Saturday, April 20, 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.
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).

Dr James She spearheaded an AI and Arabic calligraphy seminar at QNL recently.
AI and Arabic calligraphy seminar breaks new ground

A recent seminar on artificial intelligence (AI) and Arabic calligraphy brought together local calligraphers, artists, and AI experts at the Qatar National Library (QNL), marking what was described as a groundbreaking fusion of tradition and technology.The event on 'AI & Arabic Calligraphy: Crafting Calligraphy in the Digital Age' was organised by Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU)’s College of Science and Engineering (CSE) in partnership with the QNL.It was graced by CSE founding dean Dr Mounir Hamdi.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, shared the motivation behind the event and unveiled intriguing samples of AI Arabic calligraphy artworks produced with breakthroughs from their research efforts.At the event, he addressed the current limitations of AI technologies for Arabic calligraphy, including popular tools like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, while also highlighting his innovative solutions and techniques.“Empowering tradition with technology, our seminar on 'AI & Arabic Calligraphy: Crafting Calligraphy in the Digital Age' at the HBKU is a pioneering bridge between cultural heritage and artificial intelligence,” Dr She told Gulf Times. “By intertwining tradition with AI, we embark on a cultural odyssey, preserving and elevating the artistic legacy of Arabic calligraphy for generations in Qatar, the region, and beyond.”He noted that the collaboration with the QNL, represented by information services librarian Ahmad Naddaf, further enriched the vision of using digital technologies and emerging AI to help the public learn, research, preserve, and create Arabic calligraphy.Among the speakers at the seminar were Bashayer Ali Albadr and Mohammad Hosam aI-Nahas, who showcased their calligraphy works using conventional methods and shared stories of their journey with Arabic calligraphy.The artists shared their perspectives on Arabic calligraphy created with AI, providing unique insights about merging heritage and innovation.Discussions also addressed issues such as whether individuals utilising AI to generate Arabic calligraphy could be classified as calligraphers.Additionally, the talks revolved around the potential applications of AI for both calligraphers and the general public.Dr She said the second part of the seminar includes a workshop on 'Dive into AI-Enhanced Arabic Calligraphy' on November 22 at the QNL’s Computer Lab.He said he and his team will spearhead the workshop, promising “an immersive dive into Arabic calligraphy with AI, empowering participants to learn basic AI techniques to create simple Arabic calligraphy artworks”.

With the beginning of the cruise season, ships with tourists have started arriving at the Old Doha Port cruise terminal. A cruise ship and a traditional dhow are seen Friday afternoon. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Old Doha Port, a hub of many attractions

Developing world-class marinas such as the Old Doha Port is a strategic move for Qatar to enhance its tourism appeal, attracting yacht owners and promoting water sports activities, an industry expert has said."The Old Doha Port’s proximity to numerous 5-star hotels, and cultural and historical hubs such as the Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif, among others, adds to its appeal as a favourite tourism destination," Outing Qatar founder and managing director Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa told Gulf Times.He said that the transformation of the Old Doha Port into an international cruise gateway has been a game-changer.Implementing seamless immigration and customs processes has resulted in thousands of visitors accessing the port.This influx enhances exposure to various water sports activities and contributes to the overall pleasant sea experience.“The availability of a day-use experience for locals, visitors, and residents at the port, featuring attractions such as an aquarium and five-star cafes and restaurants along its boardwalk, enhances the probability of booking yachts and participating in water sports activities,” Eleiwa said. “The port serves as a venue for relaxation, dining, and exploring the vibrancy of Doha from a fresh perspective”.The Old Doha Port marina has been host to unique sea and water sports experiences, including a first-of-its-kind Jetski competition held recently.Year-round activities, including an international boat show and different business and touristic exhibitions, are planned to further increase foot traffic at the marina.Eleiwa expressed confidence that focusing on understanding the preferences and motivations of visitors, along with identifying the reasons for choosing the Old Doha Port and developing distinctive, tangible, and exclusive must-see/visit experiences, will contribute to boosting customer influx, increasing revenues, and fostering additional business opportunities at the marina.As the colder months set in, Qatar is witnessing a surge in visitors to public parks and other outdoor destinations, particularly the Old Doha Port.The Mina District, Box Park, and cruise terminal, in addition to the lush greenery within the area, have been attracting many families who often spend their weekends and afternoons in picnics and other recreational activities.Local Arabic daily Arrayah earlier reported that plans to open a beach at the port’s western side is expected to further boost its allure.This development would provide visitors with the opportunity to engage in water activities, including swimming while enjoying a scenic view of the Dafna Towers.

Ahmad believes in continuous experimentation and the lasting connection between the artist and his environment (screengrab from 'Voices of Qatar's' YouTube video).
Qatari dad-daughter artist duo blend tradition and technology

Qatar Tourism’s ‘Voices of Qatar’ provides a glimpse of the shared artistic journey of renowned Qatari artist Yousef Ahmad and his daughter, artist/designer Maryam al-Homaid, blending traditional and digital mediums to create a seamless link between the past and the present.In a YouTube series, al-Homaid talks about how her dad's exploration of the past inspires her, while she stays focused on the changing present: “Both dad and I are inspired by our context. For him, going to the past and recalling all these memories; for me, talking about the present moment and how it transforms and changes every day.”The father-daughter duo highlights their unique perspectives in the creative process where al-Homaid reminisces about spending her childhood in her father's studio.“Ever since I was young, I used to spend a lot of time in my dad’s studio, dominant with oil and paint smell, watch my father paint,” she said.Ahmad, on the other hand, describes his studio as his paradise, detailing how the elements of the Qatari landscape – the desert, clear skies, and calm sea – fuel his creativity. This, he pointed out, allows him to present Qatar to the world through his drawings and paintings.According to QM, Ahmad’s exploration of shapes and structures has transformed over the years, with a notable shift to working on paper in the 1980s. Motivated by various paper types from different locations, he began crafting his paper two decades ago, utilising Qatar palm trees. This artistic journey symbolises his deep bond with the Qatari land, reflecting his roots and personal memories. His creations showcase the timeless beauty of handmade paper.Al-Homaid, pushing boundaries in the contemporary art scene, stresses her fondness for merging digital and physical mediums: “I like to mix digital mediums with physical mediums. But for me, the most important thing is to deliver and document the change that’s happening in Qatar.”She said that her innovative approach extends to designing rugs and textiles, offering a dynamic interpretation of Qatar’s evolving landscape.Ahmad, a pioneer in the Qatar art scene and among the first generation of Qatari artists to pursue education abroad, believes in continuous experimentation and the lasting connection between the artist and his environment.“I believe that the artist keeps experimenting till his last breath: tied to his homeland, tied to his place, and tied to his environment. True art lives from generation to generation,” said the artist.Al-Homaid echoes her father’s sentiment, acknowledging the booming and exciting contemporary art scene in Qatar.“It’s (Qatar) a global arts centre but my dad is the original. I feel like I am carrying his legacy in that way and inspiring the next generation to, kind of, carry on with artistic expression,” she said.

“Masterpieces of Furniture Design”
QM showcases diverse array of exhibitions

Qatar Museums (QM) offers a unique opportunity to discover diverse exhibitions across different museums and art galleries throughout the country, particularly during the colder months.These captivating displays offer a glimpse into different aspects of history, culture, and artistic expression, with most exhibitions running until next year.In collaboration with the National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC, the “Fashioning an Empire: Textiles from Safavid Iran” exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art sheds light on the key role silk played during the Safavid period (1501–1736 CE).QM noted that the show explores the development of the silk industry under Shah ‘Abbas, citing Isfahan as the heart of the Safavid state. Contemporary commissions by Qatar-based designers bring a modern perspective to the historic textiles, showcasing the enduring influence of Safavid silks on today's creative minds.As part of the Qatar-Indonesia 2023 Year of Culture, the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) presents “Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa: Stories of Coffee in Qatar and Indonesia”. This exhibition, running until February 17, 2024, highlights the traditional and contemporary coffee cultures in both countries through interactive displays, immersive projections, and sensory experiences.At NMoQ, another must-see exhibition is “The Shape of Time: Art and Ancestors of Oceania from the Metropolitan Museum of Art”. Featuring nearly 130 works from The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Oceanic collection, this exhibition highlights themes of Voyaging, Ancestors, and Time. The display, on view until January 15, 2024, provides an opportunity to investigate the Pacific Islanders’ cultural heritage and artistic expressions across four centuries.“The Present: The Future of the Past” exhibition at the Fire Station: Artists in Residence, running until December 16, offers a unique glimpse into the creative process of 31 artists in residence. The exhibition blurs the lines between the studio experience and the final artworks, bridging the gap between the artistic journey and outcome.Doha Design District is hosting the “Masterpieces of Furniture Design” exhibition until December 9, in partnership with the Vitra Design Museum. Featuring more than 50 iconic pieces from the last 200 years, the exhibition spotlights design classics and lesser-known works while expanding the canon of design to include female designers and non-Western creators.Two exhibitions at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art include “Distilled Lessons: Abstraction in Arab Modernism” and “Mehdi Moutashar: Introspection as Resistance,” both on view until March 5, 2024. The former examines experiments in abstraction within Arab modernism, while the latter marks Moutashar’s first solo exhibition in Qatar, showcasing his diverse works inspired by Arabic calligraphy and ornamental patterns.Mathaf also hosts “De/Constructed Meanings” and “Cities Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project,” both on view until March 5, 2024. The former, in collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts in Qatar xLab, looks into linguistic systems and ideology critique, while the latter presents a powerful documentation of life during the Covid-19 pandemic through a unique Artist’s Book project.

Nada bint Khamis al-Sulaiti is featured in Qatar Tourism’s latest initiative, “Voices of Qatar”.
Bright future for Qatari jewellery designers

Renowned jewellery designer Nada bint Khamis al-Sulaiti is not only creating exquisite pieces but also fostering a vision for the future of Qatari designers. Citing the limitless possibilities that lie ahead for aspiring and emerging designers in the country, the Hairaat Jewellery founder stressed: “The future is very bright. Designers in Qatar have a great opportunity to shine. The world is waiting.”Featured in Qatar Tourism’s latest initiative, “Voices of Qatar”, al-Sulaiti serves as a shining example of success, spotlighting the valuable contributions of local talents to the nation’s history, present, and future. In her Youtube video, she underscored the significance of cultural roots. She encouraged designers to embrace their heritage, saying: “Embrace your culture, love your tradition, and create something that people will fall in love with.”As a first-generation jeweller, al-Sulaiti says she draws inspiration from her upbringing in the desert, near the sea, and believes in translating the hidden beauty of Qatar into wearable art. The transformation of these elements into modern jewellery that suits contemporary tastes has set Hairaat apart in the competitive industry.She challenges the notion that creativity is solely connected to design, asserting that it is intrinsically linked to collaboration. Being part of the vibrant creative industry in Doha, she said she feels fortunate as it continuously pushes her to explore new horizons.A proud product of the Young Qatari Designer initiative, she established her jewellery brand and became a regular exhibitor at the annual Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition. Al-Sulaiti’s journey from nurturing her passion since childhood to receiving international awards and establishing Hairaat Jewellery has made her an epitome of success in the Qatari design scene.One of her crowning achievements was the exhibition of the Sakura Necklace in 2015, a commissioned piece that earned her two international awards: the ‘Merit Award in International Jewellery Design Excellence’ in Hong Kong in 2017 and the ‘Golden Award from A’ Design’ in 2015.Specialising in bespoke jewellery, al-Sulaiti attests that this exquisite piece was key in propelling her career to greater heights and opening doors to new opportunities.She also expresses gratitude for the Young Qatari Designer initiative, underlining its role in supporting and promoting the work of Qatari jewellery designers. According to al-Sulaiti, the initiative serves as an important platform for emerging talents, providing them with the chance to showcase their collections alongside renowned luxury brands.

According to the embassy’s post on Facebook, this was the second batch of Filipinos, along with Palestinian relatives, who exited the Rafah border crossing.
Assistance to Filipinos, Palestinians

A total of 41 Filipinos and seven Palestinians, displaced from their homes in Gaza due to the ongoing conflict in the region, received airport assistance from the Philippine embassy in Doha during their layover at Hamad International Airport.According to the embassy’s post on Facebook, this was the second batch of Filipinos, along with Palestinian relatives, who exited the Rafah border crossing.Assisted by the Philippine embassy in Egypt led by ambassador Ezzedin Tago at the Cairo International Airport, the group of 48 was repatriated to Manila on November 11.During their stay in Cairo, the embassy held medical checkups, arranged accommodations, facilitated visas for their families, and coordinated repatriation flights.The post noted that a team from the embassy, led by vice consul Bojer Capati, remains stationed near the Rafah border, prepared to receive and provide assistance to additional Filipinos crossing the Rafah border.The Philippine embassy in Qatar noted that the total number of Filipinos repatriated to their home country from Gaza has reached more than 70.Some 35 displaced Filipinos, comprising the first batch of nationals residing in the Gaza Strip, were assisted on November 9.

The first batch of Filipino nationals, who were displaced from their homes in Gaza, received assistance from embassy officials during a layover in Doha's Hamad International Airport (screengrab from embassy Facebook page).
Philippine embassy in Doha extends aid to Filipinos displaced from Gaza

The Philippine embassy in Qatar has extended airport assistance to 35 Filipino nationals displaced from their homes in the Gaza Strip. According to the embassy’s post on Facebook, the Filipinos – comprising the first batch of nationals residing in the Gaza Strip, were en route to Manila from Cairo via a layover in Doha's Hamad International Airport.This group exited the Rafah border crossing in Egypt on November 9. The Philippine embassy in Egypt, led by ambassador to Egypt Ezzedin Tago, played a key role in assisting these individuals during their journey, the post said.Embassy officers and staff, led by Tago, had earlier provided support to the group at the Cairo International Airport, making arrangements for essential services such as medical checkups, visas, and flights. The embassy’s proactive measures ensured a smooth transition for these displaced individuals.Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A Manalo, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), thanked the Qatar government for its “crucial mediation efforts in the opening of the Rafah border crossing, allowing foreign nationals, including Filipinos, to exit Gaza.” He also highlighted the unity between the Philippines and Qatar in their shared goal of achieving lasting peace in the region.Meanwhile, as part of their ongoing efforts, an embassy team (mission in Egypt) led by Vice-Consul Bojer Capati remains stationed near the Rafah border, ready to receive and assist more Filipinos seeking repatriation, the post said.The embassy in Qatar added that it also extended assistance to several Filipino nationals facing distress or serious medical conditions during their layover in Doha on November 6-7. These individuals, departing from Belgium and Lebanon en route to the Philippines via Doha, received the necessary care and support from embassy staff.According to a report from the Philippine News Agency, two Filipino medical workers successfully left Gaza last week during a limited evacuation facilitated by Qatar, which included international aid workers and wounded Palestinians.

Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan at Hospitality Qatar 2023. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Indonesian envoy highlights tourism opportunities at Hospitality Qatar 2023

Hospitality Qatar 2023, which concluded Wednesday at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, provided an opportunity to showcase Indonesia’s diverse range of hospitality products and introduced the concept of the ‘10 New Bali Destinations’, ambassador Ridwan Hassan said.Citing its consistent presence at the event over several years, the envoy told Gulf Times that Indonesia’s participation sheds light on the many offerings and opportunities for bilateral co-operation between Qatar and Indonesia, particularly in the tourism sector.“As a tourism destination, Indonesia has a lot to offer. The most famous destination is certainly Bali Island, but you know that Bali is already self-promoted and we are more than happy to provide anything. Then we also have other destinations, we call it the New 10 Bali Destinations,” he said.Hassan noted that hospitality covers not only tourism but also other related sectors, underlining Indonesia's vast potential as a tourism destination.He said the '10 New Bali Destinations' is a strategic initiative aimed at developing other regions and islands, with some destinations already in the advanced stages of preparation.According to the envoy, Indonesia’s unique geographical makeup, consisting of numerous islands and regions, has prompted the nation to look beyond Bali to expand the tourism industry.Among the notable destinations included in Indonesia's ambitious '10 New Balis' project are Borobudur Temple, Belitung, Mount Bromo, Labuan Bajo, Lake Toba, Thousand Islands, Mandalika, Wakatobi, Tanjung Lesung, and Morotai. Each of these destinations offers unique features and scenic beauty that even Bali cannot replicate.Hassan highlighted the diverse aspects of tourism, stressing that it involves more than just inviting people to visit Indonesia but also fostering investments in the tourism sector.He urged Qatar to explore opportunities in Indonesia’s tourism industry, pointing out the notable enhancement in accessibility, with Qatar Airways now providing six daily flights to the country.Hassan estimated that approximately 2,000 to 3,000 Qataris visit Indonesia annually. While Qatari visitor numbers may not be large, he said the resident population in Qatar represents a substantial market segment.About ease of entry for other nationalities, he said that Indonesia regularly reviews its policies. He hinted at potential adjustments to accommodate the growing number of visitors, especially in light of the increased accessibility provided by Qatar Airways. He mentioned plans to add more countries to the list of those eligible for visa-free entry or visas on arrival.The envoy said the ‘Growing Kopi, Drinking Qahwa; Stories of Coffee in Qatar and Indonesia’ exhibition at the National Museum of Qatar has been receiving positive responses from the public. The show, on view until February 17, 2024, explores the cultural significance of coffee. The envoy stressed that coffee is a commodity and a vital aspect of culture.Hassan underlined the strong relationship between Qatar and Indonesia, supported by a history of bilateral co-operation. He lauded the contributions of the Indonesian community in Qatar, who not only work but also actively engage in the cultural life of the country.He highlighted the significance of the Qatar-Indonesia Year of Culture in 2023, viewing it as a milestone in the partnership and expressing a commitment to sustaining and strengthening cultural ties in the future.

Coffee crafted with passion and skill.
Baristas shine at Hospitality Qatar 2023

Sixteen of Qatar’s finest baristas took part in a competition at Hospitality Qatar 2023, demonstrating their expertise in crafting and creating intricate coffee latte art.The competition saw the baristas face off in four rounds.In the first round, participants showcased their mastery of traditional patterns such as hearts, rosettas, and tulips.The second round called for free-pouring, challenging contestants to create original designs without the use of tools.Round three brought a twist, as baristas were tasked with replicating each other's designs.The final round raised the stakes higher, demanding that contestants execute free-pour latte art in espresso cups.The judging panel comprised renowned coffee connoisseurs Sorina Suliman, Aleksa Novicic, and Huber van Blokland.According to the organisers, the competition not only provided participants with a platform to showcase their talent but an opportunity to be recognised before an audience at an event of this magnitude in Qatar.Ronnie Llorin, coffee expert and member of the organising committee of the competition, told *Gulf Times that the barista competition will not only further promote the already highly popular beverage but also inspire baristas and enthusiasts to be more creative and innovative, in addition to constantly raising the level of their skills in crafting coffee.In addition to the contest, Hospitality Qatar 2023 features some of the most reliable and well-known coffee machines and accessories.Besides displaying the latest trends in the coffee industry, it has also captivated coffee enthusiasts and industry professionals in Qatar and the region.According to IFP Qatar, the organiser of Hospitality Qatar, this year's programme included a range of training sessions and workshops, the highly anticipated Restaurant's Choice Awards by talabat, and the Salon Culinaire competition, alongside live cooking shows.The event at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre concludes Wednesday.

Undersecretary HE Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater and Haidar Mshaimesh, along with ambassadors and guests, touring the various pavilions at Hospitality Qatar 2023 Monday. The event will run until Wednesday at DECC. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Hospitality Qatar 2023 opens

Hospitality Qatar 2023 kicked off at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre Monday, bringing together more than 150 suppliers and service providers from the hospitality, tourism, and food and beverage sectors from over 20 countries.HE Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, inaugurated the IFP-organised event. Dignitaries including Saudi Arabian ambassador Prince Mansour bin Khalid bin Abdullah al-Saud, Turkish ambassador Dr Mustafa Gokso, Kuwait’s deputy director general of the Industrial Exports Sector at the Public Authority for Industry Dr Sanad al-Ajmi and others were present.“We are delighted that Hospitality Qatar has reached today’s leading level, as confirmed by the remarkable turnout and active participation in the eighth edition,” IFP Qatar general manager Haidar Mshaimesh said in a press statement.He noted that the three-day event, which concludes Wednesday has gathered leading global companies for interactive activities, facilitating the exchange of successful experiences and showcasing the latest innovations. It also aims to offer fresh solutions to propel the rapid advancements within Qatar's tourism and hospitality sector.Mshaimesh expressed confidence in the success of Hospitality Qatar’s latest edition as it strives to enhance the experience for both exhibitors and visitors while also playing a role in bolstering national initiatives to attract more tourists to Qatar.Described as “the most exclusive and longest-standing international trade fair” for hotels, restaurants and catering (Horeca) in Qatar, the event provides an opportunity for investors and industry leaders to explore potential investment opportunities in the country’s hospitality and tourism market.“Fourteen Turkish companies are participating in this year’s edition of Hospitality Qatar to underline the close relationship between Turkey and Qatar, as this event has strengthened the trade and economic relations between the two countries,” Turkish ambassador Dr Mustafa Gökçu said.Some of the activities at this year’s event include the Salon Culinaire live cooking competitions, attracting more than 150 chefs from 37 leading four- and five-star hotels in Doha across a diverse range of more than 20 categories.Day two will witness a coffee competition, providing some of the best baristas in Qatar the chance to demonstrate their creativity and expertise in the art of coffee making.IFP noted that Hospitality Qatar features an exhibition, conference, and business matchmaking and training programmes, allowing industry professionals and senior players to network and market their products and services.Citing a Euro News recent report, the organiser noted that Qatar's hospitality market is currently the fastest-growing globally. The report anticipates sustained progress in this sector in the upcoming phase, largely attributed to Doha's strategically advantageous geographical location.This positioning, the report added, allows approximately 80% of the world's population to be reachable within a six-hour flight, significantly enhancing the likelihood of Qatar emerging as a prominent tourist destination in the Arabian Gulf. This, in turn, paves the way for the realisation of Qatar's goal of hosting 6mn visitors annually by 2030.