Genting Highlands resort in Malaysia.
By Umer Nangiana
Offering some of the world’s most scenic islands and serene beaches along with most sought-after shopping destinations in its sprawling capital city, Malaysia attracts thousands of tourists from around the world every year.
A significant number of these tourists come from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries with Qatar contributing a good share. More than 10,000 tourists, both Qatari nationals and expatriates, visit Malaysia every year.
The Malaysian Tourism department however plans to enhance this number in the coming years and intends to hold awareness workshops and tourism promotions roadshows in the coming few days here in Qatar.
Orienting the Doha audience with Malaysian food, a ‘Malaysian Cuisine Week’ is being celebrated at Grand Hyatt Doha where two chefs have been especially flown in from Malaysia to create some of the most popular authentic Malaysian dishes.
“We have lots of popular destinations. We have 14 states in Malaysia and each of them have their own tourist spots. Tourists from Middle East prefer Langkawi which is a beautiful island. It is a tax free island with all its chalets, resorts and beaches,” Mohamed Noor Zaky bin Mohamed Nasir, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Malaysia, told Community at the launch of the Malaysian Cuisine week which runs till the 24th of this month.
“And then of course we have the Genting Highlands with a huge amusement park on top of the hill. It is very cold and people from GCC love to go there for holidays. In Kuala Lumpur, the capital, we have shopping malls for people who want to go shopping,” said Zaky, adding that islands in the East coast of Malaysia such as Redang offer some of the best beaches.
The Sipadan Island is one of the most beautiful in the world and is considered best destination for scuba diving.
Speaking about number of tourists visiting Malaysia from Qatar, the deputy head of mission said they witnessed a small drop last year. However, the number is largely steady.
“In 2013, we received more than 7,000 Qataris and last year it dropped by a few hundreds and I am not sure about this year’s figure. We receive some 200 visa applications every month from expatriates as well and if you put both Qatari and expat community together, Malaysia receives about 10,000 tourists from Qatar every year,” said Zaky.
He described the entire year as “a perfect time” to visit Malaysia, but the rainy season is from November through February and all islands may not be freely accessible during this period.
The country offers an amazing variety of cuisines thanks to its multicultural indigenous population. Malay, Chinese, Indians and many other tribes make up the local population and, therefore, the mix of food varieties.
However, if you want to taste real authentic Malaysian food with some of the best varieties it offers, you have to visit Malaysia in Ramadan, recommends Zaky.
The Malaysian deputy head of mission said there are about 5,000 Malaysians living in Qatar, of which 900 are children. The main concentration of Malaysians is in the oil and gas sector, followed by Qatar Airways. Then there are also Malaysian expatriates working as doctors, engineers, bankers and teachers in universities.
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, flies multiple flights to different destinations to Malaysia from Qatar and elsewhere in GCC. It is also a partner in celebrating the Malaysian cuisine week.
The week-long festivity at the Grand Hyatt’s signature restaurant Isaan will feature the finest and most authentic Malaysian cuisine prepared by the two guest chefs.
“Malaysia has been among our top destinations in Southeast Asia. Along with its amazing historic sites and colourful cultural heritage, this destination has been a major attraction point for travellers from Qatar and the rest of the region,” said Houssam Weiss, General Manager of Etihad Airways in Qatar.
“We are very pleased to partner with Etihad Airways to co-host the Malaysian week at Grand Hyatt Doha. It is an honour to have the opportunity to introduce the Malaysian culture to Doha residents,” said Christoph K. Franzen the General Manager of Grand Hyatt Doha.
The two guest chefs from Malaysia are Dato Pari Subramaniam and Mohamed Rashdan Bin Abd Rahman. Chef Pari began his career with the Selangor State Palace in 1985. He then spent over 26 years with Hyatt International and then joined the Hyatt Regency Saujana as Chef de Partie to expand his culinary experience. On the other hand, Chef Mohamed has spent time at more than 10 hotels in Malaysia over the past two decades.
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