Monday, March 04, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar has been a journalist since 2013 at Gulf Times, reporting on events related to Qatar. He was earlier a journalist for eight years in the Philippines. He became one of the 2015 United Nations Foundation Global Goals Press Fellows. He has also attended a number of journalism seminars in the Philippines.
The event showcased a Night Glow Show Saturday at Katara, an crowd-puller activity that will take place until December 18. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival kicks off at Katara

The fourth edition of the Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival kicked off Thursday at Katara – Cultural Village (southern area), featuring an array of balloons that attracted a large number of spectators.Marking the beginning of a 12-day extravaganza, organisers noted that the event promises to be bigger and better with 55 balloons this year, a significant increase from the 30 during its inception.Speaking on the sidelines of the launch, flight director Lee Hooper shared insights into what makes this year’s festival unique, saying that the choice of Katara as the venue adds a new dimension.He said Katara offers a stunning backdrop for the 55 hot air balloons from around the world. “Katara is very famous in Doha, and having it here in the centre of the city with beautiful landscapes makes for an absolutely stunning balloon line.”Hooper acknowledged the logistical challenge of bringing balloons from different parts of the world to one central location but stressed the thrill that awaits visitors, with morning flights over various city landscapes and afternoon tethered shows at Katara.According to the organisers, the event aims to position Qatar as a must-visit global destination for hot air balloon enthusiasts, attracting visitors with balloons of various sizes, designs and colours taking to the skies in breathtaking sunrise launches.Spectators will have the opportunity to witness the colourful giant balloons floating above the city, providing a visual spectacle that adds to the vibrant atmosphere.The festival also offers a diverse range of entertainment for visitors of all ages. There are activities ranging from a gaming zone for children, evening shows of illuminated balloons set to music and a lineup of mascots, jugglers and performers. There is a specially designated arena with games, including carnival games, team activities, human football, VR (virtual reality) games, and more. Food enthusiasts will also be delighted with a wide array of culinary options available at kiosks and food trucks spread across the venue. Organisers noted that daily dawn flights are scheduled from Friday, depending on weather conditions, with balloons taking off from Katara and various locations. Giant kites will fly from 2.30pm to 4pm daily, while tethered flights and the Night Glow Show will illuminate the evenings from 4pm-7pm.

HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani led the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Qatar Classic Cars contest and exhibition 2023 Wednesday at The Pearl Island's Medina Centrale as Omar Alfardan and other dignitaries looked on. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Qatar Classic Cars contest and exhibition 2023 launches at The Pearl Island

The Qatar Classic Cars contest and exhibition 2023 kicked off at The Pearl Island Wednesday featuring an array of extremely rare and vintage vehicles by prominent collectors in the country. The event, under the patronage of Qatar Museums chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and organised by the Gulf Qatari Classic Cars Association in partnership with United Development Company (UDC), will run until December 10 at Medina Centrale. The five-day show marks the culmination of a series of significant and esteemed events in Qatar. Notably, Qatar hosted the Geneva International Motor Show recently for the first time, alongside the Formula One. The Gulf Qatari Classic Cars Association chairman HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani, said: “Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of a new edition of the Qatar Classic Cars contest and exhibition 2023, which now occupies a spot atop the annual events calendar, and it has become the ultimate forum for classic car owners in Qatar and the region to showcase their best in show.” This event has consistently sought to create a platform for owners of classic cars, fostering the preservation of heritage, legacy, and history passed down through generations, he noted. According to Sheikh Faisal, the organisation strives to cultivate a community of knowledgeable and conscientious collectors equipped with the skills required to uphold and maintain this heritage. By immersing them in educational, artistic, and cultural experiences, he noted that the association endeavours to offer comprehensive social, cultural, and artistic services. The Gulf Qatari Classic Cars Association vice chairman Omar Hussein Alfardan, underlined the ongoing efforts to enhance the association's activities, aiming for it to serve as the benchmark for organising events of this nature. “The Qatar Classic Cars contest and exhibition has received great attention at the state level, as the event this year is held under the patronage of QM chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who provided great support to enable the event to reach the highest levels of success,” he said. Speaking to Gulf Times, Alfardan said that he has actively participated in and organised this event, which he stressed, has remarkably persisted even throughout the challenging times of the Covid pandemic. He said they witnessed a consistent growth in both participation and the number of enthusiasts, with a surge in passionate individuals keen on exploring the history, culture, and design language of classic cars. Alfardan underscored the key role of the event in attracting visitors, both local and international, further boosting the country’s tourism sector. It is also actively establishing a heritage and tourism forum, featuring classic historical cars. In addition, it aims to acquaint audiences from diverse cultures with the significance of collecting classic cars, a pursuit that has garnered unprecedented global interest. He added that this year, the Classic Cars competition will take place “in the presence of arbitrators from the World Classic Car Federation and within the standards set by the Federation to raise the competition to the ranks of international competitions that specialise in this type of car.” The Gulf Qatari Classic Cars Association board member Sheikh Nawaf bin Nasser bin Khalid al-Thani, commended the notable increase in participation in this major event, now holding a prominent position at the top of Qatar's events calendar. UDC president, CEO and board member Ibrahim Jassim al-Othman, lauded the huge turnout during the event launch, which he says reflects the community’s interest in the classic car sector. “We have witnessed the development of the Qatar Classic Cars contest and exhibition over the years since its launch, and we are pleased to be part of this vital legacy,” he said, noting that they are pleased to host the event’s 2023 edition once again at The Pearl Island," he added.

Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa
Qatar tourism boom boosts investments, economic diversification efforts

Qatar’s flourishing tourism sector not only brings investment opportunities but also significantly contributes to job creation, marking a shift away from traditional sectors like oil and gas, an industry expert has said.“It has a ripple effect, creating jobs in related industries such as hospitality, entertainment, retail, construction and other services,” Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa, the founder and managing director of Outing Qatar, told Gulf Times as he underlined the transformative impact of the growing tourism industry on Qatar’s economy.He said the burgeoning sector is also stimulating Qatar’s real estate market, attracting increased investments in both commercial and residential properties.Eleiwa cited a recent meeting with a British visitor, who inspired by his experience, rented a luxury car and expressed plans to open a company in Doha. This, he said, underscores the positive impact of tourism on attracting foreign investment and fostering economic diversity.He said Qatar, to bolster this momentum, implemented a series of initiatives aimed at attracting more visitors and promoting tourism. Key among these strategies, he added, is a substantial investment in infrastructure development, featuring world-class hotels, airports and transportation systems to enhance the overall visitor experience.According to Eleiwa, the country also positioned itself as a global hub for major international events. Following the success of hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, he said Qatar continues to attract attention with events like the Qatar Open in tennis, the Qatar Masters in golf, the MotoGP Grand Prix, the Asian Cup, and various year-round international events and exhibitions.He noted that Qatar Airways, the national carrier, plays a key role in connecting the nation to the world. The airline's global network and high-quality services contribute to Qatar’s allure as a luxury travel destination, with visa facilitation and stopover options further enticing travellers, he added.Eleiwa pointed out that a noteworthy focus has been on developing cruise tourism, with investments in Doha’s old port facilities and initiatives to position Qatar as a cruise destination. These efforts, he stressed, aim to attract visitors arriving by sea, broadening the spectrum of experiences offered by the country.“These initiatives collectively contribute to Qatar’s efforts to position itself as a leading tourism destination, offering a mix of cultural, sporting, and entertainment experiences for visitors from around the world,” he said.Eleiwa said Qatar Tourism (QT) emerged as a crucial player in these endeavours as it actively participates in international events and exhibitions to showcase the nation's diverse offerings. By collaborating with national and international stakeholders, he said QT aims to improve the overall visitor experience through smart goals and campaigns.He noted that strategies prioritised by Qatar’s tourism sector include ensuring ease of access to the country from land, sea and sky, as well as building networks and collaborating with international tourism organisations, travel agencies and airlines. These partnerships, he added, facilitate joint marketing efforts and help attract tourists from new source markets, ultimately contributing to Qatar’s sustainable growth, economic benefits, and overall development.

Gulf Times
Philippine embassy to operate at new location from Dec 10

The Philippine embassy in Qatar is moving to a new and more accessible location within Onaiza area, and will open its doors for normal operations from December 10.Located at Building No. 6, Street No. 549, Zone No. 66, the embassy could be reached via the Katara Metro station on the Red Line. The embassy has provided a QR code for easy access to its new location on Google Maps.Many Filipino expatriates lauded the embassy’s decision to relocate, describing it as a thoughtful gesture that addresses the struggles of commuting faced by Filipino expatriates.A Filipino expatriate cited significant savings on transportation costs in visiting the embassy at its new building, noting that she usually pays an average of QR32 for taxis. But with the metro, she said she will be able to save more money.Others took to social media to express their appreciation and excitement to visit the embassy.Anticipating the move, the embassy encouraged visitors to schedule non-emergency, non-urgent consular services transactions after December 9, 2023, due to ongoing building and system maintenance. It is learnt that this approach aims to minimise service disruptions during the transition.The embassy also announced that it would be closed on December 18, 21, 25, 26, and 31 “in observance of Philippine and Qatari holidays”, prompting the community to plan their visits accordingly. Despite the brief closures, the Filipino expatriates expressed gratitude for the embassy's efforts to enhance accessibility.

The Qatar GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup 2023 Finals at Fuwairit Kite Beach  will be held from December 5-9.
Qatar to host an array of events in December

Qatar is gearing up to host an array of major events and sports competitions across the country during December.From kite surfing competitions to Arabian horse showcases, the country is set to spotlight its rich cultural heritage and growing reputation as a premier destination for various activities.The Qatar GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup 2023 Finals will be held from Tuesday to Saturday at Fuwairit Kite Beach (FKB). This event is expected to draw a large number of spectators to witness the world’s top kitesurfers compete.The World Arabian Horse Championship is set to take place from December 7-9 at the Old Doha Port, marking the first time the event will be held outside of France since its inception. Organised by Katara – the Cultural Village in partnership with Ooredoo, this equestrian spectacle will bring together over 150 Arabian horses from more than 20 countries. Qatar, renowned for its excellence in breeding Arabian horses, will use this opportunity to further establish itself as a world-class hub for horses and equestrian sports.The second edition of the Heenat Salma Winter Bazaar will run from Monday to Saturday. This exhibition by local artisans, craftspeople and small business owners at Heenat Salma Farm also offers tasty creations from the artisanal kitchen.Art enthusiasts can indulge in the Introduction to Gemstone and Jewellery Illustration workshop from Monday to Wednesday at the Museum of Islamic Art. Participants will learn about gemstone characteristics and shapes, illustrating and painting their designs. The workshop will also cover techniques such as applying light and shadow to create realistic illustrations.From December 5-8, the Al Mayassa Theatre at the Qatar National Convention Centre will host the 1001 Nights Ballet - Arabian Nights. The dance performance is set to atmospheric music composed by Fikret Amirov.The Qatar Classic Car Contest & Exhibition, featuring rare vehicle collections from prominent owners, will be held from December 6-10 at The Pearl Island.From December 11-16, Al Hazm will host the second edition of Razza Exhibition, celebrating traditional Qatari men’s wear and showcasing high-end luxury. The event brings together skilled designers from various corners of the world.The 4th edition of the Qatar Balloon Festival will take place from December 7-18 at Katara– the Cultural Village parking. Visitors can enjoy activities such as sunrise balloon launches, tethered flights and night glow, and participate in a photo and video contest. The festival, free for all visitors, has grown in popularity since its inception in 2019.

Australian Sofles’s mural combines traditional patterns, a futuristic figure with a headdress, and a fish to symbolise the artwork's location at the port. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Old Doha Port transforms into open gallery by World Wide Walls

As part of the World Wide Walls (WWW) international mural programme, the Old Doha Port has undergone a transformation with the addition of murals created by local, regional and international artists.Hosted by Qatar Museums (QM), the initiative which began on November 26 and concludes today (December 2), has turned the area into an open gallery and is expected to leave behind a visual feast.Among the 13 featured artists is Australian muralist Sofles, who shared with *Gulf Times insights into his piece, aiming to blend the local culture with his unique style.“I want to incorporate the local culture ... with my style, to make a statement piece about a few different things,” he explained. “I see here the mix between the old culture and the traditions, mixing with the new city which is obviously growing really fast and turning into a futuristic place.”Sofles’s mural combines traditional patterns, a futuristic figure with a headdress, and a fish to symbolise the artwork's location at the port.When asked about the emerging art scene in Doha, he noted a growing trend and the influx of local and international talents.He expressed optimism about the opportunities for artists to create something special and unique in this burgeoning artistic landscape.Mexican artist Adry Del Rocio, thrilled to participate in the festival, conveyed a message of chasing dreams through her mural.Depicting a child reaching for a starfish, which symbolises dreams, she highlighted the importance of creating an environment that fosters opportunities for children to grow.“I’m super proud that they invited me to this festival, from another side of the world, as I come from Mexico, and it is far away,” she said. “I’m super happy they have given me this opportunity to do my job here in a very special community.”Reflecting on the location of her artwork in the Mina District at Old Doha Port, Del Rocio lauded the diversity among the participating artists and expressed her admiration for Qatar as a country where people can achieve their dreams.“All the artists (participating) came from different countries ... we use different styles and we have different themes so it is very beautiful, and it gives me a lot of inspiration to have this experience, to see the other artists, and see their missions is really nice,” she said.Omani artist Hood’s mural focused on the emotion and the fight for the legality of graffiti as a form of freedom of expression.He highlighted the significance of legalising graffiti to enhance public spaces and make them attractive.Asked about Qatar as a hub for art, Hood expressed gratitude for the opportunities and support provided to artists.He believes that promoting more street art in the country will attract tourists, beautify the city, and solidify Qatar as a prominent tourism destination.

(From left) Qatar Foundation Innovation director Hayfa al-Abdulla, Frans-Anton Vermast,  Abdulla Jassim A J al-Khenji, Ott Velsberg, and Daniel Daszklewicz at the panel discussion. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Smart governance and citizen engagement discussed

The mutually beneficial connection between well-functioning cities, financial stability, and the importance of engaging citizens amid rapidly advancing technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI), was highlighted at a panel discussion on Thursday at Smart City Expo Doha 2023.Daniel Daszklewicz, executive vice-president, Group Retail Digital Business at QNB, explained the interconnected nature of a well-functioning city, stating that investments in systems such as traffic control, data management, waste collection, and air pollution reduction contribute to the city’s financial stability.Addressing the question of adapting to evolving technologies, he underlined AI’s significance in enhancing efficiency, particularly in the banking sector. “If the organism of the city is working properly and well as a home, it is also financially well. In the end, whatever investment we’re taking ... they are coming back as a good business because the entire system is integral,” Daszklewicz said during the discussion, themed 'Smart Cities, Smart Governance: Digitally Steering the Cities of Tomorrow'.Regarding the difficulty of adjusting to swiftly evolving technologies, Abdulla Jassim A J al-Khenji, project manager, Logistics Strategy at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, stressed the need to identify obstacles facing investors.He cited the potential positive impact of integrating technology into various sectors, citing the importance of data-driven approaches in improving efficiency without increasing the workforce.About optimising government sectors, Daszklewicz highlighted the role of AI in enhancing financial services and stressed that efficiency, enabled by AI, is the key to a better-functioning financial system.“We (at QNB) want to make sure that AI is providing this efficiency to the services that we have. For example, if the transaction in the payment in the railway system is done quickly enough and optimised by AI, then the entire system works better. Efficiency is the keyword for AI,” he added.Citing the accessibility benefits of AI, Ott Velsberg, government chief data officer of Estonia, discussed ongoing efforts in his country to enhance accessibility through projects like sign language recognition and machine translation.He reiterated the need for citizen involvement in decision-making processes, empowering individuals to shape how government services function. About citizen engagement in the era of new technologies like AI, Velsberg pointed out the tremendous opportunities technology presents. He said there was an overwhelming response to Estonia’s government mobile application testing, highlighting citizens’ eagerness to contribute to services that bring value.“We had to put a stop because we had such a huge interest from citizens to test out a service that wasn’t fully functional. People want to contribute if they know that this will bring value. Having an open mindset, oftentimes it is about the mindset, not the technology,” he added.Frans-Anton Vermast, international smart city ambassador from Amsterdam, emphasised transparency in data management, asserting that citizens own the data and urging governments to be open and transparent about data collection, usage, and results.He advocated for public data, stressing the need for clarity within legal frameworks while encouraging governments to have experimenting periods for data-driven initiatives.

Abdulla Jassim A J al-Khenji at the talk on Thursday. PICTURE: Thajudheen.
Qatar’s digital revolution reshaping urban lifestyle

Qatar’s relentless pursuit of digital innovation is reshaping urban management, paving the way for citizens and investors to seamlessly access all services with a tap on their phones, an official at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) has said.Speaking at a discussion at the Smart City Expo Doha 2023 on Thursday, Abdulla Jassim A J al-Khenji, project Manager of Logistics Strategy at MoCI, cited Qatar’s significant shift from manual processes to a digitally driven society.“Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen Qatar digitalise almost all its services. There is rarely any service that you cannot find online today. The integration of these services is underway, aiming to empower citizens and investors with comprehensive digital rights,” he said.Al-Khenji underlined the key role of artificial intelligence (AI) in policy determination but cautioned against viewing AI as a “magical chatbot”. Drawing an analogy, he compared AI to a car, pointing out the need to steer it in the right direction while considering all stakeholders and potential risks.He highlighted the importance of a participatory approach, where authorities engage with the people to understand their problems and provide effective solutions. About the challenges faced by startups in the digital sector, al-Khenji cited innovative initiatives taken by the Ministry such as a name recommendation system designed to ease the process of choosing a business name.This system, al-Khenji said, utilises algorithms to suggest optimal name formats based on the nature of the business, check for previous registrations, and offer alternative options. He noted that Qatar also embraced hackathons as a means to foster innovation where government entities present challenges, inviting the private sector to collaborate and devise solutions within tight timeframes.Al-Khenji lauded the outcomes, noting that solutions often exceeded expectations and proved cost-effective, showcasing the effectiveness of collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Alessio Bagnaresi at the 3rd edition of Smart City Expo Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Google’s AI director unveils innovations for sustainable cities

An industry expert highlighted the importance of using cutting-edge technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to transform urban landscapes for sustainability, creating safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly cities.Speaking at a session at the 3rd edition of Smart City Expo Doha 2023 yesterday, Alessio Bagnaresi, director of AI and Advanced Analytics at Google Cloud EMEA, said transportation is one of the key pillars in their strategy, underscoring the company’s two-decade-long endeavour of collecting satellite imagery data to enhance technologies like Google Maps and Google Earth.“(It is) super important to figure out over the past 37 years how cities are evolving, and by means of this scale and by applying AI, you can figure out if there is deforestation, if there is flooding, if you are constructing in areas which are risky, considering the climate challenges we are facing nowadays,” he said.Themed “A World of Data: Connecting People, Elevating Lives”, Smart City Expo Doha 2023 is under the patronage of HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani and organised by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in collaboration with Fira Barcelona International.The two-day expo underscores the critical role of data in shaping future cities.Citing Google’s commitment to addressing urban challenges, particularly in transportation, Bagnaresi’s presentation explored Google’s sophisticated approach to city development that focuses on three strategic areas: improving infrastructure decision-making, assisting city executives in enhancing city performance, and reducing carbon emissions.He underlined the integration of sensors and computer vision technologies in cities to monitor and address several issues that affect cities across the globe.Bagnaresi showcased the successful implementation of predictive maintenance through computer vision in Memphis, where 30,000 images collected from public transportation cameras facilitated real-time predictions of potential road problems.“We were able to really make predictions around potential problems on the road like potholes and cracks in wind turbines and everything happens in just seconds. So the ability again to process a huge amount of data in almost real-time, is what makes these cities digital,” he said.Bagnaresi cited the ‘Greenlight Project’, another Google initiative, which aims to minimise emissions at intersections by co-ordinating traffic lights to ensure a smoother flow of vehicles. He also shared promising results from the pilot programme, revealing a 10% reduction in pollution across 12 cities and 17 intersections, including Abu Dhabi.He cited Google’s efforts in wildfire and flow detection, demonstrating the company’s commitment to leveraging AI and advanced analytics for the benefit of smart, sustainable cities.

(From left ) Lean Robers (moderator), Tomas Vacha, Dr engineer Fadi Nasser, and Mohammed al-Delaimi at Smart City Expo's “Harnessing Data: The New Currency for Urban Strategies” panel discussion yesterday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Impact of data-driven approaches in shaping smart cities explored

Meeza’s significant contributions to Qatar's urban development took centre stage at a panel discussion at the 3rd edition of Smart City Expo Doha yesterday, exploring the tangible impact of data-driven approaches in shaping smart cities.“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we’ve done three smart cities, smart campus-type projects right here in Qatar,” Meeza’s chief commercial officer Dr engineer Fadi Nasser told attendees of the talk at Expo 2023 Doha’s Congress Centre.He was joined by fellow panellists Tomas Vacha, innovation manager, CEO – Operator ICT; and Mohammed al-Delaimi, executive director – Strategy & Corporate Planning at Es’hailSat, at the discussion, titled “Harnessing Data: The New Currency for Urban Strategies”.The talk focused on the crucial role of data in the heart of smart cities, with Dr Nasser stressing the importance of aligning on basic understandings. He categorised data into structured and unstructured types, explaining that for “a truly smart city”, platforms and data cultures must seamlessly incorporate both, including hybrid data with structured and unstructured elements.“For you to have a truly smart city, your platform, your data warehouses, your data culture has to adopt all three notions,” Dr Nasser said. “Your AI ML (machine learning) and DL (Deep Learning) models have to really be able to analyse all these data so they can understand the data and you can chart it and report on it in a way that makes sense.”Dr Nasser also explored various applications of smart city data, ranging from urban infrastructure planning and fleet management to energy and water resource optimisation.Public safety, he pointed out, is a significant aspect, with technologies like CCTV facial recognition playing a vital role.The Meeza official underlined the importance of economic and environmental sustainability in smart city projects. He noted that technology should not only be integrated with significant capital expenditures but should also generate revenues, ensuring the long-term sustainability and growth of smart cities.“Smart means economically sustainable as well as environmentally sustainable,” he reiterated.Addressing the theme of the expo, “A World of Data: Connecting People, Elevating Lives”, Dr Nasser shed light on the vision of Cognitive Cities, where the environment becomes cognitive and aware of individuals.The ultimate goal, he said, is to transform data into information, extract wisdom, and empower decision-makers to optimise resource usage for better environmental impact and quality of life.Dr Nasser underlined Meeza’s live case of adopting smart data and AI into their cybersecurity practice, showcasing the practical integration of innovative technologies in real-world scenarios.

HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani led the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the  'Vintage Sports Cars Exhibition' at City Center Doha. He was joined by HE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Faisal al-Thani and Murat Kayman (supplied picture).
City Center Doha unveils 'Vintage Sports Cars Exhibition'

City Center Doha has opened the “Vintage Sports Cars Exhibition”, featuring 11 unique and rare automobiles from “the timeless treasures of HE Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim al-Thani’s car collection”.The inauguration was attended by HE Sheikh Faisal, founder of the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, Aamal Company chief executive Rashid Bin Ali al-Mansoori, and City Center Doha general manager Murat Kayman with other mall representatives, among other guests.City Center Doha is fully owned by Aamal Company.Part of these stunning collections include the 1968 American Camaro SS 396, 1965’s Mustang Fastback, Porsche 944, 1972 Lotus Europa Special, and 1982 Nissan Datsun, in addition to the 1978 Fiat Spider 124, 1975 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, and 1969 Pontiac GTO 2 400.According to the organisers, this one-of-its-kind exhibition will enthrall car enthusiasts and history aficionados, providing them with the opportunity to admire a collection of classic cars, trucks, and hot wheels.In addition, attendees can explore the FBQ Car Museum, embarking on a journey through more than 120 years of automotive evolution.“We are thrilled to host this extraordinary exhibition, showcasing these remarkable vintage sports cars in collaboration with the Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani Museum,” Kayman said in a press statement. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our visitors to delve into the beauty and history of these iconic vehicles, a testament to the enduring allure of classic automotive craftsmanship.”Organisers noted that this partnership marks a significant milestone, blending the extensive automotive heritage curated by the Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani Museum (FBQ Museum) with the vibrant atmosphere of City Center Doha Mall. The result is an unparalleled experience for all attendees.The FBQ Museum hosts a vast collection of more than 30,000 unique and rare artefacts, art pieces, vintage cars, historical carpets, and cultural treasures, safeguarding the abundant heritage of Qatar and the broader region.Committed to presenting historical wonders, the museum serves as a symbol of cultural appreciation and education.The “Vintage Sports Cars Exhibition”, located on the mall’s third floor near the cinema and accessible through the corridor next to Jack & Jones, welcomes the public until December 19.Visitors are encouraged to explore the elegance and legacy of these carefully preserved automobiles.City Center Doha’s local activations, attractions and practices provide outstanding offerings for mall-goers, both residents and visitors, ensuring a memorable experience for all.

Awudu's artwork carries a powerful message about freedom, cultural expression, and the acceptance of diversity. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Qatar’s openness in sharing spaces, rich culture highlighted

The World Wide Walls (WWW), formerly known as Pow! Wow!, international mural festival paints a positive image of Qatar and the Arab world, demonstrating openness in sharing spaces and rich culture with the global community, according to a participating artist from Ghana.The event, which began on November 26 and running until December 2 at the Old Doha Port in the Mina District, features artists from around the world, including renowned Ghanaian artist Mohammed Awudu.Speaking to Gulf Times Monday, Awudu expressed his admiration for Qatar’s cultural inclusivity and its role as a hub for art, saying: “This is a very good image for the Arab world, especially Qatar, opening its spaces for Arab people to share what they have, so for me, this is a big step for everybody to adopt each other from different spaces.Awudu said his artwork carries a powerful message about freedom, cultural expression, and the acceptance of diversity: “My artwork being showcased here represents freedom, everybody deserves freedom.About the location for the festival and his piece, Awudu shines a spotlight on the cultural fusion within his creation: “For me, this artwork is the best for this location, adding to the culture. I put African elements in my work that have a culture of Arabian or Middle East influence.”He said residents and visitors will see “a lot of vibrant colours” at the Mina District once they finish the murals. “Today's the second day of painting and everybody is trying to put up a good energy. For me I just finished the sketch and it's just 1 o'clock so it’s good for me, I can continue painting.”The World Wide Walls festival, organised by Qatar Museums (QM), aims to bring together local, regional, and international artists to beautify the walls in and around the Old Doha Port.This initiative, which Awudu described as a “World Cup for artists”, provides a platform for diverse talents to showcase their art and contribute to the city's aesthetics.QM, known for its commitment to public art initiatives, hosts the World Wide Walls festival biannually. This year's edition features 13 artists, including local talents like Noura al-Mansoori, Ghada al-Suwaidi, and Abdulla Alsallat, as well as international artists like Awudu, Kevin Lyons (US), Caratoes (Hong Kong/Belgium), Sofles (Australia), Ettoja (Lithuania), Lula Goce (Spain), Adry del Rocio (Mexico), Hood (Oman) and Belal Khaled (Palestine). In partnership with the Years of Culture initiative, WWW has also invited Indonesian artist Herzven to commemorate the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture.The festival is open to the public from 8am to 10pm.

Right: Albadr (left), al-Nahas and Dr She at the event.
AI, Arabic calligraphy workshop explores new frontiers

A recent workshop on artificial intelligence (AI) and Arabic calligraphy in Qatar highlighted the need for advancements as it introduced a new AI tool, Wuji, which revealed the deficiencies of popular tools such as Midjourney.The workshop, organised by Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU)’s College of Science and Engineering (CSE) in partnership with the Qatar National Library (QNL), was part of a seminar titled AI & Arabic Calligraphy: Crafting Calligraphy in the Digital Age.CSE associate professor Dr James She, a Doha-based media artist and the lead researcher in AI for Art, Media, Culture, and Heritage initiatives at the HBKU, spearheaded the workshop, which demonstrated Wuji’s ability to overcome Midjourney’s constraints.This, he stressed, underlined the need for enhanced precision in the creation of Arabic letters and the facilitation of artistic expression across diverse calligraphy styles.Guided through tasks with training documents, Dr She said participants actively engaged in producing basic Arabic calligraphy artworks, contributing to the ongoing endeavour of bridging the gap between tradition and technology.He said that the event not only sparked dialogue but also celebrated a transformative journey, uniting tradition and technology to elevate the rich legacy of Arabic calligraphy.At the event, QNL Information Services librarian Ahmad Naddaf highlighted the importance of utilising digital technologies and emerging AI to assist the public in learning, researching, preserving, and crafting Arabic calligraphy.Bashayer Ali Albadr and Mohamed Hosam al-Nahas, meanwhile, shared their experiences and exhibited their calligraphy using traditional techniques.

Shops, stores, and boutiques at malls and shopping centres drew shoppers who capitalised on the various promotions and discounts Friday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
White Friday mega-sale draws good crowds

Qatar’s retail sector got a further boost as a large number of shoppers thronged malls and shopping centres across the country Friday, taking advantage of the highly anticipated ‘White Friday’ mega-sale.Shops, stores, and boutiques, as well as department stores at hypermarkets, drew crowds who seized the opportunity to avail of various promotions and discounts, ranging between 20% and 70%, while other deals include special prices such as ‘Everything below 99 (QR)’.The massive sale once again witnessed long queues at shops that sell electronics and mobile devices, where shoppers patiently waited for their turn. A number of local and international brands at different shopping centres extended their operating hours, while others such as FNAC (in some branches) were opened round-the-clock.Besides reduced prices, several shops also offered extra bonus points when using certain bank and rewards cards to attract more customers. A staff at a popular retail chain said that weeks prior to the annual sale, their company has launched an online campaign to announce its promotions. This, he stressed, provided people the chance to get more details about the items they wanted to buy.He described the response as remarkable, saying that shoppers were ready to spend more for laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and other items such as guitars and other musical instruments. He revealed that they also witnessed a demand surge on online orders for various products.Filipino expatriate Imelda M said she often anticipates the White Friday sale in Qatar, a month before taking a vacation in her home country. She finds the occasion the ideal time to shop due to the massive deals on offer.“I often save money for a couple of months and wait for this moment to shop. I saved a lot because many of the items that I wanted to buy before were all on promo, many at 50% discount,” she said, hoping that the mega-sale would extend in the coming weeks before her flight.Asked about the hassles of long queues, she said she was used to it and often ready to wait just to get the items she likes at a bargain. “This only happens once a year so I prepare for it, it’s not an issue for me.”Seeing a huge footfall on Friday, a staff at a famous sports and apparel chain expressed confidence that they will hit their target sale for the fourth quarter this year. “Shoppers know when and where to get the best deals and they go for it. A lot of people have yet to receive their salaries this month but you see many of them have come here to spend,” he said.Some of the White Friday promotions include Buy 2 Get 2 Free, Buy 1 Get 1 Free, 25% to 70% Discount on Everything, and Flat 40% Off, among others. It is learnt that other shops who did not participate in the mega-sale on Friday intend to launch their own promotions next month.Restaurants and eateries at malls and shopping malls, as well as supermarkets, also benefitted from the windfall, receiving a large number of customers.

Alioune Gueye at the recently concluded Qatar Travel Mart 2023 in Doha. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar.
Expert cites potential for widening health tourism avenues in African continent

An industry expert has underscored the need to further strengthen healthcare systems across the African continent to position it as a leading destination for medical tourism, including individuals from the Mena region.Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of Qatar Travel Mart 2023, Alioune Gueye, president director general at Afrique Challenge, highlighted the importance of having well-established universities for training doctors, advanced hospitals, cutting-edge technologies, and a complete value chain from middle management to clinical laboratories.He cited countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, South Africa, and Senegal, currently recognised as medical destinations due to their robust healthcare infrastructure. He stressed that not every country can be a medical destination.“This is key because you know a hospital is not a hotel as comfortable as it could be... Now, (there are) more and more startups because you have artificial intelligence, you have biotechnologies, you have so many technologies that are now rising,” said Gueye, noting Africa’s potential to attract more people from other countries seeking medical treatment.With these advancements, he expects medical tourism destinations to maintain high standards of healthcare and offer cost-effective treatments, in addition to effectively managing logistical issues and potential complications.Gueye also underlined the significance of establishing cultural links before exploring the business of medical tourism. He suggested fostering connections and understanding the cultural context, which he said is crucial before embarking on any healthcare-related initiatives.The Afrique Challenge official added that these African countries hold a favourable position, as individuals seeking health solutions, especially Africans, are more inclined to stay close to home rather than traveling to international destinations in other regions.Gueye pointed out that geographical proximity remains a factor and plays a key role in influencing decisions, citing examples such as the three-hour journey from Senegal to Morocco compared to the longer travel time of 10 to 12 hours to reach another destination.He said time sensitivity becomes crucial, especially for patients who may be in less-than-ideal health conditions, making long-distance travel challenging. Gueye shed light on the logistical challenges associated with international health transfers, stressing the need for special infrastructure, including specific planes equipped with medical facilities, doctors, and respiratory support. These factors, he said, contribute to the complexity of long-distance medical travel, reinforcing the preference for local solutions.He anticipates that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will facilitate easier access to medical treatments across the continent, making it more feasible for individuals to seek healthcare in neighboring countries. Gueye explained, however, that some individuals may choose international destinations for privacy reasons. “They want to be in places where nobody knows them... like a minister... it’s important for them to have these kinds of remote areas”.About challenges in post-operative treatments, he acknowledged the return of high-level doctors and surgeons to Africa after experiencing brain drain. However, he stressed the importance of developing a strong value chain to ensure the continuity of quality care after surgery.

Pamukcu speaking at the QTM 2023 Tuesday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Gastronomy tourism highlighted at QTM

An industry expert has highlighted at the Qatar Travel Mart (QTM) 2023 the growing significance of gastronomy tourism within the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) member states, witnessing a surge in popularity in recent years.“Gastronomy tourism, a niche within the broader travel industry, has emerged as a powerful tool not only for attracting tourists but also for empowering local communities and promoting sustainable practices,” said associate professor Huseyin Pamukcu, a consultant at the Turkiye-based Islamic Centre for the Development of Trade (ICDT).Speaking on the current state of gastronomy and Muslim-friendly tourism, he observed that “gastronomy tourism can also promote sustainable tourism by encouraging visitors to support local businesses, reducing food waste, and promoting locally sourced ingredients”.This concept, Pamukcu explained, involves exploring a destination through its culinary offerings, providing travellers with a unique cultural experience.He pointed out that some of the popular activities for gastronomy tourists include visiting restaurants and food markets, taking cooking classes, attending food festivals, going on food tours, visiting farms and vineyards, and meeting with local food producers.Pamukcu, who is also a faculty member at the Department of Gastronomy and Culinary Arts at Turkiye’s Afyon Kocatepe University, also shed light on the rich and diverse culinary traditions within the OIC countries, including Turkiye, Malaysia, and the UAE.These nations, he said, actively promote culinary experiences through dedicated festivals, food trails, and TV shows featuring local chefs.According to Pamukcu, food and beverage festivals with cooking demonstrations, tastings, and cultural performances offer opportunities for participants to engage in community events and learn about food and drink traditions.He also explained the concept of experiential gastronomy tourism, where visitors actively interact with a destination’s history, people, culture, food, and environment.Pamukcu cited the growing interest among tourists in learning about the food production process and experiencing it firsthand.“In Indonesia, there are opportunities to attend a cooking class in Bali and learn how to make traditional Balinese dishes, such as (local variations of) nasi goreng (fried rice) and satay (grilled meat on wooden skewers),” he said. “Tourists can take a food tour of Jakarta and visit a traditional market in Ubud and purchase fresh ingredients to cook a Balinese feast.”“In Malaysia, tourists can visit a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands and learn about the tea-making process,” Pamukcu continued. “In Morocco, people can visit a traditional Moroccan market and purchase fresh ingredients to cook a ‘tagine’, a traditional Moroccan stew.”“In Egypt, travellers can take a food tour of Alexandria and visit some of the city’s most popular restaurants, such as Abou El Sid and Seagull,” he added.Despite the potential, Pamukcu stressed that comprehensive strategies and cross-sectoral co-ordination on gastronomy remain limited in most OIC destinations.To address this, he suggested facilitating cultural exchange programmes that focus on the culinary arts, allowing for the exchange of chefs, culinary students, recipes, and food items between OIC nations.Pamukcu underscored gastronomy tourism’s key role in revitalising traditional foodways and creating economic opportunities for local communities.He said that small businesses, farmers, and artisans can benefit from the influx of visitors seeking authentic food experiences.In addition, he said, gastronomy tourism presents an opportunity to revitalise endangered ingredients and culinary customs within OIC countries.

Rudolf Van Dijk at the Qatar Travel Mart 2023 Tuesday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Amstel Hotel Amsterdam to redefine elegance, culinary experience

The iconic Amstel Hotel Amsterdam, a Katara Hospitality-owned property, is set to undergo a refurbishment programme starting in July next year, according to general manager Rudolf van Dijk.Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of Qatar Travel Mart 2023 Tuesday, he unveiled plans for the 156-year-old hotel’s modernization as it embraces the challenge to evolve into a more contemporary space.Nestled in the heart of Amsterdam, Van Dijk said the hotel’s refurbishment will cater to the needs of the modern traveller, recognising the prevalence of laptops and tablets in today's travel landscape.The refurbishment will introduce a more modern look, focusing on convenience and comfort but the history and heritage of the building will remain intact.A new food and beverage concept, crafted in collaboration with Spanish chef Dani Garcia, will bring a Mediterranean Spanish flair to the hotel's culinary offerings, maintaining a commitment to quality and luxury.The ambitious refurbishment plan, Van Dijk said, involves a strategic split of the building into two phases.The first phase will include the refurbishment of guest rooms and the restaurant. Following this, the second phase will target the spa and wellness centre, ensuring a holistic transformation of the entire establishment.Jointly designed and planned with Katara Hospitality, Van Dijk said this project aims to enhance the hotel's allure and beauty.“The building will be even more beautiful than it already is,” he said.Citing the influx of visitors from the GCC area, he said the appeal of Amsterdam’s sense of luxury and its strategic location within the Netherlands make it an attractive destination.Van Dijk noted that many visitors use Amsterdam as a base to explore the country, taking advantage of its proximity to cities like The Hague and Rotterdam.He also underlined the importance of Amsterdam as a hub for South American visitors, who often use the city as a starting point before branching out to explore Europe, with Paris being a popular destination.In response to the diverse clientele, Van Dijk highlighted the hotel’s commitment to offering personalised services, including catering to the needs of guests requiring halal food.He noted that this commitment is not only for guests of Qatar or Katara Hospitality, but extends to all visitors, as providing a personalised experience is a cornerstone of Amstel Hotel's hospitality.

Czech ambassador Chalupsky briefs al-Dosari about Czech artist Lebor Svatik's photographs at the opening of the 'Beauties of Czechia' exhibition on Sunday. PICTURES: Thajudheen
'Beauties of Czechia' exhibition opens

The “Beauties of Czechia” exhibition has opened at Katara – the Cultural Village, featuring of 37 photographs by renowned Czech artist Lebor Svatik that shine a spotlight on nature’s grandeur and various landmarks.Katara deputy director-general and human resources director Saif Saad al-Dosari and Czech ambassador Peter Chalupsky inaugurated the exhibition in the presence of several other ambassadors and representatives from various missions in Doha, among other guests.In a press statement, al-Dosari stressed that the exhibition forms part of Katara's mission to build bridges of communication and co-operation between different cultures and peoples.He noted that this occasion serves as an opportunity to appreciate the beauty and cultural diversity of the Czech Republic.Al-Dosari highlighted the importance of art exhibitions within Katara’s cultural programming, noting that their value extends beyond artistic and creative aspects.He said these kinds of shows act as diverse channels for gaining insights into different cultures and societies – an objective that Katara actively seeks to fulfill through a range of events and activities.Chalupsky told Gulf Times that the exhibition aims to introduce the Czech Republic to the public in Qatar “in a cozy, family-like manner” by broadening their knowledge about his country.“We are trying to explain that the country is not only Prague, the capital, but also the other regions,” the envoy said. “There are things that are very interesting to visit (in the Czech Republic).”“If you're into sports, if you're into culture or music, there's always a great possibility to have a great time with you and your family,” Chalupsky added.He expressed optimism that “Beauties of Czechia” will be the first of many exhibitions to follow in the future, as he thanked Katara for the collaboration in organising the exhibition.Through the diverse images, the envoy said Svatik showcased the beauty of various places in the Czech Republic.These include natural landscapes, palaces, and cities, encouraging Qataris and people of various nationalities to discover and visit his country, which he described as a captivating tourist destination.Citing an increasing number of visitors from Qatar to the Czech Republic, Chalupsky said the twice-daily flights have significantly helped in attracting more travellers from Qatar and the region.However, he noted that many visitors still concentrate on the capital Prague, and on the western part of the country where there are spa towns that it is famous for.“Again the purpose of this exhibition is also to remind them that the country is broader than that ... so we would of course like our Qatari friends and partners to come and visit more places in the Czech Republic than just Prague or the spas in Western Bohemia, although they're always welcome there too,” the envoy said.“There’s tremendous possibilities for sports in the mountains, on the lakes, there’s water sport, water skiing,” Chalupsky said. “There’s culture, Czech classical music as we’re famous for, theatres all over the place so everybody can choose whatever they like.”Svatik, who was born on March 6, 1967, in Cesky Krumlov – one of Czech Republic's most beautiful historical cities – developed his talent from a young age, driven by a passion for capturing images that showcase the beauty of nature, architectural heritage, and the transient moments of life.His images mirror his commitment to his craft, his fascination with modern technology, and artistic expression, and his unwavering dedication to creating high-quality photographic content.With a particular emphasis on aerial photography, he has published 23 photographic booklets that offer insights into the Czech Republic.The artist’s works will be displayed at Katara’s Building 47, Hall 1, until November 29 (10am to 10pm).