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.
Nikoloz Revazishvili
More Georgian organic produce for Qatar, says envoy

Georgia is expected to add more organic products and meat, particularly lamb, to the Qatari market in the near future as demand continues to increase, ambassador Nikoloz Revazishvili has said. “I see the big potential in many kind of berries. We have a lot of production of blueberries, strawberries, and now the season is coming. I hope this is a good opportunity and also Georgian lamb is of high demand in Qatar, and it is of high quality. I see a big potential in this as well,” the envoy told reporters on the sidelines of Georgian Food Festival opening recently. The ongoing event, being held at LuLu stores across the country in co-operation with the Embassy of Georgia in Qatar, showcases a wide range of Georgian products such as grocery food, meat and meat products, smoothies, organic juices, fruits and vegetables, among others. The envoy said the festival is offering around 50 to 60 different Georgian products and plans “to bring a lot of Georgian taste to Doha” soon. “I think we have a niche in organic products and we have now different companies representing here who are offering organic fresh juice and smoothies,” he added. Revazishvili noted that they are also working with Widam and other Qatari companies who are keen on Georgian lamb and further increasing Georgia’s meat exports to Qatar. The envoy also announced that Qatari citizens and residents who have been fully vaccinated can now travel to Georgia visa-free and quarantine-free. Parents who have been fully vaccinated are required to show a negative PCR test for their children travelling with them. He said the embassy has been receiving numerous calls from travellers in Qatar asking about travel regulations. Currently, Qatar Airways operates daily flights to Georgia and the embassy is in talks with the airline to have flights to another Georgian city, Batumi, which is also a very popular touristic destination, according to Revazishvili. “You only need two hours and 30 minutes to reach Tbilisi (from Doha) and I hope this is a good sign because after pandemic we need to come back to our normal lives as we lived before and to be able to travel,” he said, adding that many Qatari and residents have visited Georgia in recent years. The envoy lauded the Qatar government in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and its vaccination process which he described as “going on perfectly.” “Many people are vaccinated which means they are able to travel safely and I think the Government of Qatar did an amazing job to fight this pandemic, to help many other countries fight this pandemic,” he stressed. He also highlighted the strong and friendly relations between Qatar and Georgia saying that high-level visits took place before the Covid-19 pandemic last year. “I do hope in future we will even enhance our bilateral co-operation in every field, in economy, trade, business to business, political, among others,” Revazishvili said. He noted that trade volume between the two countries is increasing annually to around 5% to 10 %, but he expects that with such initiative (Georgian Food Festival) and other initiatives, figures would be even higher by the end of the year and the years to come. The envoy said the embassy will participate in a Qatar tourism event in November to promote Georgia as a destination.    

Emile Sarkis
'Qatar's F& B sector poised for strong recovery'

Qatar’s retail and food and beverage (F&B) sectors are poised to have a strong recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic with the phased lifting of restrictions and allowing vaccinated nationals and residents from other GCC countries, according to Mall of Qatar general manager Emile Sarkis. “There’s no doubt that it’s going to be very positive. I think Qatar would be the first country (in the region) to recover,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a recent event. The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) had announced that “GCC citizens, their families and their household workers are allowed to enter the State of Qatar at any time, provided they follow the travel and return policy”.The MoPH added that “fully vaccinated GCC citizens who have received any of the Covid-19 vaccines recognised in Qatar with at least 14 days since the last dose and present an official vaccination card or certificate are exempted from quarantine".A detailed quarantine exemption criteria for individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 in GCC countries is posted on the ministry's website. “Easing of (Covid-19) restrictions on travel to Qatar from the GCC has had a very positive impact. For us at MoQ, we have witnessed it, this is something concrete and tangible for us, because we have Al Rayyan Hotel, and have seen a lot of nationalities from other GCC countries visiting our malls – dining and shopping,” Sarkis said. As a big percentage of the eligible population in Qatar has been vaccinated and the public continues to adhere to the Covid-19 precautionary measures, he said people now feel safer and are confident to visit malls and shopping centres. “Fully vaccinated means you will feel more comfortable. We started seeing a lot of developments and traffic in the malls,” Sarkis said. He lauded the efforts of the MoPH, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and other government agencies concerned in preventing the spread of Covid-19, saying “certainly, they are doing a great job, monitoring everything and all the measures taken by all the malls and public places". “Qatar is so advanced, the vaccination and preventive measures are extremely well. At the same time, other countries went for full lockdown but Qatar’s strategy was very smart and we never went for full lockdown and still the cases have been very low,” he noted. Sarkis expressed confidence that footfall at malls will surge once entertainment centres and restaurants in Qatar are fully opened. “All the malls, not only in Qatar but wherever in the world, if you don’t have entertainment or restaurants, the footfall will be minor because people will come to the mall, pick up a certain good they need and leave. “Now whenever you open entertainment (options), whenever you open F&B (outlets), people would like to come and mingle together, have dinner, lunch, coffee, which is definitely going to help increase the traffic and economic activity in the country,” he said. During the past four months, he noted that MoQ opened more than 30 new stores, including renowned restaurants.    

Dr Mohamed Althaf
LuLu in talks with Russian companies to augment Qatar food security

LuLu Group has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a Russian company to study and bring vertical farming to Qatar, aimed at helping the country achieve food security, director Dr Mohamed Althaf has said. The signing took place at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2021, held from June 2 to 5 in Russia, according to Dr Althaf, who was part of the Qatari delegation. “We are now negotiating with a Russian company if they can bring their expertise, so if they come, we want to start a pilot project with them in Qatar,” he explained on the sidelines of the first-ever Georgian Food Festival, inaugurated at LuLu Hypermarket, Al Messila on June 9. Highlighting the importance of self-sufficiency and “sustainability from a water conservation perspective,” Althaf said they agreed to study and possibly adopt vertical farming “if everything goes well (with the negotiation).” “Going through all of their due diligence of the technology, if suitable, we will proceed with them,” he said. According to Dr Althaf, LuLu Group is also discussing with another Russian company to establish a plastic recycling facility in Qatar, apart from another negotiation with a third (software) company “that will help us to kind of make our business more automated.” About its e-commerce operations, he said LuLu Hypermarkets continues to expand its digital presence aimed at serving a growing number of customers amid the Covid-19 situation. “We are expanding, I think we have experienced a growth of 200% in our online (operations) so we think some of these customer behaviour will remain as it is now,” Dr Althaf noted, adding that they will “very soon” set up an automated fulfillment centre in Qatar as part of its next project. Vouching for the quality of Georgian fresh produce and food products, he also announced plans to open a packing facility in Georgia once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, and start bringing various goods to Qatar directly. With an excellent climate for farming, Georgia produces many organic food such as fruits and vegetables, which can be shipped to Qatar in two-and-a-half hours, Dr Althaf added.    

HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani at the discussion during SPIEF yesterday in Russia.
QIA committed to sustainable investments, FM tells SPIEF event

Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, remains firm in making sustainable investments as it continues to diversify its portfolio, HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) Friday in Russia. “We are very much focused on sustainable investments whether it’s in technology, infrastructure, education, healthcare, and those sectors prevailed even during the (Covid-19) pandemic,” he said during a discussion titled “West Asia and North Africa: Paths Towards Stability and Prosperity” with CNBC news anchor Hadley Gamble. “And one important element we are looking at is to apply it to our matrix which should have any economic impact for the country that we are investing in and for Qatar… and its environmental impact for the globe,” said HE Sheikh Mohamed, also the QIA chairman. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of the global economy, creating a lot of opportunities but also ended some of the businesses which were rising in the previous years, he observed. “We are very much focused and determined even with the pandemic. I believe most of the sovereign wealth fund has done very well in terms of investments in the last year, and we hope that we continue like this. “It is very important to keep our strategy very dynamic given the change in the dynamics in the world, (it) is getting much faster than before,” HE Sheikh Mohamed said. He cited the importance of technology and digitalisation, especially in terms of allocating assets, saying that QIA – historically, has been into financial services, real estate and other traditional assets – has redirected its strategies and focused on these sectors in the past few years. About digital and cryptocurrencies, HE Sheikh Mohamed said: “For us, as a sovereign wealth fund, we look very carefully how risky is the investment… because we believe that we are managing funds for our children, our grandchildren, for the next generations to come, not for ourselves to enjoy for a short term.” “Digital currency is still unclear there is no certainty about it, maybe in the coming years it will be strengthened, it will be something more popular and it will get much better value and this will be good for the early investors but we would rather have less return but be on a solid ground,” he said. HE Sheikh Mohamed stressed that they have no plans to get into the crypto space anytime soon, but instead to have a balanced portfolio. “Diversification in terms of sector and geography is key for us.”    

Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas led Italyu2019s 75th National Day celebration in Doha yesterday. He was joined by Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; Ambassador Ibrah?m Fakhroo, director of the Protocol Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ali al-Khater, deputy director of the European Affairs Department; and Ali Ibrahim Ahmed, ambassador of Eritrea and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Doha at the celebration.
Italy-Qatar relations hailed on Italian National Day

The Italian embassy in Doha highlighted the continued strenghtening of relations between Qatar and Italy while marking Italy’s 75th National Day yesterday (June 2). “On a bilateral level, in the past year, despite many challenges, the co-operation between Italy and Qatar has successfully continued, with a large range of events, meetings and visits,” Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas said at the event which was also streamed online. The envoy was joined by Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs HE Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Protocol Department director ambassador Ibrahìm Fakhro, European Affairs Department deputy director Ali al-Khater, and Diplomatic Corps dean and Eritrean ambassador Ali Ibrahim Ahmed at the celebration. In his speech, Prunas cited the state visit of Italian president Sergio Mattarella to Qatar in January 2020 as well as the visit of Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Marina Sereni, Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini, and in December, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Luigi Di Maio. The envoy noted that the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries signed a Memorandum on Strategic Dialogue, “stressing the willingness to enhance the political dialogue and facilitate peaceful solutions through continuous exchange and co-ordination, in the framework of international organisations and international law.” He stressed that business co-operation between Qatar and Italy “remains solid across different sectors, noting that ‘Made in Italy’ products offer innovation, advanced technology and highly customised products and services.” Prunas noted that Al Bayt Stadium, which will host the opening game of FIFA World Cup 2022, and part of the Doha Metro were built by Italian companies. He also lauded the notable labour reforms adopted by Qatar to further improve the plight of migrant workers and efforts to make the country’s business climate more friendly and dynamic for foreign investors, among other developments such as the preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022. “Co-operation is expanding to new subjects and areas of exchange thanks to the remarkable reforms adopted by the State of Qatar. We commend the Qatari authorities for delivering on their commitment to improve the situation of migrant workers with a series of historic reforms of Qatar’s labour market. “Italy, together with the European Union and its Member States, continue to stand ready to support Qatar in the implementation of these reforms,” Prunas said. He underlined the importance of the Shura Council elections scheduled in October, saying it is “an important step, which will increase political participation to the benefit of the people of Qatar. It also paves the ways to further inter-parliamentary co-operation to exchange expertise and ideas.” About the recent developments in the region, the envoy said Italy hailed the outcome of the Al-Ula Summit, describing it as “a very positive step for the GCC.” About the preparations for FIFA World Cup 2022, he said Italy is working closely with Qatari authorities to ensure the success of the first World Cup in the Gulf Region. Prunas also lauded the community of Italian professors and researchers in Qatar who continues to help develop the scientific co-operation between the two countries. “There is a growing potential to develop together. We are working to increase the number of collaborations with Qatari research institutes, sharing knowledge and progressing research to the benefit of the international community,” he said. In the area of arts and culture, and other fields of bilateral co-operations, the envoy said: “We encourage all forms of cultural exchange between our countries and globally. Italy has a broader and inclusive vision of culture, encompassing art, sport, healthy lifestyle, food, wellbeing of individuals, social and community development. “It is the renowned “Vivere ALL’Italiana”, the extraordinary Italian way of life, which the Embassy has been promoting through the organisation of events, exhibitions and initiatives. We are planning an intense cultural programme for the next autumn/winter in partnership with Qatari institutions.” He noted that “the embassy “successfully co-operated with universities, cultural and scientific institutions, as well as local youth association.” “Sustainability, climate change and ecological transition have become key area in the dialogue with Qatar. The embassy joined the #KeepQatarclean campaign launched by HE Sheikha al Mayassa by organising a clean-up at Al Zubarah beach in collaboration with Deap Qatar association, Unesco regional office for GCC countries and Yemen, and the UK embassy,” Prunas said. He added that the embassy also took part in the Agriteq-Enviroteq exhibitions this year, highlighting “Italy’s commitment to promote a successful model of business, which is at the same time profitable and sustainable.”    

Farhan al-Sheikh al-Sayed with South Korean ambassador Kim Chang-mo and Serbian ambassador Jasminko Pozderac.
Economic activity on upswing, thanks to vaccination and gradual lifting of Covid restrictions

The Qatar government’s gradual lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions, as well as its continuous vaccine rollout, is contributing to a significant increase in economic activity in the country, especially in the retail and tourism sectors, Qatar-Indonesia Business Council president Farhan al-Sheikh al-Sayed has said. “There is a positive vibe in the business community, the traffic flow has incredibly increased, and many people have started visiting the malls and shopping centres to shop and dine, with precautionary measures in place,” he told Gulf Times. Al-Sayed said “such positive developments” also signal a strong recovery in the tourism industry, particularly within the Gulf region, as the season for travel normally begins in June – after the end of every school year. He noted that more people will be visiting their loved ones, relatives, friends, and business associates with the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions between GCC countries. Visit Qatar, the official social media tourism account of the Qatar National Tourism Council, announced that the country “is now open for vaccinated GCC citizens and residents.” According to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), “GCC citizens, their families, and their household workers are allowed to enter the State of Qatar at any time, provided they follow the travel and return policy. “Fully vaccinated GCC citizens who received any of the Covid-19 vaccines recognised in Qatar with at least 14 days since the last dose and present an official vaccination card or certificate are exempted from quarantine,” MoPH noted. A detailed quarantine exemption criteria for individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 in GCC countries is posted on MoPH’s website. Al-Sayed, who is also president of the International Walking Football Federation (IWFF) of Asia and Qatar, said that many families, whether locals or expatriates who have been vaccinated, are planning for summer holidays. “You can see the confidence to travel as most of them have taken the two vaccine doses,” he said, adding that reducing or lifting quarantine requirements has encourage many to book their trips. “There will be a lot of travel and at the same time I expect a lot of traffic from neighbouring countries to Qatar and that is great news for local businesses, including restaurants and hotels, and the hospitality sector in general,” al-Sayed said. He stressed that the easing of quarantine restrictions in Qatar and a number of countries in Europe and other regions for fully vaccinated people will spur more tourism activities. Al-Sayed also made a farewell visit to South Korean ambassador Kim Chang-mo who is leaving today (June 2) for his next mission as ambassador to Algeria. They were joined by Serbian ambassador Jasminko Pozderac.    

Qatar residents can watch films of Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman online until May 30.
DFI turns spotlight on Palestine

Doha Film Institute (DFI) has partnered with the Arab American National Museum, Arab Film and Media Institute, and ArteEast to provide Qatar residents a chance to watch the films of renowned Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman until May 30. In an email to Qatar Museums (QM) Culture Pass members, DFI said that Suleiman’s Chronicle of Disappearance (1996), Divine Intervention (2002), The Time That Remains (2008), and It Must Be Heaven (2019) can be viewed online at the comfort of their homes. Viewing of these four films started on May 21 and will continue until May 30 from 12am to 11:59pm. The online link has been emailed to Culture Pass members yesterday. Suleiman, DFI’s artistic advisor, returned to Palestine to direct his feature debut – Chronicle of Disappearance – after living in New York for several years. The film bagged the Best First Film award at the 1996 Venice Film Festival. In directing this film, DFI said that Nazareth-born filmmaker “used his privileged position as half-insider and half-outsider to analyse how much the Arab population of Palestine is losing its national identity.” “Through his alter-ego E.S.’s quasi-aimless roaming, we become acquainted with his extended circle of family and friends, witnessing characters who lead a marginal existence in an occasionally surreal reality. The director/protagonist moves between the role of character and spectator, mediator and narrator, as the film itself moves between documentary and fiction, past and present. The film is lucidly structured, funny and ironic,” DFI noted. According to DFI, Suleiman’s return to Jerusalem in 1994 saw the creation of a Film and Media Department at Birzeit University. In 2002, his film Divine Intervention won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Best Foreign Film prize at the European Awards in Rome. Suleiman’s feature, ‘The Time That Remains’, was screened in competition at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival while ‘It Must Be Heaven’ was screened in competition at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Special Mention and Fipresci Critics’ Award, DFI noted.   Culture Pass members can also explore virtually an array of art works and images by Palestinian artists and photographers exhibited at various locations, including a university, museum, and gallery. An exhibition titled ‘Women of Palestine,’ which opened on International Women’s Day in collaboration with photographers in Palestine, Germany and Chile, highlights the works of six female photographers. It aims to “enable Palestinian women to show their perception of themselves; at work, at home and always under occupation.” The Museum of the Palestinian People is also open for virtual visits, telling “stories that encompass the rich history, vibrant arts and culture, of people who thrive even in the face of adversity.” Meanwhile, viewers can explore the Virtual Gallery at Birzeit University, taking visitors on a one-of-its-kind virtual art tour through four different exhibitions highlighting Palestinian visual art.” Besides watching films about Palestine such as ‘The Present (2020)” and “Born in Gaza 2014” on Netflix, QM noted that the Qatar National Library is also urging residents to read books about Palestine based on its librarians’ recommendations.    

u2018Watching the Classicsu2019 will start on May 31.
'Watching the Classics' with Richard Pe?a

Filmmakers, as well as cinephiles, will have the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of film history with the staging ‘Watching the Classics’, presented by the Doha Film Institute (DFI) from May 31. DFI, in an email to Culture Pass members, said that each of the three-part series of lectures and discussions by renowned scholar Richard Peña will “focus on an undisputed world cinema classic.” Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University, Peña was also the programme director of the Film Society of Lincoln Centre and director emeritus of the New York Film Festival (1988-2012). At the Film Society, he organised retrospectives of many film artists, as well as major film series devoted to numerous national cinemas. DFI noted that “in the weekly sessions, Professor Peña will present a given film within its aesthetic, economic, technological and social/political context, detailing each director’s formal techniques while teasing out the implications of these artistic and technical decisions.” The first session on May 31 will talk about a 1943 US film titled ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starred by Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. A psychological thriller, it tells about young Charley (Charlotte) who was delighted to see her ‘Uncle Charlie’ but later realised that the latter had been involved in a murder. ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ was considered to be Hitchcock’s favourite among his many films – “his first film to seriously grapple with the often-contradictory reality of his newly adopted country.” The second session, DFI noted, is set on June 7 from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, and will discuss a 1954 film in the US titled ‘Rear Window’, also by Hitchcock. “Based on a short story by perhaps the bleakest of film noir novelists, Cornell Woolrich, Hitchcock and screenwriter John Michael Hayes in ‘Rear Window’ managed to keep the darkness of the original while adding layers of romance and offbeat humour in what for many critics is perhaps the director’s single most perfect film,” DFI said. The third session takes place on June 14 and focuses on ‘Psycho’, another Hitchcock film in 1960, which he produced and became a box office hit. DFI said “the film follows a Phoenix, Arizona secretary who steals $40,000 from her employer and heads out on the road, hoping to connect with her boyfriend. But a one-night stop in a motel gets in the way of her plans, and the rest is film history. With Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles and John Gavin.” This year’s ‘Watching the Classics’, DFI said that it “decided to go ‘deep’: to burrow in the work of a single filmmaker and explore the development of Hitchcock’s themes, techniques, and ideas. “And perhaps there is no better candidate for this than the great Alfred Hitchcock, a director whose work is loved and admired equally by everyday film fans as well as filmmakers, critics, and academics. “Focusing on three of his American films - ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ (1943), ‘Rear Window’ (1954) and ‘Psycho’ (1960) – this series will each offer analyses of that week’s film as well as seek to place that film within both the context of American film history and the director’s own unique universe.” DFI noted. Participants are advised to watch the films (ready for viewing at different streaming services) before attending each session to get the most from the programme. According to DFI, a series of images and clips will be included for discussion during the lecture, followed by a question and answer session with Professor Peña. DFI said that all sessions will be held online (English) and lab fee is pegged at QR350. Qatar Museums Culture Pass members are entitled for a 10% discount.    

A dedicated section of IoT and smart devices and appliances at LuLu stores.
Demand surge continues for IoT, smart devices

The demand for Internet of Things (IoT) and other smart devices continue to surge in Qatar as many individuals and families find them useful during the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, it is learnt. “We are increasing the range (of items) and also have a dedicated area for IoT and smart devices at LuLu stores,” LuLu Group International regional manager Shanavas PM told Gulf Times. He said an array of these devices such as smart speakers (with Alexa), security cameras, and smart home appliances – from air-conditioning units to washing machines and television sets – are among the bestsellers since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis last year. Other items in high demand also include smart (weight) scale, routers, pocket WiFi, wireless and bluetooth speakers, air purifiers, and smart refrigerators. This is in addition to the ‘records sales’ in laptops and tablets last year, witnessed by major hypermarkets and stores in the country. Many employees were asked to work from home while students had to attend online classes as part of the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. According to Shanavas PM, another reason for this demand surge is because of people – especially millennials and the young generation who grew up using smart/digital devices and the internet – who have keen interest and high expectations on what 5G or fifth-generation connectivity can offer. Besides faster and better connectivity for mobile phones, he said users also expect 5G’s reliable network coverage, safety and security, and its capacity to connect home appliances and other devices for efficiency. An employee of another retail outlet for smart devices said they also received huge orders of IoT and smart devices last year. “A lot of customers bought such items, including routers, external hard drives, smart speakers, latest mobile devices, and air pods, among others. We always ran out of stocks so many have opted ordering from other shops in Doha or thru online. There is really a big demand,” he pointed out, adding that most customers prefer branded products, which at some point were not available at their store. “In most cases, a customer who didn’t find the item he/she was looking for would order at least one product. An ‘extremely popular brand’ for mobile phones and other mobile devices (such as laptops, tablets) has been consistently in high demand for students who had to attend online classes,” he said. It is learnt that the Covid-19 pandemic also boosted sales of PC gaming equipment and accessories in the country such as keyboards, microphones, gaming chairs, and headsets, among others.    

Many e-scooter riders, commuters and pedestrians have urged other riders to strictly follow traffic rules and regulations, particularly when crossing roads and pedestrian lanes.
Popularity of e-scooters raise calls for safe riding

The growing popularity of electric scooters (e-scooters) as a mode of transportation in Qatar has reiterated calls for riders to wear proper safety gear and adhere to road traffic guidelines in order to prevent accidents. It is learnt that a number of riders have sustained injuries from accidents attributed to speeding, and riding without helmets and reflective safety vests especially in the evening, apart from failing to check their scooters before using it. Many e-scooter riders, commuters and pedestrians have urged other riders to strictly follow traffic rules and regulations, particularly when crossing roads and pedestrian lanes. “It is good to see many e-scooter riders on my way to the office, but some of them seemed to be reckless and tend to ignore traffic signals, which I think is too dangerous for them and other commuters,” said Indian expatriate Sanjeev, adding that riders should always wear reflective and protective vests for their own safety. Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), following reports of minor to moderate injuries sustained in a number of accidents involving e-scooters last month, advised Qatar residents to use these vehicles in a safe manner and "practice proven safe e-scooter use”. A Facebook group named “Electric Scooter Qatar (ESQ)” has been on the forefront of promoting and raising awareness on responsible e-scooter riding in the country. It also aims to educate the public and its members on the importance of road safety, and mandatory and proper use of safety gears. ESQ member Jay Ar Yumul told *Gulf Times that one of the reasons why the group was formed is to have a good and responsible e-scooter riding community in Qatar. He said that riders should have at least the basic knowledge like riding at a safe speed, keeping eyes on the road, and riding on the right/allowed lanes (not on main thoroughfares) as he highlighted the importance of following Qatar’s traffic laws. In a number of posts on social media, the group also urged riders to refrain from using mobile phones while riding, and advises adults to wear proper helmets, goggles, elbow pads, gloves, knee pads, and proper shoes, to set an example for young riders. The ESQ requires its members to adhere to a number of rules and regulations, such as: no wearing of shorts on quick/official rides, no loud music while riding, “pointing e-scooter headlights and auxiliary lights to a position that does not blind other vehicles or pedestrians”, wearing closed shoes (no slippers allowed), and pushing scooters once they enter metro stations and malls, and keeping them folded before reaching security checkpoints while at the station and in the train.    

Mathafek events are held annually to u201cprovide experiences that motivate local communities, showcase subjects that touch everyday lives, and create the conditions for creativity to flourish in Qatar.u201d
Mathafek 2021: A chance to 'get closer to our museums'

Qatar Museums (QM) has presented Mathafek 2021 virtually aimed at giving residents and netizens around the globe a chance to “get closer to our museums” amid the Covid-19 situation. Mathafek, themed “The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine” this year, coincided with the International Museum Day on Tuesday (May 18). Mathafek events are held annually to “provide experiences that motivate local communities, showcase subjects that touch everyday lives, and create the conditions for creativity to flourish in Qatar.” “Through Mathafak, we give you behind the scenes access to our museums, collections and team. It is an open space for you to make your own memories that you, yourself, would share with the world; it is an opportunity for you to see for yourself where artifacts, costumes, and different art pieces are kept, as well as, experience the working environment of our researchers and museum professionals,” QM said on its website. “This year, our Mathafek programme is going to be a little different than every year. This pandemic has taught us to get you closer to our museums even when a physical visit is not possible.” In an email sent to Culture Pass members, QM said participants can get easy access to art and culture from the comfort of their homes via a unique 2021 programme, which is also a special dedication to Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). QM urged people to visit MIA online and “have a closer look” at its stunning artifacts and galleries. In 2020, Google Arts & Culture found a way for people to virtually visit museums, including MIA, as well as the National Museum of Qatar and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, and to view an array of collections: from textiles, woodwork, metalwork, and jewellery to coins and glasses, among others. Previous Mathafek saw QM organising a series of talks on ‘How to become a museum professional’ and ‘Collection guardians’, in addition to workshops and ‘Curator tours’, ‘Behind the scene tours’, and ‘Tell a tale at the museum’ tours. Visitors can also explore the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum’s (FBQ Museum) designated Carpet Museum at West Bay online, which is “home to over 900 carpets with intricate hand-woven rugs among the most exclusive acquisitions from Iran, India, and Turkey, Caucasian, Afghani, Albanian, Armenian, Iraqi and North African countries.” Carpet Museum curator Chady Elbaik takes visitors “on a journey to discover behind-the-scenes insight into the elaborate steps that lead from acquisition to final display in the museum.”    

Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf
Qatar vegetable production reaches 60,000 tonnes this year, says agriculturist

The uptrend in the volume of vegetable production in Qatar is expected to continue year-on-year, ensuring a steady supply of fresh produce from local ‘active farms’, a prominent agriculturist told Gulf Times. “If local farms produced around 40,000 tonnes in the past years, we have reached 60,000 tonnes this year due to the increase in the number of production (active) farms and the growing area and greenhouses,” said Nasser Ahmed al-Khalaf, who is also the owner and managing director of Agrico, a private Qatari agricultural development company. He also cited the significant contribution of advanced farming technology in growing various types of vegetables in the country even during the summer season. Some of these fresh produce include cucumber, tomato, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce, bell pepper, onion, beans, capsicum, and other green leafy vegetables, in addition to mushrooms. “We are at the end of the season this year, but some farms will continue to produce until end of June using greenhouses with cooling system. Unfortunately the production does not last during summer and the only way is using high tech greenhouse with cooling and hydroponic system,” al-Khalaf said. Agrico has developed a highly sophisticated hydroponics system capable of producing various types of organic and pesticide-free vegetables and fruits year-long. It also ventured in aquaponics aimed at producing better and high quality yields at a faster pace. He noted that Qatar also started exporting its hydroponics farming technology in the region, particularly to Oman where a 1mn sqm farm is being developed and could be ready by next year. Agrico will be in charge of its operation and marketing. Al-Khalaf expressed confidence that the volume of vegetable production in Qatar will keep increasing annually “but our aim is not only to increase the amount of production but also the ‘season of production’”. “I’m happy to see some farms are following on our steps and start to use our technology. As a result we do have some farms that are producing vegetables all year long,” he stressed. It is learnt that the growing demand for fresh produce in the country prompted many non-productive local farms to become active and adopted hydroponics farming.    

Robert Hall
Vaccination of key service workers lauded

Qatar’s Covid-19 vaccination programme and its Vaccination Scheduling Unit (VSU), set up by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) aimed at supporting the inoculation of key service workers in the country, underlines the country’s wise leadership in ensuring the health and safety of all, according to Doha Festival City (DHFC) general manager Robert Hall. “We greatly appreciate all efforts of the Government and ministries to issue a controlled and effective vaccination programme and welcome the principle of offering free medicine to all residents in the good welfare of the country as a whole. “Specifically for key workers in the service industry in direct contact with customers, this represents a very wise decision in the welfare of both staff and consumer and such is very well received in the industry.” Hall told Gulf Times. The VSU supports the vaccination of workers in all businesses, but priority will be given to key businesses that are in direct contact with the rest of the community, such as barbershops, hairdressers and salons, restaurants, retail shops, supermarkets, hotels and other hospitality services, Gulf Times has reported earlier. According to MoPH, thousands of workers across the country have been vaccinated via the VSU since its launch. It noted that only businesses can contact the unit directly at [email protected] to schedule vaccination appointments for their staff. Hall also lauded the recent announcement to gradually lift Covid-19 restrictions in the country in four phases from May 28. “From a business perspective, it is absolutely critical to enable the markets and most especially those of food and beverage, entertainment and Theme Parks to start to recover their trading position and see a return to profit. The retail industry has been greatly troubled by the pandemic,” Hall noted. About the vaccination of DHFC staff, he said: “Of course, many staff in retail are quite young and so the programme is ongoing for us. As the ministry announce reduction of age to receive the vaccine, each day our levels improve. Within the business about 40% have had a first vaccine.”    

Shoppers maintain social distancing while waiting at the check-out counter of a hypermarket in Doha.
Shoppers return to malls as Qatar Covid vaccine drive ramps up

Qatar residents are gradually regaining their confidence to shop at supermarkets and hypermarkets as more people, including store employees, get vaccinated against Covid-19. It is learnt that many families who used to rely on online shopping and home deliveries for months have again started going out to buy groceries and other essentials. Speaking to Gulf Times, LuLu Group International regional manager Shanavas P M said shoppers see an assurance for their safety while shopping with the increasing number of vaccinated store employees. He said many LuLu staff have received their first and second dose of vaccination. The LuLu official lauded the efforts of Qatari authorities in inoculating the population at a fast pace, preventing the further spread of Covid-19. An employee at a LuLu store said that she was happy to get her second dose of the Moderna vaccine more than a week ago and felt “a sigh of relief”. “I feel more confident now as I perform my duty as a cashier because I meet and deal with many shoppers every day so I think being vaccinated helps a lot in ensuring my safety and that of our customers,” she pointed out. LuLu, as well as other hypermarkets and supermarkets across Qatar, have been continuously implementing safety precautionary measures at their premises such as the mandatory wearing of face masks, requiring shoppers to show a green code on their Ehteraz app, temperature checking, and social distancing practices, among others, while inside their premises to prevent the spread of Covid-19. An employee of another major hypermarket said he has seen an increase in number of shoppers, in line with the Covid-19 protocols and directives from Qatari authorities, at their stores since last month. She said many of her colleagues also received the vaccine, based on the directives and guidelines set by the Ministry of Public Health. Some shoppers who have been staying/working at home and prefer to order online shared how it felt to shop again at stores after getting vaccinated recently. “With more than 1.7mn people in Qatar getting vaccinated, including employees at this store, it makes me feel safer so I went to a nearby supermarket two days ago to buy some fresh veggies and fruits. Also, seeing that safety protocols are strictly being implemented at different outlets gives everyone an assurance that we are less likely to get sick,” Filipino expatriate Joel M told Gulf Times. He hopes that people, including those who received the vaccine, will still continue adhering to precautionary measures.    

There would be an 'In-Gallery Talk about Murwab Site' on May 8.
QM's May activities

Qatar residents, particularly Culture Pass members, will have the opportunity to take part in a number of virtual workshops and webinars, organised by Qatar Museums (QM) this month. An online art workshop and guided tour will take place tomorrow (May 4) from 2pm to 3.30pm, coinciding with the celebration of “Doha, Capital of Islamic Culture 2021”. It will be conducted in English and Arabic. Participants can explore “the architecture elements of traditional Qatari mosque and use this as inspiration” for them to create their own mosque model. The QM also held a webinar, led by the National Museum of Qatar’s Archaeology and Early history curator Dr Alexandrine Guerin, on May 1, discussing human occupations in early Islamic period in the country (7th-10th century) through archaeology and written sources. It was held in English with Arabic translation. In addition, the Qatar Children’s Museum, in partnership with Snoonu recently conducted a virtual workshop to mark Garangao this year, attracting hundreds of children across Doha. “Cultural expert Najla al-Hemaidi demonstrated the traditional weaving method to create baskets for holding the festive sweets and nuts,” the QM said on its Instagram page. “The children learned to weave their own bookmarks, medallions and keychains.” Those who missed the workshop can download the activity booklet which guide and teach users the proper and correct weaving technique. According to the QM, the workshop was organised in collaboration with Snoonu, which delivered the workshop materials and Garangao gifts to the children. Dr Guerin returns on May 8 from 1pm to 2pm for an “In-Gallery Talk” about Murwab Site – “a special virtual tour to explore the shape of daily life in the early Islamic period, through the collections and artifacts that have been discovered at Murwab site and presented at NMoQ”. Meanwhile, the Doha Film Institute (DFI) will hold a virtual Hezayah Screenwriting Lab starting from June 30 to July 4 for the first session. This activity is “designed to assist emerging screenwriters and writer-directors in developing and writing an original feature-length screenplay”. The DFI noted that this screenwriting lab will be held “with the support of experienced mentors in group sessions and one-on-one tutorials. The lab consists of three online sessions of five-day workshops, which take place intermittently over a period of six months”. The deadline for application is until June 7. The second session is scheduled from September 12-17, while the third sessions will take place in January 2022. Another virtual programme, dubbed as “Behind An Object, There Is A Story”, was launched on April 29 and considered as the leading educational programme for schools of the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum. “The title itself evokes *Hakawati, the traditional art of storytelling, here explored through the artifacts on display,” the QM said. Two more sessions for the first story titled *A Day In Qatar’s Old Times are scheduled on May 6 (9pm to 10pm) and May 10 (10am to 11am) while the second story, *Nun And The Pen, And What They Write Together, will be delivered today (May 3) from 10am to 11am and on May 8 (9pm to 10pm). The final session for the third story, *The Memory Box, will be held on May 7 from 9pm to 10pm. M7, in partnership with IN-Q, an online museum gift shop owned by IN-Q Enterprises, the commercial arm of the QM, also urged emerging designers in the country to apply and take part in a competition this month where they will design a retail pop-up shop for the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum. Designers, students, and the general public who are Qatar residents can apply. A cash prize of QR5,000 is on offer. The deadline to submit designs is May 13.    

u201cAt the property level, weu2019ve seen a significant uplift in social traffic with people wanting to learn about our Ramadan offering and collaboration with Chef Noor al-Mazroei, in particular. We couldnu2019t be happier with the results to-date,u201d Park Hyatt Doha Sales and Marketing director Shane Douglas told Gulf Times.
Increased level of accessibility and exposure

The biggest achievement of Chefs of Qatar Virtual Food Festival, which began on April 1 and runs until May 12, is “the increased level of accessibility and exposure for Qatar’s fine dining restaurants to a much wider audience,” a leading hotelier has said. “At the property level, we’ve seen a significant uplift in social traffic with people wanting to learn about our Ramadan offering and collaboration with Chef Noor al-Mazroei, in particular. We couldn’t be happier with the results to-date,” Park Hyatt Doha Sales and Marketing director Shane Douglas told Gulf Times. He thanked and lauded the efforts of Qatar National Tourism Council’s (QNTC) marketing team and consumer familiarity with talabat. Park Hyatt Doha partnered with al-Mazroei, a renowned Qatari chef who specialises in healthy food, Qatari food, and international cuisine, as part of this one-of-its-kind festival. The event, organised by QNTC in collaboration with talabat and Qatar Airways, is featuring world-class Qatari and international chefs from the country’s top (fine-dining) restaurants and hotels. “This past 12 months has seen the industry evolve and reinvent itself to survive, including home delivery for high end restaurants and/or the introduction of night kitchen concepts. “Those unwilling or unable to adapt will, unfortunately, fall by the way side. Both Covid-19 and the periodic restrictions in operation have necessitated a review of our value proposition to consumers,” Doubles noted. “Do we offer real value for money (and by that, I don’t mean cheap)? Is it unique enough? Does it allow us to stand out from our competition or are we playing it safe at the risk of getting lost in marketing noise? To be frank, I believe a glut had developed in some sectors of the industry over recent years that will stand to be corrected as a result of Covid,” he said. According to Douglas, those in the industry that survive (and possibly even thrive) will be those who are the most responsive and innovative. “I think we’ve seen a great example through the proactive leadership displayed by QNTC, Qatar Airways and talabat with the creation and execution of Qatar’s inaugural Chefs of Qatar Virtual Food Festival. The response from consumers has been tremendous, showing that the initiative was astute, timely and relevant,” he stressed. As part of the festival, customers in the country can order exclusive 3-course means, including a starter, main and dessert, prepared by world-renowned chefs in Qatar with prices capped at QR200, making fine dining affordable. QNTC noted that 23 fine dining restaurants with 19 prominent Qatari and international chefs are participating in the festival.    

Ahmad Abu Hamad at the virtual Arab Forum on Thursday.
Veteran journalists at Arab Forum highlight need to fight disinformation

The Arab Forum, as part of the World Press Freedom Day 2021 yesterday, highlighted the importance of equipping journalists with the right tools and skills in fighting disinformation and hate speech, particularly in the Covid-19 pandemic era. Described as the ‘Arab Forum/25 years After the Sana’a Declaration: Viability of Media in Arab Countries’, the online discussion saw the participation of veteran reporters and media practitioners in the region who shared their views on press freedom and responsibility. “The (Covid-19) pandemic of course has exacerbated disinformation… it's very important to address and fight disinformation during the pandemic,” said Ahmad Abu Hamad, editor and trainer at Al Jazeera Media Institute. He noted that the Institute has different programmes and activities that deal with these kinds of challenges amid a global health crisis. Hamad said organising a series of webinars and virtual forums for journalists, covering an array of topics, helped participants to be prepared in covering the (Covid-19) pandemic broadly and “fill the scientific gap” during its onslaught. More than 1,000 journalists took part in a three-day forum, in addition to a number of training sessions related to fact-checking and how to avoid hate speech on social media. During the onset of the outbreak, Hamad said many reporters had difficulties accessing sources of information as misleading reports and data have spread online. “This impacted the situation and it was essential to train journalists to face this challenge. There are also other media trainings conducted in many countries where hundreds of journalists participated, some of them related to fact-checking,” he said. A scientific journalist manual/guide was also produced from the trainings for journalists who want to have a more accurate coverage of scientific issues, specifically Covid-19, Hamad added. Other panelists like Nibal Mohamad Ahmad Thawabteh, director of the Media Development Centre of Birzeit University, echoed Hamad’s view stressing the importance of media literacy and working with the different sectors of the society to unravel the truth. She underscored the need for the strengthening of journalists’ capacity to create solid media contents and reports to combat disinformation. In countering hate speech and disinformation (discussed in the first segment of the forum), Shaima al-Mehdhar, project co-ordinator for Manasati30 project, said they organised a training for young and senior journalists to develop their skills and capabilities in providing balanced coverage and conveying neutral information. ‘Manasati30’ is one of the biggest online independent media platforms in Yemen. Roula Mikhael, founder and executive director of Maharat Foundation, stressed that journalists and their works must be protected from being copied and reproduced with permission. The Foundation operates Maharat News, an independent, online, multimedia platform whose model of in-depth journalism on key issues of government accountability amplifies policy news. Mikhael noted that revenues of media organisations and institutions plummeted during the pandemic and many journalists lost their jobs while others have contracted the virus. A series of panel discussions, presentations, and workshop will continue until May 3 to mark World Press Freedom Day, being held virtually and in-presence in Windhoek, Namibia. The five-day event, hosted by UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.    

Chef Noor al-Mazroei prepares a Ramadan cake; Shane Douglasrnrnrnrn
Future bright for Qatari chefs: a senior hotelier

The future for Qatari chefs is indeed, bright, a senior hotelier has observed, in the background of the Chefs of Qatar Virtual Food Festival 2021, which kicked off on April 1 and runs until May 12. The event is organised by the Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) in collaboration with talabat and Qatar Airways. “This wonderful melting pot of cuisines from across the region and millennia provides opportunity for both tried and tested dishes as well as the generation of completely new flavour profiles,” Park Hyatt Doha’s sales and marketing director Shane Douglas told Gulf Times. Park Hyatt Doha, one of the participating hotels at Chefs of Qatar Virtual Food Festival 2021, is collaborating with chef Noor al-Mazroei, a renowned Qatari chef who specialises in healthy food, Qatari food, and international cuisine. She has worked with multiple restaurants and five-star chefs like Vineet and Morimoto to present the finest delicacies. Douglas said many Qatari chefs are extremely well-travelled and respected, picking up new flavours and bringing them home to reinterpret and introduce new flavours for a local palate. “Chef Noor is one such example, not to mention with what she is doing in the field of plant-based nutrition by creating dishes that are not only delicious but healthy as well. "Her mission to give back to the community by educating people on how to eat healthily is commendable. “There is a lot of scope for other like-minded local chefs to add value to Qatar’s culinary future. "It’s an exciting time for Qatari chefs right now with the eyes of the world about to descend upon Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022,” he said. The hotel’s partnership with chef Noor, Douglas added, “hit the right note” from the first day of the festival, establishing “a common understanding and built a framework to achieve our objectives.” “Both sides listened to the other with fact-based opinions and a firm eye on delivering the best possible product to our target audience. "I have an example. We were taste-testing when chef Noor noted that the cardamom notes in the cake were possibly too strong – did we even need it? “Her thinking? Many people would be drinking tea with cardamom already, so the flavour would be lost on the palate – therefore why include it at all? It was subsequently removed. "Just one example of many in the process of the cake’s development, where every aspect was considered,” Douglas said. About the hotel’s preparation in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup 2022, he pointed out that their goal is “to ensure that a strong sense of place is embedded in the experience, so that our guests leave feeling culturally-enriched.” “For us, that means finessing touch points throughout the guest journey that contribute to that sense of place, whether that’s through our F&B, spa and wellness or rooms experience. “The World Cup will be here before we know it, so resourcing plans are well underway to manage the expected city-wide compression,” Douglas said.