Sunday, May 28, 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.
Fatma Hassan al-Remaihi
2020 online Ajyal Film Fest to draw more jurors, viewers

The 2020 online edition of Ajyal Film Festival provides an opportunity for more jurors outside the country to take part in the event and for viewers to watch films from their home countries, Doha Film Institute (DFI) CEO and festival director Fatma Hassan al-Remaihi has said. “What makes it (Ajyal) really unique is it was a challenge by itself this year to prepare and plan for it, but it actually opens new doors  for us that we were not able to have. For example, now we have for the jury programme, we can have more jurors from outside Qatar because it is online so it is easier to have as many jurors as we want,” she told a virtual press briefing yesterday. Al-Remaihi noted that they were confined with the number of people who can travel and come during the previous editions of the annual event. But now, she said that more people can watch from their own countries or from their own homes. Such a set up, she added, opens up the jury programme internationally and DFI has been working closely with many organisations in different countries to recruit jurors. DFI is expecting between 450 and more than 500 jurors this year. According to al-Remaihi, the latest edition also provides a chance for many people in the region to experience Ajyal compared to the regular programme where online those who live or visit Qatar can come and watch. The eighth edition of Ajyal will take place from November 18 to 23 “in a new hybrid format that extends the spirit of Ajyal into a virtual space for immersive creative expression and community.” Part of the festival this year includes the Ajyal Competition awards, which will run online to ensure the safety of participants. Al-Remaihi said the festival has two tiers: the first tier is for under 18 who register as jurors and will have everything available to them online except one screening in person while the second tier is for 18 to 25-year-olds who can come to Katara – the Cultural Village (with all the safety measures in place in co-operation with concerned government agencies to deliver a safe festival) and watch films in small groups. “I want to give parents a peace of mind, their children have the option to register and do it online or bring them to the festival to watch a film. We are basically taking the same approach (blended learning like in schools), there are opportunities for people to enjoy the festival,” she said. “We are really working hard to deliver a safe festival and taking into consideration all the necessary precautions,” al-Remaihi added. Categorised in three competition segments – Mohaq (ages 8-12), Hilal (ages 13-17) and Bader (ages 18-25), the Ajyal Jurors evaluate a curated film programme including feature films and short films appropriate to their age brackets. DFI noted that “being an Ajyal Juror is a highly creative learning experience that instils an appreciation of cinema as well as the values of teamwork, critical thinking and leadership.”

Members of the 'Electric Scooter Qatar' at a recent meet up. The group aims to raise public awareness on the importance of road safety and the mandatory and proper use of safety gears. PICTURE: Electric Scooter Qatar
e-Scooters a rage now in Doha

The demand for electric motorised scooters (e-scooters) in Doha continues to surge as many residents – including office employees – find these battery-powered vehicles practical, easy-to-use and environment-friendly. An employee of a leading retail chain in the country and the region told Gulf Times on on Tuesday that e-scooters are fast moving items like bicycles nowadays especially after offices and business establishments have reopened. “A lot of customers are calling us and looking for e-scooters but we are currently out-of-stock in all our stores in Qatar. We hope that our next shipment will come soon, possible in the next two weeks,” he said, adding that new models are also expected to be launched within the year. Asked about the growing popularity of e-scooters, he said these two-wheeled and compact vehicles are easy to carry and operate, foldable, and lighter (in weight) than some bicycles when riding the Doha metro. In case of possible repairs, the employee added that users can bring their units to a service centre in Doha for fixing and parts replacement. He noted that many customers also find the prices of e-scooters reasonable, ranging between QR1,200 and QR2,500 for brands such as Xiaomi and Segway. Filipino expatriate Anthony M, who reports to work five times a week at West Bay area, said he enjoys using his e-scooter especially now that temperatures start receding. “I use Optimus, my e-scooter, almost every day – riding from home to the Umm Ghuwailina station – then fold it, before taking the metro. From the DECC station, City Centre Mall is just a few metres away, so it’s really very convenient to use,” he said. “I also often use it when I want to buy food or something I urgently need for cooking like vegetables, spices, or cooking oil at the nearest bacala or mini store. Just make sure it is always charged,” said Anthony, adding that he also decided to sell his car since he rarely use it. However, a number of commuters raised safety issues on the use of e-scooters saying that some users tend to speed up while crossing the roads and trying to beat the pedestrian signal. “Just like cyclists, I think they should be required to wear head gears or helmets and reflective safety vests for visibility, so car drivers will notice them especially in the evening,” said a commuter. “I almost hit a scooter user because he suddenly crossed the road as the signal turned green, which is highly dangerous.” Many residents also formed a group on Facebook named 'Electric Scooter Qatar', which aims to educate and raise public awareness on the importance of road safety and the mandatory and proper use of safety gears. The group also holds meet up and riding activities at a number of locations in Doha.

Flowering plants on display at a nursery.
Demand surges for outdoor and indoor plants

The increasing popularity of backyard and home gardening in Qatar – a pastime that continued beyond the stay or work from home period amid the Covid-19 outbreak – further boosted sales of various indoor and outdoor plants offered by nurseries. Speaking to Gulf Times, an employee of a leading plant nursery located near the Wholesale Market in Doha said that many families who visited their store bought seeds and saplings, mostly flowering and vegetable plants, in the past two weeks. “Seeds of tomatoes, spinach, cauliflower, eggplant, chili and jalapeno, and cabbage, as well as herbs such as parsley and basil, among others, continue to be in high-demand,” he said. They also witnessed a demand surge for pots of various sizes since many people who live in flats nowadays fill and beautify their terrace with different types of plants, especially those which are easy to grow and maintain. Besides seeds and saplings, he pointed out that customers are also likely to buy pots, potting soil, coco peat, and organic fertiliser. “After sometime, people will need bigger pots for transplanting and new potting soil to recondition the old one. We are trying our best to meet this surge in demand,” he explained. The employee cited a growing demand for basic farming/gardening tools such as mini shovel, garden fork, rake, and pruning shears. A gardener at an adjacent nursery echoed the same view saying that they have been getting a large number of walk-in customers, mostly families, as temperatures continue to get cooler. Apart from cacti and succulents, vegetable, and flowering plants, he said many people who visit the nurseries are also looking for medium size (over a metre) tall trees like moringa and lemon. “Some people prefer to buy grown plants and buy bigger pots since it usually takes time (several months or years) to grow trees from seeds,” he added. Meanwhile, Filipino expatriate Dave A who live in a flat at Al Hilal with his family said they grow vegetable seeds in pots, mostly water spinach, cherry tomatoes, onions, parsley, basil, and spinach. “We get our green leafy vegetables and herbs from our mini garden and we save a lot of money. It is also a good therapy,” he said. “Instead of going out, we prefer to stay home and do gardening.” Dave said they are planning to move to a villa with a mini garden soon, hoping to plant more vegetables and herbs such as ginger, carrots, lettuce, rosemary, and other varieties of spinach such as butterflay and matador.

A local artisan demonstrates how to make miniature dhows. PICTURE: Ram Chand
Katara handicrafts show mesmerises visitors

The third edition of Traditional Handicrafts Exhibition at Katara – the Cultural Village, featuring an array of native products from eight countries, continues to attract a large number of visitors. The event, which opened on October 14 has brought together some of the best Doha-based artisans from Qatar, Sudan, Iran, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Syria, Palestine, and Morocco. The exhibition teaches pottery-making at the Sudanese booth.  Batoolas on display reflect Qatar and the region's rich heritage. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar The Sudanese booth showcases unique items made by Doha-based artisans.  Qatari handcrafted items take a spotlight at the exhibition.  Tunisia offers a wide range of handcrafted items.  An exhibitor showcases some jewellery.  Iranian products on display at the exhibition.  The Handicraft Gallery offers a wide range of items made by Qatari artisans.    Traditional Qatari dress on display. PICTURES: Ram Chand The Sudanese booth showcases various traditional pots and provides an opportunity for families and children to learn the art of pottery-making, taught by artist and trainer Ruaa Onsa. “Pottery is an old-age tradition and Sudanese people have passed it on from one generation to another,” Onsa told Gulf Times, adding that pots have many uses, from storing to drinking water and coffee and tea. She said many people who visit the exhibition are extremely interested to learn pottery-making and “I am very happy to teach and train them.” While lauding the third edition of the handicraft exhibition at Katara, Onsa said she tries to make a wide range of traditional pieces and hopes to organise her first solo exhibition in the future. “I participated in many exhibitions in the country and I hope to have my own show and showcase my country’s rich heritage,” she stressed. In partnership with the Iranian embassy in Doha, Iranian artisan Ali Reza Esafahani is showcasing different Iranian products such as handcrafted and machine-made Persian carpets and rugs, and vases, among others. The art of making of hand-made carpets also takes centre stage at the Iranian booth, showcasing the beauty and intricacy of the craft. Esafahani said it usually takes at least a year to finish a 6x9 ft using good quality materials with a simple design. The exhibition is also highlighting Qatari the handicraft industry. The Handicraft Gallery (building 48) displays several items such as batoola of various designs, dolls and accessories, traditional boxes, souvenirs and miniature dhows, among other products. Meanwhile, a number of paintings and other traditional items are displayed at the Ethiopian booth aimed at promoting the country. It also serves visitors with authentic Ethiopian coffee. Some of the booths such as that of Tunisia showcase traditional bags and baskets, jewellery (bracelets and necklaces), accessories, home decors, souvenirs, and other Arabian-inspired items. It is learnt that the annual event has been consistently attracting many visitors who look for authentic handcrafted products, offered by highly skilled artisans. The exhibition opens between 9am and 12noon, and resumes at 4pm until 10pm while participating countries booths are open from 4pm to 10pm.

Phone accessories and other items at QMs INQ gift shop.
Qatar Museums celebrate World Students Day

The World Students Day 2020, celebrated on October 15 annually, provides an opportunity for many residents and visitors to take part in a number of activities, competition, and courses organised by Qatar Museums (QM) and its partners. In an email to Culture Pass members, QM said the event is a perfect occasion to honour students across the globe as it commemorates around 1,200 students from the University of Prague, who lost their lives in World War 2. “Students all over the globe are working hard to reach their career goals and make a difference wherever possible. On this day we would like to applaud them and their thirst for knowledge. Students are our future and the main ones who will take us forward,” QM said. The event, according to QM, also allows universities globally to recognise “their international students and the benefits they bring to the local community.” Using common tools at home such cups, food dye, vinegar and eggs, the Qatar National Library (QNL) held a live online activity on its Instagram page (@QNL_engage) between 1pm and 2pm yesterday as part of its Science experiment programme. “Science and scientific experiments can surprise us by showing us things we didn't expect,” QNL said On October 19, middle and high school students in the country will have the chance to ask questions about QNL resources and services, among others, via an online session (Microsoft Teams) in English with one of its young adult librarians from 4pm to 5pm. On November 30, Msheireb Museums is launching a competition for designers aimed at creating unique gift item designs that will be retailed at its gift shop. It is open to designers, innovators, students, and the public who are residents of Qatar and has an interest in the development of new unique gift items. Deadline is on November 30. Participants will be required to design a unique souvenir product that represents Msheireb Museums and/or Msheireb Downtown Doha. Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) is also offering students an opportunity to participate in its Fall (October 18 to 21) and Winter (January 3 to 7) media programmes. According to NU-Q, this one-week Fall media programme “will shed light on the most important elements of storytelling and character development. Students will learn and create their own stories to share with the world.” “Today’s world provides an opportunity where everyone can share or create a story. Understand the power of storytelling and how it echoes through the world and through generations,” NU-Q said. Meanwhile, NU-Q noted that its Winter media course, dubbed as Under the Lens: Literature & Film from Imagined Communities, “will introduce the idea of ‘Imagined Communities’ as defined by Benedict Anderson and draw the connection between cultures, struggles, and communities through literature and film.” “Literature plays a crucial in preserving cultures, identities and traditions. Status of refugees is arguably the most relevant conflict currently, clearly intractable, it is evident through recent literature and news headlines,” NU-Q said. QM’s INQ gift shop at the National Museum of Qatar also offers an array of products for students of all ages such as notebooks and stationeries, colourful headphones for online studies, and accessories, among others.

Gulf Times
Voter fraud in the US will be extremely rare, says expert

An election security expert allayed fears of any voter fraud in the US stressing that many independent studies and government reviews found it to be extremely rare in all forms, including mail in voting. “At this juncture voters should feel confident that safeguards are in place to protect their votes from cyber-attacks and technical problems that could arise for the November 2020 presidential election,” David Levine, elections integrity fellow at Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), said. ASD, a bipartisan initiative of the German Marshall fund of the US, brings together experts on disinformation, maligned finance, emerging technologies, election integrity, economic coercion, and cybersecurity, as well as regional experts to support election security. Levine was speaking to journalists at the Virtual Reporting Tour (VRT) press briefing recently. VRT, being organised by the US Department of State in collaboration with Meridian International Centre, is an eight-week programme for more than 225 journalists, including those from the Middle East, to cover the upcoming US elections remotely. “We’ve had mail-in voting right in the US since the Civil War. We’ve seen state and local election officials across the political spectrum that have some form of mail and voting, that exists. And we’re of course expecting a record number of voters to be able to cast ballots by mail,” he said. Levine also discussed how US elections are administered, from pre-election and election to post-election activities, and has remained more resilient. While a record number of people will vote by mail this election, he said a large number is expected to vote in person. Election officials have taken a number of steps to ensure that in-person voting will not be stopped even in the event of cyber-attacks, election technology malfunctions, or other disruptions. “One example is that there’s more early in-person voting than there’s ever been and that’s really important because if there’s more voting spread over more days, and locations, and more times, that helps ensure that an attack against or failure in the infrastructure on any particular day is less likely to disenfranchise large numbers of voters,” Levine explained. “If there’s a problem during early voting, voters might be able to opt to come back later, and of course, the more folks who vote early, the fewer voters that might be affected or would be effected by an election day disruption,” he added. Levine said there are still some opportunities for states to make their systems more robust until November. “And since the 2020 presidential election, including the last few months, there’s been substantial progress made to implement the kind of backup and security features that should allow all voters to cast ballots that will be counted even in the event of a successful cyber-attack or other unforeseen system failure,” he said, adding that they have seen mail ballot improvements that have taken place across the US. More states have valid tracking tools, allowing voters to track where their mail ballot process is with regards to the US Postal Service system, according to Levine. He underscored the importance of educating voters, especially in the face of disinformation and misinformation during this election season. “Of all the election misinformation this year, false information, false and misleading information about voting by mail has been among the most rampant. According to Zignal Labs, a media insights company, of the 13.4mn mentions of voting by mail between January and September of 2020, nearly a quarter of them were misinformation or appeared to be,” Levine said.

Gulf Times
Customers are becoming more confident to visit malls: official

The retail sector in the country is poised for recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic as more shoppers have become more confident to visit malls and shopping centres, Mall of Qatar (MoQ) general manager Emile Sarkis has said. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of MoQ’s new campaign, he said that Qatar’s retail sector has been continuously doing well since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions. “A majority of customers want to see and check (physically) whatever they’re buying, and that is gradually regaining their confidence to shop,” Sarkis said, noting that in the past months many people have been accustomed to online shopping and relied on home delivery services. He expects MoQ’s footfall to continue increasing in the coming weeks as it introduces new shopping campaigns and promotions. It recently announced the first winner for the shop-and-win campaign that was launched last week under the theme “Pick and Choose.” It is learnt that Doha Metro’s reopening, particularly the green line, contributed in enticing more residents and visitors to shop at various stores and boutiques at MoQ. In addition, earlier announcements by Qatari authorities allowing families and their children to enter malls and shopping centres also helped boost sales of different outlets. Sarkis said that MoQ has been imposing stringent measures such as mandatory wearing of masks and requiring visitors to show a green code on their Ehteraz app, among other protocols, to ensure the safety of employees and shoppers. Apart from local and international brands, he said the mall’s many offerings and one-of-its-kind facilities such as the Oasis stage make it a popular destination – a place for people to have unique experiences. About the shop-and-win campaign, he said: “We want to have something different, this is a huge campaign offering 20 luxury (BMW and MINI) cars, which is the first time in the history of the retail business and shopping business in Qatar.”

Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro
Qatar ties highlighted as Spain marks National Day

The Spanish embassy in Doha highlighted the excellent relations between Qatar and Spain, inspired by the strong affection between both royal families, to mark Spain’s National Day Monday. “Our respective governments have been working hand-in-hand to address common issues such as tackling the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. "For example, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, has been in contact with Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, for future avenues of collaboration,” Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro told Gulf Times. Several bilateral agreements are in negotiations and the two countries look forward to increase their level of engagement in different domains such as trade relations, education and culture, the envoy said. Citing Spain’s historic relations with the Arab world, she noted that the Arab heritage and legacy of Al-Andalus remains through historic buildings in Spanish cities like Granada, Cordoba or Seville, as well as in the language and customs. In education, Alfaro said the learning of the Spanish language, which has 8% of Arabic words from the history of Al Andalus, is on the rise in Qatar. She added that the Spanish language is the second most spoken language in the world as a native language – the official language of 21 countries. “It is the second most used language in international communication and the second most used language in social media, in Facebook and Twitter,” the envoy said, adding that a Spanish international school (SEK) is operating in Doha. According to Alfaro, Qatar University and the Hamad Bin Khalifa University, offer a wide range of classes for adults and children and more private schools in Doha are offering Spanish as a foreign language in their curriculum. She added that Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the American continent 524 years ago, an enterprise promoted and financed by the Spanish monarchy, “opened the path for a profound exchange between two different worlds and created a community that gathers today more than 500mn Spanish speakers from all over the world.” In the cultural field, she said the “Spanish artists in Doha” exhibition at Katara – the Cultural Village featured 13 outstanding artists early this year (January). Alfaro stressed that the event underscored the strong and deep-rooted relations between Qatar and Spain in this field. She noted that from September 28 to January 17, 2021, the National Archaeological Museum of Madrid is hosting the exhibition “The Majlis — Cultures in Dialogue” at the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, a unique exhibition reflecting the interaction of civilisations in the past while encouraging dialogue in the present. “Covid-19 has put on hold other cultural initiatives, however we are looking forward to increasing our co-operation in organising joint events and enhancing interaction between Qatari and Spanish museums,” the envoy said. The two countries also share a passion for sports, especially for football, she pointed out. Qatar's preparation to host the first FIFA World Cup which will be staged in the Arab world is going on in full swing, the envoy pointed out. “The Qatari vision is to organise a memorable and unique tournament. In this sense, His Highness the Amir has announced that Qatar is committed to organising the first carbon neutral tournament. We believe it will be a great success not only for the country but for the region,” Alfaro said. “There is an on-going co-operation between Qatar and Spain that definitely will contribute to the great success of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In this regard, Spain is contributing to enhancing the sports culture in Qatar in many ways: through Aspire Academy and Aspetar, where very qualified Spanish professionals work, with top Spanish players in Qatari teams,” she said. The envoy added that many Spanish companies have also been contributing to the development of the infrastructure projects designed to service the World Cup, such as the metro, airport, and roads, among others. She noted that three of the eight 2022 Qatar World Cup stadiums have been designed by the Spanish architecture firm Fenwick Iribarren Architects: Education City Stadium, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, and Al Thumama Stadium. Alfaro also stressed that the bilateral trade between the two countries continue to strengthen as 2019 registered the best figures compared to the previous years.

Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro.
Qatar-Spain bilateral trade jumps 7% to €1.3bn in 2019

* 2019 registered the best figures in the bilateral trade between Qatar and Spain More than 170 Spanish entrepreneurs are keen to stay in Qatar as reliable partners for local companies, further strengthening the commercial and economic ties between the two countries, Spanish ambassador Belen Alfaro has said. “As a formal recognition for the prominent job that Spanish companies are doing in Qatar, since February 2019, the Spanish Secretary of State for Trade has awarded our businessmen in Doha with the official title of the Chamber of Commerce of Spain to Qatar,” the envoy said as Spain marks its National Day on October 12. The role of the Chamber is key for creating spill-over effects into the Qatari market, according to Alfaro. She described Spanish business performance in the country as “robust, deep and wide” with many companies engaging in various sectors such as construction, architecture, food and beverage, facility management, consultancy services, healthcare sector, fashion retail, energy and water, sport business or IT sector, among others. Spanish professional skills, quality of the products and competitiveness are being transferred to the local business environment through a close and tied collaboration, Alfaro said. The envoy added that the institutional support focused on promoting Qatar as a "durable destination" for the Spanish investment and "on fostering our exports to Qatar is bearing fruit." Last figures show a consolidating path to growth in bilateral trade. She noted that 2019 registered the best figures in the bilateral trade between Qatar and Spain, with merchandise and services flows rising by 7%, up to €1.3bn. “This is the result of the sound performance of some exports from Spain, but also of the diligence of the gas exports from Qatar, reaching the 2nd position as natural gas strategic provider for Spain during 2019, with 12% of the total share,” Alfaro said. “Spanish exports to Qatar are well diversified. We find four main domains that gather the core of our exports to Qatar. As Inditex is distributing here through its main brands such as Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho, Zara Home and Uterque, the clothing sector is one of the most important elements in our exports to Qatar (12% of the total export to Qatar),” she pointed out. The envoy noted that mechanical appliance and machines related to construction represent the 9% of Spanish exports to Qatar while Spanish articles of iron and steel and furniture and marbles are also well known in Doha. In the food sector, she said Spanish products in the retail market are broadly present as all supermarkets in Qatar distribute Spanish perishable food, from vegetables to fruit. “Durable products such as frozen meat or vegetables are available in retailers as well. We are now to introduce high preserve fish into the market aimed not only to the final consumer, but also to the Horeca channel,” she said. “Qatari exports to Spain are fully concentrated in LNG.” About enhancing small and medium enterprise collaboration, Alfaro cited the Tasmu programme as a gateway for Spanish IT SMEs to Qatar. “Possibilities of business matching in digitalisation, smart cities, innovation labs and as an incubation centre for Spanish companies are the main goals that our businessmen are looking for through the Tasmu platform. Many Spanish SMEs are interested in the use cases in process under the guideline of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Qatar,” she said. The envoy added that their Public Technological Centre in Spain, CDTI, held meetings in the country with different institutions to launch channels of bilateral collaboration in financing together IT projects in Qatar. “Spanish institutions particularly support SMEs through public financing credits from ICO (Official Credit Institute), especially those aimed at increasing their international expansion,” she said. In addition, she said Spain is an attractive destination for investments since it is the natural gateway to Europe, the Mediterranean and Latin-America. The envoy noted that Spain is the first European investor in Latin America and the second in the world after the US. These ties to the Latino world offer Qatar a trustable partner to open the door for new markets investment. “Our business in the field of telecommunications, financial and insurance sectors, energy, tourism and infrastructure are well-known, making our companies attractive for co-operation around the world,” she said. “Regarding Qatari investments, equity in most profitable Spanish companies, real estate sector, airlines, sport clubs or hospitality are at the top of the Qatari financial portfolio,” Alfaro said. “Moreover, the investment appetite for the Spanish market has been relaunched since the Coronavirus took place, offering financial opportunities in equities of companies with high scores in profitability rates, but with temporary cash flow disorders. These turbulent times test our bilateral investment relation, adding value to the commitment of both countries to forge long-term fraternal links in the business arena,” she said. However, Alfaro also said that 2020 is being an atypical year for any country’s trade relations. In the case of Spain, it is registering a reasonable decrease in consumer products exports to Qatar, particularly clothing and furniture due to the closure of the shops and malls. On the positive side, she pointed out that they are experiencing the highest export peak in vegetables, fruits and meat to Qatar.

The 1979 GMC Sierra 3500 was used to transport troops. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Cultural icons on wheels offer a glimpse into past at NMoQ expo

A number of vehicles on display at the vintage car exhibition at the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) could be described as cultural icons which contributed significantly to the Qatari community in the past, according to Mawater Centre. The month-long exhibition, organised by NMoQ and Mawater Centre, opened Friday  at the museum grounds, featuring 12 old vehicles commonly used by the public in Qatar between the 1970s and 1990s. The Land Cruiser is closely linked to desert and falcon hunting trips. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar The 1980 GMC Suburban was dubbed as 'Superman' locally due to its powerful engine and huge capacity. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam Suzuki motorbikes were used to transport official documents and letters between the Ministry of Finance and Petroleum and other government institutes. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam One of the vehicles on show includes a Toyota Land Cruiser (G 1989 model/Japan), which the according to Mawater, “was and remains, an essential part of the Qatari household.” “The popularity of the Land Cruiser stems from its reliability, durability, and ability on road and off-road. This car has become a cultural icon and is closely linked to desert and falcon hunting trips,” Mawater noted. Many, if not all, Qatari families own a GMC Suburban (1980/US), dubbed as “Superman” locally, due to its powerful engine and huge capacity. It was often used for family road and Hajj trips. Another popular vehicle in the 80s is the Nissan pickup (Japan), which was used for several purposes – from shopping to road trips, among others, and can be found in many Qatari households today. Meanwhile, other vehicles such as the 1978 Range Rover (UK) fire truck, the 1979 Mercedes Benz 280E (Germany) ambulance, the 1975 Suzuki (Japan) motorbike, 1972 Mercedes Benz police car, 1979 GMC Sierra 3500, and the 1980 GMC B-series school bus played a role in the operations of the Qatar government in the past, including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Finance and Petroleum, Ministry of Education, Emergency Police (now the Internal Security Force – Lekhwiya), and the Extinguishing Police Section (General Directorate of Civil Defence today).The GMC B-series buses, Mawater said, were used by the Ministry of Education from the 70s until 2004. “While most of the buses in other countries are the classic yellow colour, in Qatar, school buses were maroon to symbolise the colour of the Qatari flag,” Mawater noted. Equipped with manual fire extinguishers and rescue tools, the fire truck was used in the 70s and 80s and crewed by an officer, assistant officer, and a radio operator. Other vehicles on display also include a 1983 Toyota Cressida – used as a taxi in the 70s, 80s, and 90s – that roamed the streets in Doha until 2004; and a GMC 1977 model water truck.

Vintage cars on show at the NMoQ from Friday.
Vintage car exhibition opens at NMoQ today

The National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), in partnership with Mawater Centre, is set to open a unique vintage car exhibition on Friday at the NMoQ, aimed at providing visitors an opportunity to walk down memory lane of the country’s rich history. In an Instagram post on Thursday, the NMoQ said that the exhibition, which will run until November 15, will display 12 cars commonly used by the public in Qatar between the 1970s and 1990s. “These cars tell the story of everyday life through the lens of transportation,” the NMoQ noted, as it urged residents to “join us in a trip back in time for a month of motoring nostalgia”. The NMoQ and Mawater Centre also organised a similar exhibition early this year, also showcasing 12 vehicles used for government and public transportation between 1950s and 1990s. The cars on show included: * A 1983 Toyota Cressida – used as a taxi in the 70s, 80s, and 90s – that roamed the streets in Doha until 2004; * A GMC 1977 model water truck – one of the vehicles mostly owned by Qatari families transporting potable water from the desalination plants in Msheireb and Ras Abu Abboud to residents; * A school bus 1980 B series model used by the Ministry of Education from the 70s to 2004; * Government and ministerial cars such as the special forces car (Internal Security Forces – Lekhwiya today); * A police car (1972 Mercedes-Benz 280E model); and * A 1975 Suzuki Titan motorbike used to deliver official documents and letters between the Ministry of Finance and Petroleum and other government institutions in the 70s and 80s. The previous exhibition included personal cars such as the GMC model used by many families for pilgrimage abroad, and the 1989 Nissan Skyline GT, one of the most popular sports cars in Doha until the late 1980s. The NMoQ reopened its permanent galleries on October 1 as part of the final phase of the gradual lifting of coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions in the country. On the same date, the museum also unveiled *Splendours of the Ancient East: Antiquities from the Al-Sabah Collection Special Exhibition, marking Qatar’s deep-rooted and unique ties with Kuwait and revealing new insights into the ancient roots of Islamic Art. It will run until January 3, 2021. The NMoQ – open from Saturday to Thursday, between 9am-7pm, and on Friday between 1:30pm and 7pm – is implementing precautionary measures to ensure the safety of visitors. Visitors will be required to reserve tickets in advance on Qatar Museum’s website.

Dr Lorenzo Morris
Trump remarks 'could have an impact on Black voting'

US President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn White supremacists during the recent debate is expected to create a significant impact on the Black votes, according to the chair emeritus of Political Science and distinguished professor at Howard University, Dr Lorenzo Morris. His research and teaching include a wide range of electoral issues and political matters, including African American politics, public policy and the role of racial minorities in party politics. Speaking to journalists at the Virtual Reporting Tour (VRT) press briefing recently, Morris said the president’s controversial remarks could affect the overall vote of African Americans and other groups. “And if you look at the media, it's clear that the media takes it as one that supports White supremacy. And, therefore, you can expect an impact on Black voting,” he said. “I think maybe less in terms of orientation, nobody's going to change positions, but it might motivate more people. However, I would suspect that it will motivate even many more people on the moderate left and the White electorate than it would in the Black,” added Dr Morris, who highlighted the importance of the African American vote and its impact on the 2020 presidential elections. VRT, being organised by the US Department of State in collaboration with Meridian International Centre, is an eight-week programme for more than 225 journalists, including those from the Middle East, to cover the upcoming US elections remotely. In his presentation, Dr Morris also pointed out that one of the things that is often overlooked about the African American vote, commonly known as the Black vote, is that “across space and across time, since the 1960s it has been a stable and constant contributor to the development of national and local American politics”. “In spite of the disappointment exhibited by many commentators after the 2016 election, in which they said the vote declined, I want to argue basically that it did not decline, it simply stabilised. That may be illustrated by the fact that since the Voting Rights Act occurred, which was a singular moment, Black voting has continually gone up or stabilised.” “Now, why other than moving towards equality, is a Black vote important? One simple fact helps to explain it. That is that since World War II, no Democrat, except for Lyndon Baines Johnson, has won the presidency without the Black vote,” Dr Morris noted. “That is to say no Democrat, except for Johnson, has won the White vote. In this stellar moment for Black voter achievement, 2012, in terms of turnout, everyone celebrates the contribution of the overall American electorate to the election of Obama and are disappointed with what happened with Clinton, if you're on the Democratic side,” he explained. “But you must note that if you remove the Black vote from the 2012 peak, then Obama lost to Romney, not just by a little bit but by a landslide, 10% is a landslide.” About the impact of the current administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Black vote, Dr Morris said survey results showed it has been severe. “So, along with Hispanics and others, it has created a very negative impact on their sense of government response. And one of the things that is just shown in the Washington Post today is that in terms of economic recovery, it has been worse for Blacks and particularly Black women,” he added.

Sheila Krumholz
‘Online fundraising platforms play a key role in US elections’

Online fundraising platforms of Democratic and Republican Parties played a vital role in raising a significant amount of campaign funds in this year’s US presidential elections – considered the costliest in history – amid the coronavirus pandemic, Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) executive director Sheila Krumholz has said. She was interacting with journalists participating in the first-ever Virtual Reporting Tour (VRT) of the US and the American electoral process. The US Department of State, in collaboration with Meridian International Centre, has organised the eight-week programme for more than 225 journalists including those from the Middle East to cover the upcoming US elections remotely. “We fully anticipated that the economic hardship that many are going through would have a depressive effect on donations. However, I think one counteractive tool is Act Blue, which is the Democrats online fundraising tool. It’s really just a website for transacting donations. On the right they have a similar platform, Win Red,” Krumholz said. At the recently-held VTR press briefing on “Following the Money in 2020”, Krumholz talked about campaign finance, Political Action Committees (PACs), dark money, and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, among others. She said that Act Blue has been around longer and raised more money than Win Red. “So these platforms allow for small donations from massive numbers of people. That is, I think, both a new trend and interesting, and also, I think, a largely healthy thing to get more Americans participating, to have more money coming from larger numbers of people in smaller amounts,” Krumholz noted. “But that, of course, doesn’t mean that the mega-donors are giving any less. We’ve already seen millions and millions of dollars largely going to these Super PACs and outside groups, which is making up, as I said, more than a billion dollars already this cycle,” she said, noting that this US Presidential election will be the costliest in history. A recent CRP report showed that the total cost of the 2020 election is set to break previous records with nearly $11bn in spending – “more than 50% pricier than the 2016 contest when adjusting for inflation.”  According to CPR, this year’s election would still be the most expensive ever even if federal committees (which already spent $7.2bn so far) did not spend another dollar from this point on. Founded 37 years ago by two former senators, Frank Church (Democrat of Idaho) and Hugh Scott (Republican), CRP is an independent nonprofit that tracks and researches money in US politics and its effect on elections and public policy.  “So doing this work allows us to see, for instance, that the last election cycle cost more than $5.7bn, the biggest jump in midterm election spending in at least 20 years,” Krumholz said. The CRP official pointed out that “this rapid increase in money flowing into US politics is partly due to the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission in 2010, which allowed organisations that are nominally independent from the candidates to raise and spend unlimited sums from any source.”

The US Department of State has organised the eight-week VRT programme for journalists across the wor
Healthcare, gender gap, key issues in US election

Healthcare has remained one of the key issues that divides Democratic and Republican voters in the US, according to Dr Jeffrey M Stonecash, an expert on political parties. The distinguished professor emeritus of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at New York’s Syracuse University was addressing a recent press briefing as part of the first-ever Virtual Reporting Tour (VRT) of the US and the American electoral process. “Healthcare has been an issue for quite a while. Harry Truman, in the late 1940s, tried to establish a national healthcare system. It was met with strong resistance. “In the mid-90s, Bill Clinton tried to establish national healthcare system, and he failed because he ran into Republican opposition, and then (Barack) Obama got it passed by one vote in 2010,” recalled Stonecash. The academic provided a brief overview of the two-party system in the US and discussed major differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. “It (healthcare) is both philosophical and practical. Philosophically, conservatives think everybody ought to get their own insurance … you're on your own. They're strongly committed to you getting it on your own,” he said. “They don't want a national healthcare system, and they don't want it for two reasons. “One, they think it costs too much in terms on the private sector. “And their biggest fear is that it creates a social welfare benefit to people that would tie people to the Democratic party because the Democratic party enacted it,” Stonecash pointed out. “And so they want it repealed. They have been trying for 10 years to repeal it. It came very close in 2017, but it's a fundamental issue in America. Some people really feel incredibly vulnerable because they have no health insurance,” he noted. “Others think, ‘You're on your own. Go get a good job and that'll pay for your healthcare’. It's a real deep issue, and division about that.” About the role of women in the evolution of political parties, Stonecash said that the US went through a thorough gender gap development in the past 30 years. “It used to be that men and women did not vote terribly differently, but now, or beginning in the 1980s, men began to vote more Republican. “Women sometimes moved with them, but on average, did not. “What we now have is a pretty significant gap in that women tend to go to the Democratic party, (though) not all of them,” he said. “Women in this particular election are going to play a very crucial role because (Republican President Donald) Trump has alienated many women with his behavioural style, his language, his harshness, and his crassness. His biggest problem right now is women,” Stonecash pointed out. “In some elections, women play a very pivotal role. Looks like they will in this one. In others, they are not. But there has been this big gap between men and women. Largely it's because men moved away from the Democratic party,” he added. Stonecash also discussed other key issues where the two parties clash and form the basis of their conflict: economic individualism and the role of government, race and cultural matters, and immigration. The US Department of State, in collaboration with the Meridian International Centre, has organised the eight-week VRT programme for more than 225 journalists from across the world to cover the upcoming US elections remotely.    

Dr Bradley Jones
‘Education is an important dividing line in US politics’

US citizens with the least education have been trending towards the Republican Party while many college-educated women shifted towards the Democratic Party over the past 25 years, according to Pew Research Centre research associate Dr Bradly Jones. “Education is an important dividing line in American politics," he told reporters participating in the first-ever Virtual Reporting Tour (VRT) of the US and the American electoral process. The US Department of State, in collaboration with Meridian International Centre, organised this eight-week programme for more than 225 journalists (including those from the Middle East) to cover the upcoming US elections remotely. At the recently-held virtual press briefing, Dr Jones provided an overview of demographics, statistics and trends of the US electorate – factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, generational divides, and regional differences that may shape US Presidential and Congressional Election outcomes in 2020. Dr Jones said that the Centre, a leading, nonpartisan “fact tank” that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world, saw that the electorate has been changing in terms of its educational composition over the past 25 years. In his presentation, he said voters without a college degree have moved toward the Republican Party while those with a college education have trended steadily toward the Democratic Party. “When we look at both gender and education, we can see that the most dramatic movement has happened among women with a college degree who were about evenly divided in their partisanship in 1994 and now are more than twice as likely to be Democrats as Republicans,” Dr Jones said. Citing how white voters without a college degree changed their partisanship over the past two years (since 2018) in ‘individual-level data’, he noted that those who began as Republicans were much more likely to stick with the Republican Party compared to White voters without a college degree that were Democrats who would stick with the Democratic Party. “We see the opposite pattern when we look at White voters with a college degree and non-White voters,” Dr Jones pointed out. “There's been (movement) for sure, among college-educated men who have gone from 38% identifying or leaning towards the Democratic Party in 1994 to 48% today. But the movement among college-educated women has been much more pronounced and you can see those without a college degree, men have dipped down in their support and then increased in the last 10 years or so moving towards the Republican Party,” he said. The Centre, which conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research, also cited race as one of the most important factors in American politics. "When we look at voters by race and ethnicity, one of the things that jump out is the relative stability (except perhaps among Asians). White voters are consistently more likely to identify or lean towards the Republican Party during this period,” Dr Jones said. “Black voters overwhelmingly identify or lean towards the Democratic Party, and Hispanic voters are somewhere in the middle.” “While the partisan compositions of these groups haven't changed much over the past 25 years, the makeup of the American electorate has been changing. Over the past 25 years, the American electorate has diversified greatly. In 1994, 85% of voters in the US were non-Hispanic Whites, that share shrunk to 69% in 2019,” he added.

Mitchell S McKinney
Debates can be critical in presidential race: US expert

A small number of undecided voters in the US can be consequential in the outcome of an election, especially in a close race, according to Dr Mitchell S McKinney, professor of Communication and director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri. “Still, these debates have a wide reach, and a small number of "undecided" viewers do use the debate to make their candidate choice,” he told reporters participating in the first-ever Virtual Reporting Tour (VRT) of the US and the American electoral process. The US Department of State, in collaboration with Meridian International Centre, organised this eight-week programme for more than 225 journalists (including those from the Middle East) to cover the US elections 2020 remotely. McKinney, who served as an adviser to the US Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), was speaking at a VRT press briefing on Monday on the ‘Role of the Debates’ in the US presidential elections. “Many historians and others argue that John Kennedy's superior debate performance (over Richard Nixon) in 1960 contributed to his election (and the Kennedy-Nixon was a very close election decided by a small margin),” he noted. “Ronald Reagan's debate performance in 1980 was seen as very strong and allowed him to pull ahead of the incumbent president Jimmy Carter and go on to win by a rather wide margin,” McKinney added. During the briefing, he highlighted the importance of debates in “reinforcing the choice of candidates individuals are already supporting.” “Most debate viewers tune in to cheer on their candidate - much like viewers of a football game tune in to cheer on their team.” About choosing Ohio, Florida, and Tennessee as the locations for the debates, McKinney pointed out that the CPD often selects the sites in battleground states. “There's much greater attention on these states by the candidates, and therefore the candidates are eager to spend time in these states (taking part in a debate in the state makes it more convenient for candidates to host campaign rallies and otherwise campaign in the state),” he said. “The CPD will also grant debates to universities who compete to host these debates and are willing to put up the several million dollars needed to secure a debate (such as Belmont University in Nashville, TN). A debate will bring a great deal of media attention to the host university,” added McKinney, whose work was instrumental in developing the presidential Town Hall debate and other innovations in the structure and practice of televised presidential debates in the US. The first debate of the general election between US President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was held Tuesday at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. About the two Presidential candidates, McKinney said that Trump is very good at attacking, creating conflict and drama, and often blaming others – a strategy which may divert attention away from matters he may not wish to address in the debate. Biden has “a much less aggressive style, often expressing empathy, care and concern for citizens and their struggles in life,” he noted. “The contrast between these two individuals, particularly their communication styles, is stark. Biden may run the risk in these debates of seeming overwhelmed or too low energy if he is not sufficiently strong or able to respond aggressively to Donald Trump,” McKinney said.

Qatar has lot of tourism offerings outside Doha.
QM highlights sites outside Doha to mark World Tourism Day 2020

Qatar Museums (QM) is highlighting the country’s heritage sites, cultural traditions and experiences, and other tourism destinations outside Doha to mark World Tourism Day (WTD) 2020. The 40th anniversary of this annual event, celebrated every September 27 since 1980, comes as the tourism industry faces what is described as “the biggest challenge in its history” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. “The theme of this year’s World Tourism Day, ‘Tourism and Rural Development’, gives us a unique opportunity to showcase the many sights and experiences that Qatar has to offer outside of Doha,” QM said in an email to Culture Pass members yesterday. “Some of our country’s most storied heritage sites, cultural traditions and natural wonders lie outside the city boundaries, and only by visiting these sites can visitors come to truly understand our country,” QM noted. According to QM, the country is now embracing the ‘new normal’ as various events and other activities resume under phase 4 of the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions while it prepares to welcome foreign visitors again. QM noted that visitors can try the new Al Majles Resort at Sealine Beach, which offers a healthy dose of adventure, along with breathtaking views of the Inland Sea, and thrill-seeking activities such as quadbikes, beach buggies and camel rides. The Northern Qetaifan Islands project, developed by Katara Hospitality, which occupies an area of 1.3mn sq m off the coast near Lusail, includes a water amusement park, seven beaches, and a luxury hotel managed by Rixos, in addition to residential complexes and other amenities. Visitors will also enjoy the many attractions and activities at Al-Wakrah seaside district, ranging from water sports to heritage sites. The five-star Souq Al Wakrah Hotel by Tivoli consists of former heritage houses and offers a unique yet traditional hospitality experience. “One of the newest additions to Qatar’s hospitality offerings, Salwa Beach Resort by Hilton is located 84km from Doha and sprawls across 3.5km of picturesque private beaches. It features a marina and yacht club, a themed water park and dive centre, cinemas, a shopping mall, a 2,800sq m spa and health club, an Arabian village, and much more,” QM said. Zulal Wellness Resort from Msheireb Properties, in collaboration with international wellness brand, Chiva-Som International Health Resort, is another unique destination in the Middle East which will open soon. Located in Khasooma, north of Doha, and spread across 280,000sq m, QM said the full-immersion wellness resort features two centres for health and wellbeing and caters to both adults and families. Another one-of-its-kind destination includes Al Messila Wellness Resort & Spa, which is owned by Katara Hospitality and part of Marriott International’s Luxury Collection ensemble of hotels. It is the first 5-star wellness retreat in Qatar for ladies only. Al Messila, a three-storey palace-styled resort with 152 rooms, suites and premium villas with private pools, features 26 treatment rooms and the most comprehensive hydro-thermal facilities in the country. QM stressed that it continues to “further the country’s diverse tourism offerings and experiences by providing spaces for respite, education and inspiration” as the Qatar prepares to welcome millions of visitors for the FIFA World Cup 2022. “We are also taking steps to diversify and innovate our digital offerings, working with our partners to bring unique and immersive cultural experiences to the community that go beyond the walls of our museums,” QM said.

QCRu2019s Saturday Social Ride cyclists (front, from left) Paul Hartescu and Adiel Mohamed; (second row) Paul Dover and Darren Elwood during a recent bike ride. (Supplied picture)
Hot demand for bicycles as peak summer heat ebbs

The demand for various types of bicycles in Qatar continues to increase as the maximum temperature has begun a gradual fall, paving the way for cyclists and enthusiasts to organise weekly rides. An employee of a leading sports shop told Gulf Times that racer bikes have been the bestsellers in the past few weeks, particularly days before the start of phase 4 of the gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions in the country. The Covid-19 respiratory disease is caused by the coronavirus. “Racer bikes and other bike accessories have been fast moving items, and we expect sales to surge further in the coming weeks as the weather gets even better,” he said, adding that many customers are also looking for mountain bikes. “We have few racer and mountain bikes left here at the store, and we are expecting our next shipment to come in the next three weeks,” he added. “We hope that there will be no delays.” As a bike enthusiast himself, he said that many residents are excited to do outdoor activities after spending months of staying and working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. Qatar Chain Reaction (QCR), one of the largest groups of cyclists in Qatar, holds Friday and Saturday bike rides, with no registration or membership required. Riders are requested to show up in advance of the scheduled time, advertised on social media. The meeting place is usually at the Lagoona Mall car park (outside Fifty-One East). QCR also posted a schedule of races and activities in the next three months from October 9, when an all-day time trial is set to take place at Al Thakira between 3pm and 6pm. It will be followed by a “Night Time Trial Series 20” on October 13 and the Qatar Foundation Triathlon Series – Race 1 on October 16, among other races, though the dates for those are not yet final. Cyclists will also have the chance to participate in QCR’s Sealine Run Challenge, Road Race 2 – Handicap, Qatar Foundation Duathlon Series – Race 1, Ride of Champions (Qatar Cyclists), and Theeb MTB Races, among others, in November. December is also packed with many races and activities. A staffer at another popular sports shop in Doha, who specialises in bike repairs, and maintenance, said that he expects cyclists, including his regular customers, to either upgrade their units or buy new ones as they prepare for these races. Besides racer and mountain bikes, he said they also recorded an increase in sales of children’s bicycles, even before September 1.