Friday, September 22, 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.
Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf
Local veggies farming has to wait for cooler weather

With a relatively longer summer in Qatar this year, residents may find it difficult to get locally produced vegetables, especially tomatoes, at supermarkets until December, it is learnt. “Since end of April most farms (in the country) stop producing. Normally production stops in the summer and our summer is quite long – from April to September – so almost six months,” prominent Qatari agriculturist Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf told Gulf Times. He said many local farms normally start harvesting tomatoes in December when temperatures start to subside in the country and the region. It is learnt that many residents relied more on imported tomatoes from different countries and those produced by Agrico (a private Qatari agricultural development company established in 2011 that produces fresh vegetables year-round), in the past few months. Al-Khalaf, who is also the founder and managing director of Agrico, noted that vegetable and dairy production in the country remained unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic. About upcoming agricultural projects, he said that one investor has started developing his land to help further boost food security and self-sufficiency efforts in Qatar. Nine other lands/areas provided by the Qatar government are also expected to be cultivated to become active farms, al-Khalaf added. Agrico, al-Khalaf said, will also start producing shrimp early next year followed by egg production – all part of its plan to expand its operations: an annual production of 6,000 tonnes of mixed vegetables, 350 tonnes of shrimp, 350 tonnes of tilapia fish, and 36mn eggs. "We will have the first harvest of shrimp by early 2022, we are expecting a 350-tonne annual production almost 1tonne per day. We will start with the tilapia production by end of 2022," he said. Apart from venturing into aquaponics, he said the company will also continue developing several other farms across the country aimed at increasing local production to meet the local demand. "There are many efforts from the public and private sectors to increase local production and we have seen this increase in the past few years," al-Khalaf added.    

The MIA offers a wide range of workshops for all audiences. u2013 MIA Instagram picture
MIA hosting workshops for children during Eid holidays

The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is hosting an array of online and on-site workshops for all audiences this month and in August, including activities that aims to raise awareness on the importance of protecting the environment. During the Eid al-Adha holidays young residents will have the opportunity to enhance their artistic skills and broaden their knowledge through these MIA endeavours. A workshop dubbed *Illustrating Islamic Objects, set on July 27, allows students aged 12-14 to “choose from the objects from the MIA collection and replicate it in their own technique using paints, pastels or markers”. On the same day, the MIA will also hold its *Planet Kids Club – Plastic online monthly story-time, discussion and activity about green initiatives that help preserve Mother Earth. It is open to those aged 5-11 years. “This month the theme is plastic. You will hear a story related to plastic, participate in a craft activity related to recycling plastic bottles, hear about museum objects that were used instead of plastic in the past. Plus, we will provide some top tips on plastic alternatives,” the MIA posted on its Instagram page. From July 27-29, the MIA also offers children aged 8-18 to take part in a workshop that teaches participants to make their own architectural designs using square Kufic. According to the MIA, “square Kufic came from using the black square as a unit for measuring letters and white squares or part of it as space”. “It was used in architecture (buildings and mosques, among others). We have different designs of square Kufic, square, rectangle, circle, star, and swirl, etc,” the MIA added. The MIA’s recently-held ‘Young Architects’ online session gave participants a chance to learn more about I M Pei and the MIA building, and a deeper understanding of its building design. The MIA said that the activity “challenged them to recreate the MIA with blocks, Lego or by sketching the building”, and lauded eight-year-old Rashid and Hamda for jobs well done. Meanwhile, a Kufic calligraphy workshop for children aged 12-14 is also scheduled on July 27 from 4pm-6pm. The MIA noted that “many Qur’ans are written in Kufic calligraphy, which is characterised by its bold and vertical letters and comes is several types”. “On this workshop the participants will learn about the history of the Kufic script, and then they will design a painting in Kufic script,” the MIA said.    

Hall: Some brand franchises are combining their house brands under one tenancy, and others have expanded ranges to meet with consumer demand.
Larger footprint stores 'may bring more profit in post-pandemic era'

An increasing number of businesses in Qatar, including those who operate in malls, feel bigger spaces appealing to customers could bring in more profit in a post-pandemic era, it is learnt. “There are a selected number of tenancies seeking larger footprint stores. While this may involve additional cost, the larger footprint drives a more competitive rent value,” Doha Festival City (DHFC) general manager Robert Hall told Gulf Times. “Some brand franchises are combining their house brands under one tenancy and others have expanded ranges to meet with consumer demand, which remains ever-changing in retail,” he added. Hall said that in the GCC, they are interested to see certain Western fashion houses (only available to online retail in the West) still take and even expand mall footprints. This, he noted, shows “the underlying strength of the consumer market and the continued ‘social engagement’ focus of malls”. Meanwhile, Hall also highlighted the importance of sustainability in the malls’ planning and development, and in implementing its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. “The (Covid-19) pandemic has forever altered the retail landscape and sparked renewed interest in sustainability with more companies putting an even stronger focus on it now during the crisis. This pandemic has elevated consumers’ focus on sustainability and willingness to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. “Many consumers are now willing to shop and travel differently. When choosing a brand, consumers are becoming more conscious and consider sustainability as an important factor when purchasing a product,” Hall pointed out. “We understand this trend and are continuously working towards delivering on our social responsibility commitment. We make sure to involve visitors, retailers and stakeholders in our CSR initiatives, which is the only way to make them truly impactful,” he said. “Today, consumers are choosing to engage with purpose-driven brands and come to purpose-driven malls. At DHFC, we aim to empower our customers and encourage them to make a difference by supporting meaningful causes.” It is learnt that many businesses, particularly those in the food and beverage sector, saw the advantage of having both indoor and outdoor areas to dine in, which meets customers’ demand while ensuring their safety as well. An employee of a popular restaurant chain said such a strategy, while involves extra costs, has been “very effective” in attracting more customers, and “the numbers continue to increase as Covid-19 restrictions are gradually lifted”. “While precautionary measures remain in place, guests are also looking for wide spaces where they can sit and dine comfortably with their families and friends, and keeping a distance from other people,” she added.    

Luggage on display at a travel shop. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
As travel takes off, luggage sellers see spike in demand

Shops and hypermarkets in the country are witnessing a surge in the demand for luggage and related accessories after the Qatari authorities recently announced the easing of travel and return procedures, it is learnt. Speaking to Gulf Times, a store manager of a leading travel boutique said their sales of various types of luggage rose substantially, exceeding that of the previous years during the same period. The summer season traditionally sees a spike in the demand for luggage due to the holidays, but things changed last year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, with the situation improving due to vaccination, testing and compliance with precautionary measures, as well as the easing of travel and return rules, the demand for luggage and related items has gone up, say sources. “People, especially families, weren’t able to travel last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and now many of them are looking for new (hard-case) luggage and bags,” he noted. He said Eid al-Adha provides an opportunity for many citizens and residents to spend the holidays in quarantine-free destinations such as Georgia or in their home countries, especially for those who are taking longer vacations. Georgia has become one of the popular destinations for Qatari citizens and residents, with a threefold increase in the first five months of this year compared to the same period last year. It is learnt that promotions and price reductions on several travel items have prompted many to have their old luggage replaced or upgraded in time for the Eid break. He said all are fast-moving items, from ordinary to "high-end/business class" luggage, as well as small travel and laptop bags as well as passport holders, among others. Another popular luggage manufacturer and retailer, which operates several shops at malls in Doha, cited impressive sales in less than a week as it continues to receive regular and new customers. “We were able to hit our sales target for this month in a matter of days and we are hoping this trend will continue as more destinations become quarantine-free and safer, just like during the pre-pandemic period,” said an employee. Like luggage and travel accessories, the demand for mobiles and other electronic devices such as tablets and laptops is also high, according to LuLu Group International regional manager Shanavas P M. With additional requirements to show at airports when travelling, it is learnt that travellers find it practical to have a high-storage and well-functioning mobile device with them. “My old phone is still functioning but I decided to buy the latest version as it’s faster and works like a laptop as well. It’s better to be ready particularly when you’re travelling in this kind of setting where you need to upload and send documents, as well as check some travel updates every now and then,” said a Filipino expatriate who plans to spend his annual vacation in Manila soon.

The u2018Seagrass Tales, Dugong Trailsu2019 exhibition at NMoQ underlines the significant work of scientists studying this shy marine mammal. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Dugong exhibition extended until September 1

The ‘Seagrass Tales, Dugong Trails’ exhibition has been extended until September 1, giving residents and visitors the chance to gain a deeper understanding of this shy marine mammal that has inhabited Qatar’s waters for over 7,500 years, it was announced. The exhibition, taking place at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) and presented by Qatar Museums (QM) in collaboration with ExxonMobil Research Qatar, “introduces dugongs and their habitat through fun facts and interactive exhibits”. NMoQ, in a recent Instagram post, said the show also highlights “the important work of scientists studying dugongs in Qatar and how they can protect them and their environment through both science and everyday actions”. According to QM, the exhibition aims to present dugongs as “an important part of the Qatari marine ecosystem”. “In Qatar, fossils of dugongs dating back to the Miocene period (23mn to 5mn years ago) were found in an area spanning from south Al-Kharayej to Al Eraiq.” Visitors are required to wear facemasks and show the green health code on the Ehteraz app as part of the museum’s safety protocols. It is open from Saturday to Thursday between 9am and 7pm, and on Friday between 1.30pm and 7pm. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. QM also presents another unique exhibition titled ‘Beautiful Memories of Palestine’ at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Library, showcasing books from MIA’s Rare Book Collection, which are “largely published in European languages as travel journals, stories and histories, depicting a great fascination for the Arab world”. It will run until September 30. While visiting NMoQ, car enthusiasts can also explore a number of collections at the Mal Lawal 3 exhibition: from classic vehicles to several other items such as weapons, jewellery, clothes, maps, ethnographic articles, manuscripts, Islamic currencies and artifacts, heritage articles, antiques and accessories, in addition to the stories of 28 Qatari collectors, including Salem Saeed al-Mohannadi and Omar Hussain Alfardan. “Following the success of the 2012 and 2014 editions, Mal Lawal 3, a temporary exhibition celebrating local collectors, is currently on view at NMoQ. Sponsored by Ooredoo and running until the end of July, the third edition of Mal Lawal – ‘of the past’ in Arabic – focuses on the stories and personal collections of more than two dozen Qatari collectors, highlighting their passion for art, culture and heritage,” QM said in an email to Culture Pass members. Meanwhile, the Doha Fire Station welcomes visitors to its ‘Grey Times’ exhibition until August 27, presented at a challenging moment “due to the global outbreak of Covid-19 and its unprecedented impact”. “Adapting to the current pandemic engulfing the world and its repercussions, Grey Times presents works that were devised under these uncertain times. Just like everyone else, the artists involved in the residency programme this year had to shift their focus and priorities, on a personal and professional level, developing and reworking their pieces to reflect the present situation and its challenges,” QM said.

Haitian ambassador Francois Guillaume II.
Haiti envoy says Qatar relations 'remain strong'

* The envoy has thanked the Qatari government for swiftly condemning the killing of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise   The bilateral relations between Qatar and Haiti "remain strong and are getting stronger”, without any co-operation or agreement being impacted by the killing of Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse, Haitian ambassador Francois Guillaume II has said. “As we as a nation regroup and work towards finding solutions to our challenges, we hope to further our collaborative relationship with Qatar specifically in initiatives that would enhance our local capacities; we must now start applying the Haitian home-grown solutions,” the envoy told Gulf Times. Guillaume II recently had what he described as “a very fruitful meeting” with Qatari government officials on strategies they were putting forth to support Sustainable Equitable Economic Development (SEED) initiatives in Haiti and how this would contribute to an enhanced commercial trade environment between the two countries. He thanked the Qatari government for swiftly condemning the killing of Moïse, and for showing its “support in overcoming this sombre crossroad in our history”. The envoy stressed that “the Haitian community, whether in the region, in the diaspora as a whole or in Haiti, is in a state of shock and in mourning”. “Such an act is not only an attempt at the life of our president but is also an attempt at the dignity of our proud nation. While it is true that Haiti has gone through quite a bit of turmoil, whether with natural disasters or political crises, one must not lose sight of Haiti’s illustrious history, which has many more years of great feats and achievements than the like of what contemporary history reflects. “Our Haitian communities are really in mourning right now; whether one may have been for or against his policies, most are now expressing sorrow and disbelief that such a barbaric act could happen on our soil,” Guillaume II said. About addressing inhumane and terrorist acts, as well as dealing with the current challenges vis-à-vis the incident, he pointed out that “the challenge in the very short term is to ensure that this incident does not provoke further destabilising acts that could complicate even more the political environment”. “I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify that, as per Article 149 of our Constitution, if a presidential vacancy occurs due to resignation, illness, incapacity or death, the prime minister and his government will head the executive branch until the organisation of elections,” he explained. “To that effect, the ad interim Prime Minister, Dr Claude Joseph, and his government are currently in total control of the affairs of the State, ensuring continuity of the State and civil order.” In the mid-term, the envoy noted that the prime minister will have the daunting task of conferring with all political factions to find a consensual path towards organising elections, scheduled for September this year. “In the longer term, we will need to ensure that the political gridlocks accompanied by vehement and intransigent positions exhibited since 2018, never find their way into our political discourse again… no matter how unaligned and in disagreement different parties may be from each other. "Such gridlocks and behaviour only delay the much-needed work and relief that our people are deserving of, and delaying the process that would finally break Haiti into its full economic and statesmanship potential… as we once were,” Guillaume II added.    

Sealine Beach (file photo)
Beach hotels looking forward to spike in demand during Eid

Qatar’s further easing of coronavirus (Covid-19) quarantine and travel restrictions has triggered a "huge demand" for leisure and beach properties, especially during the coming Eid al-Adha holidays, it is learnt. “We look forward to receiving guests as our resort reaches 90% occupancy on the occasion of Eid,” Ahmad al-Abdulla, executive assistant manager at Sealine Beach, a Murwab Resort, told Gulf Times. He said that Sealine is one of the most popular beach properties in the country, offering a "one-of-its-kind location, an array of beachside activities, a wide range of finest cuisine and desert experiences – a perfect getaway destination for the Eid holidays”. According to an employee of a beach hotel in Doha, most of their rooms have been booked between July 20 and 24 and a majority of their guests are Qatar residents who want to spend the holidays with their families. He said that some citizens and residents may prefer to stay in the country this year than to travel abroad due to the current Covid-19 situation back home and in other destinations, where certain restrictions remain in place. Apart from local bookings, he added that they also expect to see an increase in the number of bookings from other GCC nationals who may not be able to travel to other destinations this summer. The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has said that GCC citizens who have been fully vaccinated (with vaccines approved in Qatar), and with at least 14 days having passed after receiving the second dose of a two-dose series vaccine or from the single dose in case of single-dose regime vaccine, are exempted from quarantine rules. Another beach hotel employee echoed a similar view, saying that occupancy rates will normally spike a few days before Eid al-Adha. Apart from the continued lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the Eid holidays, she said there is a growing interest among many GCC nationals to visit Qatar due to the upcoming FIFA World Cup. In addition, she stressed that visitors find “the strict precautionary measures imposed by hotels here as reassuring and provide a high-level of safety for guests and staff”. She noted that local bookings still comprised the biggest percentage of their current occupancy but hopes to receive more foreign visitors in the coming weeks and months. It is learnt that hotels in Qatar have lauded the efforts of the Qatar government in vaccinating the population and in preventing the spread of Covid-19, which will significantly help the hospitality sector in recovering strongly from the pandemic.    

Farhan al-Sayed
Rush of GCC visitors to Qatar for Eid 'likely'

Qatar’s hospitality and retail sectors are expected to get a further boost as a big number of visitors from GCC countries may opt to spend their Eid al-Adha holidays in Qatar, according to Qatar-Indonesia Business Council president Farhan al-Sayed. He told Gulf Times that hotel occupancy could increase significantly with the growing interest of both residents and visitors to spend their holidays in the country. “Eid al-Adha could be a busy one in Qatar and I’m expecting that a big number of Saudi tourists will come to the country,” al-Sayed said, adding that GCC citizens can enter Qatar based on the guidelines set by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). The detailed quarantine exemption criteria for individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 in GCC countries are posted on the MoPH website. Al-Sayed said getting a small chunk of the "2mn Saudi nationals who travel to the UAE annually" to come to Doha will have a huge impact on tourism and other businesses in Qatar. He said he expects the number of visitors to further multiply as the 2022 FIFA World Cup comes closer. Especially when this summer ends, “we could go back to the past and see more families from Saudi going to Qatar every weekend,” he added. Besides hotels, al-Sayed said Qatar’s malls and shopping centres will witness a rise in footfall this Eid – both from residents and visitors – further boosting the retail sector’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. It is learnt that people now feel more confident to visit malls and shops as a big percentage of the eligible population in Qatar has been vaccinated, in addition to continuously adhering to Covid-19 precautionary measures. Officials of malls and shopping centres in the country lauded the speedy vaccination programme of the Qatar government, which included inoculating key workers in the service sector who are in direct contact with customers.    

Georgian ambassador Nikoloz Revazishvili
Threefold rise in Qatar tourists to Georgia: envoy

* Georgia obtained the status of one of the most popular post-pandemic destinations for Qatari citizens and residents, according to ambassador Nikoloz Revazishvili The number of visitors from Qatar to Georgia has increased threefold in the first five months of this year compared to the same period in 2020, Georgian ambassador Nikoloz Revazishvili has said. “The growing dynamics observed allows us to say that Georgia obtained the status of one of the most popular post-pandemic destinations for Qatari citizens and residents,” the envoy told Gulf Times. “The interest is indeed high,” he said, adding that the embassy’s phone continues to receive numerous calls daily from people seeking information about travel from Qatar to Georgia. Due to the global health crisis, Revazishvili noted that travel was restricted in 2020 but the amplified number of visitors from Qatar is promising and welcoming development for tourism revival. Currently, he said there are daily direct flights from Doha to Tbilisi operated by Qatar Airways. He expects the frequency to increase this month and in August. “It is noteworthy that Georgia and its capital Tbilisi was named by “European Best Destinations” (Brussels-based travel advisory), among the Best Destinations for Vaccinated Travelers in 2021. The envoy added that they are working with Qatar Airways to have seasonal direct flights from Doha to Batumi – one of the most touristic seaside cities in Georgia located on the Black Sea. According to the embassy, Georgia is open for fully vaccinated citizens and residence permit (QID) holders of Qatar. Qatar citizens and residence permit (QID) holders may also enter Georgia without additional quarantine requirements if they have not been vaccinated yet. In this case, they must comply with the following conditions: passengers must present a negative PCR test result certificate conducted during 72 hours prior to travel to Georgia and on the third day of their stay, travelers are obliged to undergo another PCR test at their own expense. “If you have a vaccination certificate, which indicates that you received two doses of vaccine, then it will be a quarantine-free destination for you. Vaccinated parents need only to show PCR negative tests for their accompanying children (non-vaccinated) whose age is 10 and above. “Children under the age of 10 are exempted from the obligation to submit a negative PCR test before travel. There is no visa requirement as well, it’s visa free destination for citizens and residents of the State of Qatar,” Revazishvili said. He stressed that the Government of Georgia is implementing measures in line with World Health Organisation regulations to maintain a safe environment for all. Restrictions such as wearing of masks in closed places and public transport, as well as social distancing practices, continue to be enforced in Georgia. In this regard, it is of crucial importance for Georgia to preserve the country as a safe tourism destination. About Georgian destinations, Tbilisi is one of its popular tourist spots – a city that captivated many travelers from various part of the world, including Qatar and other GCC countries – while Batumi offers a relaxing beach holiday.    

Casson: We didnu2019t come to Qatar as a brand in 2005 to be second or third, we came here to be the best ... and I think we established that during those early days.
Qatar 'reconfigured itself and its airline in the right way'

Qatar has reconfigured itself and its airline in the right way amid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, moving heavily into cargo and developing further as a transit hub, Simon Casson, president of Hotel Operations ((Europe, Middle East, and Africa) at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, has said. “If you look at decades past, cities that have developed themselves as major tourism centres have done it through airports and airlines,” he told Gulf Times during his recent visit to Doha. “Qatar stands on that podium with best-in-class nations who have been able to leverage the marketing and value of the country through its national carrier.” Casson, who discussed the growing demand for post-pandemic luxury travel, lauded the efforts of the Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) and Qatar Airways in promoting Qatar as a leisure, business and sports tourism destination. Qatar, he said, has always been a country with a long-term vision for tourism with all stakeholders making a massive effort to boost travel and tourism, “and the results are clear, together with the resilience of the country and its people”. “When you look at Hamad International Airport, it’s among the best in the world,” Casson said. “It’s just a treat to be there, you are always happy to arrive early for a flight so you can enjoy the shopping and the restaurants and all the facilities they have there.” He said that he admires the "extraordinary resilience" of QNTC secretary-general HE Akbar al-Baker, who is also the oneworld alliance Governing Board chairman and Qatar Airways Group chief executive, which has a "significant presence in global aviation". “He is an optimist and a believer. He doesn’t just sit there and wait for things to happen, he goes out there and makes a difference,” Casson noted. “I’ve no doubt that all of Qatar can be very proud of what Akbar al-Baker and the team have done.” Given all the developments in vaccinations and work to curb the spread of Covid-19, he expressed optimism that recovery of the hospitality sector in the country will be both gradual and strong. He noted that hospitality is an industry that is thousands of years old – the concept of providing shelter, food, and water goes back to the beginning of time since humanity started to travel the world. About preparing Four Seasons Hotel Doha for the prestigious football tournament in 2022, Casson said that the hotel has seen a significant financial investment, renovating every room and suite, and the lobby, and doubling the size of the banquets and catering area in the past two years – making it “a hotel which is right at the top of the local market”. “When I was general manager here and the bid was awarded, I immediately signed the contract committing this hotel to be at the service of the country for the World Cup,” he recalled. “The hotel couldn’t be better prepared. It’s always been a building that’s been architecturally impressive and occupies a special place here in West Bay.” “We didn’t come to Qatar as a brand in 2005 to be second or third, we came here to be the best,” Casson stated. “And I think we established that during those early days.” “You can only do that in partnership with a great owner-partner who has the vision to invest in a world-class building,” he added. “If you look around now at the fabrics, the design by Pierre-Yves Rochon, this is one of the most famous hotel designers in the world.” “And so, it’s the people of Four Seasons that ultimately make the difference, because the guests who come and stay in Doha are paying for the location, for the brand, for the security, for the interiors – all of that they are paying for,” Casson said. “But those same guests – and I was telling the hotel team – know they cannot pay for someone to genuinely care about their experience,” he added. “They cannot pay for someone to go out of their way to create a special moment or a memorable experience.” “That’s something that money can’t buy,” Casson said. In the post-pandemic era, he said guests’ expectations will continue to be high, especially for a leading luxury hotel and resort company like Four Seasons. “I think the ways they will change is that people will be looking at how seriously you take health and safety, and it’s something we moved very quickly on as a company at the beginning of the pandemic,” Casson said. “We recognised very early that this was serious, and a lot of things were going to change,” he pointed out. “So, the senior leadership of the company realised it was important not just for us to say ‘we are safe’ or ‘these procedures are safe’, because at the end of the day we are hoteliers, not scientists – we are not medical professionals.” Casson noted that they entered into a consulting agreement with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, the global division of healthcare and research leader Johns Hopkins Medicine. “We have partnered with them for the past year and a half so they could advise us on our health and safety programme, Lead With Care. That’s been really important, and I think that guests sense it and see it,” he said. “Trust in the brand becomes even more important, because when people start to travel again, they have to adapt – no one is used to it.” As part of its expansion, Casson said Four Seasons opened its first hotel in Spain – in Madrid – last year and it is set to inaugurate another hotel in Sicily. “I look after Europe, Middle East and Africa, and we have 15 or 20 projects that are very active across the region, including here in the Middle East,” he said. “Africa is a continent where we are under-represented, as we have two hotels, so we are actively looking to progress with some new deals there as well.” Asked what makes Doha special for the Four Seasons brand, Casson said that they created a hotel that was transformative for the Qatar hospitality market. “We really set a benchmark and said this is where luxury really is,” he noted. “I think this benefited the country and other hotels to come in the market and believe they can do business in Qatar.”    

John Kerry (File picture)
Qatar can show world the path to economic diversification: Kerry

*Qatar 2022 World Cup to be a sustainable event, says Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry    Qatar is well positioned to be one of the countries that helps in the transitional process of diversifying economies which mainly rely on oil and gas, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry has said. “Qatar has a great ability to be able to make an example through – I mean, first of all the World Cup, I understand, is going to be a sustainable event, and they’re working very hard to make that happen and to offset emissions and so forth.” he told reporters at a telephonic press briefing on Thursday (July 1). Kerry discussed a number of developments, particularly the need for further collaboration aimed at intensifying the efforts to combat climate change, during his recent visit to the Middle East and North Africa. Part of the briefing also include the need to raise climate ambition ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change later this year and beyond, “and prospects for enhanced climate co-operation with the United States.” “Qatar has taken part in this regional dialogue. So we have high expectations that leadership by example will be part of the transitional process of diversifying economies in a part of the world where everybody has been super-dependent, obviously, on one source, one particular source of revenue,” Kerry said. He noted that Qatar – well placed to lead in such transition – has the opportunity to set the example on how to implement these green initiatives in a sustainable manner. "I think that’s a key and I know that the leaders of Qatar have said they are committed to doing that, so that’s a very big, important first step,” the envoy stressed. He noted that Qatar, like other countries in the region, has been trying to diversify its economy by bringing in different kinds of economic stimulus, “for instance, university or museum or tourism, other kinds of things that have an ability to be able to attract people and revenue.” Kerry said he is looking forward to visiting Qatar “to get a deeper briefing on specifically what the vision is, the longer-term, larger vision. “I do know that the leaders I’ve talked to indicate that this is something they’re very seized with. They know that no matter what happens, with or without climate crisis, oil and gas are not renewable.” “Every society dependent on a non-renewable resource is going to have to find alternatives for the future. So this is something that people have been seized with for some period of time. I think they’re at different levels to which people have moved effectively, and I will be very interested to get up to speed, up to date, if you will, when I do visit Qatar,” Kerry added. He lauded the efforts Gulf countries in addressing climate change, saying they are keen to deploying various renewable energy projects. Kerry also underscored the importance of using technology to combat climate change, stressing “that’s where the funding is so critical, and the world has to get serious about this issue.” “We can’t run around the world talking about what a crisis it is and what a major challenge to humanity, and then nobody is willing to invest in the technologies and the solutions and the – and just processes,” he said.    

Robert Hall
'Sustainability should be key priority in malls’ planning'

As significant business ventures with a potentially high environmental impact, sustainability should be a key priority in malls’ planning and development, Doha Festival City (DHFC) general manager Robert Hall has said. “In the current context of climate change, being at the forefront of both policy and defining consumer behaviour, malls must take their commitment to sustainability very seriously, and invest a lot in mitigating their environmental impact, both in terms of technology and awareness-raising,” he told Gulf Times. From clothes and accessories to food and cosmetics, sustainability is intertwined with various facets of retail, Hall said, citing that DHFC is “proud to partner with some of the world’s leading sustainable brands”. He noted that DHFC, being the "first sustainable mall in Qatar" and receiving Level 3 certification by the Global Assessment System, is committed to delivering green strategies as part of its corporate social responsibility mission. He added that the mall currently saves 30% of traditional water consumption levels through efficient faucets and sanitary fixtures, and applies cutting-edge strategies for filtering, collecting and treating storm and sanitary water to avoid waterway contamination. It is also using natural cooling techniques to boost the mall’s energy efficiency. DHFC is upgrading its system to enable the utilisation of treated sewage effluent (TSE) waters for chilled water circulation and will be able to fully rely on TSE water for its chillers in the second half of 2021, while undertaking further action to boost the sustainability of its operations, Hall said. The mall will also continue educating the youth on the importance of sustainability by organising a series of workshops dedicated to creating crafts from waste material, he added. “We have recently partnered with Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) to launch the first-ever digital raffle draw, engaging with Qatar residents in the safest possible way, and offering them a chance to win a host of amazing giveaways. “The raffle draw was held online and was 100% digital with no human interaction, bringing joy to shoppers and rewarding their loyalty. We are excited to work with QNTC again and to support Qatar’s National Vision 2030 to promote the country’s tourism sector,” Hall said. DHFC, in partnership with sustainable brands within the mall, recently launched a month-long campaign to mark World Ocean Day aimed at raising awareness about preserving the ocean and biodiversity. Committed to the mission of raising awareness on key environmental issues among Qatar’s youth, DHFC will also continue with its ‘Save the Ocean Kids Art Wall’ featuring the best kids’ artworks about the ocean and its marine life until June 30. “To make the exhibition even more exciting, we have also launched an interactive ‘Dive under the Sea with a hawksbill turtle’ exhibition, educating visitors about this rare species living in Qatar’s seas, explaining their life cycle and actions to take to preserve them," he said. The displays are aimed at educating customers about the most pressing ecological problems and environment-friendly gestures to adopt to protect the biodiversity and cleanliness of the ocean. “The fashion industry weighs heavily on natural resources, and we are proud to host brands that show a responsible approach to the environment. COS, H&M, Harvey Nichols, The Body Shop, & Other Stories and Tavola are taking part in this initiative showcasing their environment-friendly products. All activities are conducted under the umbrella of the 'Festival Cares' and 'Qatar Unites Us' CSR campaigns launched in Qatar,” Hall added. He hoped that such initiatives will “engage Qatar residents with environmental challenges and encourage them to develop environment-friendly attitudes towards marine life while helping forge responsible consumer behaviour – fundamental to our planet’s future.”    

Hall: We are determined to continue nurturing local talent, supporting Qatari entrepreneurs and their emerging projects.
DHFC plans pop-up shops to support Qatari entrepreneurs

Qatari entrepreneurs, especially local and regional fashion designers, stand to benefit from Doha Festival City (DHFC)’s plan to utilise pop-up shops as platforms to support their growth and expansion, a senior mall official has said. “As the interest in Arabian fashion is increasing, the number of local fashion designers is constantly growing,” DHFC general manager Robert Hall told Gulf Times. “There is no doubt that GCC fashion is now influencing Western designs, and we believe in the success of these entrepreneurs, most of whom are currently choosing to sell their products online.” While shifting from online to a physical store can be difficult and requires substantial investment, he said that capitalising on the huge potential of pop-up shops would be one of the best ways to support the country’s aspiring entrepreneurs and fashion designers. Hall noted that last year, Qatar Development Bank (QDB) opened its Derwaza Store at the DHFC. Dedicated to micro and home businesses, the store provides entrepreneurs with a platform to access the local market and boost their business revenues in a retail environment. The mall is now home to many local talents, including Le Petit Camion, Eden Café, Qinwan, and Al Motahajiba, as well as several kiosks offering an authentic Qatari experience to visitors. “We are determined to continue nurturing local talent, supporting Qatari entrepreneurs and their emerging projects,” Hall stressed. The pre-pandemic era witnessed numerous events such as fashion shows and masterclasses put a spotlight on Arabian designs. The Heya Arabian Fashion Exhibition has featured, in its previous editions, bespoke abaya collections by Qatari designers. Hall said that the DHFC demonstrated a remarkable resilience despite the "unprecedented challenges" endured throughout the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Having remained an engaged community player throughout this period, the mall is constantly looking at new ways to interact with customers and support aspiring local entrepreneurs. Local artists will also have the chance to showcase their works with the launch of Art Canvas at the DHFC, which aims to promote art among Qatar residents. This unique initiative offers three local artists the opportunity to exhibit their artworks at the mall. Art Canvas follows the mall’s International Art Exhibition, which kicked off in January this year, raising awareness about local talent aimed at building an intracultural dialogue through arts. “Last October, we also partnered with Mazaji 94.6 FM to launch an in-mall radio show for the first time in Qatar, showcasing the mall’s unique offering and running fun competitions for the Arabic-speaking community,” Hall said.    

The virtual event is co-organised by the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, through its Programme Office in Doha, u2018International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorismu2019, and the State of Qatar.
Behavioural insights can help counter terrorism

A high-level side event on Thursday, which forms part of the Second Counter-Terrorism Week, underlined the importance of adopting innovative methods and digital technologies in fighting terrorism. The virtual conference, co-organised by the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), through its Programme Office in Doha, ‘International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism’, and the State of Qatar, also discussed the role of behavioural insights in confronting new and evolving threats. Speaking at the event, Major General Abdul Aziz Abdullah al-Ansari, director of the Department of International Co-operation and chairman of Ministry of Interior’s National Counter-Terrorism Committee, said: “We truly believe that countering terrorism is a multifaceted challenge. For counter-terrorism to be successful, we first need to build deep understanding of the factors that contribute to people resorting to violent extremisms and terrorism.” “This is what drives the State of Qatar to believe in behavioural science as a great tool in this regard. We recognise the multidimensional nature of the terrorist threats and the major interventions needed to eliminate it,” he noted. Al-Ansari stressed that Qatar government, which closely works with UNOCT, aspires to use all tools at its disposal especially the new technologies and science to counter terrorism. He said the Doha hub is now operational and forging ahead with its mission to facilitate research and developing field of behavioural insights to counter terrorism and to provide capacity building assistance, as well as share knowledge and lessons learned. Al-Ansari pointed out that counter-terrorism requires developing research, sharing knowledge, and best practices. “These are all functions of the hub in order for it to be impactful,” he said, adding that co-operation with various stakeholders within and outside the UN is essential. “I would like to reaffirm our support for the International Hub on Behavioural Insights for Counter-Terrorism and we are confident it will go on to become a centre of excellence at the global level,” al-Ansari said. Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov, highlighted that the International Hub on Behavioural Insights to Counter Terrorism uses cutting-edge and evidence-based techniques to identify how humans think, decide and act in the context of terrorism. “It then uses that knowledge to develop human rights-compliant interventions, lead the collaborative production of research, and provide practical solutions through behavioural tools to address drivers,” he said. He noted that UN entities, member states, regional organisations and civil society will be able to leverage the hub’s work on diverse topics such as education, strategic messaging, rehabilitation and reintegration, youth engagement, promoting gender equality, fostering social inclusion, and building community resilience. HE Sheikha Alya bint Ahmed al-Thani, Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar to the UN, said “Qatar fulfilled its commitment to bring the Doha hub to light and today, is the inception of that promising project, together with UNOCT and providing the required support for it.” “The State of Qatar undertook the initiative to host the International Hub in line with its recognition of the need to harness all tools available in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, especially innovative methods and emerging disciplines. “This commitment did not end with the opening of the hub in Doha. Now, we are glad to see the International Hub delivering on its envisioned mission. It is also noteworthy how the utility of behavioural science is gaining more recognition not just for counter-terrorism but as well for preventing violent extremism and this is the uniqueness of the Doha hub.” The event was also attended by Mohamed Rafiuddin Shah, chief of the Policy, Knowledge Management and Coordination Branch, UNOCT; Dr Fadi Makki, founder of Nudge Lebanon and head of B4Development at the Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy; Dr Jessica White, research fellow in the Royal United Services Institute Terrorism and Conflict Group; Dr Kurt Braddock, assistant professor of Public Communication, School of Communication, American University in Washington, DC, SOC's Centre for Media and Social Impact, Centre for University Excellence's Polarisation and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab; and Dr Simbal Khan, United Nations Development Programme in Preventing Violent Extremism expert.  

Hussain Ibrahim Alfardan.
From pearls to riches: Alfardan Group chairman highlights Qatar's evolution

At the Qatar Economic Forum (QEF), Powered by Bloomberg, Alfardan Group chairman Hussain Ibrahim Alfardan puts a spotlight on the nation’s rich heritage and its rapid transformation from a leading pearl exporter to one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Qatar has changed a lot, he said in a video presentation during the QEF yesterday, titled *Guardian of the Sea, citing the country’s continuous growth since the discovery of oil and gas. Recounting his childhood and growing up in a family associated with the pearl trade, Alfardan said: “My father was deep in this business, the only business we had in the whole region.” However, the increasing popularity and demand for Japan’s cultured pearls impacted pearl diving – Qatar and the region’s source of livelihood in the past. “Luckily, we got the oil, the economy starts growing. After that, you see what we are. All the pearl divers left diving and worked with the oil companies,” said Alfardan, who established successful businesses in jewellery, real estate, automotive, marine services, foreign exchange and hospitality. Asked what makes a good pearl, he said: “It has to be perfectly round, it has to be clean, no dent.” Born in 1933, Alfardan saw the various developments in Qatar, as well as the many challenges it faced over the years, including the diplomatic rift, which was resolved earlier this year. “The blockade made us depend on ourselves,” he pointed out, adding that the country started producing more vegetables at that time. “Trust is not easy to build when it’s cut, but we have to be wise enough to see that every country in the world has some differences, they have some problems, but they overcome them,” Alfardan said. Alfardan hails from a renowned pearl-merchant family in Qatar. “He has played, and continues to play, an outsized role in the development of his country. He runs one of the largest conglomerates in the region,” according to the QEF website.

AMNM ensures a superior patient experience.
‘Qatar’s ability in controlling spread of Covid-19 laudable’

Dr Nabhan Abou Rjaili highlights government’s steps and AMNM’s efforts in providing the greatest healthcare services for patients, based on international best practices and high standards Qatar is one of the few countries in the world that was able to control the spread of Covid-19, demonstrating it twice: back in 2020 and again this year, said Alfardan Medical with Northwestern Medicine’s (AMNM) new COO, Dr Nabhan Abou Rjaili.   Dr Nabhan Abou Rjaili Speaking to Gulf Times, he lauded the Qatar government, particularly the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), for doing an excellent job in controlling the spread of Covid-19 and providing the greatest healthcare services for patients, based on international best practices and high standards. “The low death rate of Covid-19 demonstrates the outstanding healthcare infrastructure in Qatar. AMNM is doing its part in providing excellent services and compassionate care to the community,” said Dr Abou Rjaili, highlighting the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir and HE the Minister of Public Health in ensuring high-quality healthcare for all. State-of-the-art medical equipment and facilities at AMNM He noted that the Qatar government has been proactive in terms of prevention and awareness of the population in an orderly and well-organised manner. This is in line with AMNM’s approach, focusing on community education, complying with and endorsing the restrictions. Such guidance comes directly from their partner in the United States, Northwestern Medicine, one of the top-10 US health systems. Qatar’s vaccination, Dr Abou Rjaili added, has been rolled out across the country in a very short time, following incredibly high standards: “Unfortunately, not many countries were able to provide the best vaccinations without any burdens on their residents, so Qatar is one of the notable, successful exceptions.” According to the latest MoPH data, more than 2.87mn doses have been administered since the start of the national vaccination programme, and 69.6% of the eligible population have received at least one dose while 55.7% have got both doses. Also, 95.1% of people above 60 years (the most vulnerable population group) have been vaccinated with at least one dose while more than 89.4% have received both doses. “These statistics will help AMNM’s doctors shift back from telehealth and increase face-to-face interactions with patients due to lower risk of exposure,” Dr Abou Rjaili noted. The MoPH noted that the combined impact of Covid-19 restrictions, increased vaccination rates and overwhelming support of the community contributed to reducing the number of new daily infections. For its part, Dr Abou Rjaili said AMNM is continuously supporting government efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, and has sent multiple clinical team members to assist in combating the pandemic. Moreover, it has made every effort to ensure that all of its staff members receive the vaccination, putting the staff, providers and patients at ease. “Although we provide regular webinars related to community education and awareness, we plan to host more public events once it’s allowed to let our doctors go out and speak to the community at certain town halls and public education sessions,” he said, adding that AMNM is planning to collaborate with the MoPH and HMC in bringing speakers and doctors from its partner institution in Chicago, Northwestern Medicine.

Kids and other visitors in the food court of a mall in Doha on Friday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Boost to retail, F&B sectors as Covid restrictions further eased

* Children under 12 back in malls and markets, food courts reopen for dine-in * New phase of lifting restrictions comes into effect   The start of the second phase of Qatar’s gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions yesterday served as a fillip to the retail and food & beverage (F&B) sectors as a large number of families and children spent their weekend at malls and shopping centres. The windfall is expected to continue for shops and boutiques, as well as restaurants and coffee shops, today as more people are expected to visit such places because it is the weekend. And, with the summer holidays coming up, the malls and retail outlets there can expect more young visitors in the days to come. This comes after the Cabinet on Wednesday announced that children under 12 can now enter malls and markets, further easing Covid-19 restrictions in the country, according to a Qatar News Agency report. An employee of a renowned restaurant at a major mall said they attracted “a good number of customers”, mostly parents and children, yesterday as the new phase of easing restrictions came into effect. “It was like a festivity, a celebration for many young kids who dined with us, and we were also glad to see our regular customers after a long time,” she added. There was a buzz in mall food courts also as they reopened for dine-in yesterday, being allowed to operate at 30% of the capacity. Like restaurants, ice-cream parlours and cafes, several other stores also witnessed a surge in the number of customers yesterday as compared to the previous weeks. Strict safety protocols are in place for both staff members and customers, and stores were seen implementing them in line with government directives. Shirts, sports apparel, dresses and shoes (for children as well as adults), luggage and other travel accessories, toys as well as furniture and kitchen wares are some of the products that are in high demand, it is learnt. An apparel shop employee said she expects their sales this weekend to reach pre-pandemic levels due to the big turnout of customers who also purchased in bulk. “Promotions and special offers may have helped a lot in attracting more shoppers but I think even at regular prices, many are still willing to spend,” she added. Filipino expatriate Marife D said taking her two children to the mall once again may be costly but “something that brought joy to my daughters who were so eager to go out in the past weeks”. Apart from the welcoming ambiance at malls, she said her family also feels safer now as the Covid-19 precautionary measures have remained in place (such as body temperature checks, displaying the green code on Ehteraz, and mandatory wearing of face masks), and knowing that a sizeable section of people in the country have already been vaccinated. A security guard assigned at one of the entrances of a major mall in Doha noted that most visitors who entered through that gate showed the vaccinated status on their Ehteraz app, besides the mandatory green code. His colleague said this was also the case at another gate. A senior health Qatari official had said on Thursday that a third wave of Covid-19 is unlikely in the country due to the high levels of protection that vaccines provide. However, he urged the public to adhere to safety protocols until 80% or 90% have been inoculated.    

Shop Qatar 2021 u201cwill take place under full precautionary measuresu201d.
Shop Qatar 2021 to feature 3,500 retailers

Around 3,500 retail outlets are set to participate in the 2021 edition of Shop Qatar, which will feature a wide range of activities across 10 major malls and shopping centres. Visit Qatar, the official social media tourism account of the Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), noted that the event is tentatively scheduled from September 10 to October 10. Shop Qatar 2021 'will take place under full precautionary measures' with wearing of face masks, as well as green Ehteraz status being mandatory in adherence to the directives of the Ministry of Public Health, according to Visit Qatar. Cash and car prizes are at stake at the month-long event, in addition to some QR75mn value voucher exchange and an array of sales and promotions at various retail outlets at participating malls. “Shop Qatar celebrates the country's wide range of retail, beauty and entertainment options and unfolds around popular Doha shopping malls. It's an annual event that aims to enhance Qatar's fashion and lifestyle scene and showcase its hospitality. At the same time, Shop Qatar introduces various compelling workshops and masterclasses and presents exciting surprises,” Visit Qatar posted on its website. Previous editions of Shop Qatar saw entertainment and fashion-forward events, calligraphy and art activities, live musical performances, masterclasses, and mall activations for families at different venues. The annual event also brought together local, regional and international designers, showcasing their latest collections in a series of fashion shows while families and children enjoyed wholesome shows and concerts, as well as arts and crafts. The upcoming Shop Qatar is expected to host three fashion shows, two makeup masterclasses, and two concerts, including arts and crafts, sports events and activations. Visit Qatar describes the country’s shopping malls as “world-class and family-friendly destinations.” “With a comprehensive array of high street and luxury brands from around the world, the larger malls have an extensive range of recreational facilities. These include restaurants and cafes, supermarkets, cinemas, arcades, indoor play areas, ski slopes and live entertainment.” Apart from retail, the event is also expected to boost the country’s hospitality and food and beverage sectors with the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and allowing vaccinated nationals and residents from other GCC countries. It is learnt that many shopping malls in Qatar started to see an increase in footfall in recent weeks with all precautionary measures in place. With a big percentage of the eligible population vaccinated, people now feel safer and confident to visit and shop.