various services and opening a new Arabic restaurant, Bayt Al Dana. “We want to reach out to corporate and other segments as we aim to increase our membership,” Dana Club general manager Ahmad Hussaen al-Abdulla told a recent press briefing. “We are doing an enhancement of our services, products, and facilities.” Described as “one of Doha’s most recognisable buildings”, Dana Club is undergoing a rebranding and repositioning as it opens some of its services, particularly F&B, to non-members. A private members club, Dana Club is located close to the Doha Corniche and beside the West Bay business district. An oasis of hospitality with a proud and prestigious history spanning more than 20 years, it offers families a place to relax, dine, exercise and play. “For F&B, we just opened the Bayt Al Dana restaurant, offering Arabic cuisine in which we are targeting not only members but also other guests,” al-Abdulla said. After its kitchen was renovated, the Club’s food and beverage (F&B) team are now set to offer “innovative, exciting dishes to diners with the introduction of new Lounges and SuperBowl Menus”. Bayt Al Dana’s a la carte menu provides guests with Middle Eastern gastronomy (including Lebanon, Tunisian, and Moroccan) paired with Qatari culinary traditions – a wide selection of dishes such as hot and cold mezze, Qatari Lamb Majbous, Royal Couscous, and Lamb Tajine, among others. Guests can also enjoy a relaxing “ambiance and traditional cuisine surrounded by an interior reminiscent of Arabic fairy tales” as well as “the outdoor terrace with the view by the pool in the good weather”. Al-Abdulla noted that Dana Club houses two gyms, indoor and outdoor pools, and tennis courts, in addition to a children’s gym and a number of services such as massage therapies and classes. In a press statement, Dana Club noted that its “logo change reflects the company's vision to make Dana Club, a home away from home”.   “With this contemporary and minimal approach, we want to communicate Dana Club as a place of gathering and a place of familiar faces,” the statement said. “The letters ‘D’ and ‘C’ are designed in a way that feels like they are having a ‘close conversation’, as two friends.” “However, the real change runs deeper to build and maintain significant connections for guests and team members whilst maintaining the unique soul of Dana Club through atmosphere, and raising the level of service,” Dana Club said. While witnessing an increase in footfall due to the easing of coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions, al-Abdulla said that Dana Club is expected to attract more members and guests, especially with the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.    

The latest edition of DJWE, organised by Qatar Tourism, is expected to introduce new and international luxury brands, as well as successful young Qatari designers who will showcase exceptional pieces in the five-day show.
Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition begins May 9

 * The five-day show organised by Qatar Tourism is expected to introduce new and international luxury brands as well as successful young Qatari designers     The Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE) is set to take place from May 9 to 13 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, bringing together the biggest names in the industry and connoisseurs of luxurious ornaments and timepieces, Qatar Tourism announced yesterday on its website. The latest edition of DJWE, organised by Qatar Tourism, is expected to introduce new and international luxury brands, as well as successful young Qatari designers who will showcase exceptional pieces in the five-day show. “In 2022, DJWE will continue to be the heart of glamour, where exclusivity, beauty, art, legacy, and unique craftsmanship come together to tell the unforgettable story behind each jewel. “For 17 years, the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition has been at the forefront of the Qatar business events calendar, successfully retaining its reputation as a high-profile gathering for jewellery aficionados, global brands, and aspiring designers,” Visit Qatar posted on its website, adding that the event also aims to reflect “the cultural heritage of glamour and craftsmanship”. The previous edition of DJWE witnessed 129 exhibitors from 14 countries participating, and more than 32,000 visitors from 175 countries attending. It also featured the Young Qatari designers pavilion, in addition to a number of workshops such as The Art of Rarity with diamonds run by De Beers, Objectif Horlogerie, and Qatar Watch Club. These young designers presented some of their unique collections, which infused pieces inspired by local elements such as a desert rose or sadou weaving patterns while locally sourced pearls attracted many visitors. The 2020 edition, covering 33,000sqm of space — the largest so far – housed huge pavilions from Qatar’s seven industry powerhouses: Alfardan Jewellery, Ali Bin Ali Luxury, Al Majed Jewellery, Amiri Gems, Fifty One East, Al Muftah Jewellery and Blue Salon. The DJWE 2020 also put a spotlight on the Indian pavilion, which housed 28 leading brands that displayed the South Asian country’s craftsmanship and styles, and the Turkish pavilion which highlighted 11 established Turkish brands. As one of the much-anticipated events in Qatar, DJWE has become a leading platform for lovers of luxury and jewellery, which also features the latest trends and innovations in the industry. According to the organisers, the exhibition will take place in a Covid-19 compliant venue and safe environment, ensuring all health-protective rules and regulations are in place.    

Many Nigerian expatriates took part in the event.
Nigeria Walking Football Club launched

The Nigeria Walking Football Club, under the patronage of Nigerian ambassador Yakuba Abdullahi Ahmed and affiliation of the International Walking Football Federation (IWFF) of Asia and Qatar president Farhan Al Sheikh al-Sayed, was launched recently at Al Jazeera Academy. A large number of Nigerian expatriates took part in the event and cheered for the teams. The event also witnessed the participation of Doha, Ghanaian, and Sri Lanka teams. Ahmed and al-Sayed joined an exhibition game as they welcomed a special guest – former Paris Saint Germain player Dianè Amara – who participated in another exhibition match, along with IWFF Qatar general secretary Farouq Abdullahi Wase and Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Qatar president Abdul Lateef Ajibade. Walking Football is one of the fastest-growing sports concepts in the world. Part of the rules include no running and no tackle, keeping the game fun and safe, and at the same time, it can be competitive too, according to al-Sayed. Recently, the Kenyan and Ghanaian Walking Football Clubs were launched under the patronage of their respective ambassadors. Al-Sayed noted that walking football concept is a “confidence booster” for people of all ages, allowing them to enjoy playing their favourite sport in a safe way and it also promotes health and wellness especially in a post-pandemic era.