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Monday, October 25, 2021

12 big things that happened in Qatar this summer


Emir’s portrait. Credit: Simon Chan/Flickr

Summer is officially over, people.

But it’s been anything but quiet around here. From the Gulf dispute to food trucks at the MIA Park to Tamim-mania to a new permanent residency program for expats, there’s lots of news to catch up on.

Here are some highlights:

Gulf dispute continues

It’s been more than three months since Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar.

So far, no direct negotiations between those nations and Qatar have taken place, and there’s no resolution in sight.

For illustrative purposes only. Credit: The Qatar Insider

Authorities in Qatar have been working to keep life operating as normal during the crisis.

But many people working in the hospitality, construction and shipping industries have been hard hit, with some now on indefinite unpaid leave.

Meanwhile, though grocery stores are well-stocked thanks to imports from Turkey, Iran and other countries, some shoppers have complained about a lack of fresh milk, juice and other products.

It’s Tamim-mania

On a related note, the Gulf crisis has turned every day into National Day in Qatar.

Ramadan Car Parade 2017. Credit: Bosco Menezes (Big B Photography)

Despite a push by Saudi Arabia for a new Emir, people in Qatar are firmly standing behind Sheikh Tamim.

And they’re showing their pride on social media, through car bumper stickers and by signing murals of the leader all over the country.

Some expats can get permanent residency

Foreigners married to Qatari women, those who have “performed great services” for the state and other expats will soon be eligible for permanent residency status.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Ahmed Naazim/Flickr

The Cabinet approved draft legislation to this effect last month, in a move that will likely affect tens of thousands of foreigners living in the country.

Those who are granted the new status would be afforded the same education and healthcare rights as Qataris. They would also enjoy priority for government and military jobs after locals, and be allowed to own real estate in the country.

Roads have changed

First, the good news: TV roundabout is gone, and a new signalized intersection is in its place.

Pearl tunnel. Credit: Ashghal

A few tunnels have also opened around town, including near the Pearl and in Messila, improving traffic in those areas.

But there will be some congestion in other parts of Doha. For example, construction continues on Al Rayyan Road and Sports Roundabout, which is being turned into a signalized junction.

Additionally, as Ashghal works to finish up the Lusail Expressway in West Bay, there are many diversions in around the area.

VoIP outages continue

Many residents have been finding it harder to keep in touch with friends and family due to service interruptions with internet phone and video calls.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Pixabay

For the past few weeks, users have reported trouble talking and video chatting on Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, FaceTime and other VoIP services.

The government’s telecoms regulatory authority said it’s looking into the disruptions, but has yet to officially comment.

First Metro trains arrive in Qatar

The first four trains that will run on the Doha Metro were welcomed into Hamad Port last month, marking a milestone moment.

First Doha Metro train arrives at Hamad Port. Credit: Qatar Rail

This is the first batch of some 75 trains that will run on the new driverless rail network, which opens to the public in early 2020.

According to Qatar Rail, the trains will be transported to its Al Wakrah depot, reassembled and then tested to ensure safety standards.

Domestic workers have new protections

The Emir signed a landmark law that provides legal protections for nannies, gardeners, drivers and other domestic help in Qatar.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Mopaw Foundation/Flickr

Once Law №15 of 2017 takes effect, those who hire household workers will be required to have a written contract with their employees.

The new law is groundbreaking in that it also guarantees 10-hour workdays with meal, worship and rest breaks. It also mandates a day off a week for domestic help.

Some can now visit visa-free

Nationals of 80 countries, including India, Russia and China, can now visit Qatar for free for up to 90 days at a time, officials announced in August.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Sanjiban Ghosh/Flickr

The decision to throw Qatar’s doors open to visitors comes amid an ongoing Gulf dispute that has hit the country’s tourism and hospitality industry.

People from some 47 countries, including Indonesia, Lebanon and South Africa, can now visit Qatar for free for up to a month. Meanwhile, visitors from 33 other nations, including Turkey, Germany and France, can stay for up to 90 days.

Red Arrows are coming

The world-famous Red Arrows will perform in Qatar this month as part of a Middle East tour.

Their visit comes amid efforts to strengthen the UK’s ties with nations across the Gulf.

2013 show by British aerobatic group the Red Arrows. Credit: Fatimah Ashraf Khan

The Ministry of Defense pilots last wowed crowds in Qatar with daring maneuvers and red, white and blue plumes of smoke in 2013.

Exact dates for their visit has yet to be announced, but it will likely be after mid-September.

Al Thumama stadium design unveiled

Qatar’s sixth World Cup stadium will mimic the traditional “gahfiya,” the rounded skullcap worn by many men in the Middle East, organizers announced last month.

Al Thumama stadium rendering. Credit: SCDL

The stadium is the only World Cup venue designed by a Qatari — architect Ibrahim Jaidah, who also did the Fire Station gallery.

It is shaped like a white bowl and adorned with an intricate pattern, in a nod to the cap that holds the ghutra and aghal in place on the head, forming “a symbol of dignity and independence.”

Food trucks coming to MIA Park

Organic coffee, Thai ice cream rolls, Indian chapati and poori, and local fusion food will be among the cuisines on offer when six food trucks open at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Park in “the coming weeks.”

Doha Bus. Credit: Gazanfarulla Khan

The trucks, which include a repurposed Doha Bus, were chosen as part of an initiative by Qatar Museums (QM) and Qatar Development Bank.

The goal is to support local entrepreneurs while bolstering one of Doha’s most popular recreation spaces.

It’s still hot (but not for too much longer)

After a muggy summer, the weather should be improving soon.

According to Steff Gaulter, senior meteorologist at Al Jazeera English, Qatar’s heat and humidity usually start to abate in mid-September.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Jan Smith / Flickr

“It’s a slow process though, so don’t expect the weather to become better overnight. Usually in November, people are outdoor enjoying the weather,” she said, adding:

“As the cooler conditions slowly arrive, be prepared for slightly more variable weather — rain, fog, lightning, even hail.”

What do you think people should know if they’re just getting back to Qatar? Thoughts?

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