Monday, June 24, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
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 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.
Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa
Qatar's appeal as investment spot rises post-World Cup

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar not only left a lasting impact on the world of sports but also significantly boosted the country’s appeal as an investment destination, according to an industry expert.Speaking to Gulf Times, Outing Qatar founder and managing director Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa said Qatar is witnessing a surge in interest from foreign investors, especially from neighbouring GCC nations.He said investors are now eyeing opportunities in various sectors, drawn by the country's modern infrastructure, high-level amenities and business-friendly environment. These, he added, left a positive first impression on potential investors.“The country became more popular to people. They were a visitor at the beginning, now, they want to be a business owner. They were surprised with the amenities... there are many five-star hotels, well-designed roads and structures, and the airport – one of the best in the world,” said Eleiwa, who met with several potential investors from different countries, including those from the UK, Latin America and Iraq.He noted that the influx of visitors during the World Cup has transformed into a desire among many to become business owners in the country.Eleiwa underlined the exceptional experiences provided by many businesses in Qatar, especially in the hospitality sector. He noted that the quality of service, even among hotels of the same brand, stands out, and visitors are looking for such details in every service provided.He said Qatar’s openness to visitors and business owners, and its family-friendly and flexible environment contributed to its growing appeal. The high level of safety and security is cited as a crucial factor, in attracting investors to establish businesses in the country.“If you have the right skills, you will do good business here. Opportunities for foreign investors are growing, and the government is providing great potential,” he said.About the unified GCC tourist visa, he said that such a move is seen as a game-changer, creating a positive impact on various sectors, not just limited to business. He believes that the visa will facilitate ease of access for visitors and potential investors, eliminating the need for lengthy visa approval processes.“Overnight I can come and book my flight while I’m sitting in my room. It gives us more opportunities to do business, and attract more potential investors,” Eleiwa added.He observed that Qatar is currently witnessing a surge in the number of visitors, particularly from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The growth, he said, extends beyond the tourism sector, with an increasing number of hospitals and medical centres being built, potentially attracting visitors seeking medical treatment.Eleiwa suggests that patients may find it more convenient to visit Qatar rather than travelling to countries like the US and the UK for their healthcare needs.Another sector that is booming in Qatar and is expected to attract more investors is the food and beverage industry. Eleiwa highlighted the diverse culinary offerings, ranging from local and regional cuisines to international options like Italian and Japanese.

The grand opening of Shop Qatar 2024 will take place at Place Vendome on January 1, 2024 at 7:30pm.
Shop Qatar set to be a big draw

Following a series of shopping promotions that kicked off with White Friday in November, Shop Qatar 2024 is poised to attract shoppers with massive discounts, daily family entertainment, and the opportunity to win great prizes.According to Visit Qatar, the festival’s grand opening will take place at Place Vendome on January 1, 2024 from 7:30pm, urging shoppers to participate and vie for prizes, including cash rewards, a luxurious car, and other gifts. It will also feature activations such as the Barbie Dreamhouse, Barney live stage show, grand prize display, and parades, among others.Participating malls in the shopping extravagansa include some of the most prominent names in Qatar’s retail landscape such as Place Vendome, Doha Festival City, Lagoona Mall, The Pearl Island, Hyatt Plaza, AL Khor Mall, Mall of Qatar, Msheireb Galleria, Al Hazm Mall, Tawar Mall, Landmark Mall, City Center Doha, and Gulf Mall.Organisers noted that malls would host several shows and activations such as Cocomelon, Bluey, LOL, Emoji, Strawberry Shortcake, Scrabble, Fruit Ninja, and Miraculous Show, among other activity corners.To enter the weekly raffle draws, shoppers need to spend QR200 or more at the participating outlets. After making their purchases, shoppers can obtain a voucher at the Shop Qatar kiosk, fill in their details, and drop the voucher into the designated box.Throughout the event, shoppers will be treated to information about various competitions, an array of offers and prizes while enjoying live shows and performances. The festival not only focuses on shopping but also encourages visitors to explore the unique offerings of each participating mall, promising exclusive deals and engaging entertainment for every member of the family.The grand finale of Shop Qatar will take place at Doha Festival City, where the winners will be announced during the closing ceremony. Attendees can expect special shows and entertainment to add a touch of glamour to the momentous occasion.Reflecting on the previous editions of Shop Qatar, it is learnt that the festival has become a crowd-puller occasion. Last year’s prizes included cash giveaways, a BMW X5, and even an apartment at The Pearl Island.Anticipation is high for this year’s edition, expecting to draw a large number of shoppers from Qatar and neighbouring GCC countries. It is learnt that the festival’s impact is poised to boost further various sectors, including retail, tourism, hospitality, and the food and beverage industries, solidifying Shop Qatar’s reputation as a cornerstone of the country’s annual calendar of events.

Noor Aljaber took part in the 90km Qatar East West Ultramarathon 2023. Supplied picture
3 Qatari women make history by completing 90-km Ultramarathon

Three Qatari women have etched their names in history by completing the 90km Qatar East-West Ultramarathon 2023, a feat never before accomplished by local female athletes.Based on the race results at, Noor Aljaber, a prominent Qatari entrepreneur, conceptualiser, and athlete, ranked 34th while compatriots Lolwa al-Marri finished 38th and Ghalya Alharami was in the 59th spot.The event, organised by Qatar Ultrarunners and the Ministry of Sports and Youth, was held on December 15. The starting point was at Sheraton Park, leading participants through the scenic route along Dukhan Beach.“As I was running, I came across some female runners who I then learnt were doing the 90km solo. At that moment the seed was planted, and I hoped to also go for the full 90km solo,” Noor Aljaber said.Aljaber, a member of the Qatar Cycling Federation Female Team and a certified spinning instructor, said that during the race, she drew motivation from the camaraderie among the participants, with 750 runners in teams and 150 solo runners.“Proud of all the ladies as they will be inspirations for others who did not think or dare before. I believe whenever we have the opportunity to participate, we will show up and rise up to the challenge.“The fact that more than one lady thought to take on the challenge is a message in itself. The passion, motivation, and endurance are all there,” said Aljaber, who stressed is passionate about sports. Her varied sports background, ranging from yoga and cycling to triathlons and functional training, in addition to her recent triumph in the ultramarathon, demonstrates her versatile athleticism.Sharing the details of her remarkable journey and the motivations behind her decision to undertake such a formidable challenge, she cited the mental challenges, particularly the extreme wind, as the primary source of difficulty.“If I were to choose between mental or physical fatigue, I would say it was more mentally difficult mostly because of the extreme wind, pushing against us the entire way (35km/hour winds). So there were multiple battles,” Aljaber said.Her preparation for the event involved a rigorous three-month training plan, which included cycling, strength training, and mobility exercises. Overcoming the challenge of transitioning from a half marathon to a 90km run quickly, she highlighted the importance of dedication and commitment to the goal.“Anything can be achieved with the right preparation and commitment to the goal. I trained six times a week, at least one day off is very crucial as it gives the body and mind time to reset, recharge and recover and give the next workout the effort it needs to get results.“I was cycling two out of the six days and doing some strength training and dedicating time for mobility training and stretching. There are many aspects to consider with the longer runs such as nutrition issues in order to balance energy and fluid levels,” she said.Regarding her advice to young athletes, especially those interested in taking on challenging events like ultramarathons, she said: “If the challenge sparks something, don’t ignore it, pursue it. The support is all here, from friends, family, and the community. Passion, discipline, and consistency are key.”

As the head of the farm, Fardan Fahad Alfardan's main aim is clear: to produce premium products that rival imports, ensuring self-sufficiency and sustainability for Qatar throughout the year.
Safwa: cultivating innovation and sustainability in farming

In the heart of the Qatari desert, a pioneering venture is transforming the landscape of agriculture in the country.Fardan Fahad Alfardan, is the founder and general manager of Alfardan Group’s 'Safwa', a hub for innovation and sustainability through hydroponic farming. He is also leading charge for the Group’s agricultural projects.A recent tour with Fardan offered insights into the farm’s evolution, achievements, and future plans, highlighting a commitment to premium produce, self-sufficiency, and global expansion.While Fardan was not there when the Wahat Al-Shafalahia farm was established in 1975, his 2019 entry marked a strategic push for commercial transformation, steering the farm toward a new future of agriculture.Fardan's VisionAs the head of the farm, Fardan’s main aim is clear: to produce premium products that rival imports, ensuring self-sufficiency and sustainability for Qatar throughout the year. His ultimate goal is to make Qatar entirely dependent on its own agricultural resources.The Future of Qatar’s AgricultureFardan envisions a future where innovative minds drive the agricultural sector forward, guided by the principles of sustainability, productivity, and profitability.Overcoming ChallengesDespite challenges, including operational costs, Fardan remains confident, citing a trial-and-error approach. He credits his team for finding solutions to every challenge by thinking outside the box. “It's all trial-and-error and the whole point is not to give up, everything has a solution here. You have to learn how to work with everyone and then you will succeed but you have to keep on going” he said.“It’s better that you commit a mistake now, than later. This is why every project we have is small, until it succeeds. We turn it into something huge,” he said, highlighting the key role that every member of his team plays.Collaborating for SuccessFardan emphasises the importance of treating technology partners as equals, adapting Chinese agricultural technology to suit the Qatari climate through collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. “It is definitely made in Qatar, and for Qatar,” he said, stressing that this collective effort involves learning from international experts and such fusion of knowledge creates the perfect environment for success.“For example, now we’re working with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, so they produce their own seeds, their own systems, and they have their own way of doing it. But whatever works there, doesn't mean it works here so we had to collaborate and adapt accordingly,” he pointed out.Expanding HorizonsSafwa has proudly partnered with Qatar Airways to deliver fresh produce onboard, as part of Qatar Airways efforts to deliver healthy, organic food and vegetables to passengers.Looking ahead, Fardan reveals plans for continuous expansion, driven by market demand, with the possibility of exporting fresh vegetables to neighbouring countries daily.“There’s always plans for expansion and the next phase is to export to neighbouring countries who want fresh vegetables. We harvest and we send it immediately to you. If you're in another country, you are guaranteed it’s one day, from farm to airport to wherever that destination is,” he said.Fardan also unveiled plans to grow other types of vegetables, noting that he only started growing bok choy and Lollo Bionda lettuce. From two variants six years ago, the number surged to 40, thanks to Safwa’s continuous research and development.“We started at the right moment, we realised that food security matters,” he said.Nurturing SustainabilityFardan's passion for sustainability and innovation, inspired by his love for pizza, has evolved into Safwa’s commitment to sustainable farming practices, ensuring no waste, and utilising produce for various purposes.“So, I grew my own tomatoes at home. Through Amazon, I bought an aero-garden system, an automated aquaponic, I grew the best cherry tomato, even my grandfather was like, ‘how did you grow this?’“When I saw their face (family and friends) how they liked it, I wanted to share it with more people, so this is why this is happening right now,” he said.Future Products and Climate ControlIn the future, Safwa plans to launch new products, including fruits like blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. The farm aims to create a controlled climate for berry cultivation, incorporating solar panels for sustainability.Towards Agricultural Self-SufficiencyFardan expressed confidence that Qatar is ready to achieve agricultural self-sufficiency. With successful cultivation of leafy vegetables, tomatoes, and peppers, among others, he said the farm now ventures into growing passion fruit – a first in Qatar. He encourages perseverance, reiterating the need for trial and error in the pursuit of self-reliance.Award-Winning InnovationFardan's award in Hungary last year celebrates his introduction of new technologies, specifically hydroponic and aquaponic systems, marking a revolutionary shift in the family business.The Man Behind the VisionBorn into a family legacy of business, Fardan has propelled the Alfardan Group into new dimensions, showcasing a diverse skill set. His commitment extends to corporate social responsibility, actively participating in initiatives like the Expat Labour Fund.Safwa: Leading the Agricultural RevolutionWahat Al-Shafalahia farm, under Fardan’s leadership, symbolises a commitment to sustainable and innovative farming practices, redefining agriculture in the region with cutting-edge technologies.

Norwegian Dawn made its historic first-time arrival at Doha Port recently with 2,340 passengers.
'Qatar has promising future as premier cruise destination'

Qatar’s tourism sector receives a major boost, with Captain Asen Gyurov from the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship lauding the nation’s promising future as a premier cruise destination.“We are very impressed, and this is one of the best ports so far that we had in our destinations. I strongly believe Qatar is developing in the right direction, and we, as a company, are looking forward to coming back here,” Captain Gyurov told Gulf Times on the sidelines of its maiden voyage to Qatar.Speaking on behalf of the officers and crew of Norwegian Cruise Line, Captain Gyurov conveyed his gratitude for the warm welcome and hospitality received during the ship’s arrival at Doha Port on Wednesday.Norwegian Dawn made its historic first-time arrival at Doha Port with 2,340 passengers, marking a significant milestone for the renowned Norwegian Cruise Line and the wider Gulf region. The vessel, operated by a crew of 1,032 members, is one of the ships visiting Qatar during the new cruise season, scheduled to run until April 2024.According to Qatar Tourism, this season is poised to be the country’s largest cruise season to date, with an anticipated 81 cruise calls and approximately 350,000 passengers. Doha Port, with its state-of-the-art facilities, is well-equipped to handle the increasing number of visitors, particularly during the cruise season.Captain Gyurov expressed confidence in a potential surge in passengers from Qatar traveling to different destinations in the region.Doha Port’s Grand Cruise Terminal features a large aquarium and digital interactive panels for educational entertainment. It also houses an art gallery and a spacious open-air rooftop terrace, enhancing the overall cruise experience.According to Visit Qatar, the Doha Port is not just a gateway to cruise adventures but also a cultural hub. The Mina District, home to popular attractions like Box Park and The Museum of Islamic Art, has been transformed into an open gallery. An initiative, part of Qatar Museums’ World Wide Walls international mural programme, showcases murals at MIna District painted by artists from Qatar, neighboring GCC nations, and other countries in other regions.Visit Qatar noted that visitors, especially cruise passengers, can explore what is described as the “Santorini of the Middle East”, a charming neighbourhood with cobblestone streets, pastel-coloured buildings, 50 cafes and restaurants, 100 shops, 150 hotel apartments, and a vibrant fish market. The Doha Port has become a must-visit destination, offering a perfect blend of maritime adventure and cultural exploration.

Katherine Maher talks about the Web Summit Qatar 2024. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Web Summit Qatar 2024 'a golden opportunity for startups'

The Web Summit Qatar 2024 provides a golden opportunity for startups to shine and unlock the Middle East’s huge potential in creating economic opportunities and positive social impact, Web Summit CEO Katherine Maher has said.The event, scheduled from February 26-29, 2024 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, will bring together more than 7,500 international entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders as it seeks to further boost the region’s rapidly growing tech scene.“I know how big the market is, I know how young the market (is) ... the opportunity to turn that into tremendous economic opportunity, transformational opportunity, the positivity that can be created by startups, the impact they could have on social development,” said Maher at a recently held talk titled ‘Runway to Web Summit’ at Qatar Science and Technology Park.Seeing Web Summit as a way to establish lasting ties, she stressed the need for startups to connect with major players in various sectors, especially in fields such as energy, aviation, media, and telecommunication.Maher added that she sees the Web Summit as a catalyst for fostering connections and relationships that extend beyond the event itself, creating a year-round community.Web Summit Qatar will offer master classes and exhibitions, providing startups with exposure to mature services and facilitating networking opportunities.The Web Summit CEO, who views the region as a hub for creativity and opportunity, said the upcoming event in Qatar will see an influx of numerous startups as it holds the key to building innovations that can make a significant global impact.Reiterating the significance of startups in tapping into emerging markets, she shines a spotlight on the value they bring in terms of access to young talent, creative capital, and technological skills.Maher acknowledged the passion for developing the startup ecosystem in Qatar, citing the ongoing transformation towards becoming more hospitable and encouraging to startups.“We know very well that every startup that launches is not going to succeed. But for every failure you have the learning opportunity that makes you more likely to succeed in the next round,” she said.As part of preparing for the event, Maher, who expects a diverse group of investors from around the world, said participants should identify key contacts and set goals without being overly scripted.“We have very strong investors cultivated over the years and we know there are a number of investors certainly from the US and Europe plan to be here. I expect them to be from Asia as well given the proximity and the access to the market and of course from the GCC.“From our perspective, it is going to be great, so there will be different investors with different interests. And having that diversity is going to be much more successful from the investor side and the startup side,” she said.

An equestrian parade at Darb Al Saai Monday. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
Darb Al Saai extended until Dec 23

Darb Al Saai, which has been attracting thousands of residents and visitors to enjoy Qatar's heritage, culture and traditions, stands extended until December 23 in 'response to the great demand.'This was announced by the organising committee for the National Day celebrations of Qatar through its official X account Monday. Darb Al Saai at Umm Salal Muhammed was originally scheduled to conclude Monday.The Qatar National Day (QND) activities at Darb Al Saai showcases breathtaking fusion of tradition and modernity, capturing the essence of the country's rich heritage.Visitors, from families and groups of friends to individuals, are treated to an immersive experience, embracing the nation's history, values and aspirations.Live stage shows and a diverse array of fun-filled and wholesome activities, in addition to several other attractions, at the 150,000sq m venue entertain the crowd, making the atmosphere feel truly authentic.Unity takes centre stage as citizens and residents gather to participate in various activities that foster a sense of community. Families enjoy a number of interactive exhibits, educational displays, and engaging workshops that highlight the importance of preserving cultural heritage and promoting national pride.Darb Al Saai also offers a wide range of local and Arabic food offerings within its premises, giving people the opportunity to explore the nation's rich culinary scene.A pavilion displaying Qatar's rich maritime history, as well as a photo exhibition by the Qatar Photography Centre, continues to attract many visitors and allowing them to walk down memory lane with stunning images and stories handed down to generations.The centre, with several exhibited photographs, display the beauty of nature and Qatar's diverse wildlife, enthralling visitors and shining a spotlight on the immense talent and artistry of local photpgraphers.The various retail offerings at the venue such as traditional clothes and accesories, dates, oud, and other traditional items, are in high demand due to the influx of festival-goers.Apart from cultural offerings, Darb Al Saai also hosts a number of sports activities such as mini football matches for children, reflecting the country's love for sports.Nasser, a Qatari national who was with his family at the venue Monday, said he finds the huge gathering at Darb Al Saai in this year's QND a show of unity and love of country.

Darb AlSaai received thousands of visitors on the eve of the Qatar National Day Sunday, hosting a wide array of activities and attractions for different age groups.  Art enthusiasts are also treated to a series of engaging sessions and workshops, including the ‘Liwan Al Fan’, organised by the Ministry of Culture’s Visual Art Centre.  PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
QND activities peak at Darb Al Saai

Darb Al Saai became a hub of joy and cultural enrichment as families and children flocked to the 150,000sqm venue in Umm Salal Area on the eve of the Qatar National Day (QND) 2023. The activities at Darb Al Saai, organised by the Ministry of Culture, kicked off on December 10 and will continue Monday from 3pm to 11pm. These activities aim to celebrate and showcase the rich history and authentic heritage of Qatar, fostering a greater sense of unity among the populace. Visitors can take part in a wide array of cultural, artistic, and literary activities. A highlight of Darb Al Saai is the pavilion dedicated to an exhibition offering a fascinating glimpse into Qatar's maritime history. Showcasing artefacts, tools, and rare collections used by pearl divers, the exhibit provides a captivating journey through the country's seafaring legacy. Beyond the historical focus, Darb Al Saai also offers diverse attractions, ranging from wildlife displays featuring Oryx, camels, and Ostrich to sports activities like football and recreational quests like obstacle races. Virtual reality games are attracting both children and adults, offering a modern twist to the event. Art enthusiasts are treated to a series of engaging sessions and workshops, including the ‘Liwan Al Fan’, organised by the Ministry of Culture’s Visual Art Centre. The exhibition features three art displays highlighting Qatari plastic art from different generations, expressing the profound love for the homeland through its history, civilisation, and national heritage. Capturing the beauty of Qatar’s nature, the Qatar Photography Centre, affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, presents a stunning collection of images showcasing the country’s rich biodiversity. A dedicated section at Darb Al Saai allows visitors to immerse themselves in authentic Qatari traditions at Majlis and tents, giving them an opportunity to savour Qahwa while engaging in conversations with family and friends. Darb Al Saai is not only a cultural feast but also a shopping haven with retail outlets selling a variety of items such as perfumes, traditional and national clothes, toys, carpets, and other merchandise. Food enthusiasts can indulge in traditional and local cuisines at several food outlets spread throughout the venue.

Artworks depicting the current condition in Gaza will be showcased soon at an exhibition at Souq Waqif Art Centre. Proceeds from the sale of the artworks will be donated to support the people of Palestine in Gaza. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Art exhibition to shed light on Gaza crisis, promote peace

The Souq Waqif Art Centre in Doha – in a powerful expression of solidarity and a call for peace – will soon host an exhibition featuring around 26 paintings by Doha-based artists, it is learnt.These works focus on the dire conditions faced by Palestinians in Gaza and advocate for a lasting solution to the ongoing conflicts in the region.Among the participating artists is Syrian expatriate Issa Awad, who has called Qatar home for 13 years.While many of his artworks beautifully capture cultural landmarks in Qatar, his latest piece takes a deeply moving and emotional direction.Speaking to Gulf Times, Awad said the painting depicts a child in Gaza standing amidst the ruins of a flattened building, gazing at the Dome of the Rock.He said the message is clear – a plea for peace and a better future for Palestine.“There is no need for war and conflicts anywhere in the world, including Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, because ordinary people, especially women, children, and old people, are suffering from it,” he stressed.The exhibition, set to run from December 25 for a month at Souq Waqif Art Centre, will feature Awad's work and contributions from other artists of diverse nationalities, including those from Syria, Egypt, Palestine, India, Thailand, and the Philippines.Filipino expatriate Dawud Gabres is another artist contributing to the cause.His portraits, ranging from His Highness the Amir to celebrities like Sylvester Stallone, have gained recognition.Gabres’s latest work shines a spotlight on the “emotionally challenging reality” of the Palestinian crisis, portraying children who have lost everything amid relentless Israeli bombardment.He highlighted the power of art to convey the harsh realities of conflict, saying: “The world must know what is happening in Gaza, and that our countries should be free ... no conflicts and wars. There should not be any chaos, and we can express these things through art.”The artist said the exhibition serves as a platform to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in Gaza, promoting a message of peace and unity.According to the two artists, the proceeds generated from the sale of artworks will be donated to support the people of Palestine in Gaza.The exhibition is open to the public, encouraging Qatar residents and visitors to witness and connect with the impactful stories conveyed by the artists.

Various promotions by retail outlets in Qatar continue to attract shoppers.
Year-end promotions boost Qatar’s retail sector

Qatar’s retail sector received a further boost with year-end promotions and sales, on account of the various deals offered by numerous businesses across the country.The shopping spree began on ‘White Friday’, marking the last Friday of November (24th) with promotions by different retail shops at malls and shopping centres. These offerings are continuing throughout December, with retail outlets enticing customers with substantial discounts and special prices.A staff of a popular shoe chain said that such occasions benefit both the business and the customers, saying: “Our sales go up during this period while a lot of shoppers get good deals for the items they want”.Instead of one pair, he said several customers opt to buy two or more pairs of shoes (for example) and spend the money they saved for other items such as clothes and presents for their families.Like in previous promotions and offers, it is learnt that many businesses invest heavily in online campaigns, which proved to play a significant role in attracting a large number of customers, especially on the launch date.The latest White Friday mega-sale saw many shoppers flocking to retail outlets to take advantage of the offers. From apparel, shoes, and accessories to electronic devices, entertainment and musical equipment, eyewear, perfumes and other products, discounts ranged from 20% up to 75%.In a strategic move, it is learnt that some popular brands opted to delay their promotions, creating an extended sales period for eager shoppers to capitalise on. A staff of a famous apparel brand noted that this approach has proven successful in maintaining momentum and sustaining high levels of customer interest.The savings have not been limited to non-food items as several restaurants, eateries, and coffee shops unveiled new menus to entice customers just before the colder months in the country. Families looking to dine out have embraced the opportunity to explore exciting culinary options.Luxury items have seen a surge in demand as well, with high-end watches, jewellery, and designer bags getting off the shelves. Outlets and distributors of various brands have reported a significant uptick in sales, even for less popular models.A staff member at a prominent watch shop expressed optimism, stating that many of their stocks were nearly sold out, and the trend is expected to continue well into the first quarter of the upcoming year.“We hope to see more customers visiting our shops, not only Qataris and expatriates, but also customers from neighbouring GCC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, who often buy in bulk,” he added.

Qanat Quartier
Qatar offers a wide range of destinations

The onset of winter in Qatar once again provides residents and visitors the chance to explore its most captivating destinations, both indoors and outdoors, it is learnt. Visit Qatar’s winter guide offers an array of enchanting family-friendly attractions, heart-pounding sports activities, and delectable culinary experiences across the country.Qatar boasts a plethora of outdoor attractions, including The Pearl Island’s Qanat Quartier, Katara - Cultural Village, Souq Waqif, Msheireb Downtown Doha, and Al Maha Island. According to Visit Qatar, the country caters to visitors of all ages, featuring an array of family-friendly activities. Lusail Boulevard, accessible via the Lusail Metro station, offers various attractions, food and beverage outlets, and retail stores.Baladna Park, located north of Doha, is a leading community venue, providing an ideal family getaway with various outdoor activities in an eco-friendly environment. Families can also enjoy the Middle East’s first-ever Panda park near Al Khor Family Park, a destination for ‘edu-entertainment.’ The Museum of Illusions, which offer interactive activities makes a perfect destination for family outings, group engagements, and event gatherings.Sports enthusiasts can indulge in a number of activities such as desert safaris, paratriking, hot air balloon rides, and paragliding. Visit Qatar, in several social media posts, noted that culinary delights await visitors at popular outlets across Qatar. For those on a budget-friendly exploration, a QR6 Doha Metro and Lusail Tram multi-usage daily pass provides an affordable option to explore popular locations, including museums, malls, restaurants, and picturesque districts.

Martin Griffiths
Global humanitarian overview 2024 launched

A United Nations (UN) official has called for a collective effort to find long-lasting solutions to global challenges and highlighted the role of diplomacy, generosity, and partnership, aligning with Qatar’s approach to crisis response.Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator at the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, was giving a presentation of the 2024 Global Humanitarian Overview at the Doha Forum 2023 Monday.“It is time to redouble our efforts to look at the root causes of humanitarian need, conflict, climate change, and economic dynamics and it is time to look at ways back durable solutions. We must all be part of the process of looking at ways back for people,” he said.“Diplomacy also links us to the kind of approach that Qatar applies to applies diplomacy, it applies generosity, it applies leverage and it applies a partnership,” Griffiths stated.The event, which was followed by a panel discussion, was attended by HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani. Griffiths thanked Qatar for its continuous efforts in seeking peace and providing humanitarian aid, particularly its diplomatic efforts in Gaza.Acknowledging the success of recent efforts in Gaza to bring moments of peace, the UN official highlighted the ongoing challenges, including the destruction caused by military operations and the threats to neighbouring countries. He expressed reliance on Qatar’s PM and his government, recognising their demonstrated generosity, creative diplomacy, and humanitarian commitment. As the world approaches 2024, Griffiths painted a sobering picture, noting that nearly 300mn people worldwide need humanitarian assistance and protection. He underlined the factors contributing to the challenges, pointing out new and re-emerging conflicts, the worldwide climate emergency, economic pressures, climate disasters, disease outbreaks, and various other elements as key drivers of the operational need for humanitarian agencies.Echoing UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ remarks, Griffiths applauded the resilience and efforts of the humanitarian community in 2023, which helped 228mn people worldwide despite facing a severe funding crisis. He expressed concern over the worst funding shortfall in years, receiving just over one third of the required $57bn. “We’re assuming a wider call to action. Humanitarian assistance cannot be the entire solution. Everyone needs to be part of this process, it is not something that you hand the button on from one community to the next,” he said, stressing the importance of addressing root causes such as conflict, climate change, and economic dynamics.

HE the Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Mohamed bin Abdulaziz al-Khulaifi.
Private sector engagement in humanitarian efforts stressed

The pressing need for increased collaboration with the private sector to address unprecedented challenges hindering global humanitarian efforts was highlighted by HE the Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Mohamed bin Abdulaziz al-Khulaifi on Monday at the Doha Forum 2023.“In a world filled with unprecedented challenges, we must come together to tackle those obstacles that hinder our ability to provide aid and assistance to those in need. Let us first acknowledge that there are some challenges that need to be presented,” he explained in his speech during the launch of the Global Humanitarian Overview 2024.Among these challenges, Dr al-Khulaifi noted, are a growing loss of trust in international institutions, high costs associated with relief and development models, and a concerning donor fatigue. He pointed out that addressing these issues is crucial at a time when global co-operation is extremely needed.Expressing concern over a decline in donor enthusiasm, Dr al-Khulaifi stressed the potentially devastating consequences for those in need. He cited the current crisis in Gaza as an example of the tragic reality faced by civilians.He said the ongoing military attacks have resulted in a staggering toll: more than 17,000 people killed, with women and children accounting for more than 70% of the casualties; 40,000 people injured; and 1.9mn displaced. Numerous places of worship have been severely damaged, schools remain empty, and half of Gaza’s population is facing starvation.Amid these crises, Dr al-Khulaifi proposed a paradigm shift in humanitarian efforts, underlining the importance of engaging with the private sector. He urged leveraging the resources and expertise of private companies, stating that innovation can complement the work of international organisations and governments.“We also need to ensure that the humanitarian actions should remain impartial and free from political influence,” he said, as he called for embracing innovation and technology in aid and assistance delivery.“From advanced logistics to data-driven decision-making, these tools can help us to work more efficiently and effectively, ultimately saving the lives of those who need them.“It is about reaching out to those who are most vulnerable, giving voices to the voiceless and rebuilding not just the physical infrastructure but also their dignity, hope, possibilities and a better tomorrow,” Dr al-Khulaifi said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General urges global response to unprecedented humanitarian challenges

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has painted a stark picture of the unprecedented human suffering that unfolded in 2023 and called for urgent and substantial action to address the immense challenges facing millions of people worldwide.In a video message during the launch of the Global Humanitarian Overview 2024 at Doha Forum 2023 Monday, Guterres described 2023 as a year marked by epic and heartbreaking human suffering, attributing the crisis to brutal conflicts and climate chaos that have transformed life into a living hell for millions.“Civilians caught in the line of fire, being injured or killed. People fleeing within and across borders in search of safety. Communities battered by earthquakes, floods, fires, and droughts. Women, men, and children dying of hunger and preventable disease,” he said.Despite the grim realities, the Secretary-General highlighted the resilience and commitment of the humanitarian community, noting that in 2023, these institutions and individuals overcame enormous barriers to provide vital assistance to 128 million people, offering food, shelter, medicine, water, sanitation, and protection in some of the world's most dangerous places.However, Guterres stressed that this was achieved with only a fraction of the support required, as they faced a funding shortfall representing the worst in years – just one-third of the $57bn needed.He made a plea for increased generosity from donors in 2024, stressing that the UN and its partners are seeking $46bn to aid 81mn people in need. He underlined the urgency of pulling out all the stops to meet these funding requirements, stating that doing more with less is unsustainable.Guterres urged not only financial support but also increased investments in building resilience and strength in vulnerable communities, enabling them to withstand shocks and crises.In addition to addressing immediate humanitarian needs, the Secretary-General also underscored the importance of redoubling global efforts to confront the climate crisis and find political solutions to conflicts causing widespread misery and death.“We need to redouble global efforts to address the climate crisis and forge political solutions to the conflicts that are inflicting widespread misery and death. We cannot turn our backs on human suffering. Let's make 2024 a year of help and hope for people in desperate need,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the Doha Forum via a video link Sunday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayakulam
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discusses global power shifts, Gaza conflict

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov remains hopeful for diplomatic solutions in the Gaza conflict despite the challenges as he cited his country’s efforts at the United Nations (UN) to find a peaceful settlement.In a newsmaker interview (video link) with Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor, James Bays, at Doha Forum 2023 Sunday, Russia’s longest-serving foreign minister in the modern era shared insights on global power shifts and addressed the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the situation in Ukraine.Lavrov said Russia strongly condemned the attack against Israel on October 7 “like we condemn any terrorist attack but, at the same time, we do not believe it’s acceptable to use this, this event, for collective punishment of the millions of Palestinian people with indiscriminate shelling of the civilian quarters”.Lavrov highlighted Russia’s proposed resolutions at the UN for humanitarian ceasefires, but he said this effort was blocked by the US.“You mentioned the number of casualties, they are growing day after day, and those who suffered most are the kids and women, and the effects of what is going on... We have introduced a resolution in the Security Council, it was blocked by the US. Brazil introduced another resolution, it was also blocked by the US. Then the General Assembly passed the resolution which was weaker than what we wanted because it provided not for humanitarian ceasefire but rather for humanitarian truce,” he pointed out.Lavrov criticised the US veto and said that its consequences are now for regional and global nations to assess.He argued that the unresolved Palestinian statehood issue has been a key driver of extremism in the Middle East. He disclosed that Russia had consistently warned Israeli counterparts about the dangerous consequences of neglecting the Palestinian question.Lavrov delivered an introductory speech on the changing dynamics of global power before the discussion shifted to the conflict in Gaza. He claimed that the West’s pursuit of globalisation had inadvertently empowered other nations to challenge its dominance by building economies based on national sovereignty and balanced international relations.However, he asserted that other countries have successfully used Western principles of globalisation to build their economies based on national sovereignty. He underscored the emergence of new global players and organisations like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN, and the African Union, describing them as the building blocks of a new polycentric world.About Russia’s actions in conflicts like Chechnya and Syria, Lavrov rejected claims of hypocrisy, saying that his country’s interventions were transparent and aimed at fighting terrorism. He stressed the difference between Russia’s approach and what he termed as West's ‘cancel culture’.About the conflict in Ukraine, Lavrov dismissed the idea of a stalemate and argued that the situation was orchestrated by the US and its allies. He criticised the rejection of a deal proposed in Istanbul and highlighted the complexity of the conflict.

An array of hot air balloons take off near the Khalifa International Stadium, within Aspire Zone, on Friday as part of Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival's daily 'Sunrise' activity. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival soars to new heights as global tourism magnet

The Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival has transformed the nation into a favoured tourism destination, captivating thrill-seekers and enthusiasts with its fusion of awe-inspiring landscapes and a unique ballooning experience, according to flight director Lee Hooper.“The beauty of Qatar, with the events (previous editions of the Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival) here for the last couple of years, has now become world-famous,” he said. “The list of people who want to come to the balloon fiesta is always much longer than those we can accommodate. It’s oversubscribed, so it's become really popular amongst balloonists because it’s such a beautiful place to fly.”The latest edition of the event kicked off on Thursday at Katara – Cultural Village (southern area), showcasing a diverse array of balloons, as well as tethered and entertainment shows, which drew a large number of people.Launching a 12-day extravaganza that will conclude on December 18, the organisers highlighted the anticipation of a grander event this year, boasting 55 balloons— a substantial increase from the initial 30 during its inception.It is learnt that the festival has been warmly embraced by the public, with Hooper stressing the universal appeal of balloons. Hooper said: “Everyone likes balloons; everyone loves to see them, and it brings a smile to their face. They are unusual, and seeing them just over the city is really special.“What's really nice around here is we have these balloons that are special in shapes (and designs). You can have a clown, an alien, and all sorts of balloons that make a very colourful spectacle.”About the international impact of the festival, Hooper expressed optimism about attracting more visitors from around the world. Besides British nationals back home, he said even his parents in the UK were seeing pictures of the balloon festival in the UK papers, featuring what he described as a real global spread.Residents and visitors in Doha Friday witnessed a take-off of several balloons near the Khalifa International Stadium, within Aspire Zone, as part of the daily morning ‘Sunrise’ activity. In the afternoons, tethered shows take place at Katara, providing spectators with a unique and captivating experience.“In the morning, we’ll take off from different places around the city to fly over the landscape. Not only at Katara, it could be in different places. Sometimes we fly from Sports City, sometimes down in the desert, sometimes up in Lusail, depending on the wind (weather conditions),” Hooper added.

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.